I ran my first GRC (GORUCK Challenge) on April 21, 2012. It was class 151, Annapolis, MD. I know when I graduated from college, proposed and married my wife and the birthdays of my kids…and the date of my first GRC. It was truly a night to remember. It’s impossible to cover it all so I’ll hit the highlights. To quote a famous author ‘it was a dark and stormy night…’
I had no idea what was in store for me. I’d read the various blogs, joined the event FaceBook page and prepared for the worst. I’ll go through a complete gear list on another post…but right there I’m wearing a brand new, very white t-shirt, a synthetic under layer, RailRiders light tac pants and Nike Pegasus shoes..plus a brand new GR2. My girls lovingly decorated my shirt…complete with lots of ‘Good Luck’, love and glowing paint. My eldest got a bit teary at the good bye…thinking I was going to get seriously injured ‘or worse’. I kissed them good bye and immediately thought ‘what am I doing here?’. I’m a 40 year old IT guy. I ran my own company. I’ve guest lectured on a couple of continents and then some. I’ve worked hard, I don’t need this shit. What have I left to prove? It turns out I have nothing to prove, but a lot to do.
I hooked up with a young Mid from Annapolis and hung out talking shop with someone young enough to be my son. At a bit before 10pm we worked our way to the rest of the group, met our Cadre, signed our Death Waivers and got our bricks inspected.
And then the fun began. First mission was to get to a large field bordering College Creek. Low crawls, bear crawls, push ups and PT galore. I got smoked. I hit my low point during those first two hours. It was during an exercise that involved dropping to the ground then getting up quickly, sprinting a bit and then drop again…lather, rinse, repeat. All with a 45 pound ruck on my back. It hurt. A lot. I forget who was next to me…but she kept me focused and kept me going. No yelling, just a simple ‘get up, you can do this’. And I did.
I have no idea how long we were in the mud and doing PT in the field. At the end, I was tired, soaked and muddy as hell.
After the PT it was time to get moving. We loaded up for buddy carries. The buddy carry is worth an entire post on its own. For now, if you are not practicing carrying around a 150 pound heavy bag…you might want to add that to your training regimen. We humped it back to the bar district in Annapolis. I guess it was maybe midnight or so. The sidewalks were busy with people in various stages of inebriation. We formed up and didn’t antagonize the locals. We came to the end of Main street and stood facing the docks, dropped our rucks and jumped in.
While we waited for everyone to jump in and then kit back up, things got cold. Luckily that was solved by moving again. We formed up and began our trek through the town. Things get blurry for a bit. More buddy carries, some indian runs, a short break somewhere, and then back up to moving again. I knew there was a log out there waiting for us. But we hadn’t found it yet. It turns out it was the mother of all logs.
More rucking brought us to a strip mall, our log and the start of a most interesting mission.
It wasn’t a log. It was a full size telephone pole. Probably 45 some odd feet and 1900 pounds of goodness. The mission was to get it 2 miles down the road. I have no long how long it took. All I remember is: ‘knees, chest, shoulder’ as we moved the monster from the ground up to carry and back. The steps became feet. The feet became a mile. One mile became two. Somewhere we stopped for water, bio breaks and small rest stops. We woke up residents, were visited by the police and made it. Dumping that pole was a highlight…but we still weren’t done.
More missions, more miles, buddy carries, a few more smaller logs, more miles, a cinder block was picked up along the way. Towards the end I was really dogging it. I couldn’t find a good pace. Walking was too slow, slow jog was too fast. The buddy carries tapered off, the threats picked up (I still get nervous around taxis). We stopped for a photo op at the stadium..it was daylight then, but I had no idea how far we had yet to go. Eventually we made it back to the start point. We formed up to head back down Main St. We get within site of where we jumped off the docks and *boom*. Half the team ends up as ‘casualties’ and had to be carried the final blocks. Back to buddy carries. I was paired up with a guy about my own size. Figure 185 pounds six feet tall or so, plus his ruck and mine. We swapped back and forth. My strength was going fast. More words of encouragement. I was dumped on my head (that was great fun but no permanent damage..and yes, I had to get back up and try it again).
We made it. All 29 of us. I’d been strong. I’d been weak. I helped and was helped. I carried and was carried. I stank of river mud and sweat. These 28 strangers and I became a team. It was the most challenging thing I’d done in a decade or two. I collected my patch, borrowed a phone to call my wife for pick up and hung out with two guys from the challenge. I asked some questions, learned some things and thought ‘I never want to do this again’ and ‘I have to do this again’ at the same time.
I have nothing to prove but a lot to do. If I’m to make it all 12, I have to get stronger, run farther and recover faster than I ever have in my life.