I finally buy a new ipod since some stupid person at Lilly’s stole mine. I liked my old one just fine, but this new little nano is pretty cool (I’m always three steps behind on technology). And now I finally have a reason to start running again. Usually I run at least five times a week, but for most of the month of May I did nothing. Very unlike me. I used the ipod as an excuse – can’t run without music, but I really just wasn’t motivated to get out there and do anything.
I’ve always been an active person, playing sports all my life. When field hockey ended my senior year of college, I no longer had to participate in an organized sport. I hated it. The only thing left to do was some kind of race. So I did my first half marathon in the spring of senior year. It was pretty rough. I trained a lot and was nervous I wouldn’t be able to complete the 13.1 miles. Mike dropped me off early in the morning near the beach – in Long Branch. Those moments before the race are the worst. A guy who looked like a pro started talking to me. “This your first half marathon?” Yes. “You’ll be addicted. Once you run one, you’ll just keep wanting to run more.” Hmm. We’ll see.
It ended up being a beautiful day and a scenic race. I shouldn’t have worn my headphones because I didn’t hear all my friends cheering for me along the way (they yelled at me later for it). Everyone was so nice and motivational, cheering for you even if they didn’t know you. Ended up finishing just under 2 hours (1:58). I wanted to die. Mike and Allie were at the finish line waiting for me. I was so out of it. No, I never want to do a half marathon again. One and done. We went back to 5 Cheryl Drive (the bed bug house). It was Springfest, which basically means drinkfest. We had a barbeque in the backyard. I ate a burger and then very smartly did a case race with some friends. I don’t remember much else. Blacked out. Mike told me later I was throwing up in the bathroom sink.
I don’t want to run another half marathon, but how about a sprint triathlon? Did this in Philly with LMonny and LStever a couple years later. Half mile swim in the Schuylkill River, 15.5 mile bike ride, 3-mile run. Mostly I was scared of the swim – especially the river. Swam a few times at Greenfield’s Swim Club – but it’s not the same. Biked a lot, too, on my very old, shitty bike. The green Schwinn. Took it in for a tuneup before the big day. When I came back to pick it up, I was not given good news. “You shouldn’t use this for a race. You need parts that aren’t even made anymore.” OK, but CAN I ride it? “Sure. I just don’t recommend it.” OK. I’m riding it. I don’t know why I was so set on using that bike. But I was, and I did.
The swim ends up being not nearly as bad as I thought. The water is surprisingly clean and I don’t even feel seaweed or anything touching me. Get kicked a few times but no bruises. When I get out of the water I’m ahead of both Laurens and feeling good. The hard part is over. Bring my bike over to the starting point and jump on. The chain pops off. This has never happened before and I have no idea what to do. There are two official guys standing here. Can you help me? “No.” What do you mean, no? “We’re not allowed to touch your bikes.” Oh God. I’m screwed. I frantically mess around with it and finally get the chain back on. The crowd cheers loudly for the girl who is finally on her bike. Pedal about 100 yards and it’s off again. This time I really can’t get it back on. I get down and look at it. No idea what I’m doing. I’ve got the chain in my hands, black stuff is all over me, cut my hand. Now there’s a mixture of black stuff and red stuff dripping all over my hand. I can feel the tears coming as more and more people zoom by on their bikes. One person yells out as he’s passing. “Are you OK?” No! Why did you even ask if you’re not going to stop and help me, asshole. I can’t believe this, I’m not going to be able to finish the race. I just did the swim for nothing. I try to pedal, and it magically clicks into place. And I’m riding. OK, OK, I got this. I try to change gears and the pedals lock. Change it back and don’t touch the gears for the rest of the 15 miles. It’s a torturous 15 miles. People are easily passing me on their nice, normal road bikes. Both Laurens pass me. I can’t wait to be off this thing. The three mile run is cake. It’s boring, though, running 1.5 miles on blacktop and then turning around and running straight back. LMonny is ahead of me but runs back so we can cross the finish line together. I’m grateful for it. Honestly don’t remember my time – just happy I completed it.
Half marathon and triathlon. These are NOTHING compared to the Tough Mudder. People started talking about it at work – The Turtle Club. David (my boss, and former NFL player…just saying) wanted to do this big race with some of the employees. He didn’t ask me, but everyone was talking about it. Scratch that – the guys were talking about it. What the hell? I’m doing it. Definitely. Why do I always feel the need to prove myself? I google this thing to see what it’s all about. It’s referred to as “the toughest event on the planet.” Well OK, then. It’s roughly a half marathon (been there, done that) with 13 obstacles along the way. It’s not a race you do alone. It’s all about teamwork and camaraderie and finishing the race together. Sounds awesome.
We first run about a mile before the obstacles start, then we have to wade into the freezing, freezing cold water. In November. It’s already freezing outside. There’s no avoiding it. Just get in there. Then there’s a rope above and below us as we tight rope our way across. There’s so many people in front and behind that you just have to keep moving or you’ll fall into the water. I manage to make it across. Then comes the drop. I grab a rope and climb my way up this wall. Once at the top, it’s basically a platform, and it’s a 15-foot drop into the icy water. I need time to think and prepare, but there’s no time for either. More and more people are coming up behind you, so if you don’t jump on your own, you’re getting pushed in. I jump. Of course I go all the way under and feel my heart go up into my throat. It’s the most shocking, numbing feeling. When I resurface, I must have a look of horror on my face. I turn around and see Nuttle, who jumped in after me. “You OK?” No. I am not OK. Now I have to swim to the other side. It’s not far – only about two or three hundred feet. All the guys in front of me are walking with their hands above the water. I try to mimic them, but I can’t touch the bottom. I panic a little and have to breathe and calm myself. I have to swim, which ends up making more sense because once you get to the other side, you have to go under water anyway, so there’s no avoiding getting wet, guys.
At the other side, there are lines of barrels floating in the water. You have to go underneath each line – there are four. I’m terrified. I can’t touch the bottom, and I have to dive under the water and come up on the other side. They’re all connected, and there’s not much room between each one to come up for air. I can’t open my eyes under water to see where I’m going because I have contacts in. Chris – another guy with us – sees my fear. “Linds, just get out and walk around.” This pisses me off and motivates me to do it. The race just started and you’re already telling me to take it easy? I don’t think so. If I go over to the furthest barrel it’s shallow, so I can stand. Mike Bohlinger is next to me. We don’t work together – he’s my bosses’ friend. I know him, but not really. Mike, please don’t leave me. “I’m not, I’m right here.” OK, wait for me on the other side. He goes under first and comes up on the other side. OK, wait, stay there, wait for me. “Yup, I’m here. Go.” Deep breath, and I go under. Mike grabs me on the other side. By the time we get to the last one, he and another guy are dragging me out of the water. I can’t see. My eyes are all blurry. I must have opened my eyes under water. I swear, if my contacts came out I won’t be able to finish because I’m literally blind. I blink about ten times and my eyes finally clear up. Keep hearing people ask if I’m OK. Once I say yes, they’re yelling at me to run. Really appreciating the whole team aspect right now. Everyone waits until we finish each obstacle before we move on.
The worst is over. No more swimming. Thank God. There’s mud and hills, but I’ll take that over the frigid water. Then comes the mountain. A mountain you have to climb. There’s a big crowd here, because it’s hard to make it up this thing without falling back down. One by one, someone from our team runs up. Mostly everyone does it on the first, second, or third try. Janna goes before me and gets up on her first try. Dammit. I have to be able to do this. Five times I run up and fall. At this point, my whole team is at the top, cheering for me, trying to help me up. They make a line so I can grab onto one of them. Finally, on the sixth tired run, I grab onto Nuttle and don’t let go. He’s flat against the mountain and I grab everywhere on his body to pull myself up. There is some serious bonding going on right now.
The rest isn’t too bad. One thing I do have is endurance, so keeping up is not a problem. I start to regret that we have to wait for everyone – not because I mind waiting and finishing together – but the more we stand and wait the colder and colder I get. I have to climb through this long metal tube. Not cool. 1 – because I’m claustrophobic. 2 – there are rocks all over the bottom and I have shorts on. I come out on the other side with my knees bleeding. Didn’t feel it while I was crawling but now they’re burning. Chris is asking me if I’m OK, but David just yells at me. “You’re fine! Let’s go.” He is such a teammate. I respond better to his yelling than to Chris’ coaxing. We then have to climb over these huge walls. I wouldn’t stand a chance, but David basically throws me over.
The last obstacle is a secret – you can’t find it online. So we have no idea what to expect. It’s quick – just have to run through some electrical wires. Electrical wires. Is this a joke? I’m legitimately scared. I stand and watch other people going through first. These wires hang all the way down until they’re almost touching the ground. There are so many of them – unavoidable. Someone tries to army crawl his way across. So dumb. He’s moving so slow, and getting shocked with every inch forward. One person stands right outside of the thing, and tries to slide his way in between two wires. He gets shocked and falls to the ground before he’s even started. A girl runs through and midway through gets shocked and falls to the ground. She tries to get up and gets shocked and falls back down. This is horrible! People are screaming. Onlookers are laughing. Yea, I might be laughing, too, if I didn’t have to run through. And you really don’t have to run through. You can walk right around it, but I’ve done every obstacle so far. It’s like I wouldn’t really be finishing the race. Seems like the best way to go is to just run through it as fast as I can without falling. I finally work up the nerve and run. One, two, three shocks and I’m out. I’m a little shaken up, but fine. I made it! It’s another mile, and we all wait for everyone to catch up before we run through the finish line together.
Now THAT is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.