Getting Muddy at Tough Mudder

With mud from my toes to my nose and sloshing through my shoes, I waded through waist deep mud and over heaps of slippery dirt with only one thing on my mind, finishing. Exhaustion setting in and my knees splitting from an old injury…and falling on my face around mile 5, the cold mud for once in the course felt oddly and momentarily refreshing. “We are almost there,” I thought as I sludged my mud-caked Nikes out of the pit. But as two of my teammates pulled me out of the pond of goop and I hobbled (broken pirate style) around the last bend, there it was…the mountain of all obstacles – literally. Everest, a greased half-pipe, and Electroshock therapy, dangling electrified wires, were the last two obstacles that stood in my way. “Bring it on!”

Dubbed as one of the toughest obstacle course races, the Tough Mudder is an intense 11-mile, 25 obstacle race. Designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie, the course has you climbing walls, swimming through fields of mud, squirming under barbed (and sometimes electrified) wire, running almost a marathon and dunking your body into ice tanks, among other things. It’s a race that gives you the opportunity to prove yourself, not only to your teammates and the other competitors but also to yourself, that you truly are tough enough – or just crazy enough!

The highlights of the Tough Mudder, Las Vegas race for me were:

  • Kiss of mud – crawling under barbed wire through muddy water
  • Arctic Enema – a quick dip into ice-cold (and I mean ice-cold) water.
  • Funky Monkey – a monkey bar challenge that brought me back to the good old days on the play ground
  • The Wounded Warrior run – I hopped a free ride on a random dude’s back for half of it!
  • Berlin Walls – scaling 3 sets of wooden walls that progressively got taller
  • And of course, Everest. It took me four very painful attempts to grab my teammates’ hands, but I did successfully scale the half-pipe.

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Check out all the obstacles here and our race day video here.

However, when they say that Tough Mudder is a race that you can’t finish alone – nor would you want to – they mean it. The best part about competing in this race was running it with my co-workers. The camaraderie, support and energy everyone brought to the course made the event. From running buddies to helpful boosts over the obstacles, my co-workers and all the other competitors are what got me through the race, up the walls, through the mud and across the finish line. (Plus it’s amazing what a little peer pressure and a bunch of stubbornness will get you through as well!)

Are you tough enough?

Running the Eugene Marathon Half

Last Sunday all of my hard training came together as I crossed the finish line at Hayward field for the Eugene Marathon half. After 13.1 miles I was exhilarated to have finished my first race in 02:27:48. My legs were a tad tired – my hips started hurting around mile 12 – but otherwise I felt good and I even finished a few minutes under my goal time. Surrounded by cheering crowds with cowbells, I couldn’t image a better way to finish my first half marathon then on the historic field in Eugene with my mom (this was her first half-marathon too) by my side!

My next goal is to run the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon on August 26, 2012 in under two hours.  Here’s to long summer evenings pounding the pavement!

Here are few photos from my race:

My Mom and I as we wait in the corral for the race to start.

Runners hit the street for the Eugene Marathon

Runners hit the street for the Eugene Marathon

Running the Eugene Marathon

Trudging on around mile 8

Almost to the finish line at Hayward Field

My mom & I with our half marathon medals after finishing!

Have you ever run a long distance race? What is your best tip for new runners?

Not Your Paint By Numbers Art Scene

Numberism Art by Sienna Morris

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of traveling to Portland, Oregon a handful of times and exploring the city’s thriving arts scene. From live theater performances to art walks, café concerts and plays, Portland houses hippies to hipsters and everyone inbetween for an unforgettably creative gallery for the arts. One of my favorite art vendors to stop by is the huge, eclectic Portland Saturday Market along the Willamette River. Featuring hand-made goods, jewelry, paintings, glass art, ceramics and so much more, the market is a wonderful showcase opportunity for all the local artist.

On my most recent trip to the Portland Saturday Market, my friends and I stumbled upon the most amazing booth – Fleeting States Studios by Sienna Morris– where we all made an thorough donation.

Using numbers to build images frozen in time, Sienna Morris creates numberism art that evokes emotion and aww in its imaginative projects – this is no simple kids’ paint by number.

Each image is created using only numbers and each string is painstakingly thought out to represent the mathematical, scientific or numerical representation of the image. The amount of thought and precision that goes into each creation just blows my mind.

The most extraordinary piece that I viewed in Sienna’s booth was her creation called “A Cello.” The strings are drawn with the hertz frequency along the notes, the wood of the bow is drawn with the Pythogorean comma and the body of the cello with the speed at which sound travels parallel to the grain of wood! View this amazing work of art here.

Falling to Pieces by Sienna Morris

Falling to Pieces by Sienna Morris

Sienna created her first drawing in 2008 titled “Falling to Pieces.”  My friend Sarah purchased a reproduction of this moment frozen in time, which is built using the numbers of the clock, 1-12. The image represents a moment in time that is precious and intimate, yet quickly disappears like the numbers falling away from the two faces.

Midnight by Sienna Morris

Midnight Special by Sienna Morris

Bioluminescences by Sienna Morris

Bioluminescences by Sienna Morris

My friend Dani purchased for her sister, the piece titled “Bioluminescence.” This drawing is much more complex then the first. The fireflies’ abdomens are drawn with a chemical formula for their bioluminescence, while the light coming from the fireflies is drawn with the speed of light (299792458 meters per second). The girl is drawn with the numbers of the clock, 1-12 to represent the moment in time.

My friend Bre bought from the booth’s display, a piece titled “Midnight Special,” which depicts a Billie Holiday-esque image of a young lady holding an old fashion microphone. This image is also created with the numbers 1-12 as part of her time collection.

Finally, I purchased the beautiful intro piece, “Et Memorium.”

I highly recommend stopping by Sienna Morris’ booth at the Saturday Market or viewing her collections online.

One Year of Adventures

This week I celebrated my one year blog-o-versary! Woot Woot!

With 233 (make that 234) posts, 21 pages and three re-designs, it has been quite the journey. I am thankful for every view, every comment and every follower who has joined me along the way. I hope to continue bringing great adventures from my travels, more photography snippets into my life and maybe a few surprises along the way – not to mention 10 ultimate hikes!

I think what has impressed me most this year is just how much I learned and grew. From my writing and how I connect with people to my photography and organization, each post is a learning experience that I savor.

5 Great Things I have learned this year:

  1. Blogging pushes me to try new things
  2. There is beauty everywhere! Even in spider webs, fog & spandex
  3. I can’t cook and people love that (one of my top posts for the year is this burnt mess)
  4. Words can lead to self discovery
  5. Stories and photography bring people together

While my life has certainly gotten busier since April 2011, I am still excited for another fantastic year on The Joyful Shoehorn!

Let’s take a look at where in the world the past year went?

5 iPhone Apps for Outdoor Photography

As much as I love taking photos with my real camera, my daily photo snapping buddy is my iPhone. With its ease of use and extreme portability, my smart phone is the hidden weapon in my pocket and with today’s advance app technology it is possible to get awesome outdoor photography from this simple little camera.

Do you use your phone as your camera too? What is your favorite photo app?

Here is my top 5 iPhone Apps to use to take and edit my outdoor adventure photos:

Dynamic Light photo of Spencer's ButteDynamic Light

Do you hate it when you take a photo on your phone and the colors seem duller than reality? With this powerful photo tool, turn your dark and colorless photos into vibrant images. Using the same properties of HDR technology yet with only one image, Dynamic Light brightens shadowed sections of the image and increase the color contrast to bring out the complexity of the image.

To use the app you can either take a photo directly in the tool or upload an image. With the sliding scroll adjust the intensity and use special filters to optimize the scene.

Dynamic light is my favorite app to use for landscape photos on cloudy days. The way the app adjusts the light and shadows of the clouds is always breathtaking.

This app cost 99 cents on the App Store.

Luminance iPhone AppLuminance

Enhance, dramatize, and color correct your iPhone photos with this all-in-one photo editing application. Luminance with its simple interface, makes editing your photos effortless yet without skimping on editing capabilities. Offering built-in filter presets like Twilight, X-Process and Cold Tone, Luminance makes it easy to change the look of your photo. But the best part of this app is the detailed sliders its offers to edit with precision. From split toning to adding Vignette and editing contrast, let Luminance be the professional photographer in your pocket.

This app costs 99 cents.

Sweet Creek Falls with Slow Shutter SpeedSlow Shutter Cam

This app works just like the title describes. Use Slow Shutter to take long exposure images right on your iphone. From low light settings to beautiful cascading waterfall photos, the app allows you to choose the shutter length to augment your photos further. The one difficultly with taking slow shutter images though is that you have to hold completely still or your photos will appear blurry from the movement.

To capture this photo of Sweet Creek Falls in Oregon with my Slow Shutter app I had to kneel on the ground and prop my hands and phone on my knees to hold still enough to get the shot. A challenge, but well worth it for the photo affect!

This app costs 99 cents.

Snap Seed

Fine tune your photos with this easy iPhone tool to create natural looking photos with the clarity and definition of an expensive camera and editing software. From image sharpening to grid straightening and ambiance to white balance, Snap Seed sets you up for photo success. However it doesn’t come cheap. I scored this app on a special when they were giving it away for free, yet it regularly costs $4.99.


Offering a growing number of unique filters that add texture, ambiance and feeling to your photos, Instagram is the granddaddy of iphone photography apps for me – plus its FREE! With a built in social platform, the app allows you to share, comment and create with your fellow iphonegraphers.

So now that you have all these beautiful outdoor photos that are edited with creativity share them on Instagram and add to the growing community of iPhone togs!

Find me on Instagram @KelseyIvey!

Other iPhone photo apps to check out:

  • Photoshop Express
  • SnapBucket
  • Color Effects
  • Photosynth


Young enough to still remember using film, I have been taking photographs since I was a kid. With each snap of my camera and each year, I find myself falling in love with the craft more and more. As part of the Hostelbookers “7 Super Shots” photo project, I was nominated by the best Philadelphia Photographer, Picture Philly (okay the only one I know, but he’s still pretty awesome), to show off some of my favorite work.

Participants post their best photos for seven different categories. You can check out the official rules here.

Below are my favorite photographs for each of the categories. Some are from my travels and others of home, but each hold a dear memory and snap shot of life exactly how I remember it. Enjoy!

A photo that takes my breath away

Snowy Neuschwanstein Castle near Fussen, Germany

I had the joy of visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle Disney based his design around) at the very beginning of winter in 2008. Through the snow and fog from town you could just barely make out the castle framed against the trees and sky. To reach the castle for a tour, my travel buddies and myself took a horse drawn carriage due to the buses being shut down thanks to the fresh & unexpected snow. Definitely a fairy-tale experience.

A photo that makes me laugh or smile

Covered Bridge near Cottage Grove Oregon

Chest bump jumping photo at Covered Bridge

This photo is from my jumping covered bridges tour of Lane County. Taken with a 10 second self timer, my friend Sarah and I attempted to chest bump in the air at this bridge near Cottage Grove, Oregon. It always makes me laugh. I hope it brings a smile to your face too.

A photo that makes me dream

Bubbles at Yachats Beach sunset

Photo through a bubble at Oregon Coast

By pure luck I snapped this photo back in 2006 at the Oregon Coast. On a family vacation, I captured this photo through a restaurant window, through a bubble of a man blowing bubbles at sunset. The photo still blows my mind to today.

A photo that makes me think

Sunlight breaking through the trees in Oregon Coast range

Sunlight breaking through the trees

If you follow my blog regularly you probably saw this photo not that far back during my recent trip out Highway 36 from Eugene, Oregon to finish my jumping covered bridges tour. This photo always brings questions to my mind about life, nature and God. Nature can be so serendipitous & wonderful.

A photo that makes my mouth water

Cape Town vineyards

Cape Town vineyards

I discovered with this assignment that I don’t take many photos of food. But this photo still makes my mouth water all the same. The vineyards at Constantia Uitsig in South Africa produce some of the most delicious wines and I had the joy of working for them for three months in 2010. This photo brings me back – I can almost taste their crisp, light & refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.

A photo that tells a story

Overturned police vehicles in Athens, Greece riots

Overturned police vehicles in Athens, Greece riots

This photo is from my trip to Athens, Greece back in 2008. I was studying abroad in Italy for three months and as a final hurrah, a couple friends and I decided to delay our flights home to take a quick vacation to Athens. Unbeknown to us, the day we arrived – the night streets covered with riot police – a 15 year old boy was shot & killed by the police. For the next few days heavy riots broke out across the city and country. Destination attractions shut down, transportation closed and we found ourselves in the middle of it. Read more about my experience caught in the Greece Riots in my article in Ethos Magazine here.

A photo that I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

Montana's Big Sky

Montana's Big Sky

Whether this photo is National Geographic worthy is up to the society to decided, but it is by far one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. While leaving Yellowstone National Park to the north in Montana, the sky romantically left this beautiful painted effect across the plains. I could have stood there in the middle of nowhere until there was no light left in the sky to watch this art worthy vista unfold in front of me.

I’m nominating the following five bloggers to participate in 7 SuperShots:

Cross-Country Courage

Sliding and swishing through the snow like the polar bears in this year’s Coca Cola Super Bowl commercial, I cruised around Mount Catherine at the Snoqualmie Summit in Washington this past weekend. With blue skies, warm weather and hardly a cloud in sight, I strapped two skinny skies to my feet for a day in the backcountry snow with hardly a second thought.

The Nordic Center at Snoqualmie Summit features over 50 kilometers of groomed trails for all ski and snowshoe levels. Showing off the natural beauty of the Washington Cascades, the Nordic trails weave through the dense evergreen forests, follow creeks and ridgeline ledges and serve up stunning vistas of the surrounding jagged mountains and high elevation lakes. But the cross-country course serves up something extra too – a healthy helping of courage.

Courage to Try Something New

Meeting up with an old friend and three new, I started the day by familiarizing myself with my ski-bum buddies for the afternoon. Initially afraid that I was going to be the rusty fool on the slopes while cross-country skiing, I was happy to find that the rest of my group was new to the sport as well with one exception. I have Nordic skied many times since I was a kid but it had been several years (5+) since my last trek, but three others had only gone once or never before.

Trying a new sport – or anything really – especially one that includes attaching a slipper stick to your body takes a whole lot of courage. Anytime you are willing to look like a crazy-ass nutcase, fall down a hill, and then do it all over again…is amazing. We should all act so silly more often!

Courage to Find Balance

Starting out on the Mt. Catherine Loop, a 15K trail circumventing the ski park, the first thing we had to do was find our balance and rhythm, side to side and toes to heel. To keep grip and forward motion, you will get nowhere on x-country skis without a little ballerina skill – except for maybe face first in the snow. Settling in the tracks, with polls swinging we slowly built momentum like a steam train over the rolling flat sections of the trail.

Like having your legs clicked into the Nordic skis, balance is also key to life. To keep moving forward and to avoid cold wipe-outs, the scale has to be kept equal between all the important paths in your life. For me I work hard so I can play hard because both are equally important and then on top of that I also make time for my family, friends and of course everything else. This gets out of whack every once in awhile, but when you place value in each of your corners they will always return to even.

David Sedaris wrote in an article for the New Yorker that life is like a stove top, “one burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health and the fourth is your work.” To be successful, many people cut off one of their burners, to be really successful they to cut off two. But this creates a horrible and unhappy unbalance. What you need to do is change your definition of success. Like out on the snow trail, success isn’t always just finishing the loop but on some stretches it is to not fall down, or making it to the next bend, or to keep pushing until lunch. At times you may need to lower the burners, but I never-ever turn off the flame. The disproportionate balancing act that inevitably creeps into people lives is not by any means the rule – sometimes it just takes a little courage to keep your feet solid and to strike a balance to stay standing.

Courage to Conquer the Mountain

Just when we thought the trail was easy, it started to climb…and climb…and climb. We would think, oh just around that next bend and we will be at the top for lunch, but no. Following a thin ledge around the backside of the mountain for several kilometers, each of us kept sliding one foot in front of the other as we continued up in elevation. Stopping for lunch we savored in the beautiful rugged views as the wind wiped up clouds of white swirling snow and replenished our tired bodies with food. Though wearing out from the endless incline, there is something invigorating and internally motivating about reaching for a peak. It’s a deep sense of courage tangled with faith that keeps my eyes up. (Matthew 14: 22-33)

The group at the top (photo by Elysia)

Finally we were greeted with a kiss from the wide-open blue ski at the top of the run and white humps of snow speckled by trees. In our narrow-sightedness to reach the top though we overlook one small problem – the challenging descent and sinking sun.

Courage to Turn Back

Sometimes it takes more courage to realize your limitations and turn back then to climb the mountain. As much as we wanted to complete the full loop we had to take into consideration that we did not have the needed resources to make it – the time, skill or endurance. Toasting our toes in the warming hut, which is located just about as far away from the Nordic Center as possible on the backside of the mountain, we re-organized our attack for the trail. Though we had already traveled more than half-way around the loop, the upcoming kilometers mixed more uphill and steeper downhill according to the backcountry ski patrol member stationed at the hut. At 2:30 in the afternoon (our rentals were supposed to be back at 3:30 p.m. – whoops!) we turned our backs on the forward trail and retraced our trenches.

Going back the way we came though was no beachy stroll. Anyone who has ever cross-country skied can tell you that skinny skis – especially when they are too long – are not built to go downhill. Sliding along the crusted ice, my skis grinded along the surface offering little resistance to help me slow down. Unable to make turns in the snow, all of use took many hard tumbles into the snow banks as our nerves gripped our bodies. Looking down the mountain, the slopes appeared much, much taller! Yet we couldn’t stop, so in a perpetual wedge that burned my thighs and knees, we slowly continued down the trail.

Courage to Let Go

On my way down the mountain, with shaky, tired legs attempting to hold a steady wedge and poles dragging behind me through the icy snow, a middle-aged man powered up the steep slope like a steroid-duped Frozone from the Incredibles. As he passed me, he turned and yelled back with a Norwegian accent, “just let go!”

And he was right, my tight ridged form was just holding me back – and cramping my legs and grinding my knees. Once I loosened up and looked passed the ledge, my turns became smoother and the trail more manageable. Like my fear of sliding down the slope, sometimes we need to let go and stop trying to control the situation. The baggage we drag will, yes, slow us down, but that apprehension will also leave its sore spots the next day.

Letting go of the GPS is not an easy task just like cross-country skiing down that mountain was for me, but the exhilarating fear tends to steer right. By putting a little trust in my ability and mustering the courage to point my tips downhill, I not only made it down the mountain faster but fell fewer times along the way.

Courage to Forage on Alone

Once down the steep sections of the trail, we still had 3-5 kilometers of rolling hills to ski to reach the Nordic center. With the sun already below the ridgeline, I was starting to get chilled from my sweat coloring in the crispy dusk air. As a more regular skiing than the majority of my travel buddies (snowboarders), my pace also outran the group. After waiting for over 10 minutes for my friends to catch up, I finally decided to just continue ahead alone. Sailing through the sparse trees of the lower hills, my shadows cast by the low sun raced ahead of me.

At times, we just have to go it alone. Don’t let yourself be held back by your fear of being solo. You can do just about anything by yourself and easily have just as much fun if not more. Some days I am my only best friends, and yes it can be lonely at times, but I am more independent and confident for it. I refused to wait around – doesn’t help I’m not a super patient person, but that’s another post – because time won’t wait for me to catch up.

Sailing into the Nordic Center back at the base of the ski area around 5 p.m. – just a tad late with our rentals – I was rosy cheeked and glad to be back. Warming up inside and enjoying the tail ends of my trail mix, I rested my sore feet up on a bench while waiting for the rest of my group to slide on in from our courageous journey.

More Posts To Explore:

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatility keeps life interesting and for someone who ends up juggling the equivalent of ten plates, two swords and a can of peaches each week, it is the sole thing that keeps me sane while driving me crazy at the same time. One of the my many joys in life though is sharing all these countless passions with you.

On January 19, I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award. With this award comes responsibility – three simple rules – which I joyously and adventurously accept!

Rule 1: Thank who nominated you for the award & include a link to their blog

Thank you so much Custom Trip Planning for nominating me and engaging with my blog. Custom Trip Planning is a fantastic blog penned by Beth and Graham Rankin offering great travel planning tips, trip insights and fabulously descriptive posts.

Rule 2: Reveal seven things about yourself:

Shark Cave Diving

7. I am extremely afraid of fish. I’m not sure when or why this phobia came about. I  feel super silly even admitting to it, but truly I hate fish. Whenever I’m in water near those creepy swimming creatures it is as if spiders are crawling up and down my arms and legs – my body wells up with tension and anxiety until a toddle tantrum feels inevitable. I first discovered this fear while snorkeling in Hawaii with my family about ten years ago. As soon as the first school of fish ventured near, I curled up into a ball – thus sinking and freaking out even more. However, even with this fear, I somehow went shark cave diving and for five years had a pet fish named Bruce.

6. I have lived abroad twice and dream of traveling the world. For three months during my junior year of college, I lived and studied in the small Italian town of Paderno del Grappa through the CIMBA program. This is where I first fell in love with wine and travel blogging (Italy Travel Blog). A year later during my senior year of college, I moved to South Africa and worked at a winery just outside of Cape Town for three months. (SA Travel Blog). Ultimately I’d love just to travel and write about my trips and experiences. Check out my Travel Bucket List.

5. I have Crohn’s Disease. Diagnosed only last year, I am still trying to get the disease under control, but a little tummy trouble won’t get me down.

4. I almost studied to be a fashion designer. I can’t even image how different my life would have been if I traveled down that oh-so-trendy path. Though I still love sewing my own clothing and crocheting and secretly watch Project Runway religiously (well on-demand), I am happy to keep that side of my life as just a fun hobby.

3. I never ate a full salad until I was 18. When I was young I turned my nose at anything green – unless it was lime Jell-O or kiwi and that was still a stretch. Yet one day during my freshman year of college I tried a salad and discover that there is a huge world of deliciousness beyond ranch dressing. Now I eat a salad a few times a week.

My Grandma and Grandpa

2. I started writing in third grade. My best friend and I actually wrote an entire short story series with full color illustrations. Since then I have written poems, newsletter articles, magazine features and hundreds of blog posts (I currently have two blogs of my own – Oregon Winette is my second). I hope to one day write a book – the topic is yet to be determined.

1. I am related to a quarter the population of Wyoming. Not really – but really. My grandfather is one of twelve siblings who grew up on a back country dude ranch in Wyoming and my grandmother one of ten. Between all of these cow-folk and their children, it seems every time I go to visit, other relatives appear out of the wood-works. Yet I love them all – third, fourth, fifth cousins too – but I would never date someone from the state without a detailed background check!

Rule 3: Bestow the honor to other blogs you enjoy reading

Here are 10 of my favorite blogs: