Wait, how did I not realise “phone it in” was a pun?

Ready for me to phone it in again?

I feel like shit and I’m coming home from work. So this is gonna be written in the time between work and collapsing my bones once I walk through the door. What’s my damage? My brain’s been foggy all day. I just thought it was insufficient sleep, but it’s been harder than normal to concentrate. Even post coffee. I’m achy all over. This could usually be explained by onset muscle soreness from the gym. Thing is, the left of my face is weirdly sore and I don’t know why. There’s a dull ache to the left of my eye and nose. The back of my skull on the left is gently throbbing. I’ve got a mild headache. Could it just be excessive nasal congestion wreaking havoc in my head? My stomach has been volatile all day. My dearest hope is that I’m not coming down with whatever has plagued my girlfriend for nigh on the past week. Sure, it’s great to not be in the office. But I wanted to go out to the movies tonight, goddammit. The Favourite is still in theatres and I wanna catch it while it’s on the big screen.

Speaking of screens, I was just wondering what to do when I get home, and if there’s anything that doesn’t involve a screen. I’m not sure if there is any more. All of my leisure activities are screen based. The Internet is obviously screen based. Playing Magic is now screen based. Watching anything clearly relies on a screen. I could read, but the only thing I’m reading right now is, you guessed it, from a screen. Good fucking luck doing anything but lying idly with my thoughts.

It is nice to read again though, really. It’s horrifying how rarely I do these days. Maybe one to two books per year? I used to be a voracious reader. I’d devour a couple books a month, or at least be reading 1000+ page fantasy epics. I just don’t find the time anymore. I find it hard to push myself away from those dang screens and into a narrative that plays out in my brain. I think it’s important, to challenge your imagination. I don’t know how many times I’ve read something and had to update my mental pictures with new information. Maybe I viewed a character in a certain way because of unspecified features, then the author was like “oh by the way, her freckles were her most recognisable feature. Did I not mention that?” They probably did. I was likely just skim reading. As someone who loves expanding their vocabulary at any change, not reading feels like a massive personal disservice. Getting the Overdrive app has been amazing. I can link it up with the Toronto Public Library and virtually visit from the palm of my hand. Once I’ve downloaded the book it stays on my phone for three weeks. I don’t need internet access to read it, the app automatically saves my place. It gives me something to do in transit again.

Well, aside from hastily phoning in my writing, that is. And with that, I’m home.

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When trees ask other trees out on dates are they going out on a limb?

It’s hard to believe that I sometimes forget I’m 31, not 25. If I’m ever in doubt, however, my body is quick to remind me.

Today it’s screaming. Muscles and ligaments alike are all howling in displeasure. It’s like my body is trying to morse code “mercy” to my brain, but with twitches and twinges of pain. My legs feel static and worn, muscles in my back I didn’t realise I had are making themselves known through soreness. My lower back is stiff and inflexible. Even my left thumb has given up the ghost for greener pastures. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the fun I had. Why? ‘Cause I finally got to road test the new Pursuit OCR location.

I’ve been a fan of Pursuit OCR for some time. When I first heard one of my friends was working on assembling an indoor obstacle course race, it hit all of my boxes: Friends, running/climbing things, zero chance of sunburn. It lived up to all my expectations and over time, surpassed them. The obstacles all offered a variety of solutions. There were chances to go over, under, or even around most of them. The attitude was as supportive as possible. People were encouraged to play and not to stress about winning. There was an onus on accessibility for people of all fitness levels, a principle close to my heart. There were killer classes for a wide variety of athletic interests. It’s where I tried my first acro yoga class. They continued to evolve, adding new obstacles or changing up existing ones. Most importantly, it was fun as hell. The environment naturally fostered the kind of community who naturally bolstered others. I can’t count how many times I saw strangers cheering on other strangers. There was no coercion, just empathy. Pursuit OCR even had non-gendered bathrooms before it was commonplace. Effortlessly with its heart in the right place.

Then it happened. The ideal downtown Toronto location on Dufferin by Queen closed down. A new, much larger location was found, but these things take time. I waited. And waited.

Until yesterday, when I stopped waiting and finally got out there. At 75 Westmore Ave, it’s not in downtown Toronto, but still accessible by TTC. It does take a while to get there, so if you’re travelling via public transit, make a day of it.

It’s SO much bigger. From what I last heard, about three times the size. From the moment you enter, it’s wall to wall aesthetics. Aside from being a fun place bounce around, it was definitely designed for endless Instagram opportunities. If that’s not your think, you’ll just have to “suffer” through the fact that everything looks cool as hell. Shifting mood lighting in bold pinks, blues and greens, graffiti art walls, stacks of climbable pseudo Tetris blocks. The course has a ton of wicked spots to goof around and take great pictures. I’m not saying by any means that’s all it’s for, but it’s definitely an option and I know a lot of people like that.

Me? I just wanted to put the place through its paces. Thing is, even after stretching my dry old bones, I was pooped halfway through the course. We took it at a leisurely speed, trying obstacles multiple ways. Right at the start there are a series of blocks that are climbable, parkour-able and duck-able. My friend and I looked for a bunch of ways to traverse them. Then after spending five to ten minutes working over those, we found a neat three walled jungle gym. Solid pipes lined an overhead and two side walls in an array of directions. It was like putting together a puzzle, but one that played hacky sack with your lats. I felt attuned with my inner chimp as I crawled up the pipes, hung down, and walked sideways across the walls. My friend and I tried a couple of poses, giving a metaphorical middle finger to gravity. How often do you get that chance?

Look, I’ve described two, maybe three obstacles. There are a ton. They take inspiration from pop-culture as diverse as American Gladiators and Die Hard. There are ersatz vents to climb and slide through, complete with little fans at the back (purely for atmosphere, of course). The horizontal netting is exhausting to cross, but if you’re feeling frisky you can slackline the entire way. There are heaps of hanging obstacles, which explains why my upper body has given up the ghost today. The ring swings returned from the past course, over a sea of foam this time. There’s a room filled to the brim with swiss balls. I had a great time trying to walk only on balls without touching the ground. The bouldering wall is exhausting, and offers a bunch of creative solutions. The ball pit in this new location is enormous and deceivingly tiring. It’s right at the end, and takes everything in the tank to traverse. Of course, it’s so deep that you could spend your time doing cannonballs into it instead.

I haven’t even mentioned the drift trikes. This time around, there’s a fun drift trike course that weaves below the obstacles. The trikes have log handles and two big wheels in the back. They peddle exactly as you’d expect, but if you sharp turn the handles, you can drift around corners. It’s entirely like real life Mario Kart. It’s a simple enough course, but mastering the handling of such a dinky little three-wheeler takes an age. For the most part if you try to drift too hard you’ll just harmlessly turn in a circle. Maybe you’ll gently bump into the wall behind you. We had a goddamn riot trying to synch up our turns and go up the skate bowl style corner. We tried the bikes almost as an afterthought and they were a total blast.

I may be a slowly withering skin sack of bones, but sometimes I get to feel like a kid again. If that’s something you want in your life instead of just hate-scrolling Twitter (you can still do that too) check out Pursuit OCR.

Even with a sore left thumb, I’ll give it two thumbs up.

It’ll henceforth be known as Indrik Lamar

Magic the Gathering themed post today. If that’s not your thing, come back tomorrow.

I hope everyone enjoyed another fun and successful spoiler season. There’s some neat stuff on the way. I can’t wait to play with Pelt Collector, which embodies the beloved fantasy trope of elves wearing an overabundance of coats and charging into battle. We’ve got plenty of memeworthy critters including Generous Stray, a cat who brings you a lizard treat. There’s Affectionate Indrik, solid limited fodder that loves so hard it hurts. Also Book Devourer, a big ol’ lug who enjoys words as much as I do.

Without diving too much into specifics, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together for limited. There’s good, efficient removal in abundance, a sign of an excellent format. Prey Upon, Luminous Bonds and Dead Weight are all superb tempo plays. I’m personally kinda excited to see how Undercity Uprising plays, let alone all the neat coloured mana heavy uncommons. Will the plentiful Gates make for easily castable nonsense? I sure hope so. I’ve got lots of time for nonsense.

What about the mechanics? Did they get there? It looks like Dimir got an alley ooped big time with Surveil. Seems like it’ll have a subtle long term affect on the game while powering out any Undergrowth/Jump Start shenanigans Dimir players will be able to swipe from others. I’m not sure on Undergrowth yet. Traditionally Golgari’s strength has been slow attrition, coming back in the long game. This time around, I’m not sure. The full spoiler was just released this morning and I haven’t combed through it much. Undergrowth seems like it has marginal enablers and might not get there, but it’s often hard to tell what, on paper, will be good on the board.

Mentor looks like an ability that will play out much stronger than it looks. I’ve got echoes of Renown thundering in my heart. Will combat tricks keep the moMentorm rolling? Probably. I expect to be rolled over by it infinite times. Last up, Jump Start. I’m quite not sure that Jump Start got there and I’m very prepared to be wrong. Feels like Wizards were super worried about it being too strong and didn’t make it strong enough? Chemister’s Insight does look dope though. Flashbacks to Deep Analysis? Pun intended. Convoke was super strong first time around. Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi and Siege Wurm were total gas. Siege Wurm is back and this time it looks less like a penis. I’m not sure that small creatures are as common as they were in original Rav (anyone remember how dominant Selesnya Evangel was?), but who knows? The game has shifted and maybe getting a turn 3 4/4 vigilance is good enough. Conclave Tribunal certainly is.

Big news on the Magic the Gathering: Arena front, we’re finally getting a wipe for Open Beta. I think I’m in the minority seeing that as good news, but I do. It’s neat to start from the bottom and work your way up. Sure, it means any decks I’ve made will disappear, but I get to create new ones depending on what I open/draft. Plus everyone else will be running their jank cobbled together decks too. I love it when everyone has clunky one ofs that slowly get tweaked over time. The wipe will also make drafting Dominaria fun again, now that I’ve collected pretty much the whole set. Better yet, there’ll be Rav to draft. Plus Ravnica sealed. They’ve promised friend finder functions and all sorts of helpful tweaks. The game has gotten kind of boring with all these retread formats. A party’s on its way and I’m ready for it.

I guess you could say I’m all Rav’d up.

Here I am muddering to myself

Tough Mudder this year was…

…actually, I think that says enough. Tough Mudder this year was.

It existed. There was a path to run on. They had some obstacles. It was a Tough Mudder course, in the proprietary sense of the word.

It was also a real disappointment. Look. I’m a decently optimistic bloke. I really am. I look forward to this event every year. I train like mad to throw myself at everything the course puts in my way. Every year I have a total blast getting covered in mud, slipping and sliding, crawling, climbing, swinging and jumping. Everyone helps everyone else out, and we all make a time of it. Great event.

This year it felt like they phoned it in. I’ve heard rumours that they’re looking to sell the brand and, as such, they’re trying to maximise profit margins by scaling things back. Feels accurate, even if it’s just a rumour. Which sucks, because the event has always been a master class in price scalping. We’ve known this going in, but it’s been fun enough to compensate. You’re paying at least $150 for a ticket, $20-$30 for parking and $10 for bag drop.

The obstacles this year were altogether pretty tame. King Gorilla was almost farcical. It was a zig zag through a dry, flat field. In previous years, at least it’s been up and down a hill, adding some interesting dimension. This year it felt like they got pushed for time last minute and turned the line outside of bag check into an obstacle. This year the full course involved looping around to do a second lap of the course, with some divergent paths. There were a couple of obstacles you had to redo. It was sorta lazy, like they didn’t even try. The partner carry was weirdly short and Mud Mile 2.0 felt like a mildly inconvenient puddle. Most of the obstacles felt like smaller versions of the previous ones. It was like they wanted to make them accessible for the half course, but didn’t add an extra difficulty layer for those who wanted them. Funky Monkey 2.0 was a blast last year and downgrading to the regular version this year was disappointing. The new Kong was fun, for sure, but there was nothing this year on the awe inspiring scale of King of the Swingers from a few years back. In past years they’ve had extra obstacles for returning participants, extra challenging ones. Not this year. My team and I were halfway through the course thinking “sure, it’s nice to be outside and people are very friendly, but does this all seem pretty underwhelming to anyone else?”

This was my fourth, and it seems like each year they scale down food options. First time around there were energy gels, pre-workout and real protein bars at regular intervals. If you’re burning a couple hundred calories every hour in the hot sun, this stuff is important to keep you going. It’s kinda irresponsible not to keep participants fed, not least because they’re paying $150+ per ticket. You think they could spare a protein bar, energy gel and pre-workout per participant and still be laughing all the way to the bank.

It’s not all bad. Christie Lake Conservation Area was gorgeous. Truly lovely terrain to run through. It was nice to not have the constant hills of St Louis, but it would’ve been great for the difficulty level to compensate. The electronic waivers were excellent this year. The staff were friendly and helpful. When a guy in the beer tent started getting faint, medical responded quickly and helped him out. There was still the outstanding attitude of camaraderie and an admirably low douchebag quotient, given the hordes of shirtless dudebros. It was a nice day out in the sun and I’m stoked that they’ve developed accessible opportunities for burgeoning course-goers, but it would’ve been nice to have the challenge level of previous courses. Felt like a waste of training.

Will I go again next year? Every other year the answer would’ve been a resounding yes. This time? Maybe I’ll see what Spartan Race 2019 is like instead.

When Mudder Nature calls

It’s 5am and I’ve only been up for 40 minutes. I was in bed just after 9pm. I may have had six hours sleep altogether. Without any sarcasm whatsoever, for a Tough Mudder eve, things are on track.

I’m excited, like I am every year. Like every year, this year feels different. It’s a small group this time. Three of us. Every Tough Mudder I’ve loved approaching the challenge with a different team. Everyone brings their own attitude to the course. I’ve never been saddled with anyone who hasn’t given it their all. This year is my first time running with only veteran Mudders. Both my team mates know the score. It’s great basking in the camraderie of a large team, but you’re only as fast as your slowest member. A seven person team has a ton of variance. A three person team of individuals who’ve run the course before means that we can probably jog most of it. That’s exciting to me. I’m not the breed of competitive where my finishing time really matters. That said, previous years the course has taken over four hours, because not everyone spent the preceding months training in earnest. I get it, life gets busy and for most people it’s just a fun day excursion. Personally, having put gallons of sweat into my training, it’s been a bit of a let down to spend much of the course walking. Left me feeling overtrained, y’know? This year I’m hoping for maybe under three hours, just to say I did it. It’s not just a performance thing. You get long lines at a bunch of the obstacles and that’s out of your control. Having too much of an aggressive mindset would ruin the charm of the experience for me. I mean, I’ll be garbed in a bright pink shirt and purple leggings. Okay, “bright” is an overstating it. I pulled out my go to uniform last night. It still smells like mud. I’m bathing in nostalgia already. Just, muddy nostalgia.

I’m all packed. I’ve had my first bowel movement on the day (if you’ve never run an intense physical trial you have no idea how impotant food timing and bathroom sequencing is. Seriously). The goal is to eat breakfast around three hours before reaching the starting line. Some good hearty porridge, packed with carbs, fats and protein. A cup of lemon water on the side helps settle your stomach. My team mate, literal angel that she is, has baked some paleo chocolate chip banana bread to give us some extra stodge to run on, so we’ll have that in the car on the way over. An hour before hitting the starting line I’ll have a banana. Not too much fibre, but just a little. Then 30 minutes before starting I’ll have a big ol’ double dose of pre workout. Get that caffeine flowing. Fingers crossed that leads to another bathroom break around 20 minutes pre-liftoff, so I feel energised by all the packing, but not bogged down. The mindset is, your body really needs food on the course. At the very least, you’re probably running through 300-400 calories an hour, depending on your pace. We’re likely to be there for two and a half to three hours, so that’s a hefty amount of calories burned. There will be food on the course, they usually have bananas, energy gummies, pre workout and protein bars at intervals across the race. At the same time, too much food can leave you feeling bloated, with an uneasy stomach. If you’re pulling yourself over sheer walls, having an unhappy gut makes it a lot harder.

Goddammit, I’m really bloody excited now. Perhaps that’s pre race jitters or literal jitters from the bottle of cold brew coursing through my body. A brutally sunny day today. 27 degrees. Thank fuck we have an early start time of 9.30am. It’s gonna be murder out there.

Righto, time for bowel movement number two. Get it? Number two?

Beer and breaststroke seems like a lesson in drowning

I feel crispy and sun baked. Let’s work with this hazy day’s daze.

I finally joined in my first ever Run TO Beer. If you’re too lazy to click the link, I’ve got you. It’s a local Toronto running group that does weekly planned routes to breweries across Toronto. You run, then head to a brewery and get a free beer in exchange for an instagram photo or equivalent social media promotion. They do 10km, 5km and 3km runs that go in waves. The neat part is, they run as a homogeneous blob of activity. Like a Katamari of athletic folk, the 10km loops around to pick up the 5km runners, then the 3km runners join in the fun. There are pacekeepers who ensure nobody gets left behind (Ohana, etc) and it’s open to enthusiasts irrespective of speed or skill level. Also “skill level” sounds like an odd combination of words when you’re talking about moving forward at an advanced pace. I guess there’s a lot of technique when it comes to high level running, but the more skilled you are, I’m sure the more effortless it all looks. I still don’t really consider myself a runner. It’s just something I do for fitness sake, without being a hobbyist. I know that posture and knee driving helps with speed. Beyond that, I swing my arms and move my legs like everyone else.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I often have trouble meeting active friends. It just so happens that a lot of the people I gravitate towards don’t necessarily care much for running, lifting or climbing things. At least, not to the same extent that I do. I never hold this against people, because imagine that being a dealbreaker in your life. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like more of it in my social circles. I tried to put together a summer activity/open source fitness group on Facebook, but it never really took off. I think people had the best of intentions, but when I fractured my wrist and spiralled out of commission, I think I took their incentive with me. I get it. Motivation is hard to find and harder still when it comes bundled with buckets of sweat.

I didn’t socialise a whole lot today, but it was neat to meet habitual runners and hear about what it meant to them. Over our beers (and as today was a huge run, 250 odd people in comparison to the usual 30-40), we chatted about distances, times, wear and tear and whatnot. Marathon runners discussed the differences between race lengths. Apparently a full marathon feels around four times harder than a half. A few of them mentioned just how challenging it gets close to the 30km mark. Your body shuts down in a big way and motivation is difficult to come by. They said 37km is where it tends to pick back up. With the end in sight you think it’s only 5km. I can run 5km. Then they run 5km to the finish. C’est tout.

I thought about running some more. Aside from Tough Mudder, I’ve never really trained for a big event. Most years I tend to overdo the Mudder training, then end up in a group with people who didn’t train. It’s meant previously that I find the course pretty easy, since I don’t have to push the pace. This year because of my wrist I’ve undertrained. I also purposefully wanted to let myself have patio beers, etc, this time around. I’m doing it with friends who’re Mudder veterans and we’re planning on trying to jog most of it. I’m hopefully gonna find the challenge level this year that I’ve been searching for. If that’s too easy, what’s next? Do I finally do a half marathon and train incrementally? Do I consider a mini triathlon for something all new? Or is there something else out there that could take my fancy? Circus? Rock climbing? Finally learning how to swim Butterfly?

If they involve more sweet ass beer, sign me up.

Is that what we call a cardinal sin?

Magic the Gathering themed post. Once more, if this isn’t your thing come back tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll have loads to complain about then.

“Do you have any competitive decks?” He asked. I wasn’t sure what the answer to that was. Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to have a quick 1v1 EDH game where we both went all out. I grabbed Hazezon Tamar, my pet deck. Land ramp, tokens and value. I had zero idea how it’d go against anything truly cEDH. I’ve never really tried. I shuffled up and asked him what he was playing. “Jhoira” he said. I laughed. “The new one?” He nodded. “So basically Eggs combo?” He laughed and nodded. We both shuffled and kept our hands. I got high roll and went first.

Leon Turn 1

Naya Panorama. Turn.

OP Turn 1

Island. Chromatic Sphere. Turn.

Leon Turn 2

Wooded Bastion. Sac Panorama to search for a plains. Turn.

OP Turn 2

Buried Ruin. Coldsteel Heart naming red. Turn.

Leon Turn 3

Forest. Farhaven Elf finding Mountain. Turn.

OP Turn 3

Seat of the Synod. Sacrifice Chromatic Sphere for U. Draw a card. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain. Turn.

Leon Turn 4

Canopy Vista. Panharmonicon.

OP Turn 4

Prophetic Prism. Draw two cards. Island. Chrome Mox exiling Counterspell. Draw a card. Thought Vessel. Draw a card. Myr Retriever getting back Chromatic Sphere. Draw a card. Turn.

Leon Turn 5

Forest. Natural Order sacrificing Farhaven Elf. Put Avenger of Zendikar into play. Panharmonicon triggers giving me 10x 0/1 Plant tokens. Turn.

OP Turn 5

Reliquary Tower. Basalt Monolith. Draw a card. Panharmonicon. Draw a card. Welding Jar. Draw two cards. Retraction Helix on Jhoira bouncing Welding Jar. Play Welding Jar. Draw two cards. Tap Basalt Monolith. Chromatic Sphere. Draw two cards. Sac Chromatic Sphere for R. Draw a card. Sac Buried Ruin, returning Chromatic Sphere. Play Chromatic Sphere. Draw two cards. Turn.

Leon Turn 6

Forest. 0/1 Plant tokens get +1/+1 counters. Beastmaster Ascension. Attack for 70. Good Game.

 

He had the win next turn, so if I didn’t win, he would’ve. Apparently that’s kinda how cEDH feels. I think I like it. The above took a long time to type out/remember (especially the fiddly mana stuff), but in reality the game took around five minutes. My opponent was friendly and didn’t take an age trying to work things out. We both went for the jugular. I top decked really well and, in a game where we were essentially both goldfishing, came out on top. It’d been a while since I’d played with physical cards or even visited an LGS, so it was a mixed bag.

I’m used to trading when I go out to play. These days few people seem to bring their trades. Or they’re wary of trading with strangers, which is fine too. The one dude who wanted to trade didn’t even play the game. He was just a dealer. I was small potatoes to him, and it showed. We durdled around as he tried to angle for the most value possible. I really didn’t give a shit about a dollar here and there. His attitude left kind of a bitter taste with me, but at least I picked up a Nylea and Dig Through Time that I’d been seeking for some time. Casual EDH scrub stuff. It all comes out in the wash.

I played a couple of randoms, but as ever it was a mixed bag. Some games were fun. Others took too long without a decent resolution. Some had neat interactions, especially seeing one of the new generals Aminatou, the Fateshifter at work. It was nice to dust off old decks and remember how they played. Altogether, a fun night that ended far too early as the store kicked us out around 9.30pm. On a Friday?

I guess you gotta know when to fold ’em.