2014 First Coast Kids Triathlon


My second attempt at sports photography quickly followed my first.

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How to Make a Quick and Easy Batwoman or Batgirl Costume

As detailed in my how to make a Green Lantern costume post, we have been asked to dress as superheroes this year – specifically Green Lantern and Catwoman.  While doing an image search for Catwoman, I started running across articles discussing how adult superhero comic books are becoming and that she is at the forefront of this shift.  I won’t post any links as those images are NSFW.  Needless to say, Melanie will be Batwoman for Halloween this year.

We decided to make a sort of mash-up of Batwoman and Batgirl.  Between the two, there have been many different costumes from the comic books, TV show and movies.  The version we settled on has an active high contrast black and yellow color pallet and rugged details reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Batman.  I really liked the interpretation shown here (except for the skewed belt and leggy wrap thing).

MASK – Sew a Spandex Head Sock and Cut Out Eye Holes
My only concern with this costume was the mask.  I’m not a great seamstress and a mask could be challenging.  I knew making it out of spandex would be a big help.  Since it is so stretchy, it would be forgiving of a less-than-perfect shape.  I didn’t realize just how easy it would be until I saw this video.  Once I realized I could get away with a tube that would stretch to fit, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.

First we took an edge of the spandex and wrapped it snugly around Melanie’s head to see how big of a tube we needed.  Next I pinned it up, cut it out and sewed it together up one side to create the tube.

Spandex Folded in Half with one Soon-to-be Sewn Edge

Second we added a curved cut and sewed the top to create the ears.

Hood Inside Out Cut and Sewn

After that we turned the mask right side out to hide the sewn edges.  Melanie tried the mask on and we marked for eye holes and a small nose ridge.  We tried to keep the holes small at first as we knew the material would stretch when she wore it.  We left all the cut edges raw since this fabric doesn’t unravel easily and it will probably only be worn one time.  After a test fit I noticed that the ears stood up but were a little flabby.  I made a couple of inserts out of some sheet foam (this stuff is awesome and cheap).  I guessed on the first set and then recut some a little bit larger to get them into a nicer shape.

Finished Mask with Original Ear Inserts – White Paper Placed for Clarity
New Ear Inserts (L) and Original (R)

CHEST INSIGNIA – Cut from Sheet Foam and Sew to Shirt
I have to imagine that one of the best parts of getting to draw Batman is putting your own spin on his logo.  There have been a huge number of different logos over the years but the one we settled on is from one (or more?) of the recent movies.  Its linear and angular nature lend well to the tougher harder look we were going for.

Sized Patterns for Chest and Belt

We sized the image for Melanie’s shirt and cut it out of the yellow Foamies sheet foam.  It is attached to her shirt with two stiches of yellow thread that can easily be removed without damaging the shirt (We were rushing to get pictures taken before the sun set so it is shown taped on below).


Yellow Foamies Sheet Foam

BELT – Cut from Sheet Foam, Glue Parts Together and add Velcro Closure
The belt was made from the same Foamies sheet foam that the hood inserts are made of.  First I cut two strips that would form the belt.  Next I made a buckle out of  a 3”x5” piece that would hide the seam where the two belt parts touched one another.  On top of that I glued a bat emblem and to its sides I glued “utility canisters.”

Cut Parts out of Sheet Foam
Belt Buckle will Hide Ends of Belt

Once the glue dried, we sewed and glued two strips of Velcro on the ends of the belt so it can be attached from behind.

All parts were glued together with a super strong PVA glue that I’ve used since school called Sobo.  It is basically a thicker, stickier version of Elmer’s glue.  I would think any kind of flexible strong glue would work for this project.  I would not use Elmer’s though.

This Glue was Used to Attach All Belt Parts Together

GAUNTLETS – Cut Fins from Sheet Foam and Sew to Tube of Spandex
Next we cut out yellow fins from the sheet foam adding an extra ½” to the bottom where they could be sewn into the spandex.  We also cut out rectangles of the spandex that could wrap Melanie’s arms over her shirt comfortably.

Fins and Arm Guard Fabric Cut Out – Fabric Shown Unfolded

Next the fabric was folded in half and the fin was placed inside along the edge.  Then the edge that the fins touched was stitched, joining the fins to the fabric.

Arm Guard Folded in Half Inside Out with Fins Upside Down Inside Arm Guard

The fabric was turned inside out to create the finished gauntlet.  The ends of the fabric tube were left unfinished.

Finished Guantlet

BOOT INSERTS – Cut Inserts from Sheet Foam and Slide in Front of Boot Tongue
We wanted to add some yellow to the bottom of the costume but were not willing to buy yellow boots.  Most homemade shoe covers that simulate boots look terrible and don’t stay on.  We came up with a solution I like very much.

In keeping with the tough look, Melanie will wear her black hiking boots and we just made a little yellow insert to stick between the laces and the tongue of the boot.  It worked out great!

Paper Pattern to Test Fit
Refining Pattern for Good Fit

CAPE – Cut from Spandex and Add Shoelace to Top for Attachment
We were trying to do this costume ultra cheap and originally were not going to have a cape but it turned out that we had just enough fabric left to make a decent one.  If it were a fully designed part of this costume I would have made it wider and longer but it works as is.  And besides, shorter is better for fighting crime.

First, we folded over a section of the cape at one end just large enough to get a shoelace easily through, then we pinned and sewed it.  So we had a small tube at one end of a large rectangle of fabric.

Cape Pinned for Shoelace Tube

Next we ran a shoelace through this tube and test fit the cape.  The cape is attached by wrapping the ends of the shoelace over the front of the shoulders and then passing them through the armpit area and tying them together in the middle of the back.  This provides a very clean look for the cape with no need for a front clasp or knot under the throat.

Shoelace Run Through Tube

Next we marked where we wanted the bottom of the cape to be.  Finally, we cut a scallop pattern in the bottom of the cape and left all of the edges raw.

Adding a Scallop Pattern to the Bottom
Finished Cape

We are both really pleased with how this costume turned out and how cheap it is.  Melanie already had a black shirt, black leggings and black boots.  The only things we had to buy for this costume were half a yard of “black swimwear lining” and a sheet of yellow Foamies.  Total retail price:  $6!  We had a coupon so it only cost us $3.50!

Black Running Shirt and Black Leggings
Boots with Yellow Sheet Foam Inserts
Spandex Cape Tied Over Shoulders and Around Back
Spandex and Yellow Sheet Foam Guantlets
Yellow Sheet Foam Ensignia and Belt – Taped on For Pictures – Ensignia Sewn on – Belt Parts Glued On
Spandex Mask with Sheet Foam Ear Inserts

How to Make a Quick and Easy Green Lantern Costume

I found out recently that we would be attending a Halloween event for kids and they hoped that we would wear costumes too.  Their theme for the evening will be superheroes and it was requested that I dress as Green Lantern and Melanie dress as Catwoman.  We didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money on the costumes but we wanted them to at least be decent.  This article will detail how I made my Green Lantern costume.  I’ll write a separate article for Melanie’s costume.

It didn’t take much thinking to realize that my costume should be quick and easy to make.  The members of the Green Lantern Corps come in all shapes, sizes and colors and so do their costumes.  This meant my costume could pretty much look like anything as long as I had an emblem on me somewhere and wore a power ring.  Hal Jordan is my favorite lantern and he actually wears one of my favorite superhero costumes so I decided to try and look somewhat like him – maybe his cousin, Sal Jordan.

MASK – Heat-Formed Sheet Foam Cut to Shape and Glued on with Spirit Gum
Hal wears a simple green mask that is “held on by his willpower” without any strings or straps.  I thought this would be a neat opportunity to experiment with spirit gum, the special effects glue that is used to hold on fake beards, Klingon head lobsters and such.  I haven’t actually tried that part out yet since it is a one-shot deal but if it doesn’t work, I’ll just punch two little holes and attach the mask to my face using black string.

I wil try to Attach the Mask with This – String is a Backup

I knew that it needed to be lightweight, so cheap options included paper, fabric and a cool sheet foam material I’d tried out recently when I made a Golden Ticket.  I also found this video which details how to turn a sheet of this material into a mask.  How simple.  Decision made!

I made my mask out of green Foamies sheet foam.  It cost about $1.50 for a roughly 12”x18” 2mm or 3mm sheet.  It comes in various thicknesses, sizes, colors and is available at most art supply and craft stores.  They only had one shade of green when I was looking.  It would have been nice if it was a little darker, but for $1.50, I’m not complaining.

Alternatively, the mask could be done away with completely or drawn on with green face paint.

Step One – Make Mold
Because I was unwilling to spend the money on two adult Batman masks as detailed in the how-to video, I had to make my own mold.  A trip to the Halloween isle at the dollar store got me this hard plastic face mask.

Hard Plastic Mask is Basis of Mold

I then determined the size and shape of the beak portion of the mask with paper.

Working out Dimensions for Beak

Next the paper pattern was transferred to a more sturdy mat board and taped to the mask.

Final Mold

Step Two – Heat Sheet Foam and Form on Mold
Next I cut a roughly six inch piece of sheet foam and placed it in a 250 degree oven for about four minutes.  Basically, what you are trying to do is let the foam get hot enough to begin to slump but not so hot that it melts or burns (I don’t think it would do either at this temperature).

Preheat Oven to 250 Degrees
Cut off a Six Inch Strip of Foamies
Place on Rack in Oven Until Foamies Slumps (As Shown)

Incidentally, I don’t know if this material gives off any harmful gasses when heated, but I didn’t detect any odd smells or notice a change in the material other than it softened (unlike vacuum forming plastic).  I would guess that it is completely safe but, since I don’t know for sure, you should work in a well-ventilated area and wear a high-end respirator mask that blocks out all fumes and toxins just to be safe.

Once the foam sheet softened, I removed it from the oven with a wooden spoon (the foam wasn’t that hot but the rack in the oven was).  Working quickly, I placed the foam on the mold and used my hands to press it in place.  I held it for about a minute at which point the foam was cool and had taken on its new shape.  Simple, fast, cheap!

Formed Foam

Step Three – Figure Out Eye Holes and Mask Shape
Then I measured my eyes center to center and made small cuts in the foam at these points.  I enlarged these holes enough to determine exactly where my eye holes needed to be.

Eye Holes Cut

From there I sketched out paper patterns and put them on my face to finalize the shape and size of the mask.  Of both costumes, this was surprisingly the single most time consuming step and I went through several iterations.  If you opt to use the double Batman mask molding option from the video, it will be much easier as all of the details will be pressed right into the foam.

Many Attempts to Find the Right Shape and Eye Placement

Step Four – Transfer Pattern to Foam and Cut Out with Scissors
From there, I just laid the pattern over the formed foam, lining up the eye holes on the pattern with the eye holes on foam and traced it with a pen.

Finally, I used a pair of scissors to cut the mask to its final shape.

RING – Buy a Toy
I looked into building my own but when I discovered that they make both kid and adult-sized movie prop replicas that light up for less than $5, I was sold.  I couldn’t make a decent copy that cheap.  Apparently the ones you see in most stores that come packed with a little plastic mask are kid-sized.  The one I ordered came individually packaged and fits my normal-to-slender adult-sized finger.  It lights up and is brighter than I expected but the battery isn’t replaceable and it only stays lit for a few seconds each time the button is pressed.  I was sad that it wasn’t eligible for Amazon’s Super Saver shipping because it ended up costing just as much to ship it as to buy it.

Momentary Switch Lights for a Few Seconds

UNIFORM – Buy a Green Lantern Shirt and Wear Dark Clothes Under It
To finish things off, I bought a shirt with a Green Lantern logo on it.  I had one of these years ago and this new one is a much nicer darker green than the old bright green one I had.  My biggest problem with it is that the green in the insignia is screen printed on and it isn’t exactly the same color as the shirt.  It isn’t the end of the world though and now I’ll be able to wear the shirt even after Halloween.

If you don’t want to spend $14 on the shirt, you could easily cut the emblem out of sheet foam, felt or paper and just sew or pin it to a shirt.

For my base layer I’ll wear a black long sleeve running shirt that I already own.  It has a cool futuristic weave to the material which enhances the look.  I have some grey running pants and black hiking boots that I will also wear.

There you have it.  An affordable Green Lantern costume you can make in a weekend.

Black Running Shirt & Grey Running Pants
Black Boots
GL Shirt
Mask and Ring

How to Train for the Mud Run

I have run the MS Society Mud Run in both of its Jacksonville locations and this guide will be based on those experiences.  From what I’ve seen of other course layouts, it should also be useful for other courses around the country.

Can I make it?  Yes, you can.  People of all shapes and sizes have finished this race.  Because there are competitive and non-competitive heats, most people can complete the Mud Run.  If you are capable of walking seven miles and playing around on a kid’s playground, you can probably do it.  If this is all you can do, you will probably be very tired at the end of the race though.  Training will make race day much more enjoyable and safer.  People get hurt on the course every year.  Some injuries can be attributed to  accidents and goofing around but others occur when folks aren’t physically prepared.  Of course, before you start any type of exercise, you should see your doctor and talk with him or her about what you plan to do.

What is the most important thing I can add to my training for a fast time?  Run.  It is that simple.  While the obstacles get the spotlight, most of this race is running.  The obstacles are pretty quick so the difference between a fast obstacle time and a slow one is easily overcome with a faster running pace.  Because this is a roughly 10k race, I’d recommend getting your long runs up to at least seven miles by race day – nine miles would be even better.  If you want to contend for a top place finish, add in speed work and tempo runs.  If you are unfamiliar with setting a running schedule, a good basic place to start is this free online running schedule/calendar generator.  Click on the link and then select “Smart Coach” from the middle of the page.

Here are some more tips for first-time runners:
1.  Enter the for-fun division instead of the trophy division.
2.  Expect to wait at obstacles (because a lot more people do the for-fun division).
3.  You will probably not be running the entire time so don’t worry if you can’t run a 10k before the race.  If you want to enjoy the race, plan on being able to run at least three miles or be ok with walking much of the course.  For these reasons, when you train you should consider focusing on running more often instead of running longer.
4.  You might consider a run/walk training program like Jeff Galloway’s.  You’ll be able to run with a group of people at your same level of fitness this way too.

I’m already a runner.  What else can I do?  Run hills.  I got this tip from a team that finished 3rd one year and it is the single best piece of advice I’ve gotten on training for this event.  They are tough to find in Jacksonville, but be creative.  You can run bridges or stairs (stadiums, buildings, parking garages, etc.).  As a substitute, you could climb a Stairmaster or use a treadmill set on its steepest incline.  I don’t believe either of these options is as good as bridges or stairs though.  They get your heart rate up quickly and build many of the non-running muscles you’ll be using on several of the obstacles too.  If you lay out your course right, you can even simulate the actual event by having stretches of flat runs peppered with stairs to get your body used to the bursts of exertion mixed in with continuous running.

What about upper body training?  This really is very secondary.  It is a huge help to do pull-ups because you will be required to lift yourself over various obstacles.  If you are running in a non-competitive heat, you’ll have three tries at an obstacle then you move on.  If you can’t do an obstacle, you can still finish the course.  If you are running competitively, you will be disqualified if you can’t finish an obstacle so having some upper body strength is necessary.

Yeah, but what about upper body if I want a fast time?  This past year we added in a bunch of body weight exercises and it really seemed to help us.  We could recover from the obstacles quicker and, because they were easier for us, we had a more fun time during the race too.  Here are some of our favorites (click on the bold name for a link with detailed info on each):

Pull-ups  As mentioned above, many of the obstacles require you to lift yourself over something.  These are touted by many as the best overall upper body exercise you can do.  If I was only going to do one upper body exercise for the Mud Run, this would be it.  If you don’t have a gym membership, I recommend this cheap-o piece of equipment.  It is what Melanie and I use and it really works.

Chin-ups  Just like pull-ups but your palms face toward you when you grip the bar.  These are a little easier and work your biceps more.

Dips Work those triceps and chest.  These are good for pushing yourself up onto platforms during the race.  We just use a couple of sawhorses.  This allows us to space them so they are in tight to our bodies and keep ourselves as upright as possible so we focus more on our triceps than chest.

Push-ups For chest, arms and shoulders.  You’ll spend a little bit of time on a couple of obstacles crawling on your hands and knees or shimmying underneath stuff.  Using the Iron Gym on the floor to do push-ups really saves our wrists.  You could substitute a couple of octagonal or square dumbbells placed on the floor for wrist-saving hand grips.

You’ve talked about legs and upper body.  What about the stuff that connects them?  Core exercises are a great idea.  A stronger core makes everything else easier (including running) and helps you avoid injury.  It is amazing how much faster I could run once I started doing core exercises.  Just as in the case of the upper body stuff, there are lots of things you can be doing, but here are my favorite core exercises:

Crunches  Works your abs.  In my case, because I put my hands beside instead of behind my head, it also strengthens my neck.

Lifted-Leg Crunches  A college soccer buddy showed me these.  You’d think they would work the same muscles as crunches, but try ‘em and feel the difference.  Maybe it is the same muscle groups but they are definitely harder.  Just do the same crunch exercise with your legs mostly straight and lifted off the ground.

Twisty Leg Kicky Thingy of Death (Bicycle Crunches) The toughest by far and probably the best for you.  The link takes you to a video of three core exercises and bicycle crunches are one of them.  I love them.  I hate them.  Melanie enjoys listening to me struggle through them.

Side Planks  Everyone thinks about the front muscles of the core when they work out.  Don’t forget all those other ones that wrap your waist and make up your “internal weight belt.”

Back Extensions  Strengthen your lower back.  We don’t do them exactly as shown in this video but they cover a lot of good info so I included it.  We keep our hands at the side of our head and just lift our upper body.  I’m not sure my midsection could take lifting my legs and my back at the same time.  :/

Anything else?  There are obstacles that require balance.  You could practice crossing a balance beam quickly or set up a rope bridge and practice that.  If you have a park with a playground nearby, they might have something you could use – preferably at a time when kids aren’t there so you can avoid funny looks from the parents.

Great, but how do I put it all together into one routine?  Well, if you are a fit person who already runs a lot, I’d plan on doing upper body and core M, W, F and running T, Th, S.  This gives you at least a day of rest in between each type of workout.  Remember, you don’t get stronger when you exercise.  You get stronger while you rest after exercise.

If you are new to running, I’d focus on that.  Once you get to the point that you can run three miles without extreme effort, you could start mixing in core and upper body where your schedule allows.  Don’t forget to run hills and/or stairs.  If this is going to be your first organized race, don’t plan on setting any records (or training like you plan to).  Focus mostly on the running prep and enter with the intention of having fun.

Look for an article about what to wear for the Mud Run and another article with some miscellaneous tips in the coming weeks.  You can also sign up for email, Twitter or Facebook notification on the right-hand side of the screen.

You can find all of my other mud run articles here.