K.S. ANTHONY: How Not To Write a Book Review

21 September 2020

How Not To Write a Book Review

Four years and some change ago - in September of 2016 - I did what I still regard as the toughest thing I've ever done physically: a 9/11 GORUCK Light event, followed by what was then GORUCK's answer to 5Ks: the rucked Kill That 5k event that tied up its annual HTL commemorating the September 11 attacks in NYC.  

I don't remember why I signed up, when I signed up, or what I expected besides a beatdown, but I showed up with two things besides my ruck and a Source full of water: a hangover and a very badly wounded heart.

The Light wasn't scheduled as a Light: it was intended to be one of the short-lived Rucking University classes, meant to gently initiate people into the finer points of the genteel art of walking around with a backpack full of bricks, taught by GORUCK founder and 10 SFG veteran Jason McCarthy.  

Jason's attention span was -- you could tell he got bored easily. He was an excellent instructor, but immediately announced that the class would be patched as a Light: no better way to learn than by doing. 343 step-ups, some abominable number of push-ups, various exercises that left me with black and blue marks to match my 25L Rucker's color scheme, glimpses of redemption during the all-too-short water breaks when we (or at least I ) started to wilt in the heat, and a dip in the life-giving waters of the East River later... and the Light/University class was done. I was humbled, having suddenly realized how out of shape I was, and I was sore. But worse, I was uncertain. Did I deserve that patch? 

Then came the 5k. By then, the sun was high in the late summer sky. I had gone black on water. My legs seized and cramped all the way across the Manhattan Bridge and back and all I wanted to do was quit. I was fucking miserable. An intense-looking Cadre who had earlier introduced himself as Mocha Mike came up and talked to me as I dragged myself at the rear of the group, obviously concerned. I forced a tight smile and uttered one of the many GORUCK platitudes I had picked up: could always be worse. I didn't quit. I just forced myself to take one step at a time until I was done and Mocha Mike handed me that goddamn patch and shook my hand. 

Then I had beef jerky and whiskey after rucking 10 miles to War Stories and Free Beer the next night.

Somewhere in the space of that weekend, something in me changed. I don't quite know how to quantify it, but I suddenly figured out that, in-shape or not, beaten down or not, I was capable of... You know what? I will spare you the cliché.

And then my life got a lot worse.

Within a week of that event, my heart went from badly wounded to badly broken and I was unceremoniously laid off by the company I had helped build and twice moved across the country for. My stress was such that my beard began disappearing in patches. I couldn't find work. I was forced to reinvent myself.

I trained alone for a year and slowly rebuilt my life, surviving in the city by eating a LOT of quesadillas at home, drinking way too much, and remembering the misery of the Manhattan Bridge.

Other events came and went through 2018. I fell in and out of love with the toxicity of the FB GRT group, the stupid rumors, the incessant bitching. I made a few incredible friends. I found my spirit animal at the inaugural Star Course only to withdraw after 30+ miles. I did my first Tough (followed by the Light) for Operation Red Wings with John Belman that summer. I got smoked again for a 9/11 Light. I organized an overnight 30 mile ruck on Sept. 15: the anniversary of my mother's death. I can still taste the sewage in my mouth from doing burpees in the waters of West Point at the 25th Anniversary of Operation: Gothic Serpent T/L. Still hating myself for quitting in D.C., I licked my wounds for months, then returned to get patched in the Philadelphia, and then NYC two weeks later, 50 mile Star Courses. In early December I covered 12 miles with 50 pounds dry doing laps around Central Park in sub-30 degree weather in shorts and a t-shirt in under 03:30. I signed up for Selection, then immediately wrecked my shoulder on a trapeze (why? Because I hate heights and am terrified of trapezes, so naturally I had to do it) and was forced to admit to myself and team@goruck.com that I was not cut out for GORUCK Selection. 

But none of those things was harder than that first Light. That thing made it possible to survive and then thrive... in that order. 

For you it was a backpack company and Prufrock; the only woman you could ever really love and a dog that held your life together when it was imploding.

For me it was a goddamn steel plate and a backpack from a guy who somehow made all that shit work out and then wrote a book about it.

Five stars, Jason. Thanks for doing it.

K.S. Anthony

P.S. Oh yeah, the book wasn't bad either.