Sunday, February 19, 2012

GORUCK Class 113

Lets begin with the end. I'm Patched. Not in the sense that I've joined a motorcycle gang, though to some it might seem as such. No, the patch I have now represents, a different 'dirty underbelly' of society. That of a group of people who are GORUCK tough. I had the honor of participating in one of their urban challenges as part of Class 113 in Phoenix. 

Like most people, maybe you right now, you are trying to read up on what the GORUCK challenges are all about. Trying to get some sort of insight, knowledge or peace of mind before you sign up. Before your class kicks off. I know I searched the heck out of it before my Class weekend. Talked and texted with all my friends lucky enough to do this before my weekend arrived. Maybe like me, you were disappointed in what you haven't read, namely: What the heck do you do in it?  How are you treated?  What is it like? I discussed my nerves regarding my class right before I left to the meet up. 

I sat at my computer afterwards wondering how to write about what occurred over 12.5 hours and 22 miles of Class 113. How can my post be different than all the others I've read. How could I put it into words. In the end, I can't. Sorry. I can say that what I thought would happen, my worst case scenario was completely unfounded.We were not treated like maggots, the cadre was hard but fair. We were not punished for unknown reasons. Every thing we got, was deserved. And every reprieve we got was deserved.  

So, specifics, it's what you want. Its what a 'race' report demands. Honestly too much happened. Too much to be proud of. Too much to be frustrated with. Too much to put into words, as it must be experienced. Some of it should be held under operational security for the cadre to run a good class. It was not the hardest thing I have ever done over 12 hours, but at the end I felt every bit my age every time I got up. You have to be in shape for this event. You have to have the testicular fortitude, women as well, to get through something like this. I am not talking physically, that is assumed. I am talking mentally. 

I will however I will give you some general advice that might help you get through your event. Or what I went through if you're a friend reading this. 
  • Pack only what is on the gear list. The only items you are going to use are quick foods, and your hydration reservoir.  You will not have time to take your pack off for any personal items you bring along. 
  • What you wear at the start, you will wear for hours before you can take off or add layers. There is no time to take off or add unless you are mercifully given a break. Breaks are earned, not given. Be careful in your choices if you run hot or cold.  
  • Nothing will kill a team or raise one up faster than team work. Our cadre said we had the fastest team cohesion he had seen in his classes. A high compliment to be sure. 
  • Learn a cadence. It doesn't matter if you sing the same thing ten or fifteen lines for 5 hours, (it doesn't get boring), just have something from start to finish to motivate the team in the middle of the night. If you can't memorize it, write it down on waterproof paper and stick it in your pocket. You can pull it out on the move. Eventually it will be seared in your head. 
  • Team mates will cramp up. Most people have never gone longer than a marathon of effort, meaning what occurs physically after say 5-6 hours is virgin territory. Our class was 12 hours and almost a marathon of miles around the city, not included in that distance all the bear crawls, crab walks, low crawling, buddy carries, coupon carrying and team weight carrying we did. Your body will break down. Everything is done at as fast a run as can be managed as a team. As someone who competes in ironman distance events and multi day adventure hiking, I have become accustomed to using a supplement called Endurolytes, which helps deter cramping in endurance activities. There are other products that do the same. This is just what I use. Its a good item to have at break times for yourself and others on the team. 
  • For what its worth, no amount of ibuprofen is going to help with the pain you feel under all the physical stress. 70% of that is going to be a discomfort turned into a full out "I can't go on" voice in your head. Don't listen to it. Embrace the suckage. Mental destruction and negativity will crush a team. 

go ruck tough
At certain points a team leader and team navaguesser are chosen. I was never picked. That didn't mean I had no responsibility for the success of the team. Let me give you two specific examples. We had a coupon, an item that had to be carried with us aside from the team weight. We carried this coupon as a team for 8 hours and dozens of miles. It was heavy and cumbersome and could not be done alone. After a few hours of two person carry, we were given a quick break and I removed some brick straps from my bag, to create a way for four person carry. It was not without flaw but we could move faster, with less switch outs between the team members. At some point these broke and we were back to a two person carry. And we were breaking down physically as well. I kept looking around for a discarded broom handle or pipe that could be used as a pole to carry the item. At a stop light I happened to spy a 3 foot 2x4 that allowed the team to carry the coupon much easier. It again saved us time and significant energy output. 

I don't mention this to toot my own horn, only that everyone on the team brings a special gift that can help the team succeed. For some this is strength, others motivation, inspiration, or knowledge. Every person in Class 113 had something to contribute and I felt like mine was the ability to solve the problem of how to carry this coupon without killing morale, destroying our ability to move or heaven forbid a good person drop out and quit. 

For any person who is interested in pushing their limits, this is a step up. If a marathon isn't enough. If hiking the Grand Canyon isn't enough. If Ironman isn't enough. If regular gym workouts isn't enough. If obstacle course racing isn't long enough. GO RUCK. 

Don't just survive. Thrive. 

Author wearing blue shirt with red flag on cap. 

Friday, February 17, 2012


Tonight I have the GoRuck Challenge. It is listed as  

The GORUCK Challenge is a team event and never a race. Inspired by Special Forces training and led by Green Berets, the Challenge builds teams and solves problems.

I have many friends who have experienced a GRC and while I have done their obstacle course match ups with Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, this is my first full on city event. I am banging out this post so close to kick off because honestly I am nervous. 

I know the reality is not as bad as my mental picture but I imagine basically the worst case scenario of my hardest military combat schools. In my mind I am going to be smoked, dropped, screamed at, mindfucked, clusterfucked, "one grenade will kill you all", "why don't you just quit now because your worthless", sort of experience.

So why even do something like that?  Why enroll in an event that in my mind right now, is going to treat me like an unwanted dog and kick me raw and treat me inhumanely for 8-12 hours?  I don't know. Maybe because I think I deserve it for some reason. That I need someone to punish me for something I cannot define inside me that I've done wrong. Some psychic shock that has pushed me forward since my amnesia.  

Of course, it can't be as bad as I imagine. None of my many friends have said, "STOP. Don't do this, it was horrible."  In fact they have signed up for more. Many of the people in my class tonight (Class 113) have done a GRC in the past. I see a few even flew in for this.

In fact the reputation of a GoRuck Challenge is superb. The cadre I have met at other events are excellent, professional people. My imagination is running wild through my fingers simply because I have not done one yet. Tomorrow afternoon I will have received my GoRuck Tough patch for completing the event (earned, never sold) and have a whole new appreciation for what I can put my body through and contribute to the team.  

I just survive. Thrive. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

What is a Dream Killer

I sometimes think I keep coming back to the concept of The Dream Killer. This is usually a friend or acquaintance, often a family member or co-worker, that talks you out of, or away from, attempting a goal that as defined by your mutual circle of peers is outside the norm. This can be as simple as going on a diet or running a marathon. 

A Dream Killer is the person that once becoming aware of your goal will seek consciously or subconsciously to undermine your results. It is as innocent enough as saying, "Oh, you don't have any experience with that, why even try", or, "You don't have time for that." It can get downright mean, "You tried to lose weight five years ago and you failed. Why go through that again?"

The truly devious Dream Killers are the taunters. Those that tempt dieters by bringing in a box of doughnuts, something they may have never done before. Then not take 'No' for an answer when you decline. These people would never consider themselves a 'salesperson' but they are doing everything possible to get you into one of those doughnuts before you leave their showroom floor. The dieter is being disrespectful because the Dream Killer is attempting to offer something nice to them, and they will tell you that. Guilt is a powerful weapon to a Dream Killer. 

Another not so subtle trick from Dream Killers is talking a person out of changing their routine. When the usual Friday night meant hours of food, drinks and social activities, and that changes because a person suddenly feels compelled spend the evening getting gear ready, going to bed early and then waking up before sunrise for a workout, Dream Killer see's this as a challenge affecting the status quo. By removing yourself from self indulgence and actively moving towards personal reward, your absence is as painful as a broken arm to a Dream Killer. 

In all these situations, The Dream Killer is seeking to influence your failure because they feel guilty for not having the will power to accomplish the same goal at some point in their past. Maybe they struggled with a diet and had good results, enabling them to revel in success; only to see all that weight plus more come back. The expensive skinny jeans hanging in the closest worn for only a brief time a constant reminder of their lack of power. Then there is the person who committed to running a marathon, maybe for charity, or in remembrance of a loved one, maybe purely because it was a big goal, and after just a few weeks the body was aching and the distance getting to the point that they quit. The alibi there failure a dozen ways, the common denominator being they became a victim of something along the lines of time, family, work, genetics.

In the end, as harsh as it sounds, Dream Killers believe that if they could not achieve their dream, no one should. It will only magnify their own past failures. It makes them feel that much less a human being, that much more of a failure and this is the only aspect of a Dream Killer I pity. Because I don't think anyone should feel like a failure.

Everyday we can choose to be the person we are, or seek to become the person we want to be. And its damn hard to internally make the conscious decision to change our behavior and act on it. We realize that goals like weight loss or running a marathon become lifestyle changes.  Dream Killers only want to pull you down as you reach for the stars.  If they can get you to fail, to accept that the challenge was too great, it validates their own failure and in a sick twisted way, it makes them feel better about them self.

There are many ways one can address a Dream Killer once we recognize them. We can try to ignore them but this often does not stop the incessant negativity they spew. We can confront them with the fact that we are attempting to accomplish a goal they themselves failed at and they should be supportive instead of negative. Remember this, most Dream Killers are not so consciously, they are projecting their fears and failures. Once you confront them with this a percentage will change their tone.

Once you have voiced that you want people to pour positivity into your goal not negativity and they continue their path, I employ the traffic cop defense. Oh, never heard of that one? It goes like this. Stand in front of the Dream Killer, snap your arm up and palm out, right in front of their face, like a traffic cop stopping oncoming traffic. Get your hand just inches away from their face. And then loudly proclaim, "BAD SEED...begone." Then laugh and walk away.

Doing this does many things.  The forceful projection of your hand away from your body subconsciously acts as a mental dumping of negativity for you. For the Dream Killer its an invasion of personal space and stops their pattern. It also asserts your dominance. The words "BAD SEED..." with your hand shoved in their face is almost religious in tone. Its asserts your power over them as a higher power and if this is a Godly belief or just a belief that your personal power is greater than theirs, the point is equally made. Finally the last part, "...begone." is not said with as much force but the term is decidedly a conversation ender. The laugh is meant to do two things. First it asserts the lack of influence the Dream Killer has over you, laughing in the face of danger, and also it can help relieve the immediate tension that occurs when you snap your open palm inches from someones face. Walking away severs any further action from the Dream Killer and allows you to regain your personal worth.

I can tell you from experience it often takes more than one, "BAD SEED...begone" with your hand in their face, to get a Dream Killer to understand their actions are repetitive and you are not over reacting. Which is the first victim defense this person will use.  Continually pointing out this Dream Killers efforts with this defense will at some point make this person and certainly those around you know this person is trying to kill your dream.

Dream big, be strong in your actions. Don't fall prey to Dream Killers.

Don't survive. Thrive.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Review of Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

Originally submitted at REI

The waterproof Black Diamond Storm headlamp is built to withstand the worst weather, because the last thing you need when caught in a storm is for your headlamp to die.

Great headlamp for night time training

By comm from Mesa, Az on 2/6/2012


4out of 5

Pros: Adjustable Beam, Waterproof, Bright, Durable

Cons: Heavy

Best Uses: Adventure Racing, Backpacking, Night time running, Obstacle course racing

Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer

Was this a gift?: No

I have used the Storm for approx. 3 months. A very sturdy headlamp. During the night I have used this for: running, rucking, chopping wood, swimming, land navigation, off trail route finding, obstacle course racing in lots of mud. And yes, some reading in bed.

In every instance I have been really pleased. The illumination is brighter than the Tikka XP, the construction is (at this time) better than the BD Spot, specifically the ratchet swivel.

The ability to customize the brightness is really great. You can see in the Specs the What & Hows.

Red LED is quite bright.

I have only two detraction's. One is that because this is waterproof and quite bright, this is a heavy headlamp. Not quite needing a over the top of head strap to hold up but without a beanie or cinching tight on forehead it can bounce if you're moving fast. I mean fast. A fast walk or jog is no big deal.

Second, the single button took me some time to get used too. There is just so many lighting options, it takes a second to recall how to get to the setting you want.