GORUCK Tough: Sleepy Hollow Halloween

GORUCK Tough: a 12+ hour team building endurance event. Participants carry weighted rucksacks, cover 15-20 miles and do whatever the cadre tell them to. Events are often jam packed with heavy carries and PT (physical training) exercises, such as squats and presses with your ruck. Every team must have an American Flag as well as a team weight. Halloween events are done in costume.

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Our event started at 9 pm at Peabody Field in Sleepy Hollow, NY. From the very beginning, we could tell it would be a cold night. However, no one was complaining about the cold during the welcome party.

THE WELCOME PARTY
The event began with a bear crawl down the hill in front of us to a soccer field. We then had to sprint down the soccer field and back. Once everyone returned, we performed a drill for advancing on enemy lines across the soccer field. “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” Beginning on our stomachs, we popped up, sprinted as far as possible for about one second, and then dropped to the ground.

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Upon arrival at the other side of the field, we formed 4 ranks and were told to complete 100 ruck thrusters, a squat to an overhead press. We also had to repeat every rep we did not complete together as a team. When the cadre felt that people were really cheating, we all had to hold our rucks over our heads for 10 seconds and restart if anyone dropped. By the time we got to 100, we had probably completed about 150 thrusters, counting all the reps we had to do over, and held our rucks over our heads for a total of 2 minutes. But it didn’t end there. The cadre told us to continue the exercise until they said so and we didn’t stop until we got to 200. With the same rules in place, we probably completed around 300 thrusters total.

Next, we had to bear crawl back down to the other end of the soccer field. Some people really struggled with this, especially after all of the thrusters. While we waited for everyone to make it across the field, we formed 2 ranks and cheered them on. One participant told someone else what to do (a huge no-no) and he then got a lot of individual attention. He was brought back to the far end, and from what I could see, he did lunges, burpees, and thrusters. On his way back down the field, not only did he bear crawl, but he also had to do the “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” drill. In the meantime, the rest of us had to hold our rucks over our heads waiting for him.

Upon his return, he apologized to all of us. The welcome party had ended. A few people already dropped out from the event, but I don’t think many, if any, dropped out after that.

THE MAIN EVENT
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We were a large class with 3 cadre so we got broken up into 3 groups.  (Side note: I do miss the days of smaller classes, where by the end of the night you knew everyone’s names, but with the inceasing popularity of these events, small classes seem to be few and far between. Breaking us up into smaller groups works too, but it’s not the same.) One group ended up carrying a log and a bunch of sandbags, the largest weighing 120 lbs, as well as 2 team weights, each weighing 25 lbs. One group, amongst other things, went in the water in the middle of the night to do hydro-burpees. They  forgot to take their team weight with them from the start point which is why the other group had 2.

My group carried our team weight and 2 of the most massive logs I have ever seen at one of these events for 2 miles. We had a 45 minute time hack, but it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the most miserable part of the event for me. We all took turns and tried to help as much as possible, but the log was so short and wide that we couldn’t get many people on it at once. Those who were carrying it were carrying a ton of weight. Additionally, it was extremely awkward to carry because it was so bulky, which is ultimately why it took us so long. Surprisingly there was no punishment. We were right near the water when we dumped the logs and everyone thought we were going in, but we didn’t. I personally believe it was only because we were running way behind on time.

We began rucking for quite some distance with no additional weight and hopped 3 different fences to get where we were going. We arrived at Sleepy Hollow Middle & High Schools where we met back up with the other 2 groups.

At this point, we were given a substantial break to refill our hydration bladders as well as share paranormal activity stories. Once the break ended, we split up into 2 new groups.

The group I was not in ended up going in the water, which meant that some people ended up going in twice. By some Halloween wizardry, my group did not go in the water. We knew that our cadre was looking for a way to get to one particular pond from where we were, but it wasn’t working out and he was wasting a lot of time so he decided to scratch the idea. He told us that he’d rather spend time doing quality things with us. So at the end of the event, there were people that had been in the freezing water once, slightly bitter people that had been in twice, and then a few lucky ducks like me that hadn’t gone in at all.

What our group did instead was travel a substantial distance carrying multiple casualties (designated people that had to be carried) as well as the smaller log, the 120 lb sandbag, and a team weight. Cadre Cleve spoke to us on many occasions about keeping our heads on swivels, staying quiet, working together, and tactics to help us complete our missions more efficiently, which definitely added value to our experience.

We arrived at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and learned how to tie swiss seat harnesses. Once the cadre and a few GRTs established a single rope bridge, we boosted each other up, locked in with carabiners, and traversed the bridge. This was definitely the highlight of the event for most.

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ENDEX
Cadre Cleve told us that the other group was ready to wrap up the event and the other cadre were wondering where we were. Once we finished up with the rope bridge, we began hustling toward the endex. Once we met back up at the start point after those final few miles, we were given a few closing words, lined up in ranks one more time, and were patched. The event ended right around 10 am: 13 spooky hours.

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Although I did not, some went on to complete the GORUCK Light that same day and even the GORUCK Scavenger the next. At the Light, however… EVERYONE went in the water. I think I left just in time!

Photo Credit: Jirina Harastova, Deanna Dawn, Jessica Madura, Delilah Talbot, Alex Stavdal

GoRuck Alaska: Back-to-Back Tough and Light

“No, it’s not a group suicide…”

Shortly after sunrise, 26 weirdos were standing at the edge of a steep bluff on the Alaskan coastal trail ready to rappel down a hundred or so feet to the rocky shore. We were covered in mud, wore heavy rucks, and literally smelled like crap. A drunk couple yelled down to us to ask if this was a group suicide. Everyone laughed and reassured them we were okay, but once we reached the shore we did an exercise in the surf that simulates drowning in ankle deep water, so I suppose their confusion was understandable. Just another day in GoRuck event paradise.

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GoRucks are the oddball events of the OCR – Endurance world. There’s an abundance of obstacles, filth and heavy things to carry, but there’s no set course or timing chips. They start when you meet up with a genuine Special Forces Cadre, then venture out as a group to push beyond the limits you thought existed over 13 hours with a smile on your face – and at least 40 pounds on your back at all times.

Our 9 pm starting point was a park near the coast in downtown Anchorage. The Cadre for this event was a Navy SEAL, so I was fairly terrified. Would this guy be crazy enough to send us into the tidal flats and frigid Alaskan ocean? Going off the GoRuck website pic, he didn’t strike me as being an overly cautious.

CADRE BRETT

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We didn’t wait long for the answer. First task after roll call: go to the beach, get completely wet and muddy, then come back here. “You’ve got 5 minutes.”

I’m pretty sure most people knew whatever we did wouldn’t be good enough. On our 5th try, we finally got it right. Our reward for getting completely filthy was sitting in a saltwater trench and then “disappearing” underwater for 5 seconds as a group – adding 10 pounds of water to our rucks in the process.

Once out of the water, the 2-hour welcome party started with pushup facing downhill. Somewhere on the way to our 20 rep goal, the Cadre made us start over. I lost count of how many times we were reset back to zero (someone’s knees would fall, we weren’t in sync, the man bun the Cadre’s hair was in was too tight, etc.), but it was a lot and I’m pretty sure we did at least 80 in a row. Restarting the counts happened a lot, regardless of the exercise we were doing.

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The party ended with an over-under tunnel of love that was downright painful.

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Then we were given our first mission: locate and transport a pair of listening devices along the coast. The enemy had cleverly disguised the devices as heavy logs.

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The devices were moved along the trail to a secure checkpoint: a swamp with 2 inches of goose poop floating on the water. It was guarded by a hornet’s nest, but almost everyone snuck by without getting stung.  The lighter device was discarded and the heavier one continued its journey.

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At 26 people, the heavier device seemed manageable. But this being GoRuck, Cadre Brett made things interesting by saying only the task’s team leads could talk. Within minutes, two people broke the rule and became casualties.

GoRuck Lesson 1: Follow the instructions or wish you did.

Casualties in GoRuck mean bodies need to be carried. Each casualty takes two people off the log (er, device support): the injured and the carrier. Things go from being manageable to sucking quickly. Everyone shut up after that and developed mad sign language skills.

A few quiet miles later, we reached a bridge the Cadre deemed unsafe. We headed off trail to the mouth of a ravine and tied a rope bridge to cross under. Hooking yourself to 100’ of rope with a carabineer and dragging yourself across a ravine is an interesting experience. Doing it in the dark while pushing and kicking tree branches out of the way made it downright exhilarating.

We recovered the listening device and made it to a bluff along the coast just short of the airport runway for a break where Brett told us a funny story about his first combat Op. It involved him and a SEALs team watching a group of drunken Iraqis ride a bucking donkey in Baghdad sort of like a rodeo. After that, we overhead pressed the log while he briefed the new team leads on the next task: moving the device to a steep bluff so we could kick it down the hill to the ocean.

The device hadn’t stopped careening downhill when Brett said (laughing) we had to go down after it. This is where we learned how to rappel, and it was pretty fun.

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After the drowning exercise in the freezing surf, we packed 500+ pounds of rocks into sandbags and headed up the coast for a timed and a series of other fast marches (most of which we failed). About midway through our last march, the Cadre noticed people were too far spaced out. Bam! 5 casualties. As we slowed, the 5 casualties became 10.

At 10 bodies, everyone was carrying bodies, being carried or holding multiple rucks. Our group started failing one by one. Seemingly annoyed, the Cadre told us to stop and march back to the Goose Crap lagoon to pick up another listening device. The groans were audible. Then he smiled and said “just kidding, you’re done.”

It took a second to process, but after it sunk in, everyone swore at Brett with genuine passion, then relief. After 13 hours, our Tough class graduated.

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A few of us had signed up for the GoRuck Light that was scheduled to start four hours later.

The five of us returning after the Tough were hoping the Light would be easier. After roll call, Brett made two of the returning Tough alums the team leads and said “you know what I want to see.”

“Okay everyone, down to beach to get wet and covered in mud.” Surprise! We missed the time hack. Our penalty: the Tunnel of Love through a muddy ditch.

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W elephant walked out of the inlet and hiked a few miles to a lagoon and formed two rows in the water, then were told to disappeared for five seconds.

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Since we were completely soaked, it was time for another welcome party. For the Light, exercises were in sets of 10 and he didn’t reset the counter on us. It seemed like he was genuinely trying to keep this one more fun focused – and we got to see his sarcastic sense of humor come out more.

After the welcome party and more elephant walking, we arranged the rucks into two course markers to play “it pays to be a winner.”

We divided into 2 teams of 8 for a series of wheelbarrow, leapfrog, low crawl, barrel rolls, etc. races against each other. In the first two races, winners sat in the shade for a break while the losing team jumped into the lake to disappear for five seconds. Losers in the 3rd race received a punishment so bad I won’t even talk about it.

Next up was a timed hike to acquire a new listening device camouflaged as a tree along the rocky coast. It was so light I asked Brett where the hell it had been during the Tough. A few hundred feet down the trail, another listening device (this time disguised as an enormous rock) was identified and hooked up to the first one. Not surprisingly, a 2nd device resembling a large rock was added up shortly after that.

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We marched the devices back to the starting point, only to be turned back to the beach. Back on the coast, the devices were unbundled and chucked into the sand. Graduation time? Nope. 19 group burpees instead.

Once the last of the burpees was counted out, the moment everyone had been waiting for finally arrived after 4 hours and the patches come out.

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The feeling of pride having fought off the urge to stay home after the tough and coming back to finish both events is something I think the 5 of us will remember for a long time.

These events are truly special. You meet amazing people and get to hang with genuinely elite members of the armed forces to celebrate fitness and America.  Video from the event is available here .

Can’t wait for GoRuck Pearl Harbor Heavy in December.

Photo Credit: Brett Vernon, Christopher Lutes, Ralph Swan, Louie Weigers.