I was nervous. That doubting voice in my head kept telling me I was going to die and asking me why I signed up and what I was I thinking. Sure, I’d spent countless hours with my ruck filled with bricks. I worked with it on. I mowed the lawn with it on I went for walks and runs with it on, but now it was time for the real thing. You can do lots of training but what most GORUCK Challenge Alumni will tell you is that it is all mental. Don’t get me wrong, being in shape is very important, but being able to go for an unknown amount of hours over an unknown distance takes mental toughness that is impossible to train for.
A few days before the Newport, RI GORUCK Challenge we got an email telling us that our 1:00AM starting point would be King Park. I am in no way, shape, or form a night person. I like to go to bed early and get tons of sleep. This being said when I got off work at 2:00PM I went home to eat and nap. After about 4 quality hours of sleep I was back to eating and getting ready. First up was checking the ruck. My four bricks had been taped, decorated, and were sitting on some extra foam for lower back protection. Next in was my 2L Platypus Big Zip hydration bladder with half water and half Gatorade. Into one of the inside pockets went my Princeton Tec headlamp, cash, ID, and Chapstick. Last to go inside the bag was an EMS Power Dry Quarter Zip shirt if I got cold. I decided that the best way to do food was to put it in the front slash pocket of my ruck. This way it was the easiest and quickest to get at, so if I had limited time I could still get my nutrition in. For nutrition I took Honey Stinger Chews, a Clif Shot Double Espresso, a Clif Bar, two mini Mojo bars, and finally a Rice Krispie Treat. It turned out to be the perfect amount for me.
Around 12:45am we all started gathering around the statue of General Rochambeau. Small groups of people that knew each other were forming but in the dim light it was hard to make out all of the faces. Our Cadre, Garrett, called us over to a place with a little better lighting and had us line up for bag checks and waiver signing. After a brief introduction and some directions it was time for the Welcome Party. The Welcome Party consisted of various types of physical training (PT) while wearing our rucks. For anyone under 150lbs that meant 20lbs of bricks in your bag and those over 150lbs had 30lbs of bricks. We had “coupons” that Garrett brought for us to take along. In this case it was two painters buckets filled with what we believed was sand. Also filled with sand and weighing in at 29lbs was our class weight. For the class weight I ordered a lifeguard Rescue Can, drilled a half inch hole in the top, and filled it up with sand. The weight needed to be at least 25lbs. I didn’t have a scale while filling so I just filled it up completely. Lastly, we had an American flag and GORUCK flag to take along. For some of the PT we could put the weights down or post the flags but for other things they needed to be part of it. Flutterkicks were one of the exercises that no ruck, flag, weight, or “coupon” could touch the ground.
When the Welcome Party came to an end it was time for us to practice some maneuvers that we may need during our missions. During the Welcome Party we did Bear Crawls so now we partnered up to do Low Crawls. We ran for a short time, dropped down on to our stomachs and crawled, popped back up, and repeated across King Park. This was followed by buddy carries down and back and lunges with our arms linked. How long we did this? I don’t know. No one could have a watch. We lined up under the light and waited to be assigned our first mission.
Our first mission was to travel from King Park to Memorial Park in 50 minutes. I was chosen by Garrett to be the team leader for this mission and I had no idea where Memorial Park was. First up I needed to talk to those more familiar with the area and get directions on where we were going. The team got in two lines and we headed out. One of my biggest tasks was to get some sort of rotation going with the team weight and coupons. The flags lead the way followed by the weights because the people with the weights were most likely going to be going the slowest. We needed to stay together yet move as quickly as possible all while not knowing just how much time was passing us by. The last part of the trip involved going in the woods single file up a hill. The only people who could have headlamps were those who had red lights. This left us with about 3 lights for 30 of us heading up a pricker filled trail. We emerged from the woods and lined up at the base of the World War I Memorial. Unfortunately we missed the time hack by 90 seconds which meant a punishment for our next mission.
After a break and some pictures we headed down the hill where we received our punishment, no straps on shoulders. I was sent back into the ranks and a new team leader took over. From Memorial Park we next headed out to First Beach, which meant we would soon be in the water. Along with no straps on shoulders we were also not allowed to talk. That meant the team leader and his assistant had to do everything with hand signals and tapping. Our line started falling apart and we ended up having to stop in the middle of a street and do PT. “One Team, One Mission.” We needed to learn the importance of staying together before we could continue to the beach. At the beach our weight and “coupons” were put down, Garrett took the American Flag, and we were in the water doing pushups so that our faces went under the water. Luckily we were allowed to have straps back on again. After pushups we switched the bags onto our front and got down for flutterkicks. I was in the back row for this and had waves crashing over my head while trying to splash as much water as I could with my feet. Our fun at the beach continued when we moved into the sand for an exercise Garrett called starfish with a twist. For this we squatted down, picked up two handfuls of sand, and as we jumped up threw the sand up in the air all over each other. Although we were getting wet and sandy we did have a pretty cool sunrise over the water.
Beach time was over and it was time to hit up one of Newport’s most famous landmarks, the Cliff Walk. At the start of the walk at First Beach there is a little bit of a grassy spot. Here we did our morning, sunrise calisthenics. Garrett took out some speakers and played funky techno music as we did exercises with our bags. Boy did we get some great looks from the early morning dog walkers. A group of wet, sand covered individuals is far from typical on the Cliff Walk. After calisthenics we enjoyed a brisk, single file walk along the Cliff Walk. The mood was lightening up some. The sun was now out and we could finally really see each other.
From the Cliff Walk our next mission involved getting to Fort Adams where some logs were waiting for us for log PT. We formed into three lines and then each line got a log. Everyone had to get on the same side so we could do log presses while switching shoulders. We also had a competition to see which line could hold their log up the longest. My log lost so we had to do extra log presses. This was the one time we were allowed to let our rucks touch the ground. Up until now it couldn’t touch down. Our rucks went on the ground and we were bench pressing our logs and then doing flutterkicks while holding the log up in a press. We got quite close to our logs as we hugged them to do sit ups. When PT was over Garrett found the largest log for us to carry. This was not an easy or pretty process. Rather it was very slow going. Eventually Garrett ended the torture and the log was left behind for the next class to bring back. Finally we were headed back to King Park.
Along the way team members were getting “hurt.” Garrett would pick a guy that was a casualty and needed to be carried. At first a few would get together to carry one guy but soon there were too many casualties. Rucks were being passed around so that anyone being carried didn’t have the extra weight of the ruck too. In the end everyone had either a “coupon,” weight, extra bag, or person to carry. Seeing King park again felt amazing. The end was in sight. We went to the far end of the park and got back in the water for one last face in the water push up. We had made it. One Team, One Mission. 12 hours and around 15 miles later Class 271 could now call themselves GORUCK Tough.