For the final push in my quest to see if the Oboz Yellowstone IIs
were everything I was looking for, I opted for a 20K (12 ish' miles) ruck, in armor, with 70 pounds secured between the armor and an Arc'Teryx Tango. Weather was mild, starting in the 60s and dropping into the high 40s. Conditions were approximately 30% hardball, with the rest being a mix of whatever could get me far enough from the hardball to keep from being hit by the great drivers of Fayetteville. Pace was consistent with EIB and was a combination of ruck marching and the wounded elk ruck run style. Hydration was carried out with 3 Nalgene bottles loaded with Skratch Labs
Pineapple (thanks Abbey for mixing, we don't know what Matt was doing).
I have to give another shout out to Abbey who was nice enough to drive by to check my progress and call my better half to let her know my pace and location. I am relatively sure both of them thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere...or taking a nap in the wood line.
Originally I had intended to establish a consistent ruck march pace, but that did not last past the first 10 steps out of the Grey Group offices. The Oboz
are just too easy to move with at a ruck run pace. It is something about the way that the boot transitions in a stride, that just makes it flow better than other boots I have become accustomed to. Clearly my pace was not to blame on my broken brain wanting to go faster, so it must have all been the fault of the Yellowstones
Much of the credit for keeping me moving on the ruck has to go to Skratch Labs
. Their Pinapple Hydration Mix kept me feeling great. I had hydrated through the day with it, and also drank it down throughout the ruck. I experienced zero cramping, and for those of you who know what "bonking" is, I didn't "bonk". There was no wall I came up against where my energy levels were low, and it wasn't overly sweet or tasted like sea water. Two thumbs up for Skratch Labs
. If you haven't tried out the mix, you really should. I was a doubter and I am now a believer.
As the sun began to dip down I started preparing for two things: 1) staying away from traffic and 2) getting ready to twist and turn my ankles. The combination of the weight, with the uneven mud/grass/holes/rocks, and the low light made for a perfect storm to have a big "ouchie" from a turned in ankle. This became especially apparent when it went from twilight to dark, with oncoming headlights. Over the last half of the ruck I turned my ankles no less than 30 times from stepping in, over, or through the hazards of the shoulder. What I was pleasantly greeted with, was the stiff construction of the Yellowstone
. Please do not let me tell you that my ankles weren't sore, because they were. What I can tell you is that they were not injured.
Getting into the half way point of the ruck I opted not to change out my socks, but took a hot minute to break into my kit for more goodness from Skratch Labs
. Refills tucked into my armor carrier, and Pandora station changed for something loud with that attitude of "gosh I need extra motivation because I am tired like a little panda cub", I set out again. Pace was good, and consistent to make the total distance in EIB standard. My socks were getting some pretty significant moisture in them, but it was nothing that couldn't be handled. I was trying to divide up the 20K (12 miles) into blocks. The first 10K with a refit, the next 5K with a refit, and the final gut check where I would hear the voices of my dead friends pushing me on.
So at halfway how did the Oboz
measure at this point? The stability was great, especially for the feeling that you would take off for a run in them. My feet were pretty sore, but there were zero blisters yet letting me know that I was just a silly mortal trying to remember what it was to have a real job. The socks were damp but not wetted out yet. If the temperature was lower I still would have had the same problem, as I was literally sweating my ass off from pushing. Something I would have killed for would have been the same boot in a non water proof model.
Now for a quick observation on the two relics that were carrying all my weight. The armor carrier was a Paraclete RAV in size small with medium E-SAPI plates. For the ruck I was humping the Arc'Teryx Tango pack (sadly discontinued). The Tango was the go to for being able to carry the weight and give me much needed support. For those of you who know how terrible an idea ruck marching is to start with, just add in the extra discomfort of wearing armor and plates under the ruck. Yes, there is probably something wrong in my head to want to make the whole experience suck just that much more, but I have responsibilities to those who are not still here to push it, and an internal drive to test my mortality.
At the nine mile mark, I was starting to blister on my right foot at the beginning of the arch. I could feel some other hot spots, but that was the only definite blister that was coming on. I was honestly surprised that I hadn't picked up more. My socks at this point were completely soaked through and beyond their ability to transport moisture out. Saying that I could feel the stiffness in the soles of the Oboz
would be overly critical of me, since my socks were toast, and my feet were starting to show the wear. I set off with another fresh Naglene bottle full of Skratch Labs
out of the Tango, happily secured in by carrier. If you were picking up your Christmas tree at Gillis Hill Farms on a Friday night and saw a six foot tall white guy looking like he was dying change his socks in the parking lot, then I am happy to meet you.
Continuing to push on through the final 3 miles, I was really feeling the stiffness in the soles of the Oboz
. The alternative of course would have been much worse, as softer footwear would have torn my feet apart much earlier. Also, at this point my feet (and body) were getting more torn up and only a pair of bunny slippers would have been more comfy. The dampness in the boots had been solved with the sock change, and my feet greatly appreciated the relief of fresh new socks.
As per usual I was watching the clock. With the last stop I was afraid that would be off pace and kicked up into the slow run. For some reason it is always at the last leg of a ruck that everything gets fuzzy. My brain goes a bit sideways, words of encouragement from lost friends bubble to the surface, I begin making deals with myself and God as to what will happen if I can maintain my pace, and what a glorious existence I will find coming through the other side of this endeavor. I actually have had waking dreams about french toast on the last leg of a ruck, and I don't even like french toast.
I hate to say it but in the last mile I could have been wearing card board on my feet, because there was no pain left, only the objective to finish. I rounded the last corner, nothing left, at whatever would substitute for a sprint...to finish...with Old Glory blowing in the night wind above me, in the EIB standard.
I have to say thank you to say thank you to Tom Hammond for hooking me up with the Oboz
to test, to the Grey Group Staff for putting up with my strange practices and watching out for me, and to my family for all the hours they have spent talking to me on my headset motivating me when I am on a ruck.
(Yes that is a Tinkerbell headlamp)
- This was the most weight coupled with the highest pace I had put on the Oboz.
- Total rucking mileage on this pair is in the 200K range, most uses were in the 12K range with the longest rucks being in the 20K range.
- They were also used to drywall and paint a house.
- The whole package (soles, ankles, etc) are very stiff, if you are looking for a mid running shoe this is not it. If you are looking for a fast packer, this is your horse.
- The sizing is very generous, and will really come into play if your feet swell from doing something like a ruck. If you have wider feet, you will love the fit. If you have feet like a 2x4, you probably need something out of Europe.
- I was initially worried about the heel shape, but didn't get a single blister back there on this ruck. They retain the heel very, very well.
- The shape of the boot helps them to really move fast, and still be stable. I have no idea how that works, since I am not a shoes scientist.
- The are waterproof, which would be great in the winter, on a wet range, or splashing in puddles. For those of us who are sweating buckets in them, it is an issue. Plan on having some extra socks to keep your feet comfy if you are really moving out in them.
- The price... These are hands down the best boots for rucking I have ever worn. I almost wish they weren't $150.00, because I have had plenty of boots that wouldn't measure up, that were three times as expensive. They will not break the bank, and they will compete with much pricier footwear.