This post is going to be a bit biased, so I apologize ahead of time for setting aside my journalistic integrity to boast about my little sister for a bit. However, the fact remains that, as annoying as she was when we were little, Marielys “Mari” Garcia has grown into an accomplished and determined young woman. One that even I look up to.
As recent as this weekend, Mari completed the Tough Mudder Mid Atlantic Race—a 12-mile obstacle course of intense physical challenges. Afterward, she agreed to share her experience with us, sharing her story of health and propensity for competition:
1- Tell us about your fitness journey; what made you decide to take your health and fitness seriously?
When I hit 190 lbs. during my junior year of college, I knew something had to be done. By graduation, I had lost 15 lbs but knew that a commitment needed to be made. In 2007, I joined a bootcamp class that would forever impact how I thought about fitness and my own capabilities. In 2009, I became interested in running a 10-miler in the Washington, DC area, and began to train for it with a plan I found online and a dogged determination to make it happen. I have simply put one foot in front of the other since then and have embraced the ups and downs that come with living a healthier lifestyle in an unhealthy world.
2- What is it about competitions that interest you?
It gives you something to strive towards and reach. I have always been a competitive person, but not necessarily in physical pursuits. The more races and competitions I have done, the more I realize that the physical is inextricably linked to mental toughness.
3- How did you hear about the Tough Mudder race? Why did it appeal to you?
I heard about it from a friend. I did the Run Amuck three-mile race in April and returned to work interested in the next step. My friend told me about Tough Mudder, I found registration online and signed during my lunch break that day and the rest was history. I love being able to accomplish what others do not dare or will discourage you from doing, so that really drew me to Tough Mudder.
4- What did you do to prepare for it?
I was initially going to train alone, but then found a training class specifically for Tough Mudder registrants at my gym, Washington Sports Club. I joined an 8-week training program led by an amazing trainer, Virginia Kinkel. She created challenging workout plans for each week and then we met as a small group on Wednesday nights for our training sessions. I was pushed to my limit with each workout but I can honestly say that I would have felt so ill equipped if I had not taken part in this training group. Virginia was a phenomenal leader and my training group became my workout family and support system for two solid months.
5- What’s your support system like?
I had a great training group but outside of that, friends and family constantly support me in any endeavors, despite how crazy or impossible they may sound. Ultimately, though, I am accountable to myself and that keeps me going the most.
6- Race Day: take us through it. What was going through your head? Where did you struggle the most? What kept you going? How did you feel afterward?
Race Day was super hectic. I had to wake up at 4:30 AM to head over to the site, which was an hour away from home. I packed my bag and got dressed and ready. Although I looked ready, my mind was everywhere. I got to the site and had to wait in parking traffic for at least 40 minutes which made me a bit anxious. Once there and registered, I was starting to feel apprehension but knew that I had done all that I could to prepare. I kept seeing these super buff males and females, and instantly felt a bit inadequate. Somehow, I bumped into Virginia and one of my training partners, which instantly made me feel more at ease and ready to go.
My biggest struggle was the mental grit needed to overcome certain obstacles such as Walk the Plank (jumping off a set of planks 15 feet above about 20 feet of water) and Everest (a greased half-pipe where you had to run up and over). Limited swimming abilities and also feeling nervous about spectators watching my every move sometimes was a struggle. Determination and the help of others kept me going. Without the help of random strangers on the course, I would not have conquered Everest and climbed over the nine-foot Berlin Walls. The camaraderie was unbelievable and helped me accomplish this feat. After the challenge, I felt so incredibly glad it was over and shocked that I had made it through each obstacle and did my absolute best. I was really proud and seeing my mom’s face and knowing that she was proud of me, too, was awesome.
7- Would you do it again?
I would do it again, but may have promised my mom (my #1 spectator and fan) that I would not. It was exhilarating but I may move on to another adventure.
8- Would you recommend it to others?
I would recommend Tough Mudder to anyone willing to put themselves to the ultimate mental, physical and psychological test. It brings out the best and worst in you, before and after, but it is a great race. I liked some of the parts of the TM pledge: “Tough Mudders don’t whine; kids whine” AND “Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge”. Do not do TM if you are simply trying to show off or be about self.
9- What’s next for you in your fitness journey?
Next, I am going to use a recently purchased voucher to indulge in 10 boxing classes, continue to do Zumba with my co-workers on Wednesday and spend the next few months improving my flexibility and strength by also taking Vinyasa Yoga. I have dabbled in yoga before but I want to spend a few months on that. I also want to pay forward some of the support that I received by volunteering at a variety of races and walks in the DC area.
10- Advice for others struggling to get started OR contemplating Tough Mudder and other competitions?
If you are struggling to get started, find a partner or group to keep you accountable. Be willing to try new things and move on from activities that you do not enjoy. For example, if you intend to run a long-distance run and find little enjoyment or gratification from it, move on to another physical activity that makes you feel good or accomplished. However, do not confuse feeling good with feeling easy. Being fit is hard work but you should find some fulfillment within that.
If you are contemplating Tough Mudder or another seemingly impossible feat, enter each workout with an open mind. You will be surprised by how much your body can do if you are willing to try. Dedicate and carve time into your schedule to prepare for your race or event and stick to that. It will feel like a part time job to prepare and it may require less time socializing with friends or loved ones, but it will be worth the effort.
Interested in signing up for a Tough Mudder race in your area? Click here for more information today!