Green Beret Challenge: Atlanta XII


The Green Beret Challenge is a unique OCR experience because it offers three main types: The Operator, The Commando, and the XII. While most race series offer multiple race distances, which may also include additional obstacles and miles on the trails, each GBC experience is completely different. The operator is a standard OCR, which includes trail running, heavy carries, and other type of obstacles. The Commando is a four-manned team race, where your team will be assigned certain challenges to accomplish together. Lastly, the XII is a twelve hour, multi-phase endurance challenge which combines both the Operator and Commando challenges, plus whatever craziness Mark Ballas feels like adding.

I will tell you, this article is related to a twelve hour endurance event, so, I have a lot to say. If you aren’t particularly excited about reading a lot of information, go ahead and skip to the “overview” portion at the bottom.


One thing that I greatly appreciated was the communication. It started with a gear list, which was sent out about a week ahead of time, which allowed us all ample time to supply ourselves for the feat ahead. In addition he sent us the address, which was the same location as the Atlanta Operator, so most of us felt as least a little comfortable with location. We also were assigned a team leader, Lara Baker, who was in charge of making sure that everyone was good to go. Additionally, we were given lines from the Ranger Code, and split into groups where we had to memorize portions of the code. We were not told what we were going to be doing ahead of time, we just knew that it was going to last from 7 pm until 7 am the following morning.


The only GBC that I had completed before this time was the Atlanta Operators back in May. The arrival for the operators was a little intimidating; the event took place on someone’s land, but the area itself didn’t have it’s own address, and we had to use the large GBC signs for navigation. Since there were only 13 people registered for this event, the signs and posters were not there. I actually ended up calling Mark Ballas to ask him if I could come in since I was three hours early). He made an effort to stop what he was doing to personally greet me and talk to me about the event. This event felt much different from the Operators. There was no DJ. No port-o-Johns. No swarms of people. Just silence. You could listen to the bugs chirping and relax by the water, but, it was silent and almost eerie. I suppose it was meant to be a foreshadow of what was coming.

Phase One

Before we got started, our team leader, Lara Baker (if you race in the South East you probably know her, she is a tough cookie who always wears her hair in blonde pigtail braids), gave us our roster numbers and lined us up with our Rucks. We were lined up by a post that had on it a “missile,” an Army uniform, and an American Flag. We knew right away that these three things were going to be carried with us throughout the night.

A few minutes later, Mark comes out. He gives us our introductory speech, talks about his extensive experience with Green Berets, and informs us that there is going to be some swimming throughout the event. So, to get started, we have to get started with a water confidence test. Weaker swimmers were instructed to grab life vests.

We head over to the dock, one by one we climb the stairs to the second level.  He tells us that we are going to stand at the edge, and he’s going to push us in one by one. Granted, the fall wasn’t huge: probably less than ten feet. He only pushed each person a little bit, so it would be more of a jump. Every person was able to land feet first, and again, the weaker swimmers were allowed to wear life vests. But, the scary thing was standing so close to Mark, paying attention to what he was saying, and knowing that the fall was coming. Luckily the water was warm, and Mark provided a rope to guide us back to the shore.

When we get out of the water, we all line up by our rucks again. Mark explains to us that phase one is going to be similar to the Operators course, only it is not a race. Rather, we have a period of time where we are going to complete this two-mile course, and we will try to complete multiple laps. He has us split into three different groups so that we can be more spread out, as some of the obstacles were built for only one at a time.

Before we were off, he informs us that many volunteers backed out last minute, which was not ideal for some night obstacles, specifically, the cargo net. He was more concerned about safety than difficulty, and let us know that if we were not comfortable completing the obstacle, he would rather skip it than risk falling.

We get going, at a reasonable pace because again, we were informed that it was not a race and we were going to be running for a certain period of time. It wasn’t until I hit the first obstacle where I realized that Mark definitely did not tell us how long that period of time would be. Sigh.

The first obstacle was one that we had seen before: the sled pull. The only difference this time is that the sled either felt heavier, or I have gotten a lot weaker. The grass was longer. But overall, not difficult, I was just slow.

(Photo from GreenBeret Challenge: Atlanta Operators)

The next portion included a short run to a creek where we had to crawl underneath some wire. In between the two, there was some wire out that could have (and did) trip some people in transit. By the second round, all of the wire had been covered. The next piece was a trail run up a pretty rocky hill, and then, the worst f***king yoke carry I’ve ever seen. That yoke was absolutely terrible. The beam of the yoke was a bar rather than the standard wood beam. The bags were really far apart and low to the ground. You may laugh at this, but I’d be lying if I told you that my bags didn’t drag on the ground. Not only that, but it was around a dirt biking course. Which can only mean one thing: lots of little hills. Man, it was tough. I turn around and I see Lara Baker again, and she is just FLYING by on the obstacle, and she confesses that she was able to move her bags in a little bit closer, which helps a TON.

Almost immediately after was the cargo net. During the day, the volunteer moved in between the yoke and the cargo net. At night, he stationed himself and a few lights on the obstacle. I don’t think anyone opted out of completing it. It was very sturdy.

The next obstacle was a rig that was extremely well lit and attached to some trees on the side of the course. It was a little difficult to see initially, but it was very fun. I actually ran right by it the first time.

Following the obstacle was a short trail run, and then back into the water where we were initially pushed. The followed the rope back to the dock. Once we got to the dock, we were greeted by Mark Ballas.

And then, we had to turn around and do it all again.

After about three laps, it was time to be done. Some of us were sitting down, when Mark informed us that we weren’t done. It was time to go back to the dock.

Remember how earlier I said that we had to remember lines from the Ranger Code? Now was time to show our stuff. We got back onto the dock, and stood on the edge like we had when Mark pushed us in. He asked us which portion we had to memorize, and if you got it wrong, well, you can guess what happened.

Once that was done, it was time for phase 2.

Phase Two

It was time to move on to the next portion. Now that we had completed the Operators portion, it was time to move on to the Commando.

 (Photo from Green Beret Challenge Instagram)


We started with the rucks, and we gathered the flag, the uniform, and the Maverick Missile. First task: follow Mark. Easy enough, right? Wrong. That man can move. Some of us had to jog in order to keep up with him. Our friends with the maverick missile fell back quickly. Then it was on to our next task, where we met back up at the same bags.

One of our group members was assigned a team lead. Our next team lead was given instruction to lead a task. After Mark was done talking with him, he turned around, so that the new group lead could take command. We were instructed to take the sandbags from the sled carry earlier, put three in a bag, and put the bag on a different sled that we had to tie up. Here was where we had to use the first tool in our rucks: rope. Most of us used rope to keep the sled tied together. Then, it was time to carry the sled underneath the wire that we had to crawl under in the creek, and up the hills. This took maybe two hours, and was very challenging.

The next event was a lot of fun. Mark picked a new team lead (surprise: it was me), to lead the next event: the Bunker Build-Off. This may have been my favorite part of the entire event. I had to split up the entire group into two different teams. The task was simple: use the resources around you to build a better bunker than the opposing team. Mark Ballas and I then judged each of the bunkers. It was awesome.

Following immediately after this was another task that you may have been somewhat familiar with if you follow @greenberetchallenge on instagram. Mark had chosen another person to be the team lead, and we met by the edge of the pond where we were greeted with barrels of “goo” and logs. The mission? Create a raft that can transport your barrel. Then get in the water with the raft and move it on down to the other end


 (Photo from Green Beret Challenge on Instagram)

Now, I will say, Mark puts a lot of emphasis on safety. I feel like several endurance challenges are just like “whoa, look at how tough I am, I’m going to see how many people quit muahahaha” while Mark actually puts thought into what he does and makes it fun and safe at the same time. Yes, we were swimming in the dark. Yes, we were swimming with this big old raft. But every single person had to rock a life-vest with a fat glow stick attached to make sure all of our heads were above water. Mark was also in the water, making sure to swim around in order to maintain a visual on all athletes. I wasn’t worried for my safety for one second.

Granted, our raft fell apart, and we were stuck in that damn pond for what felt like forever. But. I’m here to tell the tale.

Once we were done we had time to reflect, and then it was time for the next challenge.

If you did the Alabama Commando, you’re probably familiar with this one. Create an apparatus to move said barrel using your rope and the bars from the yoke carry. Easy enough right? Except you’re wearing your rucks the entire time.

This was painful. So so painful. Probably my least favorite part of the entire night. The worst piece of it, was that I am so small, that it was extremely difficult for my team to transport it. I felt weak, and a little embarrassed. But everyone else killed it. I was so proud of how willing people were to work with people who they have not met before. It honestly felt like our group became a family. We walked them over to base camp, and at this point, we knew the sun was going to rise soon.

Phase Three

This phase was supposed to be super short and fun, but this honestly felt like it was the longest event that we did. With one hour remaining and sunrise on its way, knowing the end is near, makes it feel so much further.

Mark called my friend Jennie and I to let us know we were selected to be team captains for a relay race. The task: farmers carry down a portion of a dirt bike course and back. Each person goes. This was then followed by bringing down one of the longer sleds with two sandbags in it. Easy enough right? Well, for added difficulty, he turned the sprinklers on.


 (Photo taken of relay race terrain during daytime)


Now I know what you’re thinking: so what? Didn’t you spend a fair portion of the night swimming? The answer to that is yes, but the way this dirt was made it so slick. Almost everyone fell, and people were coming off looking like they just completed a GoodWill MudRun.

This was a lot more difficult than anticipated. The hardest part of this, in my opinion, was waiting for your turn. Now the sun was really coming up, and we all just realized we’ve been awake for freaking ever. The realization for me was difficult, and I caught myself closing my eyes in between sets. Both teams finished, with only a few minutes to spare. Everyone cheered for each other, whether they were on their team or not, and then Mark lined us up. He came around and individually shook each of our hands, placing a coin in them. And just like that, it was over.

Overview/Final Thoughts

Going into this event, I was terrified. Not because of the event itself, but because I am not a creature of the night. I was worried that the sheer thought of being out so late was going to completely destroy my spirits, and make it difficult to function for several days afterwards. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the fact that it was at night. Sure, there were times that I fell on my face when maybe I shouldn’t have, and I freaked out because I assumed that every stick in the creek was a snake about to eat my brains. The thing about it being at night rather than in the day, yes it’s not as hot, but you don’t have to watch the day proceed without you. Because the sky didn’t change once it got dark, you didn’t think about time. It made it easier just to focus on the task at hand. It was enjoyable. Another really great thing about being at night, and in the middle of nowhere, was that if you were in pain, you could just look up at the stars. I live in a city, and so this is something that I don’t get to see very often. It really makes you think about how lucky each of us are to be on this planet.

One of the lessons that OCR and endurance events have taught me is that the things that scare the total shit out of you tend to be the ones that leave the biggest impression. Mark Ballas has grown really great at this. I will probably end every GBC review I do with some kind of blurb of my appreciate for Mark. He has created an event that, well, is scary. Twelve hours is an extremely long time. But, in those twelve hours, he does a good job of making everyone there feel like someone. So much of his heart and passion are being shown right in front of your very own eyes, and you get to experience his world first-hand. He puts so much thought and effort into every single event that he hosts, that you can’t help but feel a little giddy when you know one is coming up. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this event. Through his leadership and passion, twelve hours isn’t much time at all, even if it’s at night and carrying big rucks. He smiles (sometimes maniacally) and makes an effort to get to know people’s names. You definitely won’t see this from every OCR CEO.

I recommend this event for people who are looking to challenge themselves, but want to do endurance events that have a purpose. Through this event I had an opportunity to learn more about the Green Beret and Army Rangers. Mark Ballas explains how what you are doing is relevant to those special forces. Some of the other endurance events I have done have come off as very “do this because I told you to,” but that isn’t the case for this event at all. Every movement has a purpose. People don’t get cut for the sake of getting cut. Again, everyone who is there is seen as someone, and that’s extremely important. Just make sure that you are fueling properly and stay confident.

I know I wasn’t the strongest person out there, but I definitely plan on completing more events with the Green Beret Challenge. I hope to see you there too.


Green Beret Challenge: Behind Enemy Lines

While many OCR competitors, endurance enthusiasts, and ruckers spent the past weekend racing or competing in the more commonly known events of our community, a small group took to the mountains in North Carolina for something different. The Green Beret Challenge endurance event Behind Enemy Lines Class 001 took place just outside of Bakersville, NC for 19 brave individuals.

Green Beret formation

The Green Beret Challenge has developed a reputation over the past few years for owner Mark Ballas’ courses that test competitors with a format typically focused more on push/pull/carry than the standard run/climb/crawl setup. 2016 has been a big year for the Green Beret Challenge brand, as they recently introduced a shorter, faster version of their race series more appealing to the masses (the GBC Operator Course vs Commando Course) and as of this past weekend revealed Behind Enemy Lines.

Behind Enemy Lines: Clandestine Operations Class 001 began Friday evening, September 16th. The event was organized as a simulation of the Army Ranger experience broken down into three phases: Phase One provided a taste of Special Forces Assessment & Selection, starting with a physical fitness assessment. Participants fell into a military formation and lined up in groups of four took turns with the standard 2 minutes of push-ups, followed by 2 minutes of sit ups. Following the calisthenics, candidates had five minutes to warm up for a non-standard run assessment. Being on top of a mountain range, the typical 2-mile assessment wasn’t particularly feasible so a winding trail along gravel roads and wooded ridges was our substitute. Upon completion of the run portion, candidates were given a short break in order to consume some calories, hydrate, and change from workout clothes to pants and boots; we were to be in for a long night. We loaded up our rucks with 40 lb sandbags and whatever nutrition and clothing we wanted, and headed out on our long ruck with only a guess of what to expect. Our first movement had us winding down old service roads and off onto some single track trails until we got to our first task, building a bunker. We were provided shovels, miniature pick axes, full axes, and empty sandbags with a diagram to follow. 24 bags needed to be filled, a hole had to be dug 3 feet deep, and branches needed to be cut in order to cover the top, and we had one hour to successfully complete the task. After a couple of adjustments and with two minutes to spare, objective accomplished. We picked up all tools and materials from the task and kept moving through the dark.

Green Beret BEL ruck prep

Our next task was a site very familiar to anyone who has participated in a Green Beret Challenge. Three casualty sleds loaded with three sandbags each, two carry litters with two sandbags each, a few loaded wooden ammo boxes, and a couple of tires. With one member of the class being designated team leader for each task (who could only guide the team and not help with the load), that left 18 free sets of hands to move everything. Some quick planning for how to move everything was put together before we all shoved off. After many breaks, switches, and struggles we lined up our bundles of fun and were assigned a new task: puzzles. Under the light of headlamps, we had four crossword puzzles and two separate bagillion-piece jigsaw puzzles (mixed together in one box, mind you) and an hour to finish them. After a frantic rush then deep focus on a cold and windy ridge, there was nothing to be done; we experienced our first taste of failure. We continued for another stretch with all of the weight until being allowed to drop it before hiking down a very steep and slippery stretch, leading to what actually would be one of our final (and most trying) tasks of Phase One. The best name I heard it referred to throughout the weekend was “the caterpillar yokes”. Nine wooden landscaping posts were tied together with a sandbag at each end of the post, with two team members to a post. What made it trickiest was coordinating all of the rows to get their “yokes” lifted at the same time before any row began moving. Add in the fact that those landscaping posts couldn’t decide if they wanted to be rounded or flat (depending on the side that found itself attempting to sever the spine at the base of our necks). Around 4 am we finally arrived back to the base camp, with many nearing their breaking point. Backs hurt, ribs were sore, and even an ankle or two had been rolled. “Recover, refuel, and be in fitness clothes with boots formed up by 0600” were our orders.

Green Beret BEL Ruck

Many chose to grab a quick nap; myself and a few others decided not to fall for the trap and snacked around the campfire, staying warm and awake. When the time came, we were all formed up and waited for further instruction. Names were called out, slowly. Eventually, there was a group of 10 formed off to the side from the remaining 9; these would be the separate teams for the remainder of the event. We each received dog tags verifying that we had passed the “Selection” stage, and prepared for Phase Two – Training. In our separate teams, we proceeded to go through short training sessions covering various elements to include team movements in the field, basic first aid lessons, knot tying, and room clearing strategies. Throughout all aspects of training, end even during the initial assessment stage, we were given the opportunity to really think about scenarios and present solutions. As owner Mark Ballas stated, “Developing and testing the mind, body and spirit are the core of it all.” We were constantly prompted about principles that are important in leadership and teamwork, whether or not in a combat/military setting. The final step of the training phase included how Ranger units do their extensive planning (which they admit other units sometimes make fun of, being so in-depth). What I really appreciated about this endurance event is that it wasn’t designed just to push people past their breaking points like most of the multi-hour or day events; rather it made sure to bend all participants, but then focus on teaching them applicable skills for life.

Around noon on Saturday, we took another break to refuel and dress to prepare for Phase Three, which was the performance segment of our weekend. It was time to put all that we had learned and apply it to a simulated scenario that a Ranger team would encounter. We received an Op Order briefing by Mark, providing us with the mission objective and all details available at the time to begin preparations. Then the two teams broke off for their specific tasks in the mission and went through mission prep, planning, and rehearsal.

“It’s about developing organic leadership through unique team building events,” as Mark put it.

Eventually, it was time to follow the plan and schedule we agreed upon. The first team headed out for their part of the mission, led by Cadre Matt and John. Shortly after my team hit the trail, led by Mark and Cadre Dino.

Green Beret BEL Planning

The first team’s mission involved reconnaissance and eventually a room-clearing operation of a secluded cabin in the woods, and for a nice add-on encountered a civilian U.S. “casualty” requiring first aid and evacuation. My team had a mission to act based upon the intel from the recon and perform a roadside ambush to capture/kill a cartel terrorist with WMD components. Upon securing the target, we assessed the components and how to evacuate with said payload, then met up with the other team for a hike out of “hostile territory.” As Mark and the Cadre reiterated, “the scenarios are such that one’s leadership traits are exposed and refined.”

Green Beret Challenge Flag with moon

Upon arrival back within site of base camp, as the sun was beginning to set over the western mountaintops, we were finally told to set down everything. “Mission accomplished” were such sweet words to hear! We were all invited to come to the beautiful cabin at one of the highest points, where the property owners were gracious enough to host our smelly, dirty, tired bodies as we celebrated with a good old fashioned burger burn and some delicious Bird Dog Whiskey, who sponsored the after party.  Many only had the energy to eat, have a few drinks, then head straight to their tents due to the 24+ hours with almost no sleep; a few others took advantage of the time to share a few laughs with Mark and the Cadre.
This event not only tested participants mentally, physically, and spiritually; it allowed all parties involved to truly pay tribute to the Rangers and other Special Forces members whom have given their life fighting for our country. “This is only the beginning” Mark was sure to point out, as he is at this moment preparing for their next event in the Behind Enemy Lines series. Behind Enemy Lines: Survival & Evasion takes place in Texas the first weekend of December. If you want to go through a little pain and suffering, but walk away with some uncommon skills, I recommend checking out the event. Classes do have a small cap, so don’t delay!

Green Beret Challenge – Sprint Series Announcement

Green Beret Challenge Race

The Green Beret Challenge, which has received several positive reviews  has announced a Sprint Series.

The GBC provides  military based challenges where participants “push, pull, or carry things” as opposed to “climb, crawl, or jump over things”. It is more similar to an endurance or adventure race than a typical OCR.

Green Beret Challenge Adventure Race


The biggest difference in this new series is a shorter distance, and individual competition versus team competition.

We reached out to GBC founder Mark Ballas to get a few more details.

ORM: Where and when will these events take place?

MB: Tentative locations for 2016 are:  Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Texas. Dates will be announced as soon as the venues are locked in.  We’ve also been invited to launch the first GBC Sprint at a fitness festival outside Philadelphia, Pa. on May 22nd. 

ORM: Will they be the same day as the regular distance?

MB: 2016, The events will be on separate weekends. 2017, we will have select regions where both events will be held over the course of a weekend. 

ORM: How does this distance differ from the standard distance you have been doing?

MB: The Sprint events will vary between 4-5 miles. The full GBC team challenges will continue to range between 8-10 miles. 

Learn more at the Green Beret Challenge website.

Hear an interview with Mark from the most recent Green Beret Challenge.

Register here for the first Sprint Series event in Tallapoosa, Georgia on July 30, 2016.

Green Beret Challenges Green Beret Challenge Medal GBC

Green Beret Challenge/Urban Rescue


6:00 am – Perry, GA: The open air corridors of the Days Inn smell like fucking horse manure. As I stumble down the stairs, I have to dodge bits of straw flecked horseshit.

6:02 am – Perry, GA: The vast majority of vehicles in the parking lot are huge honkin’ dualies. Even in my pre-coffee haze, it’s obvious these may be the source of all the equine crap nuggets.

6:05 am – Waffle House: A few of the Grey Berets: Mr. Pink, Patriarch, Dirty, myself, and Angel, kick off the first official 2016 pre-race fuel up ritual. With each successive sip of the black gold, I become more amped. The GBC gave birth to the Grey Berets last summer, and we are eager to see what momma has got cookin’ in the kitchen this time.

6:55 am – Guardian Center: In the gloom of pre-dawn, we pass quickly through the perimeter gate after paying our $10 parking fee and start to drive by a building that seems to have no end. And it just keeps going. And going. Seriously, this is a really fucking long building. We finally make a turn and pass by a flooded “residential neighborhood” and a collapsed bridge. What is going on?! We park in the vast gravel lot, and through the windshield, I see a cityscape of buildings, both standing and collapsed. What is this place?! THIS is the Guardian Center, a disaster preparedness and tactical training validation center. I shall call it Disasterville and for today only, Mark Ballas is its Mayor.

7:03 am – Guardian Center: It’s cold out, but the day is scheduled to be a sunny one.

7:05 am – Guardian Center: Registration is indoors! And there is a bathroom….indoors! It’s the little things that make me happy just before the hammer falls.

7:30 am – Guardian Center: I’ve now had to run back to the car 2 times. I’m getting a good warm up, but where the hell did I leave my brain!?


  1. The Sun has come out as we tow the starting line. It’s going be a blue bell day for some legendary pain.
  2. The start has us running through the streets of Disasterville.
  3. As we round a bend, I can see two “wrecked” cars kissing grills and blocking our path. I see the people ahead of us climbing over them….climbing?! I say Nay Nay Nay!!! Every episode of Starsky and Hutch, and the Dukes of Hazzard I saw as a kid flashes through my mind. There is but only one thing to do in this moment – the classic fucking hood slide. YES! Oh sweet baby Jesus thank you! (I know what you’re thinking, oh faithful followers of mine….”this is not gonna end well….and there’s pavement involved!”). As I near the cars, I kick up the speed, fill my mind with a pleasant, but Deadpool rated, image of Daisy Duke, and launch towards the left car. I glide across that beautiful product of American automotive might, as slick as snot and smashed bananas, whooping it up the whole way! I land in full stride and camera dude is right there! “Did you get that?” I ask as I run by. “No”. “Want me to do it again?!” “No”. Harshin’ my mellow man….
  4. Running by a simulated collapsed building and parking deck is fucking cool.Green Beret Challenge Disasterville
  5. We arrive at the first challenge, and it’s bedlam. A volunteer is yelling for teams to take one each of five different items: A Ruck, a 5-gallon bucket of rocks and dirt, an ammo crate with sandbag(s) in it, a cinder block with a rope handle, and an 8’ long 4×4 with a sandbag hanging at each end. We’ve made a critical mistake and dived into this scrum without taking a few seconds to huddle together and come up with a fucking plan. We are scattered throughout the crowd as I grab the 4×4 and heave it up on my shoulders. I turn and see Dirty pacing around looking for something to pick up, and Mr. Pink lifting a 4x to HIS shoulders. He’s not pleased when he sees me with one already on my shoulders.
  6. I start down the trail and immediately feel the effects of weighted pendulums hanging from each end of a long beam. Physics is such a bitch sometimes! The bags pull me from side to side forcing me to stagger like an E-3 on a shore leave drinking bender. This is going to fucking suck! Somehow our minds sync and we remember this is a team event. We make the necessary adjustments and carry on. At some point we make a trade; Dirty and I get the ruck, ammo box and block, and Patriarch and Mr. Pink get the 4×4 and bucket.Green Beret Challenge challenge no. 1
  7. Pink and Patty start pulling ahead of us. Patty is carrying the bucket in the crook of his elbow like some sort of OCR handbag. This makes me chuckle. After a few stops – why is this killing us so badly?! – we lose sight of Patty and Pink. What is the deal?! It shouldn’t be this taxing this early? Dark thoughts of my lack of training motivation during the winter start to tickle the edges of my consciousness. Dirty is weezing and grunting like a pug in heat, so I take the ruck. It’s a fucking beast.
  8. At least it’s not a coffin filled with fucking sandbags!
  9. I can see one of the outermost buildings through the scrubby, low trees. We must be close! We finally make the turn back towards the beginning, straight into a severe cross slope gully. I loathe cross slope running, hiking, stumbling with a 100 pound ruck, etc…!! We go a couple of hundred yards in this miserable fucking ditch when Mr. Pink and Patriarch appear from around the corner, angelically backlit and free of encumbrances, and relieve us of our ammo crate. We hustle to the pick-up/drop off point and shed our miserable burdens. Well that fucking sucked, but now it was time to run. Dirty expresses some concern about how all that went down. I know this man though. He is a tough fucking dude. He’ll cowboy up.
  10. We run along the perimeter fencing and see some of the leaders on the other side carrying sand bags. “Well that answers the question of what’s next”, I mumble. We arrive at a huge pile of sand and proceed to each fill up a brand new sandbag. I heave mine to my shoulders and proceed to lose half my sand and bury my shoes. Fuck! “Scribe! You gotta learn to tie a knot!”, says Mr. Pink. He gets down with me to assist in refilling the bag. Time’s a-wastin’! The boys head on out while I tie up, annnnnd…….my string breaks. Motherfucker! I mentally throw up my hands, give the bag a few more twists and haul ass. I slog through a muddy squelchy “dry” retention pond, climb up a steep embankment, and settle into a trot along the perimeter fencing. All my boys are ahead of me while I deal with how to carry an untied sandbag. My thoughts go dark as I think about the inauspicious start to this race. Realizing I’m not going to be able to run with this bag of pain across my shoulders in its current state, I reluctantly stop to try to tie it up with the anemic bit of string that’s left.
  11. I am successful.Green Beret Challenge sandbag carry
  12. After a couple of hundred more yards, I drop off the grass track and straight into an absolutely gorgeous pecan orchard. I finally catch up to the lads and we oooh and ahhh over the obviously old trees laid out in a rigorous grid. I can feel the tension of the first challenge and the sand bag clusterfuck fade away as the bucolic setting works its magic on my nerves. The pace is good and we soon arrive at the next challenge set up on the periphery of the orchard. A plastic body sled laden with 3 very full sandbags and a nylon litter – with 2 lengths of pipes adjacent – and three fucking sand bags were going to be our next traveling “companions”.
  13. The spray painted arrows on the ground take us on a circuitous route through the orchard. As the weight settled in on the shoulders and started to grind us down, the orchard lost its charm and quickly became a bunch of fucking trees we had to avoid. I don’t even like fucking pecan pie!Green Beret Challenge pecan orchard carry
  14. We took turns carrying and dragging, each of us sucking up the fucking misery. Hey, but the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect, and at least we weren’t carrying a coffin filled with fucking sandbags! We cleared the orchard and dropped down onto a full scale replica of a divided 4 lane interstate highway, labeled I-70. We trudged along the shoulder looking like a strange group of hitchhikers, with no possibility of a ride.
  15. The shoulders are starting to really complain.
  16. Dragging the sled became much easier on the asphalt so we went to 3 men on the litter. It was gloriously flat until we were forced to cross the road and drag our asses and those damnable sandbags up a short but fucking steep and rutted hill. Once we arrived at the top, we were rewarded with a view back towards the start of this miserable loop. A few more rounds of this GBC Chinese fire drill and we were breaking down the sled and litter and saying goodbye to O-Yama’s orchard of pain and suffering.
  17. Back over the “highway”, we headed into the woods via a long crawl under barbless wire. Visions of almost being garroted at OCRWC went racing through my melon.
  18. As we headed deeper into the woods, I was sure this was going to be one of the few pure running portions of the race, so I settled into a nice pace with my boys. And then I felt it. Fuck! The unmistakable flickering electrical impulses of my calves getting ready to tell me to “fuck the hell off, we are outta here!”
  19. I had forgotten those precious little yellow packets of liquid gold, so I called out to Mr. Pink to drop a couple on the trail for me. No Stopping! The vinegary bite feels good.
  20. That’s a mighty fine tree stand.
  21. That’s a creepy random plywood shack.
  22. We pop out of the woods and get back on the “highway”. The ruins in Disasterville are visible in the distance.
  23. We are back to running along the perimeter fence and quickly come up on our next challenge.
  24. TIRES! Big fucking tires! Tires that hold up trucks that move mountains. Tires that should stay on the ground and be beaten with sledgehammers. But nooooooo! With 4 steel posts (2 long 2 short……love me some hardcore 90s rap) sitting next to each tire, it was obvious we were going to be taking these fuckers on walk about.Green Beret Challenge tire carry
  25. At least it’s not a coffin filled with fucking sandbags.
  26. Pink and Patty commence to wrapping and frapping, minus the backbeat, while Patty and I get in a little extra PT getting the 40 pounds of water out of the tire, flipping the to and fro. Heave Ho and off we go. Pink gets us all walking in sync, after some awkward stutter stepping.
  27. Compared to last year’s coffin carry, this carry is working out to be the easiest task of the day. We yuck it up, tell stories, and discuss Grey Berets “business” (nicknames, future old dudes, doing math on our team’s average age [55, by the way] etc..); Just a merry band of old farts taking a fuck ton of rubber for a Saturday stroll through the fields and woods of Georgia. Pink gets the pace quickened, and we start to close in on the team ahead of us.
  28. It’s just a grand old time, said my shoulders never.
  29. Patty is hurting. But he soldiers on like the beast he is.
  30. Shit! We have to set the litter down to adjust the pipes that have gone all wonky. “Oh look! The creepy plywood shed again. We’ve crossed the halfway point methinks
  31. I’m switching shoulders so many times it looks like I’m doing walking shoulder presses.
  32. We make a move and overtake the team ahead of us. Before we know it, we’re back at the ravine separating the woods from the “highway”. It’s fucking sketchy, but with some good communication, we are able to avoid snapping a leg, twisting an ankle, or disappointing Matt B. Davis, who is yelling words of “encouragement” at us.
  33. We complete the loop and almost kill a volunteer when our rubber friend falls off the litter while lifting it off our shoulders. “Oopsie! Sorry!”
  34. Spirits are high and I have definitely shaken off all the dark thoughts from the beginning. Not that it’s all fucking sunshine and unicorns, rainbows and fluegelhorns, but I will not die today.
  35. A short run gets us to the fifth challenge, annnnnnd there are the coffins filled with fucking sandbags.
  36. I’m gonna die today.
  37. What the fuck am I looking at? A coffin, 3 banged up pipes (2 long, 1 short), several lengths of rope, and two used tires?! And I see a team ahead of us pulling away with all of this built into some kind of contraption that looks like Red Foxx had a three way with Mad Max and an undertaker. We choose a pile after Dirty gets all smart and points to the tires with no tread; “they’ll be lighter!” Our mission is to get all these pieces of junk into some type of Burning Man meets the Addams family assemblage, without the benefits of mind altering drugs, extreme heat, and naked chicks riding unicycles. “Tires must touch the ground at all times!” yells the volunteer.
  38. It takes us awhile to get our “vehicle” constructed. Shit! the team we passed has caught up! It’s now a race to see who can McGyver the shit out of this problem faster.
  39. We lose.
  40. We finally are ready for the road and get a whopping 10 yards and come to a screeching halt. Our rope tying has bound up the wheels. We get our shit in order but have lost serious ground.Green Beret Challenge coffin carry
  41. As we move down the road, the tires are flopping around like blown out flip flops on a beach bum. Speed is the key to keep them rolling and vertical. And just as we get into a groove, a STEEP fucking hill shows up. But it’s not a hill, it’s some sort of bunker buried under dirt and weeds. The slope must be greater than 45 degrees if it’s a degree! There’s nothing to do but power up that fucker, dragging our piece of shit-pine box derby car from hell, flaccid tires be damned.
  42. Pink and Patty are on point, while Dirty and I are dragging the rear. I have my free hand firmly planted on Patty’s ass giving him a push while my feet dig in for purchase. There’s more grunting and groaning than nickel night down at the whorehouse.
  43. We reach the top with everything intact. We are immediately struck by two things: We came close to impaling ourselves on the lightning rods poking up through the dirt and we have to go down the other side and then repeat the same fucking process on a second bunker!
  44. We place a clod of dirt on the sharp pointy business end of the rod and then make our way down. Dirty and I are human brakes. I’m leaning so far back, I’m almost parallel with the slope. Weeds and vines grab at my feet threatening to trip me up. We’ll be ass over elbows if even one of us slips. The transition between the two bunkers is barely longer than our coffinbarrow. We grind up and down the second bunker without incident.
  45. Going along a paved service rode lets us pick up the pace. Well, as much as one can, dragging two tires not following the laws of round things, and a coffin with fucking sandbags in it tied to stupid fucking poles lashed together with rope, hope and a prayer.
  46. The calves are burning!!! All of us are switching from running forward to running backwards and back. It’s a bizarre pas de quatre, but without the tights and toe shoes. Well, except Pink, he is wearing pecker pants.
  47. We come around the bend and can see the team who passed us! They have gotten about a quarter of a mile ahead. And then we blow out an axle! Mr. Pink comes to the rescue with some quick wrapping and frapping, and it’s back to the fucking grind. We have lost sight of the team ahead of us.
  48. We finally arrive at the top of the hill where the tire carry drop was and make the left for home. That miserable dragging-coffinbarrow-fuckall had to be a mile if a foot!
  49. There’s now more people around as the people at the tail end of our wave finish up the tire carry and some young guns from a later wave have caught up.
  50. As we pull our chariot from Dante’s 9th circle of hell into the staging area, the team we are chasing is just leaving. We’ve managed to make some gains! But we still have to break down our contraption.
  51. We’ve done one long run so far, so by my calculations and Patty’s GPS watch, we should be due for another. I’m feeling pretty beat down.
  52. We head in a direction that takes us directly back towards DisasterVille. We make a left at the flooded neighborhood and run along the perimeter berm. It’s warmed up considerably and I remark how nice that water is going to feel, because I know Ballas ain’t gonna let such a nice, accessible, and stagnant pool of water go to waste. But alas, we veer away from it and are taken on a route that hugs the side of a building. It quickly becomes apparent this is the building we drove by earlier in the morning that went on forevvvvvvvver.
  53. And we run alongside it. And we make a 90-degree turn, and we continue to run alongside it.
  54. Pink seems to have gotten a second wind, and I have to rein him in, ‘cuz I’m fucking dying over here!
  55. And then another turn, and it just keeps fucking going and going and going.
  56. We come up on a horrific scene of dead bodies everywhere. Oh, those are just dummies.
  57. We have arrived at the (I’m confident about this) last challenge. We increased our gain on the other team! We enter the building to find more dummies. They are just finishing their setup as we roll in…..the team not the dummies. Wait, the team are not the dummies. Shit! nevermind.
  58. The volunteer – “grab a dummy. (So I hug Dirty) They all weigh 185# (fuck me!!)! choose a sled or a sling.”
  59. We choose the sled, because we want to drag not carry.
  60. We are directed to go through turnstiles. Turnstiles? What the hell? And all of a sudden we are in a subway tunnel. Holy shit, how cool is this?! We are then instructed to enter the former DC metro cars and traverse down to the last car and then hop down to the tracks on the opposite side.
  61. There are no lights in the cars and the going is dark. The dummy gets hung up a couple of times on the center poles. Nothing a well-placed foot does not take care of. Our poor dummy would be dead by now if he was a critically injured human. But we are racing not rescuing. And that is why, when we reach the end of the train, he gets tossed onto to the tracks and not gently lowered. Sorry dude!
  62. The scenery is just amazing as we run down this never ending tunnel. We pass a train car that is ripped apart as if by a bomb; we have to negotiate under a flipped train car leaning against the wall; we have to go back and forth over the tracks, all the while dragging our battered dummy.
  63. When the fuck is this going to end!
  64. We finally make a turn, have to crawl over broken slabs of concrete, twisted rebar and a wrecked car, and yet we are still not finished!Green Beret Challenge tunnel drag
  65. We can just see the team ahead!
  66. We have arrived in the car tunnel disaster simulator. We weave around wrecked cars, flipped cars, stacked cars, a car in the back of a bread truck, flipped school bus, cop cars, squashed cars. It’s just fucking amazing. I’m just glad we didn’t have to haul Dingle-fucking-Dorfmeister the dummy over any cars.
  67. I can’t resist writing “Grey Berets” in the dust on a couple of windshields. The lads aren’t happy with me when they lose 25% of the help.
  68. We finally exit the building and head straight down into the flooded neighborhood. OH SWEET JESUS! That is cold water! It quickly gets waist deep and Winky the milk spitting tunnel ferret and his tetlies immediately vacate the area and snuggle up next to my pancreas.
  69. We pass the two houses on the short axis and then turn left to travel the long axis. For some reason, I am really struggling with the coldness, breathing like a living room full of future mommies taking a Lamanze class. I look at Pink and say “remember when I said the water would feel refreshing? You need to fucking smack me for that stupid shit!”
  70. We turn left on MLK Dr. (I shit you not. That was on the street sign) and head towards the exit ramp. We have closed the gap on the team to 50 yards.Green Beret Challenge water challenge
  71. We grind up the small hill and try to turn on the gas as we hit the asphalt streets.
  72. We head into DisasterVille hot on their heels. They make a right turn. We make the right turn. SHIT! The finish line is there 100 yards away!!! We can’t close the gap.
  73. And just like that – we are done.
  74. THAT was fucking brutal and awesome with some seriously heinous and diabolical shit!!!!! Mark Ballas, you glorious sick fuck; I love to hate you, I hate to love you. I am still deciding on which.
  75. Tretsch says do it! (or at the very least ANY event that comes to the Guardian Centers)


After some picture taking, we load Dingle Dorfmeister onto the luggage cart (yeah, we had to do that. A nice little post-race stab in the back!) and get to the serious business of relaxing and hanging out with the other Grey Berets, GORMRs, and all manners of other people who are there. Beers magically appear (there is no official post-race beer) from Pink’s truck. Hundreds of bags of Frito-Lays products courtesy of our Grey Beret brother Chips, are poured out onto a luggage cart. We have the honor to cheer on the other teams, fellow Grey Berets, and individuals as they cross the finish line. I get in a few Dubsmashes, because the backdrops are creatively inspiring. The BBQ sandwiches and smoothies for sale are fantastic. The sun is shining, the temperature is perfection and the 2016 race season has been kicked off in grand and painful style. All is well, albeit fucking sore.

photos by Jack Goras (via GBC), Mariano Oliveti, Mike Bravo Charlie