TC Medtronic 10Miler – 2014


My 2014 racing season was significantly scaled back compared to prior seasons. This is simple cause and effect; multiple weddings, baby showers and family celebrations has meant a very limited amount of time for organized races. That said, I was not going to miss the opportunity of running in the TC 10Miler especially because I was not selected for the lottery the last two years. That being the case, I was auto allowed in this year and love this race. I was in!

This particular race is great for many reasons and I would strongly encourage others to look into it. If you are not ready to step up to the 10 mile distance, they also offer 5K and 10K options the day before. I would like to compliment the Twin Cities in Motion organization for another successful execution of the races and associated tasks. They must have a real power house of a project manager. There are also really great sponsors that help out by donating their time, energy and finances.

In order to prepare for the 10Miler, I was consistently running in the gym and weight training. The later, probably did me no favors but I do like to maintain my muscle suit. However, for race days, I wish I could take it off. The extra 15-20lbs really can slow me down, especially on the climbs throughout the course. My complaint is my own doing and honestly the course is mostly flat with a few down hills and the slight climb on Summit Avenue.

Race Day:

My early morning alarm woke me just as intended (5:45AM) and I quickly made my way downstairs to fix my race day coffee and simple breakfast. After making my peanut butter toast, I laced up my laces and asked my new Moto X what the temperature was outside. With it being a cool 36 degrees I decided upon a long sleeve over my race shirt and bib. It proved perfect for the beginning few miles of the race.

My wonderful wife Nellie and cutie daughter Madison gave me a lift to the starting line. After a quick stretch and my favorite, the national anthem, it was time to race. I was positioned in corral 1 (green) and tore out of the gate shoulder to shoulder with over a thousand other participants. With the streets already lined with cheering fans, we made our way out of downtown. It took over two miles into the course before I felt like I wasn’t tripping on the heals of other runners.

The Course:

They call it the short cut to the capital.  I call it the best race in the Twin Cities!

They call it the short cut to the capital. I call it the best race in the Twin Cities!

I started off the race chewing gum so that I wouldn’t burnout my throat and to keep my pace throttled. It proved to be very effective and as my body broke its initial sweat (3 miles in), I kicked the gum and my long sleeve. It was my hope to steadily hold a sub 7:30 mile pace and contend with my best 10Miler time. I seemed to hold a consistent speed as I ventured pass the halfway point. Periodically I would catch a quick swallow of water at the water stations. I knew my body needed it in order to prevent cramping.

At around six miles I ate a couple of strawberry blocks and hammered up the Summit hill climb stretch. My legs were now entering the numb stage and my second wind was upon me. I was defeating the pavement and enjoying the crowds of fans and the beautiful views. I had switched on my iPod around mile 4 and had been rocking out as I made my way. Nothing like music and the beat to match the cadence of your stride.

With the bulk of the course long behind me, I realized that I was nearing the final decent to the capital building. My favorite part was running under the American flag that was held over the race course by two fire trucks. With fans lining both sides of the road, I sprinted my was down the final stretch. Just as I approached the finish line, I saw the official race clock and was ecstatic to see it at just under an hour and twelve minutes.  I was about to beat my best time!

I finished and felt great about it! I soon wrapped myself in a heat shield and began nourishing my fatigued body with Cliff bars and bananas. I came across a former colleague and shared pleasantries and briefly made small talk before making my way. I got my Brooks T-shirt and medal and made my way to grab coffee. Caribou rocks!

My Biggest Fans:

Supported by my loving family. Really happy to have these two little mommas in my life! GO JAKE!

Supported by my loving family. Really happy to have these two little mommas in my life! GO JAKE!

It took me a bit of walking around before I found my wife and kiddo. They both hugged and congratulated me on a job well done. My reward was to be a hot meal at the Uptown Dinner with my family. Super happy with another TC 10Miler under my belt, it was well worth my efforts!

Final Results:

I beat my best time and was pretty pleased with my overall results! The distance, fans, weather... all were perfect!

I beat my best time and was pretty pleased with my overall results! The distance, fans, weather… all were perfect!


Until next time, happy trails!



7@7 – 2014

Hindsight is 20/20 right? Well had anyone told me 5 years ago that I would be running races and leading a healthy lifestyle I would think nothing of it. It really is who I am to my core, “MarathonJake”. However, if you told me that I would be crossing the finish line with my brother Justin, I would have called Shananagins!

Alas, I was wrong and for that I am thankful. This story is in my Autoblography is a testament to how people can change and for the better.

Over the last couple of years my brother has found a new calling, physical Wellbeing and fitness. It began when my brother first gave up smoking after roughly 10 years. He traded in his lighter for a fresh pair of running shoes and gave the pavement hell. If you know him well then you know he doesn’t do things half-assed; often quite the opposite and tends to be extreme.

When my brother Justin found his running legs for the first time... I was proud to see him complete his first solo race, awesomeness!

When my brother Justin found his running legs for the first time… I was proud to see him complete his first solo race, awesomeness!

This got the better of him and a sore set of legs turned into an injury. So he dialed it back and one day asked if he could borrow my road bike. I had only used it for preparing for and competing in triathlons. I thought for two seconds and quickly offered her up (thinking that the race season was over and he could put her to better use for the time being). He did just that and soon my almost brand new Specialized Allez was broken on and a new love was formed. I digress.

After rehabbing his leg his adoption for fit living continued to take over his life. He learned more about health and nutrition and began doing even more independent research into running shoes and form. He quickly began his love for barefoot style footwear, not that I ever followed suit, but hey, it works for him.

Perhaps the culmination of my brother’s transformation should be credited to his sense of civic duty. To shine additional light on this I must mention my brother had also begun another passion for becoming a First Responder. A very challenging and noble way to give back to you community. Soon these aspirations grew and all of a sudden he was in EMT school and learning how to save lives. Good on him!

As you can tell by all of Justin’s changes and investments towards self-improvement, this was his new normal. We had briefly discussed doing a run race sometime in the future, but you know how that can easily be put on the back-burner, especially with our busy lives.

However, and much to my surprise, Justin gave me the best gift ever this last Christmas in the form of two entry fees paid for the 7@7 trail race near Mankato, MN. I think I was probably just as excited for the race as I was about the opportunity to spend more time hanging out with him. Our friendship had come along way and this gesture showed me just how far.

So for the next several months we stayed in touch and logged our miles in perpetration for race day. As time drew closer, the logistics were decided upon and with a week remaining my anticipation was mounting. Our better halves decided that they wanted to join us and that was awesome. Nothing makes you feel more like a man when your lady is there to see you accomplish a great feet and cheer you on as you cross the finish line!

So the Friday before the race, Nellie and I took a road trip down to Winona, MN to spend the evening with them before we raced (the next morning). Graciously they offered to prepare dinner for us and when we got there we were able to pitch in. We ate and chatted for a while before calling it an early night. Out like a light until game time tomorrow!

Better friends and much closer than we have ever been.  Love my big brother Justin!  Super thankful for him and liz hosting us for the night!

Better friends and much closer than we have ever been. Love my big brother Justin! Super thankful for him and liz hosting us for the night!

We woke up before the early bird had a chance to catch the worm. A quick granola bar and cup of hot coffee and we were on our way to the event. The drive went quick and gave us both some good one on one time chatting with our ladies. Upon arrival we were able to check-in and get our race bibs like usual. Nell helped pin my bib on and to take a few pre-race snapshots.

Leading up to this moment, I had been giving Justin some guff about being able to keep up. Truth be told, he was probably better prepared on the cardio front to handle 1) the distance and 2) the amount of drastic elevation change that were strewn throughout the race course. He had been good about averaging a 10K distance during his training while I am more apt to training at a 5K distance so I can have adequate cardio but also keep my suit of armor.

Anyway, my smack talk was quickly put to rest as it was now race time. This was a less populated race with approximately 120 participants; but to put it in perspective, this group of athletes are not your run of the mill “Color Run” or “Rave Run” type of runners, instead this was a solid group of athletes ready for an intense trail run. My brother and I lined up towards the front of the pack. It was decided that we would listen to music throughout the race and I proactively readied an up tempo song. Together we made a pact to run this race with one another and that we did.

A quick jog to get a light sweat before the race... Nice and limber after our stretching.  All our training is about to be put to the test!

A quick jog to get a light sweat before the race… Nice and limber after our stretching. All our training is about to be put to the test!

With a stern and confident look we fist bumped and hit our play buttons as the starting flag was dropped. Off we went down a nice and easy straight away for about half a mile. Nice and easy but with a brisk pace, soon thereafter we took a turn into the trails and instantly we were hit with some steep elevation changes. This was to be Justin’s strong suit as his training and lighter too half allowed him to make quick work of the hills. Without our pact to stick together, he probably would have dusted me here, but for my sake he dialed it back a bit. The miles seemed to fly by quickly and I was usually pretty good about staying on my brother’s heels.

I recall there being only a few leveled-off sections to offer relief from the barrage of peaks and valleys. I took advantage of these and regained my steam to continue powering through the course. I do recall running through a creek (too large to jump across), so after a quick glance we splashed through and enjoyed coming out the other side.

By this time I felt that the worst must be in the rear view, but I was wrong again. Soon we would encounter the mother of steep hills. Justin’s pride and determination had him continue to run up it at a much reduced pace. Experience from my many other crazy races like CampTITAN, Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac, ect… has taught me that the value add from running up the hill as opposed to briskly walking up is not significant. Often I notice that by the time you hit the apex that you’re so winded that working back into your run takes a lot longer. So while he may have beat me to the top, I soon caught up and felt solid. Then I capitalized on my ability to effectively open up and run downhill, which can be tough to do in a controlled fashion.

After surviving the colossal hills we knew that the end must be fairly close, maybe a mile left. Around this time Justin started getting a stitch in his side, which can really slow you down and be painful. Often you can get them from drinking too much before the race start or by not being hydrated enough. He was able to power through it without much impact on his pace.

With the finish line and crowd of supporters insight my bro looks over and says something to the effect of “let’s give it hell” and in a flash we were spending our last in a full-out sprint. On our tip toes and blazing we crossed the finish line victorious! We were sooner welcomed by Nellie and Liz. They were surprised by how quickly we had finished the race. I wanted a completion time of sub 1 hour and we successfully achieved that mark.

After a really exciting, yet mentally challenging race we crossed the finish line side by side... each of us took a beating but finished strong... GREAT RACE! #loverunning

After a really exciting, yet mentally challenging race we crossed the finish line side by side… each of us took a beating but finished strong… GREAT RACE! #loverunning

Soon after we had got our wind back and grabbed some fresh fruit to start the recovery process and getting our energy stores back. Next we went and swapped out our clothes for the road trip home. We went back for the awards ceremony shortly thereafter. According to the overall finisher, Justin and I respectively tied for 15th overall. It just so happened that I got 2nd place for my age bracket (which only had about 7 competitors) and received a metal. Justin unfortunately did not medal as he had a bracket with many more racers, I felt bad because he deserved it more than me an if anything, I probably slowed him down a bit overall. But, with a good attitude he vowed to return to take the bluffs on yet again at the 7@7 race!

Super proud of our overall results, especially given the challenging elevation changes!

Super proud of our overall results, especially given the challenging elevation changes!

The trip ended with a few more pictures to capture our victory and log this one in the record books. With hugs and mutual respect we parted ways. Till next time my brother and friend! “Hats off to you”, I say to the positive changes he had made in his life!

Post race, brothers unite victorious over the 7@7 with a pretty darn decent time too might I add!

Post race, brothers unite victorious over the 7@7 with a pretty darn decent time too might I add!

Couples Cooking – Hello Quinoa!

Just recently Nellie and I rolled up our sleeves and begun to ‘prepare’ one of our health goals for 2014, it was our first ‘Couples Cooking’ night! In our debut evening of cooking excitement I decided that we would be experimenting with Quinoa.

Known for its highly nutritious attributes, this mother grain is high in protein and is gluten-free.  Having never prepared it before, but having recently caught a pleasant taste for it at the MARIN (DiFfErEnT DiSh), I thought it would present a fun challenge to cook with. So with the little bit of time I set aside, I researched the nutrition facts of Quinoa.  Impressed by the half grain / half vegetable, I found some recipes that would suit both of our tastes.  For some interesting facts about this super grain visit this resource.

For an appetizer I decided to go with a spicy option that I stumbled upon.  Considering that Nell is a big Sriracha fan, I thought that this bite-sized meal starter would be ideal. I present to you, Sriracha Quinoa Bites!  Click the link and you can get the recipe and cooking instructions. A special thanks to the fantastic bloggers out there that are trailblazing and inspiring all us foodies!

A little spice infused quinoa baked into yummy little bite size appetizers - Spicy Sriracha Bites!

A little spice infused quinoa baked into yummy little bite size appetizers – Spicy Sriracha Bites!

When it came to meal prep, I made sure to stop off at my local Target and pick up all the ingredients needed for our adventurous evening. After arriving at home Nell and I both got comfy and began setting out our cooking utensils. We enjoyed some frozen wine spirits as we began whipping our appetizer together. It called for several fun ingredients which we whisked together in a big bowl before spooning them into our mini muffin tin.  We placed them into the oven and began to work on our main course!

To accompany the spicy bites we were going to enjoy, I selected a sweet and salty main course that fused oriental veggies and quinoa.  The meal, Sweet Teriyaki Salmon with Garlic Quinoa Stir-Fry, was just the right variety of colors and flavors and smells. Together we prepared the meal slightly differently, instead we decided to also marinade our asian vegetable melody as well. As we wrapped up our meal, we pulled our bites out of the oven and began snacking.

Infused with a sweet and salty theme, this dish was fun to make and delicious to consume!  Way to go, Quinoa!

Infused with a sweet and salty theme, this dish was fun to make and delicious to consume! Cooking with Quinoa is great!

I was surprised at how easy the quinoa was to prepare, after rinsing it we put it into the rice cooker and shortly thereafter, presto – light and fluffy quinoa was ready.  We plated our main dish, sat down and ate together. After yammering on for a while about our week we cleaned up and called it a successful in-house date!

Next months addition to Couples Cooking will be here before you know it and it will be Nell’s turn.  Till then, I encourage you all to try preparing your own heathy meal.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised how cuisine that’s healthy for you can also be very tasty!

Men’s Health Urbanathlon – New York City

It’s October 23, 2013. I am beginning my 29th year on this planet today and pray that it will be a happy and healthy one. This year for my birthday Nellie and I planned out a trip to New York so that together we could race in the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.

However, before we hit the starting line we thought it would be a good idea to spend a couple of days in Maryland to visit a couple of friends and do some sight-seeing at our nation’s capital.After landing @ BMI, Nell and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Silver Diner in the airport. Shortly after we walked down to be picked up. Within moments we were pleasantly greeted at the airport by one of our wedding’s bridesmaids, Dani. It was nice seeing her and to be welcomed into her home for our short stay. She was a wonderful host and made us feel at ease. Later that same evening Nellie’s brother Michael, whom also lives in the Washington DC area, came over to Dani’s where we were all able catch up on life since the wedding. In totally Nellie fashion, she fell asleep way too early and left the partying to us.We played music and danced, it was a nice way to cap off turning a year older.

The next morning, being the early bird that I am, I took a walk in search of a good cup of coffee! After a brisk 35 minute walk into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction. As I entered the little box style coffee bar, I was cheerfully greeted by two older Asian women who were eager to help me with a cup of Joe. For some reason, coffee on vacation feels special. Without a care in the world, I said my thanks you and goodbyes to the ladies and headed back. The hot coffee kept the cool nip of morning at bay. As I was making my way back to Dani’s I came across a ‘fuzzy-Wuzzy’ caterpillar and enjoyed his/her company for a few blocks and then parted ways. When I got back the ladies were attempting to make breakfast, kinda scary. I rolled up my sleeves and whipped up some eggs and we ate.

Strolling into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction! Look, I found someone to walk with too!

Strolling into downtown Gaithersburg I found just what I was looking for, Java Junction! Look, I found someone to walk with too!

Later we left the house and got Michael so we could hit DC and tour the major sites by the capital. The five of us (Dani’s friend Kelly also tagged along) went and saw the U.S. Capital building, the Smithsonian, the White House, the WWII monument and finally the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately time was limited and we were unable to do a deeper dive into some of the buildings, but it was really amazing to visit our great nation’s capital.

Here are some fun pictures of us as we pose for the camera and snap a few memories!

Here are some fun pictures of us as we pose for the camera and snap a few memories!

Michael, Dani, Kelly, Nellie and myself enjoying the afternoon in DC!

Michael, Dani, Kelly, Nellie and myself enjoying the afternoon in DC!

Feeling a bit hungry we took our last pictures and headed out.That night we decided to go to dinner at Union Jacks a British style pub. We were over dressed for this college bar / club, but I was really in the mood for a burger and they had just the ticket. I ordered the Tower of London and honestly only got through half before giving up, lol. Afterwards we were all pretty tired and went back to hit the hay. We set our alarms and proceeded to count sheep until we were required to get up to catch our train to NYC.

Dinner with the crew at Union Jacks in Baltimore, MD.  Super hungry and I was still only able to eat half of my 'Tour de Effel' burger!

Dinner with the crew at Union Jacks in Baltimore, MD. Super hungry and I was still only able to eat half of my ‘Tower of London’ burger!

Half asleep Dani was nice enough to wake up and drop us off early on Friday morning at the metro. We had no problems taking the Red Line to Union Station. Once we arrived we were able to walk around and see the station.  It really is a beautiful building filled with great places to eat and shop. We sat down at Johnny Rockets and shared our breakfast. Big Momma sipped her hot chocolate as I was getting my daily caffeine fix. We comfortably had enough time to get our tickets and board. I honestly think that more people should experience the convenience of taking the train. Amtrak treated us well and we quickly dashed off to NYC. The Mrs. was happy to be able to stream an episode of Desperate Housewives (total diva) and I was able to relax and watch the train hustle down the tracks.

Dunn Brothers and All ABOARD! We enjoyed the comforts of the boxcars as we whistled up the tracks to NYC's Penn Station!

My cup of Einstein Bros coffee and All Aboard! We enjoyed the comforts of the Amtrak boxcars as we whistled up the tracks to NYC’s Penn Station!

We arrived at Penn Station in downtown Manhattan and easily made our way to the streets. Proactively I had printed walking maps from the train station to City Sports where we wanted to pick up our race packets. When we arrived a store employee told us that it was a different City Sports, shucks! Luckily we went up ten blocks to the correct one got our race gear and was provided directions to our hotel from an extremely helpful employee. We headed out to Queens first via subway and then took a bus transfer. It was pretty easy to use and really inexpensive which was awesome. Eventually we made it and checked-in to our hotel. That night was going to be low-key for us and Nellie and I stayed in and ordered Italian food to carb up for the race.

Race morning we woke up bright and early to pack our bags and be ready for a quick checkout. It was our game plan to run the race, return and get cleaned up so we could enjoy the rest of the day seeming more of downtown NYC. After getting race ready, we darted out of the hotel and hopped a cab to Citi Field (home of the Mets). We arrived in time for a light warmup and stretch before the race was to commence. Excitement was mounting for us; we were the 7th wave (purple bibs) of runners to begin the course. In droves the sponsors began letting the waves start at 8AM sharp. Thankfully, the weather was perfect (approximately 48-50 degrees) and we dressed light enough to avoid over heating but also warm enough to perform well and avoid stiffness.

Race morning, #EXCITED! Upon arriving at Citi Field, Nell and I got in a quick warmup and stretch! Go Time!

Race morning, #EXCITED! Upon arriving at Citi Field, Nell and I got in a quick warmup and stretch! Go Time!

Our group began at approximately 8:18AM and together Nellie and I went side by side out of the gates. Being as it was close to Halloween, some of the racers dressed up in their costumes. Surrounding us was a posse of Minion (Despicable Me), too funny and I couldn’t help saying, “Bee-Doh, Bee-Doh, Bee-Doh”, every time I saw one of them. The first couple of miles seemed to quickly fly by. Nellie was keeping a decent pace and was getting through the obstacles without a snag. My favorite obstacles were her least favorite, go figure, but we worked through them together. Whenever she needed a boost or a push I was there to lend that hand. I think that the course really looked beautiful with all the autumn reds, yellows and orange strewn about the trees. After my initial reservation and second guessing myself, I am glad that I had decided to bring my iPhone to capture our adventure. What better way to tell the story than through pictures and video? Fortunately for everyone placed below are a few picture collages, enjoy! 😉

We shared the warmth of the morning's sunlight while jogging our way along the MHURB course!

We shared the warmth of the morning’s sunlight while jogging our way along the MHURB course!

Of the numerous obstacles placed strategically along the 10 mile Queens race course, a few of my favorite are worthy of mention. These included:

  • Monkey Bars
  • Tire / High Knees
  • Hurdles
  • Citi Field Stair Climb

Some of my lesser enjoyed included:

  • Balance Beam Tire Carry
  • Arthur Ash Stadium Stair Climb
  • Army Crawls

By around the 8th mile our pace began to slow as I could tell that Nell’s legs were feeling the abuse. It’s best not to push your body too hard but to remain positive when the race gets tough. So much about running is mental; when the pain starts to dig at you it gets challenging, but you have to fight back with your ‘I can do this!‘ attitude. I gave continuous encouragement as we entered Citi Field for the stair climb challenge. Much like it was in Chicago and San Francisco but after the climb and decent stair pattern, racers were rewarded sweetly with the opportunity to run around the stadium’s ground floor. Given that it is a race we didn’t have much time to snap pictures, but I did get a few on-the-go.

After a few hundred stairs Nellie and I came out of Citi Field victorious! The herculean task was rewarded with a victory lap on the ground floor of the stadium!

After a few hundred stairs Nellie and I came out of Citi Field victorious! The herculean task was rewarded with a victory lap on the ground floor of the stadium!

Coming out of the stadium we were seconds from the last obstacle and then the finish line. In traditional MHU style the last task included us traversing a few taxicabs and taking cargo nets over a school bus, lastly a tall wall (in which I quickly scaled and then helped to pull Nell over. She impressed me throughout the race and hung tough to the very end. In true ‘newlywed’ fashion we held hands, raised them to the sky in celebration and ran through the finish line. We did it!

The goal of this trip had been accomplished and with the love of my life by my side. We finished very close to the two-hour mark, which was in par with what I wanted for us. Needless to say I was very pleased!

With the race behind us we were happy to check out of our Marriott hotel and put Queens in the rear view mirror. To make the most of our time we quickly checked into our quaint hotel only blocks from Penn Station. By ‘quaint’ I really mean tiny and overpriced hotel with very basic amenities, but when you’re traveling on a budget and don’t plan on spending much time in your room it works, I guess. After dropping our bags off we hit the streets of Manhattan to grab some food and to do some sightseeing.

We had been eying the double-decker bus tours of the city and after seeing what sights were offered by the downtown loop, we readily agreed to purchase. We took our time before boarding the your to find some decent eats. Luckily for us my wife spotted a place called Dallas BBQ. My wife and I were both quickly sat and put in our orders. She got the Bulldog their signature drink and a honey glazed rotisserie chicken dish and I went with the chicken and ribs. We made some small chat with some local New Yorkers as we chowed down our meals. Super happy to get some real food in us we were ready to get on with our tour.

Had an amazing dinner with my hubby!  Super hungry we both smashed our deep-fried and well deserved dinners!

Had an amazing dinner with my hubby! Super hungry we both smashed our deep-fried and well deserved dinners!

I grabbed a hot cup of Starbucks coffee right before we boarded to keep Nellie’s hands warm. It was not too cold out but the wind atop the bus was strong making us feel chilly. The guide was great as he narrated the audio portion of the tour and shared with us some cool and unique facts about the city. Some of the tour’s highlights included: > Empire State Building > Madison Square Garden > Flat Iron Building > Brooklyn Bridge > One World Trade Center > Statue of Liberty

We boarded our NYC tour bus and with our ear buds in and our camera we snapped a few selfies and also the amazing sights!

We boarded an NYC tour bus and with our earbuds in and our camera out, we snapped a few selfies and also captured many amazing city favorites!

Once the tour concluded it was already well into the evening and we were once again ready to catch a bite. We used the subway and got close to our hotel for the night and in the process found a Thai restaurant and hopped a squat. After devouring a couple of their tasty dishes we checked back into the hotel. Nell was going to call it a night but I wasn’t quite done with the day, there was one more thing I wanted to do. My wife had earlier picked me up a cigar for my birthday, so with it lit I took a long stroll and celebrated another successful race.

The next morning was an early one for us as we had to catch the Amtrak back to the Baltimore / D.C. area. We originally had planned on staying again at our friends place, however, we thought it would be fun to visit downtown Baltimore and see what the city had to offer. So with the time spent on the Amtrak ride down from NYC, I was able to figure out the details. In a flash, with the help of the Priceline Negotiator I was able to get us a night at the airport Marriott for $65 after taxes and an Avis full size rental car for the day at $24 after taxes and fees. Super cheap right, I know right!

So we got off the train a couple stops early and made our way to Avis. From there we peeled out in our fuel-efficient ford and went to the Courtyard. Twice the size of our last room, we dropped our bags and took a moment to relax. After our train-lag wore off we made our way downtown Baltimore and saw the sights. The pier downtown provided some magnificent sites and the city gave off a unique and pleasant vibe.  It felt great to walk around with Nellie and take some pictures of the skyline while I sipped my coffee.  This one city reminds me of Minneapolis but with a nice body of water to have a pier.  We got hungry throughout the day and both of us wanted something different.  So Nellie got to have her Cheesecake and I was able to tempt my palate with a Chipolte burritos, super happy!

Perfect day to be downtown Baltimore!  We saw the sites, walked the pier and got our dinner to-go, perfection!

Perfect day to be downtown Baltimore! We saw the sites, walked the pier and got our dinner to-go, perfection!

Later we returned to our hotel to enjoy our last night away from home. We both took out our dinner that we had taken to-go and sat on our hotel room balcony and enjoyed our meals. Afterwards we go dessert from the lobby and devoured that too. Nellie was a good sport and when I told her that I wanted to go for a swim she gladly came with me while I ended the night with a few laps in the pool. We returned to the room and watched the rest of the Packers vs. Vikings football game and called it a night after smoking my last cigar for the trip.

The next day we safely returned home and were glad to be back in the comfort of our own home!  Another amazing trip and the last of the MHU races were completed for us.  So what’s next?  I am thinking of now brushing up on my drawing as it is my hope to brand myself with the three city skylines that make up the domestic urbanathlon adventure that Nellie and I experienced together (Chicago 2011, San Fran 2012, and now New York 2013) and wear it proudly.  This ends one of many of my bucket list items and life goals!

Till the next big adventure! #MHURB

Men’s Health Urbanathlon – San Francisco

Having enjoyed myself with the MHU – Chicago experience, I decided that it would be a lot of fun to plan and complete their entire domestic series. This left Nellie and I to chose between San Francisco and New York. Our choice was an easy one given the factors motivating us. We selected to visit Cali and then in 2013 we will round out the races in NYC!

I think we were both excited to visit the west coast and see what all the hype was about. During the planning of our trip we decided that the race would be the primary motivator, but really this trip was about sight seeing and enjoying time with each other. All things considered, after a bit of research and asking around, I knew all the places and attractions that I wanted to see. From this the details and itinerary began to fall into place. Here is the story as it unfolded chronologically.

The planning of all my vacations and trips thus far has consistently been done on a budget, and this would hold true. Luckily, the two of us were able to use some free round-trip flight vouchers (from our Atlanta / engagement trip) to get us out there and back; that was a burden lifted, cause flying can get expensive. I remember that we booked an early morning flight which usually means I am dragging unless I get my coffee.  Here is us on our way out there!

We took an early morning flight to L.A., where we would soon meet up with YoYo.

We took an early morning flight to L.A., we walked around downtown for a while to do some site seeing.

Nellie wanted to visit her girlfriend Yolanda while we were out that way, so we decided to fly into Los Angeles and checkin and see how she was doing. It was also pretty cool because she was able to show us around a little and enjoy a nice dinner with us at the Lobster in Santa Monica. I remember the great conversation, food and walk on the pier from that night. I felt so calm and really let myself enjoy the moment.

Dinner @ The Lobster in Santa Monica with our good friend Yolanda. Amazing night, great food and even better company!

Dinner @ The Lobster in Santa Monica with our good friend Yolanda. Amazing night, great food and even better company!

Afterwards we went cruising Hollywood Blvd. before we called it a night. Neither of us were that impressed.  Perhaps it would have been better to visit during the daytime. We got back to YoYo’s place and she put us up for the night, which was very kind of her and easy on our budget.

The next day was a beautiful friday. We got up fairly early and kindly YoYo dropped us off at the car rental before 9AM. We said our goodbyes and in a flash she was off to work and we were picking out our rental car. Lol, funny how Nell and I can be so indecisive at times. She wanted the Chrysler 300 and I wanted the Nissan Maxima, well eventually after going back and forth we tore out of the place in the little Maxima. We would spend the next several hours driving through the California countryside. I was really surprised to see all the agriculture fields along the way. The red sandy roads were a new site to see and I really just enjoyed driving.  It was an added bonus that the car was fast and torquey.

When we finally arrived in San Fran, it was important that we swing in and get my race packet so that I was ready to go come Sunday morning. After getting the packet we quickly dropped off the rental and jumped a taxi to our hotel. The really nice thing about staying at the Marriott we booked via Priceline was that it was just a couple blocks from Navy Pier.  I booked a hotel in that vicinity specifically because it was near all the action and we could essentially walk out the front door and be at the starting point of the race in five minutes, perfection.

After the travel day and driving 5+ hours, Nell and I decided to have a chill evening and went for a walk along the Pier.  We were pretty hungry but the selection was kinda slim picking because it was pretty late.  We stumbled along a pizza place and caught a slice and some wings.  Satisfied with our evening we walked back to the hotel and got some rest.  We knew the next day would be a busy one.


I decided to let my love sleep in while I laced up my running shoes and stepped to the streets.  It was a bit nippy out, so I started off at a Starbucks nearby and had coffee.  I warmed up, got a good stretch in and made tracks.  I ran about four miles along Navy Pier and took in the sites and smells.  There was so much going on!  An open market for people to purchase fresh fruits of the sea, other tourists taking photos, and there I was getting my sweat on as I jogged on by.  On my return back to my love I made sure to stop in and get another coffee and to grab her a croissant filled with chocolate and a vanilla steamer, her favorite.

She was happy to see me return and we got cleaned up for our day.  We then took a nice stroll along the Pier and took some pictures.  They had their huge Christmas tree already up for the holidays which was pretty cool.  We also had to take the opportunity to ride on the trolly which was pretty cool.   Eventually we mad our way downtown to do some window shopping.  Big momma got a bit salty with me as she wanted to shop but I kept reminding her that we couldn’t.  She saw a Louis Vuitton store and it would be in my ear the rest of the day. This is the woman I would be soon marrying, lol, that’s my diva.

Walking the Pier, enjoying the sights and each other's company!

Walking the Pier, enjoying the sights and each other’s company!

Walking around all day really gave us a big appetite, but we had to avoid snacking because we had dinner plans.  Prior to the trip, I had made plans with my good friend Susan and her husband Michael. They had moved out there a few years ago and it was finally my opportunity to connect with them both.  We met up at a really great asian-centric restaurant.  We arrived a bit early and got a beverage.  I was super excited to see them and knew that things were going to be changing for both of them soon.  They were just a few short months away from becoming parents.

Dinner with Susan and Michael in San Francisco! YUM!

Dinner with Susan and Michael in San Francisco! YUM!

When they arrived we took a moment to get a few pictures and say our  hellos.  It had been a couple years but they looked exactly the same They were happy as they always were.  Having known them for a while and even being a part of their wedding day, I could tell that they were happy! Next, we reviewed the menu and decided to order a few different plates and then just pass the food around, which was awesome!  My big race day was in the morning so we chatted a while and said our goodbyes to head back and get some rest.


Race Day! We woke up early and got ready for the big race.  Luckily we were already close to the starting line and had plenty of time.  We left the hotel and were quickly surrounded by hundreds of runners getting ready to start their race.  I was in the 7th corral and therefore wouldn’t start for another half hour while the spread out the participants.  When it was my turn to begin my MHU adventure, I lace my shoes up tight and pealed off my tank.  It was go time.

The starting line of the MHU - San Francisco!

The starting line of the MHU – San Francisco!

The weather was a little bit cool which would make for a great run. Immediately out of the race shoot I took it up a notch and passed many of the folks in my wave.  I would be finding my comfort zone for the next mile and catching my breath as I found my runner’s stride.  It is important to find a good pace and hit your equilibrium so that you can perform thoughout the race.  It is important to mentally focus knowing that you have another 10 miles ahead of you packed full of obstacles, oh and don’t forget the crazy hills throughout the city.

About two miles into the race I realized that something wasn’t quite right.  Quickly a cop on a motorcycle zooms past us to the guy leading us and rerouted us.  Apparently we got off the race path and lost about a mile of running until we reunited with the rest of the racers.  Seriously annoyed, I just had to do my best knowing that my finish time was going to be off about seven minutes.  I don’t blame the guys that got off track because the course was not as clearly defined as the MHU-Chicago.  In fact, I thought that this one was much less organized overall. The upside of the race was sweet challenges presented every few miles.  I remember just championing my way through each of them.  I darted though the monkey bars, army crawls, stadium stairs, hurdles and anything else that came at me.

Obstacles have met their match... MarathonJake @ MHU - San Francisco!

Obstacles have met their match… MarathonJake @ MHU – San Francisco!

In fact, after doing a bit of searching I found the official 2012 MHU – San Francisco video posted out on YouTube.  Guess who would play a quick cameo at 1min 19seconds, yours truly! In all the race was a ton of fun and I gave it my best.  At the finish line I met up with my #1 cheerleader.  Kisses from my Nellie, which are always amazing!  My overall results were eventually posted and read as such:

MHU - San Francisco Race Results; I did well overall and had a great time doing it!

MHU – San Francisco Race Results; I did well overall and had a great time doing it!

We stayed and enjoyed the Urbanathlon celebration for a while, and at about 9:30AM we left to make the most of our last day in San Francisco.  It was still early and we wanted to do accomplish a bit of fun site-seeing.  We found a cool place close by to rent us bikes and with the Golden-Gate Bridge off in the distance we mounted our loaners and were off to start an adventure. It took us a while to get close to the base of the bridge, but it was cool to see that there were some surfers out there catching some waves.  Btw, surfing is totally on my bucket list!

We took the bikes over the bridge and on the way back Nellie had a bit of an ‘incident’. She basically ran some guy over, lol talk about a scary bike collision.  No one was hurt, but it was definately a scare. We captured some really cool memories, check out below!

Nellie & Jake riding around sight seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, CA.

Nellie & Jake riding around sight seeing at the Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA.

After our riding around we made our way back to the hotel so that we could get all cleaned-up for our final day in the city.  We jumped in our street clothes, checked out of the Marriott and started our final round of sight seeing before our flight later that evening. We had enough time to go to Lombard Street (notorious for its many zig-zags because of how steep the street is) and do some walking around.  Later we had a nice dinner and I was able to finally enjoy some fresh crab from the bay, seriously yummy! Overall we had an amazing trip and did as much sight-seeing as we could with the time we had.

Checking out Lombard Street and enjoying our last beautiful day in San Francisco!

Checking out Lombard Street and enjoying our last beautiful day in San Francisco!

We rounded out the trip loving each other and creating lasting memories, mission accomplished! More to come as our final leg of the domestic MHU races will be sending us to New York!

Men’s Health Urbanathlon – Chicago

In the last few years I have made it a point to blend my hobby of running with my passion for travel. I really enjoy ‘newness’ you know? It’s that feeling that you get when you see, smell, touch, hear and feel something for the very first time. It seems more exciting and it makes me feel more alive; this is probably why I love to travel. Partner that with a challenging 10 mile run through a major metro and you have one happy MarathonJake! It just so happens that the Men’s Health Urbanathlon (MHU) race series provides this unique experience for me. This race in hosted in three different cities domestically: Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; and New York, NY.

Within this blog I will recapture my experiences in Chicago (2010 & 2011).

Posing for the camera in my mock Men's Health magazine cover shot! LOL

Posing for the camera in my mock Men’s Health magazine cover shot! LOL

Chicago Recap

I have always been fairly fond of Chicago. It’s the biggest major metro next to Minneapolis and it has an amazing atmosphere. I had spent some time out there for consulting training when I was at Deloitte and later for work when I was with U.S. Bank. During one of those visits (I was still fairly new to organized run races at that time), but was training for my goal of running a marathon later that fall. I decided to run from Wrigleyville to the John Hancock building downtown and back (~half marathon or 13.1 miles). Ever since I have been hooked on running through different city’s downtown areas.

A couple of years later I would come to find out about the Men’s Health Urbanathlon. Soon after doing my research on this race, I knew it was something that I wanted to try. The next season I put a plan in motion to make that happen!

So what really is an Urbanathlon? Well to me it is essentially a cross between a timed run race and an obstacle course. One of the coolest parts about the race that it is located in a densely populated city. The Chicago race was mapped out all along Navy Pier, so on one side of you there was the beautiful city skyline and on the other was Lake Michigan, loved it!

During the morning of my races, I mentally prepare by having coffee, stretching and getting a light sweat. I wake my body up and get limber. This is especially important when you throw obstacles into the mix. I am a fan of caffeine as it gives me heightened alertness and almost giddy reflexes. This comes in especially handy when you are in a race with hundreds if not thousands of other competitors and you need to avoid stepping on others or being trampled over yourself.

Loosening up and stretching during my pre-run warmup! It's GO TIME!

Loosening up and stretching during my pre-run warmup! It’s GO TIME!

When it came time for me to compete in this race I was really excited; I had put in the time and work throughout the summer around Lake Calhoun and was ready. I remember being focused on having fun and pushing myself. It is usually my internal nature is to be aggressive and this characteristic sometimes is viewed as a flaw, however, I have learned how to harness it and rise above many difficult challenges because I do not back down. I am relentless and my abilities are only limited by my mental willpower.

Both times when I competed in the Chicago MHU there were moments that were more draining and there were gaps where you were able to regain your breath while performing at a good pace. The obstacles are something that I ravel at the opportunity to tear through. Fortunately, before I ever became a runner I was more heavily into weight lifting and body sculpting. This gave me a big upper body and the strength to match, which really helps when you need to pull your weight over a wall or do other more body balanced activities.

Don’t get me wrong, on purely run races I wish I could take off my armor suit, but for this it’s close to perfect. I found myself able to quickly demolish the obstacles on the course and come out the other side a bit winded but I kept shuffling my feet and pushed through it. I found that during the stair climb at Soldier Field, that my upper body was used to my advantage as I was able to swing my arms and use that momentum to keep shooting up more and more flights of stairs.

I would end up completing the race with at a decent clip. My time would prove to be better my second year. Probably because I had my Nell with me to cheer me on, lol. It also helped that I had a better idea of the race and the different obstacle stations. A few of the things I liked the most about the race include:

  • monkey bars
  • hurdles
  • blockades
  • tractor tire wall
  • stair climb @ Soldier Field
  • traversing taxis and bus
  • running along Navy Pier

Overall this race has been my most enjoyed to date and have actively recommended it to many fellow runners. Between the city, the time of year and the atmosphere, there is nothing that beats it! To wrap things up, here are my official times for both 2010 (left) and 2011 (right).  Look for an upcoming post that explains my next adventure doing the MHU in San Francisco!

Here are my official MHU - Chicago race results! Love it!

Here are my official MHU – Chicago race results! Love it!


Since I first picked up running races as a hobby it has always been a solo adventure, which has been okay for me because I am very independent and really like to not talk or think.  I just run.  However, the 2013 season has been quite different and I have a few people to thank for that.  Mostly I have to give appreciation to my friend Pat Tatro for pulling me along on several different races this year.  Props buddy!

So RAGNAR is a race that most of us have either heard about or at least seen the interesting symbol / logo plastered on a handful of cars around the cities.  It is a relay race that begins in Winona, MN and ends in Minneapolis, MN (~200 miles).  You plan and prepare for this race by establishing a solid race team.  Teams can be any combination of up to twelve runners; if a team choses to just be 6 runners they are dubbed ‘Ultra’.  There can be quite a few details to manage so the team captain has a lot to organize.  A big thanks to Kevin for spear heading these tasks for our 2013 race.


According to the instructions provided by Kevin, we were to meet at Pat’s place at approximately 10:15AM, when I arrived majority of the guys were there and loading up the van with supplies and their running gear.  I had chosen to pack light, really light. Most of the guys had brought more than one change of clothes and many additional additives to comfort along the way.  Pretty smart of them, obviously I didn’t really know what I was in for. I did bring what mattered: running shoes, socks, shirt, shorts, and a headlamp. Soon we lined up in our respective vans  runners 1-6 in the first and 7-12 in the second. I was slated with the 6th race spot in the first van which I was really happy with. My legs were to be 7.6 miles (very Hard), 5.6 miles (Hard) and finally 4.1 miles (moderate); this was great because I was stoked to get the toughest stretch done first, everything was to get easier from then on.

We had a quick ride down to Winona, which was cool because we were able to chat and get a bit more acquainted. We arrived and checked-in and our team went through the safety review with the course instructor.  Soon it was time for us to get started, but before we got underway we got a quick pick of the crew in Van 1.

Van 1 Race Crew at the RAGNAR starting line!

Van 1 Race Crew at the RAGNAR starting line! Left to Right (Jake, Connor, Alex, Pat, Phil and Robby)

Race Start Date/Time: Friday August 16th @ 2PM

We had one of the later race times that day and there were only about five other teams that were going to begin the race at the same time.  Robby started us off and while we were waiting for him we decided to decorate the van and to mark the team name “Dirt McGuerts” and each of our race legs on the sides of the van. When it was all done it looked great!

The cool thing about this race is that the other racers in the van will support you along the way.  You look at your race legs and see where you would like the van to encourage you and give you water.  Since it ended up being quite hot that day (~89F) we often needed water drops. Plus each time you saw your van it was like another push to keep going and to keep a swift pace.  Being there for each other was a cool way to bond, and when it wasn’t your time to race you had time to enjoy the snacks in the van and chat.

Not too much later and it was time for my first leg; it was approximately 5:15PM.  It was a very challenging leg of 7.6 miles which was littered with mentally challenging hills. There were several points during this stretch where I wanted to stop but my pride wouldn’t left me.  So I kept my feet shuffling. I finished Leg 6 with around a 7:30 pace and for the type of hills and heat, I consider that quite the accomplishment. I like that the relay race used essentially the old school 80s/90s slap bracelet style baton.  Pretty cool.

From start to finish I pushed through each of my legs and came out victorious!

From start to finish I pushed through each of my legs and came out victorious!

My next leg was to begin at approximately 2:15AM. This was to be my first night run and it was quite different from running during the day.  By now the temperature from the day had dropped significantly and was quite brisk.  I remember putting my headlamp on and gearing up for the transition.  It was a bit strange running at night and I was always on the lookout for cars (especially for drunk drivers).  I could easily see my breath as I ran, but that didn’t break my focus.  I was looking for other runner’s via their tail lights.  I was able to get 6 ‘Kills’ on this stretch which felt great.  I finished with a brisk pace of closer to 7:00 minute miles. Once this leg was completed our crew drove to Stillwater, MN where we were able to get a little shut-eye and rest our legs.

Rise & Shine its Van 1 time! Starting our last and final leg of the race!

Rise & Shine its Van 1 time! Starting our last and final leg of the race!

By 7AM the next morning van 2 had completed their legs of the race and now it was time for us to complete our last stretch (see picture above).  My last one came at approximately 10:30AM.  It was quite hot out and I remember my leg was a straight path through a local town.  My legs were beginning to fail as I sprinted through the finish line. I had a total of 10 kills on that stretch! Mentally drained and physically tired, I was super excited that I completed the last leg (again close to 7 minute miles). We then took off and headed back to Pats to cleanup and unload the van.  Before we did that we had to admire the van and all the kills we made along the way (~93 teams).

Back at Pat's we counted our Kills and got cleaned up to meet up with Van 2 at the finish line.

Back at Pat’s we counted our Kills and got cleaned up to meet up with Van 2 at the finish line.

Afterwards, we were to meet at the race finish line down by the U of M. When we arrived we had enough time to relax a bit and enjoy conversation before Kevin (the last runner in Van 2) was to arrive. We brought along our official RAGNAR race shirts so that we could run across the finish line together as a team and have our team photo taken.  It was a big accomplishment!  Personally I ran approximately 17.5 miles in total.  I was a bit tired and sore, but I sat down and enjoyed a complimentary couple of pizzas.  Thanking all of the team members for a great experience I soon took off only to later connect with the team on Facebook and share our story.  In all, it was a unique team relay race experience and I had a lot of fun!  Here is our finish line picture!

The Dirt McGuerts arrive victorious!

The Dirt McGuerts arrive victorious!

Late the following week we received word that we placed 9th overall for the race.  Our final time was ~24hrs 30mins.  We were pretty excited to have done so well and though we didn’t crack the 24 hour mark, we cannot complain about our performance.  The average mile pace for our team was 7:32.

Who would have thought at 28 I was going to band with a group of guys and run from Winona MN to Minneapolis MN.  Blessed in life!

CampTITAN 2013

This morning I participated in the “extreme BlackOps style” 5K obstacle course race called CampTITAN.  I participated in this event last season and gave it another shot because it had some of the best obstacles and was pretty challenging. Since this is not nearly as commercialized as Warrior Dash or ToughMudder, it usually draws a smaller audience, but also means you wont be stepping on people every time you try to take a full stride.  The remainder of this post is dedicated to my overall race preparation and then the deeper dive into the pros and cons of this course.

Pre-Race Preparation:

This morning I did my normal Jake ‘race morning rituals’ that I always do; this usually consists of waking up early enough to have a cup or two of coffee (black), enjoy putting something in my stomach and yup I top it off by slapping on my board shorts and shoes. Food-wise, I made myself a blended shake consisting of bananas, a bit of chocolate protein powder, a packet of chocolate breakfast shake (well-balanced nutritionally), some ice, a little water, a bit of Silk almond milk, and top it off with a raw egg. After it was well blended, It was delicious. Side note, I left some in the fridge for the wife; I let her sleep in from a night out with the girls. Then as always, I jumped on my bike (NASTY) and peeled out for Buck Hill Ski Resort to take on this foe once again.

Gotta love being used in a Race's advertising pictures! I took it to that tire - FLIP! ;)

I am in the Race’s advertising pictures! I took it to that tire – FLIP! 😉

Check-in and Warmup:

Upon arriving, I am in a really good mood.  It was a slightly brisk ride out to Buck Hill and I was feeling really good, but when you ride for 40 minutes or more your legs get a bit stiff.  So I went through the check-in process, which was a bit of a drag but the line went quick enough. One thing that i didn’t like too much were the generic bib numbers that they give you and they had us adhere them with duck tape instead of pins. In addition, there were no T-shirts this year, so you can forget walking away with any swag. But I am not really upset that they went a cost-effective route.  All the proceeds of this race are donated towards Haiti earthquake relief, so at least I know why they are more  frugal.  Upside – parking was free!

Next, I made sure to get some good stretching done before my wave time (@ 10AM). I got a solid warmup and took time on my ankles, as they have been hurting ever since the ToughMudder, likely due to all the downhill impact during the race.  Next, they corralled us together in our wave which were identified by different color wrist bands. Lastly and perhaps my biggest gripe is that they did not provide a timing chip and so the race was not technically timed.

Race Experience – Green Wave

After the necessary precautionary speech our wave was let out of the gate.  Normally I shoot right to the front, but this time I figured it would make most sense to not gas myself right away.  Within the first mile I was only behind 3 other guys; two were military and one was a younger kid (and man he was quick).

The obstacles for this year’s CampTITAN were weak at best. They consisted of several ‘mud mounds’ and some army crawl activities and of course the 8-9 foot walls that you had to pull yourself over.  None of the obstacles I thought were very difficult but the overall course itself was the biggest challenge.  There were six different paths in which you had to go from the bottom of Buck Hill to the very top and then back down.  It really tested the strength and endurance of your legs.

Remember those three guys that I said were ahead of me?  Well I took the marines out pretty much at the same time as I was scaling one of the tough uphill stretches of the course.  The younger guy was a formidable competitor, It took me until approximately the 2 to 2.5 miles into the course before I surpassed him.  It was the 20 lbs sandbag that we had to carry up the hill and back down that seemed to take it out of him.  I passed him on the way down and never looked back again.  I was on a roll and wasn’t about to give up the lead.  The last ascent of Buck Hill seemed unending and when I finally hit the apex I “Rocky danced” for a couple of seconds and then hit the decent.  The rest is history, I blew through the finnish gate – 1st in my Green Wave!

The feeling of completing this race was really good, it was really mentally challenging and pushed you to remain positive and keep putting one foot in front of other the whole time.  When I finished I got a pretty cool dog tag as my medal of completion.  I will add it to the stack from the many races that I have laid to rest!

Overall Race Experience: B-

I think I did it in about 32 minutes, but without the timing chip I cannot be sure.  I had a decent time on the cource, however,  this years obstacles were lacking and hope that they focus a bit more on that piece. Greater participant / fan crowd base would have been nice too.  Another one down for the 2013 season!

Warrior Dash 2013

About a month ago I was fortunate enough to participate in the Warrior Dash 2013 @ Afton Alps. This is the third year in a row that I was able to compete in this obstacle course. This race is owned and hosted by Red Frog Events, which in my opinion is one of the first companies to commercialize these type of obstacle course style races. Overall a pretty cool company.

Originally it was not in my plans to complete this race as the previous year I truly didn’t enjoy the obstacles as much as some of the other courses out there (i.e. Rugged Maniac, CampTITAN, etc.). However, I was tapped by my friend Patrick as he wanted me to run in place of his wife as she was not 100% good to go, so I took him up on his offer. Once I gave him confirmation, he looked into changing the registration over to me. Do you think that was possible? Well it wasn’t, so therefor, for that day I was to be running as his lady. Oh well whatever I thought. No one ever follows all the rules at those races; sometimes you play it by eat and jump into whatever wave time that works best for you as opposed to your specified time.

When the day came, as tradition calls for, I rode my motorcycle out to Afton bright and early. With my board shorts on, red bull and a granola bar all in my draw-string backpack, I paid for parking (which always annoys me as I feel I deserve a pass for such a small vehicle) and made my way to the busses to meet Patrick and his wife down at the race grounds. After meeting up he was able to get me the bib that I needed and he was able to check his bag in.

With only a minute or so before the race wave for 10:30 to go, Patrick and I decided to jump in. Unfortunately the race shoot was packed with people. Many of which I knew were there for the fun and social aspect of the race. Me on the other hand I had shown up with a goal of beating my time from last year (~30 minutes). Therefore I have my best to Patrick and took off for the front of the pack. The race had already began, so this meant that I had to zig-zag amongst the other participants. Soon I was through the thick of it and onto the obstacles.

You have to love that this years course made all the runners immediately dash to the top of a very steep hill.  Now that I have been through several obstacle course races I have learned that it is not worth it to sprint to the top and come out of it completely winded and unable to jog it out once you hit ‘unchallenged’ flat terrain.  So instead I will sprint two-thirds the way to the top of majority of the larger hills and then walk the remaining portion until I hit the apex.  This allows me to catch my breath a bit during the part of the hill that by the time I would get there running my running would be essentially the same pace of a brisk walk, so it’s essentially a wash.

With mastering the hills my next challenge became the periodic obstacles on the course and then the other participants. I have done my best to be respectful by calling out ‘on the left’ to folks as I pass, but on occasion I folks do not get out of my way in time especially at the obstacles so I have to improvise.  Luckily, I am able to think on my feet and get through quickly and without crushing others. One suggestion that I have for the folks at Red Frog Events would be to put in a ‘Fast Lane‘ on each of the obstacles.  That way those there for the competition can blaze through while the others can meander at their own modest pace.

This warrior dash had several fun obstacles including: cargo nets, fire to jump over, trestles to climb over and go under, walking planks, and the final mud pit to victory.  However, I am somewhat disappointed that the course creators have abandoned the section of donated cars that you would run over; I always liked that!

Upon completing the race which I felt pretty good about, I received my metal and waited for my buddy Patrick to finish. Soon thereafter we went over to the beer tent and got our beer.  He had the famous turkey leg and I afforded myself a beef hotdog, lol.  We were both victors but overall I was unsure of my overall time, I thought that I was close to beating my last year’s time but needed to wait for the official results. A few days later, Pat sends me a text saying the results are up.  This is where it gets funny and somewhat depressing.

My buddy’s wife (Me) placed 47th out of 8311 competitors.  Not only that but his ‘wife’ placed 2nd overall for all the women in the race.  This they still like to give me a hard time about because essentially it means that I got beat by a girl.  I do get a laugh about it, but my official time is noted below!

47 Heidi Tatro 62333 30 F 2/1550 30-39 27:39.70 8:45/M

Pretty proud of that time and it will definitely be one for the books! But I think that the real gain for the day was spending it with a fairly new friend and getting to know him better.  He is a very good person and is a very smart guy.  We probably stand to learn a lot and both benefit from a good friendship. Overall, I am glad I took him up on the offer!

Here is a picture of us all after we had completed the race! Good Friends = Good Times & Many Laughs!

Patrick, Heidi, and Jake - Warrior Dash 2013

Patrick, Heidi, and Jake – Warrior Dash 2013

Tough Mudder 2013

This past weekend I had the opportunity to complete the Tough Mudder obstacle course in Somerset, WI. Thanks to my friend Patrick, I was brought onboard a team of 8 total Mudders! The team consisted of Patrick, Jake B., Jake C. (Me), Ryan, Dan, Kevin, Tresa, and her friend. All were very nice people and had a positive outlook for the day’s adventure!

This was the first time I had been able to participate in a military-style obstacle course with a team.  I have in the past avoided team races because I am typically very competitive and enjoy setting my own pace and pushing myself to a limit where I feel I have given it my personal best.  Luckily, this event is truly not a competitive race but instead a group event in which you need your teammates in order to accomplish some of the obstacles.

The course itself was approximately 10 miles of off-road hilly terrain that had a plethora of challenging obstacles (20+). The pace of the group felt close to 11min miles but this was fun because we were able to have fun banter as we jogged from obstacle to obstacle.

Below are some of my favorite obstacles that we overcame during the TM course.

  • Bail Bonds (pyramid of straw bails)
  • Everest (half-pipe)
  • Mud Mile (hill of mud x10)
  • Walk the Plank (high jump into water pit)
  • Funky Monkey (monkey bars up and down)

Lease favorite ones:

  • Electric Eel (hard-hitting electrical shocks while sliding on your stomach)
  • Arctic Enema (ice/water pool, shocking as it drops your core temperature)

By the time our group had hit mile 7 or so, a couple of our crew had some pretty stiff cramps in their legs. We then dialed it back a little bit which was good to keep the group together and gave me a greater sense of ‘team’ and not the individual (me). After about 3.5 hours we completed the course and were immediately rewarded with a Dos Equis beer and a couple of protein bars, both were delicious and shared in good company!  We accomplished a great feet and going forward, I will wear my headband when I am drinking and rock my Mudder shirt when I am working out!

We got our stamina back up again after a 30 minute stretch on a hill just outside the main TM grounds. It was a beautiful day and we totally got blessed.  It must have been perhaps 80 degrees and sunny outside but these were welcomed conditions after rolling of a 90+ degree stretch for the last couple of weeks. Soon after we stretched and took off our mud-caked shoes we got up and headed to Patrick’s to enjoy a barbecue and get cleaned up.

As a good host, Patrick and his wife set us up with towels and a hot shower.  While we cleaned up they were busy preparing food which was very kind of them.  I had a few drinks and some amazing food (great burger and a brat), the guys took the opportunity to get to know each other better. Glad I met them and after our conversations, I concluded my day and headed home.  What began with a 7:30AM motorcycle ride to Pat’s lasted until 5:30PM, that day will not be soon forgotten.  I hope again to enjoy another Mudder season with this crew!