My brother Geoff, his wife Catherine, and I “competed” in the “Warrior Dash” in Huntersville, NC this Saturday. I am not sure how I got involved in doing this with them…I think I’ll blame Groupon. And maybe my friend Janet, my running buddy, because she has been trying to convince me to do something like this for a while. So when Catherine sent me the Groupon for the race (so she may have some culpability in this as well), I had to decide quickly because that is how Groupon gets you. Half price to risk my life – what a bargain! In the spirit of my journey to take more risks in 2012, I signed up.
The Warrior Dash is the world’s largest foot race with obstacles…which included a fire pit, a muddy pond, a rope bridge, tires, beat-up cars, and a long crawl through mud covered in barbed wire as well as many walls with varying heights, angles, aids, and treachery. All of these things we ran over, under, through or around for 3.08 miles to get to the finish line. To get a feel of what we did, check out this out. A guy with some kind of camera/helmet thingy, carrying an American flag, made this 3 minute video of our race from Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfNISwztIEY
In preparing for the race, I tried not to stress out about how I was going to handle the obstacles. I knew I could always skip ones that were too hard – I wasn’t running to win anything. And I knew I would get a medal just for crossing the finish line…and a free beer! I just wanted to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and knew we would have a lot of laughs. So I concentrated on what I was going to wear and how I was going to style my hair given how dirty I was likely to get. No other training besides my regular running routine took place.
What happened on race day exceeded my expectations in so many ways. First, some of the obstacles were a LOT harder than I expected. After a trek through a few disgustingly muddy obstacles in the woods, we found ourselves facing a 20+ ft rock climbing wall. If you don’t know what this is, please let me explain. It is a vertical wall with little tiny ledges you use for your hands and feet to climb. There are no harnesses or safety nets. This is probably why we each had to sign the waiver about 30 times with our names and initials. Anyway, my point is that our shoes were caked with mud and we were to climb this thing and not fall off. Add the fact that I am pigeon-toed and you have a recipe for disaster. Geoff and Catherine were like spider monkeys…I was so impressed! So I gave it a shot and up I went.
What I didn’t realize is that after about 6 feet up, it became much scarier to think about coming down from whence I came than it was to continue…so I kept going up and tried not to think about anything. I got to the top with a little nudge from the guy below me and a kinda crazy tuck and roll move onto the platform. Whew!! Then, as if that isn’t enough, when I got to the top of this thing, I had to leap out about 4 feet and grab a fireman’s pole to slide down. And then about 6 more obstacles to go after this…
Another thing that exceed my expectations is that I got a lot dirtier and wetter than I ever imagined.
There was no way around the muddy pond obstacle except through it…and the water was over our heads. Ick!!! We came out of it covered in what Geoff called pond seaweed…but I called pond scum. Ugh. It was at least as awful as it looks in that video.
By the time we got to the end, we no longer cared about how gross we were. Well, maybe I did, because I scratched up my elbows and hands pretty good trying to not immerse myself in mud in the final mud crawl under the barbed wire obstacle…
In the end, I completed more of the obstacles than I thought that I would (11 out of 12). Geoff and Catherine did ALL of them – I am in awe. I always have a goal for each race I enter… sometimes it is about time, sometimes distance, and sometimes it is about simply finishing. For the Warrior Dash, my goal was to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and to not hurt myself. Minus a few scrapes, blisters and bruises, I did what I set out to do and then some. Geoff, Catherine and I have stories that will last us a lifetime, and hilarious pictures for our Christmas cards.
But – this story can’t be a true blog post without my comments on my lessons learned.
So I got to thinking about something I have heard my dad say about me and my siblings many times. He says if there was a wall, my older sister Jacquie would bust through to the other side, that I would find a way to “dance” around the wall to get to the other side, and that Geoff would choose stay on his side of the wall. Let me tell you he was right that I did run around (not exactly dance) one wall that I just couldn’t get over. But – I saw my brother in action, and he was fearless conquering the multitude of walls that we encountered on Saturday, and I know he has conquered many other kinds of “walls” in his life as well.
So here is what I think. The idea of “The Wall” can mean different things to different people. And it can mean different things to us at different times of our lives. It can represent risk, and it can represent boundaries. The “wall” can mean it’s time to rest, and it can mean it’s time to push through. The wall can conjure danger, opportunity, obstacles, and safety. The key is to increase our awareness of the walls that exist in our lives so that the walls don’t control us. It’s not that we control them either. Rather, we recognize the walls – understand them, define them, and figure out what they means to us – and then we can make conscious choices with our actions, thoughts and feelings about how we cope with these walls in our lives.
Also, as a side note, I learned at the rock climbing wall that sometimes the risk of moving ahead is worth it compared to the pain of going backwards. What a metaphor, right? On the same said wall, and in the pond scum obstacle, I learned that help from a friend or a stranger is there if you ask and are willing to accept the help.
Will I do the Warrior Dash again next year – absolutely! As long as Catherine and Geoff are there to help me, and maybe we can get Jacquie out there too.