“Mind of a Coach” is a new series where we will be taking a deeper, more focused look into the minds of our coaches, past and present, to get a better look at the insights and expertise they have to offer. For our first issue, we sat down with James Vreeland to get a better perspective on what GORUCK is, and what meaning it holds for him.
The Press: So what is GORUCK?
James V: At its core, it is a team-based event that tests your mental and physical limits. You and a group of people -be it strangers or friends- sign up for the event, meet at a park, city center, or wherever the organizers tell you, and are put through a pretty fantastic gut check by a member of the Special Operations community. You’ll carry heavy loads, do PT, work as a team, and learn a lot about yourself. At least once you’ll doubt your ability to finish, but in the end you’ll leave with a better understanding of how hard you can push yourself.
TP: What brought you in?
JV: At the time I signed up for my first event I had just started CrossFit and was looking for benchmarks in my daily life. I wanted to know where I stood so I could figure out where I most needed work. A friend of mine in Chicago told me about the company, and how a number of people from his box were going to one. I hovered my mouse over the “order” button on their site for far too long and a few weeks later geared up for an adventure.
At the time, information on the Challenges was incredibly hard to come by, so I sweat bullets and trained the best I could. The event wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed. It was brutal. I hurt everywhere. I had never smiled so widely. I was hooked.
TP: Gross. Why did you come back?
JV: Plain and simple: the team.
Going in, I knew one other person in the group. The other 28 were complete strangers. But in the years since this event I’ve couch-surfed, camped, raced, attended weddings, drank beer, and continued to swap stories with well over half of those previous strangers. When you go through a trying ordeal as a group, you grow closer. The smiles and scrapes we shared opened the doors to many friendships that have endured years.
TP: Can I get through this thing? Seriously, how bad is it?
JV: Yes, you absolutely can. These events are team first, team always. There is no first/second/third place. Everyone is banded together towards a common goal. The basics of physical prep are well covered by regularly attending classes at NSCF. To supplement that there is the Ruck/OCR class on Saturdays, and you can work with any of our CrossFit Endurance coaches to get you tuned up and work out any kinks.
As for how “bad” they are, there are three main events that GORUCK puts on:
Light (4-6 hours) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_ZLq3-pPSU
Challenge (12 hours) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jAxnF5qqWw
Heavy (24+ hours) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uPg_OSzICI
As the duration increases, so does the intensity and difficulty. A Light isn’t too bad. If you can get through Murph, you can do a Light. On the other end of the spectrum, the 24-hour Heavy event is pretty tough – even for trained endurance athletes. Doable, but hard.
TP: Wait, I thought they beat the tar out of you and try to get you to quit?
JV: There is one more GORUCK event called Selection (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZpo1B1LzUg) that differs from the regular formula. Its run a couple times a year, and people who want to see just how far they can stretch their bodies and souls attempt it. The Light, Challenge, and Heavy events are NOTHING like this monster. At the Heavy, Challenge, and Light you have the complete and unwavering support of your team. You can, and will, do this.
TP: Fine, I’m in. What’s next?
JV: Yes, you do want in. These are incredible experiences. Quite a few members of the box have taken on events and come back for more. We’re all very happy to answer any questions you may have.
As far as how you can get in on the action, we are hosting one of each event in Detroit in April. The Light (my recommendation for getting your first taste) starts at 2pm on Saturday April 25th, and should be wrapped up by early evening. Nothing too scary, and we have folks who are more than happy to lend you any of the gear you’ll need. You just need to bring a big smile and strong will.
Seriously, sign up. It’s a blast.