March 12, Saturday: Tough Mudder (~10 mile, running/challenge) / Social Event / COMPLETE: Finished ~14 mile course is about 4.5 hours with team of 4 others. Puked my guts out the day before with a stomach bug so thought that was okay to just survive. Note to self: When I do this again in the future, don’t forget that the aid stations ONLY have water
So this was supposed to be a fun event? A course designed by the British SAS to be the baddest of the bad (further research would reveal that “Death Race”, the pinnacle of the Spartan Race series, is really the baddest, but there’s no way in hey-el I’m running that one). Well, it was tough, that’s for sure. I’m really not a runner. Its not that I don’t want to be. I just haven’t found that joy in the suffering that it brings, to make it a passion. I’m getting close though, by exploring the world of trail running, especially at night. So much more interesting (and surprisingly peaceful) than anything on the road, but I’m really not quite there just yet.
I went into Tough Mudder (TM as it will be referred to henceforth to save me some typing and you some reading) wildly undertrained. In fact, I probably ran a total of about the distance of the event over several runs in preparation. The cardio conditioning was not a factor, not by a long shot. A huge benefit from all the cycle conditioning, I could virtually run with my mouth closed, breathing only through my nose, and would be limited by the strength in my legs and hips, and maybe even butt. Anyway, this is the exact setup to really hurt yourself. I was familiar with this as just about a year ago, I was confined to an aircast on my left leg due to a stress fracture which worked itself about one-third of the way through my tibia (shin bone) before I caught it. After the shame (the aircast for an athlete is the virtual equivalent of the Elizabethan collar for a dog) of that incident, I was being cautious to watch my technique entering the event. Injury would eventually happen, but not before sickness (hence why sick is mentioned before injured in the term “sick and injured”).
Thursday night before TM was unremarkable, as most nights are (yes, the life of a 40s something, middle aged father of 3 is wild and crazy I tell ya). However, I awoke suddenly about 1 or 2 am, dripping in sweat. Night terrors? Sometimes this happens, both nightmares and sweats. Still haven’t figured out why (the sweating part, nightmares I blame partly on the current state of affairs of our government), but doctors are particularly concerned if you wake up with night sweats. Anyway, I lay in bed, trying to get back to sleep, but not feeling quite right, a little dizzy perhaps. Then, I start salivating, and a lot. Dammit, I knew what this meant. The race was on. I hopped up, trying to at least throw on some workout shorts which lay on the floor besides the bed, just in case. In case what you ask? In case I pass out, have a heart attack or stroke or something and the paramedics come find me nude, face down on the floor (at little disturbing, perhaps, a little too real, yes, it happens a lot, I’m sure of it). Anyway, I tried dressing to some degree and running down to the main level of the house. Far away from the sleeping for the party I was about to throw. I knew what was coming, a volcano of sorts, but one that I made myself, from whatever I had eaten for supper. I know, its gross. I detest vomiting (later, you’ll wonder why with all the practice I have, but that’s different, its exercise-induced, this was sickness). Anyone that’s had kids (or perhaps pledged a fraternity or sorority) is very familiar with “the bug”. I’ve had it way too many times to count, but tonight was not one that I was wanting it (as if I ever did). I ended up lounging on the couch all night until about 8am the next morning, running to the bathroom only to fall to my knees, eventually getting the best ab workout one could imagine (way better than anything that P90X could dish out). I was exhausted by the morning and called in sick to work. However, I’m supposed to run TM the next day, leaving this evening to spend the night in a hotel close to Cedartown, where the event was to be run. This was not good, not at all.
I texted Pete (er Paul) and let him know I prolly (tim’ism for probably, happens to prolly be one of my favorite slang terms) wasn’t gonna make it. Of course, no sympathy was to be given here and I was told to “plug it up buttercup” (a derivative of the infamous “suck it up” but referring to one of the two possible points of emanation caused to rotavirus). I said I’d try. We had a whole team coming and I kinda felt responsible to be there and cheer them through this. I knew it’d be tough, this was an endurance event after all and only one or two of our contestants I thought had any experience. I also called the hotel since I was past the cancellation period. They said I couldn’t get a refund. That settled it. I’d at least go up and check into the hotel, family in tow, and see what the next day brought. By evening, I at least began to eat again, but I was terribly weak. Was there any chance in hell I was gonna be able to run a half-marathon, with obstacles, through the mud, the next day? Not in this condition. I knew I was really, really dehydrated and electrolyes were way off. I had been chugging Gatorade since I began keeping things down mid-morning but didn’t seem to be pulling out. As luck would have it, I had an IV on hand, Ringers Lactate, a full liter. I’ve got nothing to loose, let’s give it a try. I won’t go into details, but it took a couple attempts and at one point, there may have been a blood geyser shooting across the room before I got it all started (I still wonder if the hotel management called the police after we left, it really did look like a murder scene in there despite my best efforts to clean up afterwards). Unfortunately, hotel rooms don’t come with IV hanger thingies as standard equipment, so I had to hold the stupid bag over my head with my good arm to get the fluids in. It took maybe 1.5 hours or so to get ‘er done. Every once in a while, I’d sort of nod off and let the bag drop too low. Blood would start backing up into the clear tube, prompting me to get my arm back up. Obstacles tomorrow? Who needs them, I was getting a workout holding a bag of fluids over my head all night. By the end, I was squeezing that sucker, hurrying things up a little. I needed some sleep too after playing ralf-a-rama the night before.
Next morning I awoke a totally new man, feeling much better. “Let’s do this thing” and we headed off to iHop to chow down on some eggs and bacon, perfect fuel for a long day on the hoof. TM was really fun, but it was tough. They generally tried to make things as miserable as possible. Any mud pits were usually pretty thick and deep, slippery hills were kept that way with fire hoses, and any water obstacles were body numbing, painfully cold. In fact, they floated a semi-trailer full of ice into the water obstacles to give it that extra special touch. Anyone familiar with ice baths can appreciate that it was “ice-bath” kinda cold. The event ran up and down some serious, root grabbing, clamoring for your life kinda hills. At the end of it all was the electrocution obstacle, a suspended framework with wires hanging down hooked up to a cattle electric fencing transformer. Just coming out of a water obstacle, soaking wet and well grounded in the mud, I figured this one was gonna deliver a pretty good zap. As we approached, everyone got a little nervous. We lined up like monkeys, really to get electrocuted. Reminded me of Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” (although I prefer the remake by Coal Chamber). There were two distinct paths through the canopy of wires, one on the left which went into some thicker mud, and one on the right which more or less stayed out of the mud. I really didn’t care where I went. I’ve been electrocuted so many times (working on electricity in the house, tazers (don’t ask), automotive ignition systems, and once at Purina Farms kids petting zoo of all places, go figure). I kind of brushed this off as a non-event. My turn came to run the gauntlet. At first I thought I’d make a show (there was quite a crowd around, cheering and laughing as people fell to the ground), maybe walk slowly through, arms extended to my sides, asking for trouble. But after all the folks in front of me kept screaming and jerking involuntarily around, I figured I should move through at a decent pace. I took off jogging to the left, at least trying to part the wires so they wouldn’t touch my face (for fear I may disfigure my beauty with an electrical burn). I got stung several times. The pulses from the cattle shocker are generally pretty short in duration so you can fight through them. About halfway through, something changed. I’m not sure if there was someone monitoring the contraption or if I just got into some higher voltage wires, but that $hi+ started to hurt. Oh hell, time to sprint to the finish, but it was too late. “Nick” who was behind me said it was audible to everyone. “Zzzzzap-Pow”. I dropped me into the mud. It was not in control all of a sudden. I glanced up, wondering which one of the wires was the hot one. I still had maybe 10 feet to go. I figured if I took one good lunge, at least my momentum would carry me out. That’s exactly what happened. As I got back on all fours and moved forward, I got dropped again. Luckily, I fell forward far enough to be clear of the blasted wires. We were done, mission accomplished. It was a fun day. I really enjoyed our little team and hope we can do something again soon. I keep trying to convince them to try Six Gap as our next feat. They don’t bite. Word is out I guess that it’s somewhat of a monster. I agree, and honestly, it wouldn’t be the same challenge for me. So I’ll keep my eyes and ears out for something we can do together, maybe an adventure race, that sounds fun. Anyway, I really shortchanged this “race report” for TM. My video at: http://www.vimeo.com/21498219 shows all of the obstacles and some of the pain. It is much longer than my typical videos and I think probably is better than whatever I could write. This one wasn’t long or tough enough to really get deep into an internal psychological struggle to write about, it was pretty much see-and-do.
With the total lack of real preparation for TM, I felt surprisingly good throughout the event, leaning heavily (really almost solely) on all the bike fitness I have. However, as anyone in either the bike or running world would tell you, fitness in one does not equate to fitness in the other. Definitely true, I can attest. Towards the end of TM, I picked up a gangsta limp. I tried to hide it, telling myself that it was just a little strain. The second time out on the motocross track, running the downhills was getting pretty painful. My left Achilles / calf was not feeling good, fairly sharp stabbing pain right about mid-calf. “At least its not on the bone”, I thought to myself. I figured I would just ice it, rest and hit the anti-inflammatories and all would be well again. Wrong, after struggling with it for 6 or 8 weeks and still being unable to do much (i.e. absolutely no running, nor jogging, nor even going up the stairs quickly just walking) I knew I needed help. Very surprisingly, my cycling was pretty much unaffected. Granted I was very leery about anything out-of-the-saddle, but maintained my fitness throughout this injury. So after whining for a bit about it, my good friend T.A. recommended Dr T (not Mr T, although “I pity the fool” that lays down in from on Dr T, unprepared for the hell-on-earth that he will unleash).
So I ventured into Dr T’s office, not really sure what to expect. I explained my situation. He gave me the rundown and mentioned “muscle stripping”. I’ve heard of it before, kind of out on the fringes of “normal” PT. It’s also generally called “Graston technique” (which technically is a tool assisted form of muscle stripping, and of course patented and protected, I assume by a Mr or Ms Graston). Anyway, I’d heard of muscle stripping but never really thought of it as something I would be using. Dr T was recommending it for me. He could sense a bit of skepticism on my part and so suggested we give it a try and then reassess. I was virtually crippled in one leg so had nothing to lose. I naively laid face down on his massage table. There was one of his regular assistants up at my head, prepared to hold me down, and another new assistant in training to the side, watching for training purposes. With all the support folks around, I knew something bad was fixin’ to happen. Dr T greased up my legs real good with some lube (trust me, this is not going where you may think) and then proceeded to run thumbs, knuckles, fingers, elbows, and whatever other blunt objects that may have been lying about the office, up the back of my calves really, really hard. It took my breath away. I was totally taken off guard. Bejeezus, that really hurt. But that was only the beginning. I’m not sure how long this went on, I sorta lost track of time. I was hoping to lose track of consciousness too. I was grabbing at that bench as hard as I could. I warned Dr T that I may be about to break his bench. He quickly shot back that it wouldn’t be the first time it happened. Where was Dr T from? Had he learned such techniques in the Soviet Gulag. This was insane. At one point I glanced over and the assistant-in-training was crying. I asked her “wassup?” (but not in that tone, I was crying too). She said it was hard to watch someone being tortured. I reminded her that I was paying good money for this.
Now I’ve taken myself pretty deep into some bad mojo before, but this takes the cake. If you need some information from someone, forget water-boarding, go straight to the muscle stripping, job is good as done. I eventually ended up getting my entire body stripped. I can say for fact that the ranking of pain sensitivity goes: calves, IT band, traps, maybe triceps, then everything else. Chest is close but not enough for a specific ranking. Piriformis may be in there somewhere too and I’ve threatened my butt that we may have to go there, but I’m not having any specific issues just yet so I’ll hold off. Plus, I needed a break after getting the whole body done. The intense pain just really drained me. You can only take so much and then you’ve gotta have a break or you just can’t bear to do it. You’d really just have to experience it, I think, to understand. But I’ll tell you this, it absolutely worked for the issues I was having. I can run again, maybe not like the wind, but perhaps a gentle breeze at least J