Edited: A friend asked me to write more about my team, and now I’ve added that to my story. I’ve excluded names to protect their identity, just in case they don’t want to be known. Thanks!
I woke up with apprehension, knowing this was the day I would face the unknown. I girded myself with courage, knowing I was embarking on a crazy adventure…
…That wasn’t even half the truth.
The team was made up of three tall and strong men and two small women, including myself. I was little, though the other woman was smaller than me!
Where and who did they come from, you may ask?
A just question. As a new resident in Denver, I was still developing friendships as I went. I knew it would take a while before friendships would grow into something stronger, since I was still considered a stranger to these parts. It was in the church I had come to love in the first year residing here, as it was the only church who eagerly met my needs when I asked. I am deaf and needed an interpreter, and to find a church with one was like looking for a needle in a haystack! It was fortunate that I had found one here. It was also here I saw a couple wearing Tough Mudder shirts, and I greeted them, congratulating them on completing it. As I talked to the woman, I told her how I have always wanted to do a Tough Mudder, but just didn’t know anyone who knew about it and would do it with me. Her eyes lit up and said, “You could join us next year! We are going to do it again, too!” She talked to me about wanting to form a team, and I told her I was really interested.
I almost didn’t make it to the Tough Mudder, as finances hadn’t been kind to us as a family trying to make ends meet with just my husband’s income. I was hushed and told my ticket was taken care of. As you could imagine my shock and appreciation, I was overwhelmed… And extremely thankful! I gave her what I could to help pay for whatever expenses she generously covered for me. Her husband, herself, and two other eager men from our church made up our rag band of a team with myself included.
That very morning we all were excited, as well as nervous. I was also prepping myself up for the big day. With some k-tape in hand, I asked the only other female on the team to help me tape up my shoulder. She aptly taped me up, making a beautiful hot pink across my left shoulder.
My newly appointed orthopedic doctor had told me I had Bursitis and had given me a cortisone shot… That whole visit is worth a blog, but that’s for another time. The doctor had suggested I not do this crazy stunt, unless my shoulder pain was much better. The whole point of taping it was to remind me not to do anything to hurt it even more. I was going to do it.
It was a chilly morning on the mountain side, but the sun ensured us it would be a beautiful day. The five of us donned our gray team colors, marked our numbers to our foreheads, legs, and arms, and joined a throng of other crazed adventure seeking beasts wearing a variety of their own team colors. I could feel their excitement, the vibration of their yelling touched me to the core, sending my butterflies into another hyper dance.
My female counterpart tapped me on the shoulder and I read her lips saying, “You feeling okay?” I nodded. “I am so nervous, but I’m so ready for this!” She nodded excitedly, telling me she was feeling the same way, too.
We walked under an inflated arch marking the space for warm up.I could feel and her the low bass of the music booming out of the speakers near us, and I could see my teammates laugh as I started dancing to the music.
Ahead, a well known icon of the adventure we were embarking on stood on the platform in his short shorts, three bright colored headbands wrapped around his thigh, high knee socks, and a well fitted shirt over his tight muscled chest – It was none other than Coach T. Mud! That got us hooting and hollering! He led us through a warm up, and the excitement began to build even more. I was so ready to start!
They led us through the warm up to a place where a speaker stood, wearing a white jacket with a microphone in his hand. I read his lips as he encouraged us and asked us to kneel. A teammate looked to me, and I saw her ask, “Can you understand him?” I was able to say he was easy to lipread, despite there were times he turned his back on me.
Could I hear him, you may ask? Of course, I couldn’t. I am deaf. My one hearing aid was left behind with one of my teammate’s wife, who waited for us at the finish line.
Finally, we were off! We ran for a good distance, and it felt good to put in some of the training I had managed to do despite the shoulder pain I had over the past month.
The first obstacle came up, and I see volunteers dumping bags of ice into a basin, and I dreaded being cold, but I wasn’t going to let my team down. I climbed up to see a chainlink fence above a slide, leading to a pool of ice water. I knew this was going to take my breath away. The fence was going to force me to put my head under the iced water.
As I hit the water, my head went under, and my feet met the bottom of the pool. I pushed up, feeling my body scream from the cold, and gasped for air as I broke through the icy surface of the water. I could see my teammates coaxing me on, but the voice in my head shouted louder, “MOVE! KEEP MOVING!” I climbed out of there, shivering, but proud of myself for not letting my fear of the cold overtake me.
The rest of the team made it out, and we ran to warm ourselves up and to make it on to the next hurdle.
We went under barbed wire, pulled up through pipes, fell backwards into cold mud, climbed through even more mud pits avoiding deeper holes, and so much more!
There were a couple of obstacles I passed, for the sake of my shoulder, but I stood on the sidelines cheering my teammates on. I signed, “Champ!” when I saw them make it through the obstacle, and they would smile.
There was one obstacle I wish I didn’t pass. It was called the “Cry Baby”. Just seeing it caused anxiety to rise into my stomach. There was a smell coming out of the boxed chamber set onto the ground, a very irritating gas for the eyes and throat, and on top of that, people would swim under a board in muddy water to get inside and through this very chamber. It scared me bad. The guys were nervous, but I saw one sign, “Brave!” He says, “I’m gonna man up on this! I’m doing it!” He dives under and a minute later, we see him make it across the other side. We cheered, and we all signed, “Champ!”
They had all learned signs as we became a team, knowing I would need to take my hearing aid out. Talk about an awesome team!
The three others decided to do it, leaving me standing in the muddy path trembling in fear. I couldn’t swallow that fear to just do it. They came out triumphant, wiping their irritated eyes and laughing. We began to run away from the obstacle, and I knew I should have just done it.
We climbed over a “Beached Whale”, which was more of a half inflated balloon with ropes around on it to help in climbing over it. It was a sight to see. There were bodies of men and women clambering to find some kind of control and grip, covered in mud, and there were several handprints on some butts, indicating how they managed to get on top of the “whale” in the first place. As I made an effort to jump up, I found myself being pushed up, and I took the opportunity to grab the rope ahead of me. It was quite a challenge to not slide awkwardly on the constantly rocking ballon. My female teammate was already on the ground, and I saw her gesture to me in how to hold the rope as I came down. I did so, and was able to get down without falling.
Another obstacle, which came to be one I loved the most, was a wall of wooden planks stacked up like a ladder nearly 10 feet up. A few of my teammates questioned me with looks, and I said, “I want to do this.” I climbed up, and as I reached the top, it reminded me so much of my love of rock climbing! I climbed down with a smile on my face, and I could see a few of my teammates smile back with the sign, “Champ!”
I can’t say the whole adventure was easy.
One of the hard parts was trying to make the ascension up the mountain to make it to the next point in part of the 11 mile journey. My legs were hurting as I went up, and as I tried to push myself, I felt my chest on fire, making it painful to breathe. About 3 to 4 times I had to stop to ease the pain in my legs. I felt horrible for slowing down my team, but they encouraged me. I fought through the pain and made it to the top, hoping for no more uphill climbs. No… There was quite a few on that journey.
Then came the end.
Electroshock Therapy… Talk about a painful experience. Sure, it scared the crap out of me, but I was going to do it, not knowing how painful it was going to be.
I began to run in the thick mud, anxious for it to be over, and as suddenly as I went down, I felt this painful shock in my shoulder. I yelled, “OW!” I tried to get up, only to get shocked again. I felt my whole body shake in pain. In the corner of my eye, I see my teammate, my hero, come diving in to help me out. He gets shocked, and as we both pull out to the side of the pit, we get shocked again. That. Really. Hurt. I did not want to do that again. I looked to my savior with a smile. “Thank you.” He smiled back and gave me a muddy hug and coaxed me to run to the finish line. I was glad to see that finish line.
We crossed that finish line with orange headbands, layers of mud on our legs and shoes, and every bit of our bodies aching for the beer they promised us at the end.
Would I do it again?
To be honest. Yeah. I just don’t think I’ll do the shock thing again. As a legionnaire in the Tough Mudder, I think I have that right to pass it. Once is enough. And next time, my shoulder isn’t going to sideline me!