The ironic thing is that this time last year I was stressing about just being able to complete this race's obstacles, and after a year of Crossfit, running, biking, and swimming, this is my fun race. It is not that this race is easy, I still had to run about 3.5 miles and tackle 23 challenging obstacles, but I was really prepared for this one. As Mark and I approached our first obstacle, the k-rails (cement barriers), I was not able to hurdle over them, but I hopped over them with very little effort compared to last year. What a difference a year makes! Mark and I did equally well with climbing up and down the mud hills, swimming through the mud pits, and running up and down a pyramid of hay bales. We approached each obstacle with gusto, went into it hard, and came out the other end running toward the next challenge.
I must admit, I did not even attempt the monkey bar obstacle. It wasn't that I was avoiding it because it was too difficult--I really thought this one did not look safe. We had just exited a pool of muddy water, our hands were completely wet, and the thought of trying to use our wet hands to scoot across metal bars seemed a little dangerous. I think I made a good choice as later in the day someone actually fell so hard to the ground attempting to swing across that they had to call an ambulance to pick her up. I like to have fun, but I also understand that I need to avoid injuries if I am to continue my Ironman training journey.
The last few obstacles before entering the stadium toward the finish line had us swimming through the lake, jogging over rocks submerged in the shallow part of the water, and sliding on a giant inflated slide into the lake below. The funny part of this is that as we entered the Storm Stadium, we looked all cleaned up like we had not ever completed the multiple mud obstacles. The other funny thing is that the final challenge had us crawling through a mud pit with mud the consistency of peanut butter, so our final medal pictures had us looking like we had been dipped in a vat of milk chocolate. We had a great time at this race, and the mud was like the hot fudge on the sundae--only not quite so delicious!
One of the best things about running this with Mark was not only his enthusiasm for running this race, he trained hard and a did a great job pushing himself, but he was so encouraging to all the racers around him. As we passed people, and we passed lots of them, Mark would shout some words of encouragement of give them a pat on the back. I know he helped a lot of people keep going on a course that was not easy for them. I think Mark might have the running bug now and I am so happy to add him to the group of my running friends.
Another amazing thing that happened during this race is that Kay, after more than three weeks of radiation and chemo treatment for her Stage 3 Rectal Cancer was not only able to complete this race, but she did so with her usual style and gusto. When she started her treatment cycle she wasn't sure she would be able to even walk through this race, and she ran throughout and even finished in a time that was right around where she finished last year. Cancer is not keeping this muddy chick down!
For my friends that are not really into running, you might want to try doing one of these races that breaks the running legs into chunks with fun and challenging obstacles in between. Find a friend like Mark or Kay to train with and it makes it that much more doable. I know that when I am having fun, especially with my friends, it really does not seem like hard work at all. After all, who doesn't like to get a little dirty sometimes--here's mud in your eye!