#MYTAR17 Leg 7. Why is there mud in my cooter?

Leg 7 already.  June and July had basically been my own #FastForward, with the #MYTAR17 challenges coming in hard and fast, basically all one weekend after another with a busy week at my day job in between.  It was totally insane and completely fucking awesome.

This route info found four of us piled into Rhonda Schmidt, our little Honda Fit, and driving out to somewhere past Joliette, QC (if it’s not in the city, my Quebec geography knowledge is basically nonexistent) to commune with nature and a field full of like-minded crazy people.  It was time for the second race in my mud run/obstacle course race/body positivity trifecta, the Dead End Race http://www.deadendraceseries.com/index.php

Sienna

It didn’t take long to see that this was a different animal than the Rugged Maniac had been.  More than just that this one was 1km longer and had 19 more obstacles.  In hindsight, the fact that this race was a qualifier for the OCR World Championships and the other wasn’t should have been a clue to this, but so it goes.  Whereas the Rugged Maniac had been a big party atmosphere with lots of inflatable obstacles visable from the start line, this one was more industrial, with the hardcore Platinum Rigs and dirt crawls being the first things that catch your eye. This was an obstacle course race, that had been a mud run. And the number of “totally ripped people wearing minimal clothes” on the course was much higher.  Like waaaay higher.  All these carved from marble tanned Adonises (or whatever the plural of Adonis is.  Adonii?) were tearing up the course in their glorified boxer briefs covered in just enough dirt and sweat to make them glorious. And they were really fucking good at this.

But we were game.  Bring it, we got this.  After the pre-race hype speech, during which I wasn’t paying attention to the French being spoken and indicated I was a man, much to my friends’ delight, the hammer dropped and we were off.  This course was much flatter than the first race’s, so at least we didn’t have to start with a sprint up a freaking ski run, and the run over logs and down rocky roads to the first obstacle was much more comfortable.

The obstacles definitely started off basic, with climbs up rock hills and butt slides down cargo-net covered rock chutes and the like.  About 5 or 6 in we reached the more classic OCR challenges we were expecting – pull a water-laden tire up a three storey platform, climb into a waist-deep river and carry a 40lb sandbag around a course on the uneven riverbed.  It was hot and sunny today, so after like what had to have been about 1km of running, it felt amazing to be in the cool water.  However, because I’m still an idiot, I was once again racing without my glasses on.  This meant that I just simply couldn’t see the large rocks under the water as I carried my sandbag, so I had to go ridiculously slow and go entirely by feel.  I’m like 3/4 of the way around when I hear one of my friends telling the others “wait, hold up, Holly can’t see!”  But I muddled through without falling on my ass, which, if you know me at all, know this is nothing short of a miracle.

It had been only 5 weeks since my other race, and while I had done 2 City Chases, most of my free time had been tied up moving from Toronto to Montreal, so I hadn’t really improved on my jogging ability.  I was getting through just fine, we all were, but it was a slower go than we all wanted it to be, and it was hard knowing that most of this was my fault.  And aside from that one water challenge, I can’t even blame this on my vision, because it was never an issue for the rest of the race. PS – I have been practicing more since.  I’m never going to be a runner, those peeps be cray cray, but I want to at least be able to shuffle along a bit faster.  I’m a big girl, and I’ve always trained as such, being far more comfortable with the power moves than the speed, so I did make up time on the obstacles.

From there we hauled a giant truck tire through a sand bed, hopped over some fire, climbed up, over and under a 15 foot metal structure, and shot some targets with paint balls.  For the first time in a month it was a giant fucking relief to finally not be the target of those, let me tell you.  Then we hopped over a few more 5 foot walls, crawled through sand under log bridges (where I hit my head so hard my vision was wobbly for a good 5 seconds while my brain settled back into place), successfully **cough cough** climbed a rope (I have since youtubed how to do this like 100 times) and used some pretty freaking awesome teamwork to hoist us up a 12 foot wall.  And then injury struck.

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*Reenactment*

Somehow it wasn’t me, but Sophie who managed to wrench her ankle while jumping from one platform to another about 10 feet up.  She was a trooper, and she plugged on.  Ride or die as a team, Ohana means no one gets left behind and all that, it meant that we were now moving at a strong walk.  Not gonna lie, there was part of me that was happy not to be facing the pressure to run from obstacle to obstacle.  Also, I was glad she was ok to continue.  In hindsight she probably should have called it a day there, but we were having too much fun for her to stop.

In my mind I refer to the next part of the course as the forest section.  We were up, down and a round a wooded section with hills and lakes, and here was where the water really began.  We jumped over a wall, attempted to climb from one tree trunk to another like squirrels and slid down a mega waterslide that went so fast it apparently blew my friend’s shirt up.  I couldn’t tell, as I was under water.  Then we were tight rope walking across a lake.  This was awesome.  At this middle section of the course, I had hit my groove, as the focus was more on climbing and muscles and balance than running.  Next came a tyrolean traverse back across the same lake.

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A climb up a muddy path left Tracy stuck nearly up to her knee – all there was was a sucking sound and then she had stopped moving.  She had to dig herself out of that one, and it could not have been a pleasant experience.  Then on to a second sandbag carry, this one over an uneven woodland course, and a rope climb.  Now that we were extra muddy and wet, the rope climb was not gonna happen.  The superhumans who can do this get all of my mad props.

Curving back towards the sandy area that held the start/finish – oh, we weren’t close to done, this was just a tease – we got to crawl under a beer truck, hoist a keg 20 feet in the air with nothing but our epic brute strength, and climb a 20 foot wall with nothing but a thick chain to hold on to.  This was the killer on the hands.  I had the upper body strength to get myself all the way to the top, I just couldn’t manage to hook my foot over… I struggled up there for what felt like 5 minutes, but was probably closer to 1, until my grip gave out completely and I slid down.  Sliding down that rough wood was dramatically worse than getting up there, as the majority of my cuts and scrapes the next day were from that drop.

The last third of the course I refer to as the “country club” portion, as we were in an area that may have been a golf course once long ago.  There were lots of water hazards, the grass was better manicured and adorable little white bridges crossed streams here and there.  So, naturally, we tracked mud all over it.  We also spent a good amount of our time from here on out in and out of these brown lakes, basically alternating between a land challenge and a water one.  It felt good to be in the water, as we hauled ourselves up onto a floating platform and walked the plank, threw javelins, swam under submerged fencing, traversed a horizontal rock wall, climbed a wet platinum rig and did a spot of archery.  My inner Katniss is a rock star.

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Love this pic.  It totally looks like Tracy is telling me about some drama while I’m just trying to not fall, while Karine looks super focused beside us.

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Sophie gives good face.  Also, shirtless guy.

Right next to that rig you had to sit on on a bit of a swing and pull your own body up and out of the water about 15 feet.  The first tug sends that rope right up main street, and ended up with Tracy reflexively yelling “Vagina!”, which the guys in charge of the obstacle found incredibly entertaining.

By now our grip had gone to shit, so of course they give you a 10 foot bar to hang off as work your way from one end to another.  The shirtless guy running this one offered to help us out, and we totally thought he was kidding until I felt warm arms wrap around my dangling thighs and give me a slight boost across.  I honestly thought I had been doing pretty well crossing the bar up until that point, but I am not going to say no to handsome shirtless pressing his face basically right into my butt.

Home stretch.  We were getting so close we could taste it, just a few more obstacles and we woud be sipping our free beers.  Here we encountered the first real MUD of the day, a 50-foot pit that seemed unasumming, only about 2 feet deep in most places, but we were warned that it had a few random holes in it.  Of the 4 of us, I was the only one lucky enough to find one – we were all walking in a line, and suddenly the ground was gone and I started to sink.  They were not kidding about holes, I’m 5’10 and I had to swim my way out, as I couldn’t touch the soggy bottom.  Apparently I also made a “being murdered in a horror movie” screaming sound as I sank.

Once we had survived that, all we had to do was hop over a row of tall concrete barriers, which Karine was the total BOSS of,  climb the fabled warped wall (or slide down it, as was this experience), crawl through some sand trenches, do one last dry platinum rig, and climb up and over a 2-story tower with nothing but a wide cargo net keeping you up there.  This was where the dancing began, we had done it, and it was freaking fantastic.  It was time to party.  As we reached the ground, we hit the finish line and received our medals.

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Phew!  My hair dye survived!  High five!

There is nothing better than that feeling of “I did it!”  And honestly, it wasn’t bad. Exhausting and empowering and fabulous.  There are a lot of things about OCR racing that have a learning curve – it’s not necessarily sheer power, but a lot of technique and footwork – and compared to the first one I saw definite improvement.  There’s also a brand new list of things I need to work on before the next race in August.  But that’s what brings you back for more.  If it was easy you would do it once, get bored and move on.  With the wide variety of skills and obstacles, there’s always something there that you’re going to struggle with and then feel like a freaking superhero when you conquer it.  All four of us will be reassembling in a few weeks to take on another one, and to put our newfound super powers to good use.

We totally earned our free beers, which we enjoyed while watching hot guys try to master the giant warped wall.  Come on, buddy, shirts are pointless.  Take it off, take it off!

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#SuperTeam   And fun random camera guy!

Pit stop:  Third.  There was room for improvement, and certain tasks took longer than needed, but it was so much freaking fun, it didn’t matter.  We felt accomplished when we checked in at the mat, and that made the day worth it.

Eliminated: The whiny sibling team who kept giving up on obstacles when they got too hard.  Whine all you want, but don’t freaking stop moving at any time or you’re toast.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

 

 

 

#MyTAR17 Leg 6 2.0 – Chasing (and CRUSHING) Ottawa

The second half of leg 6 was epic.  Two City Chases, this one in the Nation’s Capitol, and this was the one we had been planning for for months.  Go time.

Eric and I started this 6 years ago, back when we first lived in Montreal, where we would take our annual pilgrimage to Ottawa, stay in a hotel, and really make a weekend of it.  When we moved to Kitchener, we decided to keep making the 6 hour drive to Ottawa – we were getting to know the city, we both really like it there, we’re good at long-distance driving together and this made it feel like a mini-vacation.  Plus, this is the one day a year I can get him to workout without too much complaining.  He’s an awesome teammate and a pretty epic husband, but we know each other well enough to know that he will race once a year without hesitation, but when I decided on a whim to do the Toronto race as well, there was no point in asking him because that shit was not gonna happen. Especially this year, as, during the one weekend off between Chases, we moved back to Montreal, so it had been a pretty hectic time.

As long term teammates and veteran City Chasers, we had developed a strategy for this year.  Traditionally I had taken the lead on the navigation – I always sort of assumed that since I was the one who really was excited to be here, I would do the brunt of the work as a sort of thank you for doing this with me every year.  That’s not to say my navigation or game plans were the best.  My excitement normally got the best of me, and after determining where the farthest away Chasepoint was we would hop on the bus and try to figure out the rest of our route as we traveled.  However, as Eric is a video game level designer in his real life, he’s a bit more tuned in to layouts and efficiency than I am.  As we drove home from last year’s chase, he asked to take the lead on planning and navigation this year, and I was happy to hand over the map.

His plan:  take the extra time at the start line, solve the clues for every Chasepoint, map them all out, and then take the shortest route possible between all of them.  The concept of “take the extra time” does not come naturally to me – I’m definitely a rush in, ask questions later kinda girl.  Ask my boss.  Sorry Tom.  But Eric was calling the shots this year, and I had to swallow my impatience and let him go about it his way.  We had tried it my way for so long that we knew how well it worked (or didn’t work, which has happened), so we had nothing to loose.  And don’t you know it, the second we had all the points on the map, they laid down a perfect 9-point loop – we had donated to charity to get our “free” Chasepoint, so we already had 1/10 by the time the starting gun fired.  I’m going to say this in writing for all the world to see, he was right.  Very right.

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But that wasn’t to say I didn’t have a few tricks up my sleeves, too.  A big advocate for technology, the City Chase often posts clues on Facebook and Twitter during the race, so I’ve been following them for years.  Through that, and my previous race in Toronto, I had noticed that they always had a ridiculously difficult scavenger hunt Chasepoint clue.  Above is the clue from the Ottawa race.  The ones in Calgary and Edmonton had been similar, but all slightly different.  While you’re racing, when you see this immediately your brain goes (or at least it should) “NOPE.  That will take waaaay too much time to complete” so you skip it and move on.  That clue is basically a direct route to not finishing with a good time.  However, there is no rule stating that you can’t being these items with you before you start.  I wrote down a list of all the items that had appeared on at least 2 of the scavenger hunt clues from previous cities and thanks to my computer printer and dollar stores, had a backpack full of crap just ready to go.  At least some of these were guaranteed to be on today’s list.  As soon as we finished mapping our route, we quickly bought an umbrella and a bottle of sparkling wine from the souvenir shops on Sparks St. and went to turn in our completed scavenger hunt chase point.  We had: stuffed beaver, flip flops, bottle of wine, movie stub ticket (Spiderman Homecoming had come out the night before #nerds), sunglasses, activity schedule from a senior’s home, bar of soap from a motel and an umbrella.  Plus some other unneeded crap, like a Jurassic Park T-shirt, a toy skateboard, a penny and a water gun.  We had walked about 4 blocks total, and we had two Chasepoints under our belt already.  This was going to be a good day.

As to not make it too easy, the Chasepoints closest to the start/finish line always open an hour after the race start, when most of the teams have scattered to far corners of the city. Luck was on our side, though, and since we had to turn in our scavenger hunt near the start/finish, we were already in the right place right at 11am and we were the first team to get to do the animal challenge.  One teammate had to draw a coloured marble from inside a box of mealworms, and whatever colour you drew corresponded to what creature the other teammate had to hold for 60 seconds.  Guess, what we got:

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Seriously, is this man not the most adorable ever? Also, he got to live out his Spiderman fantasy.  It was good times.

Three points down.  Four came half a block later at the second Chasepoint that opened at 11am, the Goodlife fitness on Queen St.  There was a board with all sorts of exercises, like 30 burpees and 50 lunges, each assigned a point value from 250-1000 and you had to complete enough of them to earn 2500 points.  This is also when I learned my techie hubby didn’t know what a mountain climber was.

Conveniently, this put us right at the bus stop to get us to Byward Market.  The market wasn’t super far away on foot, but when given the option to take the faster mode of transportation, you take it.  I’m hyper competitive, he’s admittedly lazy, this is how we roll.  Here we had to search and find someone dressed as Where’s Waldo and answer a riddle.  We’re brilliant hyper geniuses (my blog, my lies), so it was no problem.

A jog brought us to the yacht club, where one teammate needed to hold a plank for up to three minutes while the other had to flip a bottle partially filled with water until it landed perfectly on it’s end.  I got stuck planking, while he put his video-game-honed hand eye co-ordination to the test.  I was thinking we were screwed, because my max plank time was something around 45 seconds on a good day, but Eric saved me by nailing it first try, and we were out of there shortly after I got into position.

We were then headed to a park on the far side of the embassy district.  We knew we were going the right way, but we saw another team coming the opposite way from down a side street and figured that must be a short cut, so we headed down there.  This was another stroke of luck, as it brought us to a gymnastics Chasepoint that we didn’t know existed. One of our answers on the clue sheet must have been wrong.  So we rolled, flipped and balanced around a nicely padded course (yay, when you’re klutzy and bruise easily **cough cough me cough cough **), got our point and continued on.

Finally we arrived at the park we had been looking for previously, only to find it was a dunk tank.  One teammate had to be dunked in a tank of cold water for a full minute while the other threw the balls to dunk them and had to eat a big handful of hot chilies.  Now there is nothing difficult about this, but one of us would have to complete the rest of the race in wet underwear because amongst all the random shit in our backpack, a change of clothes wasn’t one of them.  Out of all the years I’ve raced, I think I’ve done the water challenges maybe twice.  It’s really just for the sake of comfort.  Here neither of us wanted to get wet, and after a short debate, we figured that since we had already picked up the unexpected Chasepoint before this, that we’d just skip this and continue to our next point as planned.  We were still making remarkably good time with a strangely low amount of physical exertion, so what the hell.

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Zorbs, giant inflatable hamster balls, greeted us at the next Chasepoint.  You dive in and run your ball around a course.  This is something Eric and his unexpectedly good sense of balance is awesome at.  Me, well, let’s just say the last time I did this I slipped and fell right out the hole and ended up being pooped out while the ball rolled away.  Only one of us needed to do this, so Captain Awesome got his time to shine.

From there we took the longest possible route to Strathcona Park, but at least we got to see the impressive, fortified Russian Embassy on the way.  Now it was time to solve a puzzle while being shot by paintballs.  Great.  I still had the bruises from my ass being pounded 2 weeks ago.  A lot of the racers thought it would be an effective way to not get shot by lying as flat as possible, but this just led to a lot of them being painfully hit in the back of their heads as that was the only thing that was still sticking up.  Fatties for the win.  Naturally padded butts up, we dove into the puzzle.  My previous experience with this puzzle was a huge advantage, as I already knew the tricks and was able to get us out of that having barely been hit.

One Chasepoint left, and it was barely after noon.  We had a really good time going, and we knew it.  Apparently, this turns both the hubby and I into epic cocky assholes.  As we waited for the bus we were saying things like “look at those ‘fit’ people running.  They probably only have two Chasepoints.” and “they’re looking at us chubbers like we’re not even competition and I bet we have completed double what they have”.  It got bad.  But damnit, it felt soooooo good!  Being catty bitches every once in a while is everyone’s prerogative in life.
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A bus ride all the way across town brought us to some fancy-ass university that looked like a castle, where we had to pull a U-haul truck.  NBD.  The sheer power of our cockiness pulled that over the line.  From there our genius route planning had left us just a short bus ride right to the finish line back on Sparks Street.  One hard sprint, you know, just to make it look like we had been running that fast all day, and we broke the tape in 86th place.  Out of over 350 teams.  Booyeah, Bitches!

Pit Stop: First place.  We freaking crushed this.  Out of all the races we’ve done, this was only our second sub-100 placing, and we did it without Eric doing his annual cursing of my immortal soul for making him do something so exhausting for a full day.  And no injuries!  It was like we had hit our groove all day.

Eliminated: Let’s just keep the shade going because I’m enjoying it and call it the overly-confidant superfit team who assumed their superior running skills would power them to first, but their lack of good route planning and brain smarts took them out.  Bye, Felicia.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

 

 

 

#MyTAR17 Leg 6 – Chasing Toronto

Leg 6 found us launching ourselves into the depths of the downtown core, but we as yet didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.  It was time for the Toronto City Chase, a one day Amazing Race/Urban Adventure Race that was going to test our navigation skills, problem solving, pain thresholds and senses of fun.

HomeSo, since you’re reading this you’ve probably at lease browsed my blog by now and know that I’m basically obsessed with the Amazing Race in all it’s incarnations.  As a “normal” person, the City Chase is the closest thing I could find that didn’t involve a casting agent. Here’s the rundown:  teams of two show up at the starting line, then at the sound of go, you get a clue sheet to decipher with random locations around the city.  At each one is a challenge, but you have no idea what it is until you get there.  You have a max of 6 hours to do 10 of these 20 or so “Chasepoints” and make it back to the finish line.  The only restriction is that you can only make your way around by piblic transportation or on foot.  Boom.  Needless to say, I’ve been doing these races since 2003 and I fucking love this shit.

This Toronto race kinda fell into my lap this year.  I had only moved to Toronto in December, and thanks to winter, I hadn’t really begun to explore the city in depth yet.  And then we decided to move to Montreal in July, so I figured, why bother?  Then some friends who knew I was never going to say no to a challenge invited me to run the City Chase with them, just three days before moving to Montreal, and I found myself here.  Over the years, and the 10000000 moves we’ve done for work reasons, I’ve raced in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa as well, so not knowing the city wasn’t as daunting as it once was.   Thanks to the invention of superphones, navigation is always at your fingertips, and if all else fails, you just follow others wearing the provided race jerseys.  It may not be the most creative, but the stalking technique can really help you out in a pinch.

All 400 teams began squished in the distillery district, which is super cute, with it’s old factories and cobblestones. Te weather was fantastic too, sunny and fabulous, and not meltingly hot.  After deciphering most of the clues we figured there seemed to be a somewhat linear cluster of chasepoints along the lakeshore, so we decided to head there, going to the farthest one away and working our way back.  There is no set course, you can do any of the points in any order, and having a good route can make or break your race.

We make it to the first Chasepoint to discover it’s an adult tricycle race – one teammate must be blindfolded and dressed like a Super Mario character, then they need to pedal around a marked course while their partner verbally directs them where to go.

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This is Ada, my fantastic partner, dressed like that time Mario became a South Central gang member.

From there we hopped on a bus to the Princess Gates and queued up to get shot in the ass.  Not kidding.  Our second chasepoint was “suit up in protective gear and run into this giant tunnel tent thing to put together a puzzle as fast as possible while getting shot with paintballs”.  This is probably the only time in my life I’ve been happy to have some luscious junk in my trunk, as my strategy of sticking my nicely padded butt out as far as possible to take the hits worked well.  The paintballs burn when they hit you, especially when you get hit more than once in the same place, but compared to the other people we saw getting hit in the back of the head or the spine, my pain was pretty minimal.  Fat asses for the win! Also, I had some pretty amazing bruises on my tush afterwards.

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Sadistic asshole.  Kidding.  He was super nice and polite while spending his day lining people up and executing them.

This was my first time down at the Princess Gates and the Lakeshore and it was freaking gorgeous.  Admittedly, most of the previous Toronto experience had been more in the CBD, dwarfed by giant concrete and steel towers that blocked out the sun, but this gave me a new perspective.  Toronto wasn’t as cold and emotionless as I thought it was, and this area was lovely.  Right by the water we found our third chasepoint, which was playing catch with bows and arrows.  One teammate got to shoot arrows tipped with what looked like giant marshmallows and the other one had to try and catch them.  Super fun, and I also learned that archery tag is actually a thing.  I NEED to try this some time.

10 blocks later we were strapped together with giant bungee cords, having to keep from being flung around a park while collecting coloured balls on opposite sides of a field from your partner.  Then we were back to the lakeshore for bubble soccer.  I went into this thinking “no problem, just ram the other team as hard as possible and we’ve got this”.  Then we ended up against 2 big guys over six feet, who plowed us over like we weren’t even there and both Ada and I spent the entire time on our backs.  Loosing that match earned us 30 burpees each before we could move on.

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This portion of the race we basically just hopped from one pretty, waterfront park to another, cutting through Billy Bishop airport and getting increasingly more urban as we went.  I don’t think I’ve done a City Chase before where we did so much on foot without having to loose time waiting for public transportation, which helped our finishing time a lot, especially since there had been a long line at the paintball challenge, so we had burned up a chunk of time there.  At the marina we faced a classic dunk tank (that water was a nasty-ass shade of green by the time we got there, from all the other teams who had come before), and then got to fire off (and catch) pop bottle compressed air rockets at the beach, right next to a really fun and crowded street market.  Maybe it was a Caribbean party there that day, I don’t know, but the food stalls smelled amazing, I was so tempted to stop and shop, and we were later passed by a team carrying coconut umbrella drinks.  That’s how you know you’re a badass, when you run a race while drinking a margarita out of a fruit.

And then we were knighted and forced to joust until we had beheaded the competition.

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This photo doesn’t do my mustache justice.

We were closing in on the finish line.  A quick bus ride up to Front Street found us singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on a Karaeoke Stage – we had selected Spice Girls, but the guy programming the machine was like “No, you must sing Cyndi Lauper”, so we sang Cyndi Lauper.  Badly.  No one can hit those high notes unless you’re a cat and it’s 3am.

For the final push we raced back into the Distillery District to find our final chasepoint, only to discover it had closed 3 minutes earlier.  To keep it from being too easy, the organizers normally have hours of operations for the points closest to the start/finish, usually opening an hour after the start and closing an hour prior to the end time.  We missed it by seconds, and it would have been a cool one, too, where we would have gotten a chance to hold lizards or snakes.  However, since the first placed teams had crossed the finish line more than an hour prior, and the staff that were packing up the lizard chasepoint saw the looks of adorable sadness and desperation on our faces, they threw us a bone and gave us the stamp we needed for completing that point anyway, allowing us to turn around and sprint across the finish line just a few feet behind them.

5 hours and a lot of sun, sweat and fun later we had completed the Toronto City Chase, checking in in 220th position.  It rocked.  One of the reasons that I love the City Chase and keep coming back for more is the randomness of the tasks – these are things that you would never encounter in day to day life.  Life is really nothing more than collecting  experiences, and this is an amazing way to check off things that you didn’t even know were on your bucket list, while getting a workout, a city tour and a tan.  For me, personally, this was also a fitting way of saying farewell to Toronto.  Previously I had found the city cold and unimpressive, but I just hadn’t found it’s soul.  Now I had a new appreciation for what attracted people to the downtown, especially in the summer, and saw it all from a new, much more fun perspective.

Pit Stop:  We dropped a position.  We weren’t fast, but we had a ton of fun and crushed a lot of the challenges much faster than expected.  However, we did check in more than an hour before the last-placed team.

Eliminated:  No one.  This turned out to be just the beginning of an exhausting and awesome To Be Continued superleg.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

 

 

#MyTAR17 Leg 5 – Overcoming mountains and mud while finding self-acceptance

Leg 5 began with the application of sunscreen.  Actually the application of 2 different types of sunscreen and then a layer of bug spray.  This is what happens when you take a girl who’s so white she’s transparent and put her out to pasture in the blazing sun for the day.  Oh, and then throw in 25 obstacles and a whole crap ton of dirt and mud.  Welcome to my first mud run, the Rugged Maniac Kitchener – https://ruggedmaniac.com/obstacles  

Gotta admit, that while I’m an avid gym-goer who particularly likes lifting heavy things, I was always intimidated by these mud runs and obstacle course races, partially because I thought they catered more to elite athletes, partially because as a bigger girl I always think of myself as too big to do things, and partially because I don’t like getting wet.  I was wrong.  So wrong.  Except for that last part.  Despite growing up in Vancouver on the wet coast, I will never enjoy getting wet.  But last year, some of my Zumba friends talked about the mud runs they had done in the past, and I decided that one of my goals for 2017, even before this #MyTAR17 challenge had come up,was to complete a mud run.  I read all the blogs about tips for beginner mud runners, went to the OCR gyms a few times and before I knew it the day had come.

The atmosphere was joyful when we arrived, we were running at noon and heats had been going off since 945am, so there were already a lot of finished racers enjoying the free beer and food trucks and DJ.  It was also good to see both people taking off from the starting point and crossing the finish line.  From the pics online, I had come in thinking we were going to be wearing like 15 pounds of extra mud by the time we were done, but people were coming out surprisingly clean, which made me happy.  At this point I was still making stink face when I thought about the wet and muddy parts.  And the few obstacles we could see from the basecamp looked super fun.  Excellent.  Ironically, the starting line was the most intimidating part at first glance – we all knew the race was being held at Chicopee Ski Resort, but I had never expected the starting line to be at the base of a ski run, that you needed to run straight up before you hit the first challenge.

The before:

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You may remember from my previous blog posts that I’m not a runner.  Like so not a runner.  I strongly dislike it and thusly never practice it, as I’ll gladly get my cardio from something more interesting like spinning or zumba.  As we headed to the starting line there was that voice in the back of my mind asking me what the hell I was doing here.  How was I going to keep up with these people?  I totally became that person who sizes up the competition, looking everywhere for people older/bigger/less fit than me to bolster my confidance – if they can do it, I must be able to, right?  Just to get into the pen that they put each wave in before the starting gun you had to jump over a 4 foot wood wall, and as I was climbing over I got my hand stomped on.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an ominous sign of what was to come?

Boom, we were off, running straight up a ski hill.  I should definately have warmed up better.  I know this, and I was stupid, caught up in the moment. It happens to me all the time with cardio: the the first 10 mins suck, then I hit a wall where my breathing siezes up and the world is a horrible place for about 1 min, and then I get my breath back and I’m fine for all the rest of the time, no matter how long it may be.  Here I found myself walking before I hit the first obstacle, and pissed at myself for being the slowest amongst my friends.  I chose not to wear my glasses for this, which was a really good idea, as the mud and rocks would have destroyed them.  But I don’t have contacts as a backup, so I could see everything, but if it was more than 2 feet from my face it was in soft focus.  This didn’t help with my running either, as I was tentative on the uneven ground, worried about rolling an ankle and being taken off the course by the medics.  This is a legit fear for me, I have a history of being the one who somehow manages to hurt themselves in the most unlikely of ways.

The first 6 obstacles were rough.  Not so much the obstacles themselves, but the fact I was battling my breathing and wheezing in between them.  We jumped over walls, climbed a wooden tower thingie (technical term), and then reached the first mud pit of the day, while crawling under barbed wire.  Before you’re in the mud, it doesn’t look appealing, like sweaty chocolate milk with rocks.  But once you’re boobs-deep in the sloppy goo that had been warmed to the perfect temperature by the midday sun, you can’t help but thinking “this feels really good”.   Another, deeper and goopier mud put followed, then some giant wartime trenches to jump over and a crawl through a steep dirt chute.

This was where I hit the breathing wall and needed to stop for a second.  We were still moving exclusively uphill, though we had almost reached the summit.  My legs and arms still felt fantastic, though, and I clung to the fact that I had trained for power not speed. Despite the fact that I was embarassed at my slow pace, the setting was lovely, with trees and wildflowers.  As we reached the peak, surrounded by perfect sunshine, not only did the killer climb end, but my breathing cleared up and I suddenly felt like myself again.  Don’t get me wrong, it had been tough but it was definately still enjoyable.  With each obstacle I completed my confidance grew, as did my comfort in my abilities.

They definately started us off boring and amped up the fun level of the obstacles as well, as the farther we got into the course the more fun they got.  Here we had to balance our way accross teeter totters, carry weighted sandbags around a marked path (seriously, can there be more of these?  This was definately my wheelhouse),  lift and crawl under weighted doors, run and jump to try hit a hanging gong before landing in a deep pool (I got it) and then climb over another really tall wooden thingie (continued use of technical terms).  Aside from one very steep but short climb, this was all downhill as well.  It was nice, finally to be able to focus on the onstacles and not the trek between them.  This is what I had signed up for, and it rocked.

The next section of the course was what I consider the “off road” section.  It was still predominantly downhill, but we were going down steep hills of loose dirt and rocks, made slick by the water trekked in by the competitors before us.  There was lots of “please stay out of my way, I can’t stop!” and “this is going to hurt if I slide down on my butt”, but I loved it.  I was refreshed and really having aA wade through the deepest, muddiest mud yet, then climbs up and over 12-foot mounds of dirt brought us to a belly crawl under a chain-link fence.  By now we were about half way though the race, and I was feeling awesome, like each obstacle refreshed me, bringing more and more energy with it.  We were all in great moods, laughing and high-fiving and cannonballing, really in the spirit of the day.

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The mood of the obstacles had changed too.  They even looked different, with inflatables and trampolines, like a muddy children’s party with much more body hair.  We swung across a deep trench, then bounced our way across a field of trampolines to a cargo net, climbed over a giant bouncy castle and then up the famed warped wall.  Since we were all slippery and tired and human, there was a guy stationed at the top to catch anyone who didn’t managed to clear the wall.  Could you imagine that job?  That guy was jacked – who needs a gym when you spend all day hauling people?  I actually did better on the wall than I had done in most of my training runs, reaching the top with my hands, only to get hung up pulling myself up and over.  All I heard was someone say “give me your leg”, so I did and I was flung over before I knew it.  This led to a cargo net climb to a giant inflatable water slide.

Ironically, this was where my team actually ran into injury.   Four of us slid down the really tall slide together, holding hands, only to have us all land on one guy, resulting in a pretty epic floor burn on his elbow that got him all the way down to the cartiledge.  #WarWounds.  But he bounced back right away and soon we were scampering over a giant cargo net, pulling ourselves up through pipes, belly crawling through more mud, jumping over rows of fire, swinging accross rings, and pulling weights up on long ropes.  But we had made it.  One final sprint to the finish line and we were official Rugged Maniacs!  We had made this mud run our bitch!

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I felt like a monster.  27 obstacles in under an hour and a half, we had crushed it.  I don’t know if it was adrenaline or training, but I didn’t even feel tired.  I could have kept going, and I already mentally was planning my next race.  I need to do more of these.  So much fun.  We took the photo above at the finish line, and we were all glowing.

That evening though, looking back at this photo, it hit me in the wrong way.  Looking at it, all I saw was the roll of where my wet shirt was sinking into my wide stomach and the way the sunshine rippled off the lumps on my arms.  Arms that, had you asked me that morning, I would say were more muscular than fat, but here made me question my workout routine.  I felt I looked huge, like I used skinny bitches for snacks.  It was a blow to my body confidence.  A blow that made me sad at first, but then made me angry.  I was angry at myself for thinking that way.  This body had just crushed it’s first mud run, had energy to spare, and had breezed through the strength challenges.  Was dramatically less bruised than expected and I wasn’t even sore the next day.  Sure, I had struggled on a few obstacles and sucked at the running portion, but this was my first OCR, a learning experience, and now I know what to work on in the future.  And there will be a future.

Then I remembered that there is also so much more to a good picture than the subject.  I’m no model, but if you cover some models in mud and take their photos on an iPhone they’re not going to blow your mind either.  Plus, I could probably lift them.  Lighting and angles can make all the difference as well.  Here is a photo I had taken two days earlier, while trying to decide what to wear for the race, and I look freaking awesome.

Same weight, more flattering angle, better pose and soft lighting.

Gabourey Sidibe said that self-confidence is like lipstick, you have to reapply multiple times a day.  Preach, sister, preach.  After a few days of forgetting this and wallowing in self-loathing, I pulled out the lipstick, applied a nice, thick layer and said fuck it.  I got this.  And I registered for 2 more Obstacle Course Races this summer.  Even if I train my heart out, I don’t have enough time before then to really change my fitness level or weight by much, and that’s ok.  I’m probably going to see myself as fat in those soggy, dirty photos, too.  But I’m also going to see myself as strong, capable, and truly enjoying life, and that really, honestly is all that matters.

Pit stop – 1st place.  We weren’t the fastest runners or the best at the obstacles, but the emotional improvement pushed us to a lead no one could touch.

Eliminated – The team of ultra-fit dude bros who thought they could show off and ended up with a race-ending injury and a trip to the ER.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

#mytar17 leg 4 – Look up, look waaaaay up

Leg four began very early on a Saturday morning, with the clue telling us to hop on the TTC and get to the big pointy thing downtown Toronto.  There was only one thing this could be, the CN Tower, which was, until 2011, the World’s Tallest Tower http://www.cntower.ca/en-ca/about-us/awards-and-records/records.html. I was actually really looking forwards to this – I’m still a Toronto neophyte and had never been up the tower before.  I wanted to see the view, but also, I am really interested in someday doing the CN Tower edgewalk, where they basically strap you to a clothesline and let you pop out there and stroll around like that’s something people should be able to do.  This was sort of my test, to see what level of backflips my stomach did when I looked down. However, in order to look down, you need to first get to the top, and we were doing it the old fashioned way, by taking the stairs.  144 storeys.  No big deal.  This was the World Wildlife Fund’s CN Tower climb for Nature.

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So, we get there at 8, only an hour after registration had opened, and already we’re being passed by people in their Panda tees, their times emblazoned on the back, as they’re heading to the TTC on their way home.  They’re done?  Awesome.  This is going to be even easier than I expected!  I clearly have no idea about my physical capabilities, which as this challenge progresses, I’m starting to think is a good thing.  It’s leading to me happily signing up for things and launching into them without my normal anxiety-riddled hesitation.  I’m sure you’ll learn more about that later somewhere on this blog.  Anyway, the point is, that all the way through check in and coat check and all the lines after lines after lines that you have to go through to finally be able to climb (there had to be 1000 people there when I was there), I was still freaking excited to go take on this giant tower.  Like we literally jogged down the walkway and up the 4 flights of stairs it takes to just get to the starting point of the climb.

My first thoughts as the climb begins go something like this: “Oooh, it’s nice and cool and refreshing in this giant concrete tower!” “Aw, the artwork from the school kids adorning walls to cheer us on is really cute” “Oh holy fuck, it’s only been 30 floors?” “I can’t breathe.  Why can’t I breathe?”.    It becomes very clear, very quickly, that I’m conditioned fot HIIT and interval training.  Long distance stair climbing is more akin to marathon running, just steady state cardio for an extended period of time.  Totes not my wheelhouse.  I quickly loose my friend (a runner) as I have to stop like every 20 storeys to get my breath back.

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Random picture found from Google Image search.  Don’t know who these people are, but they probably also beat my time.  And that became the theme of the day.  Me sprint climbing for a burst then standing on one of the landings that didn’t have paramedics on it, because I knew my face was like 100 shades of red, but aside from that I was ok, so I didn’t want them to think I was dying.  And while I was taking  short breather, I was being passed by 7 year olds with their little fucking hummingbird hearts, or 60-ish laddies in blouses and nikes who looked like they were out for a sunday stroll.  How were they making it look so easy?

The climb felt like it took forever, but the second I reached the timing point at the top, the end of the official climb, I was like “that went by so fast!”  I had done it.  I had freaking done it.  The chubby girl from Coquitlam had climbed the gooddam CN Tower.  Booyeah, bitches.  Then the volunteers tell you there’s still 6 more flights to go to get to the viewing deck, which was the only way out.  What the actual fuck?  Had I not given enough?  I’m pretty sure I gave them a Luigi Death Stare as I passed.

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Now I was at the top of the CN Tower for the first time.   It was noisy, overcrowded with sweaty climbers, and all I wanted was water.  Honestly, I didn’t care that I was at the top and surrounded by a spectacular view on a sunny day.  All I wanted to do was sit down, but I knew that if I did it was all over.  So I made sure to go out onto the viewing platform, in the cold, April wind  to get a breath of fresh air and at least take a second to drink it all in.  And to look down.  This was basically the highest you can get in Canada, so if you’re looking for a place to tackle your fear of heights, this was it.  I fully expected my stomach to lurch and my pulse to race just from being that high.  Maybe it was the fatigue or maybe I’m just not afraid of things like I used to be, but I felt nothing.  Looking down was strangely exhilirating, instead of terrifying.  The whole ride down on the glass bottomed elevator I calmly watched as the ground came at us at 22kmph.

By the time we reached the bottom, I had my breath back, my heart rate had returned to normal, and the exercise endorphins had kicked in.  The natural high hit me like a strong drink.  34:34.  Bottom to top.  A lower end of average time.  I was definately disappointed, and my friend had beaten me by a whole 13 minutes.  But I did it.  I reminded myself everyone has to be a beginner some time, and this was my benchmark for improvement.  Plus, I felt freaking great, and to my great delight, my muscles weren’t even sore afterwards.  I had the strength conditioning down, just needed to work on the endurance.  1776 steps (plus the additional ones before and afterwards that they pretend don’t exist), no big deal.  Giving myself a big “good game” slap on the ass for this one.

Leg four, pitstop:  Second to last place.  Dropped a few spots, but gained a better understanding of physical limits.   Eliminated: it came down to a footrace, but getting lost en route to the CN Tower cost a team the race.  Luckily we had that much of a head start and managed to stay alive, but if I had stopped to take one more breather we may be heading home now.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

 

Reservation Agent of the Year!!!!

So, the number of blog posts that have made it onto this page since I launched this blog has been lower than both you and I anticipated.  Sorry about that!  Oh God, can I sound more Canadian?  I do have a good reason for my sluggish posting, I promise.   In my offline life, I’m a Specialty Reservations Agent for Exotik Tours, specializing in Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Europe.  Basically, I don’t deal with the public directly, but I’m the travel agent that your travel agent calls when they need to put together some big, fancy shit.  I love my job, and sometimes it has to take priority, you know how it goes.  But this time, my job loved me back.  Big time.

You’re talking to the Logimond PAX News 2016 Reservation Agent of the Year.

http://www.paxnews.com/news/other/results-are

The results are in!

Hell yes!  Internet high five!

I am so freaking excited that I literally want to tell everyone that I know, have ever known and may eventually know of.  You know what’s a great way to do that?  The internet.  So please indulge me this one giant squee of a blog post.  I swear it will only happen once.  Or once a year, if I play my cards right (knock on wood).

A little background on this award.  In the travel industry, we don’t have many awards or events that are open to all companies accross departments, from airlines to travel wholesalers to tourism boards, and this is one of the special few. They just throw us all into a big, happy, passport-wielding pot and let us battle amongst ourslves, Hunger Games-style.  But the coolest part is that it’s a fan-voted award.  Someone has to nominate you, and then the top 10 (ish) nominees get opened up to a public vote, where all your clients get to put their clicking where their hearts are.

I honestly still don’t know who nominated me – the first I learned about it was from a client email, congratulating me on my nomination.  But as soon as I discovered my hat had been thrown into the ring, my competitive streak came out and I wanted to win. Baaad.  It was a long shot, I was one of the newer kids on the block to be nominated from one of the smaller specialty departments, but the next thing I know I’m enjoying a photo shoot while clutching my sparking new award.

Award

They like me, they really like me!  It just feels incredible to be recognized by my peers and see the last 11 years of hard work has paid off.  I’m still riding a high weeks after the winners were announced, and it also reaffirmed that my job is pretty damn awesome and my co-workers and most importantly, my clients are the best in the world.

Check out my interview in the latest issue of PAX Magazine, pag 30 – http://paxmagazine.ca/digital/2017/04/en/#page/30

And thanks for letting me brag.  I promise, it’s out of my system now, I’ll be good.

#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?

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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.

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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

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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 🙂

 

#MyTAR2017 My Amazing Race Canada Challenge 1: Adventure Rooms Kitchener

Dec 29, 9pm.  Four intrepid adventurers step handcuffed into the Mayor’s Office…

For my Amazing Race Canada challenge 1, I admittedly started off gently with an event I have previous experience with – an escape room.  This was partly because I was fighting a raging lung infection and partly because it’s hard to find things open between Christmas and New Years, but mainly because I just freaking love escape rooms.  They’re like crack, the second you leave one, you want to sign up for another right away.  Something about the adrenaline spike of trying to think outside the box while racing the clock, working as a team and pretending you’re in a real-life mystery just does it for me.

We chose Adventure Rooms Kitchener – http://adventurerooms.ca/.   A few months ago we had first chosen this particular escape room company simply due to good ratings online and proximity to where we lived, but after trying other companies in other cities, this is one I will always come back to time and again.  It’s just so well done.  The puzzles are difficult without being illogical (it sounds like common sense, but I’ve done other rooms where the leap in rationality you would need to make in your problem solving is so ridiculous that there is no way anyone’s escaping in time), the theming and design is immersive, the staff are great and it begins with handcuffs, so you know it’s going to be a good time.  We’ve now done 3 of their 4 rooms at this location, and will be back soon for #4.  I highly recommend it, or it’s sister location in Niagara Falls, to anyone.  And don’t worry, you’re not going to get any spoilers from me.

Just like with the Amazing Race, choosing the right teammates for an escape room helps increase your odds of escape exponentially.  My team consisted of a travel agent, a video game level designer, a doctor and a guy with 2 psychology degrees.  In each of our chosen careers the majority of our day is spent problem solving, so on paper we’re a dream team.  But honestly, I think the most important trait a teammate can have here is the desire to win.  As long as you have that, you’re going to be focused, put the pedal down and just get shit done.  For just this reason, I love my team.  We’re going to escape or die trying.

The picture below is from a previous game, where we successfully escaped the Alternate Adventure with more than 15 minutes remaining.  I don’t have a pic from this most recent room, as I was high as fuck on antibiotics and I totally ruined the photo.  But basically it would have looked a lot like this one except that my husband’s rocker hair would be about 2 inches longer.

adventure-room

So, in the middle of a snowstorm, we entered the Mayor’s Office, which begins with all of you handcuffed together.  For obvious reasons I’m not going to tell you what happened in the room, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but when you have 4 people handcuffed in a circle, you can imagine the type of yoga that transpired.  Miraculously, the aforementioned fact that I was super sick and super high on meds didn’t affect my brain any, and we all just got to work, ready to make this room our bitch.

We emerged exactly 1 hour and 1 minute later.  The time limit was 1 hour.  We just didn’t enter the code into the final lock in time and failed by seconds.  A heartbreaker.  I’m realizing now that if this was a challenge on the real Amazing Race Canada there would be some sort of penalty for not finishing within the allotted time.  Since the goal is to turn 2017 into My Amazing Race Canada, then I have to now penalize myself.  I’ll start brainstorming punishments now – if you have any suggestions, comment below, or message me on twitter, my details are in the About Me page above – and there will be a penalty blog to follow.  When you’re as competitive as we are, it was a disappointment.  But honestly, I thought we did great.  There wasn’t one thing that caught us up for an unreasonable amount of time, and we were all on point with a lot of our puzzle solving, but we must have just slowly bled time in a lot of different places that cost us the win by a hair. And it was a really freaking good time.  There is still one room in Kitchener we haven’t done yet, the Original Adventure, and 2 in Niagara Falls, and we know within this year all three of these are going to be crossed off the list.  Craving another one already.

So, leg one of the race down, and if this was a real Amazing Race I would put us in a comfortable 6th place out of 12 teams.  Not good enough to beat all the fictional teams that would have made it out within the 60 minute time limit, but in the top tier of the teams that had to take the penalty. Comfortably ahead of the teams who got lost trying to find the escape room in the first place and accidentally ended up in Guelph.  Please note, when I refer to my Amazing Race Canada team ranking throughout this whole blog year, it’s going to mean just me, but since you can’t Amazing Race alone, we’re going to pretend there’s two of me.  Yeah, I get it, it’s ridiculous, but I said I was going to commit to this theme and damn it, I’m going to do it.

Now it’s time for my pit stop, during which time I’m going to sleep, eat, mingle with the other teams, and get rid of this lung infection so when next leg starts I’m not going to be drugged out of mind.  One down, many, many more adventures to come!

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster