About the author: I was introduced to GORUCK in 2013 after having completed my first Spartan Race Hurricane Heat. I really enjoyed everything about the event, the teamwork, carrying heavy things and getting pushed beyond my usual training limits but I would have to wait until the following year to sign up for another one so a friend suggested I give GORUCK a try, that same year I finished my first GORUCK Light. Since then I have completed a few Lights and Challenges and through them I have met some incredible people who make up this community known as GORUCK Tough (GRT). The community is very supportive and encouraging and I’ve received plenty of both from every single member I know specially from my fellow Canadian GRT’s, one of those being Stony Smith.
What stands out about Stony is yes, yes the beard stands out, but it’s his incredibly strong leadership character and the way he motivates and encourages others like myself that make him a solid guy. He’s the kind of guy that even if he’s not participating in an event here at home he will make his way to shadow and encourage the team.
Stony is a veteran GRT. He had taken part in Selection twice before showing up and being part of GORUCK Selection Class 017 in Bozeman, Montana just over a week ago where he had everyone at the edge of their seats and rooting for him as he took on this ultimate challenge once again.
Just like we’ve done in the past after his other two attempts we met up with Stony at The Madison Pub in downtown Toronto to hear all the details about his experience and to share a beer or two but this time we were there to CELEBRATE! To toast the fact that he finished Selection and is the only Canadian to do so, so far.
I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his journey into GORUCK Selection and what his future plans are:
JOLO: First of all, congratulations on finishing Selection! What an amazing accomplishment and thank you for taking the time to talk to me and answer some questions. So Stony Smith, otherwise known forever now as roster #014 or Damn Skippy; tell us a bit about yourself.
STONY: I’m a 6’ tall Red head with a beard, I’m not an Adventure racer, OCR guy, Distance runner, etc -But I do enjoy playing in each camp taking what I need to educate myself and then applying it to what I’m doing.
JOLO: When did you first get a taste of GORUCK and what made you register for your first event?
STONY: I had a Friend in the States who told me about theGORUCK thing, but they had not come into Canada yet, that summer they announced the First Date in Toronto Class 191. I thought it would be a good way to relive some of my youth in the Army.
JOLO: How many events have you done to date? And how manyGORUCK Events?
STONY: Maybe 13, not that many – Competitions, running events, etc. – Lost count…GORUCK Selection 96hours!!!! (Between 3 events)
JOLO: What made you decide to say screw it and go for it, Selection? It’s their Best/Most extreme event.
STONY: Modeled after what they did for their own RASP school Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. I’m past my time in the Army –I had had the chance to become Airborne while in the Canadian Forces but thought the standards were difficult and wimped out –this was a chance to see if I still had it.
JOLO: This was not your first go at Selection, this was your third attempt. The first time you were medically dropped due to signs of Rhabado, second attempt due to Heat Exhaustion, can you tell us a bit about both events (how long you were in before being medically dropped)?
STONY: I had almost made it to the long walk it was close to hour 34, it was dark, I was looking for dawn to break –there were 3 of us left out there, in constant competition with one another to be first and get to sit a round out(pays to be a winner) we were on the Log doing nonstop presses, sit-ups, Push-ups, etc. Roster number 001 had just dropped –two remained, more log PT –this time it was me that was failing and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I found myself in the Ocean again being surf tortured, which would normally be fine –but now with the extreme chaffing from a bad outfit choice had me dreading the salt water. I knew at this point I was already passing blood and felt as though I had been drinking enough –wrong. So my first attempt was more like a whole bunch of things at once, extreme chaffing, salt water, passing blood, mental pressure all seemed to come to a head all at once as I pulled the plug. The second one was definitely the heat! I can’t train for workouts on a Florida beach in the summer time –I was doomed!
JOLO: What did you learn and take away from not finishing Selection each time that you incorporated into the training for this round?
STONY: I learned the most from the first one, or mostly what I was lacking to make it –mental toughness… and a better base layer. The think my base level of fitness was fine, but depending on who you are up against it might not be so I kept training as per usual, taking breaks for injuries, doing other events along the way. During the second Selection I realised that red heads are not made for the beach…
JOLO: Selection this year took place in Bozeman, Montana – how did you train for this event and the environment?
STONY: I used to think I lived on a mountain (Dagmar Ski hill) which provided me with lots of opportunity for hill climbing/ running. I also have streams and rivers flowing through various parts of the training grounds which provided random times to get wet roll myself in sand and keep going. I was apprehensive about the altitude because I had never been at that height and had no way of training for it. I had bought a Altitude respirator similar to a mask but worked with my beard to help with altitude, but changed the way I was using it –more for faster recovery(using it while recovering between rounds) I did some form of Squats every day, either bodyweight, with a ruck, or barbell –leg day was every day! I did sprints, hill climbs, and a longer run one day a week; I was also working aspects of the Military Athlete Selection training program, along with Sandbag get ups, and ankle mobility and strength.
JOLO: What was the hardest part during the event (Selection 017) and what kept you going?
STONY: The hardest part was probably the mountains! Especially near the end when my IT bands had had enough, any movement up my Hammies were on fire and downhill my IT’s were screaming. The Blisters were also bad by then –but as Cadre later Said “Nobody has ever died from Blisters” I kept going because I wasn’t going to quit because of some pain –this is suppose to hurt, it’s how you deal with pain that makes you a winner and there was no way I was going to do this again. Doesn’t matter what the next evolution is or was –just suffer through it.
JOLO: You know people want to know what kind of boots and socks you wore right? LOL
STONY: I’ve always been a fan of Rocky Boots –they are like pillows for my feet –wearing my round the house C4T’s right now. I needed something with some tread that was light weight and drained well, so I used the Rocky RLW, I bought a half size bigger as I knew the descents meant my toes would take a beating so with a little extra wiggle room and some laces with no stretch I had no problems, I also drilled some extra holes in them for faster drainage. I could have used one pair of Darn Tough socks for the entire event, I used a boot length doubled over at the top for an extra layer of padding around my ankle. I did bring a winter weight Smart Wool socks which I switched out to for the long walk –I had been saving these for just such an event –so soft, so nice, no pain –Ahhhhh comfort.
JOLO: What about your other gear like your ruck, what type and what did you pack?
STONY: This really could crazy indepth –I used a GR2 the biggest bag they make and I basically brought the GORUCK Selection Packing list –if you don’t bring the required items your wrong, and they’ll find out and you will pay, I think the way you pack it is the key to success –especially at the beginning, when you have to take it all apart and get it back together in 1min or less.
JOLO: I think most people would benefit from your mind set for the past 3 years, if you could give some advice to future GORUCK participants, what would it be?
STONY: You need to be mentally tough –you need to know what you’re getting into, and you need to come up with your own plan to get through it. You know your own weaknesses, 17 Selections have gone by and there have been many AAR’s that speak of the various challenges that participants have had to endure. Read and learn, plan and execute. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard. If you have never done a GORUCK event or any other Military based event –DON’T do it first.
JOLO: Selection is a monster and for people who don’t know about it or the community it’s hard to describe it until you’ve experienced it or watched it unfold with your own eyes. What is the one thing you would tell non-GRT’s (non-GORUCK Tough members) about GORUCK and the difference between a regular GR event and Selection?
STONY: A regularGORUCK event (Light, Challenge, Heavy) is a fun happy team building event, roses and sunshine! You meet great people with common interest and likes, not many drops and people are super supportive! Selection is the sinister step mom that no one talks about and is afraid to look in the eye. It’s an individual event that takes the movements learned during the challenges and beats you up with them until no one is left.
JOLO: Have you signed up for your first post-Selection event yet?
STONY: Still coming down from the Mountain of pain at this moment, I need to rebuild lost muscles –but I really like these sorts of events I’m happy this is over so I can peruse others. Mark Jones is a great guy, I’d like to try some of the events he does next I think.
JOLO: Is there anything else, information, training tips, etc, you would like to share?
STONY: You are never out of the game, if you were injured and your house was on fire but you needed to get there to save _____ blank –and if it meant something, enough –you would find a way to make it happen. If you want Selection bad enough –you will find a way. If you have any specific questions about the Selection process just ask. “Roster 014 are you going to pass Selection” “Damn Skippy”
I’m honoured to know Stony and call him a friend and it’s been amazing & inspiring to follow his journey. I’m super proud of his accomplishments and at the age of 46 he proves that age really is irrelevant when it comes to fitness. Whatever his next adventure is, I’m excited to watch him dive right into it.
GORUCK events are a team event led by U.S Special Operations Cadre. Its purpose is to teach teamwork, leadership, camaraderie and to inspire individuals to work as a team all while carrying the required weight in your ruck.
There are different levels of events, GORUCK Light, GORUCK Tough (Challenge) and GORUCK Heavy. They also offer other special events with special themes and of course Selection.
Each event is unique depending on the lead Cadre and it’s just as mentally tough as it is physical. It’s all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and pushing yourself to doing more than you though you could ever do. If you are interested in GORUCK check out their website and learn more. http://www.goruck.com/
Pictures: courtesy of GORUCK, my friend Dina and some taken during our get together