Spartan Race Report

Happiest Day Of My Life.20190810_115909

Before the event my friends, life was stressful. I was relying on transit to get there and I forgot that to rely on transit you have to leave an hour before you have to leave even if you think you’re already leaving an hour early. But I got there an hour before my start time and it was cold. I realized that I should wait to get changed in order to stay warm and then realized since Ben was meeting me there I could get him to hold my bag rather than check it so I could get changed sooner after the event.

This created the problem that Ben was arriving 10:30ish and my heat was 10:45. So I was standing at the gate holding my bag and looking at the people from my heat milling around the start line and rapidly losing time that, if I was going to check my bag I had to do it now.

But it all worked out. Ben, cigarette in mouth, jogged for the first time in years to get to the start for me and hold my purse. True friend, love him.

So on to the motherfuckin’ race!

Even getting told to go over the wall to the start line was awesome. The bravado and amped up atmosphere is what I always wanted at road races and stuff, it’s what I want at work.

So we take off after the chant and I went out with the fastest guys and smoked passed them, I caught up to the back of the heat before us and smoked passed them too. I’m a runner, I run. I don’t need to save energy for obstacles because it’s really two different, finely honed, systems on my part.

I leap the first two walls nice and easy, thinking ahead to the harder obstacles at the end, and then come to the first water hazard. It’s chest deep and extremely muddy at the bottom. And stank. So that’s when it got real, the Spartan was officially on for me then.

Running up and down increasingly steep hills and narrow paths, still picking off people from earlier heats and joking around with some of the other tough guys at times was great and the first tough obstacle was the sand bucket. It was surprisingly taxing and there’s no great way to hold it.

Then sand bags were great because there is a great way to hold it – atlas style on the back of the neck and shoulders. So I knocked that out and got to the rings.

This is where the first funny thing happened. Hanging and hanging and hanging while the woman ahead of me struggled and wailed to hit the bell because she couldn’t let go with one hand. I’m super nice and supportive but in my head I’m like please fucking drop.

And drop she did. I got to the last ring and pulled up to swat the bell and in her defense it’s not super easy.

Anyway next was… something, I dunno.

The two things I was worried about hadn’t come yet so I was still thinking about that.

First of the two was Atlas Carry. Now you can’t atlas carry the Atlas Carrying. It’s a big, muddy stone sphere on the ground you gotta pick up and carrying a distance and back. As a wild-ass guess I’d say it was 80lbs. I was starting to feel the cumulative exertion and when I squat down and got the rock up to waist height I was instantly in tunnel vision and for the first and only time I thought maybe I’ll vomit…

Got it done though. So far no missed obstacles.

More running but like death shuffle running at that point. More water, more mud.

And then my rope climb. I was trying to find a rope to climb all month and never found one or a gym with a good drop in that had one so I didn’t know if I could do it, especially the foot technique.

More than that though I hadn’t thought about climbing a muddy rope with freezing wet hands while exhausted.

So I jumped up, got both hands on it to see what it was like and – it’s hard. I got my feet on it though like I’d seen Crossfitters do and I felt the shift from all the weight being in my hands to feeling dispersed through my body, it doesn’t make it easier per se but it feels so much more controlled. So I made one more progression up still thinking I was in practice mode and just seeing what it’s like when I looked down and it was already higher than I wanted to fall from. So I was like well fuck I better get to the top first try then. And I did.

Climbing, cargo nets, and then the fucking dunk wall.

I was laughing and psyching myself up to swim under this fucking thing when home boy got up beside me and was laughing too. He started counting down from 3 and we went together into the cold muddy black of that filth.

It was disgusting when I came back up, just mud pouring out of my hair onto my face, mud in my nose, and now I’m fully soaked in the cold wind but almost done.

Spear throw, the most missed obstacle is next. I got this advice online: Don’t throw it like a baseball, throw it like a dart. And it worked. I didn’t miss the most missed obstacle.

I charged up and over the last A frame wall like a barbarian and crossed the line 46 minutes after I started, suspecting that this was the happiest I’ve ever been.

I didn’t want anything else, I was happy – thrilled – just to be existing, and I almost never get to feel that way.

Then Benny and I started celebrating our dicks off.

I was too amped up to eat but oh man did beers go down fast. When you have a massive adrenaline buzz you don’t perceive the alcohol buzz coming up and as I knew that was happening I didn’t care because I was happy.

I was supposed to go see one of my all-time favourite bands play a reunion show that night and I’d been looking forward to it for months, all the old friends and getting a taste of the good old days. But after Spartan I didn’t care anymore, I didn’t care about the old days, this day was good.

Happiest day of my life. And I didn’t want or need anything else.

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Thoughts On The Crossfit Games During The Final Day

It’s Sunday morning, the swim event is done, and I’ve got some thoughts. If you’re not watching live this will contain spoilers and if you’re not following CF then this will all be gibberish to you.

First things first – The Cuts.

I liked them then I hated them, pretty much like everyone else.

It was cool to see all the new people, the national champs, out there giving their best and then it was cool not to have to put up with them the whole weekend.

Then, yes, the cuts gave urgency to the early events.

But then the shift happened. And suddenly very viable athletes, podium contenders and former podium winners, got cut for tiny little shit. Basically bad luck ended the games for some amazing athletes and fan favourites. It feels insulting. To us and to them.

To be fair and balanced though it did give us the weight lifting event – which would have been impossible with a field of anymore athletes. So it’s still a hit/miss thing.

On to the big thing: Noah Olsen leading the men’s division over Fraser.

Now here’s my thing with Olsen; I had just recently stopped liking him and this has brought me back around.

Last year Olsen seemed to me like a nice dude and a good, but immature, athlete. And when I say immature I mean his tendency to start events too fast and burn out. That’s the Olsen magic trade mark.

What bugged me though is he wouldn’t acknowledge that. He would always, after losing events, say that he had a great time and people were so supportive and blah blah blah positivity bullshit. Putting the nice guy band-aid on rather looking at his weakness and working on them.

And in the event where he overtook Fraser even the Rogue announcers were joking, literally joking at his expense, about Olsen going out too hot and blowing up – and then it was amazing to watch him hold the lead and hold the lead and defy expectations. It’s a moment that will go down in the history, it’ll be Olsen’s personal Toomey/Webb moment.

So Olsen’s leading and he’s holding on, having the performance of his life – especially considering he barely qualified, he essentially didn’t qualify, he lucked in because of Vellner and (I think) Travis Mayer.

Like I said, this post is for Crossfit fans so I’m not explaining any of these things. Take it.

Anyway watching Olsen be the lead has been great. I’m proud of him for taking it and yet I still thought it would be a fluke but he’s held on and he’s stayed himself. He’s waving, happy, signing things for fans and being the nice guy. His nice guyism isn’t just an act to take the sting off a loss, it’s at least also how he celebrates. And while Fraser is an inspirational champ, Olsen is a totally opposite style of champ that’s also inspirational.

So it’s all cool for Olsen. And it’s given us the gift of watching hungry, young Fraser again. It’s great to see Fraser dominate these last few years but it made us forget what we loved about him the first time round when he ascended. He ascended to champion Mat. And Champion Mat is very cool as I said but Competitor Mat, the Mat that came to stone-face kill whole villages with his fitness powers is what we really, really love to see.

I fully expect Fraser to win and Olsen to be cool and I wanted to publish this before the day was over so I’d have to be accountable for that prediction.

I’m gonna throw Armin’s recap from yesterday here at the end because it contains everything I’m taking about here and if you don’t watch Armin (but if you’re a Crossfitter, you do) then you should.

Why Your First Race Should Be A Half-Marathon

I ran my first 10k this year and it was great, loved it. Here’s my report on it if you hadn’t seen it.

Last year I ran three half-marathons and this year, before the 10, I ran my first full M. This runs contrary to the stories and even the advice of most people so naturally I’ll tell you why I’m objectively more right.

You may think that a 10k is a good place to start, or a 5k if you are a child. An actual child. You may think this because 10k is a ‘long’ distance that seems manageable. But I ask you – how can a distance really be long if it’s so manageable? You want one of those easy challenges you can do, Lisa?

I honestly think you should cover your first 10k in training and it should be no big deal – a deal still, but no big one. The first time I ran 10 was between work and playing an open mic and I rewarded myself with a Jugo Juice.

You may think that the 10k is the first step, in some obligatory way but the first step was buying the shoes and getting out the door. My point is you’ve already taken the baby steps, you’ve already done the challenges you know you can do. The half-marathon is long enough that, as a beginner, you can honestly say you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You have a chance to find and defeat your own limits and expectations. There’s going to be physical and emotional lows that you must endure.

In a 10k, the race is already almost over. You’re on the home stretch at the start. You’re not going to learn, you’re not going to grow. I don’t think it’s long enough that you make mistakes. And you have to at least risk making mistakes if you’re going to grow.

It’s fun, it’s super fun, I really liked my first 10k race – and it is a race, seconds count – but it’s not an endurance event.

How Working Out Can Get Harder As You Get Smarter

So yesterday I wrote about my suspicion that caffeine pills make me feel ill during workouts and what I might try going forward.

Last night, so I wouldn’t forget, I cut a pill in half and left it out for myself.

And I dutifully took it, waited what I thought the time between ingestion and work-out was yesterday and started swinging my warm up kettlebell.

Then, mentally frozen, I stopped. I haven’t eaten anything… I thought. Then the flood – what did I eat yesterday before the work out, I know I got a lot less sleep today than yesterday, and I’m not doing the same work out…

This is a terrible experiment.

Working out when you’re a noob is so easy, you just do it. All of the sudden it’s I didn’t eat a banana and 3 supplements 51 minutes ago, the work out is ruined!

You can go down so many dietary and exercise rabbit holes that you feel like everything could be fatally wrong. Like this meme, you vibe it.

this meme

The important thing to remember is to generally be going in the right direction and don’t get hurt and you’ll be better off at the end of each year than you were at the start. Don’t try to be optimal at everything all the time, no one thing will kill you.

Do experiment, do investigate, do immerse yourself in the knowledge and discussion even if it’s not your sport but ultimately remember that you’re searching for what’s best for you – not the official best thing in the world.

But also it wouldn’t kill me to track what I eat while intending to do a deliberate self-experiment.

I Finally See The Benefit Of Fallowing Someone Else’s Plan

And it’s how to take it easy.

I have a go hard or go home mentality and I fell into the trap of thinking a workout that doesn’t make you sweat, doesn’t make you hurt, doesn’t take a significant amount of time, can’t be really good for anything.

I struggled through the taper before the marathon trying to keep my fitness up but not push myself and add any fatigue, in fact to be as rested up as possible, and I don’t think I did a great job. Furthermore, anytime I’ve had to recover or take a deload week I’ve struggled and I ended up doing what seemed like too little, resulting in difficulty coming back.

So after the marathon, the recovery week that I’m actively in, I knew some workouts would be good and some bad and blah blah blah and rather than program for myself (or especially wing it day by day) I looked at Krissy Moehls recovery week plan since I’m reading her book Running Your First Ultra.

And the glory of it is it’s simple. It’s lighter workouts than I would ever normally do but I’m not nervous that I’m doing too little because I’m listening to someone much more experienced than myself. That’s the benefit of someone else’s plan, being okay going not-hard, and knowing how not-hard to go.

Anyone can go hard, really. Some people are way too easy on themselves but mostly in our community the problem is everyone wants to go level 10 most of the time. Get to that feeling where you must have done something.

So it’s nice to run 3 easy miles and say okay, I took my prescription and I can stop.

Today’s a rest day again then tomorrow is 5 steady miles or an hour of cardio, in my case the elliptical, then Saturday is listed as 5-8 miles and I’m back to normal.

Now of course there’s a danger in following a program too and it’s worth saying because we have a fresh example in Jon. Let me quote him as loosely and sarcastically as I can.

Jon: Hmm, my knee hurts but the plan says 16k so 16k it is. Oh, now my knee really hurts and it’s doctor time and I’m not running the race and in fact not running again for a year, wish I’d stopped during the 16k.

But again I benefited from having a plan after the race because I had a lot of aches and pains that I feared could be injuries and wouldn’t have ran but Krissy wrote that the easy miles were mostly a test to see what’s up and that really helped. During the easy run I mentally kept an eye on all the hot spots and felt them clear up or flame up and I know better now what to stretch out and watch for.

So it’s not a matter of listen-to-the-plan or listen-to-the-body, it’s a matter of planning to listen to your body.

Being A Cafeteria Runner, Self-Programing Vs Following A Program

I’m a cafeteria everything.

In case someone isn’t familiar with the prefix, cafeteria refers to someone who browses a lot of stuff and picks what they like. It should actually be buffet. I first heard it in the term cafeteria christian; someone who seemed to be all denominations or none at their convenience.

And last night I read the advice, it was 6 on a list of 10 I believe, to not be a cafeteria runner. Don’t peruse a bunch of different programs and take the things you like.

Timely since I’d been feeling worried about the run and somewhat envying the security my program-following friends seem to have. Maybe I’d missed something, maybe I’m under or overtraining, blah blah blah…

But confidence does not a good runner make. Deriving confidence from a running plan I think is just so it’s not your fault if the run doesn’t go well. After all, you did everything you were supposed to do, you were just following orders.

I agree that running season is like baking; you control what you put in to – as best you can and with a little hope – control what you get out. You don’t get better muffins by doubling the flour because you feel like it.

Running is a martial art though and who am I to disagree with the great Bruce Lee who told us to be water, to bend and flow, to draw from everywhere and put it all together.

Have one master and you’ll always be their student. Study under all the masters you can and you’ll eventually be a master.

I think the spirit of the Don’t Be A Cafeteria Runner advice is to not reject the things you don’t like, don’t be a totally unstructured, whimsical, pleasure-guided runner. Eat your vegetables, sprint the stairs.

SPRINT THE STAIRS!

Programing for yourself still means programing, being uncoached means you gotta coach yourself. Look at a bunch of programs and tips and guidance and experiment. Experimentation will lead to diversity and put miles on your legs, even if you hate everything you try in a week you still did a week of running.

And you can back off when you need to with less anxiety. Following a program to the letter can cause you to override injury signals.

Furthermore on that idea I think following one program can take some of the joy out of running because you’re checking off boxes instead of checking in with how you feel.

Maybe though you’re someone who wouldn’t run without the push of a program, maybe you don’t like any of the hard stuff… In which case why are you running? There’s other sports. Experiment with some cross-training and maybe you’ll find something you do love.

In the meantime though all that experimenting with cross training will still be adding to your fitness and the world of running isn’t going to die if you don’t water it, come back when and how you feel like it.

I think there’s a danger in buying one book, running it’s program, hating it, and thinking that you then hate running. No, you just hate that book. Get 5 books, watch tons of youtube, make-up your own intervals, and it all adds up to a love of running.

Testosterone Levels In Female Athletes, The Ruling Comes Down

Caster Semenya will have to suppress her testosterone to keep competing as a sprinter. (CBC Article)

This echoes something I was saying when I wrote about the The Virility Paradox, eventually we may have to organize sport not by gender but by hormone.

It’s not fair to Caster to have to medically dial down her natural athleticism and it’s not fair for others to have to compete against someone who has testosterone levels as high as someone doping testosterone.

But this ethical question then has to be applied to other sports as well. Dean Karnazes, one of the greatest runners in the world for those new to the blog, mentions in his TedTalk that he’s been examined and found that his body clears the by-product of exertion (commonly called lactic acid but is actually hydrogen ions) at an absurdly efficient rate. Or there was a runner mentioned in what I was reading last night, a multiple record holder who simply had the highest max heart rate ever seen. What do we do about them?

Even deeper though we have to ask what is the point of sport? What question are we seeking to answer by having people run arbitrary distances or score meaningless points?

Near as I can tell we’re trying to answer who trained better. That’s why it’s not okay to get a technological or chemical advantage that lessens the work of training. You can hire a coach and that gives you an advantage – their knowledge as opposed to your own – but the training workload still falls on you, we still declare that you earned the victory.

But then really someone who trained badly – ran themselves into the ground with overtraining while you recovered – should actually earn the victory. If it were purely about who worked harder.

Like I’ve said this is a bigger question than I can answer and I could write about it all day without getting to anything so I’ll let it go…