On Friday for my Photo a Day project, taken at the Cave of Hercules, I mused, “I wonder what labors I will have to endure to deserve this type of view.” On Saturday I found out.
It is now Sunday evening and it hurts to type this. Just breathing is laborious. Yet somehow I am determined to get this post up.
My “breaking spring” week toured 4 cities in 10 days. I didn’t realize how prescient I was being in my pun nor post. From Edinburgh to Lisbon to Tangier to Madrid, my friends and I had a whirlwind but epicly fun set of adventures. If you’re wondering, it is really by dint of cheap flights and happy accidental finds that we set our itinerary.
On the way we shared lots of laughter and beautiful vistas, each locale trying to best the last for the ultimate experience. I completely fell in love with Tangier.
The camel ride under a double rainbow might have something to do with my newfound love of Africa.
Yet I also just enjoyed being in such a different, bustling, alive place. We kept looking at each other and saying “is this real life?!” It was with sadness that we left after just 48hours. I am quietly ruminating on how to get back there for an extended visit/stay.
The week culminated hooking up with friends in Madrid yesterday. When we booked our tickets we found that it was cheaper to have a one day layover in Madrid on the weekend then to fly back to Florence. Then I found out there happened to be a GoRuck Challenge scheduled for that same day with two of my buddies from previous challenges participating. I love these events but given my most recent history, I thought about simply playing photographer. But I was cajoled into full-on participating by said “buddies.”
So after 9 days of travel to 2 new countries and a new continent for me, I found myself Rucking up at 7am on Saturday morning with a group of Spaniards. I’m rereading that sentence over and over, trying to figure out who wrote it. Is this really my life?
My aching muscles say “yes” but my brain still can’t quite wrap my mind around it.
After another few days and more sleep maybe I’ll have the words to describe how tough this one was for me. I wasn’t well rested, fueled or mentally prepared for it. After being concerned about finding bricks, I was carrying far too much weight in the form of a dumpster-find stone and team-provided sand. 4 Challenges in 4 different countries and I’ll say definitively was by far the hardest (we had 5 drops out of the class, I hadn’t experienced one previously).
Oh and 95% of the class was from the same Crossfit gym and spoke almost entirely in Spanish. GoRuck is about building a team and, while I made friends with a few of the others, wordlessly commiserating with the few other women especially, the language barrier meant that in addition to a physically demanding challenge, it was a mentally and emotionally isolating experience. That is all to say it was a tough one.
Just as it was for Tough Guy, it was my buddies — this time my friends Rob and Filip — that pulled me through.
The path of heroes
They encouraged with their laughter. They provided salt and a few winks when I desperately needed it. They spurred me on with their goading and chiding. Filip said at one point, when I was shaking from cold and exhaustion but refused to give up my Ruck, “she would rather die then show me weakness.” Damn straight.
Most of all, these two unbelievable men set an example that I tried to live up to. I don’t know how each managed to carry the stone that he did but if they were able to, darn if I was going to let them down. Getting updates on the first woman who ultimately completed GoRuck Selection from cadre helped significantly too. And she did the latter half completely alone.
“Inspiration” doesn’t begin to cover Paige nor the reminders that the cadre and our men and women in uniform do such “challenges” and more day-to-day with real life and death on the line.
While I might have felt isolated, I might have hurt, I might have had it tough, I knew I was ultimately making the choice to be there.
There were times I was trapped in my own body/head/emotions and those were the worst times. The better times — the best times — were looking out from under the brim of my hat and seeing friendly faces sharing the same experiences.
Really, the same went for the whole week.
It was shared laughter that made the camel ride truly epic. It was shared support that made the foreign comfortable. It was having a friend to tell me “yes this is real life” that made all the experiences real.
For my friends I am eternally grateful.
My body rebels at the idea of taking on the next challenge but I will be back rucking up, this time in Dublin, in less than 2 weeks. There again I will be amongst friends, some new, some old, some somewhere in between. Being amongst them is worth the labor.
We are united by common purpose and will — by shared experiences. They are my crazy tribe. I am filled with gratitude that I found them and can be in their company.
Spring officially is broken.
Go. Find friends who make you better and enjoy life multiplied.