Saturday, November 28, 2015

Gifts! for the Fit Chick

I confess! I spent more money this Black Friday than I typically do. I blame post World's Toughest Mudder blues. But I got some really great deals on things I've been eyeing for awhile (isn't this the excuse we always use?) Here are some great gift ideas for that fitness minded person on your list:

80 lb. sand bag. Photo courtesy of
Made in the USA and high quality, GORUCK has some great rucks (backpacks), sand bags and t-shirts. And of course, their events are high quality sufferfests, designed to teach teamwork and test mettle. I purchased the 80 lb. sand bag for training purposes. Read my event review.

Spartan Race
This week Spartan has some great race and gear discounts. Save  25% right now using code: BF25 at the gear shop. Or save big on races-- $40 off on all races (see site for details) using code: HOLIDAY.

The Sox Box
My "Warrior" compression socks,
hard at work.
Every girl needs a good pair of tall socks. And now that The Sox Box has a line of compression socks, I wear them while running and/or recovering, for shin protection in CrossFit, and during obstacle course races. The traditional socks are thick and durable. The compression socks are slightly thinner and provide that feel good squeeze.

An odd name (pronounced KAY-LO) for an awesome product. Between my husband and I, we've gone through 5 wedding bands. Mostly through weight room mishaps-- one smashed, one severely scratched, one misplaced due to taking it off for barbell work. The Qalo rings are medical grade silicone that can be worn while training. I bought ours during their 20% Black Friday sale. Check out their website. Use my link for $5 off for new customers.

Barbell Shrugged
I love the podcast. They've spent the last few years expanding to offer some excellent online training programs. And of course, I love stuff, so their t-shirts and coffee mugs are appealing to me. If you don't buy from their store, be sure to tune in to the podcast for great info on lifting, nutrition, and CrossFit. Or if you're a coach or owner, be sure to check out Barbell Business.

WOD talk
This sparkly Barbell for Boobs Qalo edition
gives 20% for cancer research.
And speaking of great info-- I have to give a shameless plug for WOD talk. Both online and in print, you'll find informative and inspirational articles and photos from people (including yours truly) who are in the CrossFit trenches everyday.

Great Shoes
Every athlete has her favorite brand of shoes. My feet prefer Saucony shoes, and I've never had a problem during races-- either road or trail. But then I did World's Toughest Mudder. I don't entirely blame my shoes. My feet just weren't conditioned to handle the rocky and uneven terrain. The majority of racers there were wearing either Altras or the Hoka One. I succumbed to Black Friday and bought my first pair of Hokas. I'm a little suspicious, but I've got another major endurance event next year-- a GORUCK Heavy/Tough/Light-- and I need my feet to endure.
Photo and product from
GarCard on Etsy

Sassy Tees
There's nothing quite as fun as pulling on a t-shirt that brings a smile to your face and some pep in your step. The one shirt that I'm currently wanting to add to my over-stuffed drawers is a cute little thing from Etsy. But cute and sassy workout tees are everywhere online. Spartan and Barbell Shrugged have their shops, but Caveman Evolution and JekyllHYDE Apparel have some great clothing options and gear.

Inspirational Reads
Here's where I can get into trouble. I LOVE books. The following are some fantastic encouraging reads-- some are specifically related to training, but all are inspiring.

Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens
Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura HillenbrandNo Easy Day by Mark Owen
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

And don't forget... you can never go wrong with gift cards. Most of the vendors I've listed offer gift cards. So, maybe you can't gift your loved one a GORUCK, but you could purchase a gift card that she could use toward an event.

Monday, November 23, 2015

WTM 2015 Recap, Part 3: The End

I was up before the sun, wondering if I could go back out. Knowing that the ice cold water and The Cliff awaited our team. The bad news was that Gary was out, our team would now be composed of individual racers, but Chris, Geoff and I would stay together on the course. The good news was that I now had the freedom to skip The Cliff without penalizing our team.

I was shivering again as we left the semi-comfort of our camp and wasn't looking forward to that first entrance into the water. My heart really wasn't in it. We had slept. We had spent more time in the tent than on the course. I did NOT feel like a World's Toughest Mudder. I didn't feel like I deserved the black finisher headband, even if I could somehow continue moving until 2 pm.

Now wrapped in the protection of a neoprene hood, gloves, wetsuit and booties, my muscles loosened up and feeling came back to my fingers. The wetsuit made all the difference in the world. That layer of water trapped against my skin really did insulate and warm me. This time, although temps were in the 40s, there were only a few chilled moments. Our spirits lifted with the sun, and we knew we could continue to run until the end of the race. 

I never did the Cliff. Despite everyone raving about the thrill of the plummet and warning me that I would have regrets if I didn't do it. If I had walked out on that platform, I'm quite sure I would still be standing there, trying to muster the courage to fling myself off. I took the penalty, which was .55 miles and 2 extra obstacles-- Mud Mile and Electro Shock Therapy. It was definitely not the way to go if you were running for time. My teammates had to wait on me after their cliff jump all but the last time, where there was a 20 minute wait for the Cliff.

Crossing the finish line was amazing. I was tired, dusty, and desperately in need of a hot shower. I didn't cry-- but there were more than a few times on the course when I was thinking about crossing the finish and nearly cried. I was so relieved. I had made it.

Some of my favorite moments from the race:
-Amelia Boone, winner of multiple WTM's and this year's, verbally guided me back on course as my backstroke was stroking me way off course.
-Teamwork on the Roll the Dice obstacle and sharing my last effort through this challenging obstacle with Coach, who created TM training videos.
-The view was simply incredible! Coming from the swamps of South Florida, running along the ridge line of desert cliffs was breathtaking.
-Getting a free hug from a sister runner, just minutes from the finish line. In her giant squeeze, I felt victory and relief-- we were going to make it!
Post race moments:
-Exiting the elevator in the resort, red dust crusted and still soggy in my wetsuit, we met a bridal party waiting to enter. Yes, that's right. A bride in her pristine white dress surrounded by satin clad bridesmaids and a flower girl. I would've asked for a side by side picture, if I wasn't so tired.
-Standing in a hot shower, peeling off my hood, booties and wetsuit. Pure bliss.
-Eating THE BEST WINGS ever at the Auld Dubliner, a little Irish pub. Buffalo garlic parmesan heaven. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

WTM 2015 Recap Part 2: Darkness

Read Part 1

The WTM 2015 course was said to be much tougher than last year's course. I didn't care, having nothing to compare it to. All I knew was that it had to be completed. Multiple times. For the majority of the obstacles, there was no way out. They were must complete. 

The worst for me was the King of Swingers. A tall climb up to a platform (20 feet or so) over water, we had to jump out to grab a handle that would swing us down and back up (if grip strength allowed) where the swinger would fling up to ring a bell. At least, that was the task that would earn a golden carabiner clip (a get-out-of-obstacle-free pass). I was terrified each time. No amount of "Ok, I did this before and didn't die" or "I have to do this, so I might as well just jump and get it over with" seemed to help. Every time, except the last, saw me standing there, heart palpitating, breathing too hard, calling out to God and standing through not one, but two "3-2-1-jump" countdowns. On that last jump, I was so happy that I jumped on the first countdown. 

And then there was the Cliff. 35 feet high, it towered above the other obstacles intimidating newbies and experienced mudders alike. Everyone told me I had to do it. If not, there was a half mile penalty lap with 2 obstacles, including electric shock. The cliff didn't open until midnight, so on our second lap there was no decision to be made. 

The sun set sometime in the middle of our second lap and that meant temperatures sank with it. The water was ice bath cold. The air, cruel. I began shivering, then shaking with chattering teeth. I remembered doing the all women's GORUCK Challenge a year ago and having chattering teeth. I thought back to the cadre's seemingly heartless command to "stop chattering the teeth!" It helped then, and it helped out there on the desert mountain. The body's response to cold is somewhat a mindset. Focus on the cold and it's unbearable. Focus on the job at hand, and it seems nearly inconsequential. 

And there were mind games. Just when we would start to warm up, another water obstacle would come. By the time we hit the last, my hands were stiff claws that somehow functioned enough to hook onto cargo nets and help me drag myself out of the water penalties. My feet were blocks that managed to get me to the finish line and the medical staff. As I approached, I prayed that they would DQ me. Cowardly? Yes. But I passed and stumbled toward the pit. Two sweet ladies offered me chicken broth, but I didn't want to take what was some other racer's supplies. Then one of the kind ladies said, "You know us. Take some broth." Only then did I realize this was our pit crew. 

Back at our pit, all I could do was stand and shake while drinking the hot broth, allowing a crew member to put clothe me in a Mylar blanket and a down jacket. I didn't even know how to answer, "What do you need?" My thoughts were crazy creatures that refused to be tamed. A man from a team across the aisle wrapped me in a fleece lined Tough Mudder trench coat, and said, "Here, love, put this on." Those might have been the kindest words ever spoken to me in my life. 

Slowly my full brain function returned and I took the advice to get a hot shower and put on my wetsuit. This proved not to be as easy as it sounds, as my fingers felt like they belonged to someone else and were refusing to obey orders. Simply untying my shoes took the allotted 5 minutes in the shower. I returned to our camp, feeling much better than before, but knowing we had a big decision to make. It was clear to me: go out for another lap and probably end our race with a DQ for hypothermia, or rest until sunrise and stay moving until the finish. 

Gary had not done well with the cold. He couldn't return to the course in the dark. And so we opted to stay together as a team, warm up and rest. And by rest, I mean, drifting off to sleep until my body shivered itself awake again, adding another layer and repeating multiple times. All the while listening to the sounds of other racers retuning to pit between laps, hearing their mile totals accumulate, with the backdrop of everything from AC/DC to the Backstreet Boys screaming out motivation from the WTM playlist.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I had set rules for myself to keep moving during the night-- no sitting down except as needed to change shoes and definitely NO SLEEPING. There I was, horizontal and not even caring if I went back out on the course. At that point, I felt that I had failed in my mission. And I was most upset that I didn't even care if I quit. I had no will to continue the race. And that was harder to deal with than the desert temperatures. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

World's Toughest Mudder 2015 Recap: Beginning

A peek at the entrance
Training, strategy and mental toughness. 
Those are the necessary elements to survive World's Toughest Mudder. 

Strategy is essential. Probably the most important factor in finishing the race. Strategy involves knowing the course, the weather conditions and your own body and planning accordingly. It drives training, fueling and packing for the 24 hours. 

3/4 of our team at check-in
Training, I would say, is next in order of importance. The course had over 800 feet in elevation change on each five mile loop. Most of the obstacles involved water. Many tested grip. There is no doubt, if you didn't prepare for all of those elements, failure was nearly inevitable.

Mental toughness makes the difference between giving up in the face of adversity and gritting your teeth and continuing on. There are many moments in the course of a 24 hour challenge when the body aches, teeth are chattering and fingers and toes are numb. It's during those moments when you just have to dig deep and make a decision.

Camp site set up.
At 1:30 on Saturday, November 14, my team and I made our way to the starting line for the athletes briefing that started a little late. We shared a moment of silence for those who have died serving our country and for those recently lost in the terror attacks in Paris. The National Anthem played, and we were off for our first view of the course. From 2:00 to 3:00, we ran with grace-- no obstacles except the terrain to impede our forward progress. We made it as far as the last obstacle before they all opened up. Our first stop in the pit was all smiles. I downed a vanilla almond butter packet, half of a Perfect Bar and some water before heading back onto the course. 

The original plan had called for putting on wetsuits before the second lap, but stupidly caught up in the thrill of the first lap, we didn't. And that proved to be the mistake that would mark the end for one of my teammates. 

All smiles, moments before heading to the start.
Read Part 2

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Surprisingly Calm

I will be heading to the start line of World's Toughest Mudder. It is still pretty surreal to me. I've had my eyes on an extreme challenge for a few years now, but it was never before he right time. This is the right time. 

Yesterday, I checked in. Holding my bib and timing chip in hand, it felt very real. Then my teammates, pit crew and I made our way to select and set up our pits. Seeing the course and the obstacles was a little comforting and calming. The a Great and Powerful Oz was revealed. And I felt empowered. 

I saw obstacles. Rocks and dirt and flags marking the course. The course was like so many others I've raced and overcome. The course is 5 miles. 5 miles. 

That is my thought and my focus. I'm not thinking of penalties, failed obstacles or the cliff that opens at midnight. I'm thinking of the next obstacle. Of finishing this 5 mile lap. 

One step at a time. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Longer I Go...

Most likely this is my last post before World's Toughest Mudder.

The physical training is complete.
The mental training continues.

I recently wrote an article for WOD Talk on mental training, based on an interview with Jim Afremow. I'm also reading his book The Champion's Mind. It's such a tricky thing, the mind. No training in the world can overcome a mind that says, "I can't."

I need to create some very tangible strategies for overcoming the black hole my mind is going to be sinking in...

Proper Nutrition-- every time I've hit the wall in long events, it's been because I haven't eaten enough calories. I currently have quart sized zip top bags labeled by pit stop number, lap, and goal time. Each bag will contain something that I have to carry with me for the next 5-mile lap and something I have to eat. I can't leave it entirely to feel because I know that come 3 am, my zombie brain will not feel like eating anything. I also recently wrote an article on nutrition and hydration.

Adequate Hydration-- this is where it gets tricky. I will be carrying a Camelback so that I can drink while out on the course. I do have a tendency to not get enough electrolytes, so I'm bringing some packets to drink during my pit time. I'll also be taking a bag of sweet potato chips, smoked almonds, and maybe even pickles (pickle juice is supposed to be a miracle cure for cramps).

My support.
The Mantra-- one of my favorite mantras (magical phrases designed to energize and refocus) is, "The longer I go, the stronger I get." I found this gives me a mental boost and so far, I've been able to believe those words as I say them during long training sessions.

People-- I will be using the love and support of friends, family and my team to get me through those cold, dark morning hours. I've received so many encouraging messages and posts via social media and text. Please keep them coming! I will keep moving forward because I know you will all want to know how my race went.

Prayer-- of course I'm saving the most important for last. I will be praying often and loudly on the course-- you know, that most powerful prayer, "Jesus, help me!" Along with those snacks per lap, I will be packing Bible verses that bring me encouragement, like my current favorite: "It is God who arms with with strength and keeps my way secure." Psalm 18: 32.
I love these crazies.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Taper Madness

One week from today I will be boarding a plane, bound for Las Vegas. Heading towards the event I've been training for for 6 months or maybe my whole life. Maybe that sounds a little dramatic. But that's just where my mind is right now. Oh, yes, I'm dealing with a bad case of taper madness.

For a runner, the taper means to diminish training gradually as the event draws near. So, running mileage is decreased, weights are lightened (well, for some people), and general time spent training is reduced. Let me tell you what that really means: too much time on my hands. 

The energy I've been pouring into my training is now bouncing around my brain. And my moods are swinging wildly. At times, I'm pumped-- enthusiastic and excited, filled with a "Let's DO THIS!" mindset. Other times, I'm anxious-- terrified and nervous, heart palpitating with a "Why did I sign up for this?!" attitude.

I'm having great difficulty even corralling my thoughts and forcing them into some kind of order that makes some kind of sense for this post.

It's so hard to believe that in a week I will be facing the biggest physical challenge of my life. I'm trying to keep positive. To fill my thoughts with strong images (and not that terrifying 30 ft. cliff jump). I'm reading The Champion's Mind by Jim Afremow. I'm remembering all the fun I've had on obstacle courses I've run, thinking of the new experiences I'll encounter, imagining the camaraderie of hundreds of people fighting together through the obstacles, the weather, and time.

I know it will be an experience like no other. I'm ready, I know I am. Or at least as ready as I can be right now. I will fight. I will give everything I have. I will help others on the course. I will pray A LOT.

My fears:
Hypothermia-- desert temps after the sun goes down could be in the 30's. Not that big a deal, unless you're in and out of water and already fatigued.
Cliff jump-- 30 ft. 'nough said.
Doubt-- I will be able to accept failure if my body physically can't handle 24 hours, but if my mind gets involved and talks my body into quitting... that's just not acceptable. And it's a deceptive thing. I've been 3 hours into a GORUCK, shaking from the cold of the surf and the ocean breeze, slightly fatigued from push ups and flutter kicks, and thinking that I can't go any further, considering walking out-- only to finish the event some 10 hours later.

My faith:
Training-- I've never run so many miles and spent so much time over the course of a week training. For Pete's sake, I spent an hour swimming last week. AN HOUR. I hate swimming.
Plans-- I'm spending the weekend mentally rehearsing the 24 hours. I'll be packing individual kits for each lap, including clothing, food, inspiring Bible verses and pictures.
Power thoughts-- I've heard that the best Special Ops guys make it through training by focusing on small increments of time or events. I'm going to focus only on the next obstacle and not on X number of hours or laps left. One foot in front of the other.
Jesus-- Yes, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I'll spend lots of time out on the course praying. Probably out loud.