Random Thoughts

Bored Hipster Seeks…Adventure!

It’s interesting the conversations you overhear, out of context, that resonate with you.  It happened for me at camp this weekend in Grand Canyon at the Desert View Campground.

Desert View is a first-come-first-served no-reservations campground on the extreme eastern end of the park.  It sees a lot of last-minute campers that couldn’t make reservations at the main campground near Grand Canyon Village, so it’s quite the motley crew when it fills up.  We had everything from drunk Canadian party boys to German families to nomadic guitar playing hippies.  We also had a small herd of urban hipsters who were seemingly lost, because they sure didn’t seem to be happy about this whole “camping” thing.

One morning two of the hipsters had broken from the purposefully-uninterested, apathetic  herd and were conversing in the typical condescending fashion.  Clearly, one of the two was not satisfied with sitting around camp practicing cool indifference and honing his snarky, sarcastic wit.  He struggled to explain his ambitions to his friend.

“I don’t know, man…it’s just not what I want to do.”

“Well, what is it then?”

“I…I want to…to go for a walk…go somewhere.  You know…meet random people, see random things.  Maybe do something slightly unsafe…”

I have never heard anyone struggle so much to explain their need for ADVENTURE.  In his struggle to verbalize his inexplicable desire to do something exciting he inadvertently delivered what I believe is the best definition of “Adventure” I’ve ever heard.  I really hope this guy got the adventure he was after, but sadly his tribe probably snarked him into submission.

But his plea for adventure got me thinking about my own trip.  How did our little trip to the Grand Canyon measure up to these requirements?  Would he have approved of our own little adventure?

…Go for a walk…go somewhere…

Broken foot or not, we did hike.  It wasn’t far and it wasn’t difficult, but we hiked.  Even with a full campground and a tourist packed National Park we found and hiked trails that had few, if any, other people on them.  We found places along the South Rim with epic views and quiet solitude.

Wilderness Boot - Adventure

…Meet random people…

Most notably, we made the acquaintance of local photographer, and ex-Grateful-Dead-chasing-hippie Jeff Franklin.  As we sat at Shoshone Point waiting for sunset, Jeff made his way out to the point and chatted us up for the next couple hours.  He was an interesting guy with a lot of stories to tell.  He lives in the area and his wife works for Grand Canyon Village so he spends his time biking and hiking the area exploring and taking pictures.  We talked about The Park, conservation, history, nature, and he offered some tips and insight for exploring some of the more remote regions of the Canyon.

Random Encounters - Adventure

…See random things…

Among seeing tourists dangling from the edges of the canyon, posing with dangerous wildlife and wearing some of the most inappropriate and outrageous clothing you’d expect to see at a National Park…I’d say it got pretty random.  But nothing takes the cake for randomness like Bedrock City.  It’s the one place where if I were to show you the pictures, out of context and without the story, most people would react with a big fat WTF!  In the 1970s when The Flinstones was still a very popular cartoon and Hanna-Barbara was the king of Saturday mornings this place made perfect sense.  Now though, it qualifies as a VERY random roadside oddity.

Random Things - Adventure

…Do something slightly unsafe…

Admittedly, this is my favorite part of any adventure.  This one is pretty subjective because what I consider “unsafe” and what others consider “unsafe” can vary by a wide margin.  With my busted foot, I wasn’t in a position to push the boundaries too much.  But I imagine our hipster buddy would potentially break into a cold sweat and get wobbly in the knees standing too close to the 400+ foot drop offs at some of the Canyon edges.  We saw plenty of tourists who’s own fear of heights kept them well behind the guardrails.

Desert View Hike - Adventure

I guess, all in all, when I look back on the trip through the thick-rimmed retro glasses of Mr. Skinny Jeans I think we satisfied his criteria for fun and adventure.  Standards differ and there are varying levels of adventure, but the basics are all here…go somewhere new, see random stuff, meet random people and do something that scares you…even if just a little bit.

If you have a story about seeing random stuff, meeting random people or doing something that scares you…share it with me in the comments!  I love those kinds of stories!

Desert View Hike - Adventure

Too Simple not to Post…

Today’s post is nothing special.  There is no amazing adventure to detail and no gear to review in this one.

I woke up this morning, said good morning to my wife, played with the dogs, started coffee and sat down to browse Facebook while I waited for the coffee to brew.  As I quickly scanned through the endless lists of typical status updates I found myself pausing to read one in particular.  It came third generation to me (a friend of a friend of a friend) and was a post of a poem this man had heard at his Yoga practice the night before.

It is a simple poem and he posted it because it had resonated with him when he heard it.  As I read it I understood.

I’ve never heard this poem before.  I think this speaks to why so many of us seek time outdoors and work hard on self-improvement.

What If?

A Poem by Ganga White

What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the Temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water—the rivers, lakes and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being

Sedona Morning at Bell Rock

 

Saturday Ride to Tempe Town Lake…

The tail end of October I spent nursing an excruciatingly painful swollen knee. It finally improved but I’ve been taking it easy on it so far. I’ve tried running a couple of times and it still feels loose and unpredictable so I’ve taken to riding my bike to keep up some activity.

Not only do I need to keep up the rehab on the knee, but I’m in a new part of town and I have been looking forward to exploring. I took last Saturday to bike along the park that sits next to my house. It’s a beautiful park with lakes and ponds, botanical gardens, sports fields and a nice long bike path. It’s been over a decade since I’ve explored the parks along Hayden in Scottsdale.

So Saturday I decided to ride south along the trail and see what there was to see. I had no idea that the Tempe Town Lake was connected to this trail system and only 5.5 miles from the new house! I’ve never really been to Tempe Lake, even though it’s been there since it was filled with water from the Central Arizona Project in 1999. The history of the Tempe Town Lake area is very interesting stuff, it’s been a central part of the valley for a very long time. The Lake Project itself had been in the works for over a decade before it was actually realized.

bike trail cuts under major roadway

I decide to extend the ride and loop the lake along the shoreline trail. I stopped to take some pictures and especially enjoyed shooting the West End Pedestrian Bridge. I knew there was a lot to do down here but I really had no idea how active a site the Lake had become. With it’s proximity to the University, there were tons of people out running, boating, biking, playing volleyball and fishing all along the shore line.

View down the West Pedestrian Bridge

I finished my loop in a wicked headwind. I stopped a mile or so from the house and laid out in the sun on the soft grass of one of the parks. It’s nice to know the Lake is so close and easy to reach from the new place. The total ride was a little over 18 miles, a good rehab ride and a great way to spend my Saturday morning. I will have to do this one again!

More Photos from the Lake…

Life as a River: What we can learn from River Running…

“By it and with it and on it and in it,” said the Rat. “It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together! — Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”
― Emma Smith

“The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it.”
— Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

Early morning on the Colorado River

The River as a metaphor for life is not a new concept.  As long as philosophers have pondered the deepest mysteries of the Universe, many comparisons have been made between life and the fickle current of a river.  Chinese philosophers likened the path and character of The River to the journey to enlightenment, “If Tao is like a river, it is certainly good to know where the rocks are.”  European poets favored comparing the flow of The River to the passage of time, “…always flowing with a look of treachery about it; it is so swift, so voiceless, yet so continuous.”  T.S Eliot imagined The River as a God, “…sullen, untamed and intractable.”

The River  is as constant as it is inconsistent, ever changing.  The same river can be slow or fast, deep or shallow, loud or silent, wide or narrow, churning and white or green and flat as glass.  Aidan Chambers wrote,

A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land.”

It is this constant, ever changing nature that makes The River a classic metaphor for all of life’s journeys.  Those who are intimately connected to The River have a unique perspective on life.  It shapes them in ways that are hard to explain to people who don’t understand rivers.  In a recent conversation with a buddy of mine, I was discussing how River People are different and trying to explain why that is.  It occurred to me that where most people use The River as a metaphor for life, River People see life as a River.  It is their understanding of the nature of The River that guides their philosophy on life.

Go with the Flow…

My father always used to say, “It is what it is, you gotta go with the flow”.  This is the foundation of River Philosophy.  On the water, the current determines what is needed from us at any given time.  When approaching a rapid, The River demands our attention, forces us to plan our route, to set up for the run and have the physical strength to keep our course.  When the water is still, we are allowed to rest and enjoy the scenery, or prepare for the next rapid.  All the wishing, fighting, crying and demanding in the world will not change the river’s current…we must accept it for what it is, choose our course and do our best.

“Don’t push the river—it flows by itself.” — Fritz Perls

The best stories are in the Rapids…

Great whitewater shot on the Colorado River

Adversity makes for great storytelling.  There are very few river stories about floating flat water, but there are many, many stories about the rapids.  That’s why rapids of some of the best names ever.  On the river, it’s not a question of IF there will be another rapid but where.  This means you can’t allow yourself get complacent or sloppy, you can’t lower your guard for long or The River will punish you.  You know there will be challenges, there will be danger, there will be chaos and if you make it through, there will be a story to tell around the next camp fire.

Reading the flat water…

nice stretch of flat water at the Grand Canyon

I used to think running The River was all about chasing the rapids and the rush of plowing through white water.  I used to hate flat water and spent tons of energy pushing to get through it as fast as possible.  As I’ve grown on The River and observed the old-timers I’ve rafted with I’ve noticed that they relish the flat water.  Old men with white beards would sit back, oars up, and watch me furiously row past them frustrated at the slower pace.  For all my huffing and puffing, we’d all end up at the same place and usually about the same time.

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry, we shall get there some day.” — Winnie the Pooh

I eventually learned that the wise River Veterans were doing two very important things on the flat water: Resting for the next push and reading The River. I had to learn that when things are calm, sometimes you have to stop pushing to be able to feel where you are being pulled.  Like The River, sometimes you have to be still and read the subtle signs of life’s current to find the best path.

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” – Winnie the Pooh

The work is done upstream…

When you watch River Veterans run serious rapids, class IV+ stuff, it almost seems as though they are doing nothing.  A dip of the oar, a shift of weight, the flutter of a paddle is sometimes all that is needed.  The reason for this is all the work done upstream.  They watch the water, read the current, position the raft and set everything up above the rapid so that they can execute a clean run.  When I was younger I approached rapids as war and in the heat of battle I would fight for the position I wanted.  I had to learn that all the options exist upstream, before the rapid.  Options disappear once you are in the grip of the rapids.

Working upstream to select the best options, to set up for the best position, put your boat in the right current allows you to ride through the whitewater with only minor adjustments.  River People approach life the same way…plan, prepare, execute upstream of life’s challenges and the battle will not be as difficult to win.

Sometimes the best option is to take the Eddie…

The River is full of Eddies of all sizes.  For those of you who don’t know, an Eddie is where the current curls back upstream, typically along the bank.  Weak Eddies create quiet flat spots and strong Eddies can wild create whirlpools.  Eddies are valuable tools for River Runners allowing them to escape the main current and catch their breath, set up for the next push, or sometimes float back upstream.  In long rapids or dangerous multi-stage runs, Eddies are invaluable.

In longer stretches of life’s turmoil, sometimes you need to look for those opportunities to pull away, stop, take a breath and regroup.  Sometimes it might help to backtrack a little bit and make a new start in another direction.  Life doesn’t offer a lot of Eddies, so you have to watch for them and take them when you need them.  Just make sure you don’t get stuck, some Eddies are hard to get out of once you’re in them.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to float with some of the best River Veterans in North America.  When I ran the Colorado in 2007, I had about 20 years of river experience and I was still considered a “pup”.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the river with guys who have spent more time on the river than off of it and I’ve learned a lot from them.  There is a quiet wisdom earned by long stretches of time in, on and by the water.  I yearn to get back to The River and continue my education.

“As long as there are young men with the light of adventure in their eyes or a touch of wilderness in their souls, rapids will be run.” — Sigurd Olson.

Have you spent time on the water, in the outdoors?  What lessons have you learned from nature that can be directly applied to life?  How has the outdoors shaped your personal philosophy?

Wilderness Dave joins Trail Sherpa…

Trail Sherpa Logo

I doubt anyone has really noticed, but it’s been pretty quiet around here lately and now you know why.

I’ve been in talks with Tim over at Trail Sherpa about getting WildernessDave.com on the Trail Sherpa Network.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing, I think Trail Sherpa has a good thing going.

So after some clean up and a little redesign by Jessica, the Trail Sherpa/Vestor Logic design wiz, we’re back in business.

I’ve been working on a few new stories, a couple of trail reports (including my summit of Humphrey’s Peak) and plenty of gear reviews!

 

So, after a short break, we’re back to our regularly scheduled program…

5 Lessons about Blogging I Learned from Watching The Next Food Network Star…

….borrowed from The Food Network.

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of the Food Network.  It’s no secret that I love to cook, I always have, and I’ve learned a lot about food and cooking from watching guys like Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Aarón Sanchez.  I really love the creativity that comes out of the challenge type shows like Chopped.  I’ve watched several seasons of The Next Food Network Star over the last few years, but this year was different.  For one, this was the first time seasoned Food Network pros were brought in as Mentors and the contestants competed as teams.  Also different this year was my perspective, for the first time I was watching The Next Food Network Star as a blogger.

It occurred to me that the critiques and advice that these Food Network hopefuls were getting from their mentors and the judges made a lot of sense in the blogging world as well as TV.  Each time the contestants got in front of that camera and gave their presentation, they were offering a sample of themselves and what they had to offer.  They had to prove that they could be informative, entertaining, charming and establish a real connection with their audience.  All of those are qualities most of us strive for in writing our articles.  In fact, many food bloggers have made the leap to television because of the similarities between blogging and TV shows like those on the Food Network.

So as I watched this season of The Next Food Network Star I paid attention to why some contestants failed while others excelled.  And as, one by one, they narrowed the field I took away lessons that could be applied to my writing.  In true blogging style, I have broken it down in to five main lessons…

Lessons Learned from The Food Network Star-

1. Have a POV

This was one of the biggest questions through the entire show.  What’s your point of view?  What is your focus?  What makes you different from everyone else out there doing what you do?  Some people have a POV built-in from the start and others struggle to find their focus.  It’s important for your audience to know what your passion is and be drawn in by it.  If one day you’re talking about horticulture and the next day scrap booking, there better be an underlying theme that connects the two or you are just confusing your audience.  The most successful bloggers find their niche, their unique perspective in a broader category.  Your audience will come back again and again because they value your point of view.

2. Tell a story

One of the strongest contestants this season was eliminated, finally, because she failed to be able to connect a personal story to her presentation.  Over and over again she was coached to “tell us a story” and create some unique personal connection to her recipes.  She would get so caught up in delivering the information that she failed to make it personal.  The point is, if all you can do is deliver raw information to your audience they will have no real reason to come back.  Most casual readers/viewers want to be entertained, they want to be told a story.  Even when writing something as seemingly dry as a gear review it’s important to give it context and bring the story of the review to the reader.

3. Give your audience something they can take away

This is a personal lesson I took to heart.  I feel like I can tell a story, and I write my gear reviews and trail reports from a personal perspective of sharing the journey with my readers.  What I’ve been weak on is offering tips, or tricks that my readers can walk away with after taking the time to read my blog.  As I watched several of the Next Food Network Star contestants receive criticism for not offering a cooking tip along with their presentation I realized that I am guilty of that as well.  Adding a little piece of trail advice, a gear suggestion or a simple tip or trick relevant to the article should be an easy thing to accomplish with a little thought and effort.  This is something I plan to work on.

4. Be consistent

To have a show on the Food Network (or any channel for that matter) you’ve got to be able to deliver.  A network can’t build an audience around a personality that changes every week.  When it comes down to it, they are creating a BRAND that has to be able to deliver every time the cameras turn on.  Just like any brand in any market, product inconsistency will fracture and damage your brand’s reputation.  Some contestants were eliminated from the show because they could not offer a consistent personality or smooth delivery in front of the camera.  As a writer I feel it is important to have a consistent personality, POV and writing style as a basic foundation for your blog’s “brand”.  If the foundation is solid, you can be as creative as you want with the rest of your content.

5. Take chances

This season’s The Next Food Network Star winner was Justin Warner.  Justin is a young Chef and restaurant owner from New York who is always thinking outside the box.  His creations on the show this season were always surprising, edgy, creative and different.  With nearly every recipe he put together to present to the judges he took chances with unexpected ingredients and flavor combinations.  What he proved was that he was smart about how food works and could be creative in it’s execution.  He consistently offered something the judges had never seen before and it paid off.  Now, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel or make every endeavor an exercise in stretching the imagination.  However, Justin proved that taking risks and delivering the unexpected once in a while can really pay off.

The bonus lesson, which got a few people eliminated this season, is simply be genuine.  Don’t try to be a character, or salesman.  Ultimately, people will recognize when you are not being yourself and they will tire of the deception quickly.

So be yourself, find your voice, tell us a story and every once in a while…give us something we never expected.

 

For me, the Food Network was an unexpected place to find lessons I could apply to writing my blog.  What unexpected sources have given you some of your most valuable lessons?

Adventures of a Cattle Dog…

Wiley is an Australian Cattle Dog.  These dogs are specifically bred to be outdoors, to have superior endurance and tolerance for extreme conditions.  In short, she’s the perfect candidate for a hiking companion.  The breed was developed on the cattle ranches of 19th century Australia where the long days, harsh working conditions and extreme elements made it difficult for ranchers to find a proper cattle dog among the existing breeds.  Ranchers played with crossing the native Dingos with existing cattle breeds.  From 1840 to 1870 Thomas Hall of New South Wales bred imported Blue Smooth highland Collies with the native Dingo and began to see the traits he desired.  He continued to breed pure Dingo into the mix  and experimented with these breeds until his death in 1870.  These were the original Australian Cattle Dogs, at the time called, Hall’s Heelers.

Beautiful expressive eyes of the Australian Cattle Dog

My beautiful Cattle Dog...

Tom Bently acquired a dog that was said to be one of Hall’s pure strain.  Bently’s Dog (as he was known) was an incredibly strong worker and a beautifully built dog.  Bently’s Dog was reportedly heavily studded out in an attempt to propagate these desirable qualities.  The characteristic white blaze on the forehead and the black tail-root spot commonly seen in the blues is said to be a throwback to Bently’s Dog.

Hall’s Heelers (later called “Blue Heelers” or “Queensland Heelers”) were very popular, but there was still some experimentation going on.  Sometime after 1870, the Black and Tan Kelpie was crossed into the breed resulting in the tan points seen in Blues and a deeper red instead of black in the Red Heelers.  This last infusion set the breed type and is the direct blood descendant of the Australian Cattle Dog breed we have today.

Young Australian Cattle Dog

Wiley in her youth...

My Heeler found me.  She was a stray, discovered and taken in by local neighborhood kids who proceeded to take the dog door-to-door in search of her rightful owner.  When at my door, as I insisted she wasn’t mine and I didn’t know the owner, they explained that they only had one day to find the owner.  The girls who found the dog were in the process of moving and if they did not find an owner, they would be forced to take her to the Humane Society.  They left my house, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of this dog going to her potential death.  I chased the kids down a few houses away and explained to them that IF they did not find the owner before they had to leave town that I would take her and continue the search.

Well, they never found the owner.  I put up signs, walked her through several neighborhoods and asked around…but could find no one looking for a missing Heeler.  After a couple of weeks, I began to hope that I never would find her original owners.  She and I had bonded and, as I found out, bonding with a Cattle Dog is a lifetime commitment.

Young Australian Cattle Dog

Her favorite "chewing stick"...

I took Wiley hiking a couple of times when she was younger, but she had some minor hip problems when I first got her limiting our excursions.  I also was going through some disparaging medical issues that had put a major damper on my outdoor activities.  So, Wiley never got a chance to be the rugged, outdoor specimen that she should have been.  But I’m trying to fix that.  She’s inexperienced, she’s a little fat and she’s about as graceful as a three-legged Hippo but she’s got the genetics to be a brilliant trail dog and I want to give her a chance.

So today we began her reintroduction to the outdoors.  May she somehow find her roots and become a noble, hardened, tireless trail dog as she was meant to be.

Tough Mudder Arizona 2012 – Blissfully Insane…

AS A TOUGH MUDDER I PLEDGE THAT…

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge…
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time…
  • I DO NOT WHINE – kids whine…
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course…
  • I overcome ALL fears…

I welcomed the cold.  I seemed to be alone in this opinion but the last thing I wanted was to get overheated and dehydrated.  I know that my body will produce plenty of heat to keep me warm over the next 12.5 miles, regardless of how many of the 29 military-style obstacles before us have us plunging into pools of ice-cold water.  I need it to be cold, or this is gonna suck.

I don’t remember exactly when I got it in my head that I wanted to do this race.  I know it started with an interest in signing up for a Warrior Dash when they were here in Arizona in 2010.  I missed that one due to a schedule conflict with a family trip and now, as my fitness and conditioning were improving, the 5k Warrior Dash just didn’t seem like enough.  At some point I mentioned to my brother, half jokingly,  that there was going to be a Tough Mudder in Arizona and I was thinking of signing up.  Soon after, a local gym let me know they were creating a team to take the Tough Mudder challenge.  That was it, I signed up with the gym’s team.  Once I signed up things started falling into place.  My brother and sister-in-law wanted to go too.  They signed up on the same team I was on and started planning a trip to come out to Arizona for the race.  My fiancé didn’t want to be left out, so we signed her up too.  The four of us would be our own team, within a team…and we couldn’t wait!

The Arctic Enema…

The Tough Mudder concept began as a business plan contest submission.  In 2009, Will Dean submitted his business plan where he boasted he could attract “500 people to run a grueling race through mud and man-made obstacles” and his outlandish idea was a semifinalist in the Harvard Business School’s Annual Business Plan Contest.  Since then, the race has exploded across the US and internationally going from an impressive 50,000 participants in 2010 to a projected 500,000 in 2012.  Why has this insane race that delivers on it’s promise to “test your all-around mettle, not just your ability to run in a straight line, on your own, for hours on end, getting bored out of your mind“?  The website explains the race like this,

“Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. As the leading company in the booming obstacle course industry, Tough Mudder has already challenged half a million inspiring participants worldwide and raised more than $2 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project. But Tough Mudder is more than an event, it’s a way of thinking. By running a Tough Mudder challenge, you’ll unlock a true sense of accomplishment, have a great time, and discover a camaraderie with your fellow participants that’s experienced all too rarely these days.

I think that’s the draw, the important piece of this that inspires people, “you’ll unlock a true sense of accomplishment, have a great time, and discover a camaraderie with your fellow participants that’s experienced all too rarely these days“.

So there we were on a cold Arizona morning, full of nervous energy and bouncing and jogging in place at the starting line to stay warm.  We listened to the National Anthem (which was performed at the start of every wave of runners) and then a rousing, blood-pumping speech which included a group recitation of the Tough Mudder Pledge.  The MC did a remarkable job getting the crowd pumped up before the race, insuring us, once a gain, that this was no walk in the park.  When the gun went off, it was hard NOT to take off at a full-tilt sprint but I kept having to remind myself, “you have 12 miles of this shit!” and paced myself.

I won’t walk you through a blow-by-blow of the race because they are all different.  Each Tough Mudder is designed specifically and uniquely for THAT particular location.  That’s one of the many reasons why so many “Mudder’s” sign-up for multiple races.  They do have some iconic obstacles that you will see in every race like the Arctic Enema, Everest and the Mud Mile.  To see a map and description of what we went through here in Arizona, you can go here and click on the link for the full map.

Nightline recently aired this segment on the 2012 Arizona Tough Mudder…

Sorry about the commercials, it’s worth the wait…

 

When we passed a sign that read “If this were the Warrior Dash, you’d be done” I was incredibly happy I signed up for something more substantial.  Somewhere around mile 11 my opinion was slightly different.  As a whole, we took on every obstacle with enthusiasm.  Not just as a challenge but, honestly, as a break from running.  Many of the obstacles, especially the Berlin Walls, require teamwork and my brother and I found ourselves sitting at the foot of the walls helping numerous people up and over the 12-foot vertical structures.  My brother was one of the few people there who could negotiate the Berlin Walls successfully without assistance (it was impressive to watch).  Likewise, the Everest challenge was specifically designed to require teamwork as you sprint full speed up a slippery, mud-soaked half-pipe wall hoping that someone at the top will grab you before you lose your footing and slide down.  Many slid down before they could be snatched by a helping hand…

As insane as it sounds when you try to tell others about the experience, it was a hell of a lot of fun.  It draws a particular type of person and people not drawn to this type of race have a really hard time understanding why people sign up, and pay good money, to do this to themselves.  For me, I don’t try to talk them in to it or justify it…I just know that for me, and the others that were there with me, it was a great experience and a lot of fun.  As much as we hurt after the fact, as uncomfortable and cold as we were during the race, as much as we complained about being jolted with 10,000 volts of electricity (enough to knock you unconscious for a second or two)…we are already talking about when we’ll be able to sign up for another one.  And THAT is enough of an endorsement to the event right there.

To find a Tough Mudder near you, check the events page here.

 

BTW – I just received an email before posting this article that my finish time was in the top 5% and qualifies me to compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder 2012.  It’s a grueling 24-hour version of the Tough Mudder and I will NOT be participating.  Good to know I qualified though!

ADDED 2.2.2012: This video was just released by Tough Mudder announcing their official partnership with Under Armour for the event clothing. The Arizona 2012 Race was the first official event to see Under Armour T-shirts given to the finishers. This video is very well done and really captures the overall mood of the event…

Why I don’t do New Years Resolutions…

I love Calvin and Hobbes...so awesome!

As the days slowly tick off the calendar and the hours creep towards the final conclusion to 2011, many of us partake in the seemingly obligatory tradition of resolving to better ourselves in some meaningful way.  The new year promises change, a clean slate, a new beginning and we all want to believe that there is some magic pixie dust sprinkled over the big “JAN 1″ on the shiny new desk calendar that will make all things possible.  It’s always to “lose weight”, “get in shape”, “quit smoking”, “eat healthier”, “spend more time with family”…basically a big list of fixes to regretful activity from the prior year.

From 2011Resolutions.org:

Top 10 New Years Resolutions of 2012:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Helping Others
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

I don’t do resolutions.  I don’t do resolutions for the specific reason that New Years Resolutions are a response to regrets in our lives.  We blindly and thoughtlessly engage in activities throughout the year without considering the consequences of our actions.  The New Year rolls around and we feel obligated to spend time reflecting on our lives to date and try to focus on what we’ve been doing wrong and come up with how we’re going to fix it.  Then two, three, maybe 6 weeks in to the new year we lose steam and revert to our old behavior so we can resolve to change the exact same things again next year.

I have a better plan.  Don’t engage in activities or behavior you know you will later regret.  Simple, right?  Be present in your day-to-day life.  Think about the choices you are making when you make them.  Consider how these decisions will shape your life in the long-term, not just the next few minutes.  I have found that being mindful of your actions and being present in your life truly brings about a life with less regret.  To me, waiting for some magic day on the calendar to declare a change is pointless.  Change now, change always…don’t put off change when you see need for improvement.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Tips to Improve your Airport Experience…

For the past year and a half or so, flying has been a major part of my life.  It seems, these days, my schedule revolves around when I fly next, how long I’ll be gone, how long I will be home between flights, etc.  I’ve flown on several airlines including United, Alaska, Frontier, Us Airways and Southwest.  My Airline of choice has been US Airways, mainly because they are the most consistent and predictable…and those are the qualities I look for to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Traveling as much as I have recently, I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate the airport experience as painlessly as possible.  I also see a lot of frustration from people who don’t travel much.  As I see it, much of this frustration could be avoided by following a few simple pieces of advice and arming yourself with a little knowledge about the process.

 

Buying your ticket

Buy early!  The earlier you can buy your ticket, the cheaper your ticket will be and the more likely you will get the seating you want.  Make sure to factor in baggage fees when budgeting the cost of your trip.

Packing

Pack what you need for your trip, no more, no less.

Know your airline’s baggage policies, don’t guess.  Make sure your bag is the appropriate size, whether checking a bag or carrying it on the plane.  Check on your size, weight and quantity limits.

Plan ahead for going through security.  Liquids and gels are limited to 4oz. containers and must go through the scanner separate from your luggage.  It’s also required for these to be in a see through bag, zip-locks work great.  So store that shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste in a zip-lock and make sure it’s easy to get to.

Checking in

Check-in early!  If your airline will allow an early check-in online, take advantage of it.  It will save you time, money and headaches at the airport (especially if you are not checking a bag – you can skip the lines and head straight to security!).

The Boarding Pass

If you check-in early, print your boarding pass at home.  Some airports are equipped with a special scanner that allows you to have your boarding pass sent to your phone.  Either way, make sure you have it on you AND accessible for when you need it (checking bags, security and boarding at the gate).

Security

Everything off!  The new scanners require that you remove everything from your pockets, remove shoes, belts, jewelry, hats, jackets/sweaters, etc. – Plan accordingly.  Use as many bins as you need (for me it’s 3 bins).  If you are carrying a laptop or other portable electronic device (DVD player, iPad, etc.), it must also go through the scanner in it’s own bin.

So, remember: Belts, shoes, jackets in the bin – Liquids and gels in the bins – Laptop in the bin – bags go through by themselves.

Getting to the Gate

Always check the monitors for your gate assignment.  Don’t rely on your boarding pass, gates change all the time.  If you are there early enough to hang out at the bar (or restaurant) before your flight, don’t wait until the last second to go to your gate to board…it might not be the same gate and you may find yourself running through the airport to catch your flight.

Boarding

Most airlines board by zone, or seat number.  Know ahead of time which zone you’re in and wait your turn patiently while staying out of the way for those who board before you.  If you are impatient and crowd the gate, you are doing nothing but delaying the boarding process and adding to your own frustration.  Relax…we’ll all make it on the plane.

The Flight

I would rather be hiking down there...

Know that flights rarely leave exactly when scheduled to leave.  Once on board, just relax and have faith you’ll get there.  If you have a connecting flight, watch your time but understand that throwing a fit mid-flight because you are running late won’t make the plane move any faster.  And you’re not going anywhere if you get worked up about it and get arrested or have a heart attack!

Flights these days don’t have a lot of in-flight perks.  Short flights no longer have snacks and unlimited beverages and most don’t have any form of entertainment.  Know how long your flight is and plan accordingly with books, movies, puzzles or whatever will keep you relaxed and occupied for your flight.  There’s nothing worse than being bored, frustrated and uncomfortable.

Touching Down

Wheels touching the ground does not mean the trip is over.  Stay in your seat with your seatbelt on.  Getting up prematurely can cause further delays as the crew tries to get everyone back in their seats before they can taxi to the gate.  This process can take some time, especially if your flight arrives early.  Once again, getting impatient and throwing a fit will not get the plane to the gate faster…I promise.

A note about Electronic Devices from the airlines…

Whether you agree with the policy or not (thanks to MythBusters), it is a requirement to turn off your electronics when taking off and landing.  Don’t be the douchebag that refuses to turn off his phone and delays everyone’s trip because you are playing “Words With Friends”.

Conclusion

Travel can be stressful and confusing if you are not accustomed to it.  The stories about bad flights, rude gate attendants and inappropriate TSA agents are all based on real experiences but it’s not the norm.  Most of the time, people are just trying to do their job.  The best thing you can do is plan ahead, give yourself plenty of time, be respectful and, most of all, RELAX.  Being friendly, respectful and easy-going throughout the entire process will insure a more enjoyable experience for everyone.