Tag Archives: Georgia

Tough Mudder, GA, 2012

Holy Moly I write this to you from a world of pain. Tough Mudder is a whole new race experience: very tough, but so much fun. Here is my experience:

It was a cold, cold Georgia day. It reached about 40 degrees, but the biting winds took it down to a ‘feels like’ 24. Yes, Europeans, that’s below freezing in your language. After the classic pre-race breakfast of a McDonalds bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (what?? all the best athletes eat this I tell you) I donned my Tough Mudder T-shirt (thanks Gabe!), joined my teammates Andrew, Andrea, Gabe and Amanda and registered. Obligatory war paint later…. we were off.

You climbed over a wall into a pen for your start wave, and the MC did a great job at getting us fired up… I was bemused / surprised / bewildered at having to salute the American flag before an obstacle course which threatened hypothermia (were we tying America to voluntary stupidity?? Who knows…) but enjoyed listening to the anthem. This nationalistic pride is a while new thing to me (I’m from a land where we say “I’m British… sorry…”). Then boom – we were off. Here is my hazy and imperfect memory of the race:

(1) First obstacle jumping over muddy-water filled trenches. Done.

(2)Second obstacle: crawling through deep, deep mud under barbed wire. Done. So far, so good. Then a 5K – easy peas… wait, what was this? The mud setting on my body like a plaster cast? Weighing me down and feeling like it was made of ice? Hmmm… OK, ok, I could do this.

(3)Third obstacle: scrabbling over walls. No problem! I didn’t even need help… but could help others…

jumped down and ran to

(4) a dumster filled with water. And ice. So much ice. I decided I didn’t care and leaped in next to Gabe. I did care at that point:

The shock was immense. Literally, breathing in was difficult. Then there was a wall up to the water level, so you had to fully submerge and swim under. OK… OK… it hurt. It really hurt. Amanda and Andrea were smart to go around this one. But we sign up for pain, right? So, I carried on, enjoying the challenge.

(5): Turd’s nest….  OKey doke, close by, a wall to climb over, and a rope thingie. Good good – all members of my team rocking it.

(6) Running through flaming hay. Not scary, not difficult and to be honest: darn nice to be able to warm up.

(7) Next up: bails of hay, each about 4 ft tall to scramble over, maybe 8 ontop of one and another. No safety net. Scary, yes, achieveable – yes. Up went all 5 members of  ‘tough mudder bitches’ and down again. Sweet.

(8) Then mud like I have never seen mud. I lost my shoe… Deep, deep mud and pipes to crawl through. This caused some tears from me – I am not good with narrow spaces and feeling ‘trapped’ and especially not narrow spaces with no traction…

but hey – seeing Amanda and Andrea and Andrew push through was encouragement enough. Andrew gave me a great tip: go on your side, as you don’t be able to push any other way except through momentum.

(9) Ah, next, the greased money bars. The famous & popular (spectators) or infamous and feared (runners). I mean, they would be bad enough… and painful, but of course, tough mudder had to put them over iced water. Gabe & I didn’t stand a chance, although Gabe is my all time Tough Mudder hero for doing it with a torn rotator cuff. Andrew made it! Rockstar!

Another colder, more mud covered 5 K. This was OK, although I was envious of Amanda and Andrea being DRY.

(10) Crawling through long and very dark trenches in the ground. I was terrified…. Gabe talked me through it 🙂

(11) Then running, this time over time logs piled up…

(12) to a tarpaulin on the ground, with electric wires hanging a few inches above. Bad enough, except that they also constructed a sprinkler. Water + electricity + a human = not good. I was scared, but figured I’d be able to slither through without getting touched. Wrong. As the first one hit me and felt like a sharp, sharp stab followed by a buzz I flattened totally. I remember being OK at this stage, but I wasn’t because when one spectator on the sidelines said “you’re doing it wrong, use you legs!” I stopped dead still, turned my head, glared him straight in the eye and said slowly, quietly and disgustingly: “You come and f&*!ing do it”. Then I carried on my miserable way.

Oh, look, another 5K. This one involved wading through a waist high bog of thick, foul-smelling stench (this time Gabe, Andrea and Amanda sensibly skipped it… Andrew and I carried on regardless).  Then running through a cold rocky brook for about a mile. The wind was up, I was soaked, there was no indication of how long this section would be, and when I saw ‘Mile 7’ I think I wanted to cry that I was only just over 1/2 way through. I didn’t. I carried on

I lost a lot of the obstacles here, the next I really remember was

(17) Really, really high walls, perhaps 8/9 feet (?) The guys on the course were awesome – the let me climb all over them (ouch) and boosted me over. I did both because I got so much help! BUt felt bad that I was totally unable to help anyone else.

(18) Holding wood and carrying it some way. Tiring, required mental grind but not too bad. Some guy yelled at me “That log is bigger than you!” which cheered me up immensely. It was here that the cold, cold, cold really set in. As I said, to al intents and purposes, it was 24 degrees. Not ideal. My hands were seizing up… my wet hair freezing on my bonce… but on to

(19) jumping over some tyres (with the wood) – again, quite nice and easy, except that you were so tired it was hard to keep your footing…

(20) Monkey bars number 2: swinging hoops. Me: Fail. More plunging into icy water (in the -24 weather: who cares? Me. I cared). Gabe, Andrea, Amanda: Go around. Andrew: Success! I was eternally grateful to Gabe for helping me out… a friendly face really boosted me

(21) Walk the plank. Honestly? Probably the second hardest obstacle. Climb 15ft into the air, wet and freezing, and jump into a freezing lake. I got up there no problem and stood next to Gabe. “Are we going to do it? Are we?” he said… I shrugged, “I guess so….OK”. Gabe did a count down and I didn’t want to let him down so jumped. I could not have done it without him – it seemed so high. This was the team support of which everyone spoke.

The cold was shocking. Shocking. Many people’s lungs spasmed a bit and they couldn’t breathe… this is where a few were carried off in heat blankets…. I was OK! Gabe was OK! Andrew appeared not to have noticed it was difficult and was battling on. We joined the girls who waited for us on the side and ran (I think I limped actually) onto

(22) Everest. A huge, huge plastic wall, at 90 degrees to the ground after a slope, covered in mud. You had to run up it, jump up, and be grabbed at the top by others who hauled you over. This was Andrew and I’s feeling on it:

We tried. After 2 very, very close attempts and the third failed attempt and the third set of cuts and blood trickling down my face, I walked around. Andrew: over like a champion! Waddling, limping onto:

(23) Going on your back across a wire, hanging over a lake. I actually quite enjoyed this – it hurt. It hurt like hell, but I made it well. I think Gabe and Andrew did too. Then onto:

(23) The most painful. Long narrow beams, above water (I think it may actually NOT have been iced). The girls waited on the other side as Andrew, Gabe and I slowly inched, inched our way. At end of it, I waited for the boys and broke down. My hands were frozen stiff, I was shivering uncontrollably, and couldn’t see the end.

But the end was in sight 🙂 1.5 more miles running, admittedly with limbs so sore from the obstacles, and with soaking, freezing clothes clinging to me – but still, 1.5 miles didn’t seem so bad.

 

(24) Walking through a bog (whatever, so over this) and then

(25) Running wet, through electric shocks. I am ashamed to say that I nearly wimped out. I stared them down for so long… Andrew ran right though, Gabe stayed to encourage me, until I started crying and told him to jut go. He did it! So proud of him, and I couldn’t bare to have tried every single obstacle except the last one.

So, I ran.

The shocks were light at first, but towards the end, strong enough that my legs gave way and I splatted into the mud.

Who cares?? Done!! Onto my free recovery beer!

I hate beer…. Wes’ fries were much more welcome.

 

 

I was so glad I did it. So proud I tried every obstacle… all the freezing water, all the electric shocks. In fact, I only ‘failed’ at Everest, because I was bleeding and battered. So impressed I ran the full 1/2 marathon, even when cold, and caked in mud. So glad my other Tough Mudder, bitches, helped me through it 🙂

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Battle at Big Creek, Tough Mudder week 7 and reflections on some life choices

A section of Big Creek Trails

The earliest start yet took me to a new state for a trail run; at 3.30 am, the boy packed up some warm jumpers, two fired up puppies, a stash of snacks, and a grumpy ‘just started my TOTM and have cramps’ wife, and started the 3 hour drive to Roswell, Georgia for Xterra’s “Battle at Big Creek”. 8k (me) or 16k ( brave fools) as you wished. I arrived, glad the boy had allowed vast amounts of extra time (which I did not feel glad for at 3.30 am) as we had forgotten the change over from Central to Eastern time. But we made it fine, I got my neat little registration pack, some time to chill and warm away the Raynaud’s in the car, and time to be vaguely disconcerted that I had been registered as a 31 year old.

It was not in a state park this time, rather a “greenway” in a urban area. The trail was OK from a scenic point of view. It was fine, and it was great to be out among the changing trees, but there were no nice views and no sense of being it in endless nature (which is something I do in general love about trail running). It might not have been helped that our route missed the water. Whereas I am already planning the 2 hour drive to take my friends to hike the stunning Monte Sano in Huntsville, I am not especially planning a return trip here, although if passing, I would happily stop for a hike.

So, why did Xterra’s pick it? Well, post race, I read that they do it because of the challenge. It is one of Xterra’s hardest terrains, based on technical difficulties, steepness and condition of the trail. And Xterra’s are hardly known for mollycoddling their participants.

I knew at the start that 2 weeks wasn’t really enough to train for an 8k from 5k standard, but I am traveling much of the rest of this month so this was my only hope of getting a monthly race in. In the blistering cold (my tongue actually went numb) I enthusiastically started somewhere near the middle and slowly picked people off as I made my way to the front. It was uphill, but that was OK, as after my lesson from Monte Sano I had been doing some hill training and practicing on the undulating ground near my house. Undulating. Undulating. Not nearly 3 miles of pure climb that was so steep the trail had to wind its way up it, rather than take a direct path. Hmmmm. About 2 miles into it I was pretty miserable and thinking “I am either going to have to hate hills or train for them more”. I suspect it will be a mixture of both.

I got my head down, and at around 3 miles, started to get in the zone more and enjoy it. I picked people off one by one and felt pretty good about it. I ignored the aid stations and just pushed on, and could see around a few bends, so see that I was doing pretty well among the women – there were only maybe 5 or 6 in front of me, of which the 3 absolute spring chickens told me I was 2 nd or 3 rd in my age group. Time for a final push as I hit the last mile marker – and push I did. I sprinted for that finish line, passing one woman and making myself 2nd, which was a wonderful feeling. I gave it all, and at the last 400 meters I was overjoyed to see the end in sight. Just one more hairpin, which I negotiated with vigor… Until this happened

Ow

Yes it did hurt, although the cold saved me some of the immediate pain. I watched 2nd and 3rd place jump ahead of me

She nixed me to 3rd... fair and square

and even though I sprang up, my intended sprint to the finish line became a running hobble. Ah well, the disappointment of just losing out on a medal as 4th in my age group smarted more than the leg, to be honest.

Definitely a hobbling run

But as ever I learned a lot, and that is an important part of the process. More important than medals, right? Ahem. I learned

*Again, check the course, check the course, check the course. I actually couldn’t have gotten any more info for this one, but it did remind me of the value of knowing the course. I trained how to be able to sprint / run up brief-ish hills and recover on the way down, and the long climb just destroyed me.
*Find it more about the race. This was one of Xterras 3 national qualifier races, where runners who want to run in the Nationals have to place in all 3. So, the were more elite-recreational runners than the just recreational runners I encountered last time
*Better to eat before the race and not need it, than to need it half way around. I ate a light breakfast (200 kcals) at 5 and then ran at 8.30 because it was “just an 8k” and when I train I often do these fasted. But, I don’t train as hard as I race and the hills required extra input, so I could have done with more food
*Along those lines, eat carbs the night before. I tend to avoid all non vegetable carbs in the evening (bar the occasional glass of wine). This works fine for general training, especially as I do a lot of it in the evening as I get often stuck into my work with my morning coffee, whether I intended to or not. Somehow an oatmeal carb up in the morning isn’t quite as efficacious as evening pasta.
*Wear less! Because it was cold I wore a jumper to run. It was great for about 2 minutes, then I spent the next 5 minutes annoyed I was hot and the next 30 secs slowing down and stumbling because I was taking it off. Then the rest of the race struggling to keep it tied around my waist. Recreational Jumper = bad decision. Considering a long-sleeved sorts top for December runs.
* My iPod lies! It cheerfully yelled “1/2 way point”… And then about 6 mins later I came across the actual halfway point which was somewhat deflating. More annoyingly, it yelled ‘1 mile to go’ causing an all out of burst of speed that could only last a mile, when there were in fact about 1.8 miles left. Really deflating was hearing “Congratulations! Workout complete” and not even being able to see the finish line. As someone who does not love running, it is a mind game for me.

*Don’t fall. This may be the best tip of all.

So Tough Mudder training, week 7.

This may have been my best training week yet. I completed the full DAMY complement of workouts, felt great for all of them, and did some extra. I didn’t feel at all worn out, although as I am now in week 8, I am feeling some tiredness and really just doing the set schedule, not throwing anything else in. But, very happy with this week. It went a lil’ something like:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B – DONE

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills) – DONE

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs) – Changed; no hill sprints due to lack of sleep and an early meeting

Weds:  Functional training (plyos) – DONE

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest). – DONE. So glad I went, Gabe’s kickboxing is the best 😀

Week 8 plan

Friday – rest for race after a hard week

Saturday – 8 k + DAMY B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: 5k interval run + DAMY A in the am (arms); DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Yoga in the am,  Functional training (plyos) pm

Thurs: Kickboxing

And some life choices this week

I am sure you have all heard the industry “pick two of three” paradigm. Is is where you can pick two of these for any given project:

Cheap
Fast
Good

You just can’t have more than 3. So, if something is done cheaply and quickly, it isn’t gong to be done well. Conversely, if it is done well and quickly, then is going to cost a lot. I once turned to David and said “I have had an epiphany. Women cannot be smart, cute and healthy”. It takes some qualifying as I picked catchy words. By smart I meant very successful at work. By cute, I meant well turned out with good clothes with styled hair and neat make up. By healthy I meant regularly active and eating healthy, homemade food. So, if I am going to work long hours and go to the gym a lot, I am going to look a mess. By the time I have packed up all my lunch and filled my bag with that, I don’t have time to co ordinate a decent outfit and shoes or have space in my bag for make-up. I’ll be barefaced and chances are: in my trainers all day. David thought about it and said to me “I think what you are saying, Lekki, is that you can’t do everything in life”. Spot on.

Courtesy of PhDcomics.com

This has recently come back to me as work went crazy for the grant. The grant took up a lot of time, and pushed back my other work, so the crazy-busy schedule will continue while I make up for it. And the lack of evening eats into my weekends as I have to do the cleaning. Tidying, cooking etc has to be done then. Then I have my sport which I love, and also eats my time. I loved my race this weekend, and loved the uninterrupted 6 hours it gave me with my husband. Thing is, I also wanted to go to a friend’s house and watch the game. I knew if I did that, I would not get all my house stuff done, and I would not get as much work done. It hurt, but I declined. I realized I was making a choice. The house is at a stage where it could not be left without environmental protection coming and trying to save us from ourselves, but technically work could be. However – there would not be many serious repercussions if I delayed work a little. I don’t have any immediate deadlines, and my work for today is largely a job app, when I have a promising K award and 2 exciting interviews at places I would love to work on the horizon.

So why do the app? Because I need a back-up, sure. But also because it is for NIH which would be an enormously prestigious position. And one that really allowed to conduct my Science for the next 5 years in a very stimulating academic environment. So, my career is going very well at the moment, yes, and I have better than average career prospects. But I will fight to make my prospects elite. I really care about my latest project and I want every shot to be able to complete it, and to be able to complete it in the best environment possible. I don’t know where that is yet, and I suspect I will only find out through applications and visits and tang to people on visits.

So I guess I am says that I felt I made a decision on Saturday. To prioritize my career over my social life, even though my social life is very woeful at the moment and my career is great. I am surprised how easy this decision came and how well it say with me. We all make choices and we have to live with our choices. I think it helped me to sleep better and enjoy my choices knowing that I was making them, and why.

IMAGE credits

http://alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=136

http://vadlo.com/cartoons.php?id=241

DAMY Health week 5 & 6; Tough Mudder training week 6

Waaaaah. It has been a tough week on the old “slough off 15 of the 25 post American lbs in 12 weeks” attempt. But, while not making any great physical progress (in fact, there was somewhat of a back-slide), I made some good mental health progress. Huzzah.

So, weeks 5/6. Along with fighting an incredible amount of lethargy I was also dealing with insane hunger and sugar cravings.  Hunger that made me feel unfocused and dizzy. Hunger that left me unable to play table tennis for more than 30 mins (although it WAS dinner time, and I HAD just workout out for 50 minutes and I DID steal some points off my victorious hubby). I gave it a few days and then emailed Amy of DAMY Health, seeing as I was especially concerned about my drop in athletic performance. Wow, I thought I would just get some quick “21 tips to break hunger”, but she responded within 48 hours, making me list everything I was eating and all my workouts. She went through my meals & snacks one by one, and either OK-ed them, or fixed them. In essence we got: A LOT more protein (some 30 g or so), which makes sense as the weight training is up to 4 days a week, and if I lift… I lift pretty heavy. Not quite the ball buster days of yore, but not too shabby either. We also got way less sugar – she switched out my beloved frozen peas and put in green beans, zucchini and broccoli (yeach! I did not follow that last one!). Oh, and she doubled my lunchtime whole grain carbs, and pretty much ordered me to have a pre-bedtime snack (Oh, you want we to force down delicious delicious chocolate pudding or peanut butter on celery eh? Oh go on then…). Immediately I felt better and Amy emailed me both the following days to check in and make me write down my diet. Not bad for a one off $98.

My hunger immediately decreased. As I swapped a lot of the fruit for protein / WG combos I immediately craved less sugar. In fact, I was back to the miracle start of the beginning of DAMY where I was not literally counting down the seconds to each meal. Good stuff. My recovery also increased tonnes – I completed every workout on DAMY (and there are a lot, and they are tough. Think 4 weight sessions, one plyo session, 2 steady state sessions, 1 HIIT and 1 HIIT + plyo, OUCH) and even got my HIIT to be hill sprints (why? why do I do this to myself) and threw in an extra 12K. Banging. Did it all… loved it all… felt great.

Then, week 6 and weigh day came. 1.5 lbs more. Really? Really? I waited a day and weighed myself: same. Waited another day: .5 lb more? Life hates me. And no shift in inches. And if I was brave enough to post the progress pics I take for Amy… you’d see some lack of definition. Gah. But, DAMY made me define non weight related goals at the beginning of the program, and I focused on these instead. Some of these were:

-To stop the endless restrict-stuff myself cycle.

-To stop living my day by the scale. Bad scale day = bad day must end.

So, with that in mind, I just soldiered on with the corrected diet, smiled and tried not to let it get to me. I didn’t have any other ‘treats’ that week at all. When I emailed Amy with my weekly check-in I explained this to her, but said it could be water weight, and yay! I was sticking to my other goals and wasn’t life great and that’s the end of that.

Amy is not so cavalier with her clients. While yes, she was pleased that I seemed to be developing more stable, sustainable eating habits, she wants me to email her all my food from yesterday (on a Sunday! Sneaky!), and is upping the intensity of my workouts a little. I am supposed to break them into 2 and do cardio in the am and weights in the afternoon (or vice versa) rather than one long session. I also have to skip between weight reps to keep my heart rate up. Bleurgh. I was in a happy rut groove, which may explain the lack of progress 🙂 But, I am glad to be working with Amy. She is a cheerleader and very positive, but not going to take sloppiness for an answer (nor not eating all your fibrous veggies it would seem. Ick). I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

So… those stats. Boo. I look forward to better news next time (although next time is slap bang at time of the month, so it may take a few extra days…):

Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks / after 6 weeks:

Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5 / 137

Chest: 37 / 37 ” / 37 “ / 37″

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″ / 28″

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″ / 37″

Onto Tough Mudder week 6

This was an awesome week of training. I completed everything, ran the furthest for me yet (ha!), recovered like a rockstar ready to get at it the next day, and generally loved it. I didn’t really dread any workouts, just the first steady state as I was saving my knees so did it on the elliptical.

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – 5K, DAMY weights B  – DONE

Sunday – Steady state 7 mile jog – DONE (7.5 hahahahaha)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: REST – Changed, long jog completed.

Weds:  DAMY D (legs); interval A – done, hill sprints DONE. Y-e-e-e-e-e-s

Thurs: Kickboxing (this is a good proxy for DAMY’s 6th ‘functional’ workout – lots of core stuff). Oh, I missed this. Boo. Had too much work with a grant due to UAB the next day. Changed.

Week 7 plan:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Functional training (plyos)

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest).

I feel I am getting closer and closer to Tough Mudder fitness (sadly also to the race – eeeep). My core is getting a lot stronger, and I am completing more and more of the push ups (even when doing them immediately after lifting weights for shoulder training). My jogging / running is better and I am using the same weights for 15, rather than 12, reps. All I need to learn is those darned pull ups. Soon. Overall: super fitness progress (for a non-sporty person like me). And in 4 days time: Georgia trail race: wooooo 😀

More Cloudland


This time we did 11 miles: The same 5-mile loop as last time, followed by a 2 mile waterfall trail and a 4 mile loop. The waterfall trail was stairs, stairs, stairs, but the last 4 mile loop was very easy – more like a stroll in the woods. If you can: go. If it wasn’t for the limited trail options, it would be my favourite place to hike.

If you are not on facebook (you’re not??) then checkout my Picasa album.

And get yourself there 🙂

Cloudland Canyon, Georgia and zip lining

View from Cloudland Canyon, Rising Fawn, Georgia

Last week I tried, for the first time, an American thing called ‘zip lining’. How to explain it to my British friends? Well, in the words of  Wikipedia, it is “a Pulley suspended on a Wire rope mounted on an incline”. In my words “sheer madness”. Basically you descend several flights of stairs to a wire stretching across some cavernous gulley, or alligator-infested river to an anchor wire considerably lower that your current point. You don a harness, some gloves and a helmet

It doesn't get much sexier than this... no really, I don't....

and attach yourself to said wire… and well, let gravity do the rest, turning upside down and dangling your hands if you dare can

Just like that. Genius.

. It is, apparently, a common American activity. It is, definitely, also enormous fun.

We rocked up deep into the Tennessee countryside (where no one can hear you scream) and climbed aboard a bus that poured out more smoke than Lydon B Johnson’s iron lung.

Why did I get on this ?!?

Wesley was full of excitement, me – I was a bundle of nerves. My nerves were not especially disquieted when a boy, who looked no old than 12 announced through his mohawk and acne,  that my safety was in his hands. Good-oh. Actually, he was extremely sweet (very kind when he said I seemed ‘kinda nervous’ and I announced this to be the greatest understatement since Churchill said ‘that Hitler bloke – not very nice, is he?’), and extremely competent and actually fairly attractive. Or maybe that was just a form of Stockholm Syndrome, as he held my captive life in his hands at several points. Either way, I returned safe and happy and wanting to do it again.

Here are some videos of me zip lining:

(yes, upside down and hands free thank-you-very-much), and landing almost perfectly:

– of course.

After that, we went white water rafting (like you do). It was fun too, and not at all scary. Our guide, Jody, was a sweet heart and it was safe and very picturesque. Both were done through Ocoee Outdoors and I would highly recommend them. We will have some more pics when we develop the underwater camera pics.

We also went for a hike at Cloudland Canyon in Rising Fawn, Georgia. It was 2 1/2 hours from Birmingham but the beauty of the place was absolutely worth it. There are 2 5 mile loops, and a 2 mile waterfall trail. We did one of the loops, skirting the canyon and seeing dells and glens and huge vistas of The Smokeys.

The hike was of moderate difficulty – the terrain was fairly easy, but it was steep at times and could be tiring. We didn’t do the second loop as we had to get to our motel, but we did do the 2 mile walk to the waterfalls. A lot of stairs (in fact nearly all stairs) but very beautiful. If you can get to Cloudland – go. Worth the travel (from Alabama) for sure. In fact I am off again this weekend, with Stella, Lizzie and Yann. Bring it on!!

Normal operation resumed, spontaneity returns

Ah, and breathe a sigh of relief. After the perfect wedding – well, the perfect wedding to us, the necessity to fill days with crafts, budgeting, alcohol tasting and web surfing is over. I’m not saying the desire is gone, nor that those actions have entirely ground to a halt (the third one especially), but we have other options now. And, I can go back to exploring America, and satisfying my ADHD-related novelty seeking urges. With the benefit of a loving husband at home. In the words of Charlie Sheen: “Winning”. First up: my first ever baseball game.

So, my friend and fellow blogger and America-explorer Dom is in my office on Friday, mentioning that he was planning a trip to see the Braves, and trying to get people on board. ‘Err… well… if there’s space, you know.. and tickets… and er….’ I stutter. Dom looks in disbelief ‘you’re up for it?’ of which I believe the direct translation is “so, the girl who needs 3 months notice to go for an after work drink is dropping everything at 36 hours notice to jaunt to Georgia at 36 hours notice at grant time?” Like I said, I’m back.

So off we went. We had my first experience of tailgating, which was awesome.

We also sadly had not my first ‘you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday’ experience (WTF? Didn’t Jesus create wine from water? Shouldn’t water be banned and alcohol mandatory?). But other tailgaters were more than happy to share their Bud with the boys, while I quietly consumed my bottle of Chardonnay. Which, in 100 degree heat with no breakfast, may have been a mistake. But hey, we live and we learn.

stadium.jpg

Onto the stadium, in my newly borrow wife-beater: it was huge! And had so many shops and restaurants and lit up signs. It was like a mini city. We went in the pitching tent (I was rubbish, but want another go) and bought Braves swag (me: a cute vest top to please left-behind hubby; Matthew: a hat), bought more alcohol (of course) and sat in the blazing heat to watch the game.

pitching.jpg

It was fun, and I started to get the rules. But the alcohol didn’t help (I would definitely either eat more food and drink more water, or just drink less wine next time). And 2-hours later it was time to get back for Father’s day. A drunken sob in the back, a long sleep, a few moment of incoherent chatter and I was delivered back home, sunburned, hungry and very sleepy. Want to go again!

Thank you Matthew and Dom for an awesome day, and another American experience ticked off (Matthew was also responsible for my first ever football game – which was even more awesome).