Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tough Mudder: Inspiration from the Ocean

This is the second in a series of bi-weekly posts from a team of Aquarium staff and supporters who are participating in an extreme obstacle course event called the Tough Mudder this spring. They will be posting about their training methods, animals that inspire them to work hard and they will be raising funds to support the Aquarium. You can help them out by donating to support their efforts.

Today’s blog post comes from Deb Bobek (left), Director of Visitor Experience for the Aquarium.  Deb’s lifelong passion for the ocean has grown even deeper since she’s worked at the Aquarium and become scuba and dry suit certified.  When she’s not busy making sure the Aquarium’s visitors are having a fun and educational experience, she can sometimes be seen doing a cleaning dive in the Giant Ocean Tank

Team Tiburon-ers are passionate about water and the animals in it. Even our team name is marine related. As noted in our previous post, “Tiburon” is Spanish for shark. So it was only natural that each of us picked a marine-related nickname to inspire us as we prepare for the Tough Mudder.

Our nicknames run the gamut. Some of us chose names that refer to large groups of animals such as, Elasmo for elasmobranch, the term used to refer to sharks, rays, and skates (i.e., the cartilaginous fishes) or Chrys, short for Chrysaora, a genus of sea jelly.

“Elasmo” with a sand tiger shark, a member of the Elasmobranch subclass.

Sand tiger sharks, like all Elasmobranchs, have skin made of dermal denticles (“skin teeth”), which give them the ability to glide quickly through water — an adaptation that would make all those Tough Mudder water challenges so much easier!

An Atlantic sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha).  Those long tentacles on the jellyfish sure would be useful in helping us get over those 9 foot walls.

Then we have those of us who chose an individual fish species for our name.  I chose Flame, for the flame angelfish, which is known for being a prolific jumper — a skill that would be useful for leaping over logs or through tires.

Centropyge loricula (Photo credit: Normann Z via Wikimedia Commons)

We also have Hawk, for hawkfish, which can perch on fire coral without feeling the sting. I think we all wish we had that protection against the Electroshock Therapy obstacle. 

Hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri) in Acropora grandis coral (Photo credit: Nick Hobgood via Wikimedia Commons)

Next we have Cuttle, for cuttlefish. Those eight arms would be useful for the cargo net climbs and monkey bars!

Cuttlefish (Photo credit:prilfish (Silke Baron) via Wikimedia Commons)

Our sixth Tiburon member is Lion, for lionfish, a well-known invasive species in the Atlantic. With few natural predators and venomous fin rays, lionfish are the definition of the kind of tough needed to complete the Tough Mudder.

Lionfish (photo credit: S. Cheng, New England Aquarium)

And that mud part?  Well of course we have Tiburon member Mudskipper, named for an amphibious fish that can actually walk on land as well as move through the water.  If you’ve know anything about the Tough Mudder, you know why the mudskipper provides excellent inspiration as we train!

Periophthalmus gracilis (Photo credit:Gianluca Polgar via Wikimedia Commons)

But, uh oh, none of us except Wolf, named for the Atlantic wolfish, has an animal that is specifically adapted to cold water (and with a nickname like Flame, I’m more likely to be comfortable in the fire obstacles than the cold water ones)!  In fact, wolfish produce a natural antifreeze to keep them moving and comfortable in cold water. But we don’t have that kind of protection! And the Tough Mudder promises to plunge us into icy cold water again, and again, and again, and...

Wolffish (photo credit)

So just as most of our namesake animals aren’t adapted for this kind of cold, we humans aren’t either, so Team Tiburon will compensate through training and preparation.  So how do we prepare for Tough Mudder, a challenge that’s sure to test the very limit of our cold tolerance?

Well of course, by facing it head on – literally!  Check it out as the team deliberately plunges into the frigid Atlantic Ocean on a 35 degree snowy day in February!   

And as you can see, despite our mostly tropically oriented alter-egos, it wasn’t so bad and we all came out smiling.

From left to right: Mudskipper, Chrys, Flame, Wolf, Cuttle, Lion, Elasmo and Hawk.  Is it just me, or does Wolf seem the happiest?

So that’s a little bit about our marine related inspiration as we train.  Keep following us as we prepare for the Tough Mudder challenge and if you would like to help us raise funds to support the Aquarium, click here.


Stay tuned, there will be several more posts from Team Tiburon as they prepare for this event. Please contribute to their fundraising efforts for the New England Aquarium and share this post to spread the word. Catch up on their previous post here.

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