Mucker Q&A – Casey Welsh, Team Muddy Paws

Casey Welsh is a 3-time MuckFest® MS participant and team captain. She shares with us her description of MuckFest MS, some advice for first time muckers, and why she mucks.

MuckFest MS: What made you first decide to do MuckFest MS?

Casey: My sister Nellie Barrett is really the person who initiated the Muddy Paws! She herself has been diagnosed with MS, and because of her, the Muddy Paws came to be. For many members of our team, supporting Nellie is our main reason for participating. We have several other team members who have a parent living with MS, so there really wasn’t one reason we all decided to take part and raise money- there are many!

Molly, Casey, and Nellie of Team Muddy Paws

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The Muck-Magic Doesn’t Make Itself, My Friend

Earlier this season we took you behind-the-scenes at the super-secret MuckFest® MS obstacle design facility and the mysterious man named “Mike” at the center of it all. Today, we’re out in the field talking to “Slade” and “Jake,” two of our far-flung event production managers who take those muck-tacular obstacles and event sites and create the muck-magic that is MuckFest MS. They are responsible for finding, securing and building-out the event site. They make it look easy, but what you see on the event is really the culmination of months of hard work and many bad-hair days. We caught up with them at a rest area halfway between St. Louis and Twin Cities.

MuckFest MS production team

This might be “Slade” and “Jake”, and our volunteer queen, “Kat”. Or it might be their stunt doubles.

MuckFest MS: So, when do you start working on a site, like a week before the event?
Slade: Technically, the site work begins about a year before the event. That’s how long it sometimes takes to secure a site.
Jake: After we find a suitable location, then there’s permitting and contracts and multiple hoops to jump through. It takes a lot of time.
Slade: So when we show up a few weeks before the event to excavate the site, it’s like the final scene of an epic drama.
Jake: A drama that includes a lot of stale coffee, paperwork and heavy equipment, of course.

MuckFest MS coffee pot

The magic ingredient behind the MuckFest MS on-event team? LOTS of coffee from our mucky coffee pot. They take theirs with cream, two sugars, and a pinch of mud. Continue reading

REBLOG: The Mud Run Obstacle Course Guide to Your Career

Thanks to  for sharing her great insight about the connection between mud and obstacle courses and your career.

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Original Post on 7/18/14 on Huff Post Business.

If you log into my Facebook account, you’ll see that I’m constantly being ad-targeted by obstacle race organizers. A day doesn’t go by without the temptation to click on a sponsored ad for an upcoming Spartan, King of the Mountain, Mudderella, MuckFest, or Insert-Clever-Mud-Term-Here Race.

You see, I’ve become an obstacle race junkie. I’ve done about six of them so far, each providing me with a sense of empowerment; hilarious and fulfilling memories; some fun medals, t-shirts, and head bands, and — yes — even a scar or two. These races, or “torture workouts that we love,” as some friends and I jokingly refer to them, are challenging, exhilarating, and oftentimes, messy… kind of like the workforce.

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(That’s me, second from right!)

After the last race I finished, one in which my teammates and I army-crawled through mud pits, balanced on a beam while trying to avoid giant muddy balls from pushing us into a murky pond, scaled cargo net walls, and more, I realized just how many parallels could be made between the race course and my career.

Grab an energy drink, and humor me for a moment…

Going Through Mud Is a Must
The majority of obstacle races feature some sort of mud pit, requiring participants to either roll in it, crawl through it, or — in more extreme cases (those “bad ass” types of races) — swim through it. When you think about it, it can get pretty muddy in the workplace, too. Every job has its mud pit, of sorts; it may be the office-gossip mudslingers, or having to trudge through some dirty work in order to get to the other end of a work project. (We’ve all been there!)

As on the racecourse, the goal is to get through the mud as quickly as possible, accept that you will get dirty, and focus on the fact that you’ll come out the other end the same person, just one that needs a good shower. The mud will eventually run clear, and having put up with a temporary icky period will make you all the more capable the next time you’re facing a not-so-pretty situation. In time, you’ll be able to face any sort of challenge with a hardcore “BRING IT!” — an exclamation popular on the race field. On the course, we put such motivation on a team t-shirt. Go ahead and get it on a mug for the office… with the right “game face,” you, too, can make mud your ally!

Don’t Look Down (or Back!)

For those of us plagued by a knee-shaking, back-of-thigh-quivering fear of heights, scaling walls, jumping off platforms, or balancing on a tightrope over a body of water are quite the challenges to overcome when you decide to try your hand (and body) at an obstacle race. When I participated in the New Jersey Mudderella a few months back, I was faced with the Hat Trick, an obstacle that required me to trampoline onto a cargo net, climb up a gazillion feet, and then slide down into a muddy pool.

I was petrified, but my teammates kept reminding me, “Don’t look down!” I focused on each hand and foot placement ahead of me, one by one, ensuring I had a firm grip before making another move. Before I knew it, I had made my way up. Although I was then faced with a small platform and another huge hurdle ahead of me — what I considered a “death-defying jump” — I had gotten too far at that point to back down (especially since I was still too startled to look down!).

There have been a few times in my career when I’ve found myself in an uphill climb leading only to a cliffhanger of uncertainty. It felt as if every step I took was more difficult than the last, and the amount of times I slipped were too numerous to recollect. In one case, I had tried so hard to traverse my way up the slippery slope that comes with mass layoffs only to find myself on a very narrow platform.

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On the course and in your career, sometimes all you can do is take one step at a time.

I needed to surmount the heartbreak of knowing that esteemed co-workers were to be let go and maneuver my way across a precarious platform that signified the company’s rebuilding phase. Despite putting up a good fight — I tried to claw and scratch my way out of the situation — I was faced with only one option: I had to jump and swim through dark, murky waters in order to successfully emerge.

The landscape had changed, but so had I. I needed to wipe myself off and start anew. Knowing that I had given it my all, I moved from a forlorn mindset of defeat — one fixated on the notion that I had let my team down — and instead searched for ways to stay connected to them, encourage them, and show them how confident I was that they would succeed.

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We can lead by lifting others up.

It’s been almost a decade since that layoff, and though I still count it as the lowest point in my career, the connections I’ve maintained to my co-workers and the amazing accomplishments they each went on to achieve speaks wonders to the power of positivity. Making the most out of any situation, even (especially!) the scary ones, really does make you a better person!

Feel the Fear

On the topic of scariness, no matter how many races I’ve run or how much I look forward to them, the fear is always there. I think we need to approach our careers in the same manner. It’s quite easy and very natural to get comfortable in our roles, but taking things for granted is like not training for your next race. You may think you’re in tip-top physical shape, but if you don’t consistently practice and push yourself, you’re bound to see that reflected in your results or, worse yet, in an injury.

The same rings true on the job. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve often reflected on the “good ol’ days” of my career when I sat at the editorial helm of a national publication that helped teens find their futures, appeared on TV and radio shows as a spokesperson for various brands, and was made to feel like an overachieving superstar. There are times when I think to myself that I may have passed my pinnacle… that the high points of my career are behind me.

And then I remember — I used to feel that way when I was teaching kickboxing in a busy gym during the early days of the fitness craze. I didn’t think it could get better than that. I had prayed for “confidence, strength, and endurance” before each sold-out class I taught, and was always granted my hope — even when I was still teaching at 7 months pregnant!

Since retiring my teaching boxing gloves, however, I’ve gone on to face and conquer new physical challenges — I can lift more weight than ever before, pull myself up ropes and over walls, and run farther and faster than I ever could. And I didn’t start such activities until I was nearly 40 years old!

Once again the racecourse has taught me that no matter what I’ve done before, each time I “show up” will be a new opportunity to accomplish something, a chance to prove to myself that I am made of so much more, and that looking ahead is always –always — a good move.

So now, as I feel like I’m facing a new race in my career — one where I’m uncertain of what’s ahead or if I’m strong enough to do battle — I’ll look to the past courses I’ve completed to propel me forward. “You finish when you’re done, not when you’re tired” is a gym mantra I have on auto-play in my mind, especially when I’m running. It’s something I need to remind myself of daily, whether I’m in sneakers orwork heels!

Although situations, co-workers, clients, and career craziness may feel draining at times, there’s something to be said for remembering how far you’ve come and how much further you can go. As they say on the obstacle course, tomorrow is a chance to be better than today. For me, that means out there in the mud and in the office.

BRING IT!

Mucker Q&A – Chris Anderson, Team Victory, MuckFest MS Twin Cities

Meet Chris Anderson, number one fan of Team Victory at MuckFest® MS Twin Cities. We’re excited to share his story, what MuckFest MS means to him, and his advice on how participants can get the most muck out of their MuckFest MS experience.  

 MuckFest MS: What made you first decide to become involved with MuckFest MS?

Chris: I started my involvement with the National MS Society in 2005, shortly after my own diagnosis. I started Team Victory at that time. My girlfriend, Haley, heard about MuckFest MS and was captain of the MudSeekers in 2012. At that time, I wanted to expand Team Victory into an additional event and MuckFest MS was the perfect opportunity. In 2013, Team Victory debuted at MuckFest MS. I have helped the team to more than double its size. While my fundraising season was once confined to the springtime, it has now become a year-round thing for me. 

Team Victory Group Picture at MuckFest MS Twin Cities 2013

MuckFest MS: Why is supporting the National MS Society important to you?

Chris: While I live with MS, this cause has become so much more important to me since I have talked to so many people who have MS or people who have loved ones who live with it. My purpose is to help others living with this disease and to prevent it from reaching one more person. I do not want anyone to have to live with what I have to live with. I have seen that there are so many with the same passion that I have. I cannot take this cause on alone and more and more, I realize that I do not.

Team Victory's number one fan Chris Anderson at MuckFest MS Twin Cities 2013

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MuckFest MS St. Louis – Sneak Preview

Are you ready to get mucky, St. Louis?! We’ll see you tomorrow at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, 1550 Herky Horine Rd., Pevely, MO 63070.

Remember, the forecast is for very warm weather and high humidity this weekend, so please make sure to stay hydrated, dress appropriately, take your time on the course, and take advantage of our cooling tent!

Check out this sneak peek at our course!

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Mucker Q&A 3 – Todd Garten, Team Doin’ it for Deb Garten, MuckFest MS St. Louis

We are excited to check in again with Todd Garten, team captain of Doin’ it for Deb Garten. He gives us some final muck-tastic advice just before MuckFest MS St. Louis.

MuckFest MS: What do you plan to wear to MuckFest® MS?

Todd:  Shirt, shoes, boxers, shorts and socks. More specifically, last year we created a team shirt that had our team name “Doin’ it for Deb Garten” on the front – that way, my mom would be honored and with us throughout the entire event.  We’re in the process of designing our shirt and choosing colors for this year’s event right now. I suggest wearing lightweight clothes, because you WILL be getting wet, and you don’t want clothes weighing you down. One of my buddies wore pants last year, and he will be the first to tell you he regretted it. He almost left them halfway through the course but decided he’d leave them on for the kids’ sake! 

Probably the most meaningful part of our attire last year was our shoes – or rather what we put ON our shoes.  When my mom’s MS prevented her from walking or moving around much, she spent a lot of her time in bed. She would share how lonely it was to be stuck inside all day and night and how some of the hardest times came at night. One of her best friends, Deb Matson, bought packages of those glow-in-the-dark stars and stuck them all over mom’s ceiling. They would glow and help give her a sense of hope and a feeling of peace when she looked at them each night. Mom would give stars to those close to her to carry and remind them of the hope and love we shared. To continue that tradition, and in my mom’s memory, we drilled holes in glow stars and zip-tied them to our race shoes. I was surprised that all of our stars made it through the course, but I guess it’s just another reminder of how strong and tenacious folks with MS can be! 

Team Doin' it for Deb Garten and their clean shoes before MuckFest MS St. Louis

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Team Captain Tips by Boston Mucker, Heather Ward

Heather Ward is a 2-time MuckFest® MS Boston mucker and the Team Captain of the Muckin’ A’s. She shares with us her top 8 Team Captain Tips and her story of being diagnosed with MS.

MuckFest MS Team Captain Tips

I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. At that time, I was unable to use the right side of my body and my speech was incoherent. I began trying different therapies. Slowly, the use of my right side returned. I was basically free of any major symptoms for almost 12 years. Then, last January, I suffered another major relapse. I could not feel my body from my chest down, could barely walk, and was unable to drive for over three months. My support system of family and friends is invaluable to my recovery. I cannot thank my husband enough.

For fourteen years, I have participated in the MS Walk Concord and have raised over $50,000. What is ironic is that, prior to even being diagnosed, I completed my very first MS Walk for exercise and because it supported a good cause. Last year, I switched gears and joined MuckFest MS. I captained the Muckin’ A’s, a team of 40 people. Together, we raised over $8,000! Because I was recently recovering, some of my teammates walked with me and helped me through the obstacles. I had to skip a few obstacles and was very slow.

At this year’s MuckFest MS Boston, my goal was to run the entire event and complete every obstacle. And, I did it! I personally raised almost $12,000. My team reached 108 members and raised over $27,000, the most in the country! What is amazing is the support that I received from strangers. I was able to obtain over 40 corporate sponsors!

Because of my personal connection to MS, my life’s goal is to raise as much money as possible to help those with MS who suffer more than me and to hopefully find a cure.

Thanks to Heather for sharing her helpful tips and her journey with MS. We can’t wait to see what Heather and Team Muckin’ A’s will be able to accomplish at next year’s MuckFest MS Boston!

MuckFest MS Muck Pie Recipe

We hope you have a sweet tooth, because we have an absolutely mucktastic mud pie recipe to share! This recipe was created by Aaron Manuyag, a mucker, pastry chef and baker from Chicago. He is currently a baker at Nico Osteria under respected pastry chef Amanda Rockman. Aaron trained at the French Pastry School in Chicago before going on to work in kitchens in Beverly Hills, Orlando, Phoenix and Chicago.

MuckFest MS Muck Pie Recipe

MuckFest® MS Muck Pie Recipe

Step #1: Chocolate Graham Crust

5 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 cups Sugar
1 lb Unsalted Butter
4 Tablespoons High Quality Dark Cocoa

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cocoa. Melt the butter and then add it to the mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spread the graham mixture in a 6-8 inch spring form pan, but reserve just a little to crumble on top of the cake later. Press the graham mixture down into the pan making it as even and flat as possible. Press any excess graham up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust at 325°F for 12-15 minutes. Let the crust cool, and then put the pan in the freezer.

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Note: Most grocery stores sell graham cracker crumbs, but if you have trouble finding them, simply buy a pack of graham crackers and put them into a food processor until they are completely ground up.

Step #2: MuckDuck’s Famous Coffee Ice Cream

2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
2 tsp Salt
1 cup Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
2 cups Whole Espresso Beans

Prepare a large bowl filled with ice and water, and then place a slightly smaller bowl on top of the ice bath.

In a small pot, combine the heavy cream, whole milk, salt and half of the sugar.

MuckFest_MS_Muck_Pie_Step1_Recipe_12Bring the mixture up to a simmer, and then turn off the heat. Crush the espresso beans just a little bit with the bottom of a pan or bowl, add the beans to the pot, and cover the pot with plastic wrap. Let the espresso beans steep in the mixture for 10-15 minutes.

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Strain out the espresso beans.

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Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar, and whisk them together.

MuckFest_MS_Muck_Pie_Step2_Recipe_4Turn the heat back on under the cream and milk mixture. As it begins to heat up, pour about a cup of the liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk the two mixtures together, and be sure that the liquids are not so hot that the eggs cook. Transfer the combined egg/cream mixture into the pot and continue stirring with a rubber spatula. As you stir, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, and continue stirring until the custard becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and keep its shape when you drag your finger across the spoon.

Immediately pour the custard through a strainer and directly into the bowl on top of the ice bath. Whisk the custard every few minutes until it has completely cooled. Wrap the bowl and store the custard in a cooler overnight.

Note: You will need an ice cream maker for this step. If you’re using a Cuisinart ice cream maker or an ice cream maker with a bowl that needs to be frozen, be sure to put it in the freezer. If you do not have an ice cream maker [or are like anyone on our staff who can’t cook up anything besides obstacles and muck], you can always use store bought ice cream!

Step #3: Assembly

After chilling the ice cream custard overnight, transfer the custard to the ice cream maker and spin the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions.

As soon as you have spun the ice cream, add a thin layer of the ice cream to the spring form pan (about half an inch).

MuckFest_MS_Muck_Pie_Step5_Recipe_2Then, pour a thin layer of some caramel topping of your choice on top of the ice cream, and spread it evenly.MuckFest_MS_Muck_Pie_Step5_Recipe_0MuckFest_MS_Muck_Pie_Step5_Recipe_1

Next, spread the rest of the ice cream on top of the caramel layer. Level out the ice cream with a spatula and then immediately place the cake in a freezer.

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Depending on the freezer, it might take up to 2 days for it to completely freeze. When the cake is thoroughly frozen, rub your hands against the sides of the pan to warm up the ice cream cake, and remove the sides of the spring form pan.

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Step #4: Chocolate Magic Muck Shell

1 cup Chocolate
1/2 cup Coconut Oil

In a small pot, heat the coconut oil and add the chocolate. When the mixture is completely homogenized, you will pour the Magic Muck Shell over the finished ice cream cake, letting it run over the sides of the cake. It should take less than a minute for the shell to form.

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Step #5: Chocolate Dirt Crumble

Finally, take the extra chocolate graham crumbs and toss them with a pinch of some large flaked sea salt and plain graham cracker crumbs. Cut and enjoy with your teammates! Or by yourself, we won’t judge!

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Many thanks to Aaron for sharing this delectable recipe! Do you have your own Muck Pie recipe you want to share?

Complete Ingredient List

5 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 cups Sugar
1 lb Unsalted Butter
4 Tablespoons High Quality Dark Cocoa
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
2 tsp Salt
1 cup Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
2 cups Whole Espresso Beans
1 cup Chocolate
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
Pinch of Large Flaked Sea Salt
1 cup Carmel Sauce, purchased

 

Mucker Q&A 2 – Todd Garten, Team Doin’ it for Deb Garten, MuckFest MS St. Louis

We’re excited to check back in with Todd Garten, team captain of Team Doin’ it for Deb Garten. As a MuckFest® MS St. Louis mucker, Todd raises awareness and funds for the National MS Society to honor his mother. Todd does MuckFest MS because his mom was a fighter, and he wants to do all he can to raise money and awareness for MS in her memory.

MuckFest MS St. Louis 2014 Participant's writing on their arm

MuckFest MS: Do you do any special training before the event?

Todd: Personally, I try to run a couple of miles every day. I’m doing my first half marathon this fall, so I need all the training I can get for that. But the great thing about MuckFest MS is that you don’t have to be a runner to participate. I see people buzz past me on the course, and I see folks walking. The course and obstacles are really doable no matter your ability. If you encounter something that looks too difficult to do, you can go around it. But, as I challenged my little brother last year – you’re here, so you might as well push yourself to do as much as you can. He surprised himself with what he was able to do!

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