Race 13 took me to Toronto for the Spartan Beast. For those of you who don't know what the Spartan Beast is, it's a 13.1+ mile, 25+ obstacle race. I've always enjoyed every Spartan Race I've done because I've found they're obstacles tend to be much more physically demanding and they require you to successfully complete every obstacle. If you fail to successfully complete an obstacle you find yourself doing 30 burpees...and if you don't know what burpees are, or have never done them, the last thing you want to do in a race is burpees. Unless you skip the burpees, or do less than the 30 you're required to do, but that's a whole different issue - and at that point, why even sign up for a race with penalties if you're going to refuse to do them? But I digress.

What I also enjoy about Spartan Races, especially as you get to the longer distance versions, is the truly psychological and mental element that becomes a big portion of your individual race. This happens in a couple of different ways. Spartan Race is unique in that they don't publish a course map prior to the race. This means you don't know exactly how far the race will take you, exactly what kind of terrain you'll encounter (though you can bet there will be hills and lots of them), and you have no idea what exact obstacles will be included, exactly how many, or where they'll be located. This race in particular also played with your mind because there were zero mile (or kilometer) markers and none of the volunteers would give you an accurate estimate of how much you had completed or what you had left. This obviously frustrated quite a few of the runners who were encountering the Spartan Race for the first time. And for those who chose the Beast as their first event, it probably was not the best decision. I actually never even bothered to ask any volunteers the distance, assuming they would either not know or intentionally give an incorrect answer, and in the end the race was over when I crossed the finish line and it didn't matter how far I had left to go. 

At each of the 5 water stations, they also presented us with a "simple" math equation, the answer to which we needed to remember in order to solve the subsequent equations and give a final answer to a volunteer near the end of the race and if you gave the wrong answer - 30 burpees. I use quotations around the word "simple" because they really were extremely easy, but you could tell that the length and physicality of the race started to take its toll on some of the racers as they struggled to solve the equation before leaving a couple of the later water stations. In fact, while at the final water station, I actually watched as one racer started writing in the sand trying to figure out what 2013-1800 equaled and listened as he argued with his friend over the answer (neither of them had it correct). Even when I tried to help them with the answer, they still didn't believe me, so I decided to move on. 

I felt pretty good about the mental portion of my run, not to mention the physical portion, as I only had failed one obstacle the entire race and only had to do 30 burpees. The spear throw at the Spartan Race continues to be my nemesis, as I can hit the target, but never get the spear to stick. Don't be surprised if you're in Mt. Pleasant and you see me build a replica of the spear throw lol. I say I felt pretty good about the mental portion of my run, but not great, because I failed to anticipate, like most every runner around me at the time, that when you thought you were coming to the end of the race, you really weren't. Just as we turned the corner after giving our final numerical answer the final gauntlet of obstacles appeared right before the finish line and you could see and hear the crowd cheering you on. Foolishly, I started to increase my pace for the final push, only to reach the crowd and find a volunteer turning us away from the final obstacles and up yet another hill. As I made the turn, somewhat dejected that I had not yet reached the end, I could see that I was not the only runner who was fooled as I watched those who had hit the hill ahead of me climbing slowly with heads down. I kicked myself for not anticipating this twist when I had been fooled in much the same way at the Spartan Beast in Texas in December. I got over it quickly though, made it through the final stretch and finally reached the actual end.

Just like the Toronto Sprint a few weeks earlier, included in the final set of obstacles was the "Premium Rig", except the rig was slightly different. The Premium Rig reminds me a lot of what you would see on American Ninja Warrior and you see people failing to complete it about as readily as well. This time the premium rig included a short traverse across a set of hanging rings which then transitioned into a singular square bar that you traveled hand-over-hand. Immediately following the square bar was another single ring, which transitioned basically into a pipe that required you to almost do a chin-up in order to reach the raised set of rings just on the other side. Fall or touch the sides of the rig and you were down doing 30 burpees, or as several people did, if you didn't even make an attempt, 30 burpees. (I actually saw several times where people wouldn't even attempt an obstacle throughout the course and chose to do the burpees instead, which I never truly understand). Thankfully, I passed through the Premium Rig without issue, made my climb up the slippery wall, took my hits from the gladiators, and crossed the finish line to complete my 13th race in 30 days.

I could talk so much more about each obstacle, but once I get the video edited, I'll let you see for yourself. A big thank you to Spartan Race for also featuring Run to Remember on their blog on Sunday, which if you haven't read it you can do so here: http://blog.spartanrace.com/a-run-to-remember-brad-kloha/. Up next for race #14 is the Super Spartan in Illinois, which I ran last year and look forward to the challenge the course presents. Thanks to everyone for their continued support and for following along on this journey!

I happened to be in Chicago this past week for a conference and in my search for races happened to find that Lincoln Park was holding their annual 8K/5K Bastille Day run on Thursday evening after my conference sessions were over. It presented a unique opportunity to get in a mid-week race, which definitely helps in the quest for 100. I've resigned myself more to the fact that road races would have to be a bigger portion of the goal than I first had hoped, simply based on availability.

I had no idea what to expect, especially from a race scheduled for a Thursday evening. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a city like Chicago was still able to hold a race with over 2,000 participants, even on a night when the Taste of Chicago was taking place, and both the Cubs and White Sox had home games...not to mention everything else that goes on in the city.

I'll also say that I've always been a big fan of the city of Chicago and each time I'm there I'm reminded how impressive it is. This run in particular reminded me of the year I spent living in Evanston and would go for runs along Lake Michigan. For me there have been few places I've run (thus far) that can rival the views you get from a run like this. First, you have the beauty of the lake and it's shoreline. Second, while running south you get to see the picturesque skyline of the city of Chicago. Finally, for this run in particular, the rest of the route wound you through Lincoln Park itself where you enjoyed the park system, neighborhood, and marina; Not bad for a 5-mile run. Joining me for the race were my friends Dan, Erin, and Jon, and we all agreed that we were pleasantly surprised by the event, and each had our own individual stories to tell based on where our paces put us in the pack.

So race 11 is now in the books with 89 to go.
Though I've already posted about races 8 and 9, I never got around to posting about my Tough Mudder weekend, which were races 6 and 7. This was the beginning of my Tough Mudder weekend to complete both races 6 and 7 by running the course both Saturday and Sunday. This first post focuses on the Saturday event, which I was fortunate enough to be joined by a team of friends who all ran the event together.

For those of you who don't know what the Tough Mudder is, I'd recommend visiting their website and watching some of the videos. Tough Mudder is easily one of the giants in the mud and obstacle racing industry, and also one of the more difficult. Courses range from 10-12 miles, depending on the event, with the Michigan event being 12 miles. This was my 3rd Tough Mudder after running 2 last year, but the first time I ran in temperatures above 40 degrees which made the experience much more enjoyable lol.

Tough Mudder is also a little different in the fact that it is not a timed event. In fact, Tough Mudder stresses that working with your fellow mudders and helping them to complete the course is more important than how fast you complete. For the most part, everyone adheres to this principle, which creates for an overall positive atmosphere out on the course, is extremely conducive to a team event no matter the differences in physical ability among team members, and participants regularly encouraging and helping perfect strangers to get over an obstacle.

Now on to my specific race experience -
I ran the Saturday event with some fraternity brothers, friends, and some of their friends and family (now my friends too). A big "HAZAA" to Steve-O, Jacki, Alfred, Joe, Joe's dad - Joe, and Matt. And a thank you to them for wearing "Run to Remember" shirts during the race as well to help continue spread the word.

The waves were running slightly behind, well and when I say slightly, I mean about an hour in some cases. However, we made the most of our wait before the start telling stories and bonding with other people in line. When we finally jumped the wall to get to the start corral, they actually just gave us some quick instructions and let us take-off to try to catch up on some time. In that regard, I feel slightly bad for my friends who for them this was their first Tough Mudder because the TM emcee Sean is like no other race emcee out there. You can read about him more in my post aboutSunday.

Through most of the race we ran into quite a few back-ups at obstacles, which again, since it was about 75 degrees out and I had a great team with me, wasn't so bad. We worked well together, went at a comfortable pace for everyone, and encouraged everyone to conquer each obstacle. After completing each obstacle we all came together to do a team cheer of "HAZAA" and moved on. About 6 miles in it started to downpour, with the occasional sideways rain, which made the course and the run in between obstacles even more fun.

There are a few obstacles that draw the most excitement, sometimes ire for the participants, but overall enjoyment for both spectators and runners. I'll highlight a few here:
        - Arctic Enema - If you've ever taken an ice bath, imagine that. Now take that feeling and think about jumping into a dumpster full of ice and water, having to completely submerge yourself to go under a board half way through, and then claw your way to the other side as your muscles revolt the entire way. For many people, this is the worst obstacle.
        - Walk-the-Plank - This is really only an obstacle if you have a fear of heights. Personally, I don't, so I love this obstacle. Climb up to the top of a 20-30 foot platform and then jump into the pit of water below. Who doesn't love that?!
        - Funky Monkey - Imagine the monkey bars at your elementary school. Now make the first portion an incline and then after reaching the peak, you go back down. It can sound simple enough, but the incline can prove quite the challenge, especially when you add the fact that your hands are already slick with water and mud and so are the bars from participants before. I'm proud to say I made it through no problem both days and was able to avoid dropping into the pool of cold water below.
        - Electric Eel - Army crawl through a pit of water, but hanging above you are live electrical wires carrying 10,000 volts. This is definitely a favorite for spectators, but for many mudders torture - as is evidence by the plethora of expletives and screams throughout the obstacle as people take shocks in the back of their heads and every other portion of their body. Thankfully, in my 4 Tough Mudders I've now completed, I've never been shocked in this obstacle as I've been able to keep my body low enough to avoid the wires.
        - Everest - You've probably seen a half-pipe used by skate boarders, but at the Tough Mudder you run up it. Again, this is a favorite for spectators, probably more when they get to watch people slide back down who don't make the top. This is one of the obstacles where you see some of the most camaraderie among mudders as many who have made it to the top stay there to help grab others running up the half-pipe and pull them over the precipice.
        - Electroshock Therapy - Another crowd favorite because participants run through another tunnel of live 10,000 volt wires. This is the final obstacle standing between you and the finish line. This one is much harder to avoid any shocks with many more expletives being used, shouts, and the occasional mudder who immediately drops face first into the mud after being shocked. Quite the site to behold.

There are about 15 more obstacles, but you can watch my video I'll post soon once it's edited so you can see what else we went through. There's certainly a reason why Tough Mudder is so popular and people flock to participate, even with the threat of electrocution lol. The best part about it, especially in my mind, is the atmosphere. Tough Mudder has made it clear who they are and what they want their races to be like and they execute it almost flawlessly. Even though I've done it several times, my favorite part is bringing along new people who have never done it before and being a part of their first experience and seeing their pride after they complete it.

Up next, my blog post about running it a second time on Sunday, this time without a team.

Race 9 took me to Gaylord, MI for the Over the Top Xtreme 5K at Treetops Ski Resort. This was the 2nd year for the race, and with some improvements, I think they're on their way to holding a pretty great entry level obstacle race in an area that typically wouldn't see an obstacle race. With none of the obstacles being overly intense, it's an extremely accessible race for those who may not have run an obstacle race before, but may be interested in trying one.

Before getting to some minor details about the race itself, what made this race even better was some of the people who were there (as is often the case). My mom once again joined me and I love having her support at as many races as she's already made it to (thanks, mom!). Also in town were my great aunt and great uncle from Oklahoma. They've followed all my racing since I really got into it last year, so I was excited to have them there in person to see what they've only watched in videos. In August I'll be down in Tulsa for "Conquer the Gauntlet" and they'll get to see another race, as well as some of my young 2nd cousins who will get to see it live for the first time.

One of my fraternity brothers, Jason McArt, also joined me for the race. This was actually his first obstacle race and now I've totally got him hooked. I love introducing people to obstacle races because they always come away loving them and wanting to do more. It's a great way to keep the sport growing, have fun with friends and family, and to keep people active. Finally, two of my friends from high school, Jeff and Ally Roscoe, were in Michigan visiting their families, and since it was close by Jeff had signed up to run as well. Jeff is in the Navy and has been doing some obstacle races near where they live and he actually ended up winning the overall men's title. While he and I were talking, we discovered we both signed up for the 2014 Death Race too. If the rumors are true about needing to partner up for the race, pretty sure we're set to go. While neither of us have Death Race experience, I like my chances with a Navy search and rescuer.

Back to some race details - The race is still relatively small and with waves taking off every 15 minutes, they were able to keep the heats to an extremely manageable size. I ran in the first wave of the day, so I didn't encounter any back-ups at obstacles, but I didn't hear that many folks in later heats encountered issues. Overall, I enjoyed the race, though I could have done without the 5-10 minute break in the race while you rode the ski lift at about the 2.5 mile mark to get to the next part of the course. They're already talking about improvements they know they want to make for next year, so I'm excited to see how they will continue to grow the race. Being relatively close to home, I'll probably be back again next year and maybe improve on my own 3rd place finish. Time to rest and get ready for Race 10 tomorrow!

So I realize I've skipped from Race 5 to Race 8 for blog posts, but I'll get back to posting about running the Tough Mudder for races 6 & 7 later, as it will be much more in-depth, because there is much more to write about. So on to Race 8 - the Volkslaufe in Frankenmuth, MI on the 4th of July.

This race was actually relatively uncharted territory for me as far as races go. The Volkslaufe was a traditional road race, with options of 5K, 10K, or 20K distances. I chose the 10K and was happy I did, simply because I still wasn't back to 100% after getting sick from the Tough Mudder just 3 days prior. I mention it as uncharted territory because this was actually only the 3rd traditional road race I've competed in...ever. 

Now, none of this is meant to be a knock at folks who really enjoy road races, but they're just not for me. I definitely felt out of my element and was begging for an obstacle to break up the monotony every step of the 6.2 miles. I'm pretty convinced I was also the only person on the course who didn't have a watch on their wrist and constantly checking it to see my pace. 

I give the Frankenmuth Jaycees and the community credit because they really do put on a great event, and it certainly involves the whole community. As you wind through the neighborhoods homeowners are out in their yards cheering on the runners, many have friends and family over to join in as well, and others have music playing. Some folks even had hoses or sprinklers that they aimed out towards the road for any racer who wanted to run through them. I'm sure anyone behind me thought I was slightly crazy - whereas everyone else stayed a straight course, I could be found changing the path of my run to hit every sprinkler or hose available, simply to add something a little different than just running. The only very odd moment that I questioned about the race was right before it even started. Nothing against our Canadian neighbors, but just prior to the race beginning the band played "Oh Canada" and then the "Star-Spangled Banner". Normally, this wouldn't seem so odd to me since we are so close to Canada, but the fact that the race is held on the 4th of July the Canadian national anthem seemed slightly out of place.

So that's about it for the Volkslaufe. For a road race, I had no complaints, just not my preference. I'll get my blog post about the back-to-back Tough Mudder weekend up soon. 

The 2012 Spartan Sprint in Toronto was my first ever Spartan Race, so I was excited to get back there. Not sure that my body was as excited, knowing what was ahead after I had just put it it through a couple of races the day before.

While this year's race was at the same location, the organizers made some noticeable, and beneficial changes. Yet another course with a ton of hills proved that elevation changes continue to be my nemesis. However, while most racers tend to move slower through the obstacles and make up time during the run, I've found the obstacles are my strong suit and where I pick up time.

Not sure exactly why, but the Spartan Races in Canada do not seem to be as difficult when it comes to obstacles as those held in the USA. The distances required to pull the concrete blocks and carry the sandbag, are all shorter, and held on relatively flat ground. Even the "Hercules Hoist" - an obstacle where you hoist a boulder by a pulley system about 20-30 feet in the air - seems to use a lighter boulder (unless I've just gotten stronger).

New this year, and utterly draining, which proved to be the downfall for most racers and where you could see a plethora of burpees taking place (which for those of you who don't know, Spartan Race imposes a penalty of 30 burpees should you fail an obstacle before you can move on) was called the "Premium Rig". This obstacle was 3 parts and was stationed right near the finish line. The first part required a monkey bar cross - simple enough, except for the fact that it included not just circular rungs, but square as well which forced you to change your grip, and an incline and decline. Once you finished that, it was on to the rope climb. Climb the rope to the top and come back down - again, relatively simple, except this rope had no knots in it making it a little more challenging. Finally, the third part was a ring crossing (think "Hang Tough" from American Gladiators - such a great show). Fail any portion and you did burpees before you could move on to the next one. Fail all 3 and that meant you did 90 burpees on just one obstacle.

Thankfully, and slightly to my surprise after seeing the 2nd place elite racer even fail during the final obstacle, I made it through without issue. Actually, now that I think about it, I actually made it through the entire course without failing an obstacle. Pretty certain my body was happy about not having to do any burpees.

So here we are, 5 races down, 95 to go. My body is slightly worse for wear (hopefully the saying is true that women like scars, because I'm going to have a lot following this year), but overall is staying strong. Time to shift focus to the next weekend - back-to-back Tough Mudders in Brooklyn, MI.

This was the second year that the Xtreme Muck Ruck (XMR) took place. I ran it last year too, and more local races like it can either be relative successes, or be pretty miserable failures. Fortunately, XMR can be placed in the former category, as they did pretty well for their first time last year, and made some great improvements this year.

One of the great things about this race is accessibility. They actually have 3 distances you can choose to run while out on the course - 2 miles, 4 miles, or 7 miles. I chose the 7 mile course again this year and they made it far more difficult. The race is held at the Twisted Trails Off-road Park and is most frequented by ATV's. The number of hills on this course was certainly the most difficult obstacle and by the end my quads were cursing at me.

Because of the accessibility of the race, I was fortunate enough to have some family and friends also run the course, some at the same time I did, others earlier in the day - though because I was the only one to take on the 7 mile course, I didn't actually see them except for right before the race started and after I finished. They also added a kids course this year, which one of my sister's friend's son absolutely loved. The number of times he ran the course he probably could have at least taken on the 2-mile course. Not bad for a 6 year old - Good work, Oliver!

At the end, I had the chance to meet the 2 race directors, who have been supportive of Run to Remember since I first contacted them. They're awesome guys, who just want to put on a great event, and they certainly are doing just that...especially in an area of the state where you don't see obstacle races. They're putting on a shorter 5K exhibition event on October 5th in Grand Ledge, MI, which I'm excited I'll get to be a part of. Anyone near that area should definitely consider it, and it's only $30 to enter, which is relatively cheap when you talk about an obstacle race of any distance. Thanks for your support guys!

I was also fortunate enough to have my parents do the driving for me this weekend, so I could get some rest between races. I can't thank them enough for their support. In a quick stop to Applebee's, so I could carb load for the next day, the manager actually came out and talked to us and my mom was explaining what I was doing (I was too busy scarfing down my meal as fast as humanly possible). That's been one of the great things so far, as I run and people read the shirts, they start asking questions and I get to explain my reasons for running and they often share their own stories, offer up encouragement, or even take pictures of the back of the shirt so they can visit the site later. While $1 million is an important measurement of the goal, creating awareness is an immeasurable goal that is extremely necessary to support the cause of gaining further support to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

From there it was on to Toronto (well, Barrie to be exact) for race number three of the weekend and the 5th race overall, which you can read about it a blog to be posted later.

Hero Rush - Michigan kicked off a full weekend for me. I started out at 8:30am at the Hero Rush in Oxford, MI, jumped right in the car after finishing the race to head 3.5 hours north to the Xtreme MuckRuck in Copemish, MI (more on that race later). Following the Xtreme Muck Ruck it was back in the car for a 7 hour drive to Barrie, ON, Canada (outside Toronto) for the Toronto Spartan Race on Sunday (more on that race later too). A special thanks to my parents for their willingness to drive me around this weekend so I could get some rest between races!

I have mixed feelings about the Hero Rush, though reflecting later it was an overall good course. One major positive is that it was definitely different than most of the other obstacle races. There was zero mud, and most all of the obstacles were firefighter themed. Quite a few of the obstacles were particularly more difficult and physically demanding like dragging a stretcher with a sandbag on it over a wall, under barbed wire, and then over another wall - among others which you can see in the video posted soon. While these obstacles were certainly entertaining because they were new and different, some obstacles seemed shaky, but could partially be due to the terrain, not necessarily poor construction (at no point did I feel unsafe). I ran in the first wave of the day and though while running I was not certain that the integrity of some of these obstacles would last through the day, I'm told there were no issues.

Simply to get in the earliest wave possible, I ended up running in the competitive, or elite, wave - though I had no real intention of attempting to be truly competitive to win any prizes, knowing that I still had another 7 mile race in the afternoon and another race Sunday. However, my competitive nature often overtook me, and I needed to actively silence the voice inside my head that said, "Go faster. Leave it all out here. You can catch some of the guys in front of you." Thankfully, the part of my brain that knows there is a larger goal and task at hand took over and I scaled back my pace. Sounds like a topic for another blog post later as I know this will be a constant internal battle.

Overall, it was a pretty great experience for Race #3. It's always exciting to run a slightly different race than you've come accustomed to. Check out the video to be posted later this week after I get it edited and see for yourself what I experienced. It was also great to have some additional friends there at the race...my boss from the gym I instruct at part-time - Brandan Thomas (who jumped in last minute to the competitive wave and took 2nd - way to go Brandan!), Becky Bolles, and Darci Brasier (members from the gym who ended up posting the top 2 times for females during the day) who also came out and ran - all of whom sported Run to Remember shirts too and got some additional publicity for the cause. While I was running, the emcee actually caught a glimpse of the back of their shirts and asked them to speak a little about Run to Remember and drawing greater attention and awareness to the ultimate purpose of the mission - an end to Alzheimer's.

Special shout outs also to my buddy Andrew Cuevas, who I ran the Mid-west Super Spartan with last year as a part of Team Dial for Men, and have now seen at the Savage Race last weekend, the Hero Rush, and will run Sunday's Tough Mudder with next weekend. Another shout out to Ryan Makowski, a buddy from college who was out there running as well.

Race #2 of the first weekend took me from Zanesfield, OH over to Channahon, IL for the Warrior Dash on Sunday. I was actually really looking forward to this event, as the Warrior Dash in Illinois back in 2010 was the first obstacle race I ever completed back in 2010. It was a great event back then and Red Frog Events continues to put on outstanding events that I look forward to each time.

My excitement and anticipation for this event was certainly well-placed. I'll touch briefly on the race itself here, but focus on the experience above and beyond the race shortly after. If someone asks me about running their first mud and obstacle race, I always point them towards Warrior Dash. It's just the right distance for most people, and the obstacles present just the right amount of challenge for someone starting out. What Warrior Dash really succeeds at is creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable, like they can complete the course, and an atmosphere of fun that makes you want to spend the entire day there. You can actually see my footage of the race in the race videos portion of my website.

My sister and I after the 2010 Warrior Dash in Illinois.
Now on to my experience outside the race. I have to say a big thank you first to Red Frog Events, as they've been one of the first race series with the Warrior Dash to support Run to Remember by offering free entries to me for any of their events to help offset some of my costs and reach my goal. I can't tell you what a huge help that is. Not only have they offered up the entries, but Makenzie Smith has continuously been following up with me to see how things are progressing including a congratulatory email after completing the first 2 races this weekend, and the rest of the staff I met during the race was incredibly welcoming and genuinely excited to be helping me and Run to Remember succeed. A lot of credit for that experience on this particular race day goes to Matt Ericson, a fellow Michigander who is interning for Red Frog this summer.
Matt met me immediately after I got checked in. He then took me around the course to give me a glimpse of what was in store, and started to introduce me to many of the Race Directors and other interns working the event. As someone who has also had the task of managing volunteers for large events, it was great to be with Matt as he checked in on the volunteers while he took me through the course and made sure that they were taken care of and having just as great of an experience as the racers were. For those who don't know me as well, for a guy with a Sport Management background whose professional career has been spent primarily in college admissions focusing on event management and great guest experience, getting a glimpse behind the scenes was a ton of fun for me. This was a side to the event that most racers don't get to see - the incredible amount of work that goes into the coordination of such a major event. And that's just during the event, not to mention all the work leading up to and after, and for Red Frog, it seems all done with a smile and the utmost desire to make sure that each and every person who is at the event from the racers, to the spectators, to the volunteers, has the best experience possible.
Course tour with the awesome intern, Matt Photo credit: Ali Engin - alienginphotography
I then took my turn to run the race, and had a great experience on the course, actually running faster than I anticipated or planned, knowing that there were still 98 races ahead of me. After I finished, I then had the chance to pitch in and help distribute water at the end of the race with some of the other race volunteers, Matt, and other staff. While most people like to relax and have their celebratory beer after the race, this was actually another true treat for me. It may seem odd that after a race I'd rather work a water line than have a beer, but having the volunteer experience at some of these races is incredibly enjoyable, especially right at the finish line. Once you've finished a few races, you sometimes forget that unique feeling of completing your first race, meeting a goal you set for yourself, or crossing the finish line covered in mud with all of your friends. While I was only at the finish line helping for a little while, I loved getting the chance to be a part of that experience for the runners crossing the line with big grins on their faces. Whether you're a seasoned racer or not, I encourage you to take the time to volunteer at one...it's a pretty incredible time.

So to Matt and the entire staff at Red Frog Events, thanks for an extremely memorable experience both on and off the course at Warrior Dash Illinois. I can't wait for my next Warrior Dash here in Michigan in July, and if you need some volunteer help, I'm pretty good at carrying around 5-gallon water jugs :)

Oh and in case they read this:
Marty - That mustache is epic. And I mean Burt Reynolds epic.
Blades - Your mom is awesome. Seriously, awesome.
Madelyn - Thanks for being ready to pull me out of the fire in case I happened to trip on my way over. I had complete confidence you'd rush in to save me.
Matt - "Did we just become best friends?" 
Well, after months of preparation, the journey to 100 races officially began this past Saturday at the Savage Race in Zanesfield, OH. This was my first time running a race in the Savage Race series, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but it certainly did not disappoint. While the obstacles were relatively familiar with several other race series, the greatest obstacle was the venue itself. I guess had I looked up "Mad River Mountain", I probably would have realized prior to driving into the parking lot that it was in fact a ski hill.

I'll have video posted soon of running the course. As I stated above, the obstacles were pretty typical to many other obstacle races, but the running up and down double black diamond ski slopes was truly the most difficult part. If you're from Mount Pleasant, MI, or have been there, you know that "Mount" is pretty misleading, so my training has lacked any real elevation changes...especially for these type of hills. Talk about burning quads and calves!

My parents, my aunt Ruthie, and cousin Kimmy, also made the trip down. It was great to share the kick-off event with them and to have them cheering me on as I started this journey. Some folks at the race even started to take notice of the cause. A few of the runners saw the back of my shirt and urged me on and wished me luck for the rest of the year. When I finished, I also had the opportunity to interview with the finish line announcer and tell anyone who was listening just what I was running for, as he encouraged them all to check out Run to Remember.

So now it's begun. After months of planning and preparation, it's time for me to push my physical limits to make this year all about bringing awareness to Alzheimer's disease and to reach the goals I've set out to meet - 100 races. 52 weeks. $1 million for the Alzheimer's Association. One down; 99 to go. 

Tomorrow I'll post about race #2 from Sunday, and a great experience at the Warrior Dash in Illinois. Warrior Dash has already shown great support to me and Run to Remember, and they definitely showed me the love on race day. But more on that in the actual post...