“Post mortem” translates roughly to “after death”. Well I am not dead, but I am bruised, hoarse, cut up and pretty epic-ally sore. Goruck once again wreaked its havoc and I am left with some new friends, great memories and possibly some fatal bacterial infections as-yet undetected. I shall sum it up by saying “Class 240 was a different kind of experience from 057″.
The team: Class 240 was made up primarily of veterans, I don’t know exactly how many but we had I think 26 in the class and I would guess only 6 were first-timers. I thought I was doing well as this was my 2nd challenge but it turned out most of the veterans had 3 and 4 challenges under their belts. This made a difference. We also had Zach, Brienne, Seamus, Evan and Funky from 057, all multi-challenge veterans by now and those guys made me welcome like it was 2011 all over again.
The cadre: Cadre Devin led us and he did a tremendous job. Devin is the “Bringer of Storms, Crusher of Skulls and Inventor of Games” and he lived up to expectations. A bit about Devin from the Goruck website:
“DevinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pushing his nine-year mark in the Army, the last six of which he spent as a Green Beret. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s enjoyed four fun-filled tours through IraqÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s enchanting accommodations, and a number of stopovers throughout Africa, and now keeps up on his SF trade through the National Guard. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s now living in Washington D.C., working on his masterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in International Security so as to help him better hunt down the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s less-than-desirable people. (And stopping by HQ to raid the fridge whenever possible.)”
We were pushed when we needed to be and all the while he was looking out for folks, making sure we were battered but not broken. At various parts of the night Devin related what 9/11 meant to him, his experiences in the military and what the challenge means. This was another dimension to this unique experience which I did not anticipate. Happy Birthday Devin!
The experience: What happens at the GRC stays at the GRC so I won’t reveal too much but here are some highlights.
We started out as one huge team, all classes and cadre together for PT (physical training). I got super woozy last year as Evan Lotzoff loves to remind me so I was weary of this. But this was not Lou Lepsch’s PT. The PT he introduced with “we’re going to warm up so none of you pull a hammy”.
No, this was hard-core in-your-face smoke-your-ass PT.
If you’ve ever seen “Surviving the Cut” on Discovery Channel it was a bit like that except much much shorter. Led by Beaux, Chris, Devin we were pushed hard. Pushups, static squats with the pack over our heads, flutter kicks, more pushups, bear crawls and the dreaded inch-worm pushups. At this point I’d encourage you to watch this video (harsh language advisory).
Welcome back! If you’re still with us you’re probably cowering in the corner. It’s ok. Come on out. The bad man is gone now. He can’t get you through the computer screen.
If you’ve never done an inch-worm pushup this is where you line up with your buddies, get in the pushup position and the person in front of you puts their feet on your shoulders. You do likewise with your feet on the person behind you. And you keep your pack on. This means you end up pushing a lot more weight. How much doesn’t really matter. It’s enough to make you weep openly and call out for your wooby. We tried a few reps with everyone which didn’t go well, and then set off on an almighty long bear crawl loop.
By this time my rotator cuffs were the consistency of jello when you chew it up and squeeze it through your teeth. We fell back in rank.
Beaux sounded off he wanted 3 “good ones”. That’s all. Just 3 “good ones”.
I thought “this is it”. “This is how it ends for me”. If I haven’t mentioned it, by this time I was really smoked. More smoked than I’ve been in my life. Ever. My arms felt like they were going to explode. I knew there was no way we were doing this. I had mentally already written myself off. I don’t ever want to do that again.
We got in position and incredibly I squeezed out two more with the group. The cadre was satisfied. So far so good. Tried for 3 and things fell apart. I could not get myself off the ground. It was insane. I was done. No. More.
Cadre wanted 1 more.
And now I had what I can only describe as an epiphany. I workout alone usually and when I’m done I know I’m done. Yes I push out reps and max myself out when I can but I’m also careful of injury and I know when I have nothing left in the tank.
By now I was beyond done.
We had completed probably 40 minutes of hard PT with 40lbs packs on our back and it was already pushing 3AM. The cadre rang out the call for one more and incredibly, to my complete amazement, the stars aligned and I pushed out the last rep. I was actually legitimately amazed. Still not quite sure what happened. This moment made the whole night worth it.
Once PT was over we broke up into our respective teams and set off running. We were team #240. The next few hours were filled with running, time hacks, buddy carries, water fountains (shout out to Kimmie who almost broke her nose on the West Side highway), elevated pushups, flutter kicks and other assorted “fun”. We visited Ground Zero in the dead of night and I will never forget laying on my back staring straight up at Freedom Tower, the clouds rolling passed kissing the top of the tower as we cranked out flutter kicks next to the Subway station.
We headed up the West Side, across 14th street and hit the Brooklyn Bridge just as the sun was coming up, crossed halfway and broke for some photos and re-hydration. Then on to the beach in Brooklyn. There are some amazing photos of team 240 in the East River which actually felt great. I love September temperatures in New York.
After pushups in the East River we picked up our log, which I thought was a very reasonable size compared to 057’s insane behemoth and off to the Manhattan Bridge and into China Town. We time-hacked the log-carry across the bridge and missed our cut-off by only a minute. That earned us 30 burpees.
We headed up the FDR drive, found our 2nd big log-thing and took that with us. Then, why not? we filled a milk crate (which we found) with rocks (which we found) and took that with us. It had started to rain what I thought was a heavy shower. Felt good.
We found a spot on the way to the Williamsburg Bridge and cranked out 30 burpees. By now the weather had turned ugly. We were caught doing burpees in a torrential downpour which lasted about 40minutes. I later learned that 2 tornadoes had touched down in New York at about this time. Link. One in Brooklyn, the other in Queens. Good times.
The rain cleared and we low-crawled it up a stinking dirty hill in the East River Park near the Amphitheater. More epic pics. After pulling out the various hypodermic needles we’d collected along the route we rinsed off in a puddle and played the inaugural game of “Goruck Buddy-Carry Kick Ball”. This is like traditional kick-ball except the cadre pitches, the kicker kicks and the runner must buddy-carry a team mate from base to base whilst the rest of the batting team does flutter kicks. It was a tonne of fun.
After bear-crawling around the bases we headed out completely sated and exhausted. One more buddy carry towards Ground Zero and we were done. We lost a team mate along the way (he voluntarily quit on the Brooklyn Bridge) so I ended up carrying an extra ruck, our team weight, “Gustav” the slush pipe and our flags into the finish line. Good times. The 2012 GRC was over and it never felt so good.
Which was better? 057 or 240. Like my children I love them each in different ways for different reasons. 057 was more miles, heavier log, mentally a bit tougher, 240 was a tighter team, physically tougher (for me) and just a hell of a good time with great, great people.
What did we learn?
Like last time I would say the learning will take a few months to sink in. One thing I came away with from the PT was a complete and total respect for the military and special forces. I went through about 1 hour of getting smoked with no consequences, free to fail and walk away unscathed. These guys go through months and months of this stuff and the penalty for dropping the ball is death or the death of their fellow operators. I’m not a fan of war and such (who is?) but I’ve got to say, those people are the true bad-asses.
I must call out a few people: David Kim who beat me out for the last-minute sign up (I signed up the day before the challenge). He was in O’Hara’s bar the night we met up and took the challenge on a dare. Went home, grabbed his pack, came back an hour later, still with his blue button-down dress shirt on and joined our team. And did an amazing job.
Also, our team was made up of a lot of military and ex-military folks, I won’t name names as I’m sure to leave someone out but I was really impressed with how they conducted themselves, no egos, no meat-heads just quiet professionals, pitched in, “got shit done” and treated everyone with equal respect. True class and a great testament to our armed forces.
Huge thanks to Barry Mustaka who shadowed and took amazing pics and video for us all. Having these shots means I can show my kids when they hit their teens and start thinking they’re all that and say “see! your old man was tough, not like you kids today, maaah”, so thank you!
Overall another great time with great people. Goruck! #057 and #240 fo’ life!
And finally the pics (includes some of Barry’s pics also) :