I don’t like to run.
People who do, maybe, possibly have something wrong with them, in my opinion.
Maybe if someone is chasing me I would want to do it more? The 5K where zombies chase runners called “Run for Your Lives” sounds interesting.
Or maybe I’m just jealous of those “run lovers.” Yep, that’s a thing, look it up.
There’s a movie called What Women Want where Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson are in an ad agency pitching a campaign about women’s running shoes. The creative is all about the deep need women have for running and what it means. They can’t live without it. Running is where they can really be who they are. It makes them who they are.
If that’s true, I’m lazy, undisciplined and slow.
Well, that may be true.
Whenever I run by myself I get a good pace, listen to good music and inevitably get distracted by a new for sale sign on a neighbor’s house, nice landscaping or a cloud that looks like a penguin and I stop. Squirrel!
The irony is the last 9 months of Crossfit have built my endurance to the point where I don’t stop because I’m dying from lack of oxygen. I quit because I can.
“Marathons are boring,” I said, reading the website copy in my most sincere tone. “But running 12 miles with 27 obstacles designed by the British Special Forces sounds like fun!”
Jason looked at me as he does frequently; like I’m completely crazy.
But we did it and we have the battle scars, bruises and awkwardly painful strides to prove it. I also learned a few things…even though I was in Ohio.
Here’s what I learned from my transformation into a Tough Mudder: 10 lessons on overcoming fears in the mud:
- Input equals output…usually. We joined a team of people from Crossfit Brighton and proceeded to fit in not-long-enough runs when we could. We were, however, very disciplined with our regular WOD’seach week.
What surprised me the most about my training is the lack of it. I never ran more than 3 miles. In fact I’ve never run more than maybe 5 in my entire life! Until this past Sunday when I ran 12 through the most intense mud, hills and obstacles I’ve ever experienced. How is that possible? Read on…
- To have and to hold from this obstacle forward. I get nervous about tight spaces..claustrophobia I guess is the technical term. When Tough Mudder posted this sneak preview photo of the course called Kinky Tunnels (yes that’s a tiny underground tunnel that requires crawling through), I realized I should be more worried about that then how my lack of cardio could push me for 12 miles. When we got to this one, I told Jason I would take the short route around, but he said he was right there with me. The Mudder in front of me talked me through it and when he finished, Jason just kept me sane. I suppose there are a lot of romantic lovey thing I could say about having a great partner and how this obstacle is like life, but really, being married is just super cool.
- “Community” is more than just a great TV show or a noun, it’s also a verb. In a job where “people” are my business, I’m amazingly hermit-like and unsociable as my default setting. But as an old client used to say, “People are basically good and when given the opportunity will do the right thing.” There’s nothing cooler than seeing complete strangers wreck themselves to help each other over a 12 foot wood wall. Most obstacles are designed so people have to help each other, including a jumping up a half pipe in one called “Everest.”
- Sometimes it’s not about the race, but the journey. At the beginning Mudders have to recite a pledge promising that it’s not about the finishing time, but about helping each other out to finish and to do so as a team. The point isn’t having a good finish time, the point is to enjoy the process of finishing, at least as much enjoyment as you can get out of pain!
- Having a team is good. I only knew a few of my team members before the big day, but struggling for 3+ hours through mud, cold and terrifying obstacles with names like Arctic Enema, Twinkle Toes and Walk the Plank, will bond us for life. I’d go into any Zombie Apocalypse with these people as long as their strategy isn’t for me to get eaten first. Right? Guys?
- Some fears we can get past, others, can be faced and in doing so will make us stronger. Based on my claustrophobia I already mentioned, I was completely nervous leading up to the race about the tunnel-type obstacles. Not the fact that I’d NEVER run 12 miles in my life, nope tight spaces get me. I overcame that, but it was the adult-onset fear of heights which got me from the top of Walk the Plank where we had to jump 20 feet (it felt like skydiving from up there) into cold, quarry water. I proudly took the walk of shame back down – and I was okay with it since another nameless very fit, strong Mudder on my team did the same thing! At least I’m aware of my weaknesses which as every good job applicant says in an interview ”only add to my strong character.”
- People are good, but also gross. Never underestimate how gross it can be for 20,000 people to descend on a small town in one weekend. While it was nice seeing a former automotive plant used for something as economically impactful as parking our cars, the porta-johns were disgusting as well as the race “shrapnel” we found along the way with empty gooo packets, banana peels and heat blankets strewn throughout the course. Since this was my first race of this kind, that may be normal…
- Have a clear goal in mind and truly focus on it. Before the race I fluctuated between complete horror at what I signed up to do and excitement that maybe I could do it. So after the 12 miles we finally made it to the last obstacle, the “Electroshock Therapy,” a field of live wires carrying 10,000 volts of electricy. We decided to link arms and go through as a team. However, my intense focus at seeing the finish line meant I left behind my awesome team member Ken in a mud puddle after he got zapped. As he so eloquently put it, “Kara, you didn’t even look back to make sure I was okay.”
- What gets written gets done. Or in my case, my telling people about it shamed me into not backing out. So many people sent encouraging text messages and calls before the race there’s no way I could have been one of the many who don’t finish. My lesson here: tell someone your challenges and they can encourage you to do it!
- Don’t overlook the small details. When your motivation through the tough part of the course is the free beer at the end, remember how you’ve gone gluten free for 2 months and the beer isn’t Red Bridge! I got half way through my cup before I had to give it away. Ouch! Similarly, when you reserve a hotel room and receive a confirmation the day before, take the extra step to confirm the day of to ensure your room isn’t given away in an overbooking situation forcing you to burst into mud stained tears when the front desk clerk says there’s no room at the inn. But because of point #5, our team let us use their showers until clearer heads prevailed to readdress the situation. Thanks Mike and Nicole!
So that’s it… what I learned. Also, ensure you wash your clothes several times. Gross!
All in all, it was one of the most fun, challenging experiences I’ve ever hard. Sign up for one near you!