Monday, December 17, 2012

World’s Toughest Mudder- Part 3- The Race

The Battlefield

I have to admit I had bigger expectations concerning the course than what I saw. No doubt, this course was more difficult than a traditional Tough Mudder. There were 50% more obstacles than normal over a slightly shorter (at 10 miles) course than I have normally seen. And yes, some of the obstacles were made slightly to significantly harder than normal. But it seems like compared to last year’s WTM, they scaled things back a little bit even though they added 1.5 miles?

The race was held at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. It is simply a drag strip race park with some motocross tracks off to one side. We seemed to make use of the entire facility including a couple of loops into the woods. The same site was home to a traditional Tough Mudder about a month earlier, so Tough Mudder is able to reuse many of the obstacles.

I did wear my GoPro for the first lap so I could capture all of the obstacles on film. Lucky for me, someone else did the same and did all of the work of editing. Here is a video of all of the obstacles and where they were located on the course.

There were two types of obstacles on the course, obstacles that you must complete or you would face disqualification (or so they say) and those that you must attempt or face a penalty obstacle. The penalties consisted of either an additional 200 meter run or an extra Artic Enema obstacle. Both of the penalties were a joke and ended up being easier than the obstacle itself.

Pre Race

So after getting a decent amount of sleep, all things considered, my brother and I got to the course around 8 a.m. or so. There was still frost on the tents from the night before but it was sunny out and warming up quickly. They announced that we all needed to be at the start by 9:30 for the safety meeting which was annoyingly early. The weather forecast was for low 50s as a high and 36 for the low overnight.  I debated with myself for quite a while as to what gear to wear for lap 1 and finally made my decision. By 9 or so, we were alll dressed and hanging out in the pit area, just waiting for the show to begin.  We went to the staging area a few minutes early when I noticed a couple of areas on my wetsuit where the seams were coming apart. Not good. I knew if my wetsuit failed me, it wasn't going to be pretty. My brother had brought some wetsuit glue and duct tape so we ran to our tent to try to make an emergency repair. There wasn't much else we could do at that point.

The pre-race stuff was pretty typical with the addition of the race rules and safety concerns that were never really followed anyway. The only notable differences were the lack of out of shape people and the fact that all but a few people had full wetsuits on. I noticed a guy dressed as Spiderman in Spidey tights. We saw him in the medical tent half way through the first lap. I supposed the other big difference is that by the time it was time to start, there were puddles of pee everywhere as people generally decided against waiting for the first water obstacle to take a leak. 

Lap 1

At 10:00 a.m. on a cold sunny morning,after countless hours of training and 100s of miles of running over almost a year,the race began.  As is typical for long races, most people started out way too fast and way faster than they said they would. We didn't. We did a very slow jog just to get ourselves moving and took in the scenary. It was actually kind of cool seeing the mass of people twisting and turning through the hilly motorcycle section of the raceway because I knew I was going to pass most of them eventually.  Lap 1 was pretty uneventful. I typically start to get a feeling of dread halfway through the course as I realize that I am about to go face to face with Electric Eel and Electroshock Therapy. This time, I didn't give it much thought until a couple of hundred yards before we got there (other than the lap where my brother chose to bring it up much earlier). 

I hate the Electric Eel. I have always hated it and I the more I do this obstacle, the more I hate it.  Getting shocked and possibly knocked out sucks.  One would think that in a race filled with veteran hardened racers that have likely all been through this numerous times, that we would all just face the obstacle and do it.  The reality is that I saw more people hesitate at Electric Eel the first lap than at any Tough Mudder I have ever completed. Most people don't have a clue as to how much it sucks until they have been hit with it.  We came up to the obstacle (around mile 8 or so) and started to look for a route through.  The wires that hang down all have a varying amount of curl to them so there is always a chance of getting through untouched.  I did notice one athlete walk right up to the obstacle and just start crawling...three seconds later I heard someone screaming like a least it WAS a girl so I guess it was okay. Nothing like hearing the screams of a fellow competitor right before I face the same suffering.  I paced back and forth several times and chose a route that looked like it might work. A few deep breaths and here we go! I have a problem with staying calm once I take the first hit as I seem to go into fight mode so I figured I would slowly wind my way through until I take the first hit and then crawl as fast as I could once I took the first shock. My brother and I both started our low crawl. We would lower our head underwater while going under the wire then lift it once past a row of wires. That way we could see where we were going.

Every once in a while, I could hear a sizzling sound of electricity when I had my head under the water and every once in a while I could heard screaming (and a couple of cuss words...this WAS New Jersey) as others were getting hit. Slowly but surely I got to the other side with NO SHOCKS!!! My brother took one to the leg at the very end but I made it shock free. I crawled out of the obstacle, raised my arms in victory and shouted "NO SHOCKS"!!! Unless you have been in this torture chamber and knocked out in it you probably don't understand but this was a huge morale booster. I knew if I could beat it once, it could be beaten every time.

The rest of lap one was where the bigger water obstacles were. None of them were of any issue early in the race. We also had to drag some tires for 1/3 of a mile near the end. On the first lap, I just grabbed a set without looking at them. Big mistake as they were bigger than most and had a very short rope. Lesson learned.  The last obstacle was electroshock therapy which was a joke this time because the wires were so high you could just crawl under. From there, it was maybe a half mile jog on pavement back to the stadium area for the finish of lap 1.

Time: 3 hours 31 minutes.
Position: 1022 of 1097 that fnished lap 1.


Wetsuit: I had a 3/2 and a 5/4 wetsuit with me. The 3/2 was a cheapo that I bought off of Ebay for $20. It was a little looser and my testing showed it let in much more water than my 5/4. I really hoped to be able to wear it for a couple of laps but given the cold temperatures in the morning and since we were going to go slow from the start I wasn't worried about overheating with the 5/4. I ended up putting the 5/4 on right from the beginning and never took it off until 26 hours later. Under the wetsuit I made the last minute decision to wear my off brand long sleeve shirt that I wore in Houston (the one my girls decorated). The reason for the shirt was because my 5/4 fit so tight that it took forever to get situated around my shoulders and comfortable. The shirt helped the wetsuit slide. I also had Bodyglide smeared all over myself to try to prevent any rashes. I also smeared plenty of Vaseline around my crotch area to prevent urine burns (thanks to a recommendation from a previous years' competitor).  I have to say, other than some missing skin behind my knees, I came away 50 miles later completely unscathed.

Headwear: Neoprene swim cap.

Shoes: I brought two pairs of shoes....Innov-8 Roclite 318s and Innov-8 X-talon 190s. I love the 190s but only brought them as a backup since I had never done anything close to 24 hours in a minimalist shoe. The 318s are a very light shoe but still offer full support. I did end up drilling some small holes around the perimeter of the shoe to allow them to drain water better. My pool testing showed me that they didn't drain well unmodified. I wore the 318s the entire time.

Socks: One pair of drymax calf length socks. I also smeared a paste of Goldbond foot powder / Vaseline on my feet before the start of this and every lap. Again, this was an awesome tip from a fellow competitor. I never got a blister, never got a hot spot, and my feet never even wrinkled up even though they were wet for 24 hours.

Gloves: Mechanix gloves.

Jacket: One cheapo windbreaker. I mainly wore it on this lap because it was bright orange and stood out among everyone else's black wetsuits. This made it easier for our cheering section to find us. I wore this windbreaker the entire time and had a letter my daughter wrote to me before the race tucked inside a zippered pocket.

I also wore an armband with "Neeve" and "Tatum's" photo inside. The intent was to replace the photo every lap. I ended up wearing it for two laps before abandoning the idea as it kept getting hung up on the obstacles.

Pitstop #1

I wore my GPS watch for the first two laps so I could measure how long the laps were, capture the layout of the course for later, and most importantly, to get a feel for how many calories we were burning.  The course came in just over 10 miles and said I burned 1,004 calories. I figured we burned a couple hundred extra through the obstacles and I decided to take in 1,000 calories per lap. My fuel of choice was Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem powder.  It is geared towards ultra endurance events and like I mentioned in my previous post, it seemed to work for me.  Even between laps 4 and 5, I was still able to take this in without feeling sick.  Between laps we also pulled off our shoes, wiped down our feet, checked for any issues (blisters, hot spots), reapplied Vaseline/Gold Bond powder, then put on dry socks. We never had a pit stop where we didn't do this.

Total time: 35  minutes.

Lap 2

At roughly 2:00 p.m. we head out for lap #2.  I made two slight gear changes for this lap...I added my 2mm neoprene vest over my wetsuit. I did this simply to try to protect my failing wetsuit from further damage. I also added some windbreaker pants. I did this because of the "Skid Marks" obstacle which was basically the Everest obstacle but we climbed up the back of the obstacle on a tactical ladder and then slid down the obstacle. The obstacle was pretty dry on lap 1 and I thought I was going to tear the butt out of my wetsuit and thought the pants would be good protection. Big mistake as the pants ended up being a constant drag when wet. By lap 2, skid marks was muddy and slippery anyway.

Going down "Skid Marked"

Lap two was uneventful. I got through Electric Eel again without getting hit and I found a much lighter set of tires to drag towards the end of the lap.  By the end of lap two I was starting to realize that any tiredness I felt around mile 8 disappeared once we went through the two long water crossings (roughly 300 feet). The cold water, while unpleasant, was doing a great job of rejuvenating my legs! My feet were pretty cold after this lap though. Time to try out the neoprene socks!

No problems with ripped pec muscles at Everest this time!

Total Time after two laps: 7 hours 32 minutes.

Position: 834 of 1097.


Wetsuit:5/4 wetsuit with 2mm neoprene vest over the top

Headwear: Neoprene swim cap.

Shoes: Roclite 318s

Socks: One pair of drymax calf length socks.  Goldbond foot powder / Vaseline on my feet.

Gloves: Mechanix gloves.

Jacket: One cheapo windbreaker.

Pants: Windbreaker pants

Pitstop #2

Same as the first pit stop but this one took us a few more minutes as it took almost 45 minutes. We were wasting valueable time. By now you could see a few people here and there that were limping. Several tents in the pit area were already missing. People were calling it a day.

We took in the same nutrition, checked our feet, and made some significant gear changes because we could already feel it getting cooler and knew it would be dark by the time we returned. I added a second windbreaker, changed into 5mm neoprene gloves, added my 2mm neoprene socks, and put on my neoprene hood.

Total time: 45 minutes.

Lap 3

At roughly 6:15 p.m. we head out for lap #3. It was now dark and the course was pretty empty already. By now, the conversation between my brother and I was becoming even much more limited than it already was.  You can't really hear much with a full neoprene hood on. One conversation I remember vividly was at the midpoint of lap three when we saw the mile 5 marker and commented that it kind of looked like there was frost on the sign. was only supposed to get down to 36 degrees overnight, why would there be frost on the sign? This was going to suck a little worse than we thought. By lap three, I could feel water leaking into my wetsuit through the hole I noticed early in the day. Not fun.

Within another hour we could see ice forming on the obstacles. By this point I felt fine physically. In fact, I was pretty excited about how good I felt. The misery level was probably what I expected, nothing too bad really but the ice forming so early in the evening just told me it was going to be a long night.  The colder the better was our thought as we always thought we would be able to handle it better than most.  I will say it felt good knowing that my brother and I were out there and most people were not.  Every step taken was another step gained on probably a couple hundred people.  We heard several competitors comment that this was their last lap and no one was going to talk them into another one.  Good. Go home!

Total Time after three laps: 12 hours 12 minutes.

Position: 473 of 1097.


Wetsuit:5/4 wetsuit with 2mm neoprene vest over the top

Headwear: Neoprene hood.

Shoes: Roclite 318s

Socks: Injinji toe socks. 2mm neoprene socks. Goldbond foot powder / Vaseline on my feet.

Gloves: 5mm neoprene gloves.

Jacket: Two cheapo windbreakers.

Pants: None

Headlamp: Black Diamond Storm

Pitstop #3

When we got to the pits after lap 3, it was obvious that most people were done. I talked briefly with a neighbor who told me he was too old for this (41) and that he was going to take a nap and see what he felt like in a couple of hours...he never returned to the course.  Many others had taken their wetsuits off and were walking around the pit area or climbing into their tents. We knew the tents were where you go to die and it appears that this is what happened to most of them.  I pulled off my 5mm gloves and could barely get my 7mm gloves back on.  By now, all of the climbing and / or the cold was taking a toll on my hands as they were starting to swell up. Thanks to a volunteer in the pits, we were able to wrestle my gloves back on.  It was freezing out so I added my third and last remaining wind breaker.  We did the normal routine and headed back out for lap #4. Where is everyone?

Lap 4

By now, I won't admit I was tired but things were no longer fun. It was freezing out, the festive astmosphere of earlier hours was long gone, and I knew things were only getting started.  At roughly 11:00 p.m. we went out for lap #4. The course was really thin now and I was really glad my brother was out there with me. Shared suffering is the best suffering. It was pretty cold by now and it was very obviously below freezing as every obstacle was frozen over and slippery.  We had been smart enough to save our energy in the beginning so running was no more of a problem than it was in the beginning although it wasn't enjoyable either. When we were cold, we ran until we were warm. By lap four, they had shut down the top rung of the "Ladder to Hell" obstacle so that if we fell, we wouldn't fall as far. The only thing I really remember about lap 4 (they all kind of run together) was how quiet everything was other than the same old music they were playing over and over and over again through some cheap crackling speakers. Crossing the long water obstacle "Pirate's Booty" was now becoming interesting.

It was a 300 foot (roughly) swim and after crossing the pond we had to crawl up a twenty foot(?) cargo net that was hanging into the water. My hands were freezing cold during lap four and I wasn't all that enthused about climbing it again in the dark for sure since all of the rescue workers had decided it was so cold out that they were going to go sit in vehicles or elsewhere much further away from the action than they should have been. The good thing is that the water was shallow enough the whole way that I could walk the entire distance and hold my hands out of the water. It slowed me down some but seemed to make the most sense.

Pirate's Booty- Lap 1

By this time, "Balls to the Wall" was pretty dangerous. This obstacle was a "simple" rope climb against a wall followed by a climb down the other side. The transition from one side to the other was very oddly / poorly designed and it just seemed to be designed to capture limbs and snap them off.  I have read numerous posts and comments about people that fell off this obstacle and I witnessed three people that couldn't make the obstacle walk right around the obstacle in front of a Tough Mudder official. So much for enforcing any kind of rules on a "must complete" obstacle. I did hear one woman cry out with tears in her eyes on lap two with "won't anyone help me?" as she couldn't make it up. Myself and another guy gave her a boost and she was fine but I was surprised how difficult this obstacle was for so many people.

"Balls to the Wall"

We crossed the finish line for the fourth time and wondered where we were in the standings but confident that we had to be in a pretty respectable position.

Total Time after four laps: 17 hours 12 minutes.

Position: 192 of 1097.


Wetsuit:5/4 wetsuit with 2mm neoprene vest over the top

Headwear: Neoprene hood.

Shoes: Roclite 318s

Socks: One pair of drymax calf length socks. 2mm neoprene socks. Goldbond foot powder / Vaseline on my feet.

Gloves: 7mm neoprene gloves.

Jacket: Three windbreakers.

Pants: none

Pitstop #4
By now it was 3:15 a.m. All this time, I had been checking in on Facebook between laps. Amazingly, there were a ton of people that were actually still up and keeping tabs of us. This is where we learned that we were in 192nd position and I was 18th in my age group. A volunteer told me most of the tents were empty but still here because people were dropping but didn't have the energy to pack up their stuff. By this point we knew several things.  A lot of people were paying attention and were cheering us on. Very few people were out on the course. One more lap was going to move us up significantly in the standings.  My brother and I did the usual routine in the pits and got up to do it again. We never discussed quitting. We didn't have any more clothes to put on so we were stuck with the gear we had. I did, however, have a quaterback hand warmer tube that I brought along for lap five. It made all the difference in the world.  It was well below freezing now as the ground was freezing hard as well. Having grown up in MN we estimated it must by mid to high 20s. The ground doesn't freeze up when it is 32 degrees out.  My brother did lose his headlamp somewhere on lap 4. Being the cheapo that he is, he didn't want to take out his spare as he planned on returning it unopened. So he went without one. A Tough Mudder official told him to make sure he put it one as we left the pit area. He pretended to pull it out of his pocket and we sped off. It was too cold and the rules were too slack for them to disqualify him for lack of a headlamp.

Lap 5

This lap sucked. We started it around 4:00 or 4:30 a.m. (I don't really know) with the knowledge that the sun would be up before we finished it and it wasn't going to get any colder than it was when we started it.  I have to say that there was nothing fun about this lap. Nothing. We walked up to almost every obstacle and commented on how stupid, how lame, or how dumb it was. Then we overcame it. By now the simplest obstacle like "Kiss of Mud" (low crawl or roll under barb wire) was dreadful. As I rolled and rolled and rolled, I would stop every thirty feet or so to try to get my bearings. By the end of the obstacle I was so dizzy I was ready to puke. 

I am SO dizzy right now!

My brother's feet were freezing on this lap (and the previous one) so our strategy was to move from medical tent to medical tent and warm his feet for a few minutes each time. It turns out he wore the exact same model neoprene socks but his had a leak while mine were water tight. That seems to have made a difference even though water (or pee) would get in from the top. There were a half dozen zombies in each of the medical tents. Normally, I would get a good laugh out of other people's suffering but even that wasn't funny anymore. Nothing was funny.  We would spend maybe 5 or 10 minutes in the tent, long enough to get some warmth on our feet but not so long that our body furnaces would shut down too much. We knew the heated tents were a bad idea but we needed feet to walk on so I guess there wasn't much we could do at that point.

So we continued. We complained.  We made fun of our selves and our situation. We might have even talked about how stupid we were as we continued to press forward and overcome obstacles. In the medical tent before the rings obstacle, we saw the men's leader and eventual winner walk into the tent as we walked out. He was on lap #8 and he looked pretty rough. I say that, but he still ended up passing us a few minutes later. By then, it was getting lighter out and we spotted our sister who had just returned to continue watching her idiot brothers suffer. It was really cool having her out there watching us.

Midway through lap 5, right after my sister Cheryl found us. We reminded ourselves numerous times while out on the course to put something on our face to prevent windburn but never remembered to actually do it.

Soon we came up to Electric Eel again. By now it wasn't working because ice had built up enough on the wires to pull them down and into the water so it shorted itself out. Bummer. We continued to trudge through the remaining obstacles.

Crossing the pond in front of "Pirate's Booty" on lap five.

By the time we got to the tire drag obstacle, we saw the woman's leader (Amelia Boone) catching up to us.

She appeared to be in much better shape than the men's leader but at the time was maybe 30 minutes behind him? She almost ended up catching him though. Next up was the mud mile, a series of mud trenches that tend to take a good bit of energy to get through. Luckily, they weren't that bad for this course and even after five laps they were weren't that bad.

Finally, after 22 hours and 24 minutes, we crossed the finish line for the fifth and final time!

Total Time after five laps: 22 hours 24 minutes.

Position: 61 and 62 of 1097.


Wetsuit:5/4 wetsuit with 2mm neoprene vest over the top

Headwear: Neoprene hood.

Shoes: Roclite 318s

Socks: One pair of drymax calf length socks. 2mm neoprene socks. Goldbond foot powder / Vaseline on my feet.

Gloves: 7mm neoprene gloves.

Jacket: Three windbreakers.

Pants: None

Other: Quarterback hand warmer and headlamp.


So that was it. We were done.  We decided not to go out to attempt another.  While I am 90% confident we could have made it through another lap in time, we were done. We had proven what we needed to prove.  We decided being able to walk away unscathed was more important than an extra 20 or so places in the final standings and risking anything.  Besides that, I was tired and I am lazy. There were certainly people there to encourage us to continue...of course none of them had actually even completed one Tough Mudder lap in their life so I guess we kind of ignored them. :-)

I have had plenty of time to reflect on this whole thing. One thing I have to say is that the event was poorly organized. As one volunteer that worked through the whole thing said, "it is run by a bunch of kids, what do you expect?".  I won't go on about everything that was done poorly. It really doesn't matter at this point and Tough Mudder isn't known for their customer service so I wouldn't expect many changes anyway. Having said that, I had a great experience, I accomplished what I hoped to accomplish, and I am content. Have I looked back and asked myself if I should have gone for another lap? Of course! But I have no regrets. I went much further than I have ever travelled in my life on foot and I did it in some pretty harsh conditions. While I firmly believe almost anyone could do what I just did if they put their mind to it and put in the proper training, very few people can actually say they did. I am 43 years old and have never been in better shape in my life. Ever. Not even close. And the fact that I was able to walk away in great shape proves that. 

As to the future, at this point I don't know. I suppose I would consider doing the event again someday but only if I thought the event was going to be improved and only if I could assemble a team that had an honest chance at winning the team title (first place team did six laps in 23:15). It wouldn't have been much of a stretch to do even seven laps with a better strategy althoug I recognize it is nothing but talk unless one actually does it. Mentally, it would have been brutal.

As to what I would do differently if I were to do this again, the biggest change would be in our pit strategy. Like I said, we spent way too much time in the pits. Those 35-45 minute pit stops added up into enough time for an additional lap. Other than that, it seemed like we were, as my brother put it, one lap behind on our gear choices, meaning we didn't add the warmer gear fast enough. We never really got to the shivering stages though except while we were in the pits.

Training wise, I think the two days after the event tell the story. My body was almost entirely unscathed. I had some stiffness pretty much everywhere but nothing more than I have after any good crossfit workout...just pretty much all over. I had zero joint pain besides my hands. My hands were slightly swollen for two or three days. I should have spent some time strengthening my hands. Outside of my hands, I had some skin missing from behind my knees but I never noticed any rubbing during the entire race. I also had some mild chemical burns down my legs from peeing on myself for 24 hours but I was expecting that. From numerous Facebook posts and blog posts, it is obvious that many people weren't so lucky. Tons of people fell from Pirate's Booty and Balls to the Wall. One guy suffered Rhabdomyolysis and was hospitalized for three days after completing seven laps. One guy tore the exact same muscle in his chest as I did in Dallas and just had surgery.  And of course plenty of people were taken out by the cold.

Gear wise, I was 100% prepared. The weather got down to almost 10 degrees below what was forecast but our gear was good. As I mentioned, we should have put on more layers earlier but that is about it. My brother should have made sure his neoprene socks were watertight and I should have had some larger sized gloves to allow for my hands to swell. I put an enormous amount of effort into getting my gloves back on and between lap four and five I thought for a while that I was going to have to go out with just my mechanix gloves as they just wouldn't go back on.

I also want to thank all of the donors for "Debra and Ray's" adoption fund. I won't post how much we raised but I will say it was a significant amount of money and I was totally blown away at several people's generosity!

Finally, I have had three dreams about the event since then. Strange, uneventful dreams where I am just back in the race and dreading every step. Nothing scary, nothing worth mentioning really except that this stuff is still on my mind.  During the dream I realize I am dreaming and that I have other bigger things to do some day. Then I wake up. 

Time to buy an axe.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder- Part 2 - Homework / Training

“I’ll do today what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”

So I should probably start by stating that I am of average athletic ability.  Anyone that knew me growing up knows that I played one sport in high school, football. And I might have been slightly above average (at best) on what everyone would have to say was an absolutely horrible team. We sucked really bad. In fact, we were so bad, even our cheerleaders left one of our games at half time.  So for anyone out there that thinks I have some type of ability better than anyone else, you are wrong. Lucky for me, my stubborness was a plus for this event and proper training and doing your homework all but guaranteed a much better than average finish. I should also point out that while we placed 61st and 62nd out of 1300, my brother and I only did five laps. The top two finishers completed 9 laps and 90 miles so our "acheivement" really was nothing compared to the winners when you consider how each additional lap is exponentially more difficult.

My brother and I did a ton of homework on this event. There were several blogs out there from last year's participants and we read pretty much all of them. Some, like the first place woman's finsiher (Amelia Boone) this year, had some real good bits of information (her tip about using Vaseline and Foot powder was probably the most valuable thing I learned through all of my research).  Most of the others simply told us what not to do through their failures. And there were many.

Very simply, last year's participants "died" due to a number of factors:

1. The extreme cold / hypothermia. A ridiculous number of people did the first race and only had a wetsuit on during the last part of the course or none at all. There were a few knuckleheads that tried that this year. One guy dressed up as Spiderman wearing Spidey tights.  He, of course, was in the medical tent half way through lap 1.  Others had wetsuits but no experience in the cold. I remember even reading one blogger talk about how when he got his fingers thawed out that they starting burning in pain so he sprinted back to the medical tent "for treatment".  Umm....every kid in MN experiences that pain almost daily during the Winter months when they come in from playing outside. Deal with it!!!  Even Tough Mudder itself underestimated the cold as they set up a wetsuit tent on the course which implied to a participant that they only needed it on during part of the course. There were even some that were complaining about having to bring a wetsuit at all. Getting the gear right took some homework and testing on our part but was the easiest thing to address and you could do it without spending a crazy amount of money on gear.

There were lots of zombies in the medical tents during the wee hours of the night. These zombies didn't try to eat your brains, they just sat there and stared off in space...

2. Going into their tent between laps to warm up. While it may sound like a good idea and some may have used that strategy with success, most people went into their tents to die. Mentally, only the toughest competitors are going to be able to step out of their tent after getting warm, get hit with 20 degree winds, and then proceed to put on a frozen wetsuit when they are already exhausted and it is 3:00 a.m. The cold on top of the fact that muscles start to tighten up very shortly after stopping a strenuous activity told us we would have to avoid the temptation of taking any breaks outside of quick gear changes and food. Period.

3. Weak feet / legs. A TON of people had issues with their feet. Most had significant pain and swelling in their feet during and/or after the event.  From reading their posts several weeks after the event, it was obvious that almost none of the people that quit due to their feet or legs giving out had actual injuries (some of course did). They just weren't adequately prepared to go a long distance. Toughening up my legs and especially my feet were the top priority.

Training for me in general consisted of Crossfit 4 times a week at 5:15 a.m. On Tuesday and Thursday nights I would normally run a 7.5 mile hilly loop. Sometimes I substituted a few laps up and down the hill at the end of our road, sometimes with a backpack on my back, sometimes with one of my daughters on my back.  Depending on what we did during crossfit that morning, this run could be easy or it could be pretty slow. I just went with the randomness of it all to keep my sanity. Sunday mornings I would do a longer run before church. Up until three months before the race, I kept this run under 13 miles so that I was done in under two hours. There is research out there that suggests your risk of injury skyrockets after two hours and that your muscle can actually start to break down as well.  I am pretty lazy so I used that excuse to take things easy early on.  In the final three months, I ramped up the mileage and started to mix in some much longer hikes and weighted hikes and/or runs. The furthest I ever actually ran was just over 19 miles and by then it was really pretty easy.

I should also mention that I always wear Vibram's five finger shoes at crossfit and I fully transitioned to minimalist running shoes for my other runs after my marathon early this year. This put a huge amount of extra loading on my feet compared to regular shoes but once I worked through the transition, I felt my feet, calves, and legs were solid and unbreakable (although still not as strong as I would like).

Two months out, I did an overnight hike to a neighboring town 17.5 miles away. Somehow I got a friend to join me for the first half.  He really seemed to enjoy himself.  I almost didn't make it home as my legs got extremely tight at around mile 25 and the last 5 miles were especially horrible! It was very apparent to me afterwards that proper nutrition (I ate just peanut M&Ms and water) and mixing up my power walking with running and/or stretching were going to be necessary.  This hike actually scared me because I knew if I felt like I did that night during the actual event it was going to be unbearable once I threw in the cold, a wetsuit, electricity, and all the other nonsense that is Tough Mudder.

After the hike, it was apparent I needed to change the training strategy somewhat. I also had another Goruck Challenge coming up so I needed to start getting some harder miles in.  That is when I started running with 3 bricks in my backpack and hiking with double the load.  It seemed to make a big difference in working my legs and I like the weighted runs so much I plan on getting a weighted vest in the future.  I also participated in a 100 mile challenge where everyone had to put in 100 miles of weighted hiking in the month of October.  All told, I put in about 140 miles in both September and October plus whatever running we do at Crossfit. Nothing impressive to a runner but certainly more than I had ever done in my life, for sure when you consider the extremity of crossfit all by itself.

I also mixed in a couple of wetsuit tests. Living in Arkansas, I didn't have the luxury of cold weather so my opportunities for testing were limited. I do have a swimming pool so my testing consisted of jumping in the pool when it was 34 degrees out and running a mile lap around the neighborhood, then repeating for 13 miles. The two biggest learnings there were that I could very easily control my body temperature through the changing of headgear and by changing my exertion level through walking or running. The other thing was that the testing gave me 100% confidence in my gear. It is a little intimidating jumping into a freezing cold pool in freezing cold temperatures the first time. Once you know your gear (and by the way you realize you can't drown in a thick wetsuit since it is so buoyant), the intimidation is gone. My brother, living in MN, also did some testing so I was able to learn from him as well.

Two weeks before World's Toughest Mudder, I did my final test. The goal was to do 45 miles to see what it would be like. I would do my normal 7.5 mile loop, mixing in two miles of running per lap and walking the rest. At the end of the loop, I would consume my nutrition. I ended up going with the Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem product. It is geared towards very long endurance activities and is supposed to have the right blend of carbs, salt, protein, etc.  I ended up doing quite a bit of reading up on this stuff and decided I needed something quick, easy, calorie dense, and something I could stomach even when I didn't have the desire to eat at all (a lot of people last year stopped eating and crashed soon after). I did three 7.5 mile loops and then had my youngest daughter join me for the fourth. By then I realized that:

1. My daughter is pretty awesome for joining me.
2. I could do this forever.
3. I am completely bored.
4. The only thing I could gain by going further was a potential injury.

I quit the test at 30 miles with 100% confidence that I had a workable plan that wasn't going to fail me unless my mind failed me.

I look back at the training and a few things come to mind. One is that the crossfit coupled with all of those miles looks ridiculous. I couldn't even imagine doing all of that a couple of years ago.  Two is that it really wasn't that bad and it really isn't a big deal. And three is that I think now that I have learned so much about my body, I wouldn't have had to spend nearly as much time training if I knew those things at the beginning.

All in all, there aren't many things I would change if I could go back in time:
1. I could train smarter and reduce the hours I put in.
2. I would make one small tweak to my gear, which I will talk about later.
3. I would make one significant change to my race strategy (which I will also talk about later).


Friday, November 23, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder- Part 1 - Conversations

Me- "You are walking a lot faster than earlier. Is your foot feeling better?"

Nathan- "That's because my foot has been frozen since lap three. I can't feel it".

Just a sample of the conversation over the course of 24 hours.  One would think that in an event where you spend 24 hours together, a good majority of it walking, that you would have plenty of time to catch up with your brother on everything, to discuss your kids, to discuss your wives, to discuss pretty much everything.

I learned a number of things during the World's Toughest Mudder competition. One of them is that when you are absolutely miserable your conversation is pretty much limited to things like "I am peeing now, that feels so warm!" (said about 50 times at least) or "watch that hole", "watch that branch", "you want to walk now?", "you want to run now?", "you want to get some chicken broth or keep going?".  Or something along the lines of "You have to poop?", "you know a real man poops in his wetsuit".  Pretty basic stuff.

But I suppose the most important thing about our conversations is that one thing we never talked about was quitting. Outside of the final lap, when we were trying to figure out if our current speed was going to be quick enough for a sixth lap, we never mentioned it. We didn't even consider resting as we knew from our research that the tents were where "people went to die" during last year's event.

I am going to write a handful of posts on the event itself. I almost feel obligated to pass on everything I have learned as much of our success is at least in part due to a number of blog posts from last years' participants.  This thing was as much about preparation, strategy, and experience (which we lacked) as it was about athletic ability.  In fact, I would say basic athletic ability is the least important of all four.

So anyway, maybe a post describing the course itself, our training/strategy, and one on the event itself?

Stay tuned for more.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder 2012- A Quick Thank You!

So we survived. Not only did we survive, but I have to say I feel great! My brother and I completed 5 laps total in just under 24 hours.  After all of the smack talk and lofty (ignorant) goals of so many, we ended up besting the vast majority of competitors as we came in 62nd and 63rd out of 1300 starters. I was 5th place among the competitors over 40 years old. I hate to play the geriatric card but it still feels good.

I am in NC for the Thanksgiving holiday so this post will be short. I have much to share but for now I just wanted to say thank you first and foremost to those of you that made pledges and/or have already made donations to "Debra and Ray's" adoption fund. We ended up with over $300 per lap in pledges and over $1000 in one time donations! How cool is that!!! The timing is perfect as they should be traveling soon. I will be contacting each of you that have made pledges in the coming days but you can send in your money through a number of ways. If you know Debra and Ray's real name and address you can mail them the money directly. Please just let me know when you have done so that I can keep up with everything. If not, you can mail a check to me and I will forward the money to them. My address, since it is all over the internet anyway is:

Loren Marti
531 Candlelight Cir
Springdale, AR 72762

I also want to thank all of you that were there to support us throughout this endeaver / ordeal. Thanks to my sister for coming in from Green Bay to watch us almost the entire time. The photos she took are priceless since as usual the Tough Mudder photographs are a joke, and it was so nice to get real time updates on the standings. It was nice knowing that we were passing people by the hundreds during the last laps. Thanks also to my cousin and his wife for allowing us to stay at their house nearby, for taking tons of video, for relaying results to my sister in the dead of night, and for washing all of our gear and clothes for us afterwards. You guys are awesome! I can't wait to see Brian AND Kelly out on the course sometime soon! Finally, a big thank you to everyone that was cheering us on through Facebook. I was amazed at how many people were there to comment on our updates at all hours of the day. I wish I had the time to respond to all of them but frankly we spent way too much time in the pits between laps as it was. More on that later.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My brother and I going through our favorite obstacle "Electric Eel".


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Old Bridge-20121118-00322.jpg

Well they finished racing around 830 this morning. I couldn't convince them to do another lap. I think they thought twice to do it but ?? They did awesome! 50 miles... Possibly more as I'm not sure how they figure in penalty miles. Their last 2 laps were extremely cold for them and its now just warming up. We saw the #1 guy pass them when I saw found them at 7am this morning and the #2 person (a woman) finished her lap #8 right behind them. They finished up running and of course I had to run to get to the finish line for pictures too. So this girl is pooped out too!!:)
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Well this is another update. Loren and Nathan finished 3 laps now and seemed in good condition yet. Mostly a little cold here and there so they run more if that happens. I was surprised they could do mt Everest yet on lap 3 on try 1 when others couldn't after many. I left after lap 3 but they were planning to do more after a short break. They moved up 200 spots or so between lap 2 and 3 so r hoping to move up more as the night goes on. Maybe 5 or 6 laps they guessed?? I'll go out at 6am again if they are still going
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Mudder progress

This is cheryl writing for loren while watching the guys race. They are more than half way of lap 3 so far and they say they r feeling pretty good yet. They seem to be to me too. Theu r walking mostly and they do most obstacles pretty well but some they slack off on now... Ha ha its easy for me to say that:). What they didn't tell me is how many miles I'd put on too!! Apparently they were 777th after 2 laps but think they'll move up after this lap as many went in tents after lap 2. Gotta run again. C them coming.
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Lap two complete

Running about 3 1/2 hours per lap. No issues. Getting cold now but gear is doing its job. A few people limping, a handful went home.

Sent from my iPhone

Lap one complete

No problem. Starting lap two now.

Sent from my iPhone

Ready to go

Two hours before the start. Still just below freezing but should hit 50 today. Lots of crazy people here. Gonna be a fun course.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Raceway Park Here We Come

This will be short since I am typing this on my phone.

I am all packed up and on my way to New Jersey. Tomorrow (Friday) we register and set up our tents. The race starts at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.

If anyone has any last minute donations or pledges, please get them in. Thanks to some awesome family and friends we are over $1000 in one time donations and over $200 per lap in pledges!

I am ready. Tapering over the last couple of weeks has been strange as it makes me feel lazy. For the first time in ages, I am not stiff and sore at least somewhere which also is a strange but nice feeling. My energy level right now is extremely high and I can't wait to get out there to see what this old Marine can do.

Cammie and the girls made a real nice going away card for me. Cammie is of course worried about me and Vika is as well. It is hard to explain to her (or anyone for that matter) why I am doing this. The fact is if I have to explain, you wouldn't understand so there isn't a point in trying.

Our plan is to go slow and steady. Running burns much more energy per mile than walking so the logical strategy in our minds is to walk. We believe we have the gear to stay warm without having to run and we have put in plenty of gear tests to feel confident in that. We also have a nutrition plan. If we survive the full race we expect to burn somewhere around 8000 calories. I have tested my nutrition plan as well and it is amazing how much easier 30 miles is with proper nutrition versus 30 miles on peanut m&ms and water.

I will have my phone in my tent and will update both Facebook and our blog after every lap if possible. Possible, meaning I have the time and my fingers aren't too cold to type. I will also try to figure out which company is doing the chip timing to see if the results are going to be posted live. If so, I will share that info when I get it. Other updates will be available at

I guess that is all for now. This is going to be awesome!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changing Lives

Let me start by saying this post isn’t directed towards anyone specific. This is about what I observed a couple of days ago and what I have experienced over the past 16 months since I decided to get my fat butt off the couch. Hopefully the handful of people that are actually going to read this will understand what I am saying and where I am coming from instead of seeing this as someone with a “better than you” attitude towards others. Hopefully something I say will make sense to someone out there.

On Saturday, October 20th at 1:00 a.m. myself and a number of friends and acquaintances assembled on Fayetteville Town Center for a Goruck Challenge that we had set up custom for ourselves. Meaning, we picked the date, we picked the time, we recruited the participants. It was my second Goruck Challenge after completing my first earlier this year. Twenty Nine of us embarked on the journey, and approximately 10.5 hours and 18.2 miles later, 27 of us finished.

This challenge was different in many ways from my first. This time, I knew most of the people participating (somehow I was able to recruit a number of them myself…suckers!) and most of the participants knew each other as well. By the time the challenge came around, many of us had already attended three “practice” gorucks that one of our participants (the craziest of the crazy) organized. This time I saw a group of people that had a vested interest in seeing each other finish. I won’t lie. Physically our team was weaker than the one I was a part of in Tulsa. But yet when it came down to it, this time our team was so much better and the experience so much more rewarding.

I am not going to blog about the entire experience just like I didn’t last time. Yes, we hiked for hours on end. Yes, we carried a bunch of stuff including each other as we went. Yes, we ended up in a pond in front of a hospital in 42 degree weather so we could get “scuba certified” or whatever. And yes, we froze our butts off for several hours before the sun finally came up. Those things are pretty normal…not normal normal...but Goruck normal. What wasn’t ‘normal’ for my last challenge was for someone to puke at flight #7, #8, and #9 of a nine-story bear crawl up a parking deck stairwell less than an hour into the challenge; to continue to puke several more times throughout the night; to collapse on the ground from leg cramps shortly thereafter, all the while being encouraged by his friends to keep going. What wouldn’t have been ‘normal’ for my last challenge was for that person to go the distance and complete the challenge. He did. It also wasn’t ‘normal’ last time for people to collapse from exhaustion at the end of a 200 meter bear crawl we received as punishment for I don’t remember what, while their "battle buddy" crawled alongside yelling words of encouragement until he finished. And it wasn't normal for someone to show up with an overuse knee injury from a crazy event the week before and hobble, skip, and jump the entire night to complete the challenge, never complaining once and always being encouraged. These people would have quit (or not showed up) last time. Things are different when people care. That is what was different about this Goruck Challenge. I have to wonder if the physical strength of our Tulsa team prevented us from learning much of what the Goruck Challenge is there to teach us.

When people care about you for real, they encourage you and they are there to support you.  Our goal, as a team, was to complete our Challenge and we did it. We finished, and all the while we encouraged each other. Some did more, some did less, but at the end we all celebrated our accomplishment.

Sure our goal, which really just resulted in us getting a little patch to prove we did it, may be pointless to some and silly to others.  Likewise, finishing a half-marathon, a marathon, four Tough Mudders or stripping a few more minutes off a Crossfit wod that almost killed me the first time I did it, is again, meaningless to some. There are certainly a lot of things more important than these. I suppose the only thing I "got" out of my efforts are a couple of medals (which of course my little one took to school and lost), a few headbands (yep, lost a couple of them too), and some personal satisfaction. 

What far too many people are missing out on are the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in setting an "impossible" goal, working towards it, and ultimately achieving it.  Do you really think I thought I could ever run a marathon when I started all this? Really? What far too many people are also missing out on is a "support group" that is there to encourage you and to celebrate your "victories", no matter how small, with you. And what far too many Americans are ignoring are the sad future consequences of a an unhealthy lifestyle. We are the ones called "crazy" while Lipitor and bypass surgery are called "normal". We are told our Crossfit fees are extreme (okay that one is pretty much true) while spending hundreds a month on medications for preventable illnesses are rarely called out for what they are...bad life decisions resulting in bad consequences.


"Crossfit is an obsession". Anyone that participates in Crossfit has heard it (and I mean anyone) and almost anyone that is close to a crossfitter or works with one has probably said it. You can't blame the outsider. Crossfitters tend to never shut up about Crossfit. Ever. And any outsider listening to a typical crossfit workout or conversation could only come to the conclusion that they are nuts. You want me to frog jump 50 meters, sprint the next 750 meters, come in and do 30 pullups and then deadlift 225 pounds 10 times, then repeat the whole thing two more times and do it all as fast as I possibly can so that I am close to passing out and/or puking?  Sure! You mean you start checking online for tomorrow's workout at 9:30 p.m. (hitting refresh every 30 seconds until it is posted) and then sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with butterflies in your stomach because you know how bad it is going to hurt in a few hours? And you like this Crossfit thing!?! To the outsider, crossfitters ARE nuts! 

But you outsiders also shouldn't be so quick to judge us.  We have found a workout routine that gets people in ridiculously good shape, with a ridiculously short time commitment when compared to other fitness alternatives. We have found others who are like-minded and who are there to encourage us no matter how weak, no matter how slow, and no matter how fat we are or were. When one of us posts a new PR (personal record) for a workout, the rest of us celebrate it. When one of us loses another 20 lbs this month, we are excited for them.  When we miss a workout, we have friends holding us accountable asking where we were, and making us feel guilty for skipping.  When one of us is in need, either financial or otherwise, we come together to meet the need be it a fundraising wod or other.  When one of us gets sick or injured, we are constantly asked how our recovery is coming.  All of these things are pretty much the "norm" to us. It is our "culture".  I have attended many churches in my lifetime. Sad to say that many of them could learn a few things from Crossfit.

When I first got off the couch in May of last year, I tried the more "traditional" route. First up, P-90X. That lasted about two weeks. I never even made it through the Yoga dvd once. Two hours of Yoga? Seriously? Globo-gyms? Not for me. Too many people looking at themselves in the mirror...we don't even have mirrors and I am guessing Trevor would lose his Crossfit affiliate if he put some up.  So, I started running instead. I hate running. Scratch that. I hated running.

By any "normal" standards, I was in great shape when I walked into Crossfit 540 a week before Thanksgiving 2011.  I was a couple weeks away from my first half marathon, and by most people's measures, "fit". How wrong I was. I don't think I ever felt so out of shape, weak and slow in my life than during my first few weeks. There is something very humbling about showing up thinking you are in good shape and then getting absolutely CRUSHED by some cutesy little Kindergarten teacher in a workout that is nothing more than 400 meter sprints, pullups, and situps. How is it that some "skinny little girl" can do this stuff better than me!?!  While I beat myself up internally, no one ever judged me at Crossfit. In fact, one of the cool things about Crossfit is that pretty much everybody sucks at it when they start. That being said, progress came quickly and I have yet to plateau. It seems to be almost impossible to plateau since your body never knows what you are going to throw at it from one day to the next.

When I first got off the couch my resting heart rate was 88 bpm and my total cholesterol was consistently right at 200 (want to guess if exercise was the suggested cure?). Now my resting heart rate is 62 bpm and all of my blood levels are at the healthiest ranges of normal. This stuff works.

If "normal" is being overweight and only a decade away from my first heart attack, I will take crazy.

"Extreme" Events

Speaking of crazy...Tough Mudders, Goruck Challenges, etc.  They are all referred to as crazy by almost everyone. I get it. Crawling through water while getting electrocuted will never be "normal".  Throwing a backpack filled with bricks, water, and food on your back and hiking around a city for 12 hours will never be considered "normal" either. What most people don't realize is how many lives have been changed by these so-called "extreme" events.  I can tell you with 100% certainty that if Tough Mudder didn't exist and if they didn't market themselves as an almost impossible goal, I would still be overweight, lazy, and one year closer to my first heart attack. Get on the Tough Mudder bulletin board, Linked in group, or Facebook page. You will quickly find that there are thousands of people whose lives have been changed by these events. Crossfit? Same story. Lives are changed.

As far as our Goruck Challenge is concerned, I know of several lives that were changed.  Many of our participants signed up months ago even though they weren't exercising at all at the time. This event forced them to get themselves off the couch like I did last year. Lo and behold, they enjoyed the experience too. One good friend of mine joined crossfit to get ready for our Challenge. Now he is hooked, and unfortunately for me, beating me in way too many wods already. Another friend just signed up for new member classes at Crossfit and a second one is close to doing the same.  You can make fun of this stuff all you want, but it works. You will never feel more alive then when you feel like you are dying. And of course I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment that some of our participants experienced when our cadre finally said we were done.

Who says this stuff isn't fun!?!

Changing Lives in More Ways Than One

I have to brag on my teammates one more time. We were able to raise a total of just under $1200 through this Goruck Challenge. We split the funds 50:50 between The Green Beret Foundation and "Debra and Ray", the adoptive family I am raising funds for. Again. Lives are being changed. Both charities are helping some really awesome people and I am proud to be part of such a great team!

What Are You Waiting For?

Getting off the couch and taking back your life isn't easy and to be fair I started in a much better place than most.  Again, I am not judging anyone.  Some of you are overweight and perfectly fine with it. I don't have a problem with that. I really don't care.  But if that is you, do one thing for me.  Go to your photo album or computer and take a look at all of the photos that make you look fat.  You mean you don't have any that make you look fat? Well then, maybe that means you aren't fat. Or maybe you are like I used to be and you tend to delete all of your fat photos. Strange how I had myself fooled into thinking I was happy with the way I looked too.


A short video from our Goruck Challenge:

Before the fun (most of our Crossfit 540 crew)...

At the start...

Five minutes later...

We did this a lot...

 Bear crawls up 9 stories. Crab walks down...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Battling World's Toughest Mudder To Bring Home Ukrainian Orphans!

I have been sitting here trying to figure out how one tries to ask someone else for money. I mean really. The holiday season will be starting in a couple of months and every one of us is going to get hit with requests for Angel Trees, school fundraisers (how much overpriced cookie dough can we be expected to buy?), special offerings at church…the list goes on. Not to mention that we all have a bunch of worthless junk we have to buy to give to each other since trying to outdo one another at Christmas seems to be so important nowadays. Gas prices are high and going higher, the economy is horrible, people are out of work and any of us with jobs could be next. What a bummer. We should all stop reading now and move on with our sad sad lives.

Our Story (for you newcomers)...

As most of you know, Cammie and I hosted two girls (ages 7 and 10 at the time) from Ukraine during the Summer of 2010. They were part of an organized hosting trip that brought a couple dozen orphans from Ukraine to live with various families (most of which have now been adopted).  They lived with us for about six weeks. We fell in love with them in about 6 minutes. We had no doubt from the very beginning that we wanted them to be a part of our family...they fit perfectly! Little one even wanted a gun! Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be that easy. We had several months of drama to deal with first. Eventually, one by one, the hurdles started to fall. A few months later and our girls arrived home forever!

The need...

Adoption is hard. Adopting from Ukraine is arguably even harder. I have no desire to go through all of the drama that we went through again. That isn't to say we won't go back. But for now, we have what we consider to be a fairly large extended family that are in need and that we can better help (at least right now) through avenues outside of adoption.  While the extrended family wasn't something we were looking for going in, this extended family has been a huge blessing to us and it is wonderful to be in a position where we can help.  So, while we may never go back, (to adopt) some people continue to go back. 

"Debra and Ray" went to get their first daughter at the same time that we did. They dealt with the same governmental drama that we did and we all worried together whether or not things would work out. They hosted their girl the same Summer we did and they actually got their girl home the same day we did Since their new daughter had spent several years at the orphanage, some of the other kids at the orphanage became like family to her.  I saw the video of their new daughter's best friend as she said goodby. It was heartwrenching! The poor girl didn't know what to say or what to do. She had no idea (nor did their daughter) that as soon as they got home with daughter #1, they started paperwork to go back and get her!  Six months after adopting their first, they were back in Ukraine not only adopting their daughter's best friend but an additional "unplanned" daughter as well! This adoption trip was harder than the first because this time "Debra" spent much of her time in Ukraine alone without electricity (after a storm) and with a pretty nasty illness.  Eventually, this adoption was also complete and their family of five was all together. All three girls are doing wonderfully! Watching them adjust so well and mesh together as a family has been a blessing to myself and anyone that has been watching their story.

"Debra and Ray" are going back one last time. As I already shared, they hosted another girl this Summer and they are headed back to adopt her and her younger sister.  It is hard to say "no" once you get to know these kids. For sure when you know you can help them...even though you know what lies in your path and how tough it is going to be.  Anyone involved in adoption knows that the costs of adoption are high. When you get them home, the bills continue to pile up as you have years of medical and dental neglect to attend to, special education needs, tutoring, counseling, etc. Not to mention the obvious normal expenses of raising a child.

I am asking for your support and I am appealing especially to those of you that have never been involved in the adoption community. Why? Two reasons: First, because most adoptive families are already tapped out either dealing with their own expenses or giving heavily to other adoptive families. Secondly, and most importantly, because many of you are missing out on a huge blessing.  How often can you actually give to something that is going to make THAT BIG of a difference as rescuing an orphan out of an orphanage? "Rescuing" you say?  As much as I hate it called that now, I said it anyway. As I mentioned over a year ago, I didn't rescue my girls, I went to go and get my daughters. I don't see our trip as a rescue mission and my girls don't think of me as their rescuer. I am their daddy.  The truth is, "Debra and Ray" are going to be even more blessed by these two girls than they already have been with the first three. But yes, these girls are going to be "rescued" from a life with almost no hope for any type of a future by being adopted.  Any money donated will directly impact the lives of two little orphans in Ukraine. How cool is that!?!

How you can help...

As the flyer below states, I am asking for per lap pledges for the World's Toughest Mudder which my brother and I will be competing in on November 17th and 18th.  I am also accepting one-time donations but I prefer the pledges due to the extra motivation it provides (call me selfish).  The estimated cost of the adoption is $25,000 and the distance to Ukraine is 4,533 miles. That is $5.50 a mile. Will you consider a pledge of $5.50 per lap or more? 

Fundraising Flyer

Keep in mind as you consider a pledge, that I am old (43) and feeble (just look at me) and only 261 people completed even a second lap last year.

Most dropped due to hypothermia while many others broke bones or were otherwise injured.  My shoulder still isn't at 100%, I haven't lived in a cold climate for years, and I hate crawling through water on my stomach while getting shocked with electricity. HATE IT!

Not to mention, I don't really like exercising, and running for miles on end bores me to tears. Basically, I am lazy and weak.  Surely I will only be able to do one lap? Perhaps I will almost rip my arm off my shoulder like last time or maybe the 12,000 volts will finally knock me completely senseless so I can't continue? It seems like even a $55 / lap pledge is safe?

Perhaps you just like seeing people suffer. I understand. Part of the reason I enjoy both Crossfit and these supposedly extreme events is that I get to see others suffer. If that is you too, won't you pledge a little extra to see me suffer more?  I will do my best to share my experience both during and after the event if it makes you feel better.

The event...

So the event is pretty simple. At 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning we start and we will attempt to complete as many Tough Mudder laps as possible. The obstacles are a harder than a typical Tough Mudder (which to be fair aren't very hard) and there are more of them. Some will have penalties for failure while others will disqualify someone who can't complete them.  The weather may or may not be extremely cold. That is all part of the fun.  Whoever completes the most laps by 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning wins and everyone else has up to four hours to complete the lap they have started. 

More details can be found on the Tough Mudder website at:

So that is it. Thanks in advance for your consideration and please check back for more updates.


P.S. The attached flyer leaves off a good bit of information since this is a public blog.  For my family and friends, I can send you a more detailed flyer (including a photo of the girls they are going to adopt) if you wish...just ask.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My First Marathon

So I initially didn’t think there would be much of a point in a blog post about my first marathon. And given the fact that I had shoulder surgery a couple of weeks after the marathon, I haven’t had a chance to really get anything updated until now. Compared to some of the other things I have done, a marathon sounds pretty boring and perhaps even unchallenging. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought as far as boredom goes and it was plenty challenging.

The Hogeye Marathon took place on April 15 in Fayetteville, AR. The weather called for heavy rain off and on all day with 20 M.P.H. winds. The weather coupled with a course that provided 1200 feet of elevation gain and drop with the last 6 miles being essentially all uphill made it plenty tough for an old guy like me.

So late on the Friday night before the Sunday race, I dared a friend of mine to sign up and join me. Only a crazy man or a fitness freak would decide to run 26.2 miles with a one day notice. He is both.

As far as the race goes, there isn’t much to tell. You run and run and run and run and run and it makes you tired. All of my training has a lot of hills (I actually struggle to find flat areas to run) so the hills seemed like any other run. I just couldn’t seem to figure out the right strategy to run them fast without burning myself out. I focused on my heart rate and keeping it under 160 but in hindsight I don’t know if that was the right way to go. I had the first experience in my life with “hitting the wall” at mile 18 which seemed a few miles earlier than it should have been but I didn’t do any carb loading or any other special dieting…maybe next time. I took a gel every three miles and alternated between water and Gatorade every water station (I think there were about 20 of them). I never had to use the bathroom and I never felt thirsty. My 18 mile training run a few weeks earlier was a breeze and while I was certainly running faster this time, I was really surprised it got me so quick. The experience itself wasn’t all that bad. I felt kind of dizzy and extremely tired and remember telling myself that “if I feel like this for the next 8 miles, this is going to really suck”. Five minutes later and my lightheadedness (not sure how else to describe it) went away but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs to move very fast. My speed slowed down, but again, I was now almost into the final uphill section for the final 6 miles. By then it started to pour rain…it was nice getting the salt washed off my face as it was getting in my eyes pretty bad. I told myself no matter what, I wasn’t going to be one of the walkers. No problem there but it sure was tempting. Towards the end, my focus turned on making sure I beat Oprah. My brother had mentioned that she had run a marathon and that nobody wants to get beat by Oprah (she ran the 1994 Marine Corps marathon in 4:29:15). I ended up “beating her” by a couple of minutes coming in at 4:26:25. My initial goal was around 4:07 which I based entirely off of a few online calculators that scaled up my half-marathon time. I wasn’t even close to my goal. Looking back, there was no way I was going to run a negative split on that course and fighting a strong wind all day seemed to take a toll on me as well. A 4:07 actually would have put me in the top 3 or 4 places in my age division so it was clearly an unrealistic goal. My buddy came in a minute or two behind me (he stopped to take a bathroom break otherwise he would have beat me)….pretty impressive for someone that did nothing to prepare other than his normal fitness routine!

So the bright side:

1. I finished my first marathon at a pace that was almost a minute faster than the pace of my very first 3 mile run almost a year ago (a 3 mile run that felt like it was going to kill me).

2. I beat Oprah. Phew!!!

3. I ran for a while with a guy that had done the Little Rock Marathon (much flatter) earlier in the year in 3:45 and I ended up ahead of him.

4. Overall, I think I am still making progress. I was exactly in the middle of the pack (126 of 253) for my half marathon among men but I finished the marathon with only 38% of the men ahead of me (52 of 137). In that way, I doubled the distance but I was still more competitive versus my peers. All told, I was 78th of 211 finishers. Certainly not impressive but I have to take what I can get!

5. I beat more than 25 marathon relay teams. The teams had four people to split the distance so it does feel good that I could beat several of them although I did get passed by several of them at the end.

What I don’t know:

1. How to be strategic in this type of race. We started the race with both the Marathon relay and half marathon competitors. It was hard to slow myself down in the beginning even though I knew this was going to happen and even though I was warned by a couple of experienced friends. There were a lot of hills in the beginning but the first several miles provided a large net elevation loss. I have no idea if I limited my speed too much or too little. Looking at my splits, I passed almost 50 people from the first split and was only passed by 3. Perhaps that means I started too slow?

2. If my performance would have been better if I had focused on my diet any. I have to admit, that I pretty much eat whatever I want, whenever I want (although I recently started drinking green shakes in the mornings) and don’t give it any thought. I burn so many calories I am constantly hungry during the week. When I bring my lunch to work, it is gone by 10:00 a.m. and I have to go out and eat again at noon! What if I actually paid attention to diet? Crossfit people say you can’t out-train your diet. I think you can but I am not sure that you should try?

3. How fast I could go if I just focused on training for a good marathon time. Too bad I don’t care.

I was pretty beat after the race. My joints were killing me for about a day or so afterwards. I won’t lie, I had a hard time sleeping the first night due to joint pain. My leg muscles themselves hurt pretty bad for about two hours after the race. Once the milk and protein shakes got into my system, my legs just felt like they had just gone through a wicked workout. I had minor muscle stiffness the next day. I ran a couple of miles with Anna a few days after the marathon but mostly took the week off afterwards to recover.

While I didn’t have a blast like I have doing Tough Mudders, I have to say it was very satisfying to be able to do this. Since it is local, I imagine I will do it again next year along with the local half marathon in December. I know I can go faster…I still don’t feel like I am in great shape even though I think the evidence would say I am probably in the best shape of my life overall. I can’t imagine traveling long distances for a marathon though unless it was something truly unique. I didn’t care for it that much.