DC Mini-GRC for Kick A** Katie

As I’ve written about before, the GORUCK Tough community of GORUCK Challenge alumni is close knit and always ready to help when someone is in need. A few months ago, one GRT named Jason announced that his ten year old daughter Katie was going through a bone marrow transplant as part of her treatment for Cooley’s Anemia. Jason had set up a website for Katie to fundraise in support of her surgery and raise awareness about Cooley’s Anemia. Patches are a common thread in the GORUCK community and it didn’t take long for there to be a custom patch featuring “Kick A** Katie”, two unicorns (her favorite) and rainbows (because, per Katie, unicorns poop rainbows).

Jason also started to organize mini-GORUCK Challenges in support of Katie. Modeled on the real think, these min-GRCs are 4-5 hours and open to both GRTs and people who haven’t done a Challenge yet. The idea was to not only support spreading awareness into Cooley’s Anemia and Katie’s fight, but to introduce new people to a small taste of GORUCK-style good livin’.

This past Saturday I participated in the Mini-GRC DC event. It started at 7am at the White House Ellipse, with twelve participants and two GRTs playing the role of Cadre. Of the twelve, seven were GRTs and five were new to the world of GORUCK. We started off with a PT welcome party and before long were on our way towards the Lincoln Memorial. Within the first ten minutes of starting, we were given our log. It was probably about five to six feet long and weighed around 500 pounds. Logs are a great test of how well a team works together – can we find a system to keep the log up and moving? Or do we struggle with the enormity of the task? Well this team came together in a snap and developed a system to move the log with little trouble. This ended up being a sign for how we would work as a group throughout the mini-GRC. Everyone was there to support Katie and get work done. There was never any arguing or complaining. We just gelled.

The toughest part of this mini-GRC for me was the heat. When we started, it was already in the 90s and humid. By the time we were done it was over 100 and much more with the heat index. I’d hydrated like crazy the day before and was drinking water whenever possible, but still found the heat really tough to manage. When we made it to the Lincoln Memorial, we had to bear crawl up the steps and crab walk down. Near the top, one of our team threw up, but was able to continue on after a few minutes of down time. At the top of the Lincoln’s steps, I splayed out face down on the marble floor, in a spot of shade cast by a column. Less than two hours in and the heat was having its effects on me.

We moved from the Lincoln towards the Georgetown waterfront. With our next way point in sight, we were told to do walking flutter kicks for about 75-100 meters to our goal. For those that are unfamiliar, the walking flutter kick is a pretty brutal tool in the repertoire of GORUCK Cadre. It’s a buddy carry executed back-to-back, with both people wearing their rucks on their chest. The person doing the carrying has to move forward while the person being carried performs a flutter kick from their buddy’s back. This was my first time doing these and it’s a good deal harder than a regular buddy carry. At this point I was really overheating and feeling nauseous; doing this exercise was definitely the low-point for me during the mini-GRC.

Fortunately once we were done, we did a bit of PT in a giant fountain and cooled off substantially. It is impossible to put to words how good this felt, especially for how I was feeling at the time we hit the fountain.

From the waterfront, we made our way to one of the classic stops on a DC-based GORUCK Challenge: the Exorcist Steps. This long flight of steep stairs is one big, hearty dose of good livin’. There are three sections to it and we were instructed to box jump each step for the first section, bear crawl the second, and then after getting a little bit gassed, buddy carry up the third. Having not done a Challenge in DC before, I was a bit worried about the Exorcist Steps, but was able to get through it. At this point I was feeling much better, substantially cooled off, and ready to keep on rocking. The demons from the heat had been pushed from my mind and I really started to enjoy the mini-GRC to its fullest.

The last stretch involved a bunch more running and a false ending at Montrose Park. It seemed like we were done, but were instead lead down through the running trails of Rock Creek Park down to Rock Creek itself. We were instructed into the water and lined up to perform PT. If you have only ever driven past or run alongside Rock Creek, when you are standing in Rock Creek you learn that this water does not, in fact, smell as clean as it looks. This is definitely water that you do not want to drink. First up, though, was chest to deck push-ups. Since the water we were in was a foot and a half to two feet deep, each rep meant getting our head underwater. The first couple of reps were a bit tentative, but around this time the coolness of the water felt amazing.

By the time we were done with our water PT, I was sad to get out. With the thermometer reading over 100 degrees, a cool – albeit smelly and probably a bit toxic – creek was a great place to spend time. We made our way back up to Montrose and finished as so many Challenges finish: with buddy carries.

Katie, the girl we were honoring and supporting with our mini-GRC, was there as we finished. She was greeted by fourteen hot, dirty, sweaty people bearing a slight Eau de Rock Creek and smiles all around.

This was by no means a real GORUCK Challenge – it lasted around 4 hours and only covered about 5+ miles, though it was done on a day of record-setting heat in DC. But getting to meet this brave, young girl and see how well she is doing following her bone marrow transplant added an extra level of good livin’ to the experience. Our team working incredibly well together and all the people who were new to the Challenge expressed interest in doing a real Challenge in the future. Thanks to everyone who came out and participated, I had a blast. And thanks to Jason for inviting the GORUCK Tough community into his and Katie’s fight for health. Hopefully we’ll see her participating in a Challenge in 8-10 years!

Officiating in the NBA Finals

I officiated basketball in college and it is a hard job. It’s hard to not be caught up in the flow/energy of the game, from players to coaches to fans. It’s hard to not give a really easy call back after you make a bad one on the same team.

All that said, the NBA should have the best refs in there. They’re getting paid, they’re experienced, they’re unionized, they’re trained. There are bad calls in all sports, including in championships. But when there is such dramatic inconsistency and it all goes in the same direction, it’s hard to not think the worst.

Personally I’ve never bought the charges of the refs being in the bags for teams picked by the league. But I do think that refs internalize who is great and who is not. The NBA is a star’s league. And LeBron James & Dwayne Wade are known superstars, while Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are in their early twenties. That’s probably the extent of it. But it still sucks.

The refs aren’t the sole reason the Thunder have lost three in a row, but they’re a non-insignificant part of it. Playing when someone has their thumb on the scale is hard.

Darkside of the Lens

Awesome mini-doc by photographer Mickey Smith

A random cardio workout

I’m training for GORUCK Ascent 2012. My emphasis is really on building up leg strength, cardio and practice going long ways under a weighted ruck. Here’s a sample cardio workout from this morning.

Warmup
1 mile of stairs with 40# ruck
1 mile forced ruck march with 40# ruck
1 mile sprint (no ruck)
Cool down & finishing PT

My finishing PT varies, but today was four sets of pull-ups to failure and hanging straight leg raises to failure.

My biggest concern besides getting fit for Ascent is to not injure myself in training. I’ve read a number of articles recently which emphasize doing forced ruck marches rather than running under a weighted ruck. I’ve done quite a bit of running under a 40-50 lb ruck over the last six months and it certainly can be tough on the knees (and ankles and IT band…). A fast paced march is definitely easier on the joints, though I don’t get the same cardio intensity from it. For me, the forced march pace is 15 minute miles. I’m a big, still fairly slow guy and sprinting a mile is around eight minute mile pace in this workout.

This put me through a pretty decent cardio workout. My heart rate varied from 160-170 BPM throughout and everything I was wearing ended soaked through with sweat, including my GR2. I like mixing things up, but this is one I’ve done a couple times now and it’s good to get the practice going up under weight, while mixing in a bit of running too. It’s one of my less complex workouts, but sometimes simple is good.

I’ll check in from time to time with other random workouts for my Ascent training. Each is just a snapshot in time, not a program in itself, so its usefulness to a reader is probably pretty limited.

GORUCK Tough: A Community’s Tough Love

Originally posted at Huffington Post

This is the fourth post in a three part series on GORUCK and the GORUCK Challenge. Read my first post on the GORUCK brand, GORUCK: The Most Passionate Brand Following in the World, my second post on the GORUCK Challenge, The GORUCK Challenge: Bringing People Together Under Really Big Logs, and my third post on my completion of a GORUCK Challenge, Becoming GORUCK Tough.

The motto of the GORUCK Challenge is “Under Promise, Over Deliver.” While they sell the event that as 8-10 hours and 15-20 miles, the Challenge is almost always longer or farther in practice. In this spirit, I’m writing a fourth piece to conclude my three-part series on GORUCK and the GORUCK Challenge.

When I completed the GORUCK Challenge Class 110 in Baltimore this past February, not only did I earn a “GORUCK Tough” patch, but I became a member of the GORUCK Tough (GRT) community. Comprising only of the people who have completed a Challenge, it is a 2,000 person (and growing) Facebook group.

Like most other Facebook groups, the GRT group is a place where people share funny videos, post news stories (usually about GRT members doing amazing things in other athletic endeavors), and talk tough to the Cadre who run each Challenge. None of these things make the community unique. Instead, it is a deep and rich culture of charitable giving which has emerged from the GORUCK Tough community and best speaks to the character of its members.

GORUCK was founded by Jason McCarthy, a former Special Forces operator. Charitable giving is baked into the experience of participating in a Challenge, as GORUCK takes $10 out of every Challenge registration and donates it to the Green Beret Foundation, a group which supports wound Special Forces operators. For larger capstone events, GORUCK requires participants to do their own fundraising drives to support the Green Beret Foundation, with benchmarks of $1500-2000 per participant.

With this grounding in charity, it’s not surprising that alumni continue to give as a group. What is surprising is the degree to which the community is always there to support members in need.

Justin Grimm’s daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in February of 2010, when she was only two years old. Charlotte started on what would be two and a half years of treatment, including chemotherapy cycles and steroid treatments. As Charlotte, Justin and their family were going through the ordeals of Charlotte’s treatment, Justin decided to participate in a GORUCK Challenge.

“I signed up for the GRC to physically push myself knowing that mentally I had pushed through far more [with Charlotte’s cancer] than the devious mind of Jason could conjure up,” Justin says. Justin completed Class 049, where his classmate decided to do the Challenge in honor of Charlotte’s fight against cancer. Recognizing that they had done something special, Justin began to engage GORUCK alumni to help raise funds to support the Childrens Cancer Research Fund (CCRF).

2012-05-22-BraveCharlotte.jpg

Morale patches are a common item in the GORUCK world and soon Justin had a patch designed to honor his daughter and support the CCRF. Justin describes it, “The Brave Charlotte Patch…represents a ladybug on a stage dancing from the clouds into the sunshine.” It both captures Charlotte’s indomitable spirit and would serve as a way for the GORUCK Community to support research to help cure leukemia. Donors were recognized with the Brave Charlotte patches and to date the GORUCK Tough community has raised over $10,000 for the CCRF.

In addition to fundraising through patch sales, members of the alumni community began to hold Mini-GORUCK Challenges in support of Brave Charlotte and the CCRF. There have been over fifteen of these events so far with more to come.

The GORUCK Tough community support goes beyond people who are a part of it. In March, Chief Warrant Officer Edward Cantrell, a decorated Green Beret, perished while trying to save his two daughters from their burning home. This tragedy hit the GORUCK Tough family hard – the Special Forces community is close-knit and Cantrell was known by a number of the GORUCK Cadre.

Dan, a Challenge Cadre and Green Beret, was touched by this outpouring. “When CW2 Cantrell passed away a couple months ago, I had people from all over the country in the GRT family emailing me asking for ways to support his family. Crossfit Lakeland Florida dedicated an entire workout and raised money that was donated to the widow of CW2 Cantrell. Patches are in production right now and all funds from the sale of those will go to the widow of CW2 Cantrell. I could go on and on but the GRT family always steps up when somebody is in need.”

Cadre Dan sees this as a normal response from the community. “I have never met a more dedicated group of people who are willing to help and support each other. The absolute beauty of it all is that most of the GRT family has never met each other, but when a GRT family member needs help, the outpouring of support is second to none. “

As a relatively new member of the GORUCK Tough community, I’ve found the willingness of its members to support each other and the causes we believe in to be rewarding in a way I never expected. The culture of giving is something we all strive to bring to our lives beyond the GRT group, but to see it emerge from a backpack company and their unique challenge is remarkable.

GORUCK staff talk about the Challenge as delivering their own kind of “good livin’” – with the implication that intense physical exertion and no small degree of suffering in silence leads us to a more fulfilling way of living our lives. But looking at the community that emerges from these Challenges and it’s clear that good livin’ doesn’t just come from personal, physical accomplishments, but how we build a better world through charitable giving.

Some stories have happy endings and as for Brave Charlotte Grimm, after fighting leukemia for over half her life, she had her final treatment on April 22nd of this year. Her father Justin says, “She is doing better every day. Her energy is coming back and that is a bit of an adjustment too since it’s been so long since she hasn’t felt like garbage. We are so grateful to all of our friend, family and GRTs for their support, thoughts and prayers.”

Make It Count

Oh wow, this is freaking awesome. What I would give for a big chunk of cash and no limitations to travel for 10 days…

That said, it’s almost hard to believe that these guys traveled as far as they did in 10 days. I mean, a significant portion of that must have been solely on airplanes and they shot a lot of different scenes in the video. Which is just to say that it’s a cool trip, but not necessarily how I would travel for 10 days.

Fresh Guacamole

I love this.

Sample GORUCK Challenge training workout

One of the first things I thought to myself after registering for the GORUCK Challenge was, “How the hell am I going to train for this?” Given that every Challenge is different, it’s hard to be fully prepared for it. The best you can do is be ready. I knew that it would cover a long distance (15-20 miles or more), it would be done with 40-50 pounds on my back the whole time, and there would be some long stretch of time carrying a really heavy log. In my training, I sought to emphasize leg strength, comfort with a weighted ruck, and endurance for traveling long distances.

In terms of building up comfort under the ruck, nothing replaces doing ruck runs and working out with a weighted ruck. Build up your distance on ruck runs. One way to do that is to run as far as you can under a ruck, then turn around and walk back to your starting point. This will push your distance in a big way – effectively doubling it. You’ll also spend a lot more time working under a weighted ruck, which is invaluable for building your endurance.

I never did the same workout twice, but wanted to post at least one sample workout which heavily emphasizes legs, but through dynamic motions which work your core and especially build shoulder strength (which is needed for rucking under weight and lifting logs).

50 x Thrusters
50 x Deadlift kettle bell swings
50 x Wall ball
50 x Medicine ball slam
50 x Air squats
50 x Burpees

Do this workout as fast as possible, but with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than 25 reps in each motion before needing to break, so each weighted motion is probably getting 2-3 sets. You can also do all of these motions with a weighted ruck (other than the Burpees).

This is just one example of a workout framework that helped build the sort of strength that I found to be most important in training for a GORUCK Challenge. It’s not exhaustive, more like a snapshot of things you can be doing to prepare for a GORUCK Challenge.

Driving across Mongolia


I really love this video. It’s incredibly well done, as it shares the experience of driving across Mongolia from within a small car. But more, I love the feel of travel that it conveys, with periods of barrenness interrupted by incredibly interesting interactions or shifts in scenery. Partly it makes me really want to drive across Mongolia, spending the nights camping by the road side. Partly it makes me think that it’s not worth the trouble, given how flat and barren and unforgiving it is. But there’s no doubt that it would be an adventure…