I am very happy to report that this weekend I completed the Goruck Challenge in San Diego. Per their website:
Inspired by the most elite training offered to Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets, the GORUCK Challenge is a team event and never a race. Challenge cadre build each class into a team through collective conditions of mental and physical exhaustion. Classes are small, camaraderie is high, smiles are plentiful, and teamwork is paramount.
You and your fellow Challenge takers all wear GORUCK backpacks throughout the Challenge. Yes, your bags will be weighted down with bricks, but if the Challenge were easy you wouldn’t sign up.
There is much I’d like to say about the Challenge, and I will nevertheless refrain. Some things in life are best appreciated when encountered with fresh eyes. Consequently, this review will be intentionally vague at times, so as not to ruin a few of the surprises that the Challenge is known for in case you, reader, ever choose to undertake it. At the same time, everybody should have some idea about what they would be getting themselves into:
(This video is a rendition of when the Challenge was completed in NYC. I did mine in San Diego)
The Challenge delivers what it promises, and more. Now, whether that’s more of a good thing or more of a bad thing is up for each person to decide.
For me it was a very valuable and positive experience. It definitely tested the limits of my physical strength and endurance, and what I found out truly surprised me: that I am much, much tougher than I thought I was. I’ve known myself to be rather mentally resilient and resourceful, thanks to years of Buddhist Meditation and Self Inquiry, but I did not know that I was physically so, at least to the extent that it showed this weekend. This knowledge is quite priceless, and for this alone I am grateful to Jason for his vision that something as insane as the Challenge could be offered to civilians and non-civilians alike so that we can jointly see what we’re capable of, when we put our minds, hearts, bones, joints and muscles to it.
I am therefore very proud of the performance of my team (and my own performance) this weekend. To the point that it swells my heart to think about it. Really proud.
When we were in the middle of the Challenge, I wondered what kept us going. At the time I could not answer that question, but in retrospect, I realized that we had taken to heart that the Challenge is eminently about teamwork, that we had understood that when we each worked extra hard, this helped our teammates. Speaking for myself, I remember, vividly, towards the end of the Challenge (when we were all, without exception, exhausted, hungry and thirsty), having a thought like the following:
If I perform another Fireman’s Carry, or carry one of the Coupons for a little longer, that means one of my teammates does not have to do it. And so I’m going to commit to it, for this one more block, and then re-evaluate.
This way of thinking was hugely important in helping me break the laws of conservation of energy and manufacture stamina out of thin air. I am certain that, had I instead focused on my own survival during the Challenge, I would have burned out really early on. It is a bit paradoxical, but this is known to be the secret to successful teamwork everywhere:
Almost all the men who survived [Seal Training] possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the “fist” of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.
-Eric Greitens, in The Seal Sensibility
It is a lesson that, if understood well, can change the world many times over. It is reverberating in me like the ripples created by the dropping of a pebble on a still lake.
And so now it’s been 36 hours since the completion of the challenge, and every muscle in my body hurts: the soles of my feet, my calfs, my quads, my shoulders, my glutes. (Yes, those, too). And my body is decorated with bruises and cuts in a number of public and private places. And it all feels good, good, good, as all that is evidence of the vibrancy of life inside of this body that carries me around and serves me so well. It feels very good to see it put to full use.
And so the question arises as to how to best care and tender to that body in preparation for the Challenge. This is an important and lengthy topic about which I will blog in a subsequent post.
All the best to you!