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The Day Tough Mudder Kicked My Ass

19 Jul

Prologue:   From the picture above, you can see that we finished. However, if you knew me six years ago (or even three years ago really), Tough Mudder is an event that I would never even fathom wanting to participate in, let alone finish. If you had asked me back then if I wanted to do it, I would have said, “H.E. to the double L to the NO!” And quite honestly, there would have been no amount of money to convince me to engage in such a grueling physical activity. And if for some otherworldly reason there was an incentive shiny enough to motivate me to attempt it, I surely would have failed part way through it. And with that, I give you my Tough Mudder experience…..

This was just before our heat started

We stayed in a cabin up on Big Bear Mountain the night before. Of course we wanted to be close to the start of the event, but more so, I wanted to have time to adjust to the altitude. When I went to Big Bear as a kid, I had an altitude sickness SNAFU, and wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have a repeat incident. Naturally, I had a really hard time sleeping the night before because I was nervous about attempting something I had never done before, and also because I was sleeping on an air mattress, and every time you turn over on one of those things, it squeaks you awake. But I got just enough sleep to feel rested, and the adrenaline made up for the rest.

The morning of, we packed up the car and headed down to the course. The weather was a tad chilly when we left the cabin, which concerned us because we knew the arctic enema (i.e. the ice bath) was the first obstacle of the course but as soon as we arrived and parked, the weather had gotten drastically warmer. So much so that I worried my sunscreen application might not cut it. But alas, that quickly became the least of my worries once I saw several packs of men and women who looked like they were straight off the set of ‘300’.  

We got our bib numbers, got written on with permanent marker (ew!), double knotted our shoe laces, and headed straight for the port-a-potties to have one last pee before our heat started. Part of it was actually needing to go because I guzzled a lot of water  but part of it was having the “nervous pee”, as all CrossFit folk are privy to. Of course, the line for the bathrooms was atrocious, and our heat was going to take off before we would make it to the front, so I held it. And it was crappy . . .  until the ice obstacle.

My whole team jumped in before me, and that’s when I knew I had to, too. It’s not the kind of obstacle you dip your toe into either. You have to get in there fast, and get out even faster. When I first jumped in, the ice water went up to my waist but with a wooden post in the middle of the tank (lined with barbed wire on the top), I realized I would have to completely submerge my entire body under the iced water to get out. I hesitated for a second, and then all of a sudden it was as if there was a little team inside of me controlling everything, and one of them hit a big red “JUST DO IT” button. I suddenly found myself rocketing up through ice cubes on the other side of the post, clambering and whimpering to get out the same way a cat does when you try to give it a bath. There was a guy in front of me struggling to climb out, and in the interest of full disclosure (and in complete survival mode), I had a flash fantasy about pushing him off so I could get out of that thing! I have no idea what it feels like to have a heart attack but how I felt afterwards is what I imagine it would might be like – I was jumping around like a fish out of water, wincing, and suddenly the urge to pee had completely disappeared. I knew at that moment that I had to push myself to complete every obstacle on the course.

After that, it was steep hill after steep hill after steep hill. At some point early on in the course, I was slowly jogging / walking it by myself. It’s not that my team didn’t care about me, it’s that they wanted to go hard, and so they did. But they always waited for me at every obstacle. Around mile 3, our team stopped at a water station and one of my mates said, “Uh Rebecca, I think you need to go to the medic tent.” That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear when you feel no pain, because you know the moment you look at whatever they’re seeing, the psychological freak out begins. So I looked down (where he was looking) and saw that my left shoe had blood pooling out of the heel. It turns out my New Balance minimus had chafed my skin and created a wound on my achilles, and it was bleeding . . . a lot. So, I got some gauze and tape on it, which lasted for all of 1 mile, at which point I made up my mind that I was going to finish the 8+ more miles with rocks, dirt and whatever else in my wound. This was a pretty big decision for me – to give you an idea of how big, let’s just say that my nickname growing up was “crybaby.”

For the rest of the course, I sucked it up as best as I could. I wasn’t able to run, and I certainly couldn’t keep up with anyone in my group. I had to stop and rest a lot. I have a herniated disk in my lower back and the inclines were brutal to that area but I knew I had to finish. As guilty as I felt about slowing my team down, I knew that in order to achieve the honor of being called a Tough Mudder, I was going to have to listen to my body very carefully, and obey. At one point during the course while I was carrying a log up a steep hill, I took a rest to stretch my back and a really sweet guy asked if I was okay. I told him I was and that I just needed a rest. He offered to carry my wood up to the top. As tempting as that was, and believe me I considered it, I told him, “No thank you. I have to do this on my own.” Saying that out loud gave me the strength I needed to keep going. He gave me a nod of respect and went on his way.

With each mile, it got harder and harder to fake my enjoyment. At about mile 5, my sole goal became about finishing. I felt like a loser for huffing and puffing, and as such, I found I was verbally beating myself up. I felt envious of the people who were at ease climbing the hills but then something dawned on me: You really have to choose what works for you in order to complete / achieve something. Some people can sprint, some people have to jog, and some people need to walk. You have to make peace with your plan of attack, and so I did. The point is that I was out there, doing the best that I could. 

The highlight of the course (for me) was when we were climbing the Black Diamond hill (pictured above), and a guy next to me said, “Now I know how Frodo felt when he was climbing Mount Doom.” Everyone starting laughing really loud, including myself. It was a moment of laughter I think we all needed.

Obstacle after obstacle, mile after mile (about 12 miles total), we finally neared the end of the course. I don’t know how I did it, but I made it. The last obstacle before the finish line was electric shock. My CrossFit mate Lynzee and I ran through it together, and it was the most bizarre experience of my life. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would inflict that on themselves but seeing that black inflated “Finish” on the other side of the wires was enough to make me go through with it. And we made it out… and that was it. We were done. I finished. It was surreal, and quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve have ever done. But the feeling of accomplishment was worth the 5+ hours it took me to complete it.

Thank you to my CrossFit 310 team for letting me tag along on such a crazy, yet difficult adventure. I’m inspired by every single one of you.

Quote of the Week

9 Jul

{Photo courtesy of Thrustr Tumblr}

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” – Thomas Carlyle

The Glass Is Always Full

2 Jul

Perception is key. 

How (NOT) To Deal With A CrossFit Injury

26 Jun

 

Injuries… Let’s talk about them.

In or out of CrossFit, injuries are bound to happen because let’s face it, we’re not super human but despite being privy to that fact, it’s been an incredibly difficult subject to touch on for two reasons: The first is that trying to “sell” people on CrossFit without an injury is a task in itself, let alone trying to “sell” people on CrossFit with an injury – it really doesn’t make much sense: “Wait, so you’re telling me CrossFit doesn’t equal injury, yet you have tendonitis in your hand as a result of CrossFit.” The second reason is that I personally have never really had an “injury” up until recently, and certainly not one that has lasted as long as mine did. I was feeling really helpless, and having a difficult time conveying my struggles in conversation, which is why I wanted to write this article.

So, on to the injury. As most of you know, I participated in the 2012 CrossFit Games Open workouts. Not just as a CrossFit lover following along with the workouts, but as someone who paid the $20, created an athlete profile on the official CrossFit Games website, and publically posted numbers along side incredible athletes like Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, Katie Hogan, Julie Foucher & the rest. Like so many athletes, I pushed myself to my absolute limit and executed movements with weights (or reps) I had never done before: 75 lb snatch at 10 reps, chest to bar pullups for the first time, recycling toes to bar, 150 wall balls! and 75 lb push press at 51 reps. I thought for sure if I was going to get hurt, it would be because of the snatch movement (it’s the one I have the least experience with) but it was the push press that did it. Prior to the Open, I was really only comfortable doing 45 lb push press, so it was a 30 pound jump for me, which took a toll on my right hand, wrist and forearm. As a result, I got tendonitis which lasted for what seemed like forever. The following are behaviors that I did to deal, that you should NOT do:

  • Don’t Stop Eating Clean – One of the worst things you can do is start eating crap. I didn’t know how to emotionally cope with my injury, and so I ate, which in retrospect was completely dumb. I was limited in my movements in CrossFit due to the injury, which means less work being done, and consuming more food than I was when I was doing a ton of work, which equals donut belly, lethargic responses, and slower times within the limited movements. Also, in order for your body to heal quicker, it is so imperative that you continue eating clean. Don’t do what I did and go all beast mode on a box of pop tarts.
  • Don’t Compare Yourself To Your CrossFit Comrades – This is a really difficult one. There are specific women I was about the same level with as far as strength and times go, and I always chased them in WODs. Then I got injured, and it seemed like they started PR’ing a ton of movements. I noticed my times and weights falling farther and farther behind theirs – it didn’t feel quite equal anymore. All I could think about is how fast I was sinking below the curve, and I tortured myself with limiting beliefs of how I would never catch up once I was healed. But comparing your injured self to non-injured athletes is a complete waste of time, because you have no control over the situation. In order to heal quicker, you must focus on the positive. Acknowledge that you’re injured, but imagine yourself healing and getting back to where you left off. Oh, and mobility helps too! Like, a lot.
  • Don’t Focus On Time – Seriously, folks. Have you ever stood watching and waiting for a pot of water to boil? It’s agonizing. The same goes for your injury. Stop focusing on how long you’ve been injured or how long you anticipate the injury to last. This will suck the life out of you and make your recovery appear painstakingly longer. Instead, focus on what you can do to heal. The more effort you put into focusing your thoughts on other (positive) things, the quicker it will (seem) to heal!
  • Don’t Stop Going To The Box – My hand was messed up, and my first thoughts were: “Great, now I can’t do bar work, pullups, pushups, double unders or burpees . . . so, what do I do?” For the first couple of weeks, I laid low at home feeling sorry for myself but then a friend told me (paraphrasing), “You can still squat. This is the perfect opportunity for you to build that strength, as it’s fundamental to your success in CrossFit.” Uh, duh. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, it’s because I was so busy focusing on what I couldn’t do, that I failed to see what I could do. So, I went to each class 30 minutes early and started working on my back squat and boy has it paid off!

Quote of the Week

25 Jun

{Photo courtesy of Coffee & Yoga}

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

Change Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

20 Jun

I would be lying if I said that I venture out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. I would also be lying if I said I took a lot of risks. It’s always my intent to take risks but that’s usually where it stops – on the intent side of things, rather than the action side of things. But what I’ve learned in just a few short years is that with risk comes great reward; rewards that are intangible, and can only be redeemed by your inner self. This is precisely why, in order to move past all the lame distractions holding us back from our real unlimited potential (Facebook, Instagram, and HBO to name a few), you have to do things that you’re really afraid of. I’m not talking about cutting across the 405 to the fast lane afraid. I’m talking, completely out of your comfort zone, people start to wonder who you are at the end of it all afraid. THAT is when it gets good. THAT is when personal growth takes place. THAT is when status quo and stagnation can no longer satisfy.

In an attempt to lead by example, I faced a huge fear last weekend: I went Standup Paddleboarding in the middle of the pacific ocean (with no life vest mind you). The funny thing is, I never really knew the severity of this fear until I was actually out in the middle of the open water, and then it dawned on me: “I could drown out here in the middle of the ocean right now or a great white could jump out of the water all shark-week style and eat me for breakfast and then I would be gone, forever, like that.” It was overcast that morning, so I blame most of my morbid thoughts (fears) on that. BUT, the point is that I did it. I did something that terrified me, and made me really uncomfortable. . . . and I’m a better person for it. I feel like I can’t turn back now. The momentum has begun.

So, what is it that you’re afraid of? What’s holding you back? And what are you doing about it? Let’s openly discuss fear. Share yours. Or share your intentions or triumphs in the comments section.

Quote of the Week

11 Jun

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