Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yup. They waited.

Remember that 7-miler I skipped out on Tuesday morning due to a headache?

It was patiently waiting for me after work tonight. And I got it done.

It was fairly decent outside after work, a little warm, but no chance of rain. I should have just headed out to the Wiouwash Trail and gotten the run done outside. But I headed indoors. To the treadmill.

See, Andy Roddick was playing his first round match at the U.S. Open. Right when I would be starting my run. And me? I have a little thing for Roddick. So it was off to the YMCA and the treadmill so I could kill two birds with one stone: Get the run in while watching Roddick.

Of course his match started late. But I did get to see a pretty incredible second set that was decided in a tiebreaker in the John Isner (another player who's quickly earning a spot on my must see list) and Marcos Baghdatis. I swear, the tiebreaker alone was long enough for me to pound out 2 miles! By the time the Roddick match started, I had three miles left to run, just enough time to watch the first set.

Overall a pretty good run and even though it was done on the treadmill, it went pretty quickly. Granted treadmill runs do seem to go faster when I've got some good TV to watch. Tomorrow it's back outside. Just in time for the mid-80s and humidity to return. Great.

They're still waiting

Remember I said the runs have been non-existent this week?

I missed Monday's 3-miler because it was necessary to go out and have 2-for-1 margaritas and Mexican food with my friend Jess to celebrate her taking the first step on a new journey. And I had good plans to get up early and do the 7 miles on the schedule before I went in for a night shift at work Tuesday. Woke up with a headache and just couldn't do it.

So I've got a big fat zero on my training log for the week right now.

That's changing tonight. After I get done with work those 7 miles I was supposed to run Tuesday are getting done. Because in 18 days I'll be lining up at the starting line for the Fox Cities Half Marathon. And there better be a new PR at the end of that 13.1 mile journey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August reading recap

There hasn't been much running this week - OK, there hasn't been any running this week - so instead of letting the sound of crickets take over the blog, I thought I'd give you the August reading recap since no additional books will be finished by Wednesday night.

After a slow start to the year, I think I got back on track in August. I finished five books for a total of 1,815 pages. That puts me at 16 books for a total of 6,745 pages for the year. For comparison's sake I was at 21 books and 7,991 pages by the end of August 2010. I'm still behind book wise, but I've got some light, fast, no thought required reading lined up, so hopefully I'll be able to catch up a bit. I still think 40 books for the year might be a stretch though.

Anyway. So five books for the month. What'd I read?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Loved The Help. Dead Reckoning gets an eh. It definitely wasn't the best installment of Sookie Stackhouse's adventures. I had to pick up the Brashares book since I've read the other four Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. Pretty Little Liars was classic young adult, mindless reading and yes, I'm looking forward to more of the series. And The Art of Racing in the Rain was a great read - life told through the perspective of a dog. Loved it.

So what have you guys been reading? Any good suggestions?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. I admit. I quit. I was having one of those runs Wednesday. It was hard. My legs were not cooperating. It was hot. And windy. Even though I was suffering through the run with Jess by my side, I just couldn't do it. I was supposed to do an easy 3 miles. But even "easy" was painfully awful. I just couldn't.

So at mile 2? I quit.

I don't do this often. I can't remember the last time I bagged a run for a reason other than a nagging pain. My Garmin dinged at the 2 mile mark, I looked to my left and asked Jess if it was OK if we stopped. We did and walked the last mile back to her place.

I know we all have bad days. And a day later I'm pretty sure that's what Wednesday was, a bad day. A day that I'll be able to learn something from.  But still. Pulling up and just quitting mid run? That was hard to do.

2. On the plus side, tonight's 5-miler went so much better. It was cooler. Not humid. I ran along the river. The only bad thing was the nasty flies and mosquitoes that kept trying to drain me of my blood whenever I even slowed down remotely.

3. Just a heads up. There's a possibility there might be a few more non-running related posts appearing in the next week. Because next Thursday night? As in seven days from now? Badger football returns! Wisconsin opens the college football season by hosting UNLV at Camp Randall. And yes. I'm just a tiny bit excited.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Madison Mini Marathon Race Report

I've run in just about every weather condition we get in Wisconsin this year: snow, sleet, rain, ice, bone-chilling sub-zero cold, wind, hot and humid.

Thankfully the race directors at the Madison Mini Marathon didn't want me to add lightning to the list.That could be scary.

I kid you not, 5 minutes before the starting gun was set to go off, all of the runners who had lined up on Langdon Street for the start of the Madison Mini Marathon Saturday morning were walking back towards me. Apparently there was a nasty storm cell heading our way with heavy rain and lots of lightning. So they wanted us to seek shelter.

So along with 5,000 other runners I sought shelter. I ended up in a small theater on the second floor of the Memorial Union. The key to this location? Air conditioning (thank you UW cop with the bullhorn who tipped us off to this under utilized location).

And that's where I sat. For the next 90 minutes.

I'm not going to lie. All the while I was thinking, if I hadn't come down here today, I'd be almost done with the 15 miles my schedule calls for. Instead I'm waiting out a storm, my bagel I had for breakfast at 5:30 a.m. is gone and who knows when, or if, I'm going to get to run today. But I waited. And hoped that we'd get to run soon.

At 8:15 the cop wielding the bullhorn came into the theater.

"As long as there's no more lighting, we're set to start in 10 minutes."

It was go time.

I met up with Running Diva Mom before the race to get my Refuel With Chocolate Milk gear. I won the entry to the race on her blog to run with the Refuel team and this is the shirt I needed to wear.

It was still raining pretty hard when I lined up in Corral I near the 2:30 pace group. And actually, it was kind of chilly. But I wasn't going to complain.The DJ had the tunes going and the next thing I knew we were counting down and the starting gun was going off.

The first four miles took us through the east side of campus, around the Capitol square and back into campus passed the Kohl Center and Camp Randall before heading down to the Henry Vilas Zoo area. And I'd say the first 3 miles was run in the rain. It was actually kind of relaxing. I was feeling good. My pace was good. As I entered the zoo area, I passed the 4 mile marker and the sun came out.

We ran around the north side of Lake Wingra and then went into the UW Arboretum.

This is where things started getting interesting.

I run hills. I know I can handle them. But even with the hill intervals I do and all the hills Coach Jim throws into our Saturday long runs, I was expecting what I came across in Miles 5-10. It seemed like constant hills. They weren't all huge, but there were a couple of significant ones. But the worst part? It never seemed like you went downhill. It was always uphill. If it wasn't a steep uphill it was one of long, gradual inclines that never seemed to stop.

Now I felt strong on those hills. I passed runners. I passed people who slowed down to walk. And honestly none of them compared to the monsters I run on a weekly basis. But it was just the constantness. I could feel it in my legs. Somewhere around Mile 8.5 I knew I had to start incorporating a few extra short walk breaks. Up until this point I was just walking through the aid stations.

I exited the Arboretum and when I got to the aid station near Mile 9 I decided it was time to grab a salt tab. It helped a bit. My legs didn't hate me as much. I kept going, but kept sprinkling in a short walk break (about 30 seconds) in every half mile or so.

 Not the official shirt, a training shirt I picked up at the expo for $10, but I like how it's got the route on the back.

I still kept an eye on my time. And I was still happy with the total time I was seeing. I hit Mile 10 at 1:55, giving me 35 minutes to turn in a 2:30 half, which is my current PR. I knew it would be close, but I thought I could do it.

By this point we're back on campus and about to turn onto the Lakeshore Path - one of my favorite areas of campus - and thankfully flat and shaded. I liked the path. I still felt pretty decent and was passing a few runners every so often.

Before making the last turn onto Langdon Street and the finish chute, there's a little uphill, but I killed it and had a nice strong finish chute kick - passing a few runners - before hitting the finish mat.


Two minutes off my PR. But you know what? I'm totally OK with it. It was a training run. I had to wait around an extra 1.5 hours during a delay. My weekly long run actually started 2.5 hours later than normal. Oh, and those hills. I killed them.

The race bling. Which doubles as a bottle opener. Appropriate for Madison.

So I'm pretty happy. Makes me wonder what a flat course and another month of training will lead to at Fox Cities in September.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Things Thursday: The Madison Mini Marathon edition

1. It's Thursday! That means the weekend - and the Madison Mini Marathon - is almost here! It's been odd though this week. I've gone through the typical race week lack of concentration but it still seems a little surreal that I'll be packing my bags and heading down to Madison for a half marathon tomorrow.

2. Not only will I get to run a half marathon in one of my favorite cities - and hang out at the Memorial Union Terrace for the post-race party - but I also get to spend some time with Krista, a good friend of mine that I haven't seen in a few months. She's running on Saturday as well. In fact my running can be traced to her since she was part of the reason I signed up for my first half marathon in 2007.

3. Had my last run before the Madison Mini Marathon tonight. I met up with my running partner in crime Peggy and we logged 4 miles along the Fox River trail. We started about an hour before sunset, so it was kind of a dusky run, and a little buggy since it was along the river, but it was such a great run. Yes, the running was good. But it was getting the chance to catch up with Peggy and just talk about all the random stuff we hit on during the weekend long runs - but on a Thursday. Perfect last run before the Mini.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Those rules on the sign? You're supposed to obey them. Really.

I'll be short tonight and get straight to the point.

I like dogs. I don't actually have one myself due to my somewhat unpredictable work schedule and the fact that I live alone. But I like dogs and someday hope to get one. That being said, I'm a little leery around big dogs that I don't know since I was chased by a big, mean dog when I was little.

So tonight when I'm running on the Wiouwash Trail, zoning out to my tunes and come across a big dog on the trail around somewhere around Mile 3.75? I was startled. And what made it worse?

He wasn't on a leash.

His owner was walking about 100 yards behind him with another little terrier - who was on the leash - and she didn't seem to care that a random runner just stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the dog. Didn't call the dog over. Didn't try to put the leash on it. Nothing. I would try to keep running but then he'd move towards me and bark. So I stopped dead again.

She finally gets up to the dog and grabs his collar and I take off running by him. I'm just out her ear shot when I look behind me and mutter, "It's called a leash lady."

The ironic thing? This all happened right near the trail head. And right by the sign that says dogs MUST be on leashes.

Other than that incident the 6 miles went fine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nothing like a last minute race to get excited for

While the thought was always in the back of my head, I never really expected to get to the point where I could just sign up for a half marathon on a whim.

Today I did.

Thanks to winning a free entry from Running Diva Mom to run with the Team Refuel with Chocolate Milk, I'll be running the Madison Mini Marathon on Saturday. Yup. That's in five days. But it fits in with my training schedule (which has me logging between 13 and 15 miles) and I really can't pass up the opportunity to run a half marathon in one of my favorite cities - Madison, Wis. Plus it starts and finishes at the Memorial Union and winds through a good chunk of the University of Wisconsin campus.

And for this Badgergirl? That's like heaven.

Anyone else planning on running in Madison Saturday?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. The UPS and FedEx man were my friends this week. See I did a little bit of online shopping last week when I was on vacation. I figured since I didn't spend much money by actually going places - other than Packers training camp and Family Night - I could justify a few purchases. And really, they were things I needed. Running related things. First up was a new Moving Comfort Charity sports bra. It's my absolute favorite sports bra for long runs. And for some reason I wasn't thinking a few weeks ago and wore it during Tough Mudder. Um, none of my clothes - including the sports bra - survived Tough Mudder. So a replacement was needed. And since I got a deal, I also ordered a tube of strawberry lemonade Nuun. And today the FedEx man brought me my package of clearance goodies from Brooks - two pairs of Epiphany stretch shorts II (in black and a blue color), a hat and this tank. Can't wait to go for a run and try out the goodies!

2. Let's talk about football for a moment. The Badgers open the season in 21 days against UNLV at Camp Randall Stadium. Excited! And the Packers, well their first pre-season game is Saturday but honestly the pre-season doesn't count. The real NFL fun starts on Sept. 8 when the New Orleans Saints visit Lambeau Field. That's only 28 days away. Not that I'm counting. Yes. I'm a bit excited for football season to start.

3. I almost was able to get in a run while at work today. Too bad my photographer wanted nothing to do with it. I got sent out to a barn fire in the county that I live in. The road the barn is on is a fairly narrow road to begin with and when you bring in fire trucks from five surrounding communities to fight the fully engulfed fire, it makes it a tight squeeze. So law enforcement closed down the road and wouldn't let anyone - even me - in. And of course due to its location, it was almost impossible to see the barn and flames from where they had the road blocked. We could have taken a jaunt on the Wiouwash Trail, which runs right alongside the barn, and my photographer could have gotten the shot she needed. But she didn't want to walk the mile or so from the trail head to near the property. Sigh. So late night at the office chasing down the barn fire meant I didn't run. Even though I had the chance while on the job.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A bit of a milestone

It's pretty amazing what 15 degrees cooler along with absolutely NO humidity and a slight breeze can feel like.


I busted out my 3.25 miles tonight after work at a 9:45 pace. It felt so good. And the best part? When I was updating my mileage sheet, I realized I surpassed 600 miles for the year (barely). But what else does that mean? It means I've already logged more miles this year than I did during the entire 2010.

Only 399.75 more miles to go before I hit the 1,000 mile goal I set for myself.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not going outside today

Guys. It was gorgeous outside today. Temps in the 70s. No humidity. A nice breeze. Partly cloudy skies. Perfect summer running weather.

And I spent my time running inside on the treadmill.

What? The plan called for hill intervals. On the treadmill. And since I couldn't lug a treadmill outside (although that would have been a nice option), it was inside I went.

The indoor run wasn't too bad. Nice and easy warm up, 10 quarter-mile hill intervals followed by a recovery period and all of that followed by a cool down. I felt pretty good. Nothing was too achy.

Which was what I was hoping for. See, Saturday's long run? The one that was supposed to be 14 miles? I cut it short at Mile 12. If I had my way I would have quit at Mile 8, but since I was still 4 miles away from the park, I had to keep running.

Why'd I quit early? Well remember when I did Tough Mudder and I banged my knee against the Berlin Walls as I fell off the 12-foot wall? Well that knee is still a little achy at times. Saturday it decided to bother me. I don't think it would have been a huge problem, but my IT band on that same leg decided to be super cranky as well. So by the time I hit Mile 8 I was starting to hurt. And trying to alter my stride (bad idea Jen). And I seriously just wanted to stop, lay down in the grass on the side of the road and cry. Of course it didn't help that it was uber-humid Saturday morning either.

But like I said, I couldn't quit. So I kept running. Taking a few short walk breaks. Peggy and Sam, my running buddies, were great. I told them multiple times to just go (because Peggy was rockin' the run) and leave me behind. But they wouldn't. About 2 miles from the park we met up with Coach Jim and he ran the rest of the way in with me. He also suggested I call it quits early. After all, we had a running group breakfast date to get to!

So I've been spending some quality time with the evil foam roller. And stretching. And I decided to take an unscheduled rest day on Monday. And it must have helped a bit since the IT band wasn't angry with me tonight during the hill intervals.

Now I just have to hope this gorgeous weather sticks around Wednesday so I can take advantage of it tomorrow during my run!

Not so random question: Does anyone use salt tablets during long runs? I generally sweat a lot to begin with (totally envious of those girls who glisten or don't sweat at all), but with the super humid and hot summer we've been having, the amount I've been sweating has been ridiculous. Coach Jim has recommended I try salt tablets, see if they help at all. Just was wondering what other people's experiences with them have been.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Return of the Reading Recap!

Remember how I used to read? And then post a monthly update of what I read? And then those recaps disappeared? Because I decided to tackle a classic earlier this year? And Victor Hugo's Les Miserables took me FOR-EVER to read?

I'm happy to announce, the monthly reading recap is back. Actually it could have returned at the end of June, but I forgot to post it, so I waited until July was done.

I finally finished reading Les Miserables on June 12, three days after my self-imposed deadline of June 9. It was a long book - it better be since it took me three months to read - but a good one. Although I could have done with less chunks of history. Yes, I know that section of the events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo helped the story, but it probably didn't have to be 75 pages. And the 50 or so pages on the convents? Could have been shorter. But the actual storyline was great. If you really want to tackle the massive 1,260 page book, I say go for it.

In addition to Les Miserables, I finished four other books in June and July. That brings my yearly total to 11 books (ouch) and 4,930 pages for the year. For comparison's sake, at the end of August 2010 I had finished 21 books for a total of 7,991 pages. Umm, considering my yearly goal is 40 books for the year, and I've only read 11, I better get going on the reading front. Any suggestions for quick, mindless reading?

So what have I finished since the last reading recap? Take a look:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Yes, I loved the Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven't read them yet, go find yourself a copy. I think I tore through the three books in 12 days total. So good. Right now I'm working on The Help. I'm about halfway through it and hope to finish it up this weekend before I head back to the working world.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. How is it already Thursday? While I like weekends the upcoming weekend means one thing. My vacation is almost over. I didn't go anywhere exciting during my week off. It was mostly a week to relax, putz and try to regain my sanity. It was a good week. I've still got 3 more days to take advantage of.

2. I did take a road trip on Wednesday up to Green Bay to watch Packers training camp. I love me some football. So I was excited when the lockout ended and training camp started, just in time for my week off. I'd never been up to training camp before, but it was pretty interesting watching practice and the players do the drills. Plus there's a tradition in Green Bay where the kids bring their bikes to Lambeau Field before practice and the players ride to and from the practice facility on the bikes. Amusing watching pro football players ride little kids' bikes. Especially if they happen to be pink sparkly bikes. And of course since the players are pretty accessible, everyone wants to get autographs. Me? Who needs autographs when you can get Donald Driver's and Clay Matthews' heads on a stick?

3. There's been some running this week. A short treadmill run on Tuesday night followed by 6.3 miles of hill intervals at the YMCA on Wednesday. Today I got outside for my 4-mile run and even though it was kind of toasty out, everything was going fantastic through the first three miles. Then the final mile was brutal. But the miles got done. Now Friday is technically a rest day, but I might take a short bike ride before Saturday's long run - 14 miles. I've had it with the heat and humidity though. Bring on the fall running weather!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tough Mudder recap

The airplanes have left Oshkosh and I'm enjoying one of those relaxing vacations where you don't really have anything planned. So it's time to put together the Tough Mudder recap. Settle in with a drink, this will be a long one.

It's a week after the event, and while I've lost the scabs from my knees, I've still got some pretty impressive bruises on my legs. And I'm still thinking they were totally worth while because this was a pretty amazing event that I got to do with a great group of people. Definitely glad I did it.

Pre-Tough Mudder
Our start time wasn't until 1:20 p.m., so my friend Peggy, her husband Chad, their daughter and I didn't even leave for Peggy's parents' house in Baraboo until a little after 8 a.m. By the time we were ready to hit the highway, there was our running group, heading over the highway overpass on their weekly long run! There was some honking of the car horn, yells and waving and last minute words of encouragement from Coach Jim. Then we were off to become Mudders.

After meeting up with Peggy's Dad and her brother Jake we were off to the event site, Devil's Head, a ski and golf resort where the pain muddy fun was going to be held. We got our bibs, had our numbers tattooed on our foreheads and arms and then we waited. In the bright sunny sky and temperatures hovering near 90. Oh boy. Finally it was time to head up hill to the starting line. Where we met up with our friends Jeff and Siliva right before the starting

Tough Mudder

Yes. That's right. The starting line is midway up the ski mountain, so you can start with 500 other aspiring Tough Mudders and run down the hill, trying to avoid the rocks and holes, during the Braveheart Challenge, before you begin the Death March, which takes you from the bottom of the ski hill all the way to the top. And it's a long march. We started out strong. Running the hill, after all, we run hills weekly, but about a quarter- to half-way up the hill we slowed to walk. Everybody else was doing it and remember, we still had 10 miles and 20-some obstacles to go. Didn't want to run out of steam too early.

Midway up the hill they organizers had the snow machines on, otherwise known as the Gauntlet. But instead of snow, we were pelted with ice cold water. And it felt so good. I just stood there for a moment. In the mud. But then it was time to keep going up, because the next obstacle was waiting: Hay bale mountains. Two of them. We climbed the bales and kept going up hill. It was one of those hills that seemed like it was never going to end.

But it did eventually and we were met with the Boa Constrictor, an obstacle that had you going through plastic culvert piping down hill into muddy water and then you had to go back up through another pipe. Not too bad.

Back down hill we went. Just a short jaunt over to the Funky Monkey, a set of monkey bars over a water pit. Not just any old monkey bars though. They began at a slight incline, hit a peak and then a slight decline. And random bars were greased with butter. Not that I would know any of this. Monkey bars? As I kid I could never do them. So I wasn't expecting to be too successful. I wasn't. I got two bars in before I lost my grip, fell to the water and swam across.

Remember how we had just ran downhill? Well now it was time to go back up to the top of the mountain. And waiting at the top? The Berlin Walls. Now, going in to the event, this was the obstacle that I was most worried about. I don't have a ton of upper arm strength. And these walls? They were 12-feet tall and had no where for you to get a foot hold or even a grip. But it was also the first obstacle where it really showed how important it was to have a great team.

And I did have a great team.

Standing in line waiting for the obstacle, I was wondering just how I was going to get to the top of the wall and over. But by the time it was my turn, the guys on my team - Chad, Jeff, Jake, and Peggy's dad Dave - had it figured out. Us girls - me, Peggy and Silvia - were going to get a boost. Peggy went first. She made it over but it sounded like a hard landing. Gulp. Then it was my turn. I went up to the wall, looking confused. The guys got into position, my feet were in their hands and I was given the boost up. I was somehow able to grab the top of the wall and pull myself up (although I'm pretty sure I was getting some help from below). I managed to swing my legs over. And I'm not exactly sure what happened next. I might have lost my grip. I might have let go too early. The next thing I know is that I'm falling. I hit my nose and bang my left knee into the wall. And then I hit the ground. On my back. And I've got a paramedic asking me if I'm okay or if I need to quit.

Um, I'm not even muddy yet. And there's still 8 miles to go.

I tell the medic and my teammates that I'm fine. I get up, walk around and check myself out to make sure I'm not bleeding or have anything that feels like broken bones. Just soreness. I'm continuing. Although I do decide to skip the second wall in the obstacle.

We all make it over and head on. Back downhill. Through the Devil's Beard, a huge cargo net that we have to hold over our heads as we walk under it. And of course we're going uphill. We hit the next section, the CLIFHanger, probably one of the steepest parts of the ski mountain. And it's super muddy. Thankfully it's just a long line of people at this point. The kind of line where you take a few steps. Wait. Take a few more. And all the while you have spectators who paid $5 to ride the chairlift up the mountain looking at you. At the top we realize why it was slow going.

Welcome to the Kiss of Mud. At the beginning of the day, it was lines of barbed wire set 8 inches off the ground over a pit of mud and rocks. But given all the water and people that have already crawled through we probably had a good 12-15 inches between the wire and mud. The worst part of this obstacle? Right in the middle you got a really rocky section. And we're talking big, sharp rocks. And remember how I banged my knee a few obstacles before? Yeah. That really hurt. But I kept crawling and made it through.

A pit stop at a snow making machine to attempt to wash off some of the mud and we're going downhill again. The downhills were slippery, muddy and steep. Kind of hard to keep your footing. Normally I like running downhills, but I wasn't too keen on trying it since I had a feeling it wouldn't end well. So I walked them.

At the bottom of the hill we're met with the Turd's Nest, basically a cargo net strung up between two platforms that you have to navigate across. Sounds easy, but actually doing it was kind of challenging. I took it slow, making sure to place my foot in the right place so I didn't end up going through the net and then once I reached the other side I got a hand from some of my teammates to get back up on the platform.

Then it was back uphill - this would be the fourth and final time up the mountain. And this time? It was the worst. More slippery paths. More mud. More steepness. Someone that we talked to before the start said the worst part of the race was the first 4-5 miles since it was all up and down hills. So true. Brutal. But we kept going.

At the top was the Log Bog Jog, a set of metal pipes that you had to climb over, under and around. and a little further on (during the final downhill) was the Shake n Bake. First we ran through water and then there was another cargo net set up across a sand pit. I think organizers were intending us to crawl under the net army style, but we all just walked.

We were finally off of the mountain and we making our way onto the golf course. Hooray! I could finally run some between obstacles. There was a nice long stretch of run along a wooded trail - a brief reprieve from the sun - before we got to the first big water obstacle.

Walk the Plank was set up on a golf course pond and we had to jump off a 15-foot tall plank into the pond and swim a very short distance before we got to the Underwater Tunnels, two or three sets of big blue barrels that we had to swim under. Let me tell you, it felt good to jump in the water although it was a bit difficult to swim wearing a pair of old running shoes that were caked with mud.

We got out of the water, hit up the second aid station (which had run out of bananas by the point, a bit of a fail) and kept on going until we got to the Spider's Web. We had to climb up a cargo net draped over a rock wall. After scaling the wall it was time for another short run along a wooded trail.

When we got out of the woods we were greeted with ice cold Powerade. And another set of Berlin Walls. Ummm, I already fell once. I don't really want to fall again. So I decided to skip the walls. This was the only obstacle I flat out skipped. I was a little disappointed, but I realized I made it over one of the four walls. Not too bad. So I cheered my teammates on. Then it was time to run some more

Up some rolling hills and then we were greeted with a fun obstacle, Greased Lightning. Basically a huge slip 'n' slide. Hindsight I should have gone down head first like everyone else, but I went feet first. Still it was a lot of fun.

Shortly after we came to the Fire Walker. Honestly, not as cool as I thought it would be. It was essentially a pathway cut through some hay bales that were smoldering. I didn't even see any actual flames. Just a lot of smoke.

A short distance away was Everest, a quarter-pipe that we had to run up. In theory it was fairly simple. Run as fast as you can and your momentum will carry you up the quarter-pipe until you can either grab on to the ledge and pull yourself up or can grab a teammate's hands. But there was a tiny little uphill before the quarter-pipe that slowed me down. The first attempt I wasn't able to grab hold of anyone's hands. The second time I got a grip with one hand, but couldn't grab the second hand I needed. After two unsuccessful attempts I decided to move on. The only obstacle I recorded a DNF on. Oh well.

The next stop was the Ball Shrinker, two ropes strung across a golf course pond that you were supposed to walk across. But it was easier to grab the top rope and pull yourself across the water backwards. Well, easy except for the beginning and end where my arms weren't long enough to keep me in the water. Lots of thanks goes to the random guys behind me who helped weigh down the rope for me in order to make it easier. Totally shows how Tough Mudder isn't about a personal best, but rather teamwork and helping out fellow Mudders. Thanks random strangers!

I made it across about half of Twinkle Toes, wobbly 2-by-4s that were set up as balance beams about 10-12 feet above water, before I lost my balance and fell in.

The next obstacle, Dry Wood, was nasty. It was another obstacle in a golf course pond. We had to grab a log and carry it with us as we walked a loop around the pond. I carried the log for a bit, but then the water got deeper than I was tall, so I started just pushing the log in front of me - hello, wood floats. But the worst part was the water. It reeked like cow poo and there was stuff floating in it that I'm not even sure what it was. And I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what it was.

Stinky water behind us, we kept going. It was hard to tell just how far we'd gone by this point, but we knew we had to be getting close to the end. The next obstacle was the Mystery Obstacle, where we were walking through knee-deep muddy water and randomly people would fall into holes they had dug out. I just kept my eyes on the people in front of me and tried to avoid those spots, but I did go down once or twice.

After another longer loop through a wooded path we came upon the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. Three dumpsters. Each of them filled with ice cold water that was dyed red, white (well, more like brown considering all the mud that had been washed off people) or blue. You just had to choose a dumpster, go in, swim under a little divider and get out. I choose the red dumpster (hello, Wisconsin Badger red). Yes, it was chilly. But it felt so good.

There was just one obstacle left: Electroshock Therapy. First we had to run up a slight incline and then we found ourselves standing at the start of the obstacle, with a party deck full of people watching us. The event guy tried to get us to link arms and run through 7 across but we weren't stupid. People were nervous. Hello, running through live wires. But then Jake just took off randomly. He made it through with no shocks. Then Chad went, he wasn't so lucky and got a nice jolt that sent him flying. Then Peggy's dad.

Then it was my turn. I wasn't too worried about the live wires (remember, I DID volunteer to get Tased a few years ago). So I ran. Midway through I felt a small shock. Nothing too bad. I think I would have made it through without falling in the mud, but I tripped on the hay bales that they had conveniently set up midway through the wires. And down into the sloppy, muddy mess I went. I'm pretty sure I came up with a smile on my face though.

After Peggy, Silvia and Jeff came through, we wall grabbed hands. And the Breezy Hillbilly Goatherds ran through the finish line together.

We were muddy. And bruised. And some of us were a bit bloody. But we were smiling. We made it through the 10 miles of 20-some obstacles and we survived. We earned those orange headbands.

We were Tough Mudders.

Looking back
The event was great. It was a challenge, something unlike anything I've ever done before. Not only does it test you physically, but it also tests you mentally. Because all of the obstacles have characteristics that some people may be afraid of - tight spaces, heights, water, fire, live wires. But you band together and work with a team of people to overcome those obstacles and fears and in the end you earn that headband.

Yes, I'll remember the obstacles. After all, it'll be a little difficult to remember falling off that 12-foot wall. And I'll remember the bruises (which still seem to appear overnight, more than a week later), the scabs on my knees and scars they leave.

But I think the thing I'll remember most is my teammates. If it wasn't for deciding to sign up for a half marathon training group, I would have never met any of them and I wouldn't have logged countless miles with Peggy and Jeff. Or gotten the phone call from Peggy the night after the Oshkosh Half Marathon in April asking me if I'd be interested in doing this crazy thing called Tough Mudder.

But more importantly, I wouldn't have gotten through those 10 miles at Devil's Head without the help and support of my teammates. Or had such a good time while doing it.

We'll always be the Breezy Hillbilly Goatherders. And Tough Mudders as well.