Category Archives: Photos

Photos from Ohio

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably comfortable transition to my new home, for the most part.

But the parts outside of that most part are the funny ones. And fortunately, just for you, I’ve documented many of them. So view these and experience the life that is me:

Tree jailAs part of local initiatives aimed at being “tough on crime,” several miscreant trees have been imprisoned in the past year. This is a community that refuses to allow tree-on-tree crime to take root.

Horrifying bunny cakesThey literally made this cake out of a bunny, which they first compressed into a plastic bunny-shaped mask that stares into your soul, plaintively asking “Why would you do such a thing?”

Drinking vinegar

This is the most disgusting thing I’ve seen here, and I’ve seen a 2-pound, 8-ounce jar of “pickled rope bologna” that had a sticky film and had developed suction sticking it to the shelf. No, seriously.Pickled rope bologna

Pac-Man Skill CraneI could cope if this were just a Pac-Man–themed skill crane machine, even though there’s absolutely nothing in Pac-Man that connects to the skill crane mechanic, or even any attempt at incorporating Pac-Man branding apart from the name panel. But the fact that the prizes are all pastel-colored sheep is really messing with my head. Was “shepherd” Pac-Man’s original career before he quit the rat race to subsist on dots and hunt psychedelic ghosts? Is Pac-Man Scottish? Those are the only possibilities I see.

Corner Cone sign

Yellow Springs is sort of the local hippie enclave outside the big local military base. It’s the kind of place where businesses simultaneously sell ice cream and rent bikes. (The ice cream is good, at least.)

By all accounts, my new bank is really good. But grammar isn’t its jam. (Also, they believe my first name is “First Name,” which is how I’d like to be addressed from here on out.)

Henry David Thorough's shack, or a facsimile.This shack is noteworthy for one of three reasons. It might be Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or it might be a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or I might have my story completely and utterly wrong.

Karen Knotts show poster

This is the kind of place where you can be famous for being the daughter of Don Knotts. She’s like an extremely rural version of Dannii Minogue.

PizzadillaNo. Just… no.

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Planksgiving!

My gym is having a charming little contest around the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s called Planksgiving, and as you might suspect, it involves planks.

Wood plank graphic

Haha! See what I did there? This extraordinarily bad joke provided by Extraordinarily Bad Jokes, Inc. When you want your humor to fail, call Extraordinarily Bad Jokes, Inc.!

 

The point of said contest is to take a photograph of yourself doing a creative plank, or a creative photo of yourself doing a plank, or some combination of the two.

This is not my entry, because I don’t want to force the managers of my gym to have to decide between free speech and not spreading vulgarity in a business setting. But fortunately, I don’t need to worry about spreading vulgarity in a blog setting, so I’ll share it with you:

The human centiplank

The HUMAN CENTIPLANK! (First Sequence)

Enjoy that image. (And if you’re not horrified by the image, be bothered by the mediocre-to-poor Photoshopping, only it shouldn’t really be called Photoshopping since I used Gimp.)

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Photos: DRX-Games

I’m later with these than I’d intended (major freelance gig distraction) but as is my habit I’d like to share photos from the DRX-Games. They had some official photography going on, and one of the nice things about the relatively small event is that there are a lot of photos of everyone.

As has been documented, I prefer to share the bad ones. Plus, I have this condition called ugliness that causes the light that bounces off my body to twist into a grotesque form as it approaches an observer or a camera. So these shouldn’t be considered a reflection on the photographer; I’m just not a fair subject.

Let’s start with what I call the constipated hippo pose:

Me on the DRX-Games Cargo net

Nearly as elegant is the immediate precursor to this shot, where I’m roughly impersonating that “Hang in there” cat, although less convincingly.

DRX Dash cargo net

Seriously, that cat’s dead now.

The tire flip was one of my better events, but I have to take issue with my form. Shouldn’t I be squatting a lot more thoroughly? Although that’s not quite fair, because if I were squatting well I’d be all, “Here’s me in the ‘slightly dim ostrich who doesn’t realize his egg is actually a big rock pose’ so maybe I should be easier on myself.”

Me in the DRX-Games Tire Flip

I like this one because of what’s probably an optical illusion. How did the spear get all the way up there when my hand is all the way down there? Probably the shot is after my follow-through and the spear is from someone behind me, but I prefer to simply call myself a wizard.

Spear Throw at the DRX-Games

This was actually a race. Doesn’t it show? The intensity on my face, the determination in my gait? I mean, I’ve nearly caught up to that inanimate tire!

Tire drag at the DRX-Games

From the same event: How does this face happen? It’s like I’m trying to smile but I’ve never seen a smile, only a description of a smile from someone else who also has never seen one.

DRX-Games Tire Drag

This one’s an ego boost, since I’m quite literally the only person in the world. So the problems in the face are okay because there’s no one with a better face to compare them to.

Farmer Walk at DRX-Games

This one you can smell the grunting. This wasn’t even the heaviest of the Atlas Balls, so I’m pretty sure I’m grandstanding a bit.

Atlas Carry from the DRX-Games

There are a bunch more (as I said, their photography game was on point and there are way more albums than that on their FB page), but the ones where I don’t look mental… well, why bother?

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OCR (sort of) Report: DRX-Games: I Suck at Liveblogging

Well, so much for the attempt to liveblog. And it’s completely my bad; I had enough reception, but I didn’t have the mental fortitude to keep my phone with me during the events, let alone writing during them. Which is pathetic—one of the people I was with did a fantastic job of taking pictures. Oh well.

My gym group at the DRX-Games

She didn’t actually take this one, but it was her phone and she arranged for someone to take it.

A rough outline of the event:

The DRX-Games aren’t exactly an OCR. They’re more Crossfitty, in that it consists of a series of six events that are scored and combined. Although the challenges are fairly OCR-adjacent.

It was a small event, compared to a usual OCR. There were, maybe, 50 or so people competing. I’m pretty sure that’s by design—I think they capped the number of entries at 60 anyhow, probably to keep it manageable to operate with a pretty limited staff. It produced a pretty friendly, close-knit sort of event.

The group was big enough to split into two. My group started at the Hercules Tire Flip. As I expected, this was a pretty standard tire flip; down and back a path, as many times as possible in a minute. The tire wasn’t all that big—maybe semi-truck sized rather than tractor-sized. Definitely lighter than the ones my gym has, which were a bit lighter than the ones at last week’s Spartan Race. It wasn’t light, but for me the challenge was more in controlling the tire than in actually flipping the thing. Up to five people went at a time, but I was lucky that my heat only had three, because I’m pretty sure I went off-center at some point.

My next event was the Amazonian Tire Pull and Drag. I think these used the same type of tire as the flip, but friction can be a harsh mistress. The event involved sitting down and pulling a tire attached to a rope uphill over a lengthy course—maybe 50 feet, though I’m not good at estimating distances like that. Then, we got up, dragged the tire back to its starting point with the rope outstretched, ran back, and did the whole course again. This was probably my best event; as one onlooker observed, it was pretty similar to rowing, which is probably the (athletic) thing I’m best at.

Event 3 was a quickie: the Ares Spear Throw. Three shots, three points per stick, with a bonus point if we get all three. We had a bit of chance to practice before the event started, and I missed every single one, shattering the fragile confidence I had built at the Spartan last week. In the event, however, I hit one out of three.

Number 4 was the Dirty Bucket List. This was a race, but kind of a two-parter: we started with a farmer’s walk, hauling two buckets (with handles) around a loop. Then we dropped one of the buckets at the starting line, and did a second loop carrying it bucket-brigade style.

Event 5 was the Atlas Titan Stone Relay Carry. We had to do three laps down and back around a flag, carrying a different heavy stone each time. Men-folk had stones that were about 40, 70, and 120 pounds; ladies had a 40 and two 70s. The 120 was really heavy; rolling was permitted, but the event was scored such that the fastest rollers were put below the slowest carriers. I managed to carry it, although it took a couple tries to get it situated.

Me hauling a 120-pound Atlas Stone.

Yep, I brought the Fez of Inspiration.

The final event was the DRX Dash—which was an actual OCR. It was a sprint, though, only about 300 yards, with 20 or so obstacles. The obstacles included a bunch of things that we’d already done, including tire flips, spear throws, atlas stone carries, and a bucket carry, but also crawling through tunnels, a log carry through a pond, barbed wire crawls, a pair of inverted walls and a pair of diagonal ladder-kind-of-thing climbs, a really effing huge slip wall, and a cool (though not spectacularly difficult) climb up a bunch of logs sticking perpendicularly out of a hill.

Overall Thoughts about the Event

First off, I was there with a few other people from my gym—Chantelle, Hayden, and Jay. That’s the first true group experience I’ve had at an event like this, and I really enjoyed it—it’s awfully nice to have people photographing, and sharing bananas and giving tips and cheering and sharing sunscreen and so on and so forth. Big thanks to them for organizing and for being there.

Second, the overall vibe was really nice—chill and relaxed and friendly, but also just a group of people coming together to do something cool, more than a heavily sponsored, very for-profit, “hey-Olympics-look-this-way!” Not that there is anything wrong with that (really, I swear!) but I have a lot of respect for little guys who do things too.

Third, the event was held at the Dirt Runner facility, which also contains a 4-mile OCR course and a Ninja Warrior-style speed/balance/power hybrid course. I think we had the opportunity to try the other stuff, although I was pretty cashed out afterword and didn’t. (Although before I tried the Ninja pegboard and its Z-wall, which wasn’t really a Z because it had four legs rather than three.)

Fourth, the small-scale nature of the event did have a bit of a downside in the form of some logistical glitches. I think the group was quite a bit larger than at the first one, so crowd control wasn’t always dead-on. There were also some logistical issues within the events themselves. For example, in the tire flip they used people competing but not in that specific heat to count, and in the first heat one person got counted twice while another person didn’t have anyone counting. In my heat of the tire drag, I’m told the timing got messed up so I’m not sure if I got an official time or what. In the Atlas Stone Carry a couple of people complained when they were assessed penalties because they dropped the stones in an out-of-control way and they kept rolling. (In a way, a valid complaint, since it hadn’t been explicitly explained. In another way, you shouldn’t need to be explicitly told that rolling a 120-pound, or even 40-pound ball, through a crowd of people is a Bad Thing To Do.) The bucket carry probably would have been more fair as a series of straight lanes rather than a loop, since people on the outside of the loop had to carry their buckets farther than people on the inside.

I’m not terribly bothered by these issues. Obviously you want to avoid them, but most of us viewed it as a fun event—the grown-up equivalent of a field day—rather than a hard-core competition, which I think is the right approach.

Fifth, I’m not a swag hag, and I wouldn’t do any event for the medals, but this is cool.

DRX-Games MedalI heard that it’s hand-made, and I believe it (you can see a few scratches and cracks that a computer probably wouldn’t have left), which is awesome. Also, heavy. If you had to, you could use this as a mace.

Personal performance

My stated goal was to finish not-last in something, and I’m pretty confident I did that. I don’t know details (they’ll post results on their website, but they’re not up yet) but I know I was second out of five in my heat of the tire drag, second out of four in my bucket carry heat, and second out of three in my Atlas stone heat. I’m really happy with how I did in the first five events.

And then the sixth was absolute crap.

My climbing is getting worse, and now there’s a mental component to the problem. Fear of falling, combined with the very real slickness from muddy hands and arms and equipment, and my own physical shortcomings have created a serious block, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I’d like to figure out a place that’s feasible to get to where I can actually work on it—for me, familiarity breeds success—but I’m not sure where in Chicago that’s possible.

If you’ve got any ideas, let me know.

 

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2016 Chicago Spartan Photos: Why Aren’t These Worse?

I got my pictures from the race this weekend today, and was pleasantly surprised. Not by the photos themselves, but by how easy it was. The past several Spartans the “search by bib number” has not worked at all for me, so I’ve had to estimate the time that I hit each obstacle and do a brute-force manual search. This time, however, flawless. Perhaps it’s just because I had one of the easiest possible bib numbers (2900). Or, more likely, it’s because a few minutes into the race, while we were stuck in a muck bottleneck, a couple of women let me know that I had my headband on upside down. (I put it on real quickly and didn’t notice.) I have no idea who they were, but thanks to them!

Anyhow, the photos are disappointing just in that they’re not the spectacularly bad offerings of the past, but they don’t make me look good, like someone I’m not. It’s the uncanny valley of photogenic mediocrity. Welcome to where I live!

Still, I’ll share a few:

Me doing the bucket brigade at the 2016 Chicago Super

It’s time for America’s favorite game: Which of the moles on my face is real, and which are made of mud? The winner gets a more intimate knowledge of the moles on my face.

Me at the 2016 Chicago Super

I actually saw the photographer here, and made an effort to smile. Or portray a serial killer. For me, the dividing line is awfully thin.

Me at the dunk wall at the 2016 Chicago Spartan Super.

I actually really like what the mud did to my hair here. Were it practical, it might be my new look. I am not sure what’s coming out of my mouth, but were it practical that might be my new look as well.

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OCR Report: 2016 Battlegrounds St. Louis

This was a lot of fun.

But let’s start negative. The timing of this race was absolute shit. That’s not the race’s fault, but this is a personal blog, so I’m claiming the right to whine about it. The timing was bad because there turned out to be an event I had to do in the couple days after the race that required a lot of preparation, and a lot of stress, and a lot of travel in a direction that works against sleep patterns rather than in favor of them, but as I can’t blame the organization that put on that event, I’ll complain here.

Whew.

Also, reaction to the fez was a bit surprising. A fair number of people commented on it, generally positively, so that’s always nice. Many thought it was a Doctor Who reference, since fezzes are cool. I have to say, while I was aware of that reference, it wasn’t the reason the fez happened. (I’m generally happy that Doctor Who exists, and on paper I should be a raging fan, but I never got past casual fandom. I’ve seen all of the Eccleston and Tennant years on Netflix, but not much more, even though the man who performed my brother’s wedding did so in an outfit intentionally reminiscent of Tennant’s doctor. I’m also not cool enough to do something simply because it’s cool. Doing so would immediately render such thing uncool. I’m the entire reason why swing dancing went out of fashion on that particular Tuesday in 1996.)

A surprising number of people thought I was a Shriner, which is a reference I was aware of but only in the back of my mind; it absolutely never occurred to me that by wearing the fez I might be presenting myself in that way, or that anyone sees a fez these days and thinks “Shriner,” or that anyone thinks “Shriner” at all.

As far as I know, nobody was inspired. Perhaps for the next race I’ll write something on it to clarify, like “THIS IS TO INSPIRE YOU SO BE INSPIRED DAMMIT!”

The fez worked pretty well as a hat. I’d sewn an elastic chinstrap to it on the train ride down (a surprisingly tedious task that I won’t detail, since it’s tedious) that worked OK—I should have made it a bit tighter because the hat had a tendency to sort of suction around my head rather than staying loose. I also held onto the fez at a couple spots, including a long slide where volunteers were warning that anything that’s not glued down was likely to get lost. So I grabbed it, and it didn’t get lost, and all was well.

So, the event itself. This was the first race I’ve done at a permanent course, which was neat. I don’t know how many of the obstacles were permanent or had to be—there seemed to be a lot of wall-style obstacles that non-permanent courses have without much trouble—although some, like the aforementioned slide probably were. Also probably permanent was what I’d consider the course’s centerpiece: The Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet at the BattlegroundsThe Gauntlet was actually five different lines of obstacles over a water pit, although you only got to do one. They were all different; some elements were no harder than a reasonably wide log to walk across, while others required a lot of upper-body strength like hanging from a steel I-beam and crossing it from below.

This was one of the few places where I saw a line, and it was only for the easiest route. I decided to bypass it and go for one of the harder ones, which started with a swing from rope to rope, which I couldn’t do and fell in. I wish I’d had a bit more presence of mind to go back and try one of the other routes, because (in retrospect) there were a few others that I think I could have done that didn’t have the backup. But it was at the end of the race, and I wasn’t thinking so clearly.

Perhaps because I ran fairly late in the day, but there wasn’t much else in the way of backups, apart from a bit of a crowd in the initial running out of the start line. (Having heats half an hour apart seems like it might be too much; heats every 15 minutes that are half the size might fix that.)

I did the 5 mile option, rather than the 5K. The two routes share the course, but there were a couple places where the 5-milers veered off to a side route with extra running and obstacles. It was controlled by honor system (although there were timing chip readers at each of the turn-offs and turn-ons to monitor for the competitive rounds) which made me wonder if people signed up for the (I think less expensive) 5K and did the longer version anyhow. Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of control of who could get into heats, so probably any banditing was minor compared to the cost and effort it would take to fight said banditing.

One of my favorite bits wasn’t an obstacle at all. The Battlegrounds shares its space with an adjacent winery. (I don’t know much about wine, but I’m sure St. Louis wine has an excellent reputation.) Some of the running was through rows of the vineyard. So I can now say that I’ve run through a vineyard. It was a neater sensation than I’m making it out to be.

There were a lot of obstacles—38 in total for the 5 mile version. While some were pretty minor (“Knee High Hell,” as far as I could tell, was where you ran through a small stream for a little while), I didn’t feel like there was any shortage. There were certainly runs, but I thought there was a nice mix—no segment of running was obnoxiously long. (At least not looking back on it. It was obnoxious at the time, but all running is.)

A really nice element was how visible a lot of the course was. About half of the obstacles could be seen from the festival area, and several more could be seen on the way in. The course made about three passes near the festival, plus the start and finish, so the obstacles never came in bunches of more than three or four.

Some obstacles that I haven’t seen before include:

  • The aforementioned slide and gauntlet.
  • A pontoon bridge—not extraordinarily difficult, although the individual segments did move a lot and it was awkward jumping from segment to segment.
  • A teeter-totter obstacle.
  • A horizontal cargo net climb, as well as a monkey-bar approximation with cargo nets instead of bars. The latter was really tough, since it moved and since it was not particularly high (I could reach without jumping.) I attempted to do it sloth-walk style, which proved ludicrous.
  • One of those things where you walk across one rope while holding onto another at chest height. I assume a fair number of OCRs have them, but I haven’t seen one before. I wish my upper rope had more tension—I stayed on without too much trouble, but I got horizontal enough that my back touched the water at one point.
  • The “carry-heavy-shit” obstacle included walls to either climb over or under, although this part wasn’t so successful. It wasn’t really possible to crawl under the walls with the bag on our backs—in my case, the opening was simply smaller than me plus a bag—so for most of these runners just tossed the bag over the wall before doing it themselves.

Anyhow, due to the eventfulness of the past week, I’m posting this late and official race photos have already been released. Here are some of mine. (As usual, they’re not good. I don’t photograph well.)

race_3041_photo_35763805

Here’s one where I at least look vaguely human. (Although you can see the gap between the elastic and my face; I need to see to that.) As opposed to…

race_3041_photo_35763801

This is especially tragic, because I posed for this one, thinking that this would be a good look for me. Moreover, I posed for this one twice, because the photographer didn’t catch me the first time. Sheesh.

race_3041_photo_35773377

Hey. This timing chip? Do I put it in the bin with all of the other timing chips, or is there something special that I should do with mine since it’s mine? Also, how did my shorts get so asymetric?

 

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Why, No, I Don’t Photograph Well

As we all know, the real OCR starts when the photos have been published and you have to start hunting through the bajilliobytes of data to find ones of you. Citi Field’s have been posted, and there are a lot of me. Not, strictly speaking, good ones, but that’s more on me and my ugly, non-posing face than anyone else.

This year it was easier to find mine than usual. The bib number search worked—not perfectly, but enough to provide some useful information. But also, I wisely decided to not wear black, and instead chose my bright red Excalibourbon shirt and my Extremely Blue Shorts. Anyhow, they should be good for a laugh. In order of amusement-inducingness, from low to high, are:

cargo1

Meh. Me on the cargo net. Next to my brother, who I didn’t realize was next to me. It’s pretty much all business, with an appropriate amount of effort being shown and a mild quantity of action. Easy to share with your aunt; way less memorable than my sarcastic 1980s aerobics instructor look from last year.

gsandbag2

Fun fact: This is one of the few times I’ve actually seen a photographer on the course. They’ve obviously been out there; I just don’t notice things like that. Anyhow, for some reason I decided to switch the sandbag to the other shoulder, and I noticed the photographer while I was doing it, and I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s going to make for a terrible picture,” and I was right.

gsteps1

This one’s really not interesting for me (although the facial expression does make me look like a complete wanker). But if you can look at the guy next to me without singing “A-aaa-aaaaaah!” and preparing to fight the Night Man, well, I don’t want to know you.

gauntletblurred

The motherload. And yes, I blurred the woman in front of me’s face to protect her privacy. It looks exactly like we just finished up having mommy-daddy times inside the Gladiator Gauntlet. Which probably has happened at some point, so think about that next time you’re running a stadium race.

This one does raise an interesting ethical question: It’s really not hard for me to find the other person in this image. I almost feel like I should make contact with her to say, hey, I’m really sorry—I’m the really creepy-looking guy behind you and I promise to never contact you again and please don’t let this make you lose faith in all humanity. Is that a reasonable thing to do or should I just let her recover as she will?

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