Luna Tuna, Tough Mudder and Little Si Mountain

Following the cross country trek with my brother-in-law Mike Rudolf to Mammoth Lakes, California, I flew from Reno, Nevada to Seattle, Washington on Saturday, Sept 24th. The timing was perfect as my youngest son, Joel,  whose short film “Why She Runs” was a finalist in the short film competition and was being shown at the Seattle Trail Running Film Festival later on Saturday afternoon. As a presenter, Joel was able to get me a free ticket.


Joel introduced me to many of his trail running and ultra-marathon friends as we walked around the vendor area in the lobby for the Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center where the trail running films would be shown.

The Coordinator for the Seattle Trail Film Festival introduced Joel along with some of the other filmmakers who were present before the afternoon session began at 4pm. Joel’s film was first on the schedule. We had good seats right near the front and the films were projected on a huge screen. Joel’s “Why She Runs” short film chronicles the star of the film, Luna Tuna aka just Luna, who is Joel’s amazing trail running dog. See below.



We had some delicious ice cream after the film festival session ended around 7pm and we headed home.When we got home Joel brought out material and we cut strips for team headbands in support of the Tough Mudder event scheduled for the next day. The material looked like the bluish color and pattern of mermaid scales. Luna even wore one on her collar.

Sunday the 25th, Tough Mudder event was located about a half hour from Issaquah, Washington. For those of you who don’t already know, the Tough Mudder series of events are a cross between Spartan races and Mud Runs but have more team spirit and  more obstacles, some of which are pretty challenging. The US Army is a co-sponsor with these events and their members encouraged everyone to help each other to complete the course.


Notice the amazing, custom headbands in this pre-race photo. Team members are left to right:

Fatima Dizon, Sarah Sausner, Carissa Calderone, Joel Ballezza (holding Luna) and Jason who is Sarah’s cousin.


My role as team assistant would be to try to document some of the action visible from the Spectator access area while I was also the designated dog handler for Luna. It was a wonderful day. When the first wave of competitors went off, Luna thought that it was time to do a trail run. Luna is not a very big dog but she is strong as a Siberian Husky and she almost pulled my right shoulder out of socket at the start. Note to self, hold leash in left hand since I am right handed and rely on the use of that appendage more.

Luna settled down and I fed her a dog biscuit which I found in a sealed zip lock baggie near Obstacle #7 and I got some cups of water from an aid station along the way.

Luna and I eventually headed to the finish line area so we could await the finish of Team Mermaid. Team Mermaid was entered in the Full Mudder event which was ten miles long. It was fun seeing participants crossing the finish line, some limping or carrying their teammates. I borrowed a folding chair and sat while I ate a burger. Luna gladly sat in the cool, shaded area created by my shadow.

After I had completed filming Team Mermaid’s finish, Joel asked to borrow his Iphone camera and you can see what the muddy conspirators did to me at the end of the below video which Joel edited and sent to me for inclusion in this blog.



On Monday the 26th Joel had to work but by late afternoon we were able to go to a nearby trail system and hike up to the summit of Little Si which stands nearby its bigger neighbor, Mount Si. The trail systems around Joel’s home are incredible as the Cascade Mountains are so close. The weather was perfect and Luna kept us company on the way up and down. At least, she did until she saw a squirrel or a chipmunk. Fortunately, Luna made her way back to us each time. She is one fit trail running dog. We did not bring a bowl for Luna so at my suggestion,  Joel, being Luna’s kind master, cupped his hands, sort of like the Allstate commercials, and I poured water into his cupped hands. Luna figured out what to do after that. Another hiker took our photo as we sat on a rock on the summit. Mount Si is in the background.


This was a wonderful visit with Joel and it was fun meeting his housemate, Laura, and other friends too. On Tuesday the 27th,  Joel dropped me off at SeaTac to fly back to Stewart International via Philadelphia. Bernadette picked me up a little after midnight, actually early on Wednesday morning, and we went home.  We only had about five days of rest before our second Viking River cruise in Europe was to begin.






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