Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Problem with Reaching Your Goal

Goals are awesome. Everyone should have a goal. Something to set your eyes on. Something you want to achieve. Goals give us drive. Focus. A finish line to reach.

The closer you get to the goal, the more energized you feel. 
Maybe there's an extra bounce in your step. 
Victory is near. 
The struggle against that thing you've been working so hard to overcome is almost over.
And then...


It is finished. 

You find yourself initially elated. YOU DID IT!!!! You celebrate. 
Bask in the glory of your achievement.
Post on every social media site you can.
Share epic pictures.


But then comes, "Now what?" You're a little hollow, once the mud dries, the cuts and callouses heal and the muscles are no longer sore. Maybe you even feel a little restless, lethargic, even. Maybe your day off to rest and recover stretches into two, and then another after that. Maybe you've lost it-- your desire, your fire, your mojo. What now?

Chin up.
Eyes ahead.
Find it.
That next thing.
What else is lacking?
What haven't you conquered?
Time for a new start.
Another chance.
Discover.
Enjoy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Superhero Scramble Miami 2014 (World Championship)


On Saturday, January 11, 2014, I completed my first ever Superhero Scramble. I'd been looking forward to doing a SHS for a few years now. I haven't done one before simply because the one in this area has always conflicted with the annual mission trip that I take with my students.

Superhero Scramble has recently come under some criticism for canceled races in the North and for alleged (I've always wanted to use that word) lack of payment for prize money and refunds. (Click here for Obstacle Racing Media's article, "Superhero Scramble Unmasked.")

The following is what I personally experienced:

The Scramble Gamble boasted the names of Hobie Call, Alec Blenis, and Brakken Kraker of Spartan Race fame. (I personally didn't recognize any of the elite women.) This was officially the final race of the 2013 race season and the culminating event of the Superhero points series. For more details on all of that, check out the Superhero Scramble's page here.

After I registered for the Scramble Gamble, the SHS organizers announced that Miami (this event) would be the first location to hold the Villain event (13+ miles and 30+ obstacles)--previously scheduled for Illinois. Although the longer distance was appealing to me, I had already paid extra to enter the Gamble and didn't want to pay an additional fee to do (what I assumed would be) an extra lap of a very flat with lots of running course.

Communication-- emails were sent that communicated details of the event. Organizers notified runners 2 days before the event that there would be 3 water stops on the course; that those running the Villain were required to have their own source of hydration, and that others were "STRONGLY" encouraged to bring their own hydration and nutrition. Information on parking (except no mention of the $10 fee), bag check, post race party and spectators was given. After the event, SHS responded on Facebook to complaints of a lack of water. They claimed that they had communicated the event was self-supported. However, they did NOT use the words self-supported. They STRONGLY recommended racers bring water. To me, there is a big difference in a race being self-supported and a race recommending participants bring water. 

Parking-- there was one way into the venue (Quiet Waters Park) and one exit. There appeared to be plenty of volunteers directing traffic. I was glad I arrived at the recommended one hour before heat time. I saw Facebook complaints that parking was backed up-- in fact, parking back up was a cause of the start time delays. Racing in the first wave ensured that parking wasn't a major factor for me.

Registration/Check In-- quick and effective. However, if you didn't follow the emailed instructions and come with your bib number, you had to look up your number on a non-alphabetized list of names and numbers. Packet pick-up was offered the evening before the race and the morning of. I paid the $5 for the bag check, which was a bit of an un-organized mess. After the race and after some minutes of rummaging through piles of bags, mine was retrieved safely.

Race Start-- according to the DJ, the race start was delayed by about 30 minutes due to parking issues. I didn't wear a watch, so I really don't know exactly how long the delay was. You Fit provided a warm-up that people mostly ignored. I always do my own warm up.

Obstacles and Course-- Overall, the course was about a 10k trail race sandwiched between a 5k obstacle course race. Really, the course was about what I expected-- hot and flat. I heard rumors and warnings of a long swim, but I wasn't quite prepared for the giant leap into water and the really long swim. Estimates were of 250 meters, but it felt more like 250 miles to this non-swimmer. I was extremely glad I took a life jacket and that there was a rope. Among the obstacles were walls to climb over, under, and through, rings (to "monkey bar" across), rope climb, cargo net climb, concrete block drag, sand bag carry, dirt ditches, slime pit, and the swim. There was a 20 burpee or 10 "super spin" penalty for each failed obstacle. I'm not sure that anyone besides me counted out or cared that I did my 2 sets of penalty burpees.

For the first time in an OCR, I wore a Camelback and was glad I did. I remember seeing 2 water stops, one of which we passed twice. I also ate 2 gels. I saw reports that they ran out of water, but that wasn't my experience. As a matter of fact, I didn't see anyone stop for water in the Scramble Gamble.

I saw many complaints on Facebook about "lame" obstacles. Well, I strongly disagree. I'm not sure what people were looking for. I would guess that they were put off by the super long run in the middle. It was brutal, especially given the heat. The only thing I was disappointed with was the "Mounds of Doom." There were piles of dirt in between empty trenches. It would've been much more challenging if those trenches were filled with water. However, being in South Florida with our sandy soil-- it would require tons of water to keep the trenches full. 



My biggest concern was the swim. I may have been in trouble had I not taken a life jacket. I've never used one in a race, but the water was fairly cold and slightly choppy. And very long compared to other OCR swims I've done. Given the recent tragedy from the Tough Mudder's Walk the Plank obstacle (read Outside Magazine's article here), I was surprised that the swim was so long. I don't know what emergency plans they had in place, but I was concerned for the people who would follow me on the course.

**I was told by a friend in later heats that the volunteers were encouraging people NOT to do the swim or to take the life jackets. For me, I hesitated at the top. For awhile. I don't recall anyone suggesting I take a penalty instead of the jump. But my brain was screaming at me that I would surely die if I jumped and my body was screaming back that I could really survive the leap, so I'm not entirely sure that the volunteers didn't try to persuade me to take a penalty.

The Finish-- I finished 7th female. 43rd overall, despite battling a cold and not doing many long runs to prepare. Cups of water were at the finish. Finisher medal and t-shirt both are dated 2013-- no mention of "World Championship." Free beer was offered. Wash off stations were 3 or 4 stations with several garden hoses connected, which took me a little while to find because they weren't visible from the finish line. Here I agree with the complaints of 2013 dated bling. SHS's response was that this was the 2013 World Championship event and that the t-shirts and medals were made specifically for this event; they weren't left overs. Fair enough, but then why not label them "2013 World Championship." I do feel that they were using left overs. 



Overall-- I WOULD do another Superhero Scramble again. However, I have a slightly different opinion of them than I did before. They experienced a huge rise in growth as OCRs began to grow in popularity, but I think they've got some work to do if they want to continue to have success. In some ways I think they've tried unsuccessfully to play with the BIG BOYS (by offering a point system, prize money, nation-wide racing, and varying distances). I would say to the SHS organizers that they need to take a step back, return to how they started and be true to themselves. They need to scale back, narrow their focus and just be the Superhero Scramble.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Avoiding the Dangers of CrossFit

Photo: games.crossfit.com
So, now that Crossfit has become so popular, every other week a new article is published about the dangers of Crossfit. Can I just say... there are things far more dangerous than Crossfit. Like this, for example:

But the articles have successfully created controversy and raised questions. I thought I would add my thoughts on the dangers of CrossFit.

Why is CrossFit "dangerous"? Crossfit is: constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement. I will refer you to www.crossfit.com for a better explanation. The danger comes when people use incorrect form or use weights that are too heavy. Additional problems come when people do not get proper rest and nutrition to sustain the intensity of their workouts. But isn't it the job of the coaches at the Crossfit box to ensure each person's safety? Yes. But there is also a little thing called personal responsibility.

I do NOT believe Crossfit is dangerous. Irresponsible people are dangerous.

Follow these guidelines to find a quality, safe Crossfit box:
  1. Start with their website. Check out their schedule-- how many classes do they offer a day? Do they fit your schedule? Do they offer open gym? You want a box that offers some flexibility so that you are able to come and workout on your own at times. Red flag: stock photos and sparse details.
  2. What certifications do their coaches have? Make sure they are educated beyond the basic level 1 coaching course. Look for coaches who are certified in Olympic weightlifting. A bonus is one who is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS). Coaches should be knowledgeable about nutrition, metabolic conditioning, and all aspects of strength and conditioning. Red flag: coaches that push products and fad diets; coaches who are out of shape.
  3. Where do they get their programming? I personally would only belong to a box that does their own programming. Obviously, there is good programming available online through Crossfit.com and other great boxes, but original programming shows that the coaches are knowledgeable about programming. Also-- I would only be part of a box that incorporated a strength program with their daily WODs. Red flag: Static stretching during warm ups; short, repetitive WODs.
  4. Do they participate in competitions? You may or may not ever compete, but again, a box that takes athletes to competitions will probably have coaches who have a strong knowledge base of strength and conditioning. Competitions are also great camaraderie building events. Red flags: coaches that push their athletes too hard... or not hard enough.
  5. Take their intro classes. Most boxes offer a free intro class. You can learn a lot about their coaches from these classes. Coaches should thoroughly explain and demonstrate the movements. During the workout, they should be circulating among the athletes, correcting form and encouraging. Red flag: coaches who aren't fully engaged in the class and aren't willing to correct form.
At its heart, Crossfit seeks to help people become fit-- healthy and able to functionally live a long life. When I attended the level 1 coaching course, I wasn't fully convinced that Crossfit is THE way to train. However, when the instructors explained that Crossfit uses exclusively functional movements because these are the ways the body needs to move for the duration of life, it all made lots of sense. One of the things they pointed out is that as long as you are able to walk, you will be squatting. Try sitting down and standing back up without squatting. Ah- HA!