#MyTAR17 challenge leg 3 – the Pursuit of bruises

Leg three took us to downtown Toronto, where the first challenge was trying to find which of these abandoned-looking warehouses housed hours of fun?  After circling the block we found it – Pursuit Obstacle Course Gym http://pursuitocr.com/ .  Gotta say, I was really freaking excited for this challenge – I workout a lot, but more importantly, I watch a lot of American Ninja Warrior, and I wanted to do that.  I mean, how hard can it be?


As you can see from my tastefully compiled photo collage (which I’m inserting right at the top of this blog because it both makes me look thin and makes my boobs look fantastic), I had a really, really freaking good time.  I want to go back now.  Weekly.  I want to keep running this thing until I flip over walls like Jason Statham with hair.  However, there is a definate learning curve to these techniques.

Shortly before we visited I officially registered for my first Obbstacle Course Race, the Rugged Maniac, so I came into this knowing this was my first chance to see if I was going to be able to complete the race or if I was going to die somewhere between the start line and the first obstacle.  The pressure was on.

As is a running theme in my life, we were greeted at the door by some incredibly fit hipsters and asked to sign another waiver.  This turned out to be a particularly good thing in my case, but more about that later.  They give you the quick tour of the neon-lounge meets boutique fitness space and then release you to the maze, a winding playground of cargo nets, tires, bungee cords, warped walls and an adult-sized ball pit deep enough to swallow a grown man.  My first instinct was to run the course like I was racing to Mt. Midoryama in Vegas, but then you see the first hurdle is a series of walls, ranging from four to eight feet that you need to climb over.  For a tall girl like me, the four foot walls were no problem, but the eight foot… In my head I can just walk casually up to it, jump up, grab the top, and haul my flabby ass over.  In reality, I flop against the wall and eventually fall back to the ground.  Now I see why everyone talks about the sense of community that comes with obstacle course racing – with a boost from a friend, I was up and over no problem.  We had been here like 10 minutes and already my strategy for Rugged Maniac had changed.  Now I knew that, unless I had mastered this wall climb shit in the next few months, I needed to flock with a bunch of friendly newbies and we could work together to get our not-elite-racer selves up, over and through whatever they decide to throw at us.


Personally, I find those wall climbs one of the most challenging of all the obstacles, as I simply don’t yet have the upper body strength and/or the proper technique down to fly over them yet.   Other tasks, like the cargo net climbs, rope climbs and broken bridges I was flying up like no big deal.  The technique is more important than the straight-up strength, if you do it the right way, what you lack in power doesn’t matter all that much.  But the one thing I have learned that there is no substitute for is grip strength.  It seems like such a simple thing – hang from some swinging rings like you’re in the olympics or on American Gladiators (fuck, I love American Gladiators.  When are they going to bring that back again?).  They even give you chalk and grip tape on the rings to help you out.  But before you know it your grip is gone and you’re neck deep in balls.  Giant mental note – work on grip strength.  Come to think of this, grip strength basically seperated the lead teams from the bottom feeders on the last season of the Amazing Race Canada, as the monkey bars under the Jasper Skytram was entirely down to your hands.

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And it was my hands that gave out first.  After numerous runs through the course, my technique was getting better and I was getting more and more comfortable with the obstacles.  But I couldn’t make a fist any more.  It was time to call it a day – a super fun, successful day that left me with a list of things to practice before my Obstacle Course Race. And I can’t wait to do it.  Practice will make perfect and in a couple of months I’m going to be able to get my flabby ass accross the monkey bars without dropping half way through. Every single one of these babies was worth it


Leg three – pitstop: Gained a position.  Tested my physical and mental strength and increased my confidance.  Kept getting up and going back for more.  Eliminated: the team who failed like three times on the wall climb and then the weaker of the two had a meltdown, curling up in the fetal position on the floor and crying “this is pointless, we should just give up”.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster







Jumpin’ Jumpin’ #MyTAR17 Challenge 2 hits the Sky(Zone)

Leg two began on an apocalyptically foggy day in January. We had been sent deep into the wilds of Mississauga, to a giant blue and white building where we were immediately slapped with a detour choice: Orange Sky Socks or Pink?

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We had come to jump.  This was SkyZone, the massive indoor trampoline park https://www.skyzone.com/ca-mississauga where basically every surface is bounceable.  The socks were mandatory, the kind with the little rubber grips on the bottom to help prevent people from unintentionally faceplanting.  Gotta say, when you’re as klutzy as I am, this is appreciated. I’m probobly the reason they make you sign a waiver the second you walk through the door. Those socks may be ugly as fuck, but they’re pretty awesome.  I’ve since also used them for Barre classes at the gym, they’re nice and padded and really sticky.

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So, the fun part about going late on a Saturday afternoon is that it also happens to be the official children’s birthday party time.  I mean, technically I don;t know if it’s official, but as a group of childless 30-something adults we may have looked slightly like pedophiles.  There were like 500 kids under 12 there and us.  Even the staff were below our demographic.  The only other adults able to produce grey hair were the bored-looking parents supervising the birthday parties.

The options of things to do here are fantastic – there’s a designated dodgeball area, a field of tramps for freestyle bouncing, a warped wall to run up, giant bouncing slam dunk hoops and a big fluffy foam pit to practice your crazy tricks into.  We ran in, looked at all the little kids and thought, this is going to be a nice relaxing time.  And then we started to bounce and realized that this shit is hard.  The cardio kicks in fast – after 20 minutes of continual freestyle bounce we were all sweaty and on of our group had (not even making this shit up) thrown up due to exertion.  No wonder all the other adults were just watching, with their hummingbird heart beats and negative body mass indexes, the kids could go all week on these things and here we were, just trying not to look too pathetic as we huffed and puffed and blew the place down.  Even the innocuous looking foam pit was a trap.  It wraps you in it’s foamy embrace when you land, and you’re all like “sweet, I love you too, foam pit” and then you realize it’s like lying on your back in quicksand, where the more you struggle the farther down you’re sucked and the next thing you know you’re on your back, arms and legs flailing in the air like a flipped Koopa Troopa and you’re convinced this is how you’re going to die.

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We had only paid for 60 minutes of flight time, and that was probably a good thing for our first bounce.  After the midway point, once we had our tramp legs and were more comfortable on the pads, it got much better.  We learned we could take the little kids in dodgeball – hey, if you don’t like competition, get off the court – and there was no more puking.  Gotta say, those spin classes and years of Zumba helped me out a lot, I was sweaty, but breathing well.  Their Skyfit exercise classes hold some serious appeal, and I may try to make it one day, as basic jumping takes it out of you, so balancing lunges, squats and bounce sequences would make everything from the waist down burn.

#MyTAR17 leg two was a success.  We clearly weren’t skilled at this, but what we lacked in talent we made up in enthusiasm.  Checked into the pit stop in a comfortable 6th place, but the team of adorable 60-ish grandparents from Alberta were eliminated by Jon due to being stuck in the foam pit long enough for all the other teams to check in before them.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

The Survivor Diet

Right off the bat, I have to tell you that the headline is a lie.  I just thought it had a nice ring to it.  But in reality, there is no such thing as a Survivor Diet.  How to loose weight by not eating anything but moldy rice and pond scum?  That’s bullshit.  But more than that, it’s unhealthy.  So by now you’re wondering “what the hell is this article about then?”  It’s about how watching people wither away on an island led me to a greater understanding of myself, my body and my goals.

I know this sounds strange.  Let me set the scene:  It’s the year 2000, I’m an overweight TV-loving junior in high school, just beginning my journey towards health and fitness.  Now, while I was always a big girl, it didn’t mean I wasn’t active. Sports ignited my competitive nature, but I hid behind my size, hanging back on defense. I was clearly not the fastest person on the field, so I did what I could to minimize my running while not being afraid to throw my weight around.  Needless to say, this was not the most effective strategy to become the pillar of health.

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Enter Survivor.  A game show.  In Borneo.  Sold.  Now, I’m not a camper, the outdoors aspect of the show was completely lost on me – aside from it being a picturesque backdrop, the fact that they were living in the sand and eating rats was a cool sidebar to the real appeal.  What drew me in, and what continues to hold my attention 17 years later, were the challenges.  The games within the game.  They were climbing, problem solving, digging, swimming, lifting… it looked like so much fun.  I wanted to do that.   Then it hit me in the face like a wet fish – I couldn’t.  At my current fitness level I may have been able to, on a good day, keep up with the undernourished 60 year olds out there. I was 16. HOLY FUCK.  It was time to make some changes.

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So this is when I began my Survivor Diet. The motivation I didn’t realized I needed had arrived.  The best part, though, was that I had found a goal that was reasonable and maintainable.  I wasn’t trying to drop hundreds of pounds overnight or look like a bikini model.  I was just wanting to get my cardio up to a point where I could run around for a solid half an hour until my team won immunity.  My arms needed to be strong enough to carry a weighted bag of puzzle pieces across a field.  My legs had to be able to push a heavy crate up a ramp.  I needed balance to fly over a beam to reach the mat.  Workouts went from punishment to fuel – “will this help me if I’m ever on Survivor?”  If the answer is yes, push harder.  If the answer is no, find a different workout you enjoy doing more.  And my relationship with food changed.  Nothing drastic, no fad diets (because I don’t have the willpower for a restrictive diet, trust me.  That shit is over the second I see a slurpee).  I cleaned out some of the unnecessary crap, but mostly I just watched my portion sizes for the first time ever.  If the people on Survivor can still preform these challenges while ridiculously malnourished, I could do it on half a Subway sandwich instead of a whole foot long.

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In hindsight, I guess this was more of my Survivor Lifestyle Change.  Over time, it did lead me to loose 80 pounds (some of which have come back, but the majority of them are still out there on an island somewhere), but the self awareness and the body positivity that came with it was more important. I still do all of this today – it’s so engrained in my daily life that I crave it when I take a day off.  Even at my smallest, I was still a larger girl.  This is not one of those blogs where the before and after photos show a dramatic weight loss that makes it look like old me could eat the new me.  But my body composition had changed.  Things are in much better proportion, I have a cute little waist I didn’t know had been hiding under there, I can see muscle definition when I flex.  And I feel fucking fantastic.

Now I watch Survivor with the confidence that I could go out there and at least be competitive in the challenges.  I will never be cast as the girl who always has to sit out when my tribe has more members than the other.  The ironic thing is that, while I give full credit to Survivor for being the catalyst for me to improve my quality of life and my relationship with my body, it’s still not the show I’d die to be on.  So much dirt, the bugs, the eating crap… and the balance.  I’ve been working on that skill for years and it’s still eluding me.  I’m most likely to be airlifted off the show for medical reasons on like day 10, after I’ve fallen while trying to walk along a slippery path, or had a comical allergic reaction to some exotic creature that no one is supposed to be allergic to.  The time in between the challenges, I’d be a flaming hot mess.  But those challenges….

Thank you Survivor 🙂