One of the little resolutions that I’ve made for this year is to be slightly more competitive in my mud running hobby. In my usual way of not over-challenging myself, I’m not setting my sights on actually winning any of the races. I found out a long time ago that setting high goals usually means an awful lot of hard work. Aspiring to the middle of the pack generally lowers the workload considerably and I’m all about lower workloads.
Having rocketed from the depths of obscurity to the heights of mediocrity early on in my career, I’ve managed to sustain a moderate pace throughout. But this year, I’m going to stretch myself a bit; I’m going to see if I can’t shave a few minutes off my course completion times in Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniacs and Conquer the Gauntlet. I’m going all out for Tough Mudder and trying to cut a whopping fifteen minutes off that one. I may actually try to run part of the time in it this year!
Just to show you how carried away this insanity is becoming, let me tell you about my last outdoor training run.
The temperature last Saturday was in the upper thirties with a light to moderate drizzle falling all day. The ground was soggy in the grassy places and mushy in the bare places. By late afternoon, the temperature had fallen slightly. I thought the conditions were just about perfect so I put on my shorts, dry-fit tee shirt and trail sandals then headed over to the dirt bike, Moto Cross, hill climb trail near our house.
I drove my little truck down the spongy gravel lane and parked at the trailhead. By the time I’d got to the footbridge, my shoes were already muddy. By the time I’d gone a hundred feet on the trail, large clumps of mud had clamped onto each shoe. As I made my way around the pond and headed up the hill, I felt the drizzle soaking into my hair and shirt. Wet leaves slid beneath my feet as I plod-jogged up the trail. At the bottom of the first hill, I turned off the trail into the trees. I crossed a frozen ditch where the ice pitched over an edge and created a tiny waterfall: three feet of frozen white, several inches thick.
I made my way up the next hill, down it and up another and then crossed the bare hill at the creek. My footprints had grown from size 9 to size 15 with all the mud packed onto my sandals. I slipped and slid down the mud banks, turned back along the creek and toward the starting point, then kept on going.
As I was nearing the end of my second lap, I felt the drizzle begin to sting a bit and knew it was turning to sleet. Halfway up the first hill on the final lap, I looked off into the trees and could see the snow, sifting silently into the brush. I grinned to myself, “I can’t believe I’m out here running in the snow!” With daylight fading and the snow falling more heavily, I slogged on through the woods, mesmerized by the magic of the moment. The treacherous footing made me keep my focus primarily on the path, but I had to gamble on a few looks. The air was filled with white streaks of falling flakes, filtering through the branches, backdropped by the dark trunks and fallen leaves.
I was soaked, my hands were tingling and my feet stinging. Mud plastered my shoes and streaked my calves and splotched the backs of my thighs as I pushed myself up the last hill. My lungs burned and my legs ached but I was laughing out loud. “I can’t believe I’m out here, running in this mess and actually having a ball!”
Maybe it’s more of a gift than a talent, but when we can appreciate the beauty around us in spite of our pain and the mess we’ve put ourselves in, there is hope for better days. And, hey, if I can keep this up for a few months, I just might be one of the fastest old crazy guys out there. Hopefully, there aren’t many others like me…