Rea Kolbl – To all of our family and friends: You are amazing.

A while ago my husband and I were working out in a gym, and I was in a particularly bad mood; I was hungry, tired and stressed from work, but still wanted to work out, failing at it, and taking it all out on Bun, who by then was well trained in the hangry athlete management and just patiently nodded at my glares and R-rated language. Not getting upset at me actually just made it worse, and while I felt bad I also couldn’t find a way to stop it. Then someone recognized me.

“Are you Rea?? You are amazing!!” Then, turning over to my husband, “isn’t she amazing?”

I half expected Bun to just walk away at that point, but he smiled and said, “I guess she is.”

Finish-line-hugs

No matter how hard the race is, Bun is always there for me at the finish line.  Photo credit: Bob Mulholland

But the truth is, I wasn’t amazing at that moment, and there are many like this in our daily lives. Being tired can make you moody, and being bad at planning sometimes also means I’ll be hungry, overall a bad situation for me and those around. It’s easy to smile at races, be happy during events where I’m rested, full of adrenaline, with nutrition planned (usually by Bun) to avoid hunger. It’s also easy to be amazing after a race, especially a good one. And even after bad ones, there’s always things to learn and to celebrate, hang out with friends I haven’t seen in a long while, and eat all the bananas and peanuts available at the venue.

 

But this is maybe 10% of our daily lives (fine, this year maybe 20%), but there are so many more days of hard training, involuntary sitting down (taper tantrums tend to be even worse than tired tirades), and Bun puts up with me through all of those. Even kisses me goodnight at the end of the day, no matter how many times I told him that the lack of bananas is obviously his fault, and no I refuse to eat that energy bar because the second ingredient is sugar.

 

Always-there-at-the-finish

I think staying up all night is even harder for our crew – at least we’re occupied with “one foot in front of the other”, while they patiently wait ready for us to come into the pit. Photo credit: Victor Martines

So what’s my point? I don’t know how to fix this. I know when I’m annoying, but in that moment, I can’t stop it. So I guess this is a shout-out to all of the spouses out there, all of the partners, family, and friends who see the worst of us, yet still love us, despite. Who come with us to races, stay up all night with us, or stay at home to take care of the household… and who rarely get greeted with “You are amazing!” by strangers in the gym.

Fed-by-the-crew

Without all of your help we wouldn’t even be able to feed ourselves. Photo credit: Tough Mudder

 

Because you are amazing. And we’re only here because you are here, too.

 

Toughest Mudder South – A first-time Pit Crewing Experience

PREFACE:

When I decided to visit Atlanta, the idea spawned from the fact that I had a Season pass, and enough frequent flyer miles for a free flight.  Once realizing my Friends Chris and Dan were going to be running Toughest Mudder, and wanted a pit crew; I immediately volunteered since I wasn’t running.  They were some of the easiest racers to take care of.  With their directions, it was easy to understand what was needed from me to keep them going each lap; within a few laps I felt like a pro.

With my new realization that I must be an amazing pit crew, it was time to expand upon my new skill.  I walked over to the Goat Tough area where Gina Estrada was kicking ass pitting for some of the biggest competitive racing profiles in the OCR circuit including Adkins, Webster, Cichosz, Fischer and others.  She was busy and seemed stressed, so I figured I would offer my services as a form of an assist.  After impressing her with my ability to open a bottle of caffeine pills (skillz), I knew I could pit for anyone!

A few laps later, Matt B. Davis from ORM realized that the Second Place Male Ryan Woods’ pit breaks included running the 50 yards back to bag drop, whereas most people in the chase of Adkins had their pit within yards of the course entrance.  We moved Woods’ pit items and nutrition near the rest of the lead competitors, giving him a better chance to quickly get back out on the course.

2 Hours Remaining: How NOT to Pit for a Toughest Mudder Contender

With 2 Hours left, it was announced by TMHQ for the top 5 males and female pit staff to move to the ‘quick pit’ corrals adjacent to the course.  Adkins thought it was a good idea, as it would make him pit even more quickly.  I assisted in moving Adkins and Webster’s items down to their respective corrals.  Next is where things got awkward.

NOOB Mistake #1
I took the announcement that moving pit nutrition was required by TMHQ, so I started moving Ryan Woods items down to his corral.  After moving about 5 large containers of water and nutrition, I hear he is entering the pit and headed for the old location!  As a scramble as fast as my Clydesdale booty could muster, I grapple up all 5 containers and proceeded to sprint, leap, and bound back to the table where his items were stored.  Bashfully, apologetic and out of breath, I passed off all of his nutrition.  It probably only cost him a handful of seconds, but those seconds lost were caused by my ignorance.  In high spirits, he got right back out on the course.  Other than an evil glare and a few wise words from Mr. ORM himself, the crisis was averted.

NOOB Redemption #1
Next, comes Lindsay Webster; knowing she wasn’t aware that her nutrition was relocated, we start yelling her name (and I mean yelling at the top of our lungs).  As much as we yelled, we could not out voice the finish line announcer.    I’m pretty sure this person was hired by TMHQ to butcher racer names and torture pit crew ears.  Anyways, again I was off!  Sprinting through the edge of the pit like a cheetah after Lindsay.  Success!  I caught her; she turned around back to her quick pit station.  2nd crisis averted.

NOOB Mistake #2
As Ryan Woods enters the pit in 2nd place with 1 more lap to go, he asks the simple question, “How far back is 3rd?”  After a glance at the screen and sleepy math, it was determined he had around a 15-minute lead.  He was ecstatic and relieved.   I pass off the energy gummies I hunted down by bugging people in the pit earlier and wish him luck on his last lap. Next, to my surprise less than three minutes later, the 3rd place racer, Luck “Skyrunner” Bosek, enters the pit, takes a very short fuel break, and takes off!  Me in a panic, staring at the timing TV cannot figure out how this 12-minute mistake was made !?!? (TMHQ…. A simple formula for +/- times based on average lap pace on the timing screen would go a long way to help; it’s possible as I’ve played Mario Cart.)  I take off, running the yellow spectator route looking for Woods to warn him of the timing indiscretions….. But he was nowhere to be found; I had lost him.  As I slowly walked back to the pit feeling dejected, I couldn’t even fathom watching the finish line.  This would be up to Woods to pull out a victory ahead of an unexpectedly close racer.

 

 

In Conclusion
Woods did it; he came in 2nd and battled it out with Bosek on the course.  They did meet up that last lap, and it was up to the racer who dug the deepest.  This time, it was Woods.  I walked over after he scraped himself off the ground from exhaustion, and apologized.  He wasn’t even remotely mad; he was actually just thankful for the extra gummies.  I probably shouldn’t have been trying to help, since I had very little idea on what to do as a pit person for a contending Athlete. My first time pitting was definitely a jump into the deep end of the pool.  One thing is for certain, I will never forget how valuable a pit crew can be because they can make or break your race without even realizing it.  I will also value my pit crew even more now, knowing how difficult it can be.  As for Toughest……next time I’ll be on the course, it’s probably safer for all that way. Congratulations to all of the top finishers, your performances were amazing.

Photo Credit: Tough Mudder, the author, and ORM