We created a team, we competed in our training for the event for months, we planned t-shirts, we made arrangements....and he didn't show up for the race. Okay, fine. He had a good excuse. But, still. Knowing a little about what I was getting myself into, the back of my race shirt was printed with "Keep Calm and Give Me a BOOST"...I mean, really? How else am I going to get up and over a 15-foot wall?
So, there I was on race day...hydrated, motivated and headed to Dripping Springs. So I'm cruising down 290 and I get near Dripping Springs and traffic abruptly stops. I stomp the brakes in my old truck and my dash lights all come on. Like, all of them, all at once. Some were red, some were yellow, I think one might have given me the finger. And just as suddenly as they all lit up, they all turned back off. Huh. I just patted the dash, said a little prayer, and became completely willing to hitchhike the rest of the way.
So, we crept for an hour going no faster than 10 miles per hour. Apparently, not only were there a thousand cars going to the Tough Mudder, but there was also some sort of festival going on in Dripping Springs, and to top it off, construction had traffic down to one lane on my side of the road. Perfect.
Three hours after leaving my house, I finally parked, checked in, pinned on my bib number, signed my death waiver (no joke..it was titled Participant Death Waiver), and pulled up some earth to make final preparations for the run. I strung athletic tape around the pads of my fingers before pulling on my gloves, I wrapped my ankles in athletic tape and vet tape before lacing my shoes, and then wrapped several layers of vet tape around my shoes and up my calves to ensure they don't get sucked off in the run. Hey, they don't call it the Tough Mudder for nothin'.
And finally, race time. If there was ever a point when you thought people who participate in this event are crazy, I'd bet you'd find it hard to resist after watching it. The obstacles aren't impossible, but truly mentally and physically challenging (okay, there were a couple that I couldn't do). The first several obstacles didn't pose much of a problem: belly crawl in the mud under barbed wire (just keep your head down); climb up a 25-foot wooden structure and jump off the other side into a large pool of, well, muddy water (don't worry, it's deep). Then you find yourself wet, chilly and running another couple of miles. Obstacle four was no one's favorite. Want to know why there was an Arctic Ice truck parked beside four man-made wooden pools? Because the pools were filled with ice water, heavy on the ice. No, they weren't deep (about 4-feet), but there was a plank in the middle that you had to swim under in order to get out on the other side. Let me tell you, I stood on the edge of that pool and debated how tough I really was. Then I just jumped in feet first. And holy cow, I've never been so suddenly cold that it sucked the air out of me. I think survival skills set in at that point. I don't even remember getting out, but I remember cursing the weatherman who said it would be 76 that day and it was only 65. But, after surviving the Arctic Enema, I figured it couldn't get much worse. I jumped over fire, crawled through mud, climbed walls, rappelled down ropes, and climbed the side of a big ol' hill more times than I can remember. While, yes, it's physically challenging (people were being taken down the terrain with broken arms and hypothermia), it's mentally exhausting. You have to be willing to crawl under and through live electrical wires while you're belly is on a watery, muddy tarp. The great thing is that even with all of that going on, every time you turn your head, there's an outstretched hand from a stranger who's willing to help you up and the crowds of participants and onlookers are cheering you on as you attempt to run across wooden cubes floating in the creek.
The final obstacle is what makes it all worthwhile. You're tired, you're wet, every inch of you is dirty, you're sore in places you didn't know existed, and you're told to run through 10,000 volts of electric wiring. But on the other side, they hand you a glass of water, an energy bar, a finisher t-shirt, and the best beer you've ever tasted. Ever.
Cheers to doing it again next year! Maybe this time my team will show up. (Oh, and the truck? Needed three quarts of oil and a jumpstart when I left..)