Mile 7I am sitting in tall brush under the sparse shade of a tree on the side of a mountain. I am covered in dried mud. No... more than mud. There is small twigs, dead grass and other unknown material dried to my skin. I look to my left. My brother's face is grey. He's in pain and I know he's considering quitting. Movement catches my eye. I watch a bug navigate the debris on my arm. A second one lands. I watch that one, too. Any other day I would have flicked them away, but today I had no energy to care, let alone move. I can feel my friend look at me, concerned. The mountain path we just finished was the toughest yet. We were near the end and people were struggling, myself included. Dozens of bodies littered the edges of the path, on all fours or laid on their backs, trying to catch their breath, coax their muscles to loosen and let them continue the climb. My husband says, "Let's go." He pulls me to my feet and I step into the hot sun. Break is over. We keep moving.
Mile 3We walk up to the Berlin Walls as a group. One person asks, "How are we doing this...same as last time?" Someone else agrees. A third person gets into position, kneeling so I can step on his back. I feel a twinge of fear, but I ignore it - I've done this before. I can do this. I use my husband for balance as I step up onto his back with the left foot, and place my right foot in another's waiting hands. I reach for the top of the wall and push myself off from his hands. It worked. I lean way over the edge to get my weight balanced and pull one leg over the edge. I sit up straight, straddling the top of the 10 foot wall. I have no time to stop and enjoy the view or the moment, although I am vaguely aware of the chaos around me. I grip the wall tightly with my hands, lean down and swing my other leg to the other side. My body is pressed against the wall and, still gripping the edge, lower myself down to hang from the wall. My hands let go and I drop.
Two more walls left to go. And they only get higher.
Mile 9I watch my teammate successfully get up Everest, one of the obstacles I've been fearing the most. It was his second attempt; his first time ended up with him sliding down the huge greased quarter pipe. I knew it was my turn. He was up at the top of the pipe, arms ready, waiting for me. I pointed at him, signalling to him I was aiming for him. I started to run, pumping my legs harder as I got closer to the pipe. My feet slammed into it...one, two, three, four times. I'm near the top, as far as I can go, and I see the hands I was aiming for. I grab them and they grab back. I shouted at another guy close by to grab my leg, as I twist and try to get my foot up as high as I can. He catches it and between the two of them, they haul my body clumsily over the edge. I get out of the way quickly. I shout my thanks and start the descent down the other side. They don't hear me as they prepare for the next body hurling itself towards them.
Mile 5Music pounds. Queens of the Stone Age, my brother tells me later. A teammate hands me half of a banana and tells me to eat it. I decline. My stomach was in no shape for solid food. "You need it," he insists. I take small bites and eventually get it down. I take another sip of water. We're at one of the water stations. There is dirt at the bottom of the cup. I drink it anyway. I'm sitting down again. I don't want to stand up yet, I know I'll be dizzy and likely fall over and I don't want a medic over here. I've heard some others talk about dehydration and the need for more water stations. I sit for a minute longer. The water and music does the trick. Feeling more energetic, I get up on my legs and we start the steep climb towards the next obstacle.
Mile 2I get down on my hands and knees onto the mud and rocks. I look into the dark tunnel and it reveals nothing. I know there are people waiting behind me, so I get down on my belly and inch carefully inside. Huh. Ok. Moving carefully doesn't get me anywhere. The tunnel is dark and small and I don't know how long it is. I need to get through the tunnel quicker than this. My crawling becomes quicker, less careful. My knees drag across rocks. My elbows do most of the work, reaching forward, and pulling my body, keeping my hips low. My hands hit dirt directly in front of me. Have I reached a dead end? All I see is blackness. Feel around for empty space. Found it. Twist my body to make my way around the corner. It's a tight squeeze. I wonder how people twice my size, guys like my husband, are getting through this thing. I crawl for a bit longer. I see light! I drag myself through a couple more feet of rocks. I can feel skin being ripped off my elbows. I crawl past the edge into the sun. I hear my teammates start to cheer and I respond by grinning. Let's do this.
(Note on Mile 7: I heard after our group went through this stage of the course that the organizers closed off this leg and shortened the course. People were dropping like flies. Someone saw a guy being carried off this section of the mountain on a stretcher. It was tough.)