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Apr 02 2015

Not so tough after all

After taking a well-earned break from training following my first-ever 10k race last summer, I found myself having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. At this point in my life I know myself pretty well, and  though I wasn’t happy about it, I could easily accept the fact that having a specific goal out in front of me was a key motivational element to maintaining my fitness routine.

I knew needed to find another “event” to work toward, and I’m actually kind of proud of the fact that a 5k was no longer a big enough challenge since I was regularly running that distance as part of my workout rotation. On the other hand, 10k now qualified as “been there, done that” and at that point at least, the MalmöMilen was not necessarily something I was sure I needed to repeat. (I’ve since learned differently. Thank you Coach Bad-@$$.)

Enter The Toughest obstacle course race held for the last few years in the large recreation area along Ribersborg Beach. Its 40 jumping, swinging, crawling and climbing obstacles over 8 kilometers along the seaside sounded way more fun and interesting than running 10k on flat pavement, so I signed up. Dr. Darling was less enthusiastic but could not countenance the thought that I might be perceived and proven tougher than she is, so she registered, too.

We were under no illusions about our ability to clear every obstacle … particularly those requiring a ton of upper-body strength, but we figured we’d make the attempt and take the penalty if necessary. The goal was to finish without being injured and to have some fun getting wet & dirty together.

All was going to plan until we BOTH got hit with an extended bout of flu in mid-February, losing 2+ weeks of training time. I further lost another week plus a bit more when I had a relapse in mid-March.  Missing what amounted to a full month of training time so close to the event (May 2) was NOT a good thing, but as we had no expectations of being competitive, it didn’t really matter that much.

And then one day a few weeks ago, we worked out at one of the local outdoor gyms that feature some “monkey bars” and walls to climb. I have always been a confident climber, both as a kid and an adult, but evidently I hadn’t really done much of it since losing my right eye in 2007. Turns out depth-perception is a *really important* factor in this particular skill, and I can hardly believe it hadn’t occurred to me before. Given that my monocular status has not kept me from doing much of anything else, like running, biking, swimming, mountain hiking, etc., it just didn’t even occur to me that climbing and heights might be a problem.

But going up and over those bars and walls, I was extremely tentative and in some instances just flat-out scared. I have never had an issue with heights before, and suddenly I was rattled about being 3 to 5 meters off the ground. It was a seriously disturbing revelation, and one I never saw coming. Shortly afterward I discovered that it did not seem to get any better with practice … evidently depth perception cannot be learned like muscle memory.

So, to make an already long story short, I have decided … a month out from the race … that I have to withdraw from The Toughest. I am SO very disappointed by this development, but genuinely feel that my tentativeness on the climbing obstacles could be a real danger to myself as well as other “Tough-sters” who may be nearby. But beyond my general aversion to reneging on a commitment, it’s also the first time in over 7 years that I’ve truly felt “physically disabled” by the loss of my eye, and it’s a lousy feeling.

On the upside, Dr. Darling is majorly relieved that the question of which one of us is “the toughest” will remain a mystery for the ages.

Feed my ego!

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