Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Delicate Blend of Feats

When my husband wakes me at four thirty in the morning to say he'll meet me just off the 79 Freeway, I muster an, "Okay, sounds good. Love you. Be careful."

I fall back to sleep.

This year is already different than last.

Last year, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, eagerly awaiting the day ahead of me.

But last year, I was better prepared.

The alarm clock goes off at five o'clock, but I press the snooze and go back to sleep. I figure another five minutes won't make a difference.

I'm wrong. I take fifteen minutes.

The alarm clock sounds for the second time and as I reach for the button that will silence it, I hear something. It startles me. I turn and see someone. I'm still half asleep. My brain can see my sister standing near my bed wearing almost all black, but my brain can't be sure it's really my sister. I scream! It's loud enough that Jenn can hear me downstairs, but not so loud that it will wake the children sleeping in their rooms on the other side of the house.

I calm quickly and realize it's Mud Run Day and it's not going to be a breeze like last year.

We are running late. My husband had to ride his bike even further than the 79 freeway. We pick him up off of the 76 freeway instead.

We have to jog into the event. Last year we were so early we sat around for an hour and a half waiting for the event to start. This time we are only minutes away from go time. It's okay, we all feel great (I'm getting nervous. I know what's in front of me.), we are pumped and ready to run.

Sound off. Like a heard of cows we all start moving. We bob and weave. We are positioning ourselves. The announcer sees me. My hat and twigs are working. They love hats at this event. "I see you!" the annoucer says to me over the microphone while pointing at me. I wink at him and get an extra spring in my step.

My hat makes it through the fire hose intact. I'm pleased.

We are only a mile into the race and I can feel myself getting winded already. I made it to the hill last year without wanting a rest. I start to question my motives. What were they again?

I wanted to write a book this year. But I hadn't made that decision until January 9. I signed up for the Mud Run on January 1. I'm committed, to both. I've done the Mud Run before. I've never written a full book. I make a conscious choice to focus on the writing. I don't excercise. I don't run.

My husband snaps me out of my daydream and away from my own pain to point out the first runner throwing up in the bushes less than three-feet from me. It's a reminder. I'm still doing well. I've got bounce in my step. I don't feel like hurling.

I retreat to my memories.

When I set out to write a book, I didn't know what kind of feat it was going to be. Day in and day out I wrote. I thought I was going to lose the thoughts so I worked hard at envisioning my characters, my story, my plot. By the end of January, I was feeling the physical effects of writing. I was tired. Emotionally drained. I wasn't present. I was a robot for my family and kids. I had to be this way just to keep the story in my head. I've lost story before. I was working from fear. My anxiety was building. I couldn't let myself down again. I needed to finish this first book, if only to prove I could.

The longer I focus on this initial effect of starting my writing regimen I feel my lungs hurting. I need air.

I focus on my breathing and less on my writing. I have to speed walk. I cannot run another step. The hill is just beginning and my brain remembers just how steep and long this hill is. I don't feel bad. There are others walking, although many more are passing me up. My sister and Jenn are out of my view by now.

I reach the first wall climb. My husband gives me a boost. It's not enough. I am drained. I cannot pull myself over this five-foot wall. My husband sees me struggle and gives me an extra push over the wall. This does the job. I'm left with aching ribs and a stomach ache. I DO NOT want to hurl. I trudge on. Last year that wall climb was a breeze. I put one hand on and jumped off. What a difference.

In May, I was done with book one and the first draft of book two. I had time. I could have easily gotten a run in. I even think about working out with my Wii Fitness. I don't. I make a conscious choice to do the Mud Run without any training. I want to prove something to myself. I'm not sure what.

Four and a half miles in. I'm sucking wind. I'm feeling sick again. I have to use the only part of my body I trained to calm myself; my brain. It's working. My mental strength is outpacing my physical strength. I nearly make it to the top of the mudslide hill despite the Marine trying to shoot me down with a firehose, "You are dirty. Really, really dirty," he says with a smile as he focuses all of the spray onto me. I smile and flirt. I make it past him, but slip at the peak. I'm sliding back down. A thousand people behind me and no help until my husband reaches out and pulls me up the hill.

I get to the last steep downhill, and I can barely make it. It's downhill! How could this be so difficult? My legs are shaking and I want to give in. If my husband wasn't guiding me I would be collapsing at this point. "Get to the bottom. We're almost to the finish. I can see the finish from here." I turn my mental strength back on. I can collapse soon, but not now.

The belly crawl is in front of me. It's the last obstacle before the finish. Last year, I used my arms and knees to propell me forward. I bloodied my knee that day. I know what to do now. I can make the belly crawl more successful than the year before. It will be the only part of the race I did better than last year.

I think through this year's race briefly. I had to walk the majority of the race, I bruised my ribs on the wall climb, felt like hurling three times, piggy-backed the swim, slipped on the mudslide hill, had to hold on for dear life on the last downhill...the belly crawl is going to be my pride and joy.

I slide on my belly down the short hill into the mud pit. I get as low as possible. I can't forget my hat. I've made it this far without the shrubs or the hat budging. My face is half in the muddy water. My knees bend outward like a frog. I don't use them. I use the inside edge of my shoes instead. Two flags away from getting out of this pit and I don't think I can make it. I want to give up. I am literally depleated. I used up the rest of my physical strength two miles earlier and now I can feel my mental strength waning.

What if I just stopped for a second? I can't. There are too many people behind me. We all want to get through to the finish.

I make it out. But the finish line is still up ahead. "Keep going Marine. Don't stop now. Get to the finish! Keep running!" This is the second time a Marine has yelled at me to improve. I find a little energy. I pick up my pace. I run to the finish. I feel like hurling. But I can't. I won't. That would be failing. I have to keep my puke back, and I do. I win at failing this year.

This is a true story of my Mud Run experience without any type of excercise for one year. I'm sore all over. I can barely walk down the stairs. Thank the Lord for railings. It was worth it.

I compare this race to exactly how writing my first book felt sans the muscle weakness in my legs. I wrote the book in such a hurry that it made me physically ill on and off for one month. The second book was easier. And now the third isn't as physically straining. I guess that means I'm on the philosophy of: Try to write a little every day to use that type of mental strength. So, I do. I write a little something every day even if it's not my current WIP. (Now, to find time for physical strength training.)

Check out the video:

How did you feel while you were writing your first book? How did you feel after? How do you blend your mental versus physical feats?


  1. You did great in the Mud Run, despite not training, and I am so proud of you for following through! It was a great race, and always...tons of great memories! Next year, it'll be even better!!!

  2. Wow... that's a lot of stress on the body!
    You are a very determined chica! (=

    Finishing three drafts of my novel felt a bit like that. (=

  3. That is awesome! You didn't give up, even though I'm sure there were times you felt like it. That's the key, no matter how tough it gets, never give up!

  4. Regina - Thank you for your support. I can alraedy tell, next year will be a better year for the Mud Run.

    Jojomama - It was a great to see what my body was capable of using less physical strength and more mental strength. I don't think I would do it again without the training.

    Urban Cowboy - I'm glad you made it by. Thanks for the comment. I hope that my fortitude lasts through the query process. Excellent experiment though.