Monday, August 29, 2011

Crim III

If you can say one thing about me, I'm a "gamer."  In (what I consider) big races, where I really want to tear the course up, I show up.  Maybe I failed in practice last week, and neither of my 10 mile practice runs went particularly well or as planned.  Maybe I didn't do everything I had in mind to get ready for this race leading up to it.  Maybe I didn't even do particularly right by myself the night before either, but let me just say, "who really cares?"

I'd like to be perfect all the time, and there's no doubt in my mind I'm doing better, but things like "good night's sleep" and "complete race preparation" are just not in my repetoire.  However, there's also little doubt about the fact that the mere existence of the Crim has changed my life.  I may run half marathons, and I may run fulls in the future.  I don't know how far I'm willing to take this, because I haven't gotten to a point where I feel I can't do more, or even that I don't want to.  I also have no idea what life will throw at me in the future.  What I do know, is that no matter what other races I do, the Crim is my anchor baby of racing.  It's the reason for all of this running mess and keeps me a part of runner nation, and I'd like to think that, no matter what, even if I move, I'll find a way to do this one every year.

Going into this year, I had a game plan in my head, and not only for the race itself.   I had one for each individual mile, and, oh baby, did I execute.  I hit my mile marks pretty much to the exact mark for the first 3 miles; mile 1 being to the exact second of my desired 9:45 minute mark.  All this while talking to someone I haven't seen since High School for miles 2 and 3.  Mile 4 and 5 I was way under anticipated time, and the Boo-Radleys  were over before I knew it.  Mile 6, as expected, was a little rubbery and the slight uphill on Miller Rd isn't exactly the best recovery after the hills, but I allotted for a pretty slow mile there.  That didn't happen.  I think I ran a cool 9:15.

I started to over-think a bit, though, and I skipped a water stop along 6, thinking I was good and didn't want to lose time.  That led to a bit of slowing on 7 when that sun hit, and a little bit of worry that I was going to fade out completely.  Then, I got a water intervention.  A man with a short white beard, a blue button down shirt, and a big tan-colored hat to block the sun was giving out ice cold bottled waters in the middle of 7, and I took one with me.  Whoever you are, thank you for supporting me and all the runners.  You may have saved my Crim for me.

I carried that bottle and it carried me through the next quarter mile of struggle.  After fighting that off, I felt wonderful.  I decided to break for the end as hard as I could go, passing the guy I was talking to earlier, who had just now come back into sight (and must have pulled ahead at some point when I lost him).  I kept choosing targets ahead of me and eating them up.  Eventually I latched onto the man who came in 2nd for the 10 mile walk up ahead and tried to beat him.  I finished just behind him by 1 second on the clock.  I don't even understand how walking that fast is humanly possible.  Leon Jasionowski, I gotta hand it to you, you're pretty awesome.

My clock time was a 1:36:01, so the goal of breaking into the 1:30s was hit, and my loftier goal of hitting 1:36 was as well.  I knew that much at the finish line, which was easier on the mind than waiting for my chip time and biting my nails about whether I hit it or not.  That was pretty much my plan at the end anyway, when I hit mile 8 at 1:17ish (clock) and earlier the best we'd done was 1:20.  Besides, I've learned my lesson dealing with clocks, as I swear when I started the Legend it was at 17 minutes in, and I also swear we crossed the start of the Crim at about 3 minutes.  I never trusted digital clocks anyway, especially at 1:38 when they look like the pringles man.  Perhaps I went 2 minutes faster just because of a subconcious drive not to see him on the clock when I finished.

Admit it, you see it too. 
The eyebrows, the mustache, and the bowtie, it's all there.

I popped into Churchill's, who gave us a free beer (Michelob too, not the real cheap stuff), and Jason picked up his debit card that was left there from Thursday night (ha!).  That was chased by our free slice of pizza and a free MGD from the beer line, both of which you can get from your bib tabs.  Honestly, if you hang around where the runners are leaving, they'll hand you them asking if you want them.  You could probably get an entire pizza and a gallon of beer if you were even the slightest bit pesky about asking for them, and are a master of disguise.  The line usually gets too long for that business, though, especially when the 8k and 5k people start filing in.

Officially, I ran a 1:34:03, which is pretty much right in the middle for my gender and a little south of center for my age group.  I don't think there's much I could have done to be any better than that.  That's a 10 mile record for me (not that it's a common distance), beating the 1:38:28 at Solstice Run, and taking over 16 minutes off the 1:50:25 of last year's Crim.

No good race pictures yet.  My friend Ken didn't come down, my family mistook some guy in a white shirt and a hat for me, and my lady slept through her alarm, so no pre-race, during (action), or post-race photos from them.  So, unless the official guys came through enough for me to actually pay for one, all you get is Jason and I in the living room.  As an added bonus if you read this now, I'll throw in a shot of the medal, which has some nice detail on it.  You probably can't see, but it even says "Flint" and "Vehicle City" on the arches, just like downtown.
Living Room After Shot
Up Close
What the small print on the arch of the medal, that you can't read, because I don't have a nice macro lens like my soon-to-be-wife, is supposed to mimic.  Yes, I realize that was an awful "run-on" and way too long to be a picture caption.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reflective Friday (Pre-Crim Edition)

Thoughts on attempting to go to your old college bar with your groomsmen and fiance:

8:30pm-Oh yeah!  Gonna totally tear this bar up tonight and get totally slammed, party till 2am and then hit a Tom Z's Coney Island late.
8:45pm-Where is everybody?  It should be packed by now.  Why are they still serving food?
9:00pm-Where's the PBR tap?  Why is the pitcher beer special Natural Light?
9:03pm-When did the $1 pitchers become $2?
9:05pm- 75 cent rum and cokes are $1?
9:06pm-Can't we be grandfathered in on the original price?  Does saying "granfathered" sound old?
10:00pm-Look there's some young people, maybe it is still "cool" here
10:30pm-Wait, I'm seeing flannel, pastels, off the shoulder shirts, spandex, bad hair of all generations.  Which decade do these young people think they're in?  
10:45pm-It's getting crowded in here...also very whorish (did they dress like that even 7 years ago?).  Hey, look at her, maybe Amy Winehouse is alive and just hiding in Flint
10:50pm-Better get one last trip to the bar for cheap pitchers
11:00pm-Probably shouldn't have gotten 6 of them
11:30pm-Any more Natty Light and I probably won't make it to work.  Why are all my friends looking at their watches?  We're going home soon aren't we?
11:35pm-Jessi looks tired of this.  I think I'm done too.  Time to go.
11:37pm-I don't think I feel like greasy food.  Let's just walk home
11:56pm-Home before midnight.  Lame.

Thoughts on getting the last details of wedding stuff taken care of:

-Where'd all our money go?
-Hopefully our caterer doesn't forget about us again between now and next week, and this guy (the 5th one we've dealt with) doesn't get fired, quit, or whatever happened to the other 4 guys.
-Can we trust him, being he worked for the White Sox and Pacers at some point?
-Who's setting up all these chairs?  I don't think I will be available day of.
-THAT, my friends, is a lot of hooch .  I think that's enough to get everyone giggly
-What else is left?
-Honestly, who is sick enough in the head just to do this for the sake of the event aspect of it?  Wedding planners must be the most mentally ill people on this Earth.

Thoughts on The Crim (tomorrow):
-I think I did plenty of carbo-loading, maybe too much.  That was a disgusting amount of never-ending pasta.
-It's awesome that you can track people this year
-I wonder how much of my family will show.  They'll probably miss seeing me even if they do.
-Is my superwoman cousin going to run it tomorrow too?  How bad is she going to destroy me?

Final Thought:
What is the big obsession with the Bradley Hills at the Crim?  Are they hilly?  Yes, they're hills, but they really aren't that bad.  I mean look at the big one (see below).  It's pathetic.  I've seen much worse elsewhere.  Wait a second, everyone is afraid of them and talks about them like they are scary, even menacing, but in the end they're not bad at all and are actually pretty harmless.  Hmmm...I think maybe we should call them the "Boo-Radley Hills."  Yeah, that's their new name.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Double Time III, or close enough (introducing the "within 24 hours" rule)

I swear, the better I get at this, the worse I do in the standings.

Let's demonstrate using the Panda Run.  I started out pretty slow (10:15 the first mile, 10:45 the next) and I'm not sure I was prepared for what I was getting myself into, really.  A night trail run with headlamps sounded really awesome in theory, and in some ways it was, but it definitely had drawbacks.  The first being that I had to wear the head lamp, and the ones they have weren't very comfy if you have a head size that wears a 7 1/2 fitted cap or above.  It kept popping off the top of my hat and was too tight anyway.  Eventually I put it directly on my head and put my hat over it backwards with it sticking out of the hat.
Yes (not actual race photo, demo only)

You really can't see much of your competition.  It's hard to tell if the person in front of you is getting closer or further away if they were more than 10 yards ahead.  The headlamps barely showed up if you were coming behind a single person, especially if they were using the lower green light instead of the bright white.   Even right on top of them you couldn't tell if they were big, small, short, tall, and sometimes you couldn't even tell if it was a man or woman until you were 5 feet away.  They could have been aliens for all I knew, and just the lighting and creepy figures coming up on you reminded me of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
There was a group of 3 that were unmistakably young teen girls.  You're not going to hear that much noise and see cartwheels (yes, they actually were doing cartwheels at mile markers) from too many other groups.  As I passed them around mile 3 they asked if I thought they were being annoying, and all I said was "All I can say is you sure have a lot of energy for running 13 miles."  I made a little bit of rush after passing them to get to a range where they were a lot less audible.

By mile 4 or 5, I was already seeing lights coming back at me.  These guys running halfers at an hour and change are amazing, and are usually breathing easier that I am.  They all just looked like headlights, though, and I couldn't see a single person.  This situation was really working against my people-watching ways. Maybe that slows me down, because I picked up a lot of time before hitting the half point.

I spent a good chunk of miles 4-6 in the dark.  It would have been really dull just to run in the dark with nothing to see save a little oval of illuminated path ahead of me, if there weren't a lot of weird animal noises going on.  We set off someone's guard dogs to high alert, as well as the house owners who turned all their exterior lights on to look out and wonder why there were all these people with lights snooping around behind their place.  There was a lot of rustling and calling noises as I passed places on the trail and I never got a good look at what but my guesses were deer, raccoon, possum (saw the tail, but could have been a musk rat too), wtf was that?, barred owls (which sound to me like a baby cooing and throwing up), deer.  Mile 5 had a distinct skunk smell to it and I was hoping and praying that I wouldn't get a spraying.  Maybe it would have been a better story though.  Do you still finish or what?  What's the rule on runner toughness in the face (or butt) of a skunk attack?

Luckily I didn't have to find out.  After the half point, I just wanted to get to the next mile faster and hold pace.  I caught quite a few people, some of which looked to be in really good shape, and I refused to relinquish position.  One woman chased me so close I could feel her behind me for 2 1/2 miles before I got far enough away that I couldn't hear her breathing anymore.  She did not want to surrender to the fat man.  I only lost her because I was still ramping up my speed.  After 6, every single mile was a little faster than the one before (at least until 12), and my return trip on the down and back course was ridiculously quicker than the trip out.  I even threw in a sub 9:00 mile in there on 11.

I pulled in just under 2:10 (according to my cheap watch that lights up in the dark), and took off my hat and headlamp.  I got my medal, and gave them my bib tab.  I didn't feel like food at all, so I skipped my plan of going to Pizza Sam, and went straight home.  It was 11:30, I had a 1 1/2 hour drive back, and I actually wanted to see Jessi before she fell asleep because I had to leave for the race basically the instant she got home from the tubing trip (where the tubing part got rained out, anyway).

I didn't get the results until 4 days later, but look at this...
Last in my age group.  Set a PR for your half-marathon; get dead last.  You also get your last name misspelled, but you can't see that because it has been edited.  I don't know why, it would be pretty easy to figure it out.

As if that wasn't enough for last weekend, I woke up 4 hours after getting home (let alone to bed) to get up and run the Blueberry Race for the second year in a row.  I don't even know why I bothered.  It's not like I was already registered.  That was just me being stubborn, especially considering I did the 8K and not the 5K.  My legs were struggling just to move at all, but I kept telling myself it would be a good way to shake out that halfer.  I'm not sure I even accomplished that.

There were no "good" miles in there.  I just kind of clipped along, reminding myself periodically to lift my head up.  I wasn't sure if I was more physically tired than I was mentally tired...or even if I was just tired.  I probably could have laid down and taken a nap.  My inner whiner was coming out big time, which just means I probably gave myself some sort of situational endurance training of some sort.  Whatever, I was sick of it, and I wanted it over.  So I just kept going.

Here's what I got for that.  Last again.  Where have all the slow runners gone?  Funny how there were still people in my age group behind me last year, but this past weekend, I get two lasts.  Last year, with rested legs, I was still 6 minutes slower, too!  Where are you slow early 30's men?  Show yourselves, uhhh, please...

After the Blueberry I had a great veggie omelette at Naples Pizzeria, and drank about 4 cups of coffee and about 6 waters, which guilted me into tipping really huge.  I ran that poor lady ragged for getting just an omelette and coffee.  Then I changed clothes and went to church there, but got a familiar priest anyway, who is covering there for now, as well as running his home parish.  He looked more tired than I felt.

Anyway, that sums up the weekend.  Jason and I did another Crim run under goal pace until I lost my will at 7 1/2 (he was really pulling me, yeah, back to normal).  We didn't make any water stops because we both forgot our money, and I can't make 10 miles without water.  So I had to stop and walk (which, for the record, is failure) for a mile and a half.  I was dripping wet, and I was getting a little dizzy.  It was probably dumb enough that I insisted on going back to a run at mile 9.  Even with the slow 1 1/2 mile walk in there, sadly, we skill almost beat my time from last year.

So this weekend can really be summed up with two phrases:

"Man I used to stink at running"
"I just got last in my group...twice, I still stink at running"

Oh well, whatever, I still improved on my half time, even if there was no sun to deal with.  I'm counting it.

I think I'm shutting down the running program until the Crim on Saturday.  My legs are tired, I need a break after a 35 mile week, if only to let the blisters and cuts heal.  Hopefully the work (despite some of my wussing out) pays off.  I think I have the right strategy in place, and what pace to expect and shoot for between each mile marker.  We'll see if I have "it" on Saturday, and we'll hope "it" isn't the pulling right calf muscle that seems to attack me every time I get near the Crim course (it's like it knows).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reflective Friday (Unsupervised Edition)

So the kibosh was put on me joining the tubing weekend with the girls.  It was opened to possibility, but the other boyfriends didn't want to go and/or were against tubing.  I suppose I am too, honestly, but I could have dealt with sitting on a tube in a river drinking beer.

So what selfish fun things have I done today while the lady is out? 

Um, I mowed the lawn, cleaned up some of the house, and did a little laundry.  So far I'm not exactly living the bachelor paradise, which of course is being "stripped to the waist and eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery" as you all know.  Yes, that's what we do when you're not around. 


"Since Jason and I both had bleeding incidents (his from an overzealous snot rocket and mine from return of drip nips) does that make us running blood brothers?"

"If he hadn't started leaking, he was going to tear me a new one on that run yesterday."

"How late is Jets Pizza open?" (I can't have it if Jessi's here, the digestive results are very...WW1-ish?)

"Should I run Stampede or Panda half-marathons tomorrow?"

"Should I just go to 5/3rd myself and see baseball and monkeys riding dogs and herding sheep?"

"I wonder if I could actually eat one of thos 5/3rd burgers."

"Those two Half-Marathons are like 12 hours apart.  If nobody wants to do anything tomorrow, maybe I could do both..."

"...Maybe not"

"I'll probably sleep in and do the late one.  I don't know, maybe neither."

"Either way, I think it's time for bed."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Line Club

Got in another Crim route run yesterday.  The idea was to start pushing for time.  I want my 1:30s Crim, and 1:36 or lower to be more exact.  So it's time to push these legs whether they want it or not.  So Jason came by, we walked down to Saginaw and headed out to follow the blue line.  The Crim training group people were out in full force.  I have no idea what they were doing.  Apparently just training to walk slowly up hills or something.  The only people I saw running were all of us rogue runners that were also out on the route on their very special training day and actually running the route the way that you're supposed to (not to go Seinfeld on everyone, but what's the deal with running it backwards?).

They didn't get in our way much.  The walkers bug me a lot less that the run-walkers these days anyway.  I know it's a strategy, and some Jeff Galloway dude advocates it (so the Crim site says) and what not, but I really hate it.  I really hate that it's official Crim Training policy to do it, and they're breeding more people to run and stop dead to walk immediately in front of me.  Sure, you can get better times doing it.  I'm sure I could too.  That's not the point.  Walking is failure.  That is my official position.  Mr. Galloway, I looked you up.  You're officially a legend.  Why are you at the center of this hive of evil?

Look, I'm not going to be a snobby jerk about peoples' times.  I'm not even going to fault you for having to walk during a run because you're in recovery from injury, you have heart conditions, you're older, or you're just trying to get back into shape and you're exhausted (or whatever).  I get it, you have to stop for your own good.  When it become your actual race strategy, I have a problem.  I don't like it.  I hate you.  You're cheaters, and your times are fraudulent.  I want to start a race where there are men and women on the course dressed as Tusken Raiders directed to paintball the crap out of anyone seen walking.  Anyone with paint on them at the finish is DQ'd (and not the good kind where you get a Blizzard).  I may do just that, just so I can do a run without one of them leap-frogging me for miles.

Anyway, back to our Crim run.  We made a good first mile pace, despite stopping for traffic a few times, and I was ready to take off.  It wasn't meant to be though.  My friend had a tight thigh and a couple other issues, and instead of going faster we held steady.  After being stopped at a light for a while, we slowed down, and eventually (for a change) it was me dragging him along and being the good running friend for once.  We had to take a detour to stop chasing a dog away from its owner down the sidewalk and pissing them off, and another one for a loose dog.  Leashes are really hard to find and use, I guess.  Then after the Bradleys we did a water stop, and then headed on for the rest of the route.

We did make it all running, but it was slow.  I knew it was slow when I was actually anxious to hit a dead sprint with over a mile to go thinking "I can sprint the rest of it."  Jason cut me loose at Saginaw and I busted down the street through the early week Back to the Bricks (an over-sized car show that takes us over for a week and is pretty awesome) crowd watching classic cars going by.

I realized I was bleeding through my new white Warrior Dash shirt (nipple skin failure).  Then I had to chuckle a bit.  I am a really big guy, bleeding from the chest, and running down the street of one of the higher crime cities around.  Hopefully I didn't scare anybody away.  I doubt it.  That would take much more blood, and I didn't even have enough going to breastfeed a baby vampire.

The final time (with all the stopping for lights included) put us at 11 minute miles.  Oh well, it's a throw-away.  Jason can and will do better, and he's the one that ran at the pace I want last year.  There's no way he got worse running 3 times a week instead of 2.  He had a bad day, and next time he'll push me.  If not, I'll drag him with, I'll add running days, or whatever it takes.  I need to get this show on the road.  I'm tired of slacking off.

With that out of the way, on a personal note we're about 2 weeks from the wedding now.  One thing we've learned is that we both suck at bachelor/bachelorette events.  None of my people can actually get together for anything because of work schedules, previous plans, or whatever.  Her big tubing thing this weekend is down to something like her, her maid of honor, the MOH's sister, and some other girl she barely knows.  I can't even get guys together with promises of baseball and monkeys riding dogs herding sheep, so we just fail, I guess.  She is currently lobbying the other girls to allow men, and I'm thinking we can go do that and come home and she can go to baseball and weird animal combinations instead.

Last night after the run, I realized I should probably finally get food (because I can't survive on a nature valley bar and a small bag of veggie straws).  I figured I'd wait for her to get home in case she was hungry, and it was a good call.  She was stressed, and hungry.  So we went to the Bee's and got her a beer and got us both some food.  I broke my no weekly beer rule and got a Summer Shandy to join her in a gesture of stress relieving solidarity, I suppose. 

I am extremely fortunate to have a woman whose problems can be solved by simple things like seeing me and/or having a beer (and the like).  It's a mutual thing, too.  The second I see her after a bad day, half the stress is gone immediately.  We talked about that, and how we should just forget the bachelor/bachelorette stuff, forget everyone else, and go do something together.  Honestly, she's the most fun person I know anyway.  I guess that's just another reason I know that I'm marrying the right person.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pizza and The Legend

In a valiant attempt at actually trying to PR again in this wicked heat and get off this plateau in the 26-27 minute range, I took off like a shot for the Great Pizza Challenge (Aug. 4th).  The time to beat was my 25:50 from Clio's Dalmatian.  I found neon guy again, and pretended that I was roped to his back and he was dragging me along.  I kept hearing all the cool pacer people shouting out that I was at a 24 minute pace.  I was raging fast.

Then I hit the 2 mile mark.  "Control to legs, what are you doing down there?"  "I'm givin' her all she's got captain," said my legs in their best Scotty voice, but it was no use.  The I started hearing the calls "24 1/2," "25"....I just burned out, and the last 3 blocks I could have sat right down on the curb.  I was sucking in all the oxygen I could and the legs were on fire, and neon guy was way out in front and finished by now.

On a positive note I knew I had given all I had for this one for once, and I didn't walk away empty handed.  Neon guy must have decided to run in his age group and not in the heavies, so I snagged a #1.  No PR, but I did the best I have in a while with a 26:08. Nice having an award for a pizza challenge that isn't food related.  Besides, I can't take more than 2 pieces of the stuff they gave us after the race.  The crust was hard enough that my jaw got a work out too!
Ran my first trail Half-Marathon (Aug. 6), and I have to admit it kind of beat the crap out of me.  I didn't pace myself early, and went way too fast.  Luckily most of the people I went by early didn't come back and get me, especially the two that said "we'll see you again later."  Had some nice conversation with another racer miles 7-11 until I finally told her I was "losing it" and to head on past.  She said "ok, I'll lead for a while" like I was going to continue to keep up.  It was nice of her to try to give me the mental boost, but it just didn't pan out.

I guess I just didn't know what I was getting myself into.  There's a reason they only had a 5 and 10 mile until this year!  I think before my next trail half, I want to be trained for a solid 17 miles on the road.  This trail run was billed as relatively flat, but when I was kicking myself in the chest with my knees going up on hills that were nearly impossible to actually run (I still tried, I'm stubborn) and hills I could shoe ski down, I didn't really believe it.  I guess this just tells me expect more of the same or worse on trails. 

On top of that, the majority of it was single track, so there's only room for one.  You had to really know for sure if you wanted to pass or not, and it took a lot of effort to push through the weeds to do so.  I generally moved off to the side and let people pass me on the track, but a lot of others weren't so accommodating.  There were a lot of chances to take a spill, and a lot of roots sticking up.  I saw four people take a nose dive myself.  I was nearly one of them (twice).  Also I really underestimate how much bounce I got from pavement and how much each blade of grass would work against me.  All these things and the humidity (soaked w/i 2 miles) made for a tough morning, and for a pretty crappy time (2:29:57) from me.

I would have felt worse about the time had I not felt like I toughed out a lot of really rough terrain and given it about all I had.  You just come to some races that bend you until you break, and The Legend (I swear there was more elevation changes than this seems to indicate) was definitely that.  Even my muscles agreed with me as I tried to take them for a dip in the lake and the tightened and pulled on me to the point I had to use my hands to pull me back on shore for some extended stretching.  Then it took a good long while before I felt I could get to my feet.  Just more proof that I'm still made up of primarily marshmallow fluff.  Just get me a sailor suit and a hat that says "Stay Puft."
Dirty Trail Shoes and a SOAKED Flash Shirt

I am so DONE!
After that beat-down, I took the early part of the week off to recover.  I was pretty sure if I ran Tuesday there'd be just as much exploding calf action as "Cowboys and Aliens" so I gave myself the day off.
I wish I had this cup
Sure I did a little make-up and got in 7 1/2 miles Thursday and 9 1/2 Sunday, but I'm still kind of sulking.  I know I can get up another level and I'm not pushing myself right now.  I'm going to have to make a pretty heavy push here just to get my Crim time where I want.  Meanwhile, my cousin just finished her first 70.3, and is making me feel like a lazy blob in comparison, because that's pretty awesome.  Not a lot of people get to that kind of level of fitness.  Me getting there is just unfathomable right now, but never say never (just not soon).
Legend Medal (1st year of The Legend Half)

...or more like the dare took me

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mitten State Warriors

First off, I have to stress just how awesome it was to have an event like this near Flint.  I know Red Frog Events made buckets of money on the event, but they still put together a great race.  Considering the fact that Mid-Michigan brought it and made this the 2nd largest Warrior Dash ever, they handled all the parking and the mass of humanity quite well.  Racers did not want for water, places to get shade and rest, or places to get beer/food/etc.  It was a really nice set up.

Leading up to the race, I found out not only was our friend Ray coming in from Maine for the race, but he was in the same exact heat as us.  Also our friends Pat and Mike showed up in our heat as well, so we had a nice group going.  J and I rounded out the group, and were the only two of us that did costumes, with him as Richard Simmons and me as Razor Ramon HG (of Japanese wrestling and Bakuten variety show fame).  
Pre-Race Photo
We hung out for about an hour strolling around in costume until it was finally time to line up for our heat.  We hung out toward the back and waited for our turn.  Ray was already wearing his "I Survived the Warrior Dash" shirt and was asked by a race official if he already ran, because apparently a few people got caught making multiple runs.  He was a little too mud free to be a repeat, though.  Anyway, the fire went off and we were on our way.
Fireball Start Signal

The first obstacle, about a mile in, was climbing over cars and running through tires.  I was out for a good time, so I went right for the angles that allowed me to climb on the roofs of cars as much as possible.  I was really excited to be underway, but then we hit the logs in water obstacle, and the masses ahead of us just slowed to a crawl.  J and I went around them as much as possible, but it was slow going for absolutely no reason at all. 

After doing that, and going up a hill, there was a nice over a wall and under barbed wire obstacle with about 4 jumps and 4 ducks.  Again, people ahead of us going so slow, but I wasn't out to set any records and just wanted to finish unscathed and have a good time, so it didn't bother me that much.  Plus, the waiting was nowhere near as bad as R3.  I just was hoping to kind of keep the race going at a steady pace, and stay mentally "in it." 

Well I got what I wanted with the next obstacle.  The "Warrior Wall" showed up in my view, and I didn't know about it at all.  If I had, I probably would have freaked.  When I saw it, I thought, "There's no way my fat ass is getting up that."  Sure there were boards to help you up, but you could barely get a toe hold on them given they were only about 2" wide , so it was mostly just pulling yourself up on the rope and scaling the wall Bo Jackson style.

Oh well, I decided "F**k it, I'm gonna try."  I took a big jump and a push off the wall with my foot, grabbed the rope, and started kicking and climbing.  Next thing I knew I was up and at the top.  I pulled myself up, and climbed down the boards on the back.  I couldn't believe it.  I waited for J to get down, gave him, a fist bump, and thought "It's on.  Whatever they throw at me now, I'm going to conquer it."

We crawled across some giant net hammocks and did some cheap balancing obstacle where I thought the boards were going to break under me.  Then came "Blackout" where you had to crawl on your hands and knees through a short tent made of black tarp with hay on the ground.  Our group was at 2:30, the hottest part of the day, and it was 90°, but it had to be 120° in there (maybe more).  I haven't felt hot outside or anywhere else since then, and when I came out the other side the 90° felt like air conditioning. 

There was a bungee cord obstacle that was a lot like R3 where you had to go over or under them, and we did a lot of waiting for people and holding them open for them to get through.  After that we went down into a huge uneven mud bog.  The mud smelled mildly like manure, and varied from being about waist deep to about chest deep on me at points.  Here's where the race just came to a grinding halt.  Everyone was so tentative about going in and when they were already in they seemed to just freeze and not go anywhere.  I fell into a trap of letting a girl use my shoulder to brace herself above it on a branch and half a tree that was sticking up.  I got stuck standing there waiting for her to calculate a route that didn't involve going into the mud.  She was shaking like a leaf and starting to dig into my shoulder like a hawk's claws into its prey.

She asked if it was okay, of course, but I was getting a little tired of it after it went on for more than two minutes, not to mention the people ahead were still at a crawl.  For the love of god, just GO!  I thought about just going around it and being a jerk and letting her just fall in when I moved.  It's not like I need to be nice to women other than my fiance anyway, right?  I couldn't do it though.  Blame the gentleman in me, or just my upbringing, but I got her through without a lot of mud, and helped a lot of others through that mud bog, and then up the slick hills.  I could have pushed around and let them fend for themselves, but why be that way?  Besides it made the mud more fun.

Of course right after it we had to climb another pegged wall, and climb down a rope where the knots were not in any good places for me to have a decent climb down, so I did it all in one motion with a little rope burn.  Then I watched Ray bolt past us and go up the cargo climb like freaking Spiderman.  I wasn't that good on it, but after the two wall climbs, the cargo net that I had feared this whole time was the least of three climbing evils.  It also helped that I heard Jessi yelling out at me. 
J and me on the net (top left)
Now came the fire jump, but I had something special planned.  I pulled off to the side, reached into my pleather costume (which was way too hot to do this race in by the way), and pulled out a small sandwich bag with an extendable roasting stick and a pair of marshmallows.  Yes, I planned ahead.  The bag kept everything clean of mud and I was able to get them on the stick and ready to go.  I stopped at the fire jump, knelt down, roasted my marshmallow and then  jumped the fires and ate it.  The reaction from the crowd on that one was AWESOME, especially hearing some guy yell "Holy s***, he has a marshmallow"
Prepping the 'mallows


Done roasting ('mallow still on the stick). It's jump time

From there it was just a nice cool jump into a mud pit, going under some barbed wire...
Last Mud Pit
Last Crawl
...and a last run to the finish.
Last Stretch
We lost Ray for a bit after the race, but took an after photo with Pat and Mike after they finished.
After Shot (glasses broken, but faking like they're not)
My costume was completely destroyed, but it had a good run (Halloween 2009 and a Warrior Dash)
Studs gone off my bill, glasses broken, rips, and dirt and smells that will never come out.  Costume over!
Face Mud
Costume Carnage

Shoe Pile (my old New Balances are in there)

Shirt, Medal, Fuzzy Warrior Hat?

So there you have it, my Warrior Dash experience.  It was fun, and I'd do it again.  Next time I'd start further up in the field to not be held up so much, and probably would go with a more breathable fabric, but other than that I'd do much of the same.  I'd still be nice out there throughout the obstacles when people need a hand, and J and I would still wait for each other at obstacles to make for better pictures.  Speaking of, I have to mention that my lovely fiance braved the heat and sun, which are much worse on her than me, to get the majority of the photos seen here (thanks baby!).
My Lady and I
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