In Action Report - Selection in Normandy

Standing there looking at the eyes of the unexpecting participants. Using the last minutes before the event to warm up and stretch any last muscles.

The weather is cloudy with a heavy breeze. Sometimes the sun comes out and sometimes a couple of rain drops. Looking out onto the shore the tide is fully up.

The clock strikes 13:00 and the formation begins. We are 21 participants challenging the idea if we meet the standard.

Standing there unforeseeing what is going to come upon us. There is a lot of standing. Looking straight and trying to remove any kind of emotion from my demeanour. I don't want to be the odd one out.

21 candidates line up in formation on the beach

Check In

The Cadre explains that we will be registered at the van. There we will get our number on a tan patch and on our kit bag plus the weigh in of 45 lbs dry (everything except food and water).

The Cadre starts calling our first letters of our last names. A, B, C, ..., L, that's me, I walk over to line up behind the others.

On my turn, he gives me the tan patch with the number 07 and says "lucky number seven." Next he puts tape around my kitbag and wrote the number.

Now it is time to weigh my ruck after taking out food and water. I got 44.8 lbs, fuck, I am 0.2 lbs too light. He immediately demands "find a rock!" I grab two that are right behind behind me and I make the cut. Then he says "make sure that you are not less at the next weigh in." This means any potential tactic of putting heavier equipment in at the beginning could be a potential future drop reason.

Next one is given the task to grab a 40#, 60#, and 80# simple sandbag and fill it up. I go back to the start and find a large patch where no one has grabbed the top layer for the quick filling technique (use the full stretch of one's arm and swipe them together to create a sand pile).

While filling up the 60#, I am realizing that everyone else still have their kitbag, where I instantly run back to the van and grab it. So much for me not being the odd one out.

Back at the sandbags, I am able to quickly fill them and then help out some other participants fill theirs.

Now it is time to weigh in the sandbags. We all line up and immediately get the message "if your bag is not smooth, meaning no wrinkles, then it is not full enough." Further they share "you are just wasting everyone's time." I thought to myself, we have more than enough time, there currently aren't any time hacks.

We all go back and fill up with a couple extra hands of sand until the seems are bulging.

I bring the 40# back for the weigh in and he says "bench". Going back to my sandbags and contemplating what bench means when off in the distance there is a bench with lines of bags in an orderly fashion.

Candidates filling up sandbags

I am questioning my sanity, did I mishear all the instructions or has my mind already wander too far into the void.

Filling the 60# is no problem, the 80# likewise. Until I carry it to check it and the scale says 74#.

How is that possible, the bag is full, no more sand can fit. Carrying it back and thinking how can I solve the issue. I think back to ruck weigh in with adding rocks for more weight and that is what I am going to do.

I grab two larger rocks and put them into the bag. The check passes this time.

The sneaky thing they do is they don't show you the final weight if it passes. They only show you it if it fails.

Thinking further how one can easily pass the task in the future is not to use the top layer of sand, rather sand below it, since it is more dense due to having a higher humidity level.

Gear Check

It is time to get into formation. This means the first row has 6 candidates and the other three rows having 5, totalling up to 21.

The Cadre explains "when no other instructions are given, this is the formation that is demanded."

He adds "as of now there is no more talking to other participants other than it is sight, limb, or life Also no talking to on lookers and they should be directed to the next Cadre." This is all connected with the integrity reasoning. Further explaining that one will not lie to the Cadre and tell the whole truth. Finally each Cadre quickly introduces themselves.

We hear "gear dump!" This means dump all the gear from the ruck and kitbag as long as they are not in a clear bag. This also includes all your gear in your dry bag.

I unzip the large long ranger pockets first and remove all the gear before continuing to removing the bladder, the ruck plates, and disconnecting the hose and carabiner. I place the ruck plates in such a fashion that the moral stickers are covered. Next I dump the contents of the dry bag and all the gear from the top pockets like foot care, salt tablets, and headlamp. Finally I unzip the kit bag and forcefully shake out its contents.

I am one of the first ones done, though I didn't look further than 01 and 02. I want to tell 02 on what the instructions are and help him empty his bag, but we were deemed mute.

Each row of the formation gets a Cadre and their job is to find prohibited items like moral patches or supplements that can mess with your heart like caffeine.

Cadre LDB introducing himself

Our row, the second row, gets Cadre Hand who gives off a vibe of fairness. In comparison to the other Cadre who are more strict and made the candidates suffer more.

The Cadre questions both of my ORS (oral rehydration supplements) containers, where one clearly states that it is NaCl. Also questions the essential oils I brought with me as personal medical items.

First the rucksack is demanded and we all hold it up, then 3L hydration bladder, wind breaker, socks; one of the candidates is taking too long that a Cadre in frustration says "candidates do you think this is a waste of time? Turn left and run until everyone has space to do an inchworm push up."

This push up variation means that the legs are put onto the shoulders of the person behind you and the worm goes up and down at the same time.

"Up. Down." The Cadre repeats the commands another seven times until the first candidates break form. The frustration has not left their faces and we hear "low crawl to the sandbags."

Some do not understand the exercise which infuriates the Cadre even more. "The task is simple. If your face is not touching the ground you are doing it wrong." The next Cadre says "Your head should not be higher than your butt."

I just keep my face just above the sand and move ever so slightly forward. Always being halted by the candidate in front of me struggling to move any distance.

We finish the distance and jog back to our formation spots. The list continues with the previous item, socks. The Cadre continues going down the list one at a time.

Looking at 02 who is trying to gain the system and pack the items back into their correct spot. This attempt is quickly caught by Cadre Jason who orders him to place sand in his dry bag. One notices that there is a language barrier, since he ignores the commands and continues on. Cadre Jason being annoyed gets down to his eye level and shows him the action. He finally understands the task and completes it successfully.

The Cadre gets to the bottom of list and shares that all these items should be in your ruck, though never shared this info at the beginning. When the socks were asked, I just grabbed the one's from the kit bag.

Next the Cadre tells us to show all the items in the kit bag. This is where I realize that he is reading off the old gear list from the selection GORUCK page and not from Sandlot. Because ChapStick, ranger panties, and duct tape strips were not on the list and I explain my lack of equipment due to the lack of information on Sandlot.

After the kit bag is fully gear checked, the Cadre gives us 30 seconds to secure both kit bag and ruck. I struggle to grab all the gear and stuff it into the ruck. The time is ticking and I zip it up halfway before hearing "ruck on back and stand up."

My ruck and kit bag are fully exposed, though I am standing. Some candidates are taking their sweet time. After seeing this, I close up my kit bag as well.

Everyone is standing now and the Cadre are having a huddle. I take the opportunity to fully zip up the ruck. Right away, I do a 360 degree sweep to make sure I didn't lose any gear.

Stashing the kit bag

"Turn right" is commanded, followed by "you two (01 and 07) follow me and the next two rows fall in behind." Off we go in a fast ruck pace to the Team House.

We get their carrying both our ruck and kit bag. In two ordered rows on the sidewalk, we are demanded one-by-one to put our bag into the trunk of the car which has been extended with the car's backseats folded down. On my turn I take the opportunity to stuff it down where the feet would go so that I can have easier access. Otherwise the bag would have been buried among the other bags.

Once everyone has stashed their bags we ruck shuffle back to the beach by the sandbags in double file. We get back into formation and await our next instructions.

BFF Test

"You will now run and line up behind one of the four white rocks." These are placed their where we just did the gear dump. I perceived to keep the formation thus chose the first rock. Though technically could have chosen any rock.

Hand release push ups

We are facing the rocks and are being informed that the first exercise is hand release push ups with arms to the sides. One of the Cadre performs the exercise and tells what to look out for.

The first candidates take their positions. The rest of us are eagerly watching them and all we hear is "turn to face the bay" and we turn around.

A Cadre starts the two minute timer while other Cadre track the rep count of their candidate.

With no real warm up, some of us start shaking out the shoulders and arms to get ready for the exercise.

Some candidates are being tested on push ups while the rest face the bay

"No resting in the down position" is briefly heard while the time decreases. "No resting in the down position." There it goes again. Maybe they should have shared how to rest and more details what is considered a full rep.

The first round is done. The second just as quickly and then it is my turn.

I flip my cap around, take my position on the ground, take a practice run of arms to the side, bring the arms back to the start position, confirm that I am ready to the Cadre. The timer starts. The first 20 are easy and then I take a break at the top of the push up. Get myself into the downwards dog yoga position to stretch out my shoulders. I want to pace myself throughout the BFF and not shatter my shoulders on the first exercise of four.

"Come back straight before attempting the push up." I hear from the Cadre and I do another three. I continue this pattern over the rest of the time and total to 36 reps.

I go back to the tail of the line and face the bay again.

80# sandbag burpee

The next exercise is announced and it is the 80# sandbag burpee. A Cadre shows the exercise before demanding us to turn and face the bay again.

Soon it becomes my turn. I walk up to the bag, take off my cap, and remove any potential rocks from the landing area of the burpee.

The two minute counter goes off. The first one I do with ease, the second one is a bit harder. I start the third one and I just cannot clean it. I am afraid that I will hurt my wrists from flipping the fully packed sandbag which I have done in the past.

I struggle to get the bag over the head and drop it but it does not count because both hands need to be on the bag when doing the motion. I ask with curiosity if that rep counts and the Cadre confirms that it does not.

I attempt it again and I somehow make it. Good that is three. Now I want to take some rest before attempting the fourth one. Immediately the Cadre figures out what I am planning to do and says "you cannot rest and need to keep working." So I deadlift, clean, and drop it multiple times until the time runs out.

Candidates getting instructions how to perform the sandbag burpees

Not too proud with that result since it is way below the last practice attempt. Quite annoyed how full the simple sandbag is and how poorly manageable it is.

I go back to the back of the line and watch the water while the others finish their attempts.

100# mile

"Candidates get into formation." We go stand back next to our rucks. "Everyone grab a 60# and bring it back to your ruck."

We go do it and then the Cadre starts naming random number ordering. Everyone scrambles to get into position.

Candidates 15 and 18 line up for the 100# mile

Candidate 07 line up for the 100# mile

Candidates 21 and 20 line up for the 100# mile

The Cadre starts a speed ruck towards the beach. He goes down the ramp, under the pier, and through the seaweed. Thinking to myself, oh no my poor shoes will get wet. As soon as that thought leaves my mind, I could feel my socks becoming wet.

Standing patiently in the soggy seaweed and waiting for further instructions. We are informed that the order is not random and instead we are partitioned into the same groups as in the prior exercises.

The Cadre explains "you will move to the other side of the beach, touch the pier, and move back. You will do the movement twice and when you turn around at the start you will call out your number." Then he explains that there will be a 30 seconds break between each group.

The first group lines up. The Cadre tells them to start and off they go slowly.

The second group takes their positions, waits for the signal, and off they go. They quickly catch up to the first group and most surpass them.

Next it's the third group's turn where I have been designated to. I get into position while putting myself slightly into the back. We get the signal and off we go.

Candidate 20 and 21 are leading the pace, I try to keep up with them, though my energy is ever so fleeting. So I drop the initial ruck shuffle and fall down to the basic rucking movement.

Getting over to the first pier is really demanding, on each step I can feel how the extra load of the 60# is crushing my frame. It does not help that the beach sand is not providing any additional foot support.

Candidates on their way to perform the 100# mile

I get to the pier and am already suffering mentally, touch it, and turn around to go back.

Although all the candidates of my group are far into the distance and candidates from the fourth group have overtaken me, I am still not the last person.

Just keep on moving. I start talking to myself in the third person to motivate myself to continue. You are almost to the seaweed.

Right before the seaweed, the last man surpasses me, we both go around the Cadre, and head back for round two.

Candidates performing the 100# mile

Candidate 07 performing the 100# mile

As soon as he got off the seaweed, I surpass him and create some distance between us.

Each step I can feel the shakiness of my legs while the sandbag is crushing my shoulders.

I try to move the sandbag to one shoulder to give the other some rest, but at the same time I fear the bag will fall off the ruck. That was nice, now off to the other shoulder.

Getting ever so slightly back to the pier and reminding myself it's only a couple more steps.

I touch the pier and take a quick breather. The last man catches up to me again.

Now I am last man on the last stretch, I cannot permit myself with this embarrassment, come on 07 you can do better than this.

I see that the guy in front of me has a limp. I pick up the pace ever so slightly and surpass him. I realize all these mind games of putting myself down were false and I have more energy in the tank than perceived a couple minutes ago. With this new burst of energy, I finish the mile in a ruck shuffle fashion.

I see the other candidates lined up in the seaweed facing the bay and I find my place at the end.

I drop the sandbag, it hits the seaweed forcefully, and splats the seaweed in all directions. Some candidates react to the seaweed hitting them. Whoops.

As soon as the sandbag hit the beach, the last man joins the ranks, and he got even less off a breather, before we start moving again.

Candidates in double file after the 100# mile

The first strikes

Back at the start, at the lovely bench, we get in formation.

The Cadre calls out numbers. Some candidates get one strike, others get two, and lucky me, I get three strikes. Thus, I receive the yellow patch.

The Cadre explains that I am way below the standard for each of the past evolutions. He explains further that this does not mean anything and the tides can still turn.

Thinking to myself that is fine and better than expected, since I originally thought that I am fully out and don't get to fulfill my goal of accomplishing the 12 miler evolution. All I tell him is "that's fine."

Triple sandbag evolution

Back in formation, the Cadre explains the next evolution.

"You will put the 80# sandbag on your ruck and then suitcase carry the 60# and 40# sandbag."

We all go and grab the required coupons. Then we put the 80# on the ruck and as soon as we go down to pick up the other two, half of the 80# fall off.

Those who achieved to keep theirs on lined up behind the Cadre while the rest of us struggle to move all three.

I am the last of the pack and am really struggling to keep the 80# from rolling off. Each time I go down to pick up the other two, the 80# falls off.

I quickly realize the issue is that the 80# is too full and thereby cannot be formed around the neck and be supported by shoulders. Thus, I release the ruck straps fully and fasten the hip belt so that there is bigger space between my ruck and my back to place the 80# in.

Next I realize that the 60# and 40# are so full that I can lean the larger of the two onto the other one. Thus, I won't have to go down so far to grab them. Basically I save myself from doing a deep squat.

Now that I have the technique down time to try it out. Deadlift and clean the 80#. Next go slightly into a squat and pick up the other two only to hear my spine fully cracking. I move a couple steps before dropping off the load.

"07 you see it is possible!" the Cadre hints as I look out in the distance and see the other candidates carry the load with ease.

I know its humanly possible and I know I do not have the required strength to do it quickly.

Panting heavily, the Cadre tries to assess my situation and asks me a question if I am still lucid. "Candidate do you hear me?" "Yes, Cadre", I reply.

He is fine with that answer and I get to keep on trying. All I am thinking in my mind Come on Cadre, I dare you to drop me!

About 10m out, candidate 06 starts leap frogging the sandbags, where the Cadre tells the last two of us to do the same. Thanks 06 for your incentive.

I can easily do this and it is much easier than carrying 240# at once, which is 1.5x my body weight.

Deadlift and clean the 80#, carry it 25m and drop it. Go back to throw the 60# onto the ruck and suitcase carry the 40# for 50m.

I repeat this many times and quickly over take 06 who is third last.

I drop the 60+40# combo and go back for the 80#. On my way towards my 60+40# combo, I see how 06 steals them. Well, fuck. 06's combo pack are even further back than where my 80# was. Well played 06, well played.

A couple more leap frogs and the sandbags make it to their resting place for the evolution at the Team House.

The final candidate leap frogging 60+40# combo

The 12 Miler

The last of us take quick breather, drop the ruck for even just a couple of seconds before getting the next instructions. Some of us top off our water while I chose not to do it after checking the fullness of the bladder.

The Cadre tells us to line up in double file and follow behind him. He explains that we need to be in reach distance of the candidate in front of us.

The Cadre rucks quite fast that most have to ruck shuffle except myself. I keep a keen eye not to be more than two steps behind the guy in front of me.

We ruck shuffle our way to the edge of the town. Here we get instructions of the next evolution.

Cadre LDB explains that we will be doing the 12 miler. "The course goes down following the pebble path which comes onto a concrete boat ramp and continues thereafter further onto a pebble path. In about a mile there will be a Cadre waiting where you need to tag the gate and come back. This loop you will do six times to complete the 12 miler."

"For the 12 miler you have 3.5h time and this is one of times that you will learn the standard."

Cadre Cleve shares that the integrity checks are still in place. "Just because we cannot see you does not mean the drone won't catch you. It has 10x optical zoom. If you are caught, you will be instantly dropped."

After the instructions, everyone puts themselves in an order that they think that aligns with their tempo. I put myself towards the end of the pack, because I do not want to burn myself from starting off too fast, which is my tendency by long distance rucks.

"Start!" is what we hear and off we go. I see some start off fast with a ruck shuffle while others take their time to warm up.

I start off slow and slowly increase my tempo. I quickly notice how drained my body is and that I need to fuel up with food if I want achieve this evolution. But first let me get the first mile done.

Getting to the boat ramp went quickly. Then comes a fairly steep uphill. I use the technique of placing my hands onto my knees to help with pushing off, making myself get up the hill efficiently.

Next the path goes straight and flat. Eventually there is a small dip which I ruck shuffle, since it is easier onto the knees. Then one gets to the shrubs which grant shade. This is such a nice treat over constantly being bombarded by the sun. A couple minutes later, one already sees the Cadre to the right.

I tag the white gate and go back.

As soon as one comes out of the shrubs one notices the head wind.

My ruck pace is high enough that I just ignore it for the time being.

I get back to the boat ramp, which has picnic tables. I quickly lean my ruck onto it and grab my salt capsule package.

Ruck back on with no time to lose and take one of the capsules. The rest of the package, I put in my right leg pocket for future easier access.

I get back to the start, tag the white gate, shuffle a good stretch downhill, and catch up back to the spot I was before the slight time I just lost.

Back at the picnic table, I realize of my previous mistake and grab my tropical trail mix.

Rip the package and take a handful of the long awaited food. Those coconut chips taste so good. Take another handful and get raisins this time.

A couple seconds later, I feel the fructose rush and get some energy back.

Now time to deal with the pressure of the bladder. I kind of don't want to urinate so that I can keep it as motivator to keep going. Though on the other hand it will feel so good to empty the pressure build up.

I keep the new tempo until I get to the shrubs and take my opportunity to urinate. By doing this, I lose the headway in front of 18.

Jump back in, see 21 and 05 off in the distance, rucking side-by-side as from the beginning, getting ever so slightly towards me.

Sadly I chose to leave my pacer 18 and now don't have anyone. Going alone at a ever so slight slower pace than before.

Now that I dealt with the bigger issues, the smaller ones are in the spotlight. I cannot tell which one is the worse.

Is it the blister on the inside arch of left foot. Or are it the shoulders that have been crying from the get go. Could it be the right Achilles tendon sharing that I didn't spend enough time healing it. At least my third person voice is still telling the truth of no one cares.

With all these distractions, I lost the current objective, 21 and 05 pass with ease. Even 19 and 15 catch up to me.

As 19 just tagged the turn around gate, he shuffles past me. I take the opportunity to shuffle right behind him and 15 does the same behind me.

The reason I did this is to have 19 do the work against the head wind and permitting myself and 15 to glide behind him.

We stay nice and tightly behind him and keep his tempo no matter what. Means when ever he picks up the pace we do the same.

There are two thoughts I am having. First there are strong rangers and smart rangers. And second, I really wonder how this constellation looks from the other side.

During the ruck towards the start, I see the first candidate 04 who has been ruck shuffling the whole distance so far. Then every time I see a club mate either I smile, wink, or show the peace sign right off the right ruck strap. Their imagination keeps me going.

On the downhill towards the boat ramp, I overtake 19 and play leader until back around to the uphill after the boat ramp.

As cool as it felt to do this, I just couldn't keep up the pace and fell back to the next tag team.

My mind wanders and questions how am I only halfway done. How am supposedly to do this for another 20km. Maybe I should fake an injury and the Achilles tendon might be a good one to blame.

I fall right behind the next tag team that is barely ruck shuffling. I see the boat ramp off in the distance and start questioning where in the world are the first candidates. 04 should have long been going back towards the turn-a-round point.

This means the Cadre was playing mind games to demotivate the candidates. In truthfulness one way was 2 miles, thus a lap is 4 miles.

With this new sense of truth, I grab the rest of my energy reserves, run down to the boat ramp and keep the tempo high all the way to the finish line.

The last minutes

I see the other candidates resting on the wall, eating, and taking care of their personal needs.

The Cadre tells me "find a spot along the wall, put something warm on, get some water, and eat something."

I go find myself a spot, put down my ruck, open it, and take a breather. This is way too long for Cadre Cleve who questions what were the instructions that I got. I repeat the exact order as stated and his demenour didn't give off acceptance.

I quickly put on my jacket, take the water bladder out, and go to fill it up. I get back to my spot, eat all the trail mix, and feel the energy buzz from the previous evolution.

I see that lots have decided to drop and once the 12 miler was officially over, I join the ranks.

After selection

I give the Cadre my pain list, which I will be dealing with for the next weeks, grab my gear, and go rest on the path. This is where I see the sign that says 3.5 km to Pointe du Hoc. If only I wasn't looking strictly at guy in front of me while getting to the start, I would have known the actual distance from the get go.

I give a head nod to rest of the team before being transferred out.

The MRC Team

The MRC Team from left to right: 20, 07, 18, 21, 15