“I did it”

It was a short and simple text, sent several times over the course of last Saturday. Nevertheless, every recipient knew what I was referring to. Completing the GORUCK Challenge had been my focus since the start of 2014.

I won’t rehash the nearly 13 hour event, as teammate Dave has already done a fine job of it.

Instead, a trip down memory lane…

April 27, 2013 was a Saturday. A cloudy morning gave way to a sunny afternoon with a high of 18. A nice day to lollygag in bed, reveling in the warmth of the covers, before enjoying a few plates of bacon and a leisurely stroll. But I could not wait to get out of bed that Saturday. Hospital beds suck.

I was just as prepared for not finishing as I was for the event itself, which is to say not at all. No change of clothes and a cell phone that was rapidly running out of batteries. I didn’t know how many calls I could make before it died, but it was somewhere between zero and not many. Thankfully, the third call went through. Half an hour later, a friend arrived bearing a goodie bag full of dry clothes and some good-natured ribbing.

We ate breakfast and strolled for a bit before parting ways. Having satisfied the first three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, my mind turned fitfully to the fourth – self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others.

Then, I received a message from teammate Matt:

Just wanted to drop you an off-group message about this morning… I don’t know how aware you were of it at the time but when we were running that track at Riverdale Park you were clearly in a bad way but you were still at the front of the pack, and as you were bent double barfing your guts up you never broke stride *for a second*, even when others told you to stop and rest. That took a lot of character and you should be very proud of that. Hope you’re feeling stronger this afternoon, and that you’ll be back for another go, another time.

Matt’s words of encouragement came at a time when I needed them the most. His message remained in the back of my mind ten months later when I transferred my registration to Toronto’s April 2014 Challenge.

My second go at the Challenge was blessedly pedestrian. I trained hard, dropping from 160 lbs to 145 in four months, but not as hard as I could have. I was not the strongest or the toughest, but I carried my weight and then some. I followed and I led. I got wet and sandy and downed beer at the finish line while congratulating others. But most importantly, I was able to pay it forward:

When we got to hour two of PT and I thought I’d rather pack it up than deal with this bullshit, I looked to my right and there he was, giving me a thumbs up and making sure I was all good.

In the months leading up to April, there were days that I didn’t want to train. Didn’t want to do extra laps or another set of flutter kicks. But I did them anyway, knowing that more training equaled a bigger grin. And in that brief moment, my grin had been big enough for the both of us.

Funny thing is, I didn’t give John a thumbs up because I thought he needed it. I gave it because I had one to give. Perhaps Matt’s message was the same way. Perhaps he sent it because he had one to send and it made all the difference.

Thanks to Ontario Geardo for the photograph.