Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kiss of Mud

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself and thought, "do I really look like that?"

I have.

I've seen lots and lots o' pictures of myself where I think to myself, "holy guacamole, I look like a hideous monstrous beast." A dear friend and I had a pretty big celebrity sighting when she visited me in L.A. for my baby shower over 4 years ago. I was about 7 months pregnant and we saw Lindsay Lohan at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. This was huge - at the time, the only other more exciting sighting would have been a bald Britney Spears. She was actually really sweet (probably stoned off her gourd), but she took a picture with the two of us. I look like a giantess in the photograph, not only because Lindsay and my friend are so small, but because I was so big. It was a picture I wanted to plaster everywhere (facebook, baby album, fireplace mantle...) but I just hate it so much. This may not be the best example because I was pregnant, but it you know what I mean, fatty pictures are the worst. When I look at pictures, I immediately determine the quality of the photograph by how skinny or chunky I appear. This is extremely narcissistic of me. I am aware.


This past Saturday July 7 was the So Cal Tough Mudder Event. It was at Snow Valley Mountain Resort up on Big Bear Mountain. Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. Our particular event was 10 miles, but it was on a ski resort so all 10 miles were either straight up a black diamond slope or straight down - little to no flat ground was covered. The obstacles were almost a relief, if you consider sliding on your belly through frigid water and mud underneath a barbed wire with electric wires hanging from it to be relief (the Electric Eel).

I did amazing, difficult crazy things over the 8 miles and 16 obstacles that I completed. But, and this is a big, big BUT - I was unable to complete the course.

I cannot really describe how deflating this has been for me.

Going into this challenge, I was really, really scared. Here are the things I was most afraid of, in no particular order.

1.) Dying. I mean, I did sign a death waiver; it could have happened.
2.) Not finishing. (Well, you know about this one.)
3.) Having my brain fried by electricity.  There were two obstacles with live wires delivering up to 10,000 volts of electricity. (So far no evidence that this happened.)
4.) Being the fattest person on the course. (I wasn't.)
5.) Being the slowest person on the course. (I wasn't.)
6.) Being the weakest person on the course. (I wasn't.)
7.) Slowing down my team by being the fattest, slowest, weakest person on the course. (I did, a little bit, but I also happened to have the best, most supportive, positive, amazing, sexy teammates on the course too - so they never once made my feel badly about it.)
8.) Having to buy new shoes afterward. (I don't know why I was afraid of this, other than my shoes are relatively new and I love them.)

My vision has been so blurred by my fear and by what I left undone - 2 miles and 5 obstacles. While I was completing obstacles and covering the miles, I was scared. One obstacle that comes to mind is the Walk the Plank - a 15+ foot high jump into water that I was freaking out about - I did NOT want to jump! But I DID jump. I berated myself for being afraid and for screaming like a banshee the whole way down and forgot to congratulate myself on the fact that I had a fear and I faced it. I still jumped. My vision has been so clouded that I couldn't see what I did accomplish.

So, it has been to my ultimate shock and amazement that today I have been gawking at the official course pictures of bib number 38561 and found myself thinking: "Do I really look like that? Like the bad ass Tough Mudder that I see in these photographs?" 

This is a revelation. (And a scam. I just spent $50.00 on a few digital images.)

I don't look super slender in these pictures, but I just don't freaking care. I love them. I look strong and determined, I look like a fighter. I look like I'm having a blast. I look dirty and sunkissed and healthy. I look like a warrior. I look triumphant.

And, I should mention that the real reason I didn't finish the course was not because I gave up. I had to stop because I have a wicked knee injury. I hurt myself during a training run 4 weeks ago, and although I tried to be careful for the remaining training time, I don't think I rested enough. I was fighting through pain almost immediately at the start of the event and stopped at mile 4 to have a medic wrap my knee. He said he would wrap it, but then he'd have to take me out of the race. At which point, I threw my cup of H2O in his face and said, "hell no!" and kept pushing on. Actually, I grimaced, groaned and then just kept pushing on. At mile 8, I had just completed the longest and most severe stint downhill (way worse on the knee) and just had to stop before I rendered myself a candidate for total knee replacement surgery at age 30. It was the right thing to do and the hardest thing I did the whole entire day.

Stopping, for all intents and purposes, failing to complete the course and therefore my only goal I made when I signed up to do this event sent me in a total down spiral. It is the only athletic event I have ever quit in my life. I didn't feel like I could celebrate, I didn't want to tell anyone about it, I didn't want to talk about it. I felt like I couldn't actually even say that I was, "a Tough Mudder."  When people asked me about the event, I just started apologizing and telling the sad ending to the story. I forgot to actually tell the story.

These pictures tell the story.

I've been looking for a source of inspiration recently to push me out of this plateau, I never, ever thought I'd find her staring back at me in the mirror.