So, I went to GoRuck. I’d been meaning to for two years but kept pussyfooting around the event and training required. Since I started at Jiu Jitsu and met actual, real-life challenge on a weekly basis, I signed up. That, and I was hoping that as I rounded out the final step in my Army recruitment process, I could get a glimpse of the intensity required by the workouts on the other side of civilian life.
I arrived a few hours early after assuming the traffic and parking would be horrible. My first mistake of the night, I sat and waited for the event to begin with nervous tension building at every last moment. Finally, I loaded up my ruck and departed for Toronto Inukshuk Park, where there were a few participants waiting with reflective packs, making last minute checks of gear and mindset alike.
I remember telling a few of them that it was my first time at GoRuck, like that shared knowledge would somehow give me an endurance boost. I was greeted by a few ruckers that had been down this path before and one that hadn’t – he shared the same nervous energy as I did, as we waited for the rest of our team to arrive.
Soon after, the majority of the team would arrive and start preparing – those that had just completed the ‘Heavy’ were fighting fit and rearing to go – they instructed the lot of us to ‘form up’ and ‘get the flags’. Those of us that hadn’t been down this road before scrambled. The cadre finally arrive and started a quick roll-call. I could feel that nervous tension inside of me start to boil up – the start (or, figuratively, the end) was near. We were issued our team weights, hockey sticks and a stretcher – after that, we waited for instructions. Cadre asked for a ‘Team Leader’ that had never been to a GoRuck event before. We all looked around, caught in the headlights.
“Can’t make a decision?” Cadre asked, “That’ll change.”
We were told to get face down, in pushup position. All at once – so that everybody went up and down at the same time, we had to complete 15 pushups. After restarting a couple times, somebody in the back hollared out instructions – “Up! Down! Up! Down!”. We finally managed to complete the pushups as cadre once again called out.
I raised my hand. Might as well, I thought. If we’re here to do PT, we might as well do it for a reason, not because nobody wanted to put their neck down on the chopping block. I found an Assistant Team Leader in Stony Smith – GoRuck legend and recognizable face. We were asked to come to the front of the pack as the rest of our team waited in tight formation. Cadre told us we had a choice to make – move to a location closer, in shorter time, or further away in a more reasonable time. It was my decision to make, so I made it – we’re moving on the short objective. Let’s get after it!
We rolled out of Inukshuk park and toward the location. During our movement, I actually had quite a few kind words of encouragement thrown my way. I was trying my absolute best to ensure the group navigated the massive Canada Day crowds, stayed together, stayed in formation and stayed focused. I was hooting and hollering all over downtown Toronto – not at all held back by social stuff. I figured it was best to get everybody right hyped up before the night wore on too long, so I was yelling and congratulating the group as best I could – I would later get a nod from Cadre Nick for my efforts here, and something about that felt real good.
The night heated up quickly thereafter. We found a beach where we learned to make ‘sugar cookies’.
By the way – I’m intentionally leaving the description off of that little activity. Part of the magic in GoRuck is the epiphany of pain that comes with learning new words like ‘sugar cookie’.
We found a log, too. Three of them, actually. We humped those logs most of the night and with them, a deeper understanding of what we were capable of – not only as individuals but as a team. There’s a very certain kind of realization that comes to you in GoRuck – on my instagram page I described it as finding the demons in your head, buried behind confidence and pretty toys, and smashing those crafty bastards to bits. When you’re under the ruck for that long, it just starts to happen – you’re soon doubting and hoping for the end, and you’ll eventually learn how to ignore that part of your brain.
We did bear crawls, crab walks and flutter kicks. We did multiple dips in the lake and lots of lifting heavy shit. We even went a handful of miles over the advertised length – a feat that was met with loud applause at the end. If you’re training for a GoRuck, there’s plenty of guides for the physical end. Just do what you already know – and in that way, it’s a lot like losing weight. You already know what you have to do, so do it. Build endurance, lift heavy stuff and ruck until you’re comfortable. The mental side was unexpected and came on like the tide – slow, methodical and never ending. Right up until the very end, I could hear the echo’s of my inner bitch, begging me to quit.
When we rounded the final corner, to the starting point, I could hear cadre’s threat from earlier in the night pinging around in my ears.
“If you can’t get your shit together, we’ll just drag it out. 12 hours is just a suggestion.”
We lined up as quickly as our blistered feet would allow. Quickly, efficiently and quietly – that’s another little lesson.
Cadre issued one final challenge. We were to vertical press our ‘casualty’. The guy who we’d had to carry in a stretcher upon our shoulders for the last two miles or so. We’d taken our time figuring out the rotation and so, the cadre saw fit to allow us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes through physical stress. How kind, right?
Two teams attempted before the 4-man team I was a part of managed to lock out our elbows for a full minute. After we’d hoisted him up, we were – finally – allowed to put him down. We did, and fell back into our formation. From here, we were congratulated, not only on completing the GoRuck Tough but for doing so without many of the common deficiencies that classes in the past had suffered from.
Yes, I would absolutely do it again – even as I sit, still sore and bruised a few days later. It’s different and it’s not build out for the ‘casual fitness’ crowd. Receptionists finish Tough Mudder by the HUNDREDS – there were 28 of us at GoRuck. It’s a great way to explore your mental toughness, bang up your body and really pound the shit out of your gear. I saw Condor bags fall apart beside 5.11 bags that stayed packed, tight and ready for action.
Go try it – you’ll be better for a little ‘good livin’.