Saturday, November 7, 2015 I attempted the Blackbeard Heavy in Hampstead, Maryland to honor SSG Matthew A. Pucino. Going into this event I felt well prepared. I was training with a 55# ruck and logging good miles with decent times. I felt I could meet any PT that would be thrown at us and my gear was good to handle the weather. I had all the nervous anxiety with going into an event, as I always do, but I knew physically and mentally I was ready to tackle my second heavy representing Team Spearhead, F3, and Team Ninja.
Hour 4. During a timed mile march, I took one of the water cans and hoisted it up on my right shoulder. It wasn’t overly heavy, just bulky, but I’ve carried worse and heavier. It didn’t sit well on my single shoulder so I just shifted the whole weight across the top of my ruck. Then I felt it….it was no big deal at first, just a slight twinge in my lower left back. That slight twinge quickly became a muscle cramp followed my shooting pain down my leg with every step. Several of the guys started talking to me offering advice, helping me step it out, hoping to stretch it to give me some relief. Luckily we stopped to construct our “apparatus” and Will Ranney got me on the ground and stretched me. I felt some relief and was gaining confidence that this would pass. I took 800mg Ibuprofen with our water top off. We did another timed mile with the apparatus and though I was hurting, I wasn’t quitting. I was on the apparatus pushing it, or pulling it, or carrying other coupons. I wanted desperately to be in it. At one point, Cadre Jesse must have seen my poopy face of pain because he was right on me, in my face dancing trying to get me to smile (lol he did).
Demons. I was fighting an army of pain demons. “DFQ.KFG”….I kept saying it over and over in my head and I was pushing through this. Sad Demons came out whispering to me to “Fall out…no one will blame you. 24 hours…you have 24 hours…you can’t help the team” “DFQ.KFG.DFQ.KFG”
Picnic Tables. The Cadre Jesse special. Picnic tables overhead obliterated me. After multiple failed attempts as a team, my body made me listen to what my mind was pushing me through. My back locked up while I was in full extension with the table overhead. The next rep I was done. I couldn’t get the table over my head. I fell out on the grass and felt the worst pain of my life. I was in agony and literally in tears. Mark Cichonski was talking to me but I couldn’t acknowledge him. All I could hear was the team continuing to work. Cadre Heath checked on me and after a slight pep talk of reason, gave me 5 minutes to decide on getting back in the game or being a med drop. I took 400mg more.
Praying. I got up and got back under the tables. The team had been doing better and pushing the tables overhead, though painful, wasn’t killing me. Squats with the table wasn’t too bad either but then….
Flutter Kicks. 170 of them from Cadre Heath. This was excruciating for my lower back. “DFQ. KFG.” I knew if I stepped out now, Cadre Heath would call it on me. I did it but I was worse. All I could think about was everyone I was letting down, all the prep I had for this…wasted…because of small movement with a relatively light weight. I was very much in my own world trying to figure out how I could stay in this.
Hour 6. The End. Another timed mile march. I carried nothing, started at the front but fell to the back as I couldn’t keep up. I was encouraged 100% by my teammates 100% of the time but, at the end of the march, I knew….I was done. Despite the ibuprofen, my pain was getting worse with each step. So much emotion runs through your body when you look at the Cadre and tell him you can’t go on. Looking at the team stare back at you was worse and gut wrenching for me. No matter how much you say you did the right thing…you still feel like you let your friends down. Let me be clear that NO ONE made me feel this way except me. EVERYONE was incredibly complimentary and encouraging. I had to drown out those feelings of guilt, anger, regret, and sadness and instead focus on being there for the team that was still out there. Continue to encourage them while I shadowed and feed off their successes.
In failure, I’m finding that I am learning a lot more about myself…I didn’t feel it in the moment but I know my withdrawal does not define me and so today was not my event…but I had to LISTEN to my brain, overcome my pride, and stop before before it became my LAST one.
This event will be here next year and I will hopefully have my redemption then. For now, I have to focus on the positives knowing that sometimes, “Choosing the Harder Thing” …is choosing to step away.