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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.  

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