My buddy, Dan, wrote me and a few other guys several weeks ago.
"Hey - there's this fitness challenge event called 'GoRuck' coming up. I'm thinking of just signing up for the 'Light' one, which looks like a good time. I couldn't think of a better & more fun group of people to do it with than you guys. Whaddyasay?"
I'm not a big one on the 'sporty' stuff. I occasionally work out (not as often as I should), and when I do, it's usually just a two mile run. 'Run' being a very generous word for my shuffling-yet-somehow-heavy-plod of a gait. And the whole time I do it, I hate it. I don't even enjoy that afterglow of self-justification that comes with running. Because it's hard to feel afterglow when you're trying not to vomit up a lung. There's no "I ran, so I can eat nachos!" for me. I figured out a long time ago that I don't have to run to eat nachos. If I want nachos, I just order the damn nachos. I'm a grown man. I can do that. No, I run just because I feel like I have to do something to get off my butt, and as much as I hate running, I've never found another physical activity that I can motivate myself to do with even irregular consistency. I run two miles because I figure, if you can catch me after two miles, then here. Have my wallet. It's not worth it.
"It's addicting!" my friends tell me. Liars. It's not addicting. Unless you're addicted to shin-splints. And if you are, then you need help. But I'm pretty sure I could quit this shit anytime. Cold turkey. No problem.
We had a friend in California who ran marathons or some crap like that, and she was always telling us about how her toenails were turning black and falling off. She'd say it with a kind of gleeful mania in her voice and a zoned out meth-addict look in her eye. And then she'd talk about her new shoes she had to buy ever six weeks or something. Do you not see a problem here? We need to talk about interventions.
Occasionally, though, I have a momentary lapse in judgement, and I sign up for something stupid. Like the Warrior Dash. Or the GoRuck. I have a chink in the armor covering my soft white underbelly, and it is events with catchy names and a promise of beer at the end.
I signed up. The other neighbors all found convenient, flimsy excuses to skip it. "Gee... wish I could, but I'm going to France," or "I just had knee replacement surgery, and I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea."
Damn I wish I had thought of that last one.
Dan and I got together to train a couple of times. "You used to do this in the Army, right, Ken?"
Yes. Back before I was forty.
This is my team. We met at the Boston Common this past Saturday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day. Our cadre leader, Mike, was a lovely fellow who had served multiple stints overseas as a Marine Recon Sniper and then an Air Force Combat Controller. Mike spoke very softly. And scared the shit out of us.
"Drop your rucks and go get wet," he said.
We all dropped our rucks and ran into the wading pond at the bottom of the hill. We ran back up, dripping.
"Not all of you are completely wet. Again."
We had an hour plus 'Welcome party' afterwards. "Welcome" means pushups, and burpees, and a horrible combination of exercises called 'the Body Builder' which made me question my choice of cold sausage pizza for breakfast. We had to do them all in sync. If we got out of sync, the count started over at 0, and we began again. I turned around and glared at Dan. He grinned back at me. Dan is a sadist.
When we got on the move, we shouldered our rucks. My ruck weighed about 35 lbs or so, filled with duct-taped bricks and 2 liters of water. ("Do not let your rucks touch the ground. If your ruck touches the ground, that is an infraction"). We had an additional team weight of 15 lbs that rotated around the group. ("Do not let your team weight touch the ground. If your team weight touches the ground, that is an infraction"). We had a group weight that consisted of carrybags filled with sand, connected together into a 6 foot long, 200lb 'body bag'. ("Do not let the group weight touch the ground. If your group weight touches the ground, that will become an infraction.") We had a team leader carrying a flag ("Do not let that flag touch the ground. If the flag touches the ground, infraction doesn't begin to cover what I will do to you.")
And we hiked. Through the city of Boston, shouldering our gear, making pedestrians and cars alike turn and gawk. Every couple of hours, we'd pause and do more group PT. While we hiked, Cadre Mike would get creative and find fun things to fill our time.
"This is a toll bridge. You must do lunges across the bridge, in sync, carrying all the weights. Do not get out of step. If you get out of step, you will have to go back and start over again."
We got out of step.
Ironically, I don't mind schlepping heavy weights around. I do this all the time at home - carrying fifty pound bags of feed around, or tossing scrappy piglets into pens. That part of the challenge really wasn't a big deal for me. I could, and do, hike for miles for fun.
The really challenging parts for me were those occasional stops.
We found a lovely spot along the river to stop and secure our gear. ('Secure' is military speak for "put your crap down." Surprisingly, out of our class of 19, I was one of the only two military veterans. Probably because if you've been in the military, you are supposed to know better than to willingly pay someone to make you do a multi-hour ruck march, carrying a bunch of heavy shit. I am a slow learner. But I was able to help by translating the occasional jargon during the ruckmarch)
"Do 10 mountain climbers; Get up; Sprint down to the other side of this field. Do 10 mountain climbers. Sprint back. Go."
We did it.
"Good! Your time was 1 minute, 23 seconds. That is now your time to beat. Do it again."
We didn't beat our time.
We did it again.
"Good! You ran that in 1 minute 15 seconds. That is your new time to beat. Do it again."
I now remember what I don't miss about the Army.
But I'll be damned if we didn't beat that time.
Suck it, 40.
In the end, the challenge lasted just at 6 hours. I think we covered a bit more than 12 miles. We sort of forgot to measure. And when we made it back to the Common, we were jogging the flag in, doing indian runs as a group, and talking about who was going to buy the first round of beer.
Dan and I were probably the two oldest guys on the challenge in our team. And the next day, I felt like I had received a prison-yard beating, despite the family sized bottle of horse motrin I had scarfed before crawling into a horizontal position.
And hell yes, I'm going to do it again.