When the race information first came my way, I balked. A muddy trail run? Sure. I’m in. A muddy trail run with obstacles? I am so not good at that stuff. I often assume that I possess the bare minimum of physical and mental skills required to complete tasks akin to military basic training or the television game show Wipeout. But Mark encouraged me to register, calling me out on my bullshit meter especially when I whined that I was going to be doing a sprint tri the day after the mud run. I had momentarily slipped back into old-school Amy mode. (Not the good kind of old school. The irrelevant kind of old school. Like Betamax.) It was a mode of selling myself short, of holding myself back. I kindly thanked Betamax Amy for her years of service and went about the task of setting up my crazy weekend.
The good news about participating in the Dirty Girl and Finger Lakes Triathlon on back-to-back days in the middle of marathon training is that I had no real time to prepare. I only had time to show up. I did, however, take some moments to think about the weekend. What were my “goals?” What were my desired outcomes? Truthfully and honestly, what was it I wanted from the weekend? I wanted to have fun. No really. I get that people say that all the time, myself included. But this was coming from the core of my being. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to be out there running around in the mud, swimming, biking, running, laughing. I wanted to be engaged in life, doing things I loved with great friends.
And so we start with Dirty Girl on Saturday morning in Emory Park. I was invited to be part of the Dirty Divas team by Tracy and Staci — my two new friends from the Musselman triathlon who are also doing the Wineglass Marathon. Also part of the team was my friend, Tra, who worked with me at the Olean Times Herald in our younger newspaper days. Those were the only people I knew. The rest of the team (and there had to be nearly 50 of us, I swear) I had never met before. But after only a few minutes, that didn’t matter. We were talking, singing, dancing and basically enjoying hanging out before our wave went off for the 5K adventure.
When it finally was our turn, we jogged off to our first obstacle — a hay bale tower. The bulk of the group was off ahead. I was not in a hurry. Which was a good thing, particularly when I came upon the wall. There were two-by-fours nailed to the outside of the wall to help with climbing over it. Only once I got to the top, I couldn’t quite orient myself to try and step down on the skinny notches of wood on the opposite side. So I tried to slide down. But I fell. Yep. I fell off the wall. At first, it stung a bit, both my pride and my body. But then I took it as a bad-ass badge of honor: Hell ya, I fell off the wall!
I ended up running much of the event with Tra and three other Divas. I would have finished with them, but I got caught on the second-to-last obstacle: the cargo net. The net was positioned like a triangle, so it wasn’t too difficult to climb and I was actually fairly proud of the way in which I handled this particular task. However, I ended up behind two women who were struggling a bit. They needed help getting over to the other side. And while I saw my friends take off toward the finish line, I was still at the top of the cargo net. But you know what? No worries. I helped guide those two women over and finished on my own, hearing the cheers of the other Divas who had already completed the course. While there were challenges along the way, nothing, and I mean nothing, seemed impossible. Part of it was the power of the group — surround yourself with positive people who are going to try and you will find your strength measurably increased. Part of it was knowing that I always had a choice — each obstacle had a detour. No penalty. No shame. You could just skip it. There is freedom in trying something when you know you have an out. And yet, I didn’t need to take an out. There were no style points. Only effort, and laughter, counted here.
A few note about the event:
- It was girls-only and yes, that might be unfair, but so is kicking little girls off pee-wee football teams.
- The t-shirt sizes rain painfully small. Really Dirty Girl? Let’s make women feel GREAT about themselves instead of having to beg for a double-XL shirt size. (I kept my pre-ordered size, but will need to find a 5-year old it fits.)
- There were no timing chips and only one wave was deemed “competitive.” This is fantastic. There was no pressure. There was no standard of measurement. It was all about YOU and the camaraderie on the course with your friends (and strangers).
- The post-race sangria was a nice touch, however, some free post-race food for the participants would also have been a nice touch. Granted, the regional food trucks were set up on-site, but my understanding was they were vendors, not suppliers. A mini-bagel or granola bar with the sangria would have been nice. Especially since my t-shirt didn’t fit.
- Dear spectators. I realize this might have been your first time out supporting your first-time athlete. But you are allowed to cheer for people other than the ones you specifically came to support. Coming out of the woods to see a crowed of people all standing around quiet is, well, just lame. Sorry, but it is.
My time hanging out with the Divas after our run was limited. My family (including my adorable nearly 1-year old niece) was coming to my apartment for a visit and then I would be off to Canandaigua for triathlon packet pick up and pre-race pasta dinner. The weekend festivities were just beginning, but what a rousing start. While a bit tired from the event, I was actually energized. This was play. And play is important. It’s where my imagination stretches. It’s where I make friends. It’s where I free our minds and bodies. It’s where I find my joy and if I’m truly in the moment, truly playing, that sense of joy spills over into every nook and cranny of my life.
(Come back tomorrow as the weekend recap continues with a report on the Finger Lakes Triathlon!)