Surviving the Nasty

Rope Climb -- Nasty 001. Photo courtesy: GORUCK
Photo courtesy: GORUCK
Confidence Climb obstacle at Nasty 001. Photo courtesy: GORUCK

It was like I was a second grader again in Ms. Murphy’s P.E. class. I grabbed onto the rope and slowly, hand over hand, I pulled my body up an exhilarating 20 feet. But this time, I didn’t hear a “Good job, Yvette” from a gym teacher in striped tube socks. Instead, a newfound fear of heights kicked in and assaulted my confidence. Climbing a rope was one thing. The thought of walking across a lattice of beams was crippling. I collected myself, leaned over the railing, and dropped an F bomb.

Rope Climb -- Nasty 001. Photo courtesy: GORUCK
Climbing a rope, just like in gym class. Photo courtesy: GORUCK

Tyler, one of the GORUCK cadre assigned to the obstacle, heard my loud whisper. The other rope climbers had started walking across the beams when Tyler, whose longish hair peaked out of a tactical hat, asked me why I wasn’t walking.

“I can’t stop shaking,” I told him, raising my trembling right arm.

“Why are you shaking?” he asked, matter-of-factly. “Are you tired or are you afraid of heights?”

“I think I’m afraid of heights,” I told him.

“Hold my hand. Lets walk.”

I honestly don’t remember if he gave me his whole hand or if he just lent me the tip of his finger. Whatever he did, it worked. I turned over my fear to a stranger and made it to the other side.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I repeated, as I proceeded to climb up a latter and down a cargo net to complete the obstacle.

“People are stronger than they think they are. With just a little but of push, a little bit of confidence, you’ll be okay,” said Devin Reagan, one of the masterminds behind the GORUCK Nasty course design. A Green Beret, Devin modeled this year’s Nasty (Nasty 001) after the Nasty Nick, the course he and other Berets went through during Special Forces training. Like the Tough Mudder and Spartan obstacle course races, the Nasty has its share of wall climbs and muddy crawls. But unlike the other races, the Nasty jolts you out of your comfort zone, obstacle course race veteran or not.

Nasty 001 -- Photo courtesy: GORUCK
If you don’t make it across, splash! Photo courtesy: GORUCK
Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Photo courtesy: GORUCK

“These aren’t obstacles that are just up and over,” Devin explained. “But with a little bit of coaxing and a little bit of coaching, [people] are able to accomplish [them].”

It’s true. In no other course I’ve gone through has there been a Special Forces cadre assigned to each obstacle to drown out the negative voices in your head. Luke Skywalker had Yoda. I had Tyler.

As we hiked up one of several slopes at Massanutten Resort, we saw several men of various fitness levels pausing along the way, hoping a time-out would ease their mental and physical exhaustion. But the “suck” hung over us like the blanket of fog that made our trek to the Mogadishu Mile obstacle even more surreal. The scene was cinematic, and at times, nightmarish. Tired souls emerging from clouds, dirty and wet, holding small flags that would be placed on a Memorial Wall. It wasn’t until we reached the top of that ascent, did we get to enjoy a break, a damp and relaxing jog on a gravel road that led to a series of log balance beams.

Log balance obstacle -- Nasty 001. Photo courtesy: GORUCK
Log balance obstacle — Nasty 001. Photo courtesy: GORUCK

GORUCK is known for making tough stuff that attracts a cult-like following. Crafted in Montana, its rucks have been “used and abused” in war by Special Forces soldiers (GORUCK’s founder, Jason McCarthy, is himself a former Green Beret). The company believes in its products so much, it offers a lifetime guarantee. Prior to the GORUCK Nasty,  the Challenge was the only way anyone could get in some “good livin'” and earn the coveted Challenge patch, which conveniently adheres to your ruck. The Cadre-led team event lasts several hours and is held at various cities around the country. I earned my patch in the chilly ocean waters of Virginia Beach in April 2012.

As for Nasty 002, current plans are to hold it at Massanutten Resort in August or September 2014; Nasty 003 will be elsewhere in the continental U.S, and its location is expected to be disclosed soon. Devin said Nasty 002’s participants can look forward to more activities tailored for families. For now, the primary focus will be on perfecting the event.

“The more confidence challenging obstacles, the better. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Good to know.



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