Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life is good...Mud RUN good

You know what, life is GOOD!  Yep, I think when you work through heartache, balance, leaping from one heavy obstacle to the next, it is just bound to be GOOD!  I have often felt over the past years that the unfortunate hiccups make the heavy moments feel that much richer, even in their horrible elements.  Yes, seems odd to some probably.  I am writing right now as my girls are cuddled up in jammies, enjoying Saturday morning cartoons and ready to make the 3-day weekend last forever.

In March, when I entered the Children's Hospital writing contest, I put myself out there in many ways.  I wrote openly and honestly about how hard being married was when faced with challenges.  I talked about how the last year was the hardest one yet, which it was.  In essence it was because Jack and I had to face issues head on, without any protective lenses.  We spoke some harsh words and learned through communicating poorly, how we also knew at the base of it we are a great team and can communicate beautifully.  While daunting, it taught me a lot about my marriage and how strong our partnership is.  After posting the piece, I received emails from friends sharing heartfelt messages about feelings of now not "being alone", and "I thought my husband and I were the only ones who had challenges like this".  The honesty in my essay helped open communication among others, and within my own friend circle.  For that I am grateful.  How life continues to have great things come from challenging situations...not being a finalist in the contest after opening my soul was hard, but the element of open communication amongst friends supporting one another is a forever gift.

Before the mud and obstacles
Thus, it's all good right now.  Last Saturday, Jack and I did a MudRun, which seemed parallel in funny ways how good life feels"after running through a lot of mud".  Literally feels good to my core and inner being.  It was our 4th weekend in a row of doing an athletic event together; a foundation of who we are as a team.  When we rode Wildflower 65 mile bike ride on April 29th, we took off from my family and got to enjoy working together to pull each other up and down the hills.  It was Jack's first metric century, and I got to help him with some cycling skills while he encouraged me with my first metric century post double knee surgery.  We did the same on Saturday through the mud and obstacles.  We were both excited and motivated to have FUN, no race timing chip, just FUN.

Ready to rock the race
At the starting line, all of us were dancing with our friends, Chris and Linda. Makenzie and Emerson were ready to cheer us on while being the course "photographers".  They got to hang with our friend, Linda, who is cutely pregnant and wasn't about to bop her baby belly through the obstacle course.  The laughter started at the beginning, and continued throughout.  In the first 60 seconds of standing by the registration booth, we saw people dressed in Wonder Woman and Batgirl costumes to military men covered in mud...we knew we were in a for a memorable day.

To me, the dirty part of the mud didn't seem daunting, but invigorating for some reason. It made the event seem a bit more adventurous compared to regular runs and triathlons, which seemed exciting.  I wanted a lot of challenges to take on and overcome; bring on the ropes, muddy tires and sprints. We lined up for our 12:30 wave at the starting line and the music blasted all around. Some people looked stiff and nervous, while others looked intense like warriors on a mission.  The three of us looked like 30-somethings who didn't give a flying poo about their rhythm, but wanted to dance, race and laugh. Emerson, Makenzie and Linda watched and waved laughing at us and the girls were dancing too. The energy in the air was that of FUN. Everyone was to have FUN.

3.2.1.....START!  Jack, Chris and I ran through the race arch and were on our way. We embarked on a few hills right in the beginning. Sweeeeet. I love to climb hills and felt good. It was about 93 degrees and blistering sun which made it more of a challenge. Gradually, Chris fell into his own pace and Jack and I were running alongside each other.  He is such a solid runner and competitive athlete, I can't help but race better when alongside him. He maneuvers his body like a gazelle at times, hopping from foot to foot with a comfortable cadence. First obstacle approached; 3 7-8 foot walls to climb over.  Both of us jumped up and over confidently.  Running continued up and down some  hills. Next obstacle of muddy barrels.  Clump clump went the mud when it latched onto our running shoes.  We kept moving, at this point I was a bit ahead of Jack on another climb. My legs and knees felt strong and solid. Phew, 5 months post surgery and my body was doing what it's supposed to do. Another few obstacle walls we blasted over independently and that was to high. Heck, I am 5'1", not the tallest girl by any means. Before I could even ask, Jack bent over and yelled, "Erin, just jump on my back. You got this." With a quick jump and leap, I was up and over the wall.  Jack's "back stool" repeated two more times until we were at the tires. Quick steps through each muddy tire; using agility work that came easy from teaching so many boot camp classes.

After the tires Jack looked at me with a smirk, "We're not muddy enough. Where is the MUD??  Erin, I think we're the first in our wave now too." Ah, the competitive boy is always there, and funnily enough I had already noticed the same thing.  We embarked on more groups of runners and passed them as we swished through the obstacles and on the trail. Up one hill we heard screaming and cheering. Two big walls, and I mean big.  The outline of some people standing at the bottom just staring up with feet paralyzed in the dirt.  As we approached, we saw their faces that had fearful expressions. I yelled to Jack, "Just do it! GO". The first wall had 2 inch pieces of wood ledges you could grab onto that were spaced about 4 feet apart. If you didn't grasp well, you'd fall down to the bottom, or on top of the person below you. There was a strong guy, about 25 years old and 6 feet tall, climbing next to me, For each wide stretch my legs took to reach the ledge, he glided up, but was nervous looking down to the ground. We teased each other and raced to the top. At the top, flipped around and climbed down the rope net ladder. At this point I heard Makenzie and Emerson yelling, "Go Mommy! Go, race Daddy, GO FAST Mooooom!".  It felt great to high five their little hands and continue on to the next part...a steep down hill to more up and down. I have to admit, the downhill scared me with my knees. I wanted to mentally feel "normal", but after double knee surgery this is my "new normal" and while I climbed down it was OK! Jack was in front looking back with a gleam in his eye and yelled, "How are they now? Feeling good? Should we push through the mud?". "Sure!" I cheered back.  I didn't realize what he really meant until I saw the mud pit in front of him.

We came upon a mud pit that looked like a pig's dream home. People were trying to edge around it and not get muddy....until Jack leaped in doing a dive roll.  Head to toe covered in mud.  It made everyone gasp and Jack grin.  I followed suit, not a dive roll, but blasted through.  Speedy and muddy up the hill laughing at Jack. Next mud pit, we both just crawled through and went all out.  There was one thing with running through splattering mud, but another with blasting through it on all fours. At this point, we were committed to the mud and getting down and dirty. Out of the second big pit, climbed up globbing along and determined to finish fast. More mud, another wall and mini climbs up we accomplished.  Next we heard the cheers looking up to see people watching down at the final obstacles. Barbed wire to crawl under through mud pits.  We plowed through as some others were tip-toeing around trying not to get dirty.  At this point I just smiled and laughed at them, "You're in a mud run. Get dirty! It will wash off later." Under the final wire, upright position found, ran to the finish line alongside Jack. It was INCREDIBLE! We had grins ear to ear and were on Cloud Nine.  Someone came up yelling at me, "It was so fun to watch you two not caring and having fun! Thank you!".  Ah, made my day since we just did what we wanted to and as Jack pointed out, came out in the end the first in our wave of 200+ runners. 

Want a hug Girls??
We ran to see the girls and Linda at the top of the hill by the obstacles.  The girls wouldn't hug us but made faces instead. I couldn't stop jumping and smiling....and spotted Chris climbing down the rope ladder.  He waved and asked where the mud was...before I knew what was happening I popped in to run the last third of the race with him too.  This time covered in mud, which got Chris eager to join our muddy selves.  Chris calls me his "Mini Motivator", which I tried to live up to while wiping mud from my mouth as I spoke". Chris and I ran through the obstacles, mud pits and up the hill at the end with him joining us in the full mud fun too.

At the end, the three of us were covered head to toe, in mud, and huge smiles. Linda, Makenzie and Emerson took pictures of us and the moment immediately etched in my mind as a favorite of all time. It could have been the camaraderie, the physical challenge, the support, competing outside the traditional running box, overcoming new races post surgery and the partnership with Jack.  We washed off the mud with huge water trucks that just sprayed us down. We were still a bit dirty with mud gobs in places they shouldn't be, but from the outside looked rinsed and ready to start again.

It is parallel to where we are in life.  The entire mud run was.  Jack and I are an incredible team, especially with the cheering on of our daughters. We have run through one mud pit after another, but always put a hand out to help one another get through it. Sometimes our entire bodies are covered in layers of mud, but we know it's an obstacle we'll get through.  We leap over puddles, run through them, sometimes fall down and climb over walls.  At the end, through companionship and teamwork, we get washed off and get to run a new race.  It may take a few washes to clean us off (my sports bra still has some dirt in it!), but we'll get there and be ready to leap and laugh.  Our life may be muddy, but our LIFE IS GOOD! 

Life is GOOD!! 

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey