The moment Kenny dropped, I knew what was happening. I yelled to those in closest range to hold up, and they in turn yelled down the line until everyone got the message.
Rick began instructing Kenny how to properly stretch his seizing calf. I began vigorously massaging it from behind. Kenny kept saying two words which he desperately wanted us all to believe. “I’m fine.”
But see, being part of a team means not believing a fellow teammate (for the moment, at least) when they utter those words. Being a part of a team means forcing each other to take the time we need so that we can finish what we all set out to do. Nobody minded waiting for Kenny because we all knew that an extra minute or two now would mean that he would make it in the end, and jumping back into it too quickly would mean that he wouldn’t. It was that simple.
After he had been properly stretched and massaged, I looked up. I hadn’t even noticed that the entire group was now standing in a tight circle, many of them had backtracked to get to us. Where Rick and I were offering physical support, the group was offering the far more important support of making sure Kenny was laughing and that Kenny knew we were all good with what was happening.
And together, we all kept walking, straight to the obstacle that many in our group feared the most. “Arctic Enema.”
Arctic Enema is a giant container full of… ice water. An entire moving truck full of ice was parked next to it, and volunteers poured in bag, after bag, after bag . You see, a little ice wasn’t enough. No, they wanted a solid foot or more of ice floating on top. And then they wanted us all to jump in, swim under the wall which divided the container in half, and emerge from the other side.
We paired up in twos or threes, and we all took our turn, one at a time, getting through it.
One by one, each person who had claimed it as their fear, conquered it. And then it was our turn.
Kenny, Brett (the new member of our team) and I climbed to the edge. We counted to three. And we jumped.
I don’t think I completed any obstacle on the course as perfectly as I performed the Arctic Enema. With one perfect leap, I flew through the air almost completely to the barrier, I sunk below the ice, I came out the other side, and I quickly pulled myself out and to the edge. I barely felt the water at all.
Brett soon followed.
But Kenny never surfaced.
Still no Kenny.
We waited some more.
Still no Kenny.
“Where’s Kenny?!” I said as I fell back into the icy water, ready to go diving for my missing comrade. I knew he had jumped off with us. I had seen his feet leave the platform.
Just before I went under, the volunteer shouted at me, “he’s coming! He’s coming!” So I trusted him and climbed back out, ready to help Kenny up.
Sure enough, Kenny emerged on our side of the divider and we were able to get him up and over the edge. Kenny would tell us later that when he hit the water, his mind went blank and his muscles all stopped working. He was frozen in place, not sure of what to do.
Others had similar experiences at Arctic Enema. Some members of our team were laughing when they emerged. Some were crying. Some were relieved. Some were in hysterics.
But we all made it. All of us.
And we walked.
It was a mile or so before we hit our next obstacle where we would tear our hands up and strain our shoulders on the “Mudder Wheelbarrow,” an obstacle where our partners picked up our feet and we walked on our hands to the end of the obstacle.
Then… We arrived at “Berlin Walls.”
These were the tallest walls we had arrived at yet. 10 feet by my best estimate. The only way to get hold of the top ledge was to run and jump or to climb up onto a small ledge built in at the bottom with 2x4s. Even then, most people’s arms failed to reach the top at all, let alone pull themselves up and over it. This would definitely be one big team effort.
And then I made the biggest mistake that I made on the entire course.
I didn’t think Kenny could do it.
I never told him that. I never told anyone that. I just assumed he’d skip this one and walk around to the other side. There was no way. No way in hell. This one was too high. It was too much. He was too depleted. At that point he had already had his second major Charlie Horse.
And as I stood looking the wall over, and as I watched others start to clear the wall, I decided my place on the team was best served at the top.
With something to prove to myself, I forwent the boosts, and found my own way to the top using the side rails and stability rails. I parked myself up top and waited for the next person who needed a hand up.
“I want to try it,” I heard from below. It was Kenny. “I don’t know if I can do it, but I want to try.”
My heart sank. There was no way.
And as many other members of the team unquestionably rushed to help Kenny make it happen, my heart sank further.
I hadn’t believed in my teammate.
Of course there was a way.
With this team. There was always a way.