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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

October 9, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Tough Mudder race: Impossible is just a point of view

By Jacob Lobe

 Jacob Lobe, 23, is a graduate of Auburn Riverside High School and Washington State University.  He and brother Matt ran together in the grueling Tough Mudder race in Black Diamond last weekend.

Jacob Lobe, left, and brother Matt were all smiles after finishing the race in Black Diamond.  Photo courtesy of Lobe family

Jacob Lobe, left, and brother Matt were all smiles after finishing the race in Black Diamond.
Photo courtesy of Lobe family

A year ago I was asked by one of my friends if I wanted to compete in something called “Tough Mudder”. I have always been in good shape and love all forms of competition, so I looked into the details of this event.

What I read intrigued me.

It’s a 12-mile obstacle course through mud, water and forest that you can only finish with help from a strong-willed team. The idea was to help inspire others on your team, to push it to the limit and overcome obstacles that most people wouldn’t even consider. Everything I read about the event confirmed how tough it was and how it takes an iron will to complete.

I was sold. The idea of working up to this event as a group hooked me. According to my friends, about 10 people had already signed up. So did I. I was committed.

Training begins

Training began Jan. 2 at a physical-therapy clinic where one of my friends worked. The owner said we could use the building to do a two-month fitness program called “Insanity.” Each night we pushed ourselves through a different set of cross-fit training exercises that lasted about 50 minutes. They started out ridiculously hard, but near the end of the two months, they became easy. Four of us started out doing the program, but I was one of only two who completed it. By March 2013, I was in the best shape of my life.

Tough Mudder was still seven months away, and each of us decided to train on our own. As summer neared, the possibility of competing with a 10-person group became less and less likely. The partner who finished Insanity with me moved to the Virgin Islands. Another injured his knees in training. I heard a bunch of other excuses.

Jacob Lobe shows off the crutches and boot that he wouldn't let derail his training.

Jacob Lobe shows off the crutches and boot that he wouldn’t let derail his training.

At the end of July, I had an excuse of my own. I injured my foot in a wakeboarding crash that should have ended my chances of competing in Tough Mudder. With only two months left, I was on crutches and in a walking boot. I couldn’t put any weight on my swollen, black-and-blue foot.

All of my friends told me that competing would be impossible. I thought otherwise.

I had just switched to a night shift at work, where I would work Wednesday through Saturday nights. I would be the only person in the office most of the time. I used the time to rehabilitate my foot with ice baths and rehab my mindset by reading inspirational books and listening to motivational music. “Impossible” – the words my friends used – became my motivation. I was determined to prove them wrong and show that I could do anything I set my mind to.

After three weeks, I noticed a big improvement. With the swelling down, I decided I needed to push my limits if I still wanted to compete. I took off my boot and little by little did more conditioning. I continued to run farther each week, kept reading and kept working hard. While all of my friends were out partying on the weekend, I just continued to find a way to work toward the “impossible.”

Just weeks before the event I realized the only way I could compete would be to do it immediately after I finished a Friday graveyard shift. I finished work at 5 a.m. and started the race at 8 a.m. It was just another hurdle.

Two weeks before the event, I ran 12 miles immediately after a Saturday night shift to make sure I was ready. I completed the run in about 3 hours. I was in a world of hurt, but I knew Tough Mudder was within reach.

A week before race day, the last two people left on my team who were still going to compete dropped out. I was disappointed, but I had trained to hard to let my chance slip away.

That’s when my brother stepped in. Matt, one of the hardest working athletes I know, decided to compete with me.

RACE DAY

I was one of the first people to show up for the race that Saturday morning. It was still pitch black out and about 35 degrees.  I saw the sun come up at 7:15 a.m. I wore layers of sweats to keep warm and I planned to shed them so they wouldn’t weigh me down during  three hours of mud and sweat.

As we were called to the starting line, I thought about everyone who told me it would be “impossible.”  My brother lined up next to me and we told each other whatever happened, neither of us would quit nor stop moving forward. Whatever obstacle stood in front of us, we vowed we’d run straight through it.

Then we were on our way. The first person I saw in the crowd cheering us on was my mother. Her support gave me more encouragement to finish.

After one mile and two obstacles, I already was aching and freezing. It didn’t matter.

The first four miles included about 10 obstacles which required us to crawl and jump through ice cold water.  Even my shirt was weighing me down, so I stripped it off and threw it to one side. I ran out of every obstacle howling like an enraged animal to keep my adrenaline going. People looked at me as though I was crazy.

After Mile 3, we seemed to be running through the forest for about four miles, constantly jumping over trees and climbing muddy hills. The ache in my side was replaced by a “runners high.”

As we came to Mile 8, we ran by a mound of chopped wood. With my adrenaline pumping, I grabbed one of the biggest pieces from the stack, which we were required to carry to the next checkpoint. I quickly regretted grabbing such a large chunk. My brother yelled at me to not give up. I kept going.

With only a couple of miles left, I ran into a new obstacle. My calf cramped up and I dropped to the ground screaming. My brother ran over and tried rubbing it out, as I tried to stretch it. I couldn’t quit now. After a minute, I sucked it up and continued running.

For some reason the quote “Eye of the Tiger, Heart of a Champion” popped into my mind, and so I kept repeating this out loud. Somehow that kept my adrenaline level high and kept me motivated.

Finally, I could hear the sound of thousands of spectators and a man on a loudspeaker telling competitors to finish strong. I knew we were approaching the finish line. My brother and I kept pounding knuckles and telling each other to finish strong.

As we came upon the finish line, thousands of wires dangled over a pit of mud. It was our final obstacle. My brother and I told each other we loved one another and sprinted through the wires. The initial shock cramped up my entire body, but with my heart pounding, and the cheers of hundreds of spectators, I found a way to finish.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I was surrounded by people congratulating me, but I was so happy and exhausted I could barely hear them.

Everyone who finished was given a bright orange headband. I wore mine like a badge of honor.  My brother and I kept being congratulated by people we didn’t even know. Covered in mud and proudly wearing our headbands, we walked to our cars as people still applauded us.

I wore a smile for the rest of the day.

What did I learn? I truly believe that “impossible” is just a point of view. We don’t know what we can achieve unless we look into the depths of our hearts and minds.

As Jimmy V once said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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