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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One Tough Mudder

On Saturday,  I kissed my husband and boys goodbye and told them I was off to run a race called the Tough Mudder.  No matter where I go, it is always hard to leave. I know they can take care of themselves but I made sure to make healthy meals for breakfast lunch and dinner, (which they won't eat) but I do it anyway.  I  arranged rides to and from, practices, dances and birthday parties and I was only going to be gone for 24 hours.  I even attempted to mandate a man-date for Don with one of his buddies.

My role as their mom is the one I take most seriously above all else.  And leaving them is difficult. Mostly for me, okay all for me and the last thing Oscar said as he shut the door was, "Win it, mommy".

"Ha!", I thought,  I couldn't promise I was going to win anything. I just wanted to stay alive. I mean, I'm not a long distance runner.  And this was a very long distance, and with 24 obstacles in between. I appreciated that he thought winning was even an option.

My group consisted of four guys and me.  It felt  just like home.  As we put on our matching t-shirts and they wrote my number on my arm,  it became very clear that I was just one of the guys. This may sound like it's a good thing, but later I would have wished for a little special treatment.  Maybe, just a little.

The Tough Mudder honors wounded warriors, the men and women who have sacrificed so much more that we could ever know. Military men and women were all around us cheering us on.  As we ran our first mile, I thought about what one of the motivational speakers had said during the warm up.

When was the last time you have done something for the first time?

It occurred to me that in the past year I have done several things for the first time. Most noteworthy was flying to France alone. Most crazy was clearly this.

I really had no idea what I was in for.  But as we approached each obstacle,  I wasn't allowed to hesitate. Nobody thought that because I was a woman I couldn't do what they were doing.  Everyone did the same thing and helped each other out.

One of my team members tore his bicep tendon and still finished, meaning I couldn't complain about the nail I had just broken without sounding pathetic. As we dredged forward  I was reminded on more than one occasion of my three of my biggest fears.

1. heights
2. drowning
3. leaving my children motherless

I faced all of them head on. And obviously, I didn't die.   I knew there was always someone waiting for me on the other side of the wall, or swamp or mud pit or ice water enema, (yes, it's really called that) and for very good reason.

I may be the only one that would ever compare the Tough Mudder to parenting, but it really isn't all that different.  In the beginning, you think it is a good idea, but you really don't have any idea of  what you're really getting in to until it's too late. You imagine it, or hope it goes a certain way, but you don't know until you are totally submerged in it to get the true idea of how brutal it is.  But for some crazy reason, you go for it anyway, and you don't give up. You realize that it's going to get dirty, messy,  and scary. But at the same time it is fun, exasperatingly painful and you love every moment of it.

Like life,  you face obstacles that you had no idea were coming or what to expect.  Maybe your dad falls and is paralyzed, maybe you lose a friend to cancer,  maybe you unexpectedly lose your baby at 17 weeks, maybe your mom dies, maybe your spouse leaves you.  In any of life's challanges, you don't just turn around and go home.  You could, but the race continues and you either join it, or you don't.  And It is crucial to realize you cannot do it alone. You  have accept help from friends to get you through it.

The hardest challenge I faced was a slick angled wall that we had to climb.  My team laid belly down, stood on each others shoulders until they formed a human ladder. And I climbed them. Apologizing the entire way up for stepping on their shoulders, or grabbing their butts or pulling their hair. I swear that was not intentional.  Then one of my friends told me to shut up, stop saying sorry and just carry on.  It's kind of a good lesson in general don't you think?

As we approached our last obstacle as much as I wanted it to end, I didn't.  Partly because I didn't want to get electric shocked, but also because for a brief moment, I didn't recognize myself. Who was this 39 year old woman  kicking ass in a way that I didn't know was physically possible?

When you are completely exhausted and are wet covered in mud, you don't see each others flaws.  You look exactly the same as the person next to you who in that moment you have more things in common than differences, regardless of your gender, race, age or occupation.  You aren't a label. You are just a hot mess.

Immediately after we crossed the finish line, we headed over to have a free beer, sit down and laugh about whatever the hell we just did.  I don't think any of us stopped smiling until we got home.

As I drove, I thought about that question again. "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" And I made a promise to continually drag myself out of my comfort zone and get muddy once in awhile. For me, the alternative is far scarier.

When I arrived back home, there was a note on our chalk board.  It read "Congrats to our tough mudder".  Oscar asked me what I had won.  I showed him my orange headband and he thought it was the coolest thing ever.  Then he followed me into the bathroom,  sat on the floor next to my heap of dirty clothes and read me his favorite book as I took a shower.

Almost every parent I know wants to be strong for their kids. Strength can be shown in so many different ways. Mine are just a bit extreme.  I'll never know what they see when they look at me, but at least they know that I can simultaneously take care of myself and let them feel taken care of at the same time. 

I never want them to see me give up on anything, whatever it is, but especially them.

And that is why I am one Tough Mudder.

1 comment:

  1. Noelle, you continue to amaze me as you have for your entire life. Tough as you are you are just as much gentle, caring, creative and selfless. Just when I think you have climbed one mountain you pick a higher one to climb! Congratulations. WTG