Monday, September 24, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

I did it again. I ran the Warrior Dash one more time. I was in lousy shape, with a sudden onslaught of mysterious and frustrating injuries and pains that have come from out of nowhere and seeminly have no cause and no cure. Even Aleve didn't help.

Earlier this week I went to the doctor for a injured thumb that hasn't healed in over 6 months. "Doc, what's up with this hand not healing? All I did was plant some trees and since then my hand has felt like I hit it with a hammer. My thumb has felt broken. I didn't do anything to it."

X-rays showed a calcium deposit that could indicate a healing break. There is no way to know for sure what happened. So later that same day, it's 5 pm and I'm getting up from my desk to go home and exercise before the race. My left knee hurts like I've destroyed it. This is out of nowhere. I didn't hurt my knee. I was at my desk sitting on my butt all day. What is going on??

So, injured knee means I'm not going home to run. My road bike is still broken. So I pull out my mountain bike and ride that. Oh Lord, it has so many more gears than my old Bottecchia road bike and they are so much easier to use! I'm flying down the road.

After the workout I felt fine. I showered, ate, and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Friday, I get up to go to pack my truck for the race and then drive to work. My left ankle is killing me. "WTF?? I didn't hurt my ankle! I went biking! I didn't hurt my stupid ankle!!!"  I find some ibuprofen and take it. It has no effect.

At work my ankle still hurts. So does my back. OK, Wednesday I did legitimately hurt my back. It is an old injury, but I reinjured it while lifting weights. I take more Aleve. No effect.

Friday after work I drive to where I'm staying. The race is about 4 hours from my house. I'm staying nearby so I can just get up, head to the race, and go for it. Me, my ankle, my back and my seemingly broken thumb go to bed.

Saturday morning, the day of the race, I wake up. My middle finger on my left hand feels broken. But it isn't. I can't pick up anything with this hand without that finger screaming in pain. But I can grab the finger and press on it and it is fine. Just don't put any pressure on it or bend it. WTF???!!!! More Aleve, which does nothing. My ankle, meanwhile, is hurting again as if I have horribly injured it. I never did. I ignore it.

When I arrive at the race parking, which costs $20 just to park, I am quickly reassured that I did the right thing in driving my 4x4 truck to this event. It rained last night and the parking area is just a big field. After thousands of cars and trucks have driven down the specified paths, they are motorcross-worthy mud pits. Cars in front of me are struggling despite their front-wheel-drive. I drop down into 4-high and slide around a little, but keep moving forward. My back window quickly spackles over with mud splotches. I'm already having fun.

At the race, all around me are college-aged runners dressed as The Avengers (Thor ran the entire race with hammer in hand), Jesus and the Disciples plus 2 nuns, several Wonder Womans, a Tarzan, three guys in Spandex tuxedos with 2 girls in sequined uniforms, pirates, the most attractive 80s workout girl I've seen since the '80s itself, and lots and lots of tattooes everywhere I look. I'm boring. I'm just wearing a running shirt and some cotton workout shorts. And I have no tattooes. I'm dressed for a regular 5K race, which is just so wrong for so many reasons.

Last year we ran a full mile before we hit a single obstacle. This year the first half mile was filled with obstacles - out-of-shape people walking. There must have been over a hundred people who just stopped and walked the moment they crossed the STARTING LINE. They were grumbling about being out of shape. I heard one person say they hadn't run since the Warrior Dash last year. That's September of 2011. And they are surprised that they were out of shape 12 months later? People walking right in the center of the course are everywhere. Entire teams are walking and stretched all the way across the path so there is no room to pass. People are pushing through. No one fights about it or gets nasty, but it is truly annoying and selfish of them to block everyone else and not get off to the side.

I am stumbling along at my fabulously slow pace, shocked at all the ruts and holes in the path. I'm forced to look down almost all the time to see what I'm stepping into. Several times I step into a hole or rut and roll my ankle a little. Ironically, it doesn't hurt at all despite bitching at me for the past 2 days as if it were in ruins. In fact, nothing is hurting. Except my lungs. My lungs are really unhappy. It's a big pollen season right now and I have bad allergies. Ragweed and sagebrush are in full blast bloom and I'm sucking in all their toxic whatever with every breath. I feel like my lungs are going to swell shut and send me into an asthmatic fit. But other than that everything is going well.

I end up running at a steady pace behind a pretty woman in tight black shorts. We're doing the same pace and because I'm looking down so much I find myself hypnotized by her buttocks. I'm just staring non-stop at her butt. It's a nice butt. I can't look away from her butt. This is embarassing. Finally we hit an obstacle, a mud pit. Or rather, 4 mud pits in a row. They are 4 deep trenches filled with deep mud at the bottoms and you have to run down to the mud, leap over and climb up to the top of the next one. Then do it again through 4 of these pits. But there are a lot of us and we are all jammed in together. The hypnotic butt girl is ahead of me and I'm trying to make it through without running into her, or stopping and getting run into from behind. I'm going great. Then on the last mud pit, she stops short and stands there. Someone is blocking her butt. I mean, someone is blocking her and she can't get up the dirt embankment. I am already leaping across. She is in my way. I'm going to crash into her butt. I mean, I'm going to crash into her. I stop short, landing with one foot on dirt and one foot sinking up to mid-calf in pure mud.

The magnificent butt finally climbs up the embankment, making room for me. I try to pull my leg out of the mud. It pulls my shoe off and keeps it. I had that shoe double-knotted and tied tight. It didn't matter. It just came right off and is now somewhere down there deep under the mud. I can't go on without it. This is only the first obstacle and I'm not even going to consider trying to do some of the rougher ones without my shoe. So I have to step my other foot into the mud, bend down, and reach my arm as far into the mud as I can to look for my shoe. Once I find it, I have a hell of a challenge pulling it out. It really doesn't want to come out. Finally I got my shoe out, but now my sock-covered foot is in the mud and so is my other foot. It is extremely difficult to get both feet out without losing either my left sock or my right shoe in the process. I honestly don't know how I did it.

I can't tell you how difficult it is to stop running and bend down to struggle with your shoes while heaving and gasping for air. Your lungs want all your ribcage capacity available to them so they can fully expand. But when you have to bend down to struggle with a now solid-mud-covered shoe, it compresses your lungs to about half-capacity, if that. So there I am struggling with my shoe, unable to breath, about to pass out, and a race official asks me to get off the mud berm and move to the side while putting my shoe on. I'm barely conscious at this point from lack of air. I stumble to the side. Once I get my shoe back on, I am just totally out of air and energy. So I start walking on towards the next obstacle.

OK, so 1 obstacle down and I'm already muddy. And my feet are sliding around. So of course the next obstacle isnt far and involves climbing up a wooden stand, something particularly hard to do with mud-covered slippery shoes. So I'm walking, climbing very slowly, like an old lady who might cry "help! I've fallen and can't get up!" But I made it over and walked on towards the next one. At this point I was joining the legion of Warrior Walkers. There was no dash in me now. I even had to blow my nose in order to get more oxygen.

I am the only runner in any race I have ever seen who has such bad allergies that I have to carry a handkerchief in my pocket. Hence, the long cotton workout shorts with pockets. I look like a dork, but the alternative is to pass out in the middle of the race from snot-suffocation.

After awhile I got sick of walking and started trotting along again. Under normal circumstances I feel like hell for 1 mile and after that my body admits defeat and stops complaining. From that point on I get into a groove and can run for a long time. But the mud pit/shoe loss really threw me off my game. I never recovered. I spent the rest of the race trotting, climbing, walking, trotting, crawling through mud and barbed wire, walking, trotting - on like that again and again. I walked almost as much as I ran. This is unusual for me, but it is what it is. I just couldn't get my lungs to open up and let me breath and my body never got into a groove.

The obstacles weren't the same this year as last year. Some were, but there were some new ones. And there were more of them. Seeing as this race is mostly about the obstacles, that's a good thing. It makes it harder, but its the reason we're there so its fun.

At the end of the race there was a huge tower covered in a grid of rope that we had to climb up and over and down again. The up is fine. The down is fine. But the its the over and try not to fall on your head that's the real challenge. You are so tired at this point that your coordination isn't the best and you are about 3 stories high trying to get your whole body over a 2x4 while maintaining your balance and turning around backwards to get your feet down into a rope, all without falling or passing out from lack of air. A few people did have partial falls, where they slid until they became entangled and caught themselves. They hit their butts on 2x4s while falling and it clearly hurt. But they didn't die or break their necks or anything.

After the rope covered wall, you are back near the start area. People are all gathered at the fence taking pictures and cheering. Some runners stop to dance. There is a live band playing and you can hear them easily at the finish. I am a lousy dancer so I didn't stop and dance. I ran to the next obstacle, the two rows of fire. The wind was blowing towards us so before I ever reached the fire I got a face full of black smoke. I was already not breathing well so this was awesome. I'm sure I looked like an idiot, but I covered my face somewhat with my arm and ran through the smoke to the fire, jumped over it feebly, then on to the 2nd one and again over it. After that is the mud pit. The BIG mud pit.

Last year people ran and jumped into the mud pitt like a swimming pool. Some people did cannonballs. Some people did belly flops head first into the mud. There is a big sign that says "don't dive into the mud" but people ignored it. So this year they put up barbed wire BEFORE the mud, so that you have to stop, get down and crawl into the mud face first. Once I got into the mud I found that I had a problem. My cotton shorts seemed to fill with air and float my ass like a raft. So my knees weren't getting good traction. I was moving slow. People were passing me. It's the finish and people are passing me! I found that if I just stretched my legs out behind me and walked purely on my hands, almost swimming through the mud, I could move faster. So that's what I did, only my shoulders and head were out of the mud, but I was making up lost ground at least.

Something I noticed while in the mud was that for the guys, being mostly taller, we could keep our shoulders and heads out of the mud. But for the girls, being mostly shorter, they had to really get down into it. They were just heads bobbing along in a river of mud, almost fully covered.

After climbing out of the mud, I tried to run for the finish line. I passed 2 people who were walking/staggering. The ground was pure mud, too, and I was sliding all over the place. I don't know why I bothered to run. I didn't even see a clock showing my time and it wouldn't have meant anything to me even if I had seen what my time was. I can't remember my time from last year. And I don't know my time from this year. I never saw what it was. But I consider myself a runner, despite my jogging and walking and patheticness, so I ran across the finish.

After finishing, you have to walk all the way to the other side of the ... what do you call it? ... the arena? The big area filled with partying people in muddy costumes who already ran and the costumed people who are about to. You have to walk to the other side of the grounds to where firetrucks are located and firemen are standing on top of them spraying down muddy runners with firehoses to get the mud off. These firemen love their jobs and I'll tell you why. Everyone is so covered with mud that all sense of modesty goes out the window when it comes to getting hosed down and getting the mud out of crevices and cracks of the body that would otherwise hold onto it. Shirts are flying off. Women are pulling their sports bras out to get the water down into their tops and under their boobs where mud hides. More than once I heard women say "oh to hell with it" and just pull their boobs up so get water under them, showing the whole package to the firemen and anyone else who was looking. The firemen were VERY happy men. And most of the women are gorgeous.

Here is where I discovered the hazards of wearing standard cotton workout shorts in the Warrior Dash. No matter how much water was sprayed on me, there was always more mud pouring out of my shorts. The cotton had just soaked it up like a sponge and would not come clean. My upper half was as clean as a firehose could get it, but my shorts were continuously pouring mud down my legs and into my shoes. I almost took my shorts off and stood in my tighty-whiteys just so I could hold my shorts in front of the hose and wring them out. But I thought better of it and didn't. Eventually people shoved me aside and took my spot in front of the hose. Apparently they felt that I was clean enough. I didn't agree, but I was ready to give up on cleaning my shorts.

So here's the lesson I took from the Warrior Dash, which I should have learned the first time: wear some nice nylon or otherwise plasticky running shorts to this event. Don't wear cotton. It sucks up the mud and turns you into a walking turd despite the firehoses trying to clean you off. I took the shorts home in a bag and threw them into the washer, along with my underwear, socks and shirt. I ran it as a full load even though it was only those few items. When it was all done the shorts came out with dirt still plastered to the leg and a hankerchief in the pocket that was brown and full of dirt. I'm going to try running the shorts and handkerchief threw one more time and after that I may burn them.

If you see a chance to enter a Warrior Dash near you, I say go for it! It's a wild experience that you'll never forget. Next year I'm going to splurge and order the plastic viking helmet. Several people ran in their fuzzy viking helmet, but I kept mine as a momento. I'm dorky like that, I guess.

* I don't own any of these photos. It's hard to take photos and run at the same time. Some people have lots of friends who take photos of them while they run, but I don't have that luxury. If I have borrowed your photo and you don't like it, please let me know. I have no problem with taking a photo down.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Run, Run, Run for the Bathroom

My bike is still broken. Friday after work I tried 2 different places looking for a new derailleur. Apparently sporting goods shops don't carry much in the way of bicycle parts. And bike shops close at 6 all week long. Why 6 I don't know, but it's very annoying. So anyway, my bike is still broken.

I planned to do a workout after work Friday night. Instead I stopped at Sonic and ate a hamburger. I thought I'd hit the gym Friday and then fix my bike on Saturday. By the time I'd gotten home and eaten supper it was after 8. I ended up sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

A small town adjacent to where I live has an annual craft fair and car show. I went to it today at around noon. It's a big deal for the town and every year the show/fair grows a little larger. This year was the largest number of cars that I've ever seen at this particular car show and the booths for crafts, etc, completely encircled the town hall. I was there for hours, just walking and looking at cars, taking photos, occasionally talking to people about their cars.

By the time I left the car show I was sunburned. In fact, I seem to be about as burned as a hot dog after its been on a stick and held over an open fire. I drove a half mile down the road and stopped at an Italian restaurant for lunch/dinner. It was about 4 o'clock. I ate a Stromboli and went home.

My bike was still laying on the back porch where I'd left it following the storm that I got trapped in when the bike broke. I picked it up and rolled it into the shop out back. There was no point in leaving it out if I wasn't going to have new parts to fix it with for awhile. Then I reluctantly put on my running shorts and shoes and went out for a run.

It wasn't particularly hot outside, but with my sunburn I couldn't seem to tell exactly what the real temperature was. I ran for maybe a mile. A deer in the field next to the road suddenly leapt up and started running through someone's crops away from me. I wasn't doing very well, but it's normal for me to struggle the first mile. What isn't normal is what began to happen in my abdomen. I was rumbling like a volcano. I started up the cascading hills when I heard a car coming down. These hills have a lot of blind spots because of the way they're formed. A runner is easy to miss until your car is directly on top of him. There isn't really a shoulder for me to step off to. It's just ditch and snakes and things.

My sudden rumbling inside wasn't going away. I decided to cross the road before the car came down and killed me and start running back the way I'd came. I was fast developing an emergency need to take a crap and I was out a mile from the house on the same stretch of road that my bike had broken on and left me stranded in the rain. I ran a little and decided that if I didn't want to crap in my shorts it might be best for me to stop and walk. I don't ever walk when I'm running, but this seemed like a special situation.

I walked until I was nearly at the base of the super hill, the short, very steep hill that I like to run my sprints on. At this point I had to run. I figured this was a crap workout and I wasn't going to get much out of it, but at least I could run my favorite hill. I straightened up and got up on my toes. I tried to stride like an Olympic runner, with perfect form. That's how I felt, but I'm sure I looked quite a bit different to anyone else who might've seen me. Still, I managed to run up to the top of the hill without crapping myself and that was an accomplishment.

Once I reached the top I had planned to walk, but it was all downhill after that for a ways so I decided to just cruise and keep jogging along. I jogged to the bottom of the hill and then turned north onto the connecting street. I jogged along until I reached the bottom of my own street. I was slumping down and running with pretty crappy form at this point. I decided I'd straighten up, focus on my form and stride to the first telephone pole. After that I'd walk to the house as a cool-down.

I walked all the way up to my house and started to walk past it to finish my cool-down. But I heard something behind me. It was a strange sound. I finally turned around as I was well past my house and in the process of passing my neighbors' house. There, out in the street chasing after me, was my retarded cat. And she was making strange sounds at me. Maine coons don't really meow much. They don't have strong voices. She was meowing as much as she could, apparently panicked that I was leaving her behind again. She had followed me across the yard when I had first started out for my run and I left her behind somewhere on my street. I hadn't expected her to be waiting for me. My cat is a stalker.

She and I went into the house and I sprinted for the bathroom. While I sat on the toilet I had a chance to look at my arms and legs. They were a lot more burned than I had realized. I was a lovely shade of purple. No wonder I was feeling so bad.       This was a crappy run. I don't think I accomplished much. And now I'm burned, too. I have a race in 2 weeks and I've got a lot of work to do. This isn't a good start.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cycling with a Twist

I'm supposed to be getting prepared for the next Warrior Dash. I'm totally out of shape and I haven't felt like running at all. So I've been cycling. Tonight I got home a little later than I had wanted, so I rushed to get my bike out and hop on. There were some dark clouds in the sky, but they were far away and appeared to be moving in the opposite direction from me. I took off on my usual route.

I took my street down to a connecting street, headed south and pedaled as fast as I could to where that street dead-ends into a much longer road. This is where all the hills are.

I turned west and started pedaling up the first steep hill. As I crept up to the top I saw black sky off in the distance and lightning. I studied it hard. It still appeared to be moving away from me. It shouldn't be a problem. So I shifted into my fastest gear and started pedaling as fast as I could. I flew down the hill with the wind whistling through all the holes in my dorky bike helmet. I was really moving.

I flew as fast as I could down the straight, flat part of the road and reached the bottom of the cascading hills in record time. I struggled up the first hill, caught my breath on the level part between, then strained up the second hill, caught my breath again on the next flat part, and then really strained to get up the third hill.

As I was reaching the top of the last hill I looked off to the north and saw a flaming orange sky. It was freaky looking. To the west it was black and there was a lot of lightning. And to the south there was a starving dog trying to tear into a discarded bag of trash looking for food.

What the hell?

I turned my bike around at the top of the hill and stopped in front of the dog. He was so pathetic looking. His hips were poking out he was so skinny. He hadn't even gotten the bag torn open yet from what I could tell. He stood there halfway cowering and just looked at me. I stood there still on my bike and tried to figure out what to say to him. "Hey boy, you need to come home with me so I can get you some food. I can't carry a dog with me on my bike, especially since I don't know if you're wild or not." The dog just stared at me. I had seen him before, along this same road sniffing at another discarded garbage bag. I don't know why there are so many discarded garbage bags along here, but they don't seem to contain enough food in them for this dog to survive. He looked AWFUL.

What do you want and why aren't you feeding me?
I tried to somehow convince the dog that he needed to come with me so I could get him to my house and feed him. But he didn't seem to be grasping the idea. He just crouched there and looked at me, halfway squatting and halfway standing, just like he had been the entire time. I was starting to wonder if he might've died while still standing and I hadn't noticed. Finally I gave up and decided it might be best if I rode home and got some meat and then drove back in my truck to give it to him. So I started to pedal away, downhill.

As I struggled to get my feet into the toe clips a truck came flying around the curve behind me. I could see its headlights glaring past me. I had my taillight on and they apparently saw me at the last minute and avoided killing me. Glad for that. Once I got my feet situated I shifted into my fastest gear again and flew down the hills. I could hear something clicking as I pedaled. I looked down and noticed that my pedal was hitting my chain guide.


I decided that the hitting of the chain guide probably wasn't the best idea, so I shifted gears, or tried to. Too late. The chain guide popped loose from the frame and twisted my chain. Something actually fell off my bike and into the street. My pedals locked up.

Oh, and it started to rain.

I coasted to a stop and laid the bike on the side of the road while I jogged back to pick up whatever it was that fell off my bike. It turned out to be the tire pump that I had mounted on my frame. I picked it up and jogged back to my bike. I looked it over and tried to figure out how to fix the chain guide. It was hopeless. Something was missing. Whatever held the guide to the frame was gone.

Lightning flashed overhead and the wind started to kick up really strong.

I stood my bike up, checked to see if both tires would roll, and then started jogging towards home with the handlebars in one hand and my stupid pump in the other. It started raining harder.

When I came to the last hill, the steepest one before I reach home, I had to stop jogging and walk to get up the hill with my bike. The wind was really strong now and the rain was coming down harder. At the top of the hill I climbed onto the bike and coasted as far as I could. The rain was pouring down in sheets and lightning was flashing constantly. For a short distance I had a killer wind at my back. That helped. But it didn't last long.

Tut tut, looks like rain
Once I ran out of momentum I had to get off the bike and jog again, splashing through puddles that were forming. My shoes were now completely filled with water and I was soaked all the way through. But the rain was still coming down and I had further to go before I reached home.

The street leading to my house is uphill and I was having trouble controlling the bike while jogging. It was swerving and I nearly dropped it. I finally had to give up and just walk. I was already as wet as I could possibly get anyway. It didn't matter how hard the rain came down now. I could have jumped into a pool of water and not gotten any wetter.

When I reached my house I pushed the bike across the front yard and headed for the back door. My brain damaged cat was on the front porch acting frantic to get into the house. I called to her to follow me to the back door, but she's retarded and ignored me. She was plastered to the window next to the front door, as if there was anyone inside the house to see her and let her in. (There wasn't.)

I laid my bike down on the back porch and went in through the laundry room. I was leaking water from my shorts and shirt like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. I stripped and threw my clothes into the washer. I figured they could drain there and not hurt anything. I don't generally stroll around my house in the nude, but this was a special occasion. I didn't have any dry clothes handy and I was going to have to streak. I showered for a very long time. Once I was dried and had some dry clothes on I went slowly to the door and turned on the porch light. Sure enough, a mentally challenged cat was plastered to the glass. I opened the door and let her in. Rather than thank me she made a beeline for her food dish. Yeah, cats are like that sometimes.

So my bike is broken. I'm not sure what it's going to take to fix it. I have a race coming up and I haven't felt much like running to train for it. But I guess I'm going to have to.

You know, I had said I was thinking about trying to do a triathlon. It's just occurred to me that I biked, ran and swam tonight while trying to get home. I hadn't planned on doing a triathlon, but I sort of just did. It wasn't that much fun.