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Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor cont’d 2

So we continue with the third chapter (of four) of my Tough Mudder saga. Refer to Part 1 and Part 2 for the rest of this story. And yes, this story deserves four posts.

We left off with some slight aches and pains in my joints and me hoping for some water soon. I had just completed Devil’s Beard and continued pounding away on the merciless paved pathway. My friend and I had run in direct sunlight for some time before reaching another obstacle. So much sunlight, in fact, that underneath my UnderArmour ColdGear and Dri-Fit shirt, I was beginning to feel hot. We reached Hold Your Wood shortly after:

This obstacle presented a challenge because the logs were deceiving. They were incredibly dense, and therefore way heavier than they looked. I grabbed a log that I felt was proportionate to my frame size and started moving. The distance of this obstacle felt like it could have been a third to a half mile long; it was difficult to judge because we were lugging this heavy wood on our shoulders. I coped well by alternating shoulders. However, as my friend and I finished the loop and went to drop our wood on the pile to be taken again, we saw our team approaching, so we decided to do the loop again. Unfortunately, I had already handed off my wood, so I grabbed another one I felt looked reasonable, but it ended up being way heavier. I was switching shoulders way more often the second lap, but I nevertheless finished it without a break. We moved on as a team, but ended up splitting again due to our difference in running speeds.  We hit The Spider’s Web next:

It was directly after a water/banana station, which provided some much-needed hydration and potassium (good for cramps). Again, the teamwork at this obstacle was awesome. Mudders who had made it over were pulling the net down with their body weight to make the net taut and easier to climb. Those who made it over would switch with those that held it for them. This was the epitome of Tough Mudder: camaraderie. It really became clear that we were all in this together; it was a challenge for us all to complete, not a race. After holding the net for a few Mudders, we kept on running. The aches in my legs had subsided somewhat and I was still pumped, so I kept pushing without a problem.

Then came water, and things went all downhill (figuratively, certainly not literally) from there. Walk the Plank:

Though the one at Pocono Manor was considerably higher than the one in this photo, I was looking forward to this obstacle. After climbing up some very steep wooden boards, we reached the top, where several guys in military uniform (presumably Marines) shouted at us to stop thinking and jump. I had no hesitation (as a lifeguard for many years, I was no stranger to the high dive), and leapt in, glad to be getting wet again. The water was cold, as expected, but it was only when I swam around and exited the water that I realized how much the wind had picked up. It was immediately whipping around, and I was shivering violently in seconds. I felt like Will Ferrel in ‘Anchorman’, thinking “I immediately regret this decision.” We kept running, but my body was not liking one moment of this experience. Even though the lake water wasn’t iced (that I could tell), I felt exponentially colder than I had felt after Arctic Enema (iced water). Through some ankle-deep mud and woods, and then came Everest (suitable considering how frigid I was):

There was a slight backup of people at this obstacle, so we had a moment to catch our breath and assess where the best place to run up the quarter pipe was. There was a big section in the middle with the “Degree” logo, and a white strip on both sides. It seemed like the white strips were slicker than the middle section (though perhaps they just looked cleaner; it’s hard to be sure of anything when you’re shaking and praying for warmth). I lined up with the middle section, made eye contact with someone up top, and charged the quarter pipe. I was on track to grab the edge and pull myself up (brought me back to my skater days), but as I planted my foot to launch, it slipped on what felt like grease. Luckily, during the moment I was in mid air, a guy grabbed my arm and pulled me up and over the edge in one swift motion. I knew I didn’t have the body weight to support most of the guys running up, so rather than help others, my friend and I continued on our way. On the way down from Everest, we spotted several gallon jugs of vegetable oil (tricky, tricky). Next came Electric Eel (a mystery obstacle that we had heard about the previous day):

This was also the first electric obstacle. It required crawling in a shallow pool of water under live wires (some charged to “10,000 volts” as advertised by Tough Mudder). In the beginning, the wires were pretty high and could easily be ducked under or crawled around, but as you neared the end of the obstacle, they hung too low to avoid. I was doing a really good job weaving in-between wires until that point. I must have shifted my leg the wrong way, because suddenly I was jolted with a shock (somewhat painful, but more surprising). I definitely think wearing the UnderArmour protected me from a direct skin shock, which I think would have hurt significantly more. I spent a moment to reevaluate my strategy, and then continued. I received at least one more mild shock (which I think was actually someone else’s shock that traveled through the water) before pulling myself out of the obstacle. The water in Electric Eel, because it was so shallow, was incredibly warm. This was pleasurable for the 45 seconds I spent in the obstacle, and a nightmare after (think getting out of a hot tub in the middle of winter). I think this rapid temperature change did me in. I was still shaking, and despite the constant motion, my muscles were beginning to severely tighten, and there was no stopping them.

I was only six obstacles from the finish line, four of which were water obstacles. I didn’t know it was possible at the time, but I’d be getting even colder. As the wind continued to pick up, I made my way out of Electric Eel and onto the trail. I had made it through many difficult tests already, but the final exam was about to begin.

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Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor

I have survived! But did I finish? You’ll have to stick around for the 2-3 posts it’ll take to hear the full tale of my Tough Mudder. Then I’ll follow it up with some tips for future Mudders based on my experience. Well, let’s get to it!

My friend and I took the two-and-a-half hour drive to a town near Pocono Manor (the race location) on Saturday morning, checking into our hotel and getting settled before meeting up with the rest of the team (heading in from various other locations) at a nearby outlet mall. After finding a team shirt (we settled on neon green, both for attention and to be easily recognized by our two spectators/photographers), we stopped by a nearby bar/grill to grab dinner together and get to know each other. It was here that we started seeing Mudders who had run the race that morning! This was clutch, and we got a lot of tips from them, including:

  • “Don’t jump in the blue Arctic Enema or your skin will be dyed.” -Half of this team’s members literally had blue skin from the dye used in the water.
  • We were told what the two mystery obstacles were (rings over water and a second electrocution obstacle).
  • We were also given tips regarding staying in motion before you freeze up.
  • And of course, it was emphasized multiple times that it will be the coldest several hours we have ever experienced in our lives.

The cold concerned me the most, as I’m very thin and I was worried about being soaked in ice water for 3 hours in 30 degree weather. I had read many accounts of people being pulled off the course with hypothermia and I figured I was more susceptible than most people because of my frame. On the other hand, I was less concerned about physical injury because I don’t weigh much, which I think makes a slip of my foot less likely to turn into a full-fledged pulled muscle or sprained ankle. As we ate dinner, we all kept checking the big-screen TV behind our table to check the morning’s weather. It seemed every ten minutes, the forecast was grimmer and grimmer until they announced a “freeze warning” overnight and into the morning. It seemed at the time that we would be running in frigid weather, all the more nerve-racking. Nevertheless, I went to bed that night comfortably aware that it was the last time I would feel warm for a long time.

Though I gave myself nearly nine hours to sleep, the previous day’s Mudders in our hotel were partying it up all night, so I only got about six hours of sleep. Even so, I woke up totally at peace with the idea of this Tough Mudder. I checked the weather, which was ever-so-slightly more encouraging than the previous night’s forecast and I was ready. A twenty-minute drive to a parking lot, and another twenty-minute shuttle ride to the race location left us at registration, where we checked our bags (containing a dry change of clothes), pinned on our bibs, tied our laces tighter than they’d ever been before, and stretched a bit. We were also informed that they had extended the course nearly 2.5 miles, making it an almost 14 mile course. This didn’t shake me though, if I could run 11-12 miles, I could handle 14. When we were all ready, we headed to the starting line.

Heats were going off about every 20 minutes, so we just hopped in the next one. We had to climb a wall just to get into the starting zone, which got us in the obstacle mentality. After some rants, cheers, and the National Anthem, we recited the Tough Mudder creed:

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that… 
I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. 
I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. 
I do not whine – kids whine. 
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. 
I overcome all fears.

There was a brief countdown and we were off! Running into a wooded area, initially on heavily-watered trail of mud and then very quickly off of the trail. Without a trail we had to dodge trees and logs and boulders, fighting the overgrowth while striding carefully enough to avoid injury. The uneven territory made for several runners falling very early in the race, tumbling or rolling their ankles (none seriously that I saw). My team of 9 was for the most part grouped together at this point and we made it through the first portion of the run (only a half mile or so) amidst a bunch of ‘Hoorah’s’! The first obstacle was Kiss of Mud:

This obstacle was simple enough. I crawled very low to the ground (don’t want to get caught on the barbed wire!) on my elbows and knees to get across (some preferred to rest on their stomach between strides, but at this point my core muscles were fresh enough to keep myself slightly off the ground. There were big sharp rocks in the mud that you often didn’t see until you had already put your weight down. Luckily, I was wearing UnderArmour ColdGear top and bottoms, which definitely helped me avoid scrapes (though not bruises). For the most part, as long as I placed my elbows and knees down slowly, I could gauge if there was a rock underneath and reposition if I had to. There were also sprinklers spraying us down, though at this point the water felt refreshing. Once my team got through this obstacle, we continued on, picking up a marked trail which extended what seemed to be about a mile. During the run, however, our team had it’s first incident. With a rolled ankle, our teammate sat on the ground and began massaging the area while we judged whether he needed First Aid or not. While we were waiting, we could see the next obstacle nearby: Arctic Enema, a colored ice bath which runners needed to submerge themselves in to come out on the other side of a wall. It would mark the first time we were to be soaked rather than sprayed with water. Things were about to get real.

Would our teammate continue? How many more would suffer injury? Would the Arctic Enema mark the beginning of the end of me? Find out in Part 2.


Tough Mudder Tuesday #4

It has been a rough few weeks for training between what is going on at school and some personal things. I have not run in over a week, and probably only ran once in the week prior to that. I have, however, been strength training a bit here and there. I finally got out this morning; it certainly didn’t feel great while running but it’s always the minute I get home and catch my breath. The problem is I haven’t been running consistently enough to feel great during my runs. Tomorrow marks a month until the race, which gives me about 30 days to train. I’ve read very mixed messages about how to train. Some people say run, run, run. Other people say focus on the lifting. My educated guess is that running is less important than strength and/or muscle endurance because obstacles are generally only .5-1 mile apart. Some obstacles, from what I’ve read, will have short waits (a.k.a. recovery time) if there is some backup. It also appears that people take rests at water stations. So in my mind, the ability to run 11 miles straight comfortably isn’t key to finishing this event. I’ve read being able to comfortably run 3-5 miles will do just fine (the website suggests 5-7).

What I’m most nervous about (oddly) is the frigid water. In LITERALLY (yes, the ‘L’ word) every single one of the blog posts I’ve read about the Tough Mudder, people relay their accounts of the absolute shock of the water temperature. Multitudes of people around them panicking and being pulled out by lifeguards, some being hospitalized. So during my shower two weeks ago, I turned the water all the way cold…

My lungs immediately felt like they had collapsed and I started to hyperventilate. Five seconds in and I was dizzy and I had to turn the water back to warm. I imagine that my water at its coldest is probably 15-20 degrees warmer than the water at Tough Mudder. It occurred to me then that the water might be what kills this race for me. So I started training… Each weekday (I treat myself on weekends) I start my shower with slightly cold water. The moment I adjust, I drop the temperature. And again. And again. I’m almost able to handle the totally cold water. It’s surprisingly invigorating and I feel warmer when I get out of the shower. I do know that I won’t have time to adjust when I’m leaping into a pond of 30 degree water, but I’m going to try and slowly lower my starting temperature until I can deal with cold water. Period.

I can’t believe it’s a month away. My team of 12 has suffered some setbacks and injuries, and some people seem less than prepared, so it seems we’ll all be struggling together. I guess that’s the point though, isn’t it?


KONY 2012

For those of you who have not yet heard of Joseph Kony or the “KONY 2012” campaign, you will. Even if you turn away from this blog right now, by the end of 2012 you’ll know.

About eight years ago, a documentary called “Invisible Children” opened my eyes to the atrocities occurring in Africa (specifically Uganda and its neighboring countries). I won’t delve into details about that documentary, but I will say that since that film, a non-profit foundation under the same name has formed. Not everyone agrees with the mission of this organization, how they allocate their funds, or whether we have any business in African affairs at all. Some people feel that their latest campaign, which you’ll learn about in a minute, is an effort to militarize an already-unstable country. To some extent, this is not totally inaccurate. However, to that I respond that the conditions over there warrant whatever is necessary to equip the Ugandans well enough to solve their own problem: Joseph Kony. Who is Joseph Kony? You’re about to find out.


Unfortunate News

I’ve been M.I.A. because I’ve recently gotten some unfortunate news about my program. A little over a week ago, the whole program was urged to attend a last-minute meeting, for which they even cut classes short. We were told that our university would be suspending funding, and therefore admissions, to our program, as the budget did not allow for it. Our program is particularly expensive to maintain because we need to maintain accreditation by the important organizations in our field. This news was extremely discouraging (I was looking forward to ushering in new first-years), but it didn’t stop there. We are due for a site visit by our accrediting body in 2013. Without funding or any special agreement, we will almost certainly lose accreditation following that visit. Seeing as how I won’t be graduating with my doctorate until around 2017, this presents a major dilemma.

The students’ initial reactions were that without accreditation, the degree would be useless. We have since learned that this is not the case, though it does limit our options a little. In this state, an unaccredited degree will present no problem in getting hired at a school (schools frankly do not care about psychological accreditation), nor in sitting for the state licensing exam in psychology. This is good news to many of us, as most students in school psychology prefer to work in such applied settings. The beauty of the Ph.D., however, was that it also allowed us to teach in academia and conduct research, both of which apparently value an accredited degree. So although the most important options are still on the table, this news has knocked a few off that list.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still awful news, but no part of me (nor many other students, I believe) has the energy or desire to transfer programs. This happened as a result of a budget crisis, and does not speak to the quality of the program that we’re in. I’m still proud of the program that I’m in, and barring even more traumatic news, I’d really like to stick it out here. As far as I’m concerned, I can still do what I want to do with this degree.


The lead faculty are also doing what they can to arrange a “phase-out” of accreditation, which may provide a few additional years of accredited graduates (not likely me, as I still have a long way to go). The decision is tough, but ultimately I have no where else to go right now. If I do change my mind, I wouldn’t be able to apply anywhere until the fall. So at this point, only time will tell where I’m headed.


Tough Mudder Tuesday #3

I’m another week closer to the race and getting nervous. I ran four days for 30 mins in the past week, but it’s not quite enough. I need to ease myself into a long run once a week until I’m at about the 5-6 mile range (which they recommend despite the 12-mile race distance because the obstacles will break up the continuity), but I’m running out of time. There’s just two and a half months left and I’m still struggling find time for training 5 days a week. When I did train this week, it was strictly cardio; I haven’t strength trained all week. I’m more nervous about being in shape for the distance anyway. The worst case scenario is I have to bypass an obstacle because I lack the strength to complete it, but if I can’t keep up with my team during the running, it’s all a lost cause. And so I head into a new week of training…

My goal this week is to train 5 days. Three days will be my standard 30 minute run, one day will be 30 minutes of cycling (trying to avoid the stress injuries that littered my track & field career), and one day will be a longer run of 40 minutes.

Wednesday: 30 min. run
Thursday: 30 min. run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 30 min. run
Sunday: 30 min. cycling
Monday: 40 min. run
Tuesday: Rest


The Podcast Post

“Sounds boring.”
“Like the news?”
“I’ll just listen to music.”

These are just a few of the responses that I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned that I listen to podcasts, or encouraged others to do so. For those of you out of the loop, a podcast by definition is “a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc..” Perhaps this boring definition is the very reason people avoid them. Among non-listeners, I’ve noticed some pretty major misconceptions about these audio gems! For one, they don’t have to be boring. There are so many different types of podcasts that I’m confident every single person could find one that engages and interests them. They are also not all news-related (though of course, some are). I actually do get most of my news fix from my podcasts, but they certainly don’t have to serve that purpose for everyone. I usually listen to my podcasts when I’m in the car or walking for a while (time that would otherwise be totally unproductive), and they’re perfect for just that. Think about all of the time you spend in your car each week. If you were enjoying a podcast or listening to an audiobook, think of how much more you could take away from that experience. I look forward to my commute every day because of the way I spend it. I’ve heard some of the most thought-provoking stories of my life on “This American Life,” laughed with “Wait… Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” and learned to understand the global economic crisis (in a fun way) with “NPR’s Planet Money.”  I highly recommend to any non-listeners, take a moment and think about when you are on the move and least productive, perhaps even bored. Now fill that time with one of the following podcasts (all available on iTunes) that I highly recommend. You’ll never look at travel time the same way again.

 

This American Life
Genre: Radio journalism.
Quote from website:
“So usually we just say what we’re not. We’re not a news show or a talk show or a call-in show. We’re not really formatted like other radio shows at all. Instead, we do these stories that are like movies for radio. There are people in dramatic situations. Things happen to them. There are funny moments and emotional moments and—hopefully—moments where the people in the story say interesting, surprising things about it all. It has to be surprising. It has to be fun.”
Why I listen: I’ve shared many moments with this show over the past three years, during which I’ve been a devout listener. I’ve learned a surprising amount of useful information, heard countless tales and true stories that have taught me lessons and some that have changed my perspective. This is my favorite podcast by far and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

The Moth
Genre: True Stories Told Live
Quote from website:
“Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.”
Why I listen: People have amazing stories tell. Period. If you don’t have the courage to make conversation with others about their lives, attend a Moth event or listen to the podcast, it may inspire you to start doing just that.

Stuff You Should Know
Genre: Informational
Quote from Wikipedia:
“The podcast, released every Tuesday and Thursday, educates listeners on a wide variety of topics, often using popular culture as a reference giving the podcast comedic value … The podcast covers a variety of odd questions and topics, like How Twinkies Work, Do Zombies Exist?, How Tickling works, and How Albert Einstein’s Brain Worked.”
Why I listen: Josh and Chuck are the funniest pair in the podcast world, as far as I’m concerned. They take you through the most mundane and obscure parts of our world, and make you laugh along the way. Before long you’ll find yourself pulling out random facts about everything mid-conversation.

NPR: Planet Money
Genre: Economics (it’s interesting and fun, I promise!)
Quote from website:
“Money makes the world go around, faster and faster every day. On NPR’s Planet Money, you’ll meet high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks — all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy.”
Why I listen: The broadcasters that record and put together this show do a fantastic job at taking a topic that many assume is boring (economics) and making it extremely interesting and relevant to your immediate world and mine. Recent episode topic: Did Katy Perry’s record label make money off of her last year? The answer may surprise you.

Motley Fool Money
Genre: Investing & Finance
Quote from website:
“Discussions of topics related to recent news from Wall Street and Washington, DC that affects investors.”
Why I listen: Though I don’t have an exorbitant amount of money to invest, I like to listen to this podcast because they talk a lot about big corporations and tech companies. Listening has educated me on how good companies run, which ones are good and bad bets, and the way the business world functions.

So… which one will you listen to first?