Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Planning to Fail?

And suddenly, we’re staring down the beginning of another year. How did this happen so soon? I was just sitting here writing about all my goals and dreams for 2015, and now… it’s over.

I’ve written before about how I detest New Year’s Resolutions (NYR). To me, they fall into the same categories of the “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” pledges. But then again, I guess at least a person is attempting to change. So, that’s not all bad. 

One of my favorite everyday kind of quotes:

Whether you are a Resolutioner or a One Worder, you need to have a plan for success in the betterment of yourself. I suggest you really sit down and think about your life in the past year. What went well? What didn’t? Any epic fails? And more importantly, consider why? As I think back on my year, here are some potential reasons I failed in certain areas:

Certainty—I can see where I wasn’t 100% sure that I really wanted what I was going after. I let doubts creep in. Could I really achieve it? Did I really want to achieve it? I know that may sound strange, but sometimes, we’ve been working so long at getting that thing, conquering that obstacle, that the fight becomes better than the achievement. Once you reach that goal—what’s left. There can be a natural let down. I see this in racing—a person spends months training for a particular event. Then when it’s over, we’re struck with post race blues—there’s no longer something we’re looking forward to, training for, targeting. We feel a little lost.

Commitment—After becoming certain of what you want, there has to be a 100% commitment to achieving it because life offers way too many distractions. Enlist friends, who will provide support and accountability, to help you stay committed. But choose your support crew wisely—they need to be able to stay in for the long haul with you. They need to be able to provide “tough” love (which is real love) to help you stay motivated.

Sacrifice—Herein lies the challenge. How bad do you want it? The problem for most of us is that we want it all. And we pout like a 2-year-old because we can’t get it. There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to sit and watch a Top Chef marathon, then you’re not going to be able to put in the miles for a real marathon (unless you have a treadmill, I guess). Do you want to finally hit that fat loss goal or do you really want your pizza and beer? 

You don’t have to completely overhaul your life to make some healthy changes. As a matter of fact, I think the reason for so many NYR crashes and burns is because people try to change too much all at once. I like baby steps for long term change. Whatever you decide to do in the next year…

1. Be certain.
2. Make a commitment.

3. Sacrifice the less important.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Rewind: My 2015

One of the keys to success in anything is to examine the past and apply the lessons learned to the future. Every December I take a look back at where I've been in the past year-- my highlights and my lowlights. It helps my set my goals and plans for the coming year. Scroll to the bottom for lessons learned.

January - March: A CrossFit Focus
I even swam, which I hate!
I spent the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 working at building and maintaining the strength and skills I would need in the CrossFit Open. I worked on progressions for the muscle up and did lots of thrusters (which I hate with a passion). I stopped running anything longer than 6 miles, and it felt like torture. My muscle ups never came, which sealed my fate in the Open-- even in the Masters' Division, muscle ups are a necessity. I just didn't spend enough time working on that one piece.

I was at a pretty low point after failing at those muscle ups, and so I drowned my sorrows in the Orlando BattleFrog Race. It proved to be exactly what I needed-- a spontaneous race (I registered less than a week before the event, and I hadn't run farther than 6 miles before the race day 9ish miles). I had a blast and was smiling again.

I also competed in the Florida Open. I surprised myself in how well I tackled the thrusters and row in 15.5. But then I struggled badly in a workout involving double unders and an awkward heavy carry. I lost focus, allowing a small working space and pressure to get to me. It wasn't all bad-- Read the full FL Open recap here.

April - September: A Return to Running
Feeling a little disillusioned and lost, in terms of competing, I did a 5k for charity at the beginning of May. I think I was more nervous for that race than the OCRs I've done lately. It had been a long time since a 5k. The following day-- again, on a whim-- I did the Wings for Life World Run. And I fell in love with road races again. Wings for Life is a unique run because there is no finish line. Runners begin and run until the "catcher car" catches up. I was able to log around 10 miles before my race was over.

Later in May I also did the Down & Dirty.  I placed second and was pretty satisfied with the race.

And so began my return to long runs. By this time I had set my sights on World's Toughest Mudder. Everything for the remainder of the summer and fall months revolved around training for WTM. My theme became just one focus: long. Long runs, long lifts, long wods and longer sessions involving all of those.

October-December: Prepping for WTM
I had 3 races on the books for October. Last year, I won the Goliath Gauntlet. This year, I was DQ'd because I couldn't complete the Walking on Water obstacle (a lily pad type thing that I would see in the Terminator and at WTM). I was the 2nd female across the finish line, but this time I stashed my medal in my bag and headed back out on the course to train for WTM. Although I rolled my ankle on the 2nd lap, I was able to walk it off and complete 4 laps in total.

Two weeks later I ran the Miami Terminator. I struggled with an A-frame wall climb; unable to complete it, I did my burpees and moved on, but I was already out of the top 10. Again, after finishing, I returned to the course. And again, I rolled my ankle. This time it really hurt. I couldn't stand at first, and I was scared. I began to hobble off the course, worried that putting more miles on the ankle would keep me from WTM. But after about 50 yards, it loosened up, I made a 180 and finished 3 laps.

World's Toughest Mudder: A Category of Its Own

This was THE EVENT. I can't get World's Toughest Mudder out of my head. I find myself looking longingly at pictures, like it's a boyfriend who dumped me. And now I understand why many have gone back every year to be there. Of my performance there-- I'm proud and ashamed and humbled and thrilled. It was enough, but not. I desperately want to go back, and I never want to go there again.

Lessons Learned
1. Find what you're good at and do it. I'm good at the basics involving barbells-- bench press and dead lifts. And I'm kind of good at running (I said good, not fast)
2. Find your weaknesses and overcome them. For me, it's the muscle up and other gymnasty skills in CrossFit. In my case, I was so busy working on all of the other CrossFitty things (things I like to do better than muscle up progressions) that I couldn't master them all. That's the nature of the CrossFit beast-- varied.
3. Do what you want to do. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to excel in CrossFit. Then I felt like running. Then I felt like facing the biggest scariest challenge of my life (aside from childbirth and marriage). And now I'm feeling like running a marathon. And all those make me happy.
4. Help people. Hands down, the greatest joy I experienced in any training related activity was helping others-- either boosting them over obstacles, working together as a team, or coaching in the weight room.
5. Laugh lots. You should never, ever take yourself too seriously. That is truly the path to misery.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Spartan Sprint Miami 2015 and a FREE Race

Scroll to the bottom of the page for a chance to win a FREE SPARTAN RACE!

Speaking of free races, I won entry for the Miami Spartan Sprint from a great blogger and better human being, Jeff Cain of On my Way to Sparta. Like the entry I'm giving away, it was for an open heat for any Spartan Race in the continental US. I chose Miami because it's in my backyard. And I also chose to pay the extra to transfer my open heat to the elite heat.

The weather forecast came trickling in with the rain on Wednesday before the race weekend. Chatter around Facebook warned of wet conditions as the day approached, and the forecast of rain remained. I didn't believe the hype. A forecast with a chance of rain in South Florida is common-- the rain can blow in and right back out within a few hours. And sandy soil means great drainage. So a rain forecast, definitely doesn't mean a wet and muddy Spartan.

Except for this race. The rain started on Wednesday, and the skies were relentless. Friday evening, the night before the race, Spartan was forced to change plans for parking because the parking lots were under water. I went to bed not knowing where I would be parking.

I awoke early and checked my email, only to find nothing from Spartan Race. So, I headed to the source of all knowledge, Facebook, and found out that I would be parking at the Sawgrass Mills Mall, closer to my house, but farther from the venue. I would be cutting it a little closer than the recommended hour and a half before start time. Because I would be running in the first heat of the day, I wasn't too concerned about back ups at registration and bag check.

Parking and the bus ride to the race proved to be fairly quick and easy for me (although some Spartans missed their start times and were forced to run later). Check-in was simple, and that early on a Saturday of a race weekend, the port-a-potties were fairly sparkling clean. The festival area was under water and just as the elite men were called to the starting line, the rain began again.

The women's race started on time and fast. The leaders set a blistering pace, and we were soon beginning our first hill climb. "Hills" in South Florida are really nothing more than glorified ant mounds, but Spartan Race chose the venue with the largest hill in all of South Florida. And they really made sure we got our money's worth out of that hill. Total elevation climbed is embarrassingly low compared to South Carolina or other races in the US, but for the natives, it was tough.

The course was amazing. I've done every Miami Spartan (all Supers except for this one) since 2011. Although this was only a Sprint, I was really impressed with the course. Walls were taller than I remembered from years past. The bucket carry seemed longer and steadily uphill and down. The atlas stone carry, a sled drag (full of water and sticking to the uneven ground), a (relatively light) sand bell carry, and the Hercules hoist all meant that athletes had to be strong as well as fast. The rig was brutal in the rainy conditions-- it cost me 30 burpees as did the spear throw and the traverse "Z" wall.

I was pleased with my placing-- 13th female in the elite race and 5th in the masters. But I was even more pleased with the sportsmanship. All the elite racers were chatting before the race and happily getting to know each other after the race. And the competition was ferocious.

Overall this was a really great experience and reaffirmed my love for Spartan Race-- as commercialized and as large as it has grown. I personally think there's nothing quite like a Spartan Race. They really know how to put on a quality event and take care of their racers.

Check out this great race video by Arnel Banawa:

For your chance to win a free Spartan Race, enter my giveaway:

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

BattleFrog Goes BIG

Earlier this year I did my first and only (so far) BattleFrog race, and I had an amazing time. You can read my full recap here. I'm just really happy to see another company in the obstacle racing world growing traction and providing quality events.

I'm beyond excited that they've just announced a 24 hour race. BattleFrog Extreme (running as many laps as possible from 8:30am to 3pm) is an option that's available at most BattleFrog race locations, but this 24 hour event will be held in Miami on March 4-5. Many details are yet to be disclosed, but so far there is an option for a pit crew who will have 24 hour access to the pit area and sections of the course. There's also a blackout portion-- most likely when headlamps and other night safety gear will be required. The only real details (other than date, start time and cost) released is that the course has been designed by Ryan Atkins, winner of multiple obstacle races including BattleFrogs, Spartans and World's Toughest Mudder.

I was planning to do the BFX at the Miami March event, but the announcement of the 24 hour option has me salivating. I don't feel like I did all that I was capable of doing at World's Toughest Mudder. The cold meant that I had to stop (and yes, in some way, that was reaching my body's potential), so I don't feel that I truly tested my limits.

The heat and humidity will be a major factor, just as the cold was in Vegas for WTM. But I'm used to training in the heat. The biggest obstacle for my entering this race is cost. At just about $400, the fee is steep, but given the race is practically in my back yard, it's nearly a bargain.

So many people can't understand why on earth I would want to do a 24 hour race. And I think really, it's just because I can. At 41, I'm in better shape than I've ever been. I enjoy training. I enjoy pushing my body to its limit. I enjoy that feeling at the end of a tough workout, when I'm completely spent, having left all the stress in my world in the weight room or on the road. You really don't know just how much your body is capable of until you test it.