Surviving the second GORUCK Challenge in Harrisburg


My name is Amy Ladas, I’m 36 years young, and I currently live in Harrisburg, Pa. I love anything that challenges me and forces me outside of my comfort zone… intellectually, emotionally, physically. I love strongman training, heavy weight lifting, the camaraderie of CrossFit, and anything that gets me to move. I’m an artist and musician at heart. I grew up as a tomboy and country girl and determination is my middle name. I love meeting inspirational people that also believe in things bigger than themselves. This was my first experience with a GORUCK event.

Everybody has experienced that moment in time where you’ve agreed to do something completely unique, and you have to keep quieting the thoughts in your head that tell you that you might regret it.

These thoughts will cause you to question your sanity, tell you that you might fall down and possibly not make it to the end and fail.

I used to fear these thoughts and stick to my familiar routines, my comfort zone.

So what better way to shake it up than trying something completely out of your comfort zone?

“Please don’t let my personal experience here frighten you,” Andy Shay told us when we met to consider registering for this GORUCK Challenge. “This is a beater.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Our GORUCK Challenge team of 27 individuals started at City Island, right outside the walking bridge and the baseball stadium. I believe each of us was antsy for the 10 p.m. start.

Number one rule: Never let the ruck touch the ground.

In the vacant field, where the grass was not yet wet with dew, Cadre Dakotah had us do warm-up PT. Squats, lunges, push-ups, overhead presses, bear crawls, team drags, burpees, flutter kicks, hill sprints… all with the rucks on our backs, stomachs, overhead, whatever was asked of us.

We did about 15 total miles – broken into an average, 2.5-3.5 mile trips spanning the capital region (back and forth across the very scenic Susquehanna river).

On one trip we carried all of our normal weight plus a number of sand bags of various weights – from 120 pounds down to 40 pounds.

Then, on another trip we carried all of that plus rocks of varying shapes and weights. One of the rocks required 2-3 guys, and several of the bulky rocks required us to have small teams that could swap out.

We eventually covered the required distance in the middle of the night and were finally put down the sand bags and rocks.

GORUCK BLOG1Next we found ourselves in Camp Hill in the middle of a park where we raced each other pushing picnic tables on the wet grass in the middle of the night.

Then the team pushed a padded football sled about four or five times around the entire football field. Each trip was preceded by a humorous story that Dakotah would pull from his witty brain, all with the biggest grin and a crazy twinkle in his eyes.

We each battled our internal thoughts, exhaustion and cramps, reminding each other to keep fueled and hydrated. Above all we learned to rely and trust each other.

My breakthrough was learning how to not be afraid of asking for help. The reality was that none of us could have done anything we did alone.

At one point before sunrise, we pushed ourselves to make it from the middle of Camp Hill back to the gardens on Front Street in Harrisburg all in 60 minutes – jogging a lot of the time to try to make it.

The penalty for not making it was additional PT when we were “done” with everything else in the morning. We all tried our best and came in close at 64 minutes. The frustration was visible on our tired faces, but we had to keep in mind how to keep the team stronger and more together as one unit.

The toughest leg of the journey was from the gardens on Front Street right after sunrise all the way to the National Civil War Museum and amphitheater … with a beastly telephone pole.

Because some members of the team were too short for their shoulders to help carry the weight, the team carrying the pole was a slimmer crew.

We tried subbing in and out, but it was brutal, painful and agonizing. Some said it was soul-crushing, and it really felt like it.

After getting rid of the telephone pole, we were treated to some burpees and sprints up and down a steep hill. We hooked up with the GORUCK Light team, which started at 5 a.m., and took a break to sit and listen to each Cadre talk about their special operations experiences.

These are amazing men with passionate souls and experiences that far surpass movie scripts. The break was nice, but our adventure wasn’t over.

We were all stiff from sitting still, but now under Cadre Michael’s guidance, we rucked it back to Walnut Street walking bridge.

Synchronized walking lunges for about half the length of the bridge seemed at first impossible, considering how exhausted we all were. But the silent synchronized beats of our footsteps coming together sounded awesome. Like River Dance for GORUCK.

We returned to City Island, to the place where it all started more than 12 hours earlier. The Cadre placed patches in the palms of our incredibly heavy outstretched arms, said we could drop our arms to our sides and remove our rucks for the final time.

Beer never tasted so good. We survived. We each have stories we’ll forever remember. As much as it wiped me out and knocked me down, I know I’ll do it again.

I love the quote that says: “when life knocks you down, do a burpee!”

Whether during an exhausting and liberating GORUCK Challenge, or just going about your daily life in your own little world where sometimes it feels like we are alone in our journey … never forget that: Together … We Are … Stronger!


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