That became my favorite place in the world. I was a camper there through about 1995, and then became a CIT, a counselor and eventually the boating instructor (I can navigate a canoe like nobody's business). During the fall and winter, I volunteered at the camp's haunted hayrides and breakfast with santa. I stopped working there when I went to college, since it paid about $2 an hour, but that camp was everything to me - I made some of my closest friends there, developed some of my most important relationships there, and it gave me an amazing sense of identity as an awkward child.
(Seriously. I had a mole and a moustache, liked to read and wasn't particularly athletic. SOMETHING had to give.)
Anyway - this morning, I headed out to camp to participate in my first-ever mud run - the ABF 10k Mud Run. My cousin, one of my brothers, and a couple of their friends banded together with me to form team "I Thought They Said 'Rum'" (yes, I picked that up off of one of those shirts they sell at race expos. I'm not that creative).
Heading to packet pickup/sign in...still so dry and so clean and so warm. I didn't realize it then, but I was.
Camp's not super-conducive to lots of people arriving and leaving and parking, so we started our morning at Shawnee High school, where we met up, grabbed our race numbers and pinned them to our sweet day-glo green shirts. I downed ten grams of BCAA's while we waited for our bus to transport us to the start.
Quick aside: in the morning, I was really unsure of what to wear. Forecast was 40ish and sunny. If I was running in 40 degree weather, I would have worn a fairly light shirt. This black shirt that I ended up wearing is thicker and brushed/fleecy on the inside, which makes it a bit too warm for anything over 30 or 35 degrees. BUT...my runs don't usually involve a flippin' cold lake, and I knew I'd be wet and soggy. I figured that I'd bring both and make my call there. THIS WAS THE RIGHT CALL.
PhillyGuy came to be our race photographer and our superfan. Unfortunately, the course wasn't set up and/or managed in a way particularly conducive to spectators, and he only got pictures of us at the start...
In between these amazing shots, here's what happened (besides my shirt stretching out an extra foot in length).
We ran a short distance - less than a quarter mile - to the first obstacle, which they warned us was going to be brutal and involve very cold water over our heads. The actual phrase they used was "you are going to feel like you're going to die, but just keep moving." We slid through a ribbed plastic pipe directly into a fairly narrow portion of the lake, about 20 feet across, and made our way across to the other side, where we turned around and crossed the lake again, balancing between two ropes. THEN we hopped right back in the lake AGAIN, and had to crawl up another length of pipe to reach the top.
THAT was a hell of a way to start. That water was shockingly, shockingly cold. I hit the water and immediately lost all sense of communication with my body. I was trying to swim, but my limbs just wouldn't listen, and my normally-decent freestyle was awkward and splashing.
After that, we went for a fairly long stretch of running (about .75-1 mile, I'd estimate) before our next obstacle, which was...BACK IN THE WATER. This was a short swim, maybe 100 yards? We powered through, even though (i) it is NOT EASY to swim with shoes on, and (ii) IT WAS SO COLD.
We warmed up a bit over the next few obstacles, including a 10' flat wall, a shorter steep ramp backed with a cargo net, and a 10' ramp backed with a cargo net. This is where teamwork really came in.
We had another stretch of running, long enough to warm us up a little, when it was back into the water - this time to wade our way through waist-deep stagnant swampy water. The water was black with dirt, the bottom was mushy with decaying plants, and the entire length was scattered with hidden underwater branches, trunks, roots and logs. YOU SHOULD SEE MY SHINS.
After the swamp came another 10' wall, the "snake pit" with lots of under-log military crawls through the mud and over-chest-high-log clambers. After that, we were treated with a military crawl through mud under barbed wire, more high up-and-overs, and then a nice long stretch of running (about a mile) to our next destination, where we carried tires up and down a giant (for NJ) hill a few times. After the hills, we went for another nice chunk of running, over some submerged logs, balance beam style, and then a few more minutes of running.
Our final deep-water obstacle was another 50 to 100-yard stretch of swimming, this time with logs that we had to pull ourselves over. I had gotten pretty used to the temperature by that point, but found myself beached on one or two of the logs in what I assume was a less-than-flattering butt-up position.
The last couple of miles flew by, with more high walls and climbing obstacles. Our final obstacle was one last stretch of waist-high water, followed by a short (in hindsight) run back to Stockwell Lodge.
We were dirty and soaking wet, but smiling.
I tried to bust out another one-armed handstand, but just couldn't support myself, so I settled for a normal handstand instead.
I got changed (dry sweatpants have NEVER felt so amazing) and then chased my post-race BCAA's with a Sam Adams winter lager.
I was also STARVING - I decided to run the race in a semi-fasted state, which meant starting my day with some coffee with grassfed cream around 7:30am, and then nothing ('cept BCAAs) until afterwards. Our heat started at 11 and we finished in just over 2 hours and 15 minutes, so by the time I was dried off and changed, I was definitely ready for some food.
With nothing even remotely paleo around, we headed back to the bus and then straight home, where PhillyGuy and I ordered $75 worth of BBQ takeout from Phoebe's (full rack of pork ribs, 1.5lbs of pulled pork, 20 rotisserie chicken wings, a big ass container of spicy collard greens for me and a couple other sides for him). A few ribs, some pork, a bunch of greens and some 77% dark chocolate later, I was ready for a shower and some rest.
This was SO MUCH FUN, guys. SO MUCH FUN. I'm a lot more tired now than I realized I was going to be - the run felt challenging but never too hard. My thighs and shins are COVERED in scrapes and bruises. While the run had a few little hiccups - you could tell this was their first time organizing an event - everything went smoothly and it was a great first mud run. I'm pumped for Tough Mudder in April.
And also for laying in my bed for the next several hours. Go team.