AAR Team Assessment - Part 07: The Longest Night

break time in the yard

WOD in the Dark

After the 12 Miler, the next evolution was the 9/11 Memorial Workout. This was another way to keep us moving but not making it absolutely awful. We had noticed in some of Jason’s photos before the start that they had big tires like you would flip at a gym. Originally Shannon and I were like “Heck yeah, we love flipping tires.” Now we were saying “Oh. No. I can’t squat to flip a tire.” Luckily the tires ended up being used for step ups. (big relief)

It was 2,001 meters “run”, then 11 reps each of Tire Step-ups, Thrusters, Bent Over Rows, Power Cleans, HRPU, Ruck Swings, V-Ups, Sumo Deadlift High Pulls, and Ruck Presses, followed by another 2,001 meter “run”. I can assure you we were not running. We did move with purpose and it was a huge bonus that we didn’t have to wear our rucks. It definitely helped us shake out the stiffness but getting down for V-Ups was laughable. Also, we had to help each other on step ups. We literally could not do a step up without bracing on our partner’s shoulder at this point. That’s how utterly shredded our legs were. 

To keep us moving for 2 hours, they had us repeat the workout. We didn’t get all the way through a second round but we kept moving the entire evolution. With the temperature dropping, moving was important.

The Longest Mile

The apparatus evolution was the one we’d been looking forward to the most. We’d practiced knots and talked strategy and build techniques. This year though we saw that they had more of a prefab set up but we were still game to take on that scenario. 

Our first introduction to some of the apparatus components however was not a barrel of fun. We were instructed to get two poles, one cargo net with carabiners attached, and a 40# sandbag (60# for Open) then take it down to where The Hill flattened out. We would use this set up to make a litter and do 3 miles (three loops around the field but not up The Hill thank God). We were not allowed to shoulder carry it but, other than that, we could devise whatever system we wanted to get the job done. 

We clipped the cargo net to the rings on the poles, loaded our sandbag, and attached the nylon runners I brought just for this purpose. We put our hands through the loops and picked up our litter ready to take off. 

Oh. My. Word. This thing was SO heavy. We couldn’t go 10 steps. The Wheelbarrow Mile and the miles of Bucket Carries and Farmer’s Carries had done their job. Shannon’s grip and forearms were gone. My shoulders were toast. I had a moment of panic that we would not be able to complete this task. We had to regroup and reassess. 

The two poles were essentially like using two barbells, you know the 45 pound kind, to make litter poles. The sandbag wasn’t too bad but the combined effect was crushing. We decided to make a drag litter. We arranged the sandbag towards the front and let the end of the poles rest on the ground behind us. Shannon took one side and I took the other. We counted 40 steps and switched sides. It was horrible.

When we got into the woods, Shannon started searching along the edges of the path at every switch. It took a couple tries but she found a sturdy stick to modify our litter with. We fed the stick through the loops on our straps so we could pull the litter like a couple of plow horses. It took some of the strain off our hands. Any modifications, even incremental ones helped. 

This was the longest evolution. We took 40 steps. Set it down. Switched sides. Bowed our heads and pushed on. It took forever. JC was walking the course checking on teams. He made fun of us later for how slow we were going. How slow? So slow that Shannon was having trouble staying warm. The temps were in the high 30s but next to the river it felt colder. 

When we were halfway around the field we stopped and looked out. We could see the headlamps of a few teams here and there. We’d already been lapped by the front runners. It was a clear night and the stars were out. I looked out at the moon on the soybeans and told Shannon “You know...we could just stop here. Break out the MREs...have a little picnic...they’d come find us eventually.” We enjoyed that little pipedream for a minute and then pressed on. 

We kept repeating to each other that it sucked but we’d come this far, we’d made it through all this crap, then we better make it count. Part of our mentality was that we were NEVER doing this again which meant that we’d better finish. However, if we had to go another lap we were done. 

Eventually we completed that arduous mile 40 steps at a time (40 steps for 40 pounds). We were so relieved when we got to leave our litter apparatus on the side of the trail and take a short break. 

Sand Babies and Hallucinations

I’ve had some pretty trippy moments during the second night of an HTL. I’ve been unable to walk a straight line and staggered like a drunk. I’ve fallen asleep while carrying a sandbag. But nothing prepared me for the delirium we experienced during the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning. (It was around 2 or 3 am.)

Our next evolution had us reversing our direction around the field so we were coming up from the river on the end of a lap. Once again we were thankful that a lap did not include The Hill. We retrieved another 40# sandbag so we each had one now. This time we were told to bear hug it or baby carry it for 3 laps (3 miles). No shoulder carrying. 

I thought “No problem. At least we aren’t pulling that damn litter or low carrying anything.” Instead of counting steps, we used the landmark method - make it to that tree, that rock, etc. Very soon things got weird. 

I thought I was fine. I knew I was tired, sure, but thought I was okay. That was until I would say something incoherent to Shannon. It was bizarre to hear the most random phrases come out of mouth. My responses to her were insensible. It’s one thing to tell a rambling story or get distracted (squirrel!) in the middle. But for utter nonsense to come out of my mouth without any control was trippy. 

The most entertaining part was the hallucinations. Shannon kept seeing the other team’s headlamps as kids playing in a park. One time JC was standing at the start of the woods trail shining a high beam across the field (he actually was) but I thought he had the whole class stopped and sitting on the ground in front of him. I vividly remember staring at my boot because the top was made of purple and silver glitter sparkles just like my six year old’s sneakers. A few minutes later I looked down again and now it was just a leaf plastered to the toe. 

We stumbled through the woods. Shannon kept up a steady stream of encouragement. Later she told me I kept trying to stop every five steps. When we would stop, we’d drop the sandbags and Shannon would rest her face against a tree and nod off. I would bend at the waist and immediately be dreaming with my elbows on my knees. 

We encountered teams in similar states of delirium and we’d mumble words of encouragement to each other. As we came out of the woods on our second lap the sun was finally coming up and reality was restored. Time was called at that point. Another milestone - we’d made it to the second sunrise. 

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