Marathon Training and How it Sucks SOOOOOOO Hard

I came up with that title up there at about mile 16.5 of my 18-mile run today.

I think I’ve told you that I’m running the Houston Marathon in January. In case I haven’t, here you go: I am running the Houston Marathon in January.

That means I am currently in the thick of training for it. Marathon training, as it turns out, is constant. It never stops. You finish a long training run, take a couple of days and start again. I feel like all I ever do is run.

Because of the relentless nature, I do seem to be be approaching readiness. I ran 17 miles last weekend and it was Hard, but not impossible. For the first time, 26.2 miles didn’t seem undoable. I was encouraged and ready to hit this weekend’s 18 miles.

My guiding mission during this time has been to (a) not get injured and (b) not get sick. Knock on wood, so far so good on the injury, but last Wednesday I woke up sick.

I debated skipping my 8-mile run that day to rest up, but after napping for most of the day, I decided to suck it up and head out. I ran pretty slow, but it wasn’t too painful, so I decided to stick with the 10K race I had Thursday in lieu of a 5-mile training run. That went even slower and less well.

The real test though, was this weekend’s long run—scheduled for 18 miles. I was worried about it. I spent a lot of time Thursday and Friday sleeping and willing myself to be NOT sick by Saturday/run day.

I had a Plan B though. I figured if I got into my run and felt bad that I would switch this week’s long run (18 miles) with next week’s (13 miles). I woke up feeling okay, if a little coughy and phlegmy.

I caught a ride with my family to the doughnut shop to start me a little farther away from my final destination. (Do you have any idea how goddamn hard it is to find a mostly downhill route of 18 miles in the DC area?)

Selfie of me smiling in front of a painting on a building of a duck flipping a doughnut.

Plus, do you know how virtuous you can feel setting out for an 18-mile run when the rest of your family is chugging doughnuts?

I headed out with high hopes and a decision to evaluate how the run was going at about mile 11. Here’s how the run was going:

Mile 1.5: Whine. My legs are tired. I stop in at a 7-11 to buy a Gatorade and impulse buy a Snickers bar to stash in my Camelbak for later if necessary.

Mile: 3: It’s hot. I’m going to take off my gloves and earwrap.

Mile 4: I should put that earwrap back on.

Mile 4.5: Christ, it’s hot. I take off my gloves and earwrap and tie my jacket around my waist.

Mile 6: I’m cold. Jacket back on. Hold off on the gloves and earwrap for now.

Mile 8: I pass the bottom of the road that leads to my house. I look longingly up it.

Mile 8.5: This run is a slog. I sit on a stump for a while to evaluate my life choices. Eventually I stand up and keep going.

Mile 10: Everything warm is back on for good.

Mile 11.25: I sit on a bench and eat my Snickers bar. This is a GOOD life choice.

Mile 12: Should I stop at 13 miles? No. Mostly because I don’t want to run 18 miles next weekend. Also, I only have a 10K left to run. How hard could that be?

Mile 14: Hard.

Mile 16: I sit on a bench to suck the last of my water from my Camelback and watch a really sad looking woman look for her lost keys on the C&O canal trail.

Mile 16.1: She found her keys! It is a miracle! She is so happy she looks like she is going to cry. I congratulate her and continue to shuffle along.

Mile 17: Every step I take carries me a longer distance than I have ever run consecutively. I also start to wonder where exactly I am going to be when I reach 18 miles. Far from any reasonable exit point on the trail? Unable to move? Virginia?

Mile 18: Turns out I am one stinky, sketchy staircase away from Georgetown. I climb it and talk to Alex on the phone who is already on his way to pick me up. I tell him at what intersection I am sitting and shivering. Then my phone, unable to function in the cold anymore, dies from battery loss.

Selfie. I look really tired.

But not before I take this super desperate looking selfie.

I sit and shiver and wait for a surly but heroic Alex to arrive.

Marathon training sucks hard.

I’m doing it though. And if I can run this 18 miles while sick and cold, I can do 26 in Houston—as long as I can keep injury and sickness away for the next 50 days.

Also, my family saved a doughnut for me. I ate it when I got home. It was delicious.

Race Report: Oceans 50 Relay

I was lucky enough to be able to get away to Florida last weekend with a bunch of my running friends (Team MLC, represent!) to run a relay race. It was really good to be in a pretty place with a fun team activity and good people. I left town last Thursday, arriving in Jacksonville at 10 pm, just in time to be picked up by local heroes Lyda and Bob who took me to Lyda’s beach house where we promptly went to our respective beds. We’s old.

The next morning was for beach walking, my favorite part of which is watching the funny birds who run around in the surf.

Photo of sand and the ocean and a little bird walking there.

I relate to these little birds because they look like they kinda wanna wade, but then the water gets too close and they run away, but then they want to get close to the water, but NOT REALLY! I do all that too.

I spent a lot of that first beach walk wondering if I should collect some shells for my kids because last time we were down there, Heather collected shells for her kids and I didn’t and I told my kids about that and Quinn OBJECTED strenuously that he had no shells but collecting shells involves a lot of bending over and looking at things and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of commitment when instead I could just not mention shells to Quinn and all would be well, but I ended up deciding to collect shells and I then I totally enjoyed it and went home with a gallon-sized Ziploc full of them.

Team MLC members Marc and Heather arrived at the beach house just before lunch, which was great, and then we came back to the beach and collected more shells. Heather and Lyda walked in the water and got all wet.

Photo of the beach. Heather and Lyda are in shorts wading in the water.

My view from where I plunked myself on the beach, making an effort to touch as little sand as possible.

I sat on the beach in the sun looking like I was dressed for an entirely different season than my friends in my jeans, but it was warm and nice and decidedly un-wet.

Photo of a sandy beach. You can see part of my leg in the photo and I am pointing to a spot on the sand about six inches away from my leg.

The water mostly stayed far away from me, but one wave came up to the point where I am pointing in this photo. Nature almost touched me.

After that beach walk/sit, our final team member, Marisa, arrived and we drove off to the hotel where we would be spending the night prior to our race, which was about an hour away from Jacksonville in a place called Flagler County.

The race is the Oceans 50 Relay and I would highly recommend you run it. We had a six-person team and the race is made up of 12 legs, so each of us ran two. The whole thing took us eight and a half hours and no one had to sleep in the van or worry too much about stocking supplies for the race. The race was super well organized with really friendly volunteers and easy logistics. Plus! This race was set up so all but two of the exchanges had real, actual bathrooms with running water. Ten out of ten, highly recommended.

Team start times began at 5am and ran as late as 8 am, but because we’re us, our start time was at five (five. a. m.) but we were supposed to report to the start line an hour before start time so we could get our safety briefing (four. a.m.) which meant I needed to set my alarm for 3 am (and 3:15 am, then with the snooze, 3:24 am). (three. twenty. four. a. m.) Needless to say, I was in bed and asleep by 8:15.

I need to take a moment to mention that all day long I’d been finding little notes in my luggage. Alex, who has never done anything like it before, wrote me a series of encouraging little notes and put them in my shoes and in with my running clothes. I found my favorite one right before I went to bed for the night. He based it off of our team t-shirt, which I’d designed. See if you can guess which one Alex drew and which one I did:

Two photos: (1) A notecard on which is drawn a weird oblong with arms, legs, and a face. It says "Go Team MLC!!" with an arrow pointing to the oblong above words that say "Really bad banana!!" with the exclamations making a smiley face. (2) a green shirt with a super cute yellow banana on it surrounded by various wild animals and writing that says, "Team MLC will run through anything for a banana."

I’ll give you a hint: The banana I drew looks like a banana.

Somehow our entire team assembled in the hotel lobby at 3:45 as instructed and we blearily made our way to the start line where we learned such important safety details as “follow the route signs facing you, not the ones facing away from you” and “if it is pitch black, wear your head lamp and reflective vest.”

Marc totally failed the safety briefing by the way. The guy explained how the exchange number was the same as the number of the leg preceding it and then immediately asked, “What exchange comes at the end of leg two?” and Marc yelled really loudly, “THREE!” Fortunately, we were not immediately disqualified.

Lyda was our starting runner, so we lit her up like a Christmas tree and situated her at the start line.

Photo of Lyda wearing a safety vest and a lot of lights, looking up at a banner that says START, only she's looking at the back of it.

“Wait. T-R-A-T-S?”

Then we waited around tapping our feet impatiently waiting for it to be 5 am.

Photo of four people standing in the dark.

Patient. And in remarkably good spirits for 4:57 a.m. (Heather, Bob, Marisa, Marc)

Soon enough it was 5:00 and Lyda set off with the rest of the starters. There were 5 or 6 other teams that started at the same time that we did, but by the time we started leg 2, she was ahead of all but two of them.

We got a little lost looking for exchange #1, but we eventually found it before Lyda arrived and saw that leg two led off down an unlit trail that was Pitch. Fucking. Black. There could have been anything down there. It was intense. Fortunately that leg belonged to Marisa, who took off with a bounce in her step and, hopefully, a knowledge of basic self-defense maneuvers to protect herself from people and gators.

Leg three was Marc’s and was what everyone referred to as “The Swamp Leg.” While the rest of the race was on roads and paths and was more or less flat, this leg was on a trail with hills and roots and rocks and, according to the race packet, maybe even a boar. The race organizers time runners on this leg and give a special prize to the person who runs it fastest because it is so challenging. And! If your start time is 5 am, you get to run it IN THE DARK.

Photo of me standing by a sign that says, "Graham Swamp Conservation Area East Trailhead" The sun is rising behind me.

Heather took this photo of me while Marc was running the swamp leg. I assume it was even darker in, you know, the swamp.

I was runner four, so when Marc suddenly popped out of the swamp (in first place now!), I grabbed the baton and took off. I could tell there was a runner behind me, but I was determined to stay in front of him for as long as I could.

Team MLC is scrappy and we have some speedy runners on our team, but we tend to get passed by other teams who catch up to us and surge ahead. I am often the one who is passed. I wanted to keep this guy behind me for as long as possible on my four-mile leg.

I could feel him getting closer as I passed one mile. I decided to try to stay in front until I got to two miles. Eventually I realized that he had fallen back and I was secure in my first place spot. I kept my speed up though and came into my exchange almost four minutes faster than I had estimated.

Photo of me running.

Me being speedy.

I passed the baton to Heather, who took off only to be called back by the volunteer at the exchange who said she was going the wrong way. She knew she was going the right way, but got rattled enough that she came back. Fortunately another team who had run the race before was waiting for their runner and told her to keep going her original way. They were our angels.

Our van sped off to meet her at the end of her leg where two things amused me to no end.

Marisa in a coat, long pants, hat, and gloves.

(1) Marisa, who lives in MONTANA, freezing in Florida.

A rock. There are posts on either side of it and there is a hole in the middle through which a chain anchors it to the ground.

(2) This rock that was chained to the ground. First I tried to figure out WHY it was chained to the ground then I tried to pick it up and steal it. I failed in both endeavors.

Bob took up the baton at the rock and headed back the way Heather had come and we rode off to meet him. It turns out that the exchange that Heather had left from gets used as the start of two different legs, so that is why the volunteer got mixed up. Fortunately we had it all figured out by now so by the time Bob gave Lyda the baton and a kiss to start her on leg 7 of the race, we were all set.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed this race, the race guide had led me to believe that we were going to see all kinds of fun animals, like alligators and maybe peacocks and even otters, on the course. I saw one dead, smashed armadillo.

It was disappointing.

But not too disappointing, because Team MLC was on fire, continuing our streak of being awesome. Marisa took the baton from Lyda for the next leg, which included a really tall bridge in what was starting to become the hot sun. She persevered though, cruising into the next exchange to hand off to Marc.

I was running the next leg, a six and a quarter long route that had one turn and a reeeeeaaaaaally long stretch along a straight road. I was expecting Marc to come down the same long straightaway that I was going to head out on, so I was surprised when he burst out of a side trail, sending me down my road before I even knew what was happening.

I ran 0.8 miles, took a left turn and started down my long road at which point I was passed by some teenager from a team that was apparently made up of high school running champions. She giggled as she passed me and quickly left me in the dust. We never saw them again.

My exchange was on the sidewalk of the road I was running down and it came into view, like, FOREVER before I got there. I felt like I was running toward it for a million years without it getting closer. I stayed pretty close to my estimated time for this leg at 11:30 min/mi, which I still consider a pretty good pace for me.

I passed off to Heather, who set off on perhaps the hottest and least shady leg of the race. The real bummer though was when she took her one right turn and was confronted with another really tall bridge to run over. That must have been demoralizing to run up to. And over.

Once she arrived at her exchange, Bob was our only runner left. Happily it was really hot by this time and he was wearing a black shirt. Good planning, Bob. He headed off for his leg, which included running back up the bridge and down a set of stairs. We meandered off to the finish line which was at Flagler Beach.

Photo of a beach with a pier. There is a roof on which is painted "Flagler Beach"

I can’t even imagine living in a place where going to the beach in November is a possibility.

Well, actually, the finish line was on a sidewalk across the street, but that wasn’t as pretty.

A sidewalk with finish line flags.

See?

Before too long we saw Bob cruising down the sidewalk and we all fell in line behind him to cross the finish line together. We ended up coming in 32nd of 45 teams (not bad for us!), but we were the second team to cross the finish line (GREAT for us!).

Photo of all six of us wearing our banana t-shirts and medals and smiling.

Team MLC is the greatest. Each of us super rocked the Oceans 50.

The race organizers had food and beer (and real actual bathrooms—Best. Race. Ever.) for us at a restaurant at the finish line. We ate and then drove back to the beach house where we took turns in the single shower with the tiny hot water heater. Turns out we are just as good at showering quickly as we are at running, because everyone got hot water. Yay, us! We really are a team. :)

We left earlyish the next morning to fly back home, making this a whirlwind trip. It was really good for my soul though to be out in the fresh air doing something I love with people I love. I am really glad we were able to do it. Thanks, Captain Heather, for doing such an incredible job organizing us. Thanks, Bob and Lyda, for hosting us. And thanks, Marisa and Marc, for just being generally awesome.

Photo of sunrise over the ocean, grass, and some palm trees.

Thanks, Florida.

Both Sides of the Water Stop

You know how I won’t shut up about my running-induced hip injury? Well, you should know that it hasn’t just led to me being a whiny, whiny cry baby. It has also led to volunteerism and giving back to the running community and forcing my family to suffer right along with me.

I had three races in a one-week period that I wanted to be involved with last month. I intended to run two of them and volunteer at another, but after my body rebelled, I knew I couldn’t run my originally planned 33 miles of racing–or even my plan B of 23 miles of racing–in a week.

The race that got the cut was the Parks Half Marathon, which I ran once and cheered at once, and fell at three times. I deferred my entry to next year (dammit, now I have to run it next year) and signed up instead to work at a water station.

I have benefited from very many water stations in my running career. There is rarely one that I pass without partaking. Sometimes I even take two cups. Water is gooooood. Yet I didn’t know what it was like on the other side of the table.

Photo of me standing in front of a row of tables with hundreds of small cups on them.

Yes, I realize in this photo that I am still on the runner side of the table, but to serve my metaphor, let’s pretend that I’m on the other side.

The great thing is that the woman who was in charge of the water stop had been doing it for years and totally had a plan and kept us organized and efficient and there were plenty of us there to keep everything moving smoothly. I’ve run past water stops where the volunteers were in a state of panic trying to fill up cups not quite keeping up with demand. It always looks like not a lot of fun when that happens. I’m happy to report that that was not us.

I helped pass out and pour the Gatorade. You know what word loses all its meaning after you say it sixteen thousand times? “Gatorade.”

The next race I was involved in was the Kensington 8K. I love that race. When I started running in 2012, it was the first race I ran. I was sooooo slow. And it was really hard. But I did it and I was so proud of myself and I have run it every year since then. This year I had signed up for a 20-mile race the day after the Kensington 8K, so I knew I couldn’t run it.

I decided to volunteer to course marshal the course during the race because that seemed like the most fun and easiest thing to do. Then I remembered that my kids are forced to do volunteer hours to graduate from high school, so I signed the whole family up to help with the night-before-the-race cone-drop. That entailed sitting in the back of a pickup truck and throwing cones out on the sidewalk at intersections along the course route for course marshals to set out the next morning.

The cone-delivery truck was late getting the cones to us, so my kids learned about how they could earn volunteer hours by swinging at the playground while waiting for other people to do their jobs.

Selfie of my family by a brick wall with a poster on it that says "Run the race." I've managed to cut off half of most of their faces.

Just because I cut much of each of them out of the photo doesn’t mean I don’t love them.

Finally the cones arrived and we set out. I sat in the front of the truck with a race director and shouted out how many cones Alex, my kids, and the race director’s kids needed to drop off the back of the truck.

Photo of Sam, Quinn, Jack, and Alex sitting in the back of a truck in front of a big pile of orange traffic cones.

Before. See how Alex doesn’t look even a little bit like he wanted to kill me? That would change.

I think the kids had a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ve ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck, which is–let’s be honest here–one of the most fun things in the world. Plus we had flashing lights rotating on the top of the truck and they got to jump in and out of the vehicle. It was all kinds of great.

Alex, on the other hand, had all kinds of complaints: “That flashing light is really disorientating.” “That guy needs to stop accelerating so fast.” “That traffic cone distinctly smelled like shit.” “I might barf.”

There is really no pleasing the man.

The next day I sauntered off to claim my intersection, which was a really important intersection because I had to send the runners off in one direction toward a turn-around and then make sure they headed off in a third direction on their way back. This was complicated by the fact Ragnar DC took place that weekend and my intersection was where those two races collided–going opposite directions. It was exciting.

An empty intersection with traffic cones spread out.

My baby.

I really could have used a couple of extra cones though. Someone should have told the cone-droppers that. I had a cop with me as well because I was at the edge of the course and evidently they don’t want cars careening through the course. Prior to the race, I did have a couple of irate car drivers. I had a bunch of really nice car drivers who understood that the roads were closed and/or closing, but there were two who were visibly and verbally annoyed–both of them told me they had to get to a church. Ironic.

It was very enjoyable to point people to the right direction and cheer them on. At one point I was cheering on this kinda confused-looking kid who wandered off shortly thereafter only to be brought back to me by a nearby homeowner who was all, “So this guy was supposed to be running the 1K fun run and got lost.”

That kid was almost two miles into the race. I told him he pretty much won. I had a little interior discussion with myself (the mental equivalent of walking in confused circles) while I considered sending him back along the race course with instructions to go from course marshal to course marshal and whether this constituted an “emergency” that meant I could call the race directors like my instruction sheet told me. I finally decided to keep him with me and instructed him to cheer for the runners after I determined that, yes, a lost kid is an emergency and I called a race director and told her I had a lost kid.

(Yes, the instinct to avoid phone calls is strong in me.)

The race director tracked down his parents who eventually showed up after the last runners had passed. They were very grateful. Apparently they had moved to the area a couple of weeks ago and they were walking the fun run, but their kid wanted to run it so they told him to follow the other people and ZOOM! suddenly he’d run three fun runs.

I’m not going to lie; I felt a little bit like a hero.

After all of that, I finally got to run a race the next day. That race, Revenge of the Penguins, has a 20-mile version and a 10-mile version. I had originally signed up for the 20-miler, but stepped it back to ten miles after my injury. Even that was a little bit of a stretch. I hadn’t come close to running ten miles at one time in weeks. I was determined to get the race jacket that came with my registration though.

A red jacket with a round patch on it. The patch has the name of the race and a running penguin.

I love this jacket. That penguin is exactly what I’d look like running if I were a penguin.

I ran that race so goddamn slow. But I ran it. It was a beautiful canal-side course that was mostly flat. The last couple of miles super sucked, but I ran ’em. And I said thank you to every single person who handed me a cup of water or Gatorade.

Selfie of me post-run.

After. I was a little sweaty.

It was a super well-organized race in a beautiful location with super nice volunteers. If all goes as I hope, I intend to triumphantly return next year to do the 20-miler.

I also intend to continue volunteering at races. Because there’s nothing like getting to hang out at a race with other runners and not having to run. In fact, it may be the perfect solution.

That said, five days from now I have another race–the Army Ten Miler. I hope to run this one faster than snail speed. Wish me luck!

The Best 5.5 Miles

If you’re not a runner or don’t care about running, feel free to skip this post.

Photo of me in the dark after a run.

Me after tonight’s run. Hey, did you know it gets dark at 8pm these days? I didn’t.

I haven’t told you how bad it had gotten.

I think I told you that I was having a lot of hip pain and I was going to a physical therapist and an orthopod, but I didn’t tell you how much it hurt or how depressed I was about it or how I was worried that I was never going to run again.

I’ve had to defer a race until next year. I had to switch my upcoming 20-mile race to the 10-mile option. I was starting to worry about whether I’d be able to run any of the races I’d registered for this fall.

I’ve barely run for such a long time. I could practically feel my fitness draining away.

I had two cortisone shots a week apart and I didn’t run at all for many days, as instructed. I even waited a couple of extra days before running because I was scared that I would try and not be able to. See, even after the shots and even with complete rest, it still hurt just walking around. It’s not even that I cared about the pain—except when I was running.

I finally went out this past Monday. The hip didn’t really hurt, but it was weak. And felt…off. Running was really tiring. I just did a couple of miles and those were run/walk intervals. I was trying to be smart, so I took a day off, then did a slightly longer interval run on Wednesday. Same deal with the hip.

Both of those runs were haaaard. I don’t know if it was that I was out of practice or that my hip was weak or that it was ninety fucking degrees, but I was discouraged. I knew that I could get back, but I figured that it would take a really long time. I started to worry that I’d be doing three-mile runs for months.

I rested another day and today I went on a longer run. I was trying to decide if I could run my ten-mile race in two weeks or if I should defer that one too. I figured if I could run five or six miles after being out of practice then I could get to ten for a race.

You guys. I knew as soon as I set out that it was good. I ran. Without pain. Without weakness. Without walking. I almost started laughing around mile four because I was so relieved.

I ended up running 5.5 miles and could have gone farther. I’m working very hard at not doing too much too fast though so I didn’t push farther.

I’m so happy though. I think I didn’t realize how fully depressed about it I had been until that really started to lift today. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (or my hip, as it were).

I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was and and an even longer one to get to my January marathon. But for the first time in more than a month, I feel like I can run there.

WaaahunghblechWORST :)

I have all the depression about my running injury. I had been working hard in physical therapy and was slowly bringing my running up to a level where I was starting to do the long runs necessary to run my 20-mile race next month.

Then WHAM! BIFF! KABLOOEY!

Suddenly I have this sharp pain like someone is jabbing me in the upper hip every time my heel strikes the ground when I run. Literally nothing else I do creates that delightful jabbing, stabbing sensation—just the one thing I want to do.

I am super agitated about the whole thing.

I am continuing with PT and seeing my orthopedist on Tuesday. I’m hoping he’ll give me a cortisone shot—and, yes, I know that pain signifies something wrong and blah, blah, blah, but I just want the stabbing jabbing to cease so I can fucking run again and I am hoping that the doctor agrees with me that a big ol’ shot to the hip is the way to go.

So. I’m writing this not to get sympathy and not to make excuses and most certainly not to get advice. I am writing it because every time I think about it (read: every time I take a step, ow, ow, ow) I get sad and even more depressed.

I decided that my kids should bear the responsibility for lifting me out of my doldrums, so when I left for work today, I gave them their drawing assignment: “Something happy. Draw good.”

I’m pleased to report that they did, in fact, draw good, and in case you are in your own personal small emotional divot, I would like to share them for you.

Jack went the obvious route and drew “The King of Happy.”

A drawing of a green hill with a blue sky and a sun. Behind the hill is an orange ball with spiky hair and a kinda manaical smile.

I really enjoy the inside of Jack’s brain.

Quinn drew—as he almost always does—his cat, Oreo, but this time he made Oreo play Pokemon Go.

Drawing of green grass and a blue sky with his cat Oreo drawn in pencil and holding a rectangle that says "Pokemon Go."

Cats and Pokemon make me happy too.

Sam went simple, but lovely.

Drawing of concentric hearts in rainbow colors.

I asked Sam what his picture was about and he said, “Love.”

Love makes me happy too, Sam.

So, yeah, I’m still bummed out, but I have a plan and, more importantly, I have three kids who help me keep my eye on the happy things.

The Three Mudketeers

I have a group of friends that I run races with. You might be familiar with them from my Facebook race selfies. Four years ago I could never have imagined that I’d have running buddies. That’s a whole post of its own. I love them.

Between all of us, we get a lot of emails advertising races in the area. We send them around to each other to see if we want to participate in them together. Usually we are able to come to some sort of agreement about how fun a race is going to be and how we should run it together.

I recently sent one out that advertised the Frederick Mud Dog Run. No one bit.

But then I was all, “Aw, obstacle course races are so fun!” and “They’re not hard!” and “I’ve done them by myself but never with anyone and I think it would be really fun to do one with someone,” and by then everyone just felt sorry for me so my friend Lyda signed up.

Then her husband Bob signed up without understanding much about the race past the fact that it was a 5K.

No one else was kind/dumb enough to join us.

Race day was a couple of weekends ago and we all showed up at the start line scrubbed, fresh, and ready to go.

Photo of me, Bob, and Lyda before the race.

We would not be so clean again for quite some time.

Lyda and Bob had, by this point, spent a fair amount of time circling and fretting, both literally and figuratively. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure that they were still going to be my friends after the first mud puddle.

Incidentally, the first mud puddle is where Lyda learned to keep her mouth closed when you jump into muddy water. That’s a tough lesson to learn.

While she was learning that, I was learning how hard it is to climb up a slippery, muddy slope, even if someone is giving you a hand as long as your foot keeps getting stuck in the mud bog you are standing in.

We had a really fun time, mud, blood, and all. We climbed walls, forded streams, walked across seesaws, and ran between every single one of those obstacles and more. We were awesome. I laughed a lot, even when Bob teased me about all the mud and smeared some on my shoulder. I got back at him by smearing mud on his face. Unfortunately for very many reasons, my finger ended up in Bob’s mouth, which shut him up pretty effectively. (Sorry, Bob.)

Two photos: one of Bob covered in mud climbing out of a bog. One of Lyda sitting on a mud bank grimacing.

See? See how much fun they had? Don’t they look happy?

I kid them of course. They rock. They defeated each and every obstacle with vigor and good cheer. My guess that it would be fun to do an obstacle race with other people? I was right. These two are cheerful and tough—two things I also consider myself to be. We were a good team.

We were a good team even when we came across the bog filled with deep mud that we CRAWLED across. It is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t even soft mud either. Under eight or so inches of mud there was no shortage of sharp branches that left little cuts up and down my right shin.

I was really happy when I got to the other side.

Photo of me with arms raised at the end of a field of mud. My arms are muddy past my elbows and my body is muddy past my waist.

At least none of us lost our shoes in there.

It wasn’t all mud though. Roy Rogers restaurant was a sponsor of the race, so they created an obstacle where they mixed BARBECUE SAUCE with the mud.

Barbecue sauce. Imagine that for a moment.

Photo of me and Lyda army crawling under a net. There is a Roy Rogers banner above us.

Look how cute we are even covered in mud and BBQ.

We finished happy, victorious, and with all our glasses and hats intact.

Two photos: One a close up selfie of the three of us covered in mud; the second is a full body shot of the three of us covered in mud.

At this point, I refrained from pressuring my friends into signing up for the zombie version of this race that takes place in October. That will come later.

We dropped some stuff in the car and headed back to the finish line for two very important things: our free beer and a hose—a hose with a very long line. We opted to get our beer first.

Photo of Bob and Lyda sitting at a picnic table laughing and drinking beer.

I love this photo. I love my friends.

Standing in line waiting for the hose was way more fun once we were a little tipsy and I was able to function again because I’d used the beer to clean off my fingertips because if there is one thing I can’t handle, it is dry dirt on my fingertips. You’d think I wouldn’t do these kinds of races with that sort of sensory issue. To that I say I am a bundle of delightful and infuriating contradictions.

There were a lot of people in line for the one operating hose. We patiently stood there until it was finally our turn. Chivalry isn’t dead and/or I was whiniest and Bob used the hose to clean me off first. Then Bob hosed off his wife.

Photo of Bob leaning down and aiming the hose at Lyda.

It must be awesome to have a friend like me around to immortalize moments like this when you’re hosing down your wife’s butt.

Then, just as Bob was ready to hose himself off, the water pressure dropped and there was no more water and so Bob had to drive home covered in mud. No good deed goes unpunished.

It was right around this time that I started feeling even worse about putting mud inside Bob’s mouth.

I had such a good time with my friends—and I am happy to say that they are still my friends, even after I quite literally dragged them through the mud.

Photo of muddy me giving a double thumbs up.

 

Indulge Me

I promise to not do this every day, but today is my birthday so you’re going to have to let me post photos of the art I forced my kids to draw today.

Today’s assignment was, “It’s my birthday. Draw a picture of me running.”

Jack drew the most realistic picture, depicting an actual event that occurred in our lives last weekend. I was out running and Alex took Sam and Jack biking and we crossed paths going opposite directions. It was lovely. I like that in Jack’s imagination, I was more spritely and less trudgey. But otherwise, totally realistic.

Drawing of me running one direction with my arms in the air and Jack on a bike running the other direction. There is a little turtle floating in the air that says "mine turtle."

Except for the, you know, mine turtle floating in front of him.

Sam also drew a picture based in reality. Mostly.

Me: “I’m pretty sweaty in this picture.”

Sam: “It’s because you’re in first place.”

Okay, so maybe not TOTALLY based in reality.

Picture of me running toward a finish line. There are blue sweat drops dripping from me.

Poor Sam has evidently brushed up against me after hot runs one too many times.

Quinn, on the other hand, took a different artistic path.

This picture is labeled "Accurate representation of what mom thinks on a run." There is a cactus, a sun, a cow, a giant weird looking cat, and a giant water bottle.

Although he’s not really all that far off.

And that is how you trick your kids into giving you sweet little birthday presents.