Size Matters Not: The Story of Boiler Ruck
Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?Yoda
I started our local GORUCK Ruck Club because I was tired of being the only guy in town who gets weird looks when carrying heavy things over long distances. Misery loves company. I remember one day deciding that I would put it out there for others to join. People will find me, I said. There’s going to be so much interest! I fooled myself. In our day people would rather sit on the couch binging ‘The Great British Baking Show’ while wolfing down potato chips, not carry a 30# steel plate for miles and miles. So I mostly just posted pictures of myself smiling while I put in the miles all over Tippecanoe County. “Come join me tomorrow at lunch while I go to the Purdue Horticulture Park!” Months went by, until I finally found a guy who was in the Purdue ROTC to come ruck with me over lunch. Success! On Wednesday nights, I’d take my kids out to the local Boy Scout camp and hike their trails. Some dear friends of ours manage the property, so it was always fun to see them and get outside as a family. Sometimes Tracy would come, other days, she needed a well deserved break from little voices clamoring for her attention. Over the months, we would explore the creek, discover new hills to climb, building our fitness, endurance, and ability to persevere.
The camp provided so many opportunities to do hard, fun things together as a club. The first time I actually had more than just my family join, we found a pile of logs that needed to be moved.
What other group but a Ruck Club would find it fun to relocate a few hundred pounds of dead trees? It was like Christmas morning for us, though. Miles and smiles under the logs. That’s the essence of the Ruck Club. I called the group Boiler Ruck, to play off our proximity to Purdue University. It also symbolizes our workmanlike ethic. We do hard things together, and we like it. We’re not a huge club, like some you might see gracing the GORUCK community, but when we get together it’s always a good time and a family affair. Some of my favorite moments are just me and my kids, hoisting my girls onto my shoulders (their favorite spot) and knowing I can carry them as far as they want to go.
Given the transitory nature of many people in our community associated with Purdue, we have people come and go from the club. Sometimes people just get busy with life. Others go through hard seasons where they’re overwhelmed and just don’t want another thing on their calendar. No judgement, friend. We’ll still be here.
When you try to ruck every week in your county, you find that there are so many interesting places to explore. Just to avoid wearing a hole in the ground in the same spot every week, we have to find new places to roam. Around our fair city of Lafayette, Indiana there are an amazing variety of urban, suburban, and wilderness areas to stretch our legs and push our comfort zone.
The Wabash Heritage Trail is a really special spot.
The trail covers 18 miles along the Wabash River, from Fort Oueotenon in the South, to the Tippecanoe Battleground in the North, passing through downtown Lafayette along the way. It’s an incredible history lesson to just walk the whole thing. You travel paths laid down over a century before by the indigenous people who stewarded this land before European and American settlers took it over. Time almost slows down as you imagine what life was like back then. Fur traders, hunting parties, and families gathering wood for their fires all passed through these same foot paths you’re walking on.
Our home base for many of our rucks has been Franklin Cary Camp, just on the East side of Lafayette. It was a gift to the Boy Scouts in the early 1900s, and has been a wonderful place for adventures of all kinds since then. The 200+ acres of woodlands, prairie and trails provide lots of opportunities for good livin’. When the club first started up, we had a weekly Dad Ruck, where a couple of us with young kids would take them out on the trails for an hour or two each week to give our wives a break. Eventually, our wives were intrigued and wanted to come along. So the club expanded to be a welcome place for all members of the family. Some of my favorite times in the club were those days where we had a crazy workout in a creek bed as a family. Here’s my favorite one:
My buddy Pramit and I did that workout together, filmed by the incredible Stefan Sondgerath, on a lovely day in the summer. The sun was shining, our hearts were full of life from being in the wilderness. The cool of the creek refreshed us as we hefted our rucks overhead for lunges. As we got into the planks, rocks dug into our palms. Our shoulders burned. Those rucks were extra heavy with the dunk in the creek. We pressed on, knowing that we would not quit. At the end of it, we found that a simple looking workout on paper was much harder in person. It was all worth it. Every time.
There are some days with our small club that I just feel like giving up. That coordinating everything just isn’t worth it. I look at other clubs like Steel City on Instagram or Facebook and see them having large groups with consistent, fun rucks every week. Part of that is the fact that I’m spread pretty thin with other commitments. Part of it is that we’re a smaller town. But I’m becoming more ok with a smaller club. We always have a great time when we get together, and that’s really the point. It goes back to one of my favorite quotes from Teddy Roosevelt, “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” What would that look like for you? Do you have a Ruck Club in your town yet? If not, go ahead and start one! There are lots of resources and support for getting started. It only takes one weirdo to start something special.
The coordinating of everything . . . that’s puts some weight in the pack, too, doesn’t it? I appreciate the perspective you share here!
Your old ruck pack works well for camera gear, a nicer size than my larger camera pack. I like the molle loops for attaching various pouches (binocs and water bottle) and extra straps (securing tripod, weight transfer loop for long lens, etc). It’s not as heavy as a steel plate but ~ 20 lbs makes plenty of sore shoulders after wearing it for over an hour while milling about looking for things that move. It’s about the right size to tuck in my single person blind, an extra lens or two, notebook/pencils, flash accessories, and some snacks.