Nothing is more challenging in life than facing what scares you. Over the weekend I faced my biggest fear during an obstacle race called The Tough Mudder. Fortunately I was part of an amazing team of friends calling ourselves 2020 VisionQuest Our team motto was “I see no obstacles”. A play on words referring to an inspiring man, and our team captain named Randy Pierce who is blind. While I saw my obstacles clearly, I faced them head on and overcame them with a loud roar! With my strong team and Frank cheering me on, I knew that I could rise to the challenges and face my fears.
I have been running and hiking for about 7 years and started obstacle races 5 years ago. While this kind of race wasn’t new to me The Tough Mudder was the most challenging and longest I have completed. Obstacle races give a team building experience more than traditional races. This is especially the case for me, since I can not make it over a wall on my own … yet! Since childhood I’ve loved mud so the mud aspect of these races has always been a bonus to me.
A Tough Mudder is a difficult obstacle race 10-12 miles long that values team work over race finish times. Runners are part of a community called “Mudder Nation”. Many runners in Mudder Nation will participate in numerous races, many on our team had done a Tough Mudder before. This sense of community is not just PR from Tough Mudder but evident on the race course. Words of encouragement were a common occurrence and everyone helped people over obstacles with no regard if they were part of their own team or not.
Our 18 member strong team was a diverse group of mostly hikers and runners who all were inspired by Randy Pierce’s determination and positive outlook on life and challenges. Randy’s challenge of being blind was clear to us as a team but his strength of character and support of his team helped all of us overcome our fears and challenges. It was amazing to see how each member of the team contributed a skill or strength yet we all also had our own challenges to overcome.
My biggest fear since a stressful childhood swimming lesson where I was forced to jump off a high diving board has been going under water. I do not know how to hold my breath under water. To this day, I still hold my nose on the rare occasion I have to go under water. I may be a wild cat that is unafraid of many challenges but like most cats I am not fond of going under water. The Tough Mudder we were participating in Vermont had a few obstacles that required going under water.
So why sign up to do a race that would not only beat me up physically but also have a few obstacles requiring me to go under water? About 2 years ago during hike of Mt. Jefferson with Randy I suggested he would be great at obstacle races. A brief conversation amongst the group hiking turned into reality for Randy within a year’s time. At that time I wasn’t trained for 10 miles of running so I reluctantly declined on joining the race. Watching Randy excel in that Tough Mudder then another had me inspired (check out the video in the link and see why) and wanting to see his accomplishments first hand. It was an honor to be part of his team for his third Tough Mudder.
Back to facing my fears… I dreaded each obstacle with water but the most memorable one was named Walk the Plank. After climbing up to a platform 15 feet high I had to walk to the end of a short plank and jump into the water below. I hesitated not looking forward to going under water. I asked for a countdown and faced my fear on 3, 2, 1. Coming up to the surface of the water I was welcomed by the cheers of my team. While hugging my team a mix of emotions came over me. I was relieved to be done my last water obstacle, thankful for supportive friends and proud that I didn’t skip an obstacle that I was scared of. One of the benefits of being on a team is that being a supportive teammate can distract you from your own fears. My focus quickly switched towards two more teammates that were struggling with their fear of heights while standing on the plank above the water. Our team shouted words of encouragement to them and with time our words became louder than the doubt in their heads and both completed the obstacle jumping into the water.
At the end of the Tough Mudder after being physically and mentally exhausted, scraped up, filthy with mud and shocked with electricity we completed the 10.2 miles as a team and rejoiced! We took away more confidence in ourselves as well as our team which will help for the team members climbing Kilimanjaro in September. Our sponsor Oberto Beef Jerky has the motto for Heroes of Summer “You Get Out What You Put In”. That motto was clear for our team and an important lesson I will remind myself often! One of my favorite lessons Tough Mudder motivational speaker Sean Corvelle spoke of was to try something new every week whether big or small – this fits perfectly with my efforts to live life fully and roar loud! What new thing should I try next week?
Video of the inspirational Randy Pierce Video credit: Frank