Class 306 after the Challenge. Photo Courtesy of Johan Beisser
It never fails. The days before an event, I start to get nervous.
It starts out simple enough. A few checks on my equipment, maybe review the course a 1,000 times or double check my race packet. Whatever it is, it feels like I have to do something to double, triple or quadruple check that I have everything ready. All those checks and balances make me feel better but it can make the people around me mental.
The Goruck Challenge amplified my nervousness because there is no race packet or course map — only a time and a place to show up and get going.
Nerves, War Stories and Free Beer
The best way for me to deal with nerves is to be around other people that are nervous. I know, it sounds kinda crazy but the shared experience of being nervous actually makes me calmer.
It also makes me feel a lot better that 1) I’m not the only one and 2) there are people more nervous than me.
That’s why I really enjoyed the War Stories and Free Beer event before the challenge. It was a great way to not only meet up with the team but to also hear some incredible stories of how war effects our brave solders.
I’m sure some of you may be thinking that telling war stories glorifies war. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t.
These stories are an incredibly powerful testament to the ability of our solders to endure a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress. A soldiers war story punctuates the real human cost of war from those that have experienced it first hand.
Thanks to All Who Serve
I’m extremely thankful that our soldiers put themselves in harms way to protect our country even when they may not agree with why they were sent in the first place. That’s my definition of a true patriot.
To everyone who serves or has served in the military, thanks for enduring the struggles, hardships and sorrows to protect our nations freedom and it’s people. Cheers!
An Unorganized Bunch
Class 306 started out as an unorganized bunch of people most of whom I did not know. Most of the guys I trained with were in class 305.
It’s an amazing site to watch the transformation from rag tag bunch of Gorucktards to a team that can actually perform pretty amazing tasks.
Our Cadre, Chris, was always at the ready with some sharp remark, snarky comment, war story or physical challenge to push our personal and team limits.
The challenges and shared experiences are really what the Goruck Challenge is all about. It’s an imperative that the team gel quickly or the night is going to be miserable.
Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
I think the best advice I got about this sort of event was from my friend Dan.
Dan’s an ex-marine who has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Dan’s advice was simple — you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
All of the games we played during the night were meant to put us in stressful situations where the dynamics are always changes, there is no rhythm, you don’t know where you are going and the physical challenges just makes it that much harder to concentrate.
It was this notion that whatever is thrown at us, we just have to deal with and get it done is what builds a team. No need to bitch. No need to ask why. Just do what the Cadre says and complete the mission.
When the Switch Flips
There is something strange that happens to people under physical and mental duress. At some point, the switch either flips or it does not (Thanks again Dan for the great metaphor).
What’s the switch?
The switch is when you get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the point where you stop caring how much pain you are in, how uncomfortable you are, how cold it is, why the hell you are doing this or even how heavy the load is. When the switch flips, you and the team are in the zone. You just focus on the task at hand and you don’t worry about anything else.
Getting the switch to flip takes training, dedication and mental toughness. Those that can’t flip the switch are the ones that quit when the going gets tough. Thankfully, everyone in class 306 flipped the switch!
Pushing Through to the End
As the day wore on, it’s inevitable that I was thinking about the end. Our trek across the Golden Gate Bride was both the high and low point for me. My shoulders and back really started to hurt while I was leading the charge across the bridge as flag bearer. Frankly, it got kinda emotional as I usually get when runners high sets in or I feel the fatigue start to break me down. I really had to did deep to make it across.
This challenge was a lot different than Vineman where if you wanted to stop and sort yourself out you could. They even have these things called rest stops where nice people give you food and drinks. It’s downright civil :)!
Pushing through to the end came down to wanting it more than letting myself or the team down. Even though everything hurt, the pain was manageable when I got in the right frame of mind and just focused on the task at hand.
Finishing a Goruck challenge combined every single element that I have talked about over the last 6 posts:
Adapt to the situation you are in.
Consistently put out your best effort
Pace yourself and your team to have a sense of urgency but not panic.
Confidence in your abilities even when things look bleak.
Endure through the suck by not focusing on the pain but rather on the task at hand.
Teamwork is the only way to complete the challenge.
Specific things the challenge taught me and I need to work on include:
Upper body strength: I have the endurance but my upper body strength is lacking. It’s really time to hit the gym.
More quality time with the bricks: The weight of the ruck just sucks. I don’t think it will ever be comfortable but it can be a lot more comfortable if I practice with it more.
Practice all the PT: The PT is what kicked my ass the most. PT with the ruck on downright sucks.
More practice with a group: The group practices were a lot of fun and really helped me prepare me for the challenge. I need to do that more.
Wrap the bricks better: I need to wrap the bricks in a cut up yoga mat like Dave does. I think that will make it a lot easier to load in and adjust if required.
The True Meaning of Good Livin’
It’s kinda crazy to subject yourself to a grueling endurance event but I now totally get why people do it — for the camaraderie.
Most endurance events are based on solo performance. You rarely get to work as a team and feel that esprit de corps that binds people together.
All of us strive for that human connection which is hard to find in our digital age where social media completely “connects us” but only superficially. We tend to spend tons of time on-line but don’t spend a lot of time truly connecting with others. That connection is what a Goruck Challenge provides and no social media platform will even come close.
Thanks to all those guys and gals of class 306 and 305 that endured the struggles, injuries and challenges with me. All of us made it through as a team to become Goruck Tough!
If you missed any of the training posts leading up to the challenge, you can check them out below:
If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!