The crisp morning air crackled with anticipation. We had watched the forecast for two weeks and prayed the storms forecast for the morning of our ascent would pass us by. Now, under the mid-morning sun, my team chatted with nearly 200 other hopefuls waiting to begin our journey from base camp up the face of Everest.
The only thing standing in our way, an eight-foot wall of lumber painted black and emblazoned with the Tough Mudder logo. Everest is one of the Mudder’s signature obstacles — a twenty-foot quarter pipe sheathed in aluminum and coated with water and glycol just to keep things interesting.
But the monster lay in wait more than five miles down the course. Before we would get a chance to even view her, we would have to maneuver our team across and over obstacles designed to test our strength, stamina, agility, comraderie, and grit.
The Tough Mudder eats other obstacle courses for breakfast and barely burps. My son, cousin, baby sister, and I had trained for four months with our only goal to survive obstacles with names like Funky Monkey, Cry Baby, Pole Dancer, Beached Whale, and Arctic Enema.
Between each obstacle, a grueling tromp through soft sand, up hills, and across lakes of water and mud. The plan was simple. My son and I would set the pace for the run, and we would work together with our team and others to make it past anything else the Mudder would throw at us.
The Funky Monkey, Pole Dancer, and Beached Whale tested our strength. We blasted the Arctic Enema (imagine the The Ice Bucket Challenge on crack) by sheer will-power. Then we saw her, the orange and white megalith we had come to conquer. Amped on adrenaline, my son was the first to test Everest. A running start, a leap of faith, and the flying grip of the Mudder before him helped land Brock safely on the summit.
Then it was my turn. Stamina was no problem. My training had served me well. My legs felt fresh as they churned up the slope. One fourth. One third. One half the way up. Then, when if felt like I was losing steam, one giant leap. I was airborne. Time seemed to stand still as I soared above mere mortal sherpas. (It felt more graceful than it actually was.) I was going to conquer Everest.
Then, reality set in. My chest crashed on Everest’s peak. Air drained from my lungs, and gravity began to snatch my victory. A hand clenched my elbow. My feet kicked and scrambled for grip on the slick surface. Two great heaves later, I stood atop my nemisis with no time to reflect. We still had two team members to help over the top.
Once we were all safe atop the peak, we paused for one triumphant moment, the sun smiling on our accomplishment. Then, like all who scale Everest, we headed back down. We were only half-way through our trek and still had a Mile of Mud to vanquish.