Backblast #253 – GrowRuck 16


Eight Pax from F3 Grand Rapids made the journey to Naperville, IL to be a part of GrowRuck 16 – these are their stories.

We asked our pax to give their raw stories of the weekend & evening; these are their firsthand accounts of their experiences. As a disclaimer, we are not PR pros, and these accounts are raw and unfiltered accounts given after we were encouraged to be Leaders spurring men to Movement that leads to Advantage which ultimately causes Disruption.

AO: Naperville, IL 70F with intermittent rain all night long


I was simultaneously excited and nervous for GrowRuck 16. I have done several OCRs and one GoRuck Light, but this was my first Tough. The weather forecast looked miserable, but I knew that I was in this with my F3GR brothers, and we were all committed to finish the event.

1800: 82 Pax formed ranks at the Startex for inspection by Cadre Danny, Cadre Shredder, and Cadre Dredd. After a clean inspection, role call started and Pax were divided up into groups to run, bear crawl, lunge walk, etc. to various points on the field. After completion, the Pax were lined up for various PT activities. Team lunge walks, bear crawls, shrimping, etc. A punishment of 49 burpees was given for failure to shrimp across the field with in the time hack. The Cadre team was generous to reduce this punishment by 10 burpees due to good form and execution of the first 29 reps.

Pax were divided in to three platoons, and a Class Leader (Props to Budweiser), Platoon Leaders, and Squad Leaders were selected from the Platoons. I was assigned to White Platoon, and our first Platoon Leader (Gobbler from Pittsburgh) did an excellent job of teaching us to form rank and file, and controlling the platoon. We learned a few common movements and techniques to form rank, while moving around the field before being given our first task – scale a ~12-15 foot retaining wall with all our our rucks and team gear. After some quick discussions and planning, I found myself down in the mud with Naperville’s Cold Cuts, being a footstool for the team – great guy to get crushed next to – all pax and gear made it up the wall, after which we were tasked to get back down, and then do it all again. Feedback from the Cadre was that we improved our times significantly the second time around.

The next task was Parachute Land Fall Training – Pax were shown the proper technique to complete a PLF and each member of the platoon completed three jumps in Left, Right, and Backwards position. After this, ranks were formed and the platoons moved out for some additional training. Upon arrival at our destination, we were trained on short halt formation, while new Class Leaders and Platoon Leaders were selected (congratulations to F3GR’s Snoop for becoming the BMOC), and additional coupons were given to the platoons.. After new leaders were selected, we formed rank and made a few small movements in the parking lot. These movements were poorly executed and the Cadre offered us a chance at redemption through PT – flutter kicks and push ups in the river.

The next task was to form up in our platoons, and execute a movement, down the river, with our coupons and team weights, in silence. The weather blessed us with a significant amount of rain while walking down the river, and the footing was very unstable, which made for a long slow march. After what felt like 2+ miles (but was actually less than 1 mile according to Google Maps), we exited the river and were given a brief reprieve for food, before an Indian run/ruck to the hospital for an extended recovery period. During this time pax were ordered to take care of priority of work – water, food, feet. Cadre Dredd asked all of the pax to spend some time thinking about a 6 word “why” statement. After some reflection period, a lot of the people shared their “why” with the group. It was very impressive to here the other HIM of F3 Nation share why they were out there, soaking wet, hungry, and exhausted.

It was frustrating for me personally, because I can’t clearly articulate my why. I know that I agree with the mission of F3 Nation, I know that I need to be a better husband, and a better man, and I know that I my closest friendships are forged during times of adversity, but I can’t clearly articulate my “why”. I stood in the back, with my mouth shut, trying to avoid Cadre Dredd’s eye for fear that I would be exposed.

The next movement was a 1 mile ruck with a 20 minute time hack. White Platoon moved out with a quick pace and while we struggled to figure out a good weight rotation plan, and form up at the other end, we did meet the time hack. The Platoons formed up before a brief march to an open field, where we completed a few ugly ruck sack squats, and then the Cadre informed us that it was time for a PT Test – “We don’t care what we can do when you are fresh, we care what you can do when you are exhausted”. The PT test was as follows: Complete 75 Ruck Thrusters, two laps around the field slick, 35 Ruck Thrusters, and two more laps around the field slick in 30 minutes. YHC barely made it at 27:40. The whole crew was pretty gassed, but everyone put in the work and finished the task, regardless of time.

The next mission was a 2-3 mile movement with three blindfolded pax per platoon. The pax traded off coupons, and even the blind pax were required to carry for a bit. At the end of the movement, we arrived at a clearing in the woods, where we were tasked with finding some logs of a certain size. All three platoons moved in to the woods and found logs that met the requirements. Upon our return the Cadre asked for a headcount, which was given as 81. The Cadre asked for a confirmation, which was confirmed at 81. At this point, they asked us to circle up in the field and hold Al Gore, while they counted heads. The Cadre count came back at 80 Pax, the process was repeated and it was confirmed that we had lost one team member. The punishment came in the form of some PT; ranks were formed and we confirmed who was missing – the Cadre had intentionally held back one of our team mates to see if we would notice they were missing, we failed. Two squads were sent out to look for FIAB from Pittsburgh, he was found and returned to the group.

Upon FIAB’s return, we were instructed to pick up our logs for a movement back to the Dark Tour (~1.5 miles). Due to the loss of FIAB and the small size of our chosen log, white team was given the opportunity to carry blue team’s log back to the tower. It was significantly larger than ours. This part was rough – a long march, under a lot of weight, towards the end of the night, but the team came together and we were able to get that devil log all the way back to the tower, where we were allowed to throw it in the river along with our rocks and sand from the sand bags.

At this point the sun was starting to rise, so we took a short break (in the pouring rain) to listen to stories from a few of the pax of how they have found mission and purpose in life, and about their faith. It was cold and wet, but still awesome to hear these guys share how their faith has impacted their lives. Afterwards we formed ranks, three squads went to relocate the logs in the river, and the remaining squads attempted uphill partner drag bear crawls in the mud – ROUGH. When the three squads returned, we formed ranks.

The last evolution of the night was explained – get back to the starting point as fast as possible (~1.2 miles). Everyone was tired, but we started moving quickly back towards the field. About 0.25 miles in to the movement, the Cadre started identifying casualties that needed to be carried by the pax. Rucks were removed and people teamed up in groups of 3-4 to carry the 7-9 casualties back to the starting point. It was exhausting, but the light was at the end of the tunnel so I just kept carrying until we made it back and we placed the casualties at the center of the field with the group gear. One last quick PT session before the Cadre announced that we were done.

What can I say about GrowRuck 16? It was my first GoRuck Tough, it was long, it was dark, it was very wet and occasionally miserable, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to do it with. Thank you to Cold Cuts for laughing with me in the mud, thank you to French Lick and Bogs for always making sure I was in the right place in line, thank you to Sherman and Gobbler for providing the team with good direction from their military experience and carrying a lot of weight. T-Claps to all of F3 Grand Rapids; we started this out by saying “everyone finishes, no exceptions” and everyone did. T-Claps to Naperville for running a great event and to our FNG/HIM Budweiser who showed up for his first workout and first ruck on the same day. Thanks to Danny, Shredder, and Dredd for challenging us, but building us up as well.

I don’t think any beer I have ever had tasted as good as that can of Solid Gold did at 0830 Sunday morning. DO IT FOR THE SOLID GOLD

Kraut – Out


Bald Eagle:

Real-time leadership training under stress and pain with instant, honest, valuable feedback.

I must admit, leading into the weekend I had some reservations about doing another GORUCK event. I was part of GRT Class 707 in Charlotte, aka F3 Sand Ruck, which was 12 grueling hours of pain with very little cadre interaction. I survived, got my ass kick, proved I could stick it out, but found myself with little to no desire to do another event along those lines.

The only way I would commit to another event was if it was with the right people and had more of a leadership focus to it. Enter GROWRUCK 16 – with my F3GR & F3KZOO brothers, and hosted by F3 Naperville, which has been an incredible help to us in getting launched in GR.

Weeks before, in an almost cruel test, I was invited to a festival during the GORUCK weekend that I must admit sounded pretty appealing – but a commitment is a commitment, and away we went.

There are plenty of things I could write about, but I want to keep focus on the primary lessons learned and the experience from my vantage point,

From the talks on Friday night and GrowSchool on Saturday, a few quotes stood out to me:

“If you’re in charge, take charge.”

“Don’t thank someone for just doing their job.”

”Own the blame, pass the praise.”

A couple of these lines from Dredd disrupted many leadership models I’ve been given. I’ve always been told that leaders should be servants willing to do anything that their followers would do, with the inference being that a leader should do everything his followers do.

In these statements, Dredd was not saying be ungrateful or disconnected – in fact the very opposite: Be keenly aware, fully engaged, and ultimately responsible. With our finite attention spans, being engrossed in the proper and successful execution of a task and also mindful of the big picture is nearly impossible. A leader must keep his eyes ahead while being present to his followers ensuring the tasks are being delegated and done properly. And passing the praise and owning the blame only builds trust between leaders and followers.

The Event. GRT #3207

After an afternoon unsuccessfully lying around trying to catch some sleep, we geared up and gathered at North Central College. While excitement was building, also a sharp pain in my left arch – the beginning of plantar fasciitis. “Oh shit” I thought – I can’t back out, I don’t want to hurt the team, I don’t want to hurt myself worse, but here we go… I told myself I would nurse it as much as I could and see what would happen. Ultimately it flared up a few times, but never enough to sway my resolve.

The Welcome Party started off a little slower than 707, but quickly brought me to a place feeling my limits as both of my legs fully cramped up when doing the Crab Walk and Shrimp Shuffle (army crawl on your back) across the field. To make matters worse, I had been drinking my water and the supply was nearly exhausted. Snoop came to my aid filling up my water form the water bladder we had been carrying (and weren’t supposed to use).

We climbed a wall (14’-ish) twice – and started to become a team through that. We practiced formations and learned the chain of command for the evening. Company Commander (Lead 81), Platoon Leaders (Lead 27), and Squad Leaders (Lead 9). As simple as this part may have seemed, it really did shift my view of structure to systems. My default posture is much more Laisse Faire and democratic than hierarchical and authoritarian. This challenge did help me see and understand the merit of having clear structure between defined between leaders and followers.

Uncle Rico did a fantastic job leading our Blue Platoon for the first few evolutions. I was chosen as the PL for the second set of evolutions. I did my best to embody the lessons I was given. Speak loudly, clearly, and directly. Support the Platoon, empower the squad leaders, keep my eyes on the group and vision of what we needed to accomplish.

The river walk was a highlight of the night for me. Hiking a couple miles in a rocky river with rain coming down was awesome. It posed a couple of challenges as well with guys twisting ankles, needing to tie shoes, and also confronting their limits. Creatine had a completely blank stare at one point during the river walk. Being 4-5 weeks post heart attack, that stare caught my attention to the point of wanting both Iverson and Dredd to keep an eye on him. Turns out it wasn’t fully health related, but ended up to be a learning experience for both of us.

After the river walk we diverted to the hospital garage to wait out some nasty weather. While there we reflected on and shared 6 word stories about our “Why.” Many guys had really compelling reasons for why they do F3 and this event. I shared about our IVF journey and how grateful I’ve been for the support of F3 throughout it.

A physical fitness test midway through the night was pretty rough for me. It happened in what I would consider the ‘deepest’ part of the night where the one day is transitioning to the next (usually between 3a-4a for me). I started feeling a little dizzy, and ended up getting heartburn from some energy gels I took. Being selected to walk blindfolded to the next location did not help with the dizziness, but with Kodak’s guidance I made it to the next destination.

Finding a log was next – the best part of this was that our platoon chose the heaviest log, and were rewarded by being able to exchange it with the White Platoon’s ‘twig’ (relatively speaking) for the carry to the Dark Tower.

After a brief respite at the top of the hill, we performed what could only be described as pure torture. A bear crawl partner drag up a hill while both wearing rucks at the end of 13 hours of pain. Hasselhof dragged me about 5 feet before we were instructed to run to the top. That was the one exercise I did not see being possible – as carrying extra ballast was a significant disadvantage.

We then had a hike with casualties back to the field to wrap everything up. T-claps to Cadres Shredder, Danny, and Dredd, and the F3 Naperville team for pulling off a spectacular weekend. Also, T-claps to Dredd, Dark Helmet, and ‘the other guy’ Slaughter for their presence and words this weekend.

Bald Eagle Out


Creatine – Tripping on One’s Own Pride:
Kraut did an excellent job of summarizing the event so I won’t attempt to duplicate his efforts, instead I will add what was unique to my experience along with some thoughts on my “why” and lessons learned. And yes, it’s long winded, I’m a professor, it’s my prerogative.

This was my second GORUCK Tough challenge, sort of. I attempted a Tough around 5 years ago and quit during the welcome party (about an hour and a half in). I was there all by myself, I hadn’t signed up with a group or anyone I knew, and I gave up. I faked a hamstring injury, walked up to the Cadre, and rang the bell. I had no one to keep me there, and, as I convinced myself at the time, I had no need to be there, it just wasn’t for me.

It was an honorable reasoning in my head. Why continue something which clearly is not what I’m supposed to be doing? Makes sense, right? Bullshit of course, but we all have moments. My ego prided itself on being a big strong tough guy, I was a bodybuilder and powerlifter after all, but in that moment I wasn’t. The event did exactly what it was meant to do: To make you trip, and then see if you get up. It ripped off the comfortable mask of my ego and pride and showed me my weakness laid bare.

I walked away, cleaned myself up in Buckingham Fountain (yes really, in downtown Chicago at 2300 hrs, it was kind of fun and surreal), met up with another guy who quit and went and had diner at an Italian place (we offered to sit on towels at the restaurant, I’m amazed they let us in). I wouldn’t say that I’ve regretted that night, it’s what me at the time needed to do, I wasn’t ready for that challenge, but it was a lesson, a kick in the balls, and something I’ve always been a bit ashamed of. I didn’t measure up; I tripped, and I didn’t get up.

Which brings us to the last three months. For those who don’t know, I found F3 because I signed up for the GORUCK Light in Grand Rapids with a buddy of mine from Team Rubicon. I had failed at the Tough years before, but I pumped myself up again to try a Light. I had switched to more overall fitness/CrossFit type training instead of pure bodybuilding and felt I was ready. I had done a Tough Mudder the year before and survived and I could never shake the nagging voice in my head about doing GORUCK events (and Spartan races, I just haven’t had a chance for the Spartan yet… hint hint Kraut).

I was searching for other guys doing the Light and for rucking groups and that’s how I stumbled upon F3 as an official ruck club. I had never heard of F3 and so I did some googling and initially wasn’t sure. I was all for the Fitness and Fellowship, but the third F, Faith, gave me concern.

I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist/atheist married gay man. The moment I see the word Faith I instantly go to “Faith based group” which in my world is the polite way of saying crazy evangelical Christians who hate people like me and use the Bible as a weapon. Forgive me, I know it’s not always true, and it’s a stereotype, but there’s a history that haunts all gay men. We have issues with the Church (capital C) and organized religion.

But, I did more looking. I read the F3 book (which made me cry a couple times while reading it and seeing myself in its pages), read message boards, and it became clear to me that although the PAX was predominantly Christian, Faith just meant a belief in something larger than yourself. To be honest I still was a little concerned about the gay part, you never know how people will react to that, even today, but I decided to give it a shot.

I posted naked to my first workout, no one EH’d me, and I knew absolutely no one. It was a Tuesday at the stairs Q’d by Roid Rage. I wasn’t really sure how hard the workouts were in the group, so I was a bit skeptical at first, but that was quickly washed away by the Thang; a GORUCK monthly challenge workout consisting of burpes, merkins, big boy situps, ruck swings, running, and going up and down the stairs over and over. I was fucking gassed and loved it. At the end I was given my name and knew I had found something I was missing.

A month or so later I learned about GrowRuck and signed up on the spot. It was two things: one, a chance to learn more about leadership and F3 and spend time with my brothers in the PAX, and two, a chance to do a GORUCK Tough again, and this time do it right with the right people. I knew this time I wouldn’t quit, I couldn’t, not with my brothers at my side. No matter what that event threw at us I knew we could make it together. There wasn’t anyone else on the planet I’d rather be suffering through hell with.

Long story short, I was assigned to Blue Platoon along with F3GR Snoop, Hasselhoff, and Bald Eagle. We all made it through, it sucked at times, but it was awesome. After we got back home Kraut and I were chatting on Slack. I mentioned that it felt somehow weird being back in normal life and how it was hard to explain to my husband, like we had been in a different world for a while. I was at Meijer and all the small little annoyances, other people, lines, the rain, all seemed so insignificant and silly. People getting worked up over trivial matters, so caught up in their own worlds to even see everything else around them.

I imagine this must be a small window into what it must feel like after coming home from a combat zone or deployment. We had just survived 14 hours of hell. We were bonded into a brotherhood that was straight forward and honest. No bullshit, no ego, just the man next to you and the ruck on your back. I miss it and the longer I’ve been home the more I’ve grown to appreciate what it was.

When we finished the event, 14 hours after we started, I was relieved. I thought I would be ecstatic and joyful, proud of our accomplishment, like reaching the top of Mount Everest, but really, I was just tired and relieved (and hungry, and I had to pee really bad). But now, three days later, I’m humbled and overjoyed by the experience more and more. What we did, what we learned, about ourselves and each other, continues to unfold in my mind and as I process it I have absolutely no regrets.

During our conversation Kraut asked me what my “why” was. Why did I sign up, why was I there? This was my response:

Like you I like challenging myself – to see what is possible, but I also know that wisdom and personal growth are earned through suffering. Sometimes the best teacher is pain and discomfort. It allows you to quiet your endlessly chattering mind and see you as you truly are, without the rose-colored glasses, without the and masks and facades we wear to face the world.

Regardless of your religious, cultural, or social background, every great tradition has tales of suffering. They are the great archetypal stories of our race. The troubled warrior who must survive at great odds to not only save the princess, but to find truth for himself as well. The shaman or wise king who must endure arduous trials and visions to gain the wisdom to lead and make magics. They all say the same thing: to achieve a goal, to gain wisdom, to gain knowledge and understanding, there is always a cost.

As I was telling Soft Spot on the way back from GrowRuck, I had an… interesting childhood in some respects. I went to a somewhat unique elementary school (among other things, including living in a Zen Buddhist Temple for a time). The school I attended we spent quite a lot of time on ancient history and cultures. One in particular, the Norse (or Vikings), has always been a favorite of mine and one story I’ve always remembered.

The Norse legends tell of Odin, the king of the Gods, and how he came to be the wisest of the Gods. If you were to look up a picture of Odin he is generally shown with only one (good) eye. The reason being is that he sacrificed an eye to gain wisdom. He traveled to the Well of Urd, the source of all cosmic knowledge, seeking to drink from it, but its knowledge came at a price. One of his own eyes for a drink from the well. And so out came the knife, and so Odin is forever known as the One-Eyed God.

Some view the legend as a lesson in needing to sacrifice, to suffer, to gain knowledge, others as a metaphorical act of subordinating one’s base, physical needs (his eye), to obtain a higher level of existence. Both are true, and both point to the need to both suffer and gain discipline over one’s self to gain wisdom.

Kraut, both you and I are big Jocko fans. Jocko, Jordan B. Peterson, Joe Rogan they all say the same thing. Put in the work, don’t complain, take responsibility, take ownership, and learn. Wisdom is the result suffering. Growth is the result of suffering, of working hard and not being comfortable and safe.

So that’s part of my why. F3, GORUCK, they are all designed to make you uncomfortable, to force you confront yourself and see what’s there, even if it takes 14 hours and endless rain to do it. And there’s of course the general fitness/let’s see how fit I can really be part. I’m always training to get stronger/faster/better conditioned/whatever my current goal may be. It’s an opportunity to test and develop that, just as you would with a powerlifting or bodybuilding competition.

The other part is the brotherhood of you and everyone else who was there and part of the PAX. Men bond through suffering and physical hardship. We always have, we always will. I think we’ve lost a lot of that in America. We’re too comfortable. Outside of the Military, and perhaps some sports, men don’t develop deep bonds with each other anymore. These are chances to come together and forge bonds that can only be made in the dirt, the mud, and the gloom. Plus, I mean, they’re just badass, you have to admit. Where else are you going do the shit we did last night/morning?

To highlight my why, I told Kraut the story of my darkest period during the event. At one point during the Tough we were walking though a river. Near the end of the river walk I lost my balance and fell down. I had a small breakdown and saw a side of myself I didn’t like. As I told to Kraut:

That was my lesson at the river. When I feel down during the river ford I wasn’t just pissed, I was downright angry. I was uncomfortable, I had rocks in my shoes, one shoelace was untied, I scraped up my arm when I fell and got disoriented, I felt any step I was going to sprain my ankle or worse, I didn’t feel safe, and I wanted to be out of that god damn fucking river! But, of course I dare not say or show that so when my brothers came over to help and check on me, instead of being thankful and letting them know I was fine physically but pretty shaken up and needing a moment (and not having a heart attack), I went into default passive aggressive angry introvert mode and said, in the most flat, curt, and emotionless way possible, “Yes, I’m fine”.

This only made matters worse. People could tell something was wrong, but I refused to acknowledge it and just kept staying in my shell saying “I’m fine”. To Bald Eagle, to Iverson, to Abacus and Budweiser, to Hasselhoff, and even the Cadre when he was called over. I was being an introverted dick. I knew it in my mind, I knew this isn’t how I should be behaving or dealing with the situation, but god damn it I was angry and uncomfortable, and I didn’t fucking care. I wanted out of that river and I wanted it now. As a result, I treated my brothers, those men suffering, falling, slipping, and working just as hard as I was, unfairly, and it sucked.

Luckily, once we did finally get out of the river and I was able to sit and collect myself did my piss wad attitude pass. That was the darkest moment of the entire event for me. Did I like who I became in that moment? Fuck no. I hate who I became in that moment, and I knew it at the time, I knew it! But that’s my default coping strategy. I come from a long line of depressed passive aggressive introverts. We don’t show anger or discomfort, we don’t do confrontation, we just simmer with internal rage, assume everyone is doing this to us on purpose, and give death glares.

So, something I need to work on, got it. But had it not been for the stress and discomfort of that situation I wouldn’t now know that that part of me needs disciplining and understanding. I still hate that fucking river though…

So that was GrowRuck for me. I couldn’t have done it without my brothers and fellow PAX and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. It was an awesome, terrible, glorious, experience, that I will never forget. I tripped, yes, but I got up. GOOD.

Creatine – Out

——PS: Added 9/30/19 after initial posting. From conversations with fellow PAX and reading Basic Bro’s entry after the BB went up, I need to add this addendum onto my report.

As I said in my BB the 3rd F is what I gave me the most trouble when initially learning about F3. Honestly, I could have skipped the Growschool part of the weekend and been perfectly happy. There were a few times during it that the speakers got far too preachy for me and it became church camp.

I remember at one point one speaker asked the question “who was the greatest leader ever?”, and I’m in my head thinking Alexander The Great, Caesar, Lincoln, Patton, people we quote in leadership books, and then he shouts out “Jesus of course!” like we’re all supposed to know this. I should’ve just walked out at that point but didn’t. Yes, Jesus was a great leader, just as was Mohamed, Buddha, Moses, and scores of other religious, political, and military leaders throughout history, but to assume that that’s the obvious and only answer for a group of people you don’t know?

A similar thing occurred during the sunrise ceremony near the end of the event. Instead of talking about leadership, or how we struggled and survived as a group, we were thanking Jesus for his ultimate sacrifice and the ability to love it gave us. I have no issue talking about the Bible, using it to relay a point or teach a lesson, just as you would any story or culturally relevant idea, but when it becomes Church, that’s too much. You’re no longer promoting the idea of Faith, you’re prescribing a specific Faith.

It’s been a point of conflict for me. On the one hand I love the group. I’ve been searching for something like this for a long time. I tried to find it in bodybuilding and powerlifting, I tried to find it in Jiu-Jitsu, in Team Rubicon and Team RWB, but never quite did. I love the fitness, I love the fellowship, I love having a group of men I can talk with, grab a coffee with, do GORUCK Toughs with, be vulnerable with and who’s friendship doesn’t end the moment class is over, but there’s a cloud that hung over it last weekend that I can’t deny.

Should it just be F2? No. The third F is important. All humans have Faith in something and its guided our species since the beginning. On a local level I think it works well, PAX know each other and know how to relate to the group. Locally I’ve never had a problem, but I was surprised at how preachy National and GrowRuck was. It’s a conversation I think we need to have as a PAX, locally, regionally, and nationally, in order to move forward as a group that is open to all men and leaves no man behind.——————————————————————————————————————————————————-


High Point – I remember at the beginning of the Tough doing flutter kicks with the ruck above my head. It was raining and I was staring at the sky thinking to myself ‘I love this shit.” No joke…that actually happened. So, many high points throughout the night – too many. I particularly enjoyed meeting the F3 leadership including Dredd and Dark Helmet. Dredd is the real deal.

Low Point – As previously mentioned, the 4 AM PT test consisted of 75 ruck thrusters, two laps around the field (slick), 35 ruck thrusters, and two more laps around the field (slick) in 30 minutes. I completed the test in 24:30…I couldn’t believe it, I thought I failed. Once everyone wrapped up, the cadre huddled up the group and started relaying a message on leadership.

As soon as this happened, my head started spinning…and spinning…and spinning…and spinning. I couldn’t get it to stop. As I stood in formation trying to determine what to do, a cadre grabbed me because I was wearing a hat. Turns out, I have been selected to be ‘blind’ during the next evolution. After he prepared us for what was to come, I mentioned to him that I was spinning and that there was a real potential of a protein spill (aka puke) from ‘putting out’ during the PT test. He looked me in the eye with a smirk and said “Like you said – its only protein. Take deep breaths” and then he proceeded to put my hat over my eyes and DUCK TAPED it to my head so I couldn’t see.

Good livin right there.





I agree with Creatine and will not rewrite what Kraut wrote in regards to the Welcome Party, as he did a good job of the summary. What stuck out most me in the Welcome Party was the team development. We started out as 82 strangers with varying relationships forced together to work as a team. As a member of the blue team I am very familiar with Creatine and Bald Eagle, and vaguely familiar with Baywatch, Uncle Rico and Uncle Si; otherwise it was 22 other strangers I was forced to work as a group. It was pretty amazing to see early team development through the process of climbing up and down the wall as a group.

If I was to list my favorite part of the event it would be the group wall climb. It made us work on communication and problem solving as group to ensure that every person and item made it up and down the wall. In addition, we had a few bigun’s on own team (lifting Budweiser up and down was something). As for my least favorite part I would have to say it was the PT in the later part of the morning. Given that we were already tired at that point, in addition that I run at the pace of a 3 legged turtle, it was not so fun. I enjoyed the mumble chatter among my group and getting to know 27 people that we no longer strangers at the end of a 14 hour beat down.

In summation I feel that it was the most mentally, physically and emotionally challenging event of my life. Despite that fact I found it to be one of the most rewarding events of my life and am grateful to be EH’ed into it by the group.

The beaches are safe,



Soft Spot:

F3 and F3 Grand Rapids has many meanings to me. It came along at a point when I was in a major life transition. Pushing myself for the better and working to get right. When GrowRuck 16 came up I couldn’t pass on an opportunity to really test how far I have come. Hearing stories about other GORUCK events and reading from the things people have done I knew this was going to be a mental battle. Physically I have come a long way but the previous life I would not even consider thinking that this was an option, even if I wanted it. Before F3 I didn’t even know it, but I was what F3 calls, a Sad Clown.

Fast forward a little over a year of F3 and we are at the GrowRuck 16 weekend. I was looking forward to spending time with the guys, working out and pushing my limits. It was great to meet other regions and be lead by the leaders of leaders DRedd. The morning workout went well and led into Grow School. It was a start of many highlights to come. Grow School for me just went further into detail of a culture that I enjoy and want to see grow in our community. When the lull of the afternoon finally passed and it was time for our GORUCK Tough event I felt calm. I was the only one from the F3 Grand Rapids that have not had any prior GORUCK experience. I felt comfortable with my training, but this was still unknown. I knew I would be tired and tested, physically and mentally, but I did not want to be the weak link.

As we progressed through the welcome party and the various exercises I felt at home. This was like another F3 workout. That was motivating to keep me moving and mentally strong. My first mental test was during this workout. The Cadre had us forward roll. Now this wouldn’t be a big deal, except, the last time I did this was about 4 years ago. I was 100lbs heavier and injured my back in the process. I thought if I couldn’t do this little thing after all the improvements I have made, then this is going to be a long night. SUCCESS, little victory. Shortly after that I faced another mental check. We were placed into platoons and had to climb a wall with all our supplies. Seeing the people working together has made it look so easy, but mentally I was scared. I felt If I tried, being a big guy, I would be dropped or wouldn’t have the strength to get to the top. I told myself that I have come a long way and that I wasn’t that big guy any more. Nervously I moved forward. Stepping on the guys back, who was on all four at the base of the wall, I told myself I got this. Looking at Gobbler who was about to have me step up on his shoulders, I got this. I stepped up and reached up to grab the hands that were hanging over the wall. I got this. Hands clasped around my forearm and pulled as I pulled. Lifting up more hands grabbed my ruck and pulled. Together, with the guys already at the top and myself pulling up on the ledge I made it to the top. It was a rush and mental victory. That highlight, doing something that I thought I would never be able to do would help the rest of the night.

The rest of the night was challenging. I was physically exhausted and continually being tested. The whole point of this weekend for me was to see what my limits were. To overcome any mental barriers that were set from when I was heavy and content. DRedd asked us during Grow School what our WHY was. Six words to describe it. Challenge myself, test limits, set examples. This whole weekend just confirmed that I have not reached my limit. I have more challenges to face and more examples to offer my kids, my friends and people.

Overall, no matter what your WHY was, going through this was life changing. The experience is different for everyone, but bonds were formed when we each faced struggles and being there with the guy next to you is what mattered. From start to finish it was the guy next to us that helped us get through. Yes parts of it were mental and physical but there was an unspoken bond, knowing they are right there with you.

-Soft Spot


Many above have already summarized the night to a great extent. I guess that’s one of the beautiful things with being last to the party. The hard work is already done. My goal is to use this space to document the biggest lesson I learned at GrowRuck16 that I plan to carry into my personal and professional life.

If I were being honest, I was worried about the physical demands of the GoRuck event. While not a GoRuck event, I had to medical drop out of a physical type event in the past for a reasonably severe condition. Looking back, I feel like I let the group of people I was with that day down. I didn’t want that to happen again, certainly not after dedicating so much time to training. On Friday night, Kraut said, “everybody finishes” and that was my singular goal of the weekend.

To that end, my main focus was the physical demands of the night. I felt strong after the welcome party and was ready to take the night on. There were a few setbacks during the wall climb when my first attempt up the wall resulted in my entire lower body cramping up. I took the opportunity to electrolyte up at the top in hopes the impending cramps would stop. Luckily, they subsided quickly, and I didn’t deal with any additional cramping throughout the night.

Then it happened. Bald Eagle was designated as blue platoon’s leader and Dredd gave him the ability to choose the next class captain. When Bald Eagle turned around and looked at me, I immediately knew.

Off the bat, I made some mistakes that cost the entire group penalty exercises. I wanted to be done, and I didn’t want to be in charge anymore. This role was exposing something I’ve always dealt with; a lack of confidence in myself. In particular, Cadre Danny was trying to start a lesson on “holding short”, as the group moved into a parking lot to wait for the next movement. I did what I thought was right at the time, and attempted to get the platoons into formation. Completely unaware of the fact that Cadre Danny was talking. Never, and I mean never, try to talk over the Cadre when they are giving instruction. I got my ass handed to me, and the group had to start doing pushes. Cadre Danny asked me to tell everybody why they were being punished, again exposing my lack of leadership, communication, and confidence at that point in the night.

We then had to do an hour and half walk through the river, in which we were to be completely silent. This is where thoughts started to creep in, and was undoubtedly the lowest part of my night.

You’re a terrible leader.

You can’t do anything right.

Why did I even come?

Thanks to the guys in the back of Blue Platoon’s line for checking in on me even though we were supposed to be quiet during this time. It certainly helped me not to get completely lost in my head at that point.

After we got out of the river, something clicked. I knew I had to step up, and my opportunity was now. We switched platoon leaders at the hospital, but the Cadre kept me on as the class leader. I can only think they didn’t see the results and growth they were looking for and were giving me one last chance to show up.

The next two movements were time-hacks, and if the group doesn’t make the goal, everybody gets punished., I displayed much higher confidence and guided the team success. Looking back, I would have handled these two movements completely different, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. I feel like my communication was still very unclear and not direct enough, but it certainly was a learning opportunity, and immediate growth at that point was evident.

The Cadre runs AAR (After Action Reports) for every leader when switching responsibility, and the resounding message was “you finally got the confidence you needed, and you took charge.”

Thanks again to Kevin Young for giving me that pep talk during after I was relieved of the class leader duty. It meant a lot to me.



Props to all my F3GR brothers above who’ve recapped the sequence of evolutions throughout the Tough—no need for me to repeat what they’ve so well articulated. Also, sincere respect for everyone being vulnerable in sharing a slice of their personal journey that led them to this event. Nothing we’ve done independently or as part of F3 to prepare of this was in vain. Without F3, I’d be hard-pressed to say I could’ve approached this with as much confidence as I did (not to be confused with arrogance). Still, leading up to the 1800 start time, I found the line between where my nerves ended and adrenaline started to be a blurry line. It was kind of like standing in line for 3 hours for a rollercoaster that you’re terrified of: once they strap you in, you just have to ride it out. And then the next 14 hours happened…

From the sounds of it, I think I had a bit of a different experience than the rest of GR. I keep coming back to F3 week after week because of what it does for me: fitness, mental toughness, and the positive fellowship I’ve shared with many of my F3 brothers. All of these benefits translate into helping me be a better man, husband, son, brother, uncle, professional, leader, etc. However, although I respect it and what it stands for, I have to admit that the GrowSchool elements and the rallying behind Dredd and Co. don’t do much for me. As a matter of fact, aside from the personal accomplishment of completing the event, I left underwhelmed and more disconnected from F3 than I did entering the weekend. I know, understand, and can appreciate anyone who seeks out and needs to be reaffirmed leadership and “go get ‘em” encouragement by the holier-than-thou F3 Nation executive team (read: not the way THEY carry themselves as F3 Nation’s leaders, which they’ve rightfully earned, but the near-worship level from the pax), but that’s not me. Actually, it’s a turnoff for me. Can’t do it.

While grinding it out next to 80 other guys for 14 hours, I watched a handful of men of F3 who are supposed to uphold the virtuous leadership qualities Dredd preached just hours before become tough guys unable to bond or show any emotion other than how strong can they look or how loud they can boss others around in front of everyone else (not the role any of us were supposed to adopt, but I watched it happen). Also, this is not to be confused with the platoon leaders or anyone else charged with a leadership role—I’m talking everyone else in line. I’m not the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, or most experienced, but I went in with heart, passion, and enthusiasm, willing to do whatever it took to be a team player to get the job done, and was surprised by how many times guys who knew of/me and didn’t know me talked to me like I was their lower-class subordinate or was supposed to just take their shit. Again, I’m not talking about the Cadre doing their job, which was new for me, exhilarating, and actually empowering. I was out of my comfort zone the entire time, and I actually felt myself thrive on the Cadre’s orders. The rest of the guys, not so much. Despite getting tired and wobbly around 3 or 4a, I fed off the Cadre’s pressure. The other posturing was a different story.

I’ve been pretty self-conscious about my lower back issues since its severity was confirmed just days before the Tough. I hated modifying-out of some of the exercises, but I compensated in alternative exercises and in number of reps, and gave my damndest in every other way I could that wouldn’t put me at risk of injury. Thanks to Kraut for letting me climb on his shoulders to get up the wall, and to every pax who shared the load of extra credit heavy weight with me. Still, it was a challenging aspect to get out of my head. I feel confident in knowing that I earned my patch and did the absolute best I could given my physical limitations. It breaks my heart that my back will likely prevent me from ever doing another one again because, despite much of my strong criticisms about the weekend overall (e.g., Naperville’s all-over-the-board communication, GoRuck-proper’s enigmatic recommendations for preparedness, F3 Nation’s lazy co-Q Sat morning, pax not paying attention to or listening to the Cadre’s orders, many of them being out to show how tough they are, etc., etc., etc.), I would do another one, no questions asked.

When my friends and family ask me how it went, I describe the down and dirty details of the event with pride and authentic enthusiasm. And I praise my guys at F3GR for their inspiration and support. Conquering those 14 hours is a BIG FUCKING ACCOMPLISHMENT, and we should ALL be proud of ourselves. I love myself for doing it, and I love my dudes at F3GR (and KZoo) for helping me get through it—even before it started. But, I left disappointed with some of the wind out of my sails. It would’ve been nice to say I left with at least one new friendship or bond, but that didn’t happen, and I’m bummed about that. Too many guys just couldn’t stop being guys long enough to check their egos at the door. I’m not immune from criticism either. I’m sure I dropped the ball more than once during those 14 hours, too, and if/when I did, I owned it, but I also knew well enough when I was not out of line and refuse to accept the BS that came when others tried to call me on it.

Side note: I was SO proud to watch our guys from GR step up when they were called upon to be team leaders!

I’m not a fan of bandwagons, and I’m aware that my contribution to this BackBlast reflects that. If anyone out there in F3 Nation has a question about my experience, you can find me @jasonley.

My “why”: My story isn’t done being written.

With honesty, frustration, and respect,