Against my better judgment today, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go rucking despite having an injured calf/ankle. Last weekend I was shooting a high school football game for one of the newspapers I work for. Yes, that O&I photography class is still paying dividends after all these years. So, near the end of the game, I was trying to get a shot along the sideline of a kid catching the ball right near where I was standing off the field of play.

The defender rode the kid out of bounds and for good measure well off the field, gave him an extra shot, which sent the receiver flying…right toward me. I stepped back but the kid went down and rolled, executing a pretty fair PLF. As he continued his roll, his cleats came down right on my ankle and lower calf. While it hurt, it didn’t get bad until I got home and pulled my boot off. It looked like a lion scratched me with his claws, the middle gash was deep and my foot swelled up to about 3x its normal size.

What’s the best way to recover from an injury like that? Rest? Ice? Both? Nah, Rucking is the answer …right? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyhow.

With heavy rain forecast for the area, starting later this morning and running thru the day, the best time to start a ruck march is early. And as being we’re early risers normally, this was a no-brainer.

The morning was overcast and warmer than I envisioned and quite humid as you could tell that there was rain in the air. And before you get to Selection, remember the weather will always, always take a dump on you at the worst possible timing during a gated event.

Going Downhill Really an Advantage?

Recently I had been reading some material about rucking. And in this one piece, the author had stated that the ratio of timed gained going downhill was only about half of what was lost going uphill. Surely, that has to be false, I thought. I have always been one to preach about “making up time” going downhill.

So I decided to test it as scientifically as possible. On the trail that I was using this morning, there is a long upslope followed by about two miles of flat terrain and then two good size hills.

And surprised to say, that what I perceived to be a wife’s tale was the truth. At the start of the two-mile flat terrain, I started my stopwatch on my phone and timed myself until I got to the end. I took the average for the two miles on the flat which was right about where I expected to be in terms of time of the pace.

When I got to the hills, I did them twice to get an accurate look, so I set the watch and timed myself going up, made a note and went back down. At the bottom, I repeated the procedure.

Just as a footnote, the hills in question are pretty steep and much steeper than anything you’ll find in SFAS or at Ft. Benning. However, while it appeared that I had not slowed down much, the pace was knocked back to where it was a good 35 seconds slower than the flat terrain.

And the average time gained from trudging on the downhill side was only half of what was lost by going uphill, which was exactly what I had read in the piece. My times were an average 18 seconds faster but only about half of what I had lost on the upslope. Again, these hills are much bigger than you’ll see in Selection, so the ratio of time lost and gained are probably much higher than you will experience in Selection. Unless of course, you’re going to Delta Selection and then these are almost the flattest terrain you’ll experience there. So, in the SpecialOperations.com version of “Mythbusters”, mark this one down as true! Learn something new every day.

There is something to be said for hitting the trails early in the morning in the fall. To see the leaves turning the bright colors is always a reason that we remind ourselves of why we choose to live up here. Although I then went thru a small section of woods where the leaves are already down and it is depressing thinking of what is soon right ahead of us.

But as we’re out hitting the hills this morning and clearing our head first thing in the morning it is always a good idea to do a checklist to ensure you have everything right before you go.

Correct Socks and boots for the ruck? Check. And even the extra wrap for the sore ankle…check. Is the rucksack packed properly with the sandbag in the radio pouch and the Camelbak ready to go? Check. Walking stick/slash lance for unruly animals…check.

Embracing the Suck…Again:

Lately some of the messages I’ve gotten, I get the distinct tone that some candidates are already approaching rucking as something that is going to suck 24-hrs a day and it is something that must be learned to live with. To a small extent, that is true.

But as we’ve put out in countless times in plenty of posts…too many to count, if you treat rucking as you would getting a root canal, then it will be painful each and every time you do it. “Embracing the Suck” isn’t just a t-shirt design. It is a way of learning to embrace your lifestyle choice. No one is saying that rucking is easy or that it will be any less painful at times. But your ruck is and always will be, along with your boots your primary means of transportation when everything else goes to hell….and it will.

You have to learn to love putting the big green tick, the pain pill etc…on your back or you will be a very unhappy camper in Special Operations. That’s why some of us still do it 30-something years later. While we may not be humping 100 pounds of lightweight kit over the mountains of Shitholeastan, it was and still is, part of the lifestyle.

Check out the FOGs (many of whom I know) that humped the length of the Appalachian Trail last summer for charity.  Remember, “it is a normal civilian who looks upon everything that happens in his life as a blessing or a curse. But the warrior looks upon everything thrown at him as a challenge.”

With that said….Let’s go rucking, preferably before rain hits!  However, I do have to have a word with my bulldog who used to love to go. Now she runs to the back of the house when she sees me pick up the ruck and boots. She is not “Embracing the Suck”… We need to talk.

If anyone else has any questions, feel free to send them along to [email protected]  or at my Twitter page @SteveB7SFG and I’ll be glad to answer them.

Photo courtesy of US Army, author


Originally published on Special Operations.com