IFQ – Failing My HTL – AAR

I freakin quit. In some ways, it is just that simple.

Sure, I completed a GORUCK Heavy and I fully understand that this is no small thing. But, I didn’t sign up for a Heavy. I didn’t train for a Heavy. I didn’t plan and prepare for a Heavy. I didn’t sacrifice time, energy, and money for a Heavy. I did all of that for an HTL and upon Class 131’s endex, I quit the HTL.

Click to find an HTL near you. Then DFQ!

In the moment, I felt good about my decision. It brought great relief to know that the pain and suffering was over. I was done. I could relax knowing that I didn’t need to put my ruck back on, pick up any coupons, or do any more PT.

But, with the relief came guilt. I let my T/L teams down by not even showing up. I let my buddy who was doing his first Tough down by not being there to share it with him. I let my family down by not accomplishing the goal that we had all sacrificed for me to achieve. That sucked.

Now, let me be clear. I know that my family, in reality, was not “let down” by my quitting. They were super proud of me for accomplishing the Heavy. I know that my buddy understood my decision and wasn’t “let down” when I called to tell him I was out.  Even without me there, he had a great time at his first event and crushed it.

I’m not beating myself up about it, but I think it is important to acknowledge the fact of what I did. I quit. That’s what happened.

Why did I quit? 

I think there were four main factors that lead to my quitting: PT, Mental/Emotional Exhaustion, Fear of the Unknown, and Poor Decision Timing.


I trained really hard for this event, physically. I know that PT isn’t my strong suit, but I also know that I’m no slouch either. I train in a gym with guys looking to go NSW and manage (usually) to hang with them on various WODs. But, something was different this weekend. From the very first PT test (2 min max push-ups, sit-ups, and burpees) I was not feeling it (read more in my 9/11 GORUCK Heavy AAR). I actually missed the push-up standard my first attempt (managed to get it second try). Then, every time we had PT after that, I was a mess. My triceps cramped up, my abs cramped up, my back was spasming. I managed continue to do the work, but I was struggling at every single rep. My reps were ugly and I often fell off the rep count. This played a big role in my decision to quit. I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to do another PT session.

Mental/Emotional Exhaustion

This event was a 9/11 memorial event, so all through the evening we talked about the events of that day and how they impacted us and changed our world. Every team member was required to carry a picture of someone lost in the attacks and share their story with the team.

I had LCDR David Williams on my ruck. Hearing the stories of those lost was very emotional. When it was my turn to share LCDR Williams’ story, I got chocked up and almost couldn’t even say his name. Through tears and cracking voice, I share what I had learned about him. As the event went on, the stories seemed to hit me harder and hard.

When the team finally arrived at the Pentagon Memorial (ENDEX) and Cadre told us we could go spend 10 minutes in the memorial, I knew we were done. All the emotions related to the 24 hours of physical exertion, the heat, the pain, and being in a place that honored all those that we had spent the night learning about rushed upon in an unexpected way. I began to sob. Not cry… I sobbed… for like 10 minutes. I was emotionally spent. At that moment, I didn’t believe I had the mental 0r emotional ability to continue.

Fear of the Unknown

When I thought about the next event, the number one thing that I feared was the unknown. I knew I could grind out more miles under heavy weight. That would be fine. But, would the event be PT intensive? Would we have to climb 2,071 stairs? How intense would it be emotionally? Honestly, the unknown scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t get my head right and overcome that fear to embrace whatever may come.

Poor Decision Timing

As we stood at endex, I made the call to quit. I knew I was done and not coming back. When cadre asked who was coming back, I didn’t raise my hand. An hour and a half later I was standing in the garage, completely coherent, refreshed (as one could be), and in a much better frame of mind. I really think that if I had deferred my decision by an hour or two, I “may” have decided to go to the start line. I can’t know for sure what I would have done. But, I think it was a bad idea to make the call in such a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted state. Lesson learned.


Quitting stinks. Could I have done it? Could I have pushed through the pain? Was I really as bad as I thought I was? Would the tough really have been that bad? I won’t ever know the answers. I wish I had tried… well, at least I do now.

Lessons Learned

Failing is hard, but hopefully you can learn from it. Finishing the Heavy was a big deal. It was stage 1 of 3 for the weekend. However, I allowed myself to accept the fact that, in itself, the Heavy was enough. I did “the hard” one and didn’t quit. That was accomplishment enough. But, that wasn’t the event I signed up for. It wasn’t the HTL. I think what I need to do was remember that in the moment.

But, we make our decisions and have to live with them. I’m proud of what I did in the Heavy (you can read my AAR here) and it feels great to have accomplished that feat with such a great team. Quitting the HTL hurts, as all failure does. But, I can’t let the failure hold me down. I need to accept it, learn from it, and move on. And, that’s what I plan to do.


So, want to know what DFQ looks like? Here are three men who didn’t quit the HTL. Here they are seen during the 3rd event, having put in probably over 60+ miles and going after it for nearly 48 hours. These men have my most deep respect. I’m honored that I got to share the load with them for a little while and wish I could have been there to carry this load with them. Great job, men.


Click to find an HTL near you. Then DFQ!

4 Replies to IFQ – Failing My HTL – AAR

  1. I know how you feel. I quit Murph this year. Just didn’t have it in me that day. I was beating myself up pretty bad over it until a buddy said, “99%” did nothing.

  2. Mad respect, Ryan. It’s never an easy choice, but it’s the right one when you do, in that moment, for your reasons. Sometimes, the sacrifice is for the betterment of the team. I had to drop from the 12 mile Houston Star Course back in June this year, around mile 10½. It was simply brutal. The heat got me and I knew I couldn’t go on and didn’t want to drag my team down with me, so for them, I quit. It sucked, but it was the right thing to do. It also sucked because Shredder was the lead cadre for the events, but he knew how brutal that day was. Also, priorities – was risking my health and possibly ending up in the hospital (or worse) with it? No. My family and other responsibilities are much more important than me. So yeah, quitting sucks, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

  3. I know this is an older article of yours, but very relatable to what I just went through. I just did the Marine Recon Heavy in San Clemente. It was hard AF… and I mean AF. I got through it, though, and finished my first Heavy. Admittedly, I felt like quitting at least a dozen times during the event but I kept on working, marching, and carrying heavy stuff. I don’t think I’d ever just quit and leave. The desire to quit helps me compartmentalize what’s going on and break everything into small tasks, e.g., get to that tree, focus on the ruck in front me, etc. Before I know it, my head’s back into it for another few hours.

    Similar to your experience, I made the mistake of deciding not to do the Tough WAY too soon. Yes, I was tired and my feet were sore, but they were still in good shape — no blisters and I still had all my toe nails. Didn’t matter, though. When I thought about having to climb that mountain again during the Tough (which at the time was only a guess, but they ended up climbing it), I couldn’t help but think of how bad it sucked during the Heavy.

    The thought of another welcome party on the beach and in the ocean didn’t phase me at all — I love the PT side of these events — but the thought of all that hard rucking up the mountain scared the hell out of me. You see, toward the end of the Heavy I felt my pace was slower than the rest of the crew. I’m not a fast rucker to begin with, but toward the end of the Heavy I felt like I was hanging on my a rubber band, at times. The last thing I want to be is that guy barely hanging on or appearing to be a poor teammate by not taking the heavy weight. I don’t want to be the gray man.

    So instead of just going back to the hotel to shower, eat real food, and perhaps grab a 2-hour nap, I just noped right out of the Tough as I received my Heavy patch. I should have decided from the get-go to not make any decision until AFTER the shower and with some real food in me. Definitely should have at least showed up to give it a go. Yeah, I would have wanted to quit during the event as climbed that mountain again, but I likely wouldn’t have. Live and learn.

    1. Paul: You slayed that Heavy. You were an excellent teammate and earned that patch. FYI on the Tough – they climbed a different mountain in the middle of the night: 1st Sgt’s Hill, it is a beast, but worth every step.
      THANK YOU for coming to SoCal for the Marine Heavy. Hope you come back for the Recon bolts!

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