Under the cover of darkness, the teams begin to descend on OCR Favorite Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas. A fitting place that is known for its beautiful yet treacherous terrain. Eager to devour anyone that does not mind their next step. Similar can be said about the host race, the Green Beret Challenge. Designed with building better humans in mind, those that attempt it without being ready to push through, to become more, can be caught off guard and find themselves in over their head. Luckily for all, the mind behind it all, Mark Ballas, is there in case that happens and will drive you towards his goal of making all his participants better than they entered.
The parking was well marked and a breeze to get to with volunteers ready to calmly direct us to our parking spot. Check-In is equally simple, as a team-based event, only one team member was required to check the group in. The D.J. is pumping out music fitting for the challenge that lays ahead. The energy and buzz of the teams as they prepare fills the air. One could not help but to feel electrified as it all builds upon itself. The teams are assembled for the National Anthem and the anticipation builds. The waves merge into the corral and everything gets real in an instant. Unlike other events, where all competitors launch at the same time, GBC separates the waves.
This creates a unique competitive environment because you do not know how hard you have to push, you do not see anyone on your six or in front of you. Keeping you guessing, whether you need to put your foot on the gas or to keep your pace measured. A scenario similar, while not as grave, to what real Green Berets would see in the field. All they know is their adversary is out there, but where they exactly are or where they are heading is a major part of the unknown they must endure while aiming for success. It also allows to space out the teams to ensure no bottlenecking is occurring.
It pays to be a Winner, or in this case to have signed up early, as Team Shenanigans lines up for the first wave. We take off with a sense of urgency, as the phrase F**K Ballas lays in our minds. That means we are going to have to dig down and get ready. About three-quarters of a mile in and we get right to it, double sandbag farmers carry. We then take off down a mile-and-a-half of hills full of technical terrain. It is easy to push yourself to a redline as you have to keep moving hard uphill but then wanting to take full advantage of the speed increase on the downhills.
Slowly, we wind through a set of trees and turn a bend seeing the first water station. Thinking we have reached a point of recovery, only to see, in another few strides, our next source of pain, a ruck run. 40 lbs it does not seem particularly heavy, but when most of these types of carries are usually only 3-400 meters, and this ends up being a mile-and-a-quarter, you quickly learn you that you may have underestimated your situation. At the start of this we still were running with another team, but soon the battle of attrition was on full display. After a little ruck snafu, that had me turning my ruck into a Wreckbag carry; we again are heading down the trail, trying to recharge our arms and backs while holding a competitive pace.
The next line of challenges came intertwined with fantastic trails and some creative rock climbing. We take on a team Yoke Carry, Sled Drag, Stretcher Carry, improvised body/barrel carry and the Baba Yaga. The Baba Yaga, mind you, makes the US (Now NorAM) Championship’s Yoke Carry seem like a pleasant memory for most. I believe this will be an obstacle of infamy in future iterations, especially in solo events.
The great equalizer in these challenges is that you must come together and communicate as a team. If not, you will stumble in no direction. Now you know where the F**K Ballas comes from. As all the challenges seem completed, you begin your mad dash towards the finish line. Then you are left to find one last barrier remains for completion. A heavy sandbag berm carry. You are going with all that you have, the festival area in view, then you turn right into that last beast; 65 plus degrees up and down five times for a goodbye kiss to the course.
A third-of-a-mile later, you have crossed the line and completed the Commando Challenge. You check in with the results team and then, potentially, realize what you have just completed; 9 plus miles of rugged terrain with heavy burdens set in your path. You can not help but to look back and feel that you have accomplished something different from what you normally take on. You may have persevered through tasks that typically strain you or you may have learned how to better pace yourself for better performance. Skills that translate into real life and accomplishing the goal of building better humans.
The Commando Challenge is different than the Operator Course, or your traditional OCR for that matter. Success is only coming to those that will come together with a purpose, one can not simply carry their team. The team works as one, using focus and strategy, or they will be slowed to a crawl. This is what makes GBC different than any other series currently in the US.
Every evolution, or event type, build on each other to make its participants more complete to take on any OCR or Endurance challenge they face. The XII comes to Reveille in June, Operators and other Commando courses across Texas, Georgia, and the Northeast. The Green Beret Challenge Championships both in 16k and Enduro formats will invade West Virginia in July. I heavily suggest you make one, if not all, event a part of your schedule. Mark never disappoints, and OCRAddict has a sweet deal along with all the insight you need. I’ll see you in the field.