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Tough Mudder – Only Kinda Tough: Part 3

The half-pipe, where one team member lost a ring- out of his nipple.

Welcome to the  not-so-epic conclusion of Tough Mudder! I last left off berating the Chernobyl jacuzzi for drying out my skin, but I have not yet addressed the obstacle that gave me the most anxiety before the race: the 12 foot high walls.

Aptly named the “Berlin Walls,” the wooden planks were distinctly void of ropes, ladders or handholds. While I had trouble finding pictures of the walls, I bet even the least imaginative can image a 12 foot tall wall. My anxiety was due to the fact that I cannot solo get myself over a 12 foot wall, but luckily this was a team-oriented event. While our method for getting over the wall varied, the easiest for me was when two people clasped their hands together and I put one foot in each hand. Once I got my hands on the top of the wall with my body weight moving in that direction, I could push all the way up. On the top, I straddled the wall then fully extended my body down the other side before dropping to my feet. However, I saw more than a few women yelling for help down the other side. Since I was down, I went over to one such woman and provided a spot used in rock climbing when someone is bouldering (climbing low elevation technical rock). The spot isn’t designed to ‘catch’ someone and doesn’t actually touch them until they are dropping, which is when the spotter ‘guides’ their descent so they don’t land flat on their back. But in this scenario, my spotting skills were grossly overlooked by someone judging me for my rather insubstantial size, which is a long way of saying this: a man on top of the wall who was apparently on the same team of the screaming woman took one look at me with my ‘boulder spot’ and started yelling “could I get some DUDES over here to help her?” Whatever man.

I bruised the front of my hip going head-first down the giant slip-and-slide. This guy obviously gets more style points.

But the walls weren’t my only concern – I was a little worried about this whole ‘electric shock’ thing. The site showed live wires and touted 10,000 volts, which seemed like an awfully high number to me. Someone more electrically minded than myself said, “it’s not the volts you have to worry about – the amperage is what kills you.” Reasoning that it was unlikely that they would be ‘killing people’, my plan was to watch others go through it – if someone outweighing me by 100+ pounds was knocked down, I might just skip it.

However, by the time I actually reached the obstacle I formed a new plan; pick the biggest guy on the team, let him get a head start and run right behind him. It worked brilliantly and I may have been the only one on the team that didn’t get shocked.

Pick the part of this picture that gives you a reason to run. Everyone over 21 gets a free beer at the end!

My final pre-race anxiety was what to wear and I’m hoping this helps out future Tough Mudders. Beaver Creek, the ski resort where the race was held, has a base elevation of 8,100 feet and a summit elevation of 11,400 feet. At the end of June, those elevations are maybe starting to think about summer and the numerous water features had me more than a little concerned about hypothermia. I finally decided on my long REI cycling tights with neoprene shorts on top and my thinnest (hence quickest drying) synthetic Patagonia top. In hindsight, I would have ditched the shorts (they fell down when wet and running) and an even tighter shirt. I would recommend only skin-tight, synthetic clothing. Wet fabric flopping around is just annoying and clothing that has any extra room will shift when swimming. As for hypothermia, I did finish the race cold but not cold enough to lose motor function.

When all was said and done, I’m super glad I did the race and while it’s not all that ‘tough’, it has raised over $1.75 million dollars for the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps out severely injured service members and is the best reason to run I’ve heard in a long time.

Music-site-of-the-day: Songs to lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling to

 

 

 

Tough Mudder – Only Kinda Tough: Part 2

The race start was a controlled fall down a steep dirt slope with loose gravel. Impressive.

Last week, I gave an overview on a 10 mile race called “Tough Mudder” that bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” This week, I’ll break down the specific obstacles that made me say “probably not.”

The start of the race was impressive. We hiked up steep vertical for about 10 minutes while a charismatic announcer gave us the skinny: if you’re pregnant, don’t go through the electrical shock obstacle because it’s like being inside a microwave. Duh. If you brought gloves to wear (tighter fitting mechanic-like gloves), pat yourself on the back. If you didn’t, say “that was stupid” (after which a few hundred people obediently chanted). After the national anthem and a bang, we were off. Our team choose a steady shuffle for the descent, of which I wholeheartedly approved of as a few of the more aggressive and less coordinated runners ate dirt HARD.

After the hill, we hiked up the better part of a blue (intermediate) ski run before coming to the icy ponds. The first was a huge muddy hole about chest-deep. I half-swam, half-ran through the pond until a banged my shin hard on a massive boulder completely hidden by the murky water. It felt how I always imagined a certain fall while climbing: the one where you clear a ledge and take a whipper (fall) and bang your shins at a steep 45° angle into a 90° rock corner. And I have the scar to prove it.

My sister and I noted a surplus of guys willing to lend a helping hand.

The pond with barrels to swim under came immediately after the mud hole. If you missed last week, a photo and synopsis of this obstacle is there. What I didn’t mention is the hundreds of heat foils laying on the ground and bushes immediately after the barrel pond. I got a hand out of the pond (there was actually a surplus of hands from male non-team members throughout the race. Very gentlemanly.) and wrapped myself in a foil for a few minutes before we all started running again to heat up.

The first aid station was awesome – electrolyte drinks, water and cliff blocks. All the aid stations after this featured water and bananas and I didn’t even need to break out the packet of Justin’s honey and peanut butter I had on me in case of bonking.

The icy 'Chernobyl jacuzzi'. You can't say they're not creative. And yes, that arrow means 'swim under'.

But I know what you really care about is the obstacles. Quite frankly, there were quite a few weak attempts before the next obstacle of note. On the way up to a wooden tank, an elderly lady with perfectly coiffed hair and a sun umbrella leaned over from the sidelines (crowds were gathered at a few key obstacles) and yelled in my face, “you go girl!”. If made me feel good. But then my killer logo recognition made me feel bad. Piled in front of the tank were hundreds of plastics bag sporting a cute little polar bear. They were ice bags. I climbed the wooden slats to the edge of the tank and confirmed my suspicions with an added bonus – the water was glowing. The tank I was about to plunge into was bright red, but the one next door was neon green and next to that an electric blue.

Note to the coordinators of Tough Mudder: my skin massively freaked out after this race. Super, painfully dry. I blame the dye in this obstacle.

But there’s more! The Tough Mudder eval concludes right here, next week.

Recipe-of-the-day: I find solace in chocolate and this one is from the lady herself: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake by Martha Stewart. Don’t worry – it has video.

 

Tough Mudder – Only Kinda Tough: Part 1

No one I know is in this picture, but I like their expressions just the same.

On June 25th, 2011 I finished a 10-mile trail run with obstacles which bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet”. My short answer is, “probably not”.

As anyone who has been on www.ToughMudder.com can see, the hype for the race is high. For some people, this build-up is completely legitimate and it may be the toughest event they will ever do in their lives. But for others that have had ‘epics’ of some sort or another in the outdoor arena, no event can compare.

With an event like Tough Mudder, there is a built-in ‘stop’ button that is distinctly lacking in other arenas. For example, if you happen to be up on Buck Mountain in the Teton range and you slip on some rotten spring snow, you are completely and wholly responsible for self-arresting (aka stopping) yourself with an ice axe before sliding over a 50 ft. cliff. And should the worst not happen, you’ve now got a helicopter ride between you and serious medical attention.

In Tough Mudder, if you’re so exhausted to the point of losing bowel control (this happens in another tough event known as the Leadville 100, which is a 100 mile trail run), you can get a buddy to flag down an EMT on a 4-wheeler. But there was an unexpected consequence to the amount of control the event presented.

I discovered this gem of a surprise early into the race, probably somewhere in the second mile. The obstacle was swimming through a pond with three or four sets of big blue barrels strong across the surface of the 39° water (see photo). I plunged into the pond, took a breath and came up on the other side of the barrel with the start of a killer ice-cream headache. Now, my various whitewater exploits have led to way too much time in 39° water, but this was different. When you’re swimming a class IV/V rapid like Dowd Shoot during spring run off, there is no thought process in dunking your head underwater. The river takes care of that for you. But here, suddenly, I was in charge of what seemed like a very obvious decision – why would I choose to go underwater when I was perfectly capable of swimming on top, or better yet, getting out? Yet all around me, friends I have revered as intelligent beings were doing that very thing. This is when I realized there is a certain amount of self-discipline and yes, stupidity in the the whole ‘adventure race’ equation. Just call me stupid.

So what exactly made the race tough and what was silly? It’s all coming in photos galore (provided by the Tough Mudder webiste) next week right here.

Kitchen-gadget-of-the-day: Bodum Frother. Do you have one? Let me know how you like it!

Delayed Realizations

Better late than never? Mountain Kidd is catching up after many weeks of adventures!

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Faked running enthusiasm for the sake of the camera.

Although I did learn many lessons in my teens, some appear to need reinforcement. Specifically, the one to the effect of “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” That reinforcement came in the form of the 2011 Bolder Boulder.

The night before, a group of about 10 of us runners gathered for a spaghetti dinner. Shortly after dinner, someone decided tequila shots were in order. Somehow, I reasoned that as I run fairly regularly and this group prides itself on eating max junk while running a minimum speed, I would be fine.

The next morning showed promise. As we were walking to the race start around 7:30 am (ouch), Twisted Pine Brewing Company offered us a sweet deal: we wear their bumper stickers on our back while running and we get a free beer at the end of the race. Brilliant. But then we got to the race.

The start of the Bolder Boulder is one of those situations that makes you want to shout, “moo, moo, BAAH”. 50,000 runners are herded with amazing precision to keep everyone starting at their designated time. It’s a testament to the folks at Bolder Boulder that we hit our 7:57 start time exactly on the dot. However, by 7:58 it dawned on me- I was running. I was going to have to continue to run for 6.3 miles. It was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to be doing on that rainy, post-tequila morning.

But ran I did. Along the way, our crew found ice-pops, several varieties of donuts, PBR, sausage, cupcakes and a few more goodies I’m sure I’m forgetting. I may have eaten more calories than I burned, which is no small feat. I would chiefly like to applaud Stacey, who hit the slip-and-slide, belly-flopped into a kiddie pool, and spotted cupcakes through a crowd of some 40 runners. In my book, you were the star of the 2011 Bolder Boulder and I’m sorry mild hypothermia set in after the race.

And hats off to the folks at Twisted Pine. It turns out the Bloody Billy’s Chilies (a wheat beer with fresh Serrano, Habenero, Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Fresno chili peppers and topped with V8) was the only drink that could ever entice me into a two-day hangover.

Micro-brew of the day: No, it’s not Twisted Pine- they already got free advertising. This one is a micro of a micro – it was brewed by our generous Boulder host, none other than Aaron Lucas. If you’re into brewing, check out his mad-scientist style at http://ferment.in/. Sorry, it’s not yet in stores near you.

Kiwi Wine

Looking over the Redoubt Hills vineyard and beyond.

If you’ve been reading Mountain Kidd the past few weeks, you’ll know that “Kiwi” is another term for “New Zealand”. If not, you’re probably thinking that kiwi wine sounds gross but interesting; I agree.

The wine I’m actually talking about is from a boutique vineyard by the name of Redoubt Hills. My fiance, Colby, is now a federally and state licensed importer and as such has become the official gatekeeper for Redoubt Hills into the United States. Rationalizing that this made New Zealand a business trip, we set aside a few days to visit our new business friends at Redoubt Hills.

Our travels in New Zealand began on the North Island in the Wellington area, but Redoubt Hills is located in the northern half of the south island next to the Motueka River. There are two ways to travel between the islands and as the costs are nearly identical, we choose to take the ferry over to the island and the plane back, which was dumb.

“Wine Spectator calls it “one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world”, says the Interislander ferry website, but I can’t say I agree. I can’t say I disagree either, because I couldn’t see anything. The sky was spitting sideways and the swells significant enough that our 150 meter ship lolled from side to side for the majority of our 3 hour trip. Luckily, New Zealanders are particularly fond of ginger beer, which has real ginger but not real beer and is the perfect remedy for motion sickness.

Colby (R) and Daniel (L) speaking with the winemaker extraordinaire (Justin, center).

New Zealand is so beautiful and varied that it’s actually hard to quantify another beautiful place, so I’ll just say that the Nelson area delivered in spades. Lesley and Daniel, owners of Redoubt Hill, welcomed us into their home and gave us an up-close and personal look at the vineyards surrounding their home and even arranged for an extensive tour and interview with their winemaker. Their vineyard is incredibly steep, which mandates that all work, including harvesting grapes, is done by hand. It’s also on a very unique soil dubbed ‘separation point granite’. Terroir is a hot term in the world of wine, which loosely means ‘specificity of place’ and more specifically the flavor that the soil imparts to the wine. In the case of Redoubt Hill, the wine comes off with a distinct (and very nice) clean and minerally taste (these are my laymen wine terms, for official reviews, click here).

And Redoubt Hills isn’t the only vineyard in the region. We’re hard at work drinking samples from other vineyards to find the next great red that isn’t available to the U.S. It’s a tough job, but I’m glad we’re doing it.  But even if you’re not into fermented grapes, the Motueka valley and its close proximity to the famed Abel Tasman National Park make it easy to see why the area is revered by Kiwis and expats alike.

 

 

Chickens in my Face

Colby and I cleaning eggs. The giant egg in the background is a mini-fridge, which is great.

After my blog entry last week, you know how exceptional the living conditions are at Pasture Poultry. But I failed to address the ultimate goal of having all these happy chickens- that would be eggs. In theory, each chicken lays one egg per day. Multiply that by 8,000 chickens and you get (wait for it) 8,000 eggs a day that must be collected. Our generous hosts were concerned about me having the full Kiwi farm experience, so they kindly plopped me on the back of a 4-wheeler and sent me off collecting with one of their regular employees.

Although she was a part-time collector, the high-schooler they sent me out with wasn’t one to trust from the beginning. She started my training by trying to gross me out. First I was to go through the waist-high feed house and bang on the walls to ensure all the feed was dropping down and not getting stuck. The feed house was about 20 degrees warmer than outside and had a door about 3 feet high. It was also filled with chickens I tried to delicately toe out of the way. Next, we opened the various doors that held the eggs. This was like opening a box of donuts at a diet camp. I’m not sure how this plays out with natural selection, but these chickens (or Chucks, in Kiwi terms) want the eggs so much that they fly up to the shelves where the eggs are located (approximately face level) in an attempt to keep you, the evil collector, from getting their tasty eggs. That’s right; they want to eat them. At first I tried shooing them out and even let one peck at my shoe for a moment. Five minutes later I did as the high schooler demonstrated and grabbed a hand full of tail feathers while pulling backwards. “Think of them as teaching them to fly in reverse”, I was advised.

We sorted the eggs into three piles: good, dirty, and cracked. The ‘dirty’ part is as gross as it sounds. It either has poop or blood on it. “This really grosses out some of the townies,” commented my farm-hardy instructor. I can’t imagine why. Next, we loaded the eggs onto trays held securely in place on a custom-made box mounted on the rear of the 4-wheeler. Then the fun really began.

As I suspect most working farms are, this was a “waste not want not farm”. Those dirty eggs had to be cleaned, and there was no machine to do it. With a damp rag, we set to wiping off the lesser of the ‘dirty’ eggs and put them on a small conveyor belt with individual cradles for each egg. This machine then sorted the eggs based on weight while another human grabbed various assortments of eggs and packed them in a carton to be picked up and distributed in the surrounding cities.

I’m glad I did it, but I don’t ever want to do it again. I will never, ever, bulk about paying $4+ for a carton of organic, free-range eggs. There are certain things in this world that I just want to pay others to do, and collecting eggs is now one of them.

Liquor-recipe-of-the-day: Welcome summer (wherever it may be…) with Tequila-Soaked Watermelon Wedges. Yum!

 

If You’re Chicken

One of many hen houses for the 8,000 chickens at Pasture Poultry.

I mean that literally. If you were a chicken instead of a human, you would want to be a chicken at Pasture Poultry in Rangitikei, New Zealand. The reasons are are numerous, but the list of things that humans value most for quality of life is startlingly similar to what makes a great life for a chicken.

Do you like to know where your food comes from? Pasture Poultry takes the locavore movement to the next level as their chickens can literally see where their food comes from- all the feed is grown (organically, or course) just a few hops down from their own residential pasture. Just as humans love space to roam, these chickens are organic and free-range chicken in the truest sense of the word with oodles of pastures and other farm oddities to occupy their time. In fact, I noticed a favorite dust-bath location just happens to be under a seldom used tractor. While I don’t think it’s the wisest of places to hang out, chickens aren’t really known for their intelligence, either.

As for the inarguable law of the food chain, Kiwi chickens have it easy. There are no coyotes, foxes, wolves or bears. In fact, the occasional hawk is biggest chicken threat, and if chickens had the brains to run inside when the hawks circled above, that would be the end of that.

So if reincarnation turns out to be an actual thing and you get a turn at being a chicken, ask for Pasture Poultry. Just watch out for the farmer’s son, Pete. He’s all grown-up now (and practiced as a veterinarian for a time!) but he has a trick that involving putting chickens down for a 10 second nap by way of motion sickness (or so it would seem to me). Check out the pics below for Pete in action.

Step 1: Grab a chicken (any chicken) and tuck its head under wing (as it does when sleeping voluntarily).

 

Step 2: Swing the chicken from side to side (a lot)!

Step 3: Set chicken down and laugh while it sleeps. Who said chickens were the only dumb ones?

 

 

 

Shooting Bunnies with Kiwis

To say Godzone, or New Zealand, is geographically isolated is an understatment.

If you were a Kiwi (a person from New Zealand), you would likely be laughing at the title of this blog post. Why? Because one of their many colorful expressions is the too cute “shooting bunnies” euphemism for “farting”. Hours after learning the new phrase my fiancé Colby announced to much hilarity that he had  “launched a rabbit”. This was the first of many blunders throughout our two weeks in New Zealand.

Although their official language is English, there is a bit of a language barrier. For example, when you’re asked if you would like a biscuit with your tea, say yes because you’re actually getting a cookie. And a tramp in the woods isn’t someone with loose morals in a non-urban setting but rather a hike. However, the word substitutions pale in comparison to pronouncing names of various towns, which can be a problem when getting directions. New Zealand has a thoroughly odd mix of traditional Bristish names interspersed a more than liberal sprinkling of Maori names. As New Zealand’s first inhabitants, the Maori language is decidedly un-English. For example, our friends live outside Wellington in Plimmerton, which is along the Porirua harbour. Other towns in this area are named Camborne, Karehana Bay, Mana, Onepoto, Papakowhai, Paremata, Pauatahanui, Pukerua Bay, Takapuwahia, Titahi Bay and Whitby. Our friends were particularly impressed with my pronunciation of “Whitby”.

Finally, a word about guardrails- there are none. There are some thin wires held up by sticks with white paint on top, but there are more adept at holding sheep off the road than cars on the road. In a country with 40 million sheep and 4 million people, this is an issue. This means the steep winding roads necessary in a topography formed by earthquakes and volcanic activity are largely a ‘drive at your own risk and try not to get sick’ sort of deal. Did I mention that they drive on the wrong side of the road?

More specific adventures to follow, including egg collecting and cow milking. It’s a rural country, folks.

Cool photo collection of the day: From the photographic expert, National Geographic

 

Urban Adventure

The L train in downtown Chicago

With nuclear winds in Casper, a few urban trips and a general sickliness about me, the outdoor adventures have been a bit short. However, it has recently been brought to my attention that adrenaline-pumping adventure can also be had in a large city such as Chicago.

On my last weekend in Chicago (last weekend), I thought, ‘This is the most comfortable I have ever felt in a city. What a nice, clean urban environment.’ While my extreme comfort may have been due to the short duration of my visit, my feeling were a welcome change from my usual ‘caged caffeinated rabbit’ syndrome where a search for open space is met with a frantic dash from gate to fence to ‘Private Property- NO TRESPASSING’ sign.

These feeling remained until I got a call from ‘B’ last night.

B, being a conscientious consumer who often utilizes public transportation, was riding the famous L train around 11pm in the evening. Happily reading her Nook e-reader, she noticed a 14-year-old male occasionally staring at her. Aware but not concerned, she continued reading until the Punk jumped up from his seat and grabbed the Nook from her hands and dashed out the open doors. Unthinkingly (obviously), B also darted out the train doors and chased said Punk down while screaming, “You little (expletive)! I’m going to catch you! I’m calling the cops while I run!”. In heavy boots and a few years past 14, B was no where near catching the Punk. But the fact that B had given chase combined with her stunning intellect caused Punk dropped the Nook and B is happily reading it again today. But not on the L.

Disclaimer: B would like to make it clear that chasing petty thieves is generally not a good idea.

80’s throw-back link-of-the-day: 8-Bit Boulder (other cities available, too)

In Awe of Warmth

Barton Springs (admittingly NOT in December)

I certainly haven’t been blogging a lot lately, but I have been enjoying myself immensely- Texas style. Oh ye doubters, you have read correctly- one can enjoy oneself thoroughly in Texas.

Our holiday journey began in San Antonio, where it promptly poured down rain for the first time in 60 days. On a misty afternoon jog, I noticed a tall gauge in the bottom of arroyo. While I spent a month in Mexico to learn the term ‘arroyo’ (a deep gully cut by an intermittent stream; a dry gulch), those born in Texas know it as an everyday word. Beware the arroyo- it can fill quickly. Hence the taller-than-me gauge. Luckily that particular arroyo did not fill at the particular moment, but much like signs for a ‘monsoon evacuation route’, it does impart a sense of the meteorological possibilities.

For an outdoorsy person like myself, San Antonio does have one major asset- and that would be Austin. An hour and twenty minutes from San Antonio, Austin throws everything you thought you knew about Texas right in your face. Organic cafes, live music (and not just the twangy kind) and outdoor adventure abounds. Barton Springs Pool is just one in-town example. At a massive three-acres, the pool is fed from underground springs and stays a 68 degrees year-round. To a Michigan girl, this is a downright pleasant temperature. Texans tend to think it a bit cool and I initially thought its official name was “Barton Cold Springs”.

We then moved on to Houston, which totally surprised me with a vibrant sailing scene. A few days after Christmas I found myself on my future father-in-law’s beautiful 41′ Morgan sailboat with 20 knot winds. The sheer concept of sailing in December took a while to wrap my head around, but it proved yet again that there is adventure in unexpected places- as long as you can adapt to your environment.

Cool shopping bag design of the day

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