“Alea, why did you write ‘WE have to pee?’ You should have written ‘the GIRLS have to pee.’”
Coach was critiquing his wife’s hurriedly made sign on our drive to West Virginia to run the Mid Atlantic Region Tough Mudder.
“Sorry, Gary. You’re in a car full of women. ‘WE have to pee,’ is pretty accurate.” She leaned across him to press the handmade sign to the driver’s-side window in an attempt to catch the attention of the rest of our group in the car next to us (the one full of men).
About an hour and a half into the drive, we suddenly realized that the only phones with any of the guys’ numbers in them were safely locked away in the trunk of the car. But a certain member of our group (not me, for once!), who had gotten a bit overenthusiastic about staying hydrated before the race, was in desperate need of a pee break.
I wasn’t going to complain. I’m ALWAYS in need of a pee break. And the fact that I couldn’t stop laughing wasn’t making the situation any easier to deal with.
Once we actually arrived at our destination, I was starting to feel a bit more serious. It was cold. Really cold. I’m guessing the temperature was hovering somewhere around low to mid 50s, but the wind made it feel arctic. And that was with all my clothes ON.
We’d been strategizing about what to wear for almost a week before the event. The problem was that there really wasn’t ANYTHING appropriate to wear. Either you wore clothes to keep you warm and ended up being wet (and, therefore, cold), or you wore less clothes in order to stay dry and end up being cold because you were half naked. This was the route I chose: dry(ish) and half (or mostly) naked.
I started off in spandex shorts and a tank top. (I also had a chapstick in my bra. Remember that. It will come up later.) Now, I work out in spandex shorts quite a lot, but I always wear some other shorts overtop because spandex has a distinct habit of riding waaayy up my legs and not covering much of anything at all. I was feeling a little self conscious at first, but thankfully, I wasn’t the only one with the spandex idea. Leanne and I became the self-designated ‘hoochie mamas’ of CrossFit ReVamped. That’s cool. We owned it. Showing a little too much thigh was about to become the least of our worries.
I would write a blow-by-blow for each of the 12 miles and 20 obstacles, but to be honest, my brain seems to have blocked a fair amount of it out; that race was the most fun I’ve had and the most miserable I’ve been in quite a while. Besides, as the others so succinctly put it on the drive home: “There are no words to describe what we just did.” I’ll just try to hit on a few of the highlights, but this post may turn into a novel anyway.
STARTING LINE: There is something intoxicating about chanting “I do not fear pain,” with the dozens (hundreds?) of other people in your start wave who are just crazy enough to want to do something like this with you. Although, I believe a few of us may have slipped up on the “I will not complain,” part of that mantra throughout the course of our day. Also, the phrase “mental grit” stuck with me. I would need it later.
INJURY: Whoops. I didn’t make it very far into the course before this one happened. We were all feeling pretty fearless heading into the second obstacle. I mean, we had made it through the first one, right? What could possibly happen to us during the next 12 miles and five hours that we couldn’t manage? While we were industriously climbing over a set of mud walls (they actually looked more like really tall humps, but that sounds much less cool) I reached up for a hand and two of our big, strong crossfit guys reached down to pull me up and over.
I felt something familiar ripping in my right shoulder. It’s already in a state of semi-permanent dislocation, so I tend to injure it on a regular basis. Of course, I immediately started yelling my head off and making a regular scene.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Let me go! Just let go!”
As soon as they dropped me, I felt significantly better. But I think I gave poor Bill a heart attack, since he was the one who had hold of my right arm.
“Oh my gosh, are you okay? What did I do to your arm?”
I assured them that it happened all the time, offering up the story about how I had once hurt my shoulder getting dressed in the morning, and held out just my left arm instead.
I figure getting yourself hurt on the second of 20 obstacles must be some sort of a record, but adrenaline is a hell of a pain killer, and I let the boys pretty much pick me up and throw me over most of the walls we came to after that. Yeah, my friends can do that. They’re pretty awesome.
WET AND COLD: Around mile three, we had to jump into water off a 20-foot platform. Not that we hadn’t already gotten pretty wet, but this was our first time getting soaked through. The cold suddenly became much colder and the wind much windier. This was the point at which I decided to ditch all modesty and chuck my shirt. I was now running the race in spandex shorts and a bra in order TO STAY WARMER. I doubt this really worked, but it seemed to make sense at the time.
While standing in the wind waiting for one of our group to come out of the bathroom, some of us (okay, I own up, it was me) may have started getting a little whiny.
“Quick. Everyone do 10 air squats,” Coach suggested.
I think he meant it as a joke, but we were either so desperately cold or so used to doing whatever he tells us that most of our gang did, in fact, start doing air squats while standing in the middle of a field at a Tough Mudder. As if we thought we needed some EXTRA exercise or something.
THE WORST PART: When you ask a large and varied group of people, “What was the worst part?” and they all immediately agree on the same thing, it has to be bad.
Fast forward to about the middle of the race: Arctic Enema. I think this may have been the worst part of the course on any day, but jumping into and swimming under a pool of ice water (literally, full of ice cubes) is really kind of unappealing when it’s not even remotely warm out. It was such a system shock that I have very little recollection of actually swimming through the ice. I vaguely recall flailing around so much, while trying to wrangle my body into a swimming motion, that I hurt my shoulder again. The next thing I remember is being on the other side while a kindly Mudder employee offered me a hand out of the water.
I tried to calmly explain that I couldn’t use my arm on that side anymore and that I was sure I could manage to get out on my own, but thank you very much. The words that actually left my mouth were something along the lines of, “No, no. Sorry. Fuck. No, not that side. Holy crap. Fuck, it’s cold. Jesus.”
TOO MUCH WATER: Despite the wind, and the ice bath, and my bum shoulder, and the alarming amount of rocks in my shoes, the first eight miles of the course were actually quite fun. But around what I’m guessing was 4:30 in the afternoon, the temperature started to drop drastically. For a while, it was possible to compensate for this by simply running faster. But then we began to hit water obstacle after water obstacle after water obstacle. One by one, members of our group began to bow out. I couldn’t blame them. The obstacles weren’t a challenge any more; the real challenge was trying not to get hypothermia. (I’m only sort of kidding. Apparently, some runners did have to go to the hospital for this very reason.)
I stuck with it for absolutely no ascertainable reason, except, possibly shear stubbornness. I was determined to finish every obstacle. (Well, every obstacle except for the ones involving electric shocks, which, apparently, you are not allowed to participate in if you have metal in your body. Who knew?)
“Mental grit.” I wanted to stick it out.
FINISHED: I was finished. The race wasn’t.
Toward the very end, I kept plowing on with the obstacles mostly because I was already wet and partly because the only three guys I was still running with wanted to do them. Boys. If I was going to have to wait around for them to do stuff I may as well do it too.
I finally had to give up at an obstacle that DIDN’T EVEN INVOLVE WATER, because I was about 111% sure I would reinjure my shoulder if I tried it. I’d been walking the fine line between idiotically stubborn and idiotically idiotic all afternoon, but I knew this one would cross it. We were three obstacles from the end. But once I skipped that one, I was finished. I waited for the boys and ran the rest with them, but I wasn’t about to touch any more water with a ten foot pole.
THE FINISH LINE: Out of the nine of us that started the race, two people finished the entire thing: Brian, our tough-as-nails military representative, and John, whom we’d talked into coming the night before using someone else’s registration, despite his protestations that he’d never run more than a couple of miles before.
The actual finish line was a blur that ended with me and John standing huddled around a heater with a half dozen strangers, wrapped in foil blankets, attempting to drink the beer that someone had shoved into our hands. ‘Attempting’ is a key word here, because everybody’s hands were shaking so badly that we were spilling more than we actually drank. Alex had gotten lost in the crowd and Brian had been whisked away by his sister because he was late to the airport. (We found out later that he did make his flight, but didn’t have time to shower. Hooray, I am no longer the grodiest person at our box!)
“We should probably go look for everyone else so we can leave and get warm,” I eventually suggested.
Neither of us moved.
“Never mind. I can’t tear myself away from this heater.”
ACTUALLY FINISHED: We had arrived around 10am. By the time we got back to the car, it was 6:15.
Slowest race I have ever run.
At the car, we all stripped off our wet clothes and replaced them with dry sweats. We were supposedly using towels to change behind, but I, for one, wasn’t trying too hard. I could not wait to be DRY. Who cares if somebody got a strip show by accident? That was their problem for looking. I yanked off my still sopping sports bra, and something fell to the ground.
It was the chapstick I had shoved in there when we got out of the car. I had crawled through pipes, and waded through mud, and jumped over fire and scraped every inch of my body on every inch of that course, but that chapstick was, somehow, still in my bra. At that moment, it seemed like the funniest thing in the world.