Never in all my regular races (since 2007) has that ever entered my mind to DNF. I always believed I could walk it if it got that bad. It has never got THAT bad. I’ve always been able to push through the pain and keep on running.
That is until the Tough Mudder in November 2011. Me and some coworkers signed up to do the one in Indiana. I had just ran two marathons in a month (AF Sept 17 & Cbus Oct 16). The Mudder was a month later.
Here is a picture of us before the race:
We look so happy and excited! We were called the Booty’s Brawlers. Don’t ask me what it means because I have no idea haha! So I went into this race thinking it was not big deal. I did the Warrior Dash and two Mudathlons that year so this will be like them but longer. Boy, did I get a wakeup call!
First of all, I’ve never done a mud race in the COLD. This girl hates the cold. With a passion. But I had two shirts on, capris, and gloves with fingers cut off for easy gripping. I probably should have worn whole gloves. Although in my case, I don’t think it would have mattered if I had a fur coat on!So here we are at the starting line getting a pep talk from a dude. All the following pictures are from Tough Mudder's Facebook page HERE. I am in none of these pictures but they give you an idea of what I went through.
And then we’re off!
It was pretty cold at this point and it seemed to get colder. Maybe in the low 40s? And the wind was pretty bad also. Not the weather I had been expecting.
Here we get to the first obstacle (by the way this is 11 miles of mud and obstacles):
The mud was SO cold. It caked my fingers/hands and they were to stay frozen from that point on. Complete torture. Then we ran to this obstacle – the steepest hill I’ve ever seen in my life!
I could not get up the last part of it. It was like I had NO strength in my arms for whatever reason. They had to pull me up by my arms to get me over. It was so embarrassing. And from that point on, I was just utterly exhausted and could barely run.
But my friend Joy kept pushing me to keep going. So I kept going. I felt so bad because I couldn’t really keep up with her and I was totally holding her back. But it didn’t phase her.
Next came the most torturous obstacle yet. The ice dunk tanks.
You jump in the ice water then have to dunk yourself under the wooden partition. I was ready to take it on for some reason. I jumped in. It was cold. But I could do this. No problem. I dunked under the partician and came up. I think my body actually went into shock. I felt like I was on an ice pond and fell through the ice. My body went into survival mode. I started flipping out and my friend Joy was going up the ladder to get out and I kept saying over and over a hundred times ‘Go Joy, Go Joy’. Who knows if she heard me. But somehow I got outta there and I completely lost my mojo. Thankfully, nearby they had those space blankets so I took one. Didn’t really help much but it was better than nothing.
Next we ran until we got to the next obstacle. A bunch of logs hanging.
This one was a pain. Thankfully, I am somewhat small so I could squeeze underneath some of the logs where some couldn’t. I am totally scared of heights so I did that whenever possible.
But I still thought I could maybe keep going even though I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands at this point. It scared me that I couldn’t feel either one but I kept thinking ‘Oh, I’ll warm up.’ Then we got to the mud river.
I’m sure it would have been cool if it was warm out but with frozen feet/hands – this does not help. Nor was it fun.
Yes, I think I even fell in a time or two like this dude. As if I wasn’t cold enough!I was miserable. I think my body had gotten so cold that I started crying uncontrollably. And I did not stop. But I kept going because I had my friends counting on me!
The next obstacle was the Berlin Walls.
I knew going in to the Tough Mudder that I probably wouldn’t do this obstacle. It is just too high and I have zero arm muscles. And being that I was utterly exhausted, frozen, and crying, I did not attempt it. I walked around it. I was no longer embarrassed for not completing an obstacle. I was out of it.
Then came the craziest obstacle. You jump from a really high point into the lake which basically (according to my friends) had no bottom and it was FREEZING cold. I totally just passed this one on.
This wasn’t much an obstacle but I felt like I was getting my mojo back and got through it.
Totally skipped this one and went around.
I think after this one we had to go through the creek which was pretty high and just couldn’t do it. I was so cold. So my coworker, Lance, put me on his back and walked through what seemed like miles of creek. It wasn’t miles I’m sure but it felt like it. And I was STILL crying at this point. I was SO grateful for him doing that.There were a couple of other minor obstacles I did and didn't do. Then we got to the 4th mile.
There was a tent with this heat thing that really didn’t do nothing. But it was better than being out in that race. So I had to make a decision – this was probably the best place to stop. I had been fighting with myself for the last mile whether I wanted to drop out or not. I have never quit a race and felt so much shame just in trying to make the decision. I shouldn’t have felt that way though. My body was pretty much shutting down. I was out of it. I kept thinking to myself ‘If I keep going and lose my feet (frost bite or whatever) then I’ll never run again. This race isn’t worth that.’ So in the end, I decided to keep my limbs and DNF. I, to this day, think it was the best decision and the right decision. I followed my gut. Normally I push through but this was beyond pushing through. I knew I would never make it. Sometimes you got to suck it up and be realistic.
I felt awful for afterwards in regards to quitting. My coworkers all got done and had their orange headbands. I felt defeated, embarrassed, and pathetic. I knew I did the right thing yet I felt like a failure.
I felt like that until very recently when I started reading ultra blogs. DNF happens to people sometimes. It isn’t the end of the world. I am not a failure. I completed 3 miles of it and did that one crazy ice dunk tank. That is pretty big. Thankfully, no one last year got on my case about it. But I wanted to be able to say I’m a ‘Tough Mudder.’ Well, I can say I am not. That race kicks people’s butts. But I attempted it and most people don’t even attempt to get off the couch! I still sometimes feel bad about it but not as much as I used to.
For now, I’m just going to run what I know I can run. In weather that I can tolerate, haha! So my words of advice are, don’t worry about DNFing. Sometimes it happens. Even the best runners or the best trained can have their bad days. I may not be either of those, but I have ran a lot of races and I succumbed to one. It is okay. I followed my gut and I still am running! J