GORUCK: All Girls Challenge/Light/Scavenger 2014

My son asked, "How was your GORUCK?"
Without skipping a beat, my sleep deprived brain was able to sum it up perfectly:
"It was totally miserable and completely awesome."

I really only have lots of mushy things to say about the first All Girls GORUCK event. And that is completely unlike me. I almost cried at the end. Completely unlike me. You see, I'm pretty quiet, love to stay at home, avoid awkward social situations (and for me, most social situations feel awkward), and absolutely thrive under carefully planned events. 

I don't like the unexpected. Ok, I hate it. I don't like not being in control. And I don't like being told what to do, especially when it makes no sense. Basically, all of those things pretty much completely describe a GORUCK.

If you haven't heard, GORUCK, created in 2008 by Jason McCarthy, is a company that exists to give civilians a taste of military life, specifically, Special Operations training. GORUCK not only produces some challenging events, it also sells gear-- everything you need to complete an event and apparel. You can find descriptions of all the events they offer on the GORUCK site. I'm just going to give an event recap of my experience.
Photo Courtesy of Rita Potakh

This first ever All Women's Challenge/ Light/Scavenger was made even more awesome with the addition of a Firearms Day, War Stories and Free Beer, and the opportunity to test for the 500 lb club. I participated in the lifting event, the Challenge and the Light. I had fully planned to do the Scavenger as well, but 2 weeks before the event, our high school football team earned entry into the championship game, which was to take place at the exact start time of the Scavenger.

GORUCK 1000 Pound Club
Photo Courtesy of Rita Potakh
A total of 11 strong women earned their 500 lb. club patches. This means that the ladies lifted a combined total of at least 500 lbs. from the three main lifts: squat, bench, and dead lift. CrossFit Miami Beach was generous enough to open their doors and allow us to take over half their box to lift and be judged by Cadres Aaron and Bert. They ensured lifts were done safely and completely.  

I admit, I was intimidated when I first showed up. This was my first powerlifting event, even though it was all in fun. My first 2 squats were back to back, with just enough rest to add weight. Then one of my fellow lifters suggested that I may want to take a break between lifts. Yeah. Duh. All of the women were so encouraging, helping each other and cheering each other on. These strangers became lifting partners and are forever stored in my memory.

I hadn't planned to go all out and try to get new PRs in my lifts, but by the time my dead lift came around, the adrenaline had fully kicked in. I pulled 285 easily-- my previous max. I stepped away, stating I was done and quickly found Cadre Aaron telling me to put 300 on. He practically demanded that I lift 300-- not in a mean or forceful way-- in an encouraging way that a coach would do. He and Bert both knew I could pull 300, and so I loaded the bar and did it. A new max and a total of 650 lbs lifted. I had no idea I was capable of so much. I told Bert how much it meant to me-- it's been a very long 18 months of very heavy lifting. Showing up 4 times a week to do my main lifts-- even when I didn't feel like it. This event has given me confidence. I am strong. Stronger than I realize.

GORUCK Challenge Class 1270
Photo courtesy of Chris Strasser
The Challenge began promptly at 8pm. We lined up and were given a tiny amount of time to completely strip our carefully, perfectly organized and packed rucks. We may have done this twice-- the events of both the Challenge and Light are a bit fuzzy (I've looked at a few pictures and thought, "When did we do that?"-- I'm going to do my best to recap both events as best as I remember.) IDs and rucks were inspected-- rucks are to have 4 bricks (or the equivalent weight) for people weighing under 150 lbs, 6 bricks for those weighing over 150. We earned 110 burpees for 11 items left out on the grass after repacking the rucks. Burpees were completed as a team with rucks on. They weren't the prettiest burpees I've ever seen, but they were done to the best of our abilities. We were then given a few minutes to organize into 3 teams-- Alpha with 40 members, under the care of Cadres Garrett and Machine; Bravo with Cadres Aaron and Bruce and 40 females; and Charlie with the remainder (56) and Cadres Bert, Surfhog, and Big Daddy.

I chose Charlie. Frankly, although this was my second GRC, I've not been a huge GORUCK fan or follower. I don't often visit the closed Facebook group for those who've done an event. I didn't love my first event-- I was glad I'd done it, but wasn't really interested in doing more. In preparation for this event, I'd seen posts in our Facebook group about Cadre-- who they were, how they work, but I didn't really pay much attention. Sometimes it's just best not to have expectations. I had heard of Big Daddy and Bert-- quite frankly I wanted the biggest challenge and my money was on them to really bring it.
Photo courtesy of Chris Strasser

After dividing into groups, we headed to the beach for all kinds of physical training (PT). I have no idea how long we were there or how much we did in what order. Push ups, squats, flutter kicks, burpees... all 4 count. Countless amounts of getting down to lie on our backs with our rucks on our fronts, only to get immediately back up with rucks on our backs. In the surf, under the water, out of the surf, crawling and rolling in the sand. Buddy carries, low crawls, bear crawls and low crawl buddy carries. Periodically we would stop, and I'd find myself wishing we were doing jumping jacks again so that I could warm up. Yes, despite being in Miami, the ocean breeze and soaked clothing made for chilly conditions. Early in the night, the tips of my fingers began to go numb, my body shook, and my mind flashed back to the early medical screening questions about hypothermia. I'm not sure I can do this. I'm not even 2 hours in and my fingers are numb. How am I going to make it another 10 hours? 
Photo courtesy of Chris Strasser

At some point 2 of our teammates struck a deal with Cadre-- they would dance all night long if Cadre would agree to withhold the burpee penalty we had earned by dropping our precious eggs (Bert apparently enjoys handing out raw eggs to be protected for the the duration of the event). We moved off the beach, but not before loading 5 (?) bags full of sand-- 3 were large duffle bags, which cadre said weighed 500 lbs. each and the other 2 were lighter, maybe 60-80 lbs. Slowly we made our way through the city. Casualties occurred, which meant we had to carry our teammates and their rucks. We were given a fat log to carry after a lost wager... a successful 3 minute dead hang from a pull up bar by any female would have resulted in our freedom from the added weights. And another large log after a teammate's valiant, but failed attempt to eat 2 steaming hot pieces of pizza in 1 minute. We couldn't resist attempting to beat Cadre at their game.

We all shared the burden. We all gave everything we could. Some struggled through injuries and others carried heartbreaks larger than the team weights. But I'm completely confident that each woman gave her all. Even when muscles screamed, bodies ached and fatigue set in. Smiles were abundant most of the time. Laughs were shared. Songs were sung. Dances danced. Memories made.
Photo courtesy of Chris Strasser

Eventually the sun came up. It was nearly as beautiful as all of us sand-covered, hair-matted, soggy-footed women. We continued back to our original starting point, moving much more slowly and stiffly than we had begun. Into the surf again and back out. Up and down. Rucks off and on. We didn't care. At that point, we would've given our lives for each other. And suddenly it was over. The Challenge completed. Patches awarded. See you laters said. 

GORUCK Light Class 535
Photo courtesy of Stephen Gonzales
The unofficial numbers report that 60 who completed the Challenge returned for the light, joined by 21 others. My beast friend, Cindy, had spent the 2 hour's break with me. We had brushed the sand off (in theory, anyway), changed clothes and shoes in our parking garage, grabbed a quick breakfast and returned to the starting point. Although we had separated during the Challenge, I was happy to hear that all women would be part of one enormous team. The light was more... well... lighthearted than the Challenge, at least at first.

"Harvey" Photo courtesy of Stephen Gonzales
After ruck and ID inspections and penalty burpees, we began with a relay race to find and detonate bombs (eggs) on the beach-- after spinning around with empty rucks on our heads serving as blindfolds. The challenge was to listen only to our teammates' directions. My team failed miserably, but we still had fun. I personally think this was all about mind games-- I began to believe we were in for a day of frolicking on the beach without rucks, laughing and having a good time. Those thoughts ended quickly as we were instructed to fill up several 5 gallon buckets with sand and water. We also carried our team weights. And soon we met "Harvey." The 4 or 5 hours we spent walking around Miami Beach were anything but "light."
Photo courtesy of Stephen Gonzales

But once again, every woman gave everything we had. We worked together, laughed together and supported each other. We had the extra special experience of having a young girl, Lily, come out and shadow our Light. Carrying her own ruck, she watched, rucked and even did burpees alongside us. Cadre made the decision to award her a patch, and it was well deserved.

Lily wasn't our only inspiration. I was blessed to finally meet Momma Stump. To say that Momma has endured a hard 2014 is a gross understatement. Earlier this year, she lost her great niece and her 8 year old great, great niece, Kaylynn, to cancer. Cancer reared its ugly head in her own life midway through this year. And in a cruel twist of fate, while undergoing chemo in October, Momma's house burned to the ground. Fighter that she is, she hasn't let any of those challenges stop her. She came, conquering the event with Kaylynn's ruck always on her back.

This series of events, these women are written in my heart. It took me a long time to write this blog, because I'm not ready to close the book on these adventures. This truly was the best event of my life. I learned much about myself and much about the strength of women.

By the way... only 2 dropped from the Challenge (a 98.5% pass rate) and 100% of the class conquered the light. 


  1. Great read! I always walk away from events with somewhat fuzzy memory of all that we did and reading about it now make me happy. Thank you for writing this.


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