Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Muddy Puddles

This is Peppa Pig and her little brother George.  They enjoy jumping in muddy puddles.
However, the last time I checked, I am not a pig and I do not enjoy mud, although a little bit on a trail run is tolerable.  And I can't quite explain my aversion to obstacles -  I'm not afraid of heights but the general feeling is a holdover from my childhood, when everything physical was impossible and frightening.

Going into this race, I felt like my training was solid, if not spectacular.  Not having access to a gym since late March meant my strength training since then has consisted of bodyweight exercises, kettlebells (8-16 kg), TRX, and a pullup bar with a resistance band.   Unlike 99.99% of the runners I know, I strength train diligently year round.  So I was in decent, but not top shape.  Since committing to train for Mud Hero at the beginning of June, I've been doing weights sans gloves, in order to strengthen my grip.  Lastly, as you know, I've been running trails at least once a week to prepare for the terrain.  I was assured by everyone I knew that there would be people who literally roll their 300 pound asses off the couch race morning, stuff their cigarettes and chips into their back pocket of their cotton shorts at the start and complete the race/obstacles successfully and that my years of running/ST would put me well ahead of the pack.

The night before the race, Greg and I went through the course map on the website and talked through every obstacle.  The 2 that I really had issues with were the cargo nets and the Kong, mainly because I have a tendency to climb up and be too scared to get back down.

I was already a panicked mess a few days leading up, to the point where people told me if I felt so bad, I should just skip it.  But chickening out on things really isn't what the Real Patty would do, right? I have a prescription for meds to be used only at anxiety causing situations, but I was warned by my doctor that I would feel relaxed and possibly sleepy.  We never discussed the drug use should the anxiety causing situation be an athletic event.  So I skipped the drugs and fought the rising panic.  The night before, I took my regular daily antidepressant and washed them down with a few too many drinks.  Even 10 minutes before the race, I turned back towards the car several times, and at one point lay on the ground in tears, trying to summon up the nerve to walk to the start.  No one else was acting like me.  Everyone else seemed able to relax and have a good time. Why can't I do this too?!?!?!

We were signed up for the 10 am heat, and lately I've been totally addicted to PC Hawaiian Buns with globs of butter and a piece of fruit for breakfast.  It's not terribly filling but sufficient if I head straight out the door to run.  So I packed a Luna bar but Greg and I shared it in the car around 8:45 am.  

The few times Greg and I have run "together", it has meant me trailing along at least 50 m behind, even though he knows damn well that I cannot run the paces that he does.  Of course the race last week was still on my mind, where he swore we'd run together but was out of sight by the 1K mark and rubbed salt in the wound by finishing 10 minutes ahead of me and ran backwards on the course, wearing his medal, to look for me.  I'm sure you can imagine how much I appreciated that gesture. The original plan was that we'd run our own races but at the very last moment, I challenged Greg to stay with me - really stay with me - for a minimum of 1K.  Not wanting to punch my way through hordes of walkers, we lined up in the 2nd row and took off with no warm ups before, save the walk from the car.  Upon the very first hill, I was dizzy and a bit faint from the lack of food and had to walk, even though this was the easiest trail I'd ever run.  

Not going to give a play-by-play of every single obstacle, but some of the "best".

1. Cargo net climb - this was the absolute worst.  I got to the top and was too scared to put my leg over the other side.  Then I was afraid to climb down backwards, so I was basically clinging on to the net at the top for dear life and I had a total freakout.  People were trying to tell me I was doing great. Um, I'm stuck on a net and can't get down..obviously I am not doing great, stop fucking lying to me!  Somehow I got down but I think I spent 10 minutes here.  Then after getting down the anxiety got the better of me and I lay down on the ground, completely freaked out.

2. The Kong - I had visions of me with either leg stuck in a hole, dangling and no way to lever myself out.  But someone suggested butt-scooting across and I did it at the side, with one hand holding on to the frame.

3. Demolition Derby - I swear, one of the cars there was my old 2002 silver Protege.  But i checked for a telltale scuff near the gas tank door and it wasn't there.

4. Balance beam - this would have really sucked if I had fallen.  I started scooting over sideways, but my feet ended up at an angle and that actually worked even better than sideways because about 3/4 of my foot was on the beam.

5. Every single mud pit was above Greg's waist.  Drowning in a mud puddle is not how I want to die. 

Remember how I used to be afraid that I'd step into shoulder deep mud while trail running? Please, make the obstacles midget-friendly.

So I can't say I enjoyed myself, but afterwards, I was angry at myself, a) for being irrationally scared and freaking out and b) not trying my best and having a really embarrassingly slow finish time.  I was also annoyed that this race was just mud and not much in terms of strength or athletic skill. Greg tells me Spartan is much more along those lines and I would like to do the 10K Spartan next spring, leading up to Tough Mudder next summer, because my whole self imposed cognitive behaviour therapy method of "doing it until I don't hate it any more" worked for me when I was starting to exercise, and more recently with trail running.

My "I'm not having a good day" take on Nicole's signature #runnerd double thumbs up pose.  Also: epic muffin top, ew.

I'm having such an awesome time, can you tell?

I almost didn't take a medal because I didn't feel like I deserved it, and I did, but put it in the mud at the finish.


  1. Patty, as a card-carrying member of the Way Too Hard On Ourselves posse recognizing one of our own, I have some unsolicited commentary:

    Stinkbrain really gets off on beating us up. "I suck", "I should have done that better", "I shouldn't have felt that way", it's all kind of rocket fuel for stinkbrain.

    I know the following may be a difficult perspective to embrace, but I think it is at least as valid as the one you've expressed: you willingly did something that terrified you to the point of lying down in tears. You willingly did something that triggered biochemical fight/flight/freeze responses and you did it while bonking (which contributes to stinkbrain). Patty, that's HUGE bravery. That's a BIG accomplishment. You WERE doing great. The people who said it weren't just blowing smoke up your muddy skirt. You were doing great. Breathe that in.

    If it wasn't the kind of run you wanted to have, ok. Sometimes things don't work out the way we would like them to. And if you had fear and anxiety, then that's just what your body/being needed to express right then, whether or not it made rational sense. Judging or hating it - as much as I know the temptation - only adds pain to pain. When your son is afraid of something, even if it doesn't seem to make sense, do you get mad and yell at him, or do you hold him and console him? You are just as worthy of love as he is.

    And finally, on that last race photo - I would never have noticed the really rather slight muffin top if you hadn't pointed it out. What I took away from the pic was "Ha, she's flipping the bird", "She's muddy" and "She looks strong!".
    We are always our own harshest body critics, aren't we? I tend to hate most of my race pics because of muffin top, but my friends don't see it unless I point it out to them.

    Give yourself some love and kindness. You deserve it. You did good.

  2. A race like that would kill me! And if my husband was running with the medal backwards like that, I would put him in the doghouse for a REALLY LONG TIME!!! Running is our little island of happiness, god knows we have to do a lot of things we hate and races should not be one of those. Do the kind of events you enjoy, regardless of what others suggest!