Tag Archives: running

Bare Essentials

Photo from the midway point of the Waldo Canyon Trail, taken 3/17/12

As I write up this post on Monday morning the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs has consumed 3,600 acres, is at 0% containment, and has displaced more than 6,000 residents from their homes.

My family and I, thankfully, are still at home. It was a close call though, as we missed the mandatory evacuation zone by a half-mile. This was both good and bad news. The good being – obviously – that we didn’t have to pick up and move myself, my husband, my step-son, my roommate, and five cats as well as whatever worldly possessions we deemed essential. The bad news was, we were still really close to a fire that had the potential to change direction and come our way at a moment’s notice.

The fire started on Pyramid Mountain in Waldo Canyon (the site of one of my favorite hiking/running trails – a challenging mile and a half hike to a 3.5 mile loop and then back to the parking lot for close to seven miles of gorgeous scenery) about noonish on Saturday. Less than an hour later the evacuations began as the fire spread at an alarming rate thanks to the high temps, the dry forest, and the difficult terrain.

My roomie and I cut our errands short and headed back to the house just in case we ended up having to bug out. Then we spent the rest of the weekend keeping track of the fire on the internet and waiting. By nightfall you could see the glow of the flames behind the mountain.

Standing in the path of a forest fire is one of those things that makes you feel very small and insignificant. It also makes you evaluate the important things in life. In those early hours our focus was on getting ourselves and our animals out of danger as quickly and safely as possible if it became necessary. We are so lucky to have such good friends. My phone was going off constantly with messages/calls checking on us and offering us places to stay should it become necessary.

As the weekend wore on and the “essentials” had already been packed up, I caught myself wandering through the house and looking at things thinking: I should put that in the bag. Most of the time it was for stuff that was easily replaceable, and on the rare occasion it wasn’t I did actually put it into a bag or move it to a place where it was easily accessible. (The inevitable consequence of this is that our house is a total mess now.) The reality is though, because of the way we’ve chosen to live, there’s really not a lot of material things we can’t do without. All our photos are either digital to begin with or have been scanned into the computer so it’s as simple as grabbing the external hard drive and going.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t things I would cry over or that we’d make every effort to save what we could if we had the time. I’d just scored a patio set on clearance on Friday *laughs* and was pretty upset over the idea that I’d never get to use it.

More upsetting though is the thought of my beloved canyon trail. Waldo has been my training spot through two Tough Mudders, a Spartan race, and probably my absolute favorite choice for hiking. (I was even tempted to go up there Saturday morning, but choose sleep over running. Now part of me wishes I’d gotten one last run in there before it burned.) Now it’s ground zero for a fire that will hopefully be contained by the time you read this. It will recover, of course, the sad fact is these fires are a long time coming and not totally unexpected. It still hurts though, and I’m gearing up to help with whatever trail reconstruction will be necessary when the time comes.

Hopefully by the time you all get to read this, the fire will be contained and we’ll have gotten some rain to help out the firefighters. If you’re interested in donating, you can send contributions to the Red Cross or the Pikes Peak Human Society. Additionally, you can consider contacting Fire Rehab which is a support organization for emergency situations that provides firefighters with essential supplies like water and food.

Shock to the System

First off I’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to my friends and family who’ve been so supportive. All the good luck messages and cheering was much appreciated. I know some of you think I’m nut-cakes *winks* for doing stuff like this to myself, but you love me anyway.

A little under a year ago I undertook a great adventure on something of a whim. For those not in the know, Tough Mudder is one of those “mud races” you’ve been hearing about. One of the original distance races that bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” People would disagree with me over that, but I think for the Colorado venue it’s the truth.

This year – for reasons none of us can explain – we did it all over again.

The course this year was challenging. Even were it not for the strange, stressful feeling that seemed to be dogging not only me but some of my companions, the course for the 2012 race was called as the most challenging TM course to date.

Here’s what you do – find a mountain, preferably above 9,000 feet with some good Black Diamond slopes. Run up it to the top. Throw yourself off. Now do it again. This time let someone spray you with a fire hose while you slog your way upward. Fill your shorts up with ice and crawl across some rocks while velociraptors kick you. Then get a bucket of ice water and stand in it while you stick your tongue in a light socket. Oh, and just for fun … run the mountain again.

That’s Tough Mudder. Doesn’t it sound fun?

*laughs* Actually, it is. It’s a challenge, but that’s what I was looking for. We started the course with five veteran Mudders and six new folks. I was filled with nervous excitement as we climbed over an eight foot wall just to get to the start area. There was some heart-pumping music, the MC was in fine form (what little we could hear given how far back we were), we sang the anthem, recited the TM pledge, and counted down.

Then we were off, down the mountain, up the mountain … more up the mountain. I was feeling pretty good, keeping up a decent jogging pace and staying within sight of my group. My best girl – JB – was right there with me and we stayed together throughout the whole 12 mile course. Yes, 12 miles, the course was two miles longer than last year because the folks at Tough Mudder are sneaky bastards.

Our first major obstacle (besides the damn mountain) was a cargo net strung over the ground that you had to walk/crawl under. There is a benefit to being short at times *grins* and we were able to mostly navigate our way through it without too much trouble. Cue more running, some crawling through tunnels, another obstacle I can’t remember and then a water station!

Unfortunately, right after the water station was the first of THREE obstacles involving electricity. See TM thinks it’s funny to zap you with about 10,000 volts because running up a mountain isn’t enough of a challenge, and apparently they decided that waiting until the end wasn’t good enough either … so this year they added in two more. The first one involved a low-crawl through a pit of water with little evil yellow wires hanging down. I gave a shrug, crawled in and busted across as fast as I could. Got a pop (which is really all that feels like, someone snapping you with a large rubber band) on the leg and kept going. At some point close to the end though, I turned my head and got nailed right in the temple with a wire. The resulting shock rattled my teeth and had me seeing stars. I scrambled out and made it halfway up the hill to my team before I had to stop. One of my teammates dragged me up the rest of the way and I stood there swaying back and forth for a minute or so before we were on our way again.

Then we were upon the Berlin Walls, one of my nemesis from last year. See, last year my arm strength wasn’t up to par (okay, let’s be honest, last year almost nothing was up to par :D ) and I had a really hard time getting myself up onto anything without a LOT of help. This year, I scrambled up my brother-in-law and boosted myself to the top of the (10? 12 foot?) wall without any trouble at all. Got over the second with a pair of hands from another teammate and we were back to running.

It would take me all day to detail the whole race, but you can see the course map HERE. Just bear in mind it’s more like a guideline than an actual map. *grins* Obstacles 8 & 9 were missing, possibly due to the water level being too dangerous.

JB and I ran, staggered, walked through some really lovely mountains. We laughed as we attempted to swing across a pool of water with rings and our short T-Rex arms allowed us one ring before dumping us into the cold water. We muttered curses as we crawled over rocks and hard ice, decided to bail on the second set of tall walls and danced our way across a balance beam appropriately called “Twinkle Toes” like champs.

After by-passing the Funky Monkey (monkey bars, another nemesis of mine – the arm strength is good but not that good yet) we were upon Everest.

Dun dun DUN!

Last year I attempted Everest, a massive half-pipe you have to run up and unless you’re half Spiderman hope to the PTB some kind soul at the top will grab you and haul you up the rest of the way. *laughs* Last year I didn’t make it and didn’t have the energy to try again.

This year I wasn’t going to fail it. I sprinted across the ground and up that half-pipe after making eye contact with some guy on the far side, got to the top and muttered a few choice curses as my fingers just barely brushed his and gravity kicked in.

“Do it again, girl.” I heard him say as I slid back down the half-pipe. Followed by, “I’m gonna need some help over here.”

I trudged back to the start, trying to get my breath and trying to ignore the fact that my feet were screaming mercy. I’d stepped on a rock with my left heel about a mile and a half into the race and the downhill hadn’t been all that kind to me. I was dying, I wanted to be done … but I didn’t want to say I hadn’t gotten up this.

I let another guy go in front of me, watching as he almost effortlessly scaled this evil mountain in front of me. Once he was on top and the guys were ready I sucked in a deep breath and sprinted…

This time SUCCESS! Of a sort. *laughs* The first guy was able to grab my arm and I locked onto him with a death grip. A second helpful stranger grabbed my other arm and I proceeded to try and get my leg up over the lip with no luck. After several attempts, I finally got them to give one more gigantic pull as I swung my leg up and over. I heard the crowd cheer and I fell on top of my saviors with a heart-felt “I love you guys!”

“No problem.” Was the reply.

*laughs* No problem. That’s TM spirit right there. You just hauled some total stranger over the lip of a half-pipe and your response is “no problem.”

After working out the cramp in my calf, I made my way down and JB and I tackled the last of the electric shock obstacles like champs (no face-planting for me this year, thanks!), crossed the finish line arm-in-arm and received our orange headbands.

I am now the veteran of two Tough Mudders, a Spartan Military Sprint, and several smaller 5k races. For a girl who never liked to run much, who’s not all that good at lifting things, and who hates the feeling of dried dirt on her fingers … well, it’s no surprise people think I’m crazy.

For completely awesome photos of my teammates, you can hit up my husband’s FaceBook page. And for even more inspiring photos you can visit the Tough Mudder page.

K.B.

Summer Swing

It’s the last day of May. We’ve been sliding headlong into summer for a few weeks now, but the weather is more serious about it. One of the results of this lovely temp-change is that I’m forced to adjust my workout schedule.

I’m not a fan of change. :P When it’s my idea – sure! – but when it’s forced on me I tend to dig my heels in and resist. I think I’m getting a little better with it and the reality is, that as summer wears on, trying to run when I come home from work at two in the afternoon just isn’t a wise idea. So something’s gotta shift.

Physically I’m pretty flexible. Mentally, not so much. *grins* I don’t like surprises, I’m not a fan of new routes or impromptu detours. Tricky when I have a husband who loves those things. Funny thing is when I travelled to London the year I graduated from college, I spent most of my time there just getting off the Underground and walking down a random street. Apparently if I’m the one deciding on the adventure it’s all good. *winks*

Humans tend to be creatures of habit – good or bad – we settle into patterns and just let go. Short term it’s not a bad thing, sometimes it can help us through chaotic life changes or tragedies. But running on auto-pilot for the long term is a recipe for stagnation.

***

I love summer. I run on sunshine. These longer days with the sun lasting well into the evening makes me happy. It gives me more time to train, more time to enjoy good company. We just bought a grill this year, so we’re planning on enjoying the backyard a lot this summer.

Racing season is in full swing. *laughs* I call it “racing season” even though I’m not serious about the competition portion of the mud racing sport. I run for the fun and because it keeps me motivated to stay in shape. It’s 12 days until Tough Mudder, then I have it “easy” for most of the rest of the year with much shorter races. I’ll get to focus on revamping my training and prepping for a trip to Phoenix to participate in what will be my first out-of-state Tough Mudder. At the moment I’m kind of ambivalent about keeping up with this. The racing season in Colorado is short and I’d really have to start branching out into other states (which means more traveling) if I want to do more races. *shrugs* It might happen though, I’ve got my eye on a possible Spartan Trifecta next year if I decide to accept the challenge. Along with several other races in the back of my head. And as the sport gets more and more popular I’m sure there will be more races available.

One thing’s for sure – mud racing isn’t going away any time soon.

What are your favorite things about summer?

K.B.

My Ruby Slippers are VFFs

I swear I was going to wear grown-up shoes to work on Wednesday. But when I put them on I realized I had a rather uncomfortable blister on my left heel. Since I have a race on Saturday, I really had to baby it so I ended up wearing my bright green and blue flip-flops to work. *grins*

I love shoes. I’m not on the Imelda Marcos level just yet, but I do own a lot of shoes. Shoes for running, shoes for dressing up, shoes for walking out into the backyard (though I’ll be honest I do that barefoot a lot because as much as I love shoes I prefer being barefoot).

I’d actually intended to write about something a little cooler, but as I mentioned I’ve got a race coming up and huge party after so you guys get a blog about shoes.

Normally I buy my shoes at thrift stores or places like DSW because paying full-price for shoes is silly. These flip-flops, ironically enough, I bought in a hotel gift shop so I paid a ridiculous amount of money for them. However, they’ve lasted through more than six summers of wear so I figured my cost-per-wear is pretty low on these.

I recently had to part with a pair of the cutest shoes I’ve ever owned. Platform Mary Janes with a bow-adorned skull on the toes. They were a gift from a friend and I loved them, but my recent running adventures have shifted my feet and they became too painful to wear (contrary to popular belief I will not suffer for fashion) so I had to make the difficult choice to pass them on or have them sulk in my closet.

I’ve got tiny feet compared to most of my friends. *laughs* So it’s not as easy giving shoes away as you might think. I passed the shoes onto a friend though who’s going to pass them on to a friend of her daughter’s. Hopefully they’ll have a good home.

In the meantime, I’m glorying in the fact that it’s summertime which means it’s sandal time! And struggling (still) with my changing feet. My barefoot shoes (Vibram Flows) that I wore all last season for mud racing are causing me discomfort and now I’m not sure I’ll be able to wear them for the race. I’m going to make one last attempt to run in them and see how they do and if they still won’t work I’m going to have a last-minute decision to make about which shoes to wear. Gah!

But for right now I’m happily flip-flopping it around my office. *grins* Trying to give my toes a chance to recover from yesterday’s punishment and that blister on my heel a chance to dry up and go away before the weekend. And on Sunday I just might treat myself to a new pair of sandals to celebrate finishing the Spartan Sprint on Saturday!

K.B.