Here comes Sandy

What are the odds that we would be prepping for another hurricane just 14 months after Irene. I can tell you Irene was no fun. We spent a week without power. We mastered the art of living rough. Though we have a generator it is just a small portable model. We hook it up and move it whenever we need to power something on the farm. We also learned an important lesson from Irene. We are in a low spot and both main roads into the farm flood to the point where they are closed. After Irene it took more than a week to open again. Nothing like being trapped on your own property. All the other routes out are small roads with trees. Each of them were closed due to down lines and trees. We also learned how long it takes the power company to repair lines. so the thought of another long stretch without power is a miserable thought.
The whole day was spent shuffling around horses, filling water and picking up anything that might blow around. Seems like such a simple project. When you take into consideration the amount of property, barns, buildings, animals and stuff, it means a long couple days. As the day went on the wind started to kick up, the weather shifted. This, along with all the change in routine, had all the horses wound up. There was much leaping and bucking and running around. Even the calm older fellas were carrying on. My enormous draft horse managed to pin me between her and a structural post in the barn. Thankfully it was at the end of the day. I’m just so happy it wasn’t before Tough Mudder. I was so careful in the weeks leading up to that. Guess I was just a bit preoccupied and didn’t get out-of-the-way quick enough. More horse related bruises to add to the collection. Have one very sore arm, but nothing seems broken, so all is good. I’m pretty lucky considering how freakin big she is.

I haven’t had much time to consider my mood over the past couple days. It has been so busy and caught up with storm prep. I find my head wandering a bit and starting to worry, but quickly something comes up and I have to abandon that train of thought. Seem to be finally kicking this swamp bug from NJ. Hope it leaves with Sandy.

Hopefully everyone over here in the Northeast weathers this storm. It is projected to be epic. May be a bit before I get back on to blog. If I have power and am stuck in the house I may try to blog a bit tomorrow. I have a couple of entries I have been meaning to write but have not had time.

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Long day

Still recovering from my weekend fun. I can’t believe tomorrow is one week. Wow. Today was a get back to reality day. We said goodbye to a tough old horse. He was suffering and it was a decision to let him go rather than continue on. He would have continued on. He did not know about quitting. He had lived much of his life in pain. We had offered him a chance. Despite our best efforts, he was not a horse we could save. So amid the storm prep and chores, we ended his life. I never would have thought it would become just another task. Like sweeping the aisle, or throwing hay down. When did it get to this? As I watched him die, my mind wandered to everything else I needed to get done. I could not even give him my complete attention as his eyes glazed over. I have become so removed from this life, and these animals. He left this world as I sat with him planning the next couple days. Hope he didn’t sense my preoccupation.

So it was another day. Just like so many before it. We received some conflicting info about the foreclosure. It is so hard to get a sense of what will happen over the coming months. Where all this will end up. It is so difficult to maintain a positive outlook.

Post Mudder

It has been a great couple days, well minus the bug. Have no idea where I got it. Probably from one of the 20K people running on Saturday, or the swamp muck of NJ. Toss up there. Regardless of health, my brain has been quite happy. My mood settling into a very even content place. I was worried I’d crash off the high of the weekend. That has not been the case. As my partner in crime said, hanging on to that afterglow. That is true. As I fall asleep or wake up I am reliving some obstacle, or portion of the race. The experience so vast it will take weeks to fully comprehend and process. So I seem to be doing it a bit at a time. There wasn’t anything I’d change (well except maybe the parking/ shuttle) but, it was perfect. I’d love to do some more, but I don’t know that they can hold a candle to this past weekend. I’m not sure if it was our forward pace, or just the way it worked out, but we only had one short wait. That is in contrast to a lot of reports about the weekend. We didn’t have the long lines. It was as if everything just fell into place for us. We are all planning our next run. I honestly thought I’d have had enough. Nope, I was just finishing and thinking when can I do this again.

We all finished in the top 5% and qualified for World’s Toughest Mudder—WTM is a 24 hour version of tough Mudder. The obstacles are different, a bit extreme and it is held in the cold of NJ at the end of November. Last year the winning man completed 7 laps of the course. The top female completed 6. It is remarkable thinking about them running that course in the dark. The water and the mud and the 30 degree temps. I think 20% finished. The rest fell to injury, hypothermia, or they quit. These obstacles are rough enough in daylight, let alone by headlamp. Part of me wishes I was fit enough to try it, but I know I am nowhere near elite athlete fit. Most people who undertake 24 hr races are ultra runners. They have spent years working up to that level of endurance. I have that little voice in my head that wonders how far I could go. How much I have in me. Hard not to be curious after completing TM. I always doubted myself, but now I seem to have some new-found confidence thanks to Mudder.

If I had any doubt about my new shift in mood, yesterday’s mail changed that. As we were expecting, the petition of foreclosure arrived. Now, had this been a few weeks back, I might have lost it. Thankfully I did not. I find myself in this okay place. At once able to think about it, and except it. Whatever happens will be alright. I kind of hope we will land on our feet, and know in my heart we will. Yes, it may mean a huge change for us. It may mean nothing. I can only hope that what money is coming in actually shows up. The clock is ticking down now. There is no way to stop it without $23K. It doesn’t scare me, nor unsettle me. This is it. Either it works out, or we find ourselves on a very different path. Strangely, some part of me longs for a different path. But in order to get there I leave all this behind. How can I be so removed from it all? When did I get here? Could I really leave this life and this existence I have known for so long? Is it just years of frustration and suffering talking? I wonder how my experience of this place can be so different from my partners. It is as if we exist in entirely different worlds. Needless to say, regardless of experience, we still know this may be the end. If that money does come in it buys us a year before we are in exactly the same place. Always behind the eightball.

 

Mudder Revisited

I have been thinking quite a bit about TM, and what the experience was like. Not just for me, but for the people around me, especially my teammates. There was something very bittersweet about reading everyone’s emails post TM. Though I know none of these people, I understood what they were all saying. Their experience of the course was about coming together as a large group and overcoming issues like injury, conditioning, differing fitness levels and fear. They did it as a group, no matter how long it took, or how hard they had to struggle. I think about the first couple miles, and how it all worked out the way it did. Even though I did not know them, I was on their team. The bittersweet feeling was rooted in guilt. I felt bad having left them. As I explore my experience and why I made the choices I did, I have to look at what drove me.

In the first 100 yards we all set out at a very reasonable pace. Considering the distance and the fact that we had very little idea what we were in for. I have run enough that I understand where my comfort zone is, especially on long runs. I let myself relax into that pace. I know now that is where everything came apart. I think I was so excited and so wound up I just let myself go a bit. When we got to the arctic enema jump into ice, it combined cold with that adrenaline rush. I honestly can’t say I have ever done something like Mudder. I didn’t much know how I would respond. Once I was soaked and frozen my brain clicked into this weird, very driven place. It was as if I could not stop moving if I tried. As exhausted as I got, and more tight I became the more I wanted to move. I think that is probably a pretty primitive survival type response to having your core temperature dropped like that. I know eventually I would have stopped moving, we all reach our bottom eventually. My experience of the course was one of constant movement. I was so blessed to have two people with me. I know that meant they had to make a decision. It was not an easy one. They could have chosen to stay with the group, and it would have meant I was without friends on my way around. That would have greatly altered my experience of TM. Not that people didn’t help one another. It was evident everywhere you looked. Each mudder took care of those around them. If it meant helping someone up, or steadying someone as they lost their footing in the muck. Some were too proud to accept the help. One fellow was limping badly on the way down a slick hill. I asked him repeatedly, but I don’t think he much wanted help from some scrawny little chick. But he was the exception. Most everyone was gracious and helpful. I am not sure I would have conquered my fears was it not for my friends. I know I paced back and forth in front of the Boa Constrictor in the moments before they caught up. I needed that urging to drop into that drainage tube. It would have been a very different day without them.

When I think about the rest of the team and their battle to finish TM, I am amazed. They overcame injury, and all the obstacles along with exhaustion. It took them a while, but they made it, together. I am glad they made it, and that they each supported each other like that. In tackling TM, I think it is so important to take into account the length of the course and the conditioning of the team. It is a hard challenge, but it gets even more difficult when everyone if moving at a different pace. Thankfully our team ended up it two pieces. Rather than many small ones, or worse broken into individuals.

It was an amazing day, but more important it was about friendship and about strengthening bonds. I feel I have learned a great deal about my friend. I think the reverse is equally true. I know I have someone at my back. That is a wonderful thing to learn. Regardless of how worn out or tired, or afraid, we have each other. When I looked over the wonderful pictures I stopped at the sequence from Everest. I wondered for a second if she had hurt herself reaching the top, as she has a very pained expression. I realized in looking more carefully, she was okay, it was concern for me. It took me a number of tries to get up that damn thing. She was waiting for me, and she was worried. I learned so much from TM, but most of all I learned about her. It may have only been 4 hours, but it may well have been a lifetime. How often do we have the opportunity to learn so much about each other in this era of emails and texts? Our friendships are often shallow and fleeting. Gone are the days of sitting and talking for hours, and sharing lives. TM gave me the opportunity to find so much. Whether it be my own strength and grit, or that of my friend.

 

Cruelty

A lot of things come to mind when I think of the word cruelty. Dogs chained starving in junkyards. Kids beaten beyond recognition. Serial killers toying with their prey until they give up and beg for them to kill them. Those all take a certain cruelty. What doesn’t come to mind is family. That is unless you live in mine. The more I think about and replay events in my head, the more I see it for what it is. I have been manipulated and hurt for so many years. My life an endless list of failures and mistreatment. All I ever wanted was to be loved and cared for. To have someone there for me. Not to be there with some leash attached. To dangle some financial carrot for me to walk thru fire to get to. There is something very wrong with this family. To be treated with such disrespect and cruelty only makes this life a living hell. How am I to be expected to thrive when someone is there to cut me off at the knees, over and over again.

This past week was an example of just how terrible it can be. For the better part of a year I have struggled under the weight of the impending foreclosure. I have endured stress beyond anything I have ever experienced. I looked for answers. I tried to come up with ways to solve our problems. I suffered more deeply than ever. I looked and looked, but found nothing to save us. I gave up. I lost my way. I settled amongst the most destructive of thoughts. I chose to find a different way out. I grasped a future without me in it. I found my way back, and fought to regain my footing. Then in the final hour, they say the money is there. I was so dumbstruck, the reality of it did not hit me. Instead of relief, I felt a bone crushing pain. It was as if someone had taken my heart and threw it out like refuse. I found myself again on my knees, trying to make sense of this suffering. In my exhaustion I could not see it. I could not make sense of it. Instead, I questioned all the work I have done. All the years spent trying to piece my life together again. I was overcome with rage. Not just anger, but an all-consuming desire to walk away from every one of them. To be so blinded should well have warned me just how deep this nerve went. So deep within my make up, something that had shaped my very being. It took years to do that. This was not just one time, this was years and years of systemic mistreatment. They had done this.

As I sat in session today, I started to put the pieces together. I saw it for what it was. It was cruel. It was unconscionable. To make it all that much worse, it was at the hands of people who love me. How can you love someone and treat them like that? How can you watch someone suffer and idly stand by. I cannot even fathom it. It is crushing and incomprehensible. It isn’t just this week. It has been a lifetime of this. I have grown up fed by this poisonous treatment. It has shaped me. Some might argue it defines me. I don’t want this to be who I am. I cannot sit by and watch this happen. No, not any more. I have a choice now. I may not have for years, as a child. Followed by years lost in my own suffering. So blinded I could not even see the treatment for what injury it caused. That is different now. I do not have to take this.

There is no life lesson in torturing someone. How can one possibly be expected to learn under such duress? You know what life lesson I learned through years of this treatment. I learned to think I was small. A meaningless piece of shit, with no abilities to speak of. I learned to be dependent. I learned to give up and give in. Does that make you feel big? Does it make you feel better about yourself? You know what that makes you? It makes you heartless and cruel. The worst thing about all of it, you did it out of love. I never would have thought love could be so misguided. Sadly, love is often misguided. It is so powerful. It puts blinders on our conscious, and allows us to harm the people closest to us.

I only wanted to be loved. I learned that being loved comes at great cost. For me the cost was almost my life. I knew so little about the damage done to my spirit, and the harm brought to my soul. I see it now, plain as day. The reality is beyond my ability to put words on it. I can only find hope in my ability to heal. But most of all, I can pray that I have not ever repeated this behavior, as it was so clearly used on me. Love should never be a weapon wielded with the intent of crushing another’s soul, in hope of controlling them.

Tough Mudder Recap

Geez, where does one even begin. My day started at 5 this morning. We headed south to get to the shuttle to TM. I met my team, none of whom I knew except a friend and her boyfriend. It seemed like minutes before we were climbing the first wall into the start area. Yeah, you have to climb a 12′ wall just to start the race. I shouldn’t really call it a race. It isn’t. There is no timing, unless you time yourself. You are there to enjoy yourself and help your fellow mudders. As we hopped up and down while the MC started hollering I felt more adrenaline than I have in a while. Little did I know what TM had in store for us. We started and the initial 100 yard is run chasing a monster truck. From there is was a steady run up to the Arctic Enema. Yeah, it is about how it sounds. You jump into a 40 yard dumpster filled with ice and dyed water. You duck under the center partition and drag your completely frozen ass out. It is a challenge, since every muscle in your body has now decided to stop listening. It isn’t really fear that freezes you, it is the actual 32 degree water. The body just stops moving entirely. I made it out and we continued a steady run for about 3/4 mile before the mud began.

When I say mud, I mean slippery, thick, impossible to get your feet out of mud. Just staying upright was difficult. We began descending and ascending in and out of a series of trenches (Mud Mile). To get into them you had to literally slide on your ass into waist deep mud and water. There was no sense of how deep or shallow the water was. So you just had to let go and trust your feet to find the bottom. Then get your footing and slog across the trench and claw your way up the other bank. It was freezing and difficult to manage, but we made it thru without any mishap. By this point, mile 2, our team was stretched out. There was no way to stand still without freezing so we continued on. This would be the way the entire rest of the day went. I happened to end up with the two people I knew. I ran on into the next section of the course, a motorbike track (Balls to the Wall). Steep hills, so slippery mudders had to make human chains to get people up them. The mud was so slick. The downhills were as steep. I saw plenty of people get hurt, so I really took my time and got up and down safely as possible. It was a good cardio workout. This section seemed to take forever, but it was only about an hour. We had also done the military crawl under the barbed wire 8″ above us. It is hard to get that low and get any purchase in the slippery plastic and mud. We had out first water break and continued on. At this point we were about 35 minutes ahead of the rest of the team. Any thought of stopping to wait were gone. We were cold enough it just didn’t make any sense to stand still. Even though the day was sunny and beautiful there was a breeze and the ice cold water and mud just made it frigid.The first set of Berlin Walls came up. There is no way I can run and jump and pull myself up over a 12 foot wall. But with a little help we all got over them with no problem. We faced the swim across the lake next. They had ropes with some floats but by the time a line of people grabbed them, they sank quite a ways under. The water temp was probably in the low 40’s. Cold enough that I didn’t want to stay in it long. I started swimming. To heck with the rope. As I got to the  25 yard mark I realized just how hard it is to swim fully dressed and in shoes. Wow. I am a strong swimmer. But even I realized that between the cold and the current I was going to have to find that rope again. By 50 yards I was in these nasty weeds. They water was kicked up enough it resembled the portajohns. Yuck….As we got to the other side there was a 20′ ascent of a platform by rope. I was treading water in the weeds watching this painfully slow process. There were a lot of people in the same position, Freezing cold and burning a lot of energy. You couldn’t reach the bottom. It was the first time a little bit of fear came over me. I finally was done and went all the way to the end and climbed the wood platform. Forget freezing and waiting. I made it out.  From there we continued running and quickly crossed thru the burning sections (FireWalker). It was a welcome warm up. The running was still easy, and I felt very much in control. As much as I fight to control my breathing while training, on the course it all just clicked. I was feeling very confident. Then I looked at the Electric Eel obstacle. I was a bit hesitant. I don’t like getting zapped by the fence here at home on the farm. I really didn’t want to get into water on my belly and crawl thru it. But I went ahead. I was doing great until the guy in front of me paused. He got zapped and the current travelled thru the water and into me. It was a nice jolt.

The woods section came up next. This was about as filthy and gross as you can get. The mud was almost black. We had sections in there that we were up to our waists. It was impossible to run much in this section. Roots and holes were everywhere. One of the easiest ways to not finish is to hurt and ankle. I kept that well in mind throughout. Every time I set down a foot I made sure it was secure. It was brutal on running form, since you had to stare at the ground and effectively hunch over. But I did not want to get hurt, We continued through the woods, still quite cold from the swim. In the open sections they added obstacles. We came to a pond where they had set up a series of barrels (Underwater Tunnels). Each row secured together. You had to swim and duck under each barrel. You had an open section between each to come up for air before you dropped down to swim under the next. I climbed down in the mud to make my way to the first barrel. Again, you could not touch the bottom. You had to swim. As I saw the first barrel come up I glanced at the life guard sitting to my left. I wonder why he was so carefully watching. I dropped under the water and kicked hard to get under the weighted barrel. As soon as I opened my eyes this all out panic grabbed me. Holy shit. It was dark as hell in the muddy kicked up water. All I wanted to do was hit the surface, but I couldn’t I was still under the barrel. I kicked as hard as I could and exploded out of the water on the other side. My heart was pounding and I was shaking, I had just come face to face with a fear I didn’t even know existed. It is amazing how disorienting dark water can be. Especially when you know you are under something. I was now facing the next barrel. I had to swim a couple of strokes over to it. I steeled myself and dropped down again. Same fear, same pounding heart. I came up again. knowing I had to face one more barrel. There is no way out of that obstacle once you commit. Barbwire is overhead, and on the sides. Well, I had done two. I convinced myself I could do another. The fear was no less. As I pulled my shaking body out of the pond I marvelled at the fear I had just experienced. It isn’t like I haven’t had some fear in my life. I have. It isn’t often I come across one I didn’t know I had. We continued running and came up to the rings (Hangin Tough).

To get across the rings you have to basically swing like tarzan. They are spaced well apart. Too far for most women. I saw maybe one or two even get past the first two. If you fell you dropped into a pit of muddy water. The rings were suspended about 8′ above this filthy pit. The trail got very congested, as this obstacle came up right after the water station. It was in the shade, and we had just come out of the frigid lake. I chose to go around this one and stand in the sun. Not that it was much warmer. I cheered on my friends. They both ended up in the muddy pit. TM greases certain rings. Few people make it. Most end up in the pit. We continued running thru the woods. I quickly lost my teammates. My body just wanted to go. I was so cold, I think it realized it would stop functioning if I slowed down at all. It was about a mile before I broke out of the woods into the opening. I had come up on a woman walking in the woods. I gave her a pat on the back and urged her on. She ran with me out of the woods. It was beautiful. The sun shining. All the spectators watching and cheering. A huge timber structure (Ladder to Hell)  loomed next. I was looking up at it when I realized the lady I had helped was cheering me on. It was so nice. The structure was set up to climb from one rail to the next, with about a body length or more between them. Note that we are all soaking wet and muddy. All the timbers were muddy and slippery. I just started climbing. My the fourth section I realized just how tall this thing was. At the top you had to carefully get yourself over and start the descent. It was a dangerous obstacle, especially for the women. The wood spacing was for a man. We had to stretch to find our footing. Carefully I climbed down and found my partner relaxing under a tree 🙂 We talked for a minute while my teammates arrived. I was feeling great. This was almost midway. Body felt good. A little tight, but well within myself as we continued.

I had no idea what to expect when I saw this bizarre wood obstacle come up. I just keep seeing people get spit out the other side into a pit of muddy water. And they are coming out fast, like someone had shot them out of a cannon. Hmmm. It wasn’t until I ran around to the other side that I realized you had to climb up to a platform. (Smoke Chute) I was feeling great when I pulled myself up to the top. 20′ or so. At the top there were a series of cubbies. Each person went to one. It looked like stepping into a wood closet, but this was no closet. This had no floor. If you stepped in you free fell until you made contact with the slide and it then spit you out into the mud/ water pit. The opening at the bottom looked impossibly close. All it looked like was a sure fire way to get killed. I looked over the edge. holy shit. No way….I was petrified. The guy working looked at me. I said to him “is this safe?” He replied “yeah if you keep your head back”… jesus….I was about to get decapitated on this sick free fall chute of plywood…..Needless to say I stepped forward, put my feet over and let go. It sounds so simple- just let go. But that truly is what it is, to relinquish that fear. To look it in the face and chose to do it anyway. As I free fell before my body launched out into the muck, I felt like I was amazing. Yeah, me. The one that fights with my mind everyday. Where everything is an effort and my life sometimes seems unlivable. Yeah, that person. I did the terrifying, and I survived. I had not even gotten to the obstacle that I thought might give me trouble. I didn’t even know about this one. I pulled myself out of the muck and felt as big as I had ever been. In a life where seeming small dominates, this was tremendous.

We continued on, freezing and covered from head to toe in mud. The next obstacle (Peg Legs) was causing so many injuries we hopped in and waded rather than attempt the walk across the logs set upright in a pit of water. The tops of the logs were covered in mud. The goal was to hop from log to log and make it across the pit. Unfortunately the spacing was far enough that nobody could just step across. Each top was coated in slick heavy mud. Most who jumped slid right off and landed in the log with some part of their body. They got hurt. I saw no point in getting injured, so we endured waist high muck as people fell all around us. We clawed our way out. I was still feeling super human from the Smoke Chute jump. We got to the balance beam over the water (Twinkle Toes). I had attempted to practice at the local park for this one. The playground had a balance beam 6” off the ground. I fell off all the times I tried. I was not looking forward to trying twinkle toes. This obstacle is set over water. The beams are 20′ across. You have to walk across and balance or fall off into the pit. I watched as people fell in. I was questioning myself a bit, but was still on such a high from the chute that I stepped up. As I took the first step out I found myself go to a weird zen type of place. Nothing around me registered. I found a spot across the way and focused. I never looked down, or heard anything. I just placed each foot, knees bent and back bent with arms out. I made it across. I never even imagined I could do that. I was so fired up at that point. You could have asked me to base jump or walk in a cage with a tiger, hell I would have climbed everest….I felt unstoppable. I felt incredible. I felt alive. Every cell in my body was working and firing to allow me to do things I had never even considered possible.

The Funky Monkey was next. Essentially the same monkey bars you had as a kid on the playground, except these were over a pit of water. They also ascended to a peak and then descended. I forgot to add they have about a foot and a half spacing between and some are greased. Yeah, another dunk in the freezing cold muddy water pit. As I climbed out I was getting a bit tight. We were well into the course at this point. Maybe 8 miles or so. We took off running. I clicked right into my training pace and lost my buddies again. There was the dreaded Boa Constrictor. I had dreamt about this damn thing. This one consists of drainage pipes (the kind you see under roads- black ridged plastic) they slope down into a water pit and then ascend up out of the pit. As you crawl down the first tube the water level in this dark black pipe rises. By the end of the first tube you are under water. Scary as hell. As you crawl out of the tube to face the next one there is no way out the entire area above you is barbed wire. There is no panic and get the fuck out. You commit and you are in. I was looking at the thing and thinking I have to go around when my teammates showed up. I was talked into it. I’m sure the high from the previous chute and balance beam helped. I slid into the pipe. It is dark and all you see at the end is that sliver of light above the water filling the tube. It is slippery and hard to get a purchase. All you can do is wedge your elbow into each ridge and pull your body weight forward. As the water level reached my chin I was starting to panic. But once your in, your in. I took a breath and ducked under the water as I clawed my way free of the first tube. I surfaced under the barbed wire looking at the next tube out. This one was hard. It was on an incline and there was no purchase to be found. There was so much water and mud. I got about halfway and started sliding back. I was trying to tell myself to stay calm and not freak out when some friendly guy stuck his head in and asked if I needed help. I nodded and he slide in and started pulling me out. Thank god for a friendly mudder! I was shaking from that one and the cold was taking its toll. I was still soaked from the money bars. I was about to get a whole lot wetter.

Walk the plank loomed on the horizon as we ran. This is a large platform jump into water. Most people say it is 15′. I can assure you it is not. The climb up the 25′ is holding on to slats of wood. They are wet and slippery and muddy. I saw people get hurt badly on this one as well. You had to hold on with finger tips and toes to crawl up the platform. Once on the top there was a marine yelling to line up. 3..2..1..jump. This repeated. I hate heights. But I did as I was told. 3…2…1…I jumped off. Even from only 25′ you hit the water hard. I came up in the muddy water and swam across to pull myself out. I was now completely frozen. Every part of my body was starting to refuse to work. I had been fighting with tightness in my one quad and in my back, but now it was just all out battle to get moving. We all got ourselves shook off and started running, much to our bodies dismay. It was a very short run to Trench Warfare. This was my most dreaded obstacle. It involves underground tunnels in the dark. I hate close confined spaces. I paced back and forth and finally just said fuck it. How bad could it be after all I had endured over the past 11 miles. I dropped to my knees and slid into the dark. I thought it was a straight tunnel, nope, it made a 90 degree turn a short way in. My heart dropped. Holy shit, is this some crazy underground maze? But I saw no other mudders, so I quickly figured they must be individual tunnels. I was crawling over rocks and gravel. My knees and elbows were taking a beating. I rounded the next bend and saw the light. Thankful to see that I crawled out into the sunshine. We were almost there. It was a short run to see Everest. This obstacle is one of the toughest. Mainly because it involves sprinting and then jumping to grab the lip of the quarter pipe. It is vertical and it is slippery. Between the mud, and some greased spots, it takes a lot of work. I stood there assessing who was at the top. A couple guys made eye contact and I waved. I started sprinting, but eased up when I realized how steep it was. Bad move. I fell short. I knew I had to go all out and just run as hard as I could. I picked myself up off the ground and tried it again. This time I got closer but fell a hand length short of the guys. I was exhausted. Again I slid to the bottom and picked myself up. In all I made six tries at Everest. On fifth I slid to the bottom and beat on the damn thing in frustration. I had so little energy left, and my muscles were so tight. It is near impossible to sprint without the cooperation of the muscles. I once more stood staring up at this thing. It may well have been Everest (for real). I knew this was it. I had nothing left if I missed this time. I ran for all I was worth and made it into the hands of two guys. I was now dangling from the edge trying to pull myself up. It took a minute but I finally found myself sprawled on the top of the platform. I was completely spent. Had absolutely nothing left. I barely remember climbing down and running thru the last obstacle. All I could see was that finish line and a blaze orange headband. We joined hands and ran into the hundreds of dangling wires (Electroshock Therapy). I slipped and fell but thankfully did not get shocked.

There I was frozen and sore but I was thrilled. I had done it. We had done it! They put that headband on and handed me a beer and a shiny metallic heat sheet. It wasn’t running 12 miles. It wasn’t facing “the toughest course on earth”. It was facing my fear and doing it anyway. It was finding fears I never knew I had and doing it. It was reaching the bottom of what my body thought it could do and finding a little more.  When people talk about heart, that is what they are saying. It is about mental toughness and tenacity. In all I have been thru in my life, I have always doubted how tough I am. Yesterday I proved to myself I am tough. I can do whatever I put my mind to. There is no quit in here….Hoo-rah.

 

 

 

 

Tough Mudder…3..2..1..go

 

Well hopefully at this time tomorrow I will be sound asleep dreaming of the epic fun I had. I am quite excited and nervous to face this course. It is so far outside anything I have ever done. Sure, we all do crazy shit growing up. But this is like crazy organized shit. Coupling the longer distance and insane obstacles it seems like it will be a good test of fitness and stamina. But even more so a test of mental strength. How often in your life are you faced with a couple 100 ft of dangling wires, some charged with as much as 10,000v. There is no way to the finish but through this insane obstacle. Most people tried to crawl under the wires, so they added hay bales and mud. Since we have used these same chargers to keep animals contained, I know all too well what a good zap they can deliver. Should be interesting, especially when standing in water. Can’t wait for that one. These are the types of obstacles TM is known for. They don’t just run you 12+ miles. They test you. Whether it is heights, with the 30′ platform you jump off of at the NJ event (most guys say it is the highest platform they have, since WTM is held there in Nov- 24hr extreme tough mudder race for the top 5% of finishers worldwide), or the fear of close spaces, with boa constrictor or trench warfare. Each obstacle is made to test you. In so many ways. Each person I have spoken to that has done a Mudder really talks about how wonderful the experience is. It isn’t a race- it is a challenge. You are expected, and take an oath to help all the others out there with you. It is common to see teams carrying strangers over the finish. Wounded vets run every year to raise money for Wounded Warrior. It is hard to feel sorry for yourself crawling thru the mud when the guy next to you is doing it without a leg….That is what TM is about.

I can’t wait for tomorrow. Promise, pics and description when I get back.

American Horror Story Returns

Have to say I have been looking forward to this since the first sick season ended months ago. I am not much of a horror flick fan, but the excellent writing and cast made this show such a standout (17 Emmy nominations). This year the season shifts from last year’s murder house in LA to an abandoned asylum in Massachusetts. Complete with twisted nuns running the place. I have to admit one of my stranger likes is pictures of dilapidated abandoned structures. Especially mental hospitals. I know, a bit weird. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the decay and rot of a structure can be. There are a number of excellent photographers that specialize in urban decay, and architecture as nature reclaims it. I follow a couple on FB. They post quite a bit as they travel the country. It is remarkable how many of these vast behemoths are left empty. Most built in the late 1800’s. They are each as unique as a fingerprint. All rambling, as wards and buildings were built to house the steadily growing number of mental patients in this country. Some started out quite ambitious in their goals. The rehabilitation of a population widely ignored and shunned by society. These institutions had gardens and day rooms and some even farms. The belief was if you gave the patients a sense of purpose and a job they would improve. This may well have been true, but none of these facilities could keep up this the number of patients being admitted. The same poor marginalized souls that were once chained in basements and hidden away, were now held behind the brick walls and steep roof lines. There may well have been a short window when the idealism and promise of these places as they were built reigned, but it soon deteriorated. They were now swiftly becoming warehouses. Overcrowding became the norm. The institutions grew, many soon becoming small cities unto themselves. Completely self-sufficient. They had the ability to power themselves, feed themselves and most of all contain their populations. Both staff and patients. In this private world some of the most extreme methods were used in the management and treatment of the patients. In a world before Thorazine, there were few if any methods that could safely treat. Instead, everything from Freeman’s lobotomies to insulin comas. Icebath/ hydrotherapy to electroconvulsive therapy. In the most crude of ways, these treatments maimed as much as they helped. Harmed far too many. All in the name of treatment. It was a far cry from the gardening and sunrooms of the late 1800’s. I guess what I see in these photos of rotting old asylums is the full cycle. From the most optimistic of the beginnings to the phasing out of these hospitals as budget cuts sounded their death knoll. They became too big, too costly, too outdated. Their soaring architecture and beautiful details were meaningless now. They were dinosaurs of the era bygone. As the decades pass they fall in pieces to the dirt they once rose so majestically above. There is something so interesting in the people who seek to document this collapse. Many return to these buildings over the course of years to photograph them.

Here by us is the Middletown State Homeopathic Asylum. An enormous group of structures at one time.  It is very typical of the hospitals built during the time period. It opened in 1874. It pushed for a more humane treatment of the mentally ill. Even including sports and diet as therapeutic interventions. initially less than 100 patients lived in the hospital. In the early 1900s the hospital grew to more than 100 buildings and 2500+ patients. At its largest it housed more than 3500 patients. It slowly started to fall apart. Buildings were closed off as they became too difficult to maintain. The hospital officially closed in 2006. All that remains are some brick buildings. None of the grand old structures remain. Most were vandalized, burned or demolished by the city. I have found no photos of the decay. Only these early photos. Sadly, it is like so many others. No hope of anyone repurposing them. Those that fall out of use are soon destroyed by the elements and vandals. To think of all the effort that went into the building of these super structures. Artisans carefully laid the terrazo floors, or pulled the plaster crown mouldings. These details are rarely if ever seen in today’s architecture. As these decompose the remnants of these arts fall with them. There is something sad about that.

I do feel it is a fitting end to these buildings. They were nothing more than warehouses. Places of sadness and suffering for hundreds of thousands of people. People walled off and hidden from society. Hidden within these beautiful stately structures.

So that was quite a departure from American Horror Story. It is a great start to the season. Jessica Lange is just unbelievably good. Can’t wait for the next episode….

Tough Mudder

Well it is just 2 more days till Tough Mudder. Two more days until I subject myself to 12 miles of rough terrain broken up with various obstacles. From the rather innocuous muddy steep slope to the far more sinister run through live wires that can knock you face first into the ground with 10,000 volts. I am not sure why I felt so compelled to do this. Initially it just caused some curiosity, but the more I looked into event, I just had to try it. So I will join a team of 12 people I have never met and make a run a big mudder. As the days have quickly clicked off the calendar my anxiety has ratched up a notch. But it isn’t my normal anxiety. This is a fun, anticipatory type anxiety. Like before doing something completely foreign and crazy. It is a great feeling. I don’t know if it is the timing. The change in meds, or the lights or this race. All creating the perfect storm for a huge shift in mood. As I ran this morning I was surrounded by the most glorious fall colors. The leaves skittering to the pavement ahead of my foot falls. Reds, oranges and yellows. The most perfect colors on a classic fall morning. Cool and crisp. The lake stretched out and reflected all those colors. How did I find this place grey and dull just a week and a half ago. When did someone raise the blinds? Is this how fucking simple it is? just flip some biochemical switch in my defective brain and voila, let there be light….how fucking cruel is that. To know that in every darkness and every struggle spent on my knees it is just that close. The difference in suffering and existing and thriving. Just that close. Two weeks ago I walked out on the edge, pummeled by impulses to end my life, and now I am gleefully waiting for some off the wall race. That is just so fucking strange. I can’t even wrap my head around it. But I guess I should just shut up and be happy. One less day of meaningless pain. A day complete with happiness amongst the fall leaves. 2 days till tough mudder. Just two more days till I push myself where I have never gone before. I have never much liked the unknown, but this one seems like quite the experience. I know I can do it. I’ll get over the walls, and thru the mud. I can do it.