James Vreeland is Detroit Tough

I first met James face to face at the GRT Family Reunion in NOLA. I had been chatting with him beforehand, mostly giving him training tips and gear advice for all his adventures. Ok, maybe we just talked craft beer and if growing a beard really makes you stronger. But, when we decided to create GORUCK America we wanted to give back to the community and see how y’all train and do it with you on your home turf. Detroit was top of the list, Michigan as a whole has high representation at all the big events. There were over 25+ Michigan GRT’s that road tripped in two vans to the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy. Over 120 participants at the Constellation 001 in Detroit Hosted by Proving Grounds Strength and Konditioning at the Russell Industrial Center.

We met at Proving Grounds for a round of lifting and PT and I asked him a few questions to share with y’all.

What was your first GORUCK class?

It was 129 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day class. Cadre Dave, an Air Force dude, really cool and a marathoner. Back in the old ass days where there was very little information out there about the events. 

He was my first Cadre at 294 in NOLA as well.

Nice, well you know there were no AAR’s or anything like that out there back then. You just showed up and got your ass handed to you for awhile. Back in my day people had an honest to God fear, a legit fear of the events and honestly if you were not shitting battery acid before you weren’t quite taking it seriously enough. I think that once Heavies and lights came to effect a lot of that went away. But, in the early days you knew it was going to be rough. But you didn’t know if you were in for a hustle, lots of PT, or absolutely getting smoked into the ground under heavy weight. So that was my first event with Cadre Dave in 2012. Really good class, actually ended up having a phenomenal class. Because it was Chicago it ended up being all the Midwest OCR Royalty in this one. Tony Matesi from Spartan, Amelia Boone who has won almost every serious race that is out there, I think we had 4 Death Racers, and a ton of first timers, last timers, and a decent chunk of people I have done half dozen or more events with since then. So that was the start of it. 

I got my gear and back then you had to go to big markets to go to events. There were no Michigan events, so we planned for the closest one which was Chicago. It was 6 months out so there was plenty of time to sweat and fret over it. The day came and I had a great time. That was my first ever marathon distance and it was under a load. haha. It took off from there. 

Did you use a GORUCK Ruck for the event and did you get it before the event or at the event?

Absolutely, you could still pick them up at the events back then. I got a Radio Ruck a few months before which in hindsight was probably not the best option for me for that event. I am not a short framed fellow, it was the old school Radio Rucks with the 3/4 zip. Ran that and the same set of bricks I still use today. If I do a Heavy I use a plate, anything else my same set of OG bricks. I think I have the better part of 5,000 miles on them. Between all of the training I did for events, Selection, and Death Race I had them in there. I did the math last year and it was well up into the 4000’s. 

How would you compare Selection to the Triple Heavy Nick completed?

Well, the Triple heavy has a huge asterisk next to every one of the Heavies. They are not really Heavies…   (Looks over to Nick who is shooting photos)

For about 3 year now you have been doing a Ruck Training on Saturday’s. I just did one with y’all out of New Species Crossfit.

This fall is our 4th year. It started off when the GORUCK events started coming to Michigan and a whole bunch of folks knew that I had done one and asked what I was doing. We started going to parks screwing around. I talked to the owner of my gym and he was looking to increase some of the endurance offerings we had. Adding run classes, kettle bell classes, the core Crossfit kind of utility of the gym. But have more of a focus on GORUCK. He added running and gymnastics. This fell under a pure stamina program. I went out and got my Level 1 cert for Crossfit and my Crossfit Endurance. Then I started doing programming out of the gym. We have a two hour block which for Crossfitters is really really long. For GORUCK’ers it’s really really short. So it’s a nice middle ground where you can go with a fairly high intensity and still let people have a lot of their day. I know a lot of groups do a once a month overnight ruck and we certainly do some of that. Leading up to Bragg we did a bunch of overnight movements. But we found that having a couple hours once a week and Wednesday night gives people a chance to hit it and quit it and have their day. It increases the attendance and makes it a part of their life so its not a special program that they worry about for a few weeks. They just come out, do it, then go get pancakes, coffee, and whiskey afterward and its a hell of a community.

One thing that we have noticed about the community here. Especially with the three different gyms working together, all the owners are friendly, they workout at each others gyms. They coordinate together and have such a tight knit community and everyone here is very Detroit and Michigan proud.

Yes, 100%. Anytime you can make things better for the area things just get better overall. The three gyms you are talking about New Species, Body Garage, and Proving Grounds are all different enough in their core offerings that it’s not like you are poaching from each others client base. We have one that is very much a Crossfit Gym that’s into Rucking with their programs on the side. Proving Grounds is kinda like a prison yard gym, a meathead gym. It’s where you will see people training for lifting and strong man competitions. Then you have Detroit Body Garage downtown which is more of a triathlon and running based gym. All three of those communities have a ‘what can I make my body do’ kind of mentality. They all tie into the GORUCK community.

It is cool how they fit together like three puzzle pieces and work together as family.

You will see a lot of folks that belong to one gym but have a punch card at the other gyms. Just to go play around with the Ruck Program or do Crossfit and realize they want to do some OCR race and they need to get their running in order so they will go to Body Garage to do their track workout programs. They overlap a little bit but are entirely complimentary. 

We have talked about the similarities in the backgrounds of my hometown Shreveport and Detroit. Both are a resilient and tough people due to the hardships suffered economically. Both cities truly represent DFQ. Do you think that background is what makes the Detroit and Michigan GRT’s such a tough group?

Detroit is kinda like everyones little brother. If you’re from here you can pick on it. If your not from here, you leave my little brother the fuck alone. He is a good kid. He’s got some problems and behavioral issues. But I can give him shit, you can’t give him shit. I will not lie Detroit has some serious problems. There is a whole bunch of shit in the city that is wrong. But there is so much that has been fixed or is in the process of being resolved. It’s not Robo Cop in the city anymore. I am in my mid thirties and I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve seen Detroit when it was really bad. It’s not really bad anymore, it ain’t great in all places either but it has so much to offer. The last decade I have a hard time believing anybody genuinely has bad things to say about this town. Detroit is a flat out transplanted Southern town. 

I hear a lot of “y’all’s” here and the people here remind me of home with their hospitality.

They come up for the automotive and manufacturing jobs. The actual migration of people from the south. It’s not a coincidence that there are Cajun’s and Iroquois – when you connect the two you go right through Detroit. You go through here as the last stop to Quebec, so there is a lot of Southern charm in this town. Detroit is literally “de trois” of three. It is steep in the heritage of that French fur trader mentality so it has a very long rich history of that migratory pattern. 

Anything you want to pass along to GRHQ?

Yes, we want events that are not on holidays. haha. We have solid representation at all the events. The first Constellation was over 120 participants hosted in the building we are talking in right now. Which was a hoot. Oh yeah, and hot pink sand bags which I have asked Jason for numerous times. 

People love to ask this question. Training tips for Selection?

You have to have an honest to goodness why. Anyone who goes into it has to have that fuck you mentality. Anyone who has that fighters chance has that I am already done, it’s just a matter of executing. But that is not really true. You know that and have to know that. But at some point your going to hit a wall and say this is dumb. There is a good chance you are going to get injured in some way. Not crippled, but I am coming out of this with some type of injury. Everyone comes out of Selection with some stupid injury. You have something in your head that is the reason why I must do this. Whether it’s for a fallen brother or because 5 years ago I was a smoker and 60 pounds heavier and I need a thing that proves to me that was the old me. This is the new me. Whatever your thing is you have to have it, in those darkest of dark moments and you’re going to have 48 hours worth of them. You have to have something to look back on when Cadre is all up in your shit. You have to slightly grimace on the outside but in your head say ‘I’m here because I wanted this.’ The things that the Cadre are doing to you, you have asked them to do. You know damn well that when you signed that dotted line that you were gonna get yelled at and beat down, you’re gonna get thrashed. Pushed out of your comfort zone. Everything that Cadre is doing to you, and you have to think this way. It’s at your request. Every single exercise you are going through you personally have said “I want that in my life”. You have to have a good reason to be there at all times. 

In finishing is there anything you want to say to the GORUCK community?

Come to Detroit! It’s a hoot!

I am honored to have James as a friend, he is good people and family. This is what GORUCK America is about and I am stoked to share a little bit about him with you. If you want to do an event with really cool people read his last words.

Christopher Goad








Leave a Reply

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