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Tun Tavern GORUCK Tough AAR by Caitlin Eiben

Tun Tavern AAR

Cadre: Andy, Dustin, Cleve, Matty

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Temp: 24-34*, partly cloudy

Miles: ~17 (with ruck)

Time: 13 hours

I’ve never done an AAR before, and I don’t know how much detail I’ll get into. I basically just want it for myself so I can remember the specifics of this awesome event. 

Tun Tavern Tough. Commemorating the birthplace/birthday of the Marine Corps, November 10, 1775. The event started at 9:00pm and ended on the birthday itself, November 10th. 

Start point was the Rocky Steps by the Art Museum. We arrived around 8:30pm or so and mingled with both familiar and unfamiliar GRTs. We started getting in formation around 8:45pm. There were about 150 signups, but that’s never an accurate reflection of how many will show up. 

We get in 4 LONG ranks, count off. 110 total. 

Roll call and admin stuff is completed. Everyone has all their required items, except the guy next to me has his credit card instead of $20 cash. Cadre Dustin asks for his ID and takes it to the front. He announces that $20 cash is on the gear list. That means $20, not a credit card. He asks if anyone has and extra $20. Miraculously, I do (I never have cash). I get to keep the guys ID for the remainder of the event. He gets to borrow my $20 and we are instructed to exchange if either one drops or at ENDEX. 

They ask about medical issues, listing things like heart conditions, seizures, chance of pregnancy, diabetes, allergies, asthma, etc. I don’t mention my dislocating knee. It never sounds significant after people raise their hands with that kind of serious stuff. My knee isn’t going to kill me, and if everyone started listing their orthopedic woes, we would be there forever. Also, I’ve done events. I know what I can and can’t do and I don’t mind getting yelled at if I’m not doing things as well as others. The cadre don’t really have to know my kneecap flops around with any movement. They can just think I suck, I don’t really care. Plus, I already grossed Cadre Andy out with my knee I’m August so I’m sure the nightmares still haunt him.

The cadres introduce themselves…back into formation. 

I’m in the 4th rank, back line, closest to the stairs.

WELCOME PARTY:

All of a sudden we are instructed to turn around and sprint to the top of the stairs. 

We get to the top where Cadre Matty instructs us to complete 25 pushups. We get to about 12 and he zeros us. Time to start over (this happened often throughout the night).

We complete the pushups and back down the stairs we go. 

This cycles for I don’t even know how many rounds. I had my watch running in my bag throughout the event and from the map, it logged over 2 miles just from the area around the stairs. Not to mention, there were a bunch of stairs we completed without rucks (after they were carabinered together and twisted into a pile by the cadre) 

Each rank had different exercises given to them at the top or bottom of the stairs. Our specific rank’s PT included pushups, brickyard manmakers, flutter kicks and some other weird ab exercise, ruck swings, 8-count body builders, ruck thrusters, laying on your back-ruck overhead- arms to the left/center/right (what it’s called? I dunno), monkey F-ers, maybe more….I can’t recall. Getting to the top of the stairs was often an exercise as well, 2x reverse bear crawls, 2x overhead lunges, buddy carries, again, maybe more, I don’t remember. 

We are instructed to take our rucks off and carabiner them together. Too slow. Hold push-up position while getting yelled at. Try again. Too slow. Hold downdog (so gracious). Try again. Finally successful. Sprint up the stairs and back down. 

When we get back down, we find our rucks are in a clusterF. We are given 10 seconds to undo them and get your ruck. Obviously we fail. Every time we fail, it’s back to the top of the stairs and back down. We notice as soon as the first person arrives at the bottom, the countdown starts again. We fail many, MANY times. Then we finally get this genius idea to stay as a team so we all arrive to the bottom of the stairs at the same time, therefore maximizing the hands at work. We finally all have a ruck, but not our own. We take some time to switch rucks and find our carabiners. 

We go back to the top of the steps and Cadre Andy gives us a brief, but passionate intro to what this event is about. 

Back to the bottom of the steps. 

We get in our 4 ranks and turn right, so we are facing the stairs in 4 perpendicular lines. Relay race time. 25 ruck pushups while the person in front of you sprints to the top, through a courtyard area, then up the additional steps of the museum, and back down. 

The push-up form at this point is hysterical. Some are going down an inch or two, some look like baby seals flopping up and down…..it’s just a mess. 

I do my pushups (with perfect form) and get up and down the stairs without killing myself (fast as ever). 

About 8 people after me, cadre decide this is taking too long and line up the remaining people on the stairs. They are instructed to go as fast as they can, and the last 4 people will split in 2s and be carabinered together for the rest of the event. (So glad I already went)

Welcome Party is complete. There’s a huge building displaying the time. Almost 1am. Longest Welcome Party I’ve had. 

THE SPLIT: 

We were warned during the admin phase that there were too many of us to be able to stay in one large group. Since there were 4 cadre, 2 would be taking one half and 2 taking the other. We would then switch during the night. They promised us no matter what, we would all be getting wet. 

I have Cadre Cleve and Cadre Matty first. 

Our troop takes the lovely wooden crayons that someone made for team weights, some sandbags, 2 American Flags and the Gadsden flag. We ruck about a half mile and find Cleves’ truck, which is full of empty sandbags. We stop by the river and are instructed to fill them with either dirt or gravel. 

He instructs that the 60# and 40# filler bags will go in the (typically) 80# sandbags. I’m not sure what was put in the 120#, but I do know (at the end of the event when we dumped them) it was 3 filler bags and I’m willing to bet it was a 60 and two 40s, because I didn’t see any 20# fillers. So instead of 17 bags of 80# and 120#, we had 100s and 140s. 

Off we go. We travel along the river trail for a long, long time. Everyone is contributing (at least from my observations). 

Team Lead and Assistant Team Lead (TL and ATL) are the two guys carabinered together (huge height difference btw). They do a good job making sure people are switching coupons, staying tight, etc. 

We ruck with heavy stuff for a long time. Pretty straightforward. 

We finally get to a stop. We are allowed to go to the bathroom. By the time we are done finding a spot, and going, the rest break is over (sucks being a girl sometimes) 

I’m not an idiot. I take note of this first stop. Right by a big dock on the river. While peeing, I take off my gloves, jacket, face shield, and headlamp and put them in my dry bag. I’m prepared. 

We are instructed to head to the dock (surprise, surprise) 

I take my wool top and cold gear off. I’m 100% committed to getting in and if I do, I’m not soaking all my layers like I did during the Heavy two weeks ago (we had no choice at that event).

The water is so high it’s directly in line with the top of the dock. Cadre Cleve is feeling real nice. He says we aren’t going all the way in. It’s too deep and there’s no easy way to get back out. The nice cadre didn’t want to drown any GRTs.

Instead, he said we would sit to the very edge of the dock and do 244 4-count flutter kicks, feet hitting the water with every rep. We start. We get to about 36 or so, then we get yelled at. Some people just aren’t able to keep form, some aren’t letting their feet hit the water. Cadre Cleve asks if we would just rather get in. Someone says “yes”. Cadre Cleve ignores this (thank God). He mentions that we were instructed to memorize the Marine Hymn. He asked if we did our homework. Some of us did…enough of us to carry the song and make it sound decent. Cadre Cleve realized 244 4-count flutter kicks were definitely not going to happen, so he said we could do them to the Hymn instead. We start singing and make it to the beginning of the third and last verse. People still aren’t kicking the water. We have to start over. We finally finish and are allowed to get up. I put my shirts back on. Feet, butt, hands, and back of legs are wet, but it’s not terrible. If this is the “getting wet” we were promised, it wasn’t so bad. 

We start moving again. No time to eat or refill water. 

We only go about 100 yards and then Cadre Cleve sees something that excites him. A ramp leading to the water. He announces “didn’t someone say they’d rather get in the water than do flutter kicks?”. The Blue Falcon who made the comment admits it, but clarifies that it was just his personal opinion and he didn’t think everyone else felt the same way. Unfortunately this guy was our TL at the time and if the TL makes a comment that he’d rather submerge in the water, guess what we are doing? 

We are given time to shed layers. I’m down to my wool baselayer on my legs and my sports bra. Shoes are off, socks on (that ramp is gross). 

I’m first in line, right behind the TL. We get in two at a time and quickly submerge and get out. 

Penguin huddle time! I drip dry for a couple minutes and then start putting my clothes back on. Wring out the wool socks and shoes back on. More penguin huddles. Damn do those things work well. 

Break is over. Still no time to eat. 

We start moving again. Back to our classic coupon rucking. People are tired. Carries are getting shorter. The green crayon sucks…why didn’t one of the Marines eat it at this point? I dunno. We double carry the 120 (140?) sandbag. From my observations, everyone is still contributing in whatever way they can. We have a great team. 

Bathroom break again….right on the trail on the side of the highway. He also says we can grab a bite to eat (hallelujah). The girls again, have to travel further to find a safe place to go to the bathroom. By the time we get back, I have just enough time to shove 2 pieces of beef jerky in my mouth and also eat some sour patch watermelons that a generous GRT was handing out. 

Back on the coupons. We have 15 minutes to get to the museum. We see it up ahead. 

I have someone help me get a 100# bag on my back and get in rank to get moving again. I hear yelling. We were too slow. We had to put them back down. 25 4-count mountain climbers. Pick the coupons back up. A guy helped me get it on my shoulders again. I almost fell over from the force, but it was up there. I was ready to move….again. Apparently the back of the line wasn’t because guess what? We had to ground everything again for being too slow. This time we got to do 25 8-count body builders. One more time, coupons up. Everyone hurries. We finally get everything up in time and start moving. I give up the 100# at some point, get a short break, and then get on a 120(140?)# with Brian. We carry that for the reminder of the way back to the Art Museum. I thought about giving it up multiple times, but I kept convincing myself we were “almost there”. 

REUNITED:

We see the building with the big clock. It’s about 6am. The sun is trying to come up. We also see the refreshing site of the other half of our team. They are coming back from filling up their water, lined up in front of the Rocky Steps. We ground our rucks and are instructed to follow someone from the other troop to find the drinking water. It feels like a mile away, but we don’t have our rucks on, so we cherish the moment. The girls take this opportunity of mild darkness to go behind a tree one last time and then head back to the museum. It’s light out at this point. We sit down and I eat some food, take a sip of whiskey, and drink some Nuun while waiting for the others to get back. 

We see a glorious site. No more sandbags. Just flags, crayons, and some logs the other troop found. 

We line back up in formation with the other troop. We realize there’s no time to break off again and go with Cadre Andy and Cadre Dustin. Part of me is sad, part of me is happy this won’t turn into a Heavy. 

Some of the Marine GRTs introduce themselves and give a brief background of their experiences. 

Cadre Andy tells us we are heading to the site of Tun Tavern. As we start, everyone is relaxed, sharing the few coupons that remain, things are smooth. We share stories of what each troop had to do. Morale is high, frustrations are low….for now. 

So, crossing streets legally with 100+ people at the same time is a huge challenge. Once we got into the city, we got caught in crosswalks many times. This meant casualties. Every time we screwed up a crossing, more people went down. The workload increased 1000%.

It felt like it took forever to get to the Tun Tavern site, but we did it. 

ENDEX:

It was probably about 9am. Could this be ENDEX? 

Nope. 

Cadre Andy explained he may have to leave soon, so he wanted to do some of the Marine Birthday customs. He read us the Marine Corps birthday message. Then we did the cake cutting with a 28 year old Marine GRT and a 62 year old Marine that was visiting the site at the same time we rolled in. He graciously said he would participate with us. Cadre Andy cut the cake (donut from Dunkin) with his personal NCO Sword and the two took a bite. 

Customs are over. Time to get back to work. It’s the 244th birthday. That means 244 reps of PT, each led by one of our Marine GRTs. 

We do 61 ruck thrusters, 61 4-count flutter kicks, 61 4-count lunges, and lastly 61 sandbag/log levers. It’s rough….but I feel better than I did at the Welcome Party. Could it be? It’s it finally over? 

Nope. 

Cadre Andy instructed us to memorize the  Marine Hymn. Although my troop sang it while doing flutter kicks over the water, we never sang it as a full team. We huddled together, Cadre Andy in the middle, and sang our hearts out. We may not be the best singers, but it sounded awesome. It was a great way to end the event.

I’m not a Marine. I didn’t grow up knowing any Marines (closely), but seeing what this event meant to them was powerful and I’m glad I was there to experience it with them. Cadre Andy reinforced how much it means to him that we come out and do these events, military and civilians alike…..all for a little patch. 

We finally get in two long lines facing each other and get that beautiful, hard earned patch. It’s a great moment. 

Pictures are taken, whiskey is drank, and some of us hang around to watch non-GRT Marines stop by the Tun Tavern site to celebrate their birthday. 

Check out more photos from the Tun Tavern Tough.


DISCLOSURE: 

Since we had different ranks during the Welcome Party and two different troops for the bulk of the event, someone else’s experience is completely different than mine. I know the other troop had more sandbags (which ended up being carabinered together), did more stairs, found some heavy logs….and did NOT get wet 🤭🤭 

Gear:

Top: 

*Second Skin compression tank

*Merino wool long sleeved base

*4.0 cold gear UA top

*Intermittent use of thin Columbia windbreaker 

Bottoms: 

*Merino wool base leggings

*GORUCK Simple Pants 

Feet: 

*Taped with Cover-roll and Leukotape on my HTL blister sites 

*Lightweight Injinji sock liners 

*Darn Tough wool socks 

*Altra Lone Peak Mid Mesh 4.0 trail shoes 

Head:

*SA face shield (for headband) 

*SA face shield (for face) 

Hands: 

*Sealskinz Dragon Eye Gloves (HIGHLY recommend for cold weather)

Food:

*Caffeinated Tailwind (in bladder)

*Trail mix with dark chocolate covered coffee beans 

*Jerky

*Caffeinated Nuun tablets

110 started, 105 finished

Improves: find easier hobbies 

Sustains: JK keep doing this even though it hurts

This was my Tun Tavern Tough. If you read to this point, congrats and thanks! 

 – Caitlin Eiben, GRT

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