Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Challenge Mud Run 3/30/2013

Two local mud run/obstacle course runs in two weeks. Two big disappointments in a row. I'll try to just recap the race itself first and then add some personal comments at the end.
Big Talk. That's how I'll sum up the this one. The CEO of this race did a fantastic job of hyping the race, promising big things in the weeks leading up to the race. Hatchet or knife throwing, zip lining, swim obstacles, electric shock and the "Ultimate Obstacle." This was going to be "a 5 mile test of brains, brawn and endurance, mud... you have seen nothing like this" their facebook page claims. Well, I will certainly agree with having seen nothing like it.

My son and I arrived approximately 80 minutes before our heat time, only to sit on the street for nearly an hour waiting to get into the parking lot. As far as I could see, there were only 2 people taking money for cars to park. Once parked, we hustled to pick up our bibs. The parking line seemed short compared to what I found as I need the check-in line. The line curled its way around the entrance, circling back on itself. There must have been a thousand people in line. And I'm not exaggerating. The man in front of us went to see what seemed to be the problem and returned to report that there was actually a separate line with one lady and a stack of papers with each racer's bib number. We were supposed to first get out bib number and then get in line for the bib and timing chip. Hhm...

Out of desperation (a slight exaggeration) I began racking my brain to find a solution. I think it was my son who suggested just going in without a bib. After going to do some investigating myself, I found that a volunteer was checking a handful of people's race receipts on their phones, taking their waivers and then giving them permission to race bib-less and without a timing chip. Light bulb. I had no smart phone to prove I had paid, nor patience, but I did have a plan. After checking my bag into my own car (thereby saving 5 bucks), I retrieved my son from line and together we went rogue. Not my proudest racing moment, but they did promise a test of brains...
It turns out a timing chip wouldn't have mattered anyway. We waited in line for probably a total of 40 minutes divided between 2 obstacles. I found the course to be pretty good. It wasn't quite the extreme test of brains, brawn and endurance, especially since the 5 mile course was shortened to just over 3 miles (there are reports of mountain bikers removing the caution tape that was marking off the course). I especially loved the run across the "lily pads" and the final big obstacle was pretty good. There were a few walls, a swim/pull yourself along a rope, a tarp tunnel, wading through water and an icy cold water wade. They did enforce some penalties for not completing obstacles.
Personally, my son and I had a blast. For his sake, I was glad for the shorter course, as he has not been doing any run training. It was a great starter race for him, and he can't wait for the next one. I had originally signed up for the competitive wave-- I was going to do that and then run a second time with him. However, earlier in the week I had decided just to enjoy the race with my son-- his first, a celebration of turning 13. It was a refreshing change to help him and a few others over walls and just meet people out on the course without the pressure of racing.
And although we waited for the 2 unique obstacles, it provided a chance to cheer others on and just enjoy the moments... great weather and great conversation with my son. As I've said before, choosing an inaugural race comes with some risk. If you want a quality race, sign up for one that's tried and true. I really do believe this company has potential; they just need to hire someone with an administrative mind to work the race day logistics. It's a fairly easy fix.

*Since my original post, Garfield, the race director has apologized profusely and not only offered a free race for the next event, but he has also paid for all racers to have their photos free.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mud Dogs Race Recap 3/24/13

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a [darn] fool about it."
-W. C. Fields
Pre-race pic
This is the second event organized by the Mud Dogs company that I have done. My recap of the first race is here. There were many complaints about their first event; however, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, believing their commitment to do better next time.

My first hint that there might be trouble came as we stood, only 40 minutes before the race, watching them fix what looked to be the "option B" of the final obstacle. It's a little disconcerting to see men hammering an unstable-looking obstacle just minutes before the race. I'm just going to break this down according to what I saw and experienced:

final obstacle
  • the venue, Vista View Park in Davie, FL, was phenomenal. The only hill in South Florida provided the perfect challenge for an obstacle course race / mud run.
  • the final obstacle-- I've never before encountered one of these in a race:
  • dog tag style finisher "medal." Again, something different.

  • Obstacles were poorly constructed. I was among the first 15 runners to go through the course, and already at one obstacle (a balance beam walk) we were told not to use one of the beams as it was "broken and not safe."
  • Mud, or lack thereof. For a "mud" run, it was just not at all muddy. Finisher pictures reveal, sweaty and wet from the knees down runners, with minimal mud splatter. You really had to belly crawl through the last slightly dirty water trench. And there was no reason to belly crawl, unless of course, you wanted a dirty finisher picture.
  • Course markings, or lack thereof. At one point a sign pointed us to the right, when there was an obstacle just 10 feet beyond the signs. At another point an arrow pointed us to the left (toward a wide open field) when we could see obstacles down the hill and to the right. It wasn't until the 9:30 wave that runners began to run the actual 5k course. I estimate the earlier waves only ran 2.5 or so miles.
  • Volunteers were untrained. I am not blaming the volunteers-- they clearly had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. They couldn't tell us which way to go; they simply didn't know the course route, either.
  • Prize money hinted at, but apparently not really offered. The Mud Dog's facebook page exclaimed: "Announcing the first Cash Prize Run at the Mud Dogs Mud Run...Register in person today (3/24) at Vista View Park Mud Run or Register on-line..." In an email from the company owner, he told me that no prize money was offered or paid out. Huh?
  • (If there really was no prize money, then this one becomes a moot point) Competitive racers were skipping obstacles. Other than having course marshals out there, this is really an issue of cheating. It is just annoying that I'm giving it my all while the chick in front of me is running around or through multiple obstacles. Shame on you, next time enter an un-timed heat.
This is the first time I've requested a refund from an event, and only now because the problems they had at this event were the same problems they had at their first event. The course was dangerous at points and overall this company gives local, smaller OCRs a bad reputation. While the owner sent a quick response to deny that a cash prize was given, I'm still waiting for the promised email where he will address my other concerns and refund request. (original post 3/28/13)

*Since my original post, I have heard back from the CEO of the company (although it did take approximately 2 facebook posts and 4 emails). He actually called me and apologized personally, assuring me that his heart was broken when he saw the race going off course, the broken obstacles, etc. He stated that he wants people to come out and have a great time with family and friends, running the course as many times as they want. It's the company's policy, he said, to not offer a refund, but he did offer a free race to me and some friends-- he practically begged me to wait until the next race (Jacksonville) so that I can see that he's already in the process of making improvements. Feeling a bit naive, but he sounded genuine. If he's not, he's sure going to a lot of trouble to lie. The problem-- their next local race is the same date of the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon, the only other race I'm registered for this year. (updated 3/30/13)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

13.3. An Eye-opener.

13.3-- WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes of:
150 Wall balls (14 lbs to 9' target)
90 Double-unders
30 Muscle-ups

Yes, it's another post about the CrossFit Open WOD (Workout Of the Day).
I feel like I killed 13.1.
Was average on 13.2 (oh, you missed the post about that one? That's because there wasn't a post.)
Killed 13.3.

But my biggest victory lies in the secret to my success: find a way to turn your weakness into your strength. No, it's not a new concept. But it's an important one that has both practical and spiritual/emotional applications.

Physically, the implications are straightforward-- since making the decision to enter the Open, I've been practicing my weaknesses multiple times a week-- double unders until my arms and legs were stinging and throbbing with welts (hint-- cut the toes of 2 old crew socks to make yourself some arm protectors, and of course, wear tall socks); snatch ladders until reaching failure (and somehow this always results in my bouncing on my booty); hand stand push ups; and trying to get the swing of those darn kipping pull ups (can we just do strict pull ups, please?). This has definitely all paid off.

But today's secret of success was my husband's coming with me. Having my husband as my coach does not always feel like a good thing. Today, it was a very good thing. When exhausted and spent and at the end of myself, the primal me kicked in. I wish I could say that the primal me is a warrior, a beast... that I just dug deep and found the strength within myself, but that's not true. I dug deep and found my inner pleaser. I've always seen being a pleaser as a character flaw. Today, it was my strength. At about 80 (out of 150) wall balls, with delts on fire, I thought I had nothing left. All I could do was listen to my husband-- he counted out 6 reps. Commanded me to rest. Counted down a 10 second rest. Told me to go. Over and over. And the pleaser in me did exactly what I was told.
Special thanks again to Edwin and CrossFit CVI.
What weakness have you turned into a strength?

Friday, March 22, 2013

GORUCK Challenge = Training for Life?

I spent last weekend at the ASCD educator's convention in Chicago. While there, I developed a whole new appreciation for the GRC. I was surprised to find that all of the crazy training and racing events that I complete have done so much more than just develop a strong body and mind, they have also prepared me for life in the following ways:
St. Patrick's Day in Chicago is interesting!

  1. Teamwork-- not only was the importance of this concept reinforced multiple times in numerous sessions, but I also lived it. Together, ten colleagues and I navigated our way from the airport to our hotel via train and foot. We additionally had to come to decisions on where to dine and how to get there. Not a big deal, you think, but for a person who is incredibly independent, the GRC experience made these teamwork activities a much easier one.
  2. Cold Tolerance-- this South Florida girl had to walk the streets of Chicago in far less colder temperatures than I am used to. Thanks to both my experience in Tough Mudder's Arctic Enema and the GRC, these uncomfortable treks were a piece of cake.
  3. Rucking--working my way through crowded hallways, stairways, buses and bathroom stalls was easy with my backpack (especially since I was only walking with a few pounds on my back.)
  4. Sleep deprivation-- arriving at my hotel at nearly eleven p.m. and then waking up to workout the next morning just after 5 a.m. was no problem. Maneuvering through the streets of Chicago a little past my bedtime was much better than 10 hours of overnight trekking with no sleep.
  5. Adaptability-- I'm growing my way out of being a control freak. When someone else books a trip, assigns your travel partners and your roommate, what other choice do you have? However, this trip I noticed that my attitude has shifted... I was much more relaxed about not being able to chart my own course, a maturity that has been developed through various events... but mostly through mothering two teen boys. 
I still can't believe I didn't buy anything at Hershey's.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't Think, Just Do.

The blog title is apparently a quote attributed to Horace, a Roman poet. I often say this to myself and dish it out to others. It's perfect. This week has been a tough week for me, and my thoughts have turned again and again to being tired, worn out, feeling beaten up, wanting to just be done. Whenever I have a week like this I immediately return to my mental checklist:

  1. sleep-- am I getting 8 hours every night? (a new study shows that a lack of sleep is related to an increase in appetite and portion size eaten)
  2. diet-- cheating? I easily fall into the "one little ____ (insert favorite cheat food here), won't hurt" mentality that WILL snowball me into a full blown reversion back to the old lifestyle.
  3. rest day-- as in, how long has it been since my last rest day?
  4. time of the month-- sorry, men, but hormones make a difference; ladies, notice where time of the month falls on this checklist-- it's NOT an excuse to be a slacker
So, no words of encouragement in this post, no inspirational how to's. No, this time I'm just going to say it:  
There are so many days when I don't feel like getting up early to workout. Some mornings I don't feel like running. Many times after work I just feel like going home instead of the gym. And I often feel like eating whatever the heck I want to. I don't always feel like eating healthy, smaller portions. And there are times when I feel as if I want to just quit. 

Well, guess what. Feelings are not reality. We can feel a lot of things that aren't true. That's when it's time to stop thinking about how you feel and just do what needs to be done. 

"No excuses. Just do the work."
-Shalane Flanagan

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Burpees and Snatches and BURPEES... Oh, My!

2013 CrossFit Open Workout 13.1
WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old
Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 17 minutes of:
40 Burpees
45 pound Snatch, 30 reps
30 Burpees
75 pound Snatch, 30 reps
20 Burpees
100 pound Snatch, 30 reps
10 burpees
120 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible

So, I'm adding my voice to the hundreds of blogs that I'm sure have been posted, post 13.1 WOD. According to the CrossFit Games website, 138,000 people are registered for this year's open and 120,000 people have submitted validated scores. Compare that to last year's 69,000, and you have an idea of what CrossFit has become. For the last two years, I've watched the CrossFit games on ESPN. The first year we watched out of curiosity-- it was a little more realistic competition than the Strongman competitions that we often find ourselves watching. Last year, we watched with excitement; my sons adding names like Julie Foucher and Annie Thorisdottir to their tough, awesome athlete vocabulary. I added some Olympic lifting to my regular weight lifting routines. By the time the 2012 Games rolled around, we were following the coverage online, while waiting for the listing to show up on ESPN. And it was about that time that I begin to consider registering for the Open.

Once that decision was made, my maniacal husband put me on a strict regimen of CrossFit Games-specific training. Every workout for the last 2 months has included warm-ups involving skills practice: double unders, cleans, snatches, handstand push ups... basically all of the movements that I'm terrible at, which, frankly, is most of the CrossFit standard moves. I'm so very thankful for the torture, since the first workout was heavy on the snatches. Just 2 and 1/2 weeks before the open began, I fell on my butt multiple times while attempting and finally achieving my 1RM (that's 1 rep max: the heaviest weight I can do one time) of 100 lbs. 

The 13.1 workout (that's the year 2013 and workout 1) was released online on Wednesday, March 6. That was smack in the middle of the week where we had no internet in our house. Once I was able to go online and discover the workout, I was unbelievably thankful for my husband's insistence that I do heavy snatches (and this is probably a good time to apologize to him for that 1 day when I stormed out of the gym after yelling at him something along the lines of "IF YOU WROTE ME A WORKOUT WITH WEIGHT THAT I COULD ACTUALLY LIFT, MAYBE I WOULD FINISH THE WORKOUT").  

My score for 13.1: 150 with a tie break time of 13:10. (Which means I did 90 total burpees and 60 snatches, finishing my 30, 75 lb snatches at 13:10.)** I will say, I've read more than one other blog post about the Open and seen comments that people have made about the Open being an opportunity to compete against oneself or setting a benchmark for next year or bettering last year's performance. That's a noble thought... that I just can't seem to grasp. I'm totally checking the leaderboard, seeing where I stand compared to everyone in my region. I really do want to be a better me than I was yesterday, but for me, the point of entering the Open is to earn a spot at Regionals. A lofty goal, perhaps, since I'm not really a CrossFitter, but the higher the goal, the higher the aim; the higher the aim, the higher the success. 

**Special thanks to Edwin at CrossFit CVI for validating my score!**

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Miami Tough Mudder 2013

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

55 degrees. For you Northerners, 55 degrees on March 2nd is reason for shorts and celebration. Contrast 55 with the temps at the start of last week's Spartan Race, roughly 80 degrees. Add to that a disheartening discussion among "adventure athletes" on facebook about the pointlessness of Tough Mudder's qualification times for the World's Toughest Mudder (my goal had been to qualify). Add to that my disappointment with last week's Spartan (details here). Add to that the fact that I was once again going alone... and I was ready to NOT do the Tough Mudder. 

Last week, I thoroughly avoided the Tough Mudder website, having previously watched videos, seen pictures and read up on the obstacles. I knew that any additional research would only psych me out. Frankly, I was terrified at the thought of the Arctic Enema, the Electric Eel, Electroshock Therapy and Walk the Plank. Pulling up in the parking lot, knowing I would face those obstacles, uncomfortably "cold" temps and a solo experience, I considered leaving the parking lot and driving the 75 minutes back home. Instead, I chugged some coffee, grabbed my bag and headed to the start.

The race took place at the Homestead Miami Speedway, which seemed strange to me. Because of that, I opted to wear my old running shoes, the same pair that did the GoRuck with me. My plan was to donate them after the race. I also wore a pair of long running tights and a long sleeve Under Armor type shirt.

Approaching the start line, we encountered our first obstacle-- an 8 foot wall. I was immediately impressed. Before the race even started they were messing with our minds and making us work. I was also happy to see that they played the National Anthem before turning us loose on the course. I knew the first obstacle would be the Arctic Enema, luckily I was running side by side with another lone female. We agreed to "not think, just jump," which is THE best strategy for all of the scary obstacles. Let me tell you. Nothing can prepare your for the shock of an ice bath that deep. And it was probably 6 feet deep, maybe more-- I just know that I thought I would be walking through. No such luck, I had to swim. It was difficult trying to fill my lungs with air to dunk under the board, but there was no other choice. I inhaled a little water. 

There were plenty of people available to help each other over the obstacles. Except, I'd like to offer a word of advice-- when boosting a fellow runner over a wall, it's more helpful to provide a step, either with your hands or body, than to grab their butt and try to shove them over. It seemed that many people weren't quite sure how to help each other over obstacles.

The Electric Eel wasn't too bad-- I slid through as quickly as possible. The shocks felt more like I was getting punched, rather than an actual electric shock. I was impressed with TM's use of the site-- we traveled up and down a real hill! Well, it was the outside of the steeply banked race track, but it was awesome. 

By mile 10 of the course, I was literally by myself. And it was just in time for the 12? foot walls. Yikes. My calves had already begun to let me know they were about done (why can't I figure this calf cramping thing out?!), so I was worried about getting over these on my own. The volunteer working was a woman, and I knew she wouldn't be able to offer me help.  At that point, I was pretty sure I was the 3rd female and the 4th female was just behind me. I had to get up and over those walls on my own, which I did. 

The last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy. About halfway through, I lost a shoe. Stupidly, I turned around and tried to retrieve it. After 2 extra shocks, I decided to abandon my shoe (duh.) and run though as quickly as possible. I finished in 2:02 and happily accepted my headband, t-shirt, cup of water, 1/2 a banana and a Builder's bar. I found the female who finished in front of me, and she confirmed that she was the 2nd woman to finish, which placed me 3rd. We got our bags together, took pictures and showered off before going our separate ways. 
Overall, this may have been my favorite event so far. Never before have I had to confront so many fears on one course and do so many things I desperately didn't want to do. Probably my proudest moment was nailing the monkey bars. I have never swum in/fallen into so many pits of water in a race. I slid/crawled/swam on my belly through a water filled tunnel (frightening!), lay on my back and pulled myself through a water filled trench with a chain link fence just inches above the water (which means not much breathing room!), and jumped 20? feet into a pit of water. 

Now, onto the CrossFit Games.

*Footnote: I can't believe I forgot one of my favorite parts of the event-- spectators on the course! It was so awesome to be out there on my own, running my own personal race, and have people there cheering me on. It was so uplifting! And I'm convinced they gave me the boost I needed to hang on and complete the monkey bars.