If you missed Part I, you can catch up here.
I remember finishing my fight, high off a victory and wondering “So what’s next?” I was still spending a lot of quality time in the water to surf as part of my weekly ritual. I could spend more time in the water, trying to push myself in Mother Nature. I obviously could start training again for the next bout and get back in the ring. I considered it but I wanted to take a break. For 3 months, training was my sole focus.
My social life was non existent, eating a strict diet daily was more difficult in San Francisco than what I ever thought given all the amazing restaurants and bars around me, making sure I was staying on top of work so I had time to train was a priority and taking care of my body and resting appropriately was an important component of the training that kept me from being active. All I wanted to do was go go go.
Those “sacrifices” (which weren’t really sacrifices, it’s just what you needed to do) were absolutely all worth it in the end and I would do it all over again in a heart beat. I made time to train 3-4 hours (sometimes more), 6 days/week and ate a caveman diet consisting of this pretty much every day:
Meal 1: 8 Egg Whites w/ hot sauce / 1 cup of Rolled Oats / Multivitamin / Shot of probiotic formula (wheat grass)
Meal 2: filet of Tilapia, 1 Cup of spinach, dash of Tabasco
Meal 3: Soy Protein Shake (leanest protein available)
Meal 4: Breast or Thigh of Chicken, 1 cup of Spinach or Broccoli, dash of Tabasco
Meal 5: Filet of Tilapia or Chicken, 1 cup of yams, Ketchup
Meal 6: Cut of meat (steak, pork, chicken…), 1 cup of zucchini, dash of sauce (Sriracha, BBQ,…)
I lost 30 lbs in about a month and a half to make weight for the fight. Some might say that is probably unhealthy but when you are feeding your body as much good food as above, drinking plenty of water, recovering and resting, you are amplify the results. Muay Thai involves a healthy combination of Cardio, more cardio and then some more cardio mixed in with strength training and mobility exercises. It was no wonder I was able to shed the weight that quick and didn’t feel sluggish. Cardio sucks but is also King, especially when it does not involve running 24/7. It also helped that after a stressful day, I had work on the heavy bag to look forward to – one of the best stress relievers around in the gym.
Some days I would jump rope for an hour before doing bag work or pad work, others, I would be put into the ring and spar for 10-15 consecutive 3 minute rounds while I got beat on by everyone in the gym – then went to pad or bag work. The moment the bell rang in that first fight, every ounce of adrenaline I had was released and I don’t ever remember being that tired or working that hard during any of my training sessions. Mind you this was also only a 3 round, 2 min/round fight. When adrenaline kicks in, your senses are heightened and you are focused. It’s a protective measure. It’s exciting. It also drains you to no end. I had no idea it would have that affect on me. If I hadn’t trained the way I did and fully committed to putting my best foot forward and making a truly honest effort at preparing myself, I don’t think I would’ve come out with the victory.
“So now what?” was the big question. Because the rowdy bunch at Gym445 was a group of knuckleheads who enjoyed and embraced all things physical, we decided to make a social weekend out of signing up for the upcoming Tough Mudder in Tahoe after our fights were over, rent a cabin, relax and do the event.
All of us had wanted to try one at some point and none of us had ever completed one. Anyone who hasn’t done a Tough Mudder should most definitely do one. It was a lot of fun climbing walls and crawling through mud, encouraging your teammates on obstacles and bullshitting around the course for the whole day with a group of close friends. The cold beer at the end is refreshing. You get a few scratches, find mud in place you never knew existed and come out with an awesome sense of pride that you finished a race many people would never even think to try. Then you go back and try to tell all your buddies to do it.
Coming back after weekends like this are always interesting at the office. Some people get excited while others look like lost dogs, heads cocked, trying to grasp why someone would ever want to do that. Luckily for me, I had a lot of peers in and out of the office who also enjoyed these activities. Sometimes you get to pick your tribe and sometimes, you get lucky and your tribe finds you.
I remember coming into the office that following week after the Tough Mudder and explaining how the race went to one of my coworkers, Erik. Erik is a fitness stud. He had been doing some cross training between Krav Maga and Crossfit for some time so him and I regularly chatted about our shared interests with fighting and the fitness world. He had wanted to do a Tough Mudder for a while hadnt had the time. He mentioned at some point during the conversation a thing called GORUCK that he had participated in, right here in San Francisco and didn’t say much more about it. A few weeks went by and I started doing some research what this GORUCK thing was all about. It was intriguing to say the least, mainly because it was shrouded in some mystery.
‘Come find out for yourself what the GORUCK challenge is all about’
‘The hardest part is signing up’
Before I take you further down the rabbit hole, let me explain what this is. GORUCK is a company founded by a former US Army Green Beret that manufactures gear, specifically “rucks” or backpacks, that are aesthetically appealing and bomb proof. In an effort to test the gear and promote the brand, the GORUCK Challenge (changed more recently to GORUCK Tough) was born and has since become a staple component of the business and what brings everyone who has been touched by GORUCK coming back for more.
The company has gained an amazing amount of traction and continues to captivate anyone remotely interested in OCR/Endurance events – mainly because of the mystique still driving it, in my opinion. It also helps that the gear they make is 100% solid. I couldnt vouch more for the product or the events they lead.
There is no amount of description I could provide that would or could paint a truly clear representation of what the event is. I could describe what we did, where we went, how we picked up that teammate or got in that pond. You just have to be present and you have to be there. There are plenty of better written AARs by some amazing and inspiring people who have completed the whole spectrum of events, photos and videos of the joy, pain and somberness experienced, and plenty of background provided on the company’s website.
Even with all of that, it’s still hard to wrap your head around what you are getting yourself into before you drink the Kool Aid and finally sign up. It’s a total mind screw. The unknown always has a way of clinching onto the psyche. It’s probably the strongest reason some people will never even entertaining the idea to participate in one of these events, which is unfortunate because they are truly for every walk of life.
Side Note: I think using OCR (obstacle course racing) to describe GORUCK isnt really representative of what the events really are because they have nothing to do with charging over physical obstacles or time limits and should really not even be lumped with all the other races and events out there now. You and your attitude are the only physical obstacle during the GORUCK events; nothing more, nothing less. It’s a truly unique model for an endurance event.
I ended up signing up for my first ‘GORUCK Light’ in March of 2014. There are a variety of events the company plans across the world yearly, all varying in degrees of time, distance and physicality. Every weekend there is an event happening in some corner of the US or abroad. They are designed to bridge the gap between the military and civilian world and in their own words “to build better Americans.”
Each event starts with the American Flag. Teams are required to coordinate before the start of the event and show up with an American flag and an additional team weight that is to be carried at all times through the course of the event. Oh, and you also need to carry a “rucksack” or backpack filled with a set of bricks or steel plate throughout the event. It would only make sense, right?
Each event is led by a former or current member of the military’s SOF (Special Operation Forces) community. The Cadre’s goal is to turn individuals into teams and give participants a dose of what they’ve learned while serving in the Military and a glimpse into what their training is like. The events are NOT a race. The time and distance are loosely defined. And the physical nature is different every single time. Each event is unique. There are no separate groups, there are no bibs or scores or points.
You all start as a team and end as a team.
I remember walking up to a section of grass at 2PM in the Presidio near Crissy Field on a beautiful Saturday with one of my coworkers who also decided to take the plunge. My non-GR rucksack was filled with the required bricks, a full water bladder, jacket, gloves, headlamp, some food, some other odds and ends, etc… Way more than I needed, though I didn’t know at the time. I see a group of people sitting and stretching around an American flag waving from a wooden pole no taller than 6′. This must be the team. We introduce ourselves, stretch a little, wait with anticipation for the event to start. Behind us sits the Golden Gate Bridge basking in its rust red glory and loads of sailboats trying to catch a gust on the Bay. Out of the blue, up walks a Mickey, a former Reconnaissance Marine, who introduces himself as our Cadre and the event begins.
Over the course of 7 hours, we were put through a number of physical and team building activities starting with the “Welcome Party” followed by a series of movements through the Presidio, Marina, Crissy field, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back – all led by Old Glory.
I grew up in Northern California and at the time had been in San Francisco for two years. That event was the first time I had ever crossed the Golden Gate Bridge by foot. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride carrying the American flag in the front of the team across that bridge, looking out at Alcatraz and downtown SF. Looking up at the flag and the vast landscape of tourists taking pictures, a group of runners passing by, all the people down by the beach with their families, admiring the milestones that are the construction of both bridges, seeing the cityscape in all its glory – I finally, for the first time, started to ponder and see clearly everything great that flag stood for. I will take that memory with me to the grave.
It was my first real experience and understanding of what it really means to be part of a team, to lead from the front, and to help others. It was also the first real gut check physically I had ever had. No amount of Muay Thai training or group projects at work or school could touch what I learned from that event. The motto the Light is ‘Light ≠ Easy’ and it totally lived up to that. I was so under prepared, it was humbling.
Soreness gradually crept in for the rest of the weekend and well into Tuesday of the following week. Being 24 and feeling like a geriatric patient wasn’t fun, but that patch I earned was pretty cool so I guess that kind of helped.
I had a hard time explaining what I had experienced in full to people who asked because I was still trying to process everything. It was just fun and I walked away a better person. That event was the catalyst for so many things to come. The real impact of that day didn’t manifest until I decided to sign up for the real deal, my first Challenge on Independence Day – July 4th, 2014.
Stay tuned for Part III….
All media from the event above was graciously provided by a talented friend and mentor who I met through GORUCK, Arwin S. Check out more amazing pics of his on his Instagram at instagram.com/outboundseeker