Monday, August 2, 2010

A very dirty story

I did it. I set out to finish the race without injury, and I did it. It took Team Inconceivable one hour, 46 minutes and 28 seconds to cross the finish line, but let's face it - it was never about the time. It was about challenging myself to try something different, and I did that.

I entered, participated in and finished the Muddy Buddy Relay on August 1, 2010.

It was an amazing day. I was scared out of my mind. We arrived at 6 a.m. amidst incredible fog. I couldn’t see the Randall Road exit off of 90 when I was on the exit; that’s the kind of fog we’re talking about. I took a few minutes to mentally prepare, got out of the Jeep, put the front wheel on the bike and made my way to the race site. The event took place on Indian Hill Horse Farm in Gilberts, IL. We’re in farm country, folks. Watch where you step.

I got into line to register and waited for co-worker Mike to arrive. He and his wife, Emily, were coming in from Chicago, so they had a bit more traffic (and the same evil fog) to contend with. Soon, we had signed our waivers and were registered, we got our free t-shirts and goody bags, and it was time to get in line. We were in wave 10 of 17 total waves, and I was having an anxiety attack. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I embarrassed myself, and my friend? What if … ? Fear will do that to ya. I looked around and realized I was one of the larger competitors, and decided not to let it get to me. We are all just people. Our stories are different, but the person who crosses the finish line first is not all that different from the one who crosses last. I was just there to do my best. At that, I cannot fail.

Soon, our wave was at the front. I had to pee, but that’s nerves for ya. The airhorn sounded and I got on the bike, only to encounter an immediate huge mud puddle. And I mean MUD. Gucky, mucky, suction to take off your shoes, mud. I rode through it, hearing Emily’s sweet voice from the sidelines cheering me on. She’s taking pictures of me riding this bike, I thought. Great. The world can see my chunky self. I won’t care if I finish!

Off I went. Soon we were on blissful paved road, and I though, p’shaw – I can handle this. Then we came to hills. Way to go, smart ass. But I trudged forward, quads burning. Determination, thy name is Maggie.

When I got to the first obstacle, it was time to dismount the bike and leave it for Michael, who ran the first leg. And then, it was time to climb a wall.Yeah, I said it. I CLIMBED A WALL! Up and over, and down the cargo net on the other side. It was like a seven-foot climbing wall that you’d find in a gym, with the little toeholds along the way. Yeah, I did that. Felt great. Then, it was time to begin my first running leg.

I thought I was going to die. My shoes quickly got muddy, so it was like running with an extra 10 pounds ... but I kept going. I thought I was going to die. I thought my lungs were on fire. Just before I got to the second obstacle, I contemplated quitting. But then, I wouldn't get to say "I did it". So I kept going. And breathing. And moving through this mucky waterlogged soil direct from hell. Finally, I came to the second obstacle.

Time to do my best military crawl, under nets on my belly. Fun, until I hit my head on a pole. I have a goose egg! I was looking down, because if I looked forward my helmet would get caught on the net above me. And the indoor/outdoor carpet beneath the nets was really scratchy (says the girl who would shortly be covered in mud). Oh, well ... on we go.

Got back on the bike, only to realize that I am not an accomplished off-road cyclist. Tall grass, wet ground, and more than a few twigs and rocks made for slow going, and a great portion of this leg I simply walked the bike. There was just no way I could bike it without endangering the other cyclists. Or runners. Or wildlife. When I was able to, I hopped back on for more of the sick burning quad workout, but most of this leg was just not passable for me on the bike. But that was okay – my goal was not to be perfect. My goal was to finish.

Mike met me before the third obstacle with a glass of water. We took a moment to catch our breath, and then it was time for me to watch him hop on the bike and get back on the trail while I tried my luck on the balance beam. I got up onto the damn thing and just did not feel steady. Remember, my feet at this point were still covered in slimy mud! So I looked at the volunteers and hunky EMTs at the end and asked what would happen if I didn’t complete the obstacle. They waved me forward … so kind! And I was off running again.

Running? Stumbling, panting, praying and running. And walking. And wishing I’d trained just a wee bit harder. But I kept moving forward. Amazing people encouraged me as they passed. “You’re doin’ great!” they’d say, or “You can so do this!” My favorite though was when I was tackling this wooded, hilly area (and secretly thanking God that Mike was on the bike now and not me) and making my way gingerly down a super-steep slope. I was going pretty slowly now, just making sure I didn’t fall, when a woman came up behind me and said, “You’ve got this. Let’s jog down together.” It really filled my soul with confidence. It was a great feeling, knowing that so many truly gifted athletes just wanted everyone to finish.

Fourth obstacle? An inflatable wall with a slide down the other side. We had to climb up what was about a big damn puffy wall via a cargo net type thing. I stared at it, wondering if I could do it. And then I stopped wondering. It wasn’t the time to think about it; it was go time.

I stepped up … and realized that the first rope “rung” on the cargo net was higher than my waist. I had to pull myself up before I could get a foothold, and I did it! Up up up I went, until I reached the top. And let me tell you, the breeze I made on my way down was incredible. From here, I knew I’d make it.

I found the bike and hopped on to finish the last mile, which was mostly – blissfully – paved. Until the end. When I had to dismount and carry the bike while I walked through a long, long, long mud pit. And I did that, too, keeping the bike as clean as possible. Others were just dragging the bike through the mud, but it wasn’t my bike; that wouldn’t have been cool.

Shortly after that, it was time to drop off the bike and find Mike (hey, that rhymes!) to complete the final obstacle – the mud pit – together. We met up, and took a few minutes while I caught my breath. It would have been sad to pass out in the mud pit! And then, sploosh – it was time to get dirty. We laughed the entire way through, even when I accidentally stuck my face further into the mud than I intended. BLARGH!

When we came out at the other side, we crossed the finish line and each received a much-needed energy drink. Sheesh, what a way to spend a Sunday morning! Emily was there to meet us and take the “after” photos, and both she and Mike were incredibly supportive of me. Mike was a great sport through the whole morning, never minding that I wasn’t the fastest partner on the course. I felt tired and lucky.

Finally, it was time to find the beer garden and relax while the fine people at Goose Island provided our complimentary (really, they told me how nice I looked!) beer. Cold and delicious … at 10:15 a.m. But when you’ve been up since 4, one beer isn’t that far out of the realm of normal.

As we got ready to part ways, that overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me. I did it. With the help and support of amazing friends, I did something I wasn’t quite sure I was capable of. There’s nothing quite like trying something completely outside your comfort zone and realizing you’re capable of it.

And we’re already planning to do it all again next year.

See the album on Facebook for additional photos.


Janie said...

Aw, Mags, can I just say I'm really proud of you without sounding condescending? I am honored that you call me friend. Your positive attitude is an inspiration to everyone around you. Especially me right now as I have been unable to find mine for several weeks. Love you!

maggie said...

Janie, you can say you're proud of me, any time you want. It's not condescending at all. And thank you; that means a whole lot to me.

I love you.

mike rice said...

Slow clap.