After we finished Tough Mudder 2011, it took us no time to decide we were going to sign up for the 2012 Austin challenge as well. This time we were going to do it different – we were going to go for time. We were still going to run by the same motto – Start Together, Run Together, and Finish Together – but the rule was if you didn’t train, you didn’t get to be on the team. This was not about being harsh this was about community – the core of community is that everyone contributes to the common good and goal for the community, and for the 2012 Mudder, it was time as a team.
We had been through it once before, so now we knew what to expect and we knew how to train for it. We knew how to strategize for the obstacles. We knew to put some of the strongest members in the front and keep some of the strongest in the back. On the down side, we all went in a year older, a little more injured, and beaten down due to being ill or being allergy stricken. But all in all, we were physically better than we were last year. Last year, our time was 4 hours and 30 minutes, not all of this can be attributed to physical difficulty, much of it was our late start time and backed up lines. But the team as a whole moved a bit slower, needed more help, and didn’t even realize what fears they had to conquer.
This year was different – we were prepared. Our start time was two hours earlier. Just from the look of the team you could tell we were in better physical condition, minus the injuries – in other words, from training to hydration, there’s not much else we could have done differently – I know, you can always tweak your training, but for the most part we were spot on, we were stronger and we were leaner. When you step back and look at life – this is the type of person you want to be in the community you are in. You want to be the person who prepares properly, who contributes sufficiently, who can not only take up their own slack, but the slack of others. However, you don’t want to be the person who needs to be carried, you want to be the person who does the carrying – maybe due to pride, maybe because you feel bad for the rest of the community, or maybe for other reasons. However, it seems like, as a lesson in humility, there comes a point, when you’ve done all you can do, you’ve guarded against any foreseen situation, but at the end of the day something strikes at your achilles heel, and you find yourself as the one who becomes a burden to the team, the one who needs to be carried, the one who slows everyone down. You hope it is never you – and this time that person was me, and I never saw it coming.
In fact, this year we had trained so hard, the obstacles were not near as difficult. Yes, they wear you out due to the amount of them, the energy it takes to conquer them, and the milage you are traveling, but the obstacles in and of themselves were not so difficult we couldn’t handle as individuals. You should have seen our three girls conquering those 12 foot walls with no help! We joked around while going through the obstacles, we played on them, nobody even needed help to get over them…At the one hour mark, we were more than a third of the way through. At the two hour mark, we were tracking to come in at a sub-three hour time. And this is with our difficulties – Kristen’s IT-Bands were tightened up so much we had to stop to have The Doctor stretch them out. Dustin was cramping like crazy. Mine, Sarah’s, Dustin’s, and Jill’s breathing was a mess. Lamar showed up with a jacked shoulder – yet, we were booking it for a team our size and age.
Then it hit…mile 9 or 10, my achilles seized up bad, slight pop, toes curled, and foot shot up into 45 degree angle… I thought I was done. I told the team to go on, I couldn’t do it. But they weren’t having it – I had to live in my weakness, and it was not easy. Sarah, Bryan, and Dustin stayed in the back of the pack while I attempted to stretch out, after it stretched out, they allowed me to walk slowly to gain some flexibility and mobility. The rest of the team waited at the next water stop. When I got there I took time to really stretch it out. The Doctor (for those who don’t know, the Doctor is my brother, and he was on our team, and yes, he is a doctor) felt it, and said it felt thin, and like I had possibly torn some of it. He said, I want you to go on, but I do need to warn you that if you do, it feels like it could tear and that means surgery. So, they did it, they stayed back with me, they supported me. In fact, at one point we had to go through another water and mud pit, and while I could handle the water easy, I couldn’t even walk in mud, so Nathan (aka, The Doctor) and Chad pulled me out of the mud, put me on my feet and we went on. I had already told the team I was not doing the Mt. Everest obstacle, it was too dangerous, and while it is the most invigorating of the obstacles, it takes some power running and power jumping. But once again, once we made it to the obstacle, they weren’t having it. The RnT said, we’ll form a ladder, and you can climb us, but I put on my stubborn hat, and said, I won’t do that to you. I thought many of them didn’t make it up this obstacle last year on their own, and I knew they had trained for this, and had talked about it a lot, so I wanted to see them do it. And instead of being one of the first – I stood back and watched everyone of my amazing teammates, shoot up that half-pipe on their own. Then instead of all finishing they all stood at the top, and cheered me on…and in good responsible fashion, I thought, I may blow out my achilles, but I’m doing this with them. So, I ran, on my second step I felt it seize up again, and so I had to launch on my weaker foot, from a lower position than I had wanted to, but I did it, we did it and we crossed the finish line – together, as a crash, as a team.
So, does it feel good to be the weakest link on a team – no, not at all, it’s humbling and embarrassing. Especially when you are used to being one of the strongest. But after you let the pride go, another reality sets in, and that reality is simply this: There is no better feeling than knowing you are on a team, you are in a community, of people who love you, who are going to be your strength when you need them, who are going to carry you through till the end. Who will allow you to be vulnerable with your weaknesses – this is community and this is what I learned from the Tough Mudder this year.
oh and by the way, we beat last years time by 1 hour and 20 minutes