Pain and Suffering

 overhead squat

There is a discussion going on right now on the GORUCK Tough Facebook page regarding the best quotes from GORUCK. While most involve a colorful exploration of the “F” word, my favorite is this little gem:

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

It is sooooo true. We all have to put in hard work, and a lot of the time it sucks. We all have the choice in how we deal with the suck. You can let the suck consume you, and typically those around you, or you can embrace the suck. You are always free to choose your reaction to what is thrown at you, even pain.

An example from the GORUCK challenge was when the team was carrying the logs, which dealt out some real pain. Chris, our leader at the time, had the gang singing songs and laughing while carrying this several hundred pound piece of rotting wood up narrow trails over roots and rocks and creeks for an hour or two, in the dark. Instead of focusing on how much that sucked, i.e. suffering through it, the team leaned in and laughed their way through it. Same pain, very different experiences.

This applies to so many aspects of my life. I always have a choice, and I’m gonna choose to smile over suffer 100% of the time. The way you choose to react to a situation is wildly contagious. If you are part of a team, you can bring the team down with your complaining and whining. People will follow you down that trap. By the same token, put on your damn happy face and bring the team up. They will follow you in that direction too.

Your choice.

(Unofficial) GORUCK Tiny

GORUCK Tiny Ann Arbor


I thought I had joined a ‘cult’ like community when I got into CrossFit.  Then I did a GORUCK Challenge.

Somehow, I was able to find 6 friends crazy enough to follow me around Ann Arbor, doing push ups, carrying a cooler filled with beer and dumbbells, bear crawling, crab walking, and all sorts of other messed up stuff for over 9 miles this past Saturday morning.  And it was awesome.  So much more fun than I would ever have thought.  10 years ago, I would have more than likely been slow to wake up, a little hung over, and settled in on the couch to watch a few hours of College Game Day.  Not any more.

I was up at 5:30 AM and at the starting point for my first ever organized fitness ‘run’ by 6:45 AM.  As I sat there in the dark, I was really curious to see if anyone else was really going to make it out.  Then, at about 6:50 AM, cars started pulling in.  That was a great feeling.  By 7:15, all but 2 of my confirmed ‘guests’ had arrived, and one had texted me at 6:30 saying he would be 5 minutes late.  At 7:20 on the dot, Danny came screaming in on his bike, and it was time to begin the ruck!

I had plotted a path very close to the path used for the GORUCK Challenge in Ann Arbor, cutting a bit here and there, targeting a 4-5 session.  In the end, we traveled 9.3 miles, did a few hundred reps of good PT, carried some things and laughed just as much as we would have had we been sitting at a bar.

During the ruck, we spoke about doing this again in January.  After the ruck, we decided that was too long to wait.  The next one is set for December 14th.

Here’s a link to the pix and video from the event:

 Pull Ups with 50# RuckGORUCK Tiny Ann Arbor Map

GORUCK Lessons, continued

Las Vegas

It’s interesting how often I find myself drawing from my GORUCK Challenge experience.

This past week I was in Las Vegas for a conference, and when I found myself having to stay up until 1:30AM during some “team building” at the poker table, I couldn’t help but think that,
A: it’s actually 4:30AM to me and
B: I have to wake up for an 8AM meeting.

But very quickly, my inner GRT kicked in and reminded me of some important lessons.
A: suffer in silence
B: It pays to be a mother f’ing winner and
C: I was up a hell of a lot longer, doing a hell of a lot tougher shit, so man up

GoRuck Challenge

GoRuck Challenge

A week later I am still processing what happened last Friday and Saturday. 11 and a half hours, 19.6 miles, 880 reps of “insane PT with a heavy tick on [our] backs”, 1 Cadre, 2 photographers and 18 teammates. Those are the data points coming out of what was Class 771, GoRuck Challenge in Ann Arbor.

What is not captured in the data is the teamwork, attention to detail, leadership, friendship, hardship, cold, wet, fun.


The GoRuck Light the week before was only a taste of the GoRuck Challenge. During the Light, we carried heavy stuff, moved as a team, and had fun, but I never once came close to feeling like I wasn’t going to make it. During the Challenge, my brain was in a constant battle with itself. At around 2 or 3AM, I’m pretty sure I could see the “I quit” devil on my right shoulder, and the “you can’t quit” devil on my left, they were both laughing at me.

I had about 8 feet left to travel through the “tunnel of love“, with our team weight, a sand bag, on the back of my head pressing my face into the dirt, and who ever behind me pushing my feet, trying to keep up the speed of the line. I was stuck. I was ready to throw in the towel. Then, the second person from the end, graciously lifted the sandbag from the back of my head, put it on theirs, and it was exactly the support I needed. I got through it.

GoRuck Challenge Low Belly Crawl

If you are looking for physical and mental growth, there is no substitute for being pushed to your breaking point, your red line, and staying there… a lot longer than you thought possible. The GoRuck Challenge did that for me, big time. Tough Mudder is a mental walk in the park compared to this event.

GORUCK Challenge Class 771 on Saturday, September 14, 2014 in Ann Arbor.

The PT we did was pretty basic on the surface. Push-ups, over head squats with our bags, mountain climbers and oh my the butterfly kicks. What made it interesting was all reps were to be done in unison, and they ended when the last rep was done and we held the “rest” position for a ten count as a group.

The “rest” position was rest in name only. For the butterfly kicks, the resting position was done holding your heels 6″ off the ground. As it would take the group a moment or two to settle in, the 10 count was more of a 20 count, and felt more like a 200 count. I won’t soon forget after a set, laying there on the dark gravel, some time around 4AM, every muscle in my body trembling, trying to keep my feet up, waiting for the ten count to start.

We did our PT in the dark, we did our PT in the light, and yes, we did our PT in the river, even the butterfly kicks.

GORUCK Challenge Class 771 on Saturday, September 14, 2014 in Ann Arbor.

We climbed stairs, we crab walked stairs, we carried each other’s packs, we carried each other, we shared food, water, cold, warmth, and I’m sure some other things while we were in the river together. We also all shared in the victory of finishing. As a team. I have a lot of respect for everyone who completes a GoRuck Challenge.

I’m so glad and fortunate to have met Cadre Tyler, and been a part of class 771.


Here are a few more of the pictures captured by the guys who were willing to give up a night’s sleep, and lug their gear around town, and water, so we could relive the event.

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GoRuck Light

GoRuck Log Carry


Last Saturday was a perfect Trifecta.  It was my birthday, U of M played and defeated Notre Dame, and it started at 4:45AM when I woke up for GoRuck Light 090 in Detroit.  I have done a couple of these challenges now, Tough Mudder and Merrill Down and Dirty, and now GoRuck.  GoRuck is different.  Very different.

Tough Mudder and Down & Dirty are your ‘standard’ mud run meets obstacle course. You basically run, then climb over or duck under something, then run some more… in Tough Mudder’s case you get zapped or frozen as well.  You will help lift a buddy, cheer someone on, give out a lot of fist bumps and pats on the back.

The difference is that in these obstacle courses you move as a group, while in GoRuck, you move as a team.  The psychological exercise is much more significant than the physical during GoRuck.  I found myself much more focused more on the people and rucks in front of me, beside me, and behind me than I did myself.  Right out of the gate we fell into a formation, and in two lines lunge stepped/bear crawled/crab walked 1.2 miles, keeping close with the person in front of us.  Your pace was not dictated by your ability, but on that of the person in front of you.  If you slowed down, you slowed down up to 30 people behind you, and if you sped up, you just left up to 30 people behind.  You are not moving as an individual, you are moving as a team.

This went on for a little over 6 hours.  Bags never touched the ground, if you needed a break, there were 72 teammates eager to carry your bag for you while you rested up.  If you were rested you volunteered to carry one of the team weights (sandbags).  It may sound cheesy, but it was a little bit of an honor to carry one for our last leg, and I didn’t want to give it up once I got it.

We ran, we crawled, we carried wood, and had a damn good time doing it.

If there is any question about if I really enjoyed my ruck around the D, 48 hours after it ended, I signed up for the GoRuck Challenge in Ann Arbor.  I want my GRT patch!

We had some super nice folks tagging along and taking pictures, here are several of the pictures from GoRuck Light – Detroit!

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