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!
- Learn more about Kaitlyn Alexander and her fight against Cooley’s Anemia.
- Donate to support research into treating and curing Cooley’s Anemia.
- Sign up to do a GORUCK Challenge.