This event humbled me. It reset everything that I thought I knew about me, training, and type 1 diabetes as it relates to GORUCK events.
This was my first Heavy. I felt as ready as I could have been, but I never quite felt ready enough. The only thing I was nervous about is the durability of my left shoulder. It’s possible my preoccupation with that injury might have allowed me to overlook something else in my training. When I started the admin phase of the Battle of Fallujah Heavy, it didn’t matter what I might have overlooked. It was too late to change anything at that point.
Admin phase started like every single admin phase does. Weight, water, quitters cash, ID, headlamp, and reflectors. Everything else outside of that, well, that was just stuff only you would need.
Prior to the event my blood sugars were normal. 150s. I downed a ton of leftover pizza with half the required insulin required to digest that. Why? Because I needed to start the event over 200, but less than 240, and as I exercised I would become increasingly insulin sensitive working my blood sugars down systematically. The idea is not to crash, but work it down gradually and replenish at every opportunity should I need it. What i also did around 5:00pm was take my Basal dose about 2 hours early. Usually basal doesn’t really take effect for a few hours, so I figured it would be an easy trade off. But this insulin was a little new to me and without a Dexcom to measure when it takes effect, I was somewhat in the dark as to when this would hit me.
If the welcome party started within the first hour, I could stop once it was complete, eat something to offset, and carry on. I love plans.
The first part of the Heavy was the Robbie Miller Half WOD. It was a simple set of movements. 6 - 33ft shuttle runs, 6 - burpee squats, 6 - mountain climbers, 6 - ruck on front get-ups done for 12 rounds. Cadre Igor split the workout. We did 6 rounds of the workout then we did our timed 12-mile forced road march. Once that was complete with would finish the Robbie Miller WOD.
Through the first part of the Robbie Miller WOD I felt decent. My legs were a little fatigued, but a lot of the Robbie Miller was centered on leg exercises. For me, it was to be expected. I did a quick check like I always do. Breathing, good. Hands, good. Feet, good. Shoulders, a little sore, but good, and legs, fatigued but nothing a 12 miler couldn’t fix. We had 2 minutes to get to the bathroom and form back up. Didn’t have time to check my sugar because I had to pee really bad, but I felt good. No reason to be alarmed so far.
The 12 miler started. Cadre Igor leads his 12 mile ruck at a brisk pace. This wasn’t unexpected. What was unexpected was that he selected a 4 mile route around Edgewater Beach and we would do 3 laps. The first leg followed a running path from the Northernmost parking lot along the shoreline to the beach house. We then rucked onto the beach into the loose sand along the shoreline until the end of Edgewater’s property, then turned around a piece of driftwood and doubled back to a set of stairs on a path. That transition would be going from wet packed sand to loose dry sand. It was brutal. We would climb the 6 or 7 stairs to a nature path that also climbed to another set of stairs. The second set of stairs were more uneven which dumped you onto the walking path at the western part of the park on top of a bluff overlooking the city. From there we then went back down the steep hill to the path below. It’s such a messed up route with radical elevation changes, it was killing me.
My sore legs became more sore instead of moving some of that soreness out which has always been my experience doing PT then going for a 12 mile ruck. I drank water, because my mouth felt dry and I kept moving. I figured the cramping could be the beginning of some dehydration. I’ve felt this in training before. I knew if I kept hydrating, I should be ok.
The first lap I kept up no problem. I even had a conversation about what sustained cardio can do to blood sugars over a long enough timeline. We stopped at the end of the first lap, I knew we were really ahead of a 3:30 12 miler pace. We had a few minutes to hit the restrooms where we would do another lap. I grabbed a hit of Gatorade and threw on my headlamp. Still felt decent, but legs were growing more and more sore, but this was a blistering pace. We hit the beach on the second lap and I started to cramp more in my legs.
Figured it was dehydration still so I downed more water. It kept getting worse. Climbed those damn stairs again. At the top I said I have to stop and check my sugar. Something was off. I ripped out my meter, checked my sugar. 54. Uh oh. I quickly grabbed 4 glucose tabs, threw everything back in my ruck, popped 2 tabs, then popped 2 more. I was so far behind, but the TL was right with me. He was also an EMT. As I started to catch up I saw Chris, my training buddy and he asked what was up, why had I gotten so far behind? I told him I needed carbs. As I rounded the perimeter of the parking lot, as to meet the standard he was waiting for me with the TL and the Cadre. He gave me a packet of jelly beans and we kept moving. Legs were furious with me, but I was determined to keep going. We got to the stairs again. Every step was more painful than the next. I refused to stop. Then I got a little wobbly and Chris grabbed me and we kept moving. Got to the top of the stairs a second time after getting a pop quiz from the TL. Name, age, do I know where I was?
The answers were right and I knew exactly where I was. I kept hitting the water a little, but this would prove futile and I would go black on water. But I was able to shuffle a ton and catch up with the slower folks in the stack. I felt like I was winning the small little war waging in my head. We got to the start point of the 12 miler. Instead of the 2 minutes to pee before the last lap, I had 30 seconds because I was so far behind. I checked my sugar. 67, moving in the right direction. Good. I grabbed a protein bar because Chris told me to, and we kept moving. I also ate a ton of his peanut M&Ms. Then it was sand. Again. All the good movement I was having was reversing. The stairs got me again, this time as we got to the top, Cadre Doug, just behind us was asking if I thought I could even finish this event.
This felt like a challenge. Like I was too weak to go on. I didn’t train hard enough. He challenged me to catch up with the people ahead of us. I started to shuffle but my legs were just not working right. Cadre Doug told Chris to pace me. Either push me a little or have me grab his ruck and pull me. Chris pulled me through the rest of the 12 miler. All the while I was drinking water, eating M&Ms to get the blood sugar up.
By the end I was feeling really bad. I finished. I refilled my water. I was still breathing. I was still alive. I knew I had the other half of the Robbie Miller WOD and we would get a little break. Sugar was steady at 67, so I got some glucose tabs to help jump it over, and ate my other protein bar. Protein will help.
The first round of Robbie Miller part 2 was rough. Everyone was spent and moving slowly. I struggled on the ruck get ups, so Cullen Maag saw this and jumped in next to me. As they called the rep on the next get up, he jumped up, turned around, grabbed my hand and ripped me to my feet. He did this for the rest of the Robbie Miller WOD.
I made it through and by this time my legs were in open protest. My sugar was getting better. So I continued. I ate my third and final protein bar, and a hand full of someone’s jelly beans while we got a reprieve for a while. I stretched and listened to Cadre Igor tell the full history of how Iraq even became a country. Between trying to get my legs to loosen, I was completely enthralled with what he had to present and I couldn’t wait to see how this whole story would evolve over the next 19 hours.
Our first movement was to the beach to fill up sandbags. I was in the back of the stack, moving slowly, every step forward was movement forward and I kept saying that in my head. We formed up on the beach and we started to fill the sandbags. Just one task at a time.
Once the sandbags were full they were assigned to each Troop. Troop 1 and Troop 2. Then within those Troops were company, I was in echo. We moved out down the beach to the far end. Along the way we stopped and Cadre Igor assigned driftwood to each Troop. We were heading up the stairs to the trail that lead away from the beach where someone in the back of the stack started to shout at something moving down the beach. It was mass confusion all of a sudden/ Two GRTs buddied up and started moving to catch the potential quitter moving away from us. The TL stopped the two GRTs and by this time Cadre Doug wanted to know why we were stopped halfway up the stairs. He came down, was told by the TL that someone seems to have quit and didn’t tell him and is moving down the beach away from the stack. Cadre Doug needed a head count to see who the quitter was. Accountability was a big deal. This is especially important when you are entering the middle of the night in a place not everyone is familiar with.
We got into our ranks on the beach where TL did a headcount. 41. We started with 41, and we currently stood there, on the beach with a chilly breeze with 41. Cadre Doug was not pleased that we now wasted time to do a headcount when we could have noticed it was Cadre Igor leaving to get rest.
“Turn around. Face the water.” Will be the infamous phrase that, when uttered, would send shivers down your spine.
We were told to get into the water, dip all the way under, get out and get sandy. He wanted us covered head to toe. Once we stood up we were forced back into the water to clean off. We had 30 seconds. We came in at 30 seconds, but then he went around to check us over. We had done a poor job getting cleaned off so we had to roll in the sand. We rolled right for what felt like 400 meters. I ended up near the water line. We then had to get up, line up in the surf for the tunnel of love.
My heart was beating out of my chest. One of my worst fears living near the lake was dark water. Getting into the lake at night scared the shit out of me, and there I was, sore, cold, and sandy on a beach with a 40lb ruck on my back. The thought of quitting was nowhere to be found. I would not quit. The tunnel of love was my nemesis and I trained low crawls with or without ruck to make sure I could do it. I got through the first quarter of the line without a problem. The guy behind me would put pressure on my foot and I could push myself forward. I was keeping up with Kevin in front of me. Then my right leg stopped working. I heard a shout that I needed to bend my leg. My brain told my leg to bend, my leg just cramped and spasmed. I was rolled out of the tunnel face down while I figured out a way to loosen up my leg.
Cadre asked what was up with me. I told him my right leg was cramping badly. I then started to high crawl outside the tunnel to the end to regain my position in the tunnel. A few more waves crash, more people came through then we were told to get up.
We were told to turn and face the water and clean off and get into ranks again. We then announced we were missing a hat and a headlamp on the beach. Make a line from the woodline to the waterline and low crawl until you find it. We low crawled in the sand searching for this hat for probably close to 25 yards. We then were all told to get into the water, again, then make another line going the reverse direction. We low crawled more but we still didn’t find it. We then had to get into ranks. Troop 1 had to find the hat and headlamp and Troop 2 (which I was a part) had to do PT until they found it.
Luckily Troop 1 found the hat after a ton of reps of flutter kicks. Then we were told to get into the water, we had 30 seconds to rinse off. We missed the time hack. Again. We hit it this time. We were told to huddle up to get warm and Cadre Doug told us that he has seen where people thought events were getting to easy. Did we think any of what we did was too easy?
I was shivering uncontrollably. The only thing I wanted to do was to get off that beach away from the wind, away from the water, and away from Edgewater. I wanted to move past the part of the event that I have not enjoyed even a little bit. Time to get on with the rest of the event. I knew I would be useless carrying any of the weight right now. I needed a movement to get my bearings. I needed to check my sugar, but at this point I wasn’t going to hold anyone up. We needed to move off the beach and quickly.
We got into the Westside of the city and were making our way to Madison Park in Lakewood. We were about a mile or so into the movement when Steph went down near some railroad tracks. We were waiting on the sidewalk, I had the GORUCK flag but I suddenly wasn’t feeling completely clear. We were told to get off the sidewalk into a parking lot while the paramedic, EMT, and ER doc assessed Steph down the way a bit. I checked my sugar and I saw that my meter wasn’t reading. It just said Lo. I started to have a panic attack. Chris, the ER doc from Dayton came by and asked me what was going on. I told him I was extremely low, meter won’t read. He asked me if I knew how low my meter would read to. I said 40 I thought. He looked at me and said that he was jealous, I was about to get a hot shower before him.
Cadre Doug pulled me aside and assessed me. I told him my go/no-go threshold was 3 lows in 12 hours. This was now my 4th low in less than that. He informed he was going to med drop me from the event. He asked me to spell my name. He hit the enter button on his phone and my HTL attempt was over.
9 hours into the event, it was over. By 3am I was in a Lyft with Mark, another drop at the same time. We were headed back to my hotel room. I felt helpless. I felt dejected. I felt like an absolute failure.
Could this have been prevented? Did I even train hard enough? Did I not take Type 1 Diabetes seriously enough? Should I even attempted to do this event? I felt I let everyone who contributed to me even being at the event down in a big way. That is a feeling I will never not feel guilty for.
When you’re tired and low and you’re eating 2 pounds of M&Ms without dosing insulin on the way to a hotel, there is a lot that goes through your mind. The only thing I wanted at that moment was a hot shower and get all this fucking sand off me.
Once I took the longest shower ever, I got out and took my sugar. Only 105. That was almost 1 hour post drop. That’s how low I was. I could eat 2 pounds of M&Ms and only get my sugar up to 105. I fell asleep a short time period later.
I woke up to a vibrating phone. It was my wife responding back to my textI had sent her 4 hours earlier. I had told her as soon as I got to the hotel that I was med dropped and that I was ok. That might have been a lie. At that moment my entire body was on fire. It felt like every muscle was on fire when I moved.
When you get as low as I got, your body is starved of glucose everything starts to hurt. The only thing left to burn was the muscles themselves. I pushed way too far. Mark stayed with me, because his keys were locked in someone else’s car at the start point. So the mission wasn’t to lay in bed and lick my wounds. I felt horrible enough. I wanted to recover enough to maybe get to the start point for the Tough at 10pm.
It took going home to see my wife and walking up and down the stairs at home to realize I wasn’t going to the Tough. No way. Mark and I ran support for Cadre Igor and helped in anyway we could for the rest of the day. I wanted to stay close and keep an eye on Chris and the rest of the crew. Chris and the crew were still in this fight. My mission was to play pit crew for Cris and whomever else so they can get their bolts.
I just kept moving to keep my mind off the pain. It also kept my mind off the fact that I came short of a goal and the sheer admission of failing was enough to suck the life out of me.
So I know I didn’t quit. I feel good about that. I med dropped which is much different. At the time I didn’t feel I was in any danger. My head was clear, but my body was not. My why was still very strong. But looking back at all now, reviewing my blood meter, I now realize how much danger I was really in.
I probably should have left in an ambulance. Looking back and talking to Chris from Dayton who was in the event with me, he said I was talking coherently, knew where I was, he didn’t feel I was in any immediate danger.
So the best I can figure out was that I had too much insulin in my system for the output of work I was expecting of my body. I quickly used up the glucose in my bloodstream; and because of my increased heart rate, I was absorbing the glucose in my bloodstream faster than I could replenish. This put me at a very dangerous intersection. With a body being starved of glucose and my largest muscle group started cramping painfully. That should have been my first sign when starting the 12 miler, but I thought it was just dehydration so I drank water. That exacerbated the problem, because overhydration can also cause low blood sugar. It was a never ending cycle of suck.
These are things I trained for, but apparently not enough. Training would be in short doses over a 1 hour span. This was a sustained output of different exercises over a sustained period of time. I frankly didn’t train for or expect that I would react in this way.
So where do I go from here? That’s simple. Train more. Get a better strategy for managing blood glucose levels. Get a better insulin strategy. Take everything I learned in the 9 hours I was in a Heavy event, and try and recreate it in a more controlled setting and track and science the shit out of it. I need to take the mindset that the Heavy for me starts weeks before the actual event not at 6pm the day of the event.
Looking back on this whole experience I don’t find it to be an overwhelming failure like I did hours after the event. I was able to salvage my weekend and complete the Light. It was the most painful Light I have ever done, not because it was hard, but because my body was still recovering from the debilitating lows I suffered Friday night into Saturday morning. Coming back from a low is hard, but one sustained over a few hours is excruciatingly painful. I did it anyway. I carried weight. I joked. I had a good time. I did everything I could to keep my mind off the searing pain in my legs and shoulders.
As I write this a week after the start of the Heavy, I still have residual muscle pain. My sugars are still not quite normal, but I wouldn’t change anything about what I learned about myself and Type 1 Diabetes.
A part of my “why” is to prove that a T1D can do hard events like these. T1D doesn’t need to be a limiter. What I learned is that it takes more training for a T1D to do these events. More training from a physical standpoint and more training understanding what your body does under stress.
I have seen T1D GRTs with their bolts, I will become one of them at some point. It just wasn’t right now.
I still feel an immense sense of disappointment that I let so many people down. I have been told I haven’t let anyone down. I hear you. It doesn’t take the sting away though. It doesn’t make me feel ok with it.
The only thing I know how to do is channel this into something more productive. Back to training although I am not sure when I am going to attempt this again. I want it done before I am 40, but that window is quickly closing.