GoRuck’s announcement earlier this year that they would be hosting an obstacle course run was met with a lot of excitement in the GoRuck community. As news about the “Nasty Nick” origins of the obstacles and the beautiful venue emerged, Nasty became a regular topic of conversation among GoRuck’s loyal ranks.
Even so, one could argue that the chance for this event to exist as a GoRuck family reunion of sorts was an even bigger draw for many than the actual obstacle course was. GoRuck was of course, quite aware of this. Underscoring this, the after party became a real cornerstone of their marketing efforts: “$1 Beers”, “Special Forces Meets Woodstock”. GoRuck was setting the stage for their party of the year and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it!
I think it’s fitting that GoRuck’s inaugural event would serve as the 1st formal event review for GRT Evolutions. I decided to break the review into several key categories, providing a letter grade for each, and a composite letter grade for the event as a whole. So, without further ado, here’s our review of GoRuck’s inaugural obstacle course/mud run event: GoRuck Nasty 001.
GoRuck selected the Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville, VA as the venue for Nasty 001. This beautiful setting offered a course that was very challenging and incredibly scenic. Sections of the course featured steep, mountainous inclines. There was no shortage of Good Livin’ during the “Memorial Walk” in particular: a mile long stretch of the course giving participants the opportunity to honor our armed forces and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We would all do so by carrying an American flag through the most taxing and challenging terrain participants would experience all day. This meant a slow, humbling climb up a black diamond slope, giving all plenty of time to think about what has been sacrificed to allow us to enjoy this day. It certainly put our small and temporary pains in perspective as well.
The venue also offered GoRuck a great spot for their PX at Nasty. The PX is GoRuck’s new storefront concept that we can expect to see rolled out to major US cities gradually in the coming years. The Nasty PX was the hub of all festivities before, during and after the course. Their choice to offer a generous 25% discount at the PX all day Friday and Saturday helped make it a VERY popular spot during the weekend.
Parking was free (more on that later) and plentiful, and the venue was very well suited overall for this type of event.
There were very few negatives to GoRuck’s choice in venue, but I believe a few opportunities for improvement do exist for the next time around.
The post-party PX/beer garden/food area was fairly narrow, linear, and hilly (as you’d expect at a mountain resort). A more circular layout for their “event hub” would, by nature, encourage a bit more mingling and foot traffic throughout the party – keeping people in motion and engaged. “Special Forces Meets Woodstock” was a common tagline, and in some ways GoRuck could learn a bit from one of the modern-day analogs to Woodstock by adopting a Nasty HQ similar to Bonnaroo’s hub of activities.
Bonnaroo is admittedly a much larger (and very different) event, but a flat, open layout with points of interest spread out would benefit Nasty in the same ways it benefits that event, in that it would encourage more engagement and exploration by guests.
Overall, it’s very hard to criticize GoRuck’s choice of venue though – a nearly perfect location for Nasty.
What can I say, but WOW. After participating in a number of similar events big and small, I can say with authority that GoRuck has absolutely established a new gold standard by which all other obstacles must now be judged.
Prior to my experience with Nasty, I’ve completed Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and a 1/2 dozen or so of similar events. Despite the variety of obstacles between these events, they all have one thing in common: they’re all designed to be just hard enough to make you look cool. Nasty offers no such kindness. If Tough Mudder pokes at your phobias with blunt stick, Nasty impales them with a steel trident.
10-20 foot tall cargo nets in an inverted “V” shape are common at these types of events, and for someone with a fear of heights, they can be a fair test of participant’s ability to face their fears. Nasty’s 30-40 foot tall confidence climb ladder is a waking nightmare in comparison. This reality puts GoRuck’s Nasty in a class all by itself as far as the caliber of obstacles it offers. Unfortunately, this introduced some logistical issues, which we’ll highlight in a moment.
Here’s the thing though: your modern obstacle course events are always claiming to come with “authentic military obstacles” and often seek to outdo each other by delivering the most challenging obstacle course experience available. Using THAT measuring stick as your standard, GoRuck’s Nasty event has moved the bar, and has moved it up. By a LOT.
Anyone who’s seen Discovery’s highlight of the Nasty Nick obstacle course on “Two Weeks In Hell” (available on Netflix) will instantly recognize a number of the obstacles from GoRuck’s Nasty. The caliber, build quality and authenticity of these obstacles were 2nd to none. If authenticity is your standard, GoRuck Nasty is as real as it gets.
Course Planning & Event Logistics
This review is starting to look like a homer call, isn’t it? Well…
While GoRuck did a lot of things right, there were some issues that one might expect from an inaugural run of a new event like this. These problems were real, and they weren’t insignificant. In some ways, GoRuck Nasty became a victim of its own greatness. The caliber of the obstacles meant that a large number of them took a lot of time to clear.
A Warrior Dash fire “obstacle” can be cleared in as much time as it takes to jump over a few burning logs in your back yard. But when a single obstacle involves a 15-20′ rope climb, followed by a 20′ long belly crawl over a log 20+ feet in the air and a crab crawl down a steel ladder at that height, it takes TIME. When these obstacles expose the physical and mental limitations of the vast majority of your participants in the way these types of obstacles do, they take a LOT of time. And when only 2-3 people can safely navigate an obstacle at once, that means bottle necks like those shown above.
I’ll own the fact that I skipped the Confidence Climb solely due to the grip of my own phobias, but there were a number of obstacles that I skipped because of the 45-60 minute wait (or longer) that accompanied them. That kind of wait not only affects the enjoyment of the event, but brings cramping and tightness into the equation as well.
I know that GoRuck’s team of Cadre have already begun brainstorming their solutions to these issues, and I have no doubt Nasty 002 will see a VAST improvement in this category, but this was hands down the #1 logistical oversight of the weekend and it DOES need to be corrected. Broader obstacle builds that allow for 2-4 times as many participants at once. Smaller heats over 2 days instead of one. “Hard, Harder, Hardest” variants of obstacles… there are a number of approaches that could help, and I’m sure many are being discussed as I type this.
An event of this distance (6+ miles, 4-5+ hours) should also likely have included at least one fuel stop (GU gel, Clif Bloks, bananas, whatever), but unless I missed it, Nasty had none (PLEASE correct me in comments if I’m mistaken).
There were also communication issues in the last week leading up to Nasty. We were told that camping spots were no longer available, but then they were. Parking was $10, then free (not that I’m complaining). Dogs were not permitted, but exceptions were being made for certain participants.
Camping equipment needed to be hauled in by hand from the parking area to campsites that were between 300 yards and 1/3 to 1/2 mile from the vehicles. Some of us hypothesized that this my have been an intentional “Welcome Party” for GRT’s camping at Nasty. Whether it was or wasn’t, the camping area logistics could have been handled better. At the campgrounds and at Nasty, TP was in short supply as well.
It was not all bad from a logistics standpoint though. The course was GREAT, was well marked and fairly well staffed with volunteers, GoRuck Cadre, and other staff. Water stops were plentiful, and well spaced. “The Memorial Mile” was a really classy touch – something missing from similar events. Parking was plentiful and there was plenty of signage to get you there. There were plenty of portable toilets (scarce though TP may have been), food and beer booths were well staffed and reasonably priced ($1 beers!?) and the PX was top-notch. GoRuck did a helluva lot of things right logistically, but the few things they didn’t had broad sweeping implications. This wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t grade accordingly.
Staff, Details & Event Experience
Every single interaction I had with GoRuck staff, Cadre and volunteers over the course of the weekend was consistent with what many of us have come to expect from GoRuck… excellent. Kind, helpful, smiling, hard-working people all around. I can’t say enough about the people and culture that GoRuck surrounds itself with. These people know how to run a company and they know how to make their customers feel like the center of everything they do.
Once you got settled in, the experience at the post-party and the campgrounds was great. Big smiles and great times were had all around. My notes on the venue apply to this category as well. There were choices that could have been made to improve the post-party experience, like scheduled miniature events, challenges, competitions, raffles, games and the like. A full time DJ/MC directing these sorts of events over the weekend may have added to the “living and breathing” feel of the party, but overall it was a great time to be had – both on and off of the course
GoRuck Nasty is a big first for this company. It was a huge undertaking and the level of success they achieved right out of the gates is impressive. They put on an awesome weekend for thousands of people. That’s not to say there weren’t problems and room for improvement.
Here’s the thing though – this company was built by people who’s ability to adapt was forged under circumstances that many of us can’t imagine. GoRuck has an entire division of their service offerings dedicated solely to helping businesses work smarter and develop real Solutions to their problems. This is a team that will be learning from their mistakes and building on their successes.
GoRuck Nasty 001 was a great weekend with great people. For those of us who have completed a Challenge or two, this was our family reunion. The Nasty course was almost secondary to spending time with our brothers and sisters. Those of us who chose to tough-out a 2nd night of camping despite the weather, were treated to a great bonfire hosted by Cadre Lou and Cadre Joel. It was an amazing night, and a perfect cap to the weekend. Sharing stories with the Cadre and all of my extended GoRuck family that night (and on into the morning) is something I will never forget.
That’s the big asterisk on my review of GoRuck Nasty 001. For many in the community, any “grade” that could be offered for this event is completely meaningless. They shared a great weekend and lots of Good Livin’ with people they call family, and that’s all that mattered.
GoRuck is off to an excellent start with their Nasty event series. I can’t wait to see how the event evolves in Nasty 002 and beyond. If 001 was any indicator, it’ll be something really special to be a part of.
GoRuck Nasty 001