Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre mudder post, posted post mudder

So, tomorrow morning is my second mudder this year, my fourth and probably last race of my first racing season.  I am just as excited about tomorrow as I was about my first race and about the marathon in October. I’m sitting here having my night before beer about to eat dinner, thinking about tomorrow. I’m hoping it will be cold and rainy. I figure, if I’m going to do something like this in November it should really be intense enough to be all I can take, push my limits as far as possible. 

I just met a couple of mudders who ran it earlier today, out in the hotel lobby. They said it was insanely cold and really unpleasant. I like insanely cold, am kind of unpleasant myself and find myself resenting that the weather right now is slightly balmy and mild. I want pain. I’m betting that even balmy weather is cold when you’re dragging yourself through ice baths and mud.

Here is a picture of my go kit, I know it's a little hard to see.

I got a full body merino smart wool outfit (discount) because this is supposed to be the best stuff for getting wet and staying warm. I’ve never tried it but it comes highly recommended. I’ve got the wool toe socks as they are supposed to keep you from getting blisters on your soggy feet by keeping your toes from rubbing together. I’ve got some caffeinated gu to keep the blood sugar roaring and some electrolyte pills although I don’t think I’m going to take any as it’s only 12 miles. I'm wearing New Balance Minimus shoes. I used them for my last mudder and they are the perfect combination of a bit of padding for the really gravelly running, but minimal enough that they don't affect my stride.

Then of course, I have my GoPro Hero submersible camera for recording the madness. I’ll be posting videos like this one…

afterward so you can see it all.

Since I’m now posting this after I ran the race I won’t ask you to wish me luck, but I'll be writing my review as I get my video edited.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sunday mud race and the future of blogging

So first off thanks to everyone who pitched in on my question hunt for this Sun. I got some good ones lined up and I can't wait to start editing video when I should be preparing to defend my thesis. Just asking for input brought up some questions of my own, partially brought on by the nature of the questions people suggested.  What gets you out of bed? How does running a mudder get applied in your life?

My mom used to tell this story about her time in the peace corps in Brazil. In the story she shows up as a small town Indiana girl in the middle of the dust bowl of a foreign country and has no idea how she's going to cope. She decides that she's going to commit to making her bed every morning. The act of making her bed becomes a ritual and a kind of daily self affirmation. She tells herself that if she can make her bed every morning she can do any of the other things she needs to do that are daunting and overwhelming.

I always thought I knew what she meant and figured it became a ritual that was comforting and helped get her day started. A race is like this: people look at what you're doing and understand that it's an accomplishment to add to your belt and something to talk about, but there's more to it. When you commit to something like this you have no choice but to get yourself up and train. I get up and follow my training program because I've committed.  I commit to the race so I'll have to train for it.

The thing is, as soon as I've relinquished control by deciding that I'm not going to give myself excuses, not going to sleep in, not going to skip runs or whine, everything changes. There's a point where it becomes a mission. Sometimes I have to dedicate my training day to someone or something to convince myself it's worth it, with a mudder like this Sunday I think about the fact that much of the money goes to the Wounded Warrior Project, I think about my mom making her bed, or old lost friends.

What gets me out of bed in the morning is not just a love of running but a desire to finish the mission. The mission changes from day to day but the greater goal is to do something worthwhile that helps me to be a better man and father, have a better story to tell, jump the next fence and not give in to my lesser demons.

I hope I don't get any answers like that when I'm asking on Sun, I'll run out of memory fast, but that's some of what I have to say on the subject. The goal is really important for me. I can't just do it because I'm doing it, I have to have a point at which I'll be able to assess my progress and my commitment. At that point I just sign up for another.

Here are the questions I think:

1. Why would you do this to yourself?
2. What got you out of bed to train for it?
3. What hurts right now?
4. What does this event do to make your life better?
5. Where would you be if you weren't here?

Thanks again everybody. The videos are going to be awesome and I'll post some pictures from the fleabag hotel I'm staying in the night before.
Good living, people!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

4 Big Questions

...that I think I need your help coming up with.

I'm running another mud race next Sun, Nov 20th. I'm bringing my awesome fancy submersible GoPro camera to film it again, and this time I'm going to try some interaction. I'm going to ask as many people as I can, the same 4 or 5 questions. I posted the vids last time which was awsome but I want to fancy it up this time.

The first one is obvious to me as this is a mud race with ice water electric shock zone etc, in the middle of November.  I'm not sure about the rest and I could use your help.

1. Why would you do this to yourself?
2. What's the best part of a mudder?

Please post some ideas. I'm going to make a montage video after the race and post it all over the webs.
Thanks for any help!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running is medicine and thoughts on intimate fluids

Running is medicine. There's the cardio, long term health, weight loss piece that's really important but the thing I'm talking about is another kind of medicine. Life is full of challenges. There are always these moments that push you toward breaking, or at least questioning whether you know what you're doing, and whether or not what you're doing is right. Any big decision or long commitment, long term challenge or set of obstacles while seeking a worthy goal will, in cyclic fashion bring you into confrontation with yourself. How we deal with those obstacles shows us the level of our commitment, reveals to us who and what we are and of course helps us see the true value of the goals or commitments themselves.

The running medicine is the perspective and the cure for the acute stress of these moments. I like to imagine this when I'm running: My blood is coursing through my heart picking up oxygen to deliver to muscles, it's picking up waste from all of my body's tissues, from my brain and running it through its processing and waste disposal systems. My mind, my body via the blood, and my spirit are cleansed. Picturing this when I'm running keeps me focused on why I do it. For me it's a self improvement project, and perspective and spiritual house keeping are part of that. It happens in a gushing fluid rhythmic flow.

I was sitting in class today trying to listen to a lecture on cheese fermentation starter cultures and all I could think about was the fact that the room was filling up with air that had come out of the peoples' lungs around me. The CO2 that came from their exhalations had literally moments before been pushed out of cells deep inside their tissues. The moisture and gasses in that room were part of them and their metabolic processes.  It's not just inhaling air that other have exhaled, it's inhaling byproducts of their cellular gas exchange systems. That is a pretty intimate exchange of fluids that is rarely noticed.

Running medicine helps me process my blood, my thoughts and my stresses. The familiarity of the activity is reassuring, the way my body drops into its rhythm and settles in to the task feels to me the way my mom used to talk about going to church. She wasn't a believer but she went for a sense of familiarity. Establishing the routine and trusting your body to do its job has a primal quality to it. It reaches back into the distant evolutionary memory of the biological organism and lets the body process and flow, trumping the mind's capacity to unleash the chemical responses to stress. They are all swept away in the tidal current of blood flow and cleansed completely.

There are days where reestablishing flow is just a really important thing to do and I'm glad I am able to get there by running it out. I'll bet you can too.