Monday, June 11, 2012

Race Reviews, Part II

More reviews from this spring's mud/obstacle runs.

Cahoots Duo Challenge, April 28, Buckeye AZ
What makes it different: The race is for teams of two. From their website: "All Cahoots courses have been specifically and creatively designed to prove the resolve and test the limits of even the toughest of twosomes. You'll carry, push, pull and roll one another over and through a variety of perils and hazards. You'll swing over energy sapping bogs on the Siamese Trapese, build precarious bridges, and scale 10' walls."
Did it live up to its marketing:  Not really. There were only a few obstacles that required a teammate. Most of the obstacles were the usual obstacles you get at these races. This is a great concept, but they could use a little work on the teamwork aspect.
The course: Overall it was good. Fairly well marked, lots of hills incorporated as challenges, but way too short. Only about 2 miles. The website says the course will be 3-4 miles.
Obstacles: The usual - cargo nets, walls. The unusual - a zipline and a trapeze swing. The bad - two of the duo obstacles weren't that great. Irene and I were too short as a team to complete them. The good - a fun waterslide, and I loved the wall!
Organization/Logistics: Great! Wonderful volunteers. Free parking. Race started on time. Best food ever after the race!!
Fun Factor: Irene was my partner. We had a good time, especially since we rocked the wall! Most teams had to have help from other teams to get over it, but we did it on our own. I also really like the smaller races because we can go back afterward and re-do the obstacles and get pictures. It helped that we purchased with a Groupon so we didn't feel cheated by the extra short race.
Would I do it again? If the price is right, yes. Cahoots is one of the more expensive races. We originally weren't going to do it because of the cost, until the Groupon came out. I think they've got a lot of things going for them, including great organizational skills which you cannot do without. I'd like to give them another try. And, I'd do it again just to get another chance to eat that bacon cheeseburger topped with pulled pork! Yummy!
Crazy water slide - Irene started facing forward and on the other side of me!
Siamese Trapeze - this was fun!

Kiwi Dash, May 5, Phoenix AZ
What makes it different: No niche, just a standard mud run.
Did it live up to its marketing: Yes. It was billed as a 5K full of obstacles with a fun after-party. It was, in fact, a 5K full of obstacles and the after-party was a blues and BBQ festival that you got free admission.
The course: Pretty good. It started out in a mud pit, went through Fear Farm, the Halloween scare park, around the Westside Sports Complex. It's a fairly small area and they utilized it well.
Muddy water pit
Obstacles: The usual - mud pits, hay bales. The unusual - pushing barrels. The bad - those stupid tires! And wading through an irrigation ditch that was actually very fun but you could only go as fast (i.e. very slow) as the people in front of you. The good - awesome mud (not at all sandy), a fun half-pipe to run up, unique use of storage containers.
Organization/Logistics: Pretty good. The start line was weird. There weren't heats as advertised. We all just lined up and they let a few people through every few seconds. I was not impressed with this and thought the whole race would suck, but it didn't. A lot of people were pissed off by various things - warm water at the water station, no t-shirts, limited access to the hose to rinse off afterward. I didn't mind any of those issues. I thought it was a good event for first-time event directors. They had a lot of volunteers on the course which was good.
Fun Factor: Mid to high. I did the race with Irene. We enjoyed the unusual obstacles and we enjoyed the BBQ afterwards. This was another smaller race that you could walk through again after your heat. The race was on the same day as the Dirty Six. For my money, the Kiwi was much better!
Would I do it again? Sure. They are in the works of planning a zombie run. If my schedule works, I'll give it a go.
You had to push these barrels out and back.
The half pipe was fun.

We are never too dirty to eat BBQ
5K Foam Fest, May 19, Scottsdale AZ
What makes it different: Foam, presumably. It's billed as a 5K filled with foam and mud and obstacles. Fun games before and after including "foam pit, pull-up bar, mud, limbo, minute-to-win-it games, greased pole, etc." 
Did it live up to its marketing:  No. No! NO! It wasn't a 5K and it wasn't foamy. There were NO games before or after. Crappy.
The course: The 5K was only 2.1 miles long. Seriously. WTF? If "5K" is in the name of your event, how do you justify giving us a 2 mile course? Ridiculous. I went in the first wave and finished in 25 minutes. My 5K time is 29:30. I knew something was wrong so I turned around and walked the course backwards to see where I might have missed a turn. No missed turn. I found the race director and asked him how long the course was. He said just about 3 miles. I challenged that telling him that I finished in 25 minutes. He said, "well maybe you are just fast."  Ugh.
Obstacles: They were pretty lame. There were no volunteers at most of them. They had some zig-zag balance beams that people didn't know were for balancing, they just ran through the zig zag. A sign, at least, would have been helpful. The foam wasn't working very well at the beginning (I went in the first heat) and then I heard it wasn't working at all later. There was a dry white tarp that I assume was supposed to be a slip-n-slide but there was no water anywhere. There was no water to drink at the water station when I went through and I hear no water later either. There was a rickety cargo net and some walls and some inflatables that were supposed to be foamy, but weren't. The foam at the Irvine Lake Mud Run was higher than my head, I had to go through it backwards to not inhale it. The foam at the Foam Fest was no higher than my ankles.
Organization/Logistics: Terrible. Volunteers didn't know much. The registration lines were horrible and slow. The course was too short. They weren't completely ready for the first groups. The lack of water made them shut down early. It was so bad that at first they stopped allowing comments on their facebook page, then they took their facebook page down completely. It's still gone.
Fun Factor: There was one fun obstacle where you ran across some exercise balls mounted in a big inflatable. Not fun enough to redeem the awfulness of this event, though.
Would I do it again? Good God, no. I hope they are smart enough not to come back to Phoenix.

I have no pictures and I don't mind a bit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Race Reviews, Part I

I've been busy this spring with a bunch of new mud/obstacle races. They were all in the 5K variety.  Warrior Dash and Rugged Maniac are the big daddies in this arena. I did those last season and reviewed them here. This post starts my reviews of this season's races.

Irvine Lake Mud Run, March 28, Irvine CA
What makes it different:
No niche, just a standard mud run.
Did it live up to its marketing: They promised you'd get wet and muddy. We did, so yes, it was exactly what they were selling.
Still foamy well after the foam
The course:  Good. Pretty surroundings, obstacles spread out at good intervals, made use of natural obstacles with the mud and some hills.
The usual - little walls, little mud puddles. The unusual - a huge tube/tunnel/slide into a water pit. The bad - Many of the obstacles were lame. The wait for the tube/tunnel/slide was way too long. We ended up skipping it because it was too cold standing still when you were wet. The good - FOAM! The foam wall was higher than my head! Crazy mud on the edge of the lake that was springy and dense and weird and fun. The obstacles for the first 2/3 of the race were rather boring. The end of the course had a bunch of mud pits one after the other so that was fun.
OK. This wasn't the kind of run where you could go for time, too many people in too small a space. It was a really big race and with the exception of the backup at the tunnel/slide, everything went as smoothly as could be expected with such a crowd.
Fun Factor:
Mediocre. The foam was great. Running with my friend Nicole was super-awesome. This was her first race and a good one to start out on. The obstacles weren't too hard, maybe even too easy.  We went straight from this race to the Great Urban Race Santa Monica, so overall a really fun day.
Would I do it again?
Probably not. One, it's in California. Two, it was fun once but nothing special enough to do again, unless I was in town and it was free.
Mud pit
Here is a slide show of picture from the whole day:

Toro Loco Challenge, April 7, Eloy AZ
What makes it different: Two courses, one is harder and one is easier. Dogs and kids welcome on the easier course. Also, they allowed you to pay for one course and then go do the second course free!
Did it live up to its marketing: Well, dogs were allowed but there weren't two different courses and as far as I could tell there were not easy/hard versions of the obstacles.
Obstacles: The usual - hay bales and tires. The unusual - swinging ropes to cross. The bad - a dry tarp to crawl under. The good - an awesome zip line, a huge mud hill to climb and the the best mud pit in Arizona.
The course: Very poorly marked, there was no way to know where to go next. It included lots of
We got super-muddy!

unnecessary running to make the course longer. Volunteers didn't know anything. No difference between the easy course and the hard course that we could see. No water on the course for earlier waves, one water stop for our later wave.
Organization/Logistics: Terrible. There was no one at the start line for our wave. We didn't even know which way to run - there were obstacles in three different directions. Apparently the bibs didn't arrive in time, the water stations weren't set up in time, some of the obstacles weren't complete in time.  It was so bad that they turned off comments on their facebook page and erased all the bad things people were saying.
Fun Factor: I have to say, it was SOOOO FUN! After we got over the major annoyances of the course not being marked and not knowing what we were supposed to be doing, we had a blast. Our plan was to do the hard course first then go back with Frankie and the Fabig kids and do the easy course. We made up our own route and did most of the obstacles on the first run through. We skipped two that were far away after finding out they were more hay bales. The fun obstacles with the water and the mud were at the end, so we took the dog and the kids and did the race backwards the second time. Frankie has so much fun!
Would I do it again? Absolutely! They are going to try it again on September 15th and I'm in! I'm going to coerce Pat or another dog-less friend to go so Georgie can come too.  They are currently offering half off team registrations, so the price is right.

The whole album with captions can be viewed by clicking here.  Below are just a few of the pictures:

Frankie loved the mud!
He REALLY loved the mud mountain!
Muddy puppy!
Frankie thought it was fun to jump over the irrigation ditch.
Swinging ropes - this was my favorite!
Lots of slippery mud.
The zipline ended in a big water pit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Extemely Fun!

Remember when I said that trapeze is the most fun thing I've ever done ever? Well, I've found something that is equally as fun! Woo hoo! This new something is the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course.

Seriously, how often do you get to do this?
Any day of the week when you're in Flagstaff!

I was lucky enough to get to do this on the first weekend they were open back in April.  The first thing we did when we arrived was to get fitted with a harness. Safety first, you know. Woot! Woot! Harnesses are sexy!
The staff then walks you through a training course where they teach you all the rules and safety procedures. After safety first comes safety second! One of the things they teach you is to sit in your harness so you get used to trusting it. This is my friend, Ian.

There are four courses for adults. Your admission fee allows you to do all four courses but you don't have to do them all. They get progressively higher and harder as you go and you can quit whenever you'd like.

The first course is fairly low and pretty easy. Pat choose not to participate because he's not very comfortable with heights, but after watching and taking pictures the whole day, he says that even he could do this course with no problem.  Here are some of the fun obstacles in the first course. Tunnels:

Ladder bridge with cargo nets:

As you move on to the next course, they spice it up a little bit. Yes, this is a skateboard. In the air.

In addition to all the awesome obstacles to traverse, each course has one or two ziplines. This zipline is so long that you can barely see me flying toward you. Whee!

This was one of my favorite challenges:
You swing on a rope from the platform on the right over to that cargo net where I am. You have to let go of the rope to grab the cargo net! The crazy thing is that this obstacle is on the second easiest course! Don't let that scare you though; this one is optional. There is an alternate/easier choice to get to the next landing if you choose not to fly face first into a cargo net.

In case you were wondering if I was enjoying myself:
Yep! I sure was!  What a fun, fun, fun day!!

We took a short potty break between the second and third courses. To start the third course you have to climb a ladder up a tree. This takes forever because you have to keep clipping and unclipping your carabiners every other step. The tree ladders were the only part of the course I didn't like. But once you're back up on the course, it's back to having fun!!

A big ladder traverse:

The other guy in these pictures is our new friend, Greg. He was doing the course by himself and he hooked up with us as we passed some slower folks. He told us about halfway through that he was scared of heights! He said he couldn't believe how safe he felt with the harness and the safety lines. He did all four courses!

This rope crossing was the hardest obstacle, in my opinion. I kept getting my feet caught up in my harness wires. No one else seemed to be having this problem, but I'm pretty talented in the uncoordination department. In addition to being uncoordinated, it also took a lot of strength to pull yourself across like that. But I made it across finally!
If you do have any problems on the course or you can't finish an obstacle, the staff will come get you and bring you down. However, if they have to bring you down, you don't get to finish the course so don't go crying wolf!

A cargo net traverse at the end of the fourth course:

Greg, Ian and I finished all four courses with no staff assistance required!
Behind us is a tree ladder that you need to climb down to get off the course. My only critique of the whole shebang is this tree ladder. After a few hours of rocking obstacles and doing crazy-fun things, it's a bit of a let down to have to climb very, very slowly down this stupid ladder. I want to end with a WOW and a WHEE! How about a fireman pole or a free fall of some sort or even a slide?

There were a whole bunch more awesome obstacles that I didn't show here. I don't want to give away all the fun and surprises for you!  Now, get yourself to Flagstaff and do this!  It's only $42 to do all four courses. This seems really low to me since you pay $80+ to do ziplining courses elsewhere. This is ziplining plus a whole lot more stuff that is a lot more fun than ziplining! $42 is totally worth it!

Ok, did this whole post sound like a commercial? :)  Honestly, I am not being paid to promote Flagstaff Extreme, nor am I in their employ in any way! I just love this place that much!! And you will too, so GO!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Solution for Wrinkles

On the recommendation of a favorite colleague who is a bit older than me but whose skin is so, so much smoother than mine, I recently switched my sunscreen and moisturizer from PCA to Origins. The results have been fantastic! I have been using it for six months and I can absolutely tell the difference! My wrinkles are way less noticeable now than they were previously.

Last night as I was applying my moisturizer, I was marveling at how great this product is when a realization hit me. It's not the product that is plumping my wrinkles's me who has plumped out. I have gained 18 pounds recently. 18 pounds is a hell of a lot of pounds when you're 5'2"! Of course my wrinkles are less noticeable - my face has filled out. Bummer.

I do like Origins though and will keep using it. However, my recommendation for a wrinkle solution goes not to Origins but to banana splits and Paradise Bakery cookies paired with an addiction to Scramble with Friends that keeps one from spending any time exercising.

(If you need help with that SWF addiction, I can help you. My user name is alittlediamond. I need some more games!)