AAR Team Assessment - Part 06: We Tried to Quit


Down to the River

Our next evolution was a five mile ruck alternating coupons - sandbag and five gallon bucket of river water. Female teams started with the water bucket and Open started with their 60# sandbag. 

Since I don’t mind the water and Shannon was better at lifting the buckets over the edge of the bank, I volunteered to get back in the river. Getting the full bucket out without spilling it was harder than carrying it. There was a lot of poison ivy around and Shannon would discover some on her arm when we got back home. 

There were lines in the bucket several inches from the top. We had to carry it around the field without letting the water spill below that line. We both had experience with bucket carries from Heavy Drop Training so we knew carrying it down by our side was the best way to make it without sloshing out too much. Some teams had other (faster) methods like carrying it together but we used our count steps and switch method because that was our preference. 

On the even number laps, we carried a 40# sandbag. Shannon and I have a lot of experience trading sandbags on the go from all the events we’ve done together. So we rocked around the field and would do our sandbag spin whenever we needed to switch. I think we only got through 4 laps before time ran out and we were called in. The sun went down as we were finishing the 5 mile loops and the temperature was dropping. It wasn’t supposed to get to freezing but upper 30s by the river is still pretty chilly. 

heading out

We Got This...Or Do We?

As they gathered us for the next evolution, Shannon and I were doing a buddy check. They announced the 12 Miler and we thought “Okay, we’ve got this.” There was some momentary confusion (elation) when they said “Slick Ruck”. Then we were reminded that in GORUCKLANDIA “slick” means “ruck only”. Most of us are used to “slick” meaning “no ruck”. But no big deal. Shannon and I can knock out a 12 Miler in under 3.5 hours (the usual standard) at any point during an event. It is something we are comfortable with through training and multiple Heavies. 

But then...it was announced that we would have to climb The #$%^ Hill at the end of each lap to check in. The wind went out of our sails a bit. We looked at each other and said “We can do this. Even with The Ever-Loving Hill.” It would be a tight time hack but we felt we could give it a good go. 

The first two laps went great. We were on pace and enjoying a break from carrying stuff. But eventually our glutes started cramping and we had to slow the pace. The Hill was sucking the life out of us and taking a ton of time. It wasn’t just the climb up The Hill but also picking our way down. Shannon adopted a ski trail zig zag pattern and I side stepped along with her. 

This was our lowest point. So five laps into the 12 Miler we had The Discussion. I’ve never been more smoked by a Welcome Party than I was at this event. 6 hours in and our legs were done. I’ve had muscle fatigue before but I’ve never felt like my quads were going to shred right off the bone or that my glutes were going to lock up the next time I did a squat or lunge. (And lunges kept coming up in evolutions!) In our minds, we were on the verge of injury and just didn’t see how we could finish the event. I remember that I kept thinking we had 24 hrs to go but we really only had just over 12 (it was almost midnight on Friday). We definitely got in our own heads. 

At our lap check in we told Cadre Hand that we were done. I am so grateful that instead of marking us down as a Voluntary Withdraw and directing us to the Quitters Fire, he called Mocha Mike and Jason over. The cadre were confused. We went from smiling and doing the work, never complaining to casually saying we wanted to quit. For them it just didn’t compute. We weren’t in last place. In fact we were still 4th or 5th consistently. After expressing confusion and hearing us out, all three had words for us. What happened next is still mind blowing to me. 

Mocha said “We know that you aren’t here to win, and that’s fine. We know that you want to be middle of the pack, which you are. We know that you just want to finish, which you can. We know that you want to inspire people by showing that middle age moms can do an extreme event like this, and you’re doing that. So what’s the problem?”

This was crazy. Those were the EXACT words that Shannon and I had used when discussing our goals and motivations for showing up and completing Team Assessment. Those. Exact. Words. But we’d never said them to anyone else at all. Ever.

When I said “Yeah, but we are sucking at everything. We are missing time hacks and struggling to finish evolutions.” Jason replied “Well that’s just ego.” 

That struck home. I realized that we wanted to quit because we weren’t as good at this as we thought we ought be. Shannon and I are used to being some of the more capable GRTs at events through sheer experience. And here we were: wanting to quit because we were struggling like a new guy at a Tough. Dang. That was an eye-opening, slap-in-the-face moment. 

So we headed back out and the rest of the event when things got dark and seemed impossible, we’d say to each other “Just do the work. We’ve come this far, let’s keep going”. And we did every evolution bit by bit. Counting steps and switching holds and just moving forward. I thank God that Hand, Mocha, and Jason basically said “Nah.” when we tried to quit. They told us what we knew but needed to hear from someone else. 

We only made it 7 miles before time was called. It was a little gut wrenching to see Cleve mark that second line on our roster patch. But we’d decided something on the rest of that 12 Miler. If we got another strike and were performance dropped, then that meant this event wasn’t for us. But until that time arrived, we would take it one evolution at a time. 

Scaring Our Followers

Jon Cichelli was shadowing and running live feeds to the Tough page constantly for the whole 48 hours. When we had our weak moment, he was interviewing the cadre and turned the camera to us. Mocha felt it was too personal of a moment and told him to shut it off. 

Apparently all our family and friends who were about to tune out and get some rest, lost it. None of them ever doubted we could finish and now all the sudden we were quitting. Several people ended up hung over from not knowing what was going on for the next 45 minutes. Luckily Jon was in contact with our family and posted that we were back in. 

We didn’t know all this until later of course but it just showed us that this event wasn’t just about us. There were a lot of people pulling for us, glued to their screens, not getting work done...it’s pretty crazy to think about it. I doubt we were extremely riveting viewing but Jon’s commentary made up for it I heard. 

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