Here’s Mud in Your Eye
Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.” William James
The Argument: (RFYL) I believe I run in order to become a better person. There is growing evidence that runners and other endurance athletes share my belief. A close observation of running clubs just here in the valley (Greater Phoenix) reveals commitment to worthy causes of all stripes. Many clubs and athletes personally help raise funds for humanitarian charities. Most races from 5K’s to Ironman’s to Ultra’s fund major charitable organizations.
On the individual level just belonging to a club implies that we make sacrifices of time and energy in order to support our teammates. Anybody who has run for a while has offered some assistance to a fellow runner. Given advice, shared water, offered a hand up. Just being available for a partner run makes both you and the partner better.
The Question: Has the naturally competitive nature of running began to fade in favor of the desire to make a contribution to ones fellow man?
The Event: Tough Mudder (Arizona 2012) Background: What is a Tough Mudder Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. As the leading company in the booming obstacle course industry, Tough Mudder has already challenged half a million inspiring participants worldwide and raised more than $2 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project.
How (I) RFYL got involved: Victoria Murphy, a friend from my running team Run 4 It Endurance Training, decided to “take the Mudder on”.
Born and raised in Austin, TX
US Marine Corps-served during First Gulf War
Mother of Two, Katherine and Zackary
Earned A.A.S. in Digital Media Production
A/V Coordinator Rio Salado College-produces Rio’s internal videos
Animal Shelter Video currently on Peoria’s Channel 11
Non-profit work: Faith Animal Shelter (Phx PD, substation)
Delivers holiday food and deserts to one fire station in Phx and one in Tempe
I (RFYL) was intrigued by Victoria’s description of the event so I googled it up. I was blown away by the audacity of its demands for courage and stamina. That’s when I decided to pledge my support to my teammate by cheering her through as many obstacles as I could reach.
Victoria’s reaction to my pledge was so genuine and so gracious, I immediately felt very good about myself. The euphoria was short-lived, however, because I turned out to be about as useful as a good intention on the proverbial road to hell.
My major mistake resulted in not making adequate preparations for the fact that the Mudder Event was staged on the Mesa Proving Grounds which is at least a three crow drive from my home in N.E. Phoenix. Yet with all my procrastination, I had only two blocks to go on Elliot, a major artery in that part of the valley, in order to make Victoria ‘s 9:45 start time with time enough to spare to give her a big hug as send-off for her Mudder ordeal. As I exited the highway onto Elliot, my heart nearly stopped. My two blocks were a virtual parking lot. I eased into gridlock and sat there for a half hour. Victoria took off at 9:45 am. I was just checking in at 10:00. Strike One.
Once on the Mudder grounds, I figured I had time to wander around and check out the obstacles before I settled on one where I could catch Victoria and cheer her through. The names of the obstacles were nearly as blood curdling as the obstacles themselves–Arctic Enema, Berlin Wall. Finally, approx two hours after Victoria’s start, I settled on an electrical shock therapy. This little beauty required the runners to crawl through a bed of water and mud while at the same time avoiding the electroshock tentacles dangling inches above them. As soon as I saw it I hit on a plan to redeem myself for missing the pre-race hug. I would stand at the far end of the mud field and as Victoria arose from the sludge I would step up and give her a full body hug, thereby absolving my guilt in a glorious mud bath.
Over the next hour and a half I watched hundreds, I don’t know, maybe thousands of brave souls go through the mud. No Victoria. Strike Two.
I decided to bag it and head for the finish line. There I witnessed a moving mass of humanity being funneled through the Finish Arch into the finishing area that offered race mementos, free beer and photo ops. I parked myself at the narrow gap through which all finishers had to ultimately pass to get to their friends and family on the outside. At such close range I couldn’t possibly miss Victoria again. But after another eternity of looking into muddy, bloody faces I checked my watch for the final time. I had been on the course five hours from Victoria’s start time. I had missed her again. Strike Three!
I asked several event officials if there was any way to tell if Victoria had completed the course. The best answer I got was, “Go to baggage check. If her bag is still there she’s probably still on the course.”
In desperation I turned toward the one location where I did not want to find her. Things took a turn for the better. Turns out the aide station tracks people by name, treatment and disposition. Victoria Murphy had been treated for a nasty glob of mud in her eye and had been discharged to a friend who had brought her to the event. A nurse beckoned me over and said, “Are you looking for Victoria Murphy. She’s still here. Come this way.”
When I saw her sitting on the waiting bench she looked much smaller than I remembered. Her eyes appeared as two tight lines etched onto a childlike face. We hugged, Victoria told me she had finished and had not been able to see out of the mud eye since around mile ten. She thanked me for coming, introduced me to her friend and the three of us began to make our way back to our cars. I was not able to accompany them very far because, as the two of them headed into the sea of cars, I realized that I didn’t know where they were going or where my car was parked. I had forgotten to count my rows. Is there such thing as a strike four?
From the troops on the ground: Three bold spirits offer their take on the mind and body numbing challenges they overcame and weigh in on the question, has service to comrades surpassed winning as the major prize?
Victoria Murphy (Top)
Sharon Campbell Randy Cavadini
I work for Fry’s Food stores, in Loss Prevention. I am married, my husband is a police officer for Phoenix. I have 3 step kids/teenagers. Twin 16 year old girls and a 19 year old boy who will be FINALLY going to AF boot camp the end of April. I went to Greenway High here in Phoenix. I was born Las Vegas, and lived Utah before moving to AZ in the early 80’s.
34 Years Old
Brandi’s Husband, Lorenzo and Anthony’s Father
Army Brat, born in Manhattan, KS, raised all over the world
Son of a Korean Mother and Wisconsinite Father
Love Wisconsin sports (Go Pack Go!), running, hiking, heavy metal, movies, and a good craft beer.
Life is short, so do whatcha wanna.
Meet the Mudders
RFYL: Victoria Murphy is my instigator. I might say to her what Ollie said to Stan, “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” (Laurel and Hardy). As her history of volunteerism suggests, she’s always startin’ somethin’.
RFYL: Sharon Campbell is our underdog long shot. When I and my Run For It Endurance Training teammates met Sharon at the Veterans Day 11K she thought the race was long and hard. She is now planning to run the IMS Marathon on February 19. Barely a month before Tough Mudder, she still couldn’t do one pull-up.
RFYL: Randy Cavadini is our man-on-the-street. I met, or rather I overheard Randy talking in the Sole Sports running store in Glendale about a week after Tough Mudder. He was holding forth to a small group about his experience with Tough Mudder. He was so candid and upbeat I couldn’t help but be drawn in. When he slowed down enough, I gave him my standard pitch, “Hi you don’t know me but I do a running blog that not a lot of people read and I’m doing a piece on the Tough Mudder and you obviously aren’t from around here so would you be interested in doing an interview?” How could he resist?
In their own words: The interview
RFYL What made you want to do the Tough Mudder?
Originally I wasn’t going to when I first heard about it. I thought that there was no way I was going to be ready in time. Because it seemed so challenging that I decided to start doing endurance events back awhile ago because I’d had a bad test for cancer. So I didn’t know if I had cancer or not and that’s when I decided to start living my life. I though Training for the Mudder seemed seemed like a good way to start my new life. I still wasn’t sure when my police officer friend showed me the sight, no way I could get ready in time, then I thought why not? Why can’t I get ready in time? Only took four months.
Sharon Sharon: I actually did not want to do tough Mudder to begin with. An acquaintance at work (who I might add is at least 12 years younger than me) asked if I would like to do it with her. I originally said no after looking at it online and not really wanting to have anything to do with the ice or other difficult obstacles. At one of our Loss Prevention department meetings, she brings it up again. Our department is about 90% male and we all tend to be a bit competitive. Anyway, one of the supervisors who likes to instigate things asks me if I’m too old to do it (Tough Mudder) Of course I take that as a challenge and that night did my registration.
Just looked like a really unique challenge. I had done shorter mud runs in the past, but this one was appealing because the distance would present a real challenge (12.5 miles), and the obstacles looked to be legitimately difficult.
RFYL How hard was the course to complete?
Honestly for the first ten miles I thought, “Is this what I was worried about?” For the first ten miles I was fine. It’s nothing I haven’t done in the Marine Corps or when I was a kid growing up and climbing trees. But once my energy level dropped, that’s when it got very, very challenging and I started to question whether I could complete it (Mudder course) in its entirety and not skip anything That’s when I started to feel the strength in my body starting to wane.
Sharon The course was difficult, but not nearly as hard as I had made it out to be in my mind.
We maintained a fairly casual running pace in between obstacles, so actually completing the course was never really an issue. But it’s certainly a very challenging race. Mud runs like this are unique in that it’s difficult to find a nice “zone” because of the way that the obstacles break up your cardio. Not like a traditional race where you’re just running.
RFYL Which of the obstacle courses was the hardest?
There were three. The walls of course, those were hideous and left me completely black and blue. The Mountain of Mud, King of the Mudslide Mountain, whatever was nearly impossible. Then the half pike was challenging. I was already tired, my upper body strength was almost completely gone, and there is no way you can get up that thing easily because the material they use is already covered with mud, and it’s already a slick material. You can’t dig your toes in or anything.
Sharon I think the hardest was the monkey bars, just because you really couldn’t hop on the bars by that point. Your gloves were muddy and wet, and the bars themselves turned. Bottom line, I made two rungs, fell and waded across.
Mentally – the “Arctic Enema” (ice bath). You almost enter a brief state of shock submerging yourself in freezing cold water. Literally takes your breath away. Physically – I’d have to say the 12 foot high “Berlin Walls” just because it was the one obstacle that I would have had a hard time completing without the help of my fellow “Mudders”. I definitely needed a little boost.
RFYL How did you react to the ceremonial type start?
I appreciated it. It was very motivating. I think the ceremony was more about selling the idea. You know, a hard event. Telling you that nothing you’ve ever done is this challenging and going to the gym is not this challenging. And I was really worried. I was thinking can I do it, am I ready? And being alone that makes it a bit difference. But it (ceremony)was great, motivation. a lot of camaraderie and teamwork.
Sharon I enjoyed the ceremonial type start. It got you hyped up and excited to go, and also brought to light the real reason we were all there. To help each other and support our true heroes. The Wounded Warriors.
Loved it. Really got me fired up. The emcee did a great job – was both funny and motivating. I was an Army Brat growing up (my father is a 30 vet), so the pro-military theme is something that always hits home with me. Couldn’t have been a more fitting charity beneficiary than the Wounded Warrior Project.
RFYL How did it feel crossing the finish line?
I had cut my eye around mile11 on King of the Mountain. Someone had kicked mud in my eye, my right eye, my good eye and I can barely see out of my left eye. So I ran for the last mile and a half with mud in my eyes. I tried to pour water in my eye to get the mud out but there was gravel in there also. So more pain when the gravel cut my eye. But nothing was going to stand in my way. I set a goal, I did my job, and now it was time to go to the first aide station and take care of my eye. It didn’t feel good until after I dealt with my eye and knew that I had completed it. That’s when it hit me. Ok, I did it, I did a good job.
Sharon It felt amazing crossing the finish line, knowing you did every obstacle on the course and made it to the end.
Amazing. You have that overwhelming sense of accomplishment that you get when you finish any race, but this is unique in that you can’t wait to hit the shower station and get cleaned up. After 2 ½ hours of running soaking wet and covered in mud, you’re really looking forward to a change of clothes.
RFYL Did you run alone or with a group?
I ran alone. I was trying to get a group of marines to go and they all backed out on me for one reason or another. So I ran alone this year. It was harder because there was nobody to watch my back. If I fell coming off those walls or I fell with bail-jumping. That’s where you are jumping from bail to bail and there’s quite a bit of distance between the bails, then you’re pretty high up. If I fell and broke my ankle there was no one there for me, there was no one at the walls for me so I had to ask other runners to for help.
Sharon I preferred a group even though many people throughout the course would help you, there really was no way for a short person to get over those 15 foot walls on your own. The group I ran with was basically just a group pf people who wanted to try something different and push our personal comfort zones a bit. None of us had done it before and weren’t really sure what we had gotten ourselves into. But one common goal. We would all finish.
I ran with my younger brother, Scott Cavadini (26 yrs old). Was a great bonding experience. He currently lives in Lincoln, Nebraska and flew out for the event. For a run like this, where it’s untimed and you’re not concerned about beating your competitors, it’s a good feeling to run as a team…and necessary. You literally need the help of others along the way. I wouldn’t recommend doing the TM by yourself. Would be much more difficult and not nearly as much fun
RFYL What sort of support system did you have going into the race?
A friend drove me to the race. She also took me to the aide station. She was so impressed she is going to do it herself next year.
Sharon I think I had a good support system within our gym group. Also from my parents and husband who all thought maybe I was a bit nuts.
Not much. I trained by myself. My brother and I discussed various aspects of our approach leading up to the race, however, so I felt that I had a good plan going in.
RFYL Describe your training.
It took four months to get ready for the Tough Mudder. I was diligent about my strength and agility training and my running. I didn’t do such a good job with my nutrition. In fact I skipped my nutrition which I won’t be able to do for Ironman.
Sharon Training was a combination of crossfit type activities as well hiking, running endurance type training.