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I Like to Get Down & Dirty

So let’s ignore for a moment the fact I promised you guys a somewhat useful (and some might even say compelling and delightful?) series of posts reviewing the various infomercial products I have tried–

Seriously, why do you guys always feel the need to bring up old stuff?

–but I did something really dirty with my husband this weekend and just had to share.

I have to say, I was a little nervous at first since I’d never done anything like it before but was surprised by how quickly I got into it.

And it was in public.

It even involved other people.

Lots of dirty, sweaty, half-naked people.

And some children, too.

Wait, this post is taking a really weird turn so I should probably just tell you now we did the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run before the authorities show up to confiscate my computer as evidence.

To those unfamiliar with the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run, it’s a national series of 5K and 10K races sponsored by Merrell Footwear & Apparel featuring off-road courses with military-style obstacles and LOTS of opportunities to get mud in your mouth. 

You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Which, it just so happens, Chuckles and I are.

The Mud Run is held each year in New York, NY; Sacramento, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and, for the first time ever, Philadelphia, PA.  The goal is raise money to support our troops through Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit that sends morale-boosting care packages to front-line American service members deployed overseas. 

Since they began in 2004, Operation Gratitude has shipped nearly 560,000 care packages.  As a former deployed service member and the spouse of one, Chuckles and I couldn’t think of a better reason to get ‘down n’ dirty’.

So, early Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the truck and drove the three hours up to Philly to prepare ourselves to join 1,510 other 10K racers (a whopping 4,500 runners in total) participating in the sold-out event early the next morning.

After a relatively uneventful drive…

Welcome to Delaware.  Period.  It’s almost like even the sign understands the irony.

…we arrived just in time to pick up our race packets before registration closed and get settled in at the Philadelphia Hilton.

Now, normally we are not ‘Hilton folk’, but they had a special group rate deal and the hotel is less than a mile away from Fairmount Park, where the race was taking place. 

Still, waiting for the elevator in the lobby with the fancy chandelier and baby grand piano while holding plastic grocery bags that served as our luggage, I felt like I’d be a little more at home sleeping in the shrubs outside the Hilton than in one of the actual rooms.  And the fact that there were all sorts of classy people in fancy evening attire milling around waiting for a wedding to start in the Hilton’s reception hall didn’t help me feel any less like a hillbilly.

We retreated to our room where I immediately tore into my registration goody bag like a wild, angry raccoon in a burlap sack.  Cause I’m a sucker for free stuff.

Chuckles, however, went about it with a little more restraint.

All in all, we got some pretty decent loot…

…Paul Mitchell samples (no, those aren’t condoms), a few bottled drinks, an awesome moisture-wicking T-shirt, and a handkerchief-sock hybrid thingy I had a little trouble figuring out.

Fortunately, Chuckles was on hand to show me how the hankersock’s supposed to be worn.

Thank God, cause otherwise I might’ve gone out in public looking foolish or something.

Then, of course, I had to check out the other free loot we get…

Crabtree & Evelyn products at the Hilton?  It’s like I’ve died and gone to a small, single-serving Heaven.

After doing a full room sweep in search of any other fancy amenities the Hilton offers…

Hey Katie?  You’ll never guess where I’m calling you from…

…we were ready to go out and experience all Philly has to offer!  See the sights!  Embrace the culture! 

Or not. 

You’re not tired, are you?

I did manage to drag Chuckles out of bed long enough to make him drive me two miles into Manayunk for an early dinner. 

Manayunk is a quaint strip of cute shops, good restaurants and laidback bars.  It reminds me a lot of Frederick.

After carb-loading on tasty cuisine at Munk & Nunn, we headed back to the hotel and watched T.V. til we passed out at 9 p.m.  ROCK STAR!

4:45 a.m. the next morning came way too early.  So early that I didn’t even consider breaking out my camera.  So, instead, I’ll paint you a picture with words. 

So, the night before, we’d decided that our plan would be to wake up super early and drive over to the park so that we could find a good parking space and go back to sleep for another hour or two before the traffic started at 6:15 a.m.  Smart, eh? 

That is not, however, how ‘the plan’ ended up going down. 

What did happen was we drove to the park only to find the entrance gates closed, where we then proceeded to bicker while driving around aimlessly for 20 minutes looking for an open entrance before finally pulling into a grassy field just as the crowd started arriving. 

So we never did get to go back to sleep. 

No matter, we pounded a few energy drinks and followed the equally bleary-eyed mob across the field to the Start line.

As everyone began gathering together in the pre-dawn light, the excitement started building and the adrenaline started pumping.

Despite the day’s rising temperatures and humidity, it was hard not to be happy in such a festive, upbeat atmosphere.  Chuckles and I even made up.

Right, snookums?

And you know what?  As we stretched and hydrated and pinned our numbers, I even started to feel like a real, honest to God runner.

It just so happens 482 is my lucky number.  What a coincidence!

 Now, here’s where this post gets a little light on photos.  I had to check my bag (and camera) because I didn’t want to subject it to the heat and water and mud and all the other horrible, unspeakable things I’d be subjecting my body too.

Suffice it to say, we sat through a race pre-brief telling us to behave ourselves like good boys and girls, filed into roped-off sections for a staggered start, and then gradually shuffled toward the Start line until it was our turn for the cannon to go off.

And then we ran.

And it felt good

The course took us up and down hills, along roads, through snaking woods trails, across a stream, down rocky embankments, and through a variety of obstacles, including a haybale scramble, cargo net climb, low-crawl under netting, rope scale, etc.

Chuckles and I got separated about halfway through the course but I encountered plenty of friendly fellow runners who were down with trading a quick joke or word of encouragement during our 30-second friendship.

To me, the end came all too soon, and before I knew it, I rounded the corner after finishing the last obstacle and came face-to-face with a roaring crowd.

Ah, the Finish line is in sight!

But wait, what’s that just before it?

Oh, it’s a HUGE mud pit. 

That I have to crawl through.

On my stomach.

If I’d somehow managed to stay relatively clean for the majority of the race, this is where all of that ended.

After climbing under the camo netting, I gracefully hurtled face first into the mud pool.


Like this guy, except less graceful.  And less bald. 

From there, I awkwardly crab-crawled through approximately 15 more yards of muddy terrain before sliding down the last embankment on my stomach like a harpooned seal.

Then, with the sound of the crowd cheering in my ears, I stumbled across the Finish line, grinning stupidly and raising my arms in a V for victory. 

And then I spit a gigantic wad of mud out of my mouth.  The end.

Chuckles wasn’t far behind and I got to watch him slither across that mud pit with the agility and grace of a man who did this for a living for many years.  I’d never been more proud of my boy.

Here’s where I have to admit I totally pulled a Katie.  After the race, we were so high on adrenaline and so disgusted with ourselves (seriously, I had mud up my nose) that we ran off to the showers without even thinking about stopping by Bag Check to pick up my camera and get a picture of us in all our filthy glory. 

Sorry, guys, but there’s no ‘money shot’.  I know, we’re totally ashamed of ourselves, too.

But the good news is there were professional-looking photographers there at the Finish line taking pictures so hopefully some photo of us will surface on the Interwebs over the coming days.  Unless those photographers were just taking pictures of strangers for their own private collection.  Which is just kind of creepy.

Anyhoo, I’ll be sure to keep a lookout and post any ‘After’ pics I find. 

In the meantime, I did muster enough common sense to grab my camera and start taking pictures of the other runners.  And, man, were they a riot. 

But I won’t post those pictures until later because:

1. I took, like, a thousand photos and need to wade through them all to find the top blog-worthy contenders.

2. This post is already ridiculously long.  In fact, you guys have probably stopped reading by this point and now are just skimming for any key words that might grab your interest.  In which case, BOOBS, PORN, HOT NASTY MONKEY SEX.  (Paying attention again?  Good.)

3.  This morning I’ve been busted writing this post by almost every single one of my coworkers.  How I suffer their steely-eyed judgment for you all.

So anyway, expect more pics up soon (but not like the infomercial series — I’ll actually follow through on this project.)

Oh, but before I go… the best part about this little story?

I ranked 13th in my age group!

Here’s mud in your eye, other runners!

Don’t Let ‘Em Drag You Down

“Stay safe, keep faith, and don’t let ’em drag you down.”

That’s what the gate guard said to me when I was headed back to the installation from my lunch break a few weeks ago.  Okay, so he says that to everyone.  Every car – always, “Stay safe, keep faith, and don’t let ’em drag you down.”  It’s his mantra – that thing he repeats over and over again just to get himself – and others – through the day.

But that day, for some reason, it meant so much more.

Those of you who’ve been keeping up with us have seen that Erin has had a busy couple of weeks – getting hired, getting fired (err… quitting), and cultivating an overall level of squirreliness that’s borderline-scary.

Even for her.

But I’m about to explain this, since it’s finally come to the point where I actually can.

See, I gave notice at my place of employment last week as well.  And while it didn’t involve high-heel shootouts or greased piglets, it did involve a certain amount of uncertainty.  After nearly 2 1/2 years at the place, it’s the longest I’ve consistently worked anywhere.


In fact, one year I had to file taxes for 7 jobs in 3 different states.  So this?  This was a feat.

What’s crazy is that it was a good job.  A very good job.  Oh, and that whole deal about getting a paycheck was pretty great too.  But somewhere along the ride, it went from newness and excitement to this and this.  And while most people would still be grateful to even have a job, what I’m looking for is something else.  Experience.  Stimulation.  Life.

How’s that for introspective?

I know I have a passion for something, but it definitely isn’t this:

(I stole Erin’s picture because the sad reality is that mine looks pretty much the same.  But cheaper.)

And I’m pretty sure it’s not government work.  So after 27+ years on this earth, I still can’t tell you what my passion is.  But after 12 years of thorough research, I can definitely tell you what it isn’t:

  • Washing dishes
  • Selling jewelry
  • Waiting tables
  • Wearing suits
  • Fixing watches
  • Giving tours
  • Hanging clothes
  • Making spreadsheets
  • Kissing asses
  • Watching children
  • Flipping burgers
  • Sorting CD’s

In fact, the only commonality I actually liked with each of these jobs was the people.  Be it the people I worked with or the people I helped, I always enjoyed them.

So after much thought and consideration about what I actually wanted to do, I eventually approached my equally professionally-dissatisfied friend with a proposition:

How about we take this blog on the road?

All it took was a weekend trip to Frederick, sushi bribes, lots of alcohol, and a quote from Thoreau (“How vain it is to sit down to write when you haven’t stood up to live.”) to convince her we both needed this adventure.  And I might have let her see my boobs.


Actually all it took was a quick Skype session with her husband, and we were ready to roll.  The rest was just for fun.

So that’s what we’re doing.  Actually, we’re not driving.  We’re flying.  Then busing.  Then walking.  Then riding.  But we’ll get there, and there we will stay for 61 days.

Where?  Well it’s taking a bit of planning (not exactly my forte), and all will be revealed very shortly.

In the meantime… Stay safe, keep faith, and don’t let ’em drag you down.

Free Fallin’

Can I just say… wow.

Until yesterday, I’ve never felt the urge to laugh, cry, scream, pee, and call my mom all at the same time.

And let me just say this:

I think I’m addicted.

The hubs and I decided we wanted to try at least one extreme sport on our visit to Hawaii.  We already tried scuba diving on our honeymoon in St. Lucia (loved it), and I’m not in the greatest shape for mountain climbing/biking.  We were inspired by a friend who’s been stationed here to try skydiving.  After all, where else are we going to get better views on the way down?

So we called up Skydive Hawaii and set up our day/time.  We decided on the end of the trip so that, if the worst possible thing were to happen, at least we would’ve had a week in Hawaii before we died.  Ha.

There is surprisingly little preparation required before throwing yourself out of a Cessna Caravan.

We needed to sign every page of an 8 billion (okay just 8 ) page contract:

Skydive Hawaii

Notice the not-so-fine print:

Skydive Hawaii

You can’t tell from my face, but signing this contract might have been the scariest part of the entire ordeal:

Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Then we waited our turn out on the deck.  It didn’t take very long for Johnny, my soon-to-be tandem partner, to introduce himself and start getting me geared up.  As you can see, it’s a bit of an intimate process.  Luckily, I was too busy trying not to crap my pants from sheer nervousness to really notice.  (Classy, no?)

Tandem Skydiving
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

My cousin Leah took advantage of this opportunity to take pictures of my butt (okay, maybe she was taking pictures of the bright orange DANGER sign on my back):

Hawaii Skydive
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Meanwhile, the hubs was getting some quick instructions from Big Jim, his tandem partner:

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Looks comfortable, huh?

Some jumpers were landing in the airfield right across from us – think the hubs looks excited?

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Hubs and Big Jim:

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the airfield.

My thoughts:

You mean whatever is in that little backpack is going to keep me from plummeting 10,000 feet to my death?

Why does this feel like dead woman walking?

I’m trusting you, Johnny!

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

And we’re getting in that?

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

I guess we are.  And we seem happy about it.

Skydive Hawaii

There we go!

Skydive Hawaii
Photo By: Leah B Photography (click for link)

Can’t say the view was terrible…

Skydive Hawaii

Are we high enough yet?

Now is a good time to say one thing:  The staff at Skydive Hawaii were phenomenal.  The photographers and tandem jumpers were laid-back and experts at putting us at ease.

And Johnny, if you’re out there, THANK YOU for pushing me out of that plane.

This was the most surreal moment of my life.  Please excuse my butt.  Thank you.

Skydive Hawaii

I’d like to tell you that all kinds of profound, life-changing thoughts were going through my head at this point.  But in reality, all I could manage was, “holy sh*t.”

Skydive Hawaii

And WTF am I doing??

Skydive Hawaii

But then…

Skydive Hawaii

…then is was pretty. damn. spectacular.

Skydive Hawaii

And I couldn’t help but smile.

Skydive Hawaii

Which might have caused me to drool (occupational hazard, I’m told).

Skydive Hawaii

I’ll admit I lost my cool a bit when the parachute came out (could’ve used some warning on that one, Johnny).  ;)

Skydive Hawaii

I think the hubs had fun, too:

Skydive Hawaii

Skydive Hawaii

We got to hang out in the ‘chute for awhile… Johnny even let me steer.  (Sort-of… I’m glad he didn’t actually let go of the ropes.)

It was so quiet.

So beautiful.


As if all that weren’t enough, two shirtless guys came running at me as we landed.  Umm, does Skydive Hawaii rock, or what?

Skydive Hawaii

I was glad to get the hubs back on the ground with me.  The guys ran at him too, but I don’t think he enjoyed it as much.

Skydive Hawaii

Did we really just do that???!!

Skydive Hawaii

Skydive Hawaii

Thanks, Johnny!

Skydive Hawaii

(Please excuse the fact that I seem to be flossing my teeth with my hair.  We’re lucky my legs are even holding me up at this point.)

We even got these little certificates for completing our first jump:

Skydive Hawaii


I would be lying if I said that after this experience I didn’t seriously contemplate shipping the little monsters over here, setting up house in a van on the North Shore, getting a job in an art gallery, and spending my free time getting my skydiving certification.  The hubs would just have to get stationed over here.  It could work.

But when it comes to these people – these amazing, thrill-seeking, life-loving people – I’m not sure I’d ever fit in.

Aside from getting in my car and driving to work every day, I don’t tend to tempt fate very often – let alone on a regular basis.

How do people do that?  Take these huge risks over and over without freaking out every single time and wondering if the last thing they’ll ever see is the ground – the beautiful ground – plummeting towards their bodies at over 100 mph.?

Maybe I love life too much to take those kind of regular risks.

But it could also be argued by those who take them… maybe I don’t love it enough.

Skydive Hawaii