Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review

It feels like 2013 has been my most out-of-shape year ever, but in reality it wasn't a total bust.  It also feels like I'm finally on an activity upswing.  This year, I had a lot of fun doing a wide variety of exercises, events, and sports:

  • The Tough Mudder Michigan
  • The Color Me Rad 5k
  • The Totally Gay 5k
  • A naked 5k
  • The Grand Rapids Mud Run 5k
  • The Warrior Dash Michigan II 5k
  • 144 miles of running on trails and roads
  • 179 miles of biking
  • 51 miles of walking
  • 10 weight lifting workouts
  • 11 games of dodgeball
  • 20 volleyball matches
  • 1 swim workout
  • 1 snowshoeing outing
  • 2 trampoline workouts
  • Kayaking in Florida
  • several matches of tennis 
  • several rounds of Frisbee golf
  • several evenings going out to dance
With the setup of our active media room, the hubby and I have been moving a lot more in the last month.  For Christmas, we added a stationary bike that we can both ride (instead of just my bike on a trainer, which was too small for the hubby), and we're considering finding a second cheap treadmill.  Watching movies and playing old X-Box games have made exercising for an hour or two so easy!

I even tried the My Fitness Pal app for my iPhone for a week before the holidays.  I have always been curious about how many calories I eat in a day, so I decided to track my food for a week and see where I came out.  I feel like I have a ballpark idea now despite a lot of likely calorie count inaccuracies.  But I did not continue using the app after that week, as I did not like the mindset it put me in.  I started to think things like, "I shouldn't eat this" or "I should stop eating for the day so I can come under my calorie goal" even though it was not my intention to lose weight.  I love food and the freedom to eat anything reasonable in moderation, and I much prefer to exercise to maintain my health and fitness than to obsess over numbers.  I have never weighed myself much.  I try to eat well and stay active.  If I feel good, my doctor is happy, and I like how I look, then everything is as it should be.  I did like the app in general, and I understand why some of my friends find it useful as a guide.  I'm just a happier person without obsessing over eating.

For 2014, I have not made any big race plans yet.  I expect that the hubby and I will do a few color and/or mud runs.  The big event that I'm considering is the M-22 Challenge in northern Michigan in June.  It is a run/bike/kayak race, which I think sounds like a blast - like a triathlon but without the swimming!

I'm excited for the new year ahead...  For new adventures and active fun as always!  Happy New Year 2014!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hiking Cowles Peak in San Diego

The hubby and I took a short vacation to San Diego this past week, and I thoroughly enjoyed a hike with our friend Megan up to Cowles Peak.

Trail Map
We took the Mesa trail up to Cowles mountain for a total of about 4 miles.

Fall Color on the Trail
Living in Michigan, I sometimes forget that hikes in the mountains can lead relentlessly up or down hill for miles.  But I love the challenge!  

Up, up, up!

Cowles peak was an easy to moderate hike offering some lovely views of the San Diego area and the Pacific ocean.  It was a great time!

Josh and Megan
From the Summit
Requisite selfie with me and the hubby

Less than 2 days left to fund DIVISION!

I'm so excited for my friend, Cat, as she nears the end of the KickStarter campaign for her film, Division!

Less than 2 days to go and she's so close!  Please check out her page and consider helping this project come to life.  What an amazing Thanksgiving that would be!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Moving Media Room


The hubby and I finally completed a project that we've been talking about for months now.  We turned one of our bedrooms into a moving media room!  In other words, we set up a movie and video game station in front of a treadmill and a bike on a trainer along with a bench, some hand weights, and some resistance bands.  Now we can exercise during the time that we would otherwise be sitting on our butts!

Bring it on, winter!  We're ready for you!

Yes, we still play games and run movies on our trusty original X-Box!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bike Bridge over Division

The new bridge over Division and a gorgeous fall day!

A nice new bridge has been built on the Southbelt trail where it crosses Division Ave on the south side of M-6.  It looks like it has actually been there for a while, but last week was the first time I actually used it.  It's in a great place allowing cyclists and other trail users to cross a dangerous road.  A trail head parking lot was also built on the west side of the street for bike path users to congregate.  Sadly, the path does not extend any further and there is not even a sidewalk on that side of the street, so it doesn't go too far in connecting this portion of the Southbelt trail to the Kent trails.  But just having a safe road crossing for the youth who live in that area is a great thing.  Having been hit by a car just down the street from there, I can personally attest to that!

Now if the city someday builds a protected bike path on one of the bridges crossing US-131, it would be a beautiful thing!  Maybe with some of the parks millage money that just got approved... (One can hope!)

The path switches back from the bridge down to a parking lot

The bridge and the highway barrier wall extending into the distance

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Division - An Instagram Movie

Hey, blog friends!  I don't know how many people stop by here anymore, but if you do, I'd love you to spread the word around for a friend of mine.

My best friend, Cat, who has been at my side for many fitness adventures as evidenced in this blog, is making a movie called Division!  It's a cool suspense story set in the woods around an abandoned asylum in Traverse City, MI.  But what makes it truly unique is that they are filtering the whole thing through Instagram.  This will be a first.  Awesome.

Cat just launched a Kickstarter to fund the effort, and she has some beautiful sample content on the page to check out.  If you think this is cool, please consider backing the project.  Even if you don't help with funding, consider telling your friends about it, if it's something you would support.

From the Kickstarter page

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mile Repeats

When I'm not following a training plan for an actual race or event, my workouts are usually driven by whatever sounds fun/interesting/good at the time.  After a long day at a job site in Maryland last night, I decided I had enough daylight left to get a run in if I just stayed near my hotel to do it.  Staying near my hotel meant running around a half-mile loop of road lined with hotels and industrial businesses.  *sarcastic cheer*

As I started running, I had no particular plan in mind.  But I ran a decent 9:00 first mile which made me pretty happy in my out-of-shape state.  I walked for about a minute and did a second mile in 9:15.  Not an even split, but not bad.  So I decided to take a longer recovery walk and then try to get a negative split for a third and final mile.

The loop I ran, even with its far-from-exciting scenery, had one thing going for it.  It had a long uphill and a fast downhill, which at least made the distance varied and interesting.

I started my third mile on the downhill stretch, letting my legs fly and accepting as much speed as I could milk out of it before hitting the climb.  I knew the uphill would hurt, but I had to run the loop twice for a mile, so I focused on how awesome flying down that decline would be the second time around.

I'm fairly proud of my last mile split...8:00!  I pushed it pretty hard, but I know I could have sprinted a few more seconds off of that.  Just to know that I can still run a 7-something mile makes me feel good about myself!  

Just think what I could do if I trained for short distance speed.  It's almost tempting to this endurance junkie.  I like to think I can defy the slowdown of age and still hit my high school best mile time.  But I have little interest in trying for that record and am more than satisfied coming within a minute of it.

Good times!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Warrior Dash Michigan II 2013 Report

I know I'm way behind my report of the Warrior Dash Michigan II (Grand Rapids) which took place on September 21!  But here it is at last.

Due to a sore Achilles, the hubby did not run the race with me this year.  But I went on my own to have a fun 3.3 mile obstacle run.

In past years, we have parked our car at local parks or other nearby parking lots and walked into Millennium park.  This year, the roads to every possible parking area within a mile of the park were closed by the police.  I was forced to park in the race-provided parking lot, which cost me $10 and which took an excessively long time to exit after I ran.

The race registration and bag check, however, were well organized.  Since the hubby was not able to attend, I asked the registration desk for his race shirt and warrior hat.  I was a little annoyed that they would not give it to me without speaking to him on the phone to verify his registration information.  But I did eventually get the hubby's stuff after waiting in a second line and handing them my phone.  I also purchased a long sleeved hooded t-shirt for myself because it was actually a cute piece and only $10.

But on to the important stuff...the dash!

I would have to say that the course this year was just OK.  I think it did improve over last year.  There were some new obstacles that were interesting such as the heavy cargo net that you had to crawl under while climbing a hill and the arched ladder climb.  But I was disappointed by a few aspects of the course:

1. There were 2 or 3 very long stretches of running with no obstacles.  How this can happen in a race that his only 3 miles long is unclear, but I would have liked to see the obstacles more spread out.

2. I missed the really cool water obstacle from last year in which you got in the lake and had to pull yourself onto and over floating rafts.  In fact, there were no obstacles that took advantage of the lake at Millennium Park at all.

3. You never got dirty until the very end of the race.  There were a couple obstacles that sprayed water on you, but there was only one obstacle that got you into the mud at all.  My best memories of Warrior Dashes past are off getting absolutely filthy.  That did not happen this year.

I am excited that the Iron Warrior Dash came to GR this year.  This is much longer distance version of the race, which I believe they started to compete with events like the Tough Mudder.  I saw a few markers for turns on the Iron race course, but it was not clear where that race started.  It appears that it was going on at the same time as the many waves of the regular distance Warrior Dash.  I ran past several obstacles that our course never led us to do, which was actually kind of sad because they looked fun.  Maybe I'll have to try the Iron distance next year.  Though, if it is anything like the 3 mile course, I'd rather do the Tough Mudder again.

After finishing the race, I found a friend who had also finished just ahead of me and we indulged in our free post-race tall can of Miller Lite together.  I was sad to see that the bananas and granola bars that have been offered in the past were only being given to the Iron runners.  The only other food available was for purchase.  I also never found a shower setup on the race grounds and never saw another runner who looked like they had been able to rinse off.  Maybe I just missed the hoses, but if that's the case, they were not made very accessible.

I did really like the finisher medal.  It is one of the better medals that I've gotten for a run.  Medal/bottle opener.  Not to bad!

This post sounds like I'm criticizing the Warrior Dash pretty hard, but I did have a good time.  It's always a fun run and I think they are improving this new WD location each year.  It's hard to be awesome on your first few tries at a new site.  But I was disappointed by the absence of things that I have enjoyed at WD's in the past.

I certainly plan to do the event again next year, but I will plan ahead for some of the inconveniences.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Section on a Local Trail

One of the things that excites me most is exploring new trails or new sections of trail that I have not previously run, hiked, or biked.

Yesterday, I got a huge surprise when I was running one of my "home" bike paths and discovered a brand new section of path branching off from it.  I was planning on just a short run. And I didn't know how far this new section would go or where it would end up.  But I couldn't resist checking it out even if it added more time and distance to my outing.

It turns out that it connects the Paul B Henry Thornapple Trail to what used to the the eastern most terminus of the East-West Trail in Kentwood.  I love both of these lovely paved paths, so this made me skip and squeal just a little bit.

The new section boasts smooth fresh asphalt and I'm guessing almost a half mile of wide, beautiful boardwalk elevated over the marshy ground along the power line corridor.  Super cool!  

So I turned off from the Thornapple trail, ran the new connector, and then took Kalamazoo Ave back home creating a loop of about the same distance as if I had run the Thornapple trail between 44th and 52nd as an out-and-back.

I look forward to enjoying a new route this fall and will incorporate this section into longer bike rides and runs!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Running and Hiking in Edgewood, MD

I'm travelling for work again, and as always, I've been exploring the area for great places to hike and run.  As often happens, the area immediately around my hotel is no fun for running with busy, narrow-shouldered roads.  And it has taken some effort to find accessible hiking trails nearby.

Earlier this week, I first tried to visit Harford Glen Park off of Wheel Rd west of Hwy 24, which has a nature trail circling a reservoir for a 4.5 mile route.  It is an educational organization, which is really cool.  Unfortunately, it appears to be closed when school is in session.  I drove up to the entrance to be greeted by locked gates.  So disappointing.

Then, I tried a few separate times to find the trail head in Winters Run Park.  I did finally find a trail entrance along Philadelphia Rd near Fashion Way.  The trail here is more of a mowed grassy stretch along the creek than a dirt trail.  It looks like it's main purpose is to provide access to maintenance crews along the creek.  It was neat to see bamboo growing here, but the creek was a little smelly.  I wasn't a huge fan.  However, I only went as far as the I-95 bridge, and as I look at the Google satellite view now, I see that the trail continues north into an area called Winters Run Conservation Area.  It looks like the trail is accessible from the back of a Lowe's parking lot.  I need to check that out on my next trip.

Today, I decided to visit a couple parks after eating lunch, the first of which was Edgewater Village Park off of Hwy 40 near Emmorton.  This park hosts what looks to be a nice recreational building, but the park itself is a bit run down.  There is a pond with a decaying asphalt path running around it.  There were many neighborhood kids playing in the area, but I was hoping for something more wooded.

Flowers at the edge of the pond at Edgewater Village Park

Lastly, I drove over to Leight Estuary, which is another educational organization.  It is open about 4 days a week and has several trails through the woods for walking and bird watching.  There are about 2 miles of trails in total.  I was mildly annoyed by the large number of tiny bugs that seemed to adore buzzing around my eyes, but the park was very nice and had the rougher, hiking-friendly atmosphere that I wanted.  I was also impressed that the trails were well marked with signs and blazes.  I will definitely be back to the Estuary on my next trip to Edgewood.

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary

Pier at the end of the Blue Loop at Leight Estuary

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grand Rapids Mud Run 2013

This weekend marked my 4th annual Grand Rapids Mud Run!  Unfortunately, the hubby was sick so he was not able to run with us, but my bestie, Cat, and our friend Jair represented our traditional team, and Jair's girlfriend, Ellie, rounded out the foursome.

Me and Cat Post-Mud

This year, the race was even bigger - unsurprising, as it grows every year.  They built a single-loop course instead of the two-looper of races past, which was fantastic.  I'm not sure if there were fewer obstacles than could just be that it felt smaller after doing the Tough Mudder, but there were some new, nicely built obstacles to conquer.

The footprint of the race start also expanded and was well organized.  Good packet pickup, good wave control, good showers.  With some big sponsors this year, it's clear that this is becoming a solid event.  I am excited to have a great run hosted only a couple miles from my house!  And with so many local businesses nearby, it was easy to find parking within a short walk of the race start.

If there is anything I could complain about regarding the GR Mud Run, it would be the t-shirt.  It's not bad, but it's just not very exciting.  I probably won't be wearing it around like I do some of my other race shirts.  But that's it.

I look forward to doing it again next year!


  • Me - 33:52
  • Cat - 33:52
  • Jair - 50:23
  • Ellie - 50:23
  • Eric (father-in-law) - 48:08
  • Helen (mother-in-law) - ?
  • Bruce - 41:34
  • Amy - 41:32

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Since Ancient Times

As a fan of running long distances, NPR, and The Oatmeal, I wanted to share this article with all of you!

Go check it out here!

Friday, August 9, 2013

B-Cycle Comes to Ann Arbor, MI

Exciting news!  B-cycle bike sharing is coming to Ann Arbor, MI in late 2013 or early 2014!  This will be the first bike sharing program in Michigan and is intended for short commutes within Ann Arbor.

See the article here.

Kiosks will be located in many areas around town including Kerrytown, Main Street, State Street, South University and more.  Membership will cost $5 for a day pass, $20 for a week, and $60 for a year.  Members will be able to use B-cycles in other cities for no additional cost.

How cool!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tough Mudder's Bonus Obstacle: Norovirus

You may have already seen this in the news, but many of the participants of last week's Tough Mudder in Michigan - including the hubby - faced a final, bonus obstacle - the norovirus!  

Somehow, this food-borne virus that causes your classic food poisoning symptoms got transmitted to 200 or more runners and spectators at the race.  The Michigan Department of Community Health is still investigating the source, but it could have been the sections of banana handed out during the run, the beer cups maybe, or perhaps a pool of water that got contaminated.  Norovirus does not live in the soil or water, but if something contaminated got into a pit of muddy water, who knows...  It can also be transmitted through physical contact with an infected individual.  With so many people crawling around, under, and over obstacles together, I can see that as a possibility, too.

The hubby is pretty susceptible to digestive tract ailments, so he got pretty sick - worthy of a quick ER trip for some IV fluids.  But he's feeling pretty much back to normal now.  I'm honestly glad I didn't catch it, too!  Can you imagine two people scrambling for the bathroom at the same time and eating nothing but crackers and applesauce for three days?  Yikes!

Our local news did a nicely put together story on the incident including interview footage of the hubby and clips from Team Mud Puppies' video taken by our teammate's boyfriend.  Check it out here!

And here is an update from a couple days later.

Despite the norovirus, I and everyone I have talked to would do the Tough Mudder again.  It was just so much fun that it is worth the risk.  I'll be back to earn another orange sweatband in the future!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tough Mudder Michigan 2013: Photos and Video

The boyfriend of one of our teammates got some great photos and video of team Mud Puppies throughout the Tough Mudder on Saturday.  Check them out!



Thanks to the Mud Puppies and their support team for a great time!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guest Post: Urban Cycling - Montreal

Note from Cyclin' Missy: Today, I welcome another guest post from Missi Hathaway about urban cycling, particularly in Montreal!  While I've visited Canada many times, I've only been to Ontario.  As a francophone, it's a little sad that I've never spent time in the province of Quebec.  The hubby has traveled around Quebec and has visited Montreal, of which I am very jealous!

Chic Fitness: How Cycling is Shaping Urban Culture

Serious cyclists are usually the geared-up gurus hitting some broken-down trail, right? The sleek, aerodynamic athlete who can swoop up a hill-climb losing barely a pearl of sweat, or the rugged backpacker who escapes into forested climes or a beach ride along the coast. At least, this is the theory – cycling is both professional sport and pleasurable pastime, for the sake of itself.

The Urban Jungle

Fair enough – the very best of cycling is to be found in the wilderness, but things are changing, especially in North America. Cities across the continent are following in the footsteps of Amsterdam and introducing a network of bicycle paths, which are quickly shaping themselves into the character of their locale and fast becoming inseparable from its identity. This isn’t just because cycling is a quick, easy, and cheap means of commuting from home to workplace, but because it has come to represent the diversity of a thriving, cosmopolitan society.

Take a look over the border at Montreal, Canada’s cultural capital. Rated as one of the top ten cities in the world for its cycling infrastructure, it hosts one of the newest networks of single, double-laned routes and it continues to grow. It’s transformed the city into a safer, more accessible place. And it’s drawn out of the woodwork a rich tapestry of urban joie de vivre, which was always there but needed the right kind of pulse to flow through it. Now, there is everything from Bixi-bike rentals across the island to fixie (fixed-gear) bike groups to bike cafes and even a full-fledged bicycle festival, not to mention Urban Bike Week in mid-May. Specifically focusing on “safety, regulations, mobilization, adaptation and maintenance of equipment… local initiatives, female/feminist perspectives, art and activism” it is representative of what cycling means to modern society.


Art and activism – whoa, heavy terms. But marvelously exciting ones, too – clearly showing how cycling has become so integral to an urban landscape. Certain roads have their distinct “class” of character, and pretty much anything goes in Montreal and other contemporary hubs. Rue Maisonneuve is a commuter’s trail, whereas Rue Rachel stretches across the Plateau (think of New Orleans; trendy cafes, bars, clubs and terraces glowing with relics from the old world and new) traversing several districts and parks, including the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens) and the futuristic Stade Olympique. Don’t be surprised if you see a hipster fly by with a bare guitar strapped to his or her back or a crazily-tattooed guy with neons and a boombox fixed to his ride of choice. For the athlete, journey to the Old Port, turn onto the Lachine Canal – gorgeous old industrial buildings here – and ride on to the seaside-like peninsula or detour for a spin on the Formula 1 Gilles Villeneuve race track on one of the neighboring islands. Choose your time wisely, though – these contain a hefty combo of family days out and avid athletes, although you are more likely to see the latter beaming up the trails on Mont Royal itself.

Changing Economy

So where there is demand there is also supply, and Montreal isn’t the only city to recognize this. It’s not just the big superstores who do sales and repairs nowadays, but non-franchised, locally-run businesses are popping up all over the place and making a profit. In a place like Montreal which has a lot of competition, keeping it authentic but throwing a little uniqueness into the mix is essential. There is Révolution Montreal, a bike repair shop/hair salon in the Gay District for example. There is Allo Vélo Boutique, which can grease your chains while you sip on a soothing latte and listen to some indie tunes. More and more cafes are opening their patios to bike racks and playing on the theme of this hip, clean mode of transportation – even changing their cuisine to healthier, organic foods in keeping with the “feel” or the lifestyle.

Fitness is In

This is because cycling culture wheeled in with its trusty counterpart, fitness culture. This has been around for quite a while, with joggers hitting the pavement on early morning runs and late night gyms popping up. But now, there are huge cycling studios for year-round practice (although hardcores will still brave sleet and snow to wear down their treads in midwinter) and several communities on the net and in the downtown offering great tips and venues on keeping fit and eating right. Taking off particularly well in the student community, there are more university groups, programs, and stores - especially bicycle shops – setting up to provide the best in goods from biking boots to protein powders that are organically sound. With this culture also comes an ethical side too – as highly active cyclists tend to have a green side, they also want their products to be sourced from natural, fair trade origins. There is such a huge, thriving movement of bicycle fitness that is inspiring even those with gym phobia to get out the house and onto a seat for a vigorous ride.

The Best of All Worlds

This is the new face of North America – clean, friendly, accessible. Sure, East Asia’s been onto the bicycle phenomenon for years, but urban America and Canada have a lot of offer in the way of city cycling. Wide streets and modern infrastructure make customization for cyclists simple and feasible, and the many communities which cities house in their boroughs allow for new and innovative businesses to function competitively. This means that a cyclist never has to go far to grab a quick snack or chill out under the stars to one of the many festivals or events that their region has to offer. There is often excellent access to expansive recreational parks and several programs to take advantage of. Experiencing the city through the eyes a cyclist means uncovering some of the best hidden gems as well as finding a quick route to the famous landmarks for which a town can become so distinctively enticing. It is a pulse which flows through everything from gritty grid-lock to the smell of bakeries in early-morning alleys to the sound of evening bird song by the lake. From mountain bikes to city bikes to hybrids, from the chilled-out hipster to the hectic white-collar to the average Joe, cycling means freedom, expression, and is at the core of every booming city. So don’t just turn to the great outdoors for a taste of two-wheeled wonder – there is a vibrant, eclectic, and animated track awaiting your tread in the downtown too.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tough Mudder Michigan 2013 Race Report


Despite being sadly under-trained, I went into this past weekend feeling fairly confident about the 12 mile run plus 20-ish obstacles.  The hubby also contributed to the sense of preparedness by hooking us up with tons of energy gels, compression elbow and knee pads (a fantastic choice!), and a team of 12 awesome people.  The Mud Puppies, as we were known, consisted of a group of marines just returning from Afghanistan plus a bunch of first-time Tough Mudders like the hubby and me.  Great attitudes, great helpers, great people!

The hubby trying on his Mud Puppies compression shirt

If you have enjoyed events such as the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, or other mud runs...the Tough Mudder is even better!  This was an absolute blast!

I won't go through every obstacle, but I want to hit a few highlights.

The course started with some longer running stretches to try to spread out the field.  It apparently didn't work too well, because there was a 45-minute wait before the third obstacle - Fire Walker - a leap over fire into a pit of water.  I didn't mind the wait except that it gave us plenty of time to think about the fourth obstacle - the Arctic Enema.  

In the Arctic Enema, you jump into a dumpster filled with water and ice, duck under a wooden obstacle fully submerging in the water, and then get your frozen body to the other end of the dumpster to climb out again.  Coming up from under water was particularly surprising, because you had to wade up through 6 inches of floating ice cubes to reach the top!  My body was so cold when I got out, that every part of me hurt!  Fortunately, it didn't last long, and I quickly warmed back up running.  We had our only serious team injury at this obstacle - strangely enough.  One of the guys dislocated his shoulder when his muscles seized up in the icy water and he grabbed onto something to jerk himself violently out of the water.  Race medics were at the ready to take care of him, but he was out for the rest of the event.  (Our teammate, Laura, took some video under water with her GoPro.  If it turned out, I'll post it here!)

The only obstacle that I did not complete was Walk the Plank - a jump off of a 12-foot high platform into yet another pit of water.  They built the platform with the supports sloping backwards below your feet making for an optical illusion of even greater height.  I'm not a heights fan, so I quickly decided that I would have a more positive race if I skipped the jump this time around.  I'm disappointed that I can't say that I did every obstacle in the race, but I'm happy with my choice.

Me (left) and Laura Schultes Ramon (facing the camera) doing the Hold Your Wood obstacle

Probably the scariest obstacle was the Electric Eel.  In this exercise, you have to army crawl under barbed wire in muddy water through a field of shock wires.  Each shock by itself is annoying but tolerable.  Combine more than one contact at a time, and it starts to get interesting!  Muscles clench and it hurts - if only briefly.  Part of you wants to speed up to get through it faster, but doing so only puts you into contact with more wires!  The hubby, being a big guy, made contact with 4 wires at one time.  He actually blacked out for a quick second!  

The Electric Eel, the high platform, and the Arctic Enema are good examples of how the Tough Mudder is as much a mental challenge as a physical one.  Another example is the Boa Constrictor.  Here, you crawl into a plastic tube that slopes down into water, emerge from the tube under barbed wire, and then crawl into another tube sloping up out of the water.  I didn't struggle with this one much, but if you are afraid of going under water or into tight spaces, it could be scary.  I'm small enough that I was able to crawl up the second tunnel, but the larger folks only had enough room to drag themselves up with their arms.  Boa Constrictor was particularly interesting that day, because we got poured on for about an hour before reaching this obstacle.  The rain made the entire grounds muddy.  But I was also curious whether the water in these tunnels was higher than normal!

The hubby and I after the pouring rain heading into Boa Constrictor

Only one awesome person on our team was able to complete the Funky Monkey obstacle.  It's not that ascending and descending monkey bars are necessarily super hard...I used to be great at them when I was in elementary school.  ;)  But they were greasy and muddy.  Nearly impossible to hold on to.  I felt them with my gloves on and basically just swung out far enough to drop in the water and swim across!

As we approached the last couple miles of the run, some of the most physically exhausting obstacles arrived.  We climbed over the Bale Bonds - a series of large hay bales.  We formed human ladders to climb over two 8-foot Berlin Walls.  Then we again depended on the kindness of strangers to defeat Everest.  This was a half pike that you had to run up and catch the hands of the people waiting to help you at the top.  Once you found traction on the muddy surface, got a hand on the wood at the top, and had the assistance to get a leg over the edge, you could summit Everest!  The hubby took 5 tries to complete it, but he did it!

And finally, to wrap up our Tough Mudder experience, we faced Electroshock Therapy - one last trot through hanging shock wires.  I actually made it through relatively unscathed only taking one good double hit to my left leg.  

Then we reached the glorious reward of a high quality race shirt, an iconic orange head band, and a free beer!  We did it!  What a great time!

Tough Mudders!!!

I must complement the Tough Mudder folks for putting on a great event!  The volunteers were friendly and helpful.  Water was available at many points on the course (though they ran out of Cliff Blocks and did not have any sports drink).  I had such a great time over our 5 hours of crawling, plodding, ducking, climbing, and hanging out with great people that shorter mud runs are going to seem to end too quickly from now on.

Thank you Tough Mudder and our team, the Mud Puppies, for a fantastic day!

Also to note: The hubby came out of the event with no major injuries!  His compression knee pads and the back support that he wore gave him the added joint control that he needed.  Woohoo!

For more photos and video of the Mud Puppies, see my post here.

For the bonus norovirus obstacle, see my post here.  ;)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The Tough Mudder Michigan is fast approaching (June 29), and I feel totally unprepared!  Well, not totally...but not prepared enough.  I'm super excited about the event and I'm confident I'll complete it.  It's just that I'm not in shape for the run and I haven't really emulated the obstacles such as climbing over huge walls, monkey bars, etc.  I have run enough miles in my life that a 10-12 mile run over the course of the day does not scare me.  But seriously, I haven't run more than 8 miles in a week all season.  Yikes!

When I signed the hubby and me up for the race, I had a grand vision of getting into fantastic shape - running, weight lifting...the whole shebang.  And that has not happened.  No excuses really.  I've been busy and stressed, but I really could have made it happen if I had insisted upon it.  Oh, well...c'est la vie.  I'm still going to run the thing.  It's going to be more of a mental challenge for me anyway as I overcome obstacles that scare me (electricity, heights, icy water...).

The hubby, however, is worried.  He's afraid he'll get injured running.  He's nervous that he won't be able to get through some of the obstacles due to his size.  But he's a proactive guy and got us hooked up with a team called the Mud Puppies - a group of about half military folks and half fitness newbies.  If we can keep up with them, they will help my man get his bulk up and over walls and through tunnels.  I hope the army dudes are strong!  Go, team!

So, I've got two weeks to get in some intense training.  Will I do it?  We'll see!  Send your motivation vibes my way and wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Totally Gay 5k

On Sunday, the hubby and I got decked out to run the Totally Gay 5k in support of the local LGBT community.  This event opened up Pride week in Grand Rapids.  It was a blast!

Totally Gay 5k at Richmond Park

It was a good old cross country style 5k.  In fact, we ran at Richmond park, which is the home of one of the local high school cross country courses.  It took me back to my CC days!

While not a competitive runner, I did my best to win the advertised "most colorful" contest.  I think I really did deserve the title, but I ended up in 3rd place.  I think the men should have had their own division, too, because the hubby would have had that locked!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Guest Post: Forks Area Trail System (FATS)

Note from Cyclin' Missy:
Today I welcome guest blogger, Melissa Hathaway, with an article about the Forks Area Trail System (FATS) not too far from Atlanta, GA.  I've spent some time in Atlanta for work, and as you all know, I love to explore trails in the places that I travel around the country.  So knowing where to find a fun trail to escape to near Atlanta is awesome!  I'll have to check out FATS next time I'm in this great southern city!

I hope you enjoy!  And thanks, Melissa!

Forks Area Trail System: A Great Place to Start the Season

It’s that time of year where spring bounds from coast to coast with the first buds in full bloom, where fresh leaves are scattering sunlight on the pine-trodden trails, leaving the air just that little bit sweeter, and cycling enthusiasts across the country are hauling out their Treks and Raleighs in anticipation of another great cycling season.

For many, there is never a better time to take to the trails. Temperatures are pleasant and for those who had to hang up their tires for winter, nothing beats that first liberating ride into the world, leaving delightful muscle aches the next day. Especially for those in northern climes – save for the true hardcore who refuses to give way to ice and snow – a spring ride can feel like the first time on a bike all over again. And in a geographically diverse country like the States, there is definitely a treasure trove of places to explore.

Getting in Gear

Of course, before emerging into the great outdoors it’s crucial to check that your beloved set of wheels is up to par. Finding a quality new or used model is fairly straightforward these days, with many large franchises offering great deals on bicycles as well as people looking to sell or exchange their older models online. For owners, good bicycle maintenance is crucial throughout the year but the spring tune-up is undoubtedly the most involving operation, thankfully made easier by the increasing number of bicycle repair centers throughout the nation’s towns and cities and also the wealth of Do-It-Yourself information that is accessible online. Most tune-ups can be done at home to cut the cost by a considerable amount, and for serious repairs hardcore cyclists can always make sure they are covered under a good plan, which is advisable when racking up a decent mileage. Once these factors are taken care of, you’ll be ready to tackle some of the most magnificent panoramas that America has to offer.

Ancient Land, New Adventure

There are so many stunning, breathtaking, gut-wrenching, and adrenaline-pumping trails in this country that it would be impossible to cover them all and do them justice in one go. Each path that networks the thousands of miles of sand, stone, tree and water has its own legacy that is forged in the historical, social, and natural world that encompasses it. And each year, new trails are being carved out into the landscape for all kinds of levels, so that beginners and experts can get a rejuvenated taste of some of the most striking wilderness for which this country is so renowned.

One in particular delves into some of the oldest rocks in the world, and is entrenched in both Indian and Colonial history. It’s just a three-hour drive east of Atlanta in the deep South, it hosted the IMBA World Mountain Bike Summit in 2010, and featured in BIKE and Blue Ridge Outdoors. It took a full seven years to build the first 25 miles. It’s the Forks Area Trail System (FATS).

A Little Southern Hospitality

With 37 miles of lush, beautiful terrain that will enthrall both amateurs and pros, FATS is a multi-loop track relatively friendlier than the rugged trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. Located in the Long Cane Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, its eclectic combination of flow and pump track and high speed styles with six exciting loops make it a challenging but welcoming endeavor. Its smooth path means that it is easily scaled by first-time cyclists but its versatility can push more experienced adventurers to higher levels.  

Adventure with a Twist… and Several Turns

Its six defining loops – Brown Wave, Skinny, Great Wall, Deep Step, Big Rock, and Tower are easily accessed by the South Trailhead and North Trailhead parking lots, and are regularly maintained. Crafted especially for bike lovers, each loop has its own defining characteristic, from the surf-like feel of Brown Wave (5.8mi) to the muscle-grinding, teeth-gritting climbs and descents of Deep Step (5mi), taking is name from a fishing hole in the Savanna River.

More defiant in terrain, Big Rock (4mi) and Tower (4mi) require a little more vigilance on the track, but are highly rewarding. Big Rock’s cedar bridge (adorned with beautiful carvings) and rocky outcroppings give it plenty of variation while Tower offers some wind-breaking hill descents.

For the cyclist who wants to taste a bit of everything, the Great Wall (7.5mi) – named for its long concrete section – showcases some terrific hill climbs, descents, and whoop-de-doos that are embellished by lots of twists and turns. It’s an ideal track to progress to after Skinny (6mi), the beginner’s track.

And That’s Not All, Folks…

Because of its prime location, cyclists who have traveled near and far to take on one of Georgia’s latest gems have a variety of other incredible places at their fingertips, like the Augusta Canal Singletrack, Bartram, Keg Creek and Mistletoe State Park. There is also the Palmetto Parkway Bike Path, North Augusta Greenway, and the Riverview Pump Track. Whichever the route, each track has a wealth of mesmerizing views and interesting challenges to captivate the cyclist, not to mention some of the most revealing wildlife spots along the way. And with a culturally rich network of towns and cities like Atlanta, Augusta, and Savanna within reach, cyclists looking for something a little more cosmopolitan or traditional can get the best of both worlds. And it’s not just a terrific ride to enjoy in spring, either – all year round, Georgia and particularly FATS has a lot of wonder to share – so grab that helmet and hit the dirt!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Color Me Rad 2013

This Saturday, the hubby and I did our first running event of the year - the Color Me Rad run at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids, MI.  This run was very similar to the Color Run, which takes place in August this year.

The run was a good time despite being out late with friends the night before.  I was impressed with the hubby's running, as he's been doing mainly biking and weight lifting recently to strengthen his back and knees.  He ran the whole 3 miles at a very decent pace.  If he can work up to about 6 miles, he'll be ready for the Tough Mudder at the end of June!

The hubby and I after the Color Me Rad run - May 25, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Visiting My Bestie in Traverse City, MI

Don't ask me what I did with my best buddy, Cat, in Traverse City, MI this weekend.  Because we did all the things!

This happened!

  • Lunch at a tiny little cafe - melt-in-your-mouth pastrami and fresh squeezed OJ
  • Hiking on the grounds of a former mental hospital
  • Wine and cider tasting at Left Foot Charley's
  • Cheese cake at Underground Cheese Cake
  • Disc golf at Northwestern Michigan College
  • A party at Cat's friends' house
  • Dancing at Side Traxx
  • Late night food and Jenga at a diner
  • Sleep
  • Brunch and coffee at a French cafe
  • Shopping at Target
  • Hiking on Alligator Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • Soda tasting and walking tacos at Cherry Republic
Alligator Trail

Lake Michigan from a trail lookout

It was an adventure-packed weekend!  Thanks, Cat!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hiking south of Dallas

As I'm spending the weekend in Dallas for work, I did what I always love to do on work trips yesterday - explore the local trails!

My hope as I researched parks in the area was to check out the Cedar Hill State Park, which hosts a section of the DORBA (Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association) trail network.  I planned to hike and maybe run assuming there wasn't to much bike traffic.  Unfortunately, when I called the park for information, I found out that the trails were closed due to the recent rain storm.  So disappointed!  So I found some back up options, and headed out.

First, I visited Boulder Park, which boasted 10 miles of mountain bike trail.  I couldn't get through to anyone for information on the park, so it wasn't until I arrived that I discovered that this was also part of the DORBA system, and therefore, closed.  Having made the trip there, though, I decided to just walk a little ways down the trail until I found a wet area, and then turn back.  I never found any mud.  The whole park was dry!  In fact, I would call the conditions perfect - not muddy and not dusty.  Just right!

Boulder Park Trail

The trail consisted of a main Blue loop with a number of more technical off-shoot Red loops.  In the interest of not getting lost, I stuck to the Blue loop.

Cactus and Wild Flowers

Texas Flora

The creek was running very low, but it contained fish, so it must run consistently enough to support them.  It must be an old creek, too, as it looks to have worn its path through the rocks over a very long time.

An old but living creek

I love trails!

I ended up hiking 4 miles at Boulder Park.

At this point, it was still early enough in the afternoon to check out another park only about 10 minutes from my hotel.  I was hoping Bear Creek Nature Park would provide a decent place to run during the next week, as the area around my hotel is all highway with no sidewalks.

Bear Creek has a small campground and an equestrian trail.  The website had mentioned hiking trails, too, but I think the equestrian trail is all they have, so I ventured out on that.

More Flowers!
The trail headed out around a meadow and into a somewhat forested area.  It was a much more dry, brushy park.

Bear Creek Trail

As I hiked, I started to see some familiar man-made structures - a mud pit, a climbing wall, a rusted out van with a cargo net over it...  They were the remains of an obstacle run!

Old Ford van with a broken kiln inside
As I was leaving the park, I found a flyer for the upcoming Down & Dirty obstacle run on June 2, 2013.  Looks like it's going to be fun!

I hiked an additional 2.5 miles at Bear Creek and then headed to my hotel to shower up and eat a meal.  It was a great day of sun shine and movement!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mountain Biking for Women

Hello from Dallas, TX!  I'm travelling for work again, and I can't wait for the weekend when I have a chance to find some trails, which seem to be a little more distant from my hotel than I want to venture after a long day of work.  I'll try to get some good pics and post a report later.

In the meantime, my mom pointed me to a nice article today by Teresa Edgar, founder of on the Weather Channel website (article and video here).  It's just a quick story encouraging women to try out mountain biking by taking it slow, relaxing, and getting to know the easy-going mountain biking crowd.  I found it very simple and positive.  Check it out!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Building again

The hubby and I are registered to do a Tough Mudder on June 29 near Jackson, MI.  For the unfamiliar, this is a 10-12 mile run interspersed with somewhere in the range of 25 military style obstacles such as wall climbs, tunnel crawls, jumping off of platforms into lakes, ice water dunks, and running through electrified wires.  I'm excited...but nervous!  Some of those obstacles scare me!

To train for this adventure, my hope is to build my endurance as if I was preparing to run a half marathon, build my overall body strength with some weight lifting, and practice some circuit workouts (running mixed with exercises).  I'm pretty confident that I could complete this thing with minimal training, but I'd like to do better than that.  So I got to thinking that I was the fastest I've been in recent years when I trained for a triathlon in 2010, so why not mix in some cross training for cardio variety and softer impact, too?

This seems like a decent idea for the hubby, as well, since he is recovering from some back issues and is not allowed to do high impact exercises like running or biking for a while.  As I put together a training plan, I'm trying to modify his workouts to include more walking and swimming least for a few more weeks.

I don't know how this plan will work to prepare us for the Tough Mudder, but hopefully it will at least be fun and help us get leaner and healthier.

A few things I've noticed as I've started training:

  • I'm starting to like weight lifting more.  I want to get a little bit buff and lean up those squishy areas!
  • I swam last night for the first time since my tri in 2010.  What a lung workout!
  • Aside from swimming and lifting, I would rather do everything else outside.  I cannot wait for the weather to improve so running and biking outside are more enjoyable!  We had two beautiful "Spring-is-coming" days last week, and it was heavenly!
  • I've never created a training plan for the hubby before, but he asked me to put something together that takes his back into account.  Now, how do I motivate him to follow the plan?!