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F**k Me I Did A Third GORUCK Challenge

I did my third GoRuck Challenge over the weekend, Class 172 in Orlando. Originally I wasn’t going to participate because my left achilles is still jacked up, but I had a handful of friends register and they inspired me to jump in.

The starting point was the amphitheater at Lake Eola, a short walk from my house. One of my favorite parts of the whole deal was limping back home with my pals after it was done and soaking in the glory of the day and bitching about the experience.

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon about GoRuck. While they’re happening, they completely suck and I swear I’ll never do another one. Shortly afterwards, I remember the event with extreme fondness and the memory of the experience grows and grows. Just a few days later, I’m thinking about when to do the next one. It’s like Inception where you can’t tell reality from the dream. By Thursday, I was telling everyone what a blast it was and everyone should sign up.

I think this is because of the shared experience with other highly motivated, high character people. The team environment is critically important to forging the experience and every person you meet is interesting and worth knowing. I had some good conversations while rucking around town.

How It Went Down

We started with 27 participants and ended with 26. One guy passed out during the opening smokefest and that was it for him.

We had a shitload of coupons, none of which could touch the ground:

  • Two flags carried on flag poles
  • Four GR Echos loaded with 50 lbs sandbags. We could not use the straps.
  • A swan head weighing 25 lbs.
  • A weird cargo sheet thing with straps on the corners. We couldn’t figure out how to use it so we just bundled it up and carried it.

The first couple of hours was running around Eola and getting smoked with PT because we kept fucking up. PT included walking lunges, duck walks, inch worms, and box jumps. This was my first foray into inch worms and they were awful. Two words: Human Centipede. Not only are they difficult, but you’ve basically got your face in some dude’s ass the whole time.

Orlando GRC wasn’t broken up into individual missions like the 083 Tampa Challenge. We basically ran from point A to B to C in formation, doing some variation of an indian run. There was a ridiculous variation of indian run and I’ll describe it below.

Our route took us from Lake Eola through downtown Orlando to Amway Center to the Citrus Bowl. From the Citrus Bowl, we rucked out to Universal Studios and back. Total mileage was approximately 22 miles. One of the very best parts was rucking down Orange Avenue past all the bars and clubs…there was a ton of people out and we got a lot of funny looks. Even the police horses got a little spooked by our group. I ended up carrying the American flag for a bit on Orange Avenue and I had several friends tell me they saw me take the flag. That was a cool moment.

Photo credits Bryan Hylton

Pros

We did a hell of a lot of PT and I’m a big fan of PT. At the Citrus Bowl we did crab walks and bear crawls. We did plenty of buddy carrying because we kept fucking up and getting people blown up. We found the time to do divebomber burpees in the middle of the night at a gas station. We found a long patch of grass and did a cool drill called “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” which is a way of advancing across a battlefield. Then low crawls through the grass with all our gear and coupons, which sucked but was fun at the same time.

The 50# Echos, nicknamed “Bags of Love,” were absolute ball busters. Getting passed one of those in the middle of an indian run made you delirious. Keep in mind you couldn’t use the straps, so you had to bear hug them or chuck them on your shoulder. Some of the guys figured out a way to mount them on top of their backpacks–that’s 90 lbs or more on your back. That much load blasted you.

While we were rucking through the ghetto, Cadre made us grab another coupon, a ghettofied easy chair. We carried that thing several miles. I think a couple of the guys caught SARS from it. It wasn’t super heavy, but it was another damn thing we had to carry and no one was spared.

We also had a multi-hour stretch where we couldn’t use the straps on our regular rucks, meaning we had to carry everything by hand, either farmer style, on our shoulders, on our heads, or whatever. We found two shopping carts in the ghetto and fixed that problem for a few miles. After we got our straps back, Cadre threw in a new wrinkle on the indian run. It went like this: gear and equipment had to stay in the exact same position in line even though people changed positions. So, when someone sprinted to the front of the line, you passed your gear forward and took gear from the guy behind you. That slowed us to a crawl.

Cons

My chief gripe was the route. Rucking around downtown Orlando was awesome, but we spent the bulk of our miles traveling through the worst ghetto of Orlando and then a long stretch of nothingness as we made our way to Universal Studios. There was nothing in the way of memorials, historic monuments, beaches, or anything like that. Orlando is no Philadelphia, but if you look around you can find some cool stuff to visit…I would liked to have seen more thought put into the routing. I felt bad for the non-residents in the class who probably got the wrong impression of the city.

The other thing I want to point out is that GRC can seem kind of disorganized and done on the fly, especially if you come from the world of hyper-organized road races and the like. Yes, Cadre will make shit up on the spot. Yes, you’re pissing in the bushes all night. Yes, to refill your water you stop at 7-Eleven and buy it. Yes, they never finish on time. I actually prefer it that way because it seems like it’s closer to a military type experience where you’re in the field and you just have to make it happen. The rawness and grittiness appeals to me. That quality is a pro in my book but a lot of other people disliked it.

Cadre Dave

Dave is maybe 5’7 and 140 lbs soaking wet in his boots. He’s a total badass and his military history includes a laundry list of cool stuff, not the least of which is his Green Beret cred. We absolutely loved the guy.

What really impresses me about the GRC is how kickass the the Cadre are. I’ve had Jason McCarthy, Brian Rich, and now Dave, and all of these guys are interesting, high character individuals. These are all guys you’d want as friends and teammates, whatever the team may be.

One of my personal themes for the year is surrounding myself with high character people and doing a GRC makes me re-examine my relationships. The GRC is all about testing character, friendships, and strengthening your mind, and I think the value there can’t be understated. It’s an absolute steal for the growth you get versus the actual cost.

Gear and Training

I used a Blackhawk Titan because I wanted to test out a pack with waist straps and super comfortable shoulder straps. It worked well but was not a perfect solution. After a couple of hours the weight still sucked the same as when I used a GR1 or GR2. My hips and lower back took a pounding but my shoulders were far less brutalized than from 083. I’ll do a full review of the Blackhawk later.

For training, I did CrossFit almost every day and one SealFit WOD per week on Saturdays. More than anything I think the extra volume of the SealFIT WOD got my body in the right shape. I felt strong throughout and there were even a few points where I felt like the work load was easy.

I did absolutely zero running or rucking. I hadn’t run more than a mile since December because of lingering achilles tendonitis.

Takeaways

This was the best performance I’ve had of the three GoRucks. I had better work output, carried more shit, and even buddy carried someone for a stretch. I felt great physically for 75% of the time. I got assigned team leader at one point and fell into my old crew coach mode…we made up some good time during that stretch.

There was some grumbling this was an easy GRC. I’m not sure that’s true. With the extra heavy coupons, no straps, and weird indian run variants, it was a serious suckfest. 22 miles of rucking is never a joke (this was actually a longer hike than the Tampa GRC). Also, it was hot as balls when the sun came up and of course we ran out of water like 3 times. GRC 007 was the hardest for me, but I was a big pussy back then. So it’s hard to compare them. They’re all unique and the personnel has a big impact on the experience. I will say 172 was the most “fun” of the three I’ve done so take that for what it’s worth.

Other than a lot of soreness and an appointment with the chiropractor, I had no injuries. The strength training and extra stuff I’ve been doing has paid off handsomely.

Bottom Line

GoRuck Challenge is still the baddest military-style adventure event out there and for the money (as low as $120) you’re getting ridiculous value. You get legit character building, boundary pushing, and friendships out of it and the shared experience is one of the best on the market. After my third go-around, I recommend it more than ever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/corycollier Cory Collier

    Dude,

    I was one of those grumbling that this event was easier than I had planned. My comparison is to the Megatransect, where I was actually delirious from exhaustion. By no means was 172 easy. But I didn’t have to do any serious soul-searching to finish the event. 

    I think the folks who came from out of town had it more difficult. The mind game of not knowing where you are, and wondering when it’ll all be over (especially in midday sun and heat of Orlando) was probably a notch above what the natives went through.

  • Gritt

    i know how you feel. just signed up for grc tampa, and trying to work out grc in kc to help a bud pop his cherry. what i like is that moment when my brain asked “why the fuck are you doing this?” then my brain tells it`s self to shut up, and keep walking.

  • Josh

    Well done Ben.  I think I need to sign up and do another regular Goruck before Selection in January.  
    Now that you’ve done a couple warm weather (and by most accounts basically dry) Challenges, how much would you say that the cold, wet, and sandy aspects of 007 contributed to it’s difficulty?  To me those were far and away the more mentally challenging parts-physically it wasn’t unbearably difficult (though the 6 miles of sugar sand took their toll on my ankles).  
    Any thoughts?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/RussellStoewe Russell Stoewe

    My buddy and I (GRT) were happy to meet you before you guys stepped off and glad to hear you had fun. My first GRC with Dan had indian runs like the ones you mention, and they were rough.

    Congrats on #3. I’m about 5 weeks from #3 in DC and looking forward to it. Of course, the night before, I’ll be wondering what the hell i was thinking.

  • http://benogrady.com benogrady

    Josh, thanks for reading and commenting. In retrospect, 007 was the most difficult of the three because of those factors: cold, wet, sandy. The warm GRC’s have their challenges, namely staying hydrated, but there’s nothing like being wet and cold for hours. Jason pushed us the hardest by far of the three and that mental component added an additional suck factor.

    I’m holding off on Selection until after I get through Kokoro Camp in August.  

  • http://benogrady.com benogrady

    Awesome, enjoy, and let us know how it went down! 

  • Carl

    Ben, this post was very informative. I stumbled upon it after googling what a “Goruck Duck” is…now I know! I’ll be doing my first GRC in Port St. Lucie in Oct, and was wondering if you had any advice for a first time participant? Also, would you still recommend the Blackhawk Titan?

  • Ben O’Grady

    Carl, thanks for reading and commenting. My advice: enjoy the ride, do a bunch of rucking miles before you do the event to get used to the weight. I also recommend doing training miles where you carry the backpack (no straps) and also carry another heavy object with your backpack on. You’ll be rucking for hours like that. Hydrate well and don’t overpack. Bring just what you need.

    I like the Titan but in retrospect I don’t like the way the weight sits in the main compartment of the bag. The bag is simply too big. The Titan is cool because it has waist and chest straps, which are useful. My preference is now the GR1. I think it’s the ideal size and the weight sits in it almost perfectly.

  • Jon

    Did the cargo sheet look like this?

  • Jon