Following the UniRec teams' triumphant showing at Tough Guy & Gal last weekend, resident columnist Lauren Barnard summarises her muddy experience in one dramatic, final article! Check it out...
The butterflies in my stomach are awake and fluttering almost before the first chiming notes of the alarm. There are already texts on my phone: Mum wishes good luck with her signature battlecry, “Carpe diem! Seize the day!”; Dad delivers an affectionate lecture on the importance of carbo-loading. I choke down a bowl of porridge and the butterflies declare war.
The time has come. This is where we separate the tough from the not-enough. And it's 5:30am, so I'm perilously close to telling the day to **** off and seize about five hours' more sleep.
Twenty-something familiar faces greet me from the bus, dealing the butterfly rebellion a stunning blow. They look nervous, but exhilarated, happy; the air fills with excited chatter and vocal yearnings for sweet, sweet caffeine.
Our ranks have swelled with newcomers, too. I meet Daniel out in the bitter cold, gratefully sipping his gas station coffee. “I didn't end up going to any of the Thursday morning training sessions, but I figured I had to wake up this morning!” he laughs.
He's the only one of our members who plans to do the 12km, two-lap event. Here we have the team’s most brilliant economist: same entry fee, but you get to go around twice.
They do say the line between genius and insanity is a fine one.
The line is hard to spot from the innards of the barn where the race starts. It’s cram-packed with people, 12- and 71-year-olds rubbing elbows in mutual anticipation, assaulted by the fragrant tonnes of dried grass and horse muck. Their body heat fills the cavernous space, warring with the wind snapping outside.
The starting gun sounds like a firing squad.
The crowd roars and heaves, almost two thousand competitors shoving to dive into the frosted-over mud. It sucks greedily at my taped-on sneakers, caking my legs to the thigh and slowing my modest jog to a painful, squelching shuffle. I emerge, a swamp-thing, carrying half the pit on my pants.
Rotorua is all hill. Everything is steep upward trudging, or treacherous slippery down - and riddled with pipes, rivers, barbed wire, and extravagant lashings of mud. The water is frigid, numbing fingers and stealing breath; my legs speed up, on pain of freezing solid. I pray as I climb camouflage-netted heights, because my hands are immobile claws and if they slip, I’m powerless to catch myself.
At the top of a cliff so rugged that abseiling ropes were involved, I catch up with Cushla, a fifth-year psychology student. What mental disorder does one require to participate in something like this? Neither of us knows exactly, but as we army crawl through a field of shocking electric tendrils (double speed), it’s apparent that about seven skull screws per person are rattling wild and free.
It seems like hours of adventure and exposure and hilarious agony before the way opens up ahead of me, and the world is filled with cheering crowds. Their cleanness is alien. I’m tempted to begin distributing filthy bear hugs.
When the rest of the team surrounds me, covered in sweat and grime and grins wider than their faces, I do.