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A Marauder's Story

4 Posts tagged with the snow 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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Odiorne Point State Park

Posted by Superfiend Mar 2, 2011

Peter and I had an interesting romp through this park on Saturday. I went weighted with the vest at 20lbs and Peter ran with his belt, although I'm not sure how much weight he used. Pete suggested we meet at a place called the Odiorne Point State Park. I arrived after fiddling with a recalcitrant GPS, we saddled up, and went out into the unknown "trails" of the park. Here's a satellite image of the path courtesy of my Forerunner's data and Google Earth.

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There weren't really trails out there, but we did a lot of running on the beach, jumping from rocks, and in the deep snow. We would randomly stop and pick up heavy driftwood or rocks and carry them for a while. At two different points we carried heavy logs switching shoulders and holding it up above our heads. We picked paths somewhat at random which led to some turning around but also allowed us to discover some cool opportunities to do PT in the woods.

 

It was a great run for me overall. I felt strong and solid. Pete was having trouble with the constant stress on the ankles from the sand, rock and snow running.

 

Here's the basic data from the run. It was not feasible to keep a steady pace during the run, but we did very little walking.

 

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Lluvia de meteoros

Posted by Superfiend Feb 2, 2011

My run this morning was phenomenal. I tracked it with my Forerunner 305 and the data came out reasonably well.

 

To summarize I ran 3.5 miles in 36 minutes while wearing the weight vest loaded with 20lbs. It is worth mentioning that I ran in icy rain, there are a few feet of snow on the ground, and puddles at the crosswalks that are well into shin-height depth. Glorious.

 

Something I noticed from the chart is that my heart rate spikes up into Zone 5 and stays there for almost the entirety of my run. This is obviously not preferrable. It must be directly related to my pace, so there's something to work at which I never would have known otherwise. My pace stays very consistent at around a 10-minute mile.

 

I divided the sections of my run by Laps on the Forerunner.

 

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Lap 1 was a straight run from the apartment.

 

Lap 2 was a brief walking break.

 

Lap 3 was a section of pushups in the snow. 4 sets of 5.

 

Lap 4 was a short walk before I decided to run again.

 

Lap 5 was a brutal stretch of running where I was verbally chanting to pull myself through the last leg. It was horrendous and I loved it.

 

Lap 6 was a short cool-down walk from the nearby fire station to my apartment. I stepped in a giant puddle of icy water and it totally filled my shoes. Until that point my feet were kept relatively dry by my inov8s. I love those shoes.

 

Overall I consider the run a great success. It blows away my previous performances, even in terms of Shawnee and Ruckus. I estimate both events to be around three miles in length. I ran Shawnee in 30:10 and Ruckus in 29:34. Today I ran farther, with weight, and in horrible weather and despite it all, faster in terms of my pace. It's also worth mentioning that this morning's run was completed in absence of any competition. Very reinforcing.

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Audunar þáttr vestfirzka

Posted by Superfiend Jan 22, 2011

I've become more ambitious in my training, and have set my sights on an event that surpasses Tough Mudder in basically every way: the Goruck Challenge.

 

Here's a video outlining the madness of the task.

 

I am still registered for Tough Mudder PA on April 10th. As of right now I have only one other team member; all the others I had hoped to recruit were too apprehensive or otherwise constrained to register in time (the event recently sold out). I expect Tough Mudder to now be more of a fun romp than a serious competition, but I know I'm going to love it anyway - and perhaps even more so.

 

I have a few new toys, thanks to the holiday.

 

My favorite: my Vibram TrekSport shoes. I've been wearing these shoes almost non-stop since I got them. All the rave reviews I had heard (especially at events like Shawnee and Ruckus) are well-founded, and I find myself now an enthusiastic proponent of the brand. My feet are considerably stronger and I've even developed a considerable level of prehensility with my toes, although moving them independently is physiologically impossible. The Vibram shoes improve posture and practically force proper running form. I've used them for travel (almost exclusively during a recent family vacation) and I'm working my way up to running in them.

 

Next on the list is the weight vest. After some deliberation I settled on one from Dick's Sporting Goods called the Fitness Gear Weighted Vest. I've been wearing it for daily use here and there, but its most profound impact has been on my workouts. I wore it during normal workouts at home (of which I did very little, I'm sorry to say, while I was on break) and it made a huge difference. Though I'm scaffolding the added weight, and only currently using 20lbs (of the possible 40), the impact on my endurance and strength in a routine, which was previously quite manageable, was considerable. I would do a set with the vest and the second set without. More recently, since coming back to Boston, I've been using it with a newer workout routine: it's essentially listed on the Tough Mudder site. I admit I didn't finish the full 60 seconds of some of the exercises at the end, but I think I did really well, especially considering I was wearing the weight vest at 20lbs the whole time and using two 20lb kettlebells for their respective sections. I'm going to use this workout instead of my old one because I want to change it up for my body and work some previously untrained aspects of my strength. Since it makes you switch between exercises so quickly with so little rest it also includes a considerably cardiovascular strain.

 

Finally, I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of my Garmin Forerunner 305 (GPS Heart Rate Monitor doodad). I'm pretty excited about having this gadget. I'm a techno-geek to begin with, and adding the tech to my fitness aspirations is just wonderful. Check out the specs and the user-submitted pictures on Amazon to see some of the capabilities. I expect to wear this during every workout to optimize my gains and keep track of my progress in a more objective way. I’ll likely upload some if not all of this information to my blog for some added cohesion (especially from big events like Tough Mudder and Goruck).

 

I'm proud to say that I'm holding strong to the vegan diet, and it's working out quite well. It's considerably easier now and I feel great about it. I'm going to be making an active effort to learn more recipes this semester and do more cooking for myself. I also got a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer Express, which I use often. I love the convenience of it. I admit to not noticing a significant difference in my performance since switching to a plant-based diet, but I was basically in top shape beforehand.

 

As far as the supplements are concerned, it's all vegan or nothing. I’ve been supporting a product called Vega, and I use the Whole Food Health Optimizer as my post-workout recovery drink. It’s pretty ridiculous as a dietary supplement; it’s got 100% or more of basically everything you need daily. The taste is acceptable, even good sometimes (reminds me of Carnation Instant Breakfast), and it mixes rather well. I know that without this supplement I would be extremely sore after my intense workouts, so it seems to be doing its job. It’s expensive even when it’s on sale, but I feel that it’s worth the extra money, especially since I know I wouldn’t be properly nourished without it considering my relatively poor culinary ability.

 

Besides the gadgets my sights are set on bigger and more challenging events. The Goruck Challenge, as outlined here on the Tough Mudder site, is intimidating to say the least. I’m considering running the Tough Mudder PA with my weight vest on, effectively using the event itself as training for the Goruck Challenge. One of my friends, whom I met at Shawnee and with whom I competed at Ruckus, said he would be interested in doing the Goruck Challenge. We are going to get together and punish ourselves regularly (wearing weighted equipment and running in snow, randomly doing pushups in the mud/slush/highway, etc.) in preparation for Goruck. The distance concerns me (~17 miles I believe), but their pace seems far slower than my natural pace which I imagine might help.

 

I went running in the snow a few days ago and it was awful. Granted it was my first run since coming back to Boston, the snow was deep, it was a dry, bitter cold and I felt like I might die, but it’s a path I’ve run many times before so I felt like it would be manageable. I walked the last half of the run shamefully after having willed myself that far. I made it to the gym complex and proceeded to punish myself for my weakness in the elements. I did interval running (which is fantastic and will comprise a greater portion of my aerobic workouts henceforth), weighted jump rope sets (each handle weighted at 1lb – it’s a lot harder than it sounds), 30 minutes on the elliptical with medium-high resistance while randomly sprinting, more jump rope and finish with some isometric stretching. It was a great session but I’m worried about my poor performance outside. The Goruck and Tough Mudder runs will be significantly different just for the fact that it will be a different (more forgiving) season, but I expect more out of myself. Soon I will start doing my runs with the weighted vest.

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