The Fit Life, LLC

Saturday, February 15, 2014

India: The Finale

We’re headed into our last day in India. We’ll have the entire day tomorrow, and then leave in the wee hours of the morning for the airport—travelling back in time to the U.S. (at some time during flight, it will become a day earlier)!

I must admit as we end our retreat, I’m feeling calm and relaxed. I’m sleeping well. Other than one brief start of a migraine a few days ago—no headaches. And my complexion looks very nice.  I had my final consult with my Ayurvedic doctor this afternoon. She agreed I was pretty darn healthy (I saw a bit of her humor for the first time today—she’s not as stern as I originally thought). I leave with just one medicinal herb that is supposed to help with hormone balance (a non-ending struggle over the last four years or so). I actually lost a kilo (I think that’s about two pounds). I wasn’t attempting to diet or anything. In fact, I only had her re-check my weight because I’ve been enjoying the food so much here. 

I have gone ten days without alcohol or television—and both were hardly missed (doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy both in moderation when I return, but it’s nice to know they weren’t needed).  I’ve learned a lot about  Ayurvedic philosophies on body types and how to balance your own body type (Dosha). In doing that, I’ve learned that I could probably stand to slow down a bit—add a little yoga into my life—focus a bit more on what my body tells me it wants and needs. 

I’ve spent 11 days straight with my mother—first on an airplane and then in a small cabin—and we’ve gotten along really well. We typically do get along fairly well, but I’ll admit there was some apprehension about sharing a small cabin for that amount of time. I am simply a person who likes a fair amount of space and alone time. 

I’ve spotted two resort cats. I find cats everywhere I go—ask my husband. Sadly, they were not tame kitties, so I did not get my kitty fix while I was here. I did enjoy watching these tiny squirrels that are all around here scamper around the restaurant (open air restaurant) trying to find treasures to eat.
The people in our group (I believe 22 people in all) have been wonderful to meet—each adding a unique prospective to this experience. 

We’ve been immersed in a culture totally unlike our own, and it’s been an amazing awakening. I love to see and learn about other cultures. It makes me on one hand, appreciate my own a bit more, but on the other hand, yearn for something a bit different (which is one reason Mark and I are exploring retiring to another country at some point).  It can also be a little unnerving. You are a foreigner who does not know the language, who is unfamiliar with the religion, dress and culture. So if you’re a control freak (I do have some control freak tendencies) it puts you a bit out of your comfort zone. In fact, I deduced that that’s what made me so uncomfortable with the treatments here—the lack of control I felt. 

The part of the country we are staying in is primarily Hindu and Christian. We actually took a class on Hinduism and visited a Hindu temple during a holy ceremony. I am someone who has struggled with religious beliefs pretty much my entire life—and typically shy away from anything to do with religion. But here, religion seemed a much more beautiful thing. In the U.S. I associate religion with people telling you what the bible says is wrong (i.e. homosexuality, abortion etc.). Here religion seems to more about being loving, nurturing, accepting and thankful for everything the Earth has given you. It’s just a part of people here. It’s peaceful (well, until they get in a car—then it’s just insanity). 

So would I come back and do this again? (My Mom asked me this the other day). I’m so glad I did it, but probably not.  There are just too many other countries I want to explore and experience. And parts are sad—it’s over-crowded and so much poverty.  I do not enjoy bartering and pressure. And every shop you walk into here there is bartering and pressure. We visited one department store—no bartering there—but staff everywhere. When you started browsing through the clothing, they would stand right next to you picking things out and handing them to you. You literally could not just be by yourself and browse. That’s just too much for me. 

If I were having some chronic health problems I would definitely consider it. I do have strong belief in the way they heal here—using what nature gives us to create medicines/cures as opposed to the chemicals pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. try to put in us. I truly believe I am much less toxic than I was when I arrived (although compared to many, I lead a fairly toxin-free life in the U.S. I will continue to keep as many harmful things out of my body as possible).

And while I think yoga is a valuable practice—and can certainly be incorporated into my lifestyle—I still crave adventure and adrenaline. Yogis believe too much stimulation and excitement is harmful to our Doshas—that it causes imbalance. I believe it is part of what makes life worth living. That’s one I’m not willing to budge on.  How can something that makes me feel so alive be harmful? 

(I guess the fitness instructor in me has trouble believing that high intensity intervals can be bad for you, when they’ve done such good things for me!)

I miss my husband (this is the longest we’ve been apart since we met), and my furry kids, but I am not looking forward to the 20+ hour journey home. I dread it. But it will be nice to land in Columbus and see Mark. 

I will work on posting all my photos on The Fit Life, LLC facebook page. It may take me awhile to caption everything.  For now, I am signing off and preparing for departure.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kerala, India Con't

Day four of our retreat. I've now gone through four days of treatments--I think I'm getting use to be naked and fondled...kind of. Actually, as I listen to others in our group discuss their various treatments, I feel pretty lucky that I'm very healthy. I've been assigned six days of "Rejuvenation Therapy". Those who have health issues are assigned "Purification Therapies"...and yes, they are probably the types of things you are imagining in your head right now--things that require close proximity to a bathroom.

You'll like this. I had a reaction to some of the oils they used on my face, so here it the medicine they put on to help it.

It's like I'm back home doing a mud race!

Today we finally took a little excursion to a beach town about twenty minutes away--Kovalum. It catered to tourists, but it was nice to see something besides the resort. The water was nice, and I picked up a few souvenirs. I'm guessing every article of clothing I've bought in Yellow Springs, OH was made here. I actually saw a top I own in one of the stores. Pretty stuff though--and so much cheaper than we pay for it in the U.S.

Tomorrow, it's morning yoga/meditation (unless I skip out for a run on the beach), a trip to the herb farm where they make all the natural medicines used here, treatment #5, and a trip to a Hindu temple.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kerala Yoga Retreat Day One: It Gets Real

Today (Saturday. I'm posting a day late) was the first real day of our retreat. They took it a little easy on us in the morning, because we’re still battling jet-lag. In fact, I woke up at 2:30am and could not get back to sleep. So I tossed and turned and read a bit.

When the restaurant opened at 7am, Mom and I were there! As always the food was amazing.

At 9am we met our group for the formal welcoming (opening ceremonies if you will). We received our schedules for the week, and met the Ayurveda doctors that worked at the resort—the doctors we would be seeing that day to diagnose our Doshas, and work on any other problems.  They gave us detailed questionnaires to fill out that would help the doctors determine what our dominant Doshas were. Once the Dosha was determined, they would prescribe treatments that complimented them. 

We had a little free time on our hands before meeting with the doctors, so I took a dip in the pool. It is REALLY hot here. I needed to cool down.

Soon it was time for our appointments. Here’s where it gets really interesting. 

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas Anymore
The doctor I was assigned to was a very large, stern Indian woman. Although she was perfectly kind, I found her a little intimidating. The consultation didn’t take long. She looked through my questionnaire, took my blood pressure, checked my heart rate, and pushed on a few places to see if it hurt. Satisfied with the exam, they told me to come back at 2pm for my first treatment. 

I assumed it would just be a massage—perhaps focusing on my head and neck—where I tend to get migraines. 

What’s that saying about making assumptions? When you assume, you make an ass…

I’m going to be as detailed here as I possibly can to give you the full experience of my experience. If you start to get some unpleasant visuals, I apologize, but now you are feeling a bit of what I was feeling during treatment.

I arrived at the clinic and was introduced to my therapist. I will see the  same therapist for all six of my treatments. She smiled. Her English was very limited so our communication was pretty much one-word sentences and pointing. She said, “Come” and motioned for me to follow. “Shoes.” She wanted me to put my shoes on because we were leaving the clinic (you take your shoes off before you enter buildings here). I followed her down several walkways, between some buildings to another area of the resort where they had several treatment rooms. “Toilet?” Yes, that would probably be a good idea. She pointed to which door to go through for the toilet. 

We had been warned during our welcoming that treatments here are done naked. (There will be no pictures in this portion of the blog).

Say what???

So I was already a little nervous. I’m the woman in the locker room who changes in the little booth. I’m not the woman who struts around buck naked chatting with people. I don’t like to be naked in front of people. We were told you could ask for panties if you really felt uncomfortable, and they would bring you these little throw-away white panties.

So the therapist takes me to the little room. It’s an open air room, but the windows are high enough that people can’t see in if they walk by. There’s a large wooden table with a mat on it. There’s a little stool, another large thick mat on the floor, and a ring hanging from a rope on the ceiling.

“Clothes off!” she says.

“Ummmm….do you think I could have some uhh…panties?”

She leaves the room for a second and comes back in with a bag full of the generic white panties. She hands them to me and waits for me to get undressed and put the panties on.

Now most of you have probably had a massage in the U.S.  You can leave on whatever clothing you need to leave on to feel comfortable.  The therapist waits outside the room while you prepare. And you get to slide yourself under a sheet or blanket before the therapist comes back in.

That’s not how it works here.

Reluctantly, I strip down and quickly put the panties on. 

“Sit.” She says and points to the little stool covered with a cloth. There are a few towels on the ground to put my feet on.

She turns around to a table in the corner and lights some incense and candles. She pours some pungent oil into a warmer, and comes back over to me. She places her hands on my forehead and does a chant of some sort, then places some powdered herbs on my head. Then she takes the heated oil and starts oiling me up—EVERYWHERE. This goes on for a while. It’s a good massage; I’m just so self-conscious about my nakedness, that I have trouble relaxing. Soon a second lady comes in, and together they continue to rub the oil in in tandem. At the end, they wrap my oily hair in a towel and tie it into a little turban—and tell me to remain on the stool. The initial therapist leaves the room, and the other gets to work on the next thing that’s in store for me. 

She starts to tie a cloth to the ring that’s hanging from the ceiling. My mind immediately goes into panic mode, “For the love of God, what are they going to have me to next??? Some bizarre visions were coming to mind.

She then unfolds the large mat on the floor and sprinkles it with water. She then stands in the bowl of water herself, and does kind of a ritualistic cleaning of the mat. She puts another large cloth on it and gestures for me to lie on the mat. “Stomach”.  Hanging onto the cloth she tied to the ring for balance, she begins to massage me with her feet. Eventually she tells me to turnover, and massages my entire front side with her feet—breasts and all. 

By now I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this is how it’s done here. And, these ladies have seen hundreds of naked bodies by now. I’m just one of them. 

The final segment of this two-hour treatment is called Sirodhara. “Sira” = head. “Dhara” = continuous flow of liquid. A mixture of herbal oils and medicated milk are poured on the forehead in a special way for about 40 minutes. 

It was actually a pretty cool process. And, it was so relaxing that I actually fell asleep. (And they prescribe this treatment for me because of migraines and insomnia). 

They ended the treatment with a face massage. They then very thoroughly dried me off with towels. “Panties off.” Again, I reluctantly slid them off, and handed them to her. She held out a maroon cloth robe that I had seen many people around the resort wearing. My clothes were in a bag. My oily hair was once again tied into a towel turban.

The therapist escorted me back to the main clinic. I felt a little out of it/disoriented so it was good to have an escort. 

Back at the clinic she gave me some hot herbal water (that’s big here—even though it’s 90 degrees) and said, “You come back tomorrow at 2pm.” 

I guess I better get over this naked thing because I have five more “treatments” to go. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kerala, India: Arrival and Day One

After a few very long days of travel, we arrived in Kerala, India this morning. I don’t really have any entertaining or remarkable stories to tell about the trip here. It was fairly uneventful—just very long. We left Columbus, Ohio the morning after a snowstorm (with only a two-hour delay—which was a relief), flew into Chicago’s O’Hare.  We splurged on a nice dinner at the Hilton across the street because we had about five hours to kill and really didn’t want McDonald’s. From O’Hare we had a 13-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. That was rough…many screaming babies and I thought the plane felt like it was about 80 degrees. It was like a 13-hour hot flash. At Abu Dhabi I bought a t-shirt at the souvenir shop because I just needed a change of clothes!

Unfortunately, it was dark when we landed in Abu Dhabi. I wanted to see what the city looked like. The airport was very large and very crowded. After a few hours in Abu Dhabi, we boarded our final flight—four hours to Trivindam, India. We arrived in India around 3:30am Kerala time. Of course, at this point, our bodies had no idea what time or day it was.  Other than a few cat naps on the plane, Mom and I had not slept since we awoke Wednesday morning in Ohio.

Getting through customs was a piece of cake. We exited the airport and found our group waiting for us outside. 

Again, it was dark as we traveled the half hour or so to our resort, so I didn’t get a chance to see the area. But it was nice getting to know the people we would be spending the next ten days with. It’s very warm and humid here (my hair is extra curly). But you also have to dress somewhat conservatively (no shorts, but it appears my sleeveless yoga tops will be fine), so the heat will take some getting used to!

Since we arrived at the resort very early in the morning, the rooms were not ready. So as much as we really wanted to shower and sleep, that would have to wait a little while longer. But we had a delicious breakfast and walked around the resort a bit. It also gave me time to Skype Mark and let him know I had arrived safely.

Around 9am we were able to check into our little bungalow. It’s very small and simple, but nice.  After a long shower, I settled in for a 4-hour nap (I meant to just sleep two hours—enough to keep me going until bedtime—but my body just wanted more).  I have to say, I still don’t think I’ll have any problem having a good night’s sleep tonight.

It was a pretty mellow day. We walked down to the beach and stuck our feet in the Arabian Sea (a first for my feet!).  I was going to take a dip in the pool to cool off, but it closes early in the evening.  We just returned from dinner with our entire group—19 people. 

Tomorrow morning we will have breakfast around 8am (they are taking it easy on us since many of us are still very jet-lagged). At 9am we will officially get the retreat rolling by meeting with the Ayurvedic doctors and receiving our first treatments.

Since I’m a novice here when it comes to yoga and Doshas, people have been guessing what mine is. The general consensus is Pitta with some Vata.  More on doshas tomorrow, but basically the belief is that everyone has a certain make-up, and you should eat foods that compliment your body type. The food here is labeled for different body types, or there is “Common Food” which is okay for all body types. (since I have not officially been diagnosed with a Dosha yet, I ate EVERYTHING)!
I met a few others in the group who are interested in running on the beach, so hopefully I will have a few running buddies so I can get my fix while we’re here.  (If I keep eating like I did today, I certainly won’t come back any leaner). I am really interested in seeing how my body likes eating for my body type.

More tomorrow—I need a full night of sleep.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So I went for a run...

I was angry, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was confused, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was exhausted, so I went for a run. And things got better.
I was lost, unsure, empty, afraid. Certain that whatever was left of my sanity had snapped, had come untethered and floated away, to a place so high and remote that I would never see it again, and that even if I did, I wouldn't recognize it.
So I went for a run. And things got better.
I felt like things could not possibly get worse, so I went for a run. And things got better.
(Another time, I felt like things could not get much better. I went for a run. Things got much better.)
After enough miles, over enough runs and enough years, I realized: No matter what, no matter when, or where, or why, I can find my shoes and go for a run and things will get better.
And that realization? Just knowing that?
It made things better.

Mark Remy, Runners World

I woke up feeling out of sorts today. I thought, "I need to go for a run."
My heart was sad about the loss of a friend/client yesterday.
My body was tired from a few fitful night's of sleep...and disturbing dreams.
And my brain was reeling with the things that always plague it...I need more business to keep this career going. I need to contribute more financially to my family. Maybe I should go back to a full-time desk job. Maybe I'm not working to my potential?

"I really need to go for a run," I thought.

I was up before daylight to work with clients. When I returned home I thought, "I'm not myself. I really need
a release. I need to run."

But it's raining...and if I don't run, I have a few hours to sit with a cup of coffee...relax.

"No. You need this. You don't have to run hard or far, but you need to run."

So I put my running clothes on. I looked at the couch and the cozy blanket that called my name.

"Just get to the trail," I told myself. "Put yourself in the woods. At least do that much."

So I did. I ran the half mile to the woods. And then I kept going.

As I ran I grieved the loss of my friend. I thought about how unfair it was that her life was so short. She was only a few years older than me.

I thought about my business, and what I could do to make it better.

I ran harder. I shed my layers so I could feel the cool morning air hitting my skin. No Garmin, no music--not even a water bottle. Just me in the woods. I smiled at the few others on the trail. Even though they were strangers, I knew they were kindred spirits.

After I had run a few miles, I started thinking about what an amazing woman my friend was. No matter what horrible things happened in her life, she was filled with positive energy. And, oh my gosh, was she a fighter. And because of a transplant a few years back, she was able to meet and spend time with all of her grandchildren. She was an awesome mom who loved her kids so much. She knew that her life might be cut short, but she didn't let that stop her from living.

Then as I continued to run, the tears stopped.  I thought about what a lucky person I am. I'm 43 years old, and I have no health problems. I'm out here running. Sure, I've had some injuries this year, but both times I was back on that trail within a month. Running the runs she will never get to do.

I have a loving husband who supports me so much. Because of him, I've been able to choose this career. I have the choice to keep trying to make it work (or not, if that's my choice). And I live in a beautiful house that's a half mile from this trail. This trail that makes living in a a state--where I don't feel like I quite belong--home.

As I made it to my favorite part of the trail by the stream, I stopped thinking so much. I noticed how beautiful it was outside--the colorful leaves, the sound of the water in the stream, the fog--even the mud puddles. I kept running, feeling my spirit lift--knowing this was my higher power. My medicine.

When I left the woods, I allowed myself to walk the half mile home. Spent. Purged. But refreshed.

I woke up this morning feeling not like myself, so I went for a run.

It didn't bring back my friend. It didn't solve my problems. But it made me look at the world in a new light--at least until the next run.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mud, Sweat, Obstacles and Beer: A review of "Mud" Runs

Obstacle races full of mud (with a free beer at the finish) are all the rage these days. And I have to admit, the spouse and I are addicts. We love the muddy obstacle races. It takes the boredom out of plain ol' pavement runs and adds the extra elements of navigating hilly trails--and of course, there's the mud. Who doesn't like to get a little dirty?? (Okay, a lot of people...but we do)!

Below is a review of the mud/obstacle races we've done. I've included the venue for each one (knowing that the same race in a different venue could be an entirely different adventure). I invite you to add reviews of any other races you've done in the comments. I will continue to add reviews as I run more races.

My hope is that people considering a mud race (or a new mud race) will check out this blog to help make their decision. (If you disagree with my review, feel free to add your two cents.)

I will list the races in no particular order, other than the longer ones are at the end. At the end, I have posted what I consider to be good mud race etiquette and training tips. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Muddy Buddy (Chicago, IL and Richmond, VA)
(I haven't done a Muddy Buddy in several years, so it may have changed a bit. If you've done one recently, please feel free to comment.)
The Muddy Buddy was my first exposure to the mud race. It was love at first sight! I've done the event twice in Richmond and twice in Chicago. I've competed in both the women's wave and the coed wave. The Muddy Buddy combines mountain biking, trail running and obstacles. The courses tend to be about 7 miles long. One teammate starts on foot, the other on bike. Both go about a mile (until you come to the first obstacle). The bike person leaves the bike, does the obstacle, and then starts out on foot for the next mile. The runner does the obstacle, picks up the bike and rides the next mile. You continue in this fashion until you both arrive at the final mud pit. You "swim" through the pit together and finish the race as a team.

Pros: Both the Richmond and Chicago venues are great--plenty of hilly trails, mud and water. The obstacles are fun. While it helps if you and your partner have similar fitness levels, you don't have to be the same pace--and it still works out. Both places had camping. One was held at a park with a campground. The other they allowed camping in a big field.

Cons: Cons were few...Some of the trails are single track which is fun for running/riding; however, you end up with bottlenecks because some folks are walking up the hills while bikes are trying to get through.The course can get really congested. Second (and honestly, I'm not sure how they could do this any differently), they break the race off into different waves: female/female, male/male, and coed. And within those waves, they separate you by age. So if you go with a group of friends, you could all be running at different times.

Warrior Dash (Logan, OH/Carrollton, OH/Butler, OH)
You can count on the Warrior Dash for a fun, dependable mud race. The courses are all 5k ish. If you want to run it by yourself, the obstacles are doable without teammates. Warrior Dashes typically provide plenty of hills, trails and mud (although the course for the recent Grand Rapids, MI Warrior Dash was fairly flat and mostly pavement). They are well-organized with an after race band, food and beverage.

Pros:Warrior Dashes are a great intro to the world of mud races. They are fun, well-organized, reasonably priced, and you can do it on your own. The obstacles are not hard enough that you need a teammate.

Cons: This is a popular race--so there tends to be bottlenecks on the course. If you are a strong runner (especially on hills) get to the front of your wave, so you don't get trapped behind people walking on the first hill (and if you plan to walk the first hill, please don't shove to the front of the wave). The "shower-off" areas tend to be gross. For example, they will have a fire hose spraying you in a muddy field. Or cold hoses to wash yourself down with--in a muddy area. So it's hard to get even somewhat clean.If they had changing tents at the last one--we couldn't find them. So we had to do the sly change using towels, out by the car.Watch for poison ivy on the course. Twice after Warrior Dashes I have ended up with poison ivy on my tushy!

Pretty Muddy (Mad River Mountain, Zanesfield, OH)
The Pretty Muddy is a fairly new, women-only mud race. It's a nice thought for women who may be intimidated when thinking about a mud race. The terrain was tough--it was on a small ski hill. So you had plenty of hills. The event is not timed--the idea being that it's just for women to have fun and bond. The obstacles were, in my opinion, kind of lame. Like they dumbed down typical mud race obstacles because it was just women (i.e. running through a plastic tunnel filled with beach balls and bubbles, a small tarp slide that they kept spraying soap on so you would actually slide on it).

The Pretty Muddy is a nice idea. And for some ladies, it's probably a great race. It wasn't for me. I want to be timed so I can see my improvement each year and judge how well I did. And I want obstacles that really challenge me. It's not one I will repeat. On the plus side, they had nice little private changing rooms set up! That's a first for the mud races I've done.

Pros: Bonding with other women. Private changing rooms, decent wash-off area. Tough Terrain. Well-organized. No lines at the obstacles.

Cons: Obstacles not challenging enough. Not timed. You have to be careful running on the slopes. There are often large holes. You could easily sprain an ankle (or worse) if you're not careful. You can't compete against the men!

Mudathlon (Cincinnati)

The Mudathlon is comparable to the Warrior Dash--with the Cinci location being a little less hilly. You can easily do this one without a team--the obstacles are doable on their own. It's pricey for a 5k mud race, but well-organized with a nice setting for before and after the race. The wash-off area was a moving stream--which was kind of nice. You could actually get fairly clean. It's a good starter mud race if you just want to see what it's all about. This is also one many people do just for fun (meaning they just walk it with a bunch of friends).

Pros: Fun. Nice obstacles. Great slide! For us, it's not far from home. Good for beginners or to do with a group of friends.

Cons: Expensive for a 5k mud race. Congested. If you are going for time, there are so many people doing it "just for fun" that it's just about impossible to get a good time. In fact, people actually think you are odd for running it. I heard comments like, "Geez...she's actually running it." Or, "Why are they running?" For this reason, we skipped this one this season. We even tried to solve this by signing up for the very first wave; however, they then added earlier waves, so our plan went down the drain.

Mud Ninja (South Salem, OH) The Mud Ninja is only offered in the one location, one weekend a year. But it's my FAVORITE of the 5k length mud races. If you've done the other 5k races, and you want to kick it up a notch, sign up for the Mud Ninja. The terrain is very tough--as are the obstacles. It's good to have a team for this one. There are some walls that are tough to get over without teammates. However, if you are doing it solo, people will help you with the obstacles. The obstacles and terrain are on par with the longer races like Tough Mudder and Spartan, but with a 5k length.

Pros: Many. Tough obstacles. Tough terrain. Helpful people on the course. Very few bottlenecks on the course (this past year there was one obstacle they were having trouble with. Apparently, it was closed down shortly after we went through. There was one bottleneck up a steep climb, but people were letting those who paid for a timed wave I didn't have to wait). That's another nice offering with this race--you can pay for a timing chip if you want to be timed or do it without being timed--your choice. The Pretty Muddy might want to consider this option.

Cons: There's just the one--and it's only one weekend a year. But I believe it's only in its second year, so it could grow. You may not want to start with this as your first mud race. Start with a Warrior Dash or Mudathlon.

Mudstash 5k & Mudstash 10k (Perfect North Slopes, Lawrenceburg, IN)

 This is another mud race that just has the one location; however, they do offer it a few times over the summer. One awesome thing they offer that the others do not is a night time Mudstash. You navigate the course wearing a headlamp--which adds a nice challenge. Both the 5k and 10k are great races. You are on a ski slope much of the time (especially for the 10k) so it's definitely hilly. When you are not on the slopes, you are in a fabulous woodsy area...navigating streams, natural stone tunnels. Nice obstacles. My favorites are the slide and the Tarzan rope across a stream.

Pros: They offer a night race. Great terrain--very challenging. Good obstacles. The best wash-off area of all the races I've done. They even have a heated indoor shower trailer. We didn't even use them because they outside hose area was so nice. The water was actually a comfortable temperature. Since it's at a ski area, you can utilize the lodge (and even its snack bar) before and after the race. Instead of offering you the standard t-shirt and free beer, they include a Perfect North gift card with the entry fee (you can upgrade for a higher amount). You can use it to buy a t-shirt if you want (or a beer). Since we ski there, we save left-over money for ski season. They actually offer very reasonably priced photos! Good photos. The downloads are around $4. Oh, and they use the snow makers to shoot out water during the race, which is fabulous if the run is on a hot day.

Cons: The only con I can think of is that attendance seemed to be down this year, so I hope this one doesn't disappear. As long as it continues, we will repeat this one each year. This year we did both the night time race and the 10K daytime race.

Savage Race:
I was signed up for the Savage Race, but unfortunately, suffered a concussion a few days
before it. So I went as an observer, but wasn't able to run it. So, my husband (who did run it) provided the following review:

The Savage race is a 5+ mile obstacle race with 25 obstacles. Many of the obstacles are fairly simple that most people can do with little to no training. The Savage race does have a few difficult obstacles that are a bit different from other obstacle races, which makes this race unique and fun. The Savage race is a good mix of easy and not so easy obstacles, making it a good choice for all types of athletes. I ran this particular race in Ohio at Mad River Mountain ski slopes. This wasn't the best venue for this type of race. The elevation change was excellent, but the ski hills were covered with high grasses, thorny bushes and had many hidden large rocks and holes, making running quite treacherous. If you like getting shocked, you'll love the tazed obstacle. Tazed delivered the most powerful shocks I've received at an obstacle race. 

 Pros: Fun obstacles (with the exception of tazed - that was just annoying) 

 Cons: $10 spectator fee, rough terrain at Mad River Mountain, seriously charged live wires

Tough Mudder (Maysville, KY): Now we're into the endurance races--where you not only face some
tough obstacles and terrain, but you put in the distance as well. We did the Tough Mudder in Kentucky in October. You just never know what weather you'll have in the Midwest in October. We had temps in the lower 40s. And one of the first obstacles you go through is the ice water (large bins filled with ice and water. You swim under a barrier and then come out the other side). So needless to say, this was a cold race. That being said, it was still awesome. For me (and others will disagree) the two hardest parts of this race were the cold (we were in and out of water obstacles all day), and the live wires. I HATE the live wires. I would do this challenge again in a heart beat if it weren't for the live wires. Others I've talked to tell me they are no big deal.

The Tough Mudder is not timed (unless you are in an elite group). The idea is using teamwork to complete the race. So why is it okay for this race and not the Pretty Muddy? Because just getting through this race is a pretty decent accomplishment--not so much with the Pretty Muddy. The obstacles are tough and require teamwork. You need to be comfortable in water over your head. You need to be able to run 10+ hilly miles on trails. 

The Tough Mudder was tough. I was bruised and worn out the next day, which is what makes it a successful event for me. Even though I swore I would never do this race again (because of the ice water and live wires), we're actually pondering the Mansfield, OH race next year. 

Pros: Great terrain. Great obstacles. Very challenging. Course marshals all over and ready to help. Bathrooms on the course.

Cons: The bag check area was not organized. So as we finished the race cold and tired, we then had to stand in line for over a half an hour waiting to get our bag so we could dry off and change. That was our biggest complaint of the race. Pricey. And they charge for spectators and to park. 

Spartan (Indiana)
The Spartan has several different variations of their race--the Spartan Sprint, the Spartan Super, and the Spartan Beast. We participated in the Spartan Sprint which was 5.7 miles long. The Super and the Beast are longer. You can read about all of their events on the website.   

Terrain and challenge-wise, the Spartan is comparable to the Tough Mudder. You could get by without teammates, but having a team helps. One area where they differ: If you fail an obstacle or choose not to do one, you must do Burpees! I like this because it levels the playing field a bit. I'm always a little sore when somebody who skips obstacles finishes in front of me. If you're claustrophobic or something and need to skip an obstacle, that's fine; however, you should have to do something while others are completing the obstacle. Of course, it's not a perfect system. People still managed to skirt obstacles and Burpees. 

Next year, the hubby and I plan to complete the Spartan Trifecta--the Sprint, Super and Beast! (I'm even considering taking the Spartan Coach training to fulfill my personal training CEU's for next year. 

Pros: Great course. BURPEES! Reasonable cost. Great pictures. Many venues (at least for the Sprint...the others are harder to find one near you).   

Cons: Well, some might say the Burpees. I'm not really coming up with any cons right now. It was out in the middle of nowhere--with no hotels to be found. So we did have to drive in that morning. But the Spartan is a great race. 

The Iron Warrior (Grand Rapids, MI)
I saved this one for last for a reason. And no, it was NOT a case of saving the best for last. It's actually the opposite. This was, by far, the worst adventure race we have done. And the real bummer is that we signed up months in advance, and looked forward to this race all summer. We trained hard! Maybe they nailed it in the other locations, but this one was a big thumbs down!

The Iron Warrior is put on by Red Frog--the same company that puts on the Warrior Dash. In fact, they had a Warrior Dash running at the same time. If you look on their website, the obstacles look really cool. And a few of them were. Many others on the website were non-existent at the race. 

The Iron Warrior was billed as the ultimate adventure race. 15.6 miles of pavement, sand, trails and obstacles. I would guess about 14 miles of the race was on flat pavement. And obstacles were sparse. When you did finally hit an obstacle, they would put two or three in a it would be obstacle, obstacle, obstacle, then three to four miles of running. It was honestly more like a half marathon with an obstacle thrown in here and there. 

Here's my souvenir from the race: 
A lovely stress fracture, toe joint sprain and a neuroma from running most of the race on pavement in old shoes (everybody knows you wear your old shoes to mud races). Plus, we trained all hilly trails. I actually ran on the side of the road (in the grass) anywhere I could to get some relief. I kept seeing the woods and the river throughout the course and kept thinking, "Why? Why? Why aren't you taking us through there instead of on this road??"

Pros: Hmmmmm....pretty scenery. It was fun to stay in Grand Rapids for the night, and see the dunes the next day.

Cons: See above.

Iron Warrior - Grand Rapids, MI - A. Big. Thumbs. Down.

Mud Race Tips and Etiquette
  • Wear old shoes and clothes. (Of course, this tip came back to haunt me in that last race). But during most adventure races you will be sloshing through streams and mud. 
  • Bring a comfy change of clothes, a clean towel...and maybe a big beach towel to change behind if there are no changing rooms. 
  • I think it's great that people do these races just to have a good time with friends; however, if that's your goal, please do not walk three + people across the trail--blocking the path for those who are trying to get a good time. Both goals are fine--just be courteous to everyone.
  • On the same token, if you plan to do the race "just for fun" or if you're with a huge group of people of varying paces, do not line up at the very front of the corral. Let the people going for time get to the front. Many of the races start on a big hill--which many folks tend to walk. The ones who want to run get caught behind the crowd.
  • If you get to an obstacle and fear strikes--that's okay! You are awesome for trying to conquer your fears. However, please step aside until you build up your courage. Do not let a huge line form behind you while you deal with your inner demons. 
  • Even if you are doing the race for time, if you see someone who genuinely needs help (especially if they are hurt), help them.
  • If you need to skip some obstacles for whatever reason (i.e. claustrophobia, back issues, etc.) that's fine. But don't brag about your time or compare it to those who did every single obstacle. And if you happen to place, but you skipped half the obstacles, fess up--and give the place to the next person.
  • If you make a mess on the porta-potty seat, wipe it off!
  •  Training tip: train hills and trails. The majority of these races are exactly that--hills and trails. The more you train on this terrain, the better you'll get. 
  • Training tip: Work on your upper body strength. Monkey bars, walls, rope climbs...all utilize upper body strength. One thing I love about obstacle races is that they involve the whole body. Train more than just your run.
  •  If bruising upsets you, these races probably aren't for you. You are going to have bruises (battle scars) and a few scrapes and cuts. Wear them as a badge of courage.
  • If you are running as a team, discuss your strategy ahead of time. Are we all staying together no matter what? Are we agreeing if some of you poop out, the rest of us can go ahead? Are we trying for a good time or just having fun? This will save hard feelings during and after the race.

About Me

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I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.