Monday, May 14, 2012

Obstacle Course Mud Running

In January of 2011, I heard about a race called Warrior Dash because someone I don't know posted a link on my best friends facebook page.  I got intrigued, looked it up online, discovered that it is a short 3.55 mile race here in Washington that has 10 obstacles you have to traverse during the race.  Then, I discovered they were all over the world!  I had to do one!

I have always loved to run.  Ever since I was a small child I've been running.  But I did not join the track team or the cross country team when I was in high school because I'm not a sprinter or a marathon runner.  I run because running is my meditation.  It is my zen.  It is my religion.  It brings peace to my inner being when there is a storm going on around me.  I absolutely love to run.

But I don't want to run on a treadmill, a track or in a gym.  I want to run in nature.  I want to smell the scent of the trees and flowers as I pass them, I want to see birds flit from the branches ahead of me, I want to feel the ground beneath my feet.

When I was little, I went barefoot.  Everywhere.  Until I was about 12.  One day I was riding my bike and stubbed my bare toe on the sidewalk.  I decided shoes were okay.  But not socks.  I didn't own any socks until I was about 14.  And I bought all my own clothes and shoes by that time so I opted for Keds.  They were inexpensive and didn't hurt my feet like running shoes did.

I ran at least 4 miles every single day through my high school years in Keds.  And I worked out in the gym with the boys during a free weights class.  I think I was the only girl signed up for that class.  And I couldn't really bench press much, but I could free hang for as long as you could count.  And I could leg press the approximate weight of an ox.  I think I had like 2 percent body fat.

It's probably more like 20 percent now, but I digress.

After high school, I had children.  In between children I would always take up running again.  But never go very far or run very often.
Run Like You Love It! T-shirts by JessicaInSeattle 
Then a little over 7 years ago, I got into a serious car accident and was seriously injured.  All of the muscles in my back were torn from my tail bone up through my neck.  My right shoulder has permanent nerve damage and my right leg will never be the same.  I was completely debilitated for over a year and a half.  I lost some of my past memories and the ability to form new memories.  My past memories that are lost, are lost forever I presume.  The ability to form new memories slowly came back to me.  I still find that sometimes I'm told something happened that I can't remember.  That frightens me.  But I remember most things now.

During the time I was just beginning to be able to form new memories, I had my fourth child.  I don't remember her first word, first steps or most of her other firsts.  I do remember that when she was 16 months old, I started running again.  I lived across the street from a high school and even though I was afraid to try running because of the injuries to my back, neck and shoulders, I felt like I had to give it a shot.

The first time, I could barely run 200 meters.  I had to stop, gasping for breath, walking it off.  Going home and icing my back.  I tried again.  And again.  And again.  Night after night I ran.  I bought a pair of running shoes.  My first in about 10 years.

I got to where I was able to run from my house to a nearby lake, around the lake and back to my house again...I took Epsom salt baths, but the icing stage was over.  It was a little over 5 miles.  It took me over a year to build up that endurance.  I was getting stronger!

I continued to run several times a week.  And then my knee started to hurt really bad about half way through my runs.  I bought a band to go around my knee so I could keep running.

That was about the time I first heard about Warrior Dash.  As soon as I looked it up, I knew I had to run it.  It wasn't just running.  It was running with obstacle courses!

A little less than five months before Warrior Dash, I broke my foot.  It wasn't even a tough gal type of break.  I did it while working out in my house.  It was right after dinner and the kids were still up and I was just jogging from the front door to the back door.  I always ran barefoot unless I was outside.  My three year old daughter decided she was going to run with me, but she ran right into me, pushed me over and I hit the vacuum cleaner with the side of my foot breaking my metatarsal bone.

It hurt.  I got up and kept running.  For about 30 seconds.  I sat down, took some deep breaths and asked my son to grab me some ice.

That put off my training for Warrior Dash for the next two and a half months.  I was on crutches for 8 weeks and in a boot for two more after that.

I was finally able to take off the boot.  I taped up my foot and went for a walk.  Walking just didn't cut it though and I was soon back to running again.  My knee started hurting again.  I put the brace back on and kept going.

A month later, my hip started to hurt.  I was diagnosed with ITBS and bursitis on my right side.  I was told I would never be able to run again.

I don't do well with being told what to do.  I signed up for Warrior Dash for the next year and hoped that I would be able to run it when the time came.  I gained almost 20 pounds.

I started walking and then I started doing P90X.  I figured if I can't run, I have to at least work out.  I have lost 14 of those pounds and I seem to be stuck at this weight.

For two years now I've wanted a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes.  They are those "weird shoes with toes" that you have heard about or seen.  I did a ton of research and decided that with as much time as I spend barefoot, these might be the perfect running shoes for me.

I finally got a pair for Mother's Day this year.  One trip to REI and I was a happy runner again.

They were just supposed to be walking shoes for me for the next several weeks while I 'get used' to them.  But when I took them out on their maiden voyage, I could not help myself.  I ran.  I did not want to stop.

The very next day, I was going to go for a short walk again.  I ran.  About 4 miles.  It was absolutely amazing.  I had not felt the freedom of running in over 8 months.  I needed it.

That was yesterday.  My calves are a bit sore today, but I relish in the pain and I just want to go run again.

Warrior Chick T-shirts by JessicaInSeattle 
Less than a week ago, I heard about another race similar to Warrior Dash.  It is called Spartan Race.  It's tougher, rougher and even more mud.  I have signed up to volunteer.  I just got my volunteer email and it said I get to run it for free that same day.  I'm scared out of my mind to run it since it is less than 5 weeks away and I don't know if I'm physically prepared.

I also don't know that I have the gas money to get to the race site.  But I just have to find a way.

There is another one called Tough Mudder that is three times longer and even more challenging.  So what did I do?  I signed up to volunteer!  That one is in September.

These races with their obstacles are a way to be a runner and challenge yourself physically by getting over, through or under obstacles.  Things like traversing 15 foot walls, belly crawling under barbed wire, climbing ropes, running through a field of live wires hanging over head, clambering up steep mud embankments, jumping over flames, wading or swimming through ice cold water and much, much more.

I can't really explain why I want to do these other than I love the challenge.  I love proving to myself that it doesn't matter what someone tells me I can or can not do.  If I put my mind to it, anything is possible.

I can do these with a brain injury.  I can do them with ITBS.  I can do them with bursitis.  I can do them with a shoulder injury that will never heal.  What I've been through doesn't matter when what I am about to do is right in front of me.

Yes.  It will be hard.  No.  I might not be able to do all of it.  But I will try and I will try hard.  I may break down and I may want to quit part way through, but I will be able to pick myself up and keep on moving forward no matter how hard it gets because I am a survivor.
Mud, Blood, Sweat, Beer! T-shirts by JessicaInSeattle 
Oh, and I get free beer for finishing.  Can't forget that part.  I like beer.

Spartan Sprint, here I come!
Warrior Dash, watch out!
Tough Mudder, I'll be ready!

Until Next Time,


  1. I love those shirts. Obstacle racing is really a fun activity. I really enjoying that race.

  2. Thank you. I designed the shirts myself. Most of me can't wait for the Spartan Sprint. The other ten percent is cowering under the covers like a little girl who is scared of the monsters under the bed.

  3. You go Jess. You continue to amaze and inspire me. I am not up to obstacles but I am training for walking another half marathon and soon another triathlon. I love doing what pushes me out of my comfort zone. Keep running :-)


    1. Thank you, Susan! These obstacle races keep me feeling alive.
      I am still impressed that you do triathlons! That seems out of reach for me. Funny what each of us feel like we are able to accomplish.