GORUCK Selection, Where I Was Meant to Be

GORUCK Selection is an event of highs and lows. Epic struggle and inevitably, triumph. In this event, success looks like a 2×3 patch that only one female and 30 men have earned to date. 

During the past 7 years I’ve watched 9 men finish GORUCK Selection. They stood in front of the American flag and accepted the patch from our nations’ best warriors. I always imagined that triumph would be mine too. When I committed myself to completing the event in 2013, I didn’t know then that after 8 years of training and 6 attempts, I still would not have finished.

Around 3:30am on Friday of GORUCK Selection 022, I was performance dropped during a lunging evolution. My legs stopped working, and I could no longer stand. It was the end for me. I laid in the grass crying from exhaustion and emotions, then peeled myself off the wet Ohio earth in time to walk arm and arm up the hill with a Cadre whose heart turned to gold in that moment. Words of inspiration were shared, and then I was left to sleep by the fire until my husband would peel me off the ground once again.

Before the end, there were certainly highs, moments of beauty and lucidity that can only happen during an event like this. One of these moments came a little after midnight.

My head lamp illuminated the path in front of me and my eyes registered blades of grass glazed with dew, but my brain bent what was real into exploding confetti bombs under my feet, beautiful and elusive. As I shuffled through the night on the 12 mile ruck march, I knew that my hallucinations weren’t real, but they were enchanting nonetheless. These periods of solitude are my favorite moments. When time slows down and I find myself alone in my thoughts, this is when I realize that I am truly where I’m meant to be. Jogging through a soybean farm in rural Ohio yes, but also as a woman in the world, experiencing the joy in choosing; the freedom to define myself and live my dreams.

But the lows came too. During duck walks, I cried as I could barely move under the weight of my ruck in the sand. The Cadre stayed with me, hazing me in an encouraging way, “your tears won’t help your legs move.” I knew he was right and breathed deeply and moved my legs. I made it through that low and focused on the next thing. This is the key in events like this, as my husband told me: “Lows will come, just take them and keep going because highs will be next.”

As it is in GORUCK Selection, so is it in life. That low or “things left unfinished” came and went, and the earth did not crack open and swallow me. Disappointment did fill my heart for a moment, but that easily drifted away when I realized how much stronger I am than I was eight years ago. As time passed after the event, I asked difficult questions of myself and answered back. After philosophical discussions with the people who matter most, I’ve landed on this:

I am a better person because of GORUCK Selection.

This event has awakened in me the ability to endure much more adversity than I thought I could. Through all that has happened in life over the last 8+ years, deaths, loss of a business, a serious medical condition, knee surgery, throat surgery, living in war zones, watching friends lose everything, and all the highs too, I’ve dedicated myself to training for this event. It has been more than 2,800 days since I committed myself to completing GORUCK Selection. How could I know then that my triumphs would come through struggles, failures, recalibration, and becoming a better, stronger, kinder person?

Life is full of ironies. I’ve gained more through NOT completing GORUCK Selection than I would have by completing it in 2014. Through my connection to GORUCK, I have built a relationship with my husband (I asked him for training advice 8 years ago), met my best friends, and now I am the Director of Tribe Kids and the Force Multiplier coaches course.

You see, sometimes success doesn’t look exactly as imagined. Sometimes it looks so much better.

Jaala’s Gear Packing List 

*some of this was in my kit bag

Ruck: GR1 21L Curved straps with a padded hip belt

Plate: 20# GR1 plate, 2.5# change plate taped to that


Hat: GORUCK Performance TAC Hat

Pants: Simple Pants Lightweight  (women’s power line), + lightweight hiking pants (REI)

Shirt: Under Armour tactical tan synthetic short-sleeved shirt, GORUCK American Training Shirt

Shoes: Altra Escalante running shoes

Wool beanie (Patagonia)

Base layer, long sleeve half zip (Polartec)

Nano-puff jacket (synthetic fill, Patagonia)

Rain liner/jacket (Outdoor Research)

Synthetic belt with plastic slide through buckle

Gloves neoprene (0.5mm; NRS Hydroskin), 

Headlamp (Black Diamond, Storm)

Socks: Balega, Patagonia, SmartWool, Swiftwick (all synthetic)

Underwear: none, bra: champion (seamless, t-back, padded)

Other gear:

Source Bladder low profile 3L

Nalgene 32oz water bottle

18mm nylon runners (2)

Pelican 1040 micro case

Sea to Summit Dry Sack (lightweight) 35L, 12L



Fuel for Fire (vegan)

Saltstick fast chews

Skratch Labs sport hydration mix (for use as ORS)

CHOMPS free range turkey jerky

Sports beans (jelly beans)

Dried bananas

MRE (2x)


Jaala attempted Selection Class 015, Class 017, Class 018, Class 019, Class 021, and Class 022.

– Jaala Shaw

About the Author:

Jaala Shaw (CCFT/CF-L3, PN-L1) is a coach, teacher, and writer. First as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia and China, then as a college-level ESL Instructor, later as a CrossFit gym owner, coach, and competitor, and eventually as a US State Department English Language Fellow in Afghanistan and Jordan. These days she trains CrossFit Kids coaches as part of CrossFit Seminar Staff, owns her own coaching business, and teaches outdoor pre-school, influencing the next generation of nature-lovers. She is looking forward to expanding GORUCK’s mission through Tribe Kids and the Force Multiplier course and to help others ruck better, move sandbags more efficiently, and have fun doing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *