Last year was phenomenal in terms of events completed and physical and mental growth. I pushed hard and overcame significant injuries along the way to do some things that meant a lot.

In June I quit the Death Race. My Achilles tendon on my right leg became badly sprained and through severely painful Graston therapy I went from barely walking to 4 weeks later sitting in a restaurant in Florida eagerly anticipating the start of Selection 000. My and my classes story from 000 is elsewhere but suffice to say I finished despite some horrific feet and learned a lot about myself.

From that moment, I pushed harder and harder. I completed a lot of back to back challenges, pushed heavy in the gym and resorted to rookie young man mistakes.
In October, while progressing through 5×5 I let pride overtake sense and on rep 3 of a lift I felt a twinge in my back on the back squat. I decided to finish the set. The pain was unbearable, and took a day to dissipate. A few weeks later I was back in the squat rack none-the-worse when during a warm-up someone knocked the bar mid-squat and electric bolts shot through my spine.

Why is this relevant? Read on.

There is a saying in the stock market “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. At this point I should have sought help, put together a plan for rehabilitation and perhaps slowed down. Instead I took a couple of weeks off but kept my Goruck challenge schedule. In DC sometime later under the watch of Cadre Lou my back gave out under the log. I was hurt.

But again, I was stupid. My desire to do a cold weather Goruck Selection to balance 000 was strong and nothing would get in the way. I relied too much on my past performance to get me through, but I was no longer the same athlete. While I changed my training to strengthen and protect my back, I never sought professional advice or got an x-ray or MRI. I was working on assumptions. I was scared that something would show that would batter or slow a dream.

Fast forward to December of 2012. Selection 001. I was quietly confident, I had rested and my back had not hurt in a few weeks BUT I still hadn’t gotten a diagnosis.
Selection 001 commenced. I was smiling. I was ready. The PT test went okay – situps sucked when my leg cramped but I was strong enough for the pushups and for the running. Various evolutions happened and I was never first but certainly never close to last. Walking and running under load was comfortable. The insane amount of PT in the hayfield sucked but was still not a major issue. Getting in the cold cold water was actually fun. I felt in my element.

A LOT of stuff happened in the first 12-14 hours but people were dropping left and right. I was smiling as much as I dared, and life was good despite over half the field being gone already. At the end of one movement, a straggler was getting all kinds of new hell while we rested. I drank my chia water, tiredness was not an issue and I felt great. The temperature was not an issue for me like it appeared for some although I was sure that would change at some point in my future.

Somewhere at the 14 hour mark, not even 1/3 of the way into the event, we each got a rock or log to carry like a baby. At this point I cannot even recall which I got. All I know is that it was heavy and when I hoisted it up something happened at my SI joint on the right side.The pain was really sharp. I adjusted, sucked it up and started moving hoping it would dissipate. It did not. When the pace picked up (thanks Garet and Devin) the constant jolt as we moved made things worse and for my little legs the pace was too fast to pace it out. I was done. I was bargaining with myself. I knew that we were too early in this movement for it to be over soon. I thought ahead to the Winter Death Race in just a few weeks. I made the call.

I had told myself ahead of each of these events that if I were to ever quit I would make no fanfare. I would bring no negativity to my fellow candidates/races. Because of this I did what I thought was right. I slipped to the side, let the group move past me and told Devin I was out. I discarded my weight and started the walk of shame to a place where I could be collected by cadre. Nobody saw this, but I will admit I cried on this walk – and started to doubt my decision to quit. In hindsight it was the right thing to do and starting was the wrong thing to have done. X-rays later that week showed that one of my vertebrae was severely twisted, and additional diagnosis showed a lot of scar tissue in the muscles of my lower back on the right side. Fortunately discs were in good shape and no irreparable damage was evident.

The take away from this is that a lot of us have an inner drive that can get us through a lot, but at the end of the day we also need to train and live smart and listen to our bodies when they tell us something. Starting for GRS001 was an error of judgment and one that I have vowed not to repeat. For example I will go and do a GRC and sometimes say “fuck you” to the Webb Rule imposed by Jason last December if I know it will be of detriment (for reference, the “Webb Rule” is that I need to carry a 75lb ruck to every challenge – usual load out is 35-40lb)

I will add that I have learned more about myself and gotten more insight into my strengths and weaknesses from quitting 001 than I ever got from completing 000. And that alone makes it worth the attempt.

It seems appropriate to leave you with this quote :

“Quitting is not giving up, it’s choosing to focus your attention on something more important. Quitting is not losing confidence, it’s realizing that there are more valuable ways you can spend your time. Quitting is not making excuses, it’s learning to be more productive, efficient and effective instead. Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength.” ― Osayi Osar-Emokpae, Impossible Is Stupid

4 thoughts on “Quit While You Are Ahead – Selection 001

    • I used the book and video series. It wasn’t until I found a good Physical Therapist for my back though that I recognized the right way to do some of the Foundation training poses.


  1. Mark, Could you explain what you did to rehab your back so quickly? I am just getting into these kinds of races and my joints knees, arms, and back have been fatigued through out them.
    any advice would be helpful


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