Individual Backblasts from a few of the GrowRuck 15 PAX. For those of you that don’t ruck, still read these. It’s more than rucking. And I’d encourage anyone to challenge themselves to do something like this one day. It was an amazing experience.
Doughboy: Why I GrowRuck
There is a lot behind the word, “work.” The Oxford definition is, “an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” Work is an activity, but there are other uses of the same word. What do we say when a plan or method of doing something was successful? We say that the plan worked. In that context what is the opposite of worked? Failed. Combining these uses, one could loosely argue that work is mental or physical efforts that produce something successful. What motivates me to work may not be the same thing that motivates you to work, but we typically want the same positive results from work. It would be hard to argue that the sad-clown sitting on his couch day in and day out doesn’t want the same results as the man that is out exercising every day. Neither want to fail, but what caused the exercising man to get out of his comfort zone and do work? He first had to introduce a disruption in his life, to get out of the status quo. But, now that he has disrupted his status quo and is producing positive results, can he still end up in a new status quo? F3 is designed to disrupt our sad-clown status quo in order to produce positive results.
What results do we expect from our work at F3? Physical fitness is part of it, but what about male bonding and growth in leadership? There are numerous reasons why having male friends produces positive results in each of us; motivation, accountability, like minded friendship to name a few. Politically correct or not, God created man and placed him in in a role of leadership. Men learn leadership from other men, “iron sharpens iron.” To grow in our fitness, we must disrupt our status quo, but to grow in leadership I would argue the same disruption is necessary. Opportunities for disruption come all the time. GrowRuck is one of those disruptions that would allow you to not only test your physical and mental fitness but test your leadership skills as well. GORUCK events are designed as team building, physical and mental events. GrowRuck combines the best of F3 (Leadership) and GORUCK (Physical and Mental) disruptions.
I chose to disrupt my status quo and begin training for GrowRuck back in the Spring. What motivated me to do this? It was the loyalty (one might call it love) I have to my F3 brothers. I have completed this event before and it was awful, but at the same time it was a beautiful time. I came out of my first GrowRuck experience with male friends that I can walk up to, hug and feel no awkwardness because of our experience together in that event. There is some kind of bond that is formed in these events, and it is strong. With encouragement from me and others in our group, some of our own PAX were signing up for this event and I wasn’t about to let them go all alone without my full support, which meant I must gladly sign up too. So, the disruption begins with wearing a 30lb ruck at bootcamp workouts, rucking crazy long distances, or carrying heavy things nicknamed “seal sack,” and I wonder why so many thinks that rucking is scary or weird. 94 men from around the state and surrounding areas think the same way and a vast majority of them were at their first event. Saturday, August 24 at 1800 hours, nervous excitement was abounding as we all lined up in formation for roll-call and the beginning of an adventure with F3 brothers. Yada, yada, yada, we finished 14 hours later.
Back on a cold night in November 2016, down in Jacksonville Beach, I set out on Growruck Tough 01 with 3 Pax from Savannah and 27 other F3 men from all over. At this time, I had only completed a GoRuck Light and had a rough idea of what to expect…so I thought. Roughly 26 miles and 15ish hours later, when we finished, I decided then and there that this was a “one and done” thing for me. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. Cadre Jason McCarthy asked the question, “How many of you are telling yourselves the lie that ‘I’ll never do another one of these as long as I live?’” I quickly raised my hand.
Since then I’ve done 2 more Toughs and another Light. The question I am often asked (and during an event we are told to ask ourselves) is “Why? Why put yourself through that kind of stress and pain?” Frankly I don’t have an insightful answer. If I’m being completely honest, I’d say that it’s partly a selfish pride thing…just to see if I can. But mainly the reason I did Growruck Tough 15 is because my brothers were there. I introduced my best friend to F3 about a year ago and he has since been able to get an AO going in Macon. I had told him about these F3 Growruck events and, like everyone else, he looked at me like I was crazy but after several months of F3 bootcamps he decided that he wanted to do one…so I agreed to do it with him. I think Doughboy found himself in a similar situation after selling some Pooler guys on Growruck. So off we went to Growruck 15. Leading up to the event I was extremely nervous because I had been unable to do much of any training due to having Plantar Fasciitis in both feet. The last time I had a 30lb plate in my rucksack was 2 years ago. It was going to suck but I figured I could endure just about anything for 12 to 14 hrs…right? So that was my genius plan…suck it up and through sheer willpower, mettle and meanness I would just tough it out…not a good plan.
The morning of the event we met for a regular F3 bootcamp workout which was awesome. We had well over 100 men show up and it was great to see some familiar faces. After a considerable beatdown we gathered together in the sanctuary of the church whose property we were on and had several F3 men stand up and talk about the qualities of a great leader. It was very inspiring to hear some of their stories and to be encouraged by them. This is not your typical rah rah session that tells you that there is a leader “inside” you. This is a much more honest approach that says you can and should all be leaders…once you learn how.
At 6pm we gathered and had roll call. We hadn’t been there 15 mins and I experienced my first trial…my tachycardia started acting up. Tachycardia is a condition that causes your heart to spasm and beat at 2 to 3 times its normal rate. I’ve had it since childhood and it rarely acts up. It’s not life threatening but it is extremely uncomfortable. It makes you nauseated and very light headed and you are completely exhausted once it finally slows down. I couldn’t believe it. I had come all this way only to crap out at roll call. There I was, lying on my back, feet elevated in front of 97 men and I was praying for God to slow my heart down. I was embarrassed to say the least, but even more, I felt the disappointment that I might let my brothers down. I didn’t want them going through what I knew they were about to experience without me. It took about 30 mins to get my heart to slow down and once it did I felt like I had been donkey kicked but I was able to finish up the welcome party and step off with the group.
Through the night we went through several training exercises which were designed to push each man to his uttermost limit…then push some more. I remember the exact moment that the ‘you can’t do it’ demons creeped into my head. I’m guessing it was about 2 or 3am. We had already traveled several miles under heavy load and had been dunked in the cold Chattahoochee River. We were then faced with an individual PT test. The test required each man to complete 100 burpees, run 1 mile down a boardwalk, do 50 more burpees and run another mile. All of this had to be done in under 32 mins. If every man did not make the time hack…all would be punished. Until now I had never done more than about 15 burpees in a row and all I could think is there’s no freakin’ way I can do this…but I also couldn’t quit. So…not a lot of options. I had to get out of my head and just force my body to do it. I told myself to just do them one at a time. Burpee, breathe, burpee, breathe… It felt like an eternity. People were returning from their final run while I was still doing burpees and I still had another mile to go. Needless to say, there were many who did not complete the test it in the allotted time. After getting back from my final mile and having completed what seemed like an insurmountable number of burpees, I learned our fate. The punishment?…every man had to do 50 more burpees and another mile. If everyone completed this punishment round in under 20 mins, we were done…otherwise, more punishment for the entire group. I know that the test is designed with this in mind but there is something so incredibly demoralizing about giving all you have on the PT test…only to be rewarded with having to do more. It absolutely sucks the life out of you. At that point I was fully possessed and had pretty much completely given myself over to the ‘you can’t do it’ demons. All I could do is start the punishment round and pray for mercy when I failed a second time. I threw myself on the ground and barely managed to knock out 50 more of the ugliest burpees you’ve ever seen and then started out on my mile. Once again, others were finishing their mile before I had even started mine. It was here that my mind really started going to a dark place. I was finding that no matter how willing my mind was, my body had limits that I simply could not overcome. My ‘zero training’ plan started to rear its ugly head. As I ran, my lungs were on fire and I had already come close to vomiting. My chest still hurt from the previous Tachycardia attacks I had experienced that night. Then out of the darkness on that boardwalk my Macon brothers came out of nowhere and met me. They had been looking for me and were running their punishment mile a second time…just to help me through it. I had a brother at my 12, my 6 and by my side the whole way. It was a literal Shieldlock. When I had to stop to catch a breath, they were there, hand on my shoulder telling me I could do it, not to give up. I had no idea where I was on time but somehow that no longer mattered. That weight had been lifted. I knew that if I made it, it was because my brothers were there to get me through…and if I failed, they’d be there for that too. Knowing that gave me strength that I never knew I had. It was incredibly powerful. They set the pace for me and I finished in just over 15 mins. Success…not on my own…but through the self-sacrificing love and leadership of my brothers. A short while later, as I was lying on the ground at the finish line trying to catch my breath, the last man was literally carried in by other men.
Earlier that day in “GrowSchool” we talked about how leadership is a learned skill…not something you simply muster up. A good leader becomes so from practice and allowing one’s self to fail and learning from those failures. One saying that resonated with me is “If you find yourself falling…dive.” In other words…embrace the failure, try to minimize it and learn from it. Turn it into something positive. The rest of the night was met with various trials, difficulties and failures that taxed not only the body but the spirit as well. The beauty of the Growruck is that it is a condensed and very tangible representation of how all those failures ultimately come together to form one big success.
I won’t go into any more of the details but suffice it to say, there was more than one time that night that I thought I may not be able to finish…not because I wanted to give up, but because my body was dehydrated and had started to shut down. I was asked to write this Back Blast and share my experience as a way of encouraging our other Savannah Pax to consider doing a Growruck in the future. Fact is, I’m not sure there is anything I can say that will even come close to explaining the sense of satisfaction of participating in and completing one of these events. All I can say is, short of going to war and fighting in a battle together, I can’t think of another opportunity for a middle-aged man to test himself by putting himself in difficult situations, learning how great leaders act in times of high stress and fatigue and forming life long bonds with some of the finest, like-minded men you would ever want to meet. It will make you a better boss, a better husband, a better father…a better man in general.
A mild 80 degrees at the start of the evening, that took a nose dive to the mid 60’s around midnight. This soon felt like the mid 40’s after a carefully organized dip in the hooch.
F3 WELCOME & DISCLAIMER:
To start the disclaimer was real and each PAX signed a digital copy prior to the kickoff. This kickoff is elegantly named the ‘Welcome Party’ and is actually anything but a party. The process started with a rummage through our gear, an annoying inventory of sorts. This isn’t a terrible experience unless you forgot something in your car, much like some of our friends. One lucky platoon got to hold a plank while waiting for someone to retrieve their forgotten gem (10 mins of plank looks like it sucks). Afterwards the ‘Welcome Party’ continued for approximately an hour and half and involved a series of light warmup exercises, for example, buddy caries, merkins, sun gods til death, flutter kicks while holding your ruck overhead and doing WWIIs (yeah sounds impossible, it kinda is), and burpees. Like I said these were just warm ups and almost forgettable.
With the pax formed up into three separate platoons, coupons were collected and the ruck began. After several miles of rucking and the loss of strap privileges the Chattahoochee River was reached. This was a relief as everyone was ready to relax riverside with a cold drink. Unfortunately, this message wasn’t delivered to the Cadre in time. Each platoon instead rotated through a series of stations that involved practicing military drill procedures, forming platoons for PT and Navy Seal training. This was however not as boring as you would think, each station allowed the opportunity for the Cadre to teach the pax very interesting life skills, like; doing the exercise in unison allows for them to not be repeated, GORUCK backpacks are not waterproof, and the art of calling cadence is apparently very hard to master. Before we were on the move again, the Cadre taught us how to make ‘Contact’ formations. This came in very handy as through the evening several pax were pronounced ‘incapacitated’ and required cover then carry over great distance. And just when we thought we were making crappy time and doing the buddy carry operation incorrect, we were informed as such and stopped for remedial training. This remedial training took place going uphill and was reinforced for several miles. We were lucky because not too long after making it to top of the Roswell Mountain we were able to stop to test our physical prowess (as if it was ever questioned) with the JC Sunrise PT Test. 100 Burpees, Run 1 Mile, 50 Burpees, and Run 1 Mile, all in 32 mins. We as a team failed this very fair time hack and retested with 50 Burpees and a 1 mile run, which we passed, I think. A short hump up the road brought us to another hill. Us from low country were awestruck as we thought each town was only allowed one. The smiles slowly melted away under the weight of three forty-pound rucks and a coupon, they came back quickly after switching to a buddy carry though (lie). The evening continued through a sequence of smoke sessions and heavy lifting. There were a couple of notable perks, like when we sat our rucks down for the first time around 4 AM in the historical plaza and the sprinklers kicked on soaking everyone. Or when we were carrying the tree and the pax in the front went one direction and the pax in the rear went another. Ah the memories. Overall the physical demands showed us several things, like; you need a team and operating even in daily life without one is too risking, you can accomplish more than you think when you take quitting off the table, and that love is a universal language (Cadre Rule?).
This 6 mins went by really quickly and only involved a couple of merkins and squats under ruck.
COUNT-OFF & NAME-O-RAMA:
94 PAX: Savannah Reps were Octagon, Betty Crocker, Doughboy, Swabbie, Winnie and Red Ryder
CIRCLE OF TRUST:
Prayer – pointed towards the experience and the desire to be better men
Many pax posted and many had personal reasons for doing so. We learned a lot about each other and personal trials. A huge takeaway is that every pax should love and support each other, regardless of time or inconvenience.
No free beer.
Doughboy had set the stage for what a typical GRT is like, so YHC had some expectations going in. They were all met and exceeded … and by exceeded, they were dang hard. Despite our training wearing rucks to bootcamps the past 6 weeks, that event was brutal. But as expected, I learned about myself, found limits that on my own I never would’ve been able to pass, and met a whole bunch of HIMs that are really into this cult called F3.
Welcome Party – 60 minute beatdown with rucks led by 3 cadre. 1 is a former Army Ranger and Special Forces, the other two served in the Marines with time in Forest Recon. We were assigned into our platoons, YHC was Blue Platoon along with Winnie.
Leadership/Life Lesson: Every objective will be hard, but endurance is built starting with the first challenge.
We then rucked 4-6 miles. Darkness set in and we started to lose track of time. We did some routines including full immersion in the chilly Chattahoochee River with rucks on before we were given our PT test. 100 burpees, 1 mile run, 50 burpees, 1 mile run in 32 minutes. We were allowed to drop our rucks for this, but we were not allowed to do extra burpees to offset other PAX. This was 100% a demonstration of your physical fitness. YHC crossed the line about 34 or 35 minutes. Dang! The cadre allowed another attempt, this time with 50 burpees and 1 mile run in 20 minutes. Homeboy from F3 Cherokee noticed I was slow on my burpees, so he finished the 50 with me and then stayed with me on the run. He helped push me at the end, mentally and physically. I crossed in 14 minutes. I wasn’t the six, but man that help and encouragement made a huge difference. For the six, about 60 of the 94 were running with him crossing the finish after the 20 minute deadline. We may have filled the objective as a team, but the way so many were there to pick up the six was awesome. Never let the six do it on his own. #F3Credo
Leadership/Life Lesson: Your limit is well beyond what you think your limit is, especially if you have a team to help you get past it.
After more rucking, we got to the bottom of a large Hill. 7 of our 31 platoon members were injured by a simulated grenade and the remainder 24 had to carry those PAX up the hill along with their gear. This was simply awful. No idea how long it took us, but we were moving in 50-100 yard increments. Adjustments were made to get the right guys carrying the right casualty or equipment. We made it.
Leadership/Life Lesson: The team is only as strong as the weakest link. But you have to get through it as a team.
More rucking, some discussions on the meaning of an event like GrowRuck and F3 as a whole, recognition of our soldiers through history and what they and their families have sacrificed for our freedoms, and another casualty carry. This one was relatively flat, but it was a time hack … 1 mile in 20 minutes carrying 7 PAX. Oh, and it was raining.
Our total distance was about 15.5 miles, 12.5 with the ruck on. My shoulders seized a couple of times in the middle of the night. My left foot got a blister in the first half of the evening. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Glad I got through it, but even more glad that I did this with my F3 brothers. Can’t think of anyone I’d rather go through the suck with.
Leadership/Life Lesson: Life isn’t easy, and it’s not supposed to be. When it sucks is when you find out who you truly are, what you truly are capable of, and who your true friends are that will be there with you.