Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 26, 2012

A dose of muddy teamwork

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — The human body is often capable of doing more than the human mind thinks it can. Add a few more human bodies and minds and the seemingly impossible can more easily become reality.

Last weekend, I experienced just that.

A few minutes past noon on Saturday, I crossed a finish line in Maysville with 12 teammates and was crowned with a Tough Mudder headband. We had finished the 12-mile, 23-obstacle challenge course in just over four hours.

Muddy, cold, bruised and battered, we were exhausted yet exhilarated. Together we had braved electric shocks, frigid ice water, fire, steep climbs, a dozen varieties of mud, rocky descents, chilly wind and cramping muscles, yet had triumphed over it all because we worked as a team. We had left no one behind.

The deep sense of accomplishment I felt, still feel, is almost indescribable. In today's “me-centric” society, putting aside one’s individuality to accomplish something shared is an all-too-rare experience. It’s one to be cherished and prized.

The teamwork that occurred on those muddy hills at the Big Rock Off Road Park were both practical and inspiring. It made the course possible and the experience way more fun than I imagined.

Tough Mudder courses are designed to test camaraderie along with mental grit, stamina and strength. The group is valued over the individual in Tough Mudder for a reason. The courses are created by former British Special Forces members and a portion of proceeds from every event benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

It was for that reason I was inspired to take on the challenge. I wanted to do something hard and painful to honor and support our combat veterans who voluntarily shoulder the burden of protecting our freedoms. I could suffer one day to show solidarity with them and raise money to help provide them services to heal. It was my small way of giving back.

Tough Mudder even has its own pledge to hammer that message home. Every participant repeats it before the start of the event and the T-shirts you receive at the end bear it in print. “I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine — kids whine. I help my fellow mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears.”

I am proud that myself and my team were able to live up to the pledge.

We helped one another to overcome our individual fears on Saturday and to push through the doubt and discomfort that threatened to make us quit.

For me, I was petrified of the obstacle called “The Boa Constrictor.” It had dominated my nightmares for weeks before Tough Mudder and I had planned to walk around it. In the challenge, participants crawl headfirst down an angled corrugated plastic tube into a deep mud puddle, enclosed overhead by barbed wire. The only exit is a crawl-out via another corrugated plastic tube, which is partially submerged in water and extremely slippery.

When I got to it on Saturday, I felt so supported and inspired by my team I decided to try it.

The first tube was a slide-down. Easy enough, but the water was cold and the mud thick, making moving hard. Then I entered the second tube. I quickly realized I would have to crawl several feet before I had enough room to lift my head to breathe, and I began to panic.

About that time, a head obscured the light at the end of the tunnel and then another, filling the opening. A torrent of encouragement began to flow down toward me. Then two sets of hands reached in, waiting to pull me the rest of the way out.

Giddy and uplifted by that small victory, I turned around to do the same for the teammate behind me.

The entire day was filled with moments like that.

There were falls and bruises, but lots of laughter and pats on the back, too.

When I finished I felt stronger and more confident than I did before Tough Mudder.

I completed each and every obstacle solely because I hadn’t tried alone.

I cannot wait to do another one.

Go Team RescuePro!

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.