Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fat Middle-Aged Woman Takes On The Marines

The World Famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run – a grueling 10K through a military obstacle course – was yesterday. And I FINISHED. Originally, we thought I’d finished it in 2 hrs 58 min. But in checking the official race results, it seems I finished in 2 hrs 34 min 5 sec; 3075th overall (in a race with 4,000 entrants). I was the last racer to clock in before the official time cut off of 2 hrs 45 min.

The day started off with great excitement. I’d spent the night with friend Terri Nolan and her hubby Scott Bozanic in San Clemente. The race grounds had a carnival atmosphere. The event area was strewn with blankets, portable chairs, and people having a grand time. There was music, food, giveaways and merchandise to be purchased. After picking up our event t-shirts, checking our bags (the airlines could learn a lot about orderly baggage handling from the Marines), and visiting the porta-potty for the last time, we made our way to the staging area, then through the chutes to the starting line. There we stood like cattle heading for slaughter for nearly 30 minutes listening to marine spokes people pumping us up for the big event. We also received the most important instruction of the day, barked Marine style over the loud speaker. “DO NOT DIE. YOU START THE RACE ALIVE, YOU FINISH THE RACE ALIVE.”

Okey dokey.

When the race started, people took off. I was near the front, but kept to my steady, power walking pace as people flew by me, remembering what pal Ashley had advised: to run my own race at my own pace. The other fabulous advice came from Scott. He told me to take water at every water stop, even if I wasn’t thirsty. The water stops were posted at every mile. At each I poured a glass of water over my neck and head and drank Gatorade, even when I didn’t feel I needed it.

The first 2 miles were great. The only “obstacles” a small stream crossing and two patches of sand to cross. Then we hit Suicide Hill. During training, this was the obstacle I’d dreaded the most. I was sure this 2 mi 570 ft climb would be my undoing. Not so, but not because it was easy. It wasn’t. But I had been training on hills for months and it obviously paid off at crunch time. The fun part of Suicide Hill was a detour through Combat Town – a collection of concrete fake buildings used for training. When we entered Combat Town, about a dozen marines were waiting for us armed with Super Soaker water guns. At the top of Suicide Hill, I asked a Marine for the time. I’d been on the course about 90 min. I was actually ahead of where I expected to be at mile 4. I had just over 2 mi left to go with 1 hr 15 min of official time left. Knowing I could easily power walk 2 mi in under 30 min, I flew down the backside of Suicide Hill with my heart full of hope that the worst was behind me and I would fly through the next 2 miles and the remaining obstacles in the time I had left.

Silly Wabbit.

There was another stream crossing and some up and down terrain, but nothing I couldn’t handle. In fact, much of the trail was beautiful. There were a lot of folks walk/running by now and a lot of joking and chit chat. The teams started 30 min after the individuals and when they caught up to us slow pokes many cheered on us on with cries of “Good job!” and “Keep it up!” as they flew by. I forgot to mention that there were teams of blind runners participating – yes, blind! There was a sighted runner on each team and it was near the top of Suicide Hill that many of these runners passed me … and inspired me.

Just when I was thinking I had this thing in the bag, I hit the first mud pit and wall. By now I was pretty exhausted, but I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and headed into the mud towards the wall. Three steps later, I was on my back in nearly 2 feet of thick, slimy mud. (Well, it’s not like the race is called the Camp Pendleton Clean Run.) It took me several tries to get to my feet again. Once upright, I slogged to a baby-faced smiling Marine who was waiting to help me. Problem was, I was so tired, I couldn’t even get my foot up onto his knee for the boost. Another Maine came over to help, but after several attempts I decided I should go around the wall. Going around the wall doesn’t mean you get to go around the obstacle as a whole, it just means the wall. Once around the wall, I had to slip back down into the mud on the other side and slog my way through it and up the slippery incline on the other side. Once on the other side, I wanted to lay down and die. Then I remembered the command for the day: DO NOT DIE.

Fortunately for me, next came my favorite and easiest obstacle – the river crossing. This wasn’t a stream, this was a wide river with a depth of at least 4.5 feet and a strong current. Once I maneuvered my way down the slippery, muddy bank into the water, I found new life. My toes could barely touch the bottom, so I gave my legs a much deserved rest. Using the ropes and buoys that indicated the trail borders, I crossed the river quickly in a half swimming, half rope crawling method that made up a lot of time.

Soaked and weary, I plugged along another meandering trail until I hit the next obstacle – another $#@&$# wall and mud pit. Again, I made my way into the mud. Again, I slipped backwards and floundered like a turtle on its back. Once back on my feet, I took a few steps and found my feet STUCK in the mud. And I mean STUCK. A Marine gave me his hand and pulled me free. I’m proud to say my shoes stayed on my feet. At the wall, the same Marine took one look at my exhausted, mud covered face and said: “Ma’am, why don’t you go around.” I could have kissed him. On the other side, I trudged through knee-high mud to the tunnels. The tunnels were, thankfully, shorter than I imagined and I did them easily on my hands and knees, although part way through I considered laying down and taking a nap. Had I realized what was still ahead, I just might have.

By now I was mostly alone. I even managed to pick up my pace a bit. Then I came around a bend and saw IT. The obstacle that was to be my real nemesis – Slippery Hill. Slippery Hill was a straight, nearly vertical climb that had been watered down all day. Snaking down it was a narrow but ankle-breaking ravine made by the water. I started up, taking it 10-20 paces at a time, then resting for 20 seconds, crisscrossing the ravine here and there to get a better foothold. It was taking forever. My chest was pounding. About half way up I was barely able to move more than 5-7 steps before resting. My legs were starting to tremble. About 1/3 from the top, a female Marine came down, hooked her arm through mine, and offered words of encouragement as I took each pain-staking final step to the top. With only about a half mi to go, I trudged off without resting. After a short flat period I started down the hill. The descent was as steep as Slippery Hill but without the water. I took it very slow, worried that a fall might result in broken bones. Half way down, I sat on the ground and started sliding down on my butt until I hit a very rocky portion. Two Marines came up. One took my arm, the other offered his shoulder for balance, and they guided me down the last few yards. I asked them if I was the last one on the course (sure felt like it) and was told that there were a lot of folks behind me.

A few yards from the hill, a Marine directed me off the path and down a short muddy slope. There I was met by a Marine welcome wagon. About 10 of them stood on the side of a mud pit, cheering as I entered the final obstacle. Over the final mud pit are strips of colored flags. You have to get on your hands and knees and crawl under them. This pit is less mud, more muddy water. After clearing a few strips of flags, a Marine came into the water and started splashing dirty water at me. I stopped crawling, looked him in the eye, and told him I was gonna tell his momma.

When I was able to stand, I got to my feet and dragged my sorry ass out of the pit and across the finish line where Terri and Scott stood, already showered, waiting for me. And, yes, I cried when I finished.

I had done it! I had conquered the World Famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run!


Photos: With Jen, Stacie, and Hope before race. With Terri and Scott before race. Me at finish line trying to look mean and muscled, only succeeding in looking ridiculous. Do notice the color of the shirt before and after. You can double-click on photo to see how really filthy I was at the end.

32 comments:

Diana said...

You are one mud-soaked lady. I'm so proud of you, you DID IT!!! Now you know you can do anything you set your mind to.

Jackie Houchin said...

Wow, that is SO impressive, Sue Ann. I'm also very proud of you. I don't know if I could have done it. You showed us all! Rest up, and be assured... the mud will have done wonders for you already glowing complexion.
Jackie

Shirley said...

Congrats!!!! You were able to meet your goal and no one had to drag you across the finish line. You are an inspiration to all of us - and a real motivator for me to finish my upcoming 10K.

The Ronald McDonald House LA Walk For Kids is going to be "a piece of cake" for you next weekend.

Stacia said...

onlitMy God, woman, what's next? An ascent of K2? A camel trek across the Sahara? A dog sled traverse of Antarctica?

Everybody step aside! Sue Ann's coming through.

Stacia said...

How do I edit that comment? "onlit" was the verification word. Ha ha ha ha

A.H. Ream said...

I am proud beyond words.

Sharon said...

Awesome! You are one kick-ass tough lady. Congratulations! My son is an ex-marine who trained at Camp Pendleton and he is very impressed!

Thomas said...

This is so cool sis, congrats

G.M. Malliet said...

That is wonderful, Sue Ann. Good for you!!!

Felicia Donovan said...

Those Marines have nothing on you! I'm so proud of you because you set this as your goal a while ago and you worked your arse off to achieve it. Way to go, Girlfriend!

Lindsay said...

I'm very proud of you Aunt Sue!!
Sounds like a lot of fun and hard work!!

Beth said...

Way to go, Sue Ann. I'm proud to know you!

Rebecca said...

That is such an amazing, inspiring story. It made my eyes tear up reading it and imagining the sheer determination necessary to achieve such a goal. Way to go!!

I also love how you told this story, esp. the Marines who interacted with you. But I already knew you were a master storyteller! :)

Dianne Emley said...

Wow! I was exhausted just reading this! So proud of you, Sue Ann!!!

Veronica said...

You did it! And with plenty of time to spare. Congrats!!! The river crossing was my favorite part too ;-) I wanted to just stay in that water.

Mark said...

Way to go! And great write up. I got tired just reading it.

voiceheart said...

Sue Ann I can't believe you did that! AMAZING.
Just got back from Hong Kong I would like to link this story to my blog on www.alivenotdead.com so all my students can read about my amazing friend and what she did. Is that okay?
Jeanne Hartman
www.JeanneHartmanActorsDetective.com

Alan Orloff said...

Way to go, Sue Ann! We knew you could do it.

Is this going to be an annual event for you?

BTW, can you write off your cleaning bill?

Oscar said...

Congratulations and we're all proud of you. Your accomplishment is inspiring and I think I'm going to do this next year. This time I only photographed it, check out the photos if you get a minute, http://ifoundpix.com

Tim Maleeny said...

You are an ongoing inspiration, Sue Ann. Great post!

sparkly_jules said...

Sue Ann, I am so proud of you. And so inspired. You make a fat girl proud!!

Will be reading about this in an Odelia book in the future? :-)

Good job! *applause*

Jules

Miles said...

Good work! You worked long and hard for this and I'm happy it went well.

Arnold Pamplona said...

Bravo!

Simon Wood said...

Well done, lady. I've always wanted a go at that...

Baystein said...

YOU ROCK! I am so proud of you. A toast to you with Napolean brandy! Good work.

Re-engage reality check: get back to work on Ghost A La Mode.

Karen MacInerney said...

Woo hoo! You're an inspiration, as always. What heart, what spirit... what steely resolve. What a journey, Sue Ann. Thanks for taking us along!

L.B. said...

Awesome job! I'm running in the race this Saturday and your story pumped me up. You're an inspiration!

I linked to your post on my blog at muddyrunner.blogspot.com :)

Hannah Dennison said...

Wow!! I am so impressed! Good for you - this is amazing. I would love to see more photos?
Ha! And such a great blog - I feel like I was there ... only dry and clean.

5thsister said...

I found you from LB's blog. You are an incredible inspiration and make me proud to be a "middle-aged" woman!

tahoegirl said...

great post Sue Ann. i especially like the " Do not die. okey doeky part" you make me want to give it a try. congrats!

Willoughby said...

I linked to your blog through L.B.'s blog. It sounds like you had a great time tackling the Mud Run. I wish I had your tenacity!

Lynne_in_CA said...

How wonderful! What an accomplishment! Now go back there next year and hightail it over those walls. :)