Meet the GRT – Paul Escajadillo
Recently Derek reached out to me wanting to start a “Meet the GRT” column on Ruck.Beer to introduce some of the cool folks in our community and to give them space to share some of their thoughts and experiences. This is the first of, hopefully, many cool pieces looking into the lives of other GRTs. (Also, quick shout out to Luke MC who did 10 Q’s with a GRT back in the day.)
Meet Paul A. Escajadillo.
Tell us a little about yourself to get us started.
My name is Paul Escajadillo. I’m 37 and currently live in Minneapolis, MN. I was born and raised in Mexico and it took my parents and I 10 years to get our green cards; this worked out well for me because I received it just as I was finishing high school.
I graduated from San Diego State University in May 2005 with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Computer Science. A few weeks later, on June 9th, I went to the US District Court House and became a US citizen. Because of all the opportunities I had been given in my 5 short years here, I decided I wanted to serve my new country and proceed to enlist in the U.S. Army on June 10th.
I spent 7+ years in U.S. Army Special Operations Command, deploying twice to Latin America and twice to Afghanistan. After getting out, I attended business school with the GI Bill and graduated with an MBA from Duke University. I now work for The Clorox Company as a Marketing Manager focusing on several of our brands at Target.
Where did your GORUCK journey start? What was your first event? What stands out from that event?
What stands out from that event is the fact that we rucked and carried a bunch of coupons from downtown St Paul to Fort Snelling Cemetery and back, covering over 25 miles throughout the duration of the event.
What was your most recent event or events? Anything good to share from those?
My last event was the Spartan H3X in which I was one of 12 individuals in the U.S. location (just outside of Boston) to complete all 24 hours. This was a 24-hour event with several time cut-offs built-in, in which you carry 45lbs of weight, water, nutrition, 3 tennis balls, 2 wooden blocks, duct tape, and a 50lbs sandbag for the duration and it was beyond hard. I saw it break people before hitting the 12-hour mark. But for those 12 of us who finished, we forged a unique and unbreakable bond as “The Dirty Dozen.”
Proudest accomplishment as a GRT?
D-Day HTL in San Diego. We had several iterations of “storming the beaches” with improvised Bangalores. As a veteran, it was truly special to envision and reenact some of what the Greatest Generation did to ensure freedom from tyranny.
How many events have you done? What’s your favorite event or type of event? Why?
GORUCK: 4 Lights, 4 Toughs, 1 Heavy.
Spartan Hurricane Heats: Two 4 Hours, two 12 Hours, one 24 Hour.
I honestly think that the Tough is the ideal time and distance. I recently did the GORUCK Savage Tough, and it was a blast to combine my love of OCR with rucking.
Why do you continue to do events? What keeps you coming back?
During the recent Op Red Wings T/L in Minneapolis, which spanned nearly 30 miles across 22 hours, I saw strangers, many of whom had traveled across state lines, come together as one team. I saw first-time GORUCK participants push through pain and discomfort until they completed the event. I saw friends of mine rise to the occasion and become Leaders. And that is what keeps me coming back.
How do you train for events?
Pathfinder Ruck Training and Heavy Drop Training truly prepared me for success. I also started doing some of the Charity Challenges (60 or 90-day challenges) and they’ve helped me work on those areas where I was weaker (e.g., the 90 Pull Up Challenge saw me complete 5,000 of them and I’ve seen the difference in my grip strength during OCRs).
Best Rucking and / or GORUCK event advice you have received?
Rucking: Wash your ruck after events. If you don’t have a power hose, bring a broom brush and some dish soap into the shower with you and clean away!
Event: When in charge, be in charge. If you’re not in charge, don’t argue with whoever is in charge. Advice and suggestions should be welcomed, but once a decision has been made, as a follower implement the plan to the best of your abilities.
Other than packing list items, what is a must-have in your ruck for events?
Morale Patch. I’ve used so many and they have served as conversation starters with both friends and strangers.
A book or a few that have impacted your life? Why?
Three years ago, I set a New Year’s resolution for myself to finish at least one book a month, and I have kept that up until now. Here are some of the more recent additions:
– Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life (this is a a great book for my current job in Marketing; the inherently “logical” answer most often doesn’t succeed, but it also doesn’t get blamed for not working. We really need to feel more comfortable looking for “illogical” answers; like how Red Bull is a nearly $3 billion brand that tastes horrendous)
– Leaders: Myth and Reality (a profile of various “unconventional” leaders from Walt Disney to MLK Jr by retired General Stanley McChrystal shows that there is no one secret formula for success)
– Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Sebastian Junger’s masterpiece delves into what we are missing as a community and how easy it is for us to demonize the “other”, which could be people from other countries, religions, or political parties)
– Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (watching or reading the daily news you’d think this is the worst time to be alive; but the reality is far from that. If I asked you what was the percentage of girls in Africa who are enrolled in primary school, what would you answer? Would you say 90%, which is the reality?)
– Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae (Steven Pressfield is a gifted author and manages to vividly bring to life what it means to be a warrior)
What other hobbies do you have?
I love Obstacle Course Racing (Savage Race, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, etc), like to finish one book a month, binge the occasional show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and I enjoy collecting coins.
What’s the best purchase under $100 you’ve made in the past 12 months?
How has rucking changed or improved your life?
I used to hate rucking while I was in the Army. Now that I do it for fun, I’ve met an incredibly supportive community and made lasting friendships with local ruckers in the Mill City Rucking Crew.
How do you recruit new people to ruck, or do events with you?
We have a standing Mill City Rucking Crew weeknight ruck every Wednesday at 7:00 PM. We vary the route and try to advertise on Team RWB’s Facebook page, for example. The consistency has allowed those who are curious to drop by whenever their schedules allow.
Best Beer to drink after a ruck?
I like sour beers and will go with whatever is available.
Advice you would give to someone before their 1st Light?
Don’t overpack because you’ll just have to carry it with you for the duration of the event. And don’t compare your abilities or physical fitness levels to other participants: just be sure you’re giving 100% throughout the event and know that this could be more, or less, than the output from others. And that’s ok!
Advice you’d give to someone before their 1st Tough?
Before your First Tough: If you’ve already done a Light, you can’t think of it as just back-to-back Lights. It’s still very much a team-based challenge, but during the 10-12 hours, this is where it will become readily apparent if you trained properly, brought the right gear (think rucksack, socks, and boots) and more importantly, if you’ve been hydrating correctly in the days leading up to it.
At some point in the night, you’ll also have to remember why you want to do this. I’ve seen people quit less than an hour into a Tough. I’ve seen people leave in the middle of the night as well…
During the event: pay attention to your body. You might have been able to brute force strength your way through a Light or other endurance event, but here you need to be able to distinguish between discomfort (i.e., that sandbag is heavy) and actual pain (i.e., it hurts and feels like something is going to tear, break, etc.). You should also be paying attention to your teammates and help out when you can. Rotate positions and be a teammate, not a “grey man” or the forever flag bearer.
Also, don’t put more weight than is necessary in your ruck because you want a “harder workout” as you might end up hurting your teammates. Set your ego aside and be a part of the team. At GORUCK, we strive to be better Americans. And that only happens if you think of “us” and “we” rather than “I” and “me.” Lastly, the rule of “when in charge, be in charge. And when a follower, follow.” still applies.
If you get overwhelmed during an event how do you refocus on the task at hand?
I use the square breathing technique to center myself and calm down. Then I try to take a mental step back and evaluate the situation as objectively as possible.
What’s the next event or events on your calendar?
Snowdrop Light and Scavenger on Sept 21st.
Any parting shots? Things the community needs to know?
This community is what we make of it. We all have different opinions and backgrounds and may not always agree on what happens in the world of GORUCK. So let’s leave negativity aside and only inject our points of view and opinions when they come from a good place. That doesn’t mean we can’t be candid and call a spade a spade when needed. But the dumpster fires we start around issues that we quickly move on from and forget aren’t productive.
At the GORUCK Savage Tough event in July, our class pic will show you a devout Christian next to an atheist, a liberal Democrat next to a conservative Republican, and a first-time GORUCK participant next to an 80+ event finisher. And you know what? You can’t tell anyone apart because we all put in the work, were tired and muddy, and at the end of the day all looked the same: like individuals who came together as a team and in some small aspect, are trying to build better Americans.
Meet the GRT is put together by Derek. Derek is an average joe who enjoys exercise as a hobby. He lives and rucks in Mayberry (really) with his wife and newborn don. He works for a national nonprofit in finance and coaches functioal fitness for 55+ year old folks. He writes at hilledit.com and you can find him at @dhill37. Reach out to him if you think you know a GRT he should feature next!