Sarah Finding Fit

An unconventional look at fitness... my journey in reaching goals, laughing and having a bunch of outstanding adventures.

Posts tagged obstacle course

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Surviving Tough Mudder

I pulled up the sleeve of my sweater at work and caught the remnants of number 9979. The permanent marker outline was faded, but still there. I swear I’ve tried to scrub it off in the shower, but in some ways it’s my reminder of the epic Tough Mudder weekend and holding onto it is a sort of badge of honor. Just like my Ragnar tattoo a few weeks back, it’s funny to see it juxtaposed against my business black. Out of place perhaps, but to me a hidden reminder of my other weekend life. Honestly, if it weren’t for it, or the bruises on my underarms and shins, the race feels like a distant memory faded into the florescent sun and conference calls. Much like my other weekend adventures, this was one that not many people would understand. A Sunday race through the woods, perhaps… but a diving into a dumpster of ice? climbing a black diamond? paying to get shocked? The questions would be too many to answer. Yes, I am crazy and yes, I do this for fun.

 I’ve done mud runs before, so I must admit the thought of falling into an icy lake in October while attempting monkey bars wasn’t super appealing at first – buuutttt turning down a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course? Me? Wasn’t going to happen. I’ve likened my willingness to get talked into races to how others get talked into drugs or drinking… the game plan is simple. Lay the peer pressure on thick, make it sound like a fun adventure, and usually… I fold. This course, designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie, included 10+ miles and 25 obstacles. Trust me, it lived up to its promise.

 The setting was perfect! Beautiful fall day in the mountains… changing leaves… brisk mountain air… limited cell phone service. In expectation of rocks and mud, I’d picked to don running tights and tight long sleeves. After a winding bus ride from the overflow parking field, we were consumed by a crowd of costumes and bare chested men with smatterings of body paint. Upon receiving my registration information, I was asked to pull up my hair and my race number was tattooed to my forehead in permanent marker, then my arm… oh it was going to be one of those types of races!! We met our team, “Health and Wholeness” to shake out a few last minute jitters (aka performance pees) and apply our war stripes. We split into groups of four – mine, which we appropriately named “Team Awesome” during the race, included Dan, TJ, Melina and myself. Since a 4 hour blow-by-blow would take pages… I’ve consolidated my race report into bullets. Here goes:

  •  I have a new appreciation for skiing DOWN black diamond mountains. The race started, ended and included approximately 3 mid-course steep climbs. One was appropriately named the “death march.” Yes, there were burning calves. Yes, there was heaving breathing. Yes, we passed people throwing up. Running was absolutely not an option.
  • The race was 70 percent men, most of whom fit the profile of: military, ripped, super fit. I must admit that I smirked when I passed a bunch of them on the uphill portion of the Lumberjack AKA “carry a log of wood up and down a mountain” obstacle. Thank you sand bag getups.
  • Being short may be great for some things, but… climbing over 12ft walls is not one of them. There is a major need for boosting up and over, and the drop back to the ground is SUPER far. I think my death grip at the top might be the culprit of my bruised arms.
  • There is a fun little thing called ASS RASH that you get at Crossfit when you do a zillion abs on an Ab Mat. What is Ass Rash you ask?: basically rug burn on the top of your butt crack. Sexy, right? Well… Crossfit makes people sexy in many ways, but that is a totally separate blog post. Sliding down a hill on a giant adult slip-and-slide and into a pool of icy mud is actually super fun, but it irritates the hell out of ass rash and burns like crazy. Aquafor and Neosporin were much needed post-race. Nuff said.
  • Sports bras are the perfect place to store race fuel. Thank god we did, because when what was supposed to be a 9 mile/2.5 hour race became an 11mile/4 hour test of survival, having fuel was key.
  • People should climb cargo nets more often. In fact, maybe it should be part of job interviews. Super fun.
  • Chapstick is a race necessity. Don’t leave the start without it.
  • The Shenandoah Mountains are beautiful in the fall – go see them! Taking a second to check out the fall foliage while running along the crest of a mountain, made being muddy, cold and wet almost enjoyable. It proved that trails rather than roads is where I belong.
  • Jumping into a giant trash dumpster of icy, food-colored water can kill you, or wait, at least make you feel like you’re dying. Team Awesome “manned up” and in pairs, jumped into the Chernobyl Jacuzzi that was filled with the most ice – literally the two other bins looked almost empty. Hand-in-hand on the count of 3, Dan pulled me into the water. He went immediately under to the other side of the barbed wire board. I, on the other hand, popped up before the crossing under the board and I believe stammered, “I. can’t. breath.” To which Dan responded, “I’m not getting out without you. GO!” I managed to catch enough air to go under water and swim to the other side. We then climbed up and over the piles of ice and out of the bin with the help of our teammates. I mean, at this point I felt like we were in a war, not running a race. Worst obstacle by far! Early race ice bath equals frozen wet clothes for the rest of the race.
  • Back to the beauty of being short. “Shallow” water, is actually pretty darn deep. Places where others can stand comfortably, usually means that I am under water. When the water is icy, not so awesome. I’d say I was fully submerged during at least 5 obstacles.
  • Monkey bars are only easy when you are 5. The threat of falling into an icy pond has absolutely no impact on your ability to hang on to spinning metal bars.
  • Being sprayed by high pressure fire-hoses doesn’t only happen when you are protesting. Apparently people, like myself, pay to get sprayed by them. They are both cold and ouchy, promise.
  • Hurling yourself over obstacles, running through the woods in wet and heavy clothing/sneekers, and prancing up and down a ski resort without much water or food for 4 hours is utterly exhausting – much more difficult than running any road race.
  • Thank god for dudes – seriously! Normally I’d attribute my success to training (which no doubt played part), but this serves as a huge public thank you to both my guy teammates and fellow-mudders who let me stand on their shoulders/hoisted me over the giant “Everest” quarter pipe, held my hand when I jumped into a bath of ice, and lended their knee to boost me up over 4 walls. In all honesty, the race may have been an epic failure without you guys.
  • Running around golf courses is boring.
  • Realizing that you can barely run because your muscles are cramping, but feeling like you have to run to get warm is a very bizarre experience.
  • If you have a team, stick together.
  • Watching your teammates lips start to match your blue team t-shirt is frightening.
  • The thought of getting zapped by a car battery at the end of a 4 hour race seems easy enough when compared with the thought of getting wet by a freezing fire hose again (especially when you finally feel semi-dry). Yes, we were watered up and then trust through a framework of hanging wires. All I remember is holding my breath and running with my hands in front of me. The zap to my arm felt a little like sticking your finger in a light socket, but the joy in being at the finish more than made up for it.
  •  Headbands are good swag! Especially when they are orange and come as the reward for living through one hell of an adventure.

With our headbands on, we each got a beer as we passed through the finish. Some people got tattoos, others peeled off layers of wet clothes in exchange for a t-shirt… I eventually called my mom, and blurted out, “well, we’re alive.” Somewhere between trying to explain the ice bath and the 12ft walls, I realized that as much as it was a rough race, something about it was super awesome. The toughest event on the planet? Debatable, but definitely one for the record books. Each of us that forged our way to the finish were officially Tough Mudders and those of us that survived have a common bond – a secret hand-shake if you will, maybe a nod, an understanding of the battle it took to get there.

For me, the joy in racing is pushing myself to a new place, stepping out of my comfort zone. On the ride home I realized a few things:

  • It is possible to inhale a loaded Five Guys Double Cheese Burger in a matter of minutes.
  • Babywipes are an amazing invention.
  • Warm sweat pants are now officially my favorite item of clothing.
  • Even though, I’d initially vowed to just throw out my clothes upon race finish, they had somehow landed in a giant trash bag in the trunk, ready to be washed and saved.
  • Being surrounded by a bunch of crazy adrenaline- seeking, fitness junky friends is priceless. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Exhausted, muddy and cold, we finally made it back home. For now, I’ll settle for rocking my orange headband. But I can’t imagine that Mudder 2012 will take too much convincing.

Filed under crossfit mud mudrun obstacle course races ragnar relay running team toughmudder

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Fearless Friday: Run, Mud, Obstacles then Beer, Bourbon, BBQ

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sometimes I have and intense urge to tackle insane obstacles… so this weekend I plan to venture to the backwoods of Frederick, Maryland to unleash my inner Rebel. Up to 5 miles filled with 22 barricade-climbing, mud-crawling, rope-swinging and fire-jumping obstacles that give me the opportunity to, you gussed it, flirt with danger as well as challange my test physical toughness and mental endurance. 

Then, post shower… I’ll taste It, sip it, and pork it at the Beer, Burbon and BBQ FestivalWho writes about Beer, Bourbon and BBQ on a fitness blog? I DO!

Between earning Rebel bragging rights and going hog wild… it proves to be a fearless weekend for sure!

Filed under bbq beer mud mudrun obstacle course races fear Fearless Fridays