Saturday, February 26, 2011

Illness comes at inopportune times, and other complaints

Rugby practice started last week and my tournament is only a week away. Have I done any running lately? Nope, not at all. And that means next weekend is going to suck. Big time. If it wasn't an away tourney where plane tickets are required and wasn't taking place in my hometown, I probably wouldn't go because I'm so out of shape and don't want to leave a bad first impression with my coaches. BUT, I'm really looking forward to seeing my parents and don't really want to pay a butt-load to change flights so I guess I'm going home in a week. And huffing and puffing on the rugby pitch.

In preparation for this tournament, and the rugby season in general, I was planning on starting C210K again (for the 4th time now, I think). And then I got sick. I'm not talking about the sniffles or a slight headache akin to a hangover. This was more of a I-really-should-sleep-in-and-take-care-of-myself kind of thing where I had a hard time breathing after walking 5 minutes to class, and even when I could breathe it hurt a whole lot. And thus C210K is postponed for another day or two, until I can breathe semi-normally again.

So now I'm sitting on the couch, studying and munching on some junk food (because that's what I do to make studying for biology bearable) and regretting all the weeks since Thanksgiving that I spent doing what I'm now doing instead of making running and getting fit a priority. If I'd stuck with the plan back then, not only would I be running 10ks right now, but more importantly, I'd be 200 lbs instead of the 211-212 I'm at right now. And that's with a conservative estimate of 1 lb./week loss, which is much slower than what I usually lose at when exercising regularly.

I should be motivating myself to get fit instead of beating myself up about the past. Instead, I go on and on about missed weight-loss opportunities and dreaming of being skinny. Obviously that's never helped, but I keep doing it. I mope and tell myself that it's impossible for me to be thin. But it's not! I know so many people in my real life (not even counting the ones I've met online) who have set their minds to changing their lives and have succeeded. My mom is one of those examples. My cousins are another. So obviously it's not genetically impossible. I should get the hint.

But as I mentioned in the last post, I can't keep up with calorie counting. It gets too overwhelming. But without it, I eat whatever I want and don't hold myself accountable for what goes into my mouth, which is my downfall. I've thought about doing a generalized calorie counting kind of thing where I round up my meals, but I think not having an accurate count of what I eat would drive me more nuts than having to input every nutritional label for every ingredient in my meals.

Yup, I just came up with another excuse for why I can't calorie count and thus can't lose weight. How pathetic. Instead of making lots of changes at once and focusing on the negatives, I'm going to try one thing at a time, and remind myself of the positives. After-all, my now early-morning swimming routine (yes, it's a routine!) started when I forced myself to get out of bed at 5:30 one day after falling asleep at 3 am. If I can keep up with something that goes so much against my sleep clock, I can do practically anything.

So...the positives:
  1. I've made biweekly early morning swims a routine, even if getting out of bed that early is a struggle. Every. Single. Time.
  2. I now eat breakfast every day. And I feel weird on the very few days that I skip it. This did not used to be the case, and I could go hours before putting anything in my mouth (then I'd eat unhealthily, but that's another story). Now I have to eat breakfast otherwise my day is off. And I get up early to make sure this happens. Weird.
  3. I've lost over 10 pounds since September, part of it over the holidays when I wasn't exercising or calorie counting, but simply watching what I eat and trying not to over-eat. Not much of an accomplishment at my weight or that span of time, but I haven't really stuck with a workout or eating plan. I've just cut down on beer and junk food. And what a difference that has made!
  4. I lost 5 pounds in the span of 10 days when I was calorie counting and swimming twice a week, meaning that if I keep my exercise routine the same as it is now and simply start being accountable for what goes in my mouth I will lose really quickly.
  5. I learned to enjoy cooking, and started looking forward to eating left-overs.* I've made new recipes part of the weekly rotation, and I also can almost replicate my mom's delicious soups. Next up is learning her meaty meals.

The end. And now I try to apply this positive attitude to sticking with my resolutions.

*To give this accomplishment some background info, I used to not be able to eat left-overs. Like, they repulsed me, especially the ones that coagulated when put in the fridge and didn't really un-coagulate when reheated. I've somewhat gotten over that, but I still can't eat certain things.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Calorie counting makes me OCD

This time silence does mean I've fallen off the wagon. I've stopped calorie counting, which has made the biggest difference in my weight-loss efforts (see my weight graph). The reason behind that is that I get super obsessive about making sure I have the right amounts and the right weights that I have to search out the correct food label for everything and account for every little bit of stuff added to a recipe. The hardest part (and the one that bothers me the most) is figuring out how many calories and nutrients are in a bowl of my mom's soup, since I don't actually eat all the veggies that I cook with, and I have no idea how calorific my home-made chicken stock really is. And that drives me nuts!

So my attitude of all-or-nothing makes me want to quit doing it altogether. I know approximations are better than not counting at all, but I also know that they're not very accurate (hence the term). Thus I can't be sure if I'm actually eating the right amount. And then I can't compare my calories in to calories out. And then this whole weight-loss process becomes as big of a mystery as it always used to be.

I have no closing/comforting words to end this post, except to think that I'm going to have to start calorie counting if I want this weight to come off. Ugh. I'll start tomorrow ;)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fresh food and how not to let it spoil

Since a huge part of my most recent attempt at weight-loss has been cooking more food at home, I feel like this is just the thing I need to extend the shelf life of my veggies, especially the home-delivered organic ones that are just too good to let spoil. I have this problem where I buy groceries with grandiose plans for meals and then I make one or two days' worth of food, get discouraged, and everything goes to waste.

I've tried fixing this problem by planning out exactly what I eat for each meal, but that doesn't last too long before I get bored/forget and I have to start from scratch. I've since made a list of exactly what is in our fridge and have a menu of sorts planned out for the next few days. I mean, it's not like I can whip up some recipe using collard greens. Up until last week, I had no idea what they even were. And that's what I like the most about the weekly food drop. I get what's in season and don't have too much say over what I get each Monday. I can substitute a few items but especially now, in the dead of winter, the choices are slim.

Anywhos, I'm babbling. Here's a list compiled by Country Living and adapted from Rebecca Diliberto's, Penny Saving Household Helper, about how to keep your food fresh longer. They also have some good stuff about leftovers and fixing over-salted or over-oily soups. In general, I may have to check this book out from the library and read it from cover to cover.

Ok, onto the list. Some of these I already knew, but some are interesting and worth remembering:
  1.  If you’re unsure of an egg’s freshness, see how it behaves in a cup of water: Fresh eggs sink; bad ones float.
  2.  Line the bottom of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with paper towels. They’ll absorb the excess moisture that causes vegetables to rot.
  3. Don't throw away sparkling wine or champagne that's gone flat. Restore the bubbles by dropping a raisin or two into the bottle. The natural sugars will work magic.
  4. If you only need a few drops of lemon juice, avoid cutting the lemon in half – it will dry out quickly. Instead, puncture the fruit with a metal skewer and squeeze out exactly what you require.
  5. To keep herbs tasting fresh for up to a month, store whole bunches, washed and sealed in plastic bags, in the freezer. When you need them, they’ll be easier to chop, and they’ll defrost the minute they hit a hot pan.
  6. A bay leaf slipped into a container of flour, pasta, or rice will help repel bugs.
  7.  Prevent mushrooms from getting slimy by wrapping them in paper towels before refrigerating.
  8. To revive day-old muffins, sprinkle them with water, place in a paper bag, and pop in a hot oven for five to 10 minutes. The steam created by the water will restore moisture.
  9. Stop cheese from drying out by spreading butter or margarine on the cut sides to seal in moisture. This is most effective with hard cheeses sealed in wax.
  10. When radishes, celery, or carrots have lost their crunch, simply pop them in a bowl of iced water along with a slice of raw potato and watch the limp vegetables freshen up right before your eyes.
  11. Store crispy and chewy cookies in separate containers. If you combine them, the moisture from the chewy cookies will make the crispy ones lose their crunch.
  12. Avoid separating bananas until you plan to eat them – they spoil less quickly in a bunch.
  13. Put rice in your saltshaker to stop the salt from hardening. The rice absorbs condensation that can cause clumps.
  14. Stock up on butter when it’s on sale – you can store it in the freezer for up to six months. Pack the butter in an airtight container, so it doesn’t take on the flavor of whatever else you’re freezing.
  15. Another dairy tip: In order to make cottage cheese or sour cream last longer, place the container upside down in the fridge. Inverting the tub creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil.
  16. Believe it or not, honey is the only nonperishable food substance, so don’t get rid of the stuff if it crystallizes or becomes cloudy. Microwave on medium heat, in 30-second increments, to make honey clear again.
  17. Prevent extra cooked pasta from hardening by stashing it in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerating. When you’re ready to serve, throw the pasta in boiling water for a few seconds to heat and restore moisture.
  18. You can freeze cheese! After serving, put leftovers back in the original package, wrap tightly in plastic, and freeze. Defrost in the fridge a day before serving. This trick works best for soft cheeses with a high fat content.
  19. Keeping brown sugar in the freezer will stop it from hardening. But if you already have hardened sugar on your shelf, soften it by sealing in a bag with a slice of bread – or by microwaving on high for 30 seconds.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tough Mudder v. Warrior Dash

This is a follow-up post to the race report/summary posted earlier and also copied from my tri forum.

I have a few photos from TM so I'll post those when I get the camera working again. It needs a soak to dislodge some of the dirt from underneath the power button. Even though it's supposed to be waterproof, shockproof, dust-proof, and freeze-proof (all of which came in handy on Saturday), it is definitely not mud-proof. Somehow it survived being buried in a mud pit at Warrior Dash, but the Tough Mudder folks managed to get enough mud into it to make it dead by mile 3.

Unfortunately I don't have a post-race photo (as in, a we're-not-so-clean-anymore photo) because of the deadness of the camera, but also because we ran through water a lot towards the end and most of the mud had washed off by then. I say most, because even after my shower back at the hotel, my towel did not look white. And the tub didn't drain properly for a couple of hours.

My only photo regret is a post-Mud Mile pic, where we were literally covered in about half an inch coat of mud. Try taking a bath in melted chocolate, and you'll get a good idea of the consistency. It was impressive.

I don't know if I conveyed this enough in my write-up, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was hard, frustrating, exhausting, and just plain draining, but it was so much fun and exactly the sort of challenge I was looking for. The length of the course and the obstacles gave ample opportunity to talk to many people. And we kept running into Tough Mudders all weekend, even on our flight back to Colorado yesterday morning. Cool stuff.

As for your question about which race I prefer...definitely Tough Mudder. It's longer, harder, and more thrilling. Warrior Dash was a bit easy. But then again, Tough Mudder got that same kind of review only six months ago and they have since totally revamped their events. So I don't really know about the current WD races. I still think Warrior Dash is geared towards a less adventurous crowd. Tough Mudder seems to think so as well. In their information packet, they say, "If you do not feel comfortable completing any obstacle, DO NOT attempt it; simply continue on to the next obstacle. But really, what do you think you signed up for, Warrior Dash?" Kind of elitist and snobby, but based on the sheer distance and number of obstacles, I see they have a point.

As compared to WD, TM is definitely longer, harder, and more thrilling for me. It encourages more camaraderie and teamwork than does WD by making a lot of obstacles impossible to complete alone, even for big strong dudes, and not giving out timing chips or anything that would assign participants a time. You have to self-report a time and even then, only the people that want to qualify for the World Championship Tough Mudder Race (top 5% of each race) care enough to do that.

Overall, I think the post-race atmosphere after WD was better, with a more festival feel than TM, and with more people sticking around. That may be due to the different demographics of participants and location (I did WD in a ski town in CO and TM on a motocross track in TX) or maybe due to the length of the race. TM took everything out of me to the point that all I wanted to do was take a nap (and I did...for 4 hours) while WD was tiring but I still wanted to hang out and listen to the bands.

I highly recommend both races and I think people should start out with WD to see if they enjoy this kind of twisted masochism, because TM could be a bit much if you decide this isn't for you.

Oh, and there was an article posted in the Austin paper the next day writing up the event and interviewing people. I thought you would be interested in reading this part (TM is a bit cocky, but after running it, I think they somewhat deserve to be that way):

The event is not designed to appeal to the same crowd that's drawn to traditional triathlon, the three-part sport of swim, cycle and run.

"People who want to wax their legs and practice changing socks quickly are just not going to enjoy this," event creator Will Dean said.

Tough Mudders are 80 percent male and mostly in their early 30s. The average finishing time is about two and a half hours.

It took us a bit longer than 2.5 hours to finish, and the completion rate they cite in the article cannot be correct. Maybe they mean that 20% don't do all the obstacles? Because their version would mean over 600 people didn't finish, and I don't believe that. It's also kind of funny that they emphasize the electric wires the most in the article, when in fact, it wasn't the most challenging part of the whole race, at least to most people I spoke with later. The worst part about them was being heckled by spectators 200 yards from the finish line. Haha!

Tough Mudder Austin

I can now say I'm a Tough Mudder! The "race" was so much fun and I had a great time in Texas. Below is the race report/summary I wrote up for my tri group. It's super long, as all my race reports tend to be, but I think I outdid myself this time. This one is more of a summary and since the race was 10 miles long and had 19 obstacles, pardon the length. I'm also not in Austin anymore. I fell asleep to a cloudless and starry Texas sky (wish I could say sunny, but we left at 4 am) and woke up to sleety, dreary Colorado. It was weird to see that out the airplane window this morning. Anywhos, now it's pretty and snowing, which makes it even weirder to be writing about my sunny weekend. Trippy. I'll stop babbling. Here's the report/summary:

Tough Mudder Austin
10 miles, 19 obstacles
 Paige, TX
29 January 2011

Greetings from Austin, Mojoers! I just finished "running" the Texas Tough Mudder course yesterday and have the black and blue legs to show for it. I don't really have a race report (or any pictures this time around, bummer!) but here's a summary of the event and a lot of reasons why you should do it.

(L to R) Me, Maggie, Bondy, pre-race and clean

The theme of the day was, "Hey, Army guy" because, 1) there were a lot of muscular military men around so why not try to get their attention, and 2) I needed a lot of help because I have no upper body strength.

The event began with the national anthem prior to the start of each wave, during which many people stood at attention, pretty neat to see. Then a quick summary of the spirit of Tough Mudder and lastly, a recitation of the Tough Mudder code, which is essentially, this isn't a race but a team thing, help each other out, don't complain, and some other things like that.

The course was on a motocross track so the first few miles and the last few miles wound around, going up and down what used to be jumps and the spectators were able to wander between the different obstacles and take pictures of their people participating. It's pretty cool that they did that, and also explains why there's a $15 spectator fee.

The first three or four obstacles (here's a link to the race course) were all mud ones (including a muddy ice bath) and variations of the "Kiss of Mud", which we had to do two loops of. Not hard in and of themselves, but going up and down those motocross jumps was really annoying and tiring. And it didn't feel like we were making any distance but rather running around in circles for a few miles.

Then came a water crossing which was COLD and through an uneven and muddy lake floor, so we kept tripping and falling into that frigid water, which prepared us for the event I was most looking forward to: Walk the Plank, where you jump off a 15 foot platform into freezing cold water. But first you have to get onto said platform, which was one of the hardest things I had to do all day, and where "Hey, Army guy" came in quite handy. I was then literally forced to jump by the guy at the top (you want me to jump where?) and almost had a panic attack when I hit the water.

"Hey, Army guy!"
Bondy jumping. It looks a lot higher from the top.

O.M.G. That water took my breath away. I was underwater for what felt like forever and seriously thought I would pass out before I got to the surface (seemed to be a theme for all the Mudders I talked to afterwards). Once I did get some air, I briefly thought about asking for help getting me to solid land because I was so frozen and freaked out, but didn't want to be "that girl". Instead, I just kept repeating "Oh my God, oh my God" and slowly waded to the bank. The guy who we'd been running alongside for the first 2-3 miles had jumped right after me and needed a very long breather to calm himself down, so it was nice to see I wasn't the only one having an issue with this obstacle, especially since I jump off things into water all the time and never have a problem with it.

Next was a long swim through freezing water (about 50 m), which wasn't too bad because I was already numb from the long swim to get to Walk the Plank, and then more going up and down motocross jumps and running forever but seemingly getting nowhere. Those mile markers couldn't come fast enough!

Eventually we headed out for the long run out into the cow pastures, during which I was somewhat grateful the sky was overcast because it was getting a bit warm, and the mud was starting to harden on my face, hands, legs, and pretty much everything. It was getting annoying. As soon as we'd all started to warm up, we came across another freezing pond we had to swim cross (the designers of this course are EVIL) and more mud and tunnels to crawl through. All that was followed by even more running through cow fields and Texas hunting grounds. Eventually we headed back towards the motocross track (or at least it seemed like it) but in fact we criss-crossed through the forest/shrubbery and across more creeks and ponds for a couple more miles. That water was so freaking cold and the miles seemed to drag on forever. Maybe it's because I'm slow runner or something, I don't know. But 10 miles is far.

Oh, and during that run, I think they wanted to keep us on course, so they set up signs that said "Beware of velociraptor! Stay on trail." And then a minute or so later you'd stumble upon a large metal cage with a kid-sized stuffed dinosaur inside. These people are creative!

We hit civilization (that is, the spectators/the motocross track) around mile 7 and were greeted with a substitute for Fire Walker, which got canceled because there was a no burn order in place. I'm kind of glad because this new one rocked. It was a smokehouse with a deep mud pit inside, but you couldn't see anything and just slid into it without realizing what was happening. All you could see was outstretched arms reaching over the edge on the other side helping people up the slippery and muddy slope. And then we emerged to be photographed by spectators. It was kind of nice to do something they didn't see. Like it was our own little thing, and it turned out to be one of the favorites of a lot of people I talked to later. And looking back on this obstacle, it's kind of weird that we had no idea what was in that house but we climbed in blindly, as if it was normal. That could be an interesting case study into the kinds of people that sign up for these kinds of events. End side note.

The best picture I have of me and the mud (mile 1.5-ish).
Not quite as impressive as what came later in the race.

More running ensued, including the most frustrating part of the course: the Mud Mile (The Trenches on the map). I have no idea where they found so many types of mud, or consistencies for that matter, but I was impressed. This thing was so frustrating because all you did was go into a super thick mud pit, stumble out sliding all over the place, only to go into another mud pit not even two feet away. If this thing had indeed lasted a whole mile, it would've really sucked. But I think we only did 10 of these or so...enough to be coated in about an inch of mud head to toe. And this is the time I was most bummed that my camera had crapped out. There are no words to describe the amount of mud covering us. It was like we’d taken a bath in chocolate, it was so thick.

One of the funnier aspects of the race was the Hold your Wood obstacle where you carried logs a quarter mile or so. The macho military guys of course grabbed the largest trunks they thought they could carry, while the smarter groups of us took the dainty logs more suitable for a medium-sized fireplace. Not even halfway around the loop, the macho dudes had dropped the logs and were rolling them up and over the motocross jumps. Suckers!

What I like to call The Cramp Mile came next where most people started developing calf cramps. It was like a minefield with people stretching on both sides of the trail, which led us to The Underwater Tunnels (in zig-zags, of course, because Mudders don’t take the direct route…that would be stupid). The barrels holding the whole structure afloat had started to blow away so they closed it right before we "got" to do it, but the swim across that frigid lake was hard enough for me, especially since next came The Ball Shrinker that drained any sort of upper body energy I had left.

And the sign in front of this obstacle? "We could've made the obstacles wider but getting you wet and cold is just another way we break you." It worked. By that point everyone was so exhausted and tired and wet and cramping that the last thing we wanted to do was go back in the water. But the next three obstacles were water-based, and by that point the spectators had gathered around them and were taking pictures and oohing and aahing whenever someone wiped out. I was super jealous of their warm and dry clothes, as was everyone else, I assume. I remember someone pulling out an orange and I kinda wanted to grab it from them. But that wouldn't have been very nice of me.

The monkey bars were impossible for all but a few super buff guys (they were sloped UP! Who does that?!) and Twinkle Toes (balance beam in the water) wasn't my thing, so I spent a lot of time in the water during those last couple of miles. Last was about a half-mile run (seemingly the longest part of the day) and more water in the form of a spider net, where we got passed by a couple of dudes in thongs. And I'm not talking about their shoes. My friend was preparing to head up the spider net, until they cut in front of her and she decided to wait a bit for them to get over. Interesting people do these kinds of races...

The organizers saved the best for last. 200 feet from the finish line was the Electroshock Therapy, which consists of an evil contraption of live hanging wires, some of which carried a sizeable shock. All this was over a mud pit so you were bound to get shocked, lose a shoe, and fall on your front of a large crowd of spectators. Yup, they were standing there three-deep in some places heckling us to run through. Like, we'd stop in front of it to catch a breather and the crowd would heckle for someone to run through. And if you got shocked, you could hear the crowd cheer/laugh/enjoy themselves. It was weird.

The ungraceful person that I am, I totally got shocked, then wiped out, then some dude ran into me, and I got shocked again. Ouch! And then I ran across the finish line, got handed a bright orange headband, a heat blanket, a beer, and a whole bunch of nutrition products. Not a bad end to the race.

Trying to get warm post-race (L to R: Me, Maggie). P.S. It's 70 degrees outside.

We didn't hang out much at the after-party because we just wanted to get clean and warm. I had on sweats, a fleece, a jacket, a heat blanket, and a beanie and I just couldn't warm up in the 70-degree weather. I think I was just super tired and hungry and needed a nap. So we headed back to the hotel to get clean and try to wash some of the mud out. Then we headed out to downtown Austin to hit up the bar scene (that's a story for another day…that town is very interesting).

The tub after we tried washing our clothes in it.

Being from Boulder, a town where everyone and their mother does extreme sporting events on a weekly basis, having completed something like a triathlon or Warrior Dash (Tough Mudder's little brother) isn't exactly unique. When you tell someone about it, they just shrug their shoulders as if it's something they planned for their afternoon workout. Austin, on the other hand, is much different. Or maybe it's a Tough Mudder brotherhood kind of thing. I'm not sure. Regardless, it caught me off guard.

At the bars Saturday night, whenever we ran into a Tough Mudder, we became instant friends, going back and forth talking about this obstacle or that obstacle, and how hard this part was or the unpleasantness of that. It never got old. All their other friends (and especially girlfriends) would get annoyed and try to get their attention again but no luck. It was really fun to hear from a whole bunch of different people who did the race and commiserate about our collective tiredness, bruisedness, and cuttedness.

Speaking of tiredness, I forgot to mention its close cousin: soredness. On Sunday, me and my friends really could've used a walker. We definitely looked like we were walking with one. My left hip flexor and right ankle were extremely sore, places I've never hurt in before. So with both sides in pain, I had a weird limp going on. And every time we got up from sitting, we'd forget that we were sore and spring up like we do normally. Big mistake. Then all three of us would stop mid-stance and groan. It was especially funny seeing us walk up to a stair. We'd all pause, look down, grumble, look down again, and eventually hobble down. We all kind of did it in unison and everyone had the same reaction. It was hilarious to watch, but it also hurt to laugh. Oy, I should stretch next time...

My legs on Monday, 2 days after Tough Mudder. At least I wasn't limping anymore.

Anywhos, I'm hoping the Colorado Tough Mudder will have the same kind of camaraderie, but I think its location deep in the mountains and lack of a central bar scene near the event will probably cut down on chance meetings in the bars afterward. Also, I imagine the kind of people running the CO race will be of a different kind than the military men that dominated this Texas race. We have a lot of individual athletes in Colorado (making it hard to recruit rugby players, among other things) so I don't know how the group mentality thing will go. But I'm hopeful that we'll at least get some Air Force men and/or other fellow rugby players out there. And about that bar scene issue, I'm doing the Sunday run so it'll be a bit different since I'm sure not a lot of people will go out that night.

As for the strange state of Texas, I'm seriously considering going down there again to do this thing because I had such a blast (and I think my friends are in as well!) and they have a good number of non-elevation related and just plain fun obstacles, so we'll see. It's also nice to have a "race" in the middle of winter to look forward to instead of training for months on end without anything to test yourself with.

As a parting thought, here's a little story about people not understanding us Tough Mudders:
I was taking a cab downtown Saturday night to go out to the bars and got to talking to the driver about having just finished Tough Mudder. He hadn't heard of it, so it was kind of hard to describe. Then he asked a question I honestly didn't know how to answer: "What's the motivation behind doing this race?" Uh...I don't know. I kind of blubbered through an answer involving road races are boring and he seemed to get it, but not entirely. So yes, I don't know what the motivation is, besides the fact that it's pretty awesome and something that will test you in ways you didn't think you would be tested.

In short, DO IT!!!

And here's a link to their events, which are all over the country, and even across both ponds, up north, and Down Under. Now you have no excuse.

As a parting shot, here's part of why the Tough Mudder folks are so awesome. Besides the fact that their info packet says to bring a "Hydration system - FILLED WITH WATER, not cerveza", it also states that they "DO NOT recommend you buying a brand spanking new pair of kicks for this event;
shoes get muddy, because you are running through mud. At Tough Mudder, all shoes go to heaven (or get recycled and delivered to starving/shoeless children in Africa)."

So here is said pile of donated shoes:

(All images of course map and obstacle descriptions, i.e. those not featuring me or my friends or shoes, are copyright and courtesy of Tough Mudder 2011 and can be found in their original, intact version here.)