“It is inevitable that some defeat will enter even the most victorious life. The human spirit is never finished when it is defeated… it is finished when it surrenders.”
For some reason, I decided I wanted to do a GORUCK Challenge… so much so that I signed up for one. And then the day began approaching, and I seriously began doubting my sanity. For those of you who don’t know, the GRC proclaims to be 8-10 hours and 15-20 miles “rucking” with a weighted pack. Really, I signed up to test my limits and to have a taste of what my husband has done as the chief trainer of the Coast Guard’s tactical law enforcement team.
Packing for the GRC:
GORUCK provides a packing list. I packed the requirements and added the following:
My “ruck”– I used the 5.11 brand. Since my husband has been with a tactical LE unit, he’s collected a variety of military grade gear and clothing. The 5.11 bag (the day pack version) seems to be comparable to the Radio Ruck, except it has an added front pocket and a chest strap. And I already owned it. I found it worked perfectly, and I wouldn’t have changed anything.
My bricks– I found my bricks at Home Depot. I bought the real ones, with no holes, not pavers. I first taped bubble wrap around them, then duct taped them. The day before the challenge, I taped all four of them together. As you can see, I chose a pattern that made me smile. I also added a “power” Bible verse to each brick. It was just a way for me to dig deep, knowing that those verses were on the weight I was carrying.
Nutrition/Hydration– I took 4 Mojo bars, 1 Cliff bar, 2 small packs of almonds, 4 Hammer gels, gum, a tube of Elixir (electrolyte tablets) and 3L Camelback bladder. I ate 3 of the Mojo bars– they have “natural” sources of carbs and a little more protein than regular Cliff bars; they are sweet and salty and don’t upset my tummy. I also consumed 2 of the gels– espresso flavor with caffeine. Those were especially helpful! I drained my Camelback and refilled it, but I don’t think it was completely full at the beginning of the night. I barely drank any after refilling.
Extras– I’ve heard of many people using styrofoam and bubble wrap to add cushion for the bricks. I wrapped the package of bricks loosely with bubble wrap. I also added 2 gallon sized Ziploc bags of clothes for extra padding. I took an extra pair of gloves, socks, tights, and a long sleeve shirt. None of which I used. There were times when I considered changing, but it was later in the night/day. Knowing the bulk of the remaining challenge would take place on the beach and in the water, I knew that changing would be pointless. *I never used the gloves that were recommended or the headlamp. Cadre told a few people to “turn that *@#$% light off,” so I put mine away.
I also had a duffle bag stuffed with extras– just in case I made any last minute decisions after arriving at the parking garage. I brought a hat, UA cold gear pants, a towel, and a lightweight jacket. I opted to leave it all in the car, since the temp was mild and comfortable. I totally forgot a garbage bag to put the dirty clothes in.
Clothing– The night was pleasant. I knew we would be on the beach and in the sand, so I wore long tights, a long sleeve UA type shirt, and a dri-fit short sleeve shirt over the top. My shoes were an old pair of running shoes and socks were a thin pair that would dry quickly.
Training for GRC:
My pack pretty much became my purse for the 6 months leading up to the challenge. I wore it to school daily, beginning with one brick and working up to 3 with my workout shoes and clothes. Two weeks before the GRC, I took it with me to the Bahamas mission trip and loaded it up with as much as I could fit and carried it everywhere we went. What surprised me was that I really feel like the yoga I have been doing was also a big help. We spent a considerable amount of time in a near-downward dog position– either bear crawling or planking. Of course running and strength training is a must.
During the GRC:
There were several times where I thought I had died and gone to a special kind of hell. There was also at least one moment (when I was already wet and shaking from the chilly air and had just been told we had to go back into the water) that I thought, “We paid this guy to do this to us. We should just all refuse to go back in the water.”
We began the challenge on the beach at 1 a.m. with various PT exercises and getting in the water and crawling back out. Then it started to drizzle. I felt like God and GRHQ had somehow joined forces to orchestrate the most hellacious GRC ever. We soon were assigned 15 sandbags for the 20 of us. Those stayed with us until about 8 or 9 a.m. We traipsed through the streets of Miami Beach, sometimes just carrying sandbags, sometimes each other and the rucks of others. I think we also stopped several times for various PT exercises. I just remember lots of ab work. The drizzle continued pretty steadily all night and well into the morning. It began to feel as though we had rucked our way to Seattle. Once we finally began our way back to the starting point, we marched right through a street fair happening on Ocean Drive. At first it felt quite odd and ridiculous that we wet, sandy ruck-wearing, human-carrying people were marching straight down the middle of a street fair. But after awhile I just had to grin and bear it, especially when an elderly man asked me if we were protesting something.
Lessons from the GRC:
- There will come a time when you will be quite happy to be carrying your 30 lb pack because it means that someone has relieved you of a sandbag or a second ruck.
- There will come a time when you think it’s almost over, but that’s when it really just begins. For me it came just after about the 8 hour mark. After all, the GRC is “8-10 hours”: it had been steady drizzling/raining all night, the sun was up (I think), most of us were visibly shaking from the cold, and I was pretty sure our cadre had run out of beer. That was about 3 hours before it ended.
- Our bodies are capable of far more than we think. This seems to be a common lesson that I learn and re-learn. However, this event provided the lesson in multiple ways– my body endured sleep deprivation, rucking under much heavier weight than I ever thought I could carry over miles, and freezing temperatures (ok, the temps weren’t even close to freezing, but I was shaking from the cold for at least a few hours).
So, I tried to give a well-rounded summary of the GRC. What I can’t include are the feelings of camaraderie, the inside jokes, and the respect that you will develop toward the other members of your team and the people who do this daily in real life. The GRC is truly a team event. Don’t go into it trying to be the hero; go into it trying to make your teammates heroes.