Rucking in Standing Water…Got to Be Smarter Than a Rock

In yesterday’s Special Operations PT Prep workout we scheduled an 8-mile rucksack march which is pretty standard for things here as on our Sunday Ruck we like to put some miles under the pain pill to begin the week off right, long before the sun comes up.

And yesterday was no exception, getting up to let the dog do her business at 4:00 a.m. it seemed like as good a time as any to hit the trail. What the heck, I was up anyway and very tired as I stayed up watching college football and then a film (The Dark Knight) in bed until around 12:30.

So right around the time that the Joker transformed Harvey Dent into grinning caricature thanks to the wonders of CGI, I drifted off into slumberland unaware that in just a couple of hours that a Bulldog will wake me up with a loud snort in the ear (PFFFT!) to warn me that it is time to go outside.

We got up to a soft, steady, drenching rain, which has been the weather the entire fall season in the Northeast. This has been one of if the not the wettest fall seasons I can remember. The ponds are consistently flooding up onto and over the roads. The ground is saturated and each step brings out the water underfoot as it makes the going much slower in most places.

I grabbed my rain jacket, which it isn’t any longer. I’ve had that for so long, I’ve reapplied the water repellency gunk to it so many times it just doesn’t work anymore…Note to self, time for a new Gore-Tex jacket. I put the dog on the leash and grabbed my ruck figuring to just stay out and hit the trail.

The dog wasn’t having any of that so as soon as she deposited some fertilizer for the power company along the power lines she beat feet back for the door. I was on my own. So be it and after about a ½ mile or so, I realized I, in my lack of sleep induced stupor, made a colossal mistake.

Thru force of habit lately I grabbed my waterproof boots and not my Gore-Tex pair. Shit! As I said, we’ve had a very wet fall and my waterproof boots I have worn most of the fall working for my other job which is to cover sports for a local newspaper. It seemed like every weekend was a monsoon and standing on natural grass football fields with my camera, those boots were perfect. There isn’t a lot of walking involved and your feet stay dry and toasty. I also use those for shoveling snow in the driveway as they work quite well for that too.

Rucking, however, is a totally different animal.

You know how we always spout off here about how A.) the cadre at Selection are looking for candidates who can think and make good decisions when they are under stress, tired and hungry? And B.) always have a “good” pair of boots broken in for rucking during the course? Well, even us FOGs are not immune to having a brain cramp of the brain housing group …of epic proportions.

It was a poor decision on both accounts. And a good teaching point, to always have your wits about you. Why? The uninitiated may ask? Well, your feet need to breathe, most especially when you are rucking and even more so when slogging thru wet conditions. Because invariably, some water from puddles etc. or even just the rain hitting your legs and running downhill is going to find its way inside your boots. And guess what? They are just as waterproof from the inside as they are from the outside.

Worse, once you begin to heat up while rucking, your feet, as hard as it is to believe will be generating a tremendous amount of heat, even in these wet conditions. Rucking in a waterproof boot is akin to wrapping your feet in Saran Wrap, submerging them in water for just long enough for the water to totally absorb thru the wrap like wearing a pair of water socks and then holding your feet to a fire and generating a ton of steam.

Right about the ½ mile mark, the haze of sleeplessness wore off in the rain and I felt a wet squishiness in my feet. Double MF. “You idiot,” I thought to myself. “Your feet will not be happy after this.”

After about a mile in, my feet were soaked with sweat and eventually the rain and puddle splashes began to work their way in. After about 4 miles it felt like I was lugging around fish tanks on my feet. Then the inevitable hot spots began to creep in. It was not a pleasant feeling as anyone who has rucked and had hotspots or blisters can attest to.

I walked in the door around 6:30 or so my not-so-rain jacket and boots making this experience a miserable one (but only myself to blame). My wife woke up and padded thru the kitchen to get a bottle of water, still more asleep than awake. “How’d it go?” she asked. I shook my head, “I wore my waterproof boots,” I answered. “Oh that’s good, you should be good and dry.” GRRRRR. With that, she went back off to bed. The Bulldog opened one eye as if to say, “glad I didn’t go.” My feet were pruned like I’d been in the Atlantic Ocean for a week. And they were burning in several spots.

So the moral of the story is, no one is immune to stepping on their crank when they’re tired. Even old SFAS cadre members… I’d say no more late night television, but I know that would be a lie. But I still blame Batman.

Oh, here are those Gore-Tex boots…Live and learn. Everyone makes mistakes, right? I tend to be much more forgiving of others’ mistakes than my own. So, how was your rucking day yesterday?

On a side note, I’m trying to get a pair of those new MACV-1 boots from the GoRuck guys and we’ll test them out and do a product review. Currently, they’re on back order. They are based on the old Vietnam era Jungle Boot. Back in our day, those were our go-to boots for nearly everything. I had tons of them thru the years and with good insoles, they were great field boots.

Whenever we had a road march on the pavement (or several, back to back during certification), I would wear the old Addidas GSG-9 boot or a pair of Jungle boots that I had the hard Panama lug sole taken off and replaced with a softer, thicker walking sole. It looks remarkably like what the guys over at GoRuck are making. Stay tuned.

Photo: The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers