GrowRuck 14 Virginia

GR14 GrowRuck Virginia Logo


Richmond, VA






Noonan – When Bono tapped me to come up with a “Why” type of a blackbalst I was stumped. As a good leader does (and as YHC’s whetstone), he agreed to meet me for some much needed caffeine Monday morning following GRT to reflect and direct. It was determined that tapping other guys to get their “Why” would be the best formula to capture the meaning behind a GrowRuck event and to instill the #FOMO in those that weren’t able to attend or those that are curious. I didn’t know if anyone would take this serious and started messaging some #HIM that really inspired me over the weekend. Man, these guys took it serious and really nailed what the GrowRuck experience is all about! Much better than I or any one man could have. It would be great to hear from more or all participants, so please if you were not asked to provide your reflection do so in the comments or send it to me. I will edit the post to include any/all that comes my way.

These “Why” reflections provided YHC with many emotions and I hope the reader is able to extract how much this event matters to men, especially the men of F3Nation!

If interested in what we did, head over and check Honey Do’s backblast…it is excellent work! I must also add how great of a host he and his family were to the ENC PAX and for many others. TCLAPS brother!!!

Practice Leadership- GrowRuck gives us the opportunity to practice our Leadership Skills. In the military the everyday missions provide opportunity to practice Leadership Skills. In civilian life, these opportunities are not readily available. It is possible for a man to reach 40 and never have a real leadership opportunity. If we want to practice leadership, we need to create spaces that allow us to practice these skills under pressure. GrowRuck is an excellent place to practice leadership because it provides opportunity, adversity, and failure. It provides opportunity the minute you decide to participate. You need to develop a training plan so you can be prepared. You need to plan your drive up to the location. During the GrowRuck you have the chance to lead the men to accomplish each mission. Adversity is key to the process because it allows us to test ourselves. Adversity shows we are stronger than we thought. Adversity teaches us to work as a team, and that we can accomplish more as a team than as individuals. Failure is a natural outcome of trying new things. Failure makes us humble, which is needed to lead. Failure makes us stronger because it induces growth. Failure makes us wiser, because it causes us to learn. Develop Friendship- GrowRuck places men in close proximity during times of adversity. Many of us don’t realize the need for deep friendships until we have them. This starts in the clown car during the ride there and continues through the GrowRuck and the ordeal it brings. Spending 12 plus hours with men who are placed under extreme pressure teaches us about each other. This intimate experience leads us to develop friendship with one another. We have a shared experience that no one else understands. Once you complete a GrowRuck you have an unbreakable bond with the men that is deeper than any other friendship. Accelerate our Growth- Acceleration is a change in velocity either in direction or speed. GrowRuck will either change the direction of your life or it will cause you to move faster along your previous chosen direction. Overcoming difficult circumstances with a team of close friends will change your life in ways you could never imagine. GrowRuck is like a greenhouse for personal growth. It creates the perfect environment and provides all the correct stimuli. A man and the team will grow more in a weekend than any single year. When a region has multiple men participate, this effect is magnified throughout the region. Stop counting the reasons not to do a GrowRuck and just do one.

F3 Gobbler (F3 Pittsburgh)

I attended by first F3 workout in November 2016. I did not know anyone in the group as a friend had told me about F3. In 2012 I had made exercise a priority in my life having lost almost 40 pounds. During the past several years I have also been on a journey to strengthen my faith. I enjoy meeting folks through my work, Rotary, church, and friends but I did not have a group of men I could share my concerns and joys with in a face-to-face environment. F3 has been a great organization to connect my desire to exercise and be healthy, to help me in my faith, and to share fellowship with other men.

Since 2014 I have had issues with my heart. In 2014 I had three stents put in an artery that was 80% blocked. From 2014 to 2016 I ran three half marathons and my first full marathon. When I got the stents my cardiologist informed me we have to keep an eye on my aortic valve as it is getting calcified. In early 2017 I started having a little trouble catching my breath when I ran. After some additional tests by my cardiologist, in May 2017 I had a stent put in another artery that was 90% blocked. However, not long after this procedure I continued to have breathing issues when I ran. I also had to take it easy during some of the exercises during F3 because I couldn’t catch my breath. After visiting my cardiologist again, we found out that my aortic valve had become very calcified as well as being a bicuspid value and it needed to be replaced. On October 15, 2018 I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve.

I was blessed to have a strong recovery from the open heart surgery. I ran two miles 33 days after surgery and ran six miles 41 days after surgery.  I attend a F3 workout (modified) 32 days after surgery. My emotional state and faith were also strong leading up to the surgery and during the recovery. I’m convinced a lot of this had to do with my participation in F3.

So why did I do a Grow Ruck Tough five months after having my chest cracked open for 4.5 hours and heart hooked up to a heart-lung machine? Because I wanted to show myself, my family, my friends, and my F3 brothers that I had completely healed both physically and mentally from the open heart surgery. I was scared before we started and wondered if I was ready for such a challenging physical and mental event. But during the 14+ hours and 15+ miles of the GRT my F3 brothers kept asking me if I was okay. It was an amazing feeling knowing I had 42 men ready to help me complete the task at hand. Throughout the event I had an inner peace realizing that my heart was strong enough to complete the GRT. When I has handed the GRT patch I had a few tears flowing. It is hard to put into words the feeling of being able to successfully complete a GRT when five months earlier I was wondering if I would even be alive the next day or be able to continue my normal day-to-day routines.

But the best part of the F3 Growruck/GoRuck Tough were the new friendships I made and the fellowship I experienced with my F3 brothers.

F3 Funny Car (F3 Hampton Roads)

There is an African proverb that goes something along the lines of “If you want to go fast, go alone. Ifyou want to go far go together”. I would add to that “If you want to complete a goal go as a team”. As a GRT you are a teammate and you forgo personal ambition and pride, not to finish first, but to finish as a team. A team who starts out possibly as complete strangers, but by facing and overcoming adversity, will become part of a family. That is what being a GRT means to me.

F3 Eagle (F3 Lanco)

Grow school and GRT was a challenge that I was looking forward to for a while. I wanted to see how I could be pushed in different ways physically but also mentally. One of the biggest challenges was my own fear about my leadership abilities. I had been in leadership roles before but not in this context. While I was squad leader and team leader, I felt a weight of responsibility to not let down my brothers or make them pay for my mistakes. After my time as Team Leader was finished, I was satisfied with my performance but I still knew I could improve. The GRT was a test that I needed and I look forward to completing more, learning with every evolution, and applying what I learned in Grow school and the GRT to my day-to-day life.

F3 Cousteau (F3 ENC)

I did GR14 for my little brother. Our father left us when we were young and I took most of my anger out on him. We have not had a good relationship up until a few months ago. GR14 couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only was I able to encourage and push my little brother to do something he never would have done before, I was able to do the same right alongside him. That’s why I did GR14.

F3 Lazarus (F3 Memphis)

We do it for family (blood or not blood): Healthy body, healthy mind. Having a healthier body aids to a longer life with your loved ones. Enjoying one another for as long as life allows. Enjoying all the beautiful things this world has to offer that some may not be able to enjoy because of physical ailments/limits.
Camaraderie. Creating a bond with someone you may or may not know by suffering and pushing your bodies and minds to the limits. You feel as I feel, we suffer together and encourage one another to stay strong and fight through the pain and fatigue.
F3 Armstrong (F3 Hampton Roads)

Why I participated in GRT is because life is about making directional progress, enjoying the journey, and not chasing perfection. Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced in life, all of the triumphs, and the fears that you have overcome to push yourself to be a better person. This gives you the courage to take another step in the journey of life.

F3 Gambler (F3 Pittsburgh)

The GrowRuck14 pax crushed themselves for, of course, about 14 hours of beatdown for many reasons. Some came for the challenge — to see whether their training was enough and if they had what it took. Others came to learn about leading others, and to be there for the man standing next to them. Still others came to build the bonds of brotherhood. For thousands of years, men have stepped onto the field of battle, finding strength in their fitness, their faith and their fellow brothers. GrowRuck14 proved no different. It was tough, not for the faint of heart, much like life. And every man departed a bit better than they were when they arrived — better fathers, better husbands, better sons, and most importantly, better brothers.

F3 Major Payne (F3 The Capital)

5 Whys

  1. Why did you participate in F3 Virginia GrowRuck? To learn/implement practical lessons over the weekend that could be taken back F3 Hampton Roads.
  2. Why do you want to take something back to F3 Hampton Roads? To grow F3 in regards to both the numbers and the impact.
  3. Why do you want to grow F3 Hampton Roads? I want as many men as possible to experience the same impact F3 has had in my life.
  4. Why do you want other men to experience the same impact F3 has had on your life? F3 has positively impacted my life in all 3 Fs (Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith). It has been most pronounced in the last two. F3 has built a community of big particle friends in my life, which I have not had since high school and college. More importantly for me though is the faith aspect of F3. Faith is not something that is one hour on Sunday. It is every day, and for us in F3 that day starts early.
  5. Why are those relationships built in F3 so important? To truly speak into someone’s life, you must first have a relationship with them. I want to have earned that right with my closest brothers. In addition, I want the men in my life to call me out when I am not being the Christ follower, husband, employee, son, and brother that I should be.

F3 Dreamliner (F3 Hampton Roads)

Bearded Jester had put a link on the F3ENC Darkside Rucker’s twitters board a link about GrowRuck 14 and trying to get guys to sign up for it. I saw it and the thought the logo looked neat and peeked my interest, but really did not know much about it. Never clicked on the link because reading, trying to understand it, fully grasping the idea just isn’t my forte. Bono was Qing at RuckReady AO, and I attended and got a solid beatdown. After the workout, I asked him what GrowRuck was all about. He gave me the details and said that I should sign up, knowing it would be good for me. I had not been doing any PT rucking but just logging miles since the beginning of the year and did not know if I was ready for a GoRuck Tough event as my first event. A few weeks went by with every time seeing Bono he asked if I had decided to sign up yet, with my reply each time being, “I don’t know.”

We held a half marathon on a Saturday, and I was with the six after the half way point. There was some miscommunication at one point, and I stayed with the six for the final 6 miles as the rest of the PAX went on. “Leave no man behind, leave no man where you found him,” is one of core principles in F3 and I learned that lesson that day and decided to sign up for GrowRuck after this, I still did not know why, just seemed like something I should do plus a little peer pressure to do it. Not knowing what I had signed up for or gotten myself into, the preparation process began.

Still only putting in mileage and not doing PT, I know I was setting myself back and possibly up for failure. Making sure I had everything ready for the Tough was the one thing that was really weighing on my mind and giving me the most anxiety. I turned to Abu and Bono for guidance since they were part of GrowRuck 02 and have done events before. They both said the same thing, prepare to embrace the suck and for a long night, but it’s going to be worth it. Since I’m a night owl, I was not worried about the late-night hours; however, that’s normally not carrying coupons and a 30 lb. ruck throughout the night and doing various PT. With the date closely approaching, my anxiety (which I suffer from high anxiety and depression) was kicking into overdrive.

It was Friday, 3:00 pm, the vehicles were loaded, all 8 F3ENC men who signed up were locked and loaded and off we went. We arrived in Richmond and went to the 2nd F event at Triple Crossing Brewery to mingle with other PAX’s from different regions participating in the GrowRuck event.

Met Armstrong, Catapult, Bachelor Pad from F3 Hampton Roads while talking to Noonan. Dredd, one of the founders of F3, took the remaining brothers outside told us why F3 and what F3 means to him. All PAX were engaged and it wasn’t until Funny Car spoke about his recovery from open heart surgery and how his F3 brother were there for him, got him through it, and that if it weren’t for them he would not know where he would be, that it clicked how powerful the F3 brotherhood was and is. Little did I know, that was just the tip and just the beginning.

The next morning, I woke up and had to get my morning shower like I always do before I work out. Slaughter heard me say this and it puzzled him and throughout the rest of the weekend he asked me, “If I had a shower yet.”  We went to F3RVA’s Dogpile, amazing AO, for a beatdown lead by Bono, Dredd, and Slaughter then off to GrowSchool. This is where the “Why” started to become more obvious. Listening to Bono, Dredd and Slaughter speak about F3, GrowRuck, what it meant to them, why they do it and the meaning behind it was powerful. It made me be still and quiet but not in a bad way. Just to let it all soak in and understand it. Bono read from a book about the New Zealand rugby team and how they get new jerseys at half time and that it’s that 1% that makes them feel better and helps them win. This really hit me and has stuck me, even as I’m typing this, because it clicked on the way back to our host HoneyDo’s house that my morning shower is my 1% better.

Naps, food, and 2ndF were part of the afternoon, getting to know the F3 brothers from Hamptons Roads. Changed, rucks checked, vehicles loaded we headed back to the Dogpile, the launch site of GrowRuck and the unknown. All mixed up in 3 groups, I did not know how the night was going to go. There were guys from all different regions, that I did not know nor how they’d preform. These were the guys, I was going to have to count on throughout the next 12+ hours to get me through whatever challenge happened. Formations were taken, coupons were rotated, and miles were beginning to be logged for what would be a long night.

Our F3 brother Cousteau, was selected as the Group 3 squad leader first, when Cadre Danny told the squads leaders to choose a new one, he chose me. ME!! A guy that had never led a single rucking event ever, did not know the system of rotating coupons, or how to lead a group of men that had more experience. I coached 13 to 18-year-old kids for 8 years, but these Ruckers were grown men and I was getting thrown into the fire. I learned on the fly and had been taking mental notes throughout the night from Cousteau, also leaned on group veterans Abu, Gobbler, and Lucius. As the night went on, I got to talk to each one of our group members and learned more about them. We all pushed one another and kept each other going, even when we had 5 coupons and 8 men in the group because 5 men went to help with the log that was being carried.

This is when I learned “Why” I was doing this. It wasn’t because I wanted to for a selfish reason to say I had done a Tough event, to earn a patch, or get a t-shirt. It was to Plant, Grow, and Serve. I was planted as the squad leader for a reason, there was schooling, apprenticeship, understanding, and failure in this role. Failure as we learned isn’t always a bad thing because it is how we grow and how failures make us better leaders. I had to grow into the position to lead the men in our group through carrying coupons, rotations, navigating trails, keeping the squad together, growing into the leader that Cousteau saw when he appointed me as squad leader. I learned more about me and it was about the men around you and not letting them quiet or give up. When they were tiring out or struggling with a coupon, taking it from them to give them some relief was leading by example. Not for self-pride but you want to see your brother push on and succeed. Taking that coupon and giving your brother a little break could be that 1% they need to get back into the game.

When the sun started to rise, we knew the end was coming soon, or so we thought. After growing complacent, we got a lesson in why when you are tired, bruised, and feel like you cannot carry on, you must look to the left or right at your brother, who is pushing on and count on them. Continuing to tell yourself, “They aren’t going to quit, I’m not going to quit, DFQ.” Your brothers aren’t going to let you fail and if you do, they are going to be there to lift you up and help you get back on your feet and carry on. This is the power of F3 and the brotherhood.

After the WOD, patches, and handshakes, hugs were given out by Cadre Danny, Bono, Dredd and Slaughter. We were done. For over half of the 43 men taking part in the GrowRuck Tough, it was our 1st and out of that 43, 4 were from ENC. I watched these guys push throughout the night, always checking on each other, pushing each other, sharing with each other and men from other regions. Watching them grow. The 8 of us from ENC got together and took a picture in front of the bell tower at the Dogpile as our “after” picture. As I look back on that picture, this is my reason “WHY”. The brotherhood, the growing closer with your brothers, the memories made, the bonds strengthened, the new bonds formed. As men when we become vulnerable, we tend to turn inward, but with F3 there is power in the shieldlock because your brothers will be there for you.

F3 Bambino (F3 ENC)

Noonan – If you made it this far, sign up for the very next GrowRuck near you. If betterment, improvement, brotherhood, teamwork and leadership are important to you, don’t miss the opportunity to learn from true leaders like Dredd, Slaughter, Bono, Linus, and all the brothers of F3! YHC hopes to see YOU at a GrowRuck soon!

Its a cool patch and all, that money cannot buy…that said the meaning behind the patch is forever! The pain fades, the memories do not. Words are strong, yet they cannot fully explain a GrowRuck event, its impact, and the aftermath each HIM experiences upon completion!!

After-Action Report (AAR)

43 PAX from across the F3 Nation came out to Dogwood Dell on Saturday night to find out the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: Would we be getting in the James River? Turns out the answer was no but we did the following:

Muster Up in Amphitheater for admin stuff: Roll call, Ruck inspection (apparently TYA’s unabridged version of War & Peace is 30 lbs) and assign team leader of Cowbell. Move over to field next to dogpark and form squads. Mess up #1 rewarded us with 113 Ruck Squats. Some more warm up, secure coupons, and other Drill & Formation practice for PAX. Then head down to Trails start.

Trails down to Texas Beach, stop at river for some lessons on movement, mission & men focus, then head back to finish trail. Here PAX was tasked with mission of creating their own 6 word statement that defines them. Start thinking about it and all would have to share overnight.

Along way we found a wonderful log. Stop for Water break and Log PT practice at Hollywood Cemetery opening. Finish up Ruck over to Tredegar. Drop coupons and make our way in various forward exercises up to VA War Memorial. Stop and soak that in. Then several PAX shared their 6 word statement. Mosey back down to bottom, closer to water but instead we went across to Belle Isle. Rucked around the island. Then given our first time hack: 35 minutes to get to State Capital. PAX arrived at Capital with 2 minutes to spare. Then on to St. Johns Church in Churchill. Along way we were given 2nd time hack. Make it to the Church in 18 minutes.

Arrive at St. Johns on time. Linus read Patrick Henry’s speech. Very moving, then Puffs fell over. Luckily he just locked his legs and he soldiered through. Then it was on to Libby Hill park, some litter practice, and back Browns Island via Canal street. Cross the new footbridge and up and back on trails.

Then Linus threw some adversity at us and we had to carry 2 PAX on Riverside for about a mile. Catch Sunrise and Bono led us in the 5 Whys and back on the trails. Crossed over Nickel bridge wondering what was left back at Dogpile. The answer: Robbie Miller WOD – modified. 7 Rounds of: Run Carillon field and back then 6 Reps each of: Ruck Thrusters, Ruck Burpees, and Ruck GetUps. Finish up with closing and Patching.

NMS – Hard to write a reasonable Moleskin of a 15 hour event. What stood out: F3 guys are awesome no matter where they are from. YHC hung out with PAX from ENC, Lanco, Pittsburg, The Capital, Memphis, and more and every man gave 100%. No GreyMan to be found anywhere.

The PAX thought they were lucky because they stayed dry, however rucking with Coupons, gear, and Logs on the Trail system is no joke. Even more difficult in the dark. Although the out of towners are now all envious of our great trail loop.

The time downtown with the city streets empty was great. Stops at the VA War Memorial, the real VA Capital, and St. Johns were hopefully appreciated and YHC recommends reading Patrick Henry’s famous speech again, the whole thing as it is much more than the last line we all know.

The last section of stress from Linus taught YHC to not start celebrating when you can see the finish line, be sure to finish the race strong. Great lesson. The Sunrise on the James was fantastic and energized the PAX for the last push. The finish with the Robbie Miller was likely the hardest thing YHC has done in F3 – totally spent and tired then take on a grueling 30 minute test at the very end. Great chance to show you how much further you can push past your normal limits. Again another reason every man in F3 should take on a CSAUP at least annually.

Breakfast at ETs was great to close out the whole weekend. YHC thanks all those who took this on, from RVA and out of town. Viral, Fireman Ed, and Doomsday for shadowing and documenting what we did. Again too much to name everyone so YHC just says thanks.

As for YHC’s 6 word mantra: Give Grace, Accept Grace, Live Humbly. Think about what yours might be or better yet what TYA’s was.