The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.

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.

 

24 Below and No Water

GettySnowflakeSometime I go looking for an adventure. Sometimes it finds me. Yesterday, it found me bright and early at 6:30am.

My sister was getting ready for work and said, “Michelle, there’s no water.” Bolting out of bed and cursing all the way, I wondered why I had stopped just shy of pencil thick when I left the water running the night before (standard practice in a log cabin during a Wyoming winter). I should have gone for the full pencil width, but that didn’t matter now. We were officially frozen. When the neighbor knocked on my door at 7am (having seen the lights on) to ask if I had water, he commented that it was currently negative twenty-four outside. I began to worry if the problem was a little bigger than a pencil width and briefly contemplated moving to Miami or Phoenix. By 9am I had confirmed that all four cabins were frozen and had began texting the landlord. Meanwhile, I talked to a sympathetic friend who asked if I was going to get water from the creek. “Yes,” I responded, “I’m going to fill a bucket so I can flush the toilet. The drains aren’t frozen and ice on the banks of the creek looks new and not very thick, so I think I can break it.” His reply was a serious sounding, “I was joking”. Oh. I wasn’t.

The landlord suspected that with all of us running water and all of us frozen, the problem might be at the well house. Blasting a small heater on the pipes exiting the ground, he had us thawed out by 11am. Still, it was enough time to appreciate the marvel that is modern plumbing. When the water froze, I adapted the mind-set that I was on a posh camping trip and knew that I could happily camp for months on end (because I’ve done it). This is a liberating feeling.  While it was true that this camping trip had the added benefit of a warm(ish) house, a stove and drains, I began seriously eying my water consumption. When your water is measure out in actual gallon jugs, you get a real sense for how much you consume. Some sources say the average American uses 80-200 gallons per day. Why the large discrepancy? A large bathtub is 50 gallons alone, so consider the water suck of a nice green lawn in the aforementioned Phoenix.

So for now, I’m trying to appreciate the frugality of water consumption that my no-bathtub cabin forces upon me and start to look at my water consumption on a gallon basis. As for the freeze, the positive spin would be that a gentle environmental awareness reminder is never a bad thing.

Book of the Day: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. An NPR correspondentt travels the world over measuring the happiness/location correlation. Funny and interesting.

Kayaking in the Snow

When I worked with the public, people were constantly mistaking me for a meteorologist. “We’re thinking about coming in Aprtober, what will the weather be like then?” was put on me several times a day. My steady answer was “it could be warm, it could be snowing. I would come prepared for anything.” If you want to get out regularly and live in the mountains, these are words to live by.

A few flakes in the sky turned to a full-on flurry

"Well, we're here. Who knew it would be snowing?"

When visiting Casper, my friend suggested we go sea kayaking on a cold October day and I thought “sure, that could be interesting”. After all, I’d kayaked class III in 20-30 degree weather, so a little fall chill on a peaceful lake didn’t seem like a bad idea. However, when it started snowing hard enough to prompt a last-minute purchase of hand and foot warmers at a gas station on the drive, I began to get slightly concerned. Our end destination was Lake Alcova, about 40 miles Southwest of Casper. We may have used four-wheel-drive to pull into the parking lot. By the time we ready to put the tandem kayak in the water, it was damn near approaching a blizzard.

I warned my friend that I’d spent too much time in cold water to put up with it for long. If things were just plain sucky (a technical term), I would want to get back in the warm car a lot sooner than later. He agreed, but I suspect he was secretly overjoyed that I didn’t call him nuts from the get-go. Donning a dry suit (previously known in my whitewater days as a “drowning bag” from their tendency to fill up with water when torn), brimmed hat, two pairs of gloves and sunglasses to stand in for goggles, we stupidly pushed away from shore.

I really began to think we were crazy when the ducks started giving me looks. However, the intense fog, snow and my unfamiliarity with the area made the lake magical and more than a little spooky. The excitement kept me going. We would silently paddle up to towering shadowy figures that would reveal themselves at the last second to be brilliantly red rock islands or looming canyon walls. Unsuspecting duck flocks scattered as they quacked, “just when we thought tourist season was over, these two dumb asses get a bright idea.” At least, that’s what I think they were saying.

I finally threw the towel in when the water dripping down the shaft of my paddle soaked my outer gloves and my hands were more involuntarily curled around the paddle than physically capable of independent movement. On the way back, my friend asked how the foot pegs were working out. “Foot pegs?” I said, “What foot pegs?”. A quick shuffle of my feet revealed conveniently located foot pegs that would allow me to get brace myself in the boat and get much more weight in every paddle stoke. We were 10 minutes from the take-out (river talk for the end of the trip), but boy did we fly. So the lesson is this: familiarize yourself with the gear before your adventure. Just because you’re a whitewater stud doesn’t mean you know jack about a tandem sea kayak.

Song of the day: Another Way to Die (click on song name to listen, then hit “back” in your browser to return to blog) by Jack White and Alicia Keys. It’s from Quantum of Solace and has some rockin’ piano.

.