Sunday, May 9, 2010


Months ago, Luc found the Tough Mudder and sent it to me with a "hahaha, we should do this." We had a good laugh. A while later, I said, "no, Luc, really! Let's!" And we formed a team! Lee, Kelsey, Melanie, Martin, Josh, Matt, Julien, Troy, and I committed to train hard and long for this, a "7 mile obstacle course [which is] designed by British Special Forces to test all around toughness, strength, stamina, fitness, camaraderie, and mental grit." YEAH. (Luc ended up not being able to participate, but joined as a cheerleader and photographer.)

...okay, by "training hard and long", I mean, I continued running, but finally added upper body strength work to my schedule for good. Kelsey took me rock climbing, I did pushups, etc.

At 7:30am on May 1, 2010, we met at the GC parking lot for the carpool to Bear Creek, PA. We were dressed in ready-to-be-destroyed clothes, packed our lunches, and put on team bandannas made by Melanie:
Melanie made team bandanas!

After about a two hour drive, we arrived at the overflow parking lot. There we stood in line for shuttles...for another hour. Hundreds of people waited for a very small number of buses. The ride was only 15 minutes long, though, and they extended registration times and added starting waves to compensate. So we were fiiine.

The atmosphere was crazy at the ski resort:
The scene upon entering Bear Creek Ski Resort

People had already finished by the time we registered. We saw some obstacles from the road, and honestly? They did not look bad. Instantly felt better. But then, signs like this didn't help:
Oops, we did.

Soon, we were READY TO ROOOOCK:
The team is PUMPED!

The other three, Lee, Julien, and Troy, planned to run fast and be macho. We planned to be the Super Awesome Happy Fun Rainbows and Ponies team. I.e., finish with a good attitude and all of our limbs.

To get to the start line, we trekked up that big hill on the right. That's a ski slope. (Keep that in mind: all hills are *ski slopes*.) After psyching us up, the announcer had us recite the Tough Mudder creed: "It's not a race, it's a challenge, we'll help each other, we won't whine, etc." THEN, amid fireworks and screams of "FREEEEDOOOOOM", we rushed off to battle down the hill for the Braveheart Challenge [#1].

(Follow along the route here.) Immediately, we hit the Death March [#2], as we turned around and ran right back up that same freakin' hill. Starting adrenaline carried us for a while, and then the hill caught up to us and we slowed to a steady walk. In the heat and humidity (it was at least 90 F), the Sweaty Yeti [#3] was a relief: we crawled through a 20-foot patch of SNOW. Then, of course, we climbed some more. We jogged down, we climbed up, we moseyed over, we climbed up, we zigzagged down... on and on we went. Crawling under cargo nets for the Devil's Beard [#4] was just kind of annoying; carrying a small log up and right back down a hill in Hold Your Wood [#5] seemed unproductive.

We passed Luc just before the most draining (but not terrifying, for me) of them all: the Cliffhanger [#6].

Us looking happy before:
Luc finds us just before the Last Big Hill

Us starting the mad march up the black diamond:
Here we go: black diamond ski slope, CLIMB!

I don't think the photo does it justice. Kelsey and I were together the whole way. I promised to not leave her on a hill, she promised to not abandon me in horrifying future walls to surmount. We made friends in our little pauses. A sip of Gatorade from a nice man's Camelback (don't think about germs--we're FINE) rejuvenated us. Once we reached the summit, we REJOICED! The boring, exhausting parts were done! On to the random fun challenges!

Such as, crawling through gravely tunnels and getting scraped up in the Boa Constrictor [#7].

Walking/jogging/hiking for two miles in very pretty woods, over rocks, and through streams, while singing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan and being appreciated by shirtless Marines who "LOVED THAT MOVIE."

Running through INCREDIBLY refreshing cool mud in Swamp Stomp [#8]:

Crawling on our bellies through mud, under 8-inch high wires, in the Kiss of Mud [#9]:
We army-crawl through mud on our bellies under wires.
Yep, I iz muddeh.

Either do what Martin is doing below in the *ahem*mymomreadsthis [#10]:
Martin is the only one to make it across!
Or just immediately get in the water on your back and pull yourself hand-over-hand through the water on the bottom rope, which is what the rest of us did.

We feel AWESOME:
We be wet and victorious! Almost...

Mastering the Underwater Tunnels [#11] proved to be quite easy, as there were only two barrels under which we had to bob.

Leaping off 10-foot high boards in Walk the Plank [#12] was awesome. Melanie and I jumped together. I swallowed half of the lake, as I tried to breathe a wee bit too soon. But I waved off three concerned scuba diver rescue men, and swam to the shore.
We jumped off those planks.

The most terrifying obstacles of them all for me were the Berlin Walls [#13]. These were 10-foot high sheer plank walls, with one teeny little footstep and NOTHING ELSE. You probably can't really see them in this picture:
We climbed over those walls.

But you can see the lines. This was the only real bottleneck we hit. The others of my team were able to get over mostly by themselves (Melanie may be a *bit* on the small side and needed some lift). I got over finally with dear, tall Matt SHOVING my foot up until I could swing it over. Then, I rather ungracefully slipped and slammed my body into the wall on the other side and thudded to the ground. Then we did this two more times. I have some GORGEOUS bruises!

Now, the course and course map disagree. We had the Killa Gorilla [#14], but it was only five times running up and down the same slope. Then Greased Lightening [#15] was sadly CLOSED, because the plastic for the slip'n'slide into the lake ripped and was causing broken arms. We rolled down the neighboring hill and waded through the water instead. :D
We ran/slid up and down that hill

The Fire Walker [#16] was the last! We ran! We choked! I got a lungful of smoke!

The final Mystery Obstacle [#17] was definitely not truly bad-oh never mind, it was just a ring of fire (accompanied by Johnny Cash himself!):
Finishin' in the RING OF FIRE!

The whole team had a blast and survived our 2:20:00 hours of fun:

And then firemen hosed us off!
Firemen hose us off. :D

We hung out for a bit, changed, watched the costume contest (three Avatar guys won), and left exhausted and sun-kissed. Buffalo wings, curly friends, and a burger cheered us up immensely, just in time for the long drive home. :D

I probably won't do another Tough Mudder (it was expensive and I'd rather just run), but I may go cheer the team on as they tackle another one in November!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Races, and Two Conferences

Yes yes yes. Let's catch us up, shall weee?

After the marathon, I decided that I needed to focus on a) running and b) work, and also have time for FRIENDS. Sooo...I dropped bellydancing, cut back on a few things, and learned how to say "no". Okay, I'm still learning...and cutting more things back before the really! I am!!

So, for running:

I ran another 5k back on February 13th: the Cupid's Chase at the Princeton Shopping Center. It was FREEZING, and icy. I didn't PR, but got a decent time:

Time 28:39
Pace 9:13.2
Gender Place 89/282
Age Group Place F25-29: 21/63

Cupid's Chase 5k

Then, April happened. April was CRAZY. As you'll read about in a bit, I drove down to Annapolis, MD, for a conference from April 12-16th. On April 17th, back in NJ, I ran a half marathon in the morning. In the afternoon, I flew to Seattle for another conference and a visit with the family. Yeah. Crazy.

Despite being super tired from the Annapolis conference, I ROCKED the Asbury Park Half Marathon! My goals were 1. PR (so faster than 2:18:50) and 2. if possible, be under 2:10:00. The race was out at the Jersey Shore, so Amanda and I left Princeton pretty early. It was her first half, and she was nervously excited! :) We got there in plenty of time to park and pick up our shirts. But, because it was windy and kind of cold, we didn't decide until the last minute how many layers to actually wear, and took a trip back to the car to shed. Then I had to use the restroom, and by the time we got through the line and back out, the race started. :P Thankfully, it was chip-timed. We were only a minute off of clock-time.

This race had two routes: one straight out-and-back along the shore, and one done in three loops. I chose the three loops, mainly because there's a drawbridge which occasionally strands out-and-back runners. I was pleasantly surprised to find this route was pretty empty, which meant I didn't have to waste time dodging slower people (or feel bad that faster people had to dodge me). I started running in shorts, a tank, and a long-sleeved dri-fit, but after 0.5 miles, that was too hot. I showed off my mad skillz at removing pinned race bib, shirt, and re-pinning race bib to undershirt WHILE RUNNING. :) The mile markers were practically non-existent, so I mostly relied on knowing that each loop was 4 miles. The first 1/3 was really fast, the middle hard, and the last as speedy as I could muster. I passed the 12 mile marker and saw that I would definitely make my goal of under 2:10:00 if I kept it up, so I pushed and pushed the last beautiful mile, and sprinted in at a chip time of *****2:08:29.01*****!!!! SO excited!!! Both goals=met.

Overall place: 268/500, F25-29: 60/100, F: 138/305, Clock time: 2:09:02.16, Pace: 9:51, Chip time: 2:08:29.01

Met Audrey and Kate afterward--they did GREAT! Audrey was 2nd of all females with a time of 1:39:15.48!

Amanda finished her first-ever half marathon with an awesome time of 2:21:10.07! :D
Asbury Park Half Marathon

So, for work:

My advisers sent me to two conference in April. Back-to-back. I presented the same poster at both, so at least it wasn't double the work, but BOY was I sick of talks and discussing physics by the end of the second! Whew!

We mustn't forget Faraday. HE spent two weeks with Aunty Kelsey! I MISSED THAT BUGGER SO MUCH. But the two of them had a blast. :)

Faraday packs up:
Faraday packs up for two weeks at Aunt Kelsey's

~~First: U.S. Transport Task Force, Annapolis, MD. I drove down with some friends. We stayed in the swanky conference hotel right in cute, historical Annapolis about a five minute walk from the harbor. I've visited the town a couple of times, and love wandering around shops and the pretty US Naval Academy campus. I took one sunny afternoon off to enjoy it by myself.
I skipped an afternoon of the conference to tour Annapolis and the US Naval Academy!
Beautiful Campus
Weapons and Flowers

I visited Justin and his fiancee, Charissa, in DC for dinner:
I visited Justin and Charissa in DC!

We ate a lot of crab, mostly in the form of crab cakes:
One evening, I ate crabcakes...

However, on the night I ate that particular plate of crab cakes, the six males I had the pleasure of accompanying ate all-you-can-eat crab...FOR TWO HOURS. Two hours of watching this:
It was disgusting. But they had so much fuuun!

I have rarely seen such happy, contented, ravenous cave-men.

~~Next, after running a half marathon and eating dinner with Farad--I mean, Kelsey, I flew on home to SEATTLE. My entire-family-minus-Amy-who-is-in-Morocco met me at SeaTac late at night and drove me home. The next morning, I enjoyed shocking everyone at their church. They are used to seeing me once a year at Christmas..."why are YOU here???" "Goood to see you all..." ;) Today was extra special, because it was my daddy's and grandpa's BIRTHDAYS. Nama, Papa, Aunt Cindy, and Aunt Kristie came over for a lovely family lunch. Then, Mumsy drove me to the ferry, took the ferry over to Seattle with me, and rode it immediately back. Ha!

As I was the only female grad student from PPL attending this, the Sherwood Fusion Theory conference, I GOT MY VERY OWN HOTEL ROOM. I KNOW. I had two queen beds, an entire bathroom filled with mini-shampoos, a flatscreen TV, and a 19th-floor view ALL TO MY SELF. :D This conference was even smaller than the last one, and I only knew a couple of people well enough to hang out. So, I enjoyed me-time in the room, the swimming pool, and Starbucks, when I wasn't attending talks and giving my poster.
My hotel room has a "waterfront" view

Monday night, my very bestest BFF, Bethany, drove down from Bellingham to spend the night and next day with me. Weeee! We started off with dinner with ANOTHER BFF, ANOTHER Bethany. :D Bethany^2 and I ate ourselves satisfied at the Ol' Spaghetti Factory on the waterfront. Love Bethany^2.

After the morning talks, Bethany (the one who spent the night) and I moseyed over to the UDistrict for lunch at MY FAVORITE INDIAN RESTAURANT EVER and favorite eating place in college memory: Cedars' on Brooklyn. I can't remember getting anything ever other than Mango Lamb Curry and their famous bottomless "we pour it like water" chai. Gooood tiiiimes.
My favorite college restaurant, hands down.

Then, we walked through my dear UW campus, and I discovered that I subconsciously chose to wear Purple and Gold:

We made it to the UVillage, finally, after we learned that my memory of the area isn't as sharp as it used to be. To our GREAT delight, a Trophy's Cupcakes moved in!
Chocolate with Vanilla!

The conference ended around lunchtime on Wednesday, and after a few plans fell through, I had a fabulous time reading and listening to music in a Starbucks and watching the rain for a couple of hours. Then, I took the ferry to Bremerton, had MORE coffee with a college bff, Karyn, and then my lil' bro, David, picked me up and took me home. :)

Home was amazing. I relaxed for 2.5 days. Completely. David took up running recently, so we had a couple of great runs, a good brother-sister date to Bertolino's coffee shop, and bonded over our Muse concert experiences (I saw them in March in Philly; David saw them in April in Seattle):
Davey rocks out (note the homeschool classroom in the background)

Jenny the sister and I bonded over coffee, early one fine morning before she headed off to college classes and her first real job as an admin in a lawyer's office!

Mom, Dad, and I had good talks about our upcoming trip to Madrid and Morocco, to visit Amy the other sister!

And of course, I spent MUCH quality time with the other important family members:

Scout (who got spayed while I was home and has a shaved arm for the IV):
Scouters got spayed, and has an IV-patch!

Ashley (who, in her old-age dementia, forgot that she hates me):
Ashley mostly sleeps these days...

and Maddie (who is my darling perfect doggy):

~~On May 1, PPPL had a rare open house. About 2000 people stopped by lab to tour the experiments, play with Van de Graaf generators and find out what a plasma is, and generally be amazed by science and the incredible research happening in the middle of New Jersey.

I manned a demo in the Science Education lab: a fluorescent light bulb which is only half-coated with the fluorescent coating, so you can see what's inside. What's inside? PLASMA, OF COURSE.

One cool thing for me was seeing the partially-finished, sadly-cut NCSX, a stellarator. This was going to be a sweet experiment at lab, but was mismanaged, badly over-budget and behind-schedule. But the coils look awesome:
NCSX. So cool.

Sooo that's it! See more pictures (including of the Muse concert) here, and stay tuned for the next post of last Sunday's Tough Mudder!