Halloween weekend in New Orleans and everyone was ready to party. My coworkers were all finalizing their costumes and talking about different parties and bars they would be hitting up over the weekend to celebrate a holiday that easily rivals Christmas here in New Orleans. The French Quarter would be the main focal point of the costumed craziness to ensue and I wasn’t going to miss it. I decided to wear a costume this year as well but I would not be enjoying the same type of celebration. This year I decided to celebrate Halloween weekend with a rucksack filled with bricks, water, and food. As most of you know, I decided to take on a GoRuck Challenge this Halloween weekend. It was a crazy night for sure but one that will live with me forever and just may be a point in my life when I finally decided to take control of my future.
I started my journey to becoming a better, stronger version of myself back in January with the Tough Mudder challenge in January 2012 in mind as my goal. Although the Tough Mudder is still my goal, I think after completing the GoRuck challenge the Tough Mudder should be a walk in the park. I know a lot of you have asked to hear all about my GoRuck experience and I will certainly give you a good bit of the story but some things will stay with me and class 079 as they should.
I had a few expectations going into the GoRuck Challenge but for the most part I had no idea what I was in for. I saw a quote somewhere from a GoRuck Cadre that states “if I have to explain what the GoRuck is you won’t understand it”. If you want to learn more about it, click here. Leading up to the GoRuck challenge, my class, 079, started to converse a little on facebook to get to know each other as much as possible before we started this journey together. We decided to get together the evening before for a ruckoff where we could meet up and discuss our expectations for the challenge. The ruckoff was a good chance to get to know each other and bounce ideas off of each other. It’s also an opportunity, if you’ve never done anything like this before, to realize these fellow classmates are just normal looking people and not a bunch of juiced up looking bodybuilders.
As I was getting all of my gear together the day of the GoRuck, the butterflies in my stomach began to swirl. I think it was mostly excitement with a little bit of nervousness of the unknown mixed in. The temperature was expected to dip into the mid 40’s with a decent wind so I decided to wear an Under Armour cold gear long sleeve shirt and shorts. I picked up some Mechanix gloves, a Nike running cap, and some running socks that wick moisture away. I figured we would be moving around enough that I would stay pretty warm. I was pleased with my choice of clothing as I only felt cold for a brief period of time and that was only because of an unexpected stop. Let’s just say this stop was several hours in and someone was getting a little hungry and thought it a good idea to stop for coffee while we stood in the parking lot with our rucks on our heads. Good livin’!
For food, I decided to go with several packs of GU and Roctane, a Clif Builder bar, a pack of Clif Shot Roks, and a pack of Chomps. For water, I decided to mix Cytomax into my 3L Source hydration bladder and I brought along 2 additional bags of Cytomax to mix in when we stopped to resupply. I ended up only drinking about 4 liters of water all night and never used the additional Cytomax. Instead I just topped off my bladder with water when we made a resupply stop. I had brought additional food too because I didn’t want to run out but I ate a lot less than I had expected. I think we got really lucky with the weather as it was almost perfect for this type of event.
We all met up in Jackson Square, which for those not familiar with New Orleans, is basically the gateway into the French Quarter and the site of the St. Louis Cathedral. This is where we met Cadre Lou and Brian (Lou’s assistant and a trained paramedic). After completing paperwork and handing out rucks, we jumped right in with some pushups for a warm up. At this point Lou picked out our first team leader of the night, Neal. Lou took Neal aside and a few moments later Neal informed us that we had 5 minutes to pick up and move our new best friend, the “peace” log, off the rocky shore of the Mississippi River and get it up the steps and across the street to Jackson Square. I will refer to our log as the “peace” log throughout as we never came up with a name for it but someone had spray painted the word “peace” right in the middle of the log. When I first saw the log I really didn’t think it looked that big. However, once we started to move it I immediately realized it was going to be a long night.
After we moved the “peace” log into Jackson Square we were told we would be practicing certain exercises which would all come in to play throughout the night. These included pushups, bear walks, crab walks, buddy carry, inch worm, and Indian sprints. Before we started our practice, we were paired up with our battle buddy for the night. I really didn’t know what to expect from my battle buddy, Ilya, but he certainly looked like he was capable of handling everything we were about to go through. Practice went well with the exception of the inch worm in which we tried several times but were unable to get everyone in the air long enough to take a step. While doing the inch worm I also realized how much this night would be about disregarding certain sanitary concerns such as laying face first on the ground in Jackson Square while being sober.
By the time we reached the Indian sprints I really didn’t know how long physically I could keep up but there was no way I was going to let my team down. I knew mentally I would never quit as I’ve been through enough shit to know you just have to keep moving to reach the end. However, I was beginning to wonder if I was prepared enough physically. Luckily, my head and heart took over and I never again considered failing physically.
While we were practicing our exercises we were being heckled and cheered by drunken partygoers. We were instructed to answer any questions of what we were doing by screaming as a team, GORUCK! This was a pretty effective team building maneuver as we were bombarded by the French Quarter drunks, all dressed in costume mind you, with questions of what the hell we were doing. The GoRuck yell seemed to really get us fired up and ready to go. About this time is when Lou decided to let us know we would be heckled and harassed by many drunk people throughout the night. However, we were told to keep calm and he would either defuse the situation, get us out of the situation as quickly as possible, and if all else failed he would take care of it. I think at this point I smiled internally and thought these drunks have no idea what they would be up against with Lou (I’m glad he’s on our side).
We posed for a quick class picture with our “peace” log before we were told we would be toting our log around the French Quarter. As you can imagine the French Quarter was pretty crowded with drunken costumed partygoers. The “peace” log weighed at least 1,000 pounds and we really had no idea how to properly carry the log, especially while dodging cars and people. All I remember over the first few hours of log pt is being crushed under the log as we struggled to keep it on our shoulders. Luckily for me and a few others at the front of the log, the 5 women in our class volunteered to carry our rucks while we struggled with the log. A big thank you to Juliet who carried my ruck and always seemed to be waiting for me with my water any time we stopped for a break.
After several hours of toting the log around we decided to stash it while we made a resupply run. After finding several closed stores and a suggestion by me to throw one of our many bricks through a CVS window, we finally found an open store for water and snacks. I don’t know that this resupply run could have come at a better time for me. My shoulders were aching and I knew they were cut up pretty good as well as bruised. That log was crushing me physically but there was no way I would let it take my spirit.
After our resupply break we headed back toward the log. Once we returned to the log I was happy to hear we would be leaving the log for a while as Lou and Brian had found us some good coupons. Coupons are items found along the way to be carried for however long the cadre sees fit. The coupons consisted of a plywood box that was large enough for 4 of us to carry, multiple cinder blocks, and a nice surprise I found out about a little later.
We headed up Burgundy towards Esplanade on our way to City Park. I started out by helping carry the box but rotated out about halfway to Esplanade and asked if I could carry a cinder block for anyone. This is when I was greeted with a surprise. I was handed a large piece of concrete that was not smooth at all and instead had gravel sticking out all along it. That damn piece of concrete must have weighed a good 40 pounds. I certainly wasn’t going to drop it nor pass it off for someone else to bear so I held on tight and embraced the suck!
Over the next few hours we swapped up from running along Esplanade with our coupons, constantly switching out who was on the box and who was carrying the cinder blocks, to lunging with our coupons. In unison of course because lunging with coupons down Esplanade Ave. at around 4 am should look pretty after all. Once we reached City Park we posed with our coupons for a few more class pictures. What happened over the next couple of hours will stay between me and class 079 but let’s just say class 079 did not have any ninjas on our team.
The next few hours were spent returning to our “peace” log so we could meet up with Bob. I didn’t know who Bob was either until after the challenge at breakfast. This is another tidbit that will stay between me and class 079. The trek back down Esplanade Ave. was pretty quiet while we were moving with a few eventful stops that again will stay with me and class 079. Something involving coffee, donuts, jokes, and indecent exposure may or may not have taken place.
Once we returned to our friendly “peace” log the sun had already started to rise. We picked up our log and began the journey to see Bob. Of course we had to make a detour down Bourbon Street along the way. To those of you who have never seen Bourbon Street in the morning, it is what Lou called a biohazard. We dodged street sweepers, garbage trucks, and a few left over partygoers on our way to rendezvous with Bob. The last few blocks seemed like an eternity and then suddenly ended with us abandoning our log in a nice quiet parking lot as we were told by a park attendant that our “peace” log could not be returned to the river from whence it came. I think Lou was a little disappointed at this point as I think he was looking forward to seeing us do a little water pt in the Mississippi river.
We finished up by going for a light run along the river to stretch out before we found out we would be bear crawling and belly crawling through sprinklers in Woldenberg Park by the Aquarium. This crawl was about 50 yards and that water was invigorating to say the least. Or as one of my teammates, Miami, pointed out, “I can’t crawl any faster my nuts are cold!” During the crawl one of our teammates had his back lock up. I volunteered to carry his ruck to the end. It was after this when Lou told us we had one last task to complete and that since this was GoRuck we would finish strong. This meant that we would be buddy carrying everyone from Woldenberg Park back to Jackson Square. We were allowed to carry anyone we wanted and to switch up so everyone could embrace the suck. About this time, one of our female classmates declared that we should “pass the women around”. As you can imagine, this brought a nice hearty cheer through the rest of the team.
Ilya and I decided we had stuck together all night we might as well finish strong by carrying each other. At this point I realized it might not have been a good idea for me to grab our fallen teammates ruck. Oh well, embrace the suck! Ilya and I took turns carrying each other with him carrying me at least 90 – 95% of the way. I estimated that the weight with the extra ruck and everything to be carried was about 300 pounds. I did what I could but Ilya certainly took over and got us both to the end. I can’t say enough about my battle buddy as he was always there to step up and help out all night as all of our team did. The guy is a beast and certainly inspired me to do more than what I thought I was capable of handling. I told you before Ilya and I’ll say it again. I’d ruck with you anywhere buddy!
After about 11 hours and probably close to 15 miles, the GoRuck challenge had come to an end. Class 079 was an incredible team and I thought we all worked well together almost from the start. There were no fights and very few arguments throughout the challenge. I would certainly do another GoRuck Challenge in the future and as of me writing this there is already talk of an anniversary challenge for class 079 next year. I met some good people and had a great time. I highly recommend to anyone to at least check out what it is all about. It certainly is not for everyone but well worth it if you think you can handle it. It certainly is, Good Livin’!
Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!
GoRuck supports the Green Beret Foundation and a portion of all GoRuck Challenge fees are donated to the Green Beret Foundation. The Green Beret Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c) 3 foundation that provides financial resources, immediate need supplies, caregiver assistance, and educational scholarships to wounded or ill Army Special Forces warriors and their families. If you would like to donate to or learn more about the Green Beret Foundation please click on the GBF logo below.
*All photos taken by Ginger Zenczak unless otherwise credited.