GO RUCK Challenge
St. Patrick’s Day weekend
March, 15th-16th , 2013
By Bobby Jackson
This whole ordeal for me began with Hilary Peak. I saw a post that she was getting rid of her registration and I jumped. The transfer of registration was done and was in. I happen to have a friend who trains guys in the National Guard and I asked to borrow his Ruck so I didn’t have to buy one. He dropped it off and it was bigger than the ones I had been seeing. No matter, the night before the challenge I was up late wrapping bricks and getting clothes ready. I had been working long hours that week and didn’t have time to do it earlier. I only got about 2 hours of sleep. Woke up, and brought everything to work. Worked 7 to 5:30 and hit the train from Worcester. 1 hour and 40 minutes later I was in Boston headed to Fire and Ice. Some Spahtens were there; others were resting up at home or heading into the city. I hit the wall as I got into Fire and Ice. With little sleep the heat from the grill was putting me down; I knew I needed to get some food in me because I wouldn’t be having a real meal for the next 12 hours. We were all just hanging around the table as Paul Jones announced that he had to leave due to a family emergency, he got up, wished us luck and was off. We closed the place out at 11; I went to go change into my gear with Sandy and Vince Ree, and Jessica Wohlen. We headed out to meet everyone. I was hoping my gear was going to be enough for the challenge even if we had to hit the water. That was my biggest concern because there had been rumors floating around that we may. Cold out, plus water, and then you get to see just how tough you really are. Here we go.
Some Spahtens were already at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Boston Common and some were having their last few beers before “the suck”. We all got there and BOOM! New England Spahtens group shot!
Once Cadre Lou got our attention he had all of us run down the hill and we quickly learned what getting into rank meant. After an introduction of the Cadres we began with exercises in rank. Pushups, Flutter kicks, Ruck overhead presses with hold for 30 seconds, Caterpillar pushups in your ranks, leg lifts, Elephant walk (thank you Adam Barbrie for the name of that), and I think that was about it. James Johnston and I were switching off with our team weight. Let me tell you, trying to hold a 35 Lb kettle bell off the ground while doing pushups is way harder than you may think. Especially dreading the consequences if you were spotted letting it hit the ground. These guys didn’t seem to be screwing around one bit. I sure as hell was taking it very seriously while alumni’s were cracking beers and swigging Whiskey. Yeah, maybe next time.
1:35am: Leg lifts.
Then my rank and another, (or all of them, I just can’t remember) suddenly had to sprint over to a pavilion by request of Cadre Lou. He immediately asked for four people once we got over to it and made them the beginning of the ranks back over where we all first lined up. I think it was just to get us going, maybe a tactic to confuse some; it’s a little fuzzy at this point, still feel tired today from the challenge. The Spahtens did well sticking together because we had quite a few in our group. At this point Team Bravo of Class 453 was formed. First team leader,.. Steve DellaCroce (or “Shrimp” thanks to our very own Cadre Chris).
We had three team weights of around 35 pounds or so and an American Flag. The flag could NEVER touch the ground, the rest we were told was ok only if our Cadre said so. We began with a little speech where our Cadre referred to us as “weirdo’s”. All strangers to each other, but by the end we would be a team of weirdo’s, or a “family” of weirdo’s if you will. He stated that he would not be yelling at us because his voice was shot. I found some relief in this because I fully expected to be yelled at or hear yelling most of the time. I figured that’s what they do. Next I remember breaking into inchworm pushups around 2:20am. This is in the down position with EVERYONE all up in everyone’s business. “Get up in there” our Cadre ordered us.
We had no idea about the time, no watches were allowed. So the attempt was made for the inchworm pushup but it was a lot harder than you may think. He also asked us to do a caterpillar push up where we walked on our hands in the up position. That didn’t happen either. We got up, went back into rank, and he said a few more things and we picked a navigator. The only thing that really stuck out that he said was that we were about to hike to Fenway Park. So our team leader and navigator lead us towards Commonwealth Ave across the common and through the public gardens. We weren’t allowed to talk because it was so early in the morning and we had to stay an arm’s length away from the person in front of us. We didn’t do either and bodies started dropping. The first dead body happened before we left the public gardens, and of course he picks the biggest guys first. Sweet. I believe Nate Warren was the first to die, but I’m not sure because I did lose some of the order of things. So it was either Patrick Verrico or Nate Warren. Not sure if this was the first dead in the picture, that’s Nate.
We had to pass off the “deads” Ruck sack to someone who wasn’t dead and the people holding the body were supposed to hand their Rucks off to someone who wasn’t helping in the carry either. This got a little messy, especially because we weren’t supposed to be talking, and Cadre Chris didn’t like how slow we were going. So then bodies started to drop, 2, 3, them me. Shit. I became one of the dead. Let me tell you, Patrick and I agreed, being dead sucks. When people started to lose strength and not calling for someone to fill in for them in the carry, they start to pull on your limbs. Carriers were constantly pulling at your shoulders, knees, and wrists but it really was the only way. So every time we rested I could feel everything going back into place from being stretched out while being carried. Embrace the suck as they say…yeah…I was trying to, I swear. So my right shoulder was being pulled on bad. I was looking around at the other dead guys and Team Bravo as is was kind of turning into a shit show as here we were being pushed to go faster and keep quiet. Here’s Patrick Verrico being carried down Comm Ave. with Copie and the team in tow.
Cadre Chris kept saying, “Team leader”! Which meant get the f*#k over here now! Pushing Steve to make shit happen and get us moving quicker because we we’re being timed. He had found a street cone and made Steve hold it on his head just to add to everything.
Finally through Kenmore Square, onto Lansdowne street behind Fenway, took a right around the lot, and we finally stopped at the statues known as the “Teammates”. In tribute to the 86 years the Red Sox hadn’t won a championship we did 86 Ruck pushups. 1, 2, 3….1! Yeah,… that was no fun. Not even sure where the team weights were at this point either. My arms gave out pretty quick. I wish I had thought to train doing pushups with my Ruck on, but I didn’t. Then 86 flutter kicks complete with pausing around the 40 something count while our Cadre spoke of honoring the Red Sox and those 86 years. Then we continued onto the 86th Flutterkick. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, it was time for bathroom breaks. You had to get a battle buddy and go. So in pairs of two’s we started running off like planes launching from a carrier. Scattering to find anywhere to let it fly! Pun intended. Ha! So I went with someone, don’t remember who at this point, ran up the street towards Boylston, rounded the corner only to see about 6 girls with puddles starting to run out from underneath them. I will refrain from name dropping even though I am tempted. They were either leaning against walls or sitting on rails properly placed with giggling and sighs of relief echoing down the alleyway. “Oh what a feeling” I think was a phrase I remember. So I did my business too and we headed back to the statues. Got a team picture around 4:40 am and headed over to a gas station.
We consumed water and ate food rations; one member was having bad back problems due to bad back problems and had to step out. At this point I could feel the cold and see my breath. We got a new team leader, Lisa Klinkenburg. She and a few others went with Cadre Chris and found stacks of cardboard wrapped up for disposal. He had us get four of them and told a story of 3 suicidal bombers that each had a third of a bomb in their Rucks, they ran behind enemy lines to assemble and plant it on a roof top of a terrorist’s home. Then get a few miles away, get drunk on a bottle of Jack Daniels (that came with the bomb parts) and hit the button. So, these were bomb pieces.
We were going to wrap them in duct tape but there was only enough for one stack to get reinforced. We had to get them to Faneuil Hall by a certain time, which not even the team leader knew of. The picture is us leaving Fenway lead by Team Leader Lisa.
This was a shit show cause as we broke off into groups carrying the “bomb parts”, they started to fall apart. Cardboard started to fly and Cadre Chris was constantly calling “Team Leader”! Threatening Lisa with penalties if we didn’t get moving quicker but the balance of speed and strength wasn’t working out to the speed we needed. We were all struggling with our piles down Comm Ave, some were coming apart worse than others. I found some twine to try to tie one of the stacks together, didn’t help. Steve DellaCroce’s group had grabbed some dowels to carry their piles with. Not sure where those even came from. So it’s about 6:50, we kept on to the end of Comm Ave, and people were really struggling for the last few blocks with the deteriorating piles. Some ran to the bathroom after being warned that they could in fact be arrested and charged as a level one sex offender if caught, and others got water and ate their rations. We picked up the “bomb parts” and made it across the public gardens. Then someone died so then the Rucks have to be moved around and the dead carried. Half way through the common we started onto the bridge over the duck pond but then we were told it was rigged to blow so we had to go straight through the drained out, muddy duck pond. Lisa in green with cone, Navigator in front with cone.
We started to sink into the mud, but you just had to go in and not think about it because we had the Cadre hassling us and Lisa to get moving. Judging by the sun almost fully up I would say that was when we had to be to Faneuil Hall and we weren’t going to make it. We made it though the duck pond and then total failure. At 7:22 am, one of the piles fell completely apart and as the group on that pile was struggling to get it back together Cadre Chris decided to punish the rest of us.
Cadre Chris yelling at the group with the busted “bomb” says “Since you weirdo’s are holding everyone up I think we’ll do a little PT until you stop holding us up”! So we did Ruck pushups. Weak and tired for sure we all struggled bad with this set of 1, 2, 3,…1 type pushups. Having us hold ourselves in the middle and down positions between a few of the reps was the Cadres style at that point. We finished the pushups. The pile came together and we started moving quickly to the Hall. Now at this point the navigator was up front pulling us, and Lisa was trying to bring up the tail end but he kept moving forward and leaving the rest behind. There was no “team” anything going on. I was afraid of what was to come next because of this. We make it to right around the corner from Faneuil Hall but we left a trail of cardboard we had to go back and get. We collect it up, get to Faneuil Hall and form into ranks. He tells Lisa he needs 4 people. Myself, Patrick, and two others step forward. It’s about 7:55am and we’re sent out to find dumpsters to put all the cardboard in and as Pat and I break off we see the police rounding the corner past us to see what is going on.
Pat and I hit an alley, find two dumpsters but when we get back we have to head out cause the cops told us to “move along”. We dump the cardboard in front of a store that is being built and Ruck it to Bunker Hill Monument. 8:43 am, Sandy Ree takes command as team leader and Cadre Chris tells us how we still suck as a team in many more words than that.
So we pair up with someone of equal height and weight for buddy carries from Bunker Hill to “Old Iron Sides”. Down to the U.S.S Constitution we go switching off every block. At one point my partner Kyle jumps to high up onto me and I’m feeling shaky at this point and can’t hold us up and down we go! Land on my elbow to my shoulder, Ruck goes over my head. Get up and thankfully am ok. We get down to the landing where the ship is and get a decent break. Bathrooms, refill water and food rations.
We still aren’t doing anything right the Cadre informs us and we get our strap privileges taken away. Craig Copie-Copland became captain of the U.S.S No Teamwork (still according to Cadre Chris). Soooo just before 10:00am, the Ruck chain begins.
Holding your own in front of you and holding onto the persons behind you. I did not like this. Nobody liked this. We crossed Rutherford Ave this way onto the river way and the count began. My Ruck felt so heavy at this point and it was a 1, 2, 3,..1 count to 30 twice, then Cadre Chris increased the count to a 60 count twice, each had a rest between them but by the time we all got to the last 60 count it I was feeling the burn. We ended up stopping at a little playground. So, Cadre Chris let us put our Rucks down and talked to Craig who told us we could get our straps back if we, as a team, did 86 pull ups with Rucks on. We all lined up and I think we broke 40 total. I put all the pull up pictures in there so no one was left out. You’re all welcome.
Everyone gave it a serious effort, but we didn’t make it to 86 pull ups so we only got one strap back. Then we were given another option. In the water and we get both straps back. No question for anyone, we kept the one strap and headed towards Kendall Square. No swimming. We were in formation seeking out a bar to have a drink in by order of our cadre. Then Chris found railroad ties. Yeah, we had to carry, as a group, railroad ties. We lined up by height and split into groups according to height. We lifted them up and began to head towards Central Square. Cadre Chris was constantly pushing us to go faster. Craig was trying to get us to switch positions with the groups, front to back, and stay in formation with the ties inline and people in tow two by two. I swear I remember him sort of jolly and jumping around while commanding us.
Pretty quickly the weight of the ties was wearing us out. Concentration was going and people were switching on and off the log real often with a little bit of bickering when we had to change direction as Cadre Chris decides not to go to the MIT baseball field but to continue down Mass Ave. So we get to the Mass Ave Bridge and dump the ties on the grass. We lined up in formation and Nele Schulze was elected Captain while Cadre Chris is playing balance beam on the rail separating the traffic flying by and us. He told us there was a med evacuation back in the Common. So we had to hoof it back fast he says. Carrying the team weights was getting to be a little much for all of us. We were switching out real quickly the whole time. Crossed the bridge, and hooked left down Marlborough St. Gloucester St is where Ben went down. We were given only a few moments until Cadre Chris started counting down and yelling at the team leader. No one was really moving to get him and the count was getting low. I ran over to a leg and three others followed. We got him up and that’s when my back felt the most strain. Picking him up kind of did me in. I couldn’t hold any position in the carry for very long anymore but rotated in when I recovered, we had every guy come through to help out. Holy crap the team was trying so hard to keep him up and run as fast as we could. It was awesome the effort being put forth by everyone, we were a tired, exhausted, but a well oiled, Team, getting it done machine. We were approaching the public gardens. Mind you it’s just before 1 in the afternoon and people are out celebrating St Patrick’s Day. We come charging in as if we are on a battlefield. Oh the looks we were getting, people coming over trying to ask the team about it, we’re almost to the street and Chris had just killed a few off. We have to wait for the traffic light making the dead super heavy for anyone who is helping, we are exhausted. 12 hours with only one real long break kind of exhausted. We carry them across the street and right away another dead. At this point Ben hates life because everyone is trying to dig deep and pick him up and run with him. And now we have another to carry and I think one more went down before we got to the street. We all cross into the common, and are told to head for the pavilion. We take on enemy gun fire! “Everybody down!”
We all hit the deck. 10 seconds later. Cadre Chris yells ”Get back up!” We all rise, get the dead up, start to move towards the pavilion and BAM! A group of 3 women to my left all die! I run over to help cause someone already had my Ruck because I was about to jump in on carrying Ben. Lisa was one of the dead and the look on her face not having to do anything but be dead was a priceless look of relief complete with a smile. Over my shoulder she goes and we’re headed for the pavilion. I ask if my shoulder is hurting her and she said, “No, just make this be over!” Got to the pavilion we all found our Rucks and got back into 2 ranks.
Ben Bradley becomes leader, and we are instructed to partner up with our buddy carry partner and start carrying each other around to the backside of the pavilion. We’re switching off as often as we needed to because we’re all dead tired at this point. I’m carrying my buddy and I put him down, we switch only for a few feet because he’s all done. I’m facing the state house as I get put down, I pick up my buddy and Cadre Chris says “Ok, stop weirdo’s, put everything down you’re done, your GO RUCK TOUGH”! I didn’t buy it for a split second because he had us all fired up running around like people on a battlefield, but it was true we had finished! One of the team weights turned out to be a 30 rack of Beer and everybody began to throw some back, and a few others had brought some as well. Definitely more than enough to go around, I mean it was St. Patty’s Day after all!! Cadre Chris had us line up for a group picture and to present us with our GO RUCK patches!
I can’t even begin to say how that felt at that moment. Even though we were done it felt strange to not have my Ruck sack on and be carrying something, or someone, or being called a weirdo or freaks. We had pulled together as a team. At a certain point we really began to work as a unit without thinking about it. It felt like that happened much more right after the Ruck Chain and Ruck pull-ups. This group got it done. As we became more and more tired we seemed to be pulling together as a group. I don’t remember much bickering throughout the challenge. Some here and there which I think is normal when learning about each other and figuring out tasks but overall it was awesome to see a big group pull together as one. Thank you Vince Ree and Jessica Wohlen for shadowing us and taking pictures of “the suck”. I believe Vince figured out the total distance was about 13.4 miles Rucked. Thank you Adam Barbrie for the idea of using visual aid to tell this tale, it made a big difference. I think given what I know now, I would do another GO RUCK again. Just not sure how soon. Thank you everyone in Team Bravo, Class 453. This was an experience that I will never forget and it wouldn’t have been the same without every last one of you. Thank you and AROOOOO!!! Bobby Jackson of the New England Spahtens