Green Beret Challenge - Operators Course II - July 22, 2017

As you may previously recall, in February of 2016  I had the “pleasure” of experiencing my very first Green Beret Challenge (GBC).  (You can re-read the article by clicking HERE) 3 teammates and I completed a course, at which time, GBC only had team events and it was done at The Guardian Center.  The name of that course became known as the “Commando.”  Since then, the creator, Mark Ballas has added 2 more variations of the original course for his participant to enjoy.    He has now constructed a 24 hour endurance event "Behind Enemy Lines", which consists of a full day and night of Green Beret training, as well as an individual course, named “Operators Course,” which combines Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) and the original aspects of the Commando course, Rucking (Carrying heavy stuff until you want your arms to fall off).  With these new events GBC has expanded and is beginning to become a race you can soon find across the Nation.

On Saturday July 22, 2017 The Guardian Centers, located in Perry, GA hosted the Green Beret Challenge – Operators Course II.  This was the second GBC Operators Course, and I had previously heard nothing but good reviews from the first.  Although it was a 6 hour drive for me to get there, knowing the reputation of GBC I knew this would be a race I would not want to miss.  Travelling with me to run was my little cousin Danielle, and my step-son Junior. 

Registration, and Start Line Area
The weather could not had been more perfect the morning of the race.  Temperatures were hot, but considering it was the middle of summer in Georgia, I knew it could had been a lot worse.  As we drove into the Guardian Center, I again was in awe of the facility.  It is used as a military and private training facility and could easily represent an “end of the world” scenario in real life, or on screen. Parking was easy, and since we were there early we got a nice, up close spot.  From the parking lot you could already hear DJ "Mr. Inspiration" Jarian Rich on the microphone, and music playing pumping up the participants.  Registration had a small line, but it was moving fast and the check in process was seamless.  The energy walking into a GBC is completely different than any OCR I’ve ever participated in.  The crowd is smaller, yet there is a different indescribable feel.  As you look around you don’t see your regular OCR racers and teams.  You begin noticing the way the people hold themselves to a higher standard, and everyone is one big team talking, warming up, and saying hello to others.  You could tell immediately that most of the participants were current military, veterans, and Special Forces which was visually verified once the National Anthem began playing.  Seeing so many people saluting, and standing at attention only confirmed what I assumed.  Upon the ending of the National Anthem the starting athletes were ready and when the gun went off sprinted through the start line.  

"Basket Case"  Photo Credit:  Jack Goras
Running through the streets of fallen down buildings, around and over car wrecks, and climbing through windows brought back the fun memories of my previous GBC experience there.  Just as quick as those fun memories came I turned the corner to face a 1/2 mile heavy carry aptly named “Basket Case.”  The carry involved holding 1 grocery sized bag in each hand, filled with red dirt, around the lake you passed when you first came in.  My initial thoughts were “Gee, thanks a lot Mark, way to kill everyone’s arms early on.”  

After a few stops, breaks, and arm stretching Junior and I finally made it around.  The last part involved walking through a portion of the lake in which you weren’t allowed to get the bags wet, or drop one down and come back for the other.  Being clumsy and short was not my advantage and I slipped, face planted, and dropped both into the water.  Frustration set in, yet I was thankful to be done with the obstacle.   

"The Sandman"  Photo Credit: Jack Goras 
Moving onward was a variation of man-made log obstacles combined with fire escapes, buildings, and rope climbs.  GBC used the terrain of Guardian Centers very well and more uniquely than any other OCR I’ve experienced.  It’s not every day you can say you climbed up a bus, through a fire escape, over an engine, on a roof, ran through an abandoned subway, or swam through a flooded city.  The remaining heavy carries were soul crushing but doable.  One which involved pulling a sled filled with rocks called “The Sandman” and, in true GBC fashion Mark saved the worst for last.  He created a carry called “The Wilson Project” which involved 2 bags, filled with sand, hanging on a metal bar (for women) or a 4X4 for men.  This bar had to be carried like a yoke and not only were you battling with the weight, the bags were swinging from side to side.  This carry brought you through some trees, and although I’m sure it was only ½ mile, it felt like much longer.  By the end of this obstacle my back was screaming, 30-45 minutes had gone by, and I was certain I saw unicorns, leprechauns and Jesus within the weeds.  The only saving grace for me was being able to do this with Junior who was only 14 years old.  He had NEVER experienced anything like this before.  Although he had to take some breaks, he persevered and finished it with me. 

"The Cleaner" Photo Credit: Terry McCormack
The remainder of the course had a few more obstacles including the last featured obstacle called “The Cleaner.”  The great thing about this obstacle was that it was in the flooded area so the cool water felt great at the end of the race.  5.5 miles later the race ended, and the medal was placed around our Operation Enduring Warrior wave, and cheer on people who were finishing.  It took Junior and me about 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.  I have to admit, I had not specifically trained for this race and knew that I would be slow however I was amazed knowing the 1st place winner came in just over 1 hour.  (Yuri Force)
necks.  I was thankful to be done and was able to hang out with friends, watch the start of the

If you’ve never done a Green Beret Challenge before I encourage you to step out of your comfort
Operation Enduring Warrior Wave
zone for a day.  Register immediately.  The course is designed to challenge you in ways you normally would never do yourself.  I mean…what regular person trains by carrying a 150 lbs yoke on their neck for an hour?  Not this girl but if you do, well then, you definitely need to register for this event.  Mark Ballas is known for putting together top notch events, and his standards raise the bar for all other endurance challenges.  I have a love/hate relationship with the Green Beret Challenge.  I hate the world while I’m doing it, but I love the feeling of accomplish when I’m done.  If I ever build up the courage, the next for me will be participating in the 24 hour event "Behind Enemy Lines."  Only a select few individuals have fully completed the training, and I hope one day to be one of them.

To learn more about the Green Beret Challenge, Mark Ballas, and his team, visit:

The man behind the torture Mark Ballas.  Photo Credit:  Jack Goras


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