Author: ymanillaw

I am a distance runner who has specialized for years in how not to train properly for a distance run. Aspiring to become a better runner, as well as using a step tracker (fitbit) to motivate and encourage a higher level of activity in general, is what makes up the content of my blog "Running Backwards". When I'm not running or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors, I work as a project manager in Reno, Nevada. My other hobbies include traveling, trying everything once (aka "extreme sports"), and working on my MBA.

Tough Mudder Part 5

We made it to the final chapter.  After Walk the Plank and The Underwater Tunnels, we pressed on.  Not going very far before encountering our next obstacle, the dreaded Boa Constrictor.



This was one of my least favorite obstacles for a few reasons.  I’m not particularly claustrophobic, and they offered tunnels towards the outside that were more elevated so you didn’t have to completely submerge if that is an issue for you, so that wasn’t the problem. The real problem with the Boa Constrictor is the gaugey scrapey factor.  The height of the tunnel prevented even a fairly petite person like me from comfortably crawling on my hands and knees, and even if I could have, that would probably have intensified the gaugey scrapey factor even more.  

So I ended up doing sort of a modified army crawl, and think I still have scars to this day from the sharp rocks that lined the tunnels. 

After the Boa Constrictor we had a fairly uneventful few miles where we ran into a second set of Berlin Walls, and another relatively easy obstacle called King of the Mountain:

And then, finally, when I had totally and completely given up hope, we started going downhill.


As glad as I was to be to be heading in the right directly, the downhill part was no walk in the park.  I think I saw more people get injured on the simple (albeit crazy steep) downhill than any other part of the event.  At the bottom we hit the final 3 obstacles:

A giant cargo net (think it may have been called the spider web or something like that, but I really don’t remember)


The one of my personal favorites: Twinkle Toes

This was one of the few obstacles I felt really good about.  I managed to complete it totally on my own balance skills alone.  And you may think this looks easy, but it is not like your average balance beam.  The boards sway quite alarmingly, and even as a person with pretty good balance, it took every ounce of effort to stay on the whole way across.  Here you can see the priceless reaction of one of my less fortunate teammates.  



And last but not least, everyone’s favorite: ElectroShock Therapy

I was a little disappointed in this one.  By the time we got around to it, many of the cables had been pulled down and it was pretty easy to navigate through without hitting one.  I actually wanted to get shocked (well, kind of anyway, lol) so I didn’t try to miss them, but I still managed to make it through without getting shocked.  

At this point, I was just very very glad to be finished. 




Well there you have it folks.  I know I left a lot out, believe it or not, even 5 parts was just enough to scratch the surface, so if you want to learn more, please post your comments below!  🙂





Workout Wednesday

As I am traveling this week, I thought we would explore some different hotel room workouts for this week’s workout Wednesday.

Option 1, courtesy of Shape Magazine: “The Ultimate Hotel Room Workout”

  1. Split Squat to Cross Crunch
  2. Narrow Squat to Scaption raise
  3. Cardio Burst: Single-Leg Run
  4. Dolphin Plank
  5. Dip and Leg Lift
  6. Cardio Burst: Pushup and Run
  7. Y-T-I Raise
  8. Side Plank Crunch
  9. Cardio Burst: Kneeling Swim
  10. Plie Pulse Extensions

It’s easy to let travel derail your workout routine. You don’t have your go-to gear, your hotel doesn’t have a gym, and hey, you’re on vacation—you’ll get back on track when it’s over, right? Exercise can be part of your vacation. And it won’t ruin the fun. In fact, it might make your trip even more enjoyable. Feeling guilty, regretful, or low energy are what really can put a damper on fun.

Fitness expert Jessica Smith designed this total-body workout exclusively for SHAPE readers to help you stay trim, toned, and energized with minimal space and no equipment. Perform 1 set of the prescribed number of reps for each exercise without resting in between moves. Once you’ve completed the last exercise, rest 1-2 minutes and repeat the entire circuit 1 or 2 more times.

Option 2: Courtesy of Men’s Health Magazine: “The No-Gym-Needed Hotel Workout”

  1. Suitcase Bear Hug to Headlock Squat
  2. Suitcase Juggle
  3. Suitcase Side-to-Side Overhead Press
  4. Suitcase Rolling Lunge
  5. Suitcase Mountain Climber

As an excuse to miss a workout, “no equipment” is lame, even if you’re on the road—and even if you don’t have access to a hotel gym. After all, most guys already travel with the perfect muscle builder stowed neatly in the trunk or overhead bin. “A suitcase is all you need to add weight to any exercise,” says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., creator of and Speed Shred fromMen’s Health DeltaFIT. “It can be as heavy as you want, and its contents shift as you exercise, forcing your muscles to work harder to maintain balance.” And the harder they work, the more they’ll grow and the more fat you’ll burn. 

Follow Gaddour’s lead to transform any carry-on into a workout tool—and turn any hotel room into your very own personal fitness center.

Load a suitcase with enough clothes or other items to make these moves challenging. Perform the exercises as a circuit, doing each for 45 seconds and moving from one to the next with 15 seconds of rest. Complete them all and repeat the circuit. Do up to 6 circuits total.

Option 3: Courtesy of YouTube: “Hotel Room Workout”

And Option 3: Courtesy of Real Simple Magazine: “On-the-Go-Workout”

  1. Warm Up (Arm and Neck Circles) 1 Minute
  2. Jumping Jacks 3 Minutes
  3. Wall Mountain Climber 3 Minutes
  4. Push-up With Side Plank 2 Minutes
  5. Lunge With Biceps Curl 2 Minutes
  6. Backward Lunge With Shoulder Raise 2 Minutes
  7. Glute Stretch 1 Minute
  8. Triceps Stretch 1 Minute

To do this full-body routine, designed by Tara Zimliki, a trainer in Branchburg, New Jersey, you need only a watch and two small water bottles. Complete as many reps of each exercise as you can in the specified time.

With all of these to choose from, I’m sure I’ll find one that works for me.  Which one looks best to you?  Post your comment below:  🙂

Tough Mudder Part 4

So we kept climbing, and climbing and climbing uphill.  And then, just when I thought we couldn’t possibly have any more to climb, guess what?  You guessed it, we climbed some more.  

Along the way we encountered some more fun obstacles, like Hold your wood:


Photo Credit


Photo Credit


This was actually a lot of fun, and it was especially cool to see groups carrying a big log together, like in the picture above or even more remarkably, a single person (and I saw both men and women doing this) carrying one of the huge logs solo.  It was totally crazy, but also really inspiring.  This was also when it started to get pretty hot on the course.  

Then we hit the Berlin Walls:

Hard to believe considering this was late September, but it was a nice sunny day, and with all of that hard work climbing to the summit, then carrying logs and then climbing the 12′ walls it was actually heating up a bit.  

So I was pretty excited to see the next obstacle come into view…


That’s right, Walk The Plank


This was an interesting obstacle.  As someone that is afraid of heights, I used my typical just jump fast, don’t think about it, and don’t look down approach that had served me well in the past.  This was both good and bad.  I managed to make the jump, but then I because I was not looking down, I was not prepared when I hit the water and it was FREAKING FREEZING!!!!  And I mean freezing.  

My body went into that shock response where its really hard to focus on anything, like how to swim, how to breath, you know, all of those things that are kind of important when you find yourself in the middle of a freezing cold body of water with no life jacket.  

Fortunately for me, this kind of thing had happened to me once before when I was whitewater rafting, fell out of the boat and almost died of hypothermia.  Although the guide had told me that if I fell out I should just point my feet downstream and float until I caught up to the boat, it didn’t work.  The boat was getting farther and farther away, and I was getting colder and colder.  So I ended up doggy paddling my way back to the boat because that was the only stroke I could remember with my impaired motor-skills. 

So off I went, heading for part two of this obstacle, the Underwater Tunnels.


This part was a little tricky, again I chose the don’t over-think it, just go approach, which was probably good because it seemed like a lot of people got stuck hanging onto the pontoons.  And I couldn’t really blame them, after ducking under the first one, it was very tempting to just give up and swim for shore asap.  But I gritted my teeth and made it through, and once ashore, we were treated to a water station with apples and bananas.  We felt AMAZING.  The cold water had acted like an ice bath for our poor fatigued muscles, and the water and fruit helped to give us that much needed second wind.  Which we would definitely need, considering there were still something like 4-5 miles to go.

To be continued yet again, but probably for the last time (at least I hope!)


Please comment with your own Tough Mudder stories or questions.  🙂

And after that…

Workout Wednesday

Here we go again kids. This week’s circuit focused on arms and core, and here’s the awesome video:

Once again if for some reason you decide you want to miss out on the fun and excitement of watching the video, the workout is outlined below.

This week started off with one of my least favorite exercises, pull ups.  If you have been following my blog, you know that I suck at Push Ups (among many other things) and sadly enough even the assisted type are still a struggle for me.  We did two sets of 10.

Assisted Pull-Ups

Then came the Shoulder Press: (2 sets, 15 reps, 12.5 lbs)

Shoulder Press

Then Burpees with Bosu and Knee Twists: (2 sets, 14 reps)

Burpee with Knee Twist

Next crunch with scissor kick: (2 sets, 30 reps)

Scissor Kick Crunches

Then Bicep Curls: (2 sets, 1 minute alternating side/side then both)

Bicep Curls

Then Triceps Extensions: (2 sets, 14 reps, 30lbs)

Tricep Extension

And finally Medicine Ball Plank with alternating leg raise: (2 sets, 1 minute)

Medecine Ball Plank with Leg Raise

This was another killer workout, although not quite as bad as last week I think.  Do you agree?  Post a comment below.  🙂


Weakened Warriors: Installment 7

This weak marked another excellent softball game and my second to last game of the season. Although our team has 4 games left I will be traveling for the next 3 weeks and will return just in time for the last game of the season.

This week we squared off against the team we played in the first game of the season, and the only one we had managed to beat so far. It seems like there are a few teams in our league that need to be in a higher league, or maybe we need to be in a lower one, but of the other 5 teams we have played, only two have been closely matched.

The good thing is that even those incredibly talented teams have been really fun to play. Like ours, the other teams in the league seem to be made up of genuinely fun people, and that makes even our most crushing defeats still fun games to play.

This week, although as I mentioned before, we were going to be playing against a team we had already managed to beat, we were not feeling too confident. Several of our best players were going to be out of town, and others like myself were only planning to play so we wouldn’t have to forfeit.

I was especially demoralized due to my lack of a hit all season. Striking out 12 times in a row can really do a number on your self-esteem. Especially for someone like me that is used to being at least half-way decent at sports. As we started the game it was windy, and that was causing a lot of bad pitches. I thought maybe I’d get lucky and get walked, but no. After two perfect strikes in a row that I didn’t even try to swing at, I was out and I thought that anything is better than not even swinging.

So the next time I tried my best, and even managed to barely make contact with the ball. It was the tiniest of clangs, but enough for me and my team to know that I had at least touched it, and that was more than I had managed all season.

So now with 14 strikeouts in a row, combined with some botched plays in the field, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself indeed. Fortunately, everyone else on my team was on fire. We were playing better than we had all season, and had managed to pull into the lead after 3 innings of back and forth.

Finally we hit the 6th inning, and that’s when a miracle happened. Everyone was hitting, the other team was overthrowing, and the runs started to rack up. And it was my turn at bat again. I wasn’t feeling too confident in my chances, but the fact that I had grazed the ball on my last at bat helped me to keep from being totally disheartened.

By this point, I was pretty sure that if I actually managed to hit the ball I would have a heart attack, that or just be so stunned I’d forget to run, but no. Sure enough, I managed a decent hit, a grounder towards the short stop, and just managed to beat the throw to 1st. It probably would have been too close to call, but lucky for me, the first base player dropped the ball and it rolled into the dugout, so I took off again and made it to second.

At this point I realized this whole base running thing was harder than I remembered, which is what happens when you don’t get to run all season. Then, the next batter hit a nice one to the outfield that went between Left and Left Center, and I got the signal to run home. Again, it was a close race, and I would have narrowly made it home but this time it was the catcher that missed the ball, and I was home free.

This was my first time crossing home plate all season, and it felt really good.  That combined with our second team victory made for a great night.  Might just be signing up for summer ball afterall. 😉

Post a comment below:

Workout Wednesday

It’s that time again, and I have another awesome circuit workout for you.  Check out the video:

If you don’t have time to watch the video now, here’s a quick re-cap of today’s exersizes:

Lateral Sumo Squats with 35lb bar: (2 sets, 30 feet, down and back)


Hamstring Curls: (2 sets, 12 reps)


Balance Ball Crunches: (2 sets, 30 reps)


Bridge with Bosu and Thigh Band: (2 sets, 10 reps each normal and single leg each side)


Walking Lunges with Pivot and Sumo Squat: (2 sets, 30 feet, down and back)




So there you have it, only 5 exercises this time, but they were particularly punishing ones so don’t worry, you’ll be struggling to walk tomorrow!  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.  🙂


Tough Mudder Part 3

Let’s see. now where were we?  Oh yes, just summited Everest and arrived at High Camp.  Leading up to the race the TM website had claimed that this particular TM would be approximately 10 miles in length, and would incorporate approximately 2000 feet of elevation gain.  In the last month leading up to the race, the length changed from 10, to 11 to finally 12 miles and after speaking with some of the Saturday participants who had worn GPS watches, we learned that the course was really closer to 13 miles.  13.2 to be exact, more than a Half Marathon!  In all that time the elevation numbers remained the same, 2000′.

So I figured sweet!  All of the uphill is out of the way, all downhill from here…

Boy was I wrong.

I wish I’d had my fitbit at the time, it would have been really cool to see how many steps this would have counted for!

So after Everest, we hit a whole bunch of obstacles back to back:

First came Funky Monkey


Now if you’re like me and you haven’t tried the monkey bars in a few decades, it was not just like riding a bike.  Not even close.  And even if the bars didn’t spin and weren’t slick with mud, I doubt I would have made it the whole way across.  It was really impressive to watch the people that did though.  And they made it look so easy too…Image

After the Funky Monkey came a rope climb, not sure what it was called, and it is no longer on the TM website…

But it basically entailed the gym activity we all remember of climbing the rope.  Fortunately team work came into play on this one too and if you had someone hold the bottom of the rope steady for you, the climb was a whole lot easier to complete.


This one was actually pretty fun, and allowed me to pretend I had some amazing upper body strength!  lol


Then we hit Log Jamming

This was definitely one of the tamer obstacles on the course, which was nice because, shortly after completing this obstacle, we started to climb again.  Imagine my surprise, considering by my calculations we had easily surpassed our 2000′ feet a few hundred feet ago.


To be continued yet again…


Have any great TM stories to share?  Post a comment below!  🙂

Workout Wednesday

It’s that time again!  Here is a video of this week’s workout.  This time it is a circuit at my gym.  This is my preferred midweek workout because it is short and sweet.  🙂

In case you aren’t interested in watching the amazing video (can’t imagine why, it is hilarious and sooo embarrassing for me, lol).

Here’s an overview of what you would be missing:

Warm up/Exercise 1:Partner Ball Slams 10 Reps, 2 Sets.


Exercise 2: Shoulder Press  10 lb dumbbells, 15 Reps (each side), 2 Sets


Exercise 3: Partner Band Trunk Twists 12 Reps (each side), 2 Sets


Exercise 4: Dumbbell Rows 15 Reps, 2 Sets


Exercise 5: Side to Side Push Ups 10 Reps (5 on each side), 2 Sets


Exercise 6: Ankle Touch Side Crunches 30 Reps (15 on each side), 2 Sets


Thanks for watching, please comment and let me know how you liked the video this week!  🙂



Tough Mudder Part 2

So we had finished the death march and soon after another obstacle came into view.  The Arctic Enema.  Now the Arctic Enema may not seem all that intimidating if you were to simply see someone else go through it, but it was actually one of the scariest obstacles for me.


The idea is pretty simple, it is a large construction dumpster with a wall half-way across that forces you to submerge completely and swim under it.  Nothing too crazy right?  And it wouldn’t have been if they hadn’t been dumping forklift loads full of ice into the other end.  So the icy water hit you immediately as you jumped in at the start, but that wasn’t so bad after the initial shock.  The scary part came as you approached and submerged to go under the wall.  I expected to just be submerged for a second or two and to pop up into open water on the other side.


When I went to try and re-surface however, I encountered resistance.  This was really scary because I didn’t want to push up really hard only to find a solid surface that could cause injury, or even maybe knock me unconscious.  So I went a little farther, in case it was still the wall I was encountering, but still there was the resistance when I tried to surface.  This was when it started to get really scary, not only was I running out of air, but that cold water was really starting to kick in, and I could feel my motor-skills getting sluggish.

So I decided just to push up hard and take my chances.  It turned out that the resistance I was hitting was about 6 inches of ice.  They had put so much ice into the other side of the dumpster that it was actually making a barrier, not just on the surface, but a mountain on the other end that would have been impossible to navigate without help from others.  Fortunately for me, there were people on the other end that were grabbing peoples arms and dragging them out.  If it weren’t for that assistance, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it out on my own.


Then once I was out, I ended up getting into a group hug with total strangers because we were all so cold we needed to share our body heat to warm back up again.  It was a pretty surreal experience, and definitely showcased the embodiment of teamwork.

That’s another thing that I love about this organization is the pledge that every Mudder must make prior to participating in a TM event:

This is part of what makes the Tough Mudder such an amazing event to participate in.  And it absolutely saved me in a few of the obstacles, most specifically on Everest, the next event after the Arctic Enema.

The idea behind Everest is:

The reality on race day was this:


A huge bottleneck had sprung up drastically changing the approach to this obstacle.  Instead of Mudders sprinting to and up the half pipe before grabbing onto their teammates, there was a huge mob at the bottom that prevented any kind of running approach.  Instead several human ladders formed.  We had our two tallest team members (6’3″ and 6’5″) and with one standing on the other’s shoulders I was able to climb up onto the second guy’s shoulders and just barely reach my teammates arms at the top.


From there most Mudders are able to pull themselves up using their amazing upper body strength, I however did not have any amazing upper body strength to rely on, so I took the approach of swinging one of my legs up where another team member was able to grab it.  Without the help of my teammates at the bottom and the top, this obstacle would have been completely impossible for all but the most agile and athletic Mudders to complete, but instead, it fostered an incredible sense of community and camaraderie.



This is the obstacle that still resonates most clearly to me today, almost 3 years later.


To be continued again…


What are your thoughts on these obstacles?  Post a comment!  🙂


Tough Mudder Part 1

Alright kids here it is as promised, the recap of my Tough Mudder experience.  Granted this was back in 2011 when Tough Mudder and I were both a lot younger, but most Mudders still agree that TM Norcal 2011 which was held at Squaw Valley is still one of the hardest and most epic TMs ever.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t signed up again?  I feel like this one would be really hard to top.  Although, there arequite a few obstacles that I haven’t tackled yet, so maybe one of these days I’ll put my on my Mudder tights again…

This will have to be split into several installments because there is just so much ground to cover, and so many awesome pics to share.  But first, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past 4 years and don’t know what Tough Mudder is, here you go:

The best part of my Tough Mudder experience was by far, my awesome team.  And really, team is an understatement, we were really more of an army.  We ended up recruiting a total of 23 people onto our team, which we decided to call the Technovikings.  Not sure why we went with that as our team name, but here is a video of the actual Technoviking:

We had the perfect Tough Mudder team, a group of near strangers connected by our shared desire to get muddy while tackling fun obstacles.  Here we are all clean and shiny waiting for our turn to start.



From there the course jumped right into obstacle number 1, the death march.  The starting line for this TM was at Squaw Valley’s basecamp with an elevation of about 6200 feet.  And we quickly started our way up the mountain heading for Highcamp and it’s elevation of 8200 feet.  Now most of your run of the mill Tough Mudder events encompass about 2000 feet of elevation gain over the entire course, we eclipsed that within the first 3 miles.  Image

About halfway through the Death March, we encountered Kiss of Mudd which unfortunately I have no pictures of, but consisted of a nice cool swim (and by swim I mean shallow crawl) in some lovely brown water while trying to avoid catching your hair and clothing on the barbed wire strung just inches above the surface of the water.

We hadn’t even reached the top of the death march yet when we passed a sign that said “If this was the spartan race, we’d be done already”.  Hard to believe we were only on obstacle #2 at that point.

To Be Continued…


If you’re contemplating your own TM experience, or would like to swap stories post a comment!  🙂