Dispatches: Stuck In the Mud Of Jersey
Taking a little diversion today. Today’s Dispatches post isn’t about photography. Well, not really anyway. What it is about is making a commitment, goal-setting, following through.
If you’ve been following this blog lately, especially reading some of my Week In Review posts on Saturdays, and/or following me on Twitter, you may have noticed my references or countdowns to a particular event: The Tough Mudder Tri-State Event in Englishtown, New Jersey.
What is Tough Mudder? Their website says it best:
Tough Mudder events are hardcore obstacle courses designed to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, over one million inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.
Those words are all well and good, but here’s what they mean by “obstacle course”: It’s this: A 10-mile run in, on, and around a motocross dirt track and surrounding woods. A belly crawl through a layer of mud while electrically-charged wires hang overhead (they call it The Electric Eel); scaling 12 foot high wood walls (the Berlin Walls); a jump off a 15-foot high plank into deep, muddy water below (Walk The Plank); jumping over fire pits (The Phoenix); scaling a slide half-pipe, most likely needing those who’ve already done it and are on top to help you up (Everest); running through 15 yards of mud with, again, charged wired hanging down ready to zap you (Electroshock Therapy). Oh, and jumping into a vat of ice cold water – literally: The vat is next to a 18-wheel truck filled with bags of ice that they just keep dumping in (they call this beauty Arctic Enema).
Now, you may ask yourself, why would you do such a thing? Two words: My wife.
You may remember back in the summer, my wife did a obstacle course called the Rugged Maniac. I was more than happy to tout along my 70-300mm lens and shoot the event. That looked quite fun, and a bit challenging, to me as well. She had a good time.
Soon thereafter, I came home from work and she announced: Hey hon, how about we do the Tough Mudder in Englishtown in October? This statement was more ominous than the time in 2003, when I came home from work and she said “Hey hon, how about we go to Bora Bora for our honeymoon?” In both cases, I hadn’t really considered the destination before she mentioned it. In the Bora Bora case, it sounded fine. In the Tough Mudder case…I had to think about it.
I’m all for challenging myself but sometimes better judgement should prevail. Still, she was amped up to do this and when she gets like that, it’s best to go with it. So I said yes and we signed up.
Now, 2013 has been a year of fitness for us. While we both were never out of shape, after having three kids, she wanted to get back to where she was most comfortable. And me, well, after having my physical last February and hearing how I gained a few pounds and my cholesterol was a little high, thought it was time to see what we could do about it. So we both really committed ourselves to our health and wellness. Personally, it was about portion control and cutting out evening snacking. I also began running again.
By the time she brought up doing the Tough Mudder, we were well on our way to doing it physically. TM’s take a lot of upper body strength so we installed a pull-up bar in our basement. My days always started with your basic push-up (200 before work, every day) and crunches. Gym work consisted of more body-weight workouts (more push-ups, more pull-ups, planks), kettlebell swings, lunges, and lunchtime runs for me.
All of this conditioning paid off. We both lost a fair amount of weight this year and are fitting into clothes that had hung in our closets for years. When we hit the course last Saturday, we were ready.
Good thing too. It damn wasn’t easy.
But that’s the thing. Nothing that is personally satisfying is. You have to go out there and push yourself, get out of your comfort zone. That may mean running two miles, doing a Tough Mudder or starting a 100 Strangers portrait project. Or writing that book you want to write. Or start that blog. Or post that photo. Or post more photos. Or be a better husband/father/wife/mom/son/daughter.
I have to say, accomplishing and completing Tough Mudder was more fulfilling than I thought it would be. Maybe because it was the shared experience with others including my wife, maybe it was because it was good to physically challenge myself at something. Soon after the event, TM sent out an email welcoming us to Mudder Nation. I guess it is a bit of a fraternity. It’s not that people can’t do this – thousands do every weekend. You don’t need to be a super athlete (though if you’re not in condition, it’ll be hell). It’s that you set your mind to do something and you did it.
My wife, her knees and hips were barking loud by the time we hit the 7 mile mark. But she continued on. Some of the obstacles scared her. But she did them. Heck, I hate heights so launching myself off the 15 foot wall was my scare point. But I did it (the electricity stuff, and the ice bath were just plain mental torture. Didn’t like them one little bit).
Four-and-a-half-hours after we started, under leaden skies and with chattering teeth (by that time, we had been wet and tired for so long, we just couldn’t warm up), we crossed the finish line and got our coveted orange Tough Mudder headband. And free beer.
As the event description says, though, it’s not about course time, it’s about helping others and camaraderie. This was especially evident when I saw this:
This was a veteran that was in our wave when we started. He wanted to complete the course with this team, and he did. I told my wife that as good as I felt getting over walls, or getting up Everest, it felt even better to put my hand out and help someone else accomplish it was well. I helped Leslie, she helped me, strangers helped us, we helped them.
Mudder Nation indeed.
Am I glad she talked me into this? Even with the bruises still rising on my legs and the scraped-up forearms I now sport, yes.
Would I do it again? Welllll….I don’t know. I liked the physical challenge but man, that cold water and shocks….let’s just say we’ll see.
You don’t have to go to such extremes to challenge yourself. But do challenge yourself – any way you can.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2013