You need to move like your hair is on fire and the only way to put it out is with the speed of your movement!
I had the opportunity this past weekend to take part in GoRuck Challenge Class 479 in Mesa Arizona this past weekend. Because of this decision I’m still walking…
What is the GoRuck Chalenge?
The GORUCK Challenge is a team event, never a race. Think of it as a slice of Special Operations training where – from start to finish — a Special Operations Cadre challenges, teaches, and inspires your small team to do more than you ever thought possible. Leadership is taught and teamwork is demanded on missions spanning the best of your city. The hardest part? Signing up. -GoRuck.com
As they said, this was not a race. In fact I’d argue it wasn’t really even a fitness challenge. Sure being in great shape reduces the overall suck factor quite a bit, but it is not what will make you successful. This whole challenge is about how well you can hold up mentally while suffering for 10-12 straight hours.
How about some details?
Okay, so I decided to sign up for the Challenge on New Years Eve. I also figured it would be a better time than any to bamboozle a few friends into it with me. So I fired off a few texts and within the hour I had two others agree to join me. One signed up right away and the other was way too drunk to be making good decisions, he didn’t sign up… Now my buddy Dustin who signed up did so without really having any idea of what this thing was all about, but he has been in much worse situations. Long story short Dustin drove from sunny Southern California the day of the Challenge and spent the night suffering with the rest of us. He has dubbed me a “Blue Falcon” ever since.
Our Challenge started at 0100 (1am for you civillian types) on Saturday morning. We started with getting our pack inspected, 6 bricks for people 150+ pounds and 4 for the smaller folk. We put our packs back on and they didn’t come off for another 10 hours. Then we got a very basic drill lesson. Now that everyone knew how to stand in formation it was time to “Find out if you all are fit enough to participate in this challenge.” So the next couple hours was filed with some basic stuff like push-ups, flutter kicks, squats, buddy carries, “Ranger push-ups”, inchworm push-ups, infantry movement tactics (buddy rushes), etc… You get the point, general military type hazing for a couple hours. We started the challenge with 17 people, by the time we were deemed fit enough to continue we had 16. Which proved that no matter how strong your body may be, if your mind is weak, you will fail.
Next, a team leader and assistant team leader were picked and off we went on our first mission. We were given a time hack and told to move out, as a team, to our first objective. This process repeated 7 more times with a slightly different scenario. About half way through our Cadre wished a beach into existence in the middle of Mesa Arizona and off we went for a little swim in the Salt River. We them camouflaged up, basically covering all of our exposed skin with mud, and moved out again wet, muddy, tired, and quite a bit more miserable than pre-pool party. Now, as you could probably imagine, if we happened to miss our time hack there were consequences. I’ll leave this up to your imagination but it looked similar to our initial two hours of “Good Livin”. We finished up at around 1100 (11am) Saturday morning, a quick 10 hour later, and off came the packs and out came the smiles and beers.
Wait, that doesn’t sound so bad!?
So I may have left out a few details… Things like carrying the 25 pound team weight, the fact that at one point (most of the time) we carried 21 sandbags between the 16 of us, a mass casualty situation that resulted, conveniently, in 6 of our biggest teammates incapacitated and in need of being carried, etc. Oh and remember this is a team event, so when the hard charging and very impressive grandmother that was with us couldn’t feel her feet and though she was done someone had to carry her pack for her as well.
A note on preparation
I have said for years that the best way to build mental toughness is by getting under a ruck and walking for horrendous amounts of time. Physically most people can do this. Mentally many cannot. Now if the idea of this proposition makes you nervous then you’ll probably want to buy your bricks early, a few months prior to the Challenge, and start moving with them in a pack on your back. Other than that you should probably figure out a way to get in decent shape if you’re not already. I obviously recommend CrossFit for this kind of thing (and really all kinds of fitness things). As bad as 10 hours of rucking can seem it really isn’t as bad as the feeling you get when the world is closing in on you after “Fran”.
Now this is the important stuff. If you know you are a sweaty bastard then you better have a good (read: tested) hydration and electrolyte plan in place before you shoe up to the Challenge. We almost lost a highly motivated, experienced (Army infantry, deployments, etc…) teammate because he could barely move for the last hour or so due to cramping. Hydration starts days in advance of any endurance event. You DO NOT want to start off an event like this in the hole. Make sure you’re hydrated. The key to any good hydration strategy is making sure your body retains the water you are ingesting. You do this with electrolytes, I recommend Salt Stick. Once you have these two items checked off your box you need to think about food. I didn’t feel like carrying a bunch of crappy powerbars with me so I kept it simple. I carried two Nalgene bottles filled with coconut water and 3Fuel (Use code: 3FNEWTON for 10% off). A couple of swigs every couple hours and I was good to go.
Bottom-line is: Figure out what works for you, test it out before hand, and stick to your plan.
- The GoRuck Challenge Cadre are great people. True heros who have been there and done that.
- Your mental strength is much more important than your physical strength. If quitting is not an option, then it is only a matter of time before you succeed.
- The GoRuck Challenge should be a required right of passage for those who have never served in the military. This isn’t a silly mud run. This event is a character builder.
- It is going to suck. Come prepared (whatever that means to you).
Questions, comments, concerns, let me know below. I especially want to hear from you if you’ve passed the test and have been deemed “GoRuck Tough”!