Monday, November 25, 2013

The Savagest Savage Race Ever

This weekend I was registered for the Dallas edition of the Savage Race, a 6-mile obstacle course that included crawling through mud and swimming through water obstacles. It was forecast to be the coldest, savagest Savage Race ever. The high for the day was 42°F, and the windchill about 30°. Our 10:40 am start time meant there was no chance things would warm up for us. I had a few friends sign up with me; two bailed and one still came along.

Not finishing a race has never before been an option in my mind, but as we trekked the long distance from the parking lot to the Savage Race event grounds, I announced to my friend the Canadian that it certainly was an option that day; we'd just have to see how things went.

We stood in the near-freezing rain for about an hour before the race, our toes already soaked and frozen, and meekly warmed our digits at the fire barrels provided. The event organizers had sent us an email earlier in the week encouraging us to run with friends, take care of each other, and what to watch out for in case of hypothermia, so we were as ready and as miserable as any of the runners could possibly be.

As we went to check our bags, my friend asked dubiously if I was sure I didn't want to just call it a day and save the $5 for bag check. We had already driven an hour to get to Grandview for the Savage Race, and I wasn't ready to give up yet. "Let's at least give it a try," I said.

I had been feeling OK until we started; my toes soon screamed with pain from the cold. But the Canadian reminded me that was a good thing and we need only worry if they went numb. We trekked through soggy grass and mud the whole way. 

The first Savage Race obstacle was a big tub full of ice with crossbeams that required participants to duck their heads under. Most of the runners, us included, bypassed it without a second thought. There's typically a lot of pressure to at least attempt every obstacle, but we had decided in advance on this one and felt no shame about it.

(A big ole bucket of NOPE.)

Then it was up and down and mostly up hills of thick, sucking mud. Runners slid into each other and struggled up slopes, emerging with extra pounds worth of mud weight stuck to their shoes and nothing to be done for it because everything out there was wet. I told my friend that I could stick with it but I was honestly ready to quit whenever he was, I was so miserable. The Canadian had warmed up by this point and was finally feeling good, whereas I had suffered the opposite.

We ran toward, assessed, and ran past obstacles that required belly crawling through mud. The rain had let up but I didn't have it in me to risk getting my body wet and muddy that day. We approached a balance obstacle which is typically one of my favorites: a three-inch wide beam spanning a 15-foot-long, waist-to-chest-deep water pit. But today it was coated in slick mud and 3 out of 4 runners ahead of us fell in. I stepped up, ready to go, watched the guy ahead of me slide into the water, and I quickly changed my mind and backed out and around. My friend went ahead and quickly fell in, soaking himself to the waist.

We kept going a little longer, checked in with one another and decided it was time to quit. But the course had just wound away from the start, and I didn't know how to get back, so we decided to ask the volunteers at the next obstacle. We attempted the obstacle: you have to run up a wall, grab a rope, and pull yourself the rest of the way up. I can usually do these just fine, but I couldn't get any traction on the wall, couldn't get near the rope, and instead smashed my elbow and knee and slid to the bottom, landing on all fours. I was OK, but I wasn't going to try again. My friend made it, though! He reached the rope, pulled himself up, stumbled and slid near the top, nearly fell back down, but got a hand from the participants and volunteers reaching over the top to help others over.

(Image from the Internet. I don't know that guy.)

He was ready to keep running, but I stopped him and we asked the way back to the start. A volunteer offered us a ride in his golf cart, but we turned it down, figuring it should be saved for emergencies. About halfway back, the driver passed us and asked again, so we hopped on. We passed by an obstacle that is a giant jump from a platform into a pool. We weren't sad to miss it. The cold wind in our face was possibly as bad as trekking all the way back.

We grabbed our bags and went to the changing tents, whose flaps flapped open in the icy wind, providing little shelter at all. I happened to find myself beside two of the top women finishers, one who had run in only capri pants and her sports bra. She and her friend raged that there was no way for them to wash off the mud covering them from the neck down because the water hoses were shut off against the freeze. They shouted non-stop about being too cold and too muddy to peel their clothes off and had a really rough go of it. I'd have offered to help but was struggling myself with icy fingers and only mild dampness of my own. Though everyone else congratulated the finishers, I was not impressed with their life choices, to be honest.*

Savage barely begins to describe it.

Finally dry and dressed, I made my way to the finish to ask if I could still get my t-shirt, which is included in the price of registration but only handed out to the finishers. The volunteer said of course and asked if I wanted a medal, too. Yes, please! I was willing to sacrifice the finisher medal, but it was a cool medal and they had already ordered them for all the participants.

In the end, we ran maybe 2-3 miles and weren't the least bit ashamed of our decision to quit. We met a few others for lunch and got to brag that we at least went out and tried. I've run in similar conditions before while hashing three years ago and don't doubt that I could have finished if I wanted to, but the pain would not have been worth it for me. This was certainly a new experience (not finishing), and amidst all the online congratulations going to the few brave finishers, I'm thankful to have demonstrated more brains than ego this time.*

*I'm not hating on the finishers, bu
t many have been discounting and diminishing how freaking horrible it was out there, and my priorities differ from theirs this time, and this is my story. Good for them. It would not have been good for me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

No-Scale November

I am sad now that I forgot to write about this sooner. I saw someone on Facebook suggest No-Scale November, and I quickly jumped at the opportunity and recruited more friends to join me. The plan is to go 30 days without weighing ourselves (or to look the other way if we must at the doctor's office).

Though I've been practicing intuitive eating under the Health At Every Size (HAES) paradigm for about a year and have no intention of losing weight, even with all my intense exercise, I've still been weighing myself several times a week to prove that I'm doing it "right" and maintaining. There's no reason for it, and though it didn't influence my mood much, it was a waste of time and thought when I could be doing anything else at all.

No-Scale November provided the perfect reason to stop.

I weighed myself on Halloween, saw the number in my usual range, and have since forgotten it. I noticed this month that I've spent less time thinking about my body and more time admiring it in the mirror. I don't believe that it's undergoing any significant changes (I've been eating the same and exercising less), but I do like it more the more that I see it. Rawr.

I didn't know if I would weigh myself again on Dec. 1 to "prove" that I can eat "right," but I had a cool idea of shooting some pictures of my smashing the scale with a hammer for fun and art. Then I had friends who wanted to do it, too, so a few of us are taking No-Scale November a step further and having a scale-smashing party in the first week of December.

But isn't that a huge waste of perfectly good items that could be donated?

Uh, no. Scales don't make people happy and I'd feel sorry for whomever got mine, which was less than $10 from IKEA some years ago and will now serve its higher purpose as capital-A Art. I'll post pictures!

I'm not going to buy a new scale (even though I'm passingly curious about my body fat percentage and whether it's changing the more that I exercise), nor to I regularly check my body measurement or plan to start. The fit of my clothes is all that I need.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Character Monologues

Spartan progress

I just received my Spartan Race beanie in the mail, which I had completely forgotten about, and I love it!

I took two weeks off running to heal up from a possible stress fracture, had a short run on Tuesday and my calves are still aching, and I have the Savage Race on Saturday. Savage is the 5- to 7-mile obstacle race that should give me a feel for whether I can make it through the Spartan Beast three weeks after.

I run better in cool weather and made it through a hot and humid 10k trail race in October, but Saturday is going to be very cold, and I'll be crawling through mud and water obstacles. I haven't trained at all in the cold because it's been a pretty mild season so far, so this is probably going to suck a lot.

I plan to bring Felix the Fetus on this adventure with me for some silly photo-ops.

In the meantime, today is Day 4 of the Spartan Race 30 burpees for 30 days challenge. I've had to do two sets of fifteen with a two-minute rest between, but it's certainly manageable. I'll do the next 30 tonight after work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Same old anti-choice lies

Yesterday a friend asked if anyone would be available today to crash an anti-choice event on a nearby college campus. I took a long lunch to sit in on the “Pregnancy on Campus” discussion, which was just a pro-life lecture and spent only a few seconds discussing pregnancy on campus.

I know little about pregnancy and felt unequipped, so I printed out NARAL’s 11 Most Common Lies Told by Crisis Pregnancy Centers to bring with me as well as a careful ear for what services the speakers’ organizations actually provide to women. Representatives from a nearby “women’s center,” Project Gabriel, and Project Rachel/Rachel Ministries came to speak to an audience of about 17, nearly half of them members of the hosting organizations.

Project Gabriel uses a mentor program to provide pregnant women with emotional and spiritual support and has a discretionary fund to provide financial support as well, seeking baby items online for women who need them. The Rachel group focuses on post-abortion counseling services and retreats for men and women of all ages but requires guardian attendance for teenagers. So kids who need help but whose parents would beat their asses for getting knocked up are clearly SOL.

The speaker from the women’s center had a pretty good presentation, from a PR standpoint. She declared, “There is no war on women” and said her organization is “pro-women and pro-choicES,” using Wendy Davis as a role model of a successful woman who had an unexpected pregnancy at 19. At which point someone from the gallery shouted out, “AND SHE’S PRO-CHOICE!” I smiled to learn there was someone in the room who shared my views, and at the end of the presentation, two of the people in attendance who were affiliated with some of these groups rushed out to stop and thank me effusively for my attendance and my respectful questions.

The women’s center offers free pregnancy testing, STI testing and treatment, and sonograms, as well as referrals to pro-life health care providers as needed. Their speaker emphasized that their goal is to support all women regardless of what choice they make, “no pressure, no shaming,” though not without a strong statement about everyone’s constitutional right to life. Most of her presentation was a slideshow of Reproduction 101: How Babies Develop.

She said fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, and in the question and answer session, I asked if she had a source for this statement because it was my understanding that this is widely contested. She said the evidence was presented at the Capitol this year and influenced lawmakers’ decision to ban abortion after 20 weeks. (It didn't.) So that’s a NO. There is no science to support the fetal pain assertion.

The Gabriel speaker was quick to tell us about the breast cancer risk and imply that the media gatekeepers are hiding this from us in some conspiracy. I asked, “This question may be a bit out there, but can you speculate why the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, and the National Cancer Society all assert that there is no link between breast cancer and abortion?”

'Well, I can’t speculate why SOME organization would say that, but there are real research studies out there that show this is true.'

The AMA has made some boneheaded choices this year, but the correlational studies that suggest a link are poorly designed to say the least.

I got a creepy squishy fetus from the event demonstrating the features of a 20-week-old fetus. It’s the same material as real-feel sex toys. I also picked up a few brochures: The Pill Kills, which explains that the hormones altered by birth control cause women to choose abusive mates. And: Planned Parenthood Exploits Teens (for PROFIT!) A: Provide low-cost health care to disadvantaged women on a sliding scale payment plan. B: ? C: PROFIT!

Same old anti-choice lies with a friendlier face.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

World Banner Wars

The Kingdom of the Emerald Hills hosted World Banner Wars and Olympiad this year at the Fort Parker Restoration outside Mexia, Texas. It was awesome. Learn more about Amtgard here.

See the full album here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dallas Arboretum

I had the pleasure of visiting the Dallas Arboretum on a gorgeous fall day with a friend during the fall harvest theme. We saw two or three wedding parties and at least three quinceanera groups (girls? dresses? families?) out with photographers plus many more family portraits that day. I don't have much to say; I love the gardens: they smell nice and are beautiful. Pictures:

Bad Prom 5k

Once we got past the $10 parking fee that the Bad Prom 5k failed to mention or even allude to on its website, in the pre-race documents, at the packet pickup, or in any of the multiple emails sent to participants with various other race-day reminders, it was a very fun and well-organized event.

I had been worried going in, because the last gimmick-race I ran at The Ballpark at Arlington was the abysmal Neon Splash Dash. But the Bad Prom 5k was much smaller and sent out smaller waves with plenty space enough for running. The course wound through actual roads rather than back and forth through parking lots and used big, reflective cones and gate barriers for clear markings.

The best part was waiting in the Start corral and hearing the Bad Prom 5k announcer explain basic race etiquette as he advised walkers and picture-takers to stay to the right and keep the path clear for runners on the left! If only every race did that!

There Bad Prom 5k had four photo stations set up with huge inflatables and music: Titanic, Paris, Under the Sea, and a Castle and Dragon. I only carried my phone, so my pictures didn't turn out well, but there were LOTS of photographers on this course, and I'm very eager to see the photos published. I might even order some.

At the end, there was a dance party with a decent DJ, and my friends, brother, and I had a ball with the deliberately bad-dance party.