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Modesto Marathon

I had many good reasons to run the Modesto Marathon this year. My winter training went well, I had some good friends running in it, and the package that came with the race was great! Tech shirt, medal, arm sleeves, a bottle of wine, and some other niceties, plus with the start being a 40 minute drive from my house, it was very inexpensive. Most of all though, I wanted to finish my 10th career marathon. It just seemed like a nice even number to hit, and it had been a couple years since I had run one.

A week or so before the race, I knew the big day would have its own special challenge this year: the heat. I have never run in a marathon where the temperature would be over 80 degrees at the end, so I was a bit uncertain if I would beat my time from two years ago, a goal that I had in mind during training. I do most of my running early in the morning out of necessity, so I had an unknown to face.

The day started off well. I carpooled with my good friend Randy, who always keeps me relaxed. We got to the start nice and early, and had ample time to get a good parking spot, stretch out, and take in the energetic atmosphere. We met some other friends from Mountain House and took a few group pictures and chatted about the race. By the time of the start at 7am, I felt as good as I ever had before a run.

modestomarathonThe first 13 miles went according to plan. The temperature was nice at the start and still bearable at the half way point, and I was on pace to hit my time goal. The volunteers were great, very encouraging, and there was plenty of water and GU energy gel handed out along the way. A long part of the course is an out and back, so it was inspiring to see the mens and womens division winners fly by, as well as Randy, who was keeping his usual fast pace.

The turn to head back in comes a little after the 14 mile mark, and it was then that I decided to pick up my pace a little and see if I could run the negative split I was training for.

By mile 15 I was starting to feel warm, and I dumped a cup of water on my head. Didn’t help much.

Mile 16, yes, definitely getting hot. Better slow down, take what you can get Eugene. There is very little shade to be found.

Mile 17, how long till the next water stop? The neuroma in my left foot feels like a hot knife stabbing me up from out of the pavement. Time to just be happy with something sub-5 hours.

Mile 18-19. I don’t remember much from these two miles other than walking more and more, and a lady in a tutu passing me.

Mile 20. Time goal is shot to hell at this point. Just finish. Don’t look at the sun, it hates me. Medical volunteers start asking me if I am ok, I lie profusely. Left foot thankfully has gone numb now.

Mile 20.5 (approx). I have seen these folks in their front yard in previous years, the nice people with 8 ice cold kegs of beer, offering samples up free of charge. I do not hesitate to take 6 oz of lager. Coldest, most perfect lager I have ever had. I pass the tutu lady, small victories can be precious.

Mile 23, I make the turn into town. I am out of the orchards now and running along a busy road and railroad track. I’m alternating walking and a slow shuffle, the walking coming whenever I feel a dizzy spell coming. Why is the roof of my mouth tingling so much? Have I developed spidey-sense? I am the worst hot weather runner ever I think, till I see the ambulances going past me to some poor souls even further back. That is not going to happen to me though, I will walk the rest of the way if I have to, but I am going to get it done.

Mile 24, I run past the high school kids playing live drums to a recording of Gangnam Style. I get a momentary surge of energy. Momentary as in 15 seconds.

Mile 25 was back there somewhere. I think my tongue is sunburned. The road is all wavy looking.

Mile 26, I can see the turn for the homestretch. I AM GOING TO MAKE IT! I start to run faster, and when I make the turn there is nobody in front of me or close behind. I have a couple hundred people all cheering for me. The adrenaline rush overcomes all fatigue and I start sprinting for the finish, waving my arms like the crazed orangutan The Oatmeal has written about. It is a miracle I don’t cramp up and collapse in an embarrassing heap. I cross the line with my arms raised in victory, high fiving anyone within reach. I didn’t care about my slow clocking at all, to me it was a victory to have finished what I started.

The recovery area was top notch, plenty of food and drink to refuel with, an excellent band was playing, and the volunteers again were very thoughtful in helping out all the people that struggled in the heat. I can’t think of a race I have ever done where the level of community support for the event was so high.

Although it was my tenth time finishing a marathon, the feeling of accomplishment and invincibility that came at the end was just as powerful as all of the other finishes. A full marathon is obviously twice as far in distance as a half marathon, but it is more than twice as difficult, I guarantee that from extensive personal experience. It takes a great deal of effort, planning, and time to get in good enough shape to just finish, and the risk of injury or illness along the way is significant. Race day can bring any kind of weather condition, and in this years race I had to take what I could get, instead of what I wanted.

Even with that though, I am still, two days later, floating on a little cloud, and plotting out my next racing conquest in my head.

Tough Mudder Lake Tahoe 2013

My Team

Team Skid Marx was full of incredible people that I hope I get to spend more time with. I could fill a whole blog post just talking about how strong, determined, and fun these folks are. We stayed at a cabin before and after the race, and made a weekend of it – was way more fun than a one-day drive-and-race. David, Cerena, Vince, Carolina, John, Bernadette, Rick, Matt, and Paul (who wasn’t available for the team picture)


The Race

Cage Crawl The race at Tahoe started a few thousand feet over sea level at Northstar, and climbed a couple thousand feet more during the course. It was an uphill hike and a climb over a 6′ barrier just to get to the start line. It was steep uphill from there and would continue up for 5 miles. We scaled Glory Blades (obstacle #1/18) with little issue, and then hit Cage Crawl. The water was freezing and we were trapped upside-down in that submersed channel under cyclone fencing as we pulled ourselves through. I had thrown away 1 Walk the Plank shirt, realizing I was just carrying more water with more layers. Next, walk the plank wasn’t high – maybe 20′ ? but it was descent into dark icy water, where it’s hard to fight back to the surface first when the cold makes your body try to gasp for air. It was somber for us when our teammate dislocated his shoulder in the struggle.  He was a former TM finisher, but with a previously injured joint that re-separated in the strain of the obstacle. Medical returned him to the start and we regrouped and headed for obstacle #4, adjusting our memorized headcount we’d been using to ensure we are all together.   We sloshed through the Mud Mile without much comment, but I threw out my gloves to help my cold hands dry off, and then reached Funky Monkey. I used a “wedding march” swing on the bars, getting my hands together on one bar before swinging one hand to the next. It was conservative and slow but I made it and stayed dry. We had 3 teammates get close, but slip into the cold water, with dire consequences later.


We crawled through Boa Constrictor, though we had no ropes (some other competitors did) so wiggling up out of the tunnels was real rough. Boa constrictorThen Kiss of Mud tore us up – the barbed wire you crawl under is so low that we had to scrape and tear our skin on the rocks to stay under it, or get cut if we raised too high. I was getting cold with my still-wet cotton shorts, and threw them out. Modesty was out, I’d have to finish in my speedo. Berlin Wall was maybe 16′ feet high? Some young mudders were trying to time a run, then leap, then kick off of a board to grasp the top and clear it without teammates. It was hard because the walls leaned away from us on an incline, so when you leap, gravity pulled you away from the wall. Forward momentum before the double jump could make it work though. tm-berlin-wallA few of us cleared it, and started using teamwork and hoisted each other over the walls. That’s when we finally reached our first electrocution obstacle. Electric Eel makes you crawl through water and high voltage lines, getting zapped on the way. This was it for one team member – all the cold water, cold air, cold wind finally turned to hypothermia, and we called in the ski patrol to get her off the mountain to warmth, her husband sacrificing his finisher’s headband to take her back to the village. It was demoralizing to lose 2 more members. We scoured for metal manhole covers to sit on to pick up some heat before we continued. I threw out my nutrition belt, continuing to learn how much I valued lightness.


At Lumberjacked we saw lots of mudders getting leg cramps, and our own teammate cramped while flinging himself over the log. Something about this obstacle, at this time in the race, was cramping people up pretty bad. We did a simple mystery obstacle, then simple LogJammin, and then our ranks were struck again – shredded foot soles from thin and pebble-filled shoes caused us to lose 2 more members, who were otherwise strong and energetic enough to continue, but just couldn’t walk on torn up feet. WoodCarryThey ended up finishing later without us, but at that point we pressed on with only 3 mudders left. It was a LONG hike after that to the next obstacle, one of many long hikes that day, and one of our three started to check-out mentally. We were beat, cold, the sun was going down, our team was shattered, and it was hard to stay motivated. I kept calling out our obstacles finished/obstacles left (“14 of 18! woo”) and Carolina started a military marching song about our team to raise morale. Our next event, Hold your Wood, was one of my day’s higlights. We put a log on our shoulders and started climbing the hill, but made it a race, trying to pick off (pass) other teams one by one. on the way down we ran out of nearby teams to catch, I said “If we run we can get that couple” and my teammate said “I’m too tired to run, sorry”. …but when we caught them by speedwalking, they said “hey! they’re passing us” and sped up. we sped up, then they jogged, we jogged, then they ran – and then my too-tired-to-run partner found the will to start sprinting. We won our impromptu race, shook hands with the other mudders, and faced the challenge I was most afraid of next.


Arctic EnemaArctic Enema is a dumpster full of ice-dense icewater, with a barrier in the middle you have to swim under. I trained for cold-water triathlons in the past, and learned it was impossible for me to control my breathing when the water was cold – without a wetsuit, at least. After a long freezing day on Northstar, with the sun behind the horizon, I didn’t think I could bear going in, and certainly not *under*, that water. It was worse thinking that, even if I succeeded, I’d be frozen for the next 3 miles. A teammate helped – “if you take your dry shirts off and get it done, your skin will dry when we run and then you can put your dry shirts back on.” I dove in, ducked under, and came out pumping my fists. A teammate followed, and the dry clothes trick worked. There were 4 obstacles left, despite my miscounted assurances that we had only 3 to go. We wiggled through Kiss of Mud again, having already learned the drill on this duplicate obstacle. We descended some steep difficult terrain, slipping a bit and getting nervous we’d lose another member to an unfortunate stumble or twisted ankle. At Warrior Carry, two of us hoisted the third, since our numbers didn’t make sense for 1-to-1 partners. TM Matt FinishJust everest and Electroshock remained, but they were both a blur, because they surrounded the finish line, where the second highlight of my day awaited. All the able team members that we’d been seperated from who’d had another path down the mountain were on the green and cheering for us. The announcer even called out on the loudspeaker about how Team Skid Marx had started with many but was down to these few at the finish. I was so pumped when we charged through Electroshock Therapy, I barely noticed the high voltage and couldn’t lower my fists from the air. We got our TM headbands, our shirts, our beers, and were reunited and ready to get to serious business – what were we going to eat after all those hours of competition? This was one of the most unique and memorable races I’ve done – and the only one that included teamwork and obstacles.

Tips – apparel

Minimalist shoes are not great. I ran in 5-fingers and they didn’t keep the mud & pebbles out, and didn’t protect my soles from the rocks and roots. Next time I’ll try trail shoes, athletic socks, and maybe tape around the top to my ankle to keep mud out. Gloves are great if they don’t hold any water. I liked my climber’s tape better. Tape around every finger joint at least, maybe the palm too. Not too tight, though – you need circulation. Wear as few clothes as possible. A triathlon suit may be perfect – you don’t want lots of baggy wet clothes keeping you cold and weighing you down. …but keep in mind that exposed skin will scratch and tear in Kiss the Mud, so long runner’s tights might protect those legs better than shorts. Carry a water belt with nutrition and water if you need it – TM has some aid stations and bananas, but not much. I ditched my water belt halfway through because I didn’t like the weight or having it catch on things.

Tips – fitness

I’d suggest a finisher should be able to do all of these in a workout before the race:

pushups – 15 reps x 5 sets |  pullups – 5 reps x 5 sets | plank – 60 seconds | trail running – 10 miles in hills | Interval sprints – develop quickness for at least 20 yards | farmer walks – carry your own body weight ~30 yards | jump in a very cold lake/pool and swim out | get your BMI under 24 | Understand how TM electrocution works

Why you need the fitness tips above

I really felt the need for pushups & planks on Kiss the Mud, Electric Eel, Boa Constructor – it was hard to get up out of the Kiss the Mud because I hadn’t done strong enough pushup work. Pullups helped climb walls, swim out, swing from ledges/bars – Glory Blades, Cage Crawl, Walk the Plank, Funky Monkey, Berlin Walls, Just the Tip, Everest.

Trail Running just gets you through the course. Quickness gets you up Everest – the only obstacle that required leg speed. Farmer Walks are for hauling things – Hold your Wood, Warrior Carry.

Cold water prep was big for Cage Crawl, Walk the Plank, Mud Mile, Electric Eel, and *especially* the dreaded Arctic Enema.  being low BMI/low weight will help your partner on Warrior Carry, and help you on climb over and suspension obstacles.

You don’t have to prepare for the electricity – all you have to do is understand how it works. The electrical wires are not always hot – there is a rolling charge through all of them that lights for an instant. …so you don’t try to dodge wires exactly, you just keep them off your most sensitive spots, keep moving forward, and pray you have lucky timing.

Thanks for reading!  This is our team getting omelettes the morning after the race.

TM team breakfast

Jodi M.

JodiRunning has been an intricate part of maintaining my health and fitness.  I began my running journey as a means of getting some time to myself.  As I progressed, I decided to participate in running events.

I’ll never forget my first event. It was the Mercury News 10K held in San Jose on March 19, 1995. I was fully dressed in a thick grey & purple hooded sweatshirt with matching capris leggings and an afro-centric cap. Hair done…nails done…everything did…lol. Despite being heavily overdressed my time was 1:07:38. Not bad for my first race as a rookie.

Off and on I participated in various events including, but not limited to, the Big Sur 5K, Nutrition Fuels Fitness 5K, Elk Grove Fun Run 5K, Sacramento Zoo Zoom 5K, Fleet Feet Women’s 5K, Buffalo Migration 10M, and River City Run 10K. At some point in time, I set a “bucket list” goal to complete a half-marathon by the time I turned 50 years of age. I ran the Silver State Half Marathon, north of Lake Tahoe in August 2006. The altitude made it challenging to breathe. My time was 2:41:54 using a 3:1 run/walk method. Since this time, I’ve also participated in the River City Half-Marathon knocking 10 minutes off the time using the run/walk method.

As you probably detected, time isn’t a motivating factor for me. I run for fun!

Thanks to MH Runners, I’m getting back into the groove of running……………………….