After training for 4 months for the GoRuck Tough Challenge, I successfully completed the 12-hour, 16.5-mile team event. Each event is different based upon the actual real-life experiences of the cadre who spent time in the US Special Forces. Our Cadre designed mock missions for our 10-person group to complete at the specific time and distance intervals that simulated several scenarios he had experienced as a Green Beret during his tour of duty. Each member of the group had a chance to lead on a mission. We had rules we had to remember to follow the entire night and working together as a unit was most important unless we would feel the punishment.

Physically, I felt prepared for the event. I trained strength, endurance, cardio, and hiked distances up to 7.5-miles with a 45# pack. After 16.5-miles during the event, my calves, lateral hips, and upper traps were the most obliterated from carrying the weight on my shoulders. We had heavy sandbags connected to pipes that pressed down into our traps in addition to the ruck weight. We had PT throughout the missions if we made a mistake, like losing our vital map or failing to pay attention to an important detail, which resulted in burpees, bear crawls, lunges, or push-ups. However, on this challenge, the overall PT was low compared to other Tough Challenges I had heard of. We also submerged in the frigid Deschutes River around 5 am as a team, thankfully no longer than a quick dunk. Following our submersion, we did some mountain climbers, burpees, and two laps around the park to regain body heat.

The most difficult part for me was the cold air temperature with the wind chill. I under-dressed for the mid-30 degree Bend temperatures expecting more PT and faster hiking paces, but with carrying so much weight we only averaged around 1.5-2-miles per hour. Around 1-2am I did experience some fatigue, nausea, and shivering but after hydrating and eating a snack I was good to go. As long as we kept moving I stayed warm enough, except for the 2 hours following the river dunk, my fingertips were numb for 30 minutes and as the sun came up so did the wind. Thankfully, our last mission was back at Pilot Butte where we had performed our first mission and included a slow hike to the top carrying a casualty. I broke my first head sweat going up that climb!

Overall, physically, mentally, and emotionally I felt adequately prepared for the Bend, Oregon Tough Challenge. The only way I would train differently next time would be to build up my hike mileage to around 12-13 miles with 45#, more lateral hip strengthening with a band and leg lifts, as well as slower walks carrying loads up to 60#. A thicker pant layer and top layer would have saved calories from shivering to stay warm too. If there would have been more PT there would have been the possibility of running out of food faster which could have increased the difficulty as well. Thankfully, my one Nalgene bottle of electrolytes and 100oz Camelback kept me hydrated with only one refill each toward the end. I also ate 5 LaraBars, 3 other bars, and a bag full of mixed nuts and dark chocolate.

I’d recommend a GoRuck Tough Challenge for anyone looking to train their entire body for backpacking, who wants to gain leadership experience, learn what it was like for the cadre to be in special forces, and to tour a city during the night performing mock missions and military-style physical training. I definitely feel prepared for backpacking and hiking season with several long-distance trips in the works.