The Story of How I Became a Certified Badass (and my Mom and Aunt and our friend Andrew too)
Several months ago, as some of you may remember, I began my journey to badass-dom. It was actually why I started this blog, remember? Today, I reached that goal. At least level 1 badassery, anyway.
Yesterday I set out to complete the ultimate test that I have been training for during the past three and a half months: The USMC Mud Run. Not just any mud run! It's organized by the Marines, so it's totally legit (no really, it is the biggest mud run in the country- participation wise, anyway). I thought I'd start the badass stuff off right with ditching school. Aw yea. So I woke up Friday at 4:30 am PST and arrived in the great East Coast at 5:30 pm EST. Then, in preparation for the 6 am departure and later our 8:30 start time, I went to bed at what my body technically thought was 7:30 pm. So hardcore. After some rest, 6 am the next morning came around and we headed out.
I have to say, I had my concerns about some of the obstacles, but by the time we got there I had started to feel really nervous. It didn't help that some of my team mates kept talking about how nervous they were and also how a lot of the people there were young, super-beefcake guys in their muscle shirts and --you guessed it-- fancy fitness gloves. Damn those fancy fitness gloves. I really need to get my own pair one of these days.
Of course the nervousness got to me (and also several cups of water, coffee, and smoothie) and I had to pee a couple of times, and we had a somewhat close shave with our start time due to long lines at the port-o-potties, but all was well and we made it. We only had enough time in line for a lady on the team in front of us to ask if this was our first time doing the run, and as we nodded she smiled in a way that either said, "I feel ya," or maybe actually, "You guys are screwed." It was probably the latter, but whatevs. No big deal. She and her team left us in the dust in the first 30 seconds, so we didn't have to put up with her mysterious, slightly concerning smiles of mockery.
That was one thing I wasn't expecting. Apparently, in contrast to three middle aged adults, I am actually kind of fast. I had to really keep my pace down. Actually, that is not fair, Andrew-- the fellow my Mother recruited to be our "anchor" beefcake man-- was keeping pace with me throughout most of the thing. But it was probably a good thing we went so slow. I was so pumped up on caffeine and nerves that I could have easily exhausted myself out in the first 1/3 of the race. So that slowness was really quite appreciated. Also my Mother would probably like me to point out (as she mentioned defensively at least 3 times after we left the race) that there were no other older women out there with us. A few older men, but for the most part, the median age was probably around the mid to late 20s. So you know, I have to give them props for being all old and cool and stuff. It's not really our fault we were passed by at least 60 teams. Rock on.
The best part of this was being reassured that I would not have to live through the shame of my Mother dragging my ass through the race. I mean come, the woman has 30 years on me, I just couldn't let that happen. That was basically my goal of the race: don't let middle aged people make me look stupid. I think I did ok. We were pretty equally matched.
So the actual race part...let's see...there was mud... And walls, poles, ropes, water, dirt, hills, and lots and lots of screaming Marines. I could handle everything but the walls and ropes. Basically anything you had to climb over that was above 4 feet I needed a boost, and anything you had to swing across was a complete bust.
It started out with several 5 foot walls to climb over. That is supposed to be the "welcome" obstacle. I guess they are trying to say that Marines are tough with this little bit of wordplay. And if you didn't get that right away, the Marines screaming at you at every single obstacle would reinforce it. (Ok fine, some of the Marines were nice. Especially the ones at the water stations) Then there was some mud, and these bars you had to swing up (needed a boost) and slide down, muddy water under logs so that you had to submerge yourself going underneath, a 15 foot wall climb which I somehow managed to not die on, and a rope swing that I completed so successfully I felt genuinely surprised. It was only last August on a family vacation to Lake Martin that I could not, for the life of me, swing into the lake on the rope swing without dragging half my body through the water 3 feet below. I couldn't believe when I landed on the other side of the rope swing. The multi-rope swing later on was not as successful, but who cares. I did one! Isn't that enough?
After these obstacles things really started to become a blur. There were more logs, more water to drag yourself through, and plenty of walls and poles to have your ass pushed up and over. It was foggy and cool and we had a particularly early start time, so we were lucky. It was a good morning for a mud run, even if the water was a little cold. Better than hot, sweaty mud, which I am sure it no doubt became later in the day when the sun came out.
I think my favorite obstacles were the deep, thick, black mud pits. All you had to do was walk/swim through them, but they sucked you in and held you tight. It was out of this world, really, to be floating through 4 foot deep mud that looked like alien slime and felt like cold vomit. You would raise your arms and not even recognize yourself. It was so gross. It was so cool. The hardest part, of course, was getting out at the end of the pit. Both times I had to be lifted out by a team of 4-5 people. If getting your muddy ass hauled out of a black pit of mud thick enough to hide as many bodies as you want by an entire squadron doesn't make you humble, I don't know what will.
Which brings me to, by far, the most badass part of the race. Just because everyone was on a different 4 person team did not mean they weren't going to help whoever needed it. It was all out Southern Hospitality-- strangers helping strangers just for the good of it. Even the teamwork just among my team was awesome. Yes, Andrew did do most of the lifting and all the other work, but still. It was cool. I don't think I could ever do a mud run alone after this. It just wouldn't be fun. I give my thanks to all the people who helped pull taut the ropes and cargo nets, helped lift non-teammates through obstacles, and cheered each other on. Special props to the guy who gave me a piggy back ride across the monkey bars and people who lifted me out of those mud pits. I literally could not have completed the course without them. And also all the nice, attractive guys who "helped" me wade through the creek. They warned me every time a log was coming up and one guy even held my hand over nearly every single one. ...I didn't really need the help, but hey, that was more action I've gotten from a guy in over a year, so I was not about to stop him. They told me I did some nice jumping jacks they saw me doing earlier at an obstacle. I thought this was funny, because I was doing the jumping jacks as a penalty for chickening out of the obstacle (a 10 foot wall with no handholds that teams were supposed to help each other over....yea right, like that was going to happen. I could barely get over the 6 foot poles and those still made my heart race from the height) but who cares, a compliment is a compliment. Hey boys, if you like my jumping jacks you should see what other tricks I can do. Wink wink! In my defense though, I totally did all 100 jumping jacks I was supposed to do, unlike my teammates who cheated and left after 20 or so. In any case, it made my day, so I appreciate that as well.
As I said, I started out all pumped with nerves and caffeine, and being all fast and good and whatnot kind of landed me in the place of the group cheerleader. This is not a role I take basically ever. I am just about the least enthusiastic person you can find about almost anything. Even when I am "fangirling" about things, I mostly just read some online blogs and tell people I really like it when it comes up in conversation. That is me excited. But I cheered and whooped and tried to be encouraging. While waiting for my team to regroup I even became one of those people who high fives everyone as they go past. Yea, one of THOSE people. It was weird. But also cool. I told everyone that if we finished we'd become certified badasses. And finish we did. Not that it wasn't tiring, of course. I became a lot less cheery 2/3 in when my stomach started to hurt a bit and even walked with my team mates instead of racing ahead in some spots. But at last I finished the final obstacle (carrying my Aunt 100 yards piggy back style--also a very humbling experience) and we crossed the finish line together at just about 2 hours and 20 minutes. In our black mud-soaked clothes, we achieved true badass status. Mission complete.
I am pretty sure since I did manage to fail pretty hardcore on some of the obstacles (e.g. opting out of the 10 foot wall and pretty much just walking across the multi-rope swing pit) that I have really only reached Level 1 Badass Status, which is pretty good, but I totally have some leveling up to do, so this blog must continue on! Huzzah! Perhaps there will be more mud runs.
Oh! And all the aftermath was pretty great, even though I did feel like I just went through some sort of traumatizing experience. We got bananas and oranges just like any 5 year old kid on little league soccer team, made sure to take pictures of our muddy proof, and took internment camp style showers in which everyone shuffled in under some pipes with holes in them supported by a few beams, stripped down, and tried to scrub everything as clean as they could in the freezing water. This was the point where I was kind of glad everyone there was a super-beefcake guy. I mean--what, no, it was totally awkward and I was consumed with cleaning myself anyway...
After that we gathered our complimentary t-shirts as our reward and stripped down even more in the parking lot before we headed off to Chili's. Because what is a better way to end something traumatizing than going to Chili's? Life experience has taught me this: nothing.
So that was it! I became a badass today and I feel really tired and still a little gross even though I took a real shower when I got home, so I am pretty sure that makes it legit. And now I am going to rest for real. Here are some pictures to prove I didn't make this whole thing up and now you can really believe I am a badass (none of them are flattering at all, unfortunately)
Before (from L to R: Me, my Aunt, Andrew, my Mom)