I recently completed the GORUCK Star Course in Seattle. My team finished the event in under 20 hours, we traveled just over 60 miles, had 2 team members drop. We 100% earned our patches. Throughout the execution of this event we learned a lot and I’m going to distill that here so that hopefully you will have a better chance of success at your event.
GORUCK Star Course Tips & Advice
All of these tips and pieces of advice can be applied between now and your event. This isn’t training assistance or specific gear advice but information that will help you specifically with the multiple components that make up this event.
1) The GORUCK Star Course is NOT a 50 Mile Event
You will pay dearly if you think of the GORUCK Star Course as a 50 mile event. Instead, you need to think about this like you do with GORUCK Lights, Toughs, and Heavies. Some Lights are lighter than other Lights while some Heavies are heavier than other Heavies. The GORUCK Star Course is a 50+ mile navigation event.
When we showed up to the start point Mocha Mike said that the course would be 53 miles. When we got the points and plugged them all into our phones the course turned out to be 58 miles. When we figured out 12 miles into the event that a bridge was closed and we would need to walk around the course turned into 61 miles. Don’t let this phase you… just keep rucking and don’t quit.
Mentally prepare yourself to complete the GORUCK Star Course and start doing that by not referring to it as a 50 mile event. When you show up to the start point those extra miles will only make you feel worse about the situation.
2) Use a Route Optimization App
There are apps that you can download to your phone where you put in a start point, and end point, and a bunch of other points and it creates the shortest route by foot possible. That is what you need so that you will know your actual event distance and will have confidence in your route. You need to do everything you can to turn the focus of this event into caring for yourself and your team which means using tools and outside resources to handle the other stuff. We used an app called inroute that had a free 7 day trial.
3) Have an Outside Resource
We were incredibly fortunate to have an outside resource who was at home and was able to validate that our 58 mile route was indeed the quickest way to go. When Mocha Mike said 53 miles and the app spit back 58 miles we were a little uneasy. Having someone sitting in the comfort of their home validating our route put us at ease that at least we were doing the best that we could. Mocha is from out of town and our resource knew the area… just have faith in yourself and your team.
4) Clarify Questions in Advance
We planned our route direction because one of the points (Bruce Lee’s grave site) is closed at night. We knew if we showed up there first we wouldn’t be able to take a picture by the grave so we put it at the end of the event. A few hours into the event we got news from GORUCK that if you showed up at Bruce Lee’s grave site at night it was acceptable to take a picture at the gates to the cemetery instead. I wish we had asked that question in advance instead of hearing about it a few hours in. If there are any site closures or points that you are making assumptions about don’t make the assumption. Ask GORUCK and get a definitive answer.
5) Have a Scheduled Drop
We were incredibly lucky to have two people available to help us out during the night. We showed up to the start point with an extra bag (filled with goodies) that we gave to person one. We met person one at hour 11 and they had all of our bags. After that drop person one handed the bags off to person two who we met roughly 16 hours into the event.
This was incredibly nice because it meant we didn’t need to pack enough food or clothing for the entire event. In addition, at the hour 11 drop I was able to stash my rain jacket and headlamp back in my bag. Although those two items probably only weighed a pound between them there was a nice emotional boost knowing I was carrying only what I needed to get through the event.
Finally, I packed a ton of stuff in this bag that I hoped I wouldn’t need. I packed extra shorts, a shirt, new shoes, a spare bladder, extra socks, tons of food, medical supplies, basically anything I would need in an emergency. Knowing that I had all that available to me 11 hours and 16 hours in took a lot of the gear uncertainty out of the picture.
6) Plan a Break Strategy
HUGE shout out to 529’er for determining our break schedule. We went with 70 minute ruck then 5 minute break. We started this at the very beginning and it made everything feel achievable. After the first 70 minutes no one needed a break but we took one. After the second 70 minute ruck I don’t think anyone needed a break but we took one anyways again. Although we didn’t need the breaks by taking those two breaks we cemented in our mind how much rucking we needed to do before we had the chance to stretch and rest.
This helped on two different fronts: First, after every break I told myself I was just going for a 70 minute ruck. I’ve done so many rucks (and you should too if you’re training for this) that mentally pretending that I was fresh and going on a 70 minute ruck made everything feel possible. Second, it forced us to take breaks, stretch, and address feet issues. What I’ve found is that most foot issues don’t get addressed because people don’t want to stop rucking so if you force people to stop they’ll either need to stand there and do nothing or address their feet and other potential issues.
7) Stretch & Address Feet at Every Break
Every single time your team takes a break make sure you stretch your legs. If you’re feeling any hot spots on your feet then address them before they become more of an issue. The only time I started having leg issues was at mile 58 when I didn’t stretch before resting. I plopped myself right down and getting back up and moving again was painful. My left leg was cramping and I’m sure if I had stretched it a bit in advance it wouldn’t have done that.
8) Check Your Water Levels
Make sure you know about how much water you have left at any given time. You should check your water levels at each break and hit up a refill station (grocery store, gas station, etc.) when you’re getting low. If you pass a gas station and you know you are about to hit an area that doesn’t have much infrastructure then stock up there. The gas stations I stopped in sold a gallon of water for $2.49. Water bottles are expensive, gallons of water are not. Buy one and share with your team.
9) Ruck in the Shadows
Concrete heats up so when you’re out there rucking stay in the shadows and walk on the cooler concrete. I’m not sure if it was a mental thing or not but my feet (and soles) felt warmer when I was walking on concrete in sunlight compared to walking in the shadows.
10) This is a Mental Game so Stick it the F*** Out
This is a mental game so stick with it until the end. People were not happy when they learned 3 hours in that the event was 61 miles. There’s no guarantee this will happen at your star course but at hour 16 our event was extended an hour (so a 21 hour cutoff) and at hour 17 we got an alert that if you had hit 50 miles you can head back to the start and it would count as a complete. That’s right… If you had your 50 and were near the start you could finish without getting those extra 11 in. Our team was not (that announcement cut off maybe 2 miles for us) but it was a huge motivator. If you can do not quit on your team because the rules of the game may change in your favor.
11) Visualize Success
Picture yourself doing something with that patch. My success was me sitting at a Chinese buffet with a plate full of food and the GORUCK Star Course patch on one of my hats sitting next to the plate. I thought about that image so many times throughout the event because I wanted it to be a reality. Paint a picture of success in your mind and think about it any time things get rough.
12) Know Your Why
A lot of people have some incredible reasons for doing events… I’m not one of them. My “why” for this event was that I trained so hard for it and missed out on a decent chunk of family time. Hours and hours and hour spent rucking instead of spending time with the family or doing something else. If I didn’t complete this event then why did I even train that much? Chris Way talked about this when I interviewed him about GORUCK Selection and it resonated with me. Even if your “why” isn’t worth writing a book about you should still have some reason for doing the event that you can remember when times get tough.
13) Treat Yo’self (If You Finish)
Spoil yourself with something after the event… but only do it if you finish. Generally that’s a peanut butter bacon burger (which I talk about with Cliff on the podcast) but this time it was Chinese buffet. I haven’t had Chinese buffet in years but I received a coupon in the mail for 50 cents off and for some reason the image of that buffet stuck with me. I wrote “Monday After GORUCK Star Course” on the coupon and put it on my fridge. I saw it every day and I sure thought about it during the event.
The Monday after the Star Course I didn’t really even want Chinese buffet and considered staying home. I ended up going and it was amazing. It’s crazy but it was emotional taking that picture because that’s the exact view I was thinking about in my mind for a lot of that event.
14) Don’t Be Afraid to Bug GORUCK
We hit goruckstarcourse up numerous times through the direct message (DM) functionality of Instagram. They clarified information, answered questions, and were a joy to chat with. If you have any questions don’t be afraid to hit them up through the Instagram app and ask them. Someone is there “liking” all of the photos you upload and they were definitely willing to respond to our many messages. Use all of the resources you have to your advantage.
GORUCK Star Course Final Thoughts
I threw this list together shortly after completing the Seattle GORUCK Star Course because I wanted them to be available right away. The list may grow as I remember more things and there will definitely be an AAR which will include more on gear and training. These are some quick tips so that anyone with a Star Course event coming up soon can use to their advantage. In the meantime if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments!