After 500 feet I started wondering, "Just what the heck am I doing?" I haven't run or jogged anywhere since I was in high school and that was done at the most minimal amount just to get through P.E. Last Saturday I found myself running along a dirt path panting and trying to keep up. My shirt and shorts were already heavy with moisture, but it wasn't sweat. No, I was dripping with mud and I had over three miles left to complete. Along those miles were tons of hills, walls, pits and slides to make my way through. Out from behind my desk and away from my clean home, I was on my way through the 2012 Irvine Lake 5K Mud Run.
The last physical activity I participated in might have been running across a street during a South Coast Loop -- aside from that, I'm pretty sedentary. Its sad, I know, but when your job is to sit in a chair in front of a computer screen all day, there isn't much opportunity to get up and move. When my friend and fellow blogger Jennie started asking everyone in our group of friends whether they wanted to do a 5K mud run with her, I thought it might be a fun way to get a little active for a weekend. I think I may have under estimated just how active I would need to get to finish up.
If you've never been, Irvine Lake is a really wonderful place. It sits among some rolling hills in Orange, California and this mud run happens there a couple of times a year. As I drove in to the site, I could already see people on the track tackling the obstacles and making their way to the finish line. I was getting pumped up before I even got out of the car. The event looks like the Orange County fair just cleaner (oddly enough). After checking all of my possessions at a bag-check area staffed by friendly volunteers, my friends and I had only ourselves, our clothes and our shoes. No cell phones, no car keys, nothing. The day was cold and we stood around shivering before our group was released onto the course. Since there are so many people who sign up, they release groups of people in stages. This worked well to break up the crowds.
Around one of the first turns was our first mud pit and we ran headfirst into it. The water was cold and rushed straight into our shoes. It felt amazing. I took a dive into the water to get into the spirit of things, and then quickly realized my mistake as I left the water freezing and now weighed down by extra pounds of wet clothing. Climbing the first large hill I was already having to walk. My nose was running, I had to spit constantly and I was afraid of being left behind. Luckily our group stuck together pretty well and we made it past the first mile and faced one of the biggest obstacles of the course -- the slides.
The slides presented quite a bottleneck for all of the runners. We could have gone around it but since we paid to be here, we figured we'd stick out the half hour wait and get our turn on the slides. At the top of a large hill, two tube slides about 30 feet in length dumped people out into a large pit of muddy water. I slid down, lifted my legs to reduce friction, and flew out of the tube at an incredible speed. As I came back to the surface of the water I heard my name being screamed and saw my friend Mike flying out of the tube towards me. Mike collided with me but it was all good. We broke the surface laughing and clawed our way out of the pit.
The second mile was more of an endurance segment of the course. Long stretches of jogging ate away at our energy but we made pretty good time. As mile three started, we could actually see the finish line. "Hey, we're almost done, this was easy..." No...
Mile three is when all hell broke loose. It stopped being a matter of endurance and stretches of running and turned into a pure obstacle course. Tall hills separated by mud pits positioned four and five in a row from each other. Another long stretch of track that clipped the edge of Irvine Lake had turned into a thick clay one foot deep. Our shoes were sucked off of our feet and socks filled with a goopy mud substance. After the mud field, it was on to more pits of water, more hills, and more twists and turns. At this point we were very tired but had giant smiles on our faces. The mud field claimed some of our fellow runners who broke down mentally and started arguing with each other or standing around not knowing what to do. Our group maintained composure though and got the job done. Through the last few pits filled with water, mud and soap, we carried each other on and stopped for photos. At the finish line, we crossed with arms linked and a race finished that we'll be talking about for years to come.
After our run, we showered off, ate some high calorie food and started reliving our experience. What an amazing day, and we got to do it together. My friend Jerry and I were discussing the mud run a week later and it brought up memories of other cool, bonding activities our group of friends has done. I think he put it best when he told me..
"Looking back at this activity, it really reminds me of when we were kids. This bonding experience was reminiscent of summer camp, football, HS dances, shows and late night hangouts. You have this new experience that brings you closer together and it’s etched in your mind through adrenaline and hormones.Despite what most people say as they age, I've loved getting older. As an adult I have the freedom to do so much more than I ever got to as a kid. Fancy dinner parties, free flowing wine, and other adult events are something we have over kids that they can't do and just don't understand. But something we miss out on is the joy that comes from expelling mountains of energy together. Like the activities Jerry talked about above, its those high energy moments from our childhood that stick with us for the long run and are quite often very wonderful memories. Sure, I've only done one 5K mud run and what I've said above is probably completely obvious to people who get out and exercise every day. But for me, this was a learning experience.
As I look at the pictures from the Irvine Lake Mud Run, I can't help but notice that despite the fact that we were all very tired, sore, and cold, we have never looked younger or more fresh-faced. The smiles and glow on all of our faces are the manifestation of an experience that has bonded all of us together. I ran with people I've known for years -- actually, since high school and the days of endless energy. But now as we've reached 30 we've got at least one more day of craziness to look back on. The people I see in these photos don't look all that different from the people we were over ten years ago.
Christine, Esther, Jerry, Mike, Tony and most of all, Jennie (for bringing up the idea in the first place), thank you for running with me through the mud. I will gladly spend another day in the dirt with you. Just let me know and I'll be there.