#115: Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water – GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Thursday August 31, 2023

Nobody cares what you can do fresh. The GORUCK Games takes grit, endurance and a willingness to run with a mouthful of water.  Anything Special Forces are on the table. To close out the 2nd Annual Sandlot Jax and GORUCK Games, Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff dive into this two-part episode explaining all things GORUCK Games with the GORUCK founders that created them and the 2023 Champions who tackled the event head on. 

GORUCK Founders Jason and Emily McCarthy, as well as Sandlot Technology Founder B.J. Naedele share the theory behind the games, the savage thought-process they took to design the events and why camaraderie is fostered through military-inspired training and a few fist bumps. 

In the second part, 2023 Champions Carly Wopat and Matt Kempson shut down the games as they recap their personal journeys that included a 100 lb ruck run, false finishes, knot tying, hand-to-hand combat, and moving 3000 lbs of sandbags.  Carly shares her career as a professional beach volleyball player and a firefighter, while Matt explains how building the foundation to his house was the key to winning the final event. 

Learn more about Carly Wopat, Matt Kempson and the GORUCK Games. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast here


Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water – GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Jason, Emily, BJ, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Great to be here.


Thank you. We’re back.

The Jedburgh Podcast is welcome to GORUCK Games and Sandlot JAX 2023, so thank you.

Thank you for having us.

Major upgrade from the truck last year. We got the good Sandlot AC to get in here.

We’ve got it all. We’ve had a nice 80-degree with the breeze today. We had the heat yesterday, followed by the torrential rain and the panic of everybody running out. I’ll tell you, you were here, Jason. We have been the last people standing every night, even when everyone else has left. We’re continuing the mission. We’re continuing to talk to everybody, but it is absolutely awesome to be back here with you.

You guys know how much I love what you’re doing. I love all of you. It’s truly an honor to be back here for the second game. Let’s talk about it. We’re on day three. We got a couple more hours. The GORUCK games athletes have made it from the external venues over here to the compound. What have they been doing for the last couple of days and what do we have to expect over the next couple hours?

This whole thing is like ADHD of fitness. You’ve got all this stuff. It’s super accessible to everybody. All different physicality and physical abilities are here. People that look all different shapes and sizes. There’s something for everybody. However, for the last almost two days, the GORUCK games have been going on. Basically, that is based on the special forces’ way of life. Anything that they would train us to do in special forces is fair game. They showed up and we put them through a PT test because any cool guy back in school that you go through, the first thing, no matter how cool you are, we better make sure you can do push-ups. You do that. They did a 100-pound 1-miler, then they did an unknown distance and unknown time rucksack march.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

When you say 100-pound 1-miler, you’re carrying 100 pounds for a mile.

For a time. They’re doing that. Unknown distance and unknown time are significant emotional experiences. You put them on the beach and you false finish them at 12 miles, and then they have to go another 4, 5, or 6, miles unknown distance. They don’t know.

False finish means it looks like a finish line and you’re like, “Never mind.” It’s so messed up.

We sent them on an out and back, 6 miles out, 6 miles back, and then they’re expecting to be done. Nobody said you’re done. Keep going, so then they keep going.

Did I tell you you’re done, candidate?

We could roll through the blow-by-blow for the next long period. Here in essence is what happened. They bivouacked, which civilians call camping. They’re sleeping on the dirt in this great nature preserve called Dutton Island, which interestingly enough, Em and I send our six-year-old there for outside kindergarten. This past week, I’m dropping him off at Dutton Island for outside kindergarten and that’s where over this weekend the GORUCK games athletes are bivouacking. At that point, they’re doing a lot of different iterations. Pick up the weight. Carry the weight. That’s pretty foundational. We also put them through firearms training. It wasn’t just, “Here’s a gun. Shoot it. Are you all ready?” We put them through that, and then give them some stress shoots.

In part of the race.

Think about it like this. The way it works is there’s a lot of different competitions and your goal is to win each competition. The lowest score ends up being the goat score. The person who gets the lowest time gets the least amount of points, however that works. You’re going for the low score. At the end of it, all the numbers add up and the top eight finishers join the single elimination bracket, which is what we’re about to start here and now. They did firearms including simunitions training, so target discrimination. Meaning, there was a bad guy and a good guy, and you can’t shoot the good guy type of stuff.

They’re wearing helmets for all that stuff, and then they had blue barrels on the top of the pistols. I can get nerded out, but I’m trying to keep it top-level. They would do some PT or physical training with a live fire range with pistols. Their goal was to obviously hit the target on that. It’s another iteration. Someone early on I saw them say, “Too bad we’re not swimming because there’s no goggles on the packing list.” I was like, “Who swims in goggles?” Get wet. Get in.

They did some of that in the inter-coastal, and then they had a knot-tying class. They had to tie knots at the end and that determined their score, time, and all. They couldn’t get it. They’d go back and get smart while they were swimming some more, and stuff like that. It’s at night, but then there’s this beautiful thing happening because we talk about the special forces’ way of life. You think that might be all pain all the time. That’s not what it’s about.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Ultimately, it’s about the camaraderie that comes from, “Will you do this for the person to your left and the person to your right.” That’s the essence of what SF is about. This takes that comradery. There were bonfires and campfires last night. These athletes are always so scripted and they’re living their perfectly targeted life about my nutrition and my sleep, which is fantastic. However, this is grittier. Nobody cares what you can do fresh. You’re sleeping on the dirt. You don’t know when you’re getting woken up. You don’t know what’s next. You don’t know what’s coming. You’re on our time. The cadre’s role is to be nice, but you’re going to do the work as prescribed by the cadre.

This is a change from last year. We had the GORUCK games already. That was the first iteration last year. It went great. It was awesome. The feedback internally and externally was that it wasn’t GORUCK enough. This is the integration of the grittier side, “Sleep outside. Don’t swim with goggles. Be surprised.” It’s a lot like the training that’s done in the military, especially with the special operations training. It’s been good to go back to the roots a little bit more.

Another thing that is different about this is that we’ve got this elite competition going on, but you don’t really know what’s going on. That is completely by design because here, Friday and Saturday, we want everyone who’s out here. As we said, all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds, and abilities, we want them all to feel welcome. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable going out there and doing things if I saw right next to me someone like Katie Knight and all these other amazing athletes doing that.

Saving it for Sunday was completely an idea that we said we want to make this the big ending, but we want them to be out of the limelight, which is different. These folks are used to being in front and center, but we’re saving them for the end so that everybody gets to spectate after they’ve already tried those same things.

It’s funny, you’re saying all this right in front of me and I’m looking at your hat, which says #Don’tDie. As long as you don’t die, like Christian was on yesterday.

I’ve been wearing this all weekend and I’ve gotten lots of thumbs up on it.

It’s working.

You’re right. Over the last couple of days, we’ve rotated everybody in here and I love this setup here where we get to witness everything happening around us. The event of Sandlot JAX has been incredible. Just to see the different groups of people who are coming together for the various fitness activations. Jesse hosted the obstacle course yesterday. We’ve had street parking. There had to be 200 people out there and everyone is coming together.

There are people running around, running by the truck, and high-fiving. The whole atmosphere is one of the community. I know that’s what you guys have been focused on in building the Sandlot App. From last year, BJ, we sat down and we talked all about the Sandlot App, and where you were going with it. How far has it come in the last twelve months?

It starts with the brand. Emily is the one that named it Sandlot. You think about the movie where there was always something going on. It didn’t matter if you were Smalls or someone else. You think about what the app enables. It’s just a tool. It’s a tool to connect people with trainers, coaches, and instructors. You had Miranda in there going through and talking to her community. You had 85 people RSVP for different events. The tool that we’ve built over the last year is trying to unite fitness, and then give the big tools to little guys, which is to help the trainers, hustle more, make more money, and connect with their community. It’s been great to see it come to life here in the real world.

I got a question for you guys. What is the worst place on planet Earth? Over the last two days, it may have been where these athletes were.

No. That’s fun, camaraderie, and doing hard things together. The worst place on Planet Earth is social media. It’s disgusting the way that people treat each other.

[bctt tweet=”The worst place to be alone on planet Earth is social media.” username=”talentwargroup”]

That’s what Miranda said in her podcast.

I stole that from Miranda. Facebook is where you go to learn how to hate your friends and get super jaded about the whole universe. It’s a forum and people behave like that. They behave terribly to each other and to people that are nice in the real world. There are exceptions. I know you post a picture of broccoli and Dan Plants’ girls always eat the broccoli. I love Jesse and guess as this happens. There are golden little nuggets. In some, it’s dehumanizing the entire world of people. You have to break that mold and you have to bring people out in the real world.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. NaedeleWe believe in the special forces’ way of life. It always starts with PT first thing in the morning, and then everybody, you’ve got this thing in common and you do it together. You come out and you feel good about it. How do you get mentally healthier? Start by doing some push-ups and going for a walk, and then come back and tell me if you feel better. Try that with a friend sometime, and then be accountable for each other. You’ve then got a friendship in the real world. Not a Facebook friend, not a Facebook “community,” which is not a community at all. It’s a forum where people post everything negative that they’re feeling all the time and bring it out because then they get more likes and all that stuff. What’s a fist bump worth to you? It’s worth a lot. That’s what you do with your real friends.

That’s the core of how you bring people together. This is sort of the place where it’s on full display. Since the very beginning, Em and I were both adamant about we don’t care if you’re young or old, male or female, black or white, gay or straight, pink or purple or polka-dotted, Democrat or Republican. We don’t care. In the early days of GORUCK, let’s pick up the log and let’s move forward together. That’s the spirit of all of this because nobody cares about Special Forces training. Nobody cares, “You’re a big tall, lanky, goofy, White dude.” So was I, but I could pick up to it, but let’s get under the log with everybody, and let’s do the work together.

That’s where the real emotional-based comradery and the love that you have for the people around you. That’s where it’s born. You meet people where they are and you got some people over here that are walking around. They’re doing the art rock or they’re doing the bingo rock, and then they want to watch the GORUCK games. Maybe they’ll try a little bit of the obstacle course, but it’s very intimidating. That’s great. You are welcome and you’re welcome here as part of what we’re doing. That’s the spirit of all of it. Meet us in the real world.

Fran, I heard you were a little surprised by the bingo rock. People had to get into the truck.

No one told me. We’re just cool.

I did that. I just want you to know it was my fault.

The first people that came up and they’re like, “Can we take a picture in the truck?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course.” It then kept happening, and then somebody was like, “It’s on the bingo card.” I’m like, “What bingo card?” They then tell me, “This is here. You have to take a picture in the back of the truck.” I’m like, “That is a brilliant idea.” Thank you so much for doing that.

I thought you were mad at me.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

You’re going to get your own copy.

I cut you off, Jesse.

I was just going to say I love how you guys have all the obstacles open for anyone to play on. Taking on a whole race can be very intimidating for a lot of people like, “I don’t want to sign up. I don’t want to get into competition necessarily.” Competition is a great motivator for training year-round, but to show up just for fun and be like, “I could try that one. That one looks fun. I’ll just jump in, fill it out, and then get out.”

I know people who came to your tips course on how to do these things. They were telling me how great it was for them because there was something that was intimidating to them. I had my best friend with her daughters and they were like, “We were scared about that rope climb.” I forget what it’s called, but that one straight up and they did it. They did the mega. They filmed it and they tagged me and they’re like, “Look what we did.” It’s something that they never thought they could do.

That is the greatest feeling. If you can look at a challenge and be like, “I don’t think I could do that, but I’m going to try anyway,” then just slightly surpass your expectations or beliefs about yourself. That’s the best feeling. Being able to provide that for people to try it in a safe way and succeed.

There was one guy at the TMF workout. I think he’s 74 and he’s out there crushing sandbags, squats, and doing the run, which is awesome. To your point, you can’t fist-bump yourself. You can only fist-bump a workout buddy. A lot of fistbumps out there.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t fist-bump yourself. You can only fist-bump a workout buddy.” username=”talentwargroup”]

A lot of fist bumps going on.

It means a lot less.

What BJ was saying is that the Sandlot App was designed to be a tool because we know people live all over the place. They want to connect with like-minded people. They want to know what’s going on. To do that by pigeons and snail mail is not practical in this day and age. Technology as a tool and getting people together in the real world, that’s what this has always been about. That’s what we’re going to keep doing.

Can you talk a little bit about how should we be using it? I got the app, so I was like, “I’m going to do the thing. I’m supposed to have the app.” I didn’t realize I could use it elsewhere.

There are two dynamics. Home turf and then when you’re on the road. At home, you can create your own fist bumps, and you can train your groups, whether it’s a ruck club, whether it’s your own personal training. The idea is to give power to the coaches, the instructors, and the trainers. Let them charge for a fist bump. Let them charge for a group.

Define fist bump.

Fist bump is any real-world fitness activity, whether it’s a bootcamp, whether it’s a race, whether it’s a class. We wanted to take the mystique of fitness and just simplify it and call it a fist bump. You can go right now and create your own fist bump, have people show up, have them discover Jesse and what she’s doing today, then when you’re in Vegas on Monday, you can discover what’s going on there as well. It is certainly a festival experience, but something that gives the trainers, the coaches, and the instructors the keys to growing their business and activating more people in the real world.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. NaedeleNow that I have the app, if I’m like, “I’m going to go train in the park today,” I would post a thing.

You just press the fist bump at the top, create a new fist bump, add in the details, blast it out there, and anyone can drop in. You could charge or you can make it free.

Here’s the problem set. You have a lot of trainers out there and there are two-fold trainers. Everyone is trying to go virtual because it’s scalable anywhere. Everyone is masquerading on Instagram as “I’m this hugely successful trainer and I’ve got my virtual program.” For a lot of them, it works. It’s cool, but that well is going to run dry. It’s very competitive.

We’re more about the real world. I think it’s grounding and awesome. The other thing is you’ve got trainers that coach pick your gym. They drive to the gym, they coach their class, and then they drive home. You’ve got a couple hours in the bank there and you’re making an hourly wage to coach class. We think there are a lot of opportunities for the trainers to go straight to the people and put them in a park. You know how Pokémon Go, where all of a sudden, the parks were full. That’s the closest we’ve been to world peace in our entire lifetime. It was the summer of Pokémon Go.

There was an article about there’s an epidemic of sore legs from all the non-athletes who were out walking around. I was like, “This is the greatest thing. I need to try this.”

If only Pokémon Go would come out during the pandemic.

We don’t want to take away from the gyms and the communities that exist there and all of that, but we need more trainers being active. We need more people doing that. For the last two years, we’ve put all the GORUCK clubs, or almost all of the GORUCK clubs, so almost 500 GORUCK clubs inside of the app. It’s like, “Where do you workout?” You work out in the park, you work out in the driveway, and people can come and join that. We have a bunch of fun GORUCK HQ. If you’re in the area and you’re in JAX Beach, Florida, just pop by. You can see it in the schedule.

The next phase is against the grain of what Silicon Valley has taught us that apps should be a real business and they should make money. Our way of doing that is to give the big tools to the little guys so the trainers can organize whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want any type of activity. That’s part of the reason why it’s called Sandlot, in addition to Sandlot being the place where fitness is fun. You come and do whatever. You meet your friends in Sandlot, and then you have fun.

Let the trainers do that and see what happens. You’re going to start to see a lot of people doing more and a lot of different stuff, which is great because the gang affiliations of fitness might be fantastic, but people get burnt out. If you’re expected to do only one thing, including GORUCK challenges or just rucking or jiu-jitsu or whatever, you’re going to get burnt out. As we talked, you’re going to have to become the master of recovery, like you do.

If your legs get hurt, then you train your upper body. If you get burnt out of CrossFit because you’ve been doing it, then you pick up rucking. If rucking is not a thing for a while, then you go back to CrossFit or you go to HYROX. You can bounce around and there are a lot of different ways to do that. Give the power to the people.

What’s been amazing is seeing the map fill up. Whether it’s Connecticut or Chicago, you go anywhere in the country now, whether it’s a GORUCK club, whether it’s a local trainer, there are 5,000 real-world fitness events on the map right now all across the country, independently organized, community-led. As Jason and Emily said, it’s real people in the real world doing real work together, not some virtual training class.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

This has been a pipe dream of Jason for a long time. It goes back to why GORUCK was even born. He would talk to me about it when he traveled when he graduated college. He was wandering around looking to meet like-minded people, wanting to do like-minded things. He couldn’t find that easily. The idea is you can do these things at home and have these regular things you go to, but when you are moving, when you’re on the road, being able to pull something up quickly like Pokémon Go does and be like, “I wonder if there’s a group here. I’m going to go raid this pokey stop.”

Now, you can pull up and be like, “There’s a workout on the beach, or there’s yoga in the park, or there’s this rock club nearby.” That’s the idea that you have these options available. You know they exist, you can just pop in, and you’re going to find someone that’s like, “I rock too. I see that you have a 5:00 ruck on Saturday. Let’s go.”

That suits my lifestyle because I work all over LA. If I’m starting at 5:00 PM, traffic is going to be terrible. I’ll look in the area and be like, “Are there any parks that I can workout at for this long so that I can go before traffic? Now, I can make that social.

I had five guys up in Chicago that I’d never met, found my fist bump every Saturday at 07:00. Hit me up in the app saying, “Can I meet up and come work out with you guys?” Absolutely. They drove 30 minutes, met me in my driveway, went through the forest preserves, came back, and had a few beverages after to meet new friends.

That’s so fun.

We talked about, how you build bonds. Jason, you talk about it all the time. You build bonds by you doing hard things together. We can’t shy from it. Michael Easter was in here and we talked all about that. Many people now don’t want to do hard things. They think we got to live in a society where we have to back away from hard things. The reality is we have to build not only as individuals, but as teams, as organizations, and a broader country. It’s time to do hard shit. Stop backing away from it. Another important aspect of this whole event here has been the Fit Talks and the educational aspect. Also your idea?

[bctt tweet=”Have the discipline to do hard things.” username=”talentwargroup”]

No. This was a group idea. It all came together. I just tend to name things. The Fit Talks are awesome. I think they’re a hidden gem. Sometimes people come and they’re like, “I thought I was going to do the obstacle course and meet up with ruckers or street parking or whatnot, then they’re like, “I stayed and watched all these Fit Talks.” Not only is it like a cool air-conditioned place to have a little break. We’re friends with a lot of smart people that have big brains or have done cool things, and they want to share. The Fit Talk is styled after TED Talks, it’s fifteen minutes or less. If they go over, we pull them off. No, they were great this year.

They are sharing interesting stories and sometimes practical information. I had someone come up and said, “The Dr. Russel talk on 30/10 protein fiber, I’m going to change how I start my day.” I said, “I did that last year when I talked to him and told him that just adding a little bit of protein to my smoothie every day helped me a lot. Lots of great information coming out and it’s inspirational. We had Nick Lavery who just blow the roof off. What an inspiration. I was so taken by that. Michael was telling a funny story about what happened at Sandlot last year when he lost his ruck. He and I jumped in the jeep and went out to get it.

He turned it into the comfort crisis lesson like if there’s no problem, there’s no story. I love that because it’s true. It all ends well, but we also had to struggle a little bit. We had to work together and get it done. I think the Fit Talks are awesome. We enjoy putting that together and hearing what everyone has to say. I hope we continue with that.

Jason, you’ve talked a lot about physical health, mental health, social health, and emotional health. The Fit Talks bring the mental side. It’s information and inspiration. It brings the balance of the ethos of Sandlot JAX together.

Being smart is cool. It’s worth saying anymore. Let’s read books. Let’s listen to smart people about what they have to say.

[bctt tweet=”Being smart is cool.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I was supposed to watch seven-second videos on Instagram and that’s how we consume information.

Cat videos.

It used to be a minute, then it was 45 seconds, then 30. Now it’s like 7 seconds.

It’s AI-generated.

How do we start critical thinking in our own minds? How do we have real conversations with other people? Where do we learn what books we should read? That’s how Em and I exactly grew up. Going to high school and reading books. Going to college and this liberal arts style education, and all of that. It’s not to say don’t be just a bookworm. The Army took me out of that. You need to make a decision. You can’t just overthink everything. At the same time, Marcus Aurelius is a warrior poet. Be both. To do that, you have to surround yourself with that.

It’s fantastic to come out here and work your body. It’s fantastic to come out here and try new things and meet great people. It’s great to work that big muscle between your ears while you’re at it too by just being in receiving mode. I cried during two of the talks. The military ones that get personal, I almost want to walk out, but it’s probably good that I don’t. It’s deeply emotionally impactful for me.

All of that, it becomes immediately a spiritual event. I have those moments with those people. They end up, either they were our friends, or they are our friends, or they started out like you Jesse, a good friend of Fran. Jesse would be perfect. Great. Let’s have Jesse. These people become our friends because we respect people who have dedicated their lives that are passionate and that are experts and thought leaders in their field what they are most passionate about. It’s a real privilege to get to spend a little bit of time in that kind of arena.

It’s also cool that they’re here doing their talks, but then they’re walking around and people get to meet them and see them in real life. It doesn’t feel so curated. Yes, you got the talk, it’s being filmed, you can watch it later, but then they’re hanging out, a lot of them. It’s really great. It’s a real communal feel. I had a lot of the speakers be like, “I didn’t know what I was getting into, but this is awesome. They realize that they were an important part of this bigger thing. This year, we did book signings for some of the speakers that were authors and it was a nice personal touch to let people get their book signed and have that moment in photo op, but they’re accessible. It’s been a nice addition to having the talks as a part of this.

Everybody hung around too. Jesse closed it out and the place was packed.

The other part is that it humanizes the people that are giving the talks. I’ll give you two specific examples, for me even as well. Tim Kennedy was here last year. Tim Kennedy, any special operations, or special forces guy, or take your pick, that’s out there in the public eye takes a lot of criticism. It just naturally happens. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Tim and I love the guy. He got a heart of gold. He’s out promoting physical fitness. He’s out promoting that way of life. He’s doing great things for our country.

Same this year with Nick Lavery coming. I had not met him face to face. The deal with the military veteran thing is we are naturally super skeptical. A new guy comes in or someone that has got a personality that’s out there and it’s like, “I hate him.” That’s our initial reaction. I got it. Nick comes in and I chatted with him on the phone. I’m like, “This guy seems great,” but you never know. When I’m in there watching him give his talk and hang out with him a little bit afterward. We’re sitting kneecap to kneecap. I’m standing up. I eyeball with Nick. When he told the part of the story about how he was on the bird, the medevac helicopter, and one of his teammates who swore that was the last he was ever going to see him, was nose to nose with him and he’s like, “I love you.”

Nick said that when he first got injured out there, one of the doctors that worked on him was here at Sandlot.

He did his first surgery, his back surgery.

He did his back surgery, came up to him, and told him, “You don’t remember but we’ve met and had that moment.” Isn’t that cool?

Serendipitously. They’re sitting here in the tent meeting for the first time since that surgery.

That’s impact.

It’s bringing people together in unlikely situations.

Another small note is Dan Plants, who’s the longest-standing GORUCK cadre except for me. He took Class 017 in 2011. Anyway, he was the team sergeant that relieved Nick Lavery’s team in Afghanistan after Nick Lavery’s team was decimated. They had a little moment over there because you turn over your Afghan commandos, the partner forces that you’re working with. Dan was like, “Nick, all they talked about was you.” He’s this big force.

You see people out there and their promoting this or promoting that because you have to, but what are people made of? You see them here and he’s a great human being. Your faith in humanity gets a little bit more restored. What’s that worth? It’s not worth monetary value. What’s it worth to restore your faith in humanity? To me, it’s worth a lot.

We should be investing a lot in that. We should be investing a lot.


There are a couple of hours left. What’s going to happen here?

This is the part where we transition over to the GORUCK games. They don’t know what’s coming first off. Right about now, I see they’re still over at the obstacle course, so they’re not quite done with that. There will be a short break after the obstacle course, then it’ll be like, the top eight competitors, single elimination bracket. 1 versus 8, 2 versus 7, male and female. Separate brackets, I’ll be clear, so 3 versus 6, 4 versus 5, and then it’s the 1 versus 4 bracket. Whoever wins is next. There’s another iteration after that.

Different events? Every time they whittle it down, there’s a different event.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

They’re all surprise events. They’re doing the obstacle course right now.

That’s the final evolution of the point of accumulation to determine the top eight.

We’re missing the pros on the obstacles right now.

Yeah, until we’re done.

No. I just didn’t realize. I thought there was going to be a big fanfare when they arrived. As you said, they’re not under spotlights this time.

Now, once the single elimination. It’s a slow go-through because it’s two people at a time. It’s four times. There are a lot of athletes to get through. There’s no elimination going on in the course. It’s time to determine their place in this round. After that, then it’s mano-a-mano every single round.

Knock-out rounds.

If you have the second best time, but you lost to the first best time, are you ranked by your time?

You’re ranked by your cumulative score over the last almost two days.

Your score on the obstacles, does that come from your placement in your race or your overall time for the obstacles?

The obstacle is just one evolution of many that have gone on like 8 or 10 evolution in the last day. The fastest time gets the top score of the obstacles. That’s one of the things that determines who’s in the top eight.

If I get the second fastest time, but I lost to the person with the first fastest time, the fact that I lost my race doesn’t matter.

It depends on how you did in the other evolution or how you did it with the tactical part.

No, I get that, but just for the obstacle section. Whoever had the fastest time gets the most points. Whoever has the second fastest time gets the least points. If I get the second fastest time, I have the second least points.

If you finished first place, you get one. If you finish second place, you get two.

It doesn’t matter who you raced. It’s just your time.

Correct. Let’s nerd out over some obstacles.

I’m going to go race them.

I need to bring my A-game explanation this time.

It doesn’t count because I haven’t done any of the other things. It’s a big difference.

We moved two of them, one of which will feature very prominently, the one right here in one of the rounds that are coming.

We have a front-row seat to that.

You will have that? That’ll be for the finals of the final. That’ll be fun.

I’m excited to be surprised.

I can’t wait because we’re going to get the winners in here after, just like we did last year. That was an awesome conversation. I can’t wait to see what you have in store and what we’re going to see over the next couple of years. I just know that I had two people in here at the end of last year with bloody knuckles, and the YouTube version of our episode shows that.

Also, a smile though.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Two smiles.

Probably a beer or two.

A couple of beers.

That’s what it’s all about.

There is a point in time when Katie Knight gets out of the truck to go refill the beers.

Priorities of work.

I know she’s still in it this year. Hunter is not here, so we’ll have for sure a new male champion, but I look forward to getting them in here, telling their story. Jesse and I will hear all about the adventure of what has been this year.

These athletes are world champions of lots of different stuff. They’re all professional athletes and world champions. They’re like, “This is a lot different event.” They say it with a smile on their face, which means we’re getting it right. We’re getting that part of it right. Have fun with them. They’re good people.

I appreciate everything you guys are doing. I love what you’re doing. We’ve been friends for a long time and it’s awesome to come back over the second year. You know we’ll be here next year and I appreciate very much the partnership between GORUCK and The Jedburgh Podcast and Sandlot, one of our strongest relationships. We got a long way to go together. Thank you.

I appreciate you guys. Jesse, welcome to the team.

Thank you so much for having me.

Carly, Matt, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.


Thank you for having us. Welcome.

A pretty grueling couple of days for both of you.


We’ve never done anything that has been maybe put on as an official ever endurance event.

In total, if you look at everything we did, including the camping, I don’t know.

It started three days ago with some form of PT test. Back up to there, what were your expectations coming into this event?

You didn’t do it last year, right?

I didn’t do it last year, but I just heard. I actually sent a message to Jason on Instagram. I DM-ed him. I’m a huge fan of GORUCK. First of all, I was looking for some companies to work with as a professional athlete. I asked him about that, and then I said, “Also, I want to compete in the GORUCK games” because it was an invitation only. He had no idea who I was or anything, but we started talking and thankfully, I got the invite.

You’re coming from a bit of a different background.

She showed up and I’m like, “She’s tall.” I was like, “What do you do?” She’s like, “I’m a professional volleyball player.”Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

I know all of the cadres. Everyone was probably like, “This volleyball girl is going to tap out on the first endurance race.”

I’m in that boat. I thought for sure you were done. I was like, “Beach volleyball?”

They don’t know my background and how I train. That’s my primary sport.

We still don’t know. I have no idea.

I’m excited about this.

We’re about to talk about it, so tell us, because you played a variety of sports growing up. You played basketball, you were a gymnast, but volleyball is what you fell in love with. I just did some research after you won.

I appreciate it. Volleyball, I got a scholarship to go play at Stanford University and started training with the indoor national team once I graduated. It’s been this big vehicle through life for me so far. I played professionally indoors for four years and then switched to professional beach volleyball.

Where do you play beach volleyball?

I live in Hermosa Beach.

We’re neighbors. I live in Redondo.

I live in North Redondo actually.

Me too.

We have to train together.

I’m so excited. I’m going to get so strong.

That’s so exciting.

When the COVID pandemic hit, I decided to become a firefighter naturally. I don’t know.

Why become a firefighter? It is awesome by the way. Thank you for your service.

Thank you. It’s always something. I don’t know when the idea first struck me, but it was in the back of my mind since college that it was something I wanted to do. I went to some recruitment seminars and learned more about it and I was blown away. I’m like, “This is the perfect career for me.” I think of it being a very male-dominant industry as well. I wanted to see what I could do in it. When professional sports were pretty much canceled with the pandemic, I used the opportunity to go after firefighting. I got hired within two years. I had to go through a private fire academy and take a bunch of online courses.

I worked as an ambulance operator for Torrance Fire Department for several months, and then I got hired by LA City Fire Department. I went through their fire academy. It was five months of bootcamp. It’s very paramilitary and a lot of this was novel to me. I come from a military background. I don’t have firefighters in my family. I had to learn a lot on the fly, but I finished as the top recruit in my private fire academy and the top recruit in LA City’s Fire Academy out of 75 men. I finished top of the class.

It’s an even playing field. This is the master of playing on an even playing field right here.

Right then and there. That was like I’m a competitor so I went into these academies. You’re tested in a variety of ways. Academically, there are a lot of manipulative skills you’ll have to do. You do evolutions. We did that, but it’s all fire-related. Evolutions teach you skills like how to take a ladder off the truck and put it up against a building, and it’s super heavy and awkward to carry. There are very specific ways to do it. The base has to be away from the building, a specific amount, and they go into inches. If you’re off, you fail and you get kicked out of the fire camp or certain things. You’re tested with that and with pulling the hose. You have to be able to advance a hose line while water is flowing out of it.

That was the first time where I think it was an individual competition because most of my life I’ve been in team sports. This was a time when I was able to see where I stand when it was just me. I realized that I don’t thrive in that environment and I have the mindset for individual competition. That was the start of all of this. The training for that, I did a lot of CrossFit, so I got pretty good at CrossFit and cross-training. I’ve continued doing similar stuff to that, trail running, jiu-jitsu, and boxing.

That makes sense.

I do everything, but for volleyball, there’s specific sports performance stuff I’ll do. I also majored in Human Biology and this is all stuff I’m interested in. I’m always trying to better myself and figure out what details I can adjust to be at the top.

In the last couple of days, you tested all of that. I’m absolutely sure. Matt from Jersey. We won’t hold it against you, but your background’s a bit different. You’re working as a mechanical engineer. You’re doing this not as a professional athlete, but you’re doing this in addition to your professional career.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m building a house right now, which is a ton of labor on its own.

Talk about why you wanted to get involved. Why do you want to come? You were here last time. You felt the burn, I’m sure and you had the calling to come back.

All my life I’ve been an athlete like Carly in high school. I was a ski racer in college, a downhill ski racer. I played semi-pro rugby after that and then started getting to more endurance stuff. I was in team sports my whole life, and when you start doing the individual stuff. It starts digging deeper into you and you’re testing yourself. It’s a little bit different. I love team sports but it’s a little different.

You have more ownership too of the result, which I like.

I’ve been doing that for about ten years. I’ve had a good career run of it. About a year and a half ago, my dad passed away and he was always very supportive of everything I did. You reach a point where everything, I don’t know how to describe it, but all the bullshit fades away and you’re like, “I’m going to this event to win.” I don’t know how those things connected, but it cleared all the BS away and all the social media and everything. I don’t know if it was to prove to myself. I don’t think it was to prove to him. I reached that point where you become your own person and your own man. You’re like, “I want to leave a legacy behind. I’m not showing up to events to just be there to have a good time or to compete or to do pretty well.”

You’re coming in to dominate.

I want to leave a message. I want to leave something behind. When someone gets taken like my dad, you start thinking like that. I wasn’t just training. I was on a mission which was the difference between last year and this year.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

You did well last year. You got third. This was a tough event.

Yeah, but there’s a big difference between third and first. Third, like I was saying, you showed up. You did pretty well. You did well enough to be there until the end being everything, but you didn’t win. You didn’t dominate. I was not trying to get too emotional, but it’s been emotional a couple of days for me. They put us through a lot this weekend. I’m sure we’ll get into that, but I have two torn labrums in my hips. They’ve been like that for a while. I’ve learned to manage it. I know what I can do and what I can’t do. Running 60 miles on a beach with a 60-pound ruck is something I cannot do.

For the last two days, I couldn’t even get in the back of this. I’m in excruciating pain. I was reaching a point where I don’t want to be crippled for the rest of my life. I was hitting that point where I might be doing permanent damage. I might have to have double hip surgery if I push myself too much. Last night, we were waiting on the last event. I don’t pray, but I was praying, “Please don’t be a long ruck. I know this is GORUCK, but if it’s a long ruck, I might have to pull out. My fiancée had never seen me compete before. She flew all the way down here to watch. That’s against everything I am to pull out of something. When it’s a decision of being crippled for the rest of your life or continuing the competition, it’s not life or death.

Sure enough, the event came up. One was a swimming event, which is the only thing that helps my hips. Two, this is crazy. I’m not a believer in signs or anything. Growing up, my dad was a big outdoorsman and he stressed tying knots for us. He had me and my brother practice three knots growing up. It was a bow. I used a bow for everything. The little string that I tied on the women’s shower at the camp, a bow knot, a square knot, and a clove hitch.

He taught me those three knots. He made us do them thousands of times literally until I could do it blindfold. The event is run with a ruck, swim, come back, and tie three knots over three rounds. A bow knot, a square knot, and a fucking clove hitch. As soon as he said those, I lost it. I started every emotion in the world. There’s a reason why they used those three knots.

I knew how to tie all three also.

It’s not a coincidence that those are the three knots.

They’re important.

That comes out inspired by GORUCK. It comes from a ranger school in the special operations community. They’re the three most common knots that we use when we load there.

At first, it came up and my emotion poured on me. I was like, “I know all these knots. I don’t think any of these guys know these knots. Carly knew a couple of people knew, but none of the dudes knew the knots.” For a moment, I was like, “I got the leg up and I’m going to win this freaking event.” I then started thinking, “I know these knots because my dad taught me these knots. I spent the rest of the time trying to help every single person I could to perfect the knots. We did pretty darn good as a whole. Almost everybody got the knots.

It seemed like we were crushing it.

How did they structure that? We have the list here.

Nothing was a team event, but they gave us 30 minutes to practice. There are a handful of guys that never tied their freaking shoelaces apparently. You had 30 minutes to practice tying the knot. We all worked together. The cadres helped us and we worked together. If someone got it well and someone couldn’t, they would help that person and whatnot.

You were helping the people you were competing against in knot-tying.

It all comes full circle. It’s one of those things that I can’t hold that in. You got to pass that on. It’s so special.

Let me go down a couple of the events. You can fill in some blanks here, but there’s a PT test. There was the 100-pound 1-mile run, which I heard you actually enjoyed.

I did not enjoy it.

That’s where we knew Carly was like a machine.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele


With the 100 pounds.

The 100-pound ruck? I didn’t do that good in that.

You looked freaking strong.

I looked good. Okay.

You looked strong.

You have great posture and your struggle face is very neutral.

Posture under stress, especially for someone tall. It’s impressive to be able to hold good form to that.

It was a very calming look on your face in the finals, but you had an unknown distance, an unknown time ruck march with a false finish. No big deal.

At night, on the sand too. It was pretty soul-crushing.

Why? What happened?

I thought we were going to finish at the 8-mile mark. That was actually only halfway.

Tell them how we started.

First we laid, we all linked arms, got in the ocean, and basically since we’re born in the water, we start in the water.

Get a little sand up your shorts, and get some salt water in your clothing just to make the chain.

We were doing push-ups in the water. We sat in it, and then we went and laid in the sand, and then we started. The whole time you’re running along the shore breaks, your shoes are constantly getting resoaked again and it’s uneven.

The tide was coming. You’re running and it’s dark. All of a sudden, a wave comes up and your feet are soaked again.

This is the night ruck. We had headlamps to be able to see, but you’re just running alone in the dark for an unknown distance. It was so mental. It was tough. We ran down and at 4 miles, there was a turnaround point. Turnaround there, at least I was thinking, “We run 4 miles back and then we’re done because we’re back to where we started, so it’s an 8-mile ruck.” It turns out that was just the midway point. We then ran past that another 4 miles, turned around, and then came back. It was a total of 16 miles. Once you hit that 12-mile turnaround, I was out of water. A lot of people were out of water. We were dehydrated. I had to start walking. There was no way I could keep running at that point and it hurt. I would walk 20 steps and then I’d be like, “Run 40, walk 20, run 40.”

I was walk 20, run 50. Almost exactly for hours.

I could’ve kept walking, but I wanted to keep up some type of pace.

Is that a tactic that is common in distance things or is that a crazy coincidence that you both happened to do that?

It was a coincidence. I wanted to keep running so bad, but my legs couldn’t do it, so I’m like, “Walk 20, run 40.” It was brutal. I was questioning. I was like, “What are we doing?” Also, I’ve never even run 16 miles before. I don’t come from an endurance background. The most I’ve ever run is 8 miles, and then we went out and did a 16-mile ruck on the sand.

The worst part is that, when you go through all the events, they all work the same. There was one where it was literally you shoot a couple of airsoft BBs and then drag a sled around the building. It was way cooler than that, but it took two minutes. The exact same points as this 3.5-hour, 16-mile freaking beat. You’re like, “I could walk this thing. Take hell, come in last, and strategically be good.” There’s the mental aspect where you can’t show weakness.

I cannot do my best. I had to give my all to everything, so it was painful. It hurts really bad.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

We’ll talk about elite performance. Both exemplify us in so many ways, but that’s a standard. You can strategize it. You can say, “Let me play the game here by the numbers.” In reality, what you’re looking for out of elite performers all the time are the ones who do the right thing, do their best when nobody’s looking, when it matters, and when it doesn’t matter. All these events here are inspired by the special operations community and that background where they’ll do that to you and they’ll put you in these situations. They’ll just want to see.

[bctt tweet=”Elite performers are the ones who do the right thing and do their best when nobody’s looking.” username=”talentwargroup”]

It’s not about how you finish. Are you going to do your best? As long as you do your best, then you’re fine. Even if you don’t do that well because they still retain the right at the end, even if you make it all the way through to say, “We don’t want you.” Just like in a fire academy. It’s probably the same way. You can make it through all the evolutions. At the end of the day, they can say, “You’re not a person of character that we want.”

Attitude and effort. Those are the two most important things.

That’s what gets you through. You also had a camp.

They threw that at us as well for a couple of weeks.

They don’t tell us any of the events, by the way. You’re taking one at a time. I didn’t know if there was going to be anything that was going to suit my strengths or if it was going to be one ruck after the other, but they give us a packing list. It included a tent, a headlamp, MREs, snacks for two days, and bug spray.

They told us exactly two MREs, but also what brand of MRE to get. We don’t know what was going on. We were afraid to veer. At least I was afraid to veer from the packing list at all because I thought maybe they were going to check our stuff when we were going to get docked. We don’t exactly show up. Inspect everything. If you didn’t have that MRE, you’re out. They were like, “Bring a pair of pants with belt loops that have exactly 1.5-inch wide nylon heavy-duty belt.” We’re like, “What the heck is going on?”

It was evident that we were not going to be in a hotel. We were going to be sleeping out in the wilderness.

Was that the whole time or was it just one night?

We were camping the whole time and it was tough the second night. First of all, on the third night or the first night, most of us didn’t go to sleep until 3:00 AM. I didn’t even sleep. I don’t think many of us even slept that first night because there was so much adrenaline. Your body is hurting. I was in pain and we’re getting up again in a few hours. My mattress pad didn’t inflate so I was sleeping on the hard ground or my camping pad. The first night, I didn’t really sleep. The second night, it rained when we were at the shooting range and people’s stuff got soaked.

It poured. I forget where you guys were but here, it was torrential rain. You get that extreme.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

That was some more adversity.

A raccoon go through somebody’s tent and stole their food. We were under constant barrage.

I have 200 mosquito bites all over my body.

There were wild feral cats all over the place. They would jump out of trees as you walk by. These are like house cats.

There were two showers on the site and a bunch of us at some point didn’t care. We were naked at night taking shots.

There’s no wall around. At the main pavilion, it’s just a spec in front of everything. We’re like, “I don’t give a crap.”

We’re already exhausted and getting pushed to the limits. Certain things don’t even matter anymore.

Let me ask you about that because it’s an important dynamic that happens in these types of events. You both have played team sports. You experienced it. Now, you’re doing some individual stuff. There’s the comradery that is built through shared adversity and you talk about helping other people with their knots. Even though you know you’re going to compete against them on this task that you might be teaching them.

Are you going to feel good about beating them if you withheld that?

Exactly. As you look across and we saw it here in the fight, there’s no other better word to put it, but the fight that occurred with the “weapons systems.” Everybody’s getting up and they’re hugging. Regardless of the result or what side they’re on, they’re hugging and high-fiving, and then everybody was over there when you two were competing in the finals, cheering you on because that bond is built. Talk a bit about how the group comes together, even in just a short three-day period.

How can you not when you’re sleeping in the tents together?

I heard somebody say, “This is so different from last year.” I don’t know if you could say something about that, but I felt like, after the ruck swim, we were standing around this fire. I know it was a hard event for me. I thought I was drowning in the first swim. Drain has a fear of water. I don’t know if she can even swim. She was hyperventilating before the event and had to tell the cadre, “I can’t swim,” just in case she would drown. Things tested each of us in very extreme ways, but then we were all standing around a campfire together.

I think that was the moment we had after that swim event. It was 11:00 at night.

Soaking wet.

It was pouring rain. Everybody’s shit was soaked. It had this bonfire, we were all standing around it and laughing. Everybody’s mood increased by 1,000%. That was the moment when everyone clicked.

Somebody said, “This is not how it was last year.”

Last year, we were in hotels. I stayed with a couple.

The camping makes it different.

When we were in Airbnb, there were three of us. We’re all competing against each other and we had a squad together, but that’s 3 or 50 guys there. Everybody did their own thing. When you finished workouts, you went back, you took a hot shower, you watched Netflix. You then woke up at 9:00 AM and then drove over. They were like, “What was it last night?” It’s like 12:30. You’re going to be ready to go at 5:45. That’s four hours.

Can I give you the quote from Jason McCarthy, the GORUCK founder? No one cares what you can do fresh. That was the motto this year.

[bctt tweet=”No one cares what you can do fresh. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

It’s funny because we’re athletes and we compete in a relatively clean, even though I do more endurance stuff, it’s a relatively clean competing environment. Everybody stays in a hotel. It’s standardized. Clean is the only word I can think of.

That’s not how real life is.

Actually, when I first started doing endurance stuff, I didn’t have a lot of money, so me and my brother would camp. Instead of paying for hotels, we’d get a tent and we’d camp out the night before, so maybe that helped a little bit.

What about today? You come in today, you guys show up here this morning, you got the obstacle course, and then it starts ramping up.

Tell them about the run.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

This morning?

Yeah, because we started with that.

First, they woke us up at 5:45. They’re like, “You’re going to do another ruck run?” I was like, “Thank God we are doing that. How else were you going to get it?” Thank God it wasn’t too long, so my hips did survive. Not only you’re going to do the ruck run, but you’re going to start off, we’re going to give you a mouthful of water. You take a big sip of water.

You had to have chipmunk cheeks full of water.

To the point not where you can open up.

It’s uncomfortable.

If you’re not pressing your lips hard, it’s going to spray out. By the end of the run, you had to be able to spit it out in a bucket, like a mouth full of water into a bucket. If you didn’t, it was 100 burpees, which would kill your time for the run.

I think it was about 2 miles and you had your ruck on it. You had to nasal breathe the whole time, which I know some people are trained for. On top of that, you’re basically choking on water. I don’t know, my mouth muscles were like it’s so hard to hold your mouth closed like that for 2 miles.

I’m going to try that when I go home.

It was out and back, so you go out back, which means you’re passing all your other competitors. At this point, we got pretty chummy with everybody and there are some funny guys there. Probably one of the funniest ones, actually twins, Dylan and Mike, both spat their water out within ten seconds. They lost it. They were tracking us trying to tell jokes and get us to laugh and spit our freaking water out. Every time we ran by them, we just look our heads to the ground, hummed to ourselves, and try to not hear what they were saying to us.

That was the first thing we did, then we had the obstacle course, and then they announced the final eight and we moved on to grappling and our last event.

You had the overhead press.

We had that too.

Funny story about the overhead press. They matched up, they seated it, so top 8 and it goes tournament style, 1 versus 8, 2 versus 7. I got matched up against Dylan, one of the twins I was talking about. Dylan and I used to live 20 minutes away from each other in Boulder, Colorado for 3 or 4 years. We trained kettlebells 3 to 4 times a week hard. He taught me how to swing a kettlebell. He is the most impressive kettlebell swinger I ever met. He can Turkish get up. He Turkish get up me 165 pounds. I don’t know anybody in the world who can do that, to be honest with you. I think it’s a world record. He’s insanely strong.

We get to this event. We’re matched up against Dylan. I know Dylan’s abilities. I know my ability. Whatever they throw at us, I’m pretty confident that I can take Dylan down. They’re like, “Overhead kettlebell hold.” I was like, “You’re kidding me.” The motto throughout the whole thing is, you’re not fresh and that’s like everything in your life.

You don’t know how people are going about it.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Anything can happen. You don’t know how they do under pressure. I was like, “You know what? I can’t control how he’s going to do it. I can only control how I’m going to do it. I’m just going to go until I die. If that’s longer than he is, then that’s good. If not, then that’s all I have.”

You’re fit. Don’t get me wrong. There were guys here who are twice your size.

I was definitely the smallest.

There was a lot of weight moved around here and it’s so impressive.

Like the size of the dog who can fight.

You’re absolutely right, but here they are, they fall harder too.

I was the biggest one for the female. I am lean.

You got muscle, but you got the longest lever for sure than anybody, which is definitely a disadvantage in a lot of things. Not volleyball. They can be used in volleyball.

You know what your strength is though?


The height.


What about fighting?

I was so excited about that.

You were excited about it? She surprised us at every single corner. I was like, “She’s good at that, but there’s no way she knows how to fight too,” then I’m like, “She knows how to fight.”

I trained BJJ. I do jiu-jitsu. The main gym I work at is turning into an MMA gym. Some of my closest friends are MMA fighters. It’s called King Harbor Fitness in Redondo Beach. It’s a small gym, but I’m around these MMA guys all the time and I get to learn from them. Honestly, the last month, I’ve been training for this, I hurt my left foot in the first volleyball tournament of the season in Miami a month ago and it was challenging because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this. I tackled that and then started doing what I could with strength training. I didn’t run much before this because I couldn’t, but I did do a lot of jiu-jitsu. I was excited for the chance to get to do this. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to do more. I only won against one opponent and I didn’t get to roll much. I just went for the weapon.

You went for the weapon every time.Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

I think the first two times, and then the second time, I pushed her out of the circle.

That’s smart.

The thing is she didn’t have a jiu-jitsu background and I knew she was going to go for the weapon, so I just beat her to it.

That’s a good strategy.

If I went against Katie Knight, I wanted to go against her because we would’ve had like a hell of a wrestling jiu-jitsu match, and that would’ve been fun. I was excited about that part.

It was amazing because nobody knows even here what the events are. When they went through the whole thing that they introduced, now we’re going to throw a fake gun and a fake knife into it at some point while you guys are engaged. That added a whole new dynamic.

My fiancee, her father was a four-time world champion in Kyokushin karate and now runs an MMA school, so she’s born and bred in jiu-jitsu and MMA. We’ve known each other for almost two years now. Since I’ve known her, we’ve been training pretty hardcore. I go up to their gym, they’re putting ex-football players who are now training in kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. We’re doing sumo wrestling with 260-pound massive guys. They were throwing everything they could at us in there.

It’s pretty funny. We’re in the ring. We trained all this stuff a million times and I still got the guy out, but I held a guillotine longer than I should have. I didn’t have it. I smoked my arm a little bit. I come out expecting, “Good job, honey. Here’s some water.” She grabs my arm, takes me behind the building, and said, “What the fuck were you thinking? You know you didn’t have to do that. Go back in the side control.” She’s literally hitting me, “Get down right now. We’re going over it again.”

That is so funny.

I tell everybody, when we first met, I’m a hard head. I was like, “Who do you think you are to talk to me like this?” Now it’s like, “No, you’re right.” It’s more collaborative. It’s like change a game plan. She watched and she knows what was going on. That’s what we’re doing next and adjust it. It was a lot of jiu-jitsu but you had to be aware.

There were so many different components. For example, when the gun came into play, it was such an easy out because all you had to do was point it at your opponent, so I had a strategy. First of all, you have to position yourself when you’re on your knees against your opponent, so you can see things out of your periphery. You can see the weapon barely. I would be looking out of my periphery. I’m like, “If I see white, I’m going to shoot for that right away. Otherwise, I’m going to probably grapple.” Just coming up with a game plan.

That’s life because even a street fight, jiu-jitsu is great but there’s other stuff going on around.

It just made you think a lot more.

You train in a lot of martial arts too.


It’s a little bit different.

It’s very different. I haven’t done any grappling yet. I’ve done mostly boxing, kickboxing, and taekwondo. I’ve only trained with stunt people where we’re all trying to learn choreography and skills, but nobody has ever tried to hurt anyone. Not that you guys are trying to hurt each other, but I’m working collaboratively with a teammate and we’re both trying to make something look cool. This is very different. It’s so impressive.

My strategy coming in, I started with a clean jiu-jitsu, and then my fiancee’s family was helping to train me. No, you got to be mean. We’re not talking about a clean rear-neck choke. We’re talking face choke. Get them to panic. Get them scared. Get them to the towel. Don’t actually hurt them but be rough and violent.

Speed and violence of action. Two of the most important things when you talk about hand-to-hand combat. That’s what this was about right here. We’d spend a lot of time in the military and special operations training hand-to-hand. We call it combative because it’s BJJinspired. There’s one reason we train that is to get to the weapon system. The person who wins the fight 9.5 out of 10 times is the person who has the gun. The person who lasts long enough for their buddy to come in the room and shoot the other guy. That’s what that is and that’s for your life. You introduce the weapon, and here we go, it’s game on. The final event, 3,000 pounds.

I was not expecting that, honestly.

That was psycho.

To be honest, that number, I laughed when I heard that because I build my own house last year. I’ve made a couple of big errors in the process. When I was doing the foundation, I had to move 30 tons of sand by hand with a wheelbarrow. I’m trying to do this all by myself. My father built houses and I’m trying to do it myself for the first time. I lined up the concrete guy to come in on Tuesday. The sand got delivered Sunday night. I had less than 2 days to move this 30,000 pounds of sand.

I was working fourteen hours a day moving the sand. When they said, “They’re going to move 3,000 pounds of sand over there.” It’s about the same distance too. I was like, “That’s a freaking joke. That’s a tenth.” When I was moving it for the house, I was under a time clock. I did the math like, “I have to move X amount of tons per hour in order to make the deadlines to have a foundation ready for the concrete being poured. It’s the same shit. I already had a paced out like I knew exactly what I was doing for that.

We’re talking about effective intelligence a lot. It’s one of the nine characteristics that are used by special operation commands to recruit and assess talent. The definition is you use the aggregate experiences that you’ve had in your past to make decisions in the future. Your entire day has been built on effective intelligence. It seems like everything.

It’s funny because you go through your sports career and you come up short and nobody freaking nails every one. You come up short in a lot of places and it can beat you down sometimes. Every now and then, things line up. That’s how this was. I spent a long time preparing for that.

[bctt tweet=”Nobody freaking nails everything. You come up short in a lot of places and it can beat you down sometimes. But every now and then, things kind of line up.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I knew all the knots too. I knew how to tie a tourniquet. The dummy drag, I’ve done that all in firefighting. Many things lined up and I was like, “This is what I’ve trained for.”

I’m sure you put together a training camp for this, right?Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Last month, I trained hard for this and prepared for this. I’m a big believer in manifestation and I was like, “I’m going to win this.” If you look at my journal, it’s like, “I’m going to go win the GORUCK Games. I planned on doing it and it’s just surreal to be here now. The key is to take it one step at a time.

With the amount of work we had going on, that’s all you could do. Literally one step at a time.

That’s what I trained for, that’s what I planned on doing, to the best of my ability because we don’t really know everything we’re going to have to do.

It was incredible to watch.

Also, even with a simple straightforward task as running and carrying this stuff, you both had plans. You had strategies, you were counting your steps. That’s something you come up with quickly as you’re going. You’re feeling it.

You have to be able to problem-solve quickly or think on the fly. For the sandbag work capacity workout we did at the end, if you could figure out a way to carry things most efficiently, you’re going to take fewer trips.

Your system was very smooth.

The least trip is one. I was trying to watch Carly and get an advantage and it was clear that three items per trip. A year or two ago, I did this strong-man marathon. It was a mile of heavy sandbag carry. It was a mile of burpee lunges, a mile of heavy yoke carry. It was very similar to this. I know Mike has the capacity for this. I had a game plan coming in just like Carly carrying three items at a time. Stay calm, stay steady, and I’m like, “We’re neck and neck. I don’t have a single inch on him.” Maybe one sandbag ahead is not enough in this. I started like, “How can I get a little bit of ground?” That’s what we had to do on the fly.

I was like, “I can run 10 steps.” On the trip back, I would run 10 steps, 10 steps over 18 trips, that’s 180 steps. That’s a little bit of time. I still wasn’t gaining that much ground. I was like, “I can go with the 40 pounds. I can put two on my head instead of one.” I only had to do it two times, which was enough. That puts me two sandbags ahead. That’s essentially a trip. Now, I just gained two lengths from a little step. It was 40 more pounds. In the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing compared to what you’re carrying. Your backpack alone is 45 pounds. It’s the little stuff, you have to be a little smart.

You have to be constantly assessing and then improvising, adapting what’s happening and going on. That’s smart that you were able to do that.

Just go for it. At some point, you just got to freaking go.

It is what it is. You’ve got the plan.

No, it’s just grunt work pretty much. It’s like putting your head down into it.

The look on both of your faces. We were watching but I mean you were just dialed in. There was nothing else going on. That was it.

Just focus.

The focus was really impressive to see.

Your stride looked happy. As you were walking back, it was a strong confident stride but there was a bounce to it even in between.

There’s some strategy with that. If your opponent sees you and you look happy and calm and confident, they’re like, “I’m fucked.”

For grappling too. How you approach that ring is going to make a big difference. They need to be scared of you a little bit.

What’s next for you both?

I got nothing, honestly, because that’s how I got to approach things these days. I can’t have a next knowing like, “If I don’t do well at this then I got this coming up.” I just have to clear the schedule, go after one thing, and then we’ll reevaluate when that’s done.

Come back next year. What about you, Carly?

There’s a beach volleyball competition in AVP in May in Huntington. I’ll see about that.

No big deal. Just professional beach volleyball.

You’re still currently playing professionally.

I just threw this into the mix, honestly. I’ve been training. I’ve been doing sports performance training, and then the last month has been a lot different in preparation for this. I’m going to start doing more competitions like this. Probably a HYROX this year. I definitely want to get into those and I’ll be back here next year for the next GORUCK Games. I want to keep exploring competitions like this. We’ll see.

I hope we’re sitting back in here next year with the two of you. As we close out, Jedburgh’s in World War II had to do three things every day to be successful. They had to be able to shoot, they had to be able to move, and they had to be able to communicate. They did those three things. We talked a bit about those things. If they did them well with precision as habits and foundations, then they could focus their attention on more complex challenges that came their way. What are the three things that you each do every day in your own life to set the conditions for success?

Having a goal for one, knowing very clearly what you’re working towards, having a plan, and executing it probably would be the three things.


I set my intentions for each day, so I know what I have planned, when I’m going to do it, and how I want to do it. Discipline is a big thing. I’ll force myself to do hard things. Right now, I wake up and I’ll take a cold shower and I hate taking cold showers, but immediately right off the bat, I do something hard and then everything else is easy. Staying present and enjoying the moment is a big thing too because I know a lot of us highly motivated individuals can get caught up on going after these goals, but it’s the joy of the process along the way that is the most important thing.

Fist bumps, Volleyball and Running With A Mouthful of Water - GORUCK Games 2023 Champions Carly Wopat & Matt Kempson, GORUCK Founders Jason & Emily McCarthy, Sandlot Founder B.J. Naedele

Matt said, “Have a goal, have a plan, and execute them. Carly said, “Intention, have discipline, and do hard things. Both did a lot of hard things here in the last couple of days and they stayed present. All six of these, you put them to bear here over the last couple of days. I’m really impressed. Jesse and I watched these last couple of events here. We had sat down with Jason and Emily before, so we had an understanding of what was going on. To see the whole thing be executed and the way that you both did is really impressive. We wish you the best and hope to see you here next year, and good luck building the house. Good luck getting back to volleyball and your services as a firefighter.

Thank you.

Thanks both.


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