Thursday, December 27, 2012

Epic Adventure Racing

Hello again, superfans!  We know you missed us and have been wondering what we've been up to.  Well, I'm here to tell ya:  All kinds of zany antics!

There are a few things I feel I should blog about, including a recent Missouri Christmas trip, but I think I will go in chronological order starting with my recent (Dec. 9) obstacle race.

Most anyone who knows me knows that I am all into this mud-racing thing.  However, this last one went far beyond crawling through the mud.  Most mud races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, which is great for the casual mud-walker who wants to play in the dirt and get the free t-shirt and medal.  But for those of us who want a real challenge, there are a few elite courses offered, including the Tough Mudder and the one I did, the Spartan Beast.

In the world of what is becoming known as OCR (Obstacle Course Racing), there are a few big-name brands.  Warrior Dash claims to be the biggest and most popular worldwide, but until 2013 they have only offered 5k-length races.  Tough Mudder has been the gold standard for longer-distance obstacle races.  Tough Mudder races are usually half-marathon length or 13.1 miles.  They vary by location, but the obstacles are always much tougher than you find on a shorter distance race.  The Spartan Race brand has a number of different distances: the Spartan Sprint is the 3-miler, Super Spartan is 6-8 miles, and the Spartan Beast is 13 miles.  For the extra-crazy folks there is also the Ultra Beast (26 miles) or the Spartan Death Race, a 48-hour race with no set distance.

It took me 4 hours and 21 minutes to complete the Beast.  This course was in Glen Rose, Texas.  Glen Rose was chosen because of it's rugged, mountainous terrain.  Do you think I'm playing around?  This was a seriously intense race.  Here's some photos:

Crawling under barbed wire through mud is a staple of obstacle races.  Mind you, that's real barbed wire.  I got snagged!  The barbed wire crawl here was the longest I've ever done.  Hurts your knees and elbows.  Try rolling under.  Also, they had a fire hose spraying the coldest water ever across our path.  Did I mention the temperature?  A cold and windy front moved in on us right before our race started.  It was in the 50's and bloody windy.  The worst obstacle was the 100-yard "swim."  Really, it was more like dragging yourself along a rope in the coldest-ever water with a life vest.  The water was so cold I couldn't breathe.  Whew.

Here I am hauling a fifty-pound bucket of gravel up a mountain.  A small and rocky mountain.

The tyrolean traverse was one of the more challenging and interesting obstacles. Just get from one side of a pond to the bell hanging in the middle via a rope.  This was certainly the most painful obstacle on the course.  There are two preffered methods for the traverse, I have pictured them below.

Here you see me, your old pal Steven Long crossing on top of the rope.  I call this the squirrel style.  Rope burn on your belly and chest.  Ouchies.  Balance plays a key role and this method often turns upside down on you as pictured below:

Here's Cameron.  He is trying the sloth-style method.  It seems slower and harder.  Rope burn for your legs.  Also a lot of blood in your head.  I didn't care for this method, and you can see that Cameron wasn't feeling much love for it either.
This unassuming-looking slippery wall was one of the very last obstacles. It should have been pretty easy, but after 13 frigid miles, everyone had a tough time getting over.
Fire-jumping is another staple of obstacle races.  I think they do this mostly to sell pictures.  Pretty dramatic, eh?

This was not the mountain we climbed.  Our mountain was much wider and covered with forest and rocky outcroppings.  I almost broke my face on it.

We finished.  Here we are with our Beast medals.  Did I mention it was cold?  And I only brought flip flops to change in to.  Las chanclas!

After the race you get a free beer.  By the time we finished, there was no 'good' beer left to be found, so I settled on a Coor's Light.  Mmmm, Coor's-y!  Cameron also found some kind of sandwich.  Here we see him enjoying it by the bonfire.  Delicious!
So I know I've gone on and on here, but I don't think it's possible to fully explain how difficult this course was.  It was a true test of awesomeness.  Also it was fun.  Well, maybe fun isn't the word for it.  It was tough.  But the race wasn't meant to be fun.  The little 5K mud runs are fun.  This is something you do just for bragging rights, which I have pretty much all used up now.
Till next time, super fans!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vacation's Over.

Well, that was it.  It took me a while to post a new blog because real life is a pain in the butt.  All with the working and cooking and cleaning and whatnot.  It seems like life should be a lot more vacationy in general.  But if the Simpsons have taught us anything, it's that without hard work and monotony, vacations would lose their value altogether.  So lets say goodbye to carefree living and hello to all of life's little crap.


So just to make sure I can't fee any crappier about this whole thing, I'd better post some more pictures from our trip.  Enjoy.  I know we did!

In Virginia, we made lots of breakfasts.  Here is Jen making pancakes.  Alright, pancakes!

Real happy!

Fake happy!

In Virginia, we visited a Civil War historical site called Slaughter Pen farm.  This was the site of some gruesome battle.  The barn in the picture wasn't there at the time and someone had been living on the land until recently.  There were lots of creepy old buildings to nose around in like a true Long vacation!  This picture isn't terribly scenic, but I think it's a good picture.  Taken by Jennifer, of course.

The capital.  Capitol?  Capittle!

The Washington Monument.  Momument?  Get it?

So that was that and now it's all over.  We should have got a before and after picture so you can all see how happy we were on vacation and how miserable we are now.  But that's life right? 

No!  I don't think everyday life should be a chore.  Sure, every day can't be a vacation, but it's important to take time and pick out the good things in life.  It's hard to remember sometimes.  But if every day is a drag, then you aren't trying hard enough to have fun.  Enjoy the little things.  Yeah, that's the ticket!

So that's all for now.  We haven't really done anything of note lately worth blogging about.  As every, we shall keep you all posted.

Monday, July 9, 2012

More vacation? Yes please!

We've finished up our time in North Carolina.  But our vacation is only half complete.  We've headed on to Virginia to stay with my parents.  But we did take an extra day in North Carolina to go spelunking and whitewater rafting.  As you can imagine, we were unable to take pictures of the rafting and we didn't take a camera into the cave, but we had more fun than we've ever bothered to have.  

Before we left, we did take a few good pictures of some interesting junk.

Here is Jen striking an elegant pose at an outlook off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.  There used to be a sign where she is now.  I think she looks better than some stupid sign!

This is Cindy and Paul.  They own and operate 1902 Turnpike House bed and breakfast, pictured below.  They were incredibly nice to us and their doggy Bella was also very accommodating!  Thanks guys!

This was, more or less, the backyard.  Really it was up the street a little but someone not afraid of poison ivy could jump down a short cliff to get back to the Turnpike House.  I'm not much of an outdoorsman, so I don't know what those crawling vines might have been.  Anyway, the trees were huge and ancient.  The forest was a neat place to run and play!

Enough North Carolina, let's move on to Virginia.  Actually the last couple are in Washington DC.  The above picture is a trumpet man.  The below picture is The Albert Einstein memorial, which is a bit tricky to find.  But we found it alright!  I Einstein is a personal hero of mine and I was compelled to climb his lap and give him a big hug.

Expect more pictures of Virginia and DC.  But I have to go now.  Lunch is ready.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

North Carolina

Hey all!  It's been too long since our last post.  I would love to have done Mothers and Fathers Day posts but. . . too late now.  At any rate, I know all (both) of our fans are far more interested in our adventures!  So here you go:

We are currently high in the wooded mountains of North Carolina.  As illustrated above, we are far from everything.  Except bears.  And deer.  And a couple of trees.  We haven't uploaded Jennifer's photos yet, but they ought to be much better than this one I took with my phone.

Jennifer came here ahead of me to attend a retreat.  I had a whole day to myself to roam the mountains and look for adventures!

My favorite thing so far has been my tour of the Biltmore, the largest home in America.

As you can probably assume, this place is supposed to be haunted.  A little bit.  The builder's wife can be heard in the music room consoling her dying husband.  Why she haunts the place and not him, I don't know.  I think the rumor was constructed just as a marketing thing.  I heard no ghosts and saw nothing paranormal, although the gargoyles were pretty creepy.

The mansion contains 250 rooms including 43 bathrooms.  That's impressive for a time when most homes did not have indoor plumbing at all.  There is an indoor heated, lighted pool, built at a time when electric lights were little more than a novelty.  There are servants rooms and even the servants had servants who also had rooms!  There are four acres of floor space within.

The first picture was taken from the left side.  Stage right.  The second picture is the view from the back porch.

One of the house's many gardens.

And this fountain is my favorite.  Grotesque isn't it?  Doesn't it conjure visions of horrors from beyond the deep?  Yes. . .

That's all for now.  In an interesting turnabout, Jennifer is urging me out the door.  We are going to walk around and look at cute shops and stupid crafts and junk.  Hopefully tomorrow we will have more adventures here in Banner Elk.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Years!

Hey there super fans!  Can you believe we've been married for two years already?  I know, it's flown by!  We didn't do a whole lot on the day of our anniversary.  We both worked, then went to a nice dinner.  However, we plan to stay for several nights in a nice bed and breakfast in North Carolina in July, then a few nights in Virginia atMom & Dad Long's, followed by a nice resort escape in some location yet-to-be determined.  Maybe the Virgin Islands?  Maybe we'll see. . .

Anyway, to celebrate our milestone, I thought I would post a few pictures from the occasion:

Look at these two crazy guys.  Which one seems more nervous?

The Little Chapel in the Woods was perfect for our wedding.  Quite lovely.

And, speaking of quite lovely, here is the blushing bride!  Or should I say the burping bride?  No, probably the first one.  Any way, she's looking hot!

Ah, the dancing.  Let me tell you, getting hitched is nerve-wracking enough to begin with.  Okay, now throw in some choreographed dance routines and tell me how you feel.  Terrified?  Yes.  A wee bit. 

Ol' Andy Pants here caught the garter.  Some time later he got himself married off.  Could be a coincidence.  But that was indeed a magical garter.

And let us not forget the star of the show!  The Nintendo cake was delicious and edutaining!

Here we see the bride - um - doing . . . like, I don't know.  Some kind of Donkey Kong dance or something?  Anyway, she's having fun.

I had a tough time deciding which pictures to include in the blog.  There are so many to choose from, and a lot of highlights that some of you haven't seen and that others may have forgotten.  I guess I'll have to update next year with different photos. 

Two years later and we are still every bit as in love as we were that day.  We are planning big things for year three!  Well, not really big things.  Fun stuff, though.  Not kids.  Kids now?  Are you crazy?  We've got things to do! 

Your friends,
The Two-Year Longs

Thursday, May 17, 2012

College is hard!

Here's UTA's impressive new Engineering Research Building.

Hello all!  Steven Long here.  For those few parties interested to know, UT Arlington posted my final grades from the Spring semester today.

Now, to really grasp the significance here, one must understand the full situation.  You see, I am attending UTA thanks to a combination of federal grant money, loans and a scholarship.  All three of these items are dependant upon my maintaining a GPA greater than 2.0.  Unfortunately I was met with disaster last Fall and managed to fail both classes I took.  The reasons for this are many, and I will spare you the gory details, but the main point is that I thought re-taking a course would replace the previous failing grade.  At UTA this is not the case.  I only have a thin window of time in which I can appeal to have a grade dropped from my GPA.  Are you following this?  So my GPA is abysmal.  Furthermore, I am stuck with the confounded grade until the next Fall semester starts.

Long explanation abbreviated, I need to bring my GPA up to par in order to continue receiving my scholarship and grant.  Also I need a certain GPA to register for classes next semester or I am on "academic probation."  In other words, they think I need to chill out and get my junk together.  But when series of calculus classes are involved, taking a break is a bad idea. 

At any rate, My grades are as follows:

ClassDescriptionUnitsGradingGradeGrade Points
Let me translate: 
World Literature:  Great!
Engineering:  Good enough!
Calculus:  Eh. . . 

I think it is important to note here that Cal I has about a 30% pass rate.  Therefore a C in calculus is exceptional and I am happy with it.  However, I needed a B in order to bring my GPA up.  So what shall I do?  Now I must submit a formal appeal to the powers that be and the long paper trail continues.  Sigh.

Alright, enough of this!  We do other stuff too, you know.

Here Jennifer is modeling a lovely hat from the Scottish festival we attended.  Looking good!

And this is Jennifer showing her sensitive side.  Aaaw!  Yes, she is still working at the animal clinic and yes she still loves aminals!  And this birdie loves her back.

And as for me?  Well, I am still frollicking and running.  I am running in another wacky obstacle race on June 16.  I am working hard and feeling swell and Ellie is my personal trainer.  Thanks Ellie!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

So you're probably thinking: "Don't these guys have anything better to do than post pictures of their animals?  Why don't they get a life?"

Excellent question!  And one to which I have no answer.  But you know, it's different when they're yours.

 Anyway, so here's a great action shot of Ellie licking her nose in the wildflowers.  Turns out there is a protected expanse of native Texas grassland behind our neighborhood.  There are walking trails and a playground and all kinds of fun stuff.

Would you believe these pictures were taken about one mile from our house?  Just a few minutes from downtown!  Wonders never cease here in Fort Worth.

Photos, of course, are courtesy of Jennifer Long.  Nice work!