GoRuck Challenge

It’s been a week since I completed the GoRuck Challenge in Baltimore with Byron and Craig, as well as a bunch of other CrossFitters including Adam McConnell of CrossFit Nation in Easton and Sean McCullagh of South Baltimore CrossFit.  I think a week after completing the challenge is a good timeframe for writing about it, because I no longer have the physical ouchies reminding me how much it hurt, but the camaraderie of the class, the hilariousness of the instructors, and the feeling that I can overcome anything put in front of me is absolutely still there.  I also think I can still remember the whole night pretty clearly, after recounting it several times to friends and family, but I’m sure I’ve probably left something out.  If you were there, post a comment and check my details!
The night started at the USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor with a warning to take off any extra layers that we might need later – a sure sign we were about to get wet.  After a quick check with the harbor police about how deep the water was, we were instructed to lower each other into the water, to get completely submerged.  I’ve been cold and wet before – but maybe not exposed to as many diseases as the Inner Harbor has to offer – but immediately the fun continued.  We had 4 minutes to get our 40-lb rucks on and get to Federal Hill, and two of our teammates were identified by the instructors as “casualties”, meaning they had to be carried.  Probably about 10 minutes later we struggled up to the base of Federal Hill and were greeted with sprints up and down the hill, being punished with more if we did not complete the runs exactly as a team.  The GoRuck Challenge is all about acting as a team, which we were reminded throughout the night when we looked like we were too far from each other in our running formation, but it was also reinforced through exercises that could only be completed as a team.
Our Federal Hill experience culminated with low crawls up the 100-yard hill in a fire team assault, simulating the Vietnam War’s Battle of Hamburger Hill, a Marine battle commemorated on Veterans Day by our lead instructor Chris, a former Recon Marine.
We did a PT session of 32 burpees to guess our instructor’s age (got it right!) in a nearby sand volleyball court, where I noticed I was still a little bit wet – and now sandy!  Sweet.
Next was a run to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, a good run that we were given 45 minutes to complete with several new casualties.  This exercise was where we learned alot about leadership and how we were going to have to motivate each other to keep moving.  We learned that lesson because we didn’t get motivated on that run, and as a result we didn’t even come close to making our time.  Our collective sense of pride mustered up after that, and we never missed a timed challenge again.  I don’t know if that was a planned lesson all along, but I am still super proud of our progress working as a group after that very challenging evolution.
After a water and bathroom break at a ghetto 7-Eleven and adjoining abandoned lot, we made a break for it again, this time with less casualties and more speed.  Our mission at the park that ended our run was to locate and carry out a “nuclear weapon” that went down on a plane.  Thinking back on it now, I wish it was an actual nuke – we could have dropped it quickly and been out of our misery – but in reality it was a 40-foot telephone pole, which someone estimated at 2,000 lbs.  At this point I should point out that we had 17 teammates, so more than enough people to spread out on the log, but it wasn’t enough.  We could have used another 10 strong guys to help carry that thing the 2.5 miles that we humped over the next 4 hours, interrupted for one hour by another fire team exercise in Patterson Park.
I think I could write for hours about that log carry, but instead I’ll just be constructive and provide my advice for those who will attempt the GoRuck Challenge in the future.
1) Try to stay tall when carrying the log on your shoulders.  When we started to drop down and carry it on our upper backs instead of shoulders, that just meant we were spent and needed a break.
2) Switch shoulders alot.  When you get a break and the log for some reason isn’t bearing down on you, take the opportunity quickly to get out from underneath and get on the other side.  Your shoulders will thank you for staying as fresh as possible.
3) Not sure if this really needs to be said, but carry the log in height order, tall dudes up front and smurfs at the back.
We dropped the log in a third park off of Eastern Ave just before sunrise, and the challenge might have well been over as far as we were concerned.  We took a group pic, rested for a bit, and then were back on our feet for another exercise – but now they were starting to get fun.  We had to make a time to the Holocaust Memorial, and any white cabs or bike riders were to be considered hostile, getting a blast of fake gunfire from the whole group before we continued on our run.  We did a hilariously difficult team pushup, counting the terrible reps out as a team before our laughing instructors stopped the shenanigans.
I thought the next run back to the boat would be it, but instead it wasn’t a run – it was a mixture of bear crawls and lunges for 5 blocks – and it wasn’t “it”.  When we had exhausted ourselves for what we thought was the last time, we had one more challenge to complete – a final run with 50% casualties.  It was a 2-block run but at that point we were so mentally focused on finishing and being a cohesive team, it could have been a 2-mile run and we would have done it, I’m sure of it.
When we finally made it back to the massive anchor of the USS Constellation and Chris stood on top of it to announce we were done, I didn’t want to sit down.  It was a mix of feelings, really – I knew that I had just done something that I could lean back on as proof that I could make it through anything that life threw at me, physically or mentally.  The SEALs do it with “Hell Week”, the Rangers do it with “The Crucible”, but for the rest of us, the GoRuck Challenge is an awesomely terrible way to figure it out for yourself.  As for the other reason I didn’t want to sit down – I wasn’t sure I would be able to stand back up.
In the end, Class 320 travelled 13 miles in just under 10 hours, of which 2.5 miles was carrying a telephone pole (a Baltimore GoRuck record), and at no time were we less than an arm’s length from one of our teammates.  We all genuinely told each other and the instructors after the event, but just to put it on the record, I am damn proud to have been a part of this class, I think we killed it.

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