**This comes to us from Tim White, a fellow Corn Fed Spartan, Chicago Spartan, and wherever else you may see him. He is a stand up guy with a passion for having a great time! Check him out and remember to follow his blog www.ifyoucantrunthenruck.wordpress.com.**
First my apologies to anyone who reads this for I do not proclaim to be a writer and haven’t done anything close in probably 20+ years.
Inspired by the most elite training offered to Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets, the GORUCK Challenge is a team event and never a race. Challenge Cadre help build each class into a team through collective conditions of mental and physical exhaustion. Classes are small, camaraderie is high, smiles are plentiful and teamwork is paramount
The Challenge is billed as an 8-10 hour/15-20 miles guided tour of each city. It is also mentioned that the route and distance are unknown to participants and that challenges can last longer and go on for greater distances if the teams need it in order to fully become a team. Their mantra is “Under promise and over deliver!
Since I am not a runner by any means and probably never will be (though after reading Born to Run, I do have a glimmer of hope), I was looking for more challenges to go along with the obstacle course racing events which have become my true hobby over the last 2 years. From the very easy (Warrior Dash) to the hardest so far (Spartan Race), I’ve been on one wild ride these past few months.
After hearing about GORUCK last year on Facebook and knowing some friends that had completed some of the events, it peaked my interest. Quite frankly it all was very easy being that I paid my dues in the army for four years, basic training, AIT, JumpSchool, etc., and I was even garnered with some awards for my physical prowess in training exercises. “How hard can these military type challenges be?!” I wondered. I guess I had forgotten that I was 18-years-old and in a little different shape back then (which I learned in dramatic fashion during a similar type military event called S.E.R.E Performance back in the spring). I had already signed up for GORUCK before taking on S.E.R.E., so at least I was a little more prepared for this event. So off to Madison Wisconsin I went.
GRC Class 222 was about to get real.
Ruck: Short for Rucksack or Back Pack
GORUCK requires any person under 150lbs to carry 4 bricks in your ruck, and those over 150 to carry 6. Mine consisted of a hydration unit, first aid kit, food, glide, extra shirt, knife, duct tape, a good set of gloves, an emergency blanket, cab money and driver’s license. I opted for filling my hydration unit with Pedialyte this go ’round for the extra electrolytes I thought I would need. Bricks should be wrapped in bubble wrap and taped very well with Duct Tape, placed in your ruck and secured from moving around. Trust me—secure them tightly because the last thing you want are to have your bricks moving around when doing the exercises. In addition, everything needs to go in water proof bags for you will be under water on numerous occasions, ruck and all.
Note: Over the last couple easy OCR events I had been taking my ruck along with me filled with bricks or sand pills so I’d get used to carrying the added weight over obstacles and long distances.
Most of GRC Class 222 met at a local pub to have a bite to eat and meet each other. It was a mixed bunch of people, some who were doing their very first event of any kind. There were old friends from S.E.R.E. and the Spartan Races as well as my new GRC buddy Patty who I met for the first time in the parking lot. The next hour or so was spent with small talk, learning about each other’s backgrounds, and checking out rucks, gear and so on.
We met our Cadre, Garrett, at the rally point where he introduced himself and shared his background in Special Forces and gave a brief introduction of GORUCK. After we signed yet more death waivers and made final checks to our gear, the fun began.
- The American Flag (part of the mandatory team gear): must never touch the ground. If it does, well more fun.
- Ruck: Your ruck is never allowed to touch the ground or you face similar penalties as with Rule #1
- Team weight or coupon as they call it (also a mandatory team gear item):
Must weigh 25lbs. Ours was a pillow pet named Bucky (the mascot of the Wisconsin Badgers I believe).
The flag and team weight are carried along the entire course and each team member takes turns carrying them along with your ruck.
After Cadre Garrett got us into formation (which was an event in itself) you could tell that more than ¾ had no prior military background because it took forever. We paid the price by immediately knocking out 50 pushups, then for good measure, because we were slow standing up, we went back down for 15 more. Then we practiced getting up and down another 5-10x at a much quicker pace. Normally that wouldn’t have been so difficult but we were each carrying an extra 30-40lbs or so.
I won’t go into too much detail other than to list the plethora of exercises that our unit was put through: bear crawls, crab walks, push-ups, squats, lunges, side knee raises and the dreaded inch worm. In all I believe we spent almost 2 hours doing P.T. and it was at this point that our first team member dropped out.
“Rows of two, tight formation, no stragglers!” barked Cadre Garrett as we had our first assignment. Make it to the Capitol Lawn in X Time. Funny thing is, they never told us how much time we had. My theory was you were never going to make it in time. Miss the deadline and your payment is P.T. Make the deadline and no P.T. Now what fun would it have been to make it to the deadline in time? And consequently, we missed just about every deadline this night by 15 minutes—not 5, not 10—always 15.
A couple miles in and the group had fallen out of formation. Stragglers were already appearing so we made a pit stop in a parking lot for an “adjustment.” Our reward? Push-ups, squats and over-the-head shoulder presses.
Bascomb hill came and after a brief story telling by the Cadre we had our mission. Wounded soldiers were on the battle field, and we had to pair up with someone of like height and weight and buddy or fireman carry our partners up to the top of the hill. I’m guessing it was 300 yards on a fairly medium incline. My buddy ended up being a young man half my age. I explained to him what we had to do and I would carry him first. Surprisingly my legs held out and I made it about half way. It was then his turn to carry me and that lasted a whole 2 steps. He just couldn’t do it, so I had no choice but to suck it up and carry him all the way. I was delighted to see we were actually the second group to reach the top (yes, I do have a competitive spirit, and the night was still young). Some of our teammates were so far back though that you couldn’t even see them, so you knew this task was going to take a long time. I asked Garrett if this was a team event, and if so could we go back down and help the others. “HELL YES, you better!!” came the roaring reply. By this time, 8 of us barreled back down the hill and started helping the others out. In no time the entire unit was at the top getting a 5 minute breather and hydrating.
Next assignment: Grab your buddy and while under “enemy” fire we were to move down the hill in 5-second intervals, so run for 5 seconds then down-and-low crawl for 5 seconds. We had to follow this pattern until we were back at the bottom. This was actually a fun exercise, and the grass was cold and wet from the evening dew so it cooled us off.
At this point we lost our last member of the team. I have no idea how she made it back to the rally point. A cab is what we all decided she must have used.
We were on the move again and headed toward Lake Manona. It was interesting to see the looks on people’s faces as we moved down the streets in formation past bars and restaurants. People would ask what we were doing but we were not allowed to talk to anyone. Garrett had us yelling out “GO RUCK!” in cadence when he would bark and it definitely got people’s attention. Plus a lot of patriotism was shown for the flag we carried.
Unfortunately, being in a college town we ran into more drunken groups of people than sober it seemed like. On one occasion, when stopping for the unit to refill water, a fight broke out between a woman and a man within 50 feet of our team—two members bolted over to the fray to break it up. Props go to them for that move.
At one stop we picked up another coupon (I still don’t know exactly why they call it that), and this one was a wet, filthy, long and slender tube filled with mulch that even today I believe was “borrowed.” It was about 8-10 feet long and weighed about 50-75lbs. Now this item would have to be carried the rest of the way and the same rules applied as with the ruck and flag. As we moved out we had to drape the coupon between two people while moving in columns of two, which was not as easy as one might think.
When you want a formation to pick up the pace they use what is called an Indian Run: Two rows of people marching along. The last two people on each side are tagged and you sprint to the front of the formation. One takes the flag and the other takes one of the coupons. We started this process while heading to the beach and it was used continuously from then on between checkpoints. Yet, we still never made a check point on time . . . hmmm . . .
As expected it was time to get wet, so into the water the unit went. It was actually refreshing. Even though it was only 55 degrees outside, we were all ready to cool off. Pushups were the first order of business. “Face into the water!!” yelled Garrett for those slackers who thought they were going to try and stay dry. Next we were on our backs for flutter kicks, followed by leg lifts and more pushups. We then sat in the water for a few minutes while Garrett continued on about our mission and what we had to do next. Finally we were back on dry land and into the sand for jumping jacks and more fun, which I believe was done to get our body temps back up
Another ruck, this time to a building called Manona Terrace overlooking the city where we hydrated, took 10 minutes to eat and refilled our water. To the top of the terrace we had to hump, guessing about 5 stories via the stairs. Damn was it a killer on the calves!
Here we continued with more P.T. and this time Garrett introduced us to even more fun exercises all while playing some sort of Chinese music on his IPOD. Think of the exercises you use with a kettle ball. We did them all: side to side, lifts, around the world, shoulder presses, etc. We ended and were supposed to all hold our rucks straight out in front of us. Yeah right, very few had anything left to even attempt at this exercise. Suffer in Silence was the going thought.
Every GORUCK to date has involved a log of some sort. After another run to the Arboretum we were led to a wooded area and had to dig out the largest log I have ever had the pleasure of putting my hands on.
Twenty-two people, 11 per side, could barely go 10 feet at a time. After a couple hundred feet of this dismal effort, we turned around and dumped the log back into the woods and opted for one that was a tad smaller. This one required 8 people per side. As we moved out with our missile to the next check point, rows of people formed on each side, and once those carrying the log got tired we would jump in to relieve them. This method went on as we carried the log through city streets and over bike paths till we reached our checkpoint.
The sun was now starting to rise over the horizon and it gave everyone a boost of energy.
Miracles do happen; we made this checkpoint in time and were rewarded with a 15 min break.
Our evacuation by helicopter, as it was called, was at Camp Randall. We had little time to get there and had to move the fastest we had gone all night. Non-stop Indian running the entire way was taking its toll on some of our unit and so more stragglers started to appear. The constant moving of the 2 coupons we were carrying was also a good factor as to why we missed our deadline, yet again. This time around we only had a few exercises to do and were told we now had to be evacuated by boat and were heading to the boathouse.
The hump to Porter Boathouse was the shortest hump all night and it would have been easy except for Garrett was at the end of the formation and was tagging people to be injured. This basically meant whoever was injured had to be picked up by someone and carried the entire way. We would get going and a ¼ mile later someone else would drop. It got to be comical. We were using our last bit of energy to almost sprint to the boathouse and try and carry anyone that was injured.
When we arrived we rehydrated (basically anytime you stopped moving you drank water and tried to get some sort of energy bar, beans, GU, jerky, etc. into your system) for you never knew when the end of the mission was to come. Garrett also told us that our ride for evacuation was redirected and we had to move on to our next checkpoint. More mind games. I was guessing we were 12 hours into it and fully expected our mission to go 14-16 hours.
Slow hump around Porter Boathouse a mile or so to a parking lot. Our final instructions for the evacuation were supposed to be given. In my mind we were going to get told to head back to the original rally point where we started and all of our cars were parked.
Our team leader opened up the trunk of a car that had been placed there and to our delight: coolers and ice cold beer! WE WERE DONE! We later found out that had covered about 19 miles in approximately 13 hours.
We high-fived each other, headed over to a park where we got our GRC patches and continued on with picture taking and celebrating.
I’ve done my best to give you a little recap of my adventure. What I have left out is the most important part. TEAM WORK! We did have real injuries along the way, twisted ankles causing us to carry them, carried rucks of those who were struggling during the runs or were slowed due to cramping, and also shared food and water. If someone needed help they got it without question or hesitation. No one told anyone to do any of this. It just happened within a group of mostly strangers who came together to “suffer in silence” and truly pull together as a team.
One amazing night of “Good Livin” that I will always remember