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.
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.
This new workout feels awesome. Here's my updated Strength routine:
The entire routine is completed while wearing my weight vest currently set to 20lbs and two 20lb kettlebells when appropriate.
10 standard pushups.
20 standard lunges.
5 full extension wide handhold pullups.
Shadow boxing (dynamic stretching)
Each exercise, as previously stated, is performed nonstop for 60 seconds. 15 second rest between exercises. I've been using a little stopwatch for which I've developed a love/hate sentiment.
1. Kettlebell Pushups + Raise
Dip down between kettlebell handles, push back up. Bring one bell up above your shoulders to form a vertical line with both arms, hold for a second, then bring back down. Next repetition is for the other bell/arm.
2. Kettlebell Swings:
Standard kettlebell exercise. Feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart, swing kettlebell between legs up to chin level, then back down.
3. Forward Lunges.
4. Kettlebell Rows:
Shoulder-width stance. Bend forward at the waist holding both kettlebells close to the floor. Bring both bells up to the chest, then lower without touching the ground.
5. Side Lunges:
Can be done while holding kettlebells, but I don't feel like it's as beneficial for me at this point.
6. Kettlebell Pushups + Rows:
Same as previous kettlebell pushup, except at the top of the push you bring one bell up to your chest, hold, then lower the bell back to the floor.
7. Forward Lunges with upper body twist:
Just as it sounds. I twist to both sides during each lunge.
8. Decline Pushups:
Prop your feet up on a chair, couch seat or other relatively low surface. I recommend doing sets of low reps (4 or 5) and taking a few breaths before the next set. I usually tap out of this portion around 40 seconds.
9. Mountain Climbers:
Pushup position, bring one leg up to chest then back to starting position and alternate quickly. I can't yet do 60 seconds of this nonstop after the other exercises. I'm improving, though.
The Tough Mudder site recommends chinups but I change the type of pullup each time I do this routine. I usually break it into mini-sets of 5-6 pulls and then allow a rest while still hanging. This is awful with the vest after having done the other arm-intensive exercises.
The familiar old plank hold. Grin and bear it. This is cake for me without a vest, and without having done all the other exercises prior, but doing it with those things in place is quite a feat. I finally held out for a full minute today for the first time.
12. Oblique Plank:
Then they hit you with this. You're supposed to hold each side for a full minute. I'm up to 45 seconds on each allowing a 15-second rest between the sides.
Just standard bodyweight (or weighted) squats. I'm planning on substituting this for one leg squats once I'm strong enough.
I originally planned for today to be a rest day but I'm too motivated. It's a funny sort of reversal on procrastination; I keep putting off my rest days. It's benefitting my in my training but I realize the necessity of rest. I'll get to it...eventually.
I donned the weight vest (weighted to 20lbs) and literally ran my errands. I stopped at a Walgreens, picked up some things (shampoo, body wash, etc - relatively heavy things) and put them in my drawstring bag. I got some breakfast from Peace O' Pie nearby and ran most of the way back to my apartment making the round trip about 3 miles.
The run back was awkward because of the boxes I was carrying but I did little walking. It felt good, but the weight vest does bounce around as I run. I found myself pressing my hands against my chest to stabilize it. This was a necessity besides since it was cold and I only wore my fingerless gloves. I'm going to find a way to make the vest more secure and be sure to wear more appropriate gloves next time.
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: myVibram TrekSportshoes. 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 theFitness 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 myGarmin 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 aJack 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.
The title of this post is eponymous with abookthat I'm currently reading by T. Colin Campbell, M.D. I bought it a while ago but only had a chance to begin reading it last week during the Thanksgiving holiday. The content of the book is, quite simply, changing my life and I feel like there's nothing I can do about it.
It's essentially a compilation of well-written arguments supported by powerful research for the promotion of whole, plant-based foods. It is ignorant and downright dangerous to ignore the findings in these fields.
I grew up like most Americans; with a breakfast table full of milk and cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, pork roll...etc. Dinner, the other large meal of the day, was typically something animal-based; meatloaf, chicken cutlets, steaks...etc. I love these things; they represent my childhood and are the foundations for my (evidently ignorant) understanding of a well-balanced diet.
I muddled along blissfully unaware of the damage that I had been doing to my body. One example which startled me was that of cow's milk. This dairy beverage is a staple in the average American's diet. I was breastfed, and then went on to formula I believe, and then spent the vast majority of my life consuming milk under the pretenses of its beneficial effects on bones and such. That's what was pounded into my head as a child by my parents and teachers. "Milk does a body good", "Milk has calcium which is good for bones", "Milk makes you grow up big and strong", ad infinitum.
The China Study shattered these preconceived notions. As an example of the harsh effects of animal-based food, and more specifically animal-based protein, cow's milk protein is composed of 87% casein. This type of protein has been shown to effectively strip calcium from human bones which is subsequently excreted in urine as waste. Studies in the book show migrant studies, comparative and longitudinal studies between populations varied in their consumption of cow's milk and the incidence of osteoporosis as one example. The results are simply staggering.
I love milk, though. I really do. I love having way too many bowls of milk and cereal in the morning. I was obstinate even in my resistance of my family buying skim or 2% milk. I called it “bullshit” and petulantly drank only whole milk which is creamy and delicious. The book just destroyed my simple unchallenged love of such a harmful substance. It’s still hard for me to even understand the concept of milk as “harmful”.
Another argument against dairy products in general, but more specifically milk, entailed a comparison in nature. We humans are the only species that consumes milk after being weaned off the milk of our mothers, and furthermore the only species that consumes the milk of other species. It’s simply unnatural and gives credence to the existence of lactose intolerance. This condition should be the norm; people simply aren’t mean to ingest and metabolize these products.
The book also bashes all animal-based foods as epidemiologically linked to a wide variety of diseases, more specifically the proteins therein. A study conducted in India showed these results most clearly as it relates to liver cancer. The control group of rats was administered the most potent known carcinogen, aflatoxin, and a diet of 5% animal protein. The treatment group was also administered the carcinogen, but the diet consisted of 20% animal protein, a proportion analogous to that which most of us consume in the West. The results cannot be ignored. By the end of the study ALL the rats in the 20% animal protein group had liver cancer. NO rat in the 5% animal protein group had liver cancer. This isn’t simply some slightly significant result; it’s 100 to 0. The book goes on to show other links between diet and disease, mostly what Campbell calls “diseases of affluence” such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
I find myself shaking my head unconsciously as I read this book because I progressively realize the implications of reading it on my life. It sucks. I don’t want to stop eating eggs and bacon in the morning. I don’t want to stop getting a big nasty grilled chicken, chili, bacon, American cheese, onions and green peppers sandwich for dinner. I don’t want to stop getting meat lover’s pizzas. I spoke to one friend about the book and she contentedly brushed it off with the “ignorance is bliss” attitude. I envy her. I wanted to go on about what I had been reading to burden her with it. Somehow I feel like spreading this earthshattering knowledge will somehow make the transition easier for me, but it doesn’t. I’d like to say that I’m talking to other people about it for their own good, but I realize that there’s a selfish desire behind it.
I’m already making the change; I really do feel like I don’t have a choice. I got rid of all the old foods I had in the cupboards and the fridge that don’t work with this diet (Fruit Rollups, Meat-based pasta sauces, 20-some eggs, half a pack of Maple-flavored bacon…) and I went shopping at a Whole Foods Market. I’m lucky to have one so close to my apartment.
This new environment was bizarre. I went to the vegetable area and it looked somewhat like what I’m used to seeing at a grocery store. I tentatively picked some carrots and broccoli while glancing over my shoulder nervously expecting someone to accost me exclaiming how I don’t belong or that I’m doing it all wrong. It was nerve-wracking. I picked a huge fruit salad and put that in my cart as well; let’s stick to the relatively familiar for now. I turned the corner and there was a large area with a pristine glass case for customers to choose their cuts of fish. I remarked that it smelled quite good, but steered away from it apprehensively. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to eat that since I haven’t finished the book. I’m sure that I was shaking my head while walking through the market and I consciously recall several moments when, while reading some label or other, I would think “This sucks”.
I had to give up whey protein since it’s animal-based. Dammit. On to the vitamins and supplements aisle. Hemp protein…what? Isn’t that weed? No, I guess I heard you can use it for other things. No, thanks. Soy protein? No…I’ve read too many bad things about its hormonal effects on men. Wild plant booster…super sun supplement…warrior based fish stash…wait, what? This is ridiculous.
I found one that I deemed acceptable: Lifetime Life’s Basics Plant Protein. I personally think they could have emphasized the “life” point a bit more in the name. Its protein is all plant-based, derived from peas, hemp and rice and also has something called Chia Seed. No idea. It’s a “complete protein”, though, which is great. This means that it provides all the essential amino acids, something that few whey products, especially isolates, can do. The label was impressive, and its protein content is higher per scoop than the whey isolate I was using (22g vs 20g). The amino acid list was convincing and it also contains the “good fats”, Omega-3, 6 and 9. They say it’s supposed to be good for you.
The thing that’s making this even more difficult for me is that I felt perfectly healthy before with my sporadic mostly animal-based diet. This change feels unmerited in the face of perfect health and excellent fitness, and as a result I feel the diet change is mostly preventative. I’m hoping I notice some other effects in the near future as far as increased energy, concentration, muscle change in tone or growth…etc. Something miraculous wouldn’t hurt to help legitimize this change. It’s hard to rationalize such a dramatic transition with no tangible effect.
The plant-based protein supplement seems legitimate, but we’ll see how I feel during the recovery period. I just took two scoops after my usual Endurance workout (1.5 mile run to the gym, 1 hour/6 miles on the Elliptical, twenty pullups, isometric stretching). The protein is foreign to me, and I was actually hesitant about consuming it but I eventually did. It mixes relatively well considering it looks like the result of blending a stale piece of wheat bread and packaging the crumbs. It tasted all right, I suppose. Not great; not remotely as good as the vanilla-flavored whey isolate from GNC.
Speaking of taste, I bought a brand of hemp milk called tempt. It’s gross. I hate it. It makes me miss a tall glass of whole milk or a bowl of cereal. I bought some more Kashi cereals which I really do like, but I can’t imagine trying them with the hemp milk. It looks like milk, and kind of has the consistency of milk, but the aftertaste is awful. I felt like I could taste it all day even after brushing my teeth. Granted I bought the original unsweetened variety (I’m tough), so I suppose I should try the vanilla or chocolate kinds before resorting to physiological aversion. I’ve heard that almond milk is good, so I might try that instead if hemp milk and I don’t work out. It’s got a lot of good things in it, though, apparently: Omega 3 & 6, lots of calcium, B12 and D vitamins. It has way more Omega-6 than soymilk. I brought the container out to cite the ingredients while writing this and I’m able to remember the taste distinctly by just looking at the packaging, but not in a good way.
I’ve basically gone “cold turkey” from animal products since coming back from Thanksgiving when I was home. I gorged over the break and thoroughly enjoyed all the food and the subsequent tryptophan-induced coma. It’s rough and I don’t like it. I’m sure it will get easier but I feel like I need a damned support group for this transition.
I refuse to call myself “vegan” or “vegetarian” because I’ve often been the one to propagate such stigmas against these people. Maybe I feel subconsciously unworthy of the title. I spent the greater majority of my young adulthood and adolescent life, since my very discovery of such lifestyles, scoffing at them for their choices. In further examination of my feelings on the subject I see that a great deal of my frustration was due to the unexamined and haphazard way in which the vegetarians and vegans I met made their choices and regulated their diets. I saw it as capricious and unreliable and ultimately based on whim and nonsense. I should like to believe that the movements are based on such solid empirical evidence as is provided in The China Study, but I can’t help but feel that – even now – the decisions are based on weakly supported moral beliefs and a certain generalized defiance toward the status quo and popular culture which I’ve always found distasteful, unrefined and insulting to rationality.
All that aside, they’ve got it rough. I empathize with them now since I am essentially in their boat. We as a society are simply inundated with advertisements for the worst possible foods. The healthcare system in our country, being the most expensive in the world, is our third leading cause of DEATH after heart disease and cancer. Most of the items on this “top ten” list are ultimately preventable with diet and the vegetarians and vegans have a significant one-up on everyone else.
There’s a passage from the book that I’d like to share because I feel it properly summarizes a pervasive and dangerous mindset in our country. This is as Campbell quotes G.S. Myers from a personal communication with D. Groom in 1961:
“Thumbnail sketch of the man least likely to have coronary heart disease:
An effeminate municipal worker or embalmer, completely lacking in physical and mental alertness and without drive, ambition or competitive spirit who has never attempted to meet a deadline of any kind. A man with poor appetite, subsisting on fruit and vegetables laced with corn and whale oils, detesting tobacco, spurning ownership of radio, TV or motor car, with full head of hair and scrawny and un-athletic in appearance, yet constantly straining his puny muscles by exercise; low in income, blood pressure, blood sugar, uric acid and cholesterol, who has been taking nicotinic acid, pyridoxine and long term anticoagulant therapy ever since his prophylactic castration.”
Campbell retorts smartly with:
“The author of this passage might just as well have said, ‘Only REAL men have heart disease.’”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Entries have been sparse since the SPC partly as a result of apathy but mostly after being bombarded with schoolwork and other meaningful life content.
I've kept up with my training in a somewhat standardized schedule. I've been doing more running, less lifting and swimming. Until recently, that is.
I went for a run on Monday and ran hard. The run to the gym was fine, and I got on the Elliptical to do my usual three miles in less than 30 minutes. I usually run the first two miles pedaling forwards, then pedal backwards for a half a mile, then finish out going forwards again. As I approached 3 miles I decided to power through the last quarter of a mile. I was pounding the machine and felt fine, even though my heart rate spiked up to about 180. I finished the three miles and had a brief cooldown by lowering the resistance. I finished the three miles in a little under 28 minutes which is not quite as good as my previous times, but still good.
I went and did my usual pullups on the bar, and the Back Extensions while stretching my lower back. After those I went to the mats and did some comprehensive isometric stretching routines to loosen up my calves, quads, back and abs. I'm noticing improved flexibility but I need to do the isometric stretching more regularly on running days.
I felt good leaving the gym and made it back to my apartment with no problems. Soon thereafter, however, my left knee began hurting. It was a sharp consistent pain which felt like a weakness in the joint but not exactly bone grinding on bone. I hobbled on it for a while before finally icing it down for a couple hours. I had to go to class that night, and the walking to campus and the steps on campus were awful. I iced it some more that night, and resolved to get something for it. I went out the next day to a Walgreens and picked up some Glucosamine/Chondroitin. I read some official research conducted by the NIH which was resoundingly inconclusive yet not supportive of the hypothesis that these supplements help regrow cartilage in arthritis cases. I decided to give it a shot anyway and bought some of the "Advanced" variety. I took it that day while keeping ice consistently on my knee. Walking to class was not enjoyable, but less painful than Monday. Wednesday saw my knee much better off than the previous two days, and I continued to take the Glucosamine. Yesterday it was fine, and I took the Glucosamine again just to solidify it. I'm not sure if the pills had a significant effect outside of the placebo and the ice, but it was worth trying. I'm going to take it again today just for consistency. Once I start training again I'll stop taking it to see if there's any significant change. I'm not interested in becoming dependent on a supplement for something as important as joint health.
As a result of my knee being in recovery from an apparently overly strenuous session, I've been doing more of my Strength training (sans Weighted One-Leg Squats).
I changed the routine a bit.
I warm up with varied types of pushups since it's evidently better than jumping jacks or other kind of aerobic movement. I haven't noticed a huge difference but it's convenient since I've been working my pecs more in my workout anyway.
My pullups are now weighted. I strap a 20lb Kettlebell to my waist and am able to do five of each kind (overhand wide grip, thumbs facing me, and chinup).
Plank for 1:30, then 15 crossovers with each leg.
Set of pushups (20, rest, 15).
Russian Twist with 20lb Kettlebell.
I'm not sure if I'm doing these right; they start to hurt in my waist at the pelvic joint after about a minute, and I don't feel like my abs are being worked as much as they could. I'll have to refine my technique.
Kettlebell Rows (30, rest, 20)
Standing, leaning over with legs straight. Bring Kettlebells up from floor to chest, lower and repeat.
I'm still taking the protein mix, and am going through it quickly.
Tomorrow is Ruckus Boston. I'm hoping that my knee will be back to 100% so I can go all-out for this event. After having done as well as I did at SPC I feel like I can really be a competitor at Ruckus and I'm going to give it everything I've got. This time I'll be sure to bring the protein shake mix for quicker recovery and a change of clothes for a more comfortable ride home.
It's been almost two weeks since the Shawnee Peak Challenge. I was sore for at least three days after the event, mostly my calves, quads and glutes. I did a lot of stretching and drank a lot of water and protein mixes to aid in the recovery process. Something to keep in mind for my next event: bring the protein mix with me so I can take it immediately after the race.
The next event is Ruckus Boston, which is on the 13th.
I eventually got back into my routines, but they've been a bit different.
My Strength routine has changed, and I've only been doing one set of the whole workout instead of my usual two.
I start with a 3-4 minute jumping jacks warmup.
Overhand - 10
Thumbs - 5
Chinup - 10
Plank and leg-crossover
Hold plank 1min30sec, 15 crossovers
Pushups (which I added to vary the routine)
One-leg squats, weighted with 20lb kettlebell
5-10, depending on how my knees feel
The workout is decent, but not nearly as intense as it was before.
I'm more focused on my Endurance workout now, since I recognize this as the most important aspect for the events.
I still run to the gym (1.48 miles). This part has been getting better because it's significantly colder here now.
I changed the Elliptical routine. I set the timer to 30 minutes, and the program to Manual. I've been running with an incline of 6 and a resistance of 12. This incline is supposed to target all major muscle groups in the legs and the high resistance keeps me pushing hard the whole time. I try to beat my previous records in running the 3 miles each time I do the exercise. I made a slight improvement over my first time when I ran yesterday.
I then go to the pullup bars and do ten overhand wide-grip pullups followed by as many chinups as I can do (shooting for ten at least). I've been doing fairly well with these.
I also incorporated a Back Extension on a machine which should strengthen my lower back and reduce the tightness and weakness I feel there when I run.
My first day back doing this routine I swam after the run, Elliptical and the other exercises. It was a brief swim, and I focused on kicking, but it felt good. The most recent time I couldn't do my swim because I had other things to do.
Yesterday I incorporated a well-executed isometric stretching set after my exercise which felt great. I was impressed with my flexibility, and it motivated me to work on this more.
It feels good to get back into the routine. I hit a low recently but when I went out for the run I felt much, much better which goes to show the effectiveness of those natural stress-fighting hormones. The workouts should be regularized soon and I feel like I'll be ready for Ruckus.
My friend Rob won't be coming up to join me for this one, but I will be running with someone I met at Shawnee who I expect will give me a "run" for my money.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I've gone trail running three times since my last entry, and each time went well. It's become something of an obsession.
The first couple minutes of the run are still the worst, but I attribute that to the lack of warmup before the run and the incline of the initial hill. The first of the three most recent runs saw me more motivated than usual. I grabbed a log off the ground around the 1.5 mile mark and ran it down the hill to where I usually rest. I took a short break, grabbed the log, and ran it back up the hill while people looked on. It destroyed my legs by the time I reached the top of the small hill, which was only a short distance, so I placed the log at the top of the hill and kept running. It certainly added a dimension to the run, but it made me wonder how the log part is incorporated into the actual races. In the videos and pictures I've seen it seems like the people are simply walking the logs up the hills instead of running. I figure that if I train by running I'll be a lot stronger in the walk, or I'll just end up running the damn thing up the hill anyway.
I also noticed that the trail run itself is longer than I initially estimated. The run from the beginning to the Museum section is about 1.5 miles, which makes the round trip around 3 miles total, which is perfect for these events. I'm running the three miles of trail hills in around a half an hour.
I was initially apprehensive about running this morning considering the forthcoming event's proximity. I decided to just run anyway and it seems like I got out unscathed. I slowed down by the end of the run because my calves were crying and I was worried about shin splints. They seem fine now; I think the protein shakes have a lot to do with avoiding that condition. My recoveries have been swift and I haven't had any soreness after even the most intense exercises.
I have another friend coming to visit this weekend, and Saturday is the Shawnee Peak Challenge. My friend will accompany me, but not to participate. I'm considering dressing up in some ridiculous costume which I'll likely find tomorrow. I'd rather not be another run-of-the-mill competitor with UnderArmour uppers, gloves, shorts and running shoes.
I'll be writing in again after the event with a full report. I expect it to be not only a great time, but a springboard for my training and a gauge of my current level as compared to the other competitors.
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.
My workouts have been going rather smoothly, with the exception of one last week.
I had recently got some bad family news, which was a major contributor to my mood and motivation. I went out for my Endurance routine anyway and it was much more difficult under the relative emotional duress I was feeling. The run was awful, but I made it the 1.5 miles to the gym. I got on the elliptical and had zero interest in the exercise. I stopped after 30 minutes, which is still decent, and attempted some pullups. They didn't go so well, and my left shoulder started feeling out of whack.
I went to the pool to see if I could make up for the slack on the elliptical and my shoulder wasn't cooperating with my strokes or the legwork I usually do (as I use a kickboard held out in front, it was still placing some pressure on the shoulder). With a sigh of exasperation I got out of the pool, got showered and sauntered home.
Fast-forward toyesterday's Endurance workout, which was perfect. I started out with the Endurance Booster, a Clif bar and some of that Gatorade gel stuff in the little packet. I loosened up and stretched before leaving for the run. It was cold and damp.
I ran to the gym, feeling loose and energetic despite the weather and the buffeting headwind. I changed and got on the elliptical. It was a different machine this time, and I had to choose an unfamiliar program. It has you run up a huge hill and then back down over the course of about 10 minutes with 3-4 minute valleys of rest in between hills. I wasn't particularly enjoying the program, but stuck with it at the default time setting of 60 minutes with a 5 minute cool-down. I had my Endurance Booster in a Propel bottle, and would sip that during the valley rest. I kept the Resistance factor at 8, and the incline would vary automatically with the position on the hill. I had some great new music blasting and I was practicing some breathing techniques to keep my heart rate down. The elliptical was horribly inaccurate at monitoring my heart rate, so I had to estimate by how I felt. I kept a routine of powering through the minute or two at the peak of each hill at high speed and intensity, and cooling down during the descent.
At the end of the 65-minute elliptical session I wasn't even winded, but my legs were definitely shot. I went and did ten pullups and ten chinups as I usually do, then I went to the pool. I swam my normal routine for about 45 minutes.
Once I get a firm hold on this workout (which I'm rapidly approaching), I'll start mixing in some other stuff. Maybe some plyometrics or plate tectonics or thermos osmosis.
Something I realized: I NEED TO STRETCH MORE, DAMMIT!
I really just don't stretch enough and my flexibility is lamentable at best. I've been sporadically incorporating some isometric stretching into my Strength days, but it's not regular enough to make a difference. I'm going to have to resort to behaviorally conditioning myself to stretching more often (even when not working out).
Today was a Strength day, but it was relatively unremarkable, besides my inclusion of kettlebells and a chair into my one-leg squats. I do five reps on each leg with the kettlebell, which, after yesterday's run and such, was not fun. My pullups are getting much better.
Physically and aesthetically I notice the difference that this vigorous routine has created. My diet is getting more reliable, and I'm taking the supplements as they're needed. I still think I'm losing weight, though, so I'll be packing in more calories as time goes on, especially on Endurance days.
Shawnee Peak Challenge is in a couple weeks. I feel like I'm going to do well.
I'll eventually put up a video of my routine. Until then you'll just have to use your imagination.
I started at the bottom parking lot and basically just ran up to the top of the mountain. I wasn't able to run up the whole way but I didn't take breaks because I'm tough. Once I got to the top I ran some winding trails which lead nowhere, enjoyed the view and eventually descended to trails surrounding the base. The signs say that the high trail is a mile long, and I don't know how far I ran on the bottom trails. I'd say it was around 2 miles, so possibly 3 miles total. I ran the base trails until I wound up back on the road so I ran on the road back to my car. While I was back in the woods on a flat trail I took in the scenery, breathed in the pure air and felt really fulfilled, happy and generally aware of my existence. It was really redeeming of running for me. I felt like I could have done more if not for my ankles, being untrained for this kind of running, which felt a little wobbly so I decided to call it a day.
I wore my roclites and not the Mudclaws since I figured it would be mostly rock surfaces, small rocks on trails, roots and shallow dirt. The choice proved to be a wise one. I'm starting to wonder if buying the Muclaws was overzealous and unnecessary, but we'll see if I find a legitimate use for them. I'm going to bring them with me when I go to trail run in case it rains. They should help then. I can see them being very useful during the events, considering their tread and the incline of the October and April events not to mention the mud from all the preceding runners.
I'm definitely going to integrate this into my weekly routine, once on the weekends at least.
My routine, as it stands, is still the Strength and Endurance portions, alternating days and leaving myself one day of rest. Tomorrow is going to be a Strength training day, then.
I'm considering signing up for a third event called Ruckus Boston. This one is in November, and takes place right outside Boston. It's all flatland running (around 3 miles), but there are 20 obstacles. It seems pretty intense. I'll probably end up doing it on a whim since I don't even seem to care.