Earn Your Rank

18402930_10211113874019994_8400291433473830259_nGrains of sand tumbled over each other then took flight, hurling themselves across my legs at speeds enough to shave the skin off my ankles. This was not what I signed up for. At least we were’t racing on the beach.

The Battle Race course, set up ten miles inland, awaited my partner and me. We had run Sid Morris‘ epic first Battle Race in Baton Rouge last year.

This year’s series promised to be even better — 3+ miles and 38 obstacles, complete with extra burpees and penalty laps. Needless to say, we were amped.

Our strategy was nothing new, after half-a-dozen OCRs together, we just looked at each other as the rookies sprintedP4290383 out of the starting gate. We knew we would see them again, gasping for air about 7 obstacles in. Slow and steady is the way to handle a Battle.

Terrain isn’t much of a challenge in Gulfport, MS. The obstacles were the reason we were here, nearly 40 in a 5.5-mile course. And Battle Race did not disappoint.

Cargo nets to crawl under and climb over. Ladders. Inverted ladders. Short walls. Tall walls. Cliffhangers. Rope climbs. Rope swings. Sandbag carries. And that was the
easy stuff.
P4290287I have never seen this much variety, and this many obstacles packed into any OCR anyhere. And as we battled deeper into the course, the obstacles just got better. Barbed wire crawls. A-frames. Tire flips. And a literal mountain of sand. (So much for terrain not  being an obstacle on the Gulf Coast.

You want log carries? Try humping a log down a gentle slope, then crawling under barbed wire while rolling that log up a dried gully.

Tough Mudder has Everest. Spartan has the Bucket Carry. Battle Race has at least three signature obstacles. The first we faced was Limitless. P4290201Imagine Victor Frankenstein as a fitness freak instead of a mad scientist.

This contraption could have come straight from his lab. First you shimmy up an angled pole, swing up and down monkey bars, then back up another angled bar before crossing another set of monkey bars and out of the obstacle. And the best part is, this thing has so many rigs, there can be a different set-up for every race.

Unmovable should be dubbed MissionAlmostImpossible. Grab a 150+ pound sandbag, and schlep it 20 yards. But that, my wheezing sherpa, is just the beginning. 18320595_1718903321740732_5350041093897681042_oDrop that behemoth onto a 24-inch platform then push it over to the other side. Now, jump on top, and cross to the other side. Now, pick up that beast, flip it over the box, jump back, and again hoist the dead weight off the ground and carry at back to where you started.

It’s enough to knock the wind out of the most seasoned OCR strongman. I watched the action at this one for nearly half an hour before our race. No one ran out of this obstacle.

The FF5 Rig, is . . . well . . . words fail me. If Limitless was something from Frankenstein’s lab. FF5 is another dimension. Ropes, balls, and freaky little handlebars all unstable, all dangling from trusses, IMG_6056just daring you to grab one and swing.

Choose wrong, and risk a penalty lap with even more challenges.

Battle Race is the race for obstacle lovers and novices alike. It is a great introduction into what OCRs are all about. Challenging for the individual. Fun to run as a team. On a bigger course, it could easily challenge Spartan as the baddest race in the land. The price is better than any of the big-name races, and the swag aint bad either.

IMG_6035After happy damsels plied us with protein bars and battlefield medals, we retired again to the beach where the winds had intensified. But what’s a sand-blasted ankle when there are beers to be drunk by returning heroes.

If you missed Gulfport, don’t cry in your sports drink. There are two more Battle Races scheduled for New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I’m already signed up.

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A Bag of Ass

17362917_10210828317876893_2968130807892576018_nIt’s been an entire week since I ran the Tough Mudder NOLA, and I’m still blowing mud out of my nose. I’d call that success.

The TM guys said that this year, they had upped their game. I can attest, Tough Mudder 2.0 is a beast. New obstacles. Improved old obstacles. And more mud!

I’m not going to lie, when my team and I crossed the finish line back in 2015, we were ready to run again. This time, I don’t think any of us wanted any more of this course.

The NOLA trail snaked for 10.9 miles across acres of old sugar cane fields, and through sparse woods. I grew up in cane country. The smell of the sugar mill is not one you want to wear to a black tie affair.Bagasse

Once cane is crushed and drained of its sweet nectar, it is thrown into huge piles outside the mill and left to ferment and rot. It’s called bagasse (pronounced bag-ass), which I believe it’s French for “bag of ass,” because that’s what it smells like.

Now, imagine thick, gumbo mud churned to cake-batter and smelling of bagasse. I was a kid again!

The re-magined Everest2.0 is a leg-slayer. 2014_training_everest_420x220px_1The run-up is shorter, and steeper. If you want to make it to the top, don’t stop churning your legs — even when the mountain falls away from you.

Then, swing wildly for one of the dozen or so outstretched arms of your fellow mudders waiting to pull you up.

If you miss, it’s a short, humiliating slide down the Everest’s muddy face all the way back to base camp for a short rest, and another run at it.13116039_10154117816772790_3498648781963682248_oPyramid Scheme is a blast, as long as you don’t mind strangers grabbing any body part available to heave their muddy carcasses over you. I want to apologize to the woman who’s crotch I may have grabbed on my way to the top. That’s what happens when someone is hanging upside-down and her legs look like a fork in the branches of that big oak tree from your childhood.

She was a good sport and yelled at me, “Just get your ass to the top! I can’t hang here all day!”race_3517_photo_50969411

Standing at the base if an eight foot, mud wall with no foot-holds to help me out of the chest-deep goop I was wading through, I thought, “This is gonna be fun.” Mile of Mud is one of the trademarks of Tough Mudder. This year, it was the slickest, nastiest, most fun on the course, and we got to do it TWICE.

But the best thing about a TM is the mudder to your left and the one to your right. Your team is every single mudder on the course. You’re all in this mad, muddy dash together, and the only way you’ll make it through is with the help of the dudes around you.

And THAT is what Tough Mudder is all about. Now hit the showers. You smell like a bag of ass.17362575_10210828317716889_3419742437002249856_n

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Return to Everest

o-MOUNT-EVEREST-BRAWL-facebookIt started as a whisper, somewhere in the distance, a nagging call among my team. You need to do this. . . Again. The voice was seductive, like the siren’s songs that draws sailors to the sea, only this whispered echo was calling us home.

There was much to do: Gear to clean. Weights to lift. Miles to run. Diets to perfect. In short, we were in no shape to return to Everest. But it was April. Our ascent wasn’t until March. That gave us an entire year to prepare for the grueling trek up the face of an obstacle that has stolen the hopes and dreams of so many.

Preparations the first time around had almost killed us, but they paid off in every member of our team scaling the monolithic half-pipe that is the single toughest Tough Mudder obstacle.

14232489_10208956828370825_7740601966627015887_nWe were all two years older now, and one member of our team was AWOL. (Actually, he’s now a Marine, scaling much tougher obstacles.) Still, we were determined to meet the challenge as any Legionnaire would: With lots of help from our friends.

Then, the historic floods of August 2016 took our home. It could not take our drive.

Training would have to wait while we rebuilt our lives from the ground up. Healthy diets would have to be put aside for something we could eat single-handed on the fly with a hammer in our free hand. Running? Only if dashes to the lumber yard for more sheetrock mud counts.

DSC_0249Last time I scaled Everest, I was in perhaps the best shape of my life. This time, with only two months to prepare, I enter the fray 10 pounds heavier, and a full minute off my mile pace.

Now, with two days left before we get muddy, that siren call blares like a trumpet in our ears.

Rebuilding your life from the ground up in just three months throws up every mental road block anyone can imagine. The crushing blow of learning your home will have to be demolished, the joy of learning it will not, daunting five-hour work sessions after a full nine on your day job, sixteen-hour days on the weekend, sheetrock dust — pounds and pounds of sheetrock dust settled on your skin and in your lungs, decisions on everything from walls to be moved to cabinet pulls.

We may enter this trial slower and heavier, but we enter it stronger. Mudder Nation, prepare for Team Geezer!

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Crossfitter’s Psalm

I told you I joined a cult. And every cult needs a good Psalm. Something to offer up to the gods in praise and thanksgiving. Something to encourage it’s minions to press on through tough times. Something to reflect upon when times are good.

With that in mind, I give you The Crossfitter’s Psalm.


The MURPH is my shepherd; I shall not quit.

He makes me lie down and do burpees: he leads me in muscle ups.

He rows for my soul: he leads me in paths of handstand walks for his name sake.

Yea as I walk through the valley of the Rogue Plates I shall fear no WOD for MURPH is with me; thy chalk and thy timer challenge me.

Thou prepare a Paleo table before me in the presence of all fad diets; and I will dwell in the box of the MURPH all the days of my life.

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There Will Be Mud

DCIM105GOPROFrom the euphoria of conquering Everest to the muck in the bowels of the mud pit, one thing the Tough Mudder course never does is let up. My intrepid team of Mudder’s had barely set our feet on solid ground when the trek to the next challenge began.

My son and I ran point. My sister and cousin trod in our footprints, a half-mile up a gentle incline. But nothing about the Mudder is gentle. This slope was covered in soft, dry sand. Better to muscle through and rest at the top than to break our pace and breathe easy.

DCIM105GOPROAnother mile and three more obstacles down the winding trail, we saw it. The Mudder’s namesake. The Mud Mile. All this time we had been gradually ascending. Now the Mudder would throw us into a pit of Hell. Down another winding trail with no place to stand but loose, red dirt.

We kept our feet moving. To rest was to tumble through the legs of the Mudders ahead of us. Up one pile of freshly dug dirt, and down another until we reached the canyon floor.

DCIM106GOPROIf the Mud Mile were simply mud, what would be the challenge? Water, thick as pancake batter met us first. First to our ankles, then above our knees, but that is for kids. The batter reached our chests as our legs sank past our knees in soft, squishy muck. Then it was over slick clay walls nearly as tall as we were. Not one, but three per mud pit.

Then out of the pit and across more loose dirt and sand. It clung to our clothes and caked inside our shoes. We repeated this ritual for a mile, maybe more with nothing but belly-crawls through loose sand as an interlude.

DCIM106GOPROWhen it came to an end, we had to leave the pit, but not on the same winding trail we had entered. No, Mudders climb out, on ropes. We scaled the walls, many pounds heavier than when we entered the pit thanks to the red clay, mud, and sand in our shoes, shorts, and hair.

We had survived the toughest, nastiest obstacles the Mudder could throw at us. We simply had a mile sprint to the finish. Our months of training paid off. DSC_0307While other teams gasped for air, we trotted past them grinning ear to ear. The finish line lay just ahead, and so did the bright orange headbands that would crown us as official Tough Mudders.

We’ve had a month to bask in the glow of our accomplishments. Now, it is on to The Spartan Trifecta.

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Conquering Everest

DCIM103GOPROThe crisp morning air crackled with anticipation. We had watched the forecast for two weeks and prayed the storms forecast for the morning of our ascent would pass us by. Now, under the mid-morning sun, my team chatted with nearly 200 other hopefuls waiting to begin our journey from base camp up the face of Everest.

The only thing standing in our way, an eight-foot wall of lumber painted black and emblazoned with the Tough Mudder logo. Everest is one of the Mudder’s signature obstacles — a twenty-foot quarter pipe sheathed in aluminum and coated with water and glycol just to keep things interesting.

But the monster lay in wait more than five miles down the course. race_702_photo_15314523Before we would get a chance to even view her, we would have to maneuver our team across and over obstacles designed to test our strength, stamina, agility, comraderie, and grit.

The Tough Mudder eats other obstacle courses for breakfast and barely burps. My son, cousin, baby sister, and I had trained for four months with our only goal to survive obstacles with names like Funky Monkey, Cry Baby, Pole Dancer, Beached Whale, and Arctic Enema.

Between each obstacle, a grueling tromp through soft sand, up hills, and across lakes of water and mud. The plan was simple. My son and I would set the pace for the run, and we would work together with our team and others to make it past anything else the Mudder would throw at us.

DCIM103GOPROThe Funky Monkey, Pole Dancer, and Beached Whale tested our strength. We blasted the Arctic Enema (imagine the The Ice Bucket Challenge on crack) by sheer will-power. Then we saw her, the orange and white megalith we had come to conquer. Amped on adrenaline, my son was the first to test Everest. A running start, a leap of faith, and the flying grip of the Mudder before him helped land Brock safely on the summit.

DSC_0195Then it was my turn. Stamina was no problem. My training had served me well. My legs felt fresh as they churned up the slope. One fourth. One third. One half the way up. Then, when if felt like I was losing steam, one giant leap. I was airborne. Time seemed to stand still as I soared above mere mortal sherpas. (It felt more graceful than it actually was.) I was going to conquer Everest.

Then, reality set in. My chest crashed on Everest’s peak. Air drained from my lungs, and gravity began to snatch my victory.DSC_0249 A hand clenched my elbow. My feet kicked and scrambled for grip on the slick surface. Two great heaves later, I stood atop my nemisis with no time to reflect. We still had two team members to help over the top.

Once we were all safe atop the peak, we paused for one triumphant moment, the sun smiling on our accomplishment. Then, like all who scale Everest, we headed back down. We were only half-way through our trek and still had a Mile of Mud to vanquish.

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Mounting Everest

o-MOUNT-EVEREST-BRAWL-facebookMy wife calls it my mid-life crisis. Lucky for me that it only cost me a few bruised ribs and not half of everything I own.

It started two years ago. The middle-age spread had taken seat in my trousers and refused to budge. I was looking for inspiration to get off my fat ass and do something about it.

That’s when I found it. The website looked innocent enough. Lots of orange and black. And people. Mostly  twenty- and thirty-somethings meeting the challenge and conquering their fears. And most importantly, having fun.

pic1Could I, pushing 50 years old, do something like that?

Through college and the early years of my marriage I had been a workout beast. Nearly 30 years later, with two bum knees and tendonitis in my shoulders and elbows from slinging a lens half my life, I was more fit for a hammock than Everest.

But boy, wouldn’t it be nice if I could.

For 2 years I started and failed every workout I tried. P90X — agrivated my tendonitis. Insanity — with these knees? Yoga — b-o-r-I-n-g. Kickboxing was great, until my knees gave out.

pic4And diet? Yeah right.

Then, 5 months ago, my cousin called about the same website. We would conquer Everest together. My son heard about our quest and begged to join the team along with my baby sister.

But how to get in shape? I had tried everything.

I scoured the web for what I would need to scale the behemoth. Bear crawls. Lunges. Pull-ups. Push-ups. You name it. Oh, and lots of running.

pic5I found local fitness guru Jesse Lipoma’s Bootcamp Explosion. With Jesse cracking the whip, I lunged deeper, squatted lower, and burpeed till I burped up last week’s leftovers.

And I ran. Oh, how I ran. 400 miles in 4 months.

Training with a concrete goal rather than something as nebulous as “losing weight” or “living healthy” made it easier. Doing it with my son made it rewarding.

In just 16 weeks I went from 182 pounds, 28% body fat, and a BMI pushing 30 to a whole new me. 154 pounds, 18% body fat, and a BMI of 24.

More importantly, I could run more than 13 miles at a stretch. I could dip my body weight until I got bored. Stadiums? Just tell me how high you want me to run.

I had done the work. I was ready to mount Everest.

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VisionQuests and Rabid Ferrets

desert 2 insideJewish boys have their bar mitzva. Native Americans have their vision quest. Hell, even Jesus had 40 days in the desert. As a middle-aged man, I thought I was done with rites of passage. Boy was I wrong.

It’s called a colonoscopy, and it’s a rite of passage from the carefree days of family life into post-50, get-off-my-lawn phase of curmudgeonhood.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of having your innards viewed via a GoPro on a hose, let me take you on this fantastic voyage.

ferret-teet-and-dental-care-for-ferrets-thinkstock-177817907-253x203The modern colonoscopy is actually a revival of a torture technique first employed by the ancient Assyrians. When the Assyrian army would capture a Summarian spy, Assyrian wise guys with crooked noses and names like Abdhul the Rat would tie the spy to a stone altar and run rabid ferrets up his anus until the spy would reveal the secrets of the ziggurat. Though barbaric. It was highly effective.

The practice was eventually banned when stone carvings of prisoners with undergarments on their heads surfaced in the Assyrian media. This sparked outrage in the liberal faction of the government and led to the end of all forms of torture.

The practice briefly resurfaced during the Spanish Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada replaced the rabid ferret with oversized rosary beads and inadvertently invented ben-wah balls.

Today, the procedure itself pales in comparison to the preparation for the procedure. First, one must refrain from eating for 36 hours. But that will be the least of your worries as you undertake this rite of passage.

About 20 hours before your doctor lubes you up, he will ask you to drink a “cleansing” concoction. It smells like concentrated cherry syrup. It tastes like concentrated ball sweat. You may want to drink this in the bathroom. It acts quickly.

bookcover-warandpeace__130218130207-200x266And bring something to read. I suggest something like War and Peace, otherwise you risk running out of reading material before your insides are “clean.” I sat so long that my elbows rubbed my thighs raw. Oh, and before starting, you may want to line your walls with plastic wrap a la a Dexter kill room or risk ruining your paint job.

My first journey into the loo lasted more than an hour, and I made many similar trips over the next six hours. Just as I thought my innards were returning to normal, I was reminded I had another course of that vile concoction to swallow. By the end of the 36 hours, I was crapping something that looked like lemonade and smelled like mildewed socks soaked in fish heads.

I crapped more than 4.5 pounds.

By the time you hit your surgeon’s table, you will be tired, dehydrated, and your starfish will glow like Rudolph’s red nose. But alas, your misery is about to come to an end. Your anesthesiologist is about to hook you up. It’s called Propofol, and if it’s good enough to kill the King of Pop, it’s sure to put your ass under.

After that, there aint much vision left in your quest. What the doctor puts where, and what jokes the attending staff make at your naked back door’s expense will be the last thing on your mind. You’ll awaken about an hour later none the wiser and with an insatiable urge for food, booze, and an ice bucket challenge for your bum.

In the end (and that’s where you get it), it’s not an unbearable experience. And if you’re lucky, you’ll only have to do it once every five years until you die. . . which is still better than a rabid ferret.

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316675--600What do hookers do on vacation? Do hookers even get vacations? And if they do, where do they go?

That’s what news guys discuss in the break room over caffeine and honey buns.

What, at first blush, may sound like a crass joke could be a serious problem.

Hookers were arguably the original working girls. And workers here in the good ole U.S. of A have come to expect a few things when it comes to their employer: Health, Dental, and the paid vacation sitting near the top of the list. So I find it hard to believe that any pimp worth his backhand would not offer his stable at least a little time for self-enrichment. And if he didn’t, I’m sure Local 69 of the International Floozie Sisterhood would hire some muscle to convince him otherwise.

polls_ProstitutionND_3852_520564_poll_xlargeSo, Jezebel, you’ve sold your wares for six months. Now, your loving flesh-peddler has given you five days to let your hair grow . . . or whatever a pimp tells his harlots when he gives them a few days off. Where would you go?

It would have to be somewhere cheap. The going rate for, ahem, “personal favors” in Vegas around $50. (Don’t ask me how I know, and if my wife dumps my browser history, I swear it was just research.) You’re not rich by any stretch. And with all those wanton millionaires dragging you to museums, operas, and polo matches, (Yes, all I know about hookers I learned from Pretty Woman.) you’d probably be ready for something a little less sophisticated.

So you take a bus to Palookaville, USA, and check into a hotel. Now what?

prostitute+legWhen normal people check into a hotel, the first thing they do is have sex, but you’re a hooker on vacation. Sex would be work!

Maybe you could go to the bar for a drink. No, wait that’s work, too. Dinner at a nice restaurant? Work. Lay out by the pool? Really? Like skimpy clothes aren’t your uniform.

You’re a street-walker, so a walk in the park is out. The zoo? Probably not. All those animals mating is too much like research.

Go fishing? Really? You had to bring up fish?

About the only thing left for a hooker to do on vacation that isn’t work, is sleep. And why not? After all those late hours, you deserve a nap.

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