It comes from keeping company with an evil, sadistic cadre of lunatics.
Evil, sadistic friends.
|We are scary, right? Me, Ben, and Tim. Ben and Tim win the coolest beard/hair combo. Ever.|
It all started many months ago when my buddy, Tim posted a link on Facebook about an event called The Warrior Dash. I clicked on it and was taken to a website depicting muddy people diving over flaming lakes, scaling towering walls of wrecked cars, and horking down turkey legs the size of a small child, washed down with paint-bucket-sized beers. All these images were set to a rousing heavy metal-ish soundtrack to make them seem epic and fun and exciting.
And it did seem epic and fun and exciting.
From a distance.
To participate in such an event would likely mean–in no particular order–pain, suffering, gastro-intestinal distress, death, projectile vomiting, and more death–all the hallmarks of jogging. For this was not merely an obstacle course followed by beer and brontosaurs legs. This was a 3 mile run, punctuated by obstacles.
I will voluntarily run only under the following conditions:
1. Being chased by knife-wielding maniac.
2. Being chased by gun-wielding maniac.
3. Being chased by knife-and-gun-wielding maniac.
In any other situation, I prefer to walk, bike, saunter, drive, sashay, trot, gallop, or–depending on the occasion–dance, as a means of personal locomotion.
I believe that I made some caustic comment on Tim’s link. Something clever, along the lines of, “Are you nuts? Dry heaves are for suckers.”
And then, much to my amazement and horror, many of of my real, actual friends–friends I have know and loved for years–started posting comments like, “Yeah!” “I’m in!” “Let’s do this!”
I grew sadder and more despondent each day, seeing friend after friend fall victim to the terrific peer pressure. I knew it was only a matter of time before I cracked and joined them. I am weak.
My personal breaking point was when my friend Julie, whom I have hiked with on many occasions, lost her mind and joined this muddy death march. “Someone must watch over this poor, lost soul.” I told myself.
Plus, maybe I could convince her to stay with me as I feebly drag myself through the mud, toward the finish line and the freakishly large turkey legs that awaited us.
So, I forked over $50, signed my life away on a waiver, and joined my friends for a day of soul-shattering pain and misery.
It was decided that we should all meet at Tim’s house and caravan down to the event together. My suspicion was that this was merely a method of keeping people (like me) from chickening out at the last second. To assure that we got there in time to park, take the shuttle to the event, and register, it was further decided that we should leave Tim’s house by 8:00
In the morning.
On a Sunday.
This was, by far, the most grueling trial of the entire day. I awakened early, dragged my innocent wife and children out of bed, and headed off to my destruction.
We arrived at the emergency back-up off-site parking, conveniently located about 350 miles away from the actual event. We boarded a charted luxury school bus and, along with a few thousand equally foolhardy goons, headed off to the race.
One important element of the event, besides the beer, is the pageantry. People dress up in outlandish costumes in order to disguise the fact that they are suicidally depressed about the fact that they are about to run through 3 miles of ankle-deep mud.
The breadth and scope of the costumes was amazing. Nuns, hot dogs, gorillas, more vikings than you could count, assorted super heroes, villains, nerds, punks, and anthing else you could possibly imagine. All crammed onto a school bus, racing down I-495 on a Sunday morning. I can only imagine the other drivers, upon seeing the bus and its occupants, immediately racing to the church of their choice and praying that their children never have to go to THAT school.
When we finally disembarked, we were lead to the first officially sanctioned obstacle of the day: The Waiver Forms of Untold Suffering. They stated that we were about to, of our own volition, run through a deadly landscape of toxic water, biologically active mud, treacherous obstacles, insane participants, and, possibly, knife-and-gun-wielding maniacs.
And if we contracted some incurable disease, or fell to our deaths, or got trampled into a human jelly as a result, we agreed that it was our own stupid fault.
After which, we were ready for the actual race which, really, was nothing compared to the Signing of the Waiver.
We lined up at the starting gate along with 600 or so other fools, and awaited the thrilling blast of fire that signaled the beginning of another wave. There were waves each half hour throughout the day. The spacing was, no doubt, intended to make sure that there was enough time to cook the turkey legs in between each race.
We whooped and hollered and raced up the gentle 70 degree slope that was the beginning of the race. With 600 other people crammed onto the track, it quickly became obvious that racing was not the correct term. We sauntered up the track, strolling languidly up the scenic hill, marveling at the sweaty wall of humanity that encircled us.
A leisurely stroll up the hill with 600 of our closest friends.
Soon, we summited the hill and were set free to slip and slide in the mud as we attempted to actually race through the woods. With the single exception of The One Old Guy Who Was Trying To Prove Something, the other racers were considerate, friendly, and careful. If someone slipped and fell (and nearly everyone did) others would stop and offer assistance, or, at the very least, offer kind words of sympathy like, “Dude. That sucks.”
Everyone except The One Old Guy Who Was Trying To Prove Something. He raced full speed down every slope and up every incline, slipping and sliding, wildly out of control, his arms windmilling, taking out dozens of other participants in each of his countless, spectacular falls.
No matter how our pace altered throughout the race, it seemed that we were shadowed by this bane to humanity. There were many loud suggestions (by me) that he be tied up and placed in the path as a bonus obstacle, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody acted on that suggestion.
Early in the race, Ben took a heavy lead and we didn’t see him again for quite some time. I stayed with Julie and Tim and throughout the race, we marveled at Ben’s endurance and speed. “Wow! He really must be doing great!”
I’m sad to report that many of the obstacles did not appear quite as daunting in person as they had online. Perhaps it was the absence of the heavy metal-ish music in the background, but I was underwhelmed with the Bunch Of Tires Dangling From Ropes obstacle.
To provide a more authentically difficult event for each other, Tim, Julie, and I heaved the tires at one another, but it was futile.
We continued slogging through the mud, over the barricades, under the barbed wire (which was framed with 2x4’s for our protection) and finally caught up with Ben at the climbing wall. It seems that poor Ben was under the impression that he had fallen behind us and was running at this superhuman pace to try to catch up with us. All the while, we were many hundreds of miles behind him.
The climbing wall was a 15 foot monument to suffering with ropes dangling from the top of it. The idea was that you grab the rope, scale the wall, and do not fall to your death. In theory, it was simple. In practice, when you are tired, the wall and ropes are enrobed in slippery mud, and there is a steady stream of fellow dashers eagerly awaiting a turn, the challenge is multiplied a bit.
We all eventually managed to get over it, even those of us with pathological fears of heights. And then, reunited, we linked arms and skipped joyously to the flaming logs that we were to hurdle.
One more climbing wall later, we stood at the crest of the mud slide, a slippery slope that mirrored the same hill we had started the race on. We tried waiting for a clear opportunity so we could all safely jump onto the hill together, but there was no such chance. We simply hurled ourselves on to the hill and proceeded to have mud injected at high velocity into every available crack, crevice, and orifice on our bodies.
Mud Slide Colonic - Ben, Tim, and me half way down - Julie awaiting her turn at the top.
With the exception of the sand, the grass, the rocks, and the other people, it was extremely enjoyable. Until we stopped at the bottom and the big guy that I never even saw coming slammed his knee into my cheek. After a quick check to make sure all my teeth were still intact and a brief apology to the lady whose rear-end I had slammed my face into, we were headed for the finish line.
I limped over the finish line with Julie; Ben and Tim having been trapped in another wave of runners slightly behind us.
|Happy Warriors with Bananas. Julie, me, Ben, and Tim.|
|Happier Warriors with Beer.|
We scraped what mud we could out of our eyes and staggered over to the rinsing area where snow making machines had been set up to blast water at us. The problem with this set up was that if you were near the back of the crowd, you were merely pelted with other racer’s dirty rinse water. If you did manage to get to the front of the crowd, the water spray was so powerful that it was like having your face sandblasted with ice.
|Jet spray of pain and suffering.|
We hobbled on to the bus that was to take us back to our cars, and headed back to Tim’s house for swimming and beverages. It seemed that, since this entire day was essentially his fault, it was only fitting that we mess up his house with our muddy, bruised bodies.
Ben had the most impressive looking injury of the day.
Julie had the dirtiest ears.
The biggest question of the evening was, “What are we going to dress up as next year?”