Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ABF Mud Run Report

I don't mind getting muddy, so when my friend asked me to run a Mud Run with her, I was all for it. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!

The run was held on November 5th at at YMCA camp about 2 hours south of where we live. It was a cool but sunny day that was perfect for running. I had been trying to figure out the best outfit to wear and way to arrange my hair so it wouldn't get wet or caught in barbed wire. I settled on a longsleeve Smartwool baselayer top with spandex capris (the same ones I fell in the river with when I went canoeing in April), and monkey buns for my hair. Good choices all around.

We arrived to registration about an hour before our wave started and registered and got our faces painted. Then I jumped around and did the pee-pee dance because there were no portapotties around. We had to wait for the shuttle to come and drop us off at the camp right before our wave started.

Nervous and painted

Closer to the portapotties! Yay!

Once we got off the bus, there were a blessed line of portapotties waiting for us, and once I made use of one, I was ready to run. Here I am looking very fearsome a few moments before the start.

The run started off as a nice jog through a dirt road in the woods. And then...the water. We ran through a muddy parking lot right up to a murky moat-like pond in a shaded area. We took turns sliding down a tube into it and swimming across. The best description I can give you of what this felt like is from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry first encounters a Dementor:

"An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart....Harry's eyes rolled up into his head. He couldn't see. He was drowning in cold... And then, from far away, he heard screaming, terrible, terrified, pleading screams. He wanted to help whoever it was, he tried to move his arms, but couldn't... "

The water was probably 50 degrees, which is shockingly cold when the air temperature is in the 40s. It hit you hard, and all I could think about was how cold it was until I realized that my lungs were so shocked that I couldn't breathe. It actually took a few seconds before I remembered that I needed to start swimming to get to the other side.

When I got out on the other side, I was freezing. I immediately started jumping up and down to get myself warmed up. I have a condition called Raynaud's, which involves my fingers and toes turning a waxy grey or white and going completely numb, so I'm vulnerable to frostbite, and I thought I was going to get it if I didn't warm up. Unfortunately, it was right back in the water for us for a rope line obstacle. A woman in front of my was crying hysterically and being encouraged by a teammate. I couldn't wait to get this water part of the course done and to start running. We balanced on a rope through the water to get across, and someone snapped a picture of me at just the right moment when the rope sank too far for my short little legs to reach, lol.

I still made it across without falling in. Not like it mattered, though, since the next thing we had to do was turn around and swim back across to the other side before crawling up through a tube to get out.

The problem with the tube was that the rope we needed to use to get up was coiled at the top. So most people cheated and just climbed up and over the tubes instead of crawling up through them. Most people. Except me. See the little warrior face peeking out of the tube? Yep
After that, we ran for a stretch, had some more waist-deep wading, and started the climbing obstacles. I had lost my friends with the first water obstacle, and I had to keep running to keep warm, so I kept going forward.

When I got to the first climbing obstacle, a wall, some guys behind me offered me a boost. I had no idea how to utilize the boost and actually make it all the way to the top (8 or 9 feet) and down again without killing myself. They pushed and lifted my legs as I jumped and used my upper body to pull myself up. I somehow got on top, lying along the length of it and clutching the 5 or so inches of width, and was kind of terrified. I had lots of encouragement, and the guys went to the other side to help me down. Once I got the nerve to lower both legs down, the guys guided me until I could drop safely. It wasn't too bad. I thanked them and continued on to a series of similar obstacles. Some of them included ropes, others had ramps and cargo nets. None of them were easy, but I could do most of them on my own.

When I finished this round of obstacles, I ran off through the woods again, but the course wasn't that well marked. I turned around when I figured that I was going in the wrong direction and met up the with guys who had helped me over the wall. They weren't entirely sure which way it was either, so we ran together and tried a path next to one of the course markers. After a few minutes, we came to a water station, and the volunteers there told us that we had skipped a large portion of the course! So we turned around and tried it again.

We found the right way and came up to another round of obstacles, which was probably the muddiest part of the course. There were some more walls and other climbing obstacles, and then a swamp to wade through. The swamp was murky and filled with plants, tree roots, fallen logs, and probably more. The challenge was that you had no idea what was underfoot. The roots and logs were at all different depths, so one moment you'd be waist-deep, with your legs stuck in a maze of roots, and the next moment you'd nearly have to get out of the water entirely in order to climb over shallow shelves or submerged logs.

I totally felt like I was in this scene from Apocalypse Now:

After the swamp, we hit the Snakepit, which was a ditch covered with logs that we had to crawl under. When we popped out of that, there were these logs to get over:

What a face! I actually did not feel as bad as I look there. I think I was just focusing on watching the technique of the girls ahead of me.

Anyway, the course had a lot more running and climbing obstacles. My favorite part was a tire carry up a hill. I totally rocked that hill! I was so happy not to be in the water that I felt I could run forever.

There was one more major water obstacle, where we had to swim about 100 yards across a lake and climb over logs in the way. I wasn't looking forward to this, but I jumped in and had a go at it. By the time I got to the first log, I was really feeling the cold. I had a little difficulty getting over it, and I paused to think about strategy, and one of the guys I was running with started saying he couldn't breathe. I couldn't either, and I looked around. There were people at the halfway point being fished out of the water in a rowboat. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to make it all the way across without getting hypothermia, and instead of going through the trouble of being rescued (and running the risk of capsizing the rowboat in the process), I figured that I would quit while I was ahead. I turned around and went back the way I came. It wasn't very far to where I could touch bottom, but I had a lot of trouble getting myself to that point. There is no way that I would have been able to get all the way across that lake. Instead, I ran along the perimeter of the lake to wait on the other side for the guys before continuing on.

After the lake, we were feeling tired. My forearms ached, and I couldn't flex my fingers. I have no idea how I managed to grasp boards and ropes to pull myself over obstacles. Somehow it was done, though, and we made it through the next 2 or so miles of trail running and climbing. A few times I ran ahead of the guys to stretch my legs and warm up some more. They always caught up at the next obstacle, though.

At about the 10K spot, we came to the very last water portion, which was a piece of cake. It was shallow and sunny, and my support staff was waiting to say hi and snap some pictures!

There was another quarter mile to go after this, and I couldn't wait to cross that finish line.

I was all smiles when I finally did finish!

I was looking forward to seeing my friends come through the finish, but my main priority was changing into dry clothes, which was not a speedy process. My motor skills were greatly affected by the cold, and by the time I got access to a bathroom to change in, I spent forever because I physically could not pick up the dry clothing articles and put them on. Perhaps the moment of greatest mental and physical stress for me was when I had to untie my shoelaces before I could take my capris off, and my weak, cold fingers simply couldn't do it. It must have taken me 5 painstaking minutes just to finally untie both laces.

So this run was designed to be both physically and mentally challenging, and it definitely was. It was also designed to require camaraderie and teamwork, so I'm glad that I found some people to run with and wish that I hadn't gotten separated from my friends.

It was nice meeting people on the course and helping and being helped, but to be honest, I didn't feel like it was that much fun. I am much more of a trail runner than a mud runner. When I read about Tough Mudders with their electric shocks, I can't understand why anyone would willingly sign up for it. At least I can say that I've completed a mud run. It was quite a challenge, and now I'm ready to take on challenges that are more meaningful to me, like running new distances and conquering hills and mountains.

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