The 2022 GORUCK Games exceeded everyone’s expectations; but that’s largely conjecture as GORUCK went out of their way to make sure nobody had a clue what to expect. They deliberately left their athletes in the dark about what events would be thrown at them. And when the wisdom or fairness of certain “evolutions” was questioned, the cadre and race directors never budged. The weekend was hell on earth for participating athletes. Do you know what the craziest part is? Most of them would sign up again tomorrow - without hesitation!
Just stepping foot into the Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival, one couldn’t help but notice, admire, but hopefully not cower to the impressive Savage Race Urban O-Course which showcased 17 of the brand’s best and most unique obstacles. Its presence was unmistakable and strategically placed on one side of the festival grounds forming a perimeter with its neighboring workout stations and merchant booths, including representation from ROGUE, Hildervat, Green Beret Foundation, 1st phorm, and of course, MudGear. This layout left the festival’s centerfield open for any attendees to join in on some heart-pumping workouts led by Street Parking and F45. That same centerfield would eventually serve as centerstage for various evolutions of the GORUCK Games.
The MudGear crew showed up in a unique but somewhat awkward situation. We were there to sell merch, represent on social media, catch up with our F3 brothers, while supporting new and old friends from OCR and rucking. However, there were lingering questions. Would the “games” (plural) lean more ruck or OCR? Whose craft would prevail?
ROLL CALL AND BRIEFING
Confession. Even as mentally invested as we were in the GRG, we had lost track of some of the announcements leading into the event. So, the afternoon roll call was our first chance to appreciate the incredible who’s-who collection of athletes that were on site. Some were OCR elite champions, some were finishers of GORUCK’s toughest endurance events. Mixed among them were friends and up-and-comers ready to prove that they belong.
The briefing, if you can call it that, was really an outfitting of mandatory gear (45 lb. rucksack for men; 30 lbs. for women) and broad encouragement to remain mentally tough, meet the standards, and embrace the suck. Participants were then informed the suck would officially begin in the morning at the GORUCK HQ located near Jacksonville Beach - hint, hint.
It was countdown to 6:00 A.M. - and the GORUCK Cadres were clearly up to no good as they fine tuned the organized chaos they had in store for the poor saps, albeit fit ones, gathering outside with rucks in hand. Everyone got their numbers Sharpied onto their arms and then wait patiently for further instructions. Hurry up and wait - it’s a calculated part of GORUCK’s mental warfare.
Finally, with little fanfare, athletes were told to line up, throw their rucks on, and keep up while following the flag bearers to the beach, which was just two or three blocks away. There at the beach, a start line had already been resurrected, and it made sense that the athletes would stop there in order to gather a start line corral.
Instead, GRG participants were led into the ocean and reminded about the power of water, and its relationship to life, birth, and sustenance. Couple that with the coastal setting sunrise and talk about the mission at hand, and one couldn’t help but feel part of something bigger. Be it echoes from the beaches of Normandy or every hard fought mission since, the unrelenting ocean is a not so quiet reminder that, despite all of the unknowns that lie ahead, one thing is known. The mission isn’t over until it’s over! Here's just a short part of that speech.
The ceremony ended with the Star Spangled Banner, to which the participants weren’t invited to take a knee or spectate quietly. They were instructed to sing out like it means something. Like they’re grateful for the freedom to gather for a weekend of competition while citizens in less fortunate nations are fighting for their lives.
After the ocean flag ceremony, athletes gathered back on the shore with their now wet rucks and were told to lie down side-by-side forming a human start line between the start marker and the shore. This is where you could really tell who had participated in GORUCK beach challenges before. The ruckers quickly found spots to drop close to the start marker on the dry beach because they knew the last ones to get in line would be near the water - maybe in it. Not fun!
Once everyone was in position, the airhorn blew, and participants were just told to run until the flag bearers stopped and planted their flags. That would be the midpoint turnaround.
This is where strategy becomes a crapshoot. It's a race. So, everyone wanted to stay competitive. However, nobody knew how far the run would be or what kind of pace to keep while running on the beach with a weighted ruck sack. Plus, this is the first event of the day. Does it make good sense to go hard not knowing what kind of torture will come later in the day?
When you don't know what to expect, make sure you're wearing the best. Stock up on MudGear Ruck Socks - the official sock of the GORUCK Games.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON EVOLUTIONS
Most of the athletes were relieved to learn they could rest for a few hours before the next event, but GORUCK purists were more suspicious than grateful. We're talking about a company of cadre who pride themselves on pushing participants past their limits while enduring new levels of hurt. They may just be letting the athletes enjoy a little calm before the storm, but pain is definitely in the forecast.
Upon meeting back at the Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival, athletes were soon introduced to not 2 or 3, but 5 more evolutions to wrap up the day. Here's the breakdown based on our intel.*
- Evolution 2: Sand Bell Throw
- unknown weight
- Evolution 3: Weighted Max Pull-ups,
- 10 lbs. for women
- 20 lbs. for men
- Evolution 4: 1 Mile Weighted Run,
- 100 lbs. (20# ruck 80#sandbag) for men and women
- Evolution 5: Max Distance Farmers Carry
- 2 40 lbs. sandbags for women + 30 lbs. ruck
- 2 60 lbs. sandbags for men + 20 lbs. ruck
- Evolution 6: Max Overhead Hold
- 60 lbs. for women
- 80 lbs. for men
*Corrections are welcomed if you're in the know.
Saturday afternoon packed in enough action for a three hour documentary which, hopefully, is coming soon from our friends at GORUCK. Meanwhile, we at MudGear decided to sum things up with a simple montage.
It was an exhausting first day for the GRG athletes with another one in store. Oh, and they hadn't even touched Savage Race's Urban O-Course yet. Regardless of the current point standings, which were kept pretty close to the vest, competitors knew Sunday could easily change everything. No room for error!
SUNDAY SAVAGE O-COURSE
Before we talk about what happened on Sunday, let's consider what DIDN'T HAPPEN on Saturday. The obstacle course racers didn't break under the weight of heavy rucking. Some believe that was GORUCK's expectation. Break the OCR athletes on Saturday, even things up on Sunday. However, with most of the Top 20 athletes after day 1 being experienced Spartans, Savages, and Tough Mudders, it was now the ruckers who would need to play catchup on Sunday. Would the Savage O-Course put the final nails in their coffins?
What's important to remember is that racing isn't just about pure athleticism, strength, endurance, or even technical skills. Sometimes it comes down to who's listening, how they strategize, and whether their egos will hurt or hinder them. This truth was foreshadowed during the athlete briefing about the Savage O-Course when racers learned that, if they failed the rig, they could retry it or take a 1-minute penalty. A couple of OCR guys seemed shocked that there wasn't a mandatory second attempt. "They'll just touch the first wrung and then skip it," one veteran racer pointed out. Notice the "they." His point was that obstacles like the rig are supposed to separate the men from the boys or, in this case, the racers from the ruckers (they). However, with only a minute penalty dished out to everyone who skips the obstacle, even some racers started toying with idea of skipping it in order to save themselves for the rest of the race.
"Wait. What am I talking about? I'm an obstacle course racer. I don't skip rigs." Ego. Remember?
After 7 evolutions including the Savage Race Urban O-Course, the top accumulative scores were revealed.
TOP 8 MALE GORUCK GAMES ATHLETES
TOP 8 FEMALE GORUCK GAMES ATHLETES
Then there were eight! The quarterfinals consisted of head-to-head races across the monkey bars and over the cargo net where athletes grabbed their rucks before going under the low crawl. At that point, athletes needed to strap their rucks on because their arms would become busy moving four sandbags across the 40 meter centerfield. They could only take 1 bag at a time, drop it at the finish line, and then pass over a standard wall as they returned to the pile for their next bag. Each sandbag was heavier than the last one - 40, 60, 80, and 120 lbs.
With 8 evolutions of competition behind them, the final four men and women were undoubtedly beyond exhaustion. Contestants would pair up in another man-to-man competition that started on the ROGUE rope climb. Then, transport a heavy sandbag and jerry can across centerfield. Next stop was 20 sandbag overhead tosses plus pushups. Then, return the jerry can and heavy sandbag across the field, and knock out two more rope climbs.
While we wish we were staffed to film all of the simultaneous action, we're happy we decided to follow Kris Rugloski, one of our friends and competitors staying in the MudGear Beach House throughout the GRG weekend. By all accounts, it seemed like her opponent, Rachel, was leaving Kris in the dust. Fortunately, Kris doesn't know how to quit!
Did you hear the announcement about Rachel completing one of her last two rope climbs while Kris was still halfway down the field? That's a devastating announcement to hear, but Kris knew that none of that mattered. Win or lose, her mission wasn't complete.
GORUCK GAMES FINALS | WRESTLING
The announcement that the GRG final event would be wrestling invited feelings of excitement and bewilderment throughout the Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival. Based on online comments, social media followers had equally mixed feelings. There's a part of you that wonders if it's a fair and representative way to wrap up two days of incredible athletic competition. One commenter asked, "What does wrestling have to do with rucking?" Cadre quickly reminded us that GORUCK will always value its roots in military special forces roots... and that the line between competition and combat is razor thin. That was all the explanation most of us needed.
The format was simple. Make your opponent tap out or make them touch the outside of the ring. No striking. Best of the three rounds wins!
- Watters vs. Nadeau (for Women's 3rd & 4th)
- Kempson vs. Roche (for Men's 3rd & 4th)
- Rugloski vs. Knight (for Women's 1st & 2nd)
- McIntyre vs. Newby (for Men's 1st & 2nd)
Let's be honest. None of these athletes are pro level wrestlers, but their gutsy grit and non-stop competitive spirit made each match exciting but respectful. When the dust cleared, Hunter McIntyre and Katie Knight were the crowned victors of the 2022 GORUCK GAMES!
For an inaugural event, and many athletes' first experience with GORUCK, most would agree this was a spectacular start - exceeding most expectations. The feedback we've heard from athletes and on social concerning competing again next year?