The worst part of any CSAUP is the couple of hours before it begins. At this point you have trained all you can train. You have hydrated. You have prepared. Now all you want to do is get on with it. Unless you haven’t trained, hydrated or prepared, in which case the worst part of the CSAUP is the CSAUP. Hartsville had trained, however. We took this event very seriously, adding double down rucks and welcome parties and even starting a new ruck oriented AO, Curahee, on Fridays. We discussed gear on the GORUCK GroupMe. Several Fadre's stepped up and led us through different elements of what they had experienced in previous GORUCK events. We practiced lining up in ranks by birth name and F3 name. This was an anal retentive training regimen. Being the polar opposite of anal retentive, I laughed on the inside quite a bit, but I also had profound respect and admiration for the level of detail. It truly saved our butts a lot of pain and prepared us mentally for what was to come. T-claps to ChuckyCheese. He ain't nantan for nothing.
35 guys signed up and paid for this event. I expected about 20-25 to show up. Several never trained with us, mostly due to the realities of family and work. Two in particular had to drop out for medical reasons. GreenAcres is still mending from his broken leg. He pulled me aside after a WarZone workout and told me he was a NoGo with tears in his eyes. GreenAcres has inspired all of us to Embrace the Suck. With a broken leg, he sat beside the other guys and did his own workouts, sometimes leading us in Mary. He routinely doubles down at the Fern. He even donated his ruck and various gear to several participants. GreenAcres walked every mile with us. He lifted heavy stuff. He embraced the suck.
The other one was Bowtie who received some potentially crushing news in the previous two weeks. At ActLikeMen, Groundblind said it best, "Bowtie is the standard for F3." He has completed a Heavy and a Tough already. He is faster than greased lightning. Bowtie never quits, never gives up. He has an indomitable spirit. For Bowtie not to come to a CSAUP, his world must be falling in, and it is. Klinger gave one of the best tributes to honor him by wearing a dress shirt and bowtie for the whole event. He looked like a total dork. I tried to explain the significance to Cadre Dave at the end, but I got too choked up to finish. Bowtie walked every mile with us. He lifted heavy stuff. He embraced the suck.
ChuckyCheese put out the word for us to form up 1 hour before the event, which started at 9pm. I think he got there at about 4am, just make sure the ground was still there. If there is ever an apocalypse, I will find and follow ChuckyCheese. I don't care which side he's on. He can be a zombie. I am grabbing the back of his ruck and holding on for dear life. 31 guys showed up, which really impressed me. It also scared me a little bit, because I did not recognize several of them. How were they going to perform? Would they quit? Would they GreyMan? I put it all out of my mind and just decided "It's gonna be alright." If they drop it, I'll pick it up. As the night wore on, it became evident that many other pax had the same attitude.
Right at 9pm, Cadre Dave walked up, chin tucked, every muscle fiber tight, eyes shooting laser beams. This was going to be a long night. A hush came over the pax. We instantly transformed from jaw-boning, cocky SOB's to scared little sheep. Cadre walked among his sacrificial lambs moving along each rank and file, then he asked some very simple questions. It was a setup:
- What are the weight requirements for a GORUCK Tough event?
- Who has a plate weight? Raise your hand.
- Why did you use a plate instead of bricks?
He asked each person who had a plate. That's what GORUCK sold us. Fits better. Yada, yada, yada.
WRONG! YOU CHOSE PLATES OVER BRICKS BECAUSE IT WAS EASIER TO CARRY. IT'S MORE COMPACT AND FITS HIGHER UP, SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORK AS HARD. WE CAN FIX THAT RIGHT NOW. AS I CALL ROLL, YOU CAN PRESS THAT EASIER WEIGHT OVER YOUR HEAD.
Cadre proceeded to call roll for what seemed like the next 2 hours. Pax started groaning under the weight, causing him some kind of sick pleasure. He told us we sounded like a labor and delivery room. We groaned louder and with purpose. Embrace the suck. Then he finished with the C's. Rucks started dropping on people's heads. "PICK UP THAT RUCK OFF YOUR HEAD!" More rucks started falling. He was on D for Driggers. We were on E for empty. That's when the punishment started in earnest.
"EVIDENTLY YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE. LET ME HELP YOU. GET THOSE RUCKS UP AND SQUAT WHILE YOU'RE DOING IT. THE KNEE IS THE MOST COMPLEX JOINT IN THE HUMAN BODY. IT SLIDES, GLIDES AND ROTATES. YOU CAN FEEL IT WHILE YOU ARE SQUATTING WITH THOSE RUCKS OVER YOUR HEAD."
G for Gutierrez.
Nobody has a watch during GORUCK events. They aren't allowed, but I am quite sure we set a world record for Overhead Ruck Press. Then he explained his philosophy of packing a ruck.
"When I was jumping out of planes, several of the other guys were corn-fed farm boys. Our packs weighed 160 pounds. These farm boys and their packs exceeded the allowable weight for their parachutes, so we all took some weight from them to distribute the load. The first thing I would do after landing, was give them their f*-ing weight back. All you guys with plates, tell me something. If you need to help out your buddy who is falling behind, how are you going to share the load, if he is carrying a plate? One person has to carry the whole load. If you had bricks, you could carry one brick and other people could carry the others. You made a lazy decision that could keep your team from performing at its best."
And that's why I love GORUCK events. The whole purpose is to teach you things about yourself and about working together as a group. Then he lined us up in 2 columns for our first exercise after the Admin phase.
"I BELIEVE IN 3 THINGS. PERCEPTION. ACTION. WILL. YOU MAY "THINK" YOU CAN'T DO SOMETHING. THAT IS ONLY A PERCEPTION. ONCE YOU START DOING IT, THE "ACTION", YOU REALIZE THAT YOU CAN DO IT. THAT IS STILL A PERCEPTION, HOWEVER. THE ONLY THING YOU CONTROL, THE ONLY THING NOBODY CAN TAKE AWAY FROM YOU, IS YOUR WILL. YOU MUST DECIDE."
The he set out two cones. Our mission was to duck walk, rucks overhead, around the first cone and back, a total of about 30 yards. JudgeJudy and YHC started off the two columns. We sort of squat-walked, which drew some fire from the Cadre. He demonstrated what he meant. Evidently Cadre has no knees and spends a significant part of everyday studying the movements of ducks. If the grass were 1/2" taller, he would have tickled his taint. We got lower. I really tried. (Perception). Cadre did offer a piece of advice. He said it was actually easier if you went all the way down and bounced up. He was right. I started bouncing. (Action). On the way back, I actually decided that I could do this. (Will). Everybody completed the exercise. It was obvious we have not studied ducks to any great extent, but all the pax cheered on each other and said good job. Cadre was pissed.
"STOP CHEERING PEOPLE ON FOR DOING POOR WORK! YOU ARE ONLY REINFORCING BAD HABITS. KEEP PEOPLE ON THE STANDARD. THAT ABSOLUTELY SUCKED. ALL OF YOU WERE GUN-DECKING. (holding back. Not sure why, but that's what it means.) SINCE YOU WEREN'T WILLING TO GIVE ME MAXIMUM EFFORT, WE'RE GOING TO TRY SOMETHING ELSE. WE'RE GOING TO ARMY CRAWL, BUT THE WAY I DO IT REALLY SUCKS! YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK. MOVE OUT!"
Again JudgeJudy and YHC started out. I wished with all my might that we were duck-walking again. I would have plowed a row with my taint. I would have bounced like a slinky. Instead I was eating dirt and shifting weight with my shoulders and chin, flopping like a fish on the pier and getting nowhere. I said something smart to Cadre, so he moved the cone about 10' further out. The Blue Falcon is here to help. Cadre offered to take my glasses, which I accepted after first refusing. Several family members were still there and were laughing and enjoying our misery. I joked that now I couldn't see the finish line, to which Groundblind said, "If you hit pavement, you've gone too far." We still owned our wills. Nobody was taking that from us. Every pax finished. Several of us have bruises and scrapes on our cheeks and chins. It sucked, but it also taught us a great lesson. Do it right, all the way right, the first time. It is always easier than doing it half-ass then getting punished for it and having to do it again.
Cadre picked out Linus to be Team Leader. Linus kept saying Sir to him, which Cadre hated. He was a Sargent, and everybody knows that you only say Sir to an officer. That would come back to bite us many times over the course of the night. Being well-raised Southern boys, Sir comes quite naturally, over 20 times naturally. YHC accounted for half of those Sirs. The Blue Falcon is here to help. The next exercise was buddy squats. One ruck had to be suspended between the backs of the two pax. If it fell we got punished. We got punished.
Mountain climbers in cadence the first time. More than I thought I could do. (Perception)
Flutter kicks and Hello Dollies the second time. More than I thought I could do. (Perception) True confession: I kept my head up and watched Cadre very closely. Every time he turned his head, I dropped my feet. There is no honor in Hell.
Cadre then took Linus, the ATL and Navigator aside and gave us our first mission. Before we could start our mission, however, Cadre told us we looked all dirty from the Army crawl, and it just would not do for us to parade through our own town in such a sorry state. The only remedy was to wash off all that dirt, so we proceeded into the toxic lagoon. Growing up, you would always see nasty oil tankers parked right there. I later learned this is the spot where they made repairs. The ground is so contaminated, the land is not useful to build on, so they covered it with some water and added a couple of fountains. That's the water we "cleaned off" in. The pax were in high spirits. We joked and laughed about it. (Will)
After emerging, the Cadre thought we needed to warm up a little, so he told us to run around the lagoon. This is where we started to see fatigue.(Perception) After getting around the first time, Cadre told us we went too slow, (1:45) so he made us do it again, with a tighter time hack (1:25). Some of the pax started falling behind. A couple guys took extra rucks. We all figured out that we had extra water in our rucks, so everybody zipped down each other's ruck to allow it to come out. We missed the hack. "DO IT AGAIN." At this point we almost lost somebody. FallGuy was totally smoked and looked like the walking dead. He started to walk away. Groundblind grabbed him and told him to hold on to the back of his ruck. Others got beside and behind him. We would make the time hack or fail together. Nobody was quitting this pain train. After 3 laps, Cadre formed us up to head out on our first mission.
We moseyed in 2 columns, maintaining no more than 2 arms length distance from the pax in front and behind. FallGuy was still in the coma state. The pax gathered around him. Schaffer took his ruck. That whole brick thing would have been useful at this time. Others were breathing heavy, but we all had good attitudes. (Will). We finished at Lawton Park, about 1.15 miles from the starting point. Cadre had pre-positioned some coupons for us. Cadre Dave is famous for his Pendulum of Pain. We knew this, thanks to Tater's websearch creeper skills, and had practiced with it the previous week. That saved us a lot of pain and suffering. This was a variant, however. Instead of a rigid beam, the weight was suspended from a rope, which had to remain taut to keep the weight off the ground. The rope was lashed to 2 beams, forming an "H". Pax on either beam had to work in opposite directions to keep the rope taught, while walking in the same direction. This took some practice and a lot of communication. Linus did a good job of breaking up pax into smaller groups to put the mechanism together and to get people moving in the right direction. In addition to the Pendulum of Pain, Cadre staged 3 more full buckets and 2 sloshy bags full of water. Everything had to be carried to the next stop--Hartsville High School. 2.25 miles of suckage. There is no easy way to accomplish some things in life. You just have to put your shoulder to the load and start moving. Along the way, we had shadows following us, taking pictures and encouraging us. Paperboy's wife and Benchwarmer came alongside. On Gandy Dr, ??? and his wife handed out water bottles, which was awesome. At our destination, Krispy Kreme showed up on his Harley all decked out like a Hell's Angel. He looked badass. Repo and LazyBoy were there as well, drinking beer and cheering us on. It means so much to have people pulling for you. I don't know what time it was, but I do know the rest of the world was sleeping, while these people stood by us.
We filled water bottles and awaited the next challenge. Groundblind took over as TL, and Cadre gave him his orders. It was the big Pendulum of Pain. Evidently the first one was just a warmup. This time we had all 4 buckets suspended from a beam with a wheel on top. It moved very easily from side to side. Again we had to figure out how to lash it all together. Groundblind did a good job of delegating and channeling the pax's energy toward working together. Since we had already practiced this the week before, we were able to get up and going relatively quickly toward our next destination--5th St via the long way. After about 50yds on the Pendulum, I was looking for a ride home. That hurt everywhere. I started getting a little nervous. Was I going to be able to finish? Would I quit? Maybe I was the only one thinking those thoughts, but something tells me otherwise. Somebody else took my place, and I looked for another weight to carry. One important lesson I have learned is to do something. If you need a break from the worst thing, then find something that is less worst. Somebody else needs a break too. I got on the water balloon from Hell with another pax and took a few minutes to get my mind right. Everybody started rotating through the Pendulum. We all had to learn how to allocate resources, keeping both sides at relatively the same height, maintaining position on the crown of the road. Eventually the pax settled into a routine of Embracing the Suck and moved along step by agonizing step. It was hard (Perception), but we collectively decided to keep moving forward. (Will) 2.6 miles to the Lotto Gas Station. Along the way, we almost got run over by a guy on 5th Street. Evidently people waving lights and arms are not a clear enough signal to slow down and move over. We literally jumped out of the way just in time. After that, Krispy Kreme stepped up and provided protection in the front. He went home and changed from his Harley to his huge diesel truck. He took over as Safety Officer, swinging that big rig into our lane and daring anybody to get in the way. The Beer In the Rear boys kept drinking beer and taking up the rear. At the Lotto, Cadre gave us our first break. We were able to take off our rucks, eat some food, change socks and rest. It felt so good to stop and sit. Almost too good. It's hard enough to keep going. It's even harder to start back up.
Cadre made a TL change from Groundblind to Fudger. We loaded up and headed out, this time to the Hartsville Skating Rink. I think several of the Yankees in our crowd didn't know where that is, or else they would have wanted to quit as much as I did. Getting there was going to be hard enough, but I also knew that we would have to come back again. Hopefully we would ditch the Pendulum of Pain somewhere out in the country and walk back into town empty handed. I now know it is better to expect the worst and get it, than to hope for the best and be disappointed. Getting back under way we had a hard time maintaining balance on the pendulum. We lost our rhythm. People started getting a little chippy. While the rest stop was a good thing, it also revealed to us how tired and sore we were (Perception), which directly affected what we were able to accomplish.(Perception) As we slowly moved toward our next stop, we constantly struggled to get our minds right. Everybody had it in their mind that they were working harder than anybody else. That's a cancer that can ruin a team and something that had bothered me for weeks prior to the event. After a while everybody settled back down, and we got back to business (Will). One of the best examples I saw was FallGuy. After being so completely broken in the beginning, he started taking up weight and looking for ways to help. I was glad to see him work through his personal struggles and become a valuable member of the team.
We finally got close to the bypass and Cadre turned us off the road at a metal building. Being the benevolent Cadre he is, he allowed us to take our second break and drop the rucks. This was 8.1 miles into our journey. Nobody knew that we were halfway. Cadre took away the giant water balloons and gave us another coupon. This time it was a duffel full of weight, posing as a casualty, to be suspended between two boards and a tarp. The engineers and farmers got together and made a fine looking stretcher. All the people who were too tall to help with the Pendulum got assigned duty on the stretcher, which worked out pretty well. We also grouped up roughly into teams of four, where 2 people could sub out for the same two people. In theory this should have maintained the right height on the Pendulum. It was a good idea and worked well as far as getting a break, but the Pendulum kept swinging. As we set out toward the Bypass, we got a little nervous. 5th Street taught us a valuable lesson about being safe on the roads. Fudger lined up the shadow crew to stay in front and behind to guard against making us bugs on an 18 wheeler's windshield. We turned onto Carolina and breathed a sigh of relief. Not only were we off the Highway of Death, but we were also turning back toward town. That had to mean something.
After two eternities, we made it our destination, which was Hartsville First Baptist. This was the 3rd break Cadre gave us. At this point, he was a pretty cool guy. Several pax had conversations with him as we toted heavy stuff and he walked along like it was a day at the beach. After a few minutes of rest, he brought us together and pulled out his map. It soon became obvious to all of us that he was out of destinations. We had faced all of his challenges and completed them faster than he anticipated. He started looking for alternate locations. We got cocky, but it was a cockiness that we earned, and I think Cadre respected that. Klinger even suggested the Kalmia steps. My heart raced a little when he said it, but then I thought, "Ain't nothing gonna beat me now. Bring it!" We were 10.5 miles into the ruck.
Eventually we settled on visiting the bell tower at Coker College, a sure sign, along with dawn, that the end was near. Our spirits rose. Our wills had overcome our perception. We could accomplish anything. We got to the bell tower, and TaterSalad regaled Cadre with some straight up bullshit about the bell coming from Appomattox Court House. Goldilocks propositioned Cadre with his ball scratching skills. After that Cadre had enough and decided to show us a cool thing from Ranger school.
He sat us down and showed us how to make a one rope bridge, which was awesome. YHC will incorporate that into a workout at WarZone one day. After the rope bridge demonstration, we were pretty much done with the event. Cadre told us we just needed a place to stow the Pendulum until we could pick it up at some later time. I was all for leaving it right where it was. Nobody was going to steal it. The pax, however, had been transformed. Several of them chimed in that they wanted to carry it back to WarZone and finish there. This group of individuals was now ONEPAX. We got underway. It was the easiest stretch of the whole trip. (Will) As we crossed 4th St, we started to see family that was waiting on us. F3 guys filed in, just having finished their own workout at Convergence. They started clapping for us. I felt like a war hero, except I had not done anything heroic or praiseworthy.
Cadre lined us up in formation again. We counted off. 31 pax started. One pax finished. Or so we thought.
Cadre then reminded us that we had to pay for our errors. All those Sirs came back to haunt us. 100 Mountain Climbers in cadence. Flutter kicks and Hello Dollies. Then we did Mel Penningtons. I almost laughed. After all that, we're going to do Mel Penningtons? Really? After 45 minutes of Mel Pennington's, they started to hurt, but something came over me, and I started dancing. The crowd started laughing, which just egged me on. At this point, he could keep his patch. I was going to have a good time. (Will) Cadre was merciful to us and handed out the coveted patch. We gave him a t-shirt and got a group photo.
Afterwards we went to breakfast at the Rooster and regaled each other with stories from the night before. The bond we forged will never be broken. We accomplished something together. It was special. Each pax looked into his own soul and found more than he thought was there. Leaders emerged. Battles were fought and won. Then we went our separate ways.
Who wants to sign up for the next one?
- Groundblind grey-manning at the end and trying to sell Cadre a new HVAC system.
- JudgeJudy with the tights.
- JudgeJudy with the tights 2.0.
- Paperboy leading everybody in a very erotic moaning session.
- Divac's bricks.
- Front left.
- PoleDancer lifting one side of the Pendulum of Pain all by himself.
- TaterSalad spinning the dream about the Appomattox Courthouse bell. Benchwarmer would be proud.
- Little kids cheering for their daddies.
- Meredith (Groundblind's M) giving Cadre the stink-eye because he was keeping her from leaving for Clemson.
- Beer drinking, slow driving, sock giving, pissing in our path pax cheering us on.
- Krispy Kreme playing chicken in his big diesel rig with motorists.
- Backdraft's face when I told Cadre we should get back in the water.
- Arnold regaling us with all his sexual exploits. (Those cattle must be tired. That's all I'm saying about that.)
- Hanging out with my buds. In Fudger's words, "It's like a big sleepover!" So true, Fudger. So true.
- Clint Eastwood, starring in The Creature from the Black Lagoon.