I am officially a Tough Mudder Legionnaire! Or as my kids have said, “one tough mother.” Before I get into how I earned this title, I will fill you in on the final weeks of training.
I must confess that after my last blog post, I took a break from my strict fitness routine and superfood diet. As I have mentioned, I am a mother of two, and as summer came to a peak, I needed to kick back with my kids and enjoy some down time. As guilty as I may have felt, in hindsight it was the best decision. What’s the point of being heathy and active if you never take time to enjoy it? During those two weeks, we were outside from dawn to dusk every day. My daughter learned to ride her bike in two days, and both of my kids took full advantage of the zorbing balls and zip line that were added to the homestead. We enjoyed s’mores, cheeseburgers, sundaes, and all the accoutrements that summer brings.
I did embark on a new workout called CrossFit. The definition of CrossFit is “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” All CrossFit workouts are based on movements that feature the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, and more. The CrossFit program is driven by data using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance. When you start Crossfit, you learn a whole new array of acronyms, from WOD to AMRAP, or workout-of-the-day and as-many-reps-as-possible. Some find tracking their workouts cumbersome and time-consuming, but by documenting your routine, you have a measurable result. This result allows you to adjust the intensity to see different results. How can you play with a new recipe if you don’t write down the ingredients? While you learn the basics, you are also coached on proper form to prevent injury.
I started Crossfit at a local gym but continued at home when my schedule became too demanding. Even with no weight-lifting equipment, you can do the basics and still see results. My nights consisted of dozens of burpees, squats, sit-ups, pushups, and pullups. You read that right: Some of the same antique moves you learned in phys ed still work best for conditioning your body. One thing my coach said has stuck with me: “I love burpees, because you have to get up. We get up out of bed every day. If you can’t get up anymore, you’re not living.” Another motto my father, the racer and bike enthusiast, said to me, which I still believe to be true is, “We don’t stop riding because we get old, we get old because we stop riding.”
I believe the fountain of youth is life itself. If you put yourself out there to live it, you continue to feel youthful. The more you disconnect from actively participating in (anything!), the weaker and more lethargic you feel. I am not recommending that you jump into anything your body cannot handle, but if I can inspire you to do one thing, it’s that you take any opportunity you can to get out and do something.
The morning of August 19, I drove to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to put my own body to the test. We arrived 20 minutes prior to my start time, and the line to submit waivers was moving slowly. I missed my wave but got in the next one, which started at 1:45 p.m. My heart was pounding as we stood in a corral listening to the rules as the sun beat down on us. This is not a race. This is one team. Hearing this made me even more thrilled to be part of the event. Even though I ran alone, I had one giant team running with me. I managed to make a few friends along the way, including one gentleman who was wearing a speaker on his back. The music helped a lot!
We ran the first two miles in the sun on pavement. At this moment, I realized I forgot my sunblock! We turned the corner and there it was – barbed wire and mud. There is no proper way to approach this; you just go for it. I learned in the next minute what barbed wire could feel like if I wasn’t careful. One obstacle down, 21 to go. As I made my way through the course, I felt more and more accomplished.
There were many obstacles that required team effort. There were miles of wooded path where we trudged through 6 inches of mud. There were muddy streams we basked in to break up the dry heat. There were water stations, banana stations, and even energy/protein pack stations to keep you fueled.
About halfway through, and around 10 obstacles in, I came face to face with the one I feared most. It consisted of sliding down a culvert pipe into a dumpster filled with ice and topped off with water, followed by swimming underneath a chain link fence to get out. I bet you are wondering why anyone would want to subject themselves to this. My reasoning was to simply challenge myself to better understand what I am capable of. I joke that I am a lizard who likes to bask in the sun. I do not like to be cold and wet. This was going to be cold!
I went down the pipe into the ice. The cold hit me like a ton of bricks and knocked the wind out of me. I wanted to get out, but I had to swim first. When I was finally on dry land again, my muscles had stiffened, and I felt like a thawing frozen fish.
The staff started to yell out to the participants, “Just start moving! It will help!” Wait, I am frozen and you want me to run?! So, I started to run, and it did help. I felt the warmth spread through my body in seconds.
I enjoyed most of the obstacles and excelled at conquering them! Even the names were fun. There was the Snot Rocket, which was a pipe you climb up while water plummets down in your face; the Blockness Monster, which required multiple people to maneuver; Everest 2.0, which was entertaining and inspiring to watch as participants tried and failed to scale but kept trying until they completed it; Hold Your Wood 2.0 involved carrying a large log for a quarter mile (I loved this one, but I’m a weirdo who enjoys challenging my upper body strength); the Berlin Walls mirrored some form of boot camp; and Shawshanked was exactly as it sounds, a barbed wire crawl in the mud into a culvert pipe, followed by a 6-foot drop into muddy water.
Another interesting detail is the mud. Never have I seen so many colors. There was blue mud, green water mud, red water mud, and orange mud. By the time I was finished, I was a walking Picasso painting of mud. One piece of advice that held true was to not wear cotton anything. You are in and out of water and mud the entire time, so nonabsorbent clothing is best.
By the time I reached mile seven, my new shoes were yelling at me, my hip bones were aching, and my hands were swollen and stiff. The last two obstacles are the finish line. Kong consists of gymnast rings suspended 30 feet in the air that you swing across. The staff advised that this obstacle was optional for new participants, so I went for it. I found out after the fact that it was planned for Legionnaires only. I would have aced this obstacle, but when I reached the last ring, my hands were too weak and I fell. Thankfully, the airbag underneath cushioned my landing.
The final challenge is called Electroshock Therapy. For this one, you run through water and wires that are electrically charged, with the possibility of getting zapped. I was nervous, of course. There were a few people who tackled this one as a team, arm in arm, to reduce the electric charge between them. I decided to just plow through. As you run, you hear the wires snap while you jump over hay bale hurdles. I was shocked in the neck about three-quarters of the way through. It was less painful and more surprising than anything. And then I was finished. I earned my headband!
Since I accomplished the Tough Mudder, I have been repeatedly asked what’s next. Well, to complete my 2017 New Year’s bucket list, I plan to get back on a dirt bike before the year ends. In 2018, I will either take on the Crossfit Games or the World’s Toughest Mudder. Stay tuned!