GORUCK. It is about perspective.
A challenge is but a chance to learn and strive when faced with adversity. They are opportunities disguised as hard work that allow you to discover hidden strengths and reveal weaknesses so that we may learn to overcome them. In my opinion, Goruck does just this.
What you should know about Goruck is that it is NOT for everyone. Anyone can attempt it and/or complete it, but not everyone will find the same satisfaction that most do. A common misconception about doing a Goruck event is that it is a ‘bootcamp.’ Cue buzzer…ERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! Wrong. The cadres have a motto:
Under promise. Over deliver.
And they do just that. When you sign up for a GRC, you are signing up for a 10-14 hour endurance TEAM challenge. The final time is dependent on your cadre and your class. If you suck, well…then I’m sorry for you. And sometimes a class just sucks. Truth!This challenge is not about YOU. It is about the person to the left, right, front, and back of you. Sure you will learn a hell of a lot about yourself in that time, but you do so through team work. The quicker you and everyone on your team understand that, the better off you are.
After working myself to exhaustion completing a 16 hour SERE event in NYC this past March, I already had an idea as to what my weaknesses and strengths were and tried to work on them in advance. So in the weeks leading up to my first full Goruck Challenge, I focused on training my back and shoulders so that they could endure the prolonged weight of a ruck on my back. I ran around my neighborhood carrying tires and cinder blocks. I carried my ruck in my hands, did farmer carries, and hung from monkey bars for time to increase my grip strength. I spent time crawling like every animal imaginable and staying in plank formation while wearing my weighted ruck. I’m so glad I did. Training for a GRC is advisable, after all, what harm could come from a little extra training?
Goruck is constant movement, endless PT, and unforgiving amounts of time either carrying a team weight, another team member, or (if you are the not so lucky one) being the carried. Your team is required to reach certain destinations within a given time while keeping perfect formation. When the team hustles, you hustle. If you are suffering, speak up and your team will suffer along with you and help you where you need it. For example, I did my first full GRC in Long Beach this past Spring and while I was prepared in my training, you can never be fully prepared for what your body will react to. The minute we hit the beach for sprints…BOOM! Asthma attack. I had already made my team and cadre aware of my condition (ahhem…speak up!) prior to starting our ruck, but that didn’t matter. This attack was so bad that I couldn’t even get the words out to my team that I was having an attack. One team member saw me slowing down and dragged me up to the start point. As everyone rushed back past me to the water, I stumbled to our cadre motioning for my inhaler as I struggled to breathe. It felt like an elephant was lowering himself on to my chest and every inhale was met with a painful wheeze.
With my ruck still on and after a few puffs of my inhaler, I saw my team return to the start looking at me with confusion.
“Where was her partner?” he asked. Silence.
“I will ask again. Where was her partner?” My partner stepped forward. I explained through broken breaths that I couldn’t speak to even tell my partner. It didn’t matter.
“Someone should have realized that she was missing.” Silence. The team would now get punished.
“Are you okay or do you need to drop?” he asked me.
WHEEZE. “I’m. okay.” WHEEZE.
“Are you sure?”
“Then get in line.”
I fell back in line with my team, apologized and took my punishment with them- endless rolling through the sand as Cadre shouted “My right. Your right. Left. OTHER left.” My teammates often pushed me to finish rolling over or yanking on my ruck to turn me. I was like a ragdoll.
When we stood back up, we were met with more running. My teammates and buddy took me by the hand and dragged me back and forth to the water. They locked arms with me and held me down as the waves crashed over my shoulders and knocked me back-n-forth. Finally, after endless PT, we were allowed to take a rest as the sun rose around us. Sure I got the shit knocked out of me, but because of my team, I made it through that attack and managed to recover enough to carry the weights, log, and help the rest of the team later on.Receiving that patch was one of the greatest moments for me. I was so happy and proud. Then I compare that to the crying mess I was when I received my patch in NYC during our 9/11 challenge and whoa…what a difference. While I was physically and mentally stronger for NYC and a hell of a lot more prepared in regards to gear, I was hurting. I suffered in silence for a majority of the challenge as pain ran from my hip down to my toes, yet I still helped the team. I carried my teammates, took part in rotation of the team weights, carried the flags, shared my food, laughed with my friends…I did it all. This challenge was a chance for me to give back to my team the way my first set of teammates did. Having the cadre shake my hand and say, “You surprised the hell out of us! We were very impressed with you today” was one of the greatest feelings.
Sure your shoulders will feel like lead after countless rounds of the Tunnel of Love. Will your knees be cut up and bruised? Might your clothing rip? Will you be cold and submerged in water? Might you exclaim “I’m never doing this again?” HELL YES!! But when you are back in reality and thinking “Man, this moment completely sucks! I’m never going to get through this” you can think back to Goruck. How does it translate? Because if your challenge teaches you anything, it is that every bad experience has an ending. What you are experiencing and suffering from at that very moment will, at one point or another, give way to relief. You will learn that you are stronger under circumstances that you do not give yourself enough credit for. You will also learn that you are NEVER alone.
Yea those last few rounds of man-makers and flutterkicks in the last hour of your challenge will have you grinding your teeth in agony, but when those last few words, “GORUCK. TOUGH” escape your lips…you’ll know. You will gain a wealth of knowledge from these challenges, hear stories from our cadre that have served our nation, learn about their friends that have passed while serving, and maybe even gain the slightest understanding in to what our brothers and sisters in arms experience. “Things can always be worse” is what Cadre Bert says and suddenly, your life doesn’t seem so bad.
Aside from Goruck’s Three Rules, which I won’t tell you about because you need to learn them for yourself, remember this:
- Be smart about your challenge — do your homework. Know what each level (Light, Challenge, Scavenger, Heavy, Nasty, Selection) entails.
- Become part of your team — help the people around you.
- Keep in mind that nobody likes a know-it-all or the show-off, just don’t do it. Share your knowledge, but don’t throw around the obnoxious attitude.
- Laugh and Smile — if you can’t find a moment to smile during your challenge, you are doing something wrong. Those awkward moments where your buddy looks like he/she is humping you? Yep…it is kinda funny. Or when you have to crawl uphill flashing your headlamp like rapid fire while making “pew pew” firing noises…yep, that’s funny too. Or when you are told to take a pee break and you all pee so much that it floods the sidewalk that you are crawling on…okay, never mind that’s just gross.
- Train — for the love of God and all that is holy, do NOT do a challenge or any event without ever having had more than 5 lbs on your back. This isn’t step aerobics. We’re not sweating to the oldies. This shit is heavy and 9/10 times…awkward as HELL to carry. Get accustomed to it.
- Become best friends with the greatest people in the world — sure, not everyone gets along all the time, but what family does? Trust your team. Love them. Respect them.
- There is nothing like looking back at photos and relishing in the pride of your team and what you’ve just accomplished.
Now, go sign up for your first challenge!! The only thing stopping you is your own self-doubt.
Want to know what other movements and activities I used to train? Shoot me a message on here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thank you to Jeff Engler, Eric Catacutan, James Cameron, and Jonathan Ely for taking the time to shadow during these challenges and provide the class with everlasting memories. Pain now, beer later.