Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Better Part of Valor: Watching My Friends Run the Tough Mudder

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From left to right: The Tiz, Big Phil, Burger, and BenSpann

How much would I have to pay you to drive several hours to run 12 miles through exorbitantly muddy conditions in chilly November temperatures? $20 for the novelty of it? Let’s sweeten the pot. I’ll include a dip in a sub 40-degree pool of water, zap you with electricity on multiple occasions, and if you cramp up, well, I have no contingency plan for you. Sorry. $50 is probably a solid compensation for that scenic walkabout. Would you do it for $50? Fine. I’ll throw in a beer and a commemorative t-shirt you can flaunt what a badass you are to everyone you know. Can I pay you to do this?

Wait, what? You’d like to pay me for organizing all this? $120 you say? I’ll cover gas and lodging of course…you’ll pay for that too? Welcome to the Tough Mudder my friend.

I don’t do a lot of comemorative posts on Writing Bareback, but what the heck. I went to the Tough Mudder in Charlotte during the first weekend of November. Let me be very clear about one thing: I did not run it. My co-blogger Tommy ran it because he’s in love and that makes us stupid. I was there with my college roommates and Daniel “The Tiz” Thompson, pictured at the top of this column.

Sure, they look like happy guys. And why not? They chose to embark on this run. They’ve had a good night’s rest and a good morning’s breakfast. Pre-run, everyone’s happy. Including me. I staked out this view for the first obstacle:

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So what if it was 10am. We’re all weekend warriors at this event. Also, I was dealing with a personal situation. The night before, we went to Sticky Fingers for some BBQ. The waitress asked what brought us in, and I said the Tough Mudder. The guys immediately clarify that I’m too scared to run. I don’t point out that scared isn’t a synonym for wise and instead take the abuse in jovial fashion. “Team mom” and “mascot” were some of the nicer terms. The waitress hears mascot and says I should dress up. The guys love the idea. I say I’d do it, thinking that nothing will come of it. Instead, we stop by Wal-Mart on the way back to the hotel, and they purchase me this little number:

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So the pre-10a beer is justified. Also, this made me a little bit of celebrity among race patrons as I was easy to spot, easy to approach, and easy on the eyes. I spent the first obstacle speaking to some ex-marine who was working security. He respected the onezie, gave me a map of the course and generally applauded my stance on not running.

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Early on, standing in a pink onezie with multi-colored snowflakes, you think you’d feel a lot manlier if you ran. It’d probably be better for your self-esteem all-around to run. Especially cause the guys look pretty stoked about overcoming their first obstacle. I’ve never known what “warrior poets” are, but dammit if they didn’t look like them.

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I walked the mile and a half to the next obstacle, the Arctic Enema, and immediately realize that the walk was exhausting, and the last thing I want to do is jump into a bucket of 35-degree water. I certainly wouldn’t have spent $7 for an ice bath at this point, which I kind of figured is the PPO (price per obstacle).

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The shocked faces confirm my theory. Big Phil was really the star of the post-enema posing. He looked like the happiest house-dog that ever lived. Finally wet and muddy and in his element.

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Then it was a waiting game. I walked back to get another beer, and then walked to intercept them at the next obstacle I could view, some wall-scaling thing. I was happy for this obstacle because it led to the following photo:


And the following conversation upon reviewing pics/vids in our hotel room:

Me: This is such a great shot of Burger’s butt.
BenSpann: Look at that butt!
Burger: What can I say man?
Me: Big Phil’s at just the right level!
BenSpann: Philly, you’re getting right up in there!
BigPhil: I was thinking about shinin’ the penny.
Me: [breathless laughter]

I’d never heard the phrase before, and I lived with Big Phil for almost four years. That’s the exact kind of gross word-gem you hope to mine out of these events.

Up to this point of the run, it’s been pretty casual. Sure, the guys were exhausted. I’ve seen geriatrics walk laps at the mall faster than they were running, but their spirits were high. It was probably this next event that began putting a damper on them. Tommy chronicled his own struggles with the Eel Crawl well, but when it comes to personal pleasure, it’s hard to beat the live screams of your friends. The Tiz has my favorite around the 21-second mark.

From there, it was a quick decline. The guys looked pretty haggard when I next saw them. I hate that I didn’t get BenSpann’s original cramping on video. It was a cite to be seen. We huddled over him and massaged his calves for 15 minutes, basically rubbing his will to continue back into his legs. All we have recorded is his gritty determination to overcome this final, nearly fatal obstacle:

The guys finished. Big Phil got electrocuted so bad on the final obstacle that he was knocked off his feet, and there was a legit 15 seconds where I didn’t know if he was getting back up. I’ve never laughed so hard. They finished, shivered, and looked pretty miserable.

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Well, except Burger. He probably could have run another one right away. Did they inspire me to join them when they do it again? Nope. I liked my Team Mom role just fine. My boys made me so proud.

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Yes ladies, I still own the onezie,
Dusty “weak and clean” Riedesel

Thanksgiving and Football: Here’s a really sucky post about those two things

Warning: This post might suck. I’ve got a premise, and it has a strong chance of sucking. I’m going to start typing and see if I can avoid complete suckiness. Let’s start sucking and see if we can stop.

Football. It truly is America’s game isn’t it? The strongest, most testosterone-laden males this side of Mr. Olympia gird themselves in the most advanced collision armor and do battle in gladiatorial coliseums. There’s dancing girls, television coverage, celebrity status and enough money to make it rain in strip clubs from Jacksonville to the Twin Cities (which is either the name of strip clubs in 20 different cities or a strip club in the cities with that nickname). Because we love football, we’ve made a collective social pact to ignore the growing evidence that football is inhumane. I’d say it’s a fact, but that’s breaching the pact of ignorance…Ah hell, I’ll call it what it is. I actually celebrate the big hits that are factually related to brain failure. Cant’ help myself. I love football.

You know the best day for football?

Thanksgiving. It truly is America’s holiday isn’t it? The most opulent country this side of Luxembourg throws nationwide feasts to celebrate having so much by engorging ourselves to a euphoric level of gluttony. There’s splendidly eclectic pie selections, families coming together, parades and enough tryptophan to put a baby rhinoceros into a coma. Because we love Thanksgiving, we’ve made a collective social pact to ignore the fact that Thanksgiving was the beginning of the Native American genocide that allowed us to inhabit this country. We ignore it so hard that we actually reenact Thanksgiving in elementary schools with pilgrims and Indians yucking it up around a cornucopia. But Thanksgiving is a time of thanks, and I’m not going to ruin my 10,000 calorie consumption day with death-thoughts. Can’t help myself. I love Thanksgiving.

I couldn’t do it. This post sucks. What a downer. Refer to my “Best Things About Thanksgiving” article on PolicyMic last year for a lift in spirits. Here’s number 5:

5. The Turkey Bowl – Everyone does this, right? You pull together an inevitably odd-numbered group of people for some touch football. Usually the teams consist of four bad knees, one dodgy rotator cuff, two hands that couldn’t catch a snail on a salted sidewalk, a guy who doesn’t realize what “just for fun” means, and the little kid who will get trucked by no-fun guy and run inside crying. At least then you have even numbers.

I’m thankful that my lunch is over and I had to give up on this post,
Dusty “Sucksgiving” Riedesel

Lesson from a Wedding Weekend: The Celebration of Life

This crazy little thing called life teaches us some stuff. I’ve come to believe two things fairly concretely.

  • Life is God’s greatest gift to humanity.
  • Love is our greatest celebration of that gift.


My old buddy Michael got married this past weekend. I’ve tried to wrap my thoughts around the meaning of it all for some months now. On a pessimistic, impersonal level, it’s just a wedding. They’re only slightly more significant than birthdays. But this wasn’t impersonal. I was a groomsman, and I needed to wrap my thoughts around it in a more concrete manner.

I briefly entertained a mostly plagiarized thesis about the best relationships giving us roots and wings, trying to force it into the perspective of Michael always treating others with the strength of stable practicality and blending it with the kindness of optimistic dreams. It’s a rare combination, and while true, it also felt like I was missing the point. I wasn’t invited to the wedding because I have anything poignant to say about love. I was there because I knew Michael. That relationship was my portion of this love-day, my license to celebrate life.

When we were 15 years old, Michael and I talked about what tattoos we’d like to get. He wanted to get a tattoo of the word “HEART” placed on his chest, right over his heart. I’m glad he didn’t do this because all I could envision was him being the most ripped deuschebag running into the wave pool of Kansas City’s renowned Oceans of Fun. But I’m glad he told me he wanted it, because it defines something about my friend that I’ve known to be true for a long time. The guy gives 100% of himself. He’s the best avatar of “in for an inch, in for a mile” I’ve ever met, and if that picture at the top of this post doesn’t sell it, then this video sure as heck should. He’s obviously all in.

Love, the celebration of our lives, is experienced in a hyper-personal way. I’m an analytical guy, and that nature often causes me to put everything in a viewing glass, far from hands on. Farther from an engaged heart. I talked about tattoos, I’d never experience one. Well, shame on me. My takeaway from Michael’s wedding is something he always knew. You have to be close, passionate and raw if you’re going to love. And in doing so, it’s your best chance to break the metaphysical boundaries, to say “thank you” to God for giving you a life.

This is the banner picture on my co-blogger Tommy’s Facebook page:


He gets it too. It’s more of a pledge than a picture. Let’s all get on board.

Thinking of picking up a purple jumpsuit,
Dusty “Raw” Riedesel

100,000 Views. Let’s Make Big Deal About This Not Being A Big Deal

It’s possible that some of you didn’t notice. You were too busy engrossed in stories about nearly avoided teen popularity suicide or why girlfriends should get more dates that you didn’t see the accumulation. That’s reasonable. Maybe you’re a troglodyte, and while that’s less reasonable, troglodytes have infamously bad wi-fi connections, so at least it makes sense.

Whatever reason you didn’t notice, don’t feel bad. The foundations for many great fortunes were forged just beyond the gaze of outsiders. And while your very eyeballs were contributing the seed-money for our blogopoly, they didn’t see what Tommy and I tracked with loving ambition.

100,000 views. Now you know.

Blog rich. Even though most people would say it’s not a big deal.

Who knows, maybe one day soon, we’ll splurge on the $10/month for a vanity url. Maybe we’ll write more than a couple times a week. God willing, we will host a podcast called “Alex Podriguez: The Performance Enhancing Podcast”.  On that day, we’ll look back at this like Gordon Gecko recalls his first million. Were we ever so insignificant? Piddling on the this toilet seat of our non-vanity URL and pretending it mattered? How dare we commemorate such a small step for blog-kind? But those mindsets are for the future T-Bone and this humble co-blogger. That haughtiness is for the established blog-kings of tomorrow.

Today, we’re just “Tommy from the Block” and “Boxcar Dusty.” Just a couple of kids with a dream in our hearts and the first warm rays of a cyber-spotlight on our backs. When that seemingly unattainable, multi-platform empire springs forth from our type-dancing fingers, maybe we won’t care about 100,000 views. But you know what, right now we do care. It’s our first kiss. It’s a promotion out of the mailroom. It’s the moment you stopped needing to look at your checking account.

100,000 views. Take notice.

Blog rich. And you can’t tell us otherwise.

Love makes you do crazy things: Tough Mudder Edition

“Yes, sweetheart, we paid to do this.”

It’s been about a month since I last posted anything. Where have I been? Well besides living and experiencing things to then write about, I’m on what Dusty called a “love break.” Yes, its true and I’m not ashamed to admit it. That being said, love will make you do some crazy things. Things that the “normal, not-in-love” version of you would scoff at.

2 weekends ago, love led me to beautiful Charlotte, NC for the Tough Mudder. I’m just now recovered enough to share my experience of this event with you.

For those of you who don’t know, the Tough Mudder is the Mudder (pun? alliteration?) of all mud races. Yeah, I’m looking at you Zombie Run, Rugged Maniac, Spartan Race, Muddy Buddy, et al. You’re all Mickey Mouse, child’s play compared this 12 mile, 18 obstacle bastard. It’s safe to say I used more than a few 4-letter words (sorry Mom).

Let me just take you on a little journey through the 3.5 hour light jog on a Saturday afternoon. After roughly 2 miles and crawling through a foot of mud under barbed wire, you’re asked to do the Arctic Enema. What’s that? Oh you know, just an industrial size dumpster, fill with muddy water and ICE. Yeah. And once you jump in this thing, you then have to go head under water for a few seconds to get passed a conveniently placed board in the middle. It’s safe to say, I was a full-blown woman for about 30 seconds after that plunge and only brought myself back to man-hood by peeing during the next run.

2 miles down. 12 to go. The next few obstacles sucked equally as bad and were a complete mind-F. Hey, let’s have people hoist us up a 15 foot wall, so we can climb over and jump down the other side! Yay! Or the obstacle “Just the Tip.” Not the same game played by every fraternity guy on a Friday night social. You scale, side-ways across a 2×6 piece of lumber, nailed to a wall and hanging you 10 feet above water.

And then, the Electric Eel. This satanic obstacle involved army crawling through a foot of water for 20 feet, under electrical wires hanging at your face. If you just put your hand in the water if felt like the static shock you get from rubbing your socks on the floor and turning on a light switch. Only this time, doing that under water. Despite this, I dove in, swam across and felt my body uncontrollably jolt for the entire 20 feet.

Later on, on this lovely Saturday afternoon stroll, we climbed what I later learned was a 25 foot high dive platform and jumped into cold, muddy water with no idea of just how deep that pit was actually dug. Sadly, my American Flag bandana was lost on this plunge and is now resting peacefully in a now covered ditch on a farm in Charlotte.

Along with people in our running group have massive cramps in both calves, legs, stomachs, chest and my knee feeling like someone hit it repeatedly with a Louisville Slugger, we escaped without experience TOO much pain. That is, until we got to ElectroShock Therapy. Enjoy the video below watching people’s bodies get shocked rendering them immobile. It’s hilarious to watch, but I would have never done this had I watched the video. My favorite part is hearing the people video taping try to give advice.

You run through mud and misting water with 10-30 volt wires hanging like devilish, electric spider webs. And, oh by the way, there were a few 100volt wires dangling in there as well. If you’re lucky enough to find those…you’ll know. As I climb on top of a hay bail, I felt a pain in my shoulder like I’ve never felt and my body was out of my own control for about 5 seconds. On top of that, my girlfriends arm was barely touching mine, and the volts passed through my body, and shocked her! What a way to end a Saturday!

But at the end they give you a beer and an Orange head band! So worth it!

I can safely say the 2 things I’d never like to go through again are:

6th-8th grade (wow they were awkward, right?)

Tough Mudder

Glad to be back,

Tommy “Yes it was that bad” Cooksey

Requiem for a Dream Temple: My BlockBuster Eulogy

What are dreams made of?

That was the first question that came to my mind when I tried to decipher the perfectly blended wisp of nostalgia and sadness upon hearing that Blockbusters will officially be gone forever. I’m the biggest fan of story that I know, and that question has always been at the root of it. I don’t have an answer, but the exploration of questions is what builds stories, not answers. And that was the best part of going to Blockbuster.

I’m six years old, and my family peruses the aisles for that perfect family flick. We’ll all make a submission to the ensuing democratic process. Short Circuit will probably win out (it always does). I have no valid opinions to contribute at this point in my life, but I’m learning. The stories I select say a lot about where I’m at in my own life, my own story. It’s the reason my parents have Pretty Woman tucked away for a dictatorial, late night viewing. Must be this tall to view cacophonous piano sex.

I’m 11 years old, and Mom’s out of town with our baby sister. Guy’s night! Dad takes us to the ‘Buster. My older brother talks him into the “too crass for lady folk” PG-13 comedy, Happy Gilmore. We may or may not have celebrated by running through the always-empty foreign film section making fart noises with our armpits. Then Dad one-upped up us by picking up our first R-rated movie to make the evening an unprecedented double feature. The grand daddy of all MAN movies, Braveheart! So maybe he made me close my eyes when the peasant girl’s breasts came out, and when her throat was subsequently slit, but it didn’t matter. Not unlike Squints Palladorous coming of age, I walked a little taller after that night.

[*if you consider anything revealed about Braveheart to be a spoiler after having 20 years to see the greatest movie ever (apologies Godfather Part II), then you’re dying, not truly living.]

I’m 18 years old. I’ve got an arm around Karen and I’m crushing what will become one of my favorite dates, the Blockbuster foreplay. We both know that getting a movie to watch in her parents basement is code for make-out sesh (maybe more, fingers crossed). But amidst the mixed rows of DVDs and VHS’s (rest in peace), we share so much. I reveal depth and vulnerability about crying during The Green Mile when I was 16. I quote Super Troopers, sing Beauty and the Beast, and I don’t care who’s eavesdropping because they’re just extras in my live-action rom com. And Karen shared, uh, well…you know, there’s a reason we didn’t make it.

I’m 22, and my buddy Big Phil ends a 45-min Blockbuster trip by talking me and our roommates into watching Natural Born Killers over UFC 57 (Couture-Liddell, baby!). We watch the movie and are all a little disturbed about what’s going on with Big Phil internally. I’m the only one who likes the movie, but I don’t tell anyone.

I’m 28, and it’s two weeks ago. My roommate Charles and I drive by a Blockbuster in Apex, NC. I Snapchat a pic of it with a caption that says, “Apex never says die. Peak of good livin.” Then I tell Charles, “It’s going to be really sad when all the movie stores are gone. Huddling around the RedBox just isn’t the same.” And scrolling through Netflix isn’t either. Dreams are stuff of the mind, and I’m pretty sure they’re a place where our collective memory of all that was meets our personal fantasies of what can be. That’s what walking through a Blockbuster meant to me. It was my literal Field of Dreams. Dream of a place far, far away. Dream of a post-apocalyptic future. Dream of the old west.

I’ll never know what dreams are made of, but I’ll miss Blockbuster, a place made of dreams.

Chillin’ in the ‘Buster,
Dusty “Dreamer” Riedesel