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.  ;)