Friday, July 13, 2012


Worked two days, off today and work two more days.  Won't be a lot of blogging going on.  We are trying to decide what to do with the contract here.  Last night some things were handled in a way I find uncomfortable with regards to staffing, so I am not so eager to stay here too much longer.  The RV park is over crowded.  Things are pretty expensive.  The salt air is starting to eat through any exposed metal. 

On the good side, it is pretty.  Dad and Julia are relatively close.  The boys have friends.  We will see.

So, for my off day I changed the power steering hoses on Flo.  They had been leaking.  Took about 5 hours.  I didn't get my workout in and I suppose I won't until Monday.  It will be interesting to see how my shoes hold up after the mudder.  I should buy new ones and I suppose I will soon.  Another thing on the list.  Oh yeah.  I put up a second page of pictures on the Adventure Nickel for the Tough Mudder.  They include the finish and some other shots.  I will continue adding them as I get time. Stinking internet connection here takes forever.  At least we have a connection.

So...does it look like I took the day off? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tough Mudder SoCal #2 recap

Today's post is a recap of the Tough Mudder adventure race I participated in this past weekend.  On my website I have included some of the pictures from the day along with this recap.  I plan on putting more pictures up on a separate page.  I was going to do that, but ran out of time today.  Since I work the next two days it didn't look good getting it done then. 

If you want to see the pictures, go here.  If you have any Mudder related questions, feel free to email me and I will answer what I can.  If I have a picture on the site of you or one you like, please feel free to download it.  I would appreciate a credit where appropriate.  Otherwise, read on.  Here we go.

I'll start it with the awesome people that helped me.  Of course Sarah is the bomb.  She made the time for me to train.  She supported and encouraged me.  She is awesome.  I also have to give a huge thanks to my Dad and Julia.  They watched the dog and gave lots of encouragement.  We stayed at their house for a couple of nights before heading up to Running Springs.  They too, rock.

The SoCal #2 Tough Mudder event took place on July 7-8.  It was held at the Snow Valley ski resort in Running Springs, CA.  This location has an elevation of 7300 feet.  I did the vast majority of my training at sea level.  I knew I couldn't truly acclimate, but wanted at least one night at altitude so if I got altitude sickness it would be mostly over by start time.  I've had that before and it is no fun at all.  So we stayed the night at a cheesy local motel/lodge.  Two beds and a shower.  Small and had no electrical outlets.  But, it was at elevation and had a pool and hot tub. 

There we met Annika and her daughter, Arianna.  Turns out she was running the Mudder on Sunday also.  We started talking.  She had broken her shoulder almost a year ago to the day.  Part of her rehab goal was to run this event.  She was going to run with some of her cousins and one of them was going to watch Arianna.  However one of her people had a motorcycle accident that day and wasn't going to make it.  We chatted and she offered to give us a ride up to the event in the morning.  Sounded great to us.  She was in the 0900 wave and I was in the 0940 wave.  Sarah offered to watch Arianna while Annika and I ran, but Annika assured us someone was already lined up for that. Well, after talking to us for a while it was decided that she felt more comfortable with Sarah watching Arianna.  We made fast friends. 

After sleeping horribly on the junky motel bed I awoke with a back ache.  This didn't bode well at all.  And my stomach was in knots.  I don't normally get nervous, but nobody sent that memo to my digestive tract.  We rode up and got registered.  Our numbers were written on our faces and arms and we went in. 

Annika was in the first wave of the day.  They made you climb about an eight foot wall just to get to the start.  I watched as the emcee pumped them up and then they started.  We wandered around taking pictures for a while before it was my turn. 

The start.  We climbed over the wall into a holding pen where they played upbeat music.  Then the emcee came out and gave some motivational speech and rules of the course.  It would have been better if I hadn't already heard it.  Protip...don't watch the other starts.  Then it was go time.  The emcee counted down from ten and set us loose.  We took off running up a slight grade and turned on to the first obstacle...

 Death March.

 From the start this looked like a long intense uphill climb.  It quickly slowed to a walk.  I had started in the middle of the pack and weaved through to the front .  There were probably a dozen or so people ahead of me in my wave and they probably stayed that way.  A the top of the hill the course turned back upon itself and you went straight down a hill of loose, shifting dirt with rocks and gravel.  The footing was a bit treacherous but the training time I had done in the sand dunes paid off and I zipped down pretty quickly.  This was just a prelude to what was to come.  At the bottom the course turned again and I came upon the second obstacle...

 The Arctic Enema. 

Before me was a row of dumpsters with wooden ramps leading up to them.  Standing at the top of the pallets were Marines shouting, “Don't hesitate...just go.  Why are you slowing down?  Go! Go! Go!”  I followed orders, ran to the top and jumped in.  For those who aren't familiar with the Arctic Enema, the dumpsters are filled with ice and just enough water so you can push through.  I jumped in to the chest deep bath and lost all ability to breathe.  Halfway through the dumpster they build a wall that forces you to completely submerge to get across.  So I did.  By this time enough shock had set in that there was no thinking...just moving.  I made it to the other side and climbed out.  As I made it down the ramp and started running again rational thought returned.  Just keep running I thought and your body heat will warm you.  That was about the time the cramps started.  For a few seconds every muscle I had was cramped.  I kept running and they disappeared.  At this point I was well past the obstacle and could see what appeared to be a service road leading up the mountain.  This was when I got acquainted with the biggest obstacle of the day...The Mountain. 

I started up a moderate slope and as I jogged up a woman, I can't recall if she was a spectator, worker or volunteer, passed by and said, “Don't try to run.  Nobody runs this part.”  She was mostly right.  I and all the other mudders walked most of the way and ran whenever it flattened out a bit.  About a third of the way up this slope is when I passed the 1 mile mark.  I was already tired and it was only one mile. 

The trail wound up...and up...and up.  Periodically there were signs saying, “It's OK to run now.”  So I took off running and shortly found out about Tough Mudder humor.  Within 100 yard of those signs there would be a steeper section.  Still, I ran as much as I could.  Here I began passing a few folks but there were still a few passing me.  The road wound and turned and climbed for another mile before arriving at the next obstacle...

The Kiss of Mud.

I came to a crest and instead of turning the corner to find another rising slope, I saw level ground.  There in the middle of the path a long shallow pit had been dug with barbed wire stretched across about 10 inches off the ground.  The pit was filled with muddy water and there were Marines again standing there yelling.  “Why aren't you moving?  There is no line.  What are you waiting for?”  I saw no real excuse and there weren't any other people around so I dropped and drug myself through.  The ground was gravel and sand beneath the muddy water.  I just drug myself forward with my arms so as to stay low.  I didn't snag on anything.  When I pulled myself free from the other side I stood and looked behind me.  The obstacle wasn't that tough and there were only a few people behind me, so I took off running.  I came out of the trees and saw a gorgeous view down toward the start line.  I realized I was at the very top of the slope that I had seen from the starting line.  The course pointed down.  I started that crazy descent on the loose dusty rock.  About halfway down the slope we came to the next obstacle...

Berlin Walls #1 

These walls are about 8 feet high.  There are no hand holds so you have to get your hands over the top and then pull yourself up and over.  I gave a boost to a couple of people and then made my first attempt.  I got up and over much more easily than I thought.  With one exception.  The grit and sand from the Kiss of Mud was still on my arms so as I levered up the muck ground against the boards and cut into my arm.  Kind of irritating, but nothing major.  I helped a couple of people over the second set of walls, cleaned my arms and went over those as well.  No problems so far.  Then it was back to running.  First down, then up some more.  Coming back up slope I saw Sarah and the kids waiting for me.  I stopped for a kiss and a drink of water.  She wished me luck and warned me that the next obstacle was electric.  Great.  So I ran on up the slope and turned to see the next obstacle...

The Electric Eel. 

As you approach it looks much like the Kiss of Mud.  A shallow pit with barbed wire strung over it.  Only about 9-10 inches of clearance, much of which is occupied by muddy water.  As you get closer you see the little yellow wires hanging down almost to the water.  Closer still and you hear the click pop of electric current snapping in the air.  Again there were the ubiquitous Marines standing and yelling and again I saw no benefit in waiting.  I picked a lane and dropped.  The first few strands didn't get me, then I got shocked.  The first one was a moderate shock.  It is hard to describe exactly what it is like when you are lying in water being shocked by 10,000 volts.  It locks up whatever limb it is touching.  Every muscle spasms and for a second, that limb is useless.  Then is releases and you hurry on.  Until a big one gets you.  When you get a big one every muscle in your entire body spasms at once and become completely useless for a second.  It hurts.  So you move on.  After about 6 solid shocks and one small one to my calf I reached the end and pulled myself up.  Then I turned and reached back to help the next person.  It seemed like the last row was stopping people so I and the other mudders stood there and pulled people out that needed a hand.  When I saw there were enough helping, I ran on.  Right back up the dusty, rocky slope.  It passed right back by the high point I had just left.  Already the legs were burning.  Up past the apex of this mountain was the next obstacle... 

Boa Constrictor. 

Again with the Marines and the yelling.  This time they were delicately encouraging us to dive into corrugated plastic tubes at a down angle.  These roughly 20 foot tubes emptied into another, you guessed it, pit of muddy water.  Then you had to enter another tube angled up and pull yourself through  the tube and out.  The biggest difficulty is the tubes are too narrow to get your arms beside you so you have to pull yourself along by your fingers and toes.  I made it through and out and then helped a couple people that last few feet.  Then off to running again.  It was cool because the obstacles usually worked different muscles and when you finished you felt like you could run a bit again.  This time the terrain led us up a slope and then down a slope and then another long up that led us past a sign that read, “You just finished a Warrior Dash.  This is a Tough Mudder and we are just getting started.” Then to the second water station.  A much needed glass of water and then back to running.  Here you could see a large pond nestled into the top of the mountain.  As we jogged along one side I could see the upcoming obstacle, Walk the Plank,  on the other side.  It didn't look too impressive really.  I was a little nervous about losing my glasses though.  Anyway, we kept running in loose groups of 1-3 people around the lake.  Eventually we came to the next obstacle...

Underwater Tunnels. 

This obstacle is a series of air-filled fifty gallon plastic drums lashed together.  You have to wade into the water and then duck under them.  Two remarkable things here.  The first was the dog that was sitting with the obstacle attendant.  It was a large and beautiful German Shepard. It just sat there watching us all pass with an air of, “Don't worry Citizen.  If there is any trouble I've got you.”  The next was the refreshing warmth of the water.  In cold climates this obstacle must be much worse, but here it was nice.  Another runner and I joked that we should just hang here for the next hour or so.  All too soon it was out of the water and back to running.  This time on the other side of the pond and it was only a minute before we got to the next obstacle...

Walk the Plank.

This is simply a platform built at the side of a pond.  You climb up and jump off.  There is a sign at the base saying, “If you hesitate, management reserves the right to push you off.”  Looking at the pictures on Facebook, there were some who hesitated.  I got to the top and looked down.  Crap, that looks a lot higher from here than from jogging past.  Oh well.  I jumped and heard one of the Marines yell...”Hold your glasses.” I reached up and clamped them to my face right before I hit the water.  I came up swimming lamely.  It is amazing how much harder it is to swim efficiently when you're wearing soaked running shoes.  On the bright side, coming out of the water I was almost clean-ish.  A quick run through the shallow water of the shore and we encountered an obstacle that wasn't an obstacle.  It was a series of ropes leading across the lake.  You grabbed on and pulled yourself along to the other side.  Again, the water was warm and the work wasn't too hard so it was a pleasant interlude.  And here is where I caught up with Annika.  She was pulling herself along the ropes so I hopped onto the same rope and took off.  My shorts filled with air when I hopped in and so I floated through.  This wasn't listed as an obstacle.  After coming up the other side I chatted with Annika.  Turns out her original team left her pretty early on and she was adopted by a new team.  They were all cool folks and they were helping each other through the obstacles.  I asked if she wanted me to hang around with her and she said no.  Thanks to her new team she was all right.  It all looked good so I took off.  This got me to the next obstacle...

The Mud Mile.

Quite possibly the only lame obstacle in the pack.  It was a series of five 4-foot tall muddy hills.  Step up, step down, step up step down.  The Marine at this obstacle yelled out, “Each hill is a quarter mile.”  Not your best work Big Mudder.  You then made up for it in fine style with the real obstacle...The Mountain.  This was a long stretch of running up and down slopes.  It was here where I stopped wanting to go down a slope because I knew I'd have to go up again.  Going uphill ground me down.  I would run when I thought I could, but it was never for more than a couple of hundred yards.  Then back to a fast walk.  This went on for perhaps a mile.  Then we came to the next one...

Devil's Beard. 

I came around the corner and saw another mud pit that you had to cross to get to the Devil's Beard.  The Devil's Beard is a long, narrow cargo net strapped tightly to the ground that you have to crawl under.  First I went down and stepped into the mud pit.  Now this was mud.  It was thick, slippery and tried to pull off your shoes.  The bottom was irregular to say the least and there was no steady footing.  And the earthy rotten smell.  I finished going through the mud then ducked under the net.  I heard one guy behind me say the best way to go through was backward.  That didn't sound right to me, so I crawled on hands and knees.  The gravel ate up my knees a bit and about halfway through the thirty or so yards I realized that if I went on hands and feet with my butt high in the air it cleared enough space for my head to cruise right through.  As I exited I waited and held up the net for a few of my fellow mudders.  Then off again.  This was a short up and down section that dropped us to a place where the course backed around itself.  Following the arrows I could see that an upcoming obstacle was the trenches.  I followed the arrows past that and made it to the next obstacle...

Hold Your Wood.

There was a large pile of various sized logs with a young Marine woman attending.  She says, “Pick up an individual log and carry it up.”  I looked the logs over and grabbed one that looked like a medium fire place log and it felt too light.  I dropped it and picked up another one.  This one had a satisfying heft.  The young marine woman mentioned to me that a young woman had just carried a larger team log up by herself.  I thanked her for that information said, “Go Navy” as I carried my log away.  The slope was pretty steep and of course loose and rocky.  There weren't many people around at this point so I just slogged up...and up...and up.  Around the middle of the slope a young woman holding a log about the same size as mine scampered up right past me.  Eventually, at the top, it reached a plateau.  Then it turned into a service road that led up some more.  Then that one led down and around a curve.  While I was walking I heard a helicopter roar over head.  I looked up to see it and wasn't looking where I stepped and rolled my ankle.  It hurt for a second, but nothing serious thankfully.  Back down and around where I dropped the log back off in the same pile.  Then on to the next obstacle, which was a short walk away. 

Trench Warfare.

A series of trenches had been dug then covered with wood and dirt to form a tunnel.  You're supposed to get on your knees and crawl through.  Interesting, but not particularly difficult.  I went in then out the other side.  There wasn't anyone near me to help, so I ran on.  There was a slight uphill to the next water station where they handed out sections of banana as well as water.  That was one tasty banana piece.  I didn't want to stop too long.  So I took off at a jog looking for the next obstacle.  When I saw it I stopped running.

Cliff Hanger.

I saw people going up.  The slope was the steepest, rockiest, most suck-filled slope I had ever seen.  Several people in the group around me started cursing and I heard a lot of, “Are you kidding me?”  It was steep enough that you had to use hands in some places.  It was that same loose rock and dirt as everywhere else, and it just went on forever.  I started climbing.  It was just a grind.  Every once in a while I stepped on a rock and slid back down a foot or two.  I almost lost balance and fell backwards at one point.  It was just calf and quad burning suck.  Then I saw the same young lady that passed me on "Hold Your Wood" scamper past me again.  I eventually caught back up to her near the top.  I will say this, the view from the top was amazing.  After a brief rest to dump some rocks from my shoes, I got started again.  On the way down there was a sign, “Running down a steep rocky slope isn't tough, it's stupid.”  I took the advice and went down at a quick walk.  Here is where my knees started to hurt.  Going down slopes like this is tough on the knees and lower back.  Oh well, part of the Tough Mudder pledge is, "don't whine".  At the bottom there was another short rise to a fun obstacle.

Greased Lightning.

At the top of the rise there was a pond.  I had seen it from the top of Cliff Hanger.  They had lined the sides of the pond with a slick black plastic tarp.  There was a fountain at the top pouring water down.  You jumped through the fountain and slid down the coolest slip and slide ever.  With a splash I was in the pond and swimming.  Some people were walking along the edge.  I chose to stay in the water and wade/float to the other side.  It was easier on the knees and back.  On the opposite side there were large ropes leading out of the water.  I grabbed a rope and held it while I pulled myself and walked out of the pond.  Then back to The Mountain to run for a bit.  Honestly, this is where things get a little hazy.  I wear glasses.  The vast majority of the time they were covered with mud and water and dust.  This lent a surreal quality to some of the course.  That and the similarity of the constant up and down grinding made it hard to tell where you were.  Every mile was marked with a sign, but then there were other obnoxious signs saying things like, “Only 3 miles left, I think” when there were really 4 or 5 miles left.  It was funny though.  All this leads up to the next obstacle...

Lumber Jacked.

This obstacle was just some logs raised up about neck high that you had to pull yourself over.  I watched as a team of women helped each other get over the logs and then I gave a boost to the last one.  Man, these girls are tough.  They each tried to get over by themselves first.  Only then would they accept their teammates help. Past the logs was another long, grinding run uphill and down.  Eventually I reached the next water station.  At each of the water stations they had music playing and huge vats of fresh water to drink.  Volunteers handed out cups and cut segments of banana.  Past that was the next obstacle.

Berlin Walls #2

Same thing as the first, but taller.  Here is where I really was afraid I wouldn't make it on my own.  I couldn't reach the top of the walls just by jumping.  I saw taller more athletic people than myself try.  Inevitably it resulted in a painful looking face-plant into a wooden wall.  There were two-by-six boards nailed into the wall a couple of feet off the ground.  The idea is that you can use them to lift yourself high enough to grab the top.  I gave a boost to a couple of people and then backed up to try it.  There is just enough room to get just enough boost to get my hands to the top.  I pulled up and over and down.  Then there was another.  I gave a couple more boosts then tried again.  I missed my grip and fell back to the ground.  Luckily I landed on my feet.  Then I tried again and made it.  This time I sat atop the wall appreciating the achievement and the view.  I watched a guy try and miss the wall.  Then I extended a hand and helped pull him up.  We both went down the other side.  The guy thanked me and said, “I can't believe you single manned those.”  I couldn't either.  It was a good moment.  Then a short run to the next obstacle.

Log Jammin

This was a series of log walls. You had to go over one and then under the next.  Of course, the Marine stood atop the walls yelling.  I bet they had a good show.  When I was finished, I saw that no one seemed to be having a hard time, so I moved on.  The next running segment was long and mostly downhill through the scree.  At this point I knew I shouldn't run down the hill, but my legs were so tired it seemed easier.  At least while running they could relax for a second before the next impact.  This took me largely down and out of the higher mountain area and on to the obstacle...

Hanging Tough. 

Now we were back down to the area of spectators.  Since leaving Electric Eel there really had only been a sprinkling of people watching.  Two here, one there.  Now there were large groups of people cheering  and watching the obstacle.  Hanging Tough is a series of rings connected to a frame roof by nylon straps over a pit of muddy water.  Swing from one ring to the next until the end.  The trick was to get a good swing to get you close to the next one.  Through the rings I could see Sarah and the kids waiting.  The grips were good and I moved right through.  At the other side I stopped for a kiss and swig of water.  I will admit I grew a bit emotional seeing them.  So much of the course had been alone.  Past the rings I could see the layout of the final section of the course and all the rest of the obstacles.  There was one final hill to climb and descend.  Then it was on to...


Everest is a slippery quarter pipe made more slippery by a man with a water mist cannon soaking it and anyone nearby with water.  I came down the hill and saw Sarah and the kids waiting again.  She told me she had been watching people do it and those who made it just ran at full speed and never stopped.  Those who didn't make it had hesitated and tried to sprint at the last moment.  Again, no sense in waiting.  There was no one in line with me and no one on top of the wall, so I stepped into the blast of the cold water cannon and ran.  Just like she said, I never stopped and went right up the side.  At the top I turned and waited to see if I could help the next person.  The next few made it without needing any help.  I finally got to help a few so now a wall of people were there to help the next guy.  So I moved on. 

The next stretch was, of all things, pretty flat, and led me to the obstacle I thought had the highest risk of failure for me. 

Funky Monkey.

This is an obstacle where monkey bars are slung between the rafters of a roof-type-structure over, of course, a muddy water pit.  The tricky things are that the bars are loose and spin when you grab them.  They also go up to the peak and then down to the other side.  By this time I was really tired.  I made it up to the top and then down the other side.  With three or four bars to go my left hand slipped when the ring turned and I thought I was going down.  I don't know how I kept my grip, but I did.  The course photographer saw me almost fall and snapped a picture.  I can't wait to see it.  After that it was some more relatively flat running to the last obstacle...

Electroshock Therapy.

Right before I reached the obstacle I had to pass through the field of two opposing water mist cannons.  There was no way to avoid it.  Going through was almost total whiteout and I came out the other side soaked and ready to conduct electricity.  When I could see again I saw a right turn and the yellow wires hanging down in between me and the finish.  Again I could hear the snap, pop of the wires.  I didn't want to stop running.  If I stopped, I would just think about it and nothing would change, so I didn't stop. 

The obstacle is a line of hay bales leading into a shallow mud pit with a grid of 1000 wires hooked up to 10,000 volts.  Halfway through is another line of hay bales to trip you up and then a gradual slope up and out of the mud.  I jumped the first set of hay bales and was in the wires.  The first few shocks jolted me pretty good, but I was able to stay up.  I leaped the second set of bales and kept running.  Right near the end I was hit with the biggest shock yet.  Everything went white, my whole body seized up and I started to fall.  I don't know what crazy training caused me to do it, but I managed to tuck my shoulder and roll one time before coming up on my feet and out of the wires.  Sarah told me later it looked like it was on purpose and that she thought I was just being fancy.  Nope, just lucky.  Then it was a short run to the finish.  I shook hands with the emcee and crossed the line at a jog.  A woman handed me a head band which I put on and started smiling.  I met Sarah as she came up to the finish line.  I had made it down the course faster than she could keep up with the three kids in tow.  I was shaky and tired but I had done it! 

After the finish we went back up to Hanging Tough to wait for Annika to come through.  While we waited, I rested and it was cool to see other people go through.  It was fun to stand on the sideline and scream encouragement to the competitors.  Most went through pretty well, but a few had nasty falls.  A few people lost their grip on the last ring and fell into the wooden frame of the obstacle.  I wouldn't doubt if there were a few broken ribs out there.  And this is where Tough Mudder helped restore my faith in humanity.  I saw teammates carrying each other down those treacherous hills.   I saw them pulling each other along.  The camaraderie is not hype, it is real.  And it is awesome.  I saw people trip on the second set of hay bales on the Electroshock Therapy obstacle and face plant in the mud while being shocked. Their teammates would turn and go back in to get them.  One girl even dropped her cellphone after tripping and I watched her teammate crawl back in and get it for her. It was awesome to behold the human spirit on display. 

Annika appeared and we cheered her through the rest of the course.  She finished well.  Apparently the last shock got her too and she went down at the end.  It got one of her teammates as well and he bloodied his nose.  Everybody had bumps and bruises and bloody parts, but they all had smiles too.  It was a great day. I would love to do another Mudder one day.