It all lined up perfectly; today is the anniversary of one of my grandfather’s deaths. Next week’s GORUCK Memorial Day HTL is being held in San Diego, where my other grandfather spent his final days and is buried. Both men were World War Two veterans. I was going to wear their dog tags as tribute, hoping that at some point in the small hours their heroism would inspire me to press through the dreaded dark night of the soul. I was already working though my rhapsodic ballad to tell the tale.
But, I quit.
And no one wants to read a quitter’s AAR.
The military uses the After Action Review to analyze an event. The purpose is to determine what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better in the future. It is a straight forward, no bullshit process utterly unconcerned about a person’s ego and feelings. It takes extraordinary vulnerability because participants have to name where they messed up and let the team down.
While no one wants to read a quitter’s AAR, it’s probably one worth reading.
That’s the first problem with how I was going into this thing. My romanticized vision of how I would reflect on the event was absolute crap. I wanted the tale more than the event and that’s a major red flag. The reality of the event is 48 hours of misery; wet, frigid, sandy hell. Cute stories don’t keep anyone going through what this weekend has in store.
I think this is what separates people who finish from people who quit. People who succeed might visualize the prize, but they are acutely aware of the work too. They can envision the tough parts of the journey and have realistic solutions for overcoming obstacles. They know that they will fall to the level of their training, so they put in the work.
A year and a half ago I injured my ankle. It took me off my feet for months. It was a lonely, depressing time of solitude. I rehabbed back into action, but never made it 100% The last 20 months have been a roller-coaster for my health; times of solid training and good choices along with times of poor choices and lazy behaviors.
I did train for next weekend, but not well. I could have slowly and consistently trained and avoided injury. Instead, I was sporadic and aggressive. If I missed a day, I would work twice as hard the next. If I ate crap food, I’d punish myself with extra miles. Somewhere along the way I lost the heart of it. I knew better, but I did it anyway. It was a cyclical web and I trapped myself. In the end, the unavoidable happened; I reinjured my ankle. Not bad, but bad enough that I know I couldn’t complete the HTL. And even if I could manage to push my body through, I am way too far up in my head to finish mentally.
So if an AAR is to state what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better, let me be direct:
I quit. I quit because I got injured. I got injured because I focused only on the finish line instead of the road in front of me, didn’t stay vulnerable with good accountability, and I wasn’t smart or consistent with my training.