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February 2013

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Ohio Members Mud Brothers

Early spring in northeast Ohio and not a flower to be seen. No sun poking out from behind a cloud to warm your face with the promise of summer.

It is the 14th of April, it is freezing, raining, muddy and gray.

Your socks are wet and cold. Your shorts are wet and cold. Ditto the shirt, shoes and anything else you have on because you just jumped off a cliff into a quarry filled with the coldest water you have ever fully entered in your adult life and now you are willing life into your frozen back and legs because it is time to run again.

Wiremen are tough. It isn't a desk job and days are spent pushing things a lot heavier than paper. They enjoy challenges and chances to show the world what they are made of. So when John Novak, journeyman inside wireman from Lorain, Ohio, Local 129 was looking for a way to deepen the bonds of brotherhood, 12 miles of running, jumping, crawling, slogging, falling and even a little bit of electric shock, seemed like a great idea.

"I always try to bring the brothers together outside of work," Novak said. "I ran the softball team for 10 years. I thought this would be a challenge."

Dave Braun, also a journeymen inside wireman member of Local 129, was on the team that ran the 12- mile, 27-obstacle Tough Mudder race in Amherst Quarry, Ohio, that April morning alongside fellow members Novak, Byron Flores, Mike German, Brian Hodkey, Darrin Darmos, Elisha Negron, Tom Nagy and Doug Mihalic and his son, Dave Braun who was just back from a combat deployment in Afghanistan.

"There was a lot of water crawling, climbing, swimming. We were soaking wet, freezing and running. It was really challenging. But after 24 years in the Marines and combat deployments it was not the hardest two hours of my life," Braun said.

Braun and Novak discussed the run separately. When told about Braun's assessment of the race, Novak started to laugh.

"It was FIVE hours. Of hell. Two hours? No. No. No. Maybe four-and-a-half hours," Novak said. Then he added two more no's and laughed.

A Tough Mudder is one of a new breed of races for extreme athletes who need more of a challenge than 10Ks, triathlons and marathons. Variously described as mud races, blood pits and grown-up playgrounds, the races are organized by more than a dozen companies and take place nearly every weekend around the country.

"We did it as a team," Braun said. "We stuck together and finished as a team. Whoever got through an obstacle first helped the rest to get through."

Novak is already planning to do the race again this year, and recommends other locals think about putting together a team.

"We move on the job, up and down ladders and carrying heavy things. That's not going to do it. You need to train one to two hours a day, four days a week."

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Members of Lorain, Ohio, Local 129 after the competition are: Back row, from left, Doug Miholic, Byron Flores, Dave Braun and Mike German. Front row: Brian Hodkey, left, John Novak, and Tom Naggy.