About me

Monday, December 10, 2012

Don't knock them over, Dad

Many years ago, Josh and I usually rose a little earlier than everyone else, and that meant he often attended to chores with me. Recycling. Booting the computer labs. Scouting for breakfast at the Golden Corral on Sunday morning.

Yes, we went to the Golden Corral for Sunday breakfast, just he and I, for more Sundays than I'll ever count. We arrived early before most of the rest, and picked a table near the bar where I'd get him situated in a seat and gnawing on some bacon or sticky bun while I chowed down on an above average breakfast. (I was running a lot then and could afford the calories.)

So we headed over one Sunday morning in the little Ford Ranger my parents gave me. We're cruising down MacKay Road. He's gazing about as a boy will from a car seat perched up front in a truck, and we lock onto a sight together: A mama wood duck walking across the road followed by a near endless stream of baby ducks. I slowed down.

As the truck stopped and the parade of ducks waddled across the road, Josh intoned in all seriousness: “Don't knock them over, Dad.” We didn't knock them over.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Leadership, Teamwork, Marines, and Tough Mudder

First, let me be clear: I am not an expert on leadership, and I don't even have a clear grasp on the vocabulary of leadership. I also have professional buddies who work in the field, and I don't want to infringe on their turf lest the return the favor. Nonetheless, I gave proud witness to an event last Saturday that could have been scripted as a textbook example of systemic leadership and teamwork.

It is not hard to find people in any given workplace using words like teams, teamwork, and leaders. What's harder is to find substantive examples of these words and ideas. Oh sure, you can find glimmers, glimpses, and sparkles of hope everywhere, but my nigh on 60 years on this planets has found the vocabulary exceeds the reality by an alarming amount, and people still think of leadership as George Washington in that iconic painting as his army crossed the river.

I suspect that concept, if not the picture itself, has done more to hinder growth in leadership and teamwork than anything else. As was asked in a book I can't at the moment remember: Will the CEO of the Internet please stand? And yes, by typing it, I remembered it. (Systemic Leadership by Allen and Cherrey) Aging. Go figure.

So here in the spring of my second childhood, I entered Tough Mudder. You can read about that journey in earlier posts. What I'm writing about here is something I watched unfold during the latter half of the event.

We have been following a group of military runners. Marines, I suspect, but they could have been Army. About a dozen of very well put-together men. One was running on a blade, and the group moved as a loose knot. I don't think they were ever more than ten feet apart during the time I trailed them.

Yet, it is without doubt that some could have moved faster had they but chosen. Or needed. At one point, I watched in amazement as one in that team broke loose from the knot. He ran as a gazelle across the terrain they had just passed to recover a lost item. You might have thought he was a sprinter freshly entering the race, not a man who had just run 12 miles to engage two dozen obstacles.

They stayed together. They. Stayed. Together.

We reached the obstacle called Mount Everest. A quarter-pipe some 20 feet tall. You have to run up it. Some can make it to the top. Most cannot. Those who can make it reach back to help those who cannot. So what did the Marines do?

As a group, they stood in line until they were next, and then as a group, they moved to the base of the pipe where they systematically formed a prone pyramid along the surface of the pipe. With the pyramid in place, the Marine with the blade climbed over the pyramid to the top of the pipe where he turned and waited, likely not even hearing the cheers of the crowd. The members of his team collapsed the pyramid, returned to the top of the line where the rest of us waited, and then systematically, one-by-one, they launched themselves into the challenge. The man with the blade caught the first. Those two caught the second. This continued until those Marines defeated the Mount Everest.

The group probably had a senior officer, but I can assure you they had no George Washington. They had no Rambo. Their training made them a sentient pack. You would not want these men angry with you.

Bear in mind that I make no call to release us from independent thought, perhaps even action. There will always be that need. However, in the mightiest campaign, the lowest grunt on the field can halt that campaign with a single word when that grunt sees something wrong, and good leadership, confident leadership, competent leadership sets the stage to accept input from all levels, not just the pleasant few. I look forward to the day such systemic leadership not only trickles down from the military to the rest of our world but also to the day when organizations release the chains of hierarchical leadership and adopt systemic leadership, leadership through the ranks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

So Grandpa finished Tough Mudder

It's been a rockin' year with a series of minor injuries more irritating than anything else, and so as I step onto the glide path to 60, what better to do than relive my miss-spent youth and enter Tough Mudder. If you don't know what that is, Google it. The website will catch you up quickly.

The trail started in February when Danger posted the notice on Lily's Facebook page about the Mudder. Normally, I wouldn't pay much attention to such, but this time I clicked the link, and the landing page video had me from the opening scene. I had been long lamenting my obvious decline into couch potato-hood, and this was my climb out. I had no idea just how deep the hole I was in was, and I’m not sure I’m really out yet, but that's okay. One step at the time.

And so yesterday, we drove to Society Hill, SC, parked, and stood in line to enter Tough Mudder. The entry was uneventful. They wrote our numbers on our face and arms, the stated reason being so they could identify the bodies later, the reality being to make picture identification easier for the post event picture sales. We knocked around a bit. I got a haircut and a beard trim. We went through our individual rituals of eating, drinking, and supplement taking. We watched the preceding heats line up and leave. We discussed tactics for the obstacles and called it strategy. We hit the potties. Repeatedly.

And then it was time.

And no, you don't just line up. To get in the line, we had to scale a 6-foot wall. No big deal, but still a foretaste of glory divine.

In the lineup, we had the motivational speech. The pledge. The Star Spangled Banner. The gun. The waiting for the pack to spread. We assembled at the rear of the wave to let the sharks take off first. Pacing is important, especially when you're an old fart and bitter old queen. Besides, Tough Mudder is not a race. It's an endurance event. It's where we explore our limits, and it's important that we know our limits. Very important.

Run. Run. Run. Up hill. Down hill. Headed to the first obstacle. Arctic Enema, a huge cargo container filled with a slurry of ice water. Because we're special, they dumped in extra ice for us. With a front-end loader.

The slurry was only a few degrees above 32 when we jumped in, and as mammals, we had only a few seconds to figure our way out, which included a dive under a barrier, before we locked up in the cold and they had to use the front end loader to get us out.

They next hundred yards of running were special, what with the numb feet. From that point forward, I stopped counting the obstacles. Counting got in the way of living in the moment, and being exactly in the moment is not negotiable. Later, I was to learn that the hard way.

We crawled through tunnels, dark and winding, and by dark, I do mean dark. Very dark. Think no photonic activity. Just the wild splashes of color that arise when your eyes are trying to see things in the dark. Hands and knees. Close quarters. No stopping. No thinking about getting stuck. 

Controlling thought is probably the most important thing because claustrophobia is a constant companion in the tunnels. It's always just on the edge, and you simply cannot go there and survive. The thought would flitter in, and I'd just have to pay no attention to it. The current moment was sufficient in and of itself. I didn't need to bring in any additional responses that would arise from imagined problems. Unfortunately, the calorie count for that work is undocumented. 

One tunnel was dry with gravel to make my knees happy. The other tunnel was initially dry, as it slide us easily into a small pit of warm muddy water under a nest of barbed wire. Then we had to get out. Up a tunnel. Equally slick. My body size and shape made hands and knees useless. Yes, I did try, and I just slide backwards. Rolling over to the side didn't help the cause. Finally on my back, mostly, I was able to scootch an inch at the time by kicking my left foot while arching my back. It was slow and steady progress, and I even had to pause occasionally for the Marine ahead of me who was using another technique. 

You really can't study for something like this. You have to find what works in that moment, and what works in that moment for the one might not work in that moment for the next because of conditions, body types, preparation, and skills. And shoes filled with mud from the previous activities.

You have to find your own way.

You also have to walk the plank. Twenty feet up. Jump. Come down in a pit of water equally deep. Get out the best you can. Unlike the wild boys, I didn't jump. I sat upon the ledge, dangled my feet, turned, and slide into oblivion. I underestimated the weight of my mud-filled shoes, and they pulled me down in the water such that the lifeguard tossed me a lifeline. I also underestimated the vigor of the splash down, which removed my tied on glasses. Could I not have seen that moment coming? Someone will find them next week when they drain that pit.

Don't feel too bad. I was scheduled for new glasses over Thanksgiving, so it more nuisance than tragedy.

Facing an obstacle, it's easy to see that most people brute up and power through, and sometimes that's about all you can do. You just have to disengage brain, stop thinking about doing it, and just do it. I sound like a Nike commercial. Toting the logs for a mile, half of that through a pond, was one of those activities. I picked up my log, put it on my left shoulder, cast my gaze on the next step, and marched forward. It did occur to me to let the water float the log in the pond, but at that point, I was locked in, and I believe I could have hauled that log back home if necessary. The chiropractor will be smiling over that Monday morning.

Sometimes facing an obstacle reveals alternative approaches. There was a hundred yards of lateral mud pits to traverse. Dirty Ballerina. Someone had a field day with a large ditch witch. And a fire tanker of water. As I walked to the obstacle, the fellow before me started jumping across the trenches, one after the other, until he face-planted on the fourth. We applauded. Then I noticed the boundary marker to the right included the end of the trenches along with about six inches of solid ground. I hopped a zigzag path along the side of the trenches and skipped out.

Now, before you fuss at me for taking the easy route, let me remind you that there is little to nothing easy about 12 miles and two dozen military-grade obstacles, and I have no compunction against engaging brain now an again to augment the encounter, bend a rule, or otherwise take another path. In fact, such seems perfectly reasonable. There are many ways to skin a cat.

I also have no problem respecting my limits. The Berlin walls. 15 feet of wall. No foot or hand hold. I helped others up and over, and then I walked around. I’m not, yet, ready to do that. Yet. Yet. Maybe next year, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. (I had previously successfully scaled the 12-foot walls with the aid of a fellow who patiently offered hand, knee, and shoulder to help the rest of us over. How did he manage by himself? He jumped, grabbed, and flipped himself over.)

The rings and monkey bars were much the same. I watched men who I thought had the upper body strength, and grip strength, to defeat these obstacles fall directly into the muddy iced water below. I just waded across. We'll work on that business of monkey bars in the upcoming year. I was glad just to get my running back up to where moving through the 12 miles was possible. One step at the time.

I felt much the same about the quarter pipe, Mount Everest. However, as I stood and watched the people engage this obstacle, I was privileged to witness an event that was astounding. For the previous three miles, we had been following a group of a dozen Marines, at least one of whom was running on a blade, and doing so better than me, I will add. We reached Everest, and they never broke stride. They walked directly up the the pipe, laid themselves out in a pyramid, and sent the guy with the blade to the top where he, in turn, started pulling up the others as they ran up the pipe.

I would not want that group of men angry with me.

In that brief five minutes, I witnessed more teamwork from those few men than I have witnessed these 59 years at all the jobs I've ever held combined, even those workplaces where the word, “team,” is bandied, espoused, and glorified as though a team were present. That sight all by itself was worth the price of admission, the bruises, the sore feet, and the lost glasses. I walked around Everest, even as a team member ran up it, knowing I had nothing to offer here but a poor example, though I would be back in about nine months.

The last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy, a gauntlet thick with charged wires. Most people chose to barrel through, and in doing so, engage the wires. At 10,000 volts. Quite a few f-bombs are dropped here. I suppose I could have done that, but instead, I walked through, slinking this way and that way until I stepped out the other side. (Previously, I managed the Electric Eel much the same way, by flattening down in the mud and crawling on my ample belly taking path that, mostly, avoided the charged wires hanging down. It probably helped that I ate enough mud to lower the level of the pool.)

It seemed anticlimactic, and I suppose it was. The feeling I had was exactly that of my dissertation defense when I stepped into the hall to let the committee discuss what I had done. At that point, I didn't care what they said or thought. I knew I had passed. It's just this time, I got an orange headband for it instead of a five signatures.

And it was over. Dos Equis never tasted so good, and it probably won't again until 01 Jun 2013 when we do it all over again.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Running the Mudbug with Lily

I wasn’t going to run this one, what with it being a week out from Tough Mudder. What if I hurt something? Then Lily decided to run, and I immediately jumped for the chance to run it with her. Then she hurt her foot, and had to postpone the Tough Mudder and give up on the Mudbug, so I decided to run it alone. Then she found a specialist and some better shoes, and BOOM! she’s back in the Mudbug if we could take it slow and easy, which we could. (The Tough Mudder will need to wait.)

We gathered at noon, and made our way over to Hagan Stone Park. I used to run there two and three times a week, but that was some 30 years ago. Still, it was like meeting an old friend. The trails are certainly better marked now.

Lily and I were in the 2 P.M. heat, and the organizers wasted no time introducing us to mud. Lots of mud. Not the specialized proprietary red stuff. Oh no. Pond mud. Creek mud. Smelly, black, sticky mud. We crossed that pond and creek over and over in many evil ways. Lil stepped on a turtle. I fell in a hole. Snakes were everywhere. I saw them. Trust me. 

An hour and three miles later, we crawled down the 15-foot wall and skipped hand-in-hand across the finish line. (I had earlier explained how the law required just this sort a finish.) I doubt this dad has smiled so in years. Lil hit the slip and slide for her Grand Finale, and we both headed for the beer stand.

I have not had a better Saturday afternoon in a very long time, and yeah, that beer was excellent. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The last Sunday

The Tough Mudder team has been visiting Umstead Park ever Sunday morning for a 6-mile run along the Loblolly trail. Three miles out. Three miles back. The monotony of the return trip was hard on the peeps, and many branched out to other trails so they wouldn't have to turn around. The repetition was never a bother for me because I rarely see much of the trail. Running is a moving meditation for me, and while I tend to mind where I step, especially on a trail riddled with root, rocks, and other ankle-breaking meanies, I really don't pay that much attention, preferring instead to stay inside my head for the duration.

So I'm up, doing laundry, having breakfast, and otherwise coasting through Sunday morning when in comes an email from a team member. He and a few others, those hardcore souls who run at 8 A.M., had decided to do the horse trail at Umstead for about 12 miles. We're two weeks out from the Mudder, and they wanted to take our last Sunday in training to see if they could do 12 miles, which is the distance we'll run at the event.

Bastards! Offering up this manly morning before I'd even finished my mint tea. I hate a good idea... especially when I don't have it first, and so I altered my plans. No, I didn't offer to run at 8 A.M., but I did decide to run farther this morning. Specifically, I decided to repeat the Loblolly trail as feet permitted.

At 10, still early enough to be in bed, I engage the trail. Tum had long since settled its Clif Bar. There was even a PowerBar gel pack going down. Three more gel packs were in my pocket. I wanted to try one at the turn-around to see how they'd do without water. At the second mile, I was finally warm enough to start sweating. The next four miles went off without a hitch. I didn't even stumble over a root, though I did dance around several walkers who had the unmitigated gall to use my trail.

A half-liter of water, a visit to the bathroom to not pee because I was a little dehydrated, a gel pack for the sport, a taste more water, and I'm off on the second trip. Not as fast as earlier, but a lot looser. Already soaked top to bottom in sweat. It took some doing, but I pushed out the thought that I might turn around at the 1-mile mark, and soon I was turning around at the park boundary, just as I'd done an hour before.

I really don't recall much of either trip, but the second is particularly foggy, probably because I needed to carry a little more water than I did. Grandpa needs a CamelBak if he's going to keep up with mess like this. Tough Mudder will have five water stations over 12 miles, far better than my one station over six miles.

The important thing here is that it happened. It has been well over 15 years since I knocked out 12 miles, and if the creek don't rise, it won't be that long before the next one. I'm thinking about two weeks to be precise. Oddly, I can walk this morning. The medical support team is probably a bit surprised there. No, I didn't go to the podiatrist as advised. 

Wait! Jim ignored advice? Say it ain't so! 

Instead, I bought minimalist shoes with metatarsal protection. I still prefer my Five Fingers, especially the KSOs, and I look forward to being in them again, but for now and in the new shoes, I can run without making the tendinitis worse. No, I will not complain.

And so our last training Sunday was a welcome surprise. We are ready.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012


See the online Free Dictionary, or read it here: Exaggerated or foolish talk, usually intended to deceive.

Is it just me, or does this word sound best with an Irish accent?

Elections produce a lot of malarkey, and the current one has been one humdinger as far as malarkey goes. Elections also produce a form of reality TV called debates, though anyone who has ever witnessed a formal debate knows the infotainment from the elections has less to do with debate and far more to do with a college freshman bullshit session. 

So I usually avoid the political debates. Besides, I get all worked up when the moderator does not moderate. Maybe one day, they can hire Judge Judy. Until then, I veg out on something else. During the recent veep debates, I simply went to bed, but instead of reading the Washington Post as is my usual beddie-bye habit, I found myself following my Twitter feed. 

The snark level on Twitter was running high that evening, and it pegged the needle when Biden used "malarkey." I do believe it's been decades since I heard that word used, well, with the possible exception of Chief O'Hara on the original Batman series that runs on CheapTV now and again. 

For as old a slang word as it is, it certainly characterizes election rhetoric well, doesn't it? And that's true on both sides the stage, not just the Republican side, though the continued usurpation of the GOP by the Tea Party has taken the nonsense up several notches. 

I wish it were possible to turn off the TV ads after voting early, but it's not. 

So until the Wednesday after American Election Day, Amazon will benefit as I stream TV and video at two and three bucks a pop. You might want to load up on the stock. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the cusp of Tough Mudder

17 days. 17 days before the Tough Mudder. It seems like only last week I started this trek, and while I'm pretty sure I'm not ready, I also know I'm as ready as I'll be anytime soon. It's now or never.

A lot of people rolled their eyes at the thought. Many spoke outright about the failure it would be. I'd like to thank them all for the extra motivation. Isn't it interesting how many people there are who are ever so eager to tell you what you cannot do? You can count them by the 100s.

People who support, who encourage? These people are few and far between, if they exist at all.

Looking back, I see this preparation as a logical extension of the summer let-down that led to the Season of Me, followed by another, and then another. Yes, that's selfish, at least from many perspectives. It's also extended introspection, and frankly, this world could use a lot more of that. That a good friend died as this year started only served to make it all just that much more intense.

The climb out of the physical hole I was in has not been without incident. You don't spend a decade or more on the couch, hop up, start moving without lots of physical challenges, and I'm certainly not done with those challenges. Stress fractures. Tendinitis. Turned ankles.

The running partner who announced last month we weren't ready for Tough Mudder, like I didn't know, like I needed to hear it, like that'd slow us down. You know, there's a reason I prefer to run alone, and it's more than my need for the hour-long moving meditation.

But somehow, here we stand. There are about eight of us who will journey to South Carolina on the 27th for the opportunity to run a half-marathon with a couple dozen monstrous military-built obstacles, some with barbed wire, some with 10,000 volt exposed wires. It's going to be a hoot.

One huge disappointment was my Lily's injury that took her out of the Mudder. It was Walking the Plank, hand-in-hand, cannonball-diving with Lily that was calling to me. 20 feet down into water 20 feet deep. Get out the best way you can. Can you think of a better father-daughter moment? I cannot. Nor do I want to.

Not to worry, she transferred to a June event, and I registered with her. We'll be there with bells on. I didn't think twice about a second Tough Mudder. I still don't. We will do that one together.

And so, the training hasn't killed me, though the event still might, as I told the doctor when he geared up to help me plot a course through the training. I told him then that any discussion of mortality was moot. I still retain that sentiment. His partner got a load of it when she announced that the cure for the tendinitis was six weeks of rest. Like that was going to happen.

The team and I are going to do this, and our world will be a better place for it. We might survive, but that's not really an important option. I'm not sure I'd survive missing it.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Zombie Escape zombies nearly got us

Three peeps from work went with me to the Zombie Escape, a 5K race with a bunch of large obstacles. By bunch, I'm thinking something like 15. I didn't really count. Counting would get in the way of staying alive.

We all checked in, gave up our signed death waivers, and went to stand in line at the porta-potties. The race needed about twice as many johns as they had even for the small crowd present. As this race grows, they'll need to do something about the facilities. That, or provide a trench latrine, at least for the boys. Or more trees.

The line to start the race was long. Very long. The reason for this was the trek through the darkened school bus. Entering the bus took its toll on me, primarily in the less than fond memories of grade school and high school that I apparently haven't given up yet. Odd how those memories can linger and find resurrection at the most inopportune moments. Yeah, there's a reason I haven't attended a class reunion, and it's not in the absence of invitations.

Although the bus made the line long, it did serve to stagger the starting groups. This was good because the first obstacle was hardly a quarter-mile away, and that short distance would not have spread out the runners in the individual waves.

I took the Savior's name in vain on the first obstacle. It started with a rope climb up a wooden incline. Now, that seems harmless enough...until the guy with the fire hose hits your square in the face...and holds it there. He became the first entry on the official Team Castle Hate List. The only way to get away from the blast of the fire hose was to slide butt first down the incline into the pit of very muddy water below. The slide was not controllable. Think rolly-polly pell-mell tumble-bumble. With a snoot full of red clay.

The course then looped out and back to bring us right back to the hill and the fire hose and the pit of water. Just all in reverse. Within five minutes of starting the race, we were well on our way to an Oxi-Clean commercial.

Then there were zombies. All in a pack. The first of three, perhaps four, packs. I lost count. One zombie was specially adept at being evil. He was a hardly-teen boy who would let you pass, and then run you down while you weren't looking. He'd also drop the flag, offer you the chance to get it back, and then swoop in to grab it plus another one from your belt. (Each runner had three flags similar to those in flag football. The zombies grabbed the flags. If you lost all your flags, you were infected. After each pack of zombies, there was a medic who would give you back a flag if you did a million burpees or pushups. Yes, I'm sore now.)

The course wandered its way through the woods. This made most things shady and somewhat cooler than you would otherwise expect. It also made the mud smellier. Much smellier. I had flash backs to irrigating the field using Uncle Tink's pond that caught runoff, the pond that nothing lived in except tadpoles. And snakes. I always looked forward to that pond drying up so I wouldn't have to smell that soured mud during the 100-degree heat of summer. And now I'm crawling though the same mud, under barbed wire, and calling it fun.

We blasted through that mud like Hans Solo leaving Mos Isley.

Onward and upward. We ran. We trotted. We walked. We skipped. We had a blast. We even sang “If you're squishy and you know it, clap your hands.” The other peeps around us didn't get that one. We held hands and skipped through the finish line. It was important that we finished together.

We did much better this time than in our previous run, mostly because we were better prepared. That probably means we're a little healthier also. We agreed that we'd do it again next year, and as we waited at the finish line, I drank my first beer, one little cup, since March. LoneRider. It was good, and it'll have to hold me until the next tiny beer at the Tough Mudder in October. Yes, we're about ready, or at least as ready as we're going to be.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A little fresh morning air

A few of the Tough Mudder buds and I went out for a six mile jaunt through Sunday morning at Umstead Park. We ran the Loblolly trail. Unlike last weekend when I ran it alone, there were other people, and with the other people came children.

So we're running the second half of the trail, headed back to the parking lot, water, and a large bag of bananas. I've taken the last position in our group to save us from infiltration by enemy psychometricians. My team had moved out of sight, and they were probably engaged in 500 pushups and burpees when I noticed a family with many children ahead on the trail. They were coming toward me.

I scanned the trail to decide if I would walk or run past them, what with never knowing if the children will zig or zag when you expect them to zag or zig, which leads to eating rocks, roots, and pieces of children, none of which I was in the mood for then. The trail was wide where we would meet, and I decided to keep running, not that many would call the pace I was keeping any form of running.

As I approached the group, I selected where I'd step so as to not have to explain yardraticide to a judge later that week, and as I entered the area, I felt that familiar twinge that all runners feel at some point, and there in front of Mama and her assembled brood, I cut one huge frap after another, each in perfect time with a footfall. No, I'm not talking little freeps here. I'm talking huge, probably ignitable, thunderous fraps. There was no time to stop and apologize. I just continued scarring the children and mama for life. Dad, I can't speak for.

As I exited the group and the fraps abated, I heard one of the children exclaim: “DAAAADDDDD!!!!!,” and I knew my reputation would remain unsullied, though I'm not sure the other dad would ever talk his way out, much less forgive me as I faded into the forest with both arms raised Nixon-esque in my personal triumph. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And what a July it was

I think I can talk about this now.

Being an old fart, I get to visit physicians for old fart things, and sometimes the physicians need extra physicians because I'm such a exquisite old fart. And here you thought I just had a bad case of homo going on.

So I go the the new doc because the urgent care doc thinks I need to and the regular doc concurs. He was an accommodating fellow who wrote me a nice prescription for old fartedness. Yes, I'm sure there's a DSM code for that. The very next day, only a very few hours after taking the second tablet, I experienced an unexpected moment of incontinence of the worst kind. Talk about a way to make friends and influence people. At work.

Yeah, I'm the kind of guy to set an example for the junior staff.

Although I was surprised, such problems are not unheard of when taking antiobiotics, so I returned home, cleaned up, did some laundry, finished up work, and went for a run. Along my five miles, I felt an occasional twinge in my left foot, but nothing else, especially that other twinge and cramp that'd put me in the bushes under the bridge.

And probably in a police report.

Over the next few days, I found myself sitting on towels, and yes, I took no more of the old fart pills after the second. I did spend some time on Google looking for what might be going on, and it became quite clear very quickly. The old fart pills, like most antibiotics, destroyed my intestinal flora. Well, with one exception, and that exception was a wee beastie that you don't really want setting up housekeeping in your belly.

After the weekend, the new old fart doc suggested I stop with the old fart pills, and I let him know I was already a few steps ahead of him on that one. He also wanted me to step over to the hospital to crap in a can. For test purposes, you know.

My third trip to the lab was the charm as my paperwork finally arrived. It was 6:30 in the evening, and the waiting room was empty, unlike it had been on the previous two visits. The lack of people was likely because they close at 7:00. I introduced myself to the clerk, and she found my paperwork. She also asked me to sign a death waiver so she could take some blood, and I told her I'd be all over losing a little blood compared to what I suspect the doctor had really ordered. After she read the paper, she concurred.

She started handing me materials. First, she gave me a plastic bucket that appeared to hold about a quart. I didn't think the volume would be much of a challenge, but she didn't catch that muttering. The bucket also had wings that'd let it hang from a toilet seat. It did not have an overflow drain. Next, she handed me a small vial about an inch and a half wide and not quite three inches tall. The vial was sealed.

The last thing she handed me was a Popsicle stick. I pantomimed scooping from the bucket to the vial, and she nodded agreement. She ignored my comment about liquid vs. solid, and pointed me to the bathroom, but I told her the time wasn't quite right. She said I could collect the sample at home as long as I returned it to the lab within the hour.

She gave me a white plastic bag to carry my treasures in, and I thanked her as I left the lab. On the walk out, the Spirit moved. Literally. I dove into the hallway bathroom, freshly swabbed by some hard-working soul, and there in the handicap stall I dropped the bucket on the seat and proceeded to do what sick old farts do except I later decanted the foaming beef broth into the vial, which I securely sealed for transport back to the lab. The well-used bucket went into the plastic bag. The Popsicle stick went into my shirt pocket.

I carried the whole shebang, the bag holding the bucket, the very warm but securely sealed vial, the paperwork, and the Popsicle stick back to the lab. The clerk was still there, and she was a little surprised to see me as I greeted her with “The Spirit moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.” She proceeded to check me in. She even let me put the label on the vial and drop it into the sandwich baggie.

Then she expressed concern. The vial contained warm liquid. It should be solid, she exclaimed. I reminded her of the reason I was there. She call one tech. Then another. Then another. Finally, a tech stepped out of the back, gazed upon the vial of warm and bubbly beef broth, and she said dismissively that they would just freeze it.

They didn't ask for the Popsicle stick back. I suppose they had a plenty back there.

And why did the waiting room have to be empty for all that? Surely the morning's sweet young cheerleader thing would have benefited from the experience.

A few days later, I learned that I didn't, apparently, have anything that'd lead to dire straits, and that was the end of that with the special old fart doc. I can't say that I'll miss him, but at the time, that was mainly because I was in the bathroom 30 times a day. Talk about being grateful for telecommuting. And WiFi. I'm sure the work peeps thought I was just extraordinarily busy.

Or hungover.

To see me through the next few days while this adventure did not pass, neither literally nor figuratively, I took lots and lots of Immodium AD. Well, the generic kind that I can get in 100-tablet bottles from Amazon. After eight tablets, I found a few moments respite. I also found the need to get some simethecone going. That's GAS-X if you didn't know. In the run of that day, took about a dozen 125 mg capsules.

You probably know that 12 capsules is about four times the daily maximum, but I was in no shape to stand on principle, much less label directions. Truth be told, I was hardly in any shape to stand period. Of course, simethecone is not absorbed; it just travels along doing its work, which is to reduce the surface tension of little bubbles so they can combine to make bigger bubbles. You want the bigger bubbles because they're easier to get rid of than the little bubbles. They're more fun too. I had lots of bigger bubbles that afternoon. For some six hours on 30 to 45 second intervals, and yes, I did time them because I'm an awesome scientist like that, I lost one exceptionally large bubble after another. Very loudly. Like very loud clockwork.

This went on until I was sore in a very delicate place, not that being sore stopped me from laughing what was left of my ass off. Why could this not have happened when I was married?

Yeah, I'm about well now. Again. The regular doc and FNP healed me. It'll be a while before I agree to see a special doc for old farts again, though I'm sure I will at some point. Perhaps when Proponol is involved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A year in Vibram Five Fingers

Last year, I wrote a couple of entries regarding my experience in Vibram Five Fingers. After a year, it seems reasonable to follow up. Besides, for all the razz these shoes generate from the people who require their shoes to look "regular," the therapeutic benefit I have experienced leaves my not giving a rat's ass what other people think about them. Of course, I'm a form follows function kind of guy, and if you need to look good over be good, then you're time is wasted here.

So, here goes.

Towards December, I tried my old sneakers, ASICS, the ones with maybe 30 miles on them, and they were just brutal. The overly cushioned arch support left me piled up on the couch for an afternoon in recovery. Both pair remain in the give away pile. Size 13. You want them? I'll never wear them again.

In late January and early February, I decided to participate in a Tough Mudder event to be held in late October of this year. That gave me nine months to get ready. When I announced this at my yearly physical, the doctor did not prescribe antipsychotics. He discussed physical conditioning. In particular, he told me the walking wouldn't do it. I'd have to run.

He was correct, and I flew to San Diego where I worked a week by the harbor. Warm sun. Light breezes. Flat grassy terrain. I stepped out of the hotel and ran nine miles. This over-activity immediately produced a stress fracture in my fourth metatarsal. Right foot. Six weeks to spend on a bike as it healed.

What a dumbass I can be.

It healed. I started running again. Slowly. Short distances. In April, I was up to a mile. A whole mile. You might recall that it was the that I participated in Rugged Maniac. It was there that I learned just how far I had to go if I were to be ready for Tough Mudder. Yes, I met my limit. I also walked out alive.

More running. Up to four miles. All in Five Fingers. Here comes the Warrior Dash. I didn't hit the wall this time. I also didn't set a land speed record, but I did finish under my own steam.

Then I broke the five-mile barrier in May. Some buds and I also participated in the Ninja Challenge. Still not a land speed record, but we did well, and we did it all together. We skipped across the finish line.

My training runs are all in Five Fingers. I wouldn't have it any other way. The mud races, I've run in minimalist runners. Vivo Barefoot Evo, to be specific. The reason is that I fear losing my my Five Fingers in the deep, sticky mud. Nonetheless, the Five Fingers would be superior on the obstacles, and I see many people out there wearing them.

At this point, my intent is to increase my speed over five miles. I could add distance, but the more intense aerobic workout will pay the greater benefit. I'll also add more upper body and core strength building. It's unlikely that I'll bulk up like the stereotypical body builder as I find that musculature antithetical to my intent. Besides, the aerobic work is where my sanity lies.

And yes, my feet have changed. The arch is stronger. It's sufficient to hold me up, which is what the original design specified. My toes function independently according to what is required to hold me up. There is visible structure in my foot. Yes, they still ache like hell some days, especially after a hard workout, but those days are the exception now.

The weight is not falling off, but it is reducing. About a pound a week. The days I can't run are the days I feel weird. Weirder, as one person reminded me.

All in all, the progression has been a good one. After a decade of indeterminate problems, I'm convinced now that the usual treatments involving heel lifts, arch supports, taping procedures, and custom orthotics only served to make the problems worse. We have thousands of years running barefooted behind us, and only a few decades running in shoes. There's a huge hint there for us all. Perhaps think of that the next time you come home, sit down, and rub your aching feet.

Meanwhile, I need to get going. There's lunch with Lily coming, and that's followed by another five miles. It's going to be a very good day. Besides, m'Lil wears Five Fingers too.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We ran the Ninja Challenge

You might recall, especially if you're reading the Thank-you blog, that we managed to put together a team for the Ninja Challenge. 5K. 15 huge obstacles. There was some attrition, and we wound up starting the noon heat with two women from work, one from my regular life, and me. Last time I ran with the homos. This time I ran with the girls. This all seems about right.

Noon heat? Heat is the operative word there. It was in the low 90s. There was some humidity also. Think of it as a moist heat.

We started together. We faced each obstacle together. We finished together...skipping. Yes, we skipped out holding hands and smiling to beat the band. I sure hope there's a picture of that somewhere. 

It has been a very long time since I had such a good afternoon, and I can say with certainty that I've never, ever, experienced a better team building exercise. If our little company could capture only a single percent of the teamwork and sheer force of will I witnessed on that field, there would be two or more extra zeros on our bottom line at the end of the year.

Here are some details...

One of the early obstacles involved was 30 feet of 4x4s over pools of black swampy mud. I faced this one with confidence. I fell off at 10 feet. Grandpa needs to work on his balance, and we believe that'll begin with core strengthening.

We faced the Iron Mountain with some trepidation. There were four walls on a steep incline: 5, 7, 9, and 11 feet. No ropes. No trampoline. Lots of gravity. Way too much gravity. We scaled the first wall, and then the second. We stood down the last two as we felt we'd met our limit. Besides, we did 50%, and we concurred that we met the criterion for minimal competency. I quickly offered my psychometric validation to the assertion. (That's an inside joke from work.)

Because this was a Ninja-style course, there were three sets of accursed monkey bars. I hate a monkey bar, and I lacked the strength to do much more than fall off, but I fell with great aplomb, or so the medics said. I've focused on running through the past few weeks, breaking the five-mile barrier, and although that gives me the aerobic capacity to keep moving, it does little to make my upper body and arms stronger. That will be added to the regimen in the coming weeks.

And so we come to a pond. Two ropes are stretched across. Floating on the water are sheets of plywood. Well, maybe it was particle board. Memory fails me now. I characterized this challenge as Indian Jones' Leap of Faith. If we moved across the plywood slowly, we would sink. We had to run. Everyone ran but me. I walked fast, and I nearly sank. We all got across without falling, though I did wonder as I stepped on the final sheet of plywood only to realize it was split. Oops. Uh oh.

Now, there was a perfectly dry path from the pond to the next obstacle, but the course designers didn't follow the logical trail. Oh no. That'd be too simple. Where's the fun in that? We got to cross the pond again. They had a log. I hopped into the water, held the log, and walked across the pond. Yes, the mud was deep, and there were the holes. When I climbed out the other side and turned around, I beheld a great spectacle, a spectacle that burned itself into my memory, a spectacle the delivered a reminder about thinking outside the box: Everyone else was walking across on the log, and they were staying dry. Oh well.

The very next obstacle involved an inclined plane of slick plywood and ropes with too few knots. I should probably mention that our shoes were slick with mud. It'll help me save face later. I slipped, the ladies had to push me up the incline, and the peeps on top pulled me the rest of the way. I should bring a recliner to these events. The reward for making it to the top was jumping into a large garbage bin filled with iced water, and then getting out somehow. I had visions of Luke, Han, and Lea in the imperial garbage compactor on the Death Star.

Then came the Death Ladder. 45 degrees rising some 15 feet then descending on the other side. I started out walking on the widely spaced rungs, but my still slippery shoes told me this was increasingly imprudent so I knelt down and crab walked. No problems until the last rung on the descending side where, oh yes, I tripped. Perfect timing.

The final obstacle was humbling. You either had to jump, grab a ledge some seven feet up, and then crawl up and out without handholds, or you had to chimney climb. I wound up jumping with three women then pushing my butt and legs until the miniature woman on the top pulled my hulking, oddly still breathing self over the edge.

From there, we skipped. Yes, we did. We skipped hand-in-hand like grade schoolers across the finish line. We grabbed a lot of water. I put down two liters all by myself. There was also a dumpling food truck that saved my life, but that's another story. For dessert, we went for ice cream. I got vanilla, and it might have been the best cup of vanilla I have ever tasted.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wherein I ate a stuffed jalapeno

A few weeks back, I rode my bike downtown to have dinner at my fave spot. The special included cheese-stuffed jalapenos. I was feeling frisky, and I got me some with some iced water. After eating one, I got me some more iced water. Lots more. While eating the other thing I ordered, I nibbled another half pepper. After that, I just squeezed the cheese out and ate that. Mostly, I couldn't feel my mouth anyway, and eating the rest wouldn't be a problem, but I saw no reason to further assault my belly. My delicate virginous belly.

Following a yummy dessert that I could almost taste, I hoped on my bike and made my way back home. (I know the dessert was yummy because I've had it before.) I follow a greenway for most of the way, and the greenway cuts through the NCSU campus. The sun was down, and I navigated by residual daylight punctuated by my LED headlight. As I'm passing the little pond that catches runoff before it gets to the creek, I'm thinking how it won't be long before the frogs are out and singing to me as I pedal by.

That's when I felt the undeniable, nonnegotiable, immutable pang. I headed my bike into what I hoped was a clearing between two trees. It slowed in the vines. I stepped off, dropped the bike without ceremony, and moved another couple of feet off the path, my feet tangling in the vines as I unbuckled my belt. My pants and draws hit the deck as I turned and leaned forward in a single motion that is surely studied for years before mastery in gymnast school. For the next hour, I sprayed without ceasing molten lava across the surrounding landscape, surely an artist ahead of my time.

I had no words to describe my feelings then. I only had the hour-long inhalation that was followed by a silent scream the likes of which this world could not bear as an audible expression. We're talking the Word of God here.

As you surely know, there only civilized cleanup following such an event includes an evening in the shower. Unfortunately, the bastard greenway designers failed to foresee my distress, and I was left to find the one red bandana I carried, stuff it in my draws, and reassemble my altogether as best I could in the dark with my feet twisted in barbed vines while the cooling lava crackled and spit across the landscape behind me, the landscape I could no longer see in the dark.

Dignity is not required to mount a bike, and I hopped on carefully to pedal my way back home, wondering along the way who would be in the lobby of the apartment building waiting to share a ride on the elevator with my odoriferous and slightly steaming self.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The last bottle

So last late fall, I bought several bottles of cheap wine. The name also intrigued me, and I sent a picture to my bud, Peter, in DC. I believe his brother is named something like this wine, but I could just be old and forgetful.

Peter found the picture funny because of the name.

That was the last coherent text message I received from Peter. He died a very few weeks later following the unexpected onset of CNS lymphoma. 

This last bottle has been sitting here for several months now. With my recent efforts to be good, I doubt I'd drink it, even if I could get past that memory. Peter was a bit of a nutrition buff, and he avoided the empty calories of wine and such. I doubt he'll be upset with me giving this bottle away, and I think I'll be better off not seeing it anymore.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grandpa ran the Warrior Dash

Yes, Grandpa ran another mudder. 5K. 14 obstacles. They called this one the Warrior Dash. (Recall that last month it was Rugged Maniac.) This time, I ran the entire distance and engaged all the obstacles. This was much better than last month, and I'm closer than I was, but I'm still not ready for Tough Mudder. Fortunately, I have five months remaining to get ready.

This race seemed easier, and I believe there were three reasons for that. First, I spent last week at the beach getting my mileage up. Being able to run the distance made a huge difference, as you might expect. Second, the obstacles were far more “in your head.” Not that any were trivial. It's just to say that it was easy to think the one in front of you might be too much, and I saw several runners fall into that trap. Third, this was not my first time, and that was likely as important as the first two.

My attire was better this time around. I dressed in UnderArmour HeatGear compression, top and bottom, long sleeved and long legged. Socks too. The only cotton I wore was my t-shirt. I wore the same minimalist shoes as last time. Although I'm convinced that the Five Fingers would have been superior for most of the run, I still worry about losing them in the deep mud.

I had registered as a member of the team from the LGBT Center in Raleigh, and spoke of the event as “Running with the Homos.” However, there had not been much organizational activity, at least the I noticed, and as the wave gathered, I held to the back. No need to be trampled by all the other runners. Along the way, I recognized several team members by their t-shirts, but as I didn't know any of them, my introverted self saw little reason for an introduction on the course. Besides, if I needed help along the way, it'd be just as easy to call upon someone nearby. Camaraderie and esprit de corps are generally high in such events. This world could use more of those things. As it turned out, the obstacles didn't require much team effort, not like that last event, and probably not like Tough Mudder.

Well, I did make one exception in the introduction to the LGBT Center's team. Early on in the run, I caught up with Leah. I remember that name because (1) she had to say it twice for me, and (2) A Miss Leah used to get her hair done at my mother's beauty shop. Leah quickly introduced me to someone else, maybe Nick, but within those few moments, I discovered that the pace needed to stay with them was not at my natural gate, and so I left them to their own devices. I saw them again milling about the finish line with big smiles on their faces. 

There were no tunnels in this event. I can't say this absence upset me, even if I was ready for them. The first obstacle appeared at the end of the first mile. It was scaffolding. A ramp up. Two or three lengths horizontal and maybe 10 feet off the ground. Then a ramp down. I paused briefly after starting, and then realized that was a mistake. My mantra became, then, just walk. Just keep walking. I did, and there were no problems.

Several obstacles involved ropes, and I was glad I remembered the gloves this time. Ropes up a long muddy incline. Ropes up a wooden incline. Ropes up a vertical wall. Ropes down an incline. The ropes were not an issue, though I did slip on the one where we had to scale a vertical 15-foot wall. After the eye-popping slip, I recomposed and went up like you're supposed to. One of the walls involved the small grips and footholds you see on rock climbing walls. That was not much of a problem. Neither was the next wall with the cargo netting. In both cases, the trick, at least for me, was to realize that the next best step was not necessarily the next step forward. The sparring footwork came back quickly.

One of those walls had a variation on the get-down side: fire poles. Fire poles just a few inches away to be completely comfortable. There was a 40-something woman facing the poles, and she was afraid. She was also very vocal about it. I suggested she had to reach out and just do it, like everything else, but my sagacity was lost on this peep. A ranger arrived behind me, and gave her a quick lesson that didn't really take. I finally moved on. Reach. Grab. Slide. It's a lightly controlled fall. I looked back about 100 feet out and saw that she had finally made it. We all clapped.

The most difficult obstacle involved square containers tied and floating in 6-feet of water. I didn't try to go under the barrels, mostly because the water was thick with mud and water grass. That left me crawling up on the barrels using the short lengths of yellow ropes available. Lacking sufficient grip and upper body strength to pull myself completely, I had to use frog kicks to push myself up. To my knowledge, I didn't injure anyone with those kicks. There were three sets of barrels, and the water was too deep to walk easily, leaving us to swim the 15 feet between them.

The fire was just like last time. Logs burning on the trail. Jump. Keep running.

Oh yes, much of the trail was through the woods and creeks with plenty of roots to serve as impromptu obstacles. I managed to miss all of those special delights this time, though I did take a tumble approaching the water slide that was not slippery. After seeing that, I stood up and jogged down the incline.

The last obstacle was the mud, deep, red, slick as goose shit on a wet dock, very slippery mud. Yes, with barbed wire over it. I started that section on my belly, but I quickly realized that I had sufficient clearance to get on my hands and knees. I cleared that one quickly. With 20 feet to go, I was about to run to the finish line, but then I noticed the surface was 30 feet of more slick red mud. Running seemed imprudent, and I walked out.

Note 1: Most of these events involved getting extremely dirty. That appears to be a large part of the selling point. There are usually some manner of showers available, but not enough to be worth the trouble. We had a man with a fire hose spraying a large crowd. You should prepare your car with thick seat covers because the mud will not wash out easily.

Note 2: Most of these events have an ancillary fund raising arm. This event was affiliated with St. Jude's Hospital, and if you collected enough money, you could make use of the Jude's facilities. These included a bag drop and some showers. The bag drop was fine, and the line was short than the main bag drop. The showers might have been fine, but I didn't go in. I was sixth or so in line, and it was painfully obvious that I'd be an hour or more in that line. I went home dirty. I do not begrudge St. Jude the money, but I did make a note to not believe further claims of clean up facilities. Instead, just make sure the car seats are wrapped well, and maybe have some minor cleaning supplies in the trunk.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What do you suppose he meant?

Last weekend was Danger's ERAU graduation and USAF commissioning, both three years after we dropped him off at his dorm. Like his sister, he has come a long way in a very short time. One might expect this from a boy who could fly an airplane before he could drive a car.

The commissioning ceremony was smaller and more solemn than graduation. That came as no surprise. Maybe two dozen of the 750 graduates stuck with AFROTC to the end, and here they were, pledging their lives in defense of the country. Unlike the graduation, there was not a single beach ball bouncing across the assembly. Also unlike the graduation, there was not a single boring speaker droning on in the assured glory of hearing his own voice.

The program for commissioning included a page for each student. On this page, they wrote a brief history of themselves, or at least someone wrote it. I suspect a lot of parents were involved. Mind you, I was not. The pages generally ended with the student thanking people, mostly family, but not always. I scanned the several pages with light interest.

I studied Danger's page with an unexpected intensity.

The man is a Certified Southern Smartass. He uses the language differently and to his own design, which doesn't come as much of a surprise, and I know it gets him into more trouble than he needs, but he does appear to have some skill with negotiating his way out.

The initial lines and paragraphs were what I expected. A brief history using adjectives that I attribute to the maternal unit. In the final paragraph, he thanks people, listing particular family members for the special things they've done for him. For instance, he thanked his siblings for not keeping his ego in check. I'm not sure who wrote that, but it did make me laugh inopportunely during the commissioning. Fortunately, the sabers involved were not all that sharp. Just pointy. Very pointy.

At the end of the paragraph, he gets to me. I'm intentionally not speed reading because I want to follow his word choice. What does he credit to me? Mental resiliency. I reread that brief sentence several times. He said that I reared him to have mental resiliency.

There are a million ways I can interpret that, and for the time being, I'm going with the more pleasant meanings. However, coming up with a gay dad cannot be a walk in the park, especially through the teen years, and I know the scouts were none to gentle with him. One day, we'll share a private meal, and the conversation will turn and drift as it always does. Perhaps then, that day some time distant from now, I'll have the nerve to ask, and he'll have the nerve to tell.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

So I had my second colonoscopy.

So I had my second colonoscopy. If you're not old enough to have this routine screening, you have a treat waiting. The procedure itself is no big deal. It's the prep that's the attention getter. Last time, I took the little pills. This time, I received the industrial strength Epsom salts, which tastes horrible. I expressed a preference for the potential kidney damage from the pills, but my words fell on deaf ears.

The procedure is done under anesthesia so they don't have to listen to me rattle along. The prep is done alone so the rest of the world doesn't have to listen to me swear for five hours. Well, the neighbor had to listen, but he has moved away now.

To assist in helping everyone understand this Great Mystery of the Old Fart, I live tweeted the prep. Here you do, in chronological order. You are warned.

As part of our punishment for living too long, the medical establishment requires a periodic shoving of rubber hoses up our butts.

Yes, Grandpa is headed back in for his second colonoscopy. 

Apparently, I was such a delight the first time that they want a second go, here some five years later.

Of course, there's way more too it than the moment of anesthesia. Oh yes, we have the evening before. The Prep.

I'm live tweeting this glory. Brace yourself.

Towards 4 P.M. Thursday, I slammed down a fist full of Ducolax with a pint of water. The joy begins soon.

And Desitin. Lots of Desitin.

On the way home, I stopped at Food Lion for some sugar-free, flavored, carbonated water.

12 liters. I'll drink a lot of that in the next 12 hours or so.

6 P. M. I open the bowel prep kit. This cannot end well. I'm thinking a better name is in order. Maybe I'll call the company later.

I have a six ounce bottle of sulfate of sodium, potassium, and magnesium that I'll mix with water to 16 ounces.

I'm also starving. That feeling will end soon, I expect.

Why do I think I'll be cursing the periodic chart before this is over?

A bushel of Ruffles would work well about now. With onion dip. Lots of onion dip.

There's a safety seal on the bowl prep solution bottle. I feel so warm and secure.

You might think they'd do something to make this crap taste better.

The stuffed jalapenos from last week had the necessary effect and tasted a whole sight better.

It took 20 minutes to swallow those 16 ounces. Someone should do the math.

Working on the additional fluid drinking now. Rum would work well here.

I'm thinking now the bowel prep salts improved the flavor of the sugar-free, flavored, carbonated water.

There is a freakin' magnesium bot on Twitter. I have nothing left to be excited over.

I'm also thinking we're going to need some verbal code here very soon, lest I rile some delicate ears.

6:38 P.M. And here we go.

And again.

Do you suppose the physicians are in cahoots with the water company?

I wonder how this might happen in a world without running water and indoor plumbing.

And again. The orchid on the towel rack has not yet complained.

I hope it'll be okay if I sit on this towel for the next while.

Again. I'm not going to be able to count this fast. Maybe someone could come over with a chalk board or something.

It would be better if I didn't sneeze again for a day or so.

And all but one common adverse reaction is in place. No puking yet. I miss all the fun.

Fun Fact: The total volume of liquid required for colon cleansing is three quarts. Reminds me of when I was slinging chitlins.

Do you suppose an air fern would help with the atmosphere in here?

These Tony Gurley political ads are worse than this colonoscopy prep. And more nauseating.

A 24-hour plumber from the UK has started following me. This is just too surreal for me to engage tonight.

And there's one of those hateful, Bible-filled pro-amendment ads. I think I might puke now.

I wonder if they'll just burn this building tomorrow while I'm out.

Oh, dear God. I have another bottle of that mess to drink. And not a drop of rum in the house.

The second bottle tastes no better than the first. I was born to suffer. So was my neighbor having to listen to all this.

This bowel prep mess would work a whole lot better as a rum mixer.

Fun Fact: This bowel prep is contraindicated in the event that you have a toxic megacolon. Whodathunkit?

Here I go again. Cramping better than a body has a right to. Sing along, children.

And to think I'm paying good money for all this ribaldry.

A large pan of lasagna would really hit the spot right now.

A large pan of lasagna would really hit the spot right now.

Come to think of it, that'd be a gold mine. Lasagna-flavored (and textured) colonoscopy prep.

I wonder how the bowel prep would have done blended as a frozen margarita.

I might never drink sugar-free, flavored, carbonated water again.

9:30. Probably one of the most moving events of my life.

And so we retire briefly for the evening.

Somehow, I managed to survive the night. Haven't slept on a towel like that since early college.

You'd think they'd offer something useful such as liposuction while the colonoscopy is going on.

We can credit Desitin for the continuation of the Human Species.

I suppose I should take a shower or something before going to the clinic. A drink would be better.

With this much magnesium and colonoscopy prep in my system, these Tony Gurley ads should be a easier to take. But no. They remain abominations.

And that is that. The ribaldry and colonoscopy are over. Laundry is about done. Sushi is one hour away.

The main event is tweetless. Even if they had let me keep my phone, I doubt the cell signal would have penetrated the building as it's filled with electronic mess. Besides, the real WiFi was locked down and the public WiFi was off. 

Nonetheless, I could not have asked for better treatment while I was there, though I could have asked for certified nurses, but there were none. (They were probably all over at the hospital in a concerted effort to avoid me.) 

My only complaint is that they didn't offer a doggie bag for the Proponol. I could make good use of some milk of amnesia those nights when sleep is slow about coming, and even slower about staying. 

They found nothing of consequence except sign that I have taken too many NSAID tablets for my ancient feets, and they used that excuse to make me return in five years, instead of ten. More likely, the doc has a crush on my sweet rumpus. Yeah, right. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I survived the Rugged Maniac

I think. I did exit under my own power, what little I had at that point. One thing was crystal clear: I am not ready for Tough Mudder. Fortunately, TM is a few more months away.

I arrived about noon for my 2:30 wave, and somehow managed to park near the event, not at the five-mile-away parking lot. This was probably because I ignored the signs and followed my GPS instructions. Upon checking in, I dropped off my bag and stepped away to tie my RFID into my shoe laces. Kneeling down, I crunched an unseen piece of gravel with my left knee. That was the first, and definitely not the last, time I used vocabulary unbecoming a gentleman. Following that, a couple of Army guys made my acquaintance. I don't know why, but I'm glad they did because they briefed me on the structure of the course. Although that information didn't give me any edge, it did give me some piece of mind.

I had some time to kill, and I killed it by searching the crowd for my running companion. Lots of black hair, a camo tank, and some kind of tutu. I never saw her. Apparently, she was waylaid by the bus schedule, and I wound up entering the ranks all by my lonesome. Now, the thought of running alone was not the issue. It was the thought of facing some of the obstacles alone that worried me, and so I found myself calling upon my week-long leadership training session at CCL. I would create a team by exerting leadership as needed, or to phrase it more according to Ms. Scarlet: I was going to cast myself upon the kindness of strangers.

So off we went, the mat at the start beeping as I stepped upon it. An hour later, the other mat would beep again, but with far fewer people around me. The trail started on a motocross track, and we encountered the humps to start with. Steep ups and downs. Then came about 50 yards of some very sticky mud. It was sucking off shoes right and left. Mine tried to pop off, but a little shift in stride kept them on.

Then came the tunnels, tunnels underground, with a 90-degree turn, tunnels with no light, tunnels with gravel, tunnels too low for me to crouch in, tunnels that wanted me to crawl on hands and knees, which I did. I'm an obliging man at times. The shorter fellow behind me was, probably, wishing I'd go faster. We both agreed the dark tunnels sucked.

Now, we face water, water with big floating things. We can go over or under. I went under to keep better footing. That worked until the last one where someone had dug a hole just for me to slide into as I went to stand and breathe. Being the good guy I am, I warned the fellow behind me. He was about to go over the top, and that'd been quite the surprise as he landed some three feet lower than expected. He thanked me, and then went another way.

Climbing out of the pond, I took off down the forest path. Along the way, I found the root left just for me by the designers. That was the only time I fell. Yes, I paid extra for that special obstacle.

By the way, I'm not describing the obstacles in order. I do not remember the order. There's a reason for that.

Oh look! Barriers! The short ones, I stepped over. Yes, I stopped running, walked up to the barrier, and then stepped over it. The taller ones were about waist height. I just bounded over them with two hands and a twist. Yes, I was still fresh then. The 10-foot barriers were in the third mile when I was less than daisy fresh. They only had a single step. Earlier in the race, I could have cleared them alone, but in the third mile, I grunted something unbecoming a gentleman, and stepped around them. I also stepped around the posts we were supposed to step across. They were just too far apart for me to feel comfortable with the leap. I suppose there goes my career as Indiana Jones.

The multitude of tires were pretty much nothing. Some were hanging. Some were in the path. Stepping through them was easy enough. Bobbing the hanging tires just took a little timing. I had it a little easier because I held back on the approach to be sure the others would be finished getting through before I got there.

The balance beam was also simple, give that it was a foot wide. Just walk across. Later, the fire would be equally simple. Just step over the burning logs. Back in the day, we burned fields as a part of what farmers considered best practice. Aside from the memories of going to school smelling of smoke, there was no impediment to my progress here.

Climbing over the cargo net was equally straight-forward. It was a ladder with rungs that stretched as expected. Farther down, there's something else to climb, not a rope. It's about 15 feet high. Up I go. On top, there are tunnel openings. The slide down will be easy. The coming out in muddy water under barbed wire will be an attention getter. I paused briefly to watch the guy before me. He seemed to have it figured out. The woman beside me wanted to go down feet first. That'd be a big mistake.

Down I went. At the bottom, face and arms in the mud, the rest of me up in the tunnel, the all of me unable to get any traction, I ask the guy behind me to give me a bit of a push. He obliged. In the mud, I stayed low, slogging through the muck just like the grunts on that TV show from the 60s, Combat. I avoided the barbs, and only got muddy on the front. My back was clean.

But wait, there's a little more story here. The exit from the mud and the barbs included a 20-foot climb. Mud and wire still in abundance. 45 degrees. Ropes available. Feet were of no use here. The woman in front of me climbing the hill was about to give it up, and told her friends so. I pulled myself up closer, my left hand seeking out the knot that was just under her belt buckle, if she'd been wearing a belt. I put her right foot on my right shoulder, and told her to push. We inched up the second half of the incline together. At the top, her buddy gave me a hand to get out. I might still have been there had she not.

At the top of the mud hill, I see the other side is something like a water slide but without the pool of water at the end. I went down on my back. Very fast. I fully expected a thump at the bottom, but I just stopped. Having about had it with red slick negative static friction coefficient mud mined from the seventh level of hell, which is directly under the State of Georgia, I noodled over to the side where the mud blended with the dirt, and I walked out without falling. Just a few slips.

More water. More floaty things. I face it with a tall 20-something woman. She can't get over or under because the float is bobbing. I stabilize it, she passes, and then moves to the next as I ask her to hold it for me. She's gone. I have to do this one alone. I dipped under. Three times for the first three floats. I checked the ground on the other side of the last floaty. It was sloped upward. I'd never dip under and be able to take a step to get out. What to do? Roll over the top and claw my way out. I hope that gal who left me broke a nail just like I did in that clawing out.

By this point, I'm walking. Even downhill. Another 15-foot obstacle. I climb it. I notice I'm not alternating feet this time. Yeah, I'm about at the end of what I have to give today. At the top, I see it's a slide. A water slide. With a pool at the bottom. A pool of mud. Where do they get this crap? I'm alone except for the safety guy. He points out my glasses. I thank him, grab the bar, swing out over the slid, and propel myself at warp 42 down the slide and into that pool, that pool five feet deep, full of mud and what we'd call water and good living if we were snot otters.

I thanked myself for getting the rope that held my glasses on my head, and I crawled out of the pit to trudge down the last couple of hundred yards of dusty gravel. My glasses are coated with red mud, and wearing them left me unable to see at all. I let them dangle on my chest like a librarian, a librarian coated from top to bottom with thick red-orange mud slowly drying in the Carolina sun, a mud we might pay top dollar for in a high-end spa. What little water I carry drains slowly into my shoes. I'll later toss the socks into the trash.

I beeped the mat as I ended the route, found a chair, put my foot on it, removed the RFID chip, and tossed it into the bucket. That'd be a $20 souvenir if I missed the return bucket. On the way out, a crowd of college students called to me. All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster! They recognized my FSM t-shirt. A shower started to fall as I walked to my car. I didn't much notice.