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  • Canada And Australia Rock WTM 2013

    Now, you may or may not have been in New Jersey this weekend, but chances are, your heart was there. Congratulations to every single racer who toed that start line this Saturday. You are all insane freaks, and I love you. I am proud to announce that Ryan Atkins, a mountain biker and a fellow Canadian became the World’s Toughest Mudder 2014, beating the unbeatable Pak. Pak came in second, followed by Olof Dallner. Deanna Blegg came first for women – hardly a surprise after 1) her fantastic performance at the Vermont Beast, and 2) Amelia Boone’s announcement of not running this year. Magdelene Thorne and Amy Pajcic came second and third respectively. Full results can be seen here (and someone tell the timing company to stop the timer already). Now am I the only one noticing that the WTM is owned by non-Americans this year? A Canadian and an Australian at the top. As for the event itself, you may remember that the changes in format announced back in May spurred quite a bit of controversy. (Read my detailed review of the changes here). Margaret posted another great review of new rules and procedures about a week before the event. As Tough Mudder did away with the qualifying times and shortened the course, some wondered whether the event would be easier, harder or more dangerous. Out of 1,107 that started, 819 finished. The 5-mile course had 22 obstacles. Although in the words of Jason Gidusko, “running through a muddy forest should not be named an obstacle, running up a dry dirt hill should not be named an obstacle, hopping over a small concrete tube should not be named an obstacle(hello warrior dash)”. Gidusko was also surprised to see that going against the WTM ethos of making typical Tough Mudder obstacles harder, some signature obstacles were made significantly easier. For example, Funky Monkey had a rest halfway through, and Twinkle Toes was much smaller. Electric Eel, on the other hand, seemed to be really amped up, delivering shocks that were harder than ever. On the course that is cut in half, it means you are getting shocked twice as much. Leap of Faith was a new obstacle introduced at WTM this year, where the racers had to leap into the air to land onto a cargo net. Those who missed landed in the water. This obstacle sounds like great fun, and very much in the spirit of Tough Mudder, however, the logistics may need to be better thought through. Fingers were broken, as people landed on each other. I don’t really expect to see Leap of Faith at a regular Tough Mudder – it would be a recipe for a disaster, indeed. Punishment for failing an obstacle was extra distance, while carrying a log. Compare this with last year – dip in Arctic Enema. The latter was absolutely brutal at night, when the temperatures fell sharply. Jason Gidusko, Like any 24-hour endurance race, it remains a brutal event. However, the comments from the racers already surfacing are consistent: The course was shorter, dryer and easier. The temperature played a huge role, as this was the warmest WTM yet. YOUR TURN: Were you at WTM 2014 this weekend? Was this your first WTM? What was your experience like? Most importantly, would you do it again? Disclaimer: Please note that I myself have not been at the event, and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the above. Intel has been gathered from friends who were there. Signing off, Solo

  • Never An Easy Race

    Sunday morning. Facebook status update: “@ Downsview Half/ 5k. Running everyone’s most hated distance.” “Oh, you are just (!) running a 5k this weekend”, I”d hear people say. “Well, that’s easy for you, after you’ve done all those crazy races.” Ok. Seriously? I never know how to respond. I’ve never run an easy race. Not a single one of them was easy. They were all hard. All hard in a different way. My first 5K was hard. I started out too fast, then faded 1km in, and struggled to maintain a reasonable pace for the rest of it. My fastest 5K was hard. I felt like I was going to barf the whole time - just like a good fast 5K should feel. I was 4th female overall. My first 10K was hard. I thought it would never end. I ran fast. My first trail race was hard. It was only (!) a 5k. After running exclusively on pavement, I had no idea what hit me. Hills, roots, mud - the only words out of my mouth at the finish line were: “What the fuck just happened?”. I made podium. My first half marathon was hard. The last 2km lasted forever. We saw the finish line and then had to make another loop all around the lake. I cried when I crossed the finish line and hugged my pace bunny. My first full marathon was hard. I trained for months and had to give up the things I loved. But I had a smile on my face the whole time, and finished strong. My first triathlon was hard. Getting into a wetsuit after a recent weight gain was humiliating. And humbling. And riding an old mountain bike and being passed by every single.rider was also humiliating. And humbling. My first obstacle race was hard. A Warrior Dash in Illinois. I wore loose cotton pants and a t-shirt, which resulted carrying about five extra pounds of mud after the first water crossing. It was blazing hot. My first Spartan Beast was hard. I thought I was almost done, almost at the finish line, and skipped a gel. Instead, we had to climb a freaking Everest of a mountain. I bonked hard. That race almost broke me. I came second. My first Ultra Beast was hard. Despite feeling strong on my first loop, heading out to do my second loop, away from my drop bin, away from dry clothes, and away from the finish line, to do everything I just did one more time was incredibly hard. My first Tough Mudder was hard. I ran it with a team of 20 people. While we had a blast, it was really difficult for me not to run at my own pace, but rather at the pace of the group. I still struggle with that. My last Tough Mudder was hard. It was freezing cold. Getting up that morning was the hardest part. I ran it solo in just over two hours. I was the first female across the finish line. A yoga student later that week approaches me, saying that he ran that Tough Mudder as well. “How was it?”, I ask. “Pretty easy”, he shrugs. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”. He was on course for over four hours. My first Death Race was hard. Still processing that one. If racing was easy, I wouldn’t be racing. Every single race is hard. That’s the point. They are all hard in their own way. If you thought a race was easy, you weren’t running fast enough. Run faster. Pick another race. Pick the one that scares you. The one you are not quite sure you can do. Aim for a finish time that is just above what you know is possible. Then do the race and send me an email to tell me about how easy it was. Something tells me I will not be getting too many emails... Always running faster, Solo

  • Awesome Carrot Soup Recipe

    Tuesday was yet another reminder why I always pack lunch, and carry food on my person… The traffic on the way to work was so bad, that instead of going back home between my morning class and night class, I decided to stay on campus and work. All was well with the plan, except no packed lunch. After a trip to the downstairs cafeteria, this is what I ended up with: Subway chopped chicken salad… Functional, but underwhelming, and I can definitely make better. I also didn’t ask to omit the hot peppers, resulting in a mild heartburn, and tingling lips. Ugh. I miss my fridge. On a bright side, my signature comparison of neuron action potential to human male sexual response elicited applause. You should attend my lecture just for that metaphor – it’s worth it. I also had 45 adults holding onto each others’ ankles, mimicking the communication between neurons. Few lucky students got to pretend they were dopamine molecules. Acting was impressive and very believable, and now I know what facial expression of a dopamine molecule would look like if… you know… it had a facial expression. Hopefully, this soup recipe will brighten your day, as it brightened mine. It rocks. awesome carrot soup Ingredients: 4 cups of chicken stock *1 medium apple, peeled and cut into cubes 1 medium onion, finely chopped *1 turnip, peeled and cut into cubes 1 – 1.5 pounds of peeled carrots (about 4-5), cut into rounds 2 tbsp olive oil *1 tbsp butter *1 cup water *1/2 cup skim milk *1 tbsp balsamic vinegar *1 tbsp molasses 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp cinnamon *1 tsp hot sauce salt, pepper to taste 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated *Optional. Notice that the basic carrot soup actually requires very few ingredients. However, adding some extra spices and ingredients makes the flavour a little bit more sophisticated. 1. Preheat olive oil in a soup pan, add chopped onions, and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes on medium setting). Add the carrots, turnip, apple, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, stock and water. 2. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 25 minutes or until carrots are soft (this step took me a while for some reason, but just keep poking carrots with a fork once in a while to see if they are ready). Add butter, milk, balsamic vinegar, molasses and hot sauce. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool. Transfer soup in small batches to the blender, and puree until smooth. Pat yourself on the back, reheat, and serve with Greek yogurt and chopped dill. Signing off, Solo

  • Toronto Spring Tough Mudder 2013 - Race Recap

    Slow, slow crawl. I make it through without being shocked. It’s either a miracle, or the obstacle is not yet activated. I don’t ask questions, and keep running.6. CLIFFHANGER A hill of slippery mud. Not too bad, but this will be brutal in about an hour or so. Just give it few thousand people. Yay for running early. 7. FIREWALKER Task? Jump over a trench of fire. A nice surprise is that there is actually a drop on the other side into... you guessed it, water. I wonder how much of an ankle twister this is...8. HOLD YOUR WOOD With a name like that, what’s not to like? The “heavy” logs mentioned on the Tough Mudder website are actually really dry and really light. I run with mine. 9. DIRTY BALLERINA Do not underestimate this obstacle. Jumping over 4 feet mud pits sounds easy enough. However, the key is not to stop, and after five or six of them, you realize that you are absolutely and totaly gassed. Holy moly. I actually need a breath. Bonus - watching other Mudders jump, I realize that they really do look like dirty ballerinas. Big, strong, muscled ballerinas. Awesome. 10. TRENCH WARFARE Crawling through a narrow, dark trench - any claustrophobic’s dream. Last year I broke down crying after completing this one. This year I ask a fellow Mudder to talk me through it. We crawl, and he talks. I can also see a bit of light on the sides. Done. Easy. 11. WALK THE PLANK We jumping from a 15+ foot drop into the water. This obstacle tends to get crowded later in the day as well, however, you have multiple professional divers standing on guard. 12. MUD MILE Instead of slushy mud, this one consists of hills. Up and over. Into the water. Up and over. Into the water. The edges are really crumbly, and there are no foot tracks yet. 13. GREASED LIGHTNING  We are running through snow at this point. I feel totally badass. Ahead - downhill covered in plastic, with running water. This will be slippery. “Should I go head first or feet first?”, I think to myself, stepping on the plastic. “SWOOSH!”, is the sound as I slip and land on my behind. The decision is made for me, and I’m rapidly accelerating towards the bottom, praying that I do not hit anything. “SPLASH!”, the water at the bottom is somewhat unexpected and seems to be even colder than in Arctic Enema. I climb out, cursing. 14. BERLIN WALLS Man. I forgot how tall these are. Need all the help I can get. 15. UNDERWATER TUNNELS Seriously? More water? I waddle through, and pull myself under the bobbing barrels. At least the water is warm.. My legs are starting to cramp up. I rarely cramp up during an event, but the temperature makes a huge difference. “How are you doing?”, calls out one of the EMS workers. “You know... keeping dry”, I mumble. 16. BALLS TO THE WALL Wall rope climb. Easy peasy. 17. WOUNDED WARRIOR CARRY Where are petite women and scrawny guys when you need them? This ends up being one of the tougher obstacles for me, as I carry an 180-lb guy on my back. Thank God for squats. 18. SMOKE CHUTE This one has first appeared as a mystery obstacle at Tri-State Tough Mudder 2012. Climb the ladder, face the narrow chute. Go down feet first. Hope that you don’t hit your head on the way down. Water is waiting for you below. 19. CAGE CRAWL Another new one for me - we have to crawl into a water-filled trench and swim on our backs with only few inches of breathing room. Essentially, you are moving through a narrow cage filled with water. Given my claustrophobia, this is not my favorite obstacle, but I manage to get through, humming “Eye of the Tiger” to myself.20. BOA CONSTRICTOR Crawling through a tight pipe never creates the same issue as other tight spaces for me, because I can usually see the other side. However, pulling yourself along is a challenge this far into the event. I try not to bend my limbs too much, fearing another cramp. 19. EVEREST Probably the most hated obstacle of the Tough Mudder (apart from Electroshock Therapy). Couple of guys make it to the top and wait for me, lying on their stomachs. It takes all three of them to drag me over the edge, as I start cramping up at the top. Whew. Now to return the favour... A fellow Mudder sprints up Everest with all his might, and slides down. Once... Twice... “Listen to me!”, I shout from the top. “Do NOT run fast. You need to jog up at a leisurely pace, and reach out.” He nods and follows instructions, and we easily pull him up. He smiles appreciatively. “So THAT’s the secret!”, says another guy. “We gotta listen to the veteran here”. He refers to the three Tough Mudder headbands that I made into armbands.20. ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY Don’t think. Run through. Quickly! “And... we have... the first lady to cross the finish line!!! Represent!”. That’s a first! Spectators cheer. I walk through a bunch of friendly pats on the back, and wide smiles. It’s an awesome feeling. While the initial plan was to attempt three laps, I realized that this was not happening as soon as the wave start times were posted - the last wave started at 12.30pm. Two laps then? After completing two laps back to back at the Toronto Tough Mudder last year, it hardly had the same novelty appeal. It was cold, and was only getting colder. And this was by far the wettest event I have ever done. Splash, dip. Dip, dip, splash. Drip, drip, swim. I couldn't bring myself to do the second lap. Very content with being the first female to finish, I was thinking a warm sweater. Or three. And food. ASAP. Maybe in September... :) See a detailed map of the course here. Videos of most of the obstacles recorded by one of the fellow Mudders can be found here and here. Signing off, Solo

  • Strange Flavour Combinations, And Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

    Yes, you heard me… This is how it all started… Few years ago, I discovered my favorite ever in the world sushi. They make them at Toko Sushi on Yonge Street, downtown Toronto, and I haven’t seem them anywhere else. Not surprisingly. How many restaurants would dare to make sushi with peanut butter and bacon? I mean, really… In the spirit of “trying anything once, and more than once if I like it”, I ordered the strangest thing on the menu – the sushi in question. They were… to die for. More recently, at a burger chain “The Works”, I yet again ordered the strangest sounding burger. Beef burger with peanut butter, banana and bacon. Gross? No. Life changing. Then I discovered Elvis. That’s a sandwich with peanut butter, banana, bacon and honey that king of pop reportedly adored. My circulatory system was terrified. And with good reason – later in life, his majesty ended up with high blood pressure and a slew of other health problems. And that’s how my obsession with all things bacon, banana and peanut butter, and all the possible permutations and combinations of the three, began. My most recent gustatory experiment – baked potato ice cream with chives and bacon… [What????] Yes, it was awesome. I swear. You need to work your way to baked potato ice cream though… So I’m starting you off gently today. bacon chocolate chip cookies [see original recipe here] Ingredients: 3 slices of bacon 1 egg 1.5 cups of almond flour [can also use all-purpose flour] 1/2 cup of maple syrup 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda cocoa powder + chili powder??? *Apart from butter, the cookies are paleo, and you can easily replace butter with coconut oil. Signing off, Solo

  • How To Do A Tough Mudder Without Training

    There are many great resources out there on how to train for Tough Mudder. Unfortunately, the sad truth of the situation is that a lot of people show up at the start line with no training. This article is for them. Bonus points for finding me in the above photo… Meet the TYPICAL CANDIDATES: Mike is a stocky 24-year old. He does CrossFit couple of times a week, and doesn’t run. However, a bunch of his buddies signed up, and he decided to join them. Amy is an 19-year old girl, participating with a team of girlfriends. They spent weeks planning matching outfits. She does yoga on Saturdays, and walks on a treadmill once in a while. Kathy is a 42 year old mother of three. She does BodyPump at GoodLife Fitness once a week. She signed up for the event with her sister, and a couple of friends. Brian is a tall 21-year old with a skinny build. He is in university, so he does not have time to train. Brian does not even particularly like exercising – however, he wants to do Tough Mudder once, just so he can say he’s done it. Melissa is 29. She has been trying to lose weight, and so she signed up for Tough Mudder back in January to give herself extra motivation to become active and train. Somehow that never happened. My goal is to help you to complete Tough Mudder while minimizing the likelihood of injury, cramping, bonking, and yes, dying. First of all, I’m assuming that you are fairly young and fairly fit to be attempting this event without training. My standards for young and fit are pretty wide, but if you are in your 60s or you are largely sedentary, or both, I would strongly suggest to reconsider. You do not necessarily have to train specifically FOR Tough Mudder. If your current training regime includes resistance training (weight lifting) and running, you will be better off than most. If you can run 15 to 20km, do a dozen of good-form push-ups and a couple of pull-ups, you will be fine. Although if you’ve only done road running up to this point, you will be unpleasantly surprised at the first hill. WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT You will cover between 10 and 16km of distance. It will probably take you between three and five hours. There will (probably) be hills. There will be mud. Yes, there will be electricity. Yes, really. No, you do not have to do every single obstacle. No, there is no penalty for skipping obstacles. Pace makers and electric wires do not mix very well. Otherwise, why the heck are you skipping obstacles? BEFORE THE RACE Umm… I mean before the challenge… Get lots of sleep. This applies to a full week before Tough Mudder. And this is probably the most important thing you can do. There is absolutely nothing that will screw you up more than arriving to the start line exhausted. Skip the booze the night before. There will be plenty of that AFTER the event. You’ll get your first beer at the finish line. Earn it first. Eat normally. No, you do not need to carbo-load. Unless you can actually explain to me the mechanism of carbo-loading, and how it maximizes the storage of glycogen (as well as what is glycogen). If you have not been training for the event, now is definitely not the time to research macro nutrient ratios, energy gels and fueling strategies. So eat, do not skip meals, and do not try anything new before the event. That’s it. DURING THE RACE Keep yourself fed. Eat a meal 2-3 hours before the start. Then eat something at least once an hour for the duration of the event. Bonking or “hitting a wall” is largely due to under-fueling. Energy gels work well. Candy bars work well. Do not overthink this. Wear sunscreen. I don’t care how bad ass you are. Sun is more bad ass. As someone who burned my whole face to blisters after not wearing sunscreen on a Himalayan glacier, I can attest to that. Tough Mudder usually starts in the late morning and continues into the daytime – when the sun is at its harshest. So sunscreen up – and that includes the lips. Wear appropriate clothing. This is not it: You can read more about what to wear to Tough Mudder HERE. To summarize: wear tight-fitting synthetics, and running shoes you have worn before. In my experience (and that of many others) gloves do not help at obstacles. They get wet and heavy, and do very little to improve grip. On the other hand (ha!), some swear by fingerless gloves. You won’t know whether you prefer gloves or no gloves until you try racing with both. I’d suggest starting with no gloves. Slipping on the monkey bars or the rings is largely due to lack of strength, not lack of grip. Sorry. Do not go nuts with trying to protect your skin (apart from sunscreen). I have seen some people wear knee pads, long sleeves, and gloves to protect themselves from blisters and splinters. I find that all that extra gear makes moving more cumbersome. If you are afraid of splinters, you are probably registered for the wrong event. Below the knee tight fitting pant is one exception, as I found that it does make a difference for crawling on your knees in the tunnels, and under barb wire. Do your best at every obstacle. Then move on. Remember that if you have never swung across hanging rings, your chances of completing that particular obstacle during the event are pretty slim. Consider safety before anything else. If it looks like a bad idea, it probably is. Keep steady pace. Don’t be the idiot that sprints for the first 400m only to die at the first hill. Follow the advice of the ultra-runners: “Walk up hill, jog the flat, run the downhill”. Just keep moving. Long breaks will only make starting up again more difficult. Have fun. Do not try to keep up with anyone. You are doing this for you. If you are doing it for someone else, you may want to address your codependency and need to please others, before these issues get you killed. AFTER THE RACE Refuel / rehydrate. Completing Tough Mudder is a cause for celebration. Celebrate with a good meal. Protein is awesome. Good quality protein is even more awesome. Don’t forget to include some water in between those beers. It will help with decreasing soreness over the next few days as well. Pop an Advil. If you are really sore, taking a non-prescription anti-inflammatory will help manage mild to moderate pain due to inflammation and tissue injury. Move. Moving around for the next couple of days is the single most helpful thing you can do for yourself to decrease stiffness and soreness, and regain mobility. You may feel like lying on the couch for a week, but it’s not going to help with recovery. Slow jog around the block, walk outside or a yoga class will all be helpful. *** Disclaimer: I do not advocate participating in any sporting events, including Tough Mudder without training. As an obstacle racer, runner and athlete, I would not dream doing a race unprepared, simply because the potential costs are too great. I’m not a doctor. I’m just someone who has participated in a shitload of these events, and who is sick and tired of seeing people hurt themselves. So take the suggestions above at your own risk. Even better? Sign up for next year’s Tough Mudder, and start training. *** On a related note, I will be teaching Obstacle Racing 101 workshop on Saturday, May 4th at CrossFit Toronto. If you are set on attempting a longer obstacle race this year, this may be a great information session on damage control and strategy. Hope to see you there. Signing off, Solo

  • 365 Days Of Fitness Challenge

    New Year’s resolutions have been out of fashion lately… Most people seem to take pride in NOT making any resolutions as another year comes around… I LOVE these!!! The self-experimenter in me is doing a little dance at an opportunity to start something new. (Not that you have to wait for January 1st to do that.) Yes, yes, most of the resolutions fail. I even coined the term “January 1st phenomenon”. The “I-will-change-myself-my-life-and-the-rest-of-the-world” attitude that strikes on the first day of every day. That’s kind of the problem. Too much too soon. I jumped on the wagon and joined 2013 365 Days of Fitness Challenge. From the event description: “The idea is to complete the basic list of exercises in the challenge everyday. If they are part of your WOD or other planned activities ( races, crossfit, etc…) they can count toward the challenge. If you can exceed the minimum by all means do so. […] If you need an easy day just do the minimum list of exercises. There are no rest days.” Here is the daily basic requirements for the challenge: run/walk 1 mile 25 sit-ups 25 pushups 25 burpees 25 squats 20 lunges (10 per leg) 75 jumping jacks 2 minute plank 2x 60 second wall sits You’ll notice that the workout is pretty short, and all body weight, which means it can be done ANYWHERE. Therefore, no excuses. It takes between 20 and 40 minutes to do, depending on your fitness level (and whether you sprint the mile or drag your feet like I did yesterday). I find most of these pretty easy, and I do not know if I will necessarily stick with these for an entire year, however, I thought it was a great way to kick off the year with some consistency. After few days, I find having to run/walk one mile each day most helpful, as it gets me moving. Wall sits are definitely the most difficult! Holy cow! Especially if you do them after a trail run (hi, Captain Craig!). I’ve also been replacing situps with crunches, just because those feel better on my back. Keep in mind that if you are just starting out, doing this every single day with no rest days may be quite intense. I find that breaking it up helps. For example, you could do half of the reps in the morning and half at night. You could also run a mile one day, and walk it the next day. A really nice side effect of this challenge is that once you start moving, it’s really easy to KEEP moving. Remember the reps and exercises posted are the minimum, and once you do 25 squats, what’s 25 more? I also really like adding jumping rope to this routine. I challenge you to try this one! Let me know how long did it take you, and how you felt in the comments. Signing off, Solo

  • Tough Mudder New Jersey 2012 - Race Recap

    I ran Tough Mudder New Jersey on October 20, 2012 with Mike, my teammate and amazing buddy. Initially, I planned this TM as a World’s Toughest Mudder qualifier, as I knew that Toronto Tough Mudder will not be my fastest time, running with a team. However, I ended up running the Toronto course twice, and qualifying on my second lap. Also, after much consideration, I decided to run Spartan’s Time Trial in Boston, rather than the World’s Toughest Mudder – they are happening on the same weekend. Long story short – Tough Mudder New Jersey was nothing but a fun run with friends!!! It was well after dark, when I finally made it to Syracuse. That’s what happens when I make the drive by myself, and entrust myself to evil Google Maps. Where are your orienteering teammates, fighting over the best route, when you need them (hi, Goss. hi, Captain Craig). I fail to feel bad about the detour, however. The route takes me through the smallish road in rural New Jersey. Trees have changed color to obscene hues of red and yellow. Zero modesty. Zero subtlety. Most of the drive feels like an acid trip. I drop off my car, and Mike and I are off to New Jersey. I do not realize that the race is actually only 45 minutes away from New York City, so the drive is much longer than I expected (noticing a theme here?). It is well after ten when we finally make it. Thankfully, our hosts are awake and live only five miles from the race course. This weekend’s main players: Steph –> Mike’s friend, and our main host. All smiles, and epitome of friendly. Steph’s mom –> the mommiest mom I’ve ever met I think… she took amazing care of us. And food. Oh my god, the food. Steph’s dad –> did not say much, but just made things happen in the background, from grilling steak to starting a fire. Joel –> Mike’s old friend from the Navy. They did have not seen each other for years, and what a great reason for a reunion this was. Joel is a native Texan, and a sweetheart. He entertained us all evening with his stories about “shir diddy” ( = shore duty) and made sure we had enough “birrr” ( = beer). *When I grow up, I want to speak Texan. This year, Tough Mudder New Jersey took place in Old Bridge Raceway Park – a prime spot for drag racing and motocross racing. I wake up, completely confused regarding my location. For a second, I am convinced that I am at home. Slowly, the events of last night come to me… I am in the land of Yankees. The wimp that I am, I was somewhat worried about the weather this late in October, but Saturday morning exceeded all expectations. It is an absolutely gorgeous weekend. We are spoiled rotten – the coffee maker is just waiting for a push of a button, and Steph’s mom drives us directly to the course site. The initial plan is to run the course twice – once in the earliest wave possible, and then again, with Steph and Joel. Mike and I take off in 8am wave… It’s a long stretch of pavement. The arctic enema is waiting… seven minutes into the race (sorry, not a race, but a challenge). Not fun, but good to get it over with… It takes me at least a mile to catch my breath after the freezing cold water. This is Mike’s first event since the summer, and he is eager. I do my best to slow him down. “Pace… pace!”, I remind him. More pavement. We make it to the muddy mile. A stretch of up and down trenches, filled with water and mud, definitely throws off any comfortable pace we started settling into. This course is very different from Tough Mudder Toronto, which was set at a ski resort. What did that mean for the Toronto’s event? Hill climbs. More hill climbs. We climbed the same damn (steep) hill at least five times. Here, we jog up and down small hills designed for motocross – I can do this forever. Because the course is set in a park, however, we are somewhat limited in terms of space. The course loops on itself many times over. While we do not encounter any crowds or waiting in the early wave, few hours later, the park starts to resemble the mass evacuations during a zombie apocalypse. I start feeling my knees about half way through the course. That throws me… After all, I did not feel my knees during the Ultra Beast! Why now? The answer becomes pretty apparent during yet another loooong stretch. Pavement. This is the most pavement I’ve encountered all year. Given that I am no longer training for distance, I start questioning the second lap. I’m also getting a little bored with the tight loops… I already feel like a hamster in a wheel… running this course one more time? mind-numbing… I’m having an absolute blast, and decide not to tempt fate and the gods of knee joints by running this twice. Been there, done that. Mike is on board. Most obstacles are familiar: Funky Monkey is my favorite obstacle. Hands down. This one’s tough. The bars go up, and then down, with a large gap in the middle. As I grab onto the first bar, it’s wet. Argh. Mike’s already on the other side, cheering me on. I’m on the second half, when Gangnam Style starts blasting from the speakers nearby. “Hang on”, Mike yells. “With THIS song?”, I yell back. “You freakin’ bet!” This is the inaugural theme song of the Ultra Beast, and I’ll be damned if I fall off an obstacle when this thing is playing in the background. I make it across. I’m really happy to give Hangin’ Tough (the rings) a go. I couldn’t do them both times at TMT. This time, I get across half way. I definitely have the technique down, so I climb out of the water after the fall, dripping wet, but feeling accomplished. Next time. I get quite a VIP treatment at Electric Eel. Well over half dozen shocks, as I drag myself through. Nice buzz for the next few miles… I should try incorporating this in the morning, instead of coffee. For a precious mile or so, we hit trails, and I instantly feel at home. Phew. This I could do forever. For a nice bonus, I meet Robert – one of my fellow PrecisionNutrition sisters’ husband! We chat for a bit about the upcoming World’s Toughest Mudder. He is enlisted!!! Trench Warfare. Crawling in a tight tunnel underground. This obstacle left me a sobbing mess at TMT. “Kearns, I’m warning you”, I say to Mike. “I will need your foot”. We crawl through. It’s a remarkably unremarkable experience. Not bad. New obstacles: Smoke Chute. The event’s mystery obstacle. Climb the ladder, face the hole filled with smoke. Let go. This one is a bit of a mind-$*%*@. I land in water a second after letting go. The drop is pretty harsh on my back. But ok. Pirate’s Booty. This one is BRAND NEW. Swim across cold water, then climb up a cargo net. And over. Loved this one. The toughest obstacle? Wounded warrior carry – pair up with someone and carry them. Then switch. I’d say Mike got a better bargain in this one. And I got to piggyback 210 pounds of pure Oklahoma muscle. EPIC FINISH!!! We change into dry stuff, and set out to wander the course, and watch others do what we have just done. I enjoy watching the monkey bars, especially. 50% of Team Trifecta with monkey bars (which we smoked) in the background. Please note the freshly earned orange headbands (along with the two I earned in Toronto!). Tough Mudder is a like a big frat party with some running thrown in. Ok, a lot of running. And mud. We see everything from huge teddy bears to 250lb tires to Halloween-esque costumes to… well… very little. This lovely team embodies the party spirit of the event. I couldn’t help myself… Post-race analysis… Tough Mudder New Jersey course – check. Post-event beer – check. Slight sunburn at the end of October – check. Partial nudity – check. I declare this weekend a success… Signing off, SOLO

  • Next Up - GORUCK!

    The Goruck Challenge is the next race on my calendar. We will be downtown Toronto at 1am this Saturday. Wearing backpacks with 4-6 bricks inside. Ready to see Toronto in a different light. Or maybe lack of light. The Goruck Challenge has been inspired by the special forces training. It’s a 15-20 mile, 8-10 hour urban adventure race through the heart of a large city. We got the packing list – it is nowhere as bad-ass as the packing list for the Death Race, but we are to show up with 6 bricks in our backpacks. They will keep us company. All night… Mike is driving in from Syracuse to join me. Unlike a lot of my other races, I just fail to experience any anxiety about this event. Maybe because the pass rate is around 94%, maybe because it’s always a team event, and never a race. In either case, I’m just looking forward to running through my city in the middle of the night with weight on my shoulders and one of my racing partners by my side. Boss, another racing partner, described by Captain C as “a tiny powerhouse lover of obstacles, blasting down trails, and triathlons”, volunteered to tag along as a designated photographer. That’s team spirit! Team Trifecta will be together again this weekend! AROO! Hugs, SOLO

  • 5 Peaks Highlands Nordic Centre Trail Race 2012 - Race Recap

    Early morning for the team. Mike, Craig and JR drove in last night to racing central aka my place. At midnight we were still hard at work, getting ready for the race… at a party, with a drink in one hand, and a tortilla chip in the other. Coffee fixes everything, however, and we were up at the crack of dawn to make it to the start line bright and early, and help the organizers with the set-up. My dad was running this race too, so both parents were again making an appearance! Papa Solo JR and I were stationed at the table with bibs, and racing chips; Mike was helping out with the parking, and Craig seemed to be in all places at ones. This was definitely a very different experience from our usual 10,000-people-in-one-place, testosterone-filled Spartan gig. 5 Peaks races are fairly small community events, where runners bring their friends, dogs, and kids (who have their own race too!). The registration tent, unfortunately, was set up outside, so two hours after arrival, I felt so overheated, I started regretting this race does not have a swimming component – I’d have to wait until tomorrow for that one. Finally, we were all at the starting line. Dad and JR were running Sport course (5-6k), while Craig, Mike and I were running Enduro (2 loops). The course was quite hilly, as it takes place at a skiing resort. In fact, there is a steep hill right in front of the start line, and the challenge is to not exhaust yourself right away by sprinting up, and also not to get carried away with the pace of those running a shorter course. I wasn’t feeling 100% during this race – not sure if it was a late night, or too much sun before the start. It took me a good half an hour to settle in, and start passing other runners. I especially love the single track and downhill – that’s what I excel in, and that’s where I’m running effortlessly, just enjoying the ride. Uphill and flat sections are a whole other story. I saw mom as I ran by the finish line for another loop. Second loop was easier, but seemed longer. I envy my orienteering friends who actually know where they are as they are running – I just lose the sense of time and space completely… Finally, coming to the last 500m or so, I spotted a female runner in front of me. All about strategy! If I passed her quickly at that point, there was no way I could keep her behind me until the finish line, so I sneaked up at a seemingly leisurely pace. The start line was in sight when I finally sprinted. So did she! I passed her few meters away from the line and collapsed into a hug from JR – definitely an impressive finish! I came at 1:10:53, 7th in my age category with an average pace of 5:55. Not bad. Craig seemingly finished hours ago… but Mike was still out on course, so after catching my breath, I went back to sprint him in! He flew those last 100 meters! Our team AttackPoint AR made podium, as we were second with the number of group points. Volunteering and carpooling definitely helped with the points.

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