A few weekends ago I made the long trip to Twin Cities to take part in Toughest Central.
Leading up to the event I had been dealing with an ongoing issue with my ankle. It’s been weak and has caused me several problems at more than a few races.
I was a little worried, but not enough to make me take extra precautions; which I came to regret on my first lap.
Like most events, Toughest had some field running. I rolled my ankle in the first two miles because of a rut that I didn’t see.
So I started trying to come up with a plan of action. Do I keep going through the discomfort and potentially mess it up more? I mean, there is a lot more to the season and even to the weekend. Do I drop out and count it as a loss? This was worst case scenario. This was dependent on the amount of pain I was in when I got back to the pit.
I mostly decided that I would walk laps and penalties until the end of time, or 8 AM, whichever came first.
Thankfully, my slow and steady pace kept me with good people for a while. I caught sight of JVT as I looked back at one point. And with him was Michelle Mazza.
I stayed with them as we went through the next few miles until we made it to Everest.
Anyone who is with me on a Tough Mudder course when I get to Everest knows that I will spend a fair amount of time up there. I can’t even recall the number of times I have had someone yell at me that it was time to go.
I knew what I would do instead; I would help at Everest and not have someone telling me that it is time to go!
There I stayed for hours, helping so many people up and over the top. Even laughing at the fellas that refused to run to my rope. As well as being a little shocked at the people who put continual trust in my ability to ‘catch’ them over and over again.
Also, a lot of the guys I knew are A LOT more solid than I realized. A time or two, y’all took me by surprise!
Around 3:30 is the morning, I had been at Everest for five and a half hours. My hands were already swollen, and my grip strength was shot. I could feel how tight my back was.
My friends and fellow Mudders were thankful but I was thankful for them. And for those friends who checked on me and brought me nutrition because of my impromptu plan!
I was loving every minute of it.
Until a fellow Mudder came to me and told me about something being said around the pit area.
He had overheard a conversation about what it takes to be considered a Toughest Mudder Finisher.
And that is two laps.
And I was 7.5 hours into lap number one.
I will be the first to admit that I did not read the updated Toughest Mudder rules. I read the rules from last year. Not much could have changed right?
Y’all, I was devastated. I had 4.5 hours to finish the lap I was on and another one and I had so little left in the tank at that point.
And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get over Everest once I got back to it. I was nearly crying.
I climbed down from Everest and started the trek back.
Right behind Everest was Pyramid Scheme. I got some help and was able to make it up and over.
Next was Blockness. And this is where my hands failed me. Two Mudders were there trying to help, but I told them to go on after my third failed attempt to get over the first block.
Thankfully the next group was much larger, and I made it through with their help.
A short jog later, I was at EST. Thankfully the penalty was short.
Up and over Mudderhorn I went. Slow and sure steps. And I STILL don’t know how anyone could go down that thing face out!
And across the finish line and directly to the race center.
At this point I’m still completely worked up. After struggling through Blockness I was certain I would barely make it through the course.
The other part of the rumor I had heard was that there was an exception being made for two of the five of us who were helping on Everest. And I needed to know if that would be made for me or if I needed to complete a lap.
At 4 AM, I had a not-so-shining moment. The back and forth between the race director and I, during which he explained that this change was in place at Philly and it was to make sure people are doing obstacles and not just going back to their tents and sleeping, was going nowhere and I needed all the time I had to make it through my lap. I knew that I would be waiting at some obstacles for help and time was crucial.
Plus I was tearing up. And I was ashamed of that and didn’t want to be where that could be seen.
I finally just said to him: I just need you to tell me right now if I need to go finish another lap. Because if that’s the case, I have to go right now and struggle through it.
After that I was told that I would be given two things: an exception and a ride back out to Everest.
But it was bittersweet. What would have happened if someone hadn’t overheard a conversation? Why wasn’t anything ever said to us on the obstacle? Why wasn’t anything mentioned during the race briefing?
If I could, I’d be at another Toughest this year to prove that I belong here.
I feel like this race, although I loved the first half, made me question if I even belonged in the Tough Mudder community. It made me wonder what I was thinking signing up for something that so many people in the community say that people of my size, shape, and speed don’t belong at. It made me question something that I’ve loved for years.
I never questioned if I belonged at an event until that moment.
Looking towards the rest of the season, I have nine more events, including World’s Toughest Mudder. And I’m going to work hard to prove to myself that I belong out there on course.