Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recovery - Nov 15-20

Coming back to the US, I felt like I was coming home from a mission... the 2-yr task was accomplished.  I was practically jumping out of my office chair all week thinking about the upcoming holiday and a chance to rest at last.  Still had to clean up various issues and wrap up loose ends, but things were finally wrapping up.

Saturday, Nov 15:
Did Zombies, Run, at the park.  Tried out my new GoPro Hero chest strap, which I've considered using at the Boston Marathon, to capture the experience before and during the race, without having something flopping on my head the whole time.  I made the straps tight, to limit bouncing, but it did constrict my chest's ability to expand during inhalation a bit.  The video ended up oscillating left and right more than expected, too.  I'd also have to figure out a way to prevent the up and down movement that causes a clicking noise... we'll see.  If it ends up being a hot day with no chance of a BQ, I may go for the Hero.  Maybe I'll go for it anyway... we'll see.

(Starting the mission on the app, and starting my watch)

7.0 in 59:14, 8:39 ave.  Felt decent in terms of fatigue, despite the air travel the previous night.  Felt like it was an easy 7, no big deal... although it was because I only ran once in the past 5 days.

Sunday, Nov 16:
Zombies again.  Legs were stiff in the morning, but by mid-morning, I was tired but ready to run.  8.4 in 1:13:06, 8:42... another nice run that wasn't hard.

Tuesday was a busy day - interviewing people at work for work, then for college in the evening.  Could've run or done a strength session afterwards, but I was too physically and mentally fatigued.  I regretted it later, considering it a weakness of will.  My body could've used it.

Wednesday, Nov 19:
I debated whether I wanted to do hills or intervals on the treadmill, to get ready for an early December B-race.  I ended up doing neither, because going at 7.2mph at 3 degrees of incline was feeling really difficult as it was.  I ended up doing a tempo-y 5.0 in 39:29, 7:54 ave (7:19 effort), so I was satisfied anyway.

Thursday, Nov 20:
60 min strength session.  Finally, my quads are functioning normally again, after they got really weak while recovering from the Spartan Carolinas double.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bye, Bye, Brazil

2 years of work on the project to roll out software in 9 countries, and this was the last trip.
After being so sore after the 4-mi Spartan Sprint, and after being left to hobble after just a free Spartan workout, I figured that I would barely be able to walk for days after the Spartan Carolinas double.  Somehow, I was able to walk decently.  Just the top of one of my feet felt squeezed, from the tight shoes yesterday.  I had 4x24 hours at home, before heading out to Brazil again. 

Wednesday, Oct 29:
I stayed at the usual hotel for a few days, before switching to another hotel closer to my home base for the next 2 weeks.  The gym at the first hotel was *still* under renovation, so the day that I arrived, I got in a run at the park.  I took it nice and easy, since it was my first run back.  Nose breathed, since the park didn’t lend itself to fast running, and I wanted to limit the effects of city smog.   My knees felt inflamed a the end of the first lap, but they recovered.  4.4 in 4:57, 9:46 ave (estimated).

Friday, Oct 31:
Forgot about Halloween, with all that was going on at work.   Plus, the country only recently started getting into this holiday, with kids dressing up and everything.   I saw one adult dressed up, when we went out for drinks (for me, acai juice).  After getting back from a late night out, I did 50 min of body weight strength in the hotel room.  Even a 2:00 plank felt hard probably due to the effects of the Spartan.  My single-legs squats were also barely squatted, and my knees felt weak and achey.

Saturday (workday), Nov 1:
At the other hotel now.  They have the usual Brazillian old-but-usable-but-no-incline-functionality treadmills, plus one slightly more sophisticated treadmill that could do inclines.  This treadmill was actually kind of funny, because for the display, they printed on pictures of workout modes that were meant to look like windows on a computer.  They had scrollbars and buttons on the pictures.  It was a bit amusing.

The treadmill was good, though.  Got in 5.0 in 41:34, 8:22 ave, at 3 degrees of incline.  My body hadn’t been in any kind of mood to exert itself or move, but I tried running anyways, and it ended up being a good effort, especially at the end.  Glad I did it.  One never regrets having worked out.

Sunday (workday), Nov 2:
The one incline treadmill was taken, so I used the 0-degree, narrow treadmill for a 4.3 in 37:06, 8:32 ave.  Nose breathed for this one.  Did arms afterwards. 

Tuesday, Nov 4:
Did a recumbent bike for 60 min, with BPMs of 150, 155, and 140 at the 20 min interval marks.  Pretty sweaty, high resistance.  My legs hadn’t felt fresh for running, so I went with the bike this time.

Thursday, Nov 6:
Went at 6am, a little bit before the gym was actually supposed to open, and I got the incline treadmill, which is typically otherwise occupied in the evening.  Did a nice 6.2 in 51:20, 8:17 average.  Before breakfast.  It was warm, and I felt like if the temps were cold, I could’ve gone on forever.  Lots of endorphins afterwards.

Friday, Nov 7:
Yesterday’s morning run was great, so I did it again today.  I actually started off with the idea of doing intervals, but I soon discovered that due to having to control speed in increments of 0.1K on this treadmill, it wouldn’t be too easy, so I just did a normal run.

Saturday (1/2 workday), Nov 8:
I did a strength session in the evening.  The single-leg squats were decent this time, but the plank was still hard.  That night, went to a Samba club with my co-workers.   That was something I had wanted to check off my Brazil to-do list in the past, so it was nice. 

Sunday, Nov 9:
The backs of my shoulders were sore today.  Was it due to the lateral pulldown weight machine?  I wanted a good, serious workout session, so I tried a long run and managed 8.6 mi in 1:12:50, 8:25 ave @ 3 degrees of incline.  The treadmill actually said 9.3 mi, which is what I’ll be racing in December, but the mph pace suggested otherwise, so I think 8.6 is more realistic.  This was after a skipped lunch (due to a long nap, to recover from the 4am return to the hotel last night).  I adjusted the pace slightly throughout, to do what was most comfortable at the time… only 0.2 kph of difference.

Tuesday, Nov 11:
Tried running, but my legs wouldn’t have it, so I biked again.  I feel like I went really slow this time and didn’t end up getting much of a workout by the end of it.  Although, my lower legs were sore the next day.

Wednesday, Nov 12:
4.3 in 36:14, 8:20 ave, on the 0-incline treadmill.  The incline treadmill was out for repairs, since it had been stopping suddenly, mid-run, for people.  Nose-breathed, felt good.  Ended up stopping, mostly because my right shoelace was coming undone, and after tying it, I wasn’t in the mood to start again (being all sweaty).  Did arms, instead.  Felt kind of wimpy for not going farther, eh.  I hadn’t been eating as cleanly as usual, either… maybe due to stress, and just needing to get through.  Oh well, it’s the off-season, anyway.

Summary of Brazil:
- They're fun, easy-going people, and always joking around and having a good laugh
- Traffic in Sao Paulo, but some really unique & beautiful places in Rio & Iguazu

- Coconut water out of a coconut
- Rio Hanggliding
- Monkeys and other animals
- Acai slushies
- Rio Paddleboarding/Beaches
- Feijoada (black bean dish)
- Iguazu Falls
- Caipirinha

Monday, November 3, 2014

RACE REPORT: Spartan Carolinas Super 2014

I woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, only to find that I could barely walk, haha.  At my first Spartan in May of this year, I did the Sprint with my sister and her friend.  That was just 4 miles, and it wiped me out.  Even after 2-hr Spartan Workouts hosted by the race series, I'd barely be able to walk the next couple of days, with all of the burpees.  And this time, I had done 12 miles of obstacles.  I still had a couple of hours of sleep to go, so I elevated my legs up on the wall for a while, then went back to sleep. 

When I woke up, it was still like that... oh man, it was going to be a long day.  I wasn't injured or anything, just rigor-mortis-ed and sore.  So I figured that I'd literally hobble baby steps for the whole 9 miles today... even though I had a 9:45am start time, I wondered to myself whether I'd need a headlamp, since I'd potentially still be out on the course when it got dark.  I packed up, had a nice complementary breakfast at the hotel (eggs, turkey sausage, oatmeal, milk, decaf, and green tea), then drove the 40 minutes out to Carolina Adventure World.  Somehow, by the time I got there, I was able to walk and even run decently.  Crazy.  I had had to hobble out of the hotel.

I took some pre-race pics.  I wasn't sure how well my arms would do on the obstacles, since I don't do much training of my upper body, and it had already gone through a lot the previous day, but it actually turned out ok.

I was in an open heat this time.  The trails were clogged for the first few miles, but the good thing is that I wasn't in a rush or racing for time today.  Another nice thing about the open heat is that people can help each other on the obstacles, which was good on walls and the monkey bars.

The race course was the same as yesterday's, other than cutting out 3 miles.  Nearly all of the obstacles were still there. 

My focus for the race was enjoying the obstacles, taking my time on them to complete them and practice technique.  After failing on the log hop yesterday, I went step-by-step very slowly, caught my balance a few times after almost falling, and made it.  Redemption feels so good!

I learned a great tip from a race veteran, who suggested that I put the sandbag on the top of my back.  I was skeptical at first, but I tried it, to be polite, and oh man, it felt like nothing (at least during the first half).  It was as if I wasn't carrying anything at all.  On the uphill, it started getting a bit heavy, but not nearly as much as it would've felt like, had I been resting it on my shoulder, like yesterday!

During the race, I encountered the Atlas Carry again - hard, again.  Had to try a couple of times, to pick it up.  There were times when I think I wouldn't be able to do it.  

I kept hoping that we wouldn't have to do the Bucket Brigade again.  That nearly did me in, yesterday.  We got through more and more of the race course, and I kept hoping and hoping.  But towards the very end, bam, bucket carry.  Oh, man.

In filling up the bucket, I found a good method - use a big rock to push rocks down the slope of the pile, to fill the bucket, instead of sanding down your hands.  I also found a method not to use.  At first, I thought that I'd try to use big rocks, which, if irregular, may cause more spaces to form in the bucket, to make it less heavy.  But, I think that doesn't work, because the small rocks would still fill in, and one big rock has no space at all, vs. the many small spaces caused by many little rocks.  The rocks were like gravel.  Anyway, I filled it up to the bare minimum and started the long trudge up.  This time, I didn't bother with trying to rest the bucket on my quads.  I put it down completely, quite a few times.  People were encouraging, though.  We were all suffering together.  Many people were putting their buckets down.  The volunteer even helped me lift the bucket up to empty it.  Ah, the perks of the open heat.  

I tried to be deliberate and careful on the Traverse Wall this time, but I slipped again!  Like, on the 2nd hold!  That's 0/3 in races.  I think I need to focus more on keeping hand grip to test footing... next time.  Failed spear throw, of course... not any better than yesterday.  Same with rope climb.

It was all about finishing today, and I did!  Spartan Carolinas Double-header completed, and 2014 Trifecta completed!

RACE REPORT: Spartan Carolinas Beast 2014

 (the Lattice Bridge - combination obstacle and entrance)

Spartan races are like shorter road races on steroids.  The marathon is still unique and in a class of its own.  But after this weekend, I ­really appreciate the big “festival” atmosphere of the Spartan events.  You get to spectate as people tackle the obstacles that are in the viewing area, people emerge from the course all muddy and happy and ready to take pictures and shower off, and there’s a bunch of merchandise that people get to celebrate their accomplishment and the lifestyle.  People are starting and finishing all day, so it’s a constant stream of excitement.

I went into the race with less-than-ideal training leading up.  I didn’t end up doing a bunch of strength training this year, like I had envisioned.  I always ended up just doing my usual running plus maintenance strength.  My running has been in maintenance mode, too, with no marathons this year.  With lots of work travel, getting in any kind of exercise was an accomplishment.  I was ready to see how I’d do, though.

I had been in Brazil (which is moving into Spring), so I was surprised to find 47 degree temps at the starting line in Winnsboro, SC.  It wasn’t bad, though.  I was glad to be starting in the Elite heat, so that I could get finished before the sun got too high.  The men started 15 min earlier.  There were a lot of them.  After watching them start, I dropped off my gear bag with my warm clothes.

(the Mens' start)
It’s funny how they make you go over a wall, just to get to the starting line.  I was a bit clumsy on it – yikes!  I hadn’t even started.  Once we started off, it felt like a trail race, with the wide dirt road.  The first obstacle was a warm-up over/under/over/under.  Next, the 6 foot wall, which went well.  It was a few miles, it felt, until we got our first taste of mud, in a barbed wire crawl, which I had only seen at the ends of races in the past.  This is when it’s good to be short.  

At the balance beam, the volunteers warned “fall, and do 30 burpees”, but I thought “fall and break your legs”, since it was maybe 4 feet above a ditch with a mix of tall grass and large hidden rocks.  It was short, though, and pretty wide.

The tractor pull was ok…. Downhill, then uphill… I went slow on the uphill.  Men and women used the same cinder blocks, so I had more trouble than most.  The course had lots of uphill and downhill on dirt trails, plus cut-throughs through forest – sometimes fairly flat but narrow and windy, and other times up and down very steep banks.  During the run, it would be kind of a boost to pass guys, because you know that they got a 10-15 min head start.  There was one odd “spider web” obstacle, where the instructions weren’t entirely clear.

I fell on the log hop.  After  making it about 60% of the way through, I lost my balance.  Bother… burpees.  Next, the tire drag… pretty straightforward. 

More running, then, through speedbumps of hills and muddy pits… got you muddy.  Then over-under-through.  Monkey bars were next… I spent a lot of time trying to dry my hands, which were muddy from the mud pits.  I did all of that drying, only to find that the monkey bars were not your average bars.  Instead, they were staggered, so that you have a level one, then up, then level, then up, etc, and they were far apart, too!  I couldn’t even make it to the second (an up) one, since it kind of requires great pull-up strength to get the distance plus the upward movement.  I later watched men beasting it, and their legs were swinging like crazy.  It’s supposedly easier to under-arm grab the up-bar, but there was no way.  Burpees for me.  

Next, the Traverse Wall.  This thing was so easy pre-race, at my first Spartan Sprint, in the festival area.  Doing it muddy and fatigued is a completely different story, though.  I might’ve made it over one set of holds before slipping.  Bother.  More burpees.  I wished that I hadn’t made that mistake. 
Next spear throw.  This time, they had ropes tied to the end, so that volunteers didn’t have to risk their lives to retrieve the spears.  Smart move.  It supposedly makes the flight of the spear harder, though, and people have to aim a bit higher.  Had even less of a chance than in the past.  30 more burpees… that’s pretty much 90 in a row.

Then, I think next was the Atlas carry.  There were concrete balls, maybe 1.5-2x the volume of a basketball.  It was near the limit of what I could lift up from the ground, then carry for maybe 20 feet, drop, do 30 burpees, then pick up and carry back.  It gives you a sense of satisfaction to accomplish something that you’re barely able to do.  If it was a pound heavier, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to pick it up.

Big Cargo net was next – NBD.  One of the volunteers said that one guy had been doing the race with one broken arm, forcing him to do all of the obstacles one-armed… wow.  7ft wall, with the helper step.  It took a couple of tries, but I told myself “you can do this” and made it up – I was so proud.  Don’t remember what was next, but after that was the 8-ft wall, which I was also able to get up.  Sandbag carry - I put the sandbag on one of my shoulders going down, and another one going up... I learn a much more efficient method the next day, though.

Bucket brigade was extremely difficult.  You filled up a bucket with rocks, then carried it up then down a significantly steep and length hill.  To rest, I would put the bucket on my hip for a while, before carrying on.  It was tempting to put it down, but I figured that it would be more taxing to have to pick it back up, than to put up with resting it on my quads.  Made it back down, then I had to lift it up pretty high to empty it over a wall.  Phew, that was rough.

A small swim, which is really just wading.  Then, the Herculean Hoist, which was NBD.  Rope climb – as usual, not much of a chance, as slippery as it is, when you’re starting waist-deep in mud.  Burpees.  Lattice bridge, which I guess is about conquering fear of heights, similar to the cargo net, as opposed to taxing your body.  Barbed wire, dive into water under a wall.  Slip wall… I tried running up it and then grabbing the rope, at first, but no need, and it didn’t work.  It was simple enough just to pull myself up.  Finally, the fire jump.

Afterwards, I picked up my gear bag and took pics.  Bought my trifecta patch, in anticipation of the next day’s activities, along with some shorts.  Showered, changed.  Ate, watched people do various obstacles from the spectator areas.   

 (Herculean Hoist)


(Traverse Wall)

(Inverted Wall)

(Spear Throw = burpee maker)

(Barbed Wire Crawl)


Made my mark on the Wall of Valor:

I stuck around for the awards ceremony, since it was the East Coast Age Group Championships, but it wasn’t my day.  It was a fun day, though… 1 down, 1 to go.

It was a nice change to get to “travel” (all 2 hours of driving of it) and stay at a hotel, not for work.   I checked into the Holiday Inn, with tons of bags for a 2-hr / overnight trip, for all my food, gear, and other comforts.  It was nice to just relax and recover.  I had originally envisioned walking around downtown Colombia to explore and maybe try a local vegan restaurant, but I didn’t feel like going back out.  

(aaah, comfort)
Part 2 coming up… the Sunday Spartan Beast