Tag Archives: friends

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 😀 ) 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.



And the Oscar goes to…

No, you film afficianados and pop culture vultures didn’t miss anything. Cataplana isn’t a movie; it’s one of my absolute favorite things to eat. It’s a traditional Portuguese seafood stew and it’s rich, spicy and fabulous. I discovered it a while back when doing research for a book, which qualifies it as a happy accident. And oh, it makes me happy! I mean, look at it…

We served cataplana last night at our annual Oscar gathering, to the thundering applause of all.

My husband and I watched our first Academy Awards broadcast together in 1990. *blinks* Twenty-two years of Oscar watching. Time does fly. Since then, we’ve never missed the show. It was the first evening we spent alone together and at the time, we were just friends. I don’t think either of us had a clue that we’d ever be anything more, but that’s a story for another post. Or not. 😉

I’m not sure when good food and great wine came into the picture, though I do remember making fettucini alfredo that evening, and there might have been a bottle of low-end sauvignon blanc. (We were college kids, and I probably blew the bulk of the budget on the cream and fresh parmesan.)

Since then, our Oscar event has evolved to include another couple, more adventurous meals and some incredibly fine wine. It’s something we look forward to even when – as was the case this year – we haven’t seen more than two or three of the films in the running. Once upon a time, we’d have seen at least half of them, but kids complicate things. The films we’d seen this year were nominated in the animated film category, except for Harry Potter. Need I say more?

We did see the fabulous short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore courtesy of iTunes. I was totally rooting for it to win, and it did. Huzzah! If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here – but it’s only available for a short time, so don’t wait!


Why watch the Oscars if you haven’t seen the films, you ask? Because we’re not traditionalists in the typical regard, but this tradition goes back to the root of our relationship. Because we like the red carpet broadccase, and find the speeches entertaining and annoying in turn. Because the hosts are sometimes funny and the In Memorium segment is sad and sweet. Because we get to hang out with a couple that we don’t see nearly enough of during the year. And because we get to eat wonderful things, like cataplana.

This year, as a plus, we were treated to a performance by Cirque du Soleil, which was dazzling as always.

Are you an Oscar watcher or an Oscar hater? Do you have any traditions around the ceremony, or do you ignore it as much as possible? And – most importantly – have you ever tried cataplana? If not, you’re missing out!

Here’s the recipe we use if you want to have a go at it. It makes a lot, so we halved and it was the perfect amount for six. Don’t stint on the garlic bread; you’ll need it to soak up the brothy goodness.




I can’t begin to describe the impact of having one’s past drop in for a visit after—would you believe forty-five years?

Jeff (on the right) and I (on the left) were best friends from first through sixth grade and the first year of junior high. We had an inordinate interest in the young women in our class and regularly had lunch with the three hottest hotties. A force to be reckoned with, we were determined to make our presence known, for example, in the second grade, by singing the Everly Brothers’ Bird Dog a capella before all the parents at a school assembly.

Guardian angels must have known we were stifling the first day at junior high in an imbecilic “art” class, because we were both mercifully yanked from that torture chamber and deposited in Mr. Devore’s boys glee club. There we could spread our wings and express ourselves as few in our class were able. We were excelling in everything from wood shop to math class and life couldn’t have been better for this daring duo, when suddenly my parents yanked me out of the public school system and enrolled me in a parochial school. Except for one occasion eight years later when I visited Jeff at his parents’ house, that was the last time I ever saw my best friend… until—thanks to the Internet—this last Sunday when he came to my home.

I can’t really say we picked up the conversation without pause, because all those decades are difficult to bridge in an instant. Still, there was never an awkward moment as we recounted the intervening years, marveling all the while how our lives, while quite different— Jeff is a naval architect and I am a hair stylist—had paralleled on numerous levels.

We had both gone to college in the San Francisco Bay area, at times living minutes apart. We had both learned to sail and the boat I enjoyed racing most was designed by the only man to fire my friend. We both share linguistic skills. And while we both sought out French as the first idiom to study, we are both more at home in Spanish, which we learned on the fly.

We both met our present wives by chance. I met Toni on a blind date. She was inclined at first to decline, when she changed her mind, accepted, and set us on an irrevocable course to marital bliss. Jeff met Barbara under a similar fluke. Depending on the day of the week, the plane he was taking from Mexico City to the United States would either stop over at Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta. A day earlier or later, and he would not have met Barb at that Mazatlan hotel. Toni and I married after less than six months. Jeff and Barb didn’t require much more.

The visit lasted only two hours, but ever since, snippets of time, vignettes from the past, faces and names keep revisiting. I don’t know when we’ll next meet, though we promised the next get-together will not be four or five decades from now. 🙂 And I must apologize. I had planned to have my wife take a current photo of Jeff and me. Somehow, though, the camera never came to mind.