Thursday, May 19, 2016

On the Precipice: Rebecca's Tough Mudder (GUEST POST)

My heart pounded in my ears as I looked at the bar a seemingly unfathomable distance away.  I was standing at the top of the rise of the King of Swingers, one of the obstacles I have been dreading the most in the Tough Mudder. I have a HUGE fear of heights, and now I was 12 feet off the ground looking at a foot-wide bar I was supposed to leap out and grab.  It took me a couple of tries, but I sprung out over the abyss......

Hanging/Pull-up Practice
When my hands made contact with the bar, and I felt my solid grip carrying me smoothly through the air, I let loose a rebellious cry that lasted the whole swing.  Even more terrifying was the drop after I let go: I closed my eyes and waited to hit the water.  It felt like forever and I became afraid the water wasn't there: someone had moved it, I was about to hit the ground, I was falling through outer space.
The shock of hitting the water was electrifying, and I suddenly remembered my body and started swimming for the surface.  As I broke through another scream ripped through the air, and language came back to me.  "I can't believe I f**king did that!" was my mantra as I swam for the rope netting to escape.

For me, this was the core of the Tough Mudder experience.  Overcoming my fears, challenging myself when I thought I couldn't do any more, and pushing myself to do as much as I could.  This was not the messiest obstacle, but the ones like it requiring upper body strength were the ones I was most challenged by and made me feel the most powerful when I completed them.

There were many other obstacles, such as the Liberator, where you are climbing a wall with pegs in your hands and notches under your feet, or the affectionately names Balls to the Wall, climbing a wall using a knotted rope, where the amazement at reaching the top was immediately replaced by the anxiety of how to get over and back down again.  The pride and accomplishment once again took over as soon as my determination brought my feet back down to the ground.

A great thing about the Tough Mudder was the sense of camaraderie on the course.  The inspirational speech at the beginning included talk that everyone would be your teammate by the end, and it was very true. Without my teammate Mirna and so many other helpful people on the course, I would not have accomplished half as much.  Strong arms hoisted me over the lip of Everest on my second attempt, I conquered the Pyramid by using someone else's shoulders as a ladder rung, and even Balls to the Wall had a volunteer scrambling (with ease) up the back side to talk me through getting over the top. When I thanked the helpers for their assistance, the reply was, "you got over it because you wanted to."

Wind-sprints practice--up Mirna's driveway hill
The combination of training and teamwork was really amazing.  Mirna and I had been weightlifting and doing various forms of prep since February.  It all came together as I reached for waiting slimy hands to grab to get out of mud pits, but then amazing the same men ready to hoist me out as I set a foot as solidly as possible in the muck and set leg and arm strength in motion to get myself out, with their leverage being the final push.  Each time I felt that much more powerful. Helping others was wonderful as well, knowing my training could help pull someone else up the Pyramid after I had been hoisted to the top, and I was part of the team assisting others to success.

As we ran from obstacle to obstacle, Mirna and I lost all sense of time, living in the moment.  We reflected on what went well, what we would need to work on for our next attempt, and just the beauty of the landscape around us.  We met some that were concerned with their time, some who were painting designs on themselves and their clothes, some who danced or flapped like birds as they traveled, and some who ran Everest multiple times for the thrill, the fun, or to help someone out.

For those who say, "That's crazy! Why on earth would you want to do that?" (especially running through live wires at the end), my answer is this: There are few times I have felt more alive, at peace, and in touch with the amazing things my body can do.  Throughout my life I have struggled with weight fluctuations, body image issues, and overall negativity and self doubt.  The Tough Mudder this weekend, and all the prep that went into it, have brought me a long way on my journey of empowerment and taking control of my life.  I am so proud of all I accomplished, and can't wait to challenge myself again. I want the victory cry as I emerged from the water pit, and the bellow I let loose as I picked myself out of the mud after passing the last 10,000 volt wire, to be the sound my life makes moving forward.

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