SGPT interviews GORUCK Challenge graduate Frederick Balzer

fred balzer interviewSGPT: Tell us about yourself?

FB: I’m a 49 year old physician, husband, and father, from New Jersey. I’ve got 2 kids ages 9 & 8, and 3 Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?

FB: I worked from the age of ~13, so no varsity sports. But I kept in shape, played pick-up sports with friends; rode BMX bikes, Mtn bikes, Road bikes & Off-road motorcycles: motocross, etc.

SGPT: How did you train for the GORUCK event?


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FB: I did a combination of Grinder PT, Crossfit, Rucking with a 40# pack on hilly terrain, towing a 200# sled on AstroTurf for miles, pose running in boots & a 20# vest on grass, & progressively pushing my aerobic endurance on a Schwinn Airdyne bike & Concept2 Rowing machine.

SGPT: Tell us a little about the event? Where was it?

FB: the GoRuck Tough event was held in New York, on April 22-23/2016. It was ~ 55° and rained most of the event. The Ruck began in Brooklyn at 9pm, with an hour of intense Ruck-PT, notable for Ruck Bear-crawls, Low-crawls, Crab walks, ruck lunge-walks, Ruck flutter kicks, Ruck V-ups, Ruck-thrusters, Ruck 8 count Body Builders, Ruck push-ups & Ruck high planks.. From there we refueled, topped off our water supplies, and set out for the financial district in downtown Manhattan, carrying ~500# of ballast in the form of sandbags, buckets, etc.. We arrived at our target destination ~0100 hrs, grounded our sandbags, formed up in ranks on the sidewalk, & did Ruck PT to pay for various gap infractions incurred on the 4+ mile hump from Brooklyn.

Over the ensuing 8 hours, the 28 person team, executed a series of rescue missions, which involved teaming up to carry 200+ lbs of sandbags, tied together, representing combat casualties.. over roughly 2 mile distances (each mission), with teams being rotated every few blocks..
Being in lower Manhattan, the mission routes took us past the WTC / Ground Zero, and the 9/11 Memorial in the eerie dark & quiet before dawn. Talk about motivating!
I can’t say for sure if it’s a coincidence or not.. But not a single member of the 28 person team complained the whole night.. and excepting one guy who bailed 20 minutes into the pre-Ruck “welcoming party”.. Not a single person of the 28, quit.

SGPT: What was hardest part of the event?

FB: 11 hours in; Making it back over the 1.4 mile expanse of the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn with the self imposed goal of not handing off the 40+lb sandbag until we were off the bridge on the Brooklyn side.

SGPT: What is one thing you wish you would have done to get ready for GORUCK?

FB: more of everything..
More Ruck PT. (50 4ct flutter kicks with your ruck on your chest, Ruck 8ct Bodybuilders, Ruck Thrusters, and Ruck Bear Crawls/Lunges get easier with practice)
More Water (plan on needing 6 liters)
More Contingency Planning.
More careful selection of my Gear.
More thought and effort into keeping my feet dry.

SGPT: Any tips for up and coming athletes that want to do GORUCK?

FB: read everything I wrote, here.

SGPT: What kind of boots did you use for the event?

FB: Bates Code 6 (8″)

SGPT: Did you use double socks/ compression socks or body glide on your feet to prevent blisters?

FB: Single pair of Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks, with BodyGlide over blister prone areas. Socks were changed out at intervals during the ruck, but the boots were so waterlogged from the drenching rain, that the soggy swollen skin over the balls of my feet started to fold over on itself like a wrinkled throw rug.. & a 1/2 dollar sized blister ensued..

I’ll go with the DarnTough socks & Bodyglide Anti-Chafe Balm again, next time, but I will try A LOT harder to keep my feet dry.

SGPT: What kind of ruck did you use for training and the event?

FB: Rothco Extended Deployment Pack for Training.. I downsized to a more compact Rothco 25L Tactical Backpack for the event, thinking I was doing myself a favor.. BIG MISTAKE!!

The tabs pulled off all zippers right off the bat..
The Sternum Strap failed and then the hip belt.. less than 10 minutes into the Ruck PT “Welcoming Party” sending 40# of weight up onto the back of my neck ~10m into a 100m Ruck Bearcrawl.
The hip belt was secured with Duct tape & Zip ties, And the Sternal Strap handily replaced with a Carabiner “QuickDraw” that I had picked up on impulse, on the way out the door at REI, earlier in the day..
I got lucky..
Don’t count on luck.

**Start your Contingency Planning early**

Given the specifics of your event.. location/terrain/climate, etc.. envision as many possible equipment failures, and other adverse events/setbacks, as possible, (involving yourself, or your teammates) and come up with practical, effective, and rapidly implementable solutions to each.

**Never EVER switch to unproven equipment just before the event!**

SGPT: What book are you reading now?

FB: Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life, Worth Dying For, by Rorke Denver, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin, History of the 2nd World War by Winston Churchill, 1776 by David McCullough

SGPT: Many thanks for the interview Fred

FB: My pleasure, Brad. Thank you for all the encouragement and guidance, and just for being such an amazing Coach, and friend.