Wednesday, July 20, 2011

They Fought Like Warrior Poets

When the duldrums of late winter hit, a man is bound to make rash choices.  I think it was back in February that this particular rash choice was made.  Winter was straggling on, spring was nowhere to be seen.  Bird season was over, fishing season had not yet begun.  All this is to say, it is not really my fault.  I was vulnerable when the Facebook ad grabbed my attention.  It promised adventure, it promised challenge, it promised was targeting middle-aged me, and it found its mark.

"The Warrior Dash", the ad read, "a mud-crawling, fire-jumping, extreme run from hell."  A small ember of excitement sparked to life in my cold February heart.

"This fierce running series is held on the most challenging and rugged terrain across the globe."  It was coming to Washington in July, what luck!!

"Warriors conquer extreme obstacles, push their limits, and celebrate with kick-ass music, beer, and warrior helmets."  You had me at hello.

What every rash decision needs is an affirmation by another rash person.  I called up my twin brother, Alex, and pitched the idea.

"So," as I wrapped up my pitch, "I thought we'd run the thing in utilikilts and blue face paint, sort of Braveheart style."  In another family, these words would rarely, if ever, be uttered in a sentence, but Alex didn't blink.  "I'm in."

Thus began our Warrior Dash adventure which reached its epic conclusion on Saturday, July 16th.  The Warrior Dash is a strange combination of an obstacle course, a 5k run, and the Burning Man.  Almost 10,000 people swarmed the event site on Saturday, a strange menagerie of folks that had turned out to celebrate the Warrior spirit.  Costumes were many and varied, but even the freaks nodded and murmured with admiration when the blue-man group (a nickname I heard a couple of times) passed by.  My wife and the kids trailed behind us at a socially safe distance.

Flights of 500 were sent out onto the course every 30 minutes.  Alex and I found our way to the starting line and were corralled there like cattle with a strange cast of warriors that included Batman and Robin, a large man in a towel and shower cap, three men in business suits, Fred Flinstone, a few luchadores, and even a couple dressed as bride and groom.  We knew that the course had a good 1.25-1.5 mile stretch of running at the start to kind of stretch the line out, so we planned on keeping a brisk pace early so that we wouldn't get bogged down by the less ambitious warriors at the obstacles.  At the sound of the starting horn we darted out, ducking and weaving our way through the crowd, following the lively pace set by three young men in rather tight-fitting lederhosen (sans shirts).

Our plan worked admirably and we took the first obstacle in style, a series of high and low obstacles that we hurdled/rolled through without much problem.  We were off and running, proving our warrior valor. The track took us through grassy farmland and it had been trampled by the feet of warriors all morning, so had become rutted and muddy in places.  Such things are of no consequence to true warriors, of course, who consider a snapped ankle a minor inconvenience.  We pressed on, working our way through several more obstacles: a tall wall with ropes for climb assist; junked cars parked as barriers and surrounded by a field of tires; a precarious balance-beam zig-zagging over the ground; a large net platform to maneuver across; another large wall requiring a slide/jump down the back side; an army-crawl through a darkened structure in the mud; a battery of tires suspended by ropes.

Alex vaults fire.  That's a required warrior skill.
All of these were just a prelude to the main obstacles waiting at the finish line, of course.  It was there that warriors would be truly tested.  After emerging from a 300 yard stretch of muddy hell just before the finish line, we were funneled into the final stretch were the last three obstacles awaited.  First, a large a-frame of cargo netting, covered with a slow-moving mass of carnival freaks.  Second, three berms of fire that tired warriors had to vault over.  Third, and most diabolical:  a mud pit of truly epic proportion and devastating quality.

We crossed the finish line exhausted and 30lbs heavier consider the mud caked to our legs, arms, and kilts.

But we crossed like warrior poets.

We crossed like Scotsmen.

It was a great time, may have to do it again next year.  I'm sure I'll wait until late February to consider it fully.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July Fun

I was ordained into the ministry on July 8th, 2006 - since that time, the Fourth of July has always snuck up on me as a holiday.  When I started as an associate pastor I could pretty much count on preaching on major holiday weekends, what we affectionately called "Associate Pastor Sundays."  These include, but are not limited to, Labor Day weekend, the Sunday after Christmas, New Year's weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, etc.  Being a solo pastor the situation is much the same, except I can now count on preaching all of the other weekends, too.  That's called upward mobility.  

Anyway, the holiday portion of the weekend usually ends up being something of an afterthought.  As the kids get older, it seems a little lame to let a holiday like the Fourth pass quietly, so we got a little more on the ball this year.  
The girls, brimming with patriotic spirit, decided that the best way to start the day was to bake a cake and decorate it like the American flag.  Shannon has recently perfected a rather perfect yellow/vanilla cake recipe...and I mean, it's really, really she and Evie got started with baking before the day had really even got going.  In the meantime, I loaded Piper and Tavish in the car for a special trip into the Yakima Nation to look for fireworks!

Fireworks are one of those pleasures from an ill-spent youth that I can't resist.  Something about the smell of sulfur and gun powder activates pleasure centers deep in the limbic center of the brain.  I wasn't about to start them off with the bottle-rocket fights and roman-candle wars of my younger days, but they seemed ready for some entry-level firework fun.  They stepped up to the roadside stand with a healthy curiosity about the colorful packages behind the counter and we left with a couple of non-descript paper bags filled with dangerous and glorious potential.
Fireworks would have to wait until the sun sank a little lower on the horizon, something that would come very late in these Northwestern latitudes.  Shannon had gotten word that a local U-Pick place was opening for raspberries, so we loaded up the kids and headed out to hunt and gather.  The owner of the place recognized Tavish from last year, and offered to weigh him before he headed off to gorge himself on the waiting crop.  Then we could weigh him on the way out and just pay for the difference.  Tavish lived up to his reputation, and as the rest of us picked busily for the next hour, Tavish disappeared amongst the thornless canes, emerging with red-stained hands and face when it was time to go.

We vacuum-sealed the berries when we got home and put them into the new freezer.  It has been slowly filling up with our harvests from the summer, including salmon, peas, berries, and soon to add blueberries and some other garden gifts.  The afternoon was spent snacking on cake and watching the sun sink lower in the sky.  We had plans to watch the local fireworks display at 10pm, and we thought we'd have our own display before that.
At long last the hour arrived and we started making fire in the backyard!  We started with colorful smoke bombs, then moved on to a package of snakes, which Evie observed looked a little like poop.  Recovering from that, we lined up three tanks in an epic battle with a plastic bluebird, a GI Joe truck, and an ice-cream truck.  There was a lot of light and sound, few casualties.  Sparklers were fun, and provided for a couple of great pictures.  We ended the evening driving out to the east side of town and parking the car near the fairgrounds.  We heaved the kids up through the sun-roof on the minivan and they sat on blankets on the top of the car watching the display.  They were all asleep by the time we got home.  A pretty good holiday...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Like Peas in a Pod

Came home to find the family unit busy harvesting some of our first crop of Alderman peas.  The 'Wall of Peas' has come to full fruition, the 6' trellis is covered top-to-bottom with pea vines, which are now showing quite a few mature pea pods.  The kids had a great time picking these and then shelling them inside.  We had to stop Tavish from eating most of them, but eventually got them all blanched and into a vacuum-sealed bag and tucked away in the new chest freezer in the garage.  We should be able to harvest for the next several weeks, as we planted seeds three weeks apart this spring.