April 2007

I admit it. I’m a challenge junkie. Anything that requires a steep learning curve, I’m there. I’d be bored to death working in a factory assembly line connecting widget A with widget B day after day. Hence, I’m self-employed and can turn my attention to where ever my interest lies.

My latest interest is in machining. I’ve been interested in it for years but never took the time to explore beyond what I need to be able to replace a tenon or graphite band on a clarinet, etc. Now I’ve got a bit of a motivation boost. I just purchased a CNC lathe and mill at an auction a couple weeks ago.

CNC Mill CNC Lathe

Last evening, I made my first…uh…thing…from some brass round stock. It’s a completely useless thing but it was a real leap of progress – from repairing the emergency cut off switch to figuring out how to change the presets in the code to allow the tool to get close enough to the chuck to learning to home the machine, set the tool offsets, create a program to tell the cutting tool where to move to, how much to cut, etc. Simply awesome stuff!

Now to create something useful. :-)

uglymudder2007.jpgNever got around to writing a blog post about it but I also ran the Ugly Mudder Trail race on Feb. 25, 2007. It was my first race in over 7 years (most of which I hadn’t run much at all). I’ve just started getting back into running consistently in the past few months. This one was a great motivator because it was so much fun. It definitely wasn’t a typical race. It was a race of shuffling, sliding on your butt, pulling yourself from tree to tree, and generally trying to stay vertical on 7.x miles of trail. We had gotten a foot of snow the week before. Then, during the week it got warm enough to melt and rain and then refreeze in time for the race. The trail had turned into a solid sheet of ice.

Most of us had a lot of fun helping each other to the finish. I’m not sure about how the people who left patches of blood on the trail felt about the race. I’ll spare you all the details but if you’re interested you can read a pretty accurate review of the Ugly Mudder on Cool Running.

mtpennmudfest2007.jpgRace director, Ron Horn, had it right. In his pre-race announcement he said that 10% of the runners in the Mt Penn Mudfest trail race would love it, 10% would hate it and never want to do it again, and 80% would think of it like prostate surgery – hate it during the event but glad they did it. I landed in the sick-o category of the 10% who loved it.

The Mt Penn Mudfest is a 15K (9.3 mile) running race through the woods of Mt Penn, east of Reading, PA. It’s been rated as the top trail race east of the Mississippi by Runner’s World. IMO, that’s definitely a justified review. While the race itself is just just like any other trail race – up and down mountains on a (mostly) single lane path, it’s got a few twists, such as:

  • A water stop with marshmallow bunnies
  • A “beverage” stop with beer and margaritas. :-D
  • A contest to carry a raw egg over the 9+ mile course without smashing it
  • 4 (count ‘em – 4!) stream crossings where rock hopping is not an option. You get soaked up to your knees
  • An Easter egg hunt along the trail (mostly for the front runners)
  • A downed tree scramble that would rival playing Twister
  • Climbing steep, wet, muddy banks by having the person behind you give you a boost up.
  • Typical PA rocks strewn across the entire length of the trail making it a challenge to finish the course without a twisted ankle

Ok, so maybe it’s a little masochistic. But it’s a lot of fun. And apparently a lot of other people think so too…with runners from 20-25 other states in attendance along with a person from Switzerland.

And it’s definitely a digression from the ho-hum of daily life.