Tough Mudder Toronto, 2014

Last year, my high school friend Louise and I both did Tough Mudder events near our current locations. We somehow decided that we had to run one together this year, and we made it happen. :-)

Thursday August 14, 2014 - Boston-Toronto

I took the T to work with my gear for the weekend, just stuffed in my green tote bag for carry on, so navigating the bus to the green line and then walking from Kenmore didn't suck as much as it would with a suitcase (though getting an expandable rolly thing to carry the tote when it's extra full might be nice...). A slightly shortened day of work and just before 4:30 I headed off to the airport, taking the bus to Park St, Red line one stop to grab the Silver line, not as efficient since the main transfer point to take the subway all the way is closed and will be for a couple of years. So of course the silver line bus got stuck in tonnes of traffic and I had to focus on reading my book so that I would stop worrying about making my flight. Luckily the line at security was short, and boarding was also delayed, so I had lots of time. I got something to eat at the Earl of Sandwich counter, and got stuck behind exact change hunting tweens and an old lady who then did the same. The Porter gate agents did pre-boarding and then boarding everyone at once. My row-mate, in the window seat crinkled his beer can the whole way. My stuffed full green tote barely fit in the small overhead bin, but I managed to cram it in then settled in to finish my book, and then read through the re:porter magazine.

We came in over Lake Ontario to land at the Toronto City Airport and got off the plane quickly. I did the iris scan for my Nexus fast lane entry, but I also had to pass over the customs form that I'd filled out by hand on the plane. I *think* it might be that going into Canada they need both the printed scan result and the written form, but coming into the States the printed form is enough, but I'll keep filling in the form just in case. The Canada customs one didn't ask for my passport number, that seemed odd. I walked through the terminal and saw evidence of the tunnel construction, but had a bit of wait for the 60 second ferry ride. Once I was off the island, I walked up to Lakeshore to the 511 streetcar stop. They were coming close together, so I popped across the street to get cash from the Scotiabank there. The fare feels like it goes up every time I visit, luckily I had $3 in loonies left from a previous trip (that dedicated coin purse was a good idea). I had a short wait when changing to the Queen car to head out to Parkdale, there was a leggy Russian blonde who reminded me of the Night Watch books, I half expected her to take a half step and disappear into the Twilight. There were lots of changes along Queen, gentrification is pushing further and further out into Parkdale, or whatever the new hip name for it is. I spotted the Bristol where we hoped to go for drinks and to visit the police call box. :-) I walked up to Axel and Siobhan's house, recognising the porch before having to dig out my address book. Siobhan and Darrel were there, I had water and talked with them until about midnight, then had a shower and hit the bed downstairs. I also got the house wifi password from them so that I could use my no international service phone as a computer at least, keeping in touch with friends I was planning to meet via email. In the middle of the night I heard some loud rustling right next to the bed. Turning on the light once, I spotted a mouse running away, but felt okay about lying down to sleep again. But then the noise started up again and this time when I turned on the light, I saw the mouse staring up at me with beady eyes from the bag of bird seed next to the bed (the seed was for throwing in an eco friendly way during outdoor LARPs). I may have squeak-yelped a bit, but I definitely grabbed a pillow and a blanket and hied myself upstairs to sleep on the couch for the rest of the night.

Friday August 14, 2014 - Toronto

I was up at around 8am. I had a small breakfast while Siobhan was getting ready to head to work, then got myself and the spare house key out the door to wander for a bit. I stopped into various stores along Queen, grabbing a slice of pizza to fill in the holes in my stomach, and treating myself to a Fresh smoothie - I think I had to get them to make me a second one, the first tasted like bananas. :-( My aim was to walk over to Mountain Equipment coop, though I'd initially thought about trying out the new bike share system. But then at Dufferin I saw a person lying very still in the street with bike cops all around and lost my nerve - the street car tracks are more of an issue all over in Toronto, in Boston they're just on a few streets where the Green line comes above ground. I eventually made it over to Bathurst and turned there to head down to King, stopping in at the running store but finding their stuff a bit too dear for me. I walked along King to past Spadina and had no trouble spotting the huge MEC storefront. I spent a long time in there trying different shirts on, I was looking for a wool undershirt to bring with me on Tough Mudder since the current forecast was chillier than expected and I'd left my long sleeved wool undershirt that I'd used on the June one at home in Boston. I did finally find a light wool short sleeve top on the new racks, but then one last scan led me to spot a thicker older blue one on the sale rack so I grabbed it instead. Still short sleeved but I had the long sleeve team top waiting for me with the team captain. I bought some regular running socks since the compression ones were super expensive (I'd blown out the toes on mine at the Boston TM *sigh*). I tried on some hiking pants as well, some red ones came close to fitting, but not close enough for the price. I brought my shirt and socks up to the front to pay, and finally finally joined the co-op. :-)

I walked back along Queen St, popping into various stores that caught my eye, enjoying my vacation day. Brava had skull shirts that the clerk urged me to try on since they were only $1 or 2, but the sizing didn't work out. Tatyana's had gorgeous retro dresses that I could see me treating myself to if I lived in Toronto, but they were a bit too far out of impulse purchase price range. :-) I never did find Fashion Crimes (another store I'm happy to spend lots of money in), they were moving to a new location and I hadn't written down the street address, I could have passed by on the other side and easily missed it. I grabbed a berry ice tea at the David's Tea shop that I passed and sat for a bit in the shop to take a break and check my phone, but couldn't get the wifi working. I ended up jumping on the streetcar to head back when I saw one coming at around Strachan, then when I got off at Brock I stopped in at the LCBO to pick up some thank you gin for the palace. :-) I ended up missing Axel when he came home to grab his stuff and head to the airport for his great European vacation, I got back at around 4:30. :-( I read for a bit, got cleaned up, then headed back out to meet folks at the Bristol, walking over.

Siobhan was sitting in the window when I got there, and Steph and Martin soon joined us at a table for dinner. The korma curry was good, and I managed to stick to my no alcohol before Tough Mudder rule, getting the bartender to make me up a grapefruit juice mocktail that was so good I ordered a second one. :-) Darrel and Louise joined us after dinner for drinks, starting at the Bristol but then moving to the Rhino when the hipster vinyl bow tie trilby DJ got too loud. I had a raspberry chocolate cake while the others had their beers. We made it back to the house at around 1:30 - I wasn't up for a late night, trying to prioritise sleep so I was in as good shape as possible for Sunday. I slept on the couch since the mouse had managed to avoid the traps and was still on the loose downstairs.

Saturday August 15, 2014 - Toronto-Borden-Barrie

I remembered to leave the house key on the coffee table as I was heading out to meet up with Lou and Corrie for the drive up to Barrie. I'd plotted out my route to Yorkdale and was happy to see that there was a bus that ran all the way up Dufferin to Yorkdale, it came a minute earlier than scheduled, but I'd made it to the stop two minutes early, so it was all good. It was neat heading north on the surface and seeing that part of the city - I usually stay downtown when I'm visiting, but I'd spent a lot of time up north when I was at York. The bus stop ended up being right across from the mall entrance near the David's Tea where I was going to meet them. I was contemplating going into the Scotiabank store front since it was open and I had to do a change of address with them at some point, and Lou had to catch my eye as I'd totally missed her as I was thinking so hard about other things - she hadn't changed a bit, we fell right back into our high school friendship. Her wife Corrie was amused, especially by the fact that we were dressed very similarly. :-) We walked out to their car so I could drop my bag and then hit up the food court to get smoothies and sandwiches for the drive.

I think it was this segment of our road tripping where we saw a Smartcar on fire in a service center lot. We drove up the 400 toward Barrie, getting off there and taking 90 across and through Angus (going past Snow Valley) and into CFB Borden. Lou had checked with our old high school cadre before we planned the stop to see if the base was open to civilians and consensus was yes. My obstacle course buddy Forest was originally going to come up with me and I'd promised to show him the tank park, but even though he had to cancel I still wanted to stop by for a visit. No guard at the gate, just warning signs. I was deep in wallowing in nostalgia, though struggling a bit to remember where all the roads connected. It was raining just slightly, not enough to deter us in our rain jackets. We hit Worthington Park first to revisit our favourite tanks, the minesweeper was Lou's favourite as well. It was nice to see the bright red berry bushes that I remember, and there may have been some hijinks that included pull ups off of the back of one tank. :-) We circled around to our old stomping grounds, the high school is still standing with the two toned tree in the huge front yard (though I think it's still the language school for the base now). Imjin Street was all torn up, there wasn't anything past my old house. :-( Louise had heard that School Street was also completely torn down, but we skipped the South Side at her insistence. The Terra theatre was still there, we saw Wendy's old place and sent her a snap shot, and we stopped in at the Canex for Tim Horton's. I asked for a circle by the library - they'd moved the military museum to the other side of the tank park, I think we popped in for a minute.

We were finally happy at having revisited the scene of our teenagehoods and let Corrie turn the car back to Barrie so we could get checked into our hotel, the Comfort Inn and Suites. We ran into others on our Tough Mudder team in the lobby, we were all checking in at the same time. I was happy to see that I wasn't the only mohawked one on the team - I'd brought my blue spiking gel for Lou to use on her faux-hawk too. I still had my own hotel room, having pre-paid for it when Forest and I made plans to come up, and it was kind of nice to take a quick break on my own. Lou and Corrie were upstairs on the second floor, but I was on the first, in room 103, though getting to it was a bit of a maze, having to go through the stairwell and up a few stairs, then make a right turn and up some more stairs to the correct corridor. Trish dropped by to deliver my team shirt, a long sleeved blue one that we hoped would make it possible for us to easily spot each other on the course. I had time to take a shower before we were going to all meet up for dinner at 5.

It was raining a bit harder now, we were all glad that we weren't on the course that day and keeping our fingers crossed that it would clear up for tomorrow. Getting the group to decide on a restaurant that had some semi healthy offerings was a bit hard - we drove up to a sports bar first but I nixed it since they only had fried food. We ended up at a Milestones despite some grumblings about the more expensive menu. I had the penne pasta (carb loading!) with tomato, basil and chevre, then finished Lou's chicken salad because my metabolism was stuck on high. They had a bottomless ice tea that kept my hydrated. I spent a few minutes socialising with the family portion of our team, in room 232, but then retired for an early bed time, determined to go into the race well rested.

Sunday August 16, 2014 - Barrie-Coldwater-London

Lou and I pushed for a 'leave the hotel by 8am' plan, since we had to drive up to Orillia with enough leeway to allow for traffic and parking and then the recommended hour+ before the team's wave time of 10:40am. I was a bit nervous since I'd somehow been assigned a different start time of noon, but had scoured the FAQs and was reassured that I could start with my team at an earlier time. In the end we were super early and actually started in the second wave instead of the third or fourth of the day. I hadn't realised that the waves didn't start until 10am, we ended up having to wait in line for registration to open. It wasn't raining but everything was wet and super muddy. It wasn't super crowded either, there was lots of room to wander in the 'festival area'. The port a potties were still muddy from yesterday. I'd brought a bag with a change of clothes and a towel since I wasn't sure if we could run out to the car and back in again (we couldn't in VT), so ended up paying to check it - it was nice to have it nearby for changing afterward. It was a bit chilly, Lou started doing some sprints and burpees to warm up. :-) Trish had on a GoPro camera, her husband Mark had a mohawk that he'd dyed blue. His brother Mark was running with us as well, he was younger and bald. Trish's father Phil, 65, was running with us as well, he'd dyed and 'hawked his hair as well as dying his beard. :-) Her brother and mother were spectating with Corrie. A cousin was running late, another tall bald guy, he and his friend caught up to us a few obstacles in. It started off feeling weird to not be running with my Boston crew, but the team opened up and let me in and we all supported each other. Phil wasn't sure if he was going to make it the full ten miles, but I was usually running behind or with him.

We were all getting antsy, and watched the first wave get pumped up by the starter dude. We had started to join that wave but dithered a bit too long and got into the second one. It was super cool for me to hear the Canadian national anthem to start us off. We also had to recite the Mudder pledge - Phil had been pulled aside as we were getting our bibs on by a film crew and asked to recite the pledge for the camera. Turns out it was Global Mudder weekend, races were being held all over the world on the same day. Lou wanted to be up front, but I tried to stick to the side so I wouldn't get run over as we were let onto the course - they send us straight up a hill to begin and I wasn't warmed up enough to jog the whole way up. One guy was still trudging up from the last wave. We hit the course at 10:20am and after I'd taken my shower and cleaned up I saw it was 4pm. Lou's watch had stopped working but she estimated that we finished in about 5 hours, a good time for me! :-) I was usually the slow one, so I kept pushing myself to move as fast as possible. No delays at most of the obstacles too, the course wasn't very crowded - it still felt full, just not backed up. It was super muddy though from all the rain the day before, I think only the Warrior Carry was on non muddy ground, a few meters out of 15+km.

The Muddy Mile went on forever, and the course wound around and we had to go through it the other way later on. We were muddy to the chin, I was having a hard time getting out of the mud pits since I was floating and couldn't brace against the ground. It was super slippery too, you often needed two people to pull you up. I managed to make it through the Arctic Enema, Trish had to bail after jumping in with me (I demanded a buddy). I conquered Balls to the Wall this time, climbing up the rope on my own, next to Lou, and not bloody well falling off on the other side (my fingers weren't frozen this time) - Trish got banged up on it though. I did the team log carry with Lou and Trish, first time in three events that I didn't carry a small log on my own, it's hard to keep it from bouncing on your shoulder. The over and under in the lake was chilly but fun (you had to swim out to it but could stand once you got there). Lou was super worried about hypothermia, so she skipped the water obstacles and wore an insulated vest. She killed the Funky Monkey, I failed it yet again. *sigh* Coming back it was a rod and rings set up that was super hard, very few people made it. I also failed to get across on just the tip, though I did better than I expected. Walk the Plank wasn't nearly as scary this time, it didn't feel as high though they said it was 15 feet - it might have been that the VT one had lost a bit of water and was a longer drop. I watched a woman take even longer than I had in VT to get over her fear. The Ladder to Hell was an easy climb up an open frame work, but felt super high and I had to fight my fear of heights to get over the top. I got boosted over the Berlin Walls and helped over the logs - I think at one point Phil got down on his hands and knees and offered his back as a step! I did the Warrior Carry with Lou as a piggy back. I kept missing the kilometre signs, I saw one for 13km, but I think it was at least 17 or so? Go with 10 miles. My knee started hurting a lot on the second to last long downhill, I was limp jogging the rest of the negative slopes after that, but climbing was pretty much okay. The long barb wire crawl wasn't too low, but it was through trenches of cake batter thick mud (it might have been dug out a bit by yesterday's racers). The Legionnaires Loop for multi-mudders had a longer crawl, the rings and rods, and an extra fake electric shock, this one a crawl under a cave like covering with dead wires in it. The team regrouped right before Electroshock Therapy to run through together - I got shocked for the first time at this obstacle (I'd eeled through the first time, then skipped as part of the Legionnaires Loop the second). I got two good shocks, it felt like one on each hip, and ended up screaming and running faster, not going down. :-) Over the finish line, got my orange finisher headband and our team posed for a triumphal finish picture, all of us got through it together.

I got hosed off, grabbed my checked bag and headed for the change tent since I could feel a shiver starting. I had blown through the toes of my new running socks (lots of gravel in the mud) and ended up losing my little toe nail as it came off while I was drying off. :-/ It didn't hurt at least, it's a vestigial nail on me. I think most of the others just changed by the cars. Lou and Corrie (she'd become quite sun burned waiting for us at Walk the Plank, the spectator signage wasn't good) just wanted to hit the road home, so we didn't dawdle too much, hugging everyone good bye and heading back south. It was a fairly long drive, we stopped at Tim Hortons for hot drinks and snacks, and when we hit the 407 we took it over toward London. Once we pulled into their driveway we basically just dumped all of our muddy stuff on the asphalt and Lou hit them all with the hose. :-) Rivers of mud oozed down to drain in the street grate, but it seemed never ending - the mud mile mud seemed to just not want to wash off, I still had traces of it on my camelbak bladder 3 months later (it was funny, coming out of the lake after the over/under obstacle, I bent down to stretch my hamstrings and a river of water drained out of my bag over my head). We hung the dripping shoes and bag from the porch railing and squeezed out the clothes as best we could before throwing them right into the washing machine. Once they came out, I air dried the non dryer compatible pieces all over Lou's exercise equipment - I envy her her basement gym set up, I'd love to have room for a barbell! Then we settled on the couch to be slackers for a while, watching some shark week programs and recovery eating. I had three pints of water, an orange, a bagel with almond butter, and chocolate covered almonds. Oddly enough I wasn't super hungry, I think the food I'd eaten on the course stuck with me well enough. I checked in for my flight so I wouldn't have to worry about too many delays at the airport the next day. I think I was in bed by 10pm or so, snuggled up in their guest room.

Monday August 17, 2014 - London-Waterloo-Toronto

I was up at 8am, and was glad of my note to myself to check the porch for my shoes and running pack, and the basement for my draped clothes. My towel had to go into the drier, it got missed somehow, but we had time before we needed to hit the road. Corrie had volunteered to drive me to northern Toronto so that I could grab the subway from there rather than having to take the bus or train from London. I had my usual breakfast foods of blueberries, granola, yoghurt and tea, though a bit more of it than usual. :-) It was kind of hard to believe that it was just the day before that I'd been chin deep in mud with my team. My shoes and pack hadn't quite dried, I got a garbage bag from them to wrap them up and finished packing.

We hit the road at around 10am, heading east on the 401 in post rush hour traffic. I'd pinged my cousins to see if they were around and up for meeting while I was in the province and Dennis said that we could drop by the restaurant that he and Lorelei had opened, The Healthy Owl. It was just 15 minutes north of the 401 and we needed some lunch anyway, it worked out perfectly. I asked at the counter if Dennis was around, Lorelei came out from the back and said that she'd call him to come in. I was in full on post event hunger mode, I had a delicious lentil salad with cucumber, tomato, red onion, and dijon vinaigrette, along with a large tea. Dennis came over from home, bringing his red shepherd, Farrow I think. Corrie and Lou loved meeting the dog. :-) It was good to see Dennis and to meet Lorelei, she hadn't been able to come to the family reunion. All too soon it was time to hit the road again though, I didn't want to risk missing my flight due to unexpected traffic.

They dropped me at the Yorkdale subway stop at around 1:30 and the trip south to Union station was quick. I knew that there was a Porter Airlines shuttle bus stop somewhere around the Royal York but construction confusion led me to walk over to the hotel and then back across the street and down a bit before finding it. I'd never taken it from the airport since I was always heading out to Parkdale, but this worked out well as the shuttle pulled up as I got there, just after 2pm. There was a bit of traffic getting to the airport, but it was easier than doing the two street car trip. The ferry was docked on the city side, so no wait for that, though I had to stand in the check in line since the automated kiosks never work for me (probably due to my immigration status needing to be double checked). There wasn't a line at security, I breezed through the metal detector and was sitting in the lounge by 3pm, nibbling on cookies (so many cookies) and pounding water. I'd settled in on the comfy chairs rather than taking up a table next to the self serve area, and felt okay leaving my things while watching others to keep an eye on them when I got up to get tea and use the bathroom, then get more water and more cookies. :-) There was another Mudder waiting for his flight (I can't recall if I wore my finisher t-shirt on the trip home, it did fit better than the one I got from VT since I sized up), but I didn't go over to say hi.

The flight was a bit late, but it was pretty empty and the ride was smooth. More tea and chips to feed my empty tummy. We had to get on a bus to go from the plane to the terminal, a lady in a wheelchair needed to get help getting out of the plane since we had to go down stairs to the tarmac. My Global Entry fee more than paid for itself again, letting me bypass a huge line and walk out of the terminal in seconds. The Silver line was still free, and came after I'd only been waiting for about a minute. I was sitting next to a talkative guy who'd just flown in from Milan for his cousin's wedding, his uncle hadn't shown up to pick up him, and after waiting for two hours he decided to make his own way to their house. He was a pizza maker and quite charming, I helped direct him onto the Green D line to head out toward Riverside and he asked if I wanted to get a beer with him. :-) I was probably at least 10 years older than him, still mohawked, and bruised and tired from running Tough Mudder the day before, but I still kind of regret not taking him up on his offer. :-) I just wanted to get home to pick up my farm share and hit my bed for a well earned sleep.

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