Thursday, November 15, 2012

Goruck Challenge Event Report

The Goruck Challenge- Cleveland is now in the books.

Another opportunity to build both physically and mentally.

 One of my teammates posted the following quote after we completed the Challenge.......

"For those who haven't, no explanation is possible. For those who have, no explanation is necessary".

That about sums it up.  I have tried to explain what the Goruck Challenge is to family and friends.  I usually wind up telling them to check out the website or search for "goruck" on YouTube.  

From the website: 

The GORUCK Challenge is a team event, never a race. Think of it as a slice of Special Operations training where – from start to finish -- a Special Operations Cadre challenges, teaches, and inspires your small team to do more than you ever thought possible. Leadership is taught and teamwork is demanded on missions spanning the best of your city.  

Registration is individual, completion is collective. We recommend signing up with a friend, but you don't have to. Either way, you will leave with 29 friends for life. You will show up to the start point with water, wrapped bricks, and a rucksack full of anything else you need. You will meet your Special Operations Cadre there, and then it begins. You will stay with your team the duration of the Challenge. Your Cadre will be with you the entire time until the 30 individuals have become one team and earned the GORUCK Tough patch.

The Challenge is 8 - 10 hours long.  Covers 15 - 20 miles.  The rucksack (backpack) mentioned above has bricks in it.  Based upon body weight there are 4 - 6 bricks that must be carried during the Challenge.  My six bricks plus other gear was around 40 pounds. 

With the above description, maybe this report will help describe a little better what the Challenge is all about.

Everyone started to gather at Edgewater Park around 9PM on Saturday (10/27/12) night.   Our official start time would be 10PM and no one wanted to be late.  The anticipated rain had held off and it was still 50 degrees out.  Maybe the suck wouldn't be to bad if we could at least remain dry for the night and finish before the outer edge of Hurricane Sandy reached Cleveland.

Cadre Carlos and Cadre Joel arrived and gave us a run down of who they were and what we should be expecting.  The big take away from what Carlos said would be the expectation to "be outside our comfort zone".   I like hearing something like that because that is how people learn about themselves.

We were told to split the group in two.  Since we could split the group, that allowed us to stick with friends.   As stated on the Goruck website, "The Challenge is like a 6-pack of beer, it's best when shared with friends."

My group was Challenge Class 297 with Cadre Joel as our leader.  The other Class 298 was being led by Cadre Carlos.

After they checked our rucksacks for bricks and weight we could put them on .  Once the challenge starts the rucks are not allowed to touch the ground...ever.  

Our first exercise would be together.  Each class lined lined up two deep facing each other.  The person on the inside assumed the push-up position.  The person behind would grab their ankles.  As the person went down for the push up, the person holding the ankles would squat down.  The person doing the pushups was to keep their eyes locked with the opposite person and yell, "I'm not are!"

The first round of push-ups would end when the Cadre were satisfied we weren't crazy.  Then we switched positions and repeated the process.  Once everyone confirmed they were not crazy we hiked over to the big field.  Whenever we moved from point to point the team had to be in double file rank and keep close to each other.  We needed to prove we were a tight knit team.  

Cadre Joel started us off with calisthenics.  Remember we are doing all of these with our packs on.  We had to perform all exercises in unison.  If the Cadre felt we couldn't work together we started all over until we did the exercises as a team.  

I've tried to find a video to go with each exercise.

8 Count Body Builders -

Partner pushup/press

Smurf Jacks

Dive Bombers - With sound effects

Seal Crawls
In push up position walk forward only with your arms and drag your feet behind.
Cadre also needed us to bark like a seal during the exercise.

Monkey Fuckers

Everyone was side by side and got into a downward dog position.  The first person would crawl through followed be each person.  A little difficult to crawl through with a pack on plus the pack on our backs forming the tunnel.

We finally were able to lie down for flutter kicks but the rucksack couldn't touch the ground.  The ruck had to sit on our chest while we did the flutter kicks.  We also did Hello Dolly's and leg raises at 6 inches, 45 degrees and 90 degrees.

To emphasis the teamwork aspect Joel had us do some military style drills.  The Alpha and Bravo teams would leap frog past each other through the field.  He would shine someone with his flashlight and they were now a casualty that we would need to carry for the rest of the exercise. 

Then he showed us an Australian retreat movement called an Aussie Peelback.  It was cool learning about it.

After the peelback drill we bear crawled to the restrooms for a small break before our first major movement.  While on break, or at any time during the challenge, we needed to watch out for our team.  That included having a "battle buddy" available at all times.  That means if you must leave the group to rest, pee, eat, etc. you never do it alone.  We had to watch each others backs.

After the break Joel selected out first TL (team leader).  An ATL (assistant team leader) was also selected.  They were given the instructions for the movement and would lead us through the exercise.  Our first team task was to ruck over to Lakewood Park.  Since Joel didn't know the area we were told to complete the ruck in 20 minutes; an impossible task unless you could run the four miles at 5 min/mile pace.

We arrived at Lakewood Park in 1:09.  Our penalty for missing our target was 49 Monkey Fuckers, one for each extra minute.  We also had to fill a carrying case half way with rock-like material.  We found a pile of old asphalt in the park and used that.  This carrying case also could not touch the ground, similar to our rucksacks.  We took turns with a two person carry for the case of rocks.

For the return trip to Edgewater Park a new TL and ATL were selected, actually Joel asked for volunteers.   With the return trip we had some special rules.
1. We couldn't talk during the return hike.
2. At all street crossings we needed to perform 2 unison.  The TL could call out the count.
3. We all had to cross the street at the same time.

As we approached a street we would spread out along the curb and get in pushup position.  The case with rocks was placed on someones legs...not touching the ground.  The TL called out the two pushups.  We prepared for the street crossing by joining arms or holding hands and we would watch the TL initiate the crossing so that we crossed as one team.

We would get back into rank and continue our ruck.  At one point Lakewood police followed us wondering what the heck we were doing in their city in the middle of the night.  Joel was good about talking with the police and explaining the challenge.  One car of guys pulled over and asked us what we were doing.  Unfortunately we were under orders for silence and couldn't answer them.  They were a little pissed when we didn't answer but they just drove away.

It still took us a while to get back but we made it in one piece.  Next up was Lake Erie.

Joel was kind to us and allowed us to take off any clothing we wanted to keep dry before going into the lake.  I took off my wind breaker and technical shirt.  I kept my base layer and everything below the waist on since I expected those items to get wet anyways.

With our packs on we entered the water with our arms locked together.  The waves were starting to increase as the beginning on Hurricane Sandy started to reach Cleveland.  The water needed to reach the middle of our thighs and then we did 35 squats into the water.  The waves made sure we were getting wet all over.

After the squats we walked back towards the beach until the water was mid-shin.  Now we had to do pushups.  Doing these exercises in the water was made more difficult due to the waves washing over us and lifting us off the sand.

We went back to the pavilion to retrieve our dry gear and got ready for the next and hardest movement.

Next mission was to transport a downed aircraft to Browns Stadium.  The aircraft was a log on the beach.  Actually it was a tree and it was heavy and we needed to figure out how to transport it.  We tried using straps...didn't work.  We were also told that it couldn't touch the ground otherwise we would have a penalty imposed upon us.  We put it on some picnic tables and put the plan in place.  We carried it on our backs and shoulders replacing people as needed.  With 20 people on the team, about 15 were carrying the log at a time.  The flags and team weights needed to also be carried.  Everyone did their fair share of work. 

Our route took us through the tunnel under the railroad tracks, up W. 65th street and down Detroit Road.  I can only remember us resting 3 times along our route.  It's a little hard to remember very much of the route since I was usually hunched over staring at the ground with a huge piece of wood on my back.

I did take the team weight for a while.  We had secured it to Jillian's backpack with carabiners so whomever took the weight carried her pack.  The combined weight was about 100 pounds which usually isn't too bad.  However, because of the awkward positioning and duration of carrying the weight we needed to pass it around to other teammates.

As people worked to move the log down the street we tried to take regular breaks to recover.  One person would slip out from carrying the log and someone would take their place.  The exchange usually put some extra load on the people still under the log and the temporary increase reminded you of how much this thing weighed.

The rest breaks became shorter and shorter.  We would duck out from under the log and someone else would need relief so we often had no choice but to dive back under the log.

During this movement the group acted as a solid team.  We were looking out for each other and knew that we all needed to carry the weight together.  During my breaks from carrying the log I was circling the group watching how people were doing.  I was watching for trouble spots in the group.  If someone was struggling I forced them out and took their place.  Of course they usually didn't get much of a break because someone else needed a rest.  We were all diving in and out of position on a regular basis.

Being in tight quarters we all took some hits to the face from the packs on our backs.  Apparently I smacked Troy in the face several times by accident.  I also remember a lot of cars and buses slowing down wondering why we were carrying a log down Detroit Ave.  I'm sure we were a sight to see.

At some point I believe Joel was taking pity on us.  We hadn't moved very far for the time spent lugging this log down the street.  Instead of going over the Detroit-Superior Bridge to reach downtown Cleveland, we went down into the Flats.  For those who are not familiar with Cleveland the Flats is the area on both sides of the Cuyahoga River with dining, entertainment, business and residences.  Being along the waters edge we needed to take the log downhill which required even more control of our bodies and the weight on our backs.

Down the street and around two corners we approached a small park area along the river.  We maneuvered ourselves into the park and were finally allowed to drop the log onto the ground.

Cadre Joel congratulated us and proclaimed, "That tree has fucked you long enough.  Now it's time you fuck it back.  50 Monkey Fuckers!"  We lined up on both sides of the tree and did two sets of 25.  At least we didn't have the tree on our back anymore.  We followed up the Monkey Fuckers with flutter kicks then a small rest break.

A new TL/ATL was selected and our next movement was announced, Browns Stadium.  Some miscommunication occurred and we thought our destination was the Municipal Parking Lot where many Browns fans would be tailgating.  One member of our team had parents living in the flats so we stopped in their garage and filled up with water.  It was another nice break from the movement as dawn was breaking and the birds were starting to chirp.

We made our way out of the Flats and into downtown Cleveland.  Our final destination was the Cleveland Fire Fighters Memorial between Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center.  At this point we were able to rip apart the Pittsburgh Steelers flag Cadre Joel made us carry.  I didn't mention the flag before's a Steelers flag and we had it rolled up the entire time.  We also did some more bodybuilders before the next movement.  

It was around this time that a slight rain or mist was coming down from Hurricane Sandy.  So we would be getting a little wet until we completed the Challenge.

I became team leader for the next movement.  Joel described a tall structure that he wanted us to get to.  I thought he wanted us to go the the Key Tower plaza where the "Fountain of Eternal Life" is located.  As we got closer to the plaza he told me I was wrong.  He actually wanted us to get to Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Public Square.  It's just around the corner so we were still in the same area.  We made it there and took a group photo on the steps.  Another small break allowed someone to volunteer at TL/ATL for the final movement.

We had 1:45 to get back to Edgewater Park.  We would go straight down Detroit Road back to W. 65th street.  There were no special instructions except following the traffic signals.  It was a nice opportunity to actually see Detroit Road in the daylight and without a freakin' heavy tree on our backs.  We made it back to Edgewater Park in time but not our bonus time, so we had to complete more exercises. 

Joel taught us Alligator crawls and Jack Webb Pushups (starting on your knees you raise your arms over your head then down into a pushup position.  Perform a pushup and return to your knees to complete the movement).

Joel would count off how many reps were to be performed.  We did several rounds until Joel decided we were done.

He congratulated us and presented up with our Goruck Tough patches which are never for sale, only earned by participating in a Challenge.

Our team congratulated each other and went our different ways to begin the recovery process.  But we didn't just turn around and leave.  Class 297 is now family.  There is no way to not come out of an event like this and have a certain bond with your teammates. 

I waited with Joel until Carlos arrived to pick him up.  Carlos and Class 298 finished a couple hours before us but also had a very hard Challenge.

As people started to recall the weekend, there was some "analysis" of what we had done.
1)  Remember that it was 4 miles from Edgewater Park to Lakewood Park.  We did it round trip.
2)  The F'in tree we carried.  We moved it 2.5 miles in 3 hours.  It took us a long time but we FUCKING did it.  Class 298 said they moved it 400 meters.
3)  The complete Challenge lasted around 13 hours and we covered 16.5 miles.
4) Our team started with 22 people.  Unforunately we lost 2 during the early hours of exercises because of bad knees and shoulders.
5) Of the remaining 20 teammates, 5 were some of the most bad ass women I know.

While eating a late breakfast with a couple of friends, Chris and I said we were one and done.  Why would be punish ourselves like that again.  24 hours later.....we were looking at the calendar for other Challenges and the Alumni only events (Selection, Scavenger, Beached and Ascent.)

Goruck is like many other events that I have done.  They may be challenging and difficult but the thrill of completing them is worth it.  Ironman, ultra-running, team events like Hood To Coast or Ragnar.  You get a taste and you want more.  Fortunately we both have wives that can talk us off the cliff.  Chris has some significant running events for 2013 and I need to focus on Ironman Wisconsin.  But I definitely see another Goruck event in my future. 

One week later a small group of us went back to chop up the tree.  I kept a piece and put it in my garden as a souvenir.

I'm not sure what else to say about the Goruck Challenge.  It was an amazing event that forces you to step into a zone that appears to be beyond your capabilities but when shared with a team anything is possible.  I've tried to compare it to Ironman because of the similar duration.

In an Ironman it's you against the clock, course, weather, and yourself.

With Goruck it's not only you but also your team against the challenges thrown at you by the Cadre.

In Ironman you control your efforts and how far you go into the pain cave.

With Goruck you are at the whim of the Cadre and will go deep into the pain cave because your team is depending upon you. 

To all of my GRT family of Class 297 and beyond...GAME ON.