GoRuck Week: #3

a whole new level of low

We march up to the foot of the Central Avenue Bridge and it sinks in that we’re going to be punished for not reaching our time limit. Which sucks. But all I can think is that I might actually be able to start moving again. Which is great… until we actually start getting punished.

the Canadian snipers called the cops

Cadre tells us to get down and bear crawl. Across the bridge. The whole bridge. Later they would tell us that the bridge was 0.7 miles long… and we bear crawled across the whole thing. It was slow moving for a long time since we had to carry our team weight. Speaking of that team weight…

Along with our bricks and rucks and everything, as a team we also had to carry an additional 25 lb weight. It could be anything but we decided that we would carry a GoRuck Brick Bag with 25 lbs of change (that we would then donate to the Green Beret Foundation). The problem was that when we were trying to figure out who was bringing change it was all very unofficial and we didn’t have a good count going before we all showed up for the event. So we all seemed to overcompensate for the confusion by bringing extra change… which is how our 25 lb weight quickly became a 48 lb weight.

But like one of the many GRC mottos, “under promise, over deliver”, we weren’t about to shy away from a little extra weight.

So, we're doing these bear crawls across this unholy bridge in the middle of this big thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning, and we decide to move in unison so the guy at the front of our columns yells out “left… right… left… right…” and so on. Apparently he was pretty loud or his voice carried really well or the people in the apartments nearby had some stellar ears because after a while on the bridge we see these red and blue flashing lights.

Someone called the cops on us. But we were hidden from view on the road since we were doing bear crawls, so the cop pulls up next to us and Cadre goes into his spiel about the challenge and what we're doing. The cop leaves eventually but we're told that we can't yell anymore… even though it was only one guy yelling. Ok. No problem. We adapt and keep going.

Let me just tell you that this was NOT one of the times that I wanted to give up. It was awful, the wind and the rain were doing their worst to up bear crawling across that bridge, but suffering with my team was the most enlightening experience. Not to mention, the low crawls through the ice were still fresh in my mind and I was just happy to be moving.

Suffer we did, and eventually we survived… the bear crawls, at least. Standing up and flexing my legs felt bizarre and we were swaying on our feet whenever we stopped moving, so we just kept moving. Our team leaders for the mission got our next objective and on we marched. Our “wounded” were allowed to march again, so that meant I was starting to get the feeling back in my appendages. The guy I was next to in our marching column was the father of a few of our other teammates and definitely took a fatherly approach to me, of which I am very grateful.

At one point he looked at me and said, “You should be wearing a hat.”

Yeah. Did I mention I forgot a hat? That was probably one of the worst decisions of my life, and THIS is the moment that I started considering dropping out… but as soon as we reached the park that we were heading to we get a short break and my newly adopted GoRuck dad miraculously pulled out a spare hat from his ruck and shoved it on my head. Never in my entire life have I literally felt the hand of warmth clasp me so tightly. It was like I was given new life to continue.

It was good too, since we were all feeling close to death at this point. We started thinking through everything and making deals with ourselves and eachother.

I won't quit if you don’t; we will only quit if we have to get into the river; I will only quit if [insert unrealistic situation that would eventually actually happen] happens.

And that’s how we got through that moment, and all of the moments to come. We set new limits, overcame those limits and marveled at our ability to survive and persevere, the whole while doing amazing things with each other’s strength and support.

Our break was over. Time for the next mission. Team leaders were selected and briefed and the objective was relayed to us: it was time to transport the “nukes” to take care of the Canadians.

Wait… we're going to have to carry the “nukes”? What!?

GoRuck Week: #5

Shut up, I know this is a wall of text. Deal.

training, packing list, and final thoughts

The surreal part of being GoRuck Tough is that I know that I’m both a different person and not a different person than before my challenge. I have an incredible sense of mental strength and determination that I wasn’t aware of before my challenge and yet I’m far more in tune with how much more growing I have ahead of me and how I can be a better and stronger person. All of that aside, here is how I prepared for my challenge and what I learned the hard way.

training and preparations

So, a big part of the Challenge is running with weighted rucks… but here’s the thing, I hate running. I’ll run, but I’ll hate that I’m running for 95% of it. Naturally, I didn’t run much to get ready, which was probably a mistake.

In fact, I didn’t do much specific training, like weighted runs through the snow or something. What I did do was continue being fit and having fun doing it. I’m trying to not live in The Land of What-If’s, but maybe my stress fracture wouldn’t have happened if I did more pre-challenge foot care. I guess we’ll never know.

A typical week for me before January included a rotation of weightlifting at the gym. I’ve never been big into WODs or a strict lifting regimen. I’m more of the “work on whatever isn’t sore, wait till it’s not sore anymore, work it again” mentality. Generally speaking, it was mostly a full body workout every other day, sometimes with an extra rest day.

For January I added hot yoga and hot spin into the mix, which was nice for winter in Minnesota. I would go to hot yoga two or three times a week and hot spin once or twice a week. On the weekends I would lift as well, but not as intense of workouts as before.

February went very much like January, though I stopped lifting, only went to yoga twice a week, and added indoor rock climbing. I was still going to spin about twice a week. The rock climbing helped to balance out the lifting from before and gave me some nicely calloused hands. I would climb for 2 to 4 hours three or four times a week.

March was pretty boring. I did a bit of yoga at home, climbed a bit, went for a few long walks, and mostly just relaxed. Let’s just say I used March to prepare myself for all of the drinking that was part of being GoRuck Tough. Oh, and there was also the Pre-GoRuck Challenge that I posted about.

And that’s it. That’s all I did. Other people did crossfit, weekly weighted ruck runs, lots of lifting and whathaveyou. I get why they did that kind of stuff, but that isn’t my style. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep myself fit most of my life and try to keep myself at a pretty fit baseline. Moral of the story: everyone’s different, what worked for me probably won’t work for you.

what’s in the ruck?

Since I keep putting disclaimers on everything, here’s another one: I’m a minimalist. If it’s not essential on some level, it’s not allowed (both in my life and in my ruck). Most of the time this is GREAT, other times… not so much.

Outer Gear

  • GR1
  • Columbia soft shell jacket
  • long sleeve Adidas dry-fit-type shirt
  • short sleeve off brand dry-fit-type shirt
  • Under Armour compression shorts
  • SmartWool base layer mid 250 bottoms
  • Under Armour gym shorts
  • old knee pads from my soccer days
  • Mechanix covert gloves
  • wool socks
  • polypropylene socks
  • Nike Free Run 2
  • Petzl headlamp

Inside the GR1

  • 4 Bricks, wrapped in an old yoga mat and duct tape
  • Platypus 3L water bladder, high profile
  • Extra pair of Mechanix covert gloves
  • extra pair of wool socks
  • Sea to Summit Nano Dry Sack, 2L
  • 4 ProBars (consumed 3)
  • 3 Clif Blocks (consumed 3)
  • 2 Clif Shots (consumed 2)
  • NU electrolyte tabs (never refilled my bladder)
  • $20 for cab fare beer
  • my driver’s license
  • a list of important numbers

what I learned the hard way

In short, wear a good hat. Especially at 3 am during a thunderstorm in 38 degree temperatures during March in Minnesota. Biggest life lesson.

There really isn’t a way to put into words what exactly you get from being part of the GoRuck community and family, because it is a family. All of the things I realized and learned through becoming GoRuck Tough are incredibly personal and life altering, and I imagine that my next GRC will be just as insightful for me. That’s just the nature of the beast.

I guess there are other things that I learned (mostly in the “whine less, train more” category) but that’s the easy stuff to learn, and also pretty boring to talk about. I need to run more, and I plan to once my foot heals a little more. I also need to trust my body to overcome the limits that I think it has, something I plan to challenge with climbing and more GoRuck events. Finally, I need to do more of everything; I need to experience more and live more life. The Woman and I are talking about trips out west, to see things and meet people, and whether that’s around the corner or down the road it’s helping to whet my appetite for adventure a little more.

GoRuck Week: #4

The Final Lap(s)

So, at this point it’s taken me three posts to explain the first 4ish hours of hell. Let that just serve as evidence that it was the most dynamic suckfest I've ever been a part of. The remaining 8 hours were no less brutal, but it was a steady stream of hellish conditions that are still a little too raw to pick apart.

moving the “nukes”

This tale left off at our first break, huddled together trying to stay warm, trying to decide if we would have time enough to refill our water bladders, but mostly dreading the next mission.

Cadre decides to shake up the team leaders and tells us we need a guy and a girl, he pulls them out of our small huddle and briefs them on our next objective: transporting the “nukes” to a safe location. The new team leaders then start lining us all up tallest to shortest, and then split us up into four teams based on our height. And then we marched.

We marched for what seemed like seconds before coming up on a deserted parking lot on the edge of the yuppie college neighborhood. Confusion set in until we realized that we needed to carry the “nukes”, large concrete parking stops, for the next 4.5 miles. Our team, the shorties, were the first ones to shoulder the “nuke” and we moved to the front of the pack. Everyone else quickly followed suite and off we marched.

Each block was a new layer of hell. Each time a team member shifted their weight or grip the jagged edges of the concrete would dig into our shoulders with the whole weight of the parking stop. But we were moving, and my body was starting to heat back up, and it wasn't so bad with the rest of my team sharing the weight.

But of course, life isn't fair. We were getting tired after the first 1.5 miles. Our shoulders were cramping. We were losing time whenever we stopped to rest and we had a time limit. After 2.5 miles I could start to feel the weight increasing, and not because I was tired, because my team was getting tired and couldn't hold up the weight anymore.

It was somewhere between mile 2 and 3 with the “nukes” that I started feeling the sharp and persistent pain of the stress fracture in my right foot. This is the point that I was done; I was going to quit and it was OK because I was in unreasonable pain. My shoulders were throbbing and my foot was searing in pain with every movement. I convinced myself that no one would have thought less of me for going home in that moment, but I still couldn't believe it because someone would have thought less of me: I would have thought less of me. As we marched along the Mississippi River, as I was ready to give up, I looked around and could feel everyone else suffering with me; I realized that if I didn't carry this weight, my team would have to, and I didn’t know if they could without me… so I kept marching. I let the bulk of the weight fall on my shoulder and marched. For the record, I was yelling constantly in agony and it probably sounded hilarious… like some sort of sick porno or something.

We thought we were done about a mile before we got to the “safe zone” and the crushing hope made that last mile particularly painful, but we still made it. We unshouldered the “nukes” and were given a 10 minute break. I shut everyone out. I inhaled an energy bar and stuffed energy goo into my mouth. I drank heavily from my bladder for the first time in 8 hours. I couldn't think about the pain, because if I did I wouldn't have kept going. I was asked multiple times if I was OK, which I was… or at least I would be, when everything was over. This is the moment that I realized I wasn't going to give up. It was the lowest moment for me, but I picked myself up and we started running again.

saving American lives

We did fartleks runs along the river for a while, until Cadre scoped out an “IED” that we transport in order to save American lives. Our team hauled this massive tree from the riverbank and shouldered it, rotating in fresh bodies every few blocks… or as fresh as our bodies could be at this point. That is, until Cadre spotted another “IED” that we needed to carry. So our fresh bodies haul that one too and now we're marching into downtown Minneapolis carrying two massive trees looking cool and shit.

By the time we got into urban part of the city with the stop lights and cars and shit it was around noon on a warm and sunny Saturday. We were still wet and tired as hell, but watching everyone watch us carry these trees through the streets was a huge morale boost. We just kept marching until Cadre told us to leave the “IEDs” and then we marched some more.

That last march was an incredible experience. We were back to carrying our selves and our rucks, and everyone was carrying each other. Words will never do that feeling justice, so I'm not even going to try. I can share the feeling of pain and misery, but that’s not what still sticks with me; what sticks, and what makes me ready and eager to sign up for the next challenge is that feeling with my GoRuck brothers and sisters as we marched back to the Walker Art Center, the feeling of Cadre telling us that we could finally take our rucks off, and the feeling of looking at everyone’s faces when we still weren't ready to be done.

And then we drank beer and talked and smiled and laughed. 12 hours, 45 minutes,15 miles of hell, and a patch to prove that I did it.