Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Urbanathlon and 'My America'

This post has been in the hopper since Saturday, but needless to say it has grown in meaning to me as some in this country have said some things that have stirred some feelings within me.

The picture above is of an eight foot wall I had to climb over at the 10.5 mile mark of Men's Health Urbanathlon this past Saturday. It was the latest goal that I set for myself in a year of a commitment to taking care of myself and getting into shape.

I wrote earlier this year about the 'Biggest Loser' competition I was in with some friends of mine. Since that time I have embarked on a mission that in many cases is harder than losing weight and getting in shape,, which is maintaining that condition and weight.

So about two months ago I decided to run in and start training for Urbanathlon, a unique race that requires both endurance and strength. The race was 10.5 miles and had multiple tough obstacles at various points throughout the course.

Running the bleachers at Soldiers Field, monkey bars, and the 8 foot wall were just a couple of the obstacles that were involved. (Click on this link to see the course)

I trained hard for this race and it payed off. I ran around 8minute miles, never had to walk, and navigated many of the obstacles with ease due to smart and tireless training. I set a time goal to finish the race and the obstacles (which didn't count in the 10.5miles) in under 100minutes which I am proud to say I did.

I was ready for what was in front of me but when I got to the Marine Hurdles I hit a snag.

These 5 foot tall wooden hurdles proved to be tougher than I expected and even though I had increased my strength and fitness I just couldn't jump high enough to get my body in position to get over the hurdle. The hurdles were on the 31st Street Beach and the sand further limited my already unimpressive vertical jump.

10, 11, 15 times I tried to jump and hold myself on the hurdle (my arms have the bruises to show it) and I was wondering how I would get over those damn things.

"Hey buddy, I'll give you a boost," a voice shouted out.

I had watched many people get a boost over the hurdles as many people could not get over on their own, but the 'boosters' were usually people that couldn't get over the hurdles themselves. It was a bit of a quid pro quo.

The cuts and bruises on my arms caused me to accept this guys offer of help and I got over the 1st of the three hurdles. He then helped three other people with boost's over that 1st hurdle.

I went to the second hurdle and thought I'd be able to get over this one to and as I threw myself up and held onto the top of the hurdle with all my strength,,,, I yet again fell to the sand in failure.

"Wait, I'll help you!" the same guy said as he flung himself over the 1st hurdle with no help.

At this point, I checked my pride at the door and helped the other struggling people over the hurdles as the random guy helped me and accepted his offer of help for the 2nd and 3rd hurdles as well.

I never caught the guys name or saw him again, but I remember thinking it was really nice of him to help me and the others.

It was especially selfless since he obviously didn't need any help getting over the hurdles himself, but he took the time to help others instead of being self absorbed with his 'personal time' for the race.

Up until that point in the race I couldn't say the same thing about myself.

After the hurdles there was about 4 miles and two tough obstacles left in the race including the 8 foot wall in the picture above at the very end of the race.

So as I picked up my pace and hurdled myself over the Taxi Hurdle (yes, an actual taxi hurdle) I only had the wall left to negotiate. This was where all the pull-ups from the last two months would pay off. But before I made my leap toward the wall I saw someone on the wall struggling to hold onto the wall. I ran up and gave the lady bit of a push,, she got herself over the wall and over her shoulder shouted a quick 'thanks'.

I never saw her after that but I can say that I still had to get myself over the wall.

So I jumped into the wall grabbed the rope and got one hand on top of the wall. I started to pull myself up and then all of a sudden I had someone give me a boost. I didn't ask for it, but as I got myself over the wall a bit quicker and easier, I wasn't upset by it.

So twice during this race which I had trained so hard for,, a good Samaritan gave me a 'hand up' and helped me accomplish my goal.

So what has 'grown in meaning to me' as I mentioned in the opening line of this blog?

This race was in "Chicago", the home of the maligned "Chicago Political Machine" by the RNC, my guess is Chicago falls outside the 'Real America' based on the comments of Sarah Palin, is probably 'Un-American' as Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said, and may be even worse if it is considered 'liberal' like Congressman Robin Hayes of North Carolina said in introducing Palin the other day.

I strongly urge you to click the links in this paragraph if you haven't already.

First off, I love my 'big' city of Chicago so are they trying to make me ashamed of where I live?

It's a beautiful place that has many good people. The help that the two people gave me during the race confirmed that to me yet again. Chicago has amazing culture, architecture, history, and I know there are many hard working loyal people here.

According to the statements and views by the Republicans above * should I assume the people that were 'Good Samaritans' that helped me in my race were from 'small towns' because Chicagoans are incapable of charity?

The statements of Palin, Bachmann, and Hayes are heinous and divisive statements that are the worst of what our country stands for. They go to the comments made by Colin Powell who called out Bachmann and the Republicans for going 'beyond political fighting back and forth' and dividing us.

The ultra divisive language that has been used against 'big city's' seems to have taken the place of usual 'radical right' targets like gays and people that are against guns.

What are those that are pushing this agenda trying to achieve?

I know that some people will criticize me for turning a story about a race into a sermon that is clearly partisan politics.

Yet the run reminded me how great a city I live in and I won't let my city be discarded as 'Un-American' because of our size.

I hope people have the same pride in their city's that I do, whether it is big or small.

The most often used line by Presidents after they are elected is 'there is more that unites us than divides us.' I believe this line is true and that above our personal localities, we are all proud Americans.


Sarah said...

Awww... I used to love the "obstacle course". I really wish I could have done it too. Patrick said next year.

The key to the hurdles is core strength and momentum. You have to "chicken wing" one arm over and then swing your legs back and forth until you can hook one leg over, then you swing over and crash to the ground.

As for the wall, I hated that damn thing. That was the one thing that always DID require being able to have mucho upper body strength. Blach.

People always think, including myself for a long time when I made everything harder than it needed to be, that it's all upper body strength. That's true to a certain extent but it all eventually comes down to your core and technique. You have to know the tricks and have the central strength and endurance, this means , physically and mentally.

All of these courses are great for exactly the reason you mentioned. You can tell a lot about the group you are in by how they react to stress. When I was in a good unit, you could tell by how they adapted to the O course, and same for the not so good units. You are clearly in a good "group" up there in the Windy City J.C.

But nothing could ever replace the five days after, when your body aches in places that you didn't know existed, and the bruises are bigger than you ever thought they could be because of consistent abuse in the same places trying to overcome yourself on the obstacles. When a normal person says "that hurts, I'm not going to do that anymore", you say, "I can do this and I don't care what it takes." And eventually you have the coloration to prove it.

Good job 17 people. That's an awesome accomplishment.

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