We learned about the Grizzly Resilient Ruckers two weeks ago when Cadre Mikey announced he was selling shirts with Baan Muay Thai to support the program. Since then we have reached out to fellow GRT (GORUCK Tough) Alison Niizawa who is the person directly involved in starting the program. We wanted to get some more information about her and what she hopes to accomplish. GORUCK events claim to Build Better Americans so it is always great to hear from GRTs who are doing incredible things.
If you read this interview and want to support the program head over to our announcement post for info on how to purchase a shirt (4/20 is last day to order) from Cadre Mikey Bee.
- Q: We see you are in the GORUCK Tough Facebook group! That means you have taken part in a GORUCK event… please tell us about your first event! What did you like/dislike and what was your favorite/least favorite parts? Who was your Cadre? Did you register for another one afterwards? We love the details!
- A: My first event was St. Patrick’s Day in Santa Cruz in 2016, class 1888. I started Crossfit my first day as a high school principal almost three years ago. I met Pete Johnson at Crossfit Watsonville and after 9 months or so he asked me, my brother-in-law and niece if we would like to do a Goruck event. Of course we all accepted the challenge and trusting our new friend wouldn’t lead us astray. In preparation for the event Pete introduced us to Stephen DeToma and his Wednesday evenings doing PT at the Seacliff stairs. I had been doing Crossfit for over a year, worn my ruck for about two hours and Pete put us in the ocean for about 15 minutes just to understand the commands the Cadre might give us.
Cadre Mickey was introduced to us at the dive bar of all dive bars about an hour before the event started. We each had consumed the infamous “Jamo” shot to calm our nerves and we were set to step-off at the start point. Pete and Stephen had done their best to prepare us for what was to come. We were quickly introduced to 8 count body builders, learned not to leave target indicators behind and the stupid “pot of gold” Mickey brought was a bitch to carry. Mickey kicked the crap out of us. We headed straight to the ocean after 50 eight count body builders for dropping some “gold” and I learned very quickly not to strap up my ruck when you are cold, wet and sandy because the Cadre is just messing with you when he keeps telling you to take it on and off. We rucked all the way up river on the levy carrying our rucks in all different ways. I think the worst parts were bear crawling backwards with our rucks upside down all the way across one of the foot bridges. The other worst part was being casualty carried for three plus miles back from the beach at 6:30 in the morning. I thought my gut was going to split open. The best part was the people I met and completing something I had never done before that challenged me both physically and mentally. Some of the more veteran participants made comments on how awesome of a class we had and how no one complained and everyone worked together.Right after the event I was so cold and wet and my hip flexors were seizing and I could barely walk because we had rucked 22 miles I thought I would never do that again. One of the shadows had taken a million pictures and was posting them on Facebook and I connected with people from the event on Facebook and was able to relive the event. My brother-in-law, niece and I signed up for another tough in Monterey that June and the triple light in San Francisco in August. I was finally able to talk my husband into signing up for an event and he was set for the triple light but wanted to experience a tough. In July we drove to Newport on a Friday morning, did the event and drove home the next morning. We also did the Tough, Light and Scavenger in October. My daughter has also done a Brat with my nephew and rocks her pink ruck to school every day.
At the start of every school year each site has one professional development day for teachers on one of the days right before school starts. The start of the 2016-2017 school year the district provided the school sites with three days. I worked with Goruck HQ and put together a custom light for my entire teaching staff on the Friday before school started. Their team weights were old overhead projectors and they each had to carry a textbook in their “ruck”. Flash and Brett Vernon were the Cadre who had my staff doing elephant walks, log carries and tons of crazy relays on the beach. The staff had a blast and it really brought us together as a team to start the school year.
- Q: How did you find out about GORUCK? Why did you ever register for an event?
- A: Pete Johnson made me do it… I think I answered this question above. However, I am always up for a challenge.
- Q: Are you currently registered for or training up for any events? If so what is on your list?
- A: Possibly, I am just trying to get back/stay in event ready shape. My hope is to take my students down to the light in Bakersfield in May. I would like to do the Tough in Monterey again this July and the zombie apocalypse triple light in Santa Cruz in October has my attention. Stephen DeToma just opened up registration for a custom tough he is doing in July that I really want to do. I am hoping to make something happen before 2017 is over.
- Q: Anything you wish you would have done differently going into your first event?
- A: I feel I was as prepared as I could have been for my first event. Both Pete and Stephen had done multiple events with Mickey so they knew how to prepare for his style. I felt Pete really helped me with how to pack my ruck and what to bring. The only thing I will do differently moving forward is wear a hat or beanie right from the beginning and wear a shemegh to help protect my neck, ears and head when carrying heavy objects. I also hate being cold so this will also help with body temperature control.
- Q: How did you get involved with Cadre Mikey Bee and Baan Muay Thai?
- A: Cadre Mikey Bee was the Cadre for the tough in Monterey last summer, the triple light in San Francisco and the tough, light and scavenger in Santa Cruz in October. He was also the Cadre for my daughters Brat in Monterey. Baan Muay Thai finished selection and met Mikey through that experience. He was linked into this because of the shirt idea Mikey had to raise money.
- Q: Where did the idea for the Grizzly Resilient Ruckers program come from?
- A: After completing events myself and using Goruck as staff development I wanted to bring it to the student level. Mikey and I stayed in contact after the triple light and we talked a little about the event I did with my teaching staff. Between August and October, I had been kicking around an idea of introducing rucking to students and using it as a tool to build leadership skills and work with some of our at risk students. I shared my idea a little more in depth with Mikey after we finished the tough-light combo in October. He was also coming off of Selection and been introduced to Baan Muay Thai. We have kept in contact from then until now with different ideas on how to get this off the ground. He did a fundraiser with “Bertha Hate Club” shirts and the idea came about to use the “Angry Peaches” phrase he used in Selection as a shirt logo.
- Q: Can you tell us about the Grizzly Resilient Ruckers program and what you hope to accomplish with it?
- A: Currently I have a group of about 14 students who I meet with four times a week for about 40 minutes. It started with playing basketball and study hall. It has slowly evolved into working out in the weight room and doing hikes/rucks on the weekends. The plan is to bring students from this group down to Bakersfield in May to do the Light.
My long term hope is to offer an alternative to the traditional workout program and PE class for that matter. When I walk into a weight room with students I don’t want their first reaction to be doing bicep curls or go over to the flat bench and start bench pressing. I want to use the skills of weight training and the mental toughness of rucking to build self-esteem in students. Many of my students don’t leave the city of Watsonville and explore the surrounding area. My target is students who exhibit at risk behavior and need an outlet. I want them to feel empowered and intrinsically motivated to strive for more and believe in their own ability to get them there.
- Q: How often will the group meet and for how long? What will the group activities look like?
- A: The plan is to operate this program through one of the PE classes next year. I have a PE credential and I plan on teaching a class next year. The class will meet on Tuesday and Friday for 110 minutes and on Wednesday for 41. The class is going to primarily be taught out of the weight room with rucks around campus and out in the community. I plan to have guest speakers, skype in Mikey and organize events outside of school at least once a quarter. I am going to use the time this summer to solidify the details of the class.
- Q: If people are interested in learning more and/or supporting the program should they go?
- A: Nowhere yet…just contact me (amniizawa AT gmail DOT com) or Mikey (mikeyb.grt AT gmail DOT com).
Make sure to check out this page for information on how to grab a shirt while they last.
A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her incredibly busy schedule to answer our questions. She is doing something truly amazing by bringing leadership, confidence, and determination to her students through rucking. We will be following the Grizzly Resilient Ruckers when possible and hope the program has a ton of success!
*Photos for the Allison’s first GORUCK event used with permission from Borzelli Photography.