It seems like only a week ago Rise Fit Club found themselves waist deep in some Goruck good livin. That’s probably because we were getting a taste of soul crushing from Cadre Stokes down in Princeton (read about it here). So why were we in Philadelphia 7 days later? Simple. We were there for a challenge, for redemption, and to support family. As with Rise Fit Club the Goruck community is nothing if not family. It’s amazing how a “gear company” can evolve into what it is today and how strangers in an instant can form lifelong bonds (Goruck Origins). Those instances do involve pain, suffering, and usually a massive log but the bonds are forged nonetheless. You learn alot about yourself during a Goruck Challenge and if you see one in action it’s easy to see how such strong bonds are formed. It will strip you down to the truest version of yourself – your strongest version and you see that in your teammates. Often you’ll show a side of you that no one else may ever see other than the person to your left and to your right who are there with you in that moment. Living with you in that moment.
Winchester missed out on that moment in Princeton and after seeing 6 of us return as GRT (Goruck Tough – the title for all Goruck Challenge Finishers) there was only one choice for him. He needed to join the GRT family. For Havoc, Philadelphia would be the stage for his redemption. His demons got the best of him in Princeton and that defeat needed to be addressed with immediate action. As for me(Direwolf), I had a number of reasons, foremost was to support Havoc on his journey. Philadelphia would also be host to many other friends who were going at it for the first time and I wanted to be there as they transitioned into GRT. I was also still on a high from Princeton so I figured I would take advantage and get myself the black GRT patch instead of just shadowing (Princeton was on St. Patrick’s Day so the patch was green which I love but as I mentioned in the Princeton post – I am a nerd and as such a collector). I also wanted to see what a GRC would be like without a 50% drop rate which is what we got on our first time out in Princeton.
As soon as I signed up I knew I made the right decision as I noticed our team weight was “The One Ring” and our team patch would be inscribed “One Ruck to Rule Them All”. This was going to be a great time with great people. I convinced myself that this GRC would not be as rough as Class 454 Princeton. I did not take it lightly in the least as the unknown was always a factor that could take you out of the game. Foot pain lingered in my right foot from 454 and I was wondered when it would flare up on me. I was betting the cold water (I assumed we would get dunked at some point) would hold it at bay and I was right about that but it was most definitely at a cost. To add to the festivities a Team 3 buddy from the Mini GRC we did in NY back in January decides to post up a pic and state that he will be doing this one in shorts. Now I couldn’t go and let him have all the sexy leg glory so as it happened I would be running this event in swim trunks.
Now that my attire was set it was just a matter of packing my ruck and filling up my bladder. Simple. We found out that a previous class had their food taken away so I decide to fill my bladder with Shakeology (click the link for my shameless plug!) so I would essentially still be getting the nutrition I needed in the event we were out of food. Genius. Until I found out as I was leaving to head down that my bladder was leaking. Great. I put the bladder in a bag and put it back in my ruck since there was no replacing it now. Maybe it was just a slight leak and would stop since it was leaking from the top. Another new addition to my prep was Oral I.V.
Oral I.V. is a liquid “shot” you take that primes your body for rapid hydration. I discovered this via a fellow GRT during a discussion about cramping. I am notorious for leg cramps. Never fails. I always get cramps in my calves at every single event. Even in Princeton as we low crawled down a hill my calves were cramping up and anytime I put on excess weight it would start to cramp up. Luckily in Princeton I also had packets of salt which I took midway through and saved me from further cramping. I’ve tried it all and taking this Oral I.V. was just the latest in a long list of anti cramp methods I would employ and I was hoping it would do the trick for Philadelphia. Broken bladder, shorts, and a foot on the mend was a good enough checklist for me. I didn’t need to add cramping to that.
But wait there’s more! In my rush I forgot my gloves and hat. Things I insisted I would not forget. Luckily our shadow, Pistol(class 454), had an extra pair of Mechanix gloves and in gamer fashion a Gears of War beanie. This was in stark contrast to both Winchester and Havoc who through discussion during the week found themselves much better prepared than I. Good thing they listened to the advice I gave them which I apparently don’t follow myself. And so the four of us would find ourselves at the base of the famous “Rocky steps” aka the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Milling around at 945 PM along with close to 50 other participants of this fine GRC – A much larger group than Princeton’s 22 which became 11.
15 minuts to game time. Final gear check would lead me to the discovery that my entire bladder was now empty. Guess that leak was a bigger problem than I thought. Adapt. I put extra water bottles in my ruck and another in Havoc’s. I also dumped some in my badder just in case it was a slow leak and I would be able to get at some hydration during the welcome party (Goruck events will usually open with a series of PT exercises dubbed the welcome party).
10 PM came swiftly and soon we were all lined up for brick inspection. At least I got that part right. That’s right folks if you weren’t aware this entire challenge is complete while wearing a ruck filled with bricks and is usually 50lbs. It was during this lineup I also realized I didn’t have my ID with me but at least Pistol would be shadowing the whole time in the the event I had to drop for whatever reason (believe me I did not intend to no matter what – but then again who goes in intending to). During this lineup is also when I realized I was already getting chilly. Was it the shorts? No. It was my wet gloves from messing around with my bladder. They were completely soaked. Yes, a mess I was this evening. It can’t get worse right? Then we began.
Immediately we went behind the museum straight down to the water. Well here we go. Let’s see how much fun these shorts will be. Surprisingly the water was not as cold as I anticipated. The water was definitely much colder in Princeton than it was in Philadelphia or at least felt like it was. It was cold but survivable. We were treated to various marine tactics such as walking backwards into the water then low crawling to the waters edge. We continued the low crawl onto the sand and began to sugar cookie ourselves. Sand. All over us. Head to toe front and back. NOW we were “camouflaged” as marines would do so in the field.
It wasn’t just water sports at the beach. We also had a good old time with flutter kicks, pushups, and arm raises. We got to do squats in the water with our rucks over our heads. Up and down drills and switching rucks from front to back were also in order. We would be enjoying beach time for close to an hour. Word of advice – when on your back and asked to lift your legs to 90 degrees in the sand…close your eyes. For a good 10 minutes I had a clump of sand in my eye. Fun was had by all. We did lose some people at the beach but I couldn’t tell you as there were so many of us. As I said the water was cold but survivable…until we left the beach. We filed out of the canal and went straight back to the Rocky steps.
NOW THIS was cold. There was no cover so the wind just ripped through our ranks. We needed to warm up and our Cadre knew this so THEY did their job. That’s right. They. We had the pleasure of 2 Cadre. Cadre Michael and brand new Cadre Jason. We wanted to be warm and both Cadre would do their best to make sure we got warm. Or drop in the attempt. And that’s what happened. We would go through what would end up being another 2 hours of PT. Pushups, flutter kicks, cherry pickers, sun gods, and a little 8 count move called body builders. You wish it was just a burpee. All the while the sets were broken up by more runs up and down the Rocky steps than I cared to count. In fact sometime we didn’t even run down. We bear crawled down.
And in this mix we would see people start dropping left and right. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was a week later at another GRC watching as a class was getting shredded. Again. Who told me it was not normal to see so many people drop? This was my second event and it was happening all over again. I just kept thinking in my head there is NO way it will be 50% again. No way. As it turns out it would come pretty close. Through the PT despite shouts and words of encouragement to stay 10 if not more members dropped out. We also had a med drop that was forced out by Cadre due to injured knees all the while fighting to stay in the game as others walked off on their own volition. Heart. I wasn’t aware of the the circumstance of the med drop at the time but that particular drop stayed with me through the whole challenge.
I mentioned my bricks were the only thing I got right. Wrong. My bricks are very high up in my ruck which is amazing for regular marching standing up. What it’s not great for is a thing called “rest position”. I would have preferred the weight to be more on my back the square on my shoulders. I wasn’t even able to relax in a downward dog position as the ruck would fall forward over my head. Elevated pushups were also a hot mess because of this ruck setup. I guess it works out as it was either the annoyance of having it be a burden during particular exercises or slowly taxing my lower back the entire night.
More. There was always more. Another move we had to do. But it’s ok because it’s helping us keep warm. Warmer I supposed, because through the whole of the welcome party I was freezing. The wind was killer. My shorts were awesome. I’m not gonna say I never thought about dropping. I did. I came up with a ton of scenarios.
“I could walk off right now like that guy just did. Pistol is right there I can get the keys and stay warm in that car and shadow the rest. I just did this last week and I got my patch. No shame in walking away. We’re still close to the start, if I wait it will be a worse trip back.”
These are the things the demons will tell you. These are the things to which you must reply with a simple “F*& you”. And so I did. I knew these demons and they’ve come before and they will come again.
The entire group helped even if they didn’t know it. I would look left and look right and see my brothers and sisters still fighting. Who was I to leave them as they fight. They are giving their all and I needed to honor them by giving mine. We didn’t know each other yet but they we all pushing me. As they called for the walkers to stay I knew they would do the same for me. Havoc was frequently asking how I was – I must have looked in shambles as I was always surprised and would answer “I’m good”. I didn’t realize how bad I was trembling as I was doing battle internally. At one point Havoc pointed over to Winchester and said “hey man look at him, he looks like he’s gonna drop“. And he did. He was standing with one shoulder tilted down legs apart. Looked straight out of the Walking Dead.
That’s when everything changed. I KNEW he needed my help as everyone has helped me. So the next time I got close I told him to hang on it’s almost over. I lied. But I think it helped. I also took water from him and Havoc as much as I could since I didn’t have any and I knew I was getting dehydrated. My mouth was getting dry and someone had told me if your thirsty you already dehydrated. I was THIRSTY. Midway through welcome party I popped in a Oral I.V. and drank almost a whole bottle of water. That definitely helped. It was time to fight for everyone else around me looking like death. I needed to be smart about the water because I WAS NOT going to drop especially not because my stupid bladder had a hole in it.
My thoughts shifted to my son. Oddly enough he helped get me through. A 2 yr old sleeping warm at home got me through. And that’s what I thought about. I thought about going home and telling him I failed. No way. Someone I imagined he would see right through and understand I failed. Not today son. Not today. I thought about my wife who every time I ask, including last week, after getting home from a challenging event if she thought I was going to make it. She always answers with a curious yes. As if I was asking a silly question. I wasn’t about to quit and change the way she answered that question. And I thought about someone I didn’t even know. Someone we honored that night. Sgt. Robert D. Sanchez.
Cadre Jason had us recite “One for the Airborne Ranger in the sky” after every set of exercises and then do one more rep in honor of Sgt. Robert D. Sanchez’s. I looked forward to these reps and it kept my mind focused on the task at hand. It also reminded me that our team was honoring others who could not experience this kind of good livin – and it is in fact truly good livin. A thing everyone needs to discover. And so we battled through and completed our 3 hour welcome party. It took it’s toll. By the end of the challenge we would be finishing 16 short of our number that started.
After the welcome party we were given time to hydrate up and put on a warm piece of clothing. That would be amazing and we would get more opportunities to do this throughout the night but guess who didn’t bring any extra warm clothing. This guy. It’s ok because I brought a whole bunch of cliff bars…which right after our PT smoke session was taken. That’s right. Cadre Michael ordered ALL of our foodstuffs to be put into a heavy plastic container and a 2nd bag which would become team weights. No food, no water..OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!
Ok not that last part but still. Now that the welcome party was over we could begin the challenge. Through the course of the next 10 hours or so we would travel somewhere around 12-13 miles of Philadelphia. Attention to detail and team unity was the name of the game through the night. A lesson learned during our first call out to do team pushups. We were by the river at the time and were ordered to elevate our feet to do pushups. Some of us had our feet on the railing by the river, others on a fence, and yet others on nearby stairs. Everyone could have had their feet on the railing as there was enough room but we were not yet a unit. We were still thinking individually and we paid.
Inchworm low crawls were in order. One of our first intimate moments as a team. Think human centipede. It was an exercise in patience and teamwork. We did this in 2 rows and I had the pleasure of being in the row low crawling on gravel. Later our folly in creating gaps and not adhering to team instruction would lead to bear crawls, squats, casualties. For now it was indian runs to our next destination.
Apparently we were in a part of a park where some love birds thought they would be safe for some midnight escapades. Suprise! 30+ plus people come walking in. Not a good look. From here the hammering only got more precise. We had incurred 3 casualties that were required to be carried by teams of 3 or 4. These bodies would be carried to a bridge that we were meant to cross. Too slow. Sprint across. Gaps formed. Bear crawl across. Then we were up and shuffling once more to another designated bridge – running as we got close.
The night was long and waiting for day to break seemed to take forever. Through the entire challenge “team” was paramount. Whenever we took a quick break we would huddle together to keep warm. “A!@ to nuts – keep it tight”. We would even get to have some armpit time with our teammates to warm our fingers. Such an affectionate group we were. To further instill our team spirit we found ourselves a massive log to carry as a team along with 2 rebars. For most of the night we had the log on our shoulders, heads, rucks, forearms – whatever we could get under there. It took the entire team to travel with the log and anyone who wasn’t carrying it took on others’ rucks. The 2 rebars were lighter but had to be held on your shoulders. If you used your hands all you were doing was sapping the warmth from them. Bad idea.
We also got our dose of punishment even with the log. If we did not pay attention to detail – PT. All with the log still on our shoulders. We were ordered to move in silence and a few broke that silence. They immediately became casualties and had to be buddy carried while others took on their rucks. This was an exercise to demonstrate the importance of silent movement in the field and the consequences they incur. For us it’s extra weight and a missed hack. Down range it’s death. Before long everyone was back on their feet and once again rotating under the pressure of that log.
We took that log all the way to a bridge where we all got some of our spirits lifted. As a team we took that bad boy and dumped it over a bridge. It was a great celebratory moment soon replaced with the taste of bear crawling across the bridge. By this point the sun was starting to come up and we were able to take a formal 20 minute break at a Dunkin Donuts. We were also privy to all the food that was taken from us. I took the opportunity and went inside Dunkin Donuts just to get a bit of warmth after eating a delicious jelly donut and cliff bar. I never did get warm except when I was under the log. It almost didn’t seem like 20 minutes – thinking about it now, I wonder if it was. Before we knew it we were back on the road shuffling away. No walking was allowed.
The log was floating in the “Skook” but we still had the bars. Now is when they came into play. 4 cotton t-shirts were used to build a litter using the bars as supports. They had to be cotton and they had to be short sleeve. We separated into 5 man teams and for the next 4 miles every single one of us would take turns carrying and take a turn being carried. A very rough undertaking for some especially those having back spasms. I can tell you it’s comfortable getting carried in that litter but when you are being lifted and put down it gets a little nerve wracking. A great exercise in getting a taste of what it’s like to have to truly pull your weight for someone else. If anyone on the team was not lifting then someone was going to get hurt. No one did.
The sun was really starting to come out now and we found ourselves on a field. Here we were split into 2 teams and competed in a low crawl competition. It was a fun event especially with Cadre stating that “It pays to be a winner”. Nobody wanted to find out what the price of losing was so everyone pushed. Some were already dead at this point yet others were crawling faster than some of us could run. Not could run right now. I’m talking could run period. Ok maybe that’s an exaggeration but it was damn fast. Anyone one team one one team lost.
While on the field we did some bounding drills individually and as a team and some dragged bodies off the battlefield. Got some good tactics training in as well. Speed, surprise, and force of violence. Strategies I took from our little session. It was all fun, especially all the goose S#*$ we rolled around in. At least it was no longer cold. Sun was out and we were having a good ol time. You forget you’ve had a 50lb ruck on your back for the past 11 hours pretty fast.
We were making good time now and feeling good too. We were all warm all dry. Cadre called out “Find a Pole”! We did. Before long we were almost back at our starting point which is where our challenge would end. But not before we would find ourselves back on that little beach by the water. Arms locked we waded in waist deep. This would be quite a different experience than the night before.
The water was still freezing but it didn’t sting unless you moved. The whole team got in the water and faced our Cadre on the beach. THIS was one of the best moment of the entire challenge. This was our team baring heart and soul. These were our stories and as such will stay with us. We had but one final task before we left the water one last time. Full submersion. TWICE. Double baptism all the way.
I’m sure we were all on a high after this and felt really good. It was still cold but all I can remember is feeling good under the sun so close to the finish. Soon we were back where we began. In front of the Rocky steps and in formation to do one final round of PT. This time the city was awake and we would have quite a few spectators. We were strong and we were loud as we shouted cadence. Before I knew what happened we were done. I was thanking our Cadre and had a whole bunch of new friends bonded over 12.5 hours of good livin. A gaggle forged into a family and we were all smiles. Led by great Cadre who talks us lessons we will carry with us. The ACRT was being passed and our shadows were all celebrating with us.
I felt amazing but this is probably when I was the coldest since we stopped moving and again…that wind. I like the cold but the wind. I HATE the wind. I don’t drink coffee but someone brought some Dunkin Donuts. I chugged down a cup black and it was amazing. Didn’t make me warm but it was great and I knew it was hot – just my body didn’t. My second cup would be trickier since half of it spilled out from my hand shaking. It’s fine – I’ve been in this same exact scenario many times before. And it felt great everytime. I am so glad and proud to have shared the moment with so many. I got to witness Winchester earn his patch as I did with Tokyo, Old Greg, Poseidon, and K-dawg last week. And I got to see Havoc get that hard fought redemption. Class 472, my friends, my brothers, my sisters – WE finished together. WE earned it together. You all will always be the people to my left and to my right. Thanks for the tickling and butt sniffing!
*If you want to give a Goruck Challenge a go please contact us and we’ll hook you up with a discount code!
Cadre Michael and Cadre Jason
Kay, Ashlee, Jehs, Lizzy, Vasilia, Roxanne, Yolanda, Marc, Dave, Joe, Ray, Rich, Rene, Carter, Dori, Sam, John, Jeff, Gray, Mike M, Mike M, Mike N, Tom, George, Jacob, Kevin, Brian, Arnond, Jordan, Sean, Paul, Rocky
Now as before the quest continues to lure more souls to be reforged into GRT…April NY…May AC…June NYC/Boston…JulyDC HEAVY!
cold > event > Good Livin > goruck > GRC > grt > ruck > team