Monday, October 26, 2015

RACE REPORT: Atlanta Spartan Super

THE TRAINING IN THE 10-DAY LEAD-UP

Wednesday, Sep 30:
I was craving running so much, after only logging a grand total of 3.5 miles during the previous week.  Fed my running cravings with 10.0 in 1:28:10 on the 2 degree treadmill at 8:19 ave pace, which is 7:59 effort.  I had taken the red eye the previous night, but I felt fine at work... so rested from vacation, despite the incredibly hot cross-country airplane leg from Seattle to Charlotte.  The run felt so easy and nice.

Friday, Oct 2:
55 min strength session.  My legs were still recovering from the 10, but the strength session always helps to improve blood flow and recovery.

Saturday, Oct 3:
My first 20 for this marathon training cycle!!!  20.1 in 3:11:19, 9:30 average at the park.  The first 10 miles, I mentally got through it by thinking about what fraction of the run I had completed.  For the last 10 miles, I counted down the miles in 0.1 increments, which made it mentally last a lot longer.  It would've been cool to make it through the run without food or water, but I had half a bottle of water with lemon at mile 18.5, to help me finish when I was feeling low on energy.  I did the whole run without any music or podcasts, since it was the 1,000 year rain event in South Carolina.  It ended up only raining at certain times, but definitely enough to be unsafe for the phone.  I ate a bunch, once home, and my lips were purple from cold.  I had had chocolate before the run.

Tuesday, Oct 6:
Legs were feeling post-soreness (the tail end of soreness, when all you want to do is stretch out the muscles) at work today, which meant that I was pretty much recovered from the 20 and ready for more.  I did 4.5 in 38:25, 8:32 average at 3 degrees of incline = 7:51 effort, but time ticked away soooo slowly.  It felt hot, too, even though it was 72 degrees, and I was thirsty, so I even had half a bottle of water during the run.  I sweat what felt like a lot.  My form started really deteriorating during the last 1/4 mile, when I was compensating, so I stopped it at 4.5.

THE RACE

I had signed up for the elite heat of the Atlanta Spartan Super many months ago.  I thought that I would've trained specifically for OCR in the lead-up, but with travel and having a hard enough time getting in normal runs, and excuse excuse excuse, it didn't happen.  I could've easily been training burpees, but I didn't.  So... I was jumping into the race not obstacle-fit.  I was also coming off of a 20 miler.  I figured that it may help my fitness some, but it would also mean that I was not at all fresh and rested.  The goal was just to do the best that I could.


It was raining on the drive down, but it let up just as I arrived.  The course, which is already usually muddy, was a muddy mess, and the festival was a muddy mess, even before the day started.  It was slightly chilly, but still tolerable in the sports bra.  The elite field wasn't huge... usually isn't, compared to the mens' elite heat.  The men had already headed out in their start.  Our turn... energy going... and we're off.  After a bit of crowded running down narrow tracks, we hit the first obstacle... where I had to do my first set of burpees.  It was the log hop, except they were super high, and not only that, they were not circular logs but an angled rectangular thing.  It was sooo hard.  Bruised my knees trying to get up it.  I maybe maybe maybe could've spent a bunch of time and a bunch of tries and gotten lucky mustering up everything I had to get up it.... but there was a second row of them right afterwards.  Morale killer.  Burpees it was.  There were other girls, too... maybe 5 of us "elites" who didn't make it up that first obstacle.


Next, over-under-through... doable.  A-frame cargo net.  Then, monkey bars - in the rain, impossible - can't even grip the first one.  Log carry #1 had you walking down a large rocked creek, where it was hard to carry an awkward, large, heavy thing on uneven footing.  Wasn't too long, though.  Cliff climb isn't much of an obstacle, just a speed bump.  Course was definitely not well-marked after this... caught up to a group of people ahead of me who had started going down the wrong way... followed them through the right way.  6 foot wall - failed it = third set of burpees.  Bucket brigade - took many breaks along the way.  Added water weight on fairly small rocks probably didn't make it very easy.  Z-wall... couldn't even get on the first set of holds without slipping off - I remember my first Spartan, where the traverse wall (a dry one) was so easy... a completely different animal in the mud = 4th set of burpees. 




Next, sandbag carry not heavy but very slippery and uphill at the turnaround point.  Multibar - would've been fun to try this dry, but a big fail again = 5th set of burpees.  Barbed wire - I did make up a lot of time on this.  It was my first time rolling uphill.  Rope climb - my first time where it wasn't set up in a pool of mud, but it was still impossible for me, with arms used up so much by now = 6th set.  Slip wall and dunk wall surprisingly not too hard.  8 foot wall fail = 7th set.  Spear throw = 8th set.  Log carry #2.  Tractor pull, cinder block jerry can.  Atlas carry - had to take a lot of time and a lot of tries to pick it up on the way there and on the way back.  That took a lot of persistence.  It was one of the mandatory obstacles for the elite race, along with the logs, jerry can, barbed wire, and bucket brigade.  The last one was the fire jump.




In all, 8 x 30 = 240 burpees. 

8.5 miles in 2:28:25, 18:38 average.  Didn't get hungry during the race.  Ran decently, didn't fade much, run-wise.  I had had a salmon sandwich right before the race, which hit the spot and kept me fueled.



It was fun hanging out afterwards, watching finishers and enjoying Shocktop Belgian White Beer, before checking in for my volunteer shift, where I helped to tear down the Over-under-through walls, the A-frame cargo net, and the monkey bars.

My goal was to just do a Spartan race this year, to check the box for 2015.  With the marathon in December, I wouldn't go for the Trifecta by racing twice in November, so I'm going to leave the trifecta for next year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Westbound - Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, & Bighorn Canyon National Forest & Recreation Area

So... mostly awesome, quality family time-wise (it's never perfect, but you grow closer nonetheless).  Not so great training wise, but it makes me appreciate the running opportunities at home! 

The last time we went out west, our trip coincided with what became the government shutdown, so many parks were closed.  We were better off this time!  There are threats again, but they have kicked the can down the road to December, so we were safe.  My parents had planned on visiting my mom's middle school friend, so they asked us kids if we wanted to come along.  My dad had been to Yellowstone previously, and he loved the animals and all the geothermal features.  I was excited to do an American version of an African safari. 

We flew into Denver and made the drive up to Wyoming.  We stopped for a couple of geocaches on the way.  My goals for the trip were to get a geocache in each state that I visited, and to eat a bison burger.  There were a couple of awesome gadget caches in Fort Collins, CO.  My dad figured one out, and I figured the other one out.



We stayed at a hotel on our way there.  There was no running water at the house where we'd be staying for most of the trip, so we savored the last chance to take a normal shower.  I also went to the fitness room, to squeeze in a run, while I could.  It's tough on family vacations, since there are always family activities going on, and my parents don't like me running late at night or in potentially unsafe locations. 

Sunday, September 20:
4.5 in 38:23, 8:32 average, on 2 degrees of incline.  The run felt way harder than it should've.  My parents had come to the gym with me, to also get in a bit of exercise while they could.  I made a rhetorical statement aloud to them, about wondering if we were at elevation.  And someone answered - didn't realize she was in the room, too.  It turned out that we were at 5K feet - no wonder!  After the morning run session and shower, we drove through Bighorn National Forest to get to the outside of Yellowstone.  It was fun making stops along the way, as we found cool things.

 



Next day, Yellowstone.  My sister wasn't flying in until later that week, so we wanted to save seeing the best sites for my mom and my first time with her.  They're all great, though. 



The next two days, we just chilled at the house.  It was nice to not have to work, and to have no obligations.  I did actually work for a couple of hours, but aside from that... it was nice.  Sitting around, eating, listening to my parents' conversations in Chinese.  Also saw a wild west gun fight show one evening, where I also found a geocache whose container was bullet casings.



Wednesday, September 23:
After eating all morning, I had to get in a workout.  In the afternoon, I decided to do a strength session.  So... the reason I appreciate running in the Southeast now is that you don't have to worry about running into buffalo, elk, and bears.  We'd come across them while driving, and there are warnings everywhere in Yellowstone about maintaining a safe distance.  So... running wasn't much of an option.  I found stones and other stuff to do my workout with... being resourceful.  I did stuff, but still didn't have a full workout worth of time logged, so I decided to run down and up the steep switchbacks leading up to the house, which took about 12 minutes for each of the two laps.  I had to powerwalk up, it was so steep... and I had to gingerly tread down, with the steepness and the loose gravel. 



The house was heated on, and we could cook with, an old-fashioned stove.  Our host cooked yak in it, too!  Tasted like tender, bland beef.



Time to pick up my sister from Billings, Montana's airport.  On our way there, we stopped by Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, where we saw wild mustangs, and a cool canyon.




We picked up my sister, and the next morning, I squeezed in the quickest of runs, before we had to head out to northern Montana for Glacier national park.

Friday, September 25:
3.5 in 26:14, 7:30 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 7:13 effort.  My dad only gave me 30 minutes to run, so I pushed it.  After not having run in so long, the run felt easy.  It was only 3K feet of elevation, vs. the previous run's 5K feet, so it wasn't noticeable.  Since the run was so short, it felt like a workout "snack", instead of a full workout "meal", but it was good nonetheless.  Glad to get at least something in.

We spent 1.5 days exploring Glacier NP.  It was a great time to visit, since it was towards the end of the season, when there are fewer cars, and the trees were turning a brilliant yellow, too.  And the weather was warmer than usual.  It would normally be in the 30s for the lows.  








The first night there happened to be the last night that a local restaurant would be open, before they closed for the long, rough winter season.  I got my bison burger (well, 2 bites of my sister's), and a vegan red pepper and sweet potato soup.  All were awesome!



 After a day and a half in Glacier, it was time to drive back down to Yellowstone, so that my sister could see it.  It was a special weekend to go, since it coincided with the Supermoon Blood Moon Lunar eclipse!  They had a ranger tour that night, and it would be great to watch it in the lands of the west, with little light pollution.  Before that, though, we had half a day in Yellowstone to explore, including visiting Old Faithful!  It's kind of weird that people wait around, sitting in benches, for 1.5 hours, to watch the thing spout for 2 minutes.  It teases you with spurts, too, before doing the main gush.  And the exact timing's unknown.




Time for the eclipse! The moon was a bit reddish during the eclipse. 
 



We stayed at a hostel overnight, and went back to Yellowstone the next day.  Highlights: The Roosevelt arch (although you couldn't get close because of the construction), Old Faithful again, seeing elk everywhere, learning about how to deal with bears if you encounter them, and taking an awesome tour of the Old Faithful Inn.









The next day, back to Billings.  My sister and I got in a quick workout before our flight.  I went on the bike, while she went on a run.  There was only 1 treadmill, and she hadn't run in a while, and I was happy to bike.

Tuesday, September 29:
60 minutes of a recumbent bike, covering 16.2 mi.  Didn't have any water, since the water cooler had run out.  Feels so good to work out again.


My sister and I had different destination cities, but we got to sit together on our first leg.  It was fun waiting at the airport with her, and sitting with her on the flight.  Alaskan airlines gives free craft beer, even on their domestic flights!!!  The flight attendants gave me the bottle caps for my collection, too!  Getting to spend all that time with my sister was a nice way to finish an awesome trip. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RACE REPORT: BMW Performance Classic 2-Miler


I was curious to see how my marathon training (at least the early weeks of it) would translate, when it came to a short and speedy race.  This is a race that I’ve only gotten to do once before, due to travel conflicts, I suppose.  It goes around the test track for BMWs, which is pretty cool.  The first time I did the race, I had a sub-par performance time-wise, but I did snag 9th place.  It was during my first year running post-college, so I was still pre-marathon then, and getting 9th was special.

THE 2-WEEK TRAINING LEAD-UP

Saturday, September 5
My parents were visiting for the long weekend, but they weren’t arriving til Saturday morning, which gave me a chance to squeeze in my long run before they arrived.  It would be my first legitimate long run of this marathon training cycle, since I had run/walked/geocached my first two (9 miler in NYC and 12 miler in DC) during trips where I had wanted to kill 2 birds with one stone.  14.1 in 2:06:15, 8:56 ave, at the Swamp Rabbit Trail spongy section.  It was cloudy, and temps were pretty decent.  Was able to do it without water or food (and with the cold).  Had a spinach and apple smoothie before the run.   I signed up for my first virtual race, as part of the facebook group “Hogwarts Running Club”, which was hosting its 2nd annual Platform 9 ¾ K run.  I considered doing a fast-finish run, with the last 6 miles counting as my race, but I didn’t have enough in me left to do a race effort at the end, so I’ll do that virtual race another time.  The trail had tons of runners on it – the most I remember seeing at once.  Could’ve potentially done another lap, by my parents had arrived, so I headed out to meet them after 14.1.


Monday – Labor Day – Hiked Big Creek Trail in Tennessee.  I found a geocaching trackable in Milwaukee that wanted to go to places without cell phone reception, and this hike fit the bill.  I was proud of my mom, who completed the 10-mi hike.  It’s a nice hike, with a wide and straightforward trail that just follows the river the whole way, out-and-back.  During a rest stop, we were taking pictures, and my dad slipped both legs into the creek by accident, which was pretty funny.  Probably not too comfortable to hike 6 miles with wet sneakers and jeans, though.




Tuesday, September 9:
Treadmill intervals, at 1 degree of incline.  5.0 in 36:07, 7:13 ave.  This was after pulling myself out from a nap.  My legs were surprisingly ready and fast from the start.  1 mi warmup in 8:03, 4x[9mph for 0.75 mi (5:01), 7.5mph for 0.25 (1:59)], 7.5mph for 0.25.  4 reps either ties or exceeds the most reps I’ve done at 9mph for 0.75mi.  Surprised!  Felt easy, given the pace.  I wonder if it’s because I was rested from the long weekend, mentally and physically.

Wednesday, September 10:
55 min strength session.
My legs weren’t runnable Friday night, but I was looking forward to getting to run the next morning, and I was excited about being able to do a Spartan race again about a month from now.  It’s funny… on Friday evenings before long runs, I’m typically so excited about getting to do my long run the next morning that I stay up late because it feels like it will come sooner.  By the morning, after I do fall asleep, though, it is more of a chore to get myself out the door.

Saturday, September 12:
Second legitimate long run.  16.0 in 2:22:33, 8:54 ave, at the spongy trail.  Had eaten a full breakfast 2 hrs prior (then had gone back to sleep), because I had been hungry.  Did the run without water and food during it, although there were times where I craved a hearty almond butter sandwich, oddly.  I also craved lemony water with salt.  My arms felt a bit catabolized in the last couple of miles.  I was scheduled to do an easy 6 miler this day, but I decided to bring forward the 16 miler to this week, and to do the 6 next week, because next week, it would be hard to fit in a long run, schedule-wise.   It was doable, too, since I had only had 1 1true long run, so I wasn’t beat up.

Sunday – did 6 hrs of geocaching, to finish up the Hub City Geotrail, put on by the City of Spartanburg.  It’s a challenge where you need to find 20/25 special caches placed around the city, and if you do, you earn a special Spartanburg geocoin.  I had done about half of it during my previous trip.  My laptop hard drive died, though, and I lost all of the codes that I had recorded to prove that I had found those caches, so I ended up re-visiting them all, during this second trip.

Monday, September 14:
I was scheduled to do that 2 mile race on Friday, so I knew I had to fit in runs early in the week, to do a taper later in the week.  I also wanted to get in miles before my next trip made training difficult to fit in.  6.0 in 49:47, 8:18 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 7:40 effort.  I watched the American Ninja Warrior 3-hr final while doing this, and it was such good motivation.  I pushed the pace pretty hard.

Tuesday, September 15:
I would’ve normally done 4, to keep it easy for the upcoming race, but I ended up doing 6, to fit in miles.  I decided that the race would be one where I’m somewhat “training through” (aka, not pulling back on training in order to be more rested for the race, even though it may harm my race performance).  BMW wasn’t my A-race, but the marathon was.  I had tried to nap after dinner, because I was tired, but I was also wired, so I couldn’t fall asleep.  That made getting out the the gym a bit easier.  Work’s been intense this week.   I had great motivation again during today’s run – NBC Sports was showing Spartan Race episodes!  They’ve started televising the race, and it was fun to watch.  6.0 in 49:57, 8:20 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 8:00 effort.


THE RACE:
Warm evening!  My legs were feeling heavy that day.  Sometimes, my body surprises me, though, and I’ve had some great races on days where my legs felt heavy.  I remembered this race feeling very crowded, the last time I did it.  It wasn’t too bad this time, though.  I did start like in the second row.  The first 0.5 mi is a straight stretch, with a downhill that we come back up before mile 0.75.  Then, winding.  I ran extra distance by having to take the outer side of the turns, to get around people,  but it was necessary.  I hit mile 1 in 6:21.  Just before the race, while waiting in the car for the start, I had used the McMillan Race Predictor to see what a 6:00 mile would equate to… 6:22, so that was spot-on.  I have run a 5:48 before, in more recent years, but I had done 6:00 consistently during college, so I figured that was a good typical day.  I kept it up and logged the second mile in 6:26… maybe a bit of fade, maybe the curves, but it was awesome to be so close to my goal time.  The fastest male finished sub-10.  I surprisingly got 2nd.  Oh, after the race, they had German beer – awesome.  It was refreshing and awesome.  I got a Spaten Optimator.   Thank you, BMW!

2.0 in 12:47.

Milwaukee Madness – Aug 31-Sep 4


After a few hours back at home, I was off to Wisconsin.  I was especially excited to head back through Milwaukee, because a Geocaching VLogger on Youtube had visited some especially cool geocaches there.  One was at a spy-themed restaurant.  They don’t advertise it as such.  The entrance is in an alleyway, which was dark and quiet when I got there late at night.   




The reception room is small, and there’s a person there who asks for a password.  If you don’t know the password, they have to “test” you to make sure you’re a “friendly spy”, by asking you to embarrass yourself by acting out something funny.  There’s actually a video camera, too, streaming your performance to the multitude of TVs scattered within the restaurant.  Once you’re in, the servers address you as “spy” and stay in character.  




There are spy-themed decorations, artifacts, and paraphernalia everywhere.  They give you a sheet with missions to accomplish, where you can find different cool things (typically interactive) within the winding restaurant.  There was a geocache within the restaurant, which I got.  Once I was ready to leave, there’s a secret “getaway” entrance which is a fake phone booth that leads you down into tunnels (for a $0.25 fee, of course) and back out into an alley.  Pretty cool.  Growing up, I loved that kind of stuff, and I still appreciate it very much.

Work was good – I was training people, and it went well.

Wednesday, Sep 2:
5.0 in 40:16, 8:03 ave, 3 degrees of incline = 7:26 effort.  Felt harder than it should’ve been.  It was before breakfast, but typically, that doesn’t bug me much.  I got a bit of a cold, though, and it got worse throughout the week.  Tolerable, though.  Then again, maybe it was hard because of the pace and incline.

Thursday, Sep 3:
6.0 in 49:17, 8:13 ave, 2 degrees of incline = 7:53 effort.  Much easier this time, despite not feeling 100% motivated physically or mentally.  Ran in the evening.  

Friday, on my way back to the airport, I hit up some super special Gadget Caches, which are geocaches that are interactive, which you physically have to decode through some mechanical solution.  I went to a Snoopy house-shaped one, where I already knew the solution, based on the spoiler Youtube video.  That’s a cache that you typically have to be a $10/mo member to see, but on the video, I could see signs that helped me google the address.   


 

There was another one involving an etch-a-sketch where you drew out the instructions by following a code.  There was a fun one that wasn’t a real gadget, but which was a cool human-sized mousetrap with a yellow geocache ammo can as the “cheese”.  The last one was a fire truck where you had to play with different things on it to figure out what would open the back of it.  Super cool.   Glad I got to see more of MKE during this trip.