“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
-Thomas A. Edison
“I didn’t train enough.” “I won’t be able to complete the obstacles.” “What the hell was I thinking?”
It’s a week before my first obstacle course 5k, and I am silently talking myself down.
Just a few months earlier, I excitedly signed up for a race called the “Rugged Maniac” which is “a 3.1-mile course filled with 20+ obstacles designed to push you to your limits!” The obstacles range from crawling underneath wire to jumping barricades, and from dodging swinging tires to swimming through mud pools. When I signed up, I figured it would be much more doable for me than say a 10 mile tough mudder. But suddenly, as I sneak a peek through the full obstacle list, I can feel my optimism sink to pessimism. I turn to a co-worker and tell her, “CRAP. Look at this obstacle. How will I EVER be able to do that?!”
I think about texting my friend Neil and canceling on him. I think about telling him I’d love to still come watch our crew compete, but that I’ll have to sit this one out. At the time, I’m not sure what I’m more concerned about–thinking I haven’t trained enough to tackle a 5k with 20 obstacles–or the thought of possibly holding back my teammates by being unable to complete the course.
Somehow I talk myself out of texting Neil.
“You’ll be okay, Libs. You got this.”
What I’ve learned this past year is that we can often be really good at talking ourselves out of things, but that it takes discipline and strength to remind ourselves that the things we fear doing are often times the most rewarding to tackle.
When the Rugged Maniac rolled around last Saturday, I threw on my race day clothes: black shorts, black tank, yellow glasses and a black bandana. Safe to say, I looked like a bumble bee warrior.
I then laced up my sneakers–an old pair of nikes that I didn’t mind ruining in the mud obstacles–and headed out the door to meet my teammates who had driven up from Pennsylvania. Our team consisted of my good friends and brothers: Neil, Nick, & Ross; and Ross’s girlfriend Martina.
As I climbed in the car, my nerves continued to rumble. I’ve competed in a lot of races–but never have I done one that would test me in such a way as this. Normally, for me, races are a good test of stamina, endurance, and leg power. This race would require more–it would require upper body strength, something I’ve lacked for most of my life. But again, I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates. Each of the brothers and Martina had done a series of tough mudders and longer obstacle courses in the past, so I knew that they were much more prepared for this than me. “I hope I don’t die,” I exaggerated in the car.
Less than an hour later I was standing in line to check our bag for the race. While I patiently awaited my turn to check the bag, I turned to the couple behind me and struck up a conversation. I asked if they had ever done one of these races before. The man looked at me and smiled, “Yep. They are a good challenge. I broke my ankle on the last one I did.”
And that was the end of our conversation.
After I checked our bag, our team of five headed to the start line where we were greeted with our first obstacle–a five foot barricade that needed to be hopped before you could even cross the start line. With the help of Ross, I made it over. “Oh boy. For each of those, I hope you know I’ll need your help.” Ross smiled. “No problem.”
And then it was go-time.
Within moments, we were faced with rolling hills of dirt. Without thinking, I raced up and down the hills. As I reached the last one, I heard a scream and watched as a woman face planted into the concrete below. “Shit. Okay, forget about it and move on,” I sighed to myself.
The five of us continued on through the next series of obstacles which included a military style sprint through tires that were set on the ground. “I can do this,” my confidence grew as I successfully completed the tire challenge without clumsily stumbling. Next up was the flying tires, crawling underneath wire, and more barricades. Ross got down on a knee and helped me climb each of the barricades.
I could feel myself starting to breathe heavier, and I told the team that if they needed to get ahead–they could, and not to feel bad, that I would catch up.
Neil looked at me and laughed. “Libs. Our team name is Libsters > Hipsters. If we leave you behind, the hipsters win. That’s not going to happen.”
I laughed. I was grateful to be with a team for a race like this. I knew that their support would get me through the series of obstacles that we still had yet to complete including a rope climb over a slanted barricade, 100 yards of hurdles, endless ladder like barricades, a balance beam and several mud pools.
In an hour’s time we closed in on one of our final obstacles: crawling tunnels–which required us to slide through a downhill tunnel, crawl through a pool of mud, and then pull ourselves up via rope through an uphill tunnel.
As I went to climb through the uphill part, I could feel my feet losing their grip in the tunnel. A woman had already started her ascent through the tunnel, and put her hand up out in front of her. “Here, push off of my hand, you got this,” she shouted.
With a little push, I got myself through the tunnel and out into the open. My teammates were patiently awaiting. “You good Libs?” I looked at the woman who had just helped me complete the last obstacle, “Better than good. Let’s do this.”
Within fifteen more minutes, we made it to our final obstacle: “A sui-slide” which was a giant inflated slide into a pool of mud. But before getting to take the plunge, we’d have to climb to the top which included an inclined barricade that would need be to climbed with the help of a rope; an inclined net, and another laddered barricade. My teammates asked me if I would be good. Confidentially, I said yes. As I looked up, I remembered something that my good friend David told me during our road trip. “Do one thing every day that scares you. And then do one thing every day that terrifies you.” I was definitely living out this mantra.
I grabbed a hold of the rope and started my climb. However, unlike the last roped incline I tackled, my feet were now covered in slick mud. Several steps from the top of the incline, I could feel my feet begin to slip out from underneath me. Holding the rope tight, my body banged against the wall. I managed to pull myself back up to my feet and give it another attempt–again slipping. Nick was waiting at the top. He reached out his hands grabbed me. Ross met him, and grabbed my other hand. “Don’t worry Libs, we aren’t gonna let you fall.” As they started to pull I kicked my legs. And with one more tug, I was over the first part of the uphill obstacle.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I regained my composure.
I really did have the best teammates a girl could ask for.
But before the guys could let me get too sentimental for them helping me, we all climbed the final two parts of the uphill battle before having the chance to hit the sui-slide.
As we crossed the finish line, I felt a giant burst of pride. “That was awesome,” I cheered. Neil laughed at me.
It was just another reminder that sometimes the biggest obstacle we will face is “just doing it” in the first place.
Special Thanks, Neil, Nick, Ross & Martina