Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mud In Interesting Places

Two months ago, I signed up to do a little race called The Warrior Dash.  At the time, I thought it would be a fun diversion from my normal fitness routine.  Although I was in pretty good shape at the time, I decided to use this race as a motivator to push myself further than I had ever pushed before.  And boy, did I.

Eight weeks of hard training brought me to this day.  In those weeks, I found out more about myself than I ever have before.  And yes, I'm aware of how touchy feel-y that sounds, but it's true.  At the time I started training, I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and not feeling very good about myself.  Eight weeks later, I have pushed myself to the brink, and am feeling pretty bad@ss.

"Before."  By all means, look anywhere but at the camera, kids.

The race was long.  I was running 5K's three times a week by the end of my training, so I figured I had the running part down pat.  What I didn't count on, however, was how much longer a 5K is when it's littered with insanity.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I started finding parallels between this race and my crazy, spectrum-y life.

I took off on my merry little way with the rest of the pack at the starting horn, fighting my way around the herd to try to get in a comfortable position.  When I was able to open it up, I felt great.

Until the first mud pit.  The crafty bastards who had designed this course had provided a handy little map on their website detailing all of the obstacles.  What they neglected to mention was that there were mud pits everywhere along the way.  Unmarked mud pits.

Lesson 1: Surprises are everywhere.

Soon enough, I was waist deep in water, slogging along with everyone else.  I learned pretty quickly to watch the guy in front of me very carefully.  He stood about 6'2", but invariably managed to step in every huge sinkhole there was, suddenly shrinking to an abrupt 5'0."  Which happened to be my entire height, so I considered it the better part of wisdom to navigate very carefully around this guy's trajectory.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to those who have gone before you.  It could well mean the difference between a manageable path and a needlessly difficult one.

Several mud pits were followed by several more extremely steep hills, and the necessity of getting up those steep hills while covered in sludge.  Yeah.  This was still before the first "official" obstacle.

Much as I was hard-headed and wanted to do this on my own, one kind-hearted guy offered me a hand up midway through the second ridiculously steep hill.  Gratefully, I took it.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you'll need a hand up--and when you need it, take it.

The thing about going up all those hills?  It means you have go go down a long way, too.  Which leads me to lesson #4, learned when I slid none-too-gracefully for about ten feet downhill, before landing unceremoniously on my behind.  The guy next to me burst out laughing, then lent me a hand up.

Lesson 4: People along your way will be there for you when you make an ass out of yourself.  I mean, they'll laugh at you first, but they'll be there for you afterward.

After that was a series of obstacles that were completely handle-able.

Crawling under barbed wire: Check.  Being little comes in handy here, since others army crawled, while I just cruised with the wire inches above my head.  TAKE THAT TALL, LONG-LEGGED MODEL TYPES.

Swimming through more muddy water, topped by traversing a catamaran: check.  I think you were supposed to trudge through the mud, but I was little enough to just swim, so I did a merry little dog paddle, and it worked for me.

Tightrope walking: Check.  My sense of direction may be crap, but I can balance with the best of them.  I practically ran across that sucker.

Then came the wall climb.  When I saw that thing, I realized they really hadn't been kidding when they'd required me to sign that death waiver.  It was twenty feet tall, accessible only by rope, with nary a net or cushion-y patch of grass on the other side.  Just dirt.  Two girls in front of me got two feet up, then bailed and walked around it.

Which only fueled my stubbornness.  I was going up that rope, dammit.

This is where being little comes in decidedly un-handy.  Said rope was apparently knotted by a man who did not take into account pint-sized women who might be running the course, and the knots were easily farther apart then my arm-span.  Don't ask me how I got to the top of that wall, but I soon found myself looking down at a very vertical drop on the other side.  And still no net.  There was no backing out then.

Hauling myself over that wall, and down the other side was one of the scariest things I've ever done.  I'm not at all afraid of heights, but this is hard to remember when you're twenty feet in the air and trying to figure out how you're going to haul your body over a two inch ledge, when the only rope you have is strapped to the other side, and therefore inaccessible.  Add to this that the same idiot who knotted the rope for a 6'2" guy also built the slats for going down with a long-legged Amazon in mind.

So what did I do?  I teetered and prayed my way over the wall, then dropped the @#$%^ difference between me and the Amazon's leg length.  The whole way down, for every slat.

Scariest thing ever?  Yep.

But I freaking flew the next stretch out to the beach, I felt so great.

Lesson #5: Scary things are possible, when you commit to them.

Next came the Teetering Traverse, a deceptively innocent-sounding name for what turned out to be a teeny-tiny ramp raised about ten feet off of the ground, which I was expected to navigate without plunging to certain debilitating injury.  I started out on it, and the guy coming behind me promptly muttered, "This just became a lot less fun."

Indeed, sir.

At the end of the ramp's drunken path, instead of a nice easy dismount, there was yet another drop, just slightly less than vertical.  At this point, though, after the wall and the stupid traverse, I said screw it, and just ran down the whole damned thing.

Lesson 6: Sometimes it's better not to think too hard.  Just do it.

More tough obstacles followed, but at a certain point, I started feeling like I could really do this.  These kinds of competitions had always been for other people, "extreme" sports people.  Not me.

But this was me.  I had already done more than I ever thought I'd be able to do, and not for a second had I stopped pushing myself, or given myself any excuse to stop or hold back.

I had been getting in my own way for a while now, but not today.  Today my kids were going to see me not just crossing the finish line, but running across it.

And that I did.  After hopping over cars, jumping across a fire pit, climbing (and descending) a twenty-foot wall, covering 3.5 muddy ground miles, and swimming through a barbed-wire infested mud pit, I ran across that line.  I accepted my medal, and my stupid hat.  I placed 224 out of 1234 women in my age group, with a time of 51:33.

And then I went and celebrated me.

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