I have been tapering down my training in preparation for Goruck in addition to carb-loading. My training has been reduced to 50 pushups and 100 lunges every day and nothing more. My diet remains consistent and I generally feel good. My right ankle worries me a bit, but it seemed to hold up fine during the mock run.
Pete will be joining me tonight for some high-intensity hill sprints on Summit Ave so we can wipe out our glycogen stores. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic about taking on the Challenge. I was pleased to have recently experienced the familiar, unnamable dread of the forthcoming event.
I've calculated my resting heart rate as well. It came out to an average of 53bpm. I'll be conducting some more thorough observations so I can have a more accurate estimate, but that's a pretty good baseline regardless.
I went out for a trail run with my brother on the trails of Pennsylvania over the holiday weekend. I ran in my TrekSports and enjoyed it considerably more than running in them on pavement. The run was short, as you'll see, but definitely well-deserved. We ate way too much over that weekend.
Christian and I finally got together for some training, and it was glorious. We had wanted to organize what I called a "Mock Goruck run" which endeavors to approximate the conditions of the challenge - this based solely on deduction from the videos, pictures and blogs I've seen.
We agreed to meet at 8pm and to run from Union Square (42.358716,-71.146485) and run out to Castle Island (42.338213,-71.012793). Google Maps estimates it to be a bit less than 8 miles walking distance. We made it 12.
Note the Tough Mudder headband.
I was toting my four recently-acquired bricks, a hydration bladder full of delicious nuun-enhanced water, my camera, and an assortment of endurance foods. I'd put the weight at around 30lbs.
Here are the resultant data from the jaunt. I elected to display Speed instead of Pace, because it shows the impact of our sporadic sprints more distinctly:
The spike in my heart rate at the beginning was caused by an unplanned throwdown with an errant Pterodactyl.
The first dip is me waiting for Christian to show up, and the following generally represent stops for PT, jumping in the Charles and, finally, the brief break we took to soak in the glory of Castle Island on the water. Our average pace was about 12 minutes/mile, an estimate from averaging the paces from each individual run portion (1.53mi, 2.73mi, 2.02mi...).
Here is an overhead view of the run courtesy of Google Earth:
The overall distance of the run is impressive considering the fact that my previous unweighted distance record is just over 13 miles. I generally train alone, and the addition of a supportive buddy (who is just as - if not crazier - than me) was extremely helpful. The run was really enjoyable overall.
We stopped along the way to get our shoes soaked in the water of the Charles to make ourselves uncomfortable.
I am actually looking forward to being completely soaked before the run.
Our PT consisted of decline pushups, Spiderman pushups (declined as well), lunges, bear crawls through parks, flutter kicks, glute lifts, pullups on girders, handstands, cartwheels and juggling bowling pins in our teeth.
Exhibit A: Antics.
We made it out to the water and took a break of just under ten minutes to savor the achievement and snarf down some Clif Shot Bloks.
We were both feeling it in our knees, and had a similar tenderness in the right Sartorius, so we eased back into a shuffle for the run back into town.
The way back was dark and lovely. I experienced unadulterated hatred for one particular street which I hope never to see again. We made it through with few walking breaks until we were within bus range. Christian mentioned the possibility of taking a bus to one of the T stops. Silence. We shuffled past a bus stop, and then another. There was a beautiful, tacit agreement that we were not going to take a damn bus.
We made our way finally back to Park Street, our "finish line". We let out brutal war cries and loaded our spent bodies onto the trains home.
The ordeal was extremely motivating for me. I was strong, light, and had a great time punishing my lower body. Christian and I agreed that towards the end of the run we weren't winded, but our muscles were simply spent. My glutes were torched and my ankle began to gripe under the strain. I had no desire to stop, but I had to listen to my body to make sure I didn't get myself hurt.
I took away a great sense of accomplishment from this run; I feel ready. I felt the effect of having a buddy, and I can only venture a guess that this support is proportionately multiplied in a group. I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Challenge, and I am mentally prepared to give it my all.
I am still running almost every day, shorter runs (2-3 miles) with my Vibram TrekSports, longer runs (6-8 miles) with the New Balance 890s. My training will taper down soon, and I'll be stuffing myself with carbs as I did for Tough Mudder. Pete will be coming down to train on the 28th (high-intensity hill sprints), we'll be rucking off on Friday night at Cheers, and then it's on to the Challenge itself.
The culmination of this blog has been reached: I completed Tough Mudder PA.
As I might have mentioned before, the scope of my training has been eclipsed by the Goruck Challenge. As such, Tough Mudder was simply a lighthearted romp through the muck and mire. I also had the distinct pleasure of running the event with Colin, who was the only member of the original team to join me.
It took some logistic string-pulling to get my Forerunner watch to the event, but I am fortunate to have parents who can perform such miracles. My more extended family was present as well, and they provided great support.
I chose to use Elevation instead of Pace for the second graphed variable since the pace was so erratic as a result of inconsistent runners on the trails or chokepoints at the obstacles. Here are the data with the red line representing Heart Rate and the green line Elevation:
As you might imagine, the event was not a straight run-through of 10.5 miles. The longest uninterrupted stretch of running would only amount to about 3 miles and most of the participants were walking up the hills.
If you're looking for training advice for this kind of event, here are a few main factors to consider:
Leg Strength: You want to be strong, but not bulky. Try bodyweight squats, single-leg squats (assisted, standard or weighted) and lunges. High repetition sets, fast.
Glutes: (to keep you stable) Glute Lift. If you're strong enough, do these with one leg held straight out, thighs parallel, toes of the straight leg pointing away from you. High repetition sets, slow.
Core: (more stability) Leg Lifts and Iron Bridge (Plank hold). High repetition sets for leg lifts. Work up to holding the plank for as long as possible (1 minute would be a good goal) and when you can't hold it any more, do crossovers with your legs - bring a knee up to your chest and back to pushup position about ten times, then do the other leg.
Upper Body:I didn't find this aspect to be too terribly important for this event. Grip strength will be important for the Funky Monkey, and you'll need a decent amount of strength to get over the nets and Berlin Walls, but you're going to be surrounded by people who are more than happy to toss your muddy behind over the obstacles. If you're strong enough to do 25 consecutive pushups I'd say you're prepared.
Cardiovascular Endurance: I'd recommend less street running in favor of trail running if possible. Using a jump rope is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular endurance in a short time. It has been estimated that the same amount of calories can be burned in 15 minutes of jumping rope versus 30 minutes of running on flat ground.
The event, as a whole, is tough - don't kid yourself. You will need to prepare mentally as well as physically. Running with a team or just a buddy is a great way to keep a reasonable pace and to maintain a good attitude.
Walk up the hills, jog down them. Unless you're competing for a qualifying time, your time doesn't matter. Getting hurt does matter. Not finishing does matter. If you signed up for this, you owe it to yourself to finish.
If you would like more specific advice about how to prepare, what to wear, or any other such questions, feel free to contact me.
The Tough Mudder site does a decent job of approximating the course outline, but the order and placement of the obstacles is not entirely accurate. Here is my Forerunner's impression of our path for the entire run:
The Maurauder's Wave
We were late for our wave, but it doesn't seem to matter. We donned our costumes, had our bib numbers scrawled on our skin with indelible marker, and eventually made our way to the starting line.
After purposefully butchering the Pledge we were off. I couldn't help but splash around in the mud at the bottom of the first hill near the spectators; I was euphoric.
And then into the smoke-bombed incline.
I let Colin set the pace and complacently followed him for most of the run. He was powering up the hills which wore him out early on, but he hit his stride once we reached some of the downhill portions.
We ran up and down the hills and had to deal briefly with a series of dirt mounds with nets on them. After navigating these and the slippery snow, we eventually came down a main stretch called Kodiak. There was an obstacle called Greased Lightning towards the bottom of the hill. We dove in headfirst and had the pleasure of the initial soaking to deal with for the remainder of the run.
We then made our way up Sasquatch, one of Bear Creek's steepest slopes. I had no trouble with it, and encouraged the other participants as I made my way up. By this point I had heard exclamations of "arrrr" from various people as a sort of speciously clever recognition of the fact that we looked like pirates. We conquered other various obstacles at the top of the hill, namely the Boa Constrictor which I particularly enjoyed. There were two large black tubes which slanted down into a pool of cold, muddy water. By the time you've crawled to the end of the first tube you're chin-deep in the water. It was glorious.
The trail led to the Berlin Walls, which were awesome. I resolved to not use the footholds on the wall, and to attempt the walls on my own. I was surprised to find that I had difficulty with the first wall, but I did eventually get over. The following walls were much easier, and I just enjoyed the obstacle as a whole. Helping people get over is very satisfying, as well.
We turned back around and made our way across the top of the hill and headed South to a long, winding trail. The descent was pleasant, and we maintained a great pace while snaking through the trees and other participants.
We made our way back into the parking lot of the resort, and met with a large tub of red liquid and some confused-looking girls handing out Habanero Peppers. It wasn't made clear whether we were supposed to eat them or just chew them up and spit them out. Considering how tough I am, guess what I did. I leapt into the red liquid which felt no different than water (I'm honestly not sure what the point of that was), and charged on along a slippery hill on the outer rim of the pond.
We worked our way back up the hill underneath The Devil's Beard which is just a large cargo net. We went back down the hill again and were met with some weird iron fences with thick black bars over which we were meant to climb. I met up again with my family as we waited in the considerably long line for the Walk The Plank obstacle. We finally were able to climb up to the top of the platforms and leap into the freezing water below:
All the cold showers I had taken could not have prepared me for that water. I had no trouble swimming, but it was horribly cold. What made matters worse was the panicky people surrounding me; I felt like I might be pulled under at any moment. Flashback to my lifeguard training. You'll notice the distinct dip in my heart rate around 1:20 into the run. I think this corresponds to the dive.
Colin and I managed to crawl out of the pond and took a short rest at a water station before charging ahead. We were met with two more water-based obstacles: one which looked like it was meant to be Twinkle Toes, but ended up being channels with a series of three wooden walls that went below the surface of the water to varying depths. Colin and I each chose a channel and I was not pleasantly surprised to find that the middle wall was about three feet from the bottom of the pond.
Immediately after this weird water wall challenge we were lining up for the Ball Shrinker. Usually a Mudder will try to shimmy along the rope with their feet while holding the suspended rope above. A boisterous military-man was caustically advising us to simply pull ourselves through the water with the lower rope and "save [our] shoulders for the other obstacles". We complied, but I felt slightly cheated. I went first and was almost coming to enjoy the stinging chill of the water on my genitals when a frantic semi-Asian man began to overtake Colin, shouting something about needing to go faster. Delightful.
We survived the anxious Asian's onslaught and trudged along into a system of trails on the opposite end of the resort. With the notable exception of my teeth chattering at a rate ferocious enough to irregularize my breathing rhythm, I found the run to be quite enjoyable. We serpentined through the trees and up some minor hills. There were some narrower portions and we would occasionally be stuck behind a slower runner, but for the most part we maintained a good pace and overtook a good number of other participants. We made our way along the 3.5-4 mile path around the backside of the mountain, eventually coming back up onto the ski slopes.
The Mud Mile affronted us. It was essentially a stretch of muddy-water-filled trenches. This, normally, would be a manageable thing. The catch was that since the water is so murky one can't get a sense of their footing. This becomes especially problematic when large rocks adorn the bottom of the pools of indeterminate depth. We were forced to make our way carefully through the pools and jog between them. Towards the end of the Mud Mile we were made to go through a long trench of knee-deep water with horizontal logs lying above the water's surface. We were supposed to go under them. I went into a frenzy, splashed Colin and then took off on my own. I sloshed through the water, sending it everywhere and roaring like a maniac. I held my foam hat on my head as I ducked into the water and under the poles, and then charged forth to the next one. It was bestial.
After the Mud Mile we glided downhill to the Monkey Bars to find that they were not being used. The participants were walking around the outside of the obstacle, and there were a number of officials looking concerned. It seems someone had broken his leg the day before, and they were shutting down the obstacle. We were indignant, but didn't want to wait around to see if it would reopen, so we continued on.
The next downhill portion contained the Kiss Of Mud obstacle which is a section of rocks and water where a participant is meant to crawl under barbed wire. I was forced to go slow because of the person I was following, and dragging my chest on the rocky ground was decidedly uncomfortable, but I got through with no significant difficulty.
We reached the bottom of the hill and were made to run through a gauntlet of burning hay bales which caused great white billows of smoke to obscure the path ahead.
We made our way back up another hill and eventually passed the parallel path that led to the Funky Monkey. Since we were walking anyway I decided to go see if the obstacle was opened again, and it was. We talked ourselves into waiting to do it, and the wait wasn't too bad. As we waited I removed my gloves, thinking my bare skin would afford me better grip. This might have been a mistake, but there's no way for me to know. Colin had just as much difficulty as I, although he wore his gloves. We both made it to about halfway across before slipping off into the black tarp below.
With the Funky Monkey at least attempted we rejoined the proper course path. We went up another small hill, and then back down to the bottom to find the Hold Your Wood portion of the run. Another participant handed me the one he had been carrying, a large but not terribly heavy piece. I shouldered it and started walking up the hill. I paused, looked back at the pile with a devious smile, and grabbed another log with my left hand. Colin said something like "Oh, ok. Guess we're doing two, then." He grabbed a second log and we made our way slowly up the hill. By the time I reached the top I was feeling the weight mostly in my shoulders and triceps. The downhill portion was much easier but it took me a decent amount of reorganization to keep from dropping the logs.
The next three hills contained the cargo nets, the Mystery Obstacle and then finally Electroshock Therapy and the finish.
The cargo nets were manageable. What made them difficult was the instability from other participants clumsily flailing around on the ropes. Colin and I stayed behind a while after making it to the other side to hold it steady for some others.
The Mystery Obstacle is a large wooden structure with slopes on either end of a high platform. The front side is covered in a thick plastic which makes it quite difficult to complete this obstacle without help. Everyone was helping everyone else, though, so it was simply a fun way to bond with the people around you. You then slide down the other side, and head back downhill. At the bottom of this hill they have some high hay bales set up to be vaulted. After we made it through those it was back uphill again for the final obstacle, Electroshock.
I was really excited about this particular obstacle because of the pictures and videos I had seen. The collective unconscious of the participants entertained some unnamable dread about it, which made me want it even more. Colin and I lined up at the top of a small hill in front of the obstacle and waited for the others to go through. We looked at each other, nodded, and ran screaming through the wires. I was shocked but Colin wasn't. The surge went from my elbow to my tailbone and felt like a deep static shock. I can see how it might cause a participant to drop to the ground, though.
We crossed the finish line roaring like wild animals and claimed our shirts and headbands. I choked down a beer and corralled with my family and friends.
The aftermath was mild. I had some tightness in my right Sartorius muscle which caused discomfort in my groin, but nothing serious. My shoulders were sore, likely from the Hold Your Wood obstacle, but it went away with some stretching and rest.
The event, overall, was extremely enjoyable. It is something meant to be shared, and to complete something like this with a team or even a partner is supremely rewarding.
Next up: Goruck Challenge, then another Mudder in early May.
5-mile weighted run today with a friend. I put the 25lb vest in my backpack, so I thought I was running with 25lbs. I just weighed the backpack with the vest in it, and it came to about 32lbs. This is great news, and makes me feel a lot more confident about my joint and muscle strength under stress. I'm looking forward to seeing how the run feels with bricks instead of the vest.
My friend's usual pace (~11 minute mile) is a lot slower than mine (unweighted ~7:45-8, weighted ~9-10), so it was good to have her to keep me consistent. Here are the data:
The distance was fine. I actually pushed her a bit, but it ended up being a great run. I kept my head in it, and felt strong. My left ankle only briefly felt weak, but loosened up after running it for another mile. We did some small hills, and I would occasionally throw in a faster pace, but nothing too serious. I'm tapering my runs down a bit since Tough Mudder approaches.
My knees are still a bit sore from my 13-mile run, but I was plenty strong enough to tackle a hilly trail run this morning.
I went back out to Blue Hills, which was a major traininng location for me as I was preparing for the Shawnee Peak Challenge and Ruckus Boston. I ran in shorts and a sleeveless moisture-wicking athletic shirt, so I was chilly at first. I chose the outfit deliberately because I wanted to make the run more challenging. I knew that I would feel a lot stronger on the trails as compared to last semester, but the difference was striking.
Here's the chart of the run data:
The spikes in heart rate are caused by me running up very steep hills to the summits along the trails. This Google Earth image of the run does a great job of illustrating my path and my ascent:
I ran along the bottom red line to the end of the trail, at the Museum. I turned around and made a loop above the parking lot which included a nice little hill, hence the first spike. I then continued along on previously unexplored trails until I came to an imposing gradient to my right, and followed it with an adventurous spirit. I passed about two turnoffs onto huge, rocky hills before I finally broke down and took to running up one of them. The one I chose just happened to be the steepest, highest trail in the park.
You can see my total ascent value in the chart. I think the path from the bottom of the hill to the top ascends about 250 feet along a distance of about a half mile. It was brutal and I didn't run the whole way. I think my stopping was mostly related to the terrain and not so much my stamina, but I distinctly remember at least one instance where I was pushing myself too hard and had to slow down. In any case, I was considerably stronger today than I have ever been on trail hills.
I'm honestly not concerned about the event; I feel like Goruck has totally eclipsed Tough Mudder for me in terms of motivation and my general anxiety about preparedness.
I've begun a carb-loading pattern in my diet in an effort to store energy for Sunday. My goal for carb intake right now is 50%, which I'll raise to around 70% by Thursday, followed of course by a large carb-filled dinner the night before the event. I read and hear contradicting things about when the pre-event high intensity exercise should be performed (either the day before, or two days before). I'll probably do some intense hill sprints two days before the event and take Saturday off as rest.
The day started out in a mundane way. I had no plans to run since I am waiting on a buddy to go on a weighted jaunt with me some time soon. I mulled around the apartment for a while, eventually putting on a movie recommended to me by my trainer, "Running The Sahara". The movie is basically about three ultra-marathon runners who decide to literally run across the entire Sahara Desert, from the West Coast of Africa to the Red Sea. Needless to say it was inspirational. I began preparations for a weighted run, but decided at the last minute to go for long-distance, unweighted.
Here are the data to provide a basic understanding of what I accomplished:
Yes. 13.22 miles. This is almost TWO TIMES the distance of my previous personal record (6.73 miles).
It was quite a journey. Take notice of the changes in elevation as well; this is mostly a result of me following my trainer's request of trying out Summit Avenue. I also ran the entire path; no stopping, no breaks, no PT, just straight mind-numbing running the whole way with a few sprints interspersed to keep things interesting. I ran it with my New Balance 890s, which performed famously. The spikes in my pace are, for the most part and as usual, me having to stop at intersections. The trend in my heart rate fascinates me.
Here is an overhead view of the run:
I think the best way to make sense of this messy red squiggle is to explain each phase of the run. I'll further complicate things by adding a bunch of poorly-drawn convoluted arrows in an attempt to illustrate my path:
I began at the green dot and ran down to Beacon Street. I ran two sprints along the way, holding a consistently fast speed for a few seconds, then I would slow to my normal pace. I followed Beacon until the intersection with Summit Avenue which stands diagonally from Beacon with its imposing gradient. Here's what it looks like from the bottom:
The incline only lasts about a half mile, but it's nasty and I loved it. This leg of the run is responsible for the spike in my heart rate at 15 minutes in. There is a small park at the top of the hill, and the downhill portion was pleasant. About halfway along the downhill portion I suddenly turned and sprinted back uphill for about five seconds, then turned again and finished the hill. I'm pretty sure I only thought to do this because some people were watching me run.
I turned off of Summit Ave onto Commonwealth and followed it for a long while. I was feeling great at this point and had no interest in stopping any time soon. I had not decided the path of my run or the distance before leaving, my only plan was to run Summit Ave. Having done that and still feeling strong, I followed Comm Ave until I reached Boston University's campus. I noticed the water on my left as I ran along Comm Ave and decided it might be nicer to be out there, and that this could be my opportunity to turn around. I was sure to make a mental note that though I was turning around that this in no way meant I was preparing to end my run. This was 2.3 miles from the Summit Ave junction with Comm Ave, and about 5.5 miles into the run, which I didn't know at the time. At this point I also decided that I would pay no further attention to my watch to learn how far I had gone; I would leave that until later when I felt like I might be approaching ten miles which slowly developed into a more solid goal as I progressed.
I ran along the Charles on a path called Storrow Drive. It was at this point that a headwind picked up that would fight me for the rest of my run. I continued along Storrow Dr until I reached the Boston University Bridge where I ran into a roadblock. My only option was to take a flight of stairs up to the bridge and work my way back down Comm Ave, so I did. I was apprehensive about the stairs, but they didn't seem to faze me. I ran back along Comm Ave, passing Boston University's campus again with the headwind stronger than ever. I continued onto Brighton Ave, about a mile from the BU Bridge. Brighton Ave kept me relatively engaged, and I broke out my Clif Shot gummies and did my best to eat one. They taste good, and it felt like it was the right thing to be eating for this sort of exercise (being already over 6.5 miles into the run). I choked it down and chased it with some nuun-enhanced water from my hydration pack (I am so thankful to have both of these things), and charged ahead.
The path became more familiar once I reached Harvard Ave since I used to do weighted runs in the area. I turned off Brighton Ave onto Cambridge Street and followed it to a familiar intersection. I continued along, feeling strong, until I icame to a road called Winship which leads to my apartment. I decided to look at my watch to see how far I had gone, and it would have read just over eight miles which was already about a mile and a half farther than my previous personal record. With the goal of ten miles firmly planted in my mind, I resolved to run up Winship, down Chestnut Hill Ave, and then run to Boston College's campus and back which would certainly have me finishing with at least ten total miles. And so I did. I continued along, my pace now a bit slower than normal (you'll notice the slight slowing of my pace as I run the entire distance which I find just as fascinating as the inverse trend of my heart rate). I made it down to Boston College's campus, and turned around to come back up Comm Ave again, towards home. Then something amazing happened.
I decided at one point to run a hard sprint through an intersection, and it felt fine. Good, even. This was, ironically, ten miles into the run. As I was coming down from the sprint I had a curious realization. I didn't want to stop. I was overcome with euphoria and involuntarily a big dopey smile came across my face. I mentally agreed with this wild notion, as if it had been proposed to me by someone else. Somewhere, I believe, I was competing with the fact that my friend Pete recently completed a half-marathon (typically just over 13 miles). My thoughts went to how I might extend the run and there it was: the reservoir. I was quite familiar with it from before, and it was along the way.
I turned off Comm Ave, and made my way down to the windswept path around the ol' Res. The reservoir's path is about 1.5 miles around and I ran it at a good pace. I was kept interested in the run by the other runners, people walking along the path, and various other things. I made it back to the entrance of the reservoir, and made my way up Chestnut Hill Ave, meaning to end the run and call it a day. Then, again, something amazing happened.
A ridiculous song came on my iPod which repeats the phrase "don't stop". This song has served me quite well on numerous occasions in helping me persevere through a difficult run, especially the trail-running I was doing last semester. I laughed out loud at the song, and its outlandish suggestion that I continue running. But I began to consider, am I really tired? Do I really want to stop?
So I ran some more, resolving to attain half-marathon distance. The skies became cloudy as I passed my apartment. I begged for rain and it came to me. I looped around and as I was making my way back up to my apartment, in the final leg of the run, it began to rain on me. A sweet, chilling, heavy rain that seemed to wash away my fatigue. It was glorious. I broke the 13-mile barrier and slowed to an enthusiastic walk, smiling to myself. I barely made it up the steps in my apartment building, and allowed myself a few minutes of peace before running out on an errand.
I burned at least 1670 calories on this run, so I've been eating A LOT today. I actually need to go grocery shopping tomorrow because I basically ate all the rest of my food.
I am supremely pleased with the run, my performance, and the record itself. I won't shoot for anything longer than this for some time, but it was INCREDIBLY reinforcing to know that I can do this. Today's run represents the strongest mental resolve I have ever experienced, and it's fantastically motivating.
I'm going to crush Tough Mudder and I will complete the Goruck Challenge. I have no further doubts.
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