GORUCK Challenge, Class 981 AAR

Once the adrenaline settled after finishing my first GoRuck Challenge last year with class 524, I told myself I would never do anything like that ever again. It was the coldest and closest I had ever been to hypothermia, I went into the Don River… THE DON RIVER, my calves cramped so badly after the 4th hour I thought I’d have to drop, I pinched a nerve in my wrist early in the challenge and it took over four months to recover, and I was eaten alive by red ants whilst carrying a log. Never again.

Well.. last week I finished my second challenge with class 981. I couldn’t help myself. Part of me wondered what it’d be like to do the challenge again with a different cadre. Would it be easier? Would it be harder? Or would it simply be different? I had been to a few events where I got to talk with a few other people who had completed challenges (GRTs), and it was interesting to hear what they had to say. The majority of the stories focused on recalling the worst parts of their challenge. I could relate with some of the tasks like log carries, getting wet and getting sandy, but there were some exercises that I couldn’t, simply because every cadre and challenge is different.

When I shadowed class 659 (video here) I remember chatting with another GRT that was shadowing as we watched the welcome party kick off. We swapped experiences, and then it seemed that we begun to start trying to outdo each other. Almost as if I was trying to convince him that mine was harder, and and that he was trying to convince me I was wrong. I’m a pretty competitive guy, so I jumped right in and threw some fuel on the fire.

Later on, what really stopped me in my tracks was when I heard someone ask, “So which challenge was harder?”, in reference to class 524 and 659. Personally, I think the answer to that question is subjective. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve got pretty strong legs, but my upper body is weak. So if a challenge requires a lot of lower body exercise, I’m probably going to find it a bit easier than someone who has weaker legs. Class 659 endured what seemed like an endless welcome party of PT, but they doubt they traveled 5km. In class 524, we did a lot of PT, albeit less than 659, but we ran from one side of the city to the other and back. It’s totally a fair question though. Like I said, it’s subjective, but when I heard that the opinion was that class 659 was harder than 524, it diminished the worth of my patch. It shouldn’t have because of the reason I just stated, but it did.

Pretty proud that the class tore those tree that was still in the ground when we found it and dragged it up a hill. 
So the question really became, how hard is the GoRuck Challenge? Surely it could not be measured with the completion of only one challenge. I remember the lesson my grade 7 science teacher taught me regarding experiments. To be able to draw a proper conclusion, you must repeat the experiment several times. Doing it once is not enough. What if 524 was an exceptionally easy class? Was I still “Tough” if I’ve only had one patch? In all honestly I had such a hard time during class 524 I was scared that I wouldn't finish, which is why I delayed signing up until a week before the challenge.

What I had learned during my time with Class 524 was that I had put too much emphasis on rucking without enough emphasis on PT during my training. I got absolutely rocked during my challenge. Luckily all of my weighted ruck training I had done helped me when cadre told us that every time we moved, we had to move with a sense of urgency. However I dragged myself through the night with very little in the tank because I hadn’t been ready for all the PT.

Having a parking bumper resting on my pack is probably something that I could go the rest of my life without doing again. My training buddy Jer is on my right. Matching PCU of course!
When it came time to train for class 981, I focused on PT, and did very little in regards to weighted ruck marches because I can still hear cadre yelling “Roger that! Back to zero! Back to fucking zero!". Man did that ever backfire. I won’t say it was a total loss though as the amped up preparation I did in PT got me into the best shape of my life and because I didn’t have too much trouble with the welcome party. The problem though is that it seemed the focus during class 981 was walking with our rucks with parking barriers on our shoulders. By the end of the challenge my heels and traps were smoked. I had trained for the wrong challenge! More accurately, my training wasn’t well rounded enough.

So what did I learn after completing two challenges and shadowing one? Train for everything. Train like you are going to be walking for the entire challenge. Train like you are going to do PT for the entire challenge. Train like you will have to run the entire challenge. Train like you are going to have the team weight with you the entire challenge. Do I feel better now that I have two patches instead of just one? To be honest, only a little. That however is COMPLETELY overshadowed with the much more important and more valuable things that come with finishing the challenge like ridiculously high confidence when it comes to physical activity (but a new respect for how physically and mentally strong my classmates are, and how tough cadre are for going through much more for much longer), a completely new appreciation for what you can accomplish as a team rather than focusing on what you can do as an individual, higher self confidence, a drive to become healthier and stronger which lasts even after the event ends, and a new group of friends that are like minded and as crazy as I am.


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