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A Marauder's Story

7 Posts tagged with the mud tag

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.

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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:

 

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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:

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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.

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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.

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And then into the smoke-bombed incline.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Neustift-Innermanzing

Posted by Superfiend Apr 4, 2011

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:

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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:

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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.

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This morning's run followed the same path as my last weighted run.

 

The data from the Forerunner are a bit botched since for some reason it took forever to find a GPS signal. I still have the heart rate information, though, which is somewhat more stable than last time. This is with the 20lb weight vest:

 

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Unfortunately my pace wasn't tracked until about 11 minutes into my run since it took so long to find a satellite signal, which threw off the averages.

 

The spikes in my pace around 14, 15 and 16 minutes are when I was forced to wait at intersections or behind someone walking slowly on the sidewalk.

 

My heart rate was more consistent this time, as was my pace overall. I ran the whole path (3.5 miles) with no walking rests. I felt loose and strong throughout the whole run. It was a good mental day so I was in the zone. I felt tight and sore when I stopped for my cool-down walk to my apartment but it went away with some stretching.

 

The runs are going really well so I'll likely change the routine soon, maybe within the next two weeks. Instead of adding weight, which I thought I would do originally, I think I'll just increase the distance and focus on keeping a consistent pace.

 

In other news: I've officially registered for Goruck Boston! It's really exciting, and gives me great motivation for my workouts. I'll eventually register for Tough Mudder Vermont, likely this coming week. I'll still be running Tough Mudder PA on April 10th with my friend.

 

Overall my training is going really well and I feel great.

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Ruckus Boston

Posted by Superfiend Nov 16, 2010

November 13th was met with great anticipation. I strain to recall another morning where I’ve woken up as eagerly. I was making oatmeal and packing my things at 9:05am as my mind raced, attempting to find the proper disposition and to dredge the cobwebs of sleep. I ate about half of a bowl of oatmeal and gathered my things. I was dressed and walking out the door at 9:30. The drive was pleasant and within 45-minutes’ time I was at the event. As I pulled in I was able to see a few runners trudging through the course, but I was not able to make out any helpful details from my vantage point. I parked, sifted through a few things, made myself an Endurance mix and choked it down. I felt rushed and uncomfortable, but overly determined. I had a positive attitude and I meant to bring it to bear on the course.

I left the car with the majority of my things not knowing if there would be a place to store them during the race. It turns out that there was a Gear Check. Peter, a friend I met at the Shawnee Peak Challenge, picked me out of the Registration line and had already checked himself in. I numbly bumbled my way through the check-in procedure and talked to Peter for a while. We walked around, stretched, I used the bathroom and we were soon in line at the Start. We made our way up as close to the gate as we could since this greatly benefited me in the SPC. The wait for the beginning of the race was tense. Some guy mentioned to his friend that he should take his gloves off since he would slip on the monkey bars or the commando pole. Peter and I were having none of that claptrap and defiantly left ours on. We shook, flailed and extended our limbs as the final seconds counted down. We went off with the siren.

 

Peter and I were running together for a stretch before the first obstacle. We were met with barbed wire precariously suspended above our backs as we shimmied underneath. This proved to be something of a choke point for the runners out in front. Peter and I made our way through rather quickly, and ran around a corner and through a small area with trees. I came up closely behind Peter, pacing myself with him as we crossed a small bridge. As we made our way out of the trees and around the next corner we were affronted by the next obstacle: the Trenches.

 

The Trenches are just as they sound. Large holes in the ground with the unearthed dirt from the holes piled up behind them. The holes are conveniently filled with freezing muddy water. Being as though Peter and I were competing in the 11am wave the Trenches were worn in, meaning that the mud was matted down, slick in parts, and didn’t let go easily. As I approached the Trenches I was confounded at first. “Am I meant to jump over the hole?” is a conscious thought I recall. I heard one of the attendants shout “Go in and out!” And so I did. The shock of the cold water on my calves was a delight, and climbing up the dirt hill after pulling myself out of the water was just bliss. There were about five of them; I certainly made no effort to count. This obstacle put me far ahead of most of the other runners who were close before. Having conquered the last Trench’s dirt hill I began running again and noticed that my shoes were full of water, rocks and mud which effectively made them twice as heavy and incalculably less comfortable. I turned the corner and the next obstacle came into view.

 

This was simply a low-hanging camouflaged net under which one has to crawl or move in a quadrupedal fashion. This went by easily enough, but the following obstacle was directly behind it. There was a giant, horrible pit of muddy water which had two logs supported horizontally about a foot over the surface. Attendants screamed: “Go over or under the logs!”, “Do NOT dive!” So my hopes of diving were shot. I trudged through and went under the logs, climbing out at the end and reveling in how fun it was to run with soaked feet. The next section was simply a mind-numbing run back and forth until you reached a few buildings. Thus ends “Zone Foxtrot”.

 

The next few obstacles were placed in between the buildings. The first set was a sequence of barrier walls of alternating height. I flew through these, passing one guy. I turned a corner around the first building to find my beloved Normandy Walls. The attendants stipulate that you have to do this obstacle with your hands behind your head for some reason, so I complied and jumped into it. They are placed so close together, however, that running through and jumping over each wall with any discernible rhythm is essentially impossible so I was forced to slow my pace to walking speed and simply step over them. This change in pace was devastating, and I think had a huge effect on my stamina. I finished the Normandy Walls and turned the next corner. More barrier walls. The same set. Joy. I vaulted these just as the set before and had a decent intuition as to the next obstacle. Well whaddya know? Another set of Normandy Walls. I walked through these, stepping over them, and finished with “Zone Zulu”.

 

We ran from the end of the previous Zone up to the main Fairgrounds along a rather lengthy track and passed through “Zone Delta” to reach “Zone Uniform”. The first obstacle in this Zone was the Uneven Fences.

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I found these more challenging than they were at SPC since we had to run uphill to the walls at SPC and at Ruckus they were simply on flat ground. I was pretty beat by the time I reached the Fences, but made my way over each one easily. As I finished the last fence I suddenly realized that I couldn’t run anymore. I was spent and somehow had no motivation. I slowed to a shameful walk, and went about half of the way between the Uneven Fences and the next obstacle, the Ranger Bars. The idea here is to pull yourself up to a single suspended pole and to make your way across to the other side by any means necessary. Some people shimmied across hanging upside down from their hands and knees/ankles. Some people went with just their arms. I chose the latter and it seemed to work well. There was no designated end point for this obstacle other than the end of the bar, but we did have two men who seemed like Marines yelling outrageous things at us, which was cool.

 

The end of “Zone Uniform” was marked by more camo nets, and I made my way easily through those, but I was reeling at this point from a side cramp. I began walking again, but only briefly, in an effort to breathe deeply and remove the cramp. It seemed to work a little bit, and I was passed by a guy who asked if I was all right. This rallied my spirit and I began to run again. It hurt.

 

“Zone Delta” is a long, winding path located in the middle of the fairgrounds. There was a lot of running back and forth. One eight-foot wall affronted us as the first real obstacle. One side had a rope, the other didn’t. Guess which side I chose. I was up an over in an instant, and hit the ground running – literally.

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We ran in another loop before coming around to a sequence of concrete barriers which seemed like they were thrown in as an afterthought. I hurdled them, passing someone who was vaulting them more slowly. I turned the corner, exhausted, and began to walk briefly again before mentally reprimanding myself. I ran again, making my way around another corner to the next obstacle. A group of tires were lying on the ground and I approached them, about to place my foot inside and run through. An attendant corrected me, saying that we’re meant to “bear crawl” on the outer rim of the tires. I complied, and was quickly on the other side.

 

We then transitioned into “Zone Sierra” which began with a system of large concrete tubes which were arranged to follow a path from one end to the other. Occasionally two pipes would converge on one which led to me cutting a guy off while inside the pipes. I felt fine going through them but did notice that it was working my calves and tearing the skin on my knees. Once outside the tubes we were quickly met with the next obstacle: the Sea of Tires. People didn’t know what to do with these; step in the tires or on them, but it didn’t seem to matter. I almost toppled a column of tires as I lost my balance, but I escaped this obstacle uninjured. I made my way around some more snaking trails and turned a corner to finally meet the Monkey Bars. I clambered up the wooden ladder to the bars and was somewhat disappointed to see that there was no mud pit below the bars as there was at the SPC. There were actually a bunch of hay bales which is about as unextreme as it gets. I took my time to get a grip on the first bar, found it to be secured and a bit easier than it was at SPC, and I assumed a great rhythm, making my way across in no time. We ran straight from the Monkey Bars behind the announcer’s location and came around the other side to reach the final Zone.

There was another set of camo nets, but they were decrepit by the time I reached them.

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I went in the side that was in the best shape, but I still got caught and nearly strangled halfway through. I finished the camo net and was affronted by a large, steep dirt hill. There were apparently ropes to help competitors to climb the hill but I either didn’t notice them or didn’t care and I was up and over in a heartbeat (or, more accurately, likely a dozen or so heartbeats judging by how winded I was at the time). I ran from the bottom of the hill and was guided back towards it for a second up-and-over, this time there were definitely no ropes. Again, no problem. I turned another corner and there was a final set of barbed wire to be avoided. I moved through deftly, but felt that the open cuts and scrapes on my knees and shins were definitely being coated with mud and sand. I looked up once I finished the final barbed wire to see the last leg of the hill which was somewhat steeper than the other sections.

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I powered up the first side and carefully made my way down, discovering that I was at the finish already. I might have moved a bit faster in the preceding obstacles had I known. I was overcome with euphoria and noticed, to my delight, that there was a large mud puddle right before the Finish line. I jumped high with my arms out to my sides while making a crazy face and came down hard into the mud, splashing it everywhere. I looked up to see a photographer for Brightroom who exclaimed “Yeah! Awesome!” I really hope that she got a good shot of that moment. The Brightroom pictures from the SPC were pretty poor.

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I numbly walked out of the event area, accepted my medal from some overly-enthusiastic girls, picked up a bottle of water and two half-bananas and nearly vomited at the thought of eating some potato chips that they were offering. I sat down and watched a few of the other competitors as they ran, waiting for Peter. He showed up eventually, looking like hell and covered in mud. I really wish I had pictures of how we both looked right after running the event. The bananas were not ripe, and I spit out the bite that I had taken. I could barely drink my water and was generally disgruntled and disagreeable about everything else. I eventually regained some semblance of a personality and suggested that Peter and I walk around a bit to see what the vendors were selling and to keep our bodies moving. We tried some lackluster “Code Blue” recovery drink which we threw out and headed over to check our results.

 

My time for Ruckus is better than the one for Shawnee, but only by about 40 seconds. We looked at some of the top finisher’s times and they were just outstanding. The first finisher for my wave had a time of 25:36, which I believe is within reach for me. Had I done less walking I would have finished much, much sooner. The best time for the regular event was 23:15, and the best time in the Champion’s Heat ended up being 21:58. I placed 62nd overall out of 897 participants, and 11th in my wave. I am happy with my result, but I am anxious to find another event before Tough Mudder because I feel like I can do much better. From what Peter and I could tell by the results page that they posted I didn't qualify to run in the Champion's Heat, but I'm not really sure why. Perhaps I did but the results were incomplete when we checked them. At any rate I wouldn't have wanted to run it again.

 

Official results here.

 

Laments aside I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as Shawnee; the two are difficult to compare, curiously enough. As I mentioned after the event, but as Peter rephrased more eloquently, Shawnee was more anaerobic while Ruckus is more aerobic.

 

I felt fairly strong for the most part. If I had the chance to go back and change something about my training I would have doubled the amount of short distance Elliptical running.

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The Shawnee Peak Challenge

Posted by Superfiend Oct 24, 2010

I woke up yesterday morning at 6:30 with my friend, Rob, who had come up to Boston to accompany me to Maine for the event. I had no desire to eat anything that morning, but I did manage to choke down a Clif Bar and some water.

 

 

I did most of the driving on the way to the event (about 3.5 hours from Boston to Shawnee Peak). We arrived and I was immediately overcome with exhilaration and anticipation. I got a few of my things together and headed for Registration where I picked up my t-shirt and packet. I attached my bib (Number 11) to my shirt, fixed my timechip to my ankle, and put my hoodie back on to keep warm while I waited for my wave's start. I ate another Clif bar and had my Endurance Booster mix about a half an hour before my run, which was perfect.

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The first wave underway, we were able to watch some of the people leading the heat and admiring their speed. The announcer for the event stated earlier that day that they estimated people would finish the course in around 50 minutes. This proved to be a gross overestimation of the course, and underestimation of the competitors. One guy finished the race before the second wave started, his final time being 28.13. Shaking our arms, jumping around and breathing nervously, we lined up at the start awaiting the siren for the second wave.

 

 

No obstacle on the course even remotely approached the hills themselves in terms of difficulty and simple, masochistic punishment. The race begins with a short jog up what is called "Long Gun Alley" which, according to the website, is 250 yards long by 100 vertical feet. Most competitors stop running halfway through this short jaunt, or are stopped by the time they reach what seems, comparatively, like a plateau.

 

 

This hill weeds out the weaker runners, or those who delude themselves into some form of illusory pacing strategy. After this first hill, you are made to run diagonally across the slope, while still slightly uphill, towards the first obstacle.

 

 

A few haphazardly constructed frames of wood compose what is meant to be the Balance Logs obstacle. My shoes, the Mudclaws, are NOT conducive to such an event. My Parkour experience, however, paid off in spades as far as balance and coordination. I deftly made my way across the beams and on to what is, in my opinion (one shared by what I imagine to be the vast majority of those involved), the worst part of the course: The B itch.

 

 

The aptly named B itch is a debilitating and seemingly indomitable gradient of a Black Diamond ski trail. Its slope is such that one cannot even see the top of the hill from a vantage point at the bottom. The website claims that it is a ratio of 100 yards long to 400 vertical feet. Running on this gradient is, for all intensive and realistic purposes, medically disastrous if not simply physiologically impossible. I began by briskly walking. Then I noticed my feet turning out to the sides to give myself more leverage against the incline. As I desperately looked up at the few competitors ahead of me I noticed that they were actually using their hands to advance. I soon followed suit. After what seemed like mere seconds of attempting this strategy I looked up again to see that they were now literally crawling on their hands and knees. Again, I conceded to imitate this strategy in an effort to gain headway against this awful predicament. I remember being passed by one person on the hill who called out to me “Great job, man, don’t stop.” This was extremely reinforcing for me, and I surged forward. About halfway up The B itch, my body gave up. I literally had nothing left to give. My mind raced. “Am I done? Am I going to simply collapse and be carried off the field? Can I psychically withstand such humiliation? Wait, am I even going to physically survive long enough to be humiliated?”

 

 

To hell with that. My boys don’t stop. I did not stop. Not once. I rallied energy from somewhere and trudged on, eventually making it to the top of the hill and after what seemed like a century of crawling on my hands and knees, I was able to stand up and to my surprise – I was running again.

 

The coordinators for the event, in their infinite wisdom, found it appropriate to allow a short downhill run after The B itch. These downhill sections were my saving grace and I regained an incalculable amount of time and distance in the run thanks to what seemed like a rest compared to the previous inclined struggles.

 

 

I should take time to mention the view from the top of the mountain. The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect. There were clear, blue skies with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was brisk and the air crisp. From the apex of the slopes one could see out in all directions around the mountain and the sight was, in a word, sublime. I had lamentably few seconds to enjoy the view, however, because the next obstacle found its place immediately around the next corner.

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Though the event was only yesterday, the order of the obstacles blurs in my mind. I believe the next obstacle, located at the top right-hand corner of the mountain was the Barrier Walls. Again, my Parkour training was infinitely helpful here. I approached the walls with two fellow runners at my sides, and I vaulted them with finesse and power while they struggled, out of breath, to hoist their limp exhausted bodies over the high wooden walls. I used a specific technique, the Kong Vault, to bring my feet up and over the walls without losing any momentum and I was through this obstacle section in a very short time.

 

 

More downhill. Sweet, sweet gravity, do your thing. We came around what was supposed to be a smoke bomb, but I suppose it had petered out by the time we got there. Back up another small hill before the next obstacle.

 

 

It is worthy of note that no competitor was running up these hills. Some were walking, some using their hands to push on their knees, some power-walking. None ran, not even me.

 

 

I was relatively isolated at this point, having distanced myself from a great majority of the other competitors in the race, and I turned a corner to encounter another obstacle, the Normandy Walls. It was essentially a small field of wooden Normandy Wall structures enclosed in a diagonal path between ski slopes. You are not allowed to put your feet on the walls, you must jump over them. I had some difficulty in coordinating my foot placement on the first few jumps. I quickly found the right rhythm, however, and overtook another competitor who was struggling with his placement as I was.

 

 

There was a long downhill run which lead to the next obstacle: High Crawl and Tires. The Tires were the most difficult for me. I attribute my difficulty to the obstacle being on a downhill slope and the size of my feet. I had a hard time keeping the placement clean and not hitting the tires. Luckily, I didn’t fall. I made it through the first set of tires and hit the ground, moving in a quadrupedal fashion under the net only to be greeted by another set of tires. I managed this set a bit easier than the first, and hit the deck again for more net quadruped movement. Two people were crowding the exit of the net, and I politely pushed my way past them, which essentially put me two more ahead. I was now in fifth place although I didn’t know it at the time.

 

 

I came down a large hill and was met at the bottom by a group of fluorescent girls toting cups of water. I grabbed one even though I didn’t want it, took a small sip, and crushed it in my hand while splashing the water all over myself. I decided not to simply toss the cup on the ground as it seemed like a lot of people were doing before me. From the bottom of that hill they make you turn around and go right back up the SAME DAMN HILL. We walked. Another obstacle affronted us: the Uneven Fences.

 

 

These are simply wooden walls, but offset at such an angle as to make vaulting them impossible, especially since you’re going uphill as you climb them. I managed these easily and was closely followed by a fellow racer named Matt. I was picking up some trash on the hill after the Fences as we made our way up. Matt stopped at one point close to the top, doubled over and hyperventilating. I said “Come on man, don’t stop. We got this.”

 

 

I started running again, making my way around the corner, picking up a piece of paper, and then going downhill towards another obstacle. The Monkey Bars were next. I made my way to the bottom of the hill, handed the trash I had collected to an attendant, and jumped up to the Monkey Bars. They were loose and spun in place as you climbed them, which made it extremely difficult to get a good grip. I was very glad to be wearing gloves. The Bars are set above a nasty pool of water. The rules state that if a participant fails at an event, they must try it again. If they fail a third time they are to be given a thirty-second penalty.

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I dominated the Monkey Bars and ran off in front of the crowd at the bottom of the hill exclaiming: “This is so fun!” to which they cheered. I ran around the bottom of the hill in front of the registration tent and the announcer to find the next obstacle, Hay Bales, which were partially destroyed as a result of some previous ungraceful participants. I vaulted the still-intact section and continued on up a small hill towards the next obstacle: the Commando Rope.

 

One is to hang upside down from the rope and shimmy across without touching the ground. I sacrificed the integrity of the skin on my legs to slide with powerful pulls from my arms, Matt right beside me. I finished first, and turned only to see another HORRIBLE hill, the simple sight of which was demoralizing.

 

 

We made our way to the hill and started our walk back up. I held my position and made it to the top. I began to run again once the terrain leveled out. Once again the run was downhill but we had some High Crawls to do. Matt was, at this point, right behind me. The High Crawls went by easily enough. The downhill run from there was punctuated with what they call The Trenches, which are essentially big gaps which the runner must jump over. I held my own as far as downhill speed, but as we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill towards the next obstacle, The Pipe, Matt cut in front of me and took fifth place in the heat. I was still, at this point, unaware of my ranking. I was of course, for the most part, generally unaware of everything else in the world with the notable exception of pain and determination.

 

 

We crawled through the Pipe which was tastefully decorated with barbed wire. After the Pipe we ran downhill some more, jumping over gaps until we turned a corner for the Mud Pit. It’s just shallow hole in the ground full of muddy water. I didn’t even have enough presence of mind at that moment to do anything spectacular or interesting, so I simply ran through it.

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The Cargo Nets, the last obstacle, were next. This obstacle comprises a series of three nets, one 12’ high, the following 10’ and the last being 8’. I had little difficulty in physically climbing the nets; it was more a question of logistics and courtesy as far as me not crushing Matt or some other guy who came out of nowhere as I descended the backside of each net. I got over the last net to see Matt crossing the finish line and I sprinted through to complete the madness.

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My name was announced as I finished so I went to talk to an official to see why. It turns out that someone had reported me picking up trash on the course, and I was to be rewarded with a metal token in addition to the medal necklaces everyone gets. I grabbed a water bottle and a banana and plopped myself down on the hill, savoring the validating exhaustion.

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I met a couple guys who were in the heat with me, and I eventually got my individual results.

 

 

I placed 6th in my wave, which was the second of the day. I placed 11th in the Men’s Open Division – which, coincidentally, matched my bib event number! – and I placed 13th overall out of the 209 official competitors in the event.

 

 

There was the option for competitors who place in the top ten percent of their division to participate in what’s called the Champion’s Heat. I qualified for this and was hesitant about actually doing it. I was worried about competing again amongst the best of the day which definitely would have inspired me to push myself even further, thereby effectively increasing my chances of injuring myself. My muscles were really tight after my wave and I eventually decided against it. It turns out that a very small number of qualifiers actually ran in the Champions Heat. The officials also opened the final heat to anyone who wanted to participate which further reduced my interest. I had a short moment of deliberation as I looked at the prize helmets which had been spray-painted gold. Somehow their cheap aesthetic appealed to me in a way which defies logical explanation. I believe that it was the right decision to not participate, however.

 

 

Rob and I went into the lodge to get some food, expecting at least a free burger or hot dog and beer. They were charging four dollars for a cheeseburger and two fifty for a hot dog while beers were five dollars. This was outrageous in my opinion, considering the registration fee. We gave in to bodily necessity, though, and ended up buying a bunch of burgers. After talking with a few fellow participants and making some friends, we left.

 

 

I am very happy with my results since it represents the first time I’ve participated in such an event. It’s significant to note that my specific training has only lasted for less than two months now, and I’ve made such progress in that time as to be able to do so well in something so difficult.

 

Outside of the physical aspect of the race there is the mental dimension which encompasses the drive, grit and motivation. In this respect there is one major aspect of my run which I believe contributed significantly to my success in this race: I never looked behind me. I had no conscious thoughts about my place in terms of other competitors (until the end when Matt and I were neck-and-neck), and I only ever brought my gaze up from the trail to assess obstacles or to enjoy the view. This focus was infinitely helpful.

 

 

I am currently extremely sore. More than I’ve been in a long time, despite how much protein I’ve consumed in an effort to effectively recover. I’m giving myself a few days of stretching and conscious dieting to get myself back to normal. So far I see no signs of imminent shin splints.

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Lithobates brownorum

Posted by Superfiend Oct 10, 2010

I woke up this morning at 10am, went to the bathroom, looked around my apartment, and went back to bed at 11am. It sucked. I've felt pretty mediocre for the last couple of days. I worked out on Friday, went to NYC and gave myself Saturday as a rest day since I wouldn't have been able to work out properly anyway.

 

I mulled around the apartment until around, eating oatmeal and numbing my brain on the computer like an idiot. I eventually summoned sufficient motivation to choke down the Endurance Booster mix, a multivitamin and get dressed. I got my stuff together and drove out to Blue Hills again, determined to do something resembling productivity with my day. I got to the park, laced up my Mudclaws, set my music to "Get Me Pumped" mode, and did some moderate stretching before taking off.

 

The weather is gorgeous today and at a crisp 58 Fahrenheit in the early afternoon the air tasted sweet running amongst the trees. The first quarter mile of the run was just awful. My whole body cried out to stop and I was experiencing what was, in my opinion, the lowest level of overall motivation I've ever known. My arms were sore for no reason. I ran through it, though, which was the best thing I could have done. I took the same path as last time. Many people were out walking on the trails with their dogs and/or children which was an interesting contrast to the last time I came out in the rain and cold to barren intimidating trails. I think their looking on gave me some incentive to push through the lassitude.

 

I came down the last hill leading to the Museum and shook my muscles up a little while walking around the parking lot. I did some stretching, some shadow boxing and "Foot-Fist" routines from Jujitsu and a bunch of pushups. I queued up a new favorite on my iPod and sprinted up the root-laden hill into the second half of my run.

 

This half was easier. The difficulty lay in my cardiovascular fatigue and not so much the muscular. It was sheer force of will, again, which brought me to finish the second mile without stopping for a break (a rationalized break, what's more: what I tend to do is stop to look at signs, convincing myself that this is an acceptable reason to stop since I don't want to get turned around...it's a lamentable self-sabotaging habit that I'm mercilessly breaking).

 

I was, at one point, verbally coaching myself up a hill saying things like "Go", "Come on", "Finish", "Don't Stop", even though I couldn't hear my voice over the music. It probably worked.

 

I finished the run (a little over 2 miles, with a short break at 1 mile for the pushups and such) and did some real stretching to limber up my muscles which were quite tense. I enjoyed the fresh air a while longer there before driving back.

 

I'm getting the hang of this.

322 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, trail, endurance, trail-running, mud, tough, mudclaw

I went trail running this morning at this place.

 

It was fantastic. I'm going to try to incorporate a lot more of this since it's one of the closest things I have to the actual event as far as the running element is concerned.

 

I got up and had the Endurance Booster, a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar, and I had a packet of the Gatorade endurance gel stuff on my drive to the location. I was even more motivated by the "bad" weather (50 Fahrenheit, raining hard). I got there, put on my Mudclaws (that I'm using for the first time), cued my music, got out of the car and did some brief and insufficient stretching (dammit), and took off up the hill.

 

I went down a different trail this time which leads a mile and a half out to what they call their Trailside Museum. The incline varied, but it felt like more downhill on the way to the Museum, which was perfect for my pace at the time. I got my bearings halfway through and continued in the direction of the Museum, leaping from wet rocks, splashing intentionally through huge deep puddles (despite the decidedly NOT waterproof Mudclaws) and thoroughly enjoying the ambiance and my music. The Mudclaws were perfect for their grip and responsiveness. I felt like they might have been an overzealous purchase as most of what I'm doing on the trails could be done with the Roclites (which are 100% waterproof). I'm reassured in the assumption that the Mudclaws will be MUCH better on slippery, muddy, worn hills of the slopes I'll be running later this month and finally in April.

 

The run to the Museum went well, and I wasn't too tired, but noticeably winded. I shook my muscles a little while walking around in circles, took a sip of repulsive low-calorie Red Gatorade from my canteen bottle, and leaped back into my run in the opposite direction.

 

This portion was considerably more difficult. Steeper incline, I was wetter than before with sweat and rain, my headphone cord was flailing everywhere...and my mental grit was slipping. There was a distinct moment in the run back where my body wanted to give up, and, as is normal for people, my spirit was in tandem apathy. I know now that as a result of intense training one can separate the body's surrender under physical stress from the mental hold on the original motivation. The body's tendency to give up must be linked to a survival skill of some kind which must have developed through millennia in an effort to preserve presence of mind in reaction to the Fight/Flight reflex.

 

Anyway, I wasn't about to take that infirm sappy misdirected evolutionary attempt at reasonable behavior. I recognized it as straight bullshit and outright refused to stop. To my amazement, I kept running. Luckily a great song came on and I simply powered up a relentless hill and was rewarded by a slight decline in the terrain for a while. At this moment I became idyllically aware of the environment and my own complacency. It was extremely validating and I specifically remember remarking a big dopey smile on my face that remained without any conscious effort.

 

I coasted downhill, tackled another before enjoying the slight decline to the beginning of the trail. I ran to my car and did some halfhearted stretches before contentedly driving back to my apartment.

 

I ran a total of 2-2.5 miles on the trails.

281 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, trail, trail-running, rain, mud, mudclaw