Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Captain Holly Takes on Tough Mudder, Again!

Need a band-aid for your boo boo?
Back in May, Captain Holly toughed out a chilly, hypothermia enducing Tough Mudder event at Mount Snow. He enjoyed it so much he decided to tackle it again - in the high heat of July. Haulin' labbit a$$ back to Mount Snow, he brought his medic skills to the slopes, ensuring his fellow mudders would make it through the 10-12"ish" miles and 25 military obstacles without any broken bones or excessive blood loss (minor blood loss is acceptable. HTFU!).

Just look at these Mudder n00bs with no idea what they're in for as they pass the start gates and pass the reminder that they've signed a "Death Waiver". Hoo-rah! Captain Holly's been through this course before. Although a few obstacles change (obviously the ice and snow events can't happen in July, and the fire may be tamed because it's been dry in Vermont) he knows what it takes to finish, so he'll stop at a few obstacles to watch over his Mudders.

Most tunnels at Tough Mudder won't have this much light. KEEP MOVING.
A lot of obstacles naturally require strength and stamina. Running up and down ski resort terrain is no easy feat. Then you throw in the 9' - 12' walls, the heavy cargo nets to crawl under, cold bodies of water to cross over while your body dangles across a wire or monkey bars (that fiendishly have rungs that are randomly greased with butter) and you've got a tough physical challenge. But some challenges are mental. Like endless miles of mud and the sick, trigger happy teenagers blasting the snow machines at you, or small, dark, confined tunnels. It's in these small, dark spaces that labbits feel comfortable, but that big 220 lb muscle bound hulk might feel claustrophobic and a wee afraid of the dark. Who knows what lurks in the tunnels? Captain Holly's advice is to keep moving.

You never know what's in those tunnels. Move, or face labbit wrath!
Many tunnels won't let you see much at all. There's mud, cold water, twists and turns, and you can't see out the other side. Then there's this nastiness:

It's a new obstacle, called "Dark Lightning". Note the High Voltage signs. Captain Holly won't give too much away, that would take the fun out of it. But be prepared for electric wires. Tough Mudders LOVES electric wires. All you hear from outside this obstacle is the sound of thunder, and the screams of those inside. Tough Mudder likes to mess with your mind...your mind, body, and spirit.

And so, Captain Holly encourages all sorts of childish shenanigans to keep those spirits high. Check out this Mudder, who thinks his teammate needs a rude welcoming outside the underground obstacle he's just completed. The emerging Mudder kept his head down and focused on getting clear of the person behind him, so lucky for him, he avoided the prank.

Here's a typical Tough Mudder obstacle: you've been running uphill. You've just been hosed down by cold water (which is kinda nice in July, actually) and now you're heavy and wet and you've still gotta slog uphill, but you've got to do it through two fields of tired. This obstacle is called, "Tired Yet?" hyuk, hyuk, groan.

Cargo nets. Classic Tough Mudder. Up and over, then get down on the ground, and hold that spider's web taut for the next Mudder. That's how you do.

Captain Holly makes sure his Mudder-mates don't get all bunched up in the barb wire. (Have you noticed how all these photos of Holly are of his left side? He must favor his left side.)

Remember, there's no quit in here! Help that Mudder in the green shorts up this half pipe! That's the spirit of Tough Mudder.

Captain Holly had a fantastic time at Tough Mudder New England #2. He encourages everyone who's done a Tough Mudder to return and cheer on the next round of Mudders. Better yet, cheer them on while you're volunteering. These events don't happen without the help of many volunteers. So show up, help out, and cheer on! HOO RAH!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Race Report: Give Peace A Tri 2012

It pays to register early.
On Saturday, July 14th, Masher McBuns did the 7th annual Give Peace A Tri, a local sprint triathlon at Surry Mountain Lake in Surry, NH. He's been training pretty consistently as you can see from these previous training pics, and was super super excited to race! The best, best, BEST part about this race was that he registered two seconds after the race director announced that registration was open, and the result? He got the first bib number! So no matter how he performed, he'd be number 1!

After checking in and picking up his bib number, timing chip and race t-shirt, Masher headed over to the pretty full bike racks to set up his transition area.

Bike - in easy gear since the mount and bike course start on an uphill, check.
Helmet - Mandatory! Check.
Spare tube, tire levers, CO2 cartridge, adapter, all in under seat bag, check.
Water bottle - hydration on the ride is important. Check.
Black silicone bread pan with clean water - check. What, what?! Why a bread pan? Pro tip: Masher will dunk his paws in before slipping on his bike shoes. That way all the sand, rocks, grass and other stuff he's collected on his feet from running out of the water and across the transition area will be nice and clean, ready to slip into shoes. Silicone is nice and soft and squishy, so there's no risk to others in tripping/breaking/cutting. Plus, it's lightweight and packs up easily. If your feet are bigger than a bread pan, well, Masher can't help you. Maybe you'll need a silicone cake pan.
Beloved Ruffles Chip towel - to wipe feet, and mark transition territory, check.
Swim cap and goggles - mandatory, labbits hate getting their ears wet. Check.
Bike shoes - the better to clip into the bike pedals with. Check.
Race belt with bib number secured - so people can cheer him on, GO NUMBER 1!! Check!

He's all ready to race! Now to check out the swim course, now that the buoys are set up. (They weren't, last time he was here.)
The buoys are in place! The kayaks are ready at the boat launch, where volunteers in kayaks will provide assistance to those who need a breather, or those who cramp up, freak out, and otherwise need to be helped back to shore. Masher's done some OWS (Open Water Swim) practices, but never had the chance to swim with 200+ racers, so he plans on taking it easy, swimming to the back and outside so he doesn't get swum over. Yes, people get swum over in triathlons. Masher's a little nuts to be doing this sport.

On the plus side, the lake water is like glass! That will change once the "washing machine" starts up (everyone gets in and churns the water), but it's better than facing lots of chop and wicked rip tides!

Masher took a quick warm up dip to test the waters (warm!) and joined in on the pre-race info session/pep-talk. He couldn't believe there were people in wetsuits. The water was warm...Masher knows, he's got fur! Being in a wetsuit could easily overheat a person, but it does help people float, which in turn helps people swim faster, so Masher figures they wanted every advantage. And bonus - the two in the wetsuits in the foreground have pretty inspiring pace booty.

The pre-race talk involved last minute course changes, due to recent flood damage. Masher's not too good at listening to long instructions. He got lost after the first "right out of the back of the park, then left on blurblefart road". He's gonna have to rely on the volunteers to point him the right way. So with that, it was into the water for his swim wave!

There he is! In the yellow cap! Can't find him? He's easier to see in the next picture. Look for the labbit in the yellow cap.

The swim went well. He didn't drown (yay!) despite a few kicks to the head and hands and feet knocking him around. Triathlon is a full contact sport. Transition was easy. Dunk into the bread pan, goggles and cap off, helmet on, bike shoes on, race belt on, GO!

He got on the bike, pedaling with ease past the people who didn't spend enough time practicing mounting a bike and taking off on an uphill. The bike leg is Masher's fave, and he blasted past too many bikers to count. He threw out some encouraging words to the racers ahead of him (returning on the out and back course) but he guesses they were breathing too hard because no one said thanks. :(

Masher made sure to thank all the volunteers he passed, who cheered for him and pointed him in the right direction. Without the volunteers, it'd be easy to take a wrong turn, or to keep going and not remember to turn. Race volunteers are often at the event longer than the athletes, so Masher makes a point to show his gratitude. Without volunteers, races wouldn't run well at all.

The ride went really well...it's the one leg Masher knows he can really push it. Unfortunately, he took the last corner really fast, maybe cutting it close on the inside where the road tends to collect a lot of gravel, garbage and junk. It was there, a third of a mile from the dismount line, that Masher had a flat tire.

Flat tires are no fun. But that's why you pack a flat kit in your under seat bag, and Masher had made sure it was there when he set up in transition. He even practiced changing a flat the night before, to make sure his skills were sharp.

But...he was only 1/3 mile from the bike dismount line. He hustled along with the bike, wondering if he should stop and change the flat, or keep running with the bike.

A rider came by, asking if he was ok. Masher explained the flat, and as the racer whizzed by, he said, "you're almost to the dismount!" And so, Masher decided it would take about as much time to run it as it would to change the flat. He ran it.

The flat may have cost him 6 or 7 minutes (it's really awkward running after you've been biking hard, and even harder when you have to pull a bike alongside you for 1/3 of a mile), but when he approached the dismount, he realized people were having as much difficulty dismounting the bikes on a downhill, as they did mounting the bikes on the uphill. He stayed to the right of the traffic jam of racers (unfortunately some people dropped their bikes or fell) and ran through the chute to the transition area. He racked his bike (he's not too fond of people who just dump their bikes, especially if it's on someone else's stuff!) slipped out of his shoes and took off running...well, okay, he actually forgot the race director's instructions and didn't know which way the run started, and there were so many non-racers in the transition area and cheering around the chute he got confused and kind of stood around for a moment. Then he saw a girl with a race number running off to the park entrance and made the quick decision to follow her, hoping she wasn't heading to her car or the rest room or the finish line, where tables of cookies, pizza, and fresh berries were waiting.

The run was the worst leg. The swim had been fun, even with someone's feet kicking Masher in the face, the bike had been Masher's fastest...until the flat...and that was ALL he could think about. The other problem was that the clouds had cleared, and Masher was running in full sun, and it was heating up. Labbit fur gets pretty hot, as you can imagine, and Masher's not too fond of running under full sun. The biggest problem, however, was that Masher, in all his pre-race intel sessions, had never actually practiced - or looked at - the run course. He had no idea where the turns were, how each mile would look, and there were no mile markers on the course. The volunteers were there to point him in the right direction, but he lost sense of pacing, and was all gloomy over the flat tire. He didn't run his best, but...he did finish, and that's what counts!

Masher McBuns Total Time: 1:16:12 Swim Time: 10:39 T1 + Bike Time: 33:19 T2 + Run: 32:14
WAY TO GO MASHER! All things considered, he had planned on finishing in 1 hour, 15 minutes, and considering the flat tire fiasco, he would have finished in 1 hour 10 minutes. Ah, next time, Masher! You still did great!

Grinning through the pain...
At the end of the race, Masher helped himself to some water, a big ol' slice of Ramunto's spinach pizza, a bunch of blueberries and peaches, and somehow he missed the cookies, which is too bad because he signed up mostly for the cookies.

After some stretching and watching some more racers come in, Masher collected his things and checked out the tire.

Yup totally flat, and he found the culprit, this piece of glass. Race staff and volunteers do their best to sweep up the corners before a race, but little bits like this can get left behind. He must have hit the glass in the right way that it punctured his tire and tube. He feels he made the right decision to keep going and run the bike back. Good thing it was only a 1/3 mile. Only forward.

Masher promises to kill it at his next race - the Wallis Sands Tri in Portsmouth, NH!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Labbit At The Movies

"Hey cat, wanna go see a movie?" - Warren "Naw, there's this cool bug on the floor here." - cat
Last week, Uncle Warren, the Chief Warren Labbit, noticed the upcoming movie listings for the Bellows Falls Opera House on the fridge. Every Wednesday, the theater in town plays classic movies, and July's theme is Classic B&W comedies. Of particular interest to Warren was the movie Harvey, a 1950 film adaptation of the play Harvey by Mary Chase.

Harvey stars James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, a friendly, simple man who happens to have an invisible six foot, three and one half inch white rabbit named Harvey for a best friend. Elwood and Harvey seem to live well enough with his sister and niece, but when his niece begins to lose possible suitors because of Elwood's...eccentricities, the family decides it's time for Elwood to be committed to a sanatorium. And...hilarity ensues!

Warren had asked the cat to join him, but she's more interested in the bugs on the kitchen floor. Plus, she doesn't like her tail getting stepped on when she goes out. Happens every time, clumsy humans!

No biggie. Warren hopped down to the theater himself, since he happened to have one free pass to Classic Movie Night.

He stopped to admire the movie poster outside. My, what handsome ears Harvey has!

Warren hung out in the lobby with his movie pass.  He's glad he's not an invisible labbit. He got many smiles and hellos as people passed him by.

Before the theater filled up too much, Warren exchanged his pass for a ticket and headed into the theater. He's trying to watch his labbity figure, so he passed on the movie popcorn this time.

Oh good! There are quite a few good seats left. Warren hates sitting too far in front, 'cause it hurts his neck to have to look up. He stopped to pose for this photo while the screen was showing the movie goers a picture of the Opera House from the outside...just in case they thought they were going to the hardware store and didn't know they were in the wrong place.

Score! A seat in the middle, underneath the balcony. These chairs are comfy, and Warren settled in nicely for the movie.

Warren enjoyed the movie and had a nice evening out. He hopped home in the dark, thinking over some of the wisdom in the film:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" – she always called me Elwood – "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
James Stewart, as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Labbits Like A Little Toilet Humor

Masher McBuns rides by these old trains all the time, but never stops to take a picture. With his triathlon behind him, (race report coming soon!) Masher felt it was time to do a leisurely ride instead of a training ride, so he stopped for a few quick snaps. There's a barbed wire fence along the tracks so he's pretty sure he's not supposed to be back here, but since when were fences effective at keeping out labbits?

There are a lot of train cars with terrible graffiti (Masher's not a fan of graffiti) but this one always makes him laugh, especially after a long ride of mashing his buns in the saddle. Labbits appreciate a little potty humor now and then.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pre-Race Intel 2: OWS

Masher McBuns was hoping the buoys would be set up for his last OWS (open water swim) at Surry Mountain Lake in Surry, NH before his triathlon on Saturday. Alas, they were not, but he roughly swam the mapped course. Then...he played on the beach a little. :)

He's glad he did the swim - it's good to know the course beforehand, and now he's feeling less nervous and more excited. A few weeks ago Masher took the opportunity to ride the bike course. Can't wait for Saturday! Tomorrow...one last mash on the bike and maybe a quick bunny run.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Labbits Like: Chocolate Orange Zucchini Bread

Just look at this moist, chocolatey slice of goodness that Pipkin's munching on! Can you believe it's zucchini bread? Who on earth ever looked at a zucchini and thought, "mmmmm, that would make fantastic bread?" His friends must have pointed and laughed at him. But then he made a loaf of deliciousness and his friends were too busy stuffing their faces to laugh at him again. True fact, I'm sure.

Okay, totally made up, but the fact is, zucchini bread doesn't taste like some mystery green vegetable your mom makes you eat, it bakes up a really moist quick bread! Add in some chocolate chips, orange zest and bake it in a bundt pan and it's practically cake.  This recipe's easy and quick to make, and great to bring to parties! In fact, you might want to print out extra copies of the recipe to share. Print the recipe here.

Don't forget salt! Pipkin always forgets one ingredient in the photo.

Chocolate Orange Zucchini Bread
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 tbsp orange zest (about one labbit sized orange)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs, then add sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the applesauce, vanilla, zucchini and chocolate morsels. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well to blend. 

Pipkin admits that at this stage, it doesn't look so appetizing.
Pour it all into a greased bundt pan* and bake at 350ºF for one hour or until a toothpick inserted through the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pan before flipping it over and serving. 

Yields: one bundt zucchini cakey bread. Enough for 12 - 16 servings.
*To make a more traditional bread shape, bake in two separate 9 x 5 bread loaf pans, for about 50
minutes at 350ºF, OR make a couple dozen muffins, baked for 20-22 minutes at 350ºF.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Labbits Like: Summer Squash Tacos

Pipkin hasn't folded this taco so you can see all the yummy goodness inside.
MMMmmmm veggies fresh from the garden. With summer in full swing, the Year of the Labbit blog was crying out for a seasonal dinner option, and what better way to celebrate Meatless Monday than with a taco filled with fresh from the garden veggies? Summer squash, zucchini and cilantro fill up this taco, and some black beans add protein, the rice provides a base, and of course you need cheese to goo it all together! If Pipkin had thought this through a little more carefully he would have added roasted corn (but corn isn't ready yet here in Vermont) and he would have gotten bigger wraps to make burritos, which are neater to eat. But these tacos are just as tasty as burritos, and sometimes messy food is more fun! Print the recipe here.

Summer Squash Tacos

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 summer squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 14 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 fresh mango, diced
Fresh cilantro, chopped - as much as you like!
2 cups cooked brown rice
Tortilla shells - Pipkin used 10" for big tacos, but they're not big enough for burritos. Get 12" shells for burritos

Shredded cheese - Pipkin had Cabot Racer's Edge sharp cheddar, but Monterey Jack, Jalapeno Jack, and cheddar are all great!
Salsa - Pipkin went with Newman's Own Mango salsa
Sour Cream - optional, Pipkin didn't have any today
Lime juice - optional, yum yum!

Cook 1 cup of brown rice using either a stovetop method or a rice cooker. (Pipkin's got a rice cooker.) While the rice is cooking, rinse and drain the beans. Dice the two squash and the mango.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the summer squash, zucchini and beans and cook until the veggies are tender. Turn off heat and stir in the diced mango.

Heat tortilla shells according to directions on the package. Top with a little brown rice, the veggie and mango mixture, and any toppings, like shredded cheese and salsa. Fold the tortilla shell to create your soft taco. Turn your head sideways and enjoy! :)

Yields: Enough tacos for four hungry labbits.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Labbits Like: Sunday Brunch

It's a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, and after some digging in the garden, Pipkin donned his people disguise and hopped into the village to visit Popolo for Sunday Brunch. (Popolo means people, thus the people disguise, but he's beginning to think they're very labbit friendly.) He'd been cleaning in the yard all morning so he thought a nice, cold Bloody Mary was in order. Instead of the traditional Worcestershire sauce often used to spice a Bloody Mary, Pipkin requested a vegetarian version, so this Bloody Mary - made with fresh tomato juice, not the canned/mix stuff - was spiced with horseradish and tabasco sauce instead. It was also garnished with lemon, lime, green olives, an onion and real cherries! Yum!

Labbits have a sweet tooth so Pipkin went for crepes with a healthy serving of marscarpone and raspberries, and he asked for hash browns on the side.

The marscarpone and raspberries did not disappoint. The hash browns, described in the menu as crispy potato cake, were definitely crispy but not at all in cake form. They were more like really skinny, crispy French fries, and it looked more like a bird's nest. Not what Pipkin was expecting, and still tasty, but he would have preferred a crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside potato cake. Pipkin's made his own potato cakes before, and he's happy to share the recipe with you here!

Pipkin's glad he's got his people disguise, and he's sure he'll be back again to try the other offerings on the Sunday brunch menu. Hope you are all having a good Sunday, and to his Canadian friends, Pipkin wishes you all a Happy Canada Day!