GORUCK Challenge Review, Class 318
Yesterday at around 10 am, I completed my first GORUCK Challenge. Out of all the crazy things I’ve ever done, this was definitely the most unusual. Just in case anyone reading this is gearing up for their own GRC, I’ll post some info on what I did for food and clothing prep along with some Good Livin’ stories.
So the first question of course is: What is GORUCK? It’s a bit hard to explain; Essentially, it’s a 12-ish hour event where you wear a backpack (aka a “ruck”) filled with bricks (4 if you’re under 150 pounds, 6 if you’re over), walk/run/shuffle to various points around a city with a bunch of crazy teammates to complete various goals, carry heavy shit in addition to your ruck, and endure PT drills including but not limited to: pushups, overhead presses, bear crawls, flutter kicks, etc. etc. etc. The GORUCK website sums it up pretty well with this excerpt: “The GORUCK Challenge is a positive extension of GORUCK’s goal to bring people together: miltary/non-military, men/women, young/old. Our Special Operations Cadre teach every class what a team feels like, how to stay cool under stress, and why camaraderie in Special Forces is so high. In our estimation, people are good, and capable of much more when they work together, for each other.” Why did I sign up for this? Because… why not? Life is about testing your limits, rising to challenges, and doing precisely the things that scare you. This seemed like a good way to do that.
Training: My training schedule for this event included a lot of HIIT, pilates, weight lifting, and running, plus 1 ruck run with PT drills each week. For a sample workout, you can take a peek at my HIIT IT post from back in June. I won’t lie to you: I was really, really tired after my half marathon. I’ve been training 7 months non-stop for various things, so I was feeling pretty unenthusiastic about having another 6 weeks of preparation ahead of me — especially for an event with such vague information around it. Not to mention I had a lot of personal stressors (mostly good, but still crazy) arise in the last 2 weeks before the challenge. In the end, though, I’m extremely glad I did it. And strangely enough, I really think that my half marathon prepared me for this better than anything else ever could have because I went into the challenge with mental and physical endurance, in-depth knowledge of how to properly fuel my body, and a positive attitude.
GRC Prep: Since I didn’t really know what to expect, I started increasing my carb and water intake 3 days before the event. If you’re preparing for your own GRC, I recommend putting on a couple of pounds if you can– they’ll be gone after the challenge. In my GR1 I packed: Bricks (I kept them in the inside pocket), a 100 oz. Camelbak bladder, GU, Cliff Bars, 2 pairs of socks, cab fair (just in case), and my ID. Considering that you have to carry whatever you put in your ruck for 12-14 hours, it’s really important to pack light.
For clothes, I wore running sneakers, UnderArmour Cold Gear long-sleeves and tights, a regular UnderArmour tee-shirt, running shorts, Soccer socks, a Nike Dri-Fit hat, Craftsman work gloves, and the top layer of a NorthFace ski jacket. I’m really happy with all of these choices, but we also didn’t get wet until the very end so who knows how I would’ve felt if we went in the water earlier. More on that later.
The Challenge: I was in Maine the night before the challenge, so I started the trip up to Boston on Saturday afternoon. I met up with most of my new teammates for our “Ruckoff” (a meet-up to grab food/beer before the start) around 20:30 feeling anxious and excited. After about an hour, we headed out to the Commons to sign our waivers, and start the evening. All GRCs start with what’s called a “Welcome Party”. Despite the cheery name, it’s a period of time where you do nothing but lots and lots of PT. *Note: Thanks To Amy Parulis and Eric Gove for shadowing us and taking these pics*
Having to hold my 30+ pound ruck straight out in front of me after endless upper body exercises really sucked, and I have to say thank you to 3 years of advanced pilates classes for getting me through the 400-ish flutter kicks we had to do in a row. To be honest, though, I didn’t really think this part of the challenge was too bad. Don’t get me wrong– it was hard, but knowing there were 40 other people going through the same thing made it fun.
I should also mention that you’re not allowed a watch for these things, so I have no idea how long the Welcome Party, or any other portion of the night, actually lasted. After we completed the WP, we split off into two groups, each with our own Cadre to lead us. Challenge Cadre all have Special Operations backgrounds, and my team was led by Cadre Garret. Each challenge consists of a series of missions to complete, usually in a certain timeframe. I don’t think it’d be fair to post details about all of our missions; partially because I think you just have to sign up to see for yourself, but also because every experience is going to be different depending on the people in the class and which Cadre is in charge. But I will share some highlights and low points.
My favorite part of the evening was probably right in the beginning when my team set a super fast pace. I loved running all through the streets of Boston and getting to know some of my teammates. I think the distance runners in the group were probably the only people who actually enjoyed this portion though, because I heard some disgruntled noises coming from people who don’t do a lot of running. But that’s the way teams work– every individual has different strengths and weaknesses, and you’re only as fast as your slowest person.
I have to preface this next highlight by mentioning two things: 1.) Each GORUCK class has the privilege of carrying a giant log at some point during the challenge. 2.) Each class has to carry a 25 pound team weight of their choice. Our team weight was a giant ’80s style boombox loaded with a “Call Me Maybe”/ “Gangnam Style” remix.
Keep in mind that we started at 22:00 (10 pm for those of you who hate math as much as I do), so we were running around Boston at prime drunk time. Few things are more hilarious than being part of 22 person group carrying huge backpacks, a ridiculous log, and a pop music-blasting boombox through drunken city crowds. As you can imagine, we got shouted at a lot. One guy was much more passionate than the rest, assaulting us with profanity for a good 10 minutes. Finally, Cadre Garret had enough and he started chasing the guy. The dude took off running away, and Garret chased him alllllll the way down the street. It was awesome.
There were a lot of cool things in this challenge for me: Running through Boston while the city sleeps, getting to watch the sunrise from Bunker Hill, lying on my back doing flutter kicks in the middle of the street outside a Paul Revere monument, and waking up the city at 9 (?) am with a raucous and strangely on-key rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. I shut my brain off and kept in good spirits for the entire thing, and I think that more than anything made a difference.
Of course, there were a couple of low points. For each mission, there is a new Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader, helping to ensure that the mission is reached. The mission that I was ATL for was by far the longest and most brutal of the night. There was an awkward piece of concrete that had to be carried a ridiculously long distance, but could only be carried by people of the same height. So, that limited the amount of team members who could actually help. Then, one of our teammates suffered an injury and had to be carried for a while by 3 others. We had a couple of people dealing with leg/ab cramping as well. It was somewhere between 3-6 am at that point, and group morale was pretty down. Even though ATLs aren’t really supposed to carry anything, I ended up taking on a second ruck for a while because I felt so bad for the people who were struggling. My team kicked ass though, and we pulled through.
The only really really bad point for me was the very end when we had to do pushups in the duck pond. If you’ve ever done a Tough Mudder and experienced the Arctic Enema (a dumpster filled with ice water), then you might have an idea of how cold this water was. Having to hang out in plank position, repeatedly dunking your entire head under water to do pushups while mildly hyperventilating is neither easy or pleasant. Luckily we didn’t have to do a lot of them, but my jacket literally turned to ice when we got out. Thankfully, that was toward the end of the challenge. My GRC experience probably would have been less awesome if we’d had to do those earlier on.
In the end, it was a pretty cool experience. I’m really proud of everyone in class 318 for pulling through (only one person quit from our group), and I’m happy I got the chance to do it. I think there are only about 3,500 people in the GORUCK Tough family, so it’s really neat to be a part of something so unique. If you’re even a little bit curious about it, just take the plunge and sign up.
And now, it’s offseason time for this gal. I’m excited to rest up and enjoy the holidays with some easy winter running 🙂 I hope you’re all having a great November so far!
And as always, Remember to Breathe.