Fox Valley Winter Challenge Trail Run 5K

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Fuzzy running the Fox Valley Winter Challenge Trail Race 5K
Photo by Zach Freeman

Zach knows that I’m up for a challenge and/or a unique piece of swag and so knew that he’d be able to convince me to sign up for the Fox Valley Winter Challenge Trail Run Series, and then co-incidentally be able to drive him out to the suburbs to do them. The FVWCTS is three trail runs, one a month and of increasing distance (5K, 8K, 10K) on reasonably challenging trails. There’s no giveaway for any of the individual races, only a jacket that you can earn by doing all three.

I’ve been trying to rest up a heal injury, and work has been a little crazy, and so I’ve pretty much taken off running since Thanksgiving. I got out for a little stretch last weekend, and it was definitely a wake-up call for my body. So, of course I made sure not to do any more running until this morning. What am I, sensible?

But the race this morning didn’t go too badly at all. We got there very early, but the convenient Hickory Knolls Discovery Center meant we got to while away the wait indoors looking at nature exhibits and snakes and lizards in terrariums, and sit in comfy chairs watching the birds outside until moments before the race.

Snake friend

Ollie the Uromastyx

The weather had warmed up to a balmy 40°, which could have meant a ton of mud on the trail, but it wasn’t too bad—the trail was a mix of snow, ice, dirt, and mud that was interesting but rarely dangerous. There were quite a few hills in the 5K course, which is always a shock to a Chicago-trained runner. I was pretty happy with my time, all things considered. Maybe I’ll run once or twice before the 8K next month.

Official Results:
Time: 34:01.1
Place: 107 / 165
Pace: 10:58.4
Place in Sex: 75 / 90
Place in Age Group (M40-44): 17 / 19

Looking Back: 2014 in Numbers

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It’s now a FuzzyCo tradition: writing up my last reviews of the year in mid-January and editing the time-stamps so they all appear at the very end of the year.

In 2014 I did:

So we’ll call that 23 shows.

I also read 19 books, saw 50 movies, and played 6 video games all the way through.

As for the last two years, live performances are low and media consumption is down again. I had two marathons and a triple triathlon on the training schedule and two brand new jobs that kept me very busy.

I ran 727 miles, biked 290 miles, and swam 23 miles and completed 14 races, including the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN and finally completing the Chicago Marathon, doing the 2.1 mile open-water Point to LaPointe swim, and finishing the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge again.

I posted 69 photos on Flickr, posted 642 tweets, and made 109 blog posts here at FuzzyCo, 13 at Push Butt, and 21 at Chicago Flag Tattoos.

Numbers from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

Tomb Raider

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The new Tomb Raider is the closest I’ve come in quite some time to finishing a game of it’s length with 100% of all collectables. I really enjoyed the main story line (maybe I shouldn’t have enjoyed turning a young archaeology student into a harden killer quite so much, but I got really good at those bow-and-arrow takedowns) and then spent a few more hours going back and collecting all the masks and GPS caches and so on, only giving up when I realized I was trekking up and down the same mountain looking for the last little glinty things.

I never really played the original games (I remember being stuck in a cave on a ledge back in the 486 days and giving up) but this makes me wonder if I want to try them again.

FuzzyCo grade: A

Monument Valley

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Monument Valley is a beautiful, clever little game with puzzles that are solved by rotating an Escher-like world. It’s short, with an equally short expansion pack, but it’s well worth the $6 they’ll cost you together.

FuzzyCo grade: A

Dead Space 2

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Dead Space was a great, creepy survival horror game and I’m not sure we really needed Dead Space 2—it seems to largely re-tread the same ground. It’s about the same amount of creepiness, so that’s good, but it’s not any more creepy, nor does it really seem to extend the plot.

FuzzyCo grade: B+

Injustice

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When I started working at NetherRealm, I realized that I had never actually finished Injustice, so I pulled it back out, set the difficulty to Easy and played through the entire story mode. Since I’m working with and for the folks who made it, I’m obviously biased, so I won’t give it a grade, but I have to say it’s the first fighting game where I felt like I really understood the mechanics of a fighting game.

Rage

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I’ve mentioned here a few times before that as a busy adult with a few-too-many projects in the works, I really appreciate a tight, narrative game and have begun to shy away from sprawling, open-world games. I like running around finding 27 purple apples, or what-have-you, but I don’t really have time for it. So it was with a little trepidation that I pulled Rage down from my shelf and popped it in. And indeed, here I was in a post-apocalyptic world, running around the desert, with all sorts of folks offering me side-missions to compete in races or fight mutants in game shows. I only did the side-missions I had to in order to progress in the story, and suddenly found myself out of story. Oddly, it felt like a very short game.

FuzzyCo grade: B-

The Martian

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If you like your scifi “hard”, then The Martian is for you. This is the kind of book where our protagonist regularly does math and shares the calculations with us. And the majority of the action takes place with a single character. And yet it also manages to be emotionally compelling.

Astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally abandoned by his crew on Mars. They’ve assumed he’s dead, communications are down, and he’s got limited supplies. But he refuses to give up and struggles for survival. With lots of math. I jest (a little) but it’s also the case that once I picked it up, I read straight through to the end. It’s a great story.

FuzzyCo grade: A

The Maze Runner

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Perhaps I’m just driving myself crazy expecting the world-building of the recent crop of teenage dystopias to make sense. Perhaps in most cases the particular dystopia is just meant to be a hand-waving framework to explore normal teenage angst in an otherworldly setting. But The Maze Runner seems particularly egregious. Our protagonists are literally living in the middle of a puzzle that they, and we, are trying to solve. And when that solution comes and the broader context is revealed, it seems to make very little sense. And c’mon, “WICKED”?

FuzzyCo grade: B-

The Execution Channel

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The Execution Channel is lightly science fiction and largely political thriller. It’s a “counter-factual” starting with Al Gore winning the 2000 US presidential election but with, in a biting jab, very little difference in the events of the next four years. A mysterious device explodes on an American airbase in Scotland, there are spies and double-agents, and familial coincidences. Some of our protagonists are counter-intelligence operatives who specialize in placing false stories in the media and at a certain point in the story they, and we, are no longer certain what’s the truth and what’s a lie that they are telling.

FuzzyCo grade: A