Spartan Sprint 2015

It’s not very often that I get to hang out with my buddies, perhaps a casual happy hour here and there. Only as much as my busy life allows. Lately it has been consumed with work responsibilities (Backbone) and other family obligations, which includes a new little baby boy and being there for my wife and daughter.

That said, when my buddy Kyle hit me up out of the blue early this year to see if I wanted to partake in an obstacle course style race called ‘Spartan’, after about .02 seconds of looking into the race details I was sold! Checked with the wife to make sure it did not collide with a demanding schedule if Saturday weddings and when all was clear I purchased my entrance fee.

Next, I was to spread the word and see whom else may like to join us and as many of us already know talk is cheap and many pondered but ultimately did not commit. The one, and very pleasant surprise, was that my cousin Marc Thomas was down to join the group. Both of us had discussed doing a race together before but had never gotten the stars to align until now.

The next several months flew by and my training had naturally changed from being an aggressive runner to slowing down in order to bulk up a bit and give my joints a rest. When you like to compete in races like this, having a muscle suit can be a good and bad thing. Therefore, I continued to circuit train in the gym but also was lifting heavier and running less. When it came to race day I felt a bit under prepared…

Having coordinated with Kyle the week leading up to the race, we decided to all carpool together to save on gas and parking fees. Kyle and his friend Cam met at my place and we were to pick Marc up on the way down to Welch Ski Resort where they were hosting the race. Marc, btw, had a conquest the night before in the cities and woke up hungry and so I brought him an omelette, after all, you cannot race without fuel.

Cam, now that’s an interesting guy. With aspirations to be a REAL actor, he has recently simplified and downsized things in his life to accomplish his goals. Pretty admirable and bold if you ask me. With his stellar beard, full of life attitude and outgoing personality he was an awesome addition to the team. With the four of us loaded up and limited liability waivers in hand we made our way to the hill slopes of Welch.

We arrived slightly after 11:00AM and made our way to the check-in station after we paused a moment to put on sunscreen. Hindsight 20/20, I should have put it all over my shoulders and chest instead of just protecting my tattoos (a mistake that shall not be repeated, ouch!). Upon submitting our waivers, we bumped up our race time to 12:15PM to get this show on the road. After all, this was going to be a tortuous 4.9 miles of Spartan glory, AROO!

The four of us sized up the daunting hills and decided to start with a moderate pace as to not burnout in the first couple of miles. Kyle had been having pain in his knee decided to start slightly before us and finish at his own pace. We were convinced that we should carry our Spartan brother but he insisted we part. With some house EDM music playing in the background we got amped up and let out of the race shoot.

Some of the many Spartan Race obstacles... and that barbed wire was no joke... stay low!

Some of the many Spartan Race obstacles… and that barbed wire was no joke… stay low!

Both Marc and Cam surprised me over the next ~5 miles with their athletic ability and endurance. We made the decision to stick together as a pack through the race obstacles, some of which offered a real challenge even for this guy! The obstacles included the following:

  • ~40lbs Sandbag Shoulder Carry
  • ~50lbs Bucket of Crushed Rock Carry
  • ~60lbs Boulder Carry
  • Monkey Bar / Rings
  • 8ft, 9ft and 10ft Walls
  • Cargo Net Pyramid
  • Spartan Spear Toss
  • Army Rope Climb
  • Mud Trenches
  • Barbed Wire Mud Crawl

*Not to mention countless hill climbs and steep decent!

Cousins & Champions! Many more good times to come!

Cousins & Champions! Many more good times to come!

Each of us performed differently at each obstacle and yes some defeated me! For those that attempted and failed, your punishment was any number of burpees (typically 10-15 per failed obstacle). By the end of the race we were feeling like real Spartans and jumped the fire pit and crossed the finish line victorious. Together the three of us got a photo and then we headed to shower the muck and mire off of our sun beaten bodies! Right after we caught up with Kyle and were able to get a picture with him as he finished. Thankfully, this is the one race that provides the images taken for free to the participants, so cool!

Spartan men victoriously honored for our great feet of strength and endurance! Never fearing defeat we overcame every obstacle and came out stronger on the other side! AROO!

Spartan men victoriously honored for our great feet of strength and endurance! Never fearing defeat we overcame every obstacle and came out stronger on the other side! AROO!

With our medals worn proudly we finished the event off with a complementary victory beer and discussed meaning of Spartan victory, lol. We looked at the race results and realized we timed in at just over an hour and a half for the event. See below for the actual results and rankings. After a bit we packed it up and made our way back to the cities. Dropped my cousin off on our way and gave him a solid hug and thanks for making it to the Spartan race!

Less than a week later our results and these images (free) you see were made available. Overall, we did awesome!

Spartan Sprint 2015 - Race Results!

Spartan Sprint 2015 – Race Results!

Until next time, AROO! AROO!

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Babymoon – Cabo San Lucas!

Babymoon Preface:

September 7th 2014, the day after my brother married his best friend, Liz Oliver, now Carroll, my wife and I were shocked with a real blessing… We were pregnant!

That moment forwards, our lives have been a good kind of different. If you are our friends, family or even a social media acquaintance, you know that our life has been a production set which my wife has become center stage in her own reality TV show. Hey, I guess that makes me along for the ride. Yeah it is mandatory but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now that we have made it past the “gender reveal” party, we are now upon our “babymoon”! Thankfully this time around, I have the means to celebrate and enjoy the moment with my wife. Now that we are just about to enter our 3rd trimester of pregnancy, it is the perfect time to enjoy our last chance getaway, an all-inclusive week in Cabo San Lucas at the Riu Santa Fe!

A very warm and sincere thank you to our good family friends, Andrew and Rosi Vaughn, without them we would not have looked into Sun Country’s vacation packages and found this great deal! Cheers, Uno have been a big help in making this babymoon happen!

2.12-16.2015 – Día Uno, Dos, Tres & Cuatro:
Upon arrival here in Los Cabo, we were easily greeted by our Sun Country hosts and taken to our resort @ Riu Santa Fe. Upon checking in, and after exchanging our original room for an ‘acceptable’ one, we were able to set up for the week. With our bursting carry-ons unpacked, we settled in and jumped into our normalization period. You know, the time needed to clear your head from the business rigmarole and get used to eating and drinking whatever and whenever. Yeah, I am a big believer in all-inclusive resorts.

My initial assessment was that the Riu Santa Fe was by far the largest resort complex that we have ever stayed. With more than 900+ rooms, this place was constantly buzzing with foreigners, especially Canadians! The upside, the resort had massive space and was set up to accommodate large live shows and many many thirsty patrons wanting to belly up at the bar! The downside, having to reserve dinner plans in advance (which is fairly typical, but getting in at anything but 9PM is a real challenge, good luck!), and the mediocre at best food.

It took us a couple of days and about a million Blue Jays hats to realize that we had arrived during the Canadian spring break. They definitely added to the youthful party atmosphere and made for some interesting sight-seeing! We didn’t really let that detract us from our baby moon focus. Thankfully Nell was quite content pool side while I was able to drink to my heart’s content and socialize with other travelers in serious need of a vacay! Thus leading to several nights where a power nap turned into a 4 hour crash, oh well.

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Drinks on the beach, in the pool, or any where you want! Smiles everywhere. My beautiful wife happy to be relaxing and taking good care of our baby boy!

Breakfast time was an easy favorite to both of us as we often felt catered to by the welcoming staff, many asking how far along we were. Our favorite pit stop quickly became the omelette station and Nell began a daily regimen of sugar doughnuts. It is nice to treat yourself from time to time and we were enjoying all the Riu had to offer.

Typically we would stop back at our room and grab our beach bags, sunscreen was a must!

Note – a word to the wise, if you want a lay-down reclining chair at the beach, you had better hurry down before 7:30AM to stake claim to your spot for the day.

We found that the closer you got to the beach, inherently the busier it was, makes sense. Once Nell was comfortable and we were set up with a shade umbrella, I would normally head to the beach front and take a swim. They warn folks about the undertow of the ocean current and for good reason, it is very strong and has no problem pulling gown men and women into the deeper water. If you’re a strong swimmer, it is a fun challenge, but for the elderly and young children, you are better off entering further down the beach about half a mile or so. Either way, it made for some entertaining people watch and also was responsible for a few topless exposures, yikes!

We made it to Riu Santa Fe!  Loving the resort, enjoying the warm weather and sandy beaches! Happy Babymoon! :-)

We made it to Riu Santa Fe! Loving the resort, enjoying the warm weather and sandy beaches! Happy Babymoon! 🙂

The bars close by were awesome and each offered an infinity pool lookout. The bartenders were great and were proficient at serving up rainbow shots, mai tai, bahama momma, pina coladas, and basically any concoctions that you could dream up. One notable thing I liked was the great music and the offering of fresh snacks pretty much throughout the day; it gave some good balance to the overindulgence of alcoholic drinks. I would grab Nell a virgin cocktail and we would go dancing in the main pool, spinning and being silly, it was nice to be close with my woman.

By the time it was near to 5PM we would head back and shower up and attempt to get ready for dinner. After a few power naps became power sleeps, we learned better than to rest too much, lol. Making dinner reservations was a hassle unless you beat the rush early in the morning. Our favorite spots were the Italian and Mexican restaurants and our least was probably the Asian. The steak place was so-so. Overall the food was forgettable and none would rate over a 6/10 in my book, and I am not a very picky eater.

Every night was date night and we took full advantage!   After eating dinner we often took a stroll around the Riu complex, so beautiful!

Every night was date night and we took full advantage! After eating dinner we often took a stroll around the Riu complex, so beautiful!

The bars located in the main square were quite busy the remainder of the evenings as they hosted the audience watching the nightly shows. Overall the shows were not very impressive and covered the normal Michael Jackson and karaoke themes, fun but mediocre as the talent used was the Activities staff. It would have been nice had the brought in specialized acts, oh well.

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This woman is glowing! Together we captured a few pics stepping out to enjoy the Riu nightlife including dinner, drinks and dancing!

My lasting thoughts of the all-inclusive resort was that it was very well-kept up as it was power washed every morning and there were adequate cleaning crews. The staffing however was a but of an issues and lead to longer wait times at the concierge desk, dinner reservation station and also the bars. Probably the most annoying was that the reservation dinner spots were never more than half full but wouldn’t take walk-ins. I am sure they have there reasons but still. Also, if you don’t get food by 10PM in the resort you are left to fend at the “sports bar” which meant you had the option of pre-cooked burgers and watered down nachos and a bit of fruit. Do NOT make the mistake of eating there, you’re better off starving.

Lastly the amenities including number of pools and bars was excellent. I would say however that this is much less geared for babymooners and young children, but instead more set up for the college crowd and above.

2.17.2015 – Dia Cinco:
On our fifth day, Nell and I had booked an excursion through Olympus our Sun Country sponsored travel consultants. This morning we would be leaving with High Tides for a glass bottom kayaking and snorkeling tour of Chileno bay. Upon arrival we were happily created by Sergio and Sheco our dedicated instructors. We lucked out as it was only Nell and I with them on the tour which h made it much more fun and allowed them greater flexibility with our adventure.

Due to Nell’s pregnant state and our risk aversion, we else ted for her to be set up on the beach with an umbrella and some water and snacks. Sheco took her to the bay while Sergio and I started out in a different spot. Wanting to show me a great experience, Sergio suggested that we also bring along a paddle board, so we did. Being a great swimmer and all, I opted to not wear my life jacket and comfortably we shoved off. After getting my bearings in the kayak and rounding the first set of cliffs, Sergio took my camera and snapped some cool pictures of me out on the ocean.

Adventure with a little bit of fear as the turquoise water turned to a deep blue.  The ocean really put things into perspective. My first attempt at paddle boarding was a success, so fun!

Adventure with a little bit of fear as the turquoise water turned to a deep blue. The ocean really put things into perspective. My first attempt at paddle boarding was a success, so fun!

About a half mile off shore, we switched and I gave paddle boarding a shot. Being my first attempt, it took me a moment to figure out the balancing and yes, I did go for a swim two different times. Kind of freaky when the water is that deep blue and no signs of bottom, JAWS can begin circling your thoughts. Anyway, I caught on quick and soon we were moving along at a steady pace. We encountered a very large sea turtle which was pretty cool to sea. It got skittish when I got about 15 yards away and poof, gone!

A little later we were greeted by a pod of humpback whales about 400-500 yards away. Cool but scary to think of how big they are. Later, on shore Sheco told me that he had been out last week and had one swim under his board he got wobbly knees and sat down, lol. Once we had taken a few pictures paddling, it was time to head in for shore, two miles in total. It was a core workout! I then took Nell out for a calm kayak ride in the bay near the area that I would soon snorkel. She seemed to enjoy it but of course was fearful for her safety given her condition and inability to swim, I put her at ease and made sure she was safe.

Couples Kayaking on our Cabo babymoon! Nellie and my son were very brave and let me bring them out for a short ride!

Couples Kayaking on our Cabo babymoon! Nellie and my son were very brave and let me bring them out for a short ride!

With Nellie now comfortably relaxing and enjoying conversation with Sergio, it was time for Sheco and I to go and check out the reef surrounding Chileno bay’s beach. He knew exactly what cool areas to show me and what specifically to look for. Immediately, you could see an abundance of marine life all over the place, there were many different species of fish and corals. As we went along, he took time to explain where to look and what native species were good for eating. Sheco flipped over a few rocks in order to find a starfish; within moments of holding the starfish, it would adhere itself to my hand. Over the next 45 minute stretch around the surrounding reef, we found many other cool crustaceans and sea urchins. When we returned we were both needing some fresh drinking water (I guess if you put some on the back of your neck it takes away some of the dizziness.).

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By far the best snorkeling experience ever @ Chileno Bay in Los Cabos. My guide Sheco really took his time to teach me where to look for the best marine life! So much fun!

It was now only about noon and the day had already been a big success. We made our way back and tipped our friends from High Tide. They were great sports and all about delivering a quality experience. The remainder of the day slipped away with more food, drinking and ocean views.

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Smiles for these two soon to be parents! Looking out from the infinity pool, we enjoyed the amazing Cabo views! To quench our thirst, we both enjoyed a pineapple punch!

2.18.2015 – Día Seis:
Waking up was always welcome as a freshly prepared breakfast was sure to follow. This morning we were up and active early because we had an 8:30AM excursion; our agenda included whale watching and an afternoon near Lovers Beach! Our vessel was to be a double-decker boat full of all-inclusive accommodations. Upon boarding we made our way to the top deck to get a good sight-seeing spot.

While others enjoyed breakfast, Nell and I had some fruit juice and enjoyed the music playing on their surround. We were not hungry but I did enjoy a bloody mary. Soon we set sail and headed to the main attraction in Cabo, the incredible rock formations jetting out of the ocean coastline. After snapping several photos, we headed for deeper waters to make acquaintance with a couple of whales!

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Beautiful day and calm seas, just perfect for whale watching! Nellie and I enjoyed the views and snapped a few selfies while we were going out to see to catch a glimpse of the whales!

Cabo San Lucas is home to one of three places in the world that humpback whales come to spawn and raise their calfs. Interestingly, we found out that the massive sea mammals are very social creatures and often show signs of their playfulness. Some of these behaviors include slapping their large fins and tails to slap the water and even breach the water by jettisoning their bodies out of the water in a spectacular display. They also show affection by brushing against one another which serves to remove barnacle and other parasites that get attached to their skin over time.

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Humpback whales were playfully breaching the water, fin slapping and giving us a show. Such an impressive show from one of the sea’s gentle giants!

The show was quite impressive. They would come up for air roughly every ten to fifteen minutes and show us their magnificence. In the meantime, I would have cocktails and chat with Nellie. After capturing several pictures our boat began to make its way to port. They quickly turned to music and dancing in which Nell and I both made moves on the top deck dance floor, super fun!

Upon our return we were to make our way to Lovers & Divorce beach. We caught a water taxi and were on our way in a flash. They call them glass bottom boats, however, it’s really not an attraction as you are moving quickly and cannot really catch a glimpse of anything but the passing water. On our way out we saw that Pelican Beach was packed of snorkeling adventurers and I knew this is where I wanted to be. After getting the OK from the boss, we let our chauffeur know that we would be getting off here and that he could pick us up in two hours.

Like a gentleman, I scooped Nell up and safely got her off the boat. There were several locals out there selling beers and renting umbrellas to ease the burden of the hot Mexican sun. I found Nell a comfy spot, laid down a beach towel and got her set up with an umbrella. Excitedly, I grabbed my gear and got ready to have another go at snorkeling.

Upon entering the water, slightly more rough today but still great visibility. The fish were abundant and the various corals were also plentiful. Many vibrant colors everywhere, but it seems that only once you slow down do you really see the smaller forms of life. Snorkeling is very relaxing as you only really focus on watching your environment and manage breathing.

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Snorkeling on Pelican Beach was awesome. Such a variety of fish and coral were in abundance. The reef dropped off into the deep blue abyss. On my return to shore, I found my very first geocache on the reef wall!

After making my way around to the back side of the furthest portion of the snorkeling area, you could see a straight drop-off to depths of the ocean floor that could not be visibly seen. It was impressive and slightly terrifying at the same time. It’s when the aquamarine color turns to a deeper and more ominous blue that I know I have gone far enough. Several times I would challenge my breath by holing it and diving to get a closer look at the playful fish and swaying sea fan corals.

Upon my return, one such dive yielded a very unexpected treasure. At first I saw it and then a moment later I knew exactly what it was. I had found a geocache or some call them travel bugs. It was a unique pyramid object resting upon a ten pesos coin. I had just found a treasure eight feet down on a coral reef wall at Pelican Beach; it blew my mind. Good thing I had my underwater camera, without it, I wouldn’t have captured some of these great shots!I made it back to shore and shared my experience with my wife, she was shocked. It would be our challenge to identify it online and to hide it once we return to Minneapolis.

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Cabo + Corona + Cache = Best Babymoon EVER!

2.19.2015 – Día Siete
Sadly our last day here in beautiful Cabo was upon us. Thankfully we had a late flight with afforded us one more chance to absorb the Mexican sunshine!

Up early and packed, I left the Mrs. sleep in while I stepped out and enjoyed the sunrise and a cup of coffee. It was quiet, the calm period before all the college kids came out to party. I really appreciated my surroundings and strolled the Riu complex before heading back to have breakfast with Nellie.

After another fresh breakfast and taking a moment to tip out the service staff we headed back to checkout. Thankfully everything fit back into our suitcases and we were able to have the concierge hold our luggage while we made the most of our final day! With our flip-flops on, we headed to the beach one last time! Our babymoon was exactly what we needed, it was magic!

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As we say our goodbyes, I can only smile and be thankful! Our babymoon has been a great trip to relax, reconnect and be ourselves!

At least we have something to look forward to when we return… the arrival of our son, baby Ethan!

Thanks for coming along for the ride! Until next time…