Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tough Mudder Indiana: Proud and Stupid

Back in August it seemed like it was a good idea to put a challenge in front of me. Something to aim for.  Some carrot to dangle to keep me motivated to maintain a sound diet and consistent workout regiment. Being a part of Crossfit Carmel means being immersed in a community of like-minded folks. So when a few fellow workout buddies signed up for the 2011 Indiana Tough Mudder, the carrot dangled. Now that the experience is behind me, several thoughts continue to swim through my mind.

Training for the Tough Mudder was simple. Crossfit. It's the perfect combination of endurance, weight training, body weight, cardio, and mental training. While I've listened to my fellow gym buddies discuss how Crossfit Endurance is all that is needed to train for longer distances, and while two fellow workout pals solely used Crossfit as their means for their first Ironman, I continued to have my doubts pinning my thoughts to my 6'2", 240 lbs. frame. "What if....." consumed me. But I trusted what I was told and my gut.

Those who know me clearly know I'm a bit consumed with planning at times. While I want to know directions, departure time, what to wear, where to park, etc., this event was different. I did not take much time to think about the course length, the crazy amount of obstacles, or the weather conditions until the week of the event. For that, I'm glad, because I may have quit before I started.

Plan and simple: The Tough Mudder is NO JOKE. But in the back of my mind I must admit I thought, "They make those videos to intimidate you. There is no way it's all that." Ha! There is not enough room in cyberspace to adequately share what was all entailed. Here's the course map.  You decide. 

Thirty of us all set out on this 40 degree day with a windchill in the 30's and 20's at time. The plan was that we were all to stay together in packs. No one gets left behind. Everyone finishes.  When I said this was no joke, I was not kidding. This realization was never more evident than when the mood shift of all my teammates smacked me in the face harder than the wind that was whipping at my cheeks. Our group went from laughing and tossing a football while running, to a more solemn, introspective quietness. I could hear others thinking, "What have we really gotten ourselves into?" But no one dared say it. I kept thinking, "Now come on. We are not climbing Everest." I was thinking, "Maybe some of my friends were right. Maybe I am stupid. Why WOULD I want to do such a thing?" And as quickly as I asked myself, I answered. "Because it's there. Because I can learn from this. Because I want to see how far I can push myself. Because I can."

And so roughly 4 miles in and with only 25% of the course behind us, two of our most fit athletes at the gym could not warm their bodies and had to call it a day. As I became a bit scared knowing these folks are physcial specimans of fitness, I wondered, doubted, and went through some serious mental ping pong. I was scared I'd get stuck under muddy water. I was worried I might twist an ankle and not be able to make it to the end. I was fearful of hypothermia. I hate, hate, hate being cold and there was no alternative on this day.  Cold was normal. At one point I found myself alone for about 30 minutes wondering how I got separated from my team, but I had to keep my body moving through the course as I felt my quads, hip flexors, and calf muscles tightening up. It was at this point where I was trying to fight off fear. I struck up a conversation with a 48 year old, grey haired guy like me for a bit. He wished me good luck and we separated as I traversed down a steep hill with mud so caked on my shoes you could not really make out that I was even wearing shoes. At the bottom of the hill I saw a pack of red shirts just like mine and had caught up to a group of my teammates. I discovered I was with a middle pack. There were a handful ahead of them and a few behind, so our plan was still intact. No one finishes alone.

I stuck with this group for about two more hours. The mood of the group fluctuated between collegial encouragement, to silent fortitude. We all knew what we were thinking, but we made the most of it. And somehow with about 3 miles left, my teammate Derek and I found ourselves alone the rest of the way. Our commitment: Attempt every obstacle. Keep moving. Be positive. Derek was great. He did not mind that I could no longer run for long periods of time. My right hip flexor was shot and my right calf was cramping. We crawled face down in mud. We got through waste deep water, and we waited 20 minutes to get across a 3 inch wood plank over a pool of freezing waste deep water. (We both made it half way until we dove in.) And when we saw the finish line, we got a bit giddy. Derek, who got separated from his wife on the course three hours earlier kicked it into another gear. We finised together.

Here's what I took from this experience:
Part of this was indeed stupid.
Being pushed to my limits only makes me stronger.
Teamwork and togetherness can make anything happen.
I now know what being uncomfortable really feels like.
I'm in the best shape of my life:  I never questioned my physical condition.
Crossfit and proper eating prepared me for this.
I'm more mentally strong than I allowed myself to think. 
I'm just as happy for and proud of my teammates as I am of myself for doing this.
I now believe in the Tough Mudder Pledge 


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