We drove into Truckee on Saturday afternoon, it's main street lazy and quiet, making me wonder why we don't come up more often.
We parked the car in a lot across the street from our old hotel and walked over. I noticed at the check in how kind and sociable Joey was with the girl behind the desk, her eyeliner dramatic like Jasmine from Aladdin, her lips perfectly shaped. She talked easily back to him, and I tried to smile at her, but between girls sometimes there's an underlying edge and it's too much effort to try and smooth it over. Looking at the brochures on the wall was easier.
Joey got our keys-which are really cards now-a-days- and we made our way up the old, squeaky staircase. I took note how badly the paint was peeling was on the face of the stairs as we ascended and despite the fact that we work so hard to keep our life at home perfectly in order-no scuffs on our walls, no smudges on our shiny floors-it felt really good to see all those worn down stairs, the dark places were the paint was completely gone and nobody gave a shit.
The floors creaked and moved under our feet as we made our way down the hall, looking for our room, number 224. The was a small sitting room at the end of the hall with tall open windows, the warm breeze causing the light curtains to catch wind and balloon out like sails.
I opened our door to a surprisingly small room and tried not to act disappointed because I know how much Joey hates it when I am disappointed. Instead I said, "Oh how cute!" And it was. Cute and simple, with a large bed in the middle with just enough room to get around, a small table with three baskets as drawers-the first two holding plump, soft white towels and last one empty. There was an old black cast iron radiator in the corner under the window that looked so old and antiquated I told Joey I wouldn't turn that thing on even if I was freezing to death for fear of burning the whole hotel down, and maybe all of Truckee with it. The bed had a textured white bedspread and down pillows that contrasted nicely with the room's light brown walls, the color of creamed coffee in the morning.
I was anxious to get out to all the little shops we saw on our way into town. We walked in an out of the them, doting on all the beautiful, handmade jewlery, the colorful paintings of Tahoe, the soft leather bags.
In a small furniture shop I saw a sign that read, "I'm not moody, self-absorbed, and disorganized-I'm artistic!" and I thought, that sums it up exactly. I showed it to Joey. He didn't think it was quite as humerous as I had.
We bought Christmas and birthday gifts and I got a necklace with a tiny heart on one side a the word "love" written on the other.
I told Joey I wanted it to be from him, that it could be my Christmas present. He said alright, but then went and sat to wait on a bench while I went in and bought it. And I knew when I bought it there's no way I was waiting for Christmas for it-I wore it out that night and everyday since. I guess this is just how it is when your married-or maybe just moody and self-absorbed and want things immediately.
Soon enough we were hungry and made our way down to the green Mexican restaurant at the far end of the street. We sat at the bar and as the vodka mixed in my cranberry juice loosened my mind I started talking, talking in a way I hadn't for a week or two, or maybe a month or two. Letting the words spill out, the tangle mess of them, knowing if I thought too much about what it was I was trying to say it wouldn't come out closest to the truth, which I value so strongly, so I tried to not filter. We're married right? He's not going anywhere no matter what I say.
Joey listened politely but there was a baseball game on and I couldn't blame him for glancing up at it every couple of minutes or so, or for asking the two rough gentleman sitting next to us what exactly they were having as the bar tender made them some special drinks. I'm sure at this point in our conversation-or maybe I should say my conversation-he wanted whatever they were having bad. I also wondered if he'd rather be hanging out with them than his emotionally crazed wife who was talking with no filter, valuing truth above all else.
I made an effort to reign it in just a little.
Walking back to the hotel I tried not to let the nerves start to creep in as the alcohal wore off as to why we were really up here to begin with-it wasn't to shop and eat and get re-acquainted with each other- it was to complete the Tough Mudder.
I'd been a spectator four years before, watching my husband and all his buddies complete a course in Bear Valley, California. At the time I though it could be fun to do at one point, but I wondered if I'd ever actually have the balls to sign up for it. Four years passed and I thought it was pretty much a forgotten thought until one day about a couple of months ago. Joey said that he wanted to do it with a group from work again, and because it was on a weekend we were supposed to be camping as a family he thought we could do this instead.
After I threw a complete fit which is so like me, I actually thought about it for a minute or two and I decided it could be fun. Plus Joey suckered me in: we'd spend the weekend in Truckee, shopping and eating out without the boys. He'd even get us a quaint little hotel room.
He signed us up.
I asked him if I should train and he said no. That I was in good enough physical shape to just wing it. I said okay.
I started receiving the Tough Mudder emails right away, almost daily, and I deleted them without even reading them. Then I saw one with a video attached entitled "Artic Enema" and decided to watch it. Bad idea.
What was gong to be just a casual 'get through it kinda day' now had a face: Hundreds of pounds of ice that you have to dive head first into, find an opening at the bottom, and get out on the other side, which was another bin filled with ice.
I tried not to talk about it with Joey too much, tried not to ask him too many questions for fear of appearing a complete wuss, or annoying him and making him regret inviting me.
Despite all my cool self control two months leading up to the event, the morning of the race I couldn't help it and chewed off eight and a half of my fingernails to little nubs as we drove to Safeway to get power bars and bananas. I hoped Joey didn't notice and made a mental note I'd have to clean my fingernails out of the car later.
Soon enough we were at the start line. The sky was a bold blue and the temperature was warm. All around us everyone was chanting and cheering the then we were off, up the mountain.
Running up the mountain was easy. When the adrenaline kicks in, especially at the start of a race, I never feel stronger. I could run for miles! Up ski mountains!
Our first obstacle was the Slanted Wall. I scurried up the wall using the supports like a kindergartner on a jungle gym. Easy enough, I thought, as I reached the top and threw my legs over. Now, how to get down?
I turned around on my back side and decided to slide down like a slide in the park-whoosh! and the next moment I'm heard my ankle make some funky crinkly sounds and then the pain, tight and twisted, unnatural.
I bent my knee to get my foot off the ground and noticed the swelling under my sock, bulging already out my shoe.
I told my team members I rolled my ankle, took my shoe off so everyone could stare at the growing mound of puffy, swollen flesh right at my ankle bone. I slipped my shoe back and and said, "It's alright. I'm going to keep going. It feels alright."
I'm mad at myself for being such an idiot, for forgetting how easy it is to get hurt, for forgetting how vuulnerable we are. But I'm especially mad because it happened on the first obstacle. As I begin to jog toward obstacle number two out of nineteen, I pray it isn't as bad as it feels.
Somehow I keep running, keep doing every single obstacle, despite my foot having hardly any movement, feeling like a big stiff tree branch jolting out of my shoe with my toes attached.
For five hours I try not to think about it. But when I do, it shakes.
Joey helps me down on any of the obstacles that would require a jump onto hard ground. Running down the mountain was harder on it than running up; with every step I'm aware of it jamming, while simultaneously hoping to god I don't turn it again on the loose rocks.
As we near the end, one of the obstacles is to carry another "warrior". I climb on Joey's back and he takes off. Where we are supposed to switch, he keeps going, carrying me all the way to the obstacles end.
The second to last obstacle is called Mount Everest. It's a half pipe that you have to run up and get to the top. For the first time in the entire race, I said out loud to one of the women we'd been running with, "I don't think I'm going to be able to that." I doubted I could do that even if my ankle was fine. It was so...slanted, curled like a giant wave.
I gave it a shot and slid down, but realized it too was doable despite looking so undoable. I ran with all my might and grabbed the top with my finger tips. Bingo. Up and over.
The last obstacle was running through mud with the electrical shocking things hanging down. We all run through as a team, yelling and screaming and ready for it to be over.
Afterward I ate two soft tacos while resting my foot on Joey's lap. As everyone sat and ate and talked about the race, I could feel it getting stiffer. It ached. I finally told Joey I was ready to go but could barely make it to the car. I laughed at how impossible it was to walk when an hour ago I was running down a mountain on it.
At home I showered for a long time. Washed my hair twice. You would never believe the amount of dirt your body soaks up in this event! When I got out and dried myself off, my white towel had brown dirt marks all over it. The junk that came out of my nose and ears, black.
I'm not loving my banged up knees and stiff ankle the same size as a baby elephant's. But I did love the time with my husband. I loved doing something so many people are afraid of. I love my little necklace I forced my husband to buy "for" me. I loved our little hotel room, the way the floor slanted down. I loved my vodka and cranberry juice that allowed me to open up like a dam in the green Mexican restaurant. But mostly I loved how my husband listened to me even if he didn't get a damn thing I was saying, how he helped me over every other single wall we had to climb after I hurt myself, how he carried me when he was supposed to but also when I was supposed to carry him. That's what I loved the most.