Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Warrior Dash" Report: This One's For You, Lindsay!

(Lindsay guilted me into writing this report)

Please go to my Facebook page for pics. Also, the Warrior Dash website has pics of me. My bib number is 96227. I don't know how to post pics here-Help!!

Due to time limitations, and the fact that you really don't care what I did leading up to the "Dash," I now present for your entertainment, my Warrior Dash report.
As I stood in the roped off starting line area, waiting for the 12:30 start, I felt butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Ahead, as far as could be seen, was an uphill course. A very hilly, uneven, full of rocks and potholes, ski slope course. The course being described on the website as "3.23 hellish miles" should have tipped me off ahead of time that this event wasn't going to be easy. My 3 months of preparation in the gym, plus occasional 4 mile runs on the flat linear trail certainly hadn't included any hill work or adequately prepared me for the "hell" that lie ahead. Yup, I was more scared than I ever was running a marathon. The course consisted of not only the rough, uneven terrain, but also 13 obstacles that had to be overcome. I most feared obstacle 9, the "cargo (net) climb. Back in 1971, while in 9th grade gym class, we had a physical fitness test. Yes, THE dreaded physical fitness test. The one part of it I failed miserably at was the rope climb. I couldn't get more than a foot off the floor. Now I was going to have to climb up and over a 10 foot cargo net. Failure was not an option...but I'll get back to that. At 12:30, we began. At the start banner were flamethrowers, meaning these things that reminded me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where they meet the great and mighty Oz, and he has these massive balls of flames that scare the shit out of them. Well, as my daughter, her boyfriend, and I went underneath them, they let out a roar, flames shot in the air, and it felt like we were already in hell. I jumped, and nearly had brown colored shorts before I even hit the muddy course. So off I ran. I was a warrior, and warriors run up hills. Even steep ski slope hills. Yup, that idea lasted about 100 yards. You know how you run a race, any race, and as you're running up a hill, you psych yourself up by telling yourself that once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a downhill part? Well, no such luck here. As I turned the corner, all I saw ahead was more steep uphill terrain. There wasn't a downhill to be seen. Oh, did I mention that a mountain goat would have had trouble walking up this terrain? I walked, I sweated, I laughed, and I swore. It was obvious that time wouldn't matter. Not falling down and killing myself was all that mattered. So I walked, and ahead in the first sorta level place lie obstacle #1, "Knee High Hell." Knee High Hell was about a hundred or so tires that I had to do the quickstep through. I was surprised at how easy it was. One down, 12 more to go. Shortly thereafter, I came to "Warrior Wall," a.k.a. a wooden wall. It wasn't too tall, and with my long legs, I easily climbed over it. Finally feeling better due to more level terrain, meaning not so steep but still lots of rocks and potholes, I came upon obstacle #3: "Tunnel of Terror." It consisted of two long, end-to-end black corrugated pipes that I had to crawl through. I'm guessing they were about 100 feet total. I got on my knees, looked ahead, saw no one was close by, and started my crawl. Almost instantly, I started to get claustrophobic. I felt confined; trapped. I forced myself to look at my hands, and crawled as quickly as I could. At the midway point, I got bruised where the pipes joined. I couldn't get out of them quickly enough. From there I went through the "Black Forest," which meant running through the woods and across muddy, rocky and slippery areas. I turned a corner, and could hear splashing noises ahead. Up over a small hill lie the "Slithering Swamp." As I went over the hill, I stopped dead in my tracks. Ahead was a pit filled with an unknown depth of water, and mud. LOTS of mud. The pit was about 100 feet long, and about 50 feet wide. Everyone ahead of me let out a blood curdling scream as they entered the "swamp." I was no exception. As soon as I entered the water, my feet sank into the mud on the bottom. The water was about 4 feet deep, and the coldest water I've ever been in. I quickly headed to my right, as the swamp didn't seem to be as deep there. My shoes were filled with mud, and it felt like cement. My clothes were weighed down from the water and mud. Traction was bad, and it was a struggle to get to the end. As I neared the end, I heard my daughter behind me calling for help. She was having difficulty moving, having already fallen in the swamp. I helped her reach the end, where there was a board or a mud-bank we could climb up and out. She couldn't get out of the swamp, so I did what every good father would have done. I put my hands underneath her ass, and pushed as hard as I could, while another person grabbed her arm and helped her out.I then somehow managed to climb out. Five obstacles down, 8 to go. Obstacle 6 was "Walk the Plank." My wife had been very "supportive" by telling me there was no way I could make it across without falling off. OK, so my sense of balance does suck. But that's mainly when I'm at Happy Hour. But that's another story. Anyhow, luckily for me the planks were short and wide, so I easily navigated them. Somewhere around this time, insanity began to set in. I could see the finish area, far below, and also hear the song "Domino" by Van Morrison playing. Yes, I started singing along very LOUDLY. Yes, people gave me strange looks. Anyhow, next came "Rip Van Winkle Way." Who makes up these names?! Rip Van Winkle Way was a series of wooden plank bridges with chicken wire on them for traction. It was challenging due to the wetness from all the swamp monsters going across it before me. Obstacle 8, the "Rio River" was next. It was supposed to be a dash down a river, but I don't recall even doing it. Perhaps it wasn't there, or perhaps I was more insane at that point than I realized. I do remember running what felt like across, rather than down, the slope. Down to my left I spied the dreaded cargo net. I took note of the fact that no one seemed to be having difficulty climbing up and over it. A downhill run, a left turn, and there was Obstacle #9. I was going to own it. I was going to redeem myself for the failed attempt at rope climbing. The f-in' cargo net was going to be my bitch. I took hold, started to climb, and was relieved that it was tight and easier to climb. As I neared the top, I was trying to figure out how I was going to do the up and over part. I decided on what a person at the top called a "combat roll." That's a polite way of saying I did a beached whale flop onto the top landing. Hey, it worked. I concentrated on grabbing on and finding a solid footing for my descent. A short time later, I was back on earth. I had conquered the cargo net. Obstacle 10 was supposed to be a flagstone wall. Ummm, I don't remember scaling a flagstone wall. Perhaps I was too pumped from Spiderman-ning the cargo net; perhaps at this point I had lost all sense of reality; perhaps the wall didn't exist at all. I'll let you pick one, and we'll move on. Next (#11)was the "Catskill Skid." That's a fancy way of saying a giant Slip 'N Slide. It kicked ass! Basically there was about a 50 yard long thick black plastic slide that was fed water by extremely large hoses. I was told that the recommended way to go down it was on my belly. I did, and was greeted by ice cold torrential downpours of water. But WOW, did I slide fast. I was yelling out like a child, and LMAO the entire time. As I hit bottom, I had to hurry up and get out of the way of other slip 'n sliders. The Warrior Roast was next, meaning I had to leap over hundreds of Duraflame-type logs. Ahead lie the final obstacle: "The Muddy Mayhem." That meant getting on my hands and knees and crawling underneath barbed wire and through a muddy water pit that was constantly kept muddy by a pay-loader dumping buckets full of dirt into it. It hurt like heck, because the plastic lining underneath was coming apart, so my knees were scraping on bare rock-infested ground, I still have the warrior wounds from that. Once I was through the pit, all that was left was to laugh a lot and stumble across the finish line. It was truly a fun and rewarding experience. Fun, for the reasons described in my report; and rewarding due to having received a warrior hat, swag, t-shirt, and one free beer for competing the course. As I was running the course, I was thinking about how difficult it was. Any road race I've run, there's always been points in the race where I could "rest," regroup, and let my guard down. That wasn't possible for the Warrior Dash. Even running downhill meant watching every step I took, in order to avoid rocks, slippery mud, potholes, and falling on my face. At no point did I feel like I could let up or let my mind wonder. When I completed it, I told my wife, daughter, and her boyfriend that it was more challenging than running a marathon. In some ways, I still believe it to be true. Bottom line is, if there's a "Warrior Dash" near you, go give it a shot. You'll be glad you did. Also, make sure you wear clothes that you're willing to throw away, and running shoes that you don't care about. I threw my entire running attire away, except the shoes, which they collected for a charity. P.S. A special shoutout to Jill aka onelittletrigirl for giving me the idea/motivation to enter a Warrior Dash. P.S.S. I just registered for next year's event!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I AM A Warrior!!

Yesterday I successfully completed the Warrior Dash. I believe it was more difficult than running a marathon. If you have the opportunity to participate in one, DO IT! It is the most difficult, yet most fun, 3+ miles of "running" that you'll ever experience. I'm going to write a race report later if I have the time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Farewell Run That Wasn't

So, I have to apologize and thank 12 of you at the same time. Yesterday, I ran. I ran about 3.35 miles. I don't know the exact distance, or the exact time, since me being convinced I would never run again meant I neglected to charge my Garmin. So after 2 1/2 miles, it said a weak "so long" and shut off.
I ran because of all of you who commented on my pity-party-post. It had been 30 days since I attempted to run. My what were supposed to be final good-byes were said in my blog. I read and reread each and every one of your comments. Amazing how after months of not blogging, the 12 of you responded with kind words and words of encouragement. I also realized I wasn't the only one going through tough times with running and blogging. Most of you were in or still are in a similar situation. Yet you still write your blogs... Yet you still took the time to tell me everything's going to be ok, and that you care. You motivated me. You motivated me to get off of my sorry ass, and to go for a "final" farewell run on a beautiful 77 degrees day. It was 5 p.m., my son was at college and my wife was at work, so I had everything I needed-free time, a beautiful day, and the Farmington Canal Trail to run on. I put on my running shoes, drove the 2+ miles to the trail parking lot, parked, stretched, grabbed my mp3 player, turned it on, and was ready for the grand finale. I was hoping for as painless a run as possible, and assumed that I would be doing as much walking as running. Nothing that had happened lately would give me reason to believe that my knee wasn't going to give me hell. The pain was still noticeable, granted, not always, and walking up and down stairs, or even just walking at times, meant the sharp pain would appear on the inside part of my left knee. THE left knee that has caused me to go to two different P.T.'s the past year. THE left knee that caused me 3 months ago to join the P.T. gym with hopes of strengthening it. For three months I have gone to that gym, seen "Sweet Melissa," my former P.T., and "Gym Dame Donna", who works there and always has kind words to say. For three months I have increased my amount of weight I use, and my amount of reps. For some reason, I never quit. I never gave up. That is, until my latest post. Frustration, aggravation, jealousy, name it, I was feeling it. I reached out to my blogging buddies, posted my woes, and you responded. So there I was, poised to run at the beginning of the trail. I didn't want to start, because starting meant probable pain, probable pain meant I'd have to walk, and walking meant I was through (in my mind forever) running. But start I did. Slowly, to ease into running. I purposely chose songs that many of you suggested I download prior to running the NY City Marathon last November. You were and are still my motivators. As I reached my first goal, the small .31 mi. sign, I did a reality check. I was running at a 9 1/2 minute pace, slow for me, but so what?! I was running, and I was running well. I was running without pain, but I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind. I instead concentrated on my music, and my surroundings. Great music, with each song reminding me of you. Great scenery, with the trees in bloom, and a couple of pony-tailed runners passing me by on the opposite side. If you read my blog, you know I ♥ pony-tailed runners! I ran by elderly people walking hand-in-hand; by mothers pushing their children in strollers. Yes, it was a perfect time for a "last" run. As I neared the one mile mark, I still was pain free. Mile one was around 9 1/2 minutes, but to me it felt like I had only been running for 7 1/2 minutes. Nothing hurt, my breathing was good, my strides were good, and my form was good. I could see far away, down to the next street crossing, around the 1 1/2 mile mark. I decided to go for 3.25 miles, which is the distance of the Warrior Dash I'm competing in on 9/19. I figured I'd have a psychological edge if I could run that far before the "Dash." I continued on, grooving to the music, and just enjoying what was happening. As I crossed the street, I reached the halfway point of my run, and turned and headed back. I was grinning from ear to ear, and looked around, saw no one nearby, so I started singing out loud. I don't recall what I sang, nor does it matter. I was running...I was running without pain. I was enjoying the privilege of running, and I was going to make sure I enjoyed every step of it. Around the 2 1/2 mile point, as I said earlier, my Garmin stopped working. It really didn't matter. Time is only a number. A number that really doesn't matter. I'm so done worrying about my time. Yes, I charged my Garmin. Yes, I'll continue to time my runs. No, I won't worry about how "fast" or how "slow" I've run. I've also learned that it's ok not to be as fast as most of you; or that being faster than the rest of you isn't a big deal. We're all runners. We have that common bond. A bond that I never want to lose, no matter what. So in closing I'd like to once again say "Thank-you." To those of you unable to run right now, hang in there. Things WILL get better. I'm here for you, and so are all of your Followers. So, if you need to vent/whine/complain/yell/scream/say it isn't fair, please do. We care....we're here for you. As I've said before, I love all of you. Rick

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I'm a Selfish Person

My running days are over, at least for now. I haven't run since August 8th. My reoccurring left knee pain has returned, and despite doing everything I'm supposed to do to remedy the situation, it continues to hurt. Running just isn't possible right now. I joined the gym where I was going for P.T. 3 months ago, and continue to work on strengthening my lower body, and now recently my upper body. I'm actually running/participating in a "Warrior Dash" on September 19th in upstate NY, 150 miles from home. That is, if my knee will cooperate. My daughter and her boyfriend are also running in it.
I honestly have to say that I don't read your blogs anymore. For now it's too painful. It's too painful for me to read how much fun all of you are having running, how well you're doing, and the races you've completed and are training for while I can't run. Selfish, yes. But I'm being honest. I miss each and every one of you, I really do. Some of you are friends with me on Facebook, so at least we know how each other is doing, and I appreciate that. So, my plans are this. Go to my doctor, have him send me for an MRI, and then depending on the results of the MRI, decide what my future holds for running. There's an annual race tomorrow, Labor Day, that's 12.4 miles. A co-worker is running it. It's going to be a perfect day: 75 degrees. I've run in it every year. This year I'll be home feeling sorry for myself instead. This sucks. I want to run...I want to blog about my running, and most importantly I want to stop being so selfish and stubborn and read your blogs and comment on them. OK, I'm done. PLEASE let me know if you're running in any races in the Connecticut area (NY, Mass., etc.) in the upcoming months. I do want to support you. I do want to be sociable. I do want to read your blogs and comment on them. Time heals all wounds. I will be back. I WILL run again. You can count on it. Thanks for allowing me to vent. I love you all....