"Slow and steady wins the race." Those words continued flooding my brain. One, two, three people, "slow and steady," as I passed another one. Barbed wire, wind and pelting rain, freezing cold ice water; yet all I heard was "slow and steady." Mud, thick mud swallowing my shoes. "Slow and steady."
I had been checking the forecast for the last month. The closer to November 7th, the cloudier the forecast got. By, Friday the 6th, I was just praying for a miracle.
Hardly sleeping my alarm rang at 7 a.m.. One hundred percent chance of rain for the day. So, I resigned myself to the conditions.
I arrived an hour early to the Savage Race, a 7 mile 25 obstacle mud run. For the last three months, I developed tendinitis in my right hip flexor. After an anti-inflammatory and a cortisone medication both failed to give me relief, I thought I solved the mystery. KIDNEY STONES! Two and a half weeks before the race, I developed kidney stones. I passed at least 5. While passing the stones alleviated pain, it wasn't enough to curb the knife like pain in my right hip flexor. I realized the day before, I needed a cortisone shot in my right hip, if I planned to finish.
The ground was wet, but it was supposed to be. It was raining, but "that'll make it more fun." It was cold. That was my fear. I have Parkinson's Disease. I have a tremor when coming off my meds. If I am cold, I shake uncontrollably. I checked both myself and bag, and then proceeded to huddle with everyone else in a small tent meant to sell t-shirts. My toes were numb. With PD, I tend to drag my left foot. Would I be able to run without falling if I couldn't feel my foot drag?
The rain began picking up, and it sounded like water balloons when the pools from the tent would explode on the ground. A woman ran into the crowded tent yelling, "The weather is not improving. If you want to go early, you can!" The chill in my bones told me, "Let's get this over with."
We huddled together at the start. In the midst of yelling, chanting and jumping to warm up, there was a loud silence that came from everyone, "Why did I sign up for this?" The silent question was deafened with, "GO!"
I scaled walls and slid down hills. I untangled through brush and swam through brown, murky water. I balanced like my old gymnastics days, concealing from anyone I had a movement disorder.
I trained for three months, but there is no practical training for this. Monkey bars, weights, jogging, stretching; all of that goes out the window when you're climbing over tree trunks and pulling a cinder block in tar like mud. Using a rope to climb a story high wall wasn't an option in my back yard.
After each climb, after tackling each obstacle, my legs continued and my mind repeated, "slow and steady." About half way, the knife that dissolved with the prior days shot, switched sides, to my left hip. "Slow and steady."
I got to a slippery, slightly inclined wall, you run up until you can grab a rope and climb to the top. The wall was slick, so your feet help little if any. I talked to a guy at the top asking for guidance. As I climbed, I came about 2 feet from the top, at the last knot of the rope. My right hand held tight right above the knot, but my left arm couldn't move. I was stuck. I don't know if it was a PD symptom called "freezing", or I was just plain exhausted. Regardless of the reason, if I moved my left arm, I would have fallen, and I was too close to the top to fail. My eyes were in shock, like a deer in headlights, until at least three men helped me. One guy was held by his legs while he and another guy helped pull me up. Grateful, I hugged him, but then continued on. I couldn't stop. "Slow and steady."
After one hour and 53 minutes, and obstacles fit for a Navy Seal, I crossed the finish line. I grabbed my participatory medal and t-shirt and stopped. That is when my body gave out. My left hip felt like I had been in a horror movie with a kitchen knife repeatedly ripping my flesh. I began shivering, shaking and limping. "Slow and steady" was replaced with "baby steps." It took me 15 minutes to walk 100 feet to my car. I finally made it, completely drained.
After, I made it home, it took a hot bath, shower, a fire and two hours to pass before my lips finally changed from blueberry blue to a rose color. I limped, and was dehydrated. I lost at least 5 pounds that day. But, when all was said and done, I finished. Not only did I finish, but I finished in the top 13 percent among racers and 4th among women in my age group.
The Savage Race boasts the "world's best obstacles." Like in life, I tackled those obstacles. People ask me all the time how I remain so positive My answer: my faith gives me the strength to continue on, even when stuck in waste high mud. Realizing my blessings also makes me smile when faced with another barbed wire or jagged edge. Every giggle and snuggle with my daughter is a reward no trophy or medal could compare. I, am a 37-year-old single mom with Parkinson's, kidney stones and tendinitis. I proved what overcoming adversity, determination and strong will can accomplish, slow and steady. Until my next adventure....
To read more about Allison's adventures with Parkinson's click here.