Monday, March 18, 2013

Warrior Dash - November 10, 2012

When Ray first started running with our friend Shannon, he said he really wanted to run a mud run. He could give or take road races, but he wanted the opportunity to challenge himself on obstacles, and get dirty like a kid again.

In November 2012, we had just that opportunity when we saw that Warrior Dash was going to be putting on an event 20 minutes from our house, and it fit into my half marathon training schedule.

I had thought long and hard about what I was going to wear to the race. I didn't want to wear nice running clothes because... well... mud. I knew I had to wear sleeves because I have some sensitivity to the sun (read: my skin burns so bad it turns blue if I am in the sun for more than 5 minutes with anything less than 50 SPF). And I had always thought if I was going to do anything like this, I wanted to do it princess style.

It was all settled on a trip home to see my family in October, when in the back of my old closet, I found my hideous taffeta gown that all members of our high school chorus were required to wear. On a whim, I tried the dress on, and realized that I had lost enough weight that it fit me once again...

And it was just as hideous as I had remembered.

With a little butchering across the bottom, it made a perfect outfit for crawling through pits of mud, swimming through storm drains, climbing over busted out cars, and hurdling over fire.

gotta be a cute girl in a dress?
eff that! RAWRRRR!

So we got to the race a little early. I had worked out an arrangement with a promotions company for another series of road races, and in exchange for free entry into one of his upcoming races, I spent a couple of hours wandering around the parking lot putting flyers on cars to promote their upcoming events. You'll hear more about this in a later blog entry (I promise), but just know that not everyone who is out there tossing flyers on cars is a jerk with nothing better to do. Some of us do this to help offset our own race entries (which we all know can be really expensive).... but I digress.

After passing close to 3,000 flyers, Ray and I returned to the Jeep, and got ready for the run. I had heard previously that people frequently get rocks in their shoes during mud runs, and that using a little duct tape around the tops of your socks can help alleviate this problem... so we duct taped away. I had some really cute hot pink duct tape, that you can kind of see in this photo.

Once I was taped up, we went to the pre-race party and listened to the bands and watches people make their way through the final 2 obstacles: a series of leaps over flaming logs, then a mud pit crawl underneath barbed wire. The mud was really liquidy, and it looked like a lot of fun, and we could wait.

At 2:30, it was time for our corral to go. The first mile was uneventful, as it went around the side of a lake. It seemed that the obstacles were really all compressed into the last 2 miles instead of being evenly spaced out, and I seemed to be handling them fairly well.

The 4th obstacle was the "leaders ledge"  (click the link to see someone else's photo of what this obstacle looks like to better understand), which proved to be very tricky. As we were in queue to try this obstacle, a girl managed to lose her grip and fall the 3 feet into the pit below. Because it was mid-afternoon and we were in South Florida heat, the water that should have been in the pit had dried up, there was nothing to cushion this girl's fall and we heard her head smack on the limestone below. It was enough to really scare me... but not enough for me to sit it out.

There wasn't a lot of space for my feet on the ledge and I clearly lack the upper body strength to hold on by my fingertips. I tried as best I could but when I got about 3/4 of the way accross, I lost my grip. Unwilling to risk serious injury, I let go, rather than fall. When I landed, my foot rolled slightly, but I shook it off and climbed out to the other side.

Ray made it through like a boss... and I was so proud of him!

Immediately after this obstacle, we had to climb a vertical wall using rope pulls. Again, I knew I lacked the upper body strength to pull myself up, but I had to give it a try. I made it about halfway up the wall, before losing my footing and falling to the ground. This time, I didn't have the time to prepare for the fall, and I rolled my left ankle. Immediately, I felt it begin to swell and throb.

Ray wanted to call medical, but I just wanted to finish.

I don't know what came over me. I was hurt. Every last ounce of my body wanted to give up and let the medical team cart me to the finish line. I wanted to pack it in, go home, take my toys, not pass go, get into bed and hope that this terrible horrible no good very bad day would soon be over.... but none of that actually happened.

Instead, I asked Ray to help me to my feet, and I began to hobble along the trail to toward the next obstacle (a series of balance beams), then the next (a sand crawl), and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next.

And before I knew it, we were face to face with the final two obstacles and the finish line. I took a couple of quick puffs on my inhaler, pulled my bandana down over my nose and mouth and (as gently as possible) limped over the flaming logs and followed ray into the mud crawl.

Unfortunately, as the day wore on, the texture and consistency of the mud changed. Whereas the mud had seemed soupy and fun earlier in the day when we were watching people cross the pit, by the time we got there, it had turned to a mix between quicksand and quick-set cement. Two steps in, and I started to sink and get stuck. The bottom floor of the mud pit was uneven limestone and with a twisted ankle, I couldn't quite get my feet underneath me. I was less than 10 feet from the finish line, but suddenly it felt like it might as well have been as far away as Montana.

The more I struggled to free myself, the more stuck I would get. I felt like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story. No matter what I did, I just couldn't free myself. My hands and knees were scratching on the rough stone at the bottom of the pit, my ankle was on fire, I was struggling so hard I couldn't catch my breath, and I watched Ray pull himself out of the end of the pit and start reaching for me. He was coming back for me... and it felt awesome to know he was there to help me when I needed it...

But I also recognized that some obstacles I just have to overcome by myself.

I was probably the last person on the course, and there was a large audience crowded around the pit watching. I could hear the crowd cheering me on, telling me I could do it, motivating me. I inhaled deeply, and with every last fiber of my being, I pushed my body forward. And then I did it again.

After finishing, I finally got some much needed med treatment

And my feet were suddenly underneath me. And I felt Ray's hand close around mine, as I pulled myself up.

Hand in hand, we crossed the finish in 1:11:20.95. But to me, the time wasn't important.

I finished.

And when I got really stuck, I didn't take the easy way out.

For once in my life, I didn't give up.

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