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GORUCK Challenge Toronto 2013 - Part 2

*This race review has been written for Get Out There Magazine.

Looking at the route we covered, it’s funny how much of this I do not remember. A long endurance event goes by really quickly, except when it drags on and on. Relativity theory in real life…

Jay drops from the event, as all the PT aggravates an old back injury.

And then there were 11.

As we leave the dreaded track, the task is to make it to Rosedale Park within a certain time frame. We carry all gear and take turns running laps around the team, while carrying team weight to earn extra time. I am responsible for the team being punished at least twice, as I keep running onto the road in my excitement to contribute.

At Rosedale – a short break and food. I finally get a chance to eat some of the fuel I packed what now seems to be forever ago. Note to self – only carry potatoes if you want them mashed. And if you have a spoon.

Our next destination is High Park with a stop at Christie Pits -a small recreational area with a playground on the way. Maybe we’ll do monkey bars! Or get a chance to scare small children! Please, Jason???

We lose Tay on our way to Christie Pits – struggling with muscle cramping ever since our hill sprints, he is (rightly) concerned about injury. “I also don’t want to slow down you guys”, he says as part of the “in-front-of-the-whole-group” speech. “Tay, you are quitting for you, not for us”, I remind him. The rest nod. It’s a tough decision. But he will be back…

And then there were 10.

As we ruck our butts through the sleepy downtown, Jason dispenses another task – be on a lookout for bikes (aka IEDs). If he spots one before we do… we shall be punished. Somehow after hours of PT, the threat of punishment carries less and less weight… What on Earth could he throw our way that we haven’t done already? More push-ups?

How can we miss the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), one of Toronto’s landmarks? Yay for weighted push-ups. My wrist tells me to go screw myself.

As we reach Christie Pitts, we get a bathroom break. Sitting on the toilet in an actual ladies’ washroom (which is about as ladylike as PizzaPizza is Italian), I think to myself that Jason cannot actually reach me here. It’s like a dead zone. Jackpot! I could just stay here.

Flashbacks to my first year of university, when I was so tired at a rave, that I escaped to the bathroom for a nap. Hint – you need to turn around and straddle the seat, then you can actually use the water tank as a pillow. True story.

Task – three people on the merry go around, three people on the ruck swing (think kettlebell swing with a ruck), the rest spin the merry go around at least ten times.

After the spinners spend their leisure time doing air squats, while the spinnees get off the merry go around, and run up the nearest hill and back down with the grace of stray cats post-general anaesthesia.

High Park! Finally. Dog walkers and joggers galore. We get to play with a huge log (no, unfortunately, that’s not a metaphor – quite literal). Few guys pick up the damn thing, while the rest of us re-distribute the rucks and team weight. Red ants is a nice little bonus for those carrying the log. “My neck is on fire”, one of them screams as they desperately try to lower the log to the ground in a controlled fashion. Is it just me or is Jason smirking?

Break. Ten minutes or so to stuff our faces with food, which we do with gusto. Many edible items have lost their original structural integrity, but the nutritional value seems to still be there. Nom, nom, nom…

At this point, the food bag is quite communal. I end up with a wild blend of nuts, boiled eggs and a piece of pizza in my mouth (found it, Matt!). Followed by some chocolate. Beef jerky. The foodie in me has left the building. Hours ago.

Food is to be put away, and we are slowly walking towards Lakeshore. By taking the creek down. Yes, yes, of course, there is also a perfectly good trail leading there, but why on Earth would we do that?

The water does not seem that cold, now that the sun is out. I take off my fleece and wrap it around my head as a turban – anything to keep at least one piece of clothing dry.


An interesting side effect of my wrist injury… It seems that I am at more risk for injuring other body parts, because I am so overprotective of the wrist. Walking down the creek was one of the most emotionally wrecking parts of the whole event for me.

Another 100m of this, and I would have quit. Simply gotten out of the water, and said “forget it”. As we slowly inch our way down, the bottom is sleek, and each rock is more slippery, no, wait… SLIPPY! than the one before. I am absolutely terrified of twisting my ankle. This particular endevour seems unnecessarily stupid (ha!).

Two team members actually do end up twisting their ankles. At one point I miss a step, slip, and protecting my right wrist, fall flat on my back, slamming my other wrist into a pile of wet rocks. As Jonathan and Dylan help me up, the whole team gives me a look of concern – nothing hurts, but I’m close to absolute panic.

We finally get out of the damn creek, and, scaring the Saturday joggers, head towards Lakeshore. I’m wrapped in the emergency blanket yet again. It’s unbelievable the difference a crumpled up piece of foil can make.

We get to the Sunnyside Beach, into the water we go. More water, eh? Well, at least we haven’t been wet for a while. [Insert sarcast scowl here.] We start out with burpees.

But that’s way too dry for Jason’s liking. Way too warm.


But there is still room for improvement… We go into the water.

Thigh deep. Knee highs. Waist deep. Squats. Chest deep… Full immersion. “All as one”, Jason screams. “If one person does not go fully under, you are all doing it again!”

We lock elbows and exchange glances. “One… Two… Three!”. As I come up, Jason calls us out of the water. I guess that means we all went under! Well done, team!

Despite the wet and the cold, this photo captures the best moment of the event for me. Having to do 25 ranger kicks on the count, we were so incredibly motivated to get the hell off our backs, we were moving as one. All screaming out the counts. Kicking strong, and getting faster with every kick. I so love life in this moment.

As we get out of the water, we have to low crawl along the beach. The sand is warm, so nobody seems to mind.

Guess what? We get to go back into the water as soon as we get out. As you can see from the photo below, we were not moving with the sense of urgency… It’s kind of hilarious how slow lack of sleep and food makes you. It’s like you moving in a fog…

Oh yeah. We also left one of our own behind briefly. I think Cadre Jason was secretly delighted to dispense punishment. It doesn’t last as long this time around, but it’s full immersion again. If there were any dry spots on me before, there definitely aren’t any now.

Once we are actually out of the water for real, most of us are shaking from the cold – my teeth are chattering so loudly, I can’t hear what Jason is saying. Something about the log. Ah! Shoulder presses with the log. Squats with the log. Sit-ups with the log. Of course… By a conservative estimate, this little tree weighed close to 400 pounds.

I think that is was somewhere here that passers by started whipping out cameras and recording the crazy people shoulder pressing a tree. Watch out for random clips showing on YouTube.

Eventually we leave the log behind. Even the best things in life come to an end.

We are making our way along Lakeshore to Fort York Armoury, the headquarters of four active units of the Army Reserve. See if you can find me in the photo below? [Hint: I’m always the most fashionably dressed.]

This is where I fall asleep… Oh, we are still on the move, but I’m totally out of it. The instruction is to travel in one tight rank, and poor Monica, who is right behind me, keeps gently steering me in the right direction. My eyes are firmly closed for most of this trek. It is a small miracle I am not hit by a truck, and I am only saved by the virtue of fellow Goruckers in front of me and behind me.

Finally, group picture in front of the armoury.

I’m exhausted and barely awake. I have no idea why I’m grinning in the photo. It’s like a freaking Mona Lisa enigma – huge smile on my face in every single racing shot. This reminds me of one of the episodes of “How I Met Your Mother”, where friends discover that there is no way to take a bad picture of Barney – he looks equally composed in every single shot no matter what. Some endurance diva, I am.

This right here would be a great place to be done. But no… Cadre does not display even a hint of “doneness”. I ask for food. Again, it’s a no. We are off to Queen’s Park.

Queen’s Park actually sounds like a reasonable place to finish, but I don’t care. I’m in the full on bitch mode. I’m rolling my eyes. I’m swearing under my breath. I’m composing lengthy tirades in my head addressed to some mysterious audience. In other words, I’m doing the best impersonation of my own 14-year old self that I can master.

I’m pissed. I’m pissed because it seems that we are randomly wondering around from one location to another without a particular purpose. I’m pissed because there is no clear finish line. I’m pissed because this is not what I expected. I did not expect the food to be taken away. I did not expect this event to run this long. I did not expect to be this wet and this cold. I did not. I did not.

Cue life lesson from Buddha here – all suffering is caused by unmet expectations. Thankfully, Buddha is not around to deliver this lesson in person, because he would definitely get punched.

As we approach the bridge on Spadina, we are told to sprint. We have thirty seconds to cross the bridge. Or else. “Or else what?” my tired brain revolts. “More PT?”

At Front Street, new rule – no more walking. We shuffle our feet. It’s the furthest thing from running. But, I guess, it’s not walking. Again, I just shrug. Then we are to do a movement every time we cross an intersection. We do jumping jacks on a busy intersection on Saturday afternoon downtown Toronto. I try not to poke anyone’s eye out with a flag. Pedestrians are not impressed. Like at all.

We are almost there. Few blocks. Final stretch! The rules change. “You have three casualties”, Jason announces.

Six people have to carry three teammates, 10 rucks, a team weight, two flags and a bag of food for a good three blocks. Queen’s Park might as well be in China. I load up my back and my front with two rucks, while balancing the team weight on top of the front ruck. The two flags I think I held in my teeth. I got it pretty light.

Jonathan carries two 50-pound rucks and a 180-pound teammate for the whole three blocks. That’s 280 pounds. For three blocks. That’s 20 pounds more than I can freaking deadlift. Once. Thank God for firefighters.

The three blocks are hundred miles long. But we finish…

We are at Queen’s park well after 3pm – over 14 hours, over 15 miles. [Approximate route – compliments of Matt C. – click to enlarge].

Out of the 14 people who started, 4 have dropped – which, by all accounts, is an insane drop out rate for Goruck. Stony, who is a 5-time Goruck veteran attests that this is by far the wettest event he has completed.

Goruck Tough patches and luke warm beer are passed around. I take one, pass on the other. Everything hurts, as we exchange bear hugs.

I am sleep deprived, hungry, physically and emotionally exhausted, wet, dirty, wind-burned, sun-burned, and sore. Since the beginning of the event, I’ve felt happy, angry, sad, frustrated, irritated, bored, furious, giddy, dizzy, shaky, strong, weak, miserable, and accomplished.

Well played, Cadre Jason. Well played.

Goruck Challenge, Class 524 Toronto, 2013

Signing off, Solo ************************************************* Other posts you may like:

  • Goruck Challenge Toronto 2013 – part 1

  • Goruck Challenge Toronto 2012 – part 1

  • Goruck Challenge Toronto 2012 – part 2

  • Goruck Challenge Toronto 2012 – part 3

  • Goruck Challenge Toronto 2012 – part 4


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