You may remember, before all of the NY excitement, that I mentioned I was doing the Seabee Volkslauf Mud Run that takes place every year at the Naval Construction Batallion Center in Gulfport. My friend Melissa, who is also the Ombudsman (family support liaison) for our Navy det (that's detachment or unit for you civilian friends) talked me and another friend, Kim, into doing it as a team. Melissa is the most athletic out of the three of us. She plays on a women's soccer team and runs pretty regularly. Kim and I were just hoping we could finish and not pass out or die before the end.
All of us were doing it to meet a challenge (I mean, could we actually do this??) and in a small way, honor our husbands who are all serving together in Afghanistan right now.
Though it's been a couple of weeks now, I will never forget just how tough that day was!
Six miles long. Mud pits and walls and big mounds of dirts that resembled hills to climb and logs to swim under (in muddy water). One mile alone was JUST mud pits and hills. Over and over. They called it the Mile of Mud. Did I mention this was SIX MILES?
We called ourselves the SeaBabes of 28 in honor of our Seabee husbands and their battalion, NMCB 28, which is decomissioning. (Seabees, incidentally, never actually spend time on the sea. They are land-based, doing construction projects for the Navy and other branches. They fix what the Marines blow up. People like to see the Seabees coming because they make everything better. Though I may be a little biased...) This deployment that they're on is the last one for the Old Pros.
Here we are, before the race. Don't we look all fresh and ready to go? We had no idea what we were in for. Remember this image... it doesn't last...
Lesson #1: You Can't Worry About What Everyone Else is Doing
We did this race with 1500 other runners/participants. Most of them were military. Some even did it in their combat boots (that's hard core, y'all!). Within the first 10 minutes, we knew - um - we weren't going to be keeping up with those folks. And when we hit our first obstacle - climbing over 10 ft hay bales (ok, they were probably more like 6 or 7, but still, they were taller than we were), it took us a while to get through it (and we might still be there if not for the kindness of a couple of guys who gave us a leg up (and a little push) to get over them. We had to decide early on our goal was to finish, and it wasn't going to matter how long it took us.
Lesson #2: Some Journeys Aren't Meant to be Done Alone
There are many things in my life I have done and accomplished working by myself (of course, always with God at my side). But then there are moments where it's so much better to have others doing it with you. This was one of those moments. The rules of the race actually required teams of three to stay together - you couldn't leave a man (or woman) behind. I'm so glad. We warned each other when there was a drop off in a mud pit, we took each others hands and helped each other up the hills, we talked each other through climbing over walls. These two ladies helped encourage me when I wasn't sure I could keep going, and I hope I did the same for them too!
Lesson #3: Everyone is Afraid of Something.
Each of us had our own "thing" we didn't like on this race. For Kim, I think it was the hills - she had a leg that started cramping up just a couple of miles in, and it was PAINFUL to have to climb up and over those enormous hills. For Melissa, who did awesome at just about everything, including keeping us going when we seriously just wanted to sit on the side and wave to everyone else going by, she didn't care for the muddy log pits. These were pits covered by logs and the only way through them was to go UNDER, like under the couple of inches between the log and the top of the mud. "There is no way I am putting my face in that!" she would say. Me neither! So we would have to go through on our backs and back-float under the logs (with everything under the muddy water except our eyes, lips and noses! I don't even want to think what might have gotten into my ears!).
And what was I afraid of? The wall. Before we even started the race, I told the girls that I hoped there weren't any walls to climb.
Um, there were several. (Here's one of the pics the race folks took that is proof we went over a wall - well, at least proof that Melissa did - but I promise, I got there eventually!)
And it was HARD. Climbing up a super slanted wall is hard enough when you have spaghetti for arms, but doing it when you're already muddy and wet and slippery was even more of a challenge. And I was so afraid I was going to fall. But I did it (and got the bruises to show for it when I slid completely down a wall the first time I attempted to climb)... faced my fear and overcame it (well, until we got to the next one. And then I had to start all over!). I couldn't have done it without the encouragement and support of my friends.
Lesson #4: Sometimes it's better to forge your own path.
When we were climbing hills (and more and more people passed us), we sometimes found great little foot-holds others had already made that made it a little easier to get up and over. But the more time passed, and as more people went through, the more often we found that those paths already made were super muddy and slippery and much harder to follow (and extremely easy to fall in and slide down than climb up). It was actually better to find our own way up the hill, and make our own foot-holds. I think there's a lesson there for life too.
Lesson #5: Don't Stop - Keep Going
Probably around mile 4 or 5, things got pretty tough. We were exhausted. That was also about the time we hit the Mile of Mud. And we stopped going slow. We stopped almost entirely. And the longer we took breaks, the harder it was to get going again. So it's ok to take things slow - but keep going. Once you lose momentum, it's that much harder to get it back.
Lesson #6: Sometimes You Just Get Stuck. Ask for Help.
Different mud pits had different types of mud. Some pits were more muddy water than actual mud. Some were sloshy, and you tended to choose the middle rather than the edges because it was easier to navigate. And then some were just seriously thick as Sonic milkshakes, so that if you weren't careful, you'd get stuck. We saw shoes EVERYWHERE. People lost them in the mud, or sometimes they just got tired of the mud sloshing in their toes and ditched them to the sides. I was determined I wasn't going to lose my shoes during the race.
And then we came to Mud Pit #24 (or whatever it was, I lost count.) This one was special because it was a mud pit that went right up against a wall (yes, my favorite thing as you know).So you had to navigate the pit and then immediately climb up the wall. But there were a couple of problems. This mud was THICK. And there was a crowd of people trying to navigate it. And to leave the pit, you had to climb the wall, but there were only two ropes and unless you were Spider Man, you had to wait your turn.
This must have been one of the trickier obstacles because there were several military guys standing to the side watching. One of them tried giving us advice - "just run across the pit and you won't get stuck." Good advice. If I'd been the only one there. I attempted the run and made it about a foot to the wall. And that's where I stuck my landing. Literally. Because I had to wait on the ones trying to climb the ropes.
And I was stuck. My legs literally were encased in mud, and no matter how hard I tried to move them, I wasn't going anywhere. And I was NOT leaving my shoes!
The same military guy who gave me the brilliant advice about running across the pit told me it would be easier if I just stretched out like I was swimming, and my legs would come out. Yes, but then my face and my arms would have been stuck. No thanks.
I looked around and saw two ROTC kids right next to me who weren't as stuck as I was. "Could y'all dig me out?" I asked. Thankfully, that's just what they did.
Sometimes you can find your way out of tight situations on your own. And sometimes, God brings other people to you to help.
Lesson #7: Life willl always bring challenges. Finish them well.
Six miles, through serious mud, through utter exhaustion, steep hills, scary walls, all shoes still on feet and 2 1/2 hours later, we finished. There will be times where it doesn't matter how fast you get through something or how quickly you finish. The important part is that you face your challenge and you finish. You get through it. And you do your best with what you have and what God gives you.
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