GoRuck Class 832

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Mar2014 07

GoRuck has been named one of the country’s hardest endurance challenges. GoRuck was created by former special forces operators to challenge people past their preconceived limits and benefit the Green Beret Foundation. I was “gifted” my registration as a birthday gift from my good friend and OCR buddy, Bryan Calo. He had previously done a GoRuck in San Francisco and enjoyed the experience. We are no strangers to pain and discomfort thanks to Joe Decker and his “Suck,” Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and a few others. I didn’t know what to expect so I wrapped my 6 bricks, filled my water bladder, loaded up my chow, donned my costume, checked the batteries in my headlamp and was go to go. We were meeting at the fountain in Balboa Park at 1am, Oct. 26th, 2013. They were originally 30 psychos signed for the event. We parked at the corner of Laurel Street and Sixth Avenue. We walked about a good ½ mile to the meet up spot. It was like a scene out of a 1980’s gang movie; two groups of costumed freaks met up on the concourse and headed up to do battle. We had a plethora of costumed characters because if we didn’t dress up we would be punished.

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We had Thor, The Flash, Yoda, Little Chicken, Big Pig, Waldo, Duck Dynasty, Morpho, The Australian Cowgirl, TMNT, The Referees, Jail Break, Doc, The Bearded Wonder, and Bunny. A few latecomers didn’t know about the costume requirement. Cadre Mike, a 10 time deployed Army Ranger, called us to attention and to form up. Anyone over 150 lbs. had to Ruck with 6 bricks, under 150 lbs., 4 bricks. We lined up and sounded off. 25 people were there, we had several no shows. Cadre Mike explained that once we donned our rucks they were not to touch ground, period! We also had the American flag to carry and a team weight of 25 lbs. to carry also. Cadre told to bring all the food we were carrying and to put on a pile; we had 30 seconds to do it. We failed, miserably. We learned early on to work as a team so we had to complete 25 pushups together. After that, we had 15 seconds to put all the remaining food out. Mission accomplished! Next we had to put all the food in one bag in 30 seconds. Too many chefs in the kitchen messed that up. 4 count flutter kicks were to come next, 25 to be exact. On our second attempt, we failed again. Squats were our punishment and they had to done as a team, up together, down together. We filled a trash bag with all the food and were ready to move out. We lined up single file and lunged with our rucks, team weight and food bag for about 200 feet. No problem.

Next we had to bear crawl for another 200 feet. 50 lbs. smacking you in the back of the head at 1:30am doesn’t feel too good. While we were bear crawling we had to make bear noises. We SUCK at growling but the Cadre enjoyed it. Next we had to Elephant walk. We had to link up by bending over and reaching in front and behind you, between your legs and legs of the person in front of you and make Elephant noises. Good Lord help me, that was awkward! Then came the Zombie walk. Easy enough, right? Hell no! Our food bag and we were punished because we didn’t think it through properly. We had to grind out team pushups with our rucks on after filling Jail Break’s ruck with our food. We had another team weight of 40 lbs. to carry all night now, too. After our Zombie walk, we had to put our rucks on our fronts and Crab walk another 200 feet. Did I mention, I frickin hate Crab walks!

We finally made it to the base of the stairs leading up the fountain next to the Natural History Museum where Cadre had us form two lines so we could wheelbarrow race up the stairs to the fountain. I was teamed up with Morpho. I had his ruck in the front and mine in the back while holding his legs. We all completed that evolution and formed a single file line facing the fountain at the water’s edge. We were instructed to link arms and walk into the fountain. It had already taken us an hour to make it to the fountain so we were hot and sweaty. We were then instructed to turn around and have a seat in the water. It was COLD! Then we had to do 30 4-count flutter kicks as a team. Then we had to stand up without breaking the link. It is harder than you think because we had different sized people and slippery shoes. We failed, again. More flutter kicks.

Teamwork and attention to detail was the name of the game. We went from left to right and finally completed the task to our Cadre’s approval. We had team squat to do in the water next and then more flutter kicks. Then we had the sheer joy of going from back to belly to standing up for as long as Cadre wished in any order he seemed to like. Alligator walks came next. Belly crawling around the fountain was actually fun! Then we were to partner up, face each other and splash each other like mad people just to make sure we wet from head to toe. Then we had to form up and do “Motorboat” push-ups in the fountain. I hope too many didn’t pee in the water earlier! Wet, cold and a little tired we formed two lines and headed out. We had a team leader, Renee, an assistant team leader, Mike and me as navigator because I’m from San Diego. Our goal was to get from Balboa Park to Ocean Beach as fast as possible. We were instructed to stay within an arms length of each other in a straight line.

We made it over the Cabrillo Bridge when Cadre Mike ordered us to find some wood. No biggie right? We had to find two logs that big enough to satisfy his evil smile. We did it and found two logs, one that could fit four people and one that two could carry. All the while we were searching for the wood, Bryan and I were conferring as the most direct and shortest route to OB. I knew by car, but by foot? God help us. We could not drop our rucks or the logs under any circumstance. The route I chose was to head up Sixth Avenue, go down Washington, turn on PCH, head over to the Sports Arena, turn left on West Point Loma and then hit the beach. It took 4 long ass hours to complete that task.

The people in the streets stopped and stared at Class 832 as we made our way through the streets, wet, dirty and in costume. It took us awhile but we figured out rotating two people to carry the big log and one to carry the short one was the best way to go. We finally made it to OB. We dropped those horrible logs and got ready to get wet. The sun still wasn’t out yet because it was 5:45am. We linked arms and got in the drink. The Pacific Ocean is not very warm this time of year so we knew this was gonna suck. We linked arms and walked out into the surf. That water was a shock to the system. Cadre Mike had us sit down and enjoy the view. Waves pounded us and sand got in every crevice it possibly could. I lost my two extra water bottles to the sea gods and would seriously regret that later. Then we were instructed to lie down on our backs and do flutter kicks.

Next, we had to do the back, belly, and stand up dance again all while Cadre Mike wore that terrifying smile on his face. We had team pushups to do again, at least we were facing the beach but not for long. We stood up, turned around and went belly down facing the ocean. Push up time, again! Salt water does not taste very good. Cadre Mike had a game for us to play next. We had to kneel in the ocean, facing the beach while two of our team picked up little log and did 30 overhead presses. Not very hard, right? WRONG! We had to lock out our arms overhead while holding our rucks in our hands! We to count, as a team, every rep they performed. If a ruck dropped or the waves knocked us over, the count stopped. Cadre Mike told that everything from this point would be mental. Everyone was sore, everyone was struggling and in pain but would you be the one to quit on your team? That hit home since Bryan and I wear wearing our TSDBC warrior ethos shirts. No way in hell was I gonna be “that guy.” I felt pain in my shoulders, arms, abs and legs like never before. But, we did it and made it to the next evolution. The sun was rising by this point and I knew the night was almost over. We finally got eat some chow. Cadre Mike told us to lie on our backs and come get ONE piece of food from the bag. We had to go pairs because you always bring a buddy, even when you went pee. He gave us five minutes to chow down and hydrate. Cadre Mike handed us off to Cadre Jeff. Cadre Jeff is a former Navy SEAL that served with some of the best. He was also on the US Navy Parachute team until his knees didn’t like it anymore. As a SEAL based out of Coronado he loves the water and shared that love with us. Both Cadre Mike and Cadre Jeff wore that horrifying smile that I sometimes get while running boot camp sessions. We had to form a line in the surf and belly crawl under everyone’s legs. That shouldn’t to difficult but after being in the surf for about in hour and with the waves kickin your ass, it sucked.

While we standing in formation, Bryan was standing in front of me with his legs shaking uncontrollably. I kept smacking his thighs and thanking him for the wonderful birthday present he had given me. Everyone made it through and then it was beach PT time. We were instructed to do 4 count jumping jacks, 4 count windmills, push-ups and squats, as a team. If one person was off count, back into the drink. We kept our shit tight and got through it all. It made Cadre Jeff happy to see how well we were working as a team. We lost Bunny to hypothermia. After he went through the belly crawl, his body temp dropped and an ambulance/fire fighters were called. We don’t leave anyone behind so after beach PT we had another ruck and his boots to carry with us. We had some beach games to play. We had four lines of 5 people that had to bear crawl up the beach around the flag and back down to tag the next person in line, relay style. Cadre Jeff said, “It pays to be winner.” The team that won the bear crawl battle got serve as a markers for the rest of us that had to shuttle run in the soft sand with rucks for about 25 yards. Talk about a lung burner! We finally finished beach PT and headed out.

They always changed team leaders every couple of hours. It was Bryan’s turn. We had to head out from OB to Old Town. We followed the same route back up to Sunset Cliffs Blvd were Cadre Jeff threw us a curveball. We had sustained 3 casualties. That meant that 3 people had to be carried and their rucks had to be carried also. Nelson is a dense guy, muscularly. He needed to be carried by 3 guys. The Australian Cowgirl was piggybacked and Thor was also. That meant that 8 extra rucks and all of our team weights had to be distributed throughout the team. Along the way out formation got a little too sloppy for Cadre Jeff and we had to do extra push ups and carry a chair he so happily found that had been discarded. We were moving at a snail’s pace, rotating people in and out from the carrying duties and suffering mightily.

We stopped for a water and pee break when what should happen, I’m out of water! I knew those two bottles I lost would come back to bite me in the ass. Bryan had a bottle of Gatorade in his ruck and gave that to me. We headed back out and I got the loin’s share of piggybacking Thor for most of the way. When we got to the Sports Arena, Vanessa was promoted to TL. She wasn’t playing around. We had 30 minutes to get from the Sports Arena to Presidio Park in Old Town. To make things more fun, Cadre Mike had us take off our left shoe. Why? Because he sick, twisted and evil! Peg legging along we had people stop and stare, honk, give us thumbs up or ask what we were doing, which we always responded with a loud team “GO RUCK!” The lack of food, sleep and water was starting to wear the team down but we RUFUSED to let any quit or be left behind. Vanessa asked me which way to go so I was once again, team navigator. The sun was breaking out and warming things up. Cadre Jeff gave us opportunities to win back our shoe or recover a casualty by asking us crazy questions. We won back our shoe on Kurtz St, dropped the chair at the entrance to old town and won back all of our casualties at Presidio Park. We stopped at Juan and Mason streets and I was made TL. We were about 3 miles from Balboa Park and it was my job to get us there. Bryan was starting to bonk in the back but he knew he wouldn’t give up.

There is a point that you reach during an endurance event when you have decide what you are made of. We weren’t a team of quitters, we were warriors! We went up Juan Street, turned on Sunset, turned on Ft. Stockton and stopped for a pee break at the Mission Hills Nursery. Those fine folks let a group of sandy, smelly, dirty, costumed freaks use their rest room. Thank you again! People were cramping up, getting really tired and losing their mojo. The pee break took too long so Cadre Jeff made us pay for it. We went up to Goldfinch St and crossed Washington. We had a horrible sense of Déjà vu because we had carried those stupid ass logs down this street several hours ago. Cadre Jeff had us do Indian runs up the street until we hit 5th avenue. People were out in full stride as it was Saturday in beautiful San Diego. We also had our flag in front flying high with 23 dirty ass, costumed, GoRucker’s following behind. Chanting “Go Ruck” and “Good Livin” must have been a sight to see. Once we crossed onto 6th Avenue, Cadre Jeff had a new surprise for us. He would take 3 people and someone had to buddy carry one while the other carried the rucks. I was always teamed up with people smaller than me so I carried someone buddy style. I had a surprising amount of energy left after being TL until we had to lunge for a block. The heat and lack of food and water was taking its toll. I had my ruck and a 40 lbs. sand bag while lunging and my left hamstring and glute threatened to cramp. I almost caught a cramp carrying Thor but it didn’t happen. Bryan was an inch away from calling it quits but it didn’t happen. We were about to cross over into Balboa Park when a little old lady (I shit you not!) wanted to cross the street the other way.

So what did we do? We gave her 24 person GoRuck escort! We started up Laurel and crossed the Cabrillo Bridge and it was about noon so the park was in full swing. We made passed the Museum of Man when we started chanting, “Go. Ruck. Good. Living!” Cameras were flashing and the Cadre was explaining to people what we were doing. The fun really started when we formed two lines and elephant walked into the plaza. We formed a single file line and jogged up to the fountain next to the Natural History Museum. I can only imagine what the park patrons were thinking as a group of costumed weirdos were jogging and chanting with rucks on their back up the promenade. We assembled at the fountain and our final PT began. We did squats, overhead ruck presses, flutter kicks, push-ups and the worst, serpent push-ups! Serpent push-ups are when you lie down and put the feet of the person on your shoulders and perform a push up as a team. I got through 2 when my chesticles refused! Since we failed that miserably we had to do flutter kicks with our legs over the water. We had to do 25, 4 count flutter kicks as a team. We did it after a failed first attempt. Cadre Jeff had a great idea of having us crab walk around the fountain racecar style. So we lined up in two lines and had race around the fountain. We got after it! The ones that finished first got to do mountain climbers while they waited for the team to finish.

Cadre Jeff called us over and told us to go motivate Jail Break because he was the last person doing the Crab walk. We cheered him on, pulled on his ruck and he finally finished. That was the last evolution. With a big smile, Cadre Mike and Cadre Jeff told us we were done! They told us how proud they were of our work as a team and how we EARNED our GORUCK patch. Bunny who had been taken away in an ambulance had come back to see us finish. He had brought ice-cold water and Pabst Blue Ribbons for the class after we finished. He was shocked to know that we had brought his ruck and boots with us to end. That was the best tasting beer I have ever had! Going outside your comfort zone is a great way to grow but this was an EPIC adventure and I cant’ wait to do it again! Bryan and I were talking about the challenge after it was over as everyone was high fiving each other, hugging and toasting to our success, he said it was the hardest thing he had ever done. I fully agree. We both played the mental game of whether to continue or quit, be we DON’T QUIT, EVER! Pain is temporary; memories, new friends and a GORUCK patch last forever!

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