Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don Joy, mud pits, and retail soundtracks

The best part of a custom-made knee brace: the complimentary bag.

Bing Images doesn't have any photos of the duffel bag, which is a real travesty. I've made it to Europe and back by rolling up my clothes and fitting my life into that bag.

This weekend was no different.

Our journey began on Friday evening, when we drove to the town of Coxsackie (which has a body of water called "Climax Brook"). The requisite sing-along took place. But this was not a mere anthematic, "Don't Stop Believing" sing-along. This was an ode to the songs that played again and again and again as we each worked jobs in retail (Banana Republic, Journeys, and the Baby Gap, respectively). Songs that may have been decent but were ruined by memories of standing for hours and pretending to fold baby clothes (me). Or songs that we never knew the chorus to, such as this one.

After getting lost in our quest for a hotel that didn't exist, we found our correct habitation for the night. We went right to sleep, minus the fact that the room was 978786 degrees and very silent. You lie there wondering: Who else is awake? Does their breathing mean they're sleeping?

At 7:45 the next morning, Lauren and I waited amongst folks in Viking costumes and fairy skirts. We were dressed simply in blue T-shirts and black shorts. As music played down below, we worried about the big issues in life: Would we die? Would we have to pee while on the course?

Fire spewed from torches. We were off.

The first mile or so ran strictly uphill. That doesn't sound like a big deal, except for when you're running up a ski mountain. It kept going up, and up, and up...

After I saw jacked-looking men walking, I decided it was okay to join.

The first obstacles we encountered were nothing to write home about. Crawled under some wood and made our way through the junkyard of old cars and tires. However, we soon heard screaming in the woods. That's when we knew we were in for the good stuff: jumping into the water to climb over logs.

The logs spun toward us as we tried to climb over them. The water came up to my shoulders and my super-saturated sneakers kicked for the bottom. Some chivalrous boyfriends held the logs down for their girlfriends, so we tried to capitalize on that. Then they'd release just in time for us to fall back. I tossed one leg up and over and propelled myself to the other side. True gymnast form.

We exited that obstacle thoroughly muddy.

The other obstacles up on the mountain weren't too tough. There were ropes to climb and wooden A-frames to slide down. Lauren and I had some romantic Titantic-like moments where she waited to catch me, should I have needed catching.

The actual running course, however, was another story. After going uphill for that first mile, the two miles down were just as steep; it felt like you could easily fall over yourself and roll down the mountain. There were divots in the long grass and you had to watch your step. Parts of the trail wove through the woods, bringing back the cross-country days.

Down below, we could see the smoke and the parking lot. "I smell food," Lauren said, and thus we were motivated to run forth.

Three obstacles presented themselves at the very end of the race, as the spectators cheered and took photos: a slip and slide, fire to jump over, and a mud pit with barbed wire.

Now, there's actual video footage of me at age three refusing to go down the slip and slide in our front yard, because I was too scared of wet tarp, apparently. On this day, Lauren ran all gungho and leapt belly-first onto the slip and slide. I was more conservative, but still cruised down the tarp on my stomach.

We made it over the fire, and for the finale, crawled in the mud under barbed wire. The wire wasn't all that low, so I didn't live in fear of getting stuck. However, one had no choice but to go on one's hands and knees as the photographer snapped away.

Finally, Lauren and I ran through the finish line together. I threw up a fist in the air, but did not throw up. Which is an achievement.

Sure, the Warrior Dash was a silly time. But it brought back something I'd forgotten: the desire to work through unusual physical challenges and find that I am capable of accomplishing them. Like the Project Adventure courses in high school and trapezing last summer. Contorting not only my body, but my mind, in unexpected ways.

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