Combat Fitness Test…
Yesterday I completed my first ever Combat Fitness Test. The CFT. 8 miles in 2 hours with weight. In this case 25 kg of weight split between a bergan rucksack and carrying a rifle.
And it is hard. We are doing it to the Combat Infantryman Standard, as we will be out in Afghan working with the infantry, going on patrols with the infantry, so no matter of service, age or even gender we all carried the same weight and went at the same pace and completed the same distance. And I realised that for me I was carrying a third of my bodyweight. But then a couple of the girls who are on the teams were carrying more than that. Probably close to half their body weight.
It is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done, both physically and mentally. It pushed me to my breaking point, so much that I actually thought I would break. Going up one particularly sharp hill I felt like my lungs were making a break for freedom on their own by heading for one of my body openings – in fact aiming for all of them at the same time. And this was only about 3 miles into it. My feet, by the end, were not just sore but felt like searing hot burning plates each time I placed a foot. My toe on my right foot actually felt numb.
And this was only the physical pain. The mental pain was just as bad. At one stage, when I was literally staggering up a track that had been muddied by a tank or armoured personnel carrier or something, I actually doubted that I could get to the safety vehicle that was following the 40 or so of us, let alone make it up the hill and round to the end of the route. I doubted everything I had ever done. From volunteering for this deployment (and it’s associated training) through to actually joining the RAF.
This is no hyperbole. This is no exaggeration. I though that I would never do it. I thought that the distance, the speed (5.4mph at one stage), the weight, the hills, the mud…everything, would club together and would kill me. When your breathing sounds like a steam train running dry and your leg, back and neck muscles are screaming at you…it takes something to make you carry on.
You see, I am the sort of chap who can quite easily do himself down. Yes, I know I am an NLP practitioner, and I know all about ‘self-limiting beliefs’ and all that, but I honestly, genuinely and completely believed that what I did was beyond me. I have always succumbed to the pain, given in, made it easy, done just enough…but today I gave everything I had, and just about managed to do it. Hell, I did do it.
And yet I don’t feel proud of myself. I have no right to be. Or so I thought. I got to talking to the fantastic and great Lisa Lynch – the real person behind the blog, book (and soon to be film) ‘Alrighttit’. Writer, editor, blogger and breast cancer survivor.
I said to her that I held her in even more awe than before for her going through what she went through, simply because of the pain and struggle it must have been. You see as I said, I went through pain and struggle but I could choose to give up. She had no choice, because if she had given up then, well, she wouldn’t be around right now. In a way I am ashamed of my self when all the people over on Twitter had congratulated me for doing something that is essentially my job. To be fit enough to fight is my job.
In all I just felt, that because others had completed the CFT in better form than I, people who are older, people who are smaller, then I shouldn’t be congratulated.
And Lisa came back with words of wisdom that made me think again. She said she was more proud of doing mundane things than any of the ‘Bullshit’ (as her lovely turn of phrase about the whole Breast Cancer thing is.) And she reminded me that comparisons is a dangerous game and that I should be proud. And proud because I chose to do it and chose to carry on when I could have given up.
And as much as it irks me to say that a Derby fan is right, well, she’s right. Damn her. I shouldn’t compare myself to others. That way leads only to madness. Mine. And it’s not good for me.
The only comparisons we should make is with ourselves. We should gauge ourselves against ourselves. Comparing to others…well, sod that, as there will always be someone faster, stronger, quicker, cleverer than ourselves. So what. There are people on our teams that are fitter. There are people who are brighter. There are people who will always do more and better than we.
But then it doesn’t matter, because that’s why teams exist isn’t it. That’s why we did the CFT as a team. Because not everyone will be stronger and fitter in everything we do. And it’s that balance of talents and skills that makes teams work.
So, having taken the advice of someone who has been through far more than I, I am going to be proud of myself for once. I wasn’t looking forward to the CFT because I thought I wouldn’t get through it, and yet I actually did. I have put in a lot of work over the past 6 months and that has paid off, because despite what the others did, 6 months ago, there is no way on God’s earth that I could have completed it then.
I am proud of myself for completing it, but this is just one more step along the way of the whole Afghan adventure. I will be proud of myself, completely when it is all over and I have come home having completed the full tour out there.