Sunday, May 24, 2015

RACE RECAP: Battlefrog Extreme Atlanta 2015

This challenge came about a month after the Boston Marathon.  While my body was still somewhat used to going long, there was still lingering fatigue, since I had approached the limits of my legs during that race.

The mission: Complete as many laps as you can, of an 8K obstacle course with 22 obstacles/lap, as long as you start your first lap at 8:30am and start your last lap by 3pm, giving us 6.5 hours, at least, if we wanted.  The number of obstacles doesn't matter so much, since some are always easier than others.  

This was a cool new twist on the traditional race, where you go as fast as you can, for a set distance.  It would be a great way to practice obstacles, and it was well-suited for those who like longer distances.  This was the second time they were offering this Battlefrog Extreme option.

The medals for this race are cool, too.  They look very different, and you earn a start for each lap that you cover.  You could pin those starts to the medal at the end.  The winner gets a cool paddle, too, but they only had one.

Each participant was allowed a drop box for food and gear, and we could leave it at a special tent on the side of the course.  It was fun meeting fellow crazies there before the race, between laps, and after race.  Some were big-time OCR fanatics.  Others, like me, were relatively new to this.  The tent was stocked with finish line food and drinks, and it had its own porta potty in the back, which was awesome.

We got BFX armbands that let us repeat the course each lap, and the volunteers were able to ID us and cheer us on.  We get special access to bypass traffic in some cases, too, which was nice, even though I didn't take advantage of that every time.

After the usual awesome pump-up speech, with a drone flying overhead, we were off.  We were going to be at this all day, so I was in no rush to sprint out.  I went at a conservative 20-mile-long-run pace, and even that was probably pushing it too much.  Others were going much faster.  If I had something on my side, it was pacing experience, but not on the scale of a 7-hr run... 3, at most.

I ended up finishing 4 laps... 3 in reasonable shape, the last with a death march in the 2nd half.

Obstacles that I can remember:
- Small wall (completed 3/4)
- Wooden ladder-wall climb (4/4)
- Through the hole in the wall (4/4)
- Trenches (4/4... you just have to walk over them)
- Roll under wall (4/4)
- Giant a-frame (4/4)
- Wedge (4/4) - One of my favorites, since it looks cool and American Ninja Warrior-esque, but it's very doable.  I used a different approach, facing down.

- Tall wall with rope (3/4) - No arms left during the last lap
- Cargo net (4/4) - Leg cramped at the very top of it on my 3rd lap, I think... had to gingerly sit at the apex as I writhed in pain, but it got back to normal within a minute... just a tricky spot to be in, when you lose your legs.
- Lateral ropes to Cliffhanger to Lateral ropes (1/4) - It was sooooo much fun when I did it the first time, without too much difficulty.  This was another American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle, albeit an easier version of it since the wall had incline, rather than being a strictly vertical wall.  Unfortunately, I never made it far into the Cliffhanger portion on the other three attempts... the ropes I could do, but not the Cliffhanger.

- Rope Climb (2/4) - Not too hard the first two times... got harder each time after that.  I appreciate that these ropes are shorter than the Spartan ones, and not over water... the Spartan ones are nearly impossible for me.  A good many people are able to conquer the Spartan ones, though, so maybe it's technique or strength that I lack.
- Jerry Cans (4/4) - A mandatory obstacle for BFX... no 8-counts to get out of it.  I didn't think it was bad at all, though.  The girls had smaller ones to carry than the boys did.  I think I took 1-2 breaks on the first lap, but many more in the subsequent laps.
- Wreck Bag (4/4) - The other mandatory one.  Carry a 50-lb sandbag on your back (more like my neck) for 0.4 miles of steep up and down.  This one nearly killed me each time.  It was so heavy, and all of the weight was concentrated on the top of my back.  Fortunately, we "had" to get the bag over a wall without having it touch the ground at the mid-point, and jump over the wall.  At first, I thought it would be an ugly challenge, but it turned out to be a saving grace, since you could rest the bag on the wall.  I certainly needed the time to let my back recover.  During the first lap, tears were streaming down my eyes as a result of allergies.  I nearly broke into tears the other three laps because of the struggle, though. 

After my third lap, a rep from Obstacle Race Media interviewed me while I was at the drop box tent.  

I appear somewhere in there:

During the 3rd lap, a fellow BFXer was very encouraging we were at the midpoint wall.  I think every lap, people helped to get the bag back onto my shoulders at the wall.  During that 3rd lap, I was neck-and-neck with a girl who I thought would be my competition... turns out that there were still 2 people farther ahead than us, but at least I didn't know.  Despite being competitors, as we struggled through the Jerry Can and Wreck Bags together, there was a deep sense of camaraderie.  She ended up dropping me 1/4 of the way into the Wreck Bags, though, haha, and went on to finish a 5th lap, it seems, based on her finish time.  Pretty much each time I finished the wreck bag, I'd collapse onto the heap of wreck bags... it was brutal.  That was the hump to get over, though... once you passed that, you were home-free, except for the 4th lap, where the final wreck bag totally did me in, and forced me into a death march for the remainder of the course.  I had already lost my arm strength, but I pretty much lost all strength after that, and could only manage 8-counts, in all but the easiest obstacles.

- Cargo net over water (4/4) - There was a traffic backup here in the later laps, as more open waves joined the course.  The first time I encountered the traffic, during the 2nd lap, I waited in line for maybe 5 minutes.  The second time (3rd lap), some open wavers invited me to go up to the front, which I appreciated.  During the 4th lap, I was so beat up that I didn't mind just standing there for a while.  After a stressful week of work, I had been looking forward to the race as an opportunity to give everything I could physically, and I certainly got that.
- Incline wall climb (3/4) - 1-3 were easy.  During the 4th, I couldn't manage much of a run anymore.  
- Inverted wall (3/4) - Same as above.
- Monkey Bars (0.9/4) - During the first lap, when I was still fresh, I very nearly completed the uphill then downhill monkey bars with a transition section in the middle.  I would've never thought that I could do a monkey bars so long, especially with the slope and the transition, but I nearly made it, and I was proud.  No way for the last 3 laps, though.

- Bridge over River Cry (0/4) - I got maybe 70% of the way up the inverted wire ladder leading up to a telephone pole.  It hurt my hands a lot.  I didn't make it, though.  I had even less of a chance during the remaining 3 laps.
- Tsunami (0/1) - We didn't get to do this until we decided that this was our last lap.  I had tried it during the Battlefrog Elite race in 2014 and struggled greatly.  For having little running ability left at this point, and having no arms, I feel like I gave it a decent attempt, but I gave it up and did my 8-counts afterwards.  The slide down was very steep, steeper than 2014's in the Carolinas.  I didn't have anything to lose, though, so drop down a nearly vertical slide, then crash into the water.  
- Normandy Jacks (1/1) - Tough, with legs cramping.  This was the end, though.

Got my medal, picked up my 4 stars, proudly put them on, and went to the photo op place.

Sand in my socks had rubbed the skin off of my ankles, but it was so nice to shower and get clean.

Got to meet Mike afterwards, too!

Can't wait to do it again next year!  I would do this again this year, but it's right before my next marathon BQ attempt.

I ended up finishing in 6:44:59, 5th out of 10 female BFXers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Back to... Chicago/Wisconsin 5

Sunday, May 3:
Time to get in more miles... my third run since the marathon.  6.1 in 55:47, 9:09 average, at the park.  Definitely no Zombies, still.  Took it easy.  Speedwork is the last thing on my mind.   I went until my legs started feeling some wear and tear. 

Monday, May 4:
70 min strength session.

Tuesday, May 5:
4.0 in 34:34, 8:39 average, on a 3 degree treadmill = 7:57 effort.  Each mile lasted so long, mentally.  I started slow, since I had bailed on my previous attempt at a treadmill run.  It went well.  Stopped due to tummy issue, rather than a muscular reason.  Nose-breathed the whole time.  Stayed up until 2am to prep for guests coming over for dinner.

Friday, May 8:
Another outside run. 6.2 in 56:43, 9:07 average.  Was on the phone with my dad for the first 0.75 mi lap.  Had to take it really slow for most of it, to prevent pounding on my legs.  Once I started using better form, which does require a bit more effort, it did feel better, though.

Saturday, May 9:
I was going to run on the treadmill, but the fitness room was randomly locked, so I had to do a 55 min strength session, instead.

Sunday - Chicago...

Started with Oak Park, where the highest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are.  They're interspersed between Victorian homes that look like life-sized doll-houses.  I didn't think that real buildings looked like that.


The tour at FLW's studio was very interesting.  I didn't really know anything about him before.  He developed many innovative ideas, though... pretty cool.

Afterwards, the Goose Island Brewpub tour.

This tour was unique... it focused on Chicago brewing history.  There wasn't much to see brew tour-wise, since it was a small-scale brewpub system.  They did have a nice tasting session that walked us through a flight of samples, though.

Monday, May 11:
4.4 in 36:40, 8:20 ave, 3 degrees of incline = 7:42 average.  A sweat lodge in the hotel fitness room.  Felt good, but it got hot quick.  A good, stress-relieving run, though.  Splits> 8:34, 8:31, 8:24, 8:07, 3:02 for 0.4.
Wednesday - My first MLB game, at the Milwaukee Brewers, which had a retractable roof stadium... good thing, since it was cold here this week!

RACE REPORT: Swamp Rabbit 5K 2015

I had no idea what to expect for this race.  It was about 10 days post-Boston, and my attempt at running on Wednesday was a no-go.  I may do ok, if I had residual fitness/endurance.  My legs were still recovering from some all-out action, though.

I got there early, to not have to rush like I had the last time that I ran the race.  Got a nice tech/cotton blend shirt.  Parked at a high school, sat in the car until the time got closer, since I didn't want to bake in the sun.  Since it was my usual dinner time, I was a bit hungry and had a bit of cheese, which would come back to bite me later on.

When it got closer to race time, I made the 0.5-mi-ish walk to the start, sat around for some time, then did a small warm up.  I definitely kept it short, since I had plenty of wear on my legs already.  I could feel like 100% of my muscle fibers were not up-and-running.

 At the race start, I ended up starting a the front of the 6-7 minute mile corral.  The gun went off, and after crossing the line, I had to put the brakes on, with the congestion and perhaps some corral derangement... but then it got better, and we started chugging along. I tried to keep the pace manageable.  Who knew when the legs would have enough.

In the last mile, I felt the pre-run cheese in my tummy, feeling like a rock.  I wasn't too far from the finish, t hough, ad made it through in 20:47, 6:44 average.  Fairly even pacing, too.  Nice.  Splits> 13:25 for 2 (6:43 average), 7:23 for 1.1.

Temps were nice that day... a bit cool, even.  The previous two times that I had done the race, it was hot.  The prize for age group was nice, too... a sheet metal lawn ornament-type thing.  The railroad spikes from previous years were also pretty neat and unique without being gaudy.  This is a really nice race, with a great post-race celebration with food and vendors and lots of people.

Post-Boston Landing and Battlefrog Volunteering (Apr 20-30)

Life after Boston...

Back into action at work.  So much to do.  Miss being in Boston.  I keep thinking about how much I want to go back, to experience it again.  I sign up for the California International Marathon in December to take another shot at a BQ.  I didn't run at all the first week.  My legs took a beating, maybe because of what I pushed through during the last two miles as my calves were on the verge of cramping up.  I was in no rush at all to start running again, and I took a whole week off.  I feel like I was flying while I was in Boston, and it's a hard landing back to reality.

Battlefrog Carolinas...

Saturday, volunteered at Battlefrog in Carolinas, as an Elite Course Marshall.  I pointed the way for people, around a horse-shoe of a wading pound.  There was light to moderate rain.  It was fun to participate in obstacle course racing in this way.  People were muddy and cold, but I hope that it just increased the epic-ness of their experience and the sense of accomplishment afterwards.  It was a tough day to race, though, I'm sure.

It's good to have OCR's coming up to look forward to, along with a long-term goal of the CIM.  I also sign up to run the Disney Goofy Challenge, with a Marathon on Saturday and a Full on Sunday in January.  I'll jog the full with my dad and sister, who are going to go for their first marathon (and their first race greater than 5K... it'll be crazy fun and crazy challenging... can't wait... will be fun to train with them and be excited about the race together).

Sunday, Apr 26:
60 min strength session.  My body continues to want to eat produce... quality food.  My calves are still recovering.  The strength session went better than expected, though.

Monday, Apr 27:
First run back... 6.1 in 56:10, 9:08 average.  Body felt pretty good, form was decent.  Progressively sped up as the run went along.  0.75 mi splits> 14:57 for 2 (7:28 average), 7:11, 7:05, 7:00, 6:52, 6:46, 6:16.

Wednesday - tried to go on another run, this time on the treadmill, for my first run in new Adidas Boost shoes, but my legs were not at all up for it.