GORUCK Selection is really a hydration contest with exercise scenery and Special Forces Cadre included. The goal leading up to Selection is to maximize your training and calorie intake in order to enhance your performance without pushing your system over the edge and exceeding your stomach’s capacity to absorb nutrients. All too often at Selection we see Candidates go into a caloric deficit as well as become dehydrated. The result the majority of the time is the tendencies to overcompensate and drink too much water during the events, which almost always leads to vomiting, further dehydration, cramping, med drop from Selection, and in some worst case scenarios….Rhabdomylosis (aka Rhabdo). Rhabdomylosis, which literally means “dissolution of skeletal muscle,” is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury resulting from a breakdown of muscle fibers and the subsequent release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney (renal) failure, when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death. However, prompt treatment often brings a good outcome. The key to avoid these catastrophic crashes is to train your body to operate on minimal food and minimal sleep, while at the same time staying hydrated prior to arriving at GORUCK Selection.
This can be tricky, and it needs to be practiced in training before you arrive at Selection. At one point or another during Selection, every Candidate’s weak link will be his or her stomach. If you can maximize your nutritional fueling and hydration in your train-up for Selection, it will give your body the best chance possible to power through events when your mind quits on you and Cadre Tyler is whispering sweet nothings in your ear.
The two classic mistakes we continue to see at Selection results from not preparing the body early enough when it comes to food and water. You must be hydrating properly in the days leading up to the event. And you must be taking in enough calories the day prior to the event. This does not mean having a few beers and a cheeseburger a few hours before showing up at the start point. You need to eat well and eat right in the 28 hours leading up to Selection. If this means packing your meals for a cross-country flight or drive, then do it. Finally, pay attention to the need for salt or sodium.
Even a two percent loss of water through sweat during exercise will result in a decrease in performance and an increase in effort. By the time you experience a six percent loss, dehydration has set in and it becomes very difficult if not impossible to come back from this state. Studies have shown that athletes slow down in their performance approximately two percent for every one percent loss of body weight. If you weigh 170 pounds and lose three and a half pounds (approximately two percent of your body weight), you would slow by four percent. If you were rucking an average 15-minute mile, you’d add 36 seconds to every mile! And it would seem a lot harder. It is important that your intake of fluids match your sweat losses. Start early and don’t get behind. The Cadre at GORUCK Selection, just as they do at Special Forces Assessment & Selection (SFAS), will ensure you have access to water throughout the entire event. At GORUCK Selection the Cadre will also give you access to sodium and/or electrolyte tablets (when needed at their discretion).
Electrolytes, especially sodium or salt, become more crucial in ultra-endurance events such as GORUCK Selection and GORUCK Heavy. Longer events mean the effects of sweat loss and the ensuing dehydration become cumulative. As the heat, duration, and intensity of an event increase, sodium loss can become critically high. Sweating leaves the blood thicker, which makes the heart pump harder sending your pulse rate sky high. But trying to rehydrate by drinking water alone can result in hyponatremia—diluting the blood sodium level to the point that you become confused, disoriented, and faint, and eventually quit or get med-dropped by the Cadre. The need for salt can vary according to the weather and the athlete’s sweat rate, so be sure to bring electrolytes and salt tablets as well as some salty snacks that are preferably high in carbohydrates. Start early and don’t get behind.
Get comfortable with what your stomach can and cannot tolerate on training rucks and runs so that you stay ahead of the fueling and hydration game. Have a plan, but be prepared to be flexible. Really flexible. The biggest reasons for attrition at GORUCK Selection are not showing up prepared, mentally shutting down and quitting, dehydration and cramping, and foot care issues. As far as food and nutrition is concerned, prepare for everything, but expect to get nothing. At SFAS, Candidates start the first week getting two to three meals a day with several hours of sleep a night. The second week, both meals and sleep are reduced, and by the third week you are down to one MRE every 24 hours and sleep is a huge bonus if you get any at all. At GORUCK Selection, you are starting at what amounts to week three at SFAS, no food, no sleep, PT, rucking, PT, running, PT, rucking, PT, running, and more PT. To steal a page from Cadre Dan’s book and add my 18D* spin to it, “DFQ-DW” – “Don’t F*cking Quit Drinking Water!!!
You’ll Pass Out Before You Die!
*Editor’s Note: Bert is not a medical doctor, so take that under advisement, and please spare our legal team. That being said, he is a former Special Forces Medic (aka 18D), so he knows what he’s talking about.