events

Tough Mudder: “How are we doing this?”

-me, after looking at pretty much any one of the climbing obstacles in Tough Mudder, of which there are several.

Yesterday I “did” Tough Mudder. I write that “did” in quotes because I skipped four obstacles of the 24 on the course, and it’s a coincidence that there were two planned skips (arctic enema and electroshock therapy were listed verboten by the doc) and two were unplanned skips (Everest and Stage 5 Clinger).  Arctic Enema is where you dive down a tube into water that has floating ice in it and is shockingly cold, and have to swim under an obstacle to get out of said water — so you are completely submerged.  Electroshock therapy is walking through about 15 feet of dangling electrical wires that will zap you.  Everest is a 20′ high slippery slope that you have to run at, run up (hope you don’t slip), and grab your team’s hands so they can pull you up.  Stage 5 Clinger is an inverted ladder (so the base is farther away from you than the top) that you have to climb and then pull yourself up and over.

I tried Everest. I tried it three times, and the third time I landed square on my right shoulder, and told my self enough was enough.  I’ve got an impressive welt and a jammed feeling; I can lift it but it hurts when I lift it just so.  I should have tried Stage 5 clinger more than the bit that I did.

My pull up game is *not* strong, although it’s getting better, and I struggled with many of the other obstacles that required me to do various forms of lifting my body weight with just my upper body.

Which gets me to this point: unless you are the kind of person who can do 25 effortless pull ups from hanging on your fingertips to pulling yourself up and over something with  no foot support, you will have to rely on other people in Tough Mudder.

This is hard for me (and others), and there’s usually one of two competing reasons behind it:

  1. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t find others reliable.
  2. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t want to inconvenience them.

I don’t have the first problem and once you finish your first few TM obstacles you won’t, either.  Random strangers will pull you up, grab your leg to help you get over an obstacle, come to help you, and encourage you to overcome your fears.  Yes that was me whimpering at the top of an obstacle because I couldn’t get a toehold and some completely strange person came up and coached me where to put my foot and reassured me he’d catch me if I fell.  Your team will also be there for you; I had only met one of my team members before this but every single one of them gave me a folded hand or a leg up at one point.  This was not my problem.

My problem is that I kept feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight (no pun intended). I’m still not sure I did.  The Abseil and similar exercises– where there’s at rope or rope ladder — were no problem.  But anything that required team-provided-footing left me to feel guilty, like I hadn’t trained enough.  And in theory I had “trained” more than my team — following the guidelines, doing the runs (mostly — I only got two 8-milers in), etc.  As mentioned previously I can’t do a pull up but I was doing weight-assisted ones in the gym; that proves to not have been enough.

I can say with absolute and utter confidence that I would NOT have signed up for Tough Mudder if I  had known the volume of obstacles around heights.  Heights for me — particularly ones where I’m sure I’m going to injure myself but not die — are a trembling phobia that surfaced about twenty years ago and hasn’t gone away.  (For those of you worried about enclosed spaces: there’s a few of those, too, but they aren’t bad at all– not even MineShafted).  Had someone walked me through the course in advance I would have bailed, then and there. But having spent the last 3 years regretting the Tough Mudder I didn’t do, I’m very glad I didn’t talk myself out of this one. I’m glad I had to work through a series of heights challenges, I’m glad I had a supportive team and was reaffirmed in the kindness of strangers, and I’m glad to be back in “regular” training again. Except this time maybe I’ll do some more upper body work.

Those who know me are probably shaking their heads because they think this means I signed up again for next year: NOPE. This was one of those beautiful, shining days that sits on its own. My legs and forearms are thoroughly scratched and bruised, I have the aforementioned shoulder welt and a matching one on my hip. I have met new and awesome people. I have my orange headband.

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Yes that’s a massive bruise on my right shin. A lot of our course had berry bushes and straw packed in to the mud.

I’m good.

 

 

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Categorizing Fun: An Overview of My First Ragnar

“You know what Type 2 fun is, right?”

I was at M&K’s house talking about a then-upcoming Ragnar event, and how I was really, really tired of running. I was asking if it was worth it, as M&K have done some Ragnars, and I had heretofore done none. (I was also borrowing a sleeping bag based on the pack list M had given me.)

I replied that I did not know there were types of fun.

“Type One fun is that you’re having fun while you’re doing it. This is what everyone easily recognizes as fun. Type Two fun is you have fun when you talk about it later and reflect on the overall experience. Type Three fun is never fun.”

Fair enough.

As of that discussion I was certain Ragnar was Type Two fun and possibly Type Three. There are a variety of training guides to follow for Ragnar, including the one on their site; some folks I ran with basically added up their total mileage for the roughly 36-hour period and trained as though they needed to be able to run all of that in one block. I followed the training guide on the Ragnar site, more or less. It meant running 5 times per week, with alternating distances and speeds, and as we got closer to the event and before tapering started, the increased mileage meant increased time investment. My running playlists were well worn and I was finding it irritating that I’d “have” to run on a given day instead of being able to bike or swim or row or what have you. All but 2 of my training runs were outdoors, with some variation of hills for the most part. The most awkward part of this experience is of the 12 people in 2 vans, I had only met one.

For me, Ragnar started when two of those people (the one I knew (Tristan) and one of the ones I didn’t (Sonya)) headed up north to the starting point. We met up with Van 1 (we were Van 2) and drove to our first major exchange, Exchange 6. Ragnar starts the slower-paced teams earlier than the faster-paced ones, so everyone ends at roughly the same time. Our team started at 6:45am on Friday, with Van 2 starting at roughly 11:30am. At the major exchanges, it’s a festival of painted vans and themed running wear; we had vans named things like “Team Div/0” and “Will Run for Beer” and “Start Slow then Taper” and so forth. Some teams were dressed as superheroes, some teams were dressed in tutus or hula skirts, some teams dressed like Cirque members. Our team’s name was “Running Better than Congress” and for the most part we did that: showed up, talked with one another, kinda wore red, white, or blue, and one of our Vans was painted. We ran better than Congress only marginally.

I was Runner 10, but we had lost two runners at the last minute to injury, so we were shuffling extra runs among the remaining 10 of us. My first run was essentially a 5k, mostly flat, but at about 2pm in the sun, with no shade.  If you’ve spent 99% of your training runs running in tree-shaded areas or in the mid-60 degree early mornings, running in 85 degree heat is punishment. I did not enjoy my first run at all and was glad to hand the baton (a slap-wrist bracelet) to Chuck, our group organizer and the unfortunate benefactor of 2 of the extra 6 legs floating around thanks to drop-outs.

If you had asked me after Run 1 if I would ever do this again, I would have said definitely not.

Our group ran the remaining 2 legs and headed to the next major exchange, a high school with tents set up to catch some sleep. Unfortunately it was 5pm and there’s no way I can sleep at that time, so I pretended to and then gave up. We did get nice showers (there was heat!!) and headed into LaConner to get dinner. At 9pm we piled into the Van for our 2nd runs. That’s when I got tired.

My run was at 12:30am and was only 2 miles, but it was all hill. Still, the cool of night took away some of the unpleasantness from the earlier heat of the day, and while running with a headlamp took some getting used to, I managed to get done at my expected pace (given the fall in Beijing and the loss of 5 training weeks, plus my knee, I used my 10k pace of 10:30 — I know it’s slow, but I’d rather not run to injury, thanks).  Run 2 ended for me and I handed off to the next runner in our van, Joe.

If you had asked me after Run 2 if I would ever do this again, I would have said probably not.

While Joe and then Sonya ran, I tried to get some sleep — I think I managed an hour each, sitting in the front seat of our van (actually a Suburban). I have a messed up back and that wasn’t ideal, but I managed to brace it with a rolled up jacket. At 4am we finished and headed to our next stopping point on Whidbey Island, where we were told to park in a field. As it was light enough out, I could see where I put M&K’s borrowed sleeping bag to make sure there was no poo (long story) and racked out for two solid hours.

That’s right. Two hours. At 7am my eyes snapped open because of habit. I had 2 more hours before I had to get back in the van and I could not, for the life of me, sleep. No coffee needed (which was good, because there was none to be found), I headed off to shower, and change, and prepare myself for my last run: 6 miles, all up and down hills.

I should explain that I had the 2nd shortest distance of the 12 runners. This was by design as most of the people I was running with measured their experience in IronMans and Marathons (not half Marathons, those do not count), and all but 2 of us had done Ragnar at least once before. I was 3rd slowest pace (but hey, at least I was consistently pacing) and, I found out later, the oldest person in our group. That doesn’t mean anything though as there were groups consisted of people at least 10 years my senior, and possibly 15, and they were kicking butt.

As we piled into the van Chuck asked me if I could take leg 32 instead of 34, which was the same distance but instead of up and down little hills, it was up one big hill and down it.  I figured it was the same distance and I had trained for hills, so, sure. I took it.

Slapping the baton on and running along the trail, I had to stop twice in the first mile: my shoe was untied, and then at about the 3-quarter-mile mark I recalled I hadn’t kicked off my running program (that tells me how far I’ve run). Shit. I turned it on, turned a corner, and looked at a big hill. Shit.

I turned my volume up, stared about five feet at the pavement in front of me, and kicked in. Time to get this definitely Type Two fun run done. My van passed me and yelled out to cheer me on, only it wasn’t my van — it was someone else’s van cheering everyone on. They hadn’t done it in the middle of the night to respect the residents of the streets we were running, but everyone had done that, I reflected, the day before up in Bellingham.

And then another van passed and did the same. And then my van. And then a runner passed me (some call this “kills” — and that’s fine, you’re welcome to run by me as long as you’re not a jerk about it) and told me I was doing good work on the hill. He was easily 10 years my junior and his muscles were so defined you could have written in the creases with a sharpie and he would have looked like one of those comic-book super heroes.

The hill was about 2.5 miles of hill, and the “flat” at the top was a series of mini rolling hills. About halfway into the flat I took some Gu and water and started to get into a rhythm. And I started to enjoy myself. I picked up the pace a little — up the hill my pace had suffered and I wanted to come in at 10:30 again — and kept at it. Type 1 Fun had just been achieved.

This run had some shade breaks here and there — 10 foot patches of tree shade separated by 100-or-more foot patches of sun. It was 85 degrees on Whidbey. I finished the “flat” of the top and started descending the hill, first in a very gradual slope and then (in the last mile) at a super steep one. I rounded a corner, and looked down about a quarter of a mile to see the checkpoint. It then hit me that I was almost done, and I sped up. Slapping the bracelet on to the next runner (Chris), I pulled off and realized my knee hurt, my ankle hurt, I had acquired a sunburn in spite of sunscreen, I smelled like a yak, and I was happy.

If you had asked me after this run if I would ever do this again, I would say maybe.

We raced up to the next exchange point, but as we did so we saw a runner fall — and it looked like heat stroke (2 other runners had already been ambulanced off). We pulled over to the side and got him water, Gatorade, salt pills, etc.  — not heat stroke but definitely he was pushing too hard. He said he felt better and insisted on finishing his mile, so we made it a point to look for him at the next checkpoint (we did see him). As Chris came in and handed off to Chuck, we realized that we were almost done. After Chuck it was May, and it was Sonya who ran leg 36. We met up with her in the last turn to run in with her.

Hot, tired, sore, and smelly, we acquired our finisher medals (that double as bottle openers, apparently), our stickers, our T-shirts, our group pictures, etc. We congratulated each other, shook hands and did that hugging thing you do, and then Sonya, Tristan and I piled into the Suburban and took off for the ferries. We had a Dairy Queen craving that we exercised in the wait line for the ferry, we regretted it nearly instantly, and got home.

When my husband asked me after this if I would ever do this again, I said definitely.

Ragnar isn’t, actually, about running. If you think about it, you spend maybe 4 hours of the 36 (or, in our case, 32) hours actually running. The rest of the time you are talking with your van mates — and we had a good group — cheering your team (and others’) on, marveling at the creativity of names and costumes, attempting to navigate to the next exchange (because you sometimes can’t drive the course), eating snacks (lots of snacks spread over that time == only one real meal (dinner) eaten), drinking water and Gatorade, and looking to see who’s slapped what magnets on your car (tagging of vehicles is popular in Ragnar and now that they use magnets instead of stickers, it’s easier to clean up after). Pretty much anyone who knows me knows that I have to keep busy and in fear of 20-odd hours of “nothing to do” I brought my knitting and a book. I didn’t touch either except to move them out of the way as I looked for my solar charger, or Gu, or reflective vest, or ponytail holders. Naturally, I have a much better idea of what I will pack for next year.

Squashing

Friday morning I found myself squatting in a field.

No, not doing that.

Chinook Farms in Snohomish, WA has, or rather had, a few acres of acorn squash it grows for charity. Girl Scouts planted it, the farmer tends to it, and United Way Volunteers pick it and crate it, and it is then shipped to food banks in the surrounding area. Microsoft’s CDnA group (Consumer Data and Analytics) had a cadre of volunteers to do so, of which I was one.  Acorn squash are delicious but their foliage is sharp and laden with micro thorns, I actually wore through spots of a new pair of leather work gloves and have an impressive rash on my forearm (where my “long” sleeve backed off).

The morning started with that crisp, autumnal chill we get in the Northwest that belies an Indian Summer; it was all turning leaves and wishing for pumpkin spice lattes as I drove the windy road into Snohomish. Arriving at the farm I saw some hundred-odd other blue-shirt volunteers, ready to go out and pick squash. Another hundred or so were the contingent from Nordstrom, in crisp white shirts. I signed the photo waiver and so somewhere, out there, there are photos of me with my group, wearing our blue t-shirts, dirty, smiling, posed in front of a pile of acorn squash.

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Pretty sure we didn’t do it right.

Our VP was in the fields with us, tossing squash to collectors; early on we had deviated from instructions and while we did have fairly neat rows of trampled-down, already-picked squash plants in our wake, our piles of squash (to be wheelbarrowed down to the shipping crates) left a lot to be desired in terms of neatness. The Nordstrom folks had symmetrically neat piles, as you would expect.

Several of the volunteers commented that this was hard work and they would thereby appreciate their brain-intensive but body-light regular jobs much moreso. I found this a little wry in terms of the layoffs that occurred the day before: some of us were already in fervent appreciation of still having a job. I mentioned that to my VP (read, 3 levels above) and he said, “That’s a horrible thing to say. Do you like your job?” I replied in affirmative, and I’m not sure that either of us got the point of where the other was coming from. When the sun poked out of the clouds and it got hot, some took to complaining a little more; they were shut down by the volunteer coordinator who pointed out we could have gone to clean the bathrooms in the downtown Seattle YMCA instead. Not a peep after that. I noticed one lady who never complained. She is 7 months pregnant, and was picking squash in the fields with us.

As the group drove away from the farm to the place down the road where free pizza and beer was promised, I drove home; I had a pile of email to wade through that I was (unashamedly) looking forward to. I had done my planned volunteering for the morning, but I still had that job that I love, and am still grateful for, waiting for me.

Give Me Money. Again. Please.

I’ll be running (walking, limping) in the American Lung Association’s 5k run this coming May 1st. This is one of those “get people to donate money” things, and last year I had the amazing incentive of annoyance plus the ability to have people sign my helmet for the Ride.

This year, options considered for fundraising included shaving my head. However, that was vetoed by Man and Boy, and so instead I found something far more temporary: a tattoo.

Specifically many tattoos (hopefully), of the 30-day Henna variety. The week before the race I’m engaging a henna artist to tattoo slogans, pictures, names, etc. — whatever is wanted, as long as it is PG — on my limbs and upper back for the race. At the $25 level, of course.

And you, too, can be a part of it. You can even *watch* as I plan to tweet the proceedings 🙂

But, you need to donate money. Here’s where you do that: http://action.lungusa.org/site/TR/RunWalk/ALAMP_Mountain_Pacific?px=4415558&pg=personal&fr_id=2590 

I may even come up with fancier incentives for fancier money 🙂

Event Driven

In keeping with my usual way of doing things (e.g., the dopamine rush that one gets from chocolate, online Scrabble, and checking things off of one’s list) I have signed on for a whole bunch of stuff this year. Some I will discuss, and some I will not. There will likely be an announcement of the Not Currently Discussed Items around June or July. But this isn’t about that. Think of it as one of those teaser trailers before the show.

The Events of 2011, at least sporting wise, are:

  • A 5-k run. Yep, I have to get back into running. I’ll be starting a team of at least 10 here at Expedia for the American Lung Association’s annual 5k, and so I shall go forth to the Running Shoe Store where they will provide me with shiny new shoes. Be prepared for posts about sore knees, the amazing physics of excess flab as you run, and whether or not this was really a good idea. Also, I have to raise money.
  • A 2-day double-century bike ride, known as the STP. The Seattle To Portland, more specifically, and training for that has already begun. The fact that as part of training we will be riding 80 miles one day and 80 miles the next which is what I did for The Whole Ride last year is a bit of an eye-catcher.
  • An October stair climb event for the ALA (place to be determined). Again with the raising money.
  • And then, depending on how things went with the 5 k– the Seattle Half Marathon in November. Again.

Folding into this training schedule is that thing I call my job, which I love but which has gone up to 11 as of last November and *stayed there*. When your boss looks at you earnestly and asks you when you’re going to take any time off, and at least three coworkers suggest you need a drink, you may need to take some time off. But when you’re committed to having everything come off PERFECT or at least NOT MESSED UP then you have a hard time putting down the iPhone and the Email. The Job is having me travel a bit this year, including to Geneva (let’s hope my luggage doesn’t get lost) and then there’s personal travel too (hello, Phoenix! Hello, Hawaii!).  Oh, and then there’s boy schedule and its companions of sports and karate and boy scouts and camp and PTSA in there too. Mustn’t forget that.

This year is the first year I’m operating completely without a paper calendar. Usually, I am the recipient of a calendar from a friend who likes dogs, from a family member who defaults to Calendars, and some sort of work gift thing. And this year, I got none of it. My wall at work is empty, my dedicated calendar space at home is devoid of said calendarage. I’m operating completely on my Google and Outlook (syncd!) calendars. It will be an experiment in e-venting, I’m sure.

What I’m discovering thus far is that I need to stick to plans if I’m going to make them. When you put in your calendar that you are going to go to spin class, it’s because you realized two weeks ago when you put that there that you had a 7am call the next day and so you wouldn’t make it to *that* spin class and if you were going to get your required weekly time in the saddle then yes you really did need to do spin class on Thursday. Or when I lay out the menu for the week then I really do need to stick with it because if I wing it and use the potatoes with the pork tenderloin instead of the pasta then that means the chicken has to now go with the rice and you have to put peas with potatoes which takes it away from the cacciatore that was supposed to go with the pasta. Oh, and you end up with really weird menu combinations, which sounds fine for Iron Chef but not for Random Sammamish Hurried Dinner Wednesday.

I have — and love — my iPhone. I may need to expand its applications to help me keep the dopamine rush at a steady state.  Meanwhile, you are to fully expect more e-Venting.

PS — Starbucks is releasing a 31 ounce coffee drink. ‘Nuff said.

Wheels

I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. Yet.

Learning to drive one is/was part of my “quest for awesomeness”, e.g., my ongoing list of things I should do before I become a useless, shriveled old maid. The fact that I hadn’t learned in my younger days — mind you, at sixteen I could change the oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and tires on a 1981 Volvo — is sad and crippling; my instructor (Mr. W, who is an Aussie and happily accepts payment in gastronomie and vin!) is patient and thorough. I have completed lesson two.

Lesson two involved repracticing start/stop, and that sorta-glidey-thingie you do with the clutch in and the brake off and you’re rounding a corner and going into a parking space. Or something. I also learned to shift up and down, which I need to practice.

Two hours later I was on the bike for the first time in five months. We did but 13 miles courtesy of a blown tire (mine) and only one spare (Duncan’s); it felt *good*. And tomorrow? Tomorrow we enroll for the STP, the Seattle To Portland, 200 miles in 2 days, with a stop (thank whatever God(s) you select) at my mother’s house at the halfway point.

And so January turns! (PS — this week? I lost two of those three awful pounds, and went to the gym 5/7 days). Go me!

Drive

There is a really, really good short video on “Drive”, aka, what drives people. What makes them want to succeed. And things not to try in that venue.  You can get it here.

I have spent  the last two days in Vegas surrounding various concepts of “drive”. How to drive money. How to drive production. How to drive traffic. How to drive employees.  How to drive change, innovation, and how to drive drive itself. You name it, we have contingency plans to push it. We are a V8^2 machine, on racing fuel, listening to Metallica.

This evening’s party was at Gillys at Treasure Island. For those of you not familiar with Gilly’s it features bikini-and-chaps clad drink waitresses and a mechanical bull. And really, that about sums it up, doesn’t it?

Except yours truly decided to find something to do. Now when you’re at Work-Fun events, usually there’s a center of interest — sometimes it’s the “boss”, sometimes its the event itself, but this event was about release. And there was a mechanical bull.

I decided to work on my powers of persuasion. You see, I’m a geek. I was trained to ferret out information, issues, data, contingencies, anomalies. I was not trained to convince, addle, wheedle, or persuade. This is something that has, until recently, been merely a hobby.

I am proud to report I got someone up on the mechanical bull. The fact that he nearly broke his nose is not a point of pride… he is clearly more man than I … and I did NOT succeed in convincing my boss, my boss’ boss, or my boss’ boss’ bosses into doing it. Still: I got one up there.

After nearly two weeks straight of daily work, at 10-16 hour days, to get Plan out (and other initiatives), I find myself exhausted in Las Vegas. I have an incredible room — next post is a hotel review about The Venetian and It’s Inherent Awesomeness in One Thousand Words or Less — and supportive folks and I have no right to whine. I even have Discovery Channel on the telle.

And with that I’m going to it. It’s almost midnight, I have meetings in 8 hours. Whee!

Score One for the New Girl

OMG OMG OMG O YOU GUYS!

I was totally right.

The Group Power instructor (Group Power being the hold these large barbells and do things like lunges and squats and lifts and all that in time with the Bee Gees and Twisted Sister, I so kid you not) WAS A CHEERLEADER! I totally called it. No one can have that much fun with a large group of people doing something that most would find only circumstantially appropriate.

Oh, fine, thus endeth the cheerleader hate. (I wasn’t one in high school, could you tell?)

Also, this was my second Group Power class. And I doubled my weight (no, not what I weigh, but what I lifted and hoisted and “singled” and “doubled” and all that). I am feeling very very good. I know I will be feeling very very sore tomorrow, but we aren’t there yet.

In other news, my latest big unwieldy project at work hopes to deliver on Wednesday, the boy is wrapping up soccer this week, and I am going to the ballet (alone! and I’m glad!) on Thursday.

I think I’ll get strangers to take a picture of me there with my iPhone.

Screams and Scares and Pizookie Pie

Oh my. There are two things battling for Most Scary Aspect of Last Night: Maris Farms’ Haunted Woods, and my caloric intake.

BJ’s in Tukwila is known for good beer and pizookie pie (a large, warm cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top); the have this unfortunate aspect of their menu, however. Like most 1Up to Applebee’s type places (Cheesecake Factory, anyone?) they  have a menu that rivals a phone book, so that you actually spend time reading it. They should get Patrick Stewart or James Earl Jones to read it, I’m sure they could lend the proper gravitas to something as ubiquitous as a Cobb Salad. I digress…

At the end of the BJ’s menu, in very very small print, is the nutritional information (including horrifically realistic calorie counts) for everything you can get there. Having something as seemingly innocent as chicken pasta got me nearly four-figures in the hole, and the couple of glasses of wine followed up with most of a Cookies and Cream Pizookie Pie pretty much finished me. I’m fairly certain I’ve had enough calories to power me for the week. Scary, scary stuff.

Then we went to Maris Farms. Maris Farms is located out on the Sumner-Buckley Highway, and you just know as you exit the 410 E you aren’t in Kansas anymore. We were passed by a large red pickup truck with ANTLERS on either side of its rear-cab windows. ‘Nuff said.

The Haunted Woods at Maris Farms is ostensibly 30 minutes (not including line wait, which we didn’t have much of thanks to fast passes) and it feels longer. If you’re a screamer (Hi!) you will be hoarse at the end of it. If you’ve been there before, note that they do change it up — I went last I think 3 or 4 years ago, and there was definitely some novelty. The souvenir mud lining the base of my jeans and my black docs was part and parcel of the fun. This year it included dead bodies, zombies, ICP kids, hillbillies with chainsaws, ghosts, vampires, people being sawn in half, people being medically experimented upon, a weird set of walkways that make you feel like you’re being squeezed out of them, trick floors, pitch-black mazes, and people just scaring the hell out of you.

It is important to note that there are porta potties just outside the entrance and exit, but nothing midway.

I think I’m good for another 3-4 years.

Trick or Treat!

Halloween has recently had to tie with Thanksgiving for my personal favorite holiday, but up until then was the absolute fave. ‘Tis awesome. You get to dress up as someone else, you get to eat candy, you get to give other children candy and hand them back to their parents. And you get to do things to your front yard that involve bones and dead plants and it looks good.

This year I optioned not to do my traditional Halloween party — the personal party will be at Maris Farms in their Haunted Woods, and that’s all good and I will blather about that maybe after I actually go. To get my costume fetish on, though, I participated in our floor’s Halloween Contests.

That’s right. FLOOR. As in some 70-odd people on one of the 15 floors of Expedia got together under a common goal: beat the pants off of the other 14 floors for prizes and notoriety. And that’s right: Contests! The two up for grabs were for best kids activity and best decorations. Originally intending to do haunted pirate-age, we switched gears to Haunted Alice in Wonderland.

I give you a chance, dear readers, to guess who put herself into knee socks, a blonde wig, and a black headband.

If you guessed yours truly, you are correct. Much to my everlasting chagrin, I put my most charming sweet innocent shy naive and unassuming self forward and got in Alice character for three hours yesterday. But this didn’t start yesterday.

Four weeks ago a small band of folks got together and charmed some cash from the higher-ups on the floor. (My higher up is the most awesome, by 250%). We committeed up and figured out games and theme and who could bring what. As the weeks crept by we had images in our head of the new Alice in Wonderland’s tea party (complete with Mad Hatter): a small pile of books in the corner of a long table, with mismatched linens and dishes, and of course, haunted items. (Did your Wonderland Tea Party include severed fingers, a skull, and some prepackaged brains? no?).  Large paper mushrooms (and 3-d ones, with the help of redecorated umbrellas), trees, flowers, bats, spiders, a small graveyard, a castle, and a red mountain circled the periphery. The movie and soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland played in the room, Jabberwocky was written on the whiteboard, and Cupcake Royale donated 200 miniature cupcakes as an exit gift. Everyone brought in mismatched chairs, we spread spanish moss over the floor (plastic first!), and developed puzzle pieces and games (bean bag toss, find the coin in the pool, and “fishing”) for small children to play in order to get to the Grand Prize — a conference room table piled with candy and the Mad Hatter.

We didn’t win.

I think.

Here’s my quandary: we didn’t win, we didn’t even place, and I honestly do not know how that is possible (we checked out other floors and agree there was only 1 that was better). Even the lady running the event isn’t sure how it’s possible. Every parent and child who walked through that room had their jaw drop, were amazed at the depth of detail, and thrilled that not only did the kids have interactive games but little prizes along the way. People, I had parents requesting me to be in pictures with their kids. I had kids and parents saying “This is just like Disneyland!”.  So yes, we didn’t win the contest.

But I haven’t seen the folks on my floor this excited about anything in a long, long time. We started decorating Thursday night at 2pm, folks got in early on a Friday to help decorate in the morning. We had volunteers for the games stations, people bringing in their GOOD dishes from home just to lend authenticity. The level of excitement and happiness and *care* on the floor was beyond anything I’ve experienced in my six plus years here.

I am personally proud of our floor.

And in my opinion, we *did* win. So there.