Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

The night prior was spent in leisure.  Sitting along the third base line on an overhung piece of concrete in folded chairs cheering on the embattled 2011 version of the Minnesota Twins.  The night was perfect, short breeze coming in from right field, with a full view of the Minneapolis skyline and Graves 601 hotel sign peaking just aside from a neon pole that announced the latest hometown batter to step to the plate.  The game was uneventful as my brother-in-law the Tigers fan got the first, second, and last laugh as the home team tanked losing 8-2 while several $8.00 Captain and Cokes washed away any care for the game.

A solid buzz gathered as the three couples made their way back to suburbia despite pleas for extending the night at a local strip club.  But, without a unanimous decision, the only titties that would be in view were our spouses before slipping into their nightly sleeping arrangements.  As the clock rolled past midnight and a solid effort by the nighttime Perkins crew with their above par bacon and ham omelet with three buttermilk pancakes, a brief rest was needed as three of us would be waking up in five hours for a race unlike any we have completed together.

The "before" picture (no idea about the hats I just follow along)

The Warrior Dash awaited our crew of my sister and father in law, my beautiful bride, and that tall thing you see on the left.  After getting married the four of us have gone on countless bike rides and 5Ks/10Ks, it is something that I found refreshing when introduced to this healthier side of athletic competition as my friends were more inclined to play a volleyball tournament in the back of bar that offered 3 for 1s and waitresses rarely kept track of how many drinks to charge you for.  But, today was different as the drive from my father in law's place in Robbinsdale took us through the once proud North Minneapolis neighborhood which now resembles the crumbles of gang/drug violence, so bad that even charities have packed up and left.  Signs of recent tornado damage accentuated the peeling paint, cracked and neglicted wood, and blacked-out store-fronts that a decent chicken dinner could have been purchased with a biscuit on the side for $4.99 but no more.

After getting out of the city, it was on to Afton Alps.  A popular, small skiing destination that was last visited 16 years old by a college student, his girlfriend, and my future brother in law with my girlfriend's friend packed into a mutlicolored 85' Nova hatchback (all parties over six foot tall) but it ran and got great gas mileage!  Ok, its was a piece of shit but skiing for the first time was an adventure after getting lost in the middle of the slopes and "walking" back to the chalet an hour after they had their feets up by the fire. 

Forward to today our goal was this:

Not pictured the three feet of mud below the sign

The goal was one hour, but changed to around 45 minutes after watching someone come flying down the final descent in 24 minutes.  Not that I could even run seven minute miles on a flat track but it seemed plausible despite zero training and a decent rum induced hangover.

The race started with about 500 of us packed at the gate with flame roaring above the sign.  The few yards was cake, and then around the corner was the pain.  A slope that I remembered being quite easy to come down with pieces of fiberglass and several feet of snow beneath my feet, was about to kick my untrained ass trying to climb.  About half way up I joined the rest of the sheep, some dressed in nothing but loincloths, others with names across their back proclaiming a wedding party (which actually is a pretty kick-ass idea), and some ladies that obviously had trained were showing their tight superhero underroos (I found a liking to Superwoman).  

After the first climb we were met by cars and a tire run to climb across and immediately met by several snow makers blowing cold water full speed like a sideways downpour.  Felt good but blinded and now carrying several hundred pounds of extra water weight, the view after regaining my sight was exhausting.  Three hills were in view as seen by those with much more superior skills already tackling their heights and valleys. Another obstacle, this one of five foot barriers to climb then a barbed wire fence to duck (repeat X 5).  Finally a pacer appeared as she was moving along the same speed.  Wearing "I Heart to Fart" granny panties from Spencer's and a well-shaped black bodysuit she would become my rhythm that would hopefully help me reach the 45 minute goal.

After another climb and a twenty foot cargo net wall to climb, there was a large tent ahead.  The race official proclaimed "FREE WOODTICKS INSIDE!" yeah thanks dude.  Asshole.  A tiara wearing princess yelled "NO FARTING!" which was great advice and spared my life as the tent was complete absent of any light and much to my forehead's dismay, there were boards set up to keep you body close to the ground as opposed to crawling through this void.  Once on the other side, a breather was taken on the side as my pacer bounced away for the moment. 

A rally for air came and thanks to some unknown upper-body strength, the rope climb over the wall was cake as the big red heart was visable again.  Through a maze of marshy mud, the final climb had a reward at its peak.  A huge waterslide with separated lanes to slide down and a refreshing spritz before the last downhill run.  Only two things separated my beaten up body and the final line with a table full of bananas and water.  Bricks of fire were stoked as each runner lept over the flames before jumping into a three foot deep/ten yards long pool of mud that required crawling as a barbed wire fence hung above the pool

 Fire! Fire! Fire! /Beavis

Once properly caked in mud it was just a few more feet to the volunteers handing out medals for all finisher, a token of completing the course and do something a little nutty for a change.  My time was a shade under 48 minutes, I blame the temptress and her fine ass for not pacing us appropriately, but nonetheless the experience was one that will be repeated next year with a little preparation in mind (and yes, booze will involved). 

Why yes, I would like a beer right after I rinse off 10 pounds of mud

Speaking of booze, by turning in the time chip, a free Shock Top await your hand (or Mich Golden Light if you like such things) along with tasty meats for purchase as modeled by my lovely wife below:

 She likes legs, I prefer the breasts

Onward back to a shuttle which was NOT equipped for people that have stilts for legs, but the aisle provided enough room to doze for the five minute, bumpy ride back while snacking on sunflower seeds.  Warrior Dash you have four repeat customers awaiting your return to the Twin Cities.

(* all photos taken by my sister in law)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The family man and the gambler

The walk has changed only a little over the years.  It is one that has been made hundreds of times in my youth.  To the west what was once an old decrepit farm house and adjoining fading red barn with mysteries inside that 10 year olds with nothing to do on summer days used to explore hoping to find something interesting under the various Folger's tins and rotted stairs.  In its place is a brand new elementary school that once housed all six grades but due to budget cuts now splits those students between the older school a few blocks away that the 10 year old version of myself attended.

But the reminder of the landscape hasn't changed at all.  The fields still filled with white and yellow "flowers", fields "1" and "2" still retained their metal bleachers and wooden benches for the various team that visited the mighty Orioles in hopes of coming away with a win.  Several healthy trees spotted the grounds as I lugged sporting equipment home.  Well, what was once my home, now just two people reside there, joined by a gaggle of little grandchildren as the engineer works his remaining days until he can finally enjoy the fruits of his many hard years in the construction business.  The baseball bag on my shoulder wasn't mine anymore, a dull ache from a pitching injury years ago now comes back to life with every step of the black strap pulling down on the bone.  It's a minor thing however as my attention is to the little hand wrapped around my ring and middle fingers happy that her father was there to see her pounce on a ground ball with the grace of a grizzly bear on ice skates.

I was once content to letting my life run its course, never changing like that ball field, the twin white hockey rinks behind it, and the old school to the east.  A moderate income from a job that does not require much effort nor brainpower to complete, a content spouse, but it was watching the two kids that changed that.  They were mimicing my sloth.  Not to the point that it was obvious, but they stopped being curious, stopped asking questions (which some parents would throw a party for at time), stopped growing allowing the lights and advanced graphics of the Playstation 3 or Cartoon Network website to turn them into mindless drones. 

One thing that a person with a hearing loss becomes whether they like it or not is being very observant.  Watching every twitch, every movement, every blink to get those actions to speak so that the words you could not hear or understand would become a sentence.  Hemmingway had a "five finger exercise" to paint a picture for the audience that would bring you instantly to my parent's backyard in enough words that wouldn't have the commentor stating "tl;dr" in the box.  While I hope to bring my drunken ass to Key West again before I die and have another go on the mechinical bull (inner thigh bruises and all), grab a lap dance in a back-alley strip club, and enjoy being surrounded by friends at Irish Kevin's, that will depend on a little luck in the months/years to come. 

Recent I have tried to better my life from a work and academic standpoint, learning more about the profession I am in, and also taking some writing courses which hopefully won't screw up my lispy "voice" too much that some seem to enjoy.  But the pressure from being on the go, to be a good parent, student, husband sometimes gets me staring out my porch window at 2am wondering would it be easier to ditch all this for a life in a hotel room and no responsiblities beyond finding food and keeping a bankroll large enough to live.  The dark specter of the gambler is one that I playfully state "it's for fun" "it's relaxing" but so tempting to dive into a rum and coke while piece of clay sit in front you and cards that randomly hit the felt determine if the night is a success. 

For now and hopefully until I walk my daughter down the aisle or sitting on the porch of my retirement house adjacent to the 16th fairway of an unnamed golf course in Texas or Arizona, the family man who wants that little hand to squeeze a little tighter around his fingers will win out because when I look in the mirror I like that guy, as the gambler can wait as his turn, more specifically until December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and ya'll will come see him and toast to being able to separate those two and enjoy both for who they are.