I watch as my teammate disappears under the murky water in front of me and then I'm alone.
I feel the length of the wood that separates me from my friends, dry land and warmth. I take a deep breath and plunge under. An icy chunk brushes past my cheek and then hands grab my shoulders, arms and legs, hauling me out of the water.
This is Tough Mudder.
It's my fault that four friends are with me at the start line of Whistler's first Tough Mudder extreme obstacle course event. I waited until they'd had a few beers one evening and then asked if they'd be interested in an "obstacle-style challenge." In their merriment they trusted my innocent smile and were conscripted onto Team Chick Legs.
They were now facing a 20-kilometre run peppered with 22 obstacles set by the British Special Forces. We were in the first wave on Sunday (June 24) and after a rousing pep talk with a lot of "Ooorahing" we were off into the wilds of the Callaghan Valley.
The crowd was a motley crew, from mohawk-toting lads to Lulu wearing ladies, from men with six packs to folks who looked like they'd downed one the night before.
Our first obstacle was a 12-foot wall. My husband, Darren Boyd, quickly threw his wiry body up and over in a "how-did-he-do-that?" move, and then Steve McCloskey and Daniel Irvine manhandled both me and Maja Ronneberger over with Darren breaking our fall.
The manhandling had been discussed ahead of time: The boys could grab anything they needed to in order to get us over those obstacles - true friendship.
There were sections of "slogging it," with shoes heavy with water and mud it was hard to see the mile markers going past so slowly. I never thought I'd say it, but the upcoming "spider's web" of cargo nets looked inviting because it meant I could stop running.
The sense of camaraderie that events like this generate hit home when we got to the quarter pipe leap of faith. There were four burly guys at the top simply waiting to help the next team up. I sprinted as hard as I could towards the wall and as it curved, I looked into the eyes of a complete stranger as I leapt forward. He caught me.
"When will I ever have the chance to do this again?" said Steve as he launched dubious-smelling mud at Maja just before she disappeared up to her waist in a hidden bog. He hit the nail, and Maja, on the head.
Sure, they pit this race as the "toughest on the planet," but really it's just the chance to get back on the playground, with the mud, the slides and your mates - all having fun, just for the hell of it.
Our knees and elbows were rubbed raw and dirt covered every orifice as we rounded the final corner. The wires of the last obstacle, "Electric Shock Therapy," looked like a sea of man-of-war jellyfish; it required a run up.
We had completed the challenge in less than three hours - still friends, still smiling and still intact.