Montreal 2014 – Modulation!

So before I jump into perhaps the most EPIC trip of all time, let me first clearly define for you all the meaning of “Modulation”.  This intriguing word hand crafted and delivered to my vocabulary repertoire was gifted from my friend Rio (a real G).  Now that I have given my props, let me explain.

Modulation – the act of moving from place to place with immense, almost intoxicating swag, in which you literally have life by the balls.  

Months ago, I was contacted by my college buddy Mike Berglund about taking about booking a trip to Montreal over the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Mike and I had reconnected over the last year when I had transitioned to the same employer, Target. We had swapped travel stories over the last several months and both thought it would be cool to travel together and do some exploring. His proposal couldn’t have come at a better time. I had very recently been blindsided with a tough reality check and was really in need of an escape. I quickly acted on my gut and asked that he book our flights and within the hour it was finalized.

Over the next several months Mike and I had exchanged several ideas about the sights and experiences that we wanted to actualize during our 5 day trip. It was to be a fair mixture of Old Montreal including the best of Old Port and also the downtown area including Saint Lauraunt and the party district. The trip was fast approaching and we had one last happy hour at the Roasted Pair in BP to nail down our logistics and travel arrangements. In the back of our minds, I am sure we both were wondering what it was going to be like traveling together, but knowing Mike’s personality and style, I knew we would have a very memorable trip. I had no idea what I had really signed up for. The trip that ensued was to be epic!

Let the modulation begin…

Day 1

After a long evening of preparation for the trip, I had successfully packed everything needed. Just before we left the house to go pick up Mike, he text me stating that he couldn’t fit his suit. I told him to man up as we would need to be looking our best and he was so glad that he did, lol.

Kindly my wife drove us early to the airport and with plenty of time, stress was removed from our travel equation. We sat and had a bloodymary and some lunch before our flight. We were officially on vacation and after one last work email, I was officially OOO! We boarded our flight and only a couple hour flight we were in Canada! Getting through customs was a pretty smooth transaction, at least after being grilled with questions by the official.

Let’s modulate! Our next step was to go checkout our suite for the weekend at Le Place d’Armes in Old Montreal. By this time the looks were just rolling in everywhere from all the French-Canadian women, lol and we were only trying to catch a cab. Mike was like, let the games begin.

Upon arrival, we scoped out our pad and both were really pleasantly surprised with how huge the terrace was! Additionally, we were on the top floor and the view was awesome! The bathroom was sweet and came with a vintage style tub moderinized with jets and a separate glassed-in shower, super nice! Quickly we moved in and hung up our suits and were out the door in search of dinner in Old Port. Conveniently the hotel was located only a few blocks from everything, so it was easy for us to enjoy some sight seeing before agree to catch dinner at Pizzadelic.

Taking in some of the new sites that would be our temporary home. Love the cobble stone streets in Old Port, the city truly has a rich history and a significant french influence.  Simply beautiful!

Taking in some of the new sites that would be our temporary home. Love the cobble stone streets in Old Port, the city truly has a rich history and a significant french influence. Simply beautiful!

After sitting at the bar and getting hit on by a middle aged “dance mom”, we were eventually sat on the outside patio. This place seriously served the best tasting pizza and tap beer of my life. It was my first opportunity to see the cobble stone streets and the rich culture of the area. It is something that can only come with age, and Montreal was saturated with history and the beauty was baked into Old Port in a very organic way.

Every night we planned on stepping out, yes even on a Wednesday! So we headed to the suite and got our swag on and modulated to a couple Irish bars that we read about. After they fell short of our expectations we bailed and tried elsewhere. In the beginning we struggled to find a really hoppin spot to get turned-up, but when in doubt you just have to follow the music. Finally after a few taxi rides and some street modulation, we landed a gem, Apartment 200!

The music was on point which made dancing awesome! Mikey B has moves, who woulda thought, hahaha what a pimp! The time flew by and we tore through drink after drink blowing cash on vacation makes you feel like your dealing in Monopoly money, the drained us but we didn’t care it was so worth it. This place was packed with Montreal’s college student population and everyone was super cool, girls and guys… We got so much attention it was stupid! So as the bar closed, my buzz finally kicked in and we somehow got back to the room… To be continued tomorrow!

Day 2

I woke a little groggy but not hungover, surprisingly. Through some street clothes on and dipped out to catch my morning fix. So glad I spotted a Starbucks only a couple short blocks away, sweet! When I returned my boy was ‘Gliding’ a whole new social media inspired video messaging platform. Lol, it became a funny way to document little glimpses of our trip; through it, we may have made his friends a bit jelly of our adventures!

After we got ready, it was time to hit the streets. Super glad that he was open minded about hoofing it. So by the order of proximity we started with the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal which is less than a block from our hotel.  When fetching my cup of joe, I saw that square in front of it was already packed with visitors (not even 10am), so we had to check it out.  At only $5 entrance fee, this was a steal and the sights were amazing. Here are just a few of the amazing photos that we took.

This was so worth our time and the reasonable entrance fee... just don't try to bring in your Starbucks, lol. The detailed architecture and stained glass was incredible. This deserved a moment of silence as we stood there in awe.

This was so worth our time and the reasonable entrance fee… just don’t try to bring in your Starbucks, lol. The detailed architecture and stained glass was incredible. This deserved a moment of silence as we stood there in awe.

Here is a bigger shot at the main attractions in Notre-Dame.  I cannot believe the time and energy that must have been spent bringing these backdrops to life.

Here is a bigger shot at the main attractions in Notre-Dame. I cannot believe the time and energy that must have been spent bringing these backdrops to life.

Now that we were both feeling like better humans, it was time to roll through Old Port and make our way to the river’s edge to start our real adventure. Upon arrival we could see the Biosphere in the distance and both of us agreed to somehow get there on foot, that would be no small feet as this required serious modulation.  I was really impressed that my travel buddy was up for the challenge.  I am so glad that we decided walk it out as it gave us a chance to talk and catch up on life and share thoughts of the city.  Along the way we did stumble across a cool site, Habitat 67. A unique and modern way of living that offered some great views. Just imagine living in this complex. Check out these pics!

We saw this gem from across the river and finally got a closer look.  The unique design is quite peculiar.  Sustainable living never looked so cool!

We saw this gem from across the river and finally got a closer look. The unique design is quite peculiar. Sustainable living never looked so cool!

Reflecting on our chosen route, we both felt that we had taken the long way around and in total we must have walked seven or eight miles before getting there. I knew that Mike would be feeling it the next day for sure, but he hung in there strong.  Eventually we stood at the food of the Biosphere and were able to capture some really great pictures and checkout the surrounding gardens.  It was just a really cool site to see, enjoy!

After a quick selfie with my boy Mike, we made the acquaintance of a sand mermaid as we 'Modulated to the Biosphere!

After a quick selfie with my boy Mike, we made the acquaintance of a sand mermaid as we ‘Modulated to the Biosphere!

Here is the Biosphere in all its glory.  I think it is cool to have a few unique structures in a city to define its real character. Beautiful gardens surrounding worth a walkthrough.  Mission accomplished, we made it to the cool thing in the distance!

Here is the Biosphere in all its glory. I think it is cool to have a few unique structures in a city to define its real character. Beautiful gardens surrounding worth a walkthrough. Mission accomplished, we made it to the cool thing in the distance!

With our mission accomplished we decided to taxi it back to our digs,  and chill out momentarily.  After all that modulation we were starving and more than interested in trying one of the local dishes.  So we made our way back to old port and found a nice balcony to have dinner on.  We were familiar with this spot and we could see that they had a nice view from the street so we went in and decided to have a go with their local rendition of ‘putine’.  Essentially this dish is a pile of fries with cheese curds on top with gravy poured overtop; it was heaven.  Meanwhile, we met some local tourists also visiting from out of town that were open to stepping out with us later that night.  Things were just happening so fluidly that we were both shocked.  Ha, it made me feel like BMOC (big man on campus) for sure!

Finally I was smart enough to find a liquor store and a local convenience store for mixers, not an easy task when you don’t speak or read much French. But, politely I asked and was pointed in the right direction and familiarized myself with Depanneur.  Glad I did because Montreal had laid claims to most of my cash already and Mike and I joked that each drink in the suite was saving us $10 cash, lol. So we hosted some of our friends for some innocent cocktails on our terrace before stepping out to a cool dance club, Tokyo Bar. I felt like we danced for hours without getting tired. The place was packed and the music and vibe was on point.  Rooftop was too packed and by the end of the night we were feeling the effects of all the partying, somehow we made it back safely, awesome night!

Day 3

Happy Birthday USA! July 4th and though the average Canadian doesn’t recognize it, we decided to gear up and rep our nation hard! Mikey B with his USA hat had me cracking up, gotta love that style! Today was going to be a good day!  After my regular morning pitstop at Starbucks and relaxing on a park bench, I made it back to the suite to get another fantastic day started!

Happy 4th of July! It was a beautiful day and perfect for some much needed celebration, especially sweet when you are away from home on a worry-free vacation!  Check out this beautiful flower garden and the intricate designs we found outside a local government building, pretty sweet!

Happy B-Day USA! We enjoyed great weather as we had a morning walk and started our day… Check out this beautiful flower garden and the intricate designs we found outside a local government building, pretty sweet!

Today we took a different approach and instead of running around, we chose to find our relax and swap stories over several well spent hours of drinking. It had been quite a while since we had been able to catch up beyond the normal pleasantries that might be shared at the occasional happy hour.  Instead we dove a bit deeper and shared more about our family dynamics and some of our unique life experiences since our college days. It was really nice bonding with another guy that is as motivated and hungry for life.

Happy 4th of July... Reppin USA on the terrace and having an "Absolute"ly good time!

Happy 4th of July… Reppin USA on the terrace and having an “Absolute”ly good time!

After we got good and tight and snapped a few pics of celebrating we decided to get cleaned up and make our way to the rooftop patio for some more adventure.  This time however, we were getting fully suited and looking sharp.  Dressed to impress, even the fashion forward Montreal natives were impressed and quite open to getting to know more about Mike and myself.  Men and women alike were quite reachable with even the average conversation. This is quite different if your used to standoffish Minnesotan locals.

Suited up, we are looking good.  With a slight buzz we were off to enjoy more libations at the rooftop bar! #thegoodlife

Suited up, we are looking good. With a slight buzz we were off to enjoy more libations at the rooftop bar! #thegoodlife

Having not been up there long we were quickly meeting new friendly locals more than willing to share in ‘witty banter’ and libations.  Especially a group of girls that had traveled all the way from Scotland.  Meeting them ended up being a real treat and they were great fun in chatting and swapping stories. Like musical chairs professionals, we made our rounds at the bar and managed to rack up quite the tab, go figure.

The terrace party lasted for several hours and after fully breaking in the bar, and having the tab to prove it, we pushed off with a few locals that promised to show us a great time at a sheik local club. They promised and delivered, next stop was Joverse aka the “Rooster Bar”. After bypassing a long line, thanks to our newly made friendships, we were walked right in and were immediately surrounded by great music and drinks. Fortunately for us, the club was right next to our suite, so I was able to modulate (stumble) home with one eye open, good times!

Party, Party, Party... lasted all night long. We met some of the coolest locals imaginable. The night was great and Mikey and I both had a blast tearing it up with some new friends.  Jean-Mark and his friends showed us how to party in the classiest way possible, a big thanks to them!

Party, Party, Party… lasted all night long. We met some of the coolest locals imaginable. The night was great and Mikey and I both had a blast tearing it up with some new friends. Jean-Mark and his friends showed us how to party in the classiest way possible, a big thanks to them!

Day 4

This morning found us to be a bit on the rough side and as our last full day in Montreal we still had a lot we wanted to do. After a quick Starbucks recovery, Mike and I were ready to get out and adventure the rest of the city.  We had decided to try and trek to the top of Mont Royal and so we started out on foot. Soon thereafter, we walked several blocks from our hotel and found ourself walking into the annual Montreal Jazz Festival. We enjoyed a few live songs and took a moment to enjoy ourselves.

As we ventured on, Mike and I passed a few cathedrals and took our time at paying our respects and enjoying the maculate architecture and design features.  It really is impressing the amount of detail and time that was put into each of these incredible buildings; what better way to feel the presence of  the Lord that being in a place like this.

Some of the majestic sites that we discovered as we continued on our journey towards Mont Royal. Nothing like taking a moment for prayer.

Some of the majestic sites that we discovered as we continued on our journey towards Mont Royal. Nothing like taking a moment for prayer.

Only a few blocks further we came to a bank of bike rentals and having huffed it for over an hour now we felt that this would be a fun way to get to the top of Mont Royal. For a small fee we were happily now modulating on 2-wheels.  Quickly we ran into the “Harvard” of Canada, McGill University and toured the campus. I was happily taking some bike-selfies and a few short videos while riding the bike, so much FUN!

Eventually we climbed all the way to the top of Mont Royal, which took us about another hour of aggressive biking. With Mikey’s legs burning we arrived at the top, dismounted and took a breather.  Feeling a bit fatigued we took our time at the overpass and drank in the city’s breathtaking skyline. Here is an awesome panorama!

What a beautiful city skyline, no wonder why it was so crowded, who wouldn't want to come see this!

What a beautiful city skyline, no wonder why it was so crowded, who wouldn’t want to come see this!

Mikey B. and I getting our photo snapped at the overpass.  Looking down on the city provided a much needed moment to rest. Biking to the top was a beast!

Mikey B. and I getting our photo snapped at the overpass. Taking some time to look down on the city provided a much needed moment to rest. Biking to the top was a beast!

Once our appetite for the sites had been quenched we hopped back on our pedal bikes and made our way down the hill in search for Saint Joseph’s Oratory, one of the most iconic buildings in Montreal. It also had the view to match.  As soon as you walk in, you become overwhelmed at the massively tall ceilings and beautiful archways. It was extremely impressive!

Very unique experience it was to walk into this massive structure.  Sitting atop a hill, getting to the top meant overcoming many steps, but it was well worth it!

Very unique experience it was to walk into this massive structure. Sitting atop a hill, getting to the top meant overcoming many steps, but it was well worth it!

The inside of the Oratory was amazing and gave me a surreal feeling.  It had one of the most beautiful organs I have ever heard or seen!

The inside of the Oratory was amazing and gave me a surreal feeling. It had one of the most beautiful organs I have ever heard or seen! This is a very cool place and a must see tourist site!

After a long day of exhausting biking we grabbed some grub at Planet Poutine and relaxed before heading back. We racked our bikes and picked up some more spirits to enjoy that night before getting to our hotel. It was go-time to smash our last night in Montreal.  It was about to be another epic, gangbusters type of night. Looking quite dapper we strapped on our suit coats and kept things classy. The rooftop was our first destination and the world was our oyster!

Looking good and feeling great! We are going hard on our last night in the new Las Vegas of North America!

Looking good and feeling great! We are going hard on our last night in the new Las Vegas of North America!

Merik, a super cool bartender was making me a signature drink (whisky, smooth and smokey infused with orange peel), meanwhile Mikey B. had worked his charm on a few gals and soon we were at a different table. Knowing my boundaries, I avoided any primal tendencies and was a gentleman to everyone, while respecting what really mattered to me, my wife Nellie.

Day 5

Sadly, in the morning, I woke for the last time to once again rise and hit the streets for my Starbucks fix and to drink in the beautiful surroundings that Old Port had to offer.  I was going to miss the cobble stone streets, the incredible food, open and friendly conversations with strangers, the french influence and of course just living carefree.

As I packed my bags and counted my blessings, I knew that this was what life was really all about, happy memories!  I thought to myself, this is exactly why I travel.  MarathonJake and Mikey B. had one of the most epic trips of our lives and together, we hope to have many more!

I didn't want to say goodbye and hugged the wall of our suite one last time! Take care and God bless Montreal!

I didn’t want to say goodbye and hugged the wall of our suite one last time! Take care and God bless Montreal!

Finally after a long trip home, I was just happy to see my Nell.

God is Great! Amen!

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The Wilderness Resort @ Wisc. Dells

Having had such a wonderful debut, I felt the urge to book another family getaway this time at the Wisconsin Dells’ largest indoor water park, Wilderness Resorts. Selecting this resort was an easy decision after looking at all it has to offer a family.  Consisting of three different housing complexes: The Wilderness, Glacier Canyon Lodge, and Wilderness on the Lake, it has the various accommodations that can appease both the budget vacationers and those looking to stay in a more lavish environment. The resort offered a rugged woodsy wilderness theme but was well done, almost manicured to the extent that it was still meant to impress the ladies too. Now, I will share with you a bit about our weekend staycation at this resort and also provide a detailed review for those looking for the inside scoop.

The Wilderness – 2012

Based on the same premise as the previous year (2011), I thought that it would be fun celebrating Madison turning another year older by making a splash with some friends!  This year Nellie and I had decided that we wanted to invite my good friend Russell and his two sons and also his girlfriend Tina and her son. Since we were traveling as a larger pack this year we had to make different travel arrangements and also had to book a larger room. After getting Russ onboard and committed to the weekend we decided that we would travel out to Wisconsin in his Dad’s van.  Once again we would leave on a Friday morning and make our way to the Dells!  We stopped in Chippewa Falls to pick up the most important package, my Peanut Butter Bar!

After loading up on snacks and topping off the gas tank, we were well prepared for the remainder of the road trip. Luckily, Russ’s two sons are like Madison’s brother and they all were able to get along and joke around.  Meanwhile, us adults were busily catching up and doing our best to avoid talking about our day jobs. Eventually we arrived at our destination, I was super excited to get settled and hit the water park.

As usual, I put a lot of effort into planning and preparing this trip. I knew we couldn’t have cramped corridors so I made sure to book a really nice condo room at the Wilderness on the Lake.  I made sure that it would have several bedrooms, our own kitchenette, and our own hot tub that we could all enjoy throughout the trip.  My buddy was great at pitching in and really helped to make the trip affordable.  Totally doable even on a budget if you can plan ahead and split costs and get your own supplies ahead of time.  One useful tip that I would recommend to anyone looking to bring your own food and snacks / supplies – try to limit your provisions to the bare minimum and set a little time aside to pick up things locally at the Walmart (about 10 minutes away from the resort).

The kids stormed the room and were wowed at the accommodations! Just like I assumed, as soon as we arrived we dropped our bags, changed quickly into our swim attire and made a mad dash for the indoor water parks.  The cool thing about the Wilderness is that it has three separate indoor water parks available to its guests, but this came with a catch; to get to the other water parks we were required to take a shuttle.  Given the frigid temperatures of a crisp January in Wisconsin, this was a bit of a pain point for me.  Luckily the drivers were friendly and the trips to and from didn’t take too long.

This year I was much less worried about Madison as she had been now taking lessons and had become a much more proficient swimmer. She was able to relax and take in all that this resort had to offer and I was able to give her a bit more freedom here as she had her two ‘brothers’ to look out for her.  It appeared to me that this resort had a much larger volume of guests which made the lines for the various water slides and raft rides much longer, but it seemed well worth it for the thrill that each group ride offered. A few hours later, we were waterlogged and tired.  We made our way back to the condo and relaxed to some cool tunes flowing from my Jambox. The kids played in the hot tub for a while us parents were enjoying margaritas and getting dinner ready.  Later that evening, as tradition would have it, we sang Madison the birthday song and she enjoyed a slice of her marble birthday cake.  She really got a kick out of having her face screen printed on the cake, my baby girl was now officially 7 years old!

The rest of the trip was a lot of fun, Russell and I were able to be boys and run around and cause a minimal amount of ruckus and still remain responsible parents.  The girls bonded too and the kids were smiles all weekend long. The trip was a huge success and I once again reaffirmed my love for this mecca of water park glory. Here is a fun picture collage of our weekend adventure at the Wilderness, enjoy!

Family fun at the Wilderness Resort @ Wisc. Dells!  Best way to celebrate a winter birthday if you ask me! :-)

Family fun at the Wilderness Resort @ Wisc. Dells! Best way to celebrate a winter birthday if you ask me! 🙂

The Wilderness Resort Review: Rating B

Best Features: water park size, luxury condos, variety of group water rides.
Worst Features: indoor temperature (left us all feeling cold), food costs, far to overcrowded.

Resort Style & Theme: The Wilderness Resort provides a fun experience and can leave a great impression on guests, however, being from the midwest, the ‘Wilderness’ theme didn’t evoke much of an emotional reaction. They did a nice job blending the theme throughout the entire compound and into the hotel condos/rooms.  It definitely gives you the cozy cabin / campfire feeling.

Rooms and Amenities: You get what you pay for on this one.  This year we traveled and split costs which allowed us to have a sweet condo. The condos are pretty decked out and came fully stocked with cooking utensils and majority of the amenities that a house would have.  The beds were nice but still not quite that upgraded plush Marriott we all love so much, but it did the job. Our condo included a nice living space, a couple flat screen TVs, a pullout couch, a really slick Jacuzzi hot tub, and sectioned off rooms.  My favorite was a dual shower in what would be considered the master bathroom, very nice! I would rate the room at an A, it left me feeling like royalty and this was a trip where we did spend a bit of time in the room shutting down the evening and having a nightcap.

Indoor Water Park: The water park was really large but I felt that the space was not optimized for as many cool raft rides and water slides that you would expect when you have over 500,000sqft of indoor space. It’s definitely big enough to consume an entire weekend, but I found that the two main indoor water park places Klondike Kavern and Wild West were very similarly constructed and were really not all that different. However, their indoor wave pool the Wild WaterDome was enormous and offered a lot of additional lounging space; great for parents that just want to lay back and keep one eye on the kiddos.

  • Tikes (1-3) are provided an area available that includes a zero depth walk-in pool at Cubby’s Cove with many kiddy things to do. Especially nice if you are bringing a little one under 3 or a non-swimmer.
  • kiddos (4-9) are provided many different options of water rides and slides. Please note, There are restrictions based on height requirements. You must be at least 42 inches tall to be allowed on most of the intermediate rides. Some will also require a parent to come along for the fun. For this group there are several indoor slides and water-coaster type rides. My personal favorite for this category was the ‘Hurricane’.
  • Tweens (10-17) will still have a blast darting around the water park and hitting some of the most thrilling rides. Being 48 inches tall earns you the ability to ride even the scariest rides without your parents.
  • Adults (18, 21+) somewhat limited privileges inside the water park, as you will likely be too busy trying to keep tabs on your kiddos, but if you get a moment you can enjoy the Sulfur Springs (hot tub) and relax. The resort also has a few bars that also offer some adult beverages. There is also a shorter lazy river called Bonanza Brook that call allow you to catch some chill downtime too. This is a family favorite and great for grandparents or anyone that’s looking for a slower pace.

Food Options: There are several food options made available at each of the indoor water park areas and sufficient seating too, however, the prices are out of this world and it makes sense to pack a lunch or head back to your room for a meal. I strongly recommend stopping in town at the nearby Walmart and pick up a few things to hold the kids over between meals.

Other Indoor Activities: I found nothing in this space to really be memorable other than going mini golfing.  I think that this could be an area for investment for the resort.  Not a wow factor here.

I hope this resort assessment was helpful, and after having been to a few indoor parks at the Dells, I would say that this resort might be best suited for a summer time visit as it never quite felt warm and often was over crowded. Overall, I would think about returning but might venture to other options before I go back.

So what are you waiting for, if you’re looking to have a blast this winter check out the Wisconsin Dells!

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!

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