October 7, 2013

Self Discovery II: Challenges

Perhaps, just maybe, I know myself better than I think. I was so excited to hear about the Tough Mudder challenge last year. The course is 10-12 miles long with 24 obstacles. We started training with TM workouts in our basement  before the kids woke up. I hadn't purposefully exercised since I was pregnant with Kira and needed some endurance in a bad way.

After about a month, the TM date changed from May 2014 to October 2014. A year away?! Yikes! So when the rains started coming and the winter darkness set it, I wanted to put off training. There would be plenty of time to train next spring when the days would be longer and weather better. 

And then we watched TM videos on YouTube. Whoa. After watching some of the more grueling ones, nerves set in and I didn't want to even participate anymore. The TM is too hard for me.

We were offered the chance for a refund, which usually doesn't happen but did this time because of the date change. There was a refund deadline given...and about 3 days too late, I got online to get one. Doh! 

Not wanting to waste the entrance fee, I decided to go through with the original plan....and I was also fully aware that I didn't have to do every obstacle. You're allowed to walk around any that you don't feel comfortable with (or the water ones if you don't swim). So at a minimum, I'd only have to do the running part of the course. That's manageable. 

On TM day, I found that I wanted to do the challenges. It was no longer fear of the unknown setting in, but rather I was looking at a challenge I thought I could do.

Tough Mudder Lessons:

1. I'm most happy in the midst of obstacles and challenges. During the TM, I wore my smile - not on purpose, but because I was having a great time. All those pre-TM nerves were for nothing. Goodbye doubt. You did nothing for me.
Walk the plank - 15 foot drop into a muddy watering hole.
2. The camaraderie amongst Mudders inspired an improved performance. Not just encouragement between teammates, but among everyone. We were in this together. The course was laid out so that paths crossed and we saw many participants with different start times running in opposite directions of each other. As we passed, hands were held out to give high-fives. We cheered each other on. If anyone needed a hand on an obstacle, there was always one readily available. We weren't strangers but rather Mudders helping Mudders.

3. Effective leadership can come from behind. Some of the trails in the course were narrow. As in, it'd be awkward to pass a slow person in front of you if you wanted to go faster. At one point about 8 miles in, we were tired and walking and heard this booming voice behind a line of 20+ people call out, "Let's take it to a jog!" My teammate and I were saying something like, nah, I'm tired. I'm walking. And who was that voice back there anyway? Then a few people up, someone started jogging and it was a chain reaction. When the girl in front of me started jogging, so did I. And the Mudder in back of me, too. It was amazing that one voice could have such power and influence over random strangers fellow Mudders...even when our initial reaction was more of a "meh, I'll do what I want" attitude. Of course, we thought it was possible that the man behind the seemingly pleasant voice might eat us later...so it was definitely better to pick up the pace. 

4. Most challenges were mental. So if you can get over the dirtiness/temperature/shock of it all, then the actual activity wasn't hard or even physically challenging. If you can't swing from one ring to the next, it's okay. It's just done over a pool of water so you get wet if you drop. Not a problem if you can swim, which is what I did.

My hardest challenge came from combining my physical grit with my mental fear of being cold. I'd been mostly dry for over an hour and it was late afternoon and a little bit chilly when we got to the monkey bars over water. I'd tried monkey bars at the playground. I used to do them at recess all the time. Skipping rungs and everything. Uh, yeah, not anymore. I fell. I knew I'd fall into the water and then I'd be wet and cold and the sun was going down...so I'd be cold for a while.

I watched Tymon go across. His method was long. One hand to one bar. Then the other meets it. Then one hand to the next one. It seemed simple enough. I tried it on the first couple of rungs. It worked. I kept going. I thought I'd fall, but didn't want to. I was going to complete this. I do not want to get wet. I'm not getting wet. No water for me. My faced scrunched in determination. I was past the halfway point. My palms wished they had some callouses to ease the pain. It'd be terrible to drop three rungs from the end. And there's nothing like kick your physical abilities in motion. And after 3 days the muscles I used to cross those monkey bars were no longer sore. But the mental boost remains. I can do hard things.

5. Failing hurts. The first time I tried to get up the greased quarter pipe, I couldn't jump high enough to reach the helping hands and slid down. Each seam in the pipe hurt and scraped my legs as I slid down. I honestly didn't think this challenge was going to be so hard.

See me here? This was my second attempt. Once again, I couldn't get to those hands. I'm falling backward and ended up hitting my head. I was a little embarrassed with so many eyes on me. And my head really hurt.

This next collage is my third try. Sometimes, we just have to keep trying even when we fail and even when failing hurts. I made it up thanks to some fantastic guys on the top pulling me up...and the determination to keep trying despite failure.

Sometimes, we fail because we don't get the right help. Tymon was one of those guys helping on top for a couple of our team members. The first one was one of my friends, a girl - not so heavy. The second was a guy. He was bigger and couldn't just be pulled up. He said to Tymon to grab his hand in a different way. That way he could use his strength to help leverage and pull himself up and not be totally dependent on the guys helping from above. It worked for him. Another one of our team members I watched at least 4 times try to make it up. He got a hold of the hands at least 3 times...but each time the help from the top wasn't enough to pull him up. How frustrating! 

Our entire team finished the Tough Mudder challenge and most of us completed every obstacle. I didn't go in thinking I would do everything, but I did. And am happy with my finish. There were three on our team that skipped one or two of the challenges, but they tried them...especially that quarter pipe. Failing hurts. And sometimes, the pain is severe.

From Tymon:

1. The Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. Same with life. Our team finished together in 6 hours. The average time is 3-4 hours. But everyone made it.
2. You forget yourself when serving others. Without the help of Tymon and others some of us would probably still be in a mud pit somewhere.
3. Sometimes you don't realize how beat up you got until you clean up later. He broke his toe going down the mud cliff. We both had some skinned knees and random bruises here and there.
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