Goals, Training, and Pictures that Move

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60 days? That’s forever away. I’ll just eat ice cream.

I now have this fun little “countdown” app.  So just prepare yourselves  to see this crap more times than is even remotely necessary, because for some reason this app pleases me in the same way that looking at graphs and spreadsheets pleases me.

 

I suppose I have a lot on my plate in the coming months.  With the marathon begins a landslide of runcations and inevitable sufferfests – the Fuego y Agua 50k, Hill Country Ragnar (ultra team), my first 50 miler, the 12 Hour Spartan Hurricane Heat, the McDowell Mountain Ragnar Relay (regular team this time – the week of I also plan to visit the Grand Canyon and run R2R).  All that starting from 01 October to 07 September.  I was trying to explain to a co-worker why I was hoarding all my leave instead of just taking a nice long vacation on my marathon trip to Washington when I started to explain all this stuff to her that I had to possibly reserve leave for in Oct-Nov.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand most of what I was talking about.  She just stared at me blankly for a moment while trying to find the words, then decided on an appropriate “You are going to die.”

 

I’m trying not to become totally neurotic about my training.  Which is hard when you load up TrainingPeaks and your mid-week medium-long run has a coach’s note that reads “aim for 8:50 pace” (freaking out).  I’m pretty sure Liza thinks I’m a sandbagger at this point, since I complained to her that I just wasn’t confident I could hit all these paces in the Texas heat and she kindly pointed out to me we had been running 8:30-8:45 minute miles the whole time we’d been chatting.  So there’s that.

 

I had a friend who was a bit of a nightmare when it came to her training – she really, REALLY wanted to qualify for Boston and it made her more than a little bit neurotic.  For some reason this left a serious impression on me.  I have to wonder if you’re really even enjoying running anymore when you get to the point where you’re on the cusp of an unholy nervous breakdown at the very thought of trying and failing to do well at your chosen race.  I want to train and do well, but I don’t want it to be a chore, or something that I don’t enjoy doing.  I understand that there’s always going to be a time where I won’t particularly be thrilled about getting up and going running, but that’s just to be expected every now and again (not on the regular).

 

Anyone who was taking themselves entirely too seriously would probably be wise enough to tone it down on the race front (unlike me).  Maybe I’m not wise enough to see something cool I want to do and tell myself that it’s probably smart to wait until next year.  I guess I’m a bit of a hyperactive 12 year old on the inside when it comes to stuff like that.  Waiting isn’t typically my strong suit.

 

Despite all my doubts, training is going well.  Not perfect, but well.  I need to work a bit more on my strength in some areas, but I feel a lot stronger in my running now that I’ve gone back to CrossFitting regularly.  The ever-present battle there is balancing CrossFit and running in such a way that I have something other than limp noodles for legs on days I have to run after CrossFit days.  I’ve been trying to counter this by running in the morning and then going right to CrossFit afterwards.  I want to try and keep up with writing about my training here in the blog, and since we’re going to be doing a blog-o-rama for a while…I think it’ll give me something to ramble about.

 

I was going to write more, but it’s getting late and I have to run in the morning (8:50 m/m are you serious?)…   On a completely unrelated note, Buzzfeed published this article of potential funniest gifs of all time, and it is a very important thing that you might need in your life.

 

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Texas Spartan Beast – Race Day

I’m just gonna preface this by saying that I had the most amazing time at this race.  Everyone knows all about Spartan Race so there’s no need to go into the nitty gritty of every single obstacle, but this race was a wholly new and different race for me, even after getting my Trifecta – it was the first race I did solo, racing to my own potential.  Being that I am primarily a trail runner whose friends have yet to convert to the superior sport from road running (sorrynotsorry), I am used to running alone but also run many (road…) races with all kinds of people, not to mention the Trifecta I ran with my husband.  Running with someone is a totally different experience.  The joy I felt jumping the fire pit and plowing through the gladiators during the three Spartans I did with my husband were a different feeling – a feeling of happiness for just having DONE it in addition to the pride I felt for my husband who got off the couch to accompany me on the journey.  I’ve always really admired this quote from Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run:

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Some would call me sappy for that, so I might speak for myself when I say I believe that completely.  I run with people sometimes who just urge me to “go on without [them]” or say “don’t let me hold you back” etc, but sometimes it’s just as fun to run with a friend.  I would never give this up…but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy racing as well.  They’re just two different sides of the same running coin.

To say I had an amazing race is probably a bit of an overstatement.  I did burpees almost immediately in the race upon coming to the log hop – an obstacle I have never failed – mostly because I was almost numb from the waist down after plunging into the muddy water at the very beginning of the race (really?  I couldn’t help but laugh at the evil in this decision) and also due to two logs being almost impossibly far apart…which gave me a second of pause.  A second of pause is not good on the log hop, it’s all about momentum.  Despite that, I felt really good about my race at the very beginning – I killed a lot of the obstacles, took on the male weights and challenges a few times with no problems, and was running steady in between obstacles.  Around mile two or three we were instructed to memorize a specific combination of words and numbers for a memory obstacle based on our bib number – the instructions said “You will recite this later”…mine was Lima 383 2898.  I went flying down the hills following, repeating the phrase over and over in my mind and out loud, expecting the volunteers to soon ask me to recite it.  (I was so, so wrong.)   My amazing husband spent the entire day dashing through the woods and the Ranch to try and catch me at various obstacles to take pictures and offer moral support.  I saw him after the first barbed wire crawl and frantically confessed to him that I forgot my phrase, but then suddenly it came to me as it had been getting ingrained with all the repetitive reciting along the way.

I got seriously lucky this race, I feel like – compared to some past experiences, I did not have ANY wait times on obstacles (to be fair I started in the first open heat of the day, though).  Though this hasn’t been a serious problem in the past, it makes a HUGE difference on the barbed wire crawls (there were two in this race…or three?) where getting backed up behind someone can be a huge hindrance.  I managed to go flying through both of my crawls, somehow earning a deep, bleeding gash on my right hand on the first one that I was worried would hinder me on the rope climbs and Tyrolean Traverse later on.  But adrenaline is a magical thing.

Hercules Hoist, Inverted Wall, log hop number two (featuring zero burpees!)

Hercules Hoist, Inverted Wall, log hop number two (featuring zero burpees!)

After nailing the spear throw (YES!!) I started heading toward the lake, which was my one and only serious doubt about the entire race.  Last year there was a swim and I had not received any word that it was cancelled…after trudging through a mud-water pit a volunteer instructed me to hit before entering the last barbed wire crawl before the lake, I was starting to become seriously worried.  The pit was much more treacherous than it looked and I quickly sank into the pit as the mud was soft enough to suck me down all the way to my waist, which had the water hitting my chest.  As soon as the water hit my chest I involuntarily began gasping uncontrollably as I completely lost my ability to breathe from the frigid water.  The plants entangled around my legs combined with the thick mud left me momentarily unable to move.  For a moment I was pretty much resigned to pitifully die in the mud pit until I got all pissed off and hurled my body violently to the shore.

When I rounded the corner, I could see Spartans who had gone before me trudging through the lake.  I almost cried with relief.  I’m all about Spartan’ing up and doing what I have to do, but I’m not afraid to admit that the thought of doing a 150m swim in a lake that currently had ICEBERGS floating in it was scaring the everloving shit out of me.  We were instead instructed to enter the lake at the middle point where we would have began the swim, and walk/trudge/prance/run through the water on the perimeter going clockwise.  This was better in a way, but also worse because it inevitably had most people in the water even longer than they would have been for the swim, and though we were only knee to almost waist deep, it was still cold as hell and I had pretty much made peace about thirty seconds in with the fact that feeling my body below the waist was a luxury that Spartan Race was no longer going to afford me.  I resolved to suck it up and trudged through the water, cheerfully greeting the volunteers and plastering the deliriously happy face on in order to convince myself that I was HAVING TONS OF FUN.  (I was.  Sort of.  Sometimes I have to remind myself.)  As I climbed out of the lake and began the familiar trek past some of the lodges, I steeled myself for the Tyrolean Traverse, as I knew it was in the same location as last year.  My hand was stinging, but I thought it would be okay.

However, the first obstacle I hit here was not the Tyrolean Traverse but the MEMORY OBSTACLE.  As I climbed the hill I saw a volunteer at a table with a clip board.  Almost seven miles and heaps of obstacles later, there they were.  The cold water had long erased any semblance of memory from my mind and upon seeing them I completely panicked.  There were already a few people gathered around them doing burpees (the guy who ran up to the initial instructions with me immediately exclaimed “Fuck that,” upon seeing it, and discussion with a few people afterwards lead me to believe that most people just disregarded the memory challenge all together).  I began to furiously search my brain as I walked up to the skeptical looking woman (I probably looked confused or probably brain dead in my state of intense concentration).  She asked me for my number.

“Lima…383 2898.”

I have no idea where those words came from, they just spilled out of my mouth.  Apparently those miles of repetition did me some good.  The volunteer, very visibly surprised I had provided the correct answer, congratulated me and I dodged a guy doing burpees to hit the Hercules Hoist with a quickness before busting out the Tyrolean Traverse in (for me) record time.  An easy mile to the next log hop (which I did not fail this time) and the inverted wall, and I could see the festival area.  I didn’t get my hopes up, as I knew from volunteering the day before that I was not quite at mile 10 and the course would veer back into the woods after hitting the cargo net.  As a side note, I’m proud to say that I did not act like a totally pitiful idiot when I hit the cargo net this time – they were kind enough to shoot video at the cargo net at the Vegas Super, and you can literally hear me coming painfully close to whimpering as I walked across the net in such a way that pretty much required me to look down the entire time.  This time I just rolled across and all was right with the world.

My picture from this one is woefully inferior to the one from last year.  Believe me when I say that I was super cool.

My picture from this one is woefully inferior to the one from last year. Believe me when I say that I was super cool.

My husband pretty much assured me I was slaughtering at this point, telling me I looked great and was passing lots of people, etc etc.  Unfortunately, this is probably where my race totally lost it.  The few miles through the woods were one thing, but the complete and total onslaught of leg obstacles after this point combined with probably not taking in enough nutrition to account for the very end of the race slowed me down a ton.  I think I speak for me and the hundreds of Spartans who came before and after me when I say this second bucket carry SUCKED.  I have no eloquent words to describe the complete and total suckage of this obstacle at this point in the race.  People were cheating and just running off like mad on this one, and the volunteers were going super militant on checking everyone’s buckets because there was so much cheating going on here.  (I am completely not condoning the cheating, but most people were so wiped by this point…but so was I, and sometimes you just have to embrace the suck.)  The entire race after this obstacle was a suckfest of a slog.

I completely trudged through the last 1.5-2 miles of the race, finally emerging from the woods to see the traverse wall.  Thinking it would be an easy day, as it was not an obstacle I had ever failed before (though it had never been at literally the last few meters of the race before, either) I took a deep breath and climbed up.

Hardly a minute later I was doing burpees.  Shit.  My brain is not working properly at this point.

Rope climb.  Try number one.  Fall.  Volunteer yells at me to try again.  Try again.  Fall.  No upper body strength left.  Remind myself that climbing the rope is so damn easy at CrossFit (stupid thought) and try again after the volunteer instructs me to try a different rope.  Fall.  Almost scream with frustration (I didn’t fail the earlier rope climb, why can I never get this one?!)  The volunteer is yelling at me to keep going but I know at this point I am completely not capable.  I climb out to head to my punishment, in what the volunteer calls her “Wonderful World of Burpees”, and throw myself on the ground for my first one.  The volunteer could see that I was pissed at this point.  I felt like I killed the whole race only to fail it at the end.  A few burpees in she started doing burpees with me to cheer me on (so I thought) and then I get to twenty she tells me she did ten of my burpees for me and to GO get my fucking medal.  I smile and thank her, tell her what I tell every freaking volunteer I come across (that they are amazing) and run towards the barbed wire crawl (it was three!) and up the slippery wall.  I slide down the wall the first time, but get it the second after drying my hands on a nearby tree.

I have no idea what the hell I am doing here, nor can I decide if it looks cool or completely stupid.

I have no idea what the hell I am doing here, nor can I decide if it looks cool or completely stupid.

One fire jump and a trio of gladiators later, I am crossing the finish line.  The photographer is telling me it is 1330 on the dot.  I am in complete shock.  I am close to an hour past my goal time.  I spend all of two minutes beating myself up about this, then I realize I have to take a freezing cold shower and that becomes my preoccupying worry.  (I don’t like to dote on stupid things like missed goals/PRs, fleeting things….hah.)

So, 14.5 miles later, a shitload of obstacles, and I feel alright.  I have a few worries in regards to my time in regards to this race, but I’ll save those for later.  (2014 goal posts, guys…they’re a thing.)  But for now here are the stats as they stand for the my race at the 2013 Texas Beast:

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325 overall for Sunday open, 36th for my gender and 9th in my age group…I’ll try to be satisfied with this.  But until next time, all I can do is train.

Texas Spartan Beast Day 1

I keep writing all these posts and scrapping them because they’re not thrilling adventures or something. I read a lot of blogs, and a lot of bloggers post about their daily lives (albeit their daily lives as they relate to their athletic/running/what have you endeavors) and somehow transform it into interesting stuff. I think about writing about how I had to run for my 50k training on Tuesday and almost collapsed into a useless heap of something resembling a human being, and wonder who on Earth would read about that…

I guess it’s just growing pains.

Luckily, I did have super thrilling adventures last week, as it was finally that glorious time of the year that the Spartan Beast comes to my neck of the woods. The last year, I aimed to get my trifecta with my husband (for all you non-Spartan racers, you earn a special “trifecta” medal for completing all three Spartan Race distances – Sprint, Super, and Beast at 3-4, 6-7, and 12-14 miles respectively – in a calendar year) and since he’s only recently began to run, for me it was a bit slow going. (Sorry hubs, no offense!) But it was an amazing time I got to have with my husband, where we traveled around Texas for our Sprint and Beast distances and then to Vegas for our Super distance (as there was not a Super distance race in Texas at the time).

So this time around, my husband opted to sit the Beast out. He’s been dealing with the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis, in addition to other crap, so he seemed content to follow me to the edge of the Earth up north to the Spartan Beast and cheer me on from the sidelines. So this race was going to be my race this time, free to go balls to the wall and tackle the Beast on my own terms. The plan as it stands is to tackle all the Spartan Races I can within the next year before the Spartan Ultra Beast comes back around. The Spartan Ultra Beast (for those unaware) is the real shit Spartan Race – a marathon (or more…I hear this year it was more) distance Spartan Race that you can be accepted by application only and is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Friday afternoon we packed up the car and headed up to Granbury, about forty-five minutes away from the race’s location in Glen Rose (all the hotels were sold out…book early, folks). I was supposed to run the Hurricane Heat (a team-style heat led by the founders of Spartan before the actual race begins, normally in the morning or the day before) but since I got out of work that morning late, we were late leaving, and so I missed it. In retrospect I’m pretty bummed I missed it, as I’ve never participated in the Hurricane Heat before, but it was probably for the best considering I was trying to post a good time on Sunday. So instead of being at the Hurricane Heat all night and getting no sleep before we had to be at the race at 0630 on Saturday, we headed out to Granbury to get some dinner before we headed to bed.

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This turned out to be pretty cool, because we found a rocking burger place in the town square (this is a real thing in small towns, which is news to me if it’s not to you haha). In the town square they were having a Christmas celebration with various groups of performers singing and acting out Christmas skits. It was a very cool experience for someone who is used to a huge city like San Antonio.

The next day we had to get up super early for our all-day volunteer shifts. I immediately checked the weather and the Glen Rose Beast Facebook, where people were chatting about the conditions and rumors were spreading about Spartan cancelling certain water obstacles due to the weather. There was snow in some places. Icebergs in the lake (where there is a ~160m swim during the race) and ice on the ground. Upwards of 20mph winds.

We were assigned to the inverted wall obstacle, where we would be all day from 0700 until the last racer passed through in the evening. The weather all day was brutal. I was wearing a polar (cold weather) buff, a regular buff, long sleeved UA shirt, regular shirt, large puffy down jacket, a pair of tights under a pair of cold-weather running pants. Due to the wind, I was still pretty cold most of the day, so just looking at some of the ill-prepared racers coming through in short-shorts, sleeveless shirts, shirtless (!!!), etc was enough to make me cringe.

Long story short, I called medical more times that day than I have ever called medical combined in all my volunteer experience – Spartan and non-Spartan – most of them for hypothermia-like symptoms. The inverted wall was located between miles nine and ten of the course, and it was completely maliciously located right in plain view of the festival (finish line) area of the course, which lead most people to believe that they were near the finish. However, when you left the inverted wall, you would head straight INTO the festival area, hit the cargo net obstacle, and veer off back into the woods for almost five miles. Pretty bastardly. Upon seeing the festival area before attempting our obstacle, a lot of people asked us if they were almost done…and though it’s normally protocol to keep this kind of stuff under wraps in a Spartan Race, I seriously just could not bring myself to mislead most of these people, especially when they already looked so miserable and in a questionable state of health. This turned out to probably be for the better, because a lot of people understood how long they had remaining based on this information and knew damn well that 5 more miles was too far beyond their abilities.

I thought a lot about all the DNFs I had that day when I was chipping away at my own race the next day. For someone in Texas especially, those kinds of weather conditions were completely unexpected and a lot of miserable, shivering faces came through my obstacle. I felt very grateful to at least have the sun out the next day when I raced, especially considering I had originally registered to race on Saturday and later decided to switch to Sunday in order to give myself a rest between the Hurricane Heat on Friday and my race on Sunday. I’ve been lucky enough to never have to DNF, but it sucks to have your race ruined by something that seems so out of your control such as the weather.

So, that sounds super doomy and gloomy, but rest assured that plenty of people skipped happily through my obstacle and Spartan Race provided me and my husband with tons of free chocolate coconut water, so at least someone was enjoying their time that day.

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