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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I woke up and got ready for my trail run. I ate a Clif bar, drank the Endurance Boosta, and had a packet of medicine-flavored Gatorade prep juice stuff.
I drove to the trails, got my Mudclaws on, stretched a bit, and took off up the trail. The weather was great and there were a few people walking on the trail. I ran to the Museum end without any difficulty. My arms were a bit stiff when I started, and as usual the first few minutes were the worst. Once I worked through the lethargy at the outset it felt like I was running downhill the whole time. The inclines were no trouble at all, and almost felt good.
I hurdled a high gate after reaching the bottom of the hill at the Museum, walked around twice in a circle, and resolved to just power right back up the hill without any significant rest - which was meant to simulate the amount of rest I might get before an obstacle in these events. On the way back up the first hill from the Museum, which is very rocky, I remember thinking "Wow I didn't get enough rest, I don't think I'll run the whole thing" but I basically just told myself to shut the hell up and run it.
And I did.
I ran the whole rest of the trail back to the entrance and flopped down on the grass to stretch and breathe the fresh air. It was terrific. My stretching habits are getting better (usually isometrics every day I run and regular static/dynamic on Strength days).
I have a friend coming to visit this weekend and I have to make sure this doesn't interfere with training. Only a short time before Shawnee, but I'll be ready for it. I'm beginning to, perhaps naively, imagine being amongst the top finishers. I've also been eyeing this log which would fit nicely on my shoulders for the run...
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.
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.