Saturday, December 10, 2016

RACE REPORT: Spartan Atlanta Super 2016

The Week Leading Up:

Tue, Nov 29:
5.0 in 40:28, 8:06 ave, 7:47 effort on 2 degree treadmill at the hotel.  Slightly warm at 68 degrees, but ok.  Hard to get out of bed for the early morning pre-work run, since I needed to catch up on sleep, but afterwards, I felt great, wishing I would do this every day.  Counted down 0.01 mi increments in the last 1+ mi.  This week ended up being an unintentional taper for the ATL Super, since my dad's visit threw off my usual weekend workout schedule.  The timing of my last interval session and strength session the previous week was perfect, too.  The run felt harder than it should've, for marathon pace, but hopefully,  I'm making progress on getting speed back.

Wed, Nov 30:
90 min biking, covering 25 mi.  With 1.8 mi rucking.  This was my last workout before the race.


After a long work week, with traveling to a different city, having to wake up at 1:30am early Saturday morning to drive 3.75 mi down to Atlanta wasn't ideal for racing, but it's what OCRers will do to do what they love.  It was low 40's, and I thought that I'd end up racing in long-sleeve gear, but I ended up going with my Plan B of my wetsuit that I wore in Tahoe.  It may get a bit warm, but it was the last race of the season, I was mostly doing it to finally get a double Trifecta, and I was more concerned about not being too cold than optimizing speed.  The wetsuit ended up working pretty well, and I was only too warm for maybe 20-30 minutes of the race during the first half.  However, because the wetsuit was my back-up plan, I didn't pack of the accessories that I'd usually wear with the wet suit, like calf sleeves.  I also opted to not use gloves, since I hadn't brought a waist pack to stash them in on obstacles that needed flesh for gripping.

The Race:

With the temps and the month, it's a smaller race than other ATL Spartan races, attendance-wise.  I guess all the hard-core ones come.  Had a 7:45 start time.  Hurdles were a bit more of a struggle than usual, maybe due to the wet suit, or maybe I'm out of obstacle/strength shape, but I did them.  2 hay bales, over-under-through walls, 7' wall was also more of a struggle than usual, since I had difficulties getting my right foot  hooked over the wall.  Made the monkey bars for the first time, using the technique that a Spartan facebook friend posted a video of on... a fellow short girl ;)  By lecheing to build up momentum, it was easier to get a good grip on the uphill bars.  I was so excited to make it, and even kicked the bell at the end because that seemed easier than risking another transition to a bar and letting go with one hand.

Atlas carry, barbed wire roll, bucket brigade without gloves but it was OK and made it without putting the bucket down.  The sticks and thorny vines coming out of the ground from bushwacked trail were very noticeable during this race, since I was bare-calved/shinned for the first time.  Wish I had the calf sleeves!  Got cut up and bruised on my shins.  Devil's staircase, Herc Hoist was doable for the first time in over a year for me.  Mounds of grounds, dunk wall.

Rope climb - did it for the second time ever at a Spartan race - I was able to use the foot technique that I had finally practiced and nailed down at Crossfit Mecklenburg a couple of months ago.  What a difference that technique can make.  It was still not easy, with the rope coated in a thin layer of wet mud, but I made it.  Failed Tyrollean Traverse about 40% of the way through.  On the Slip Wall, it wasn't as pretty as usual, haha, but got it done, as you can tell from this sequence of shots.

Could've maybe made it a bit further if I had pushed, but I didn't have calf sleeves, and it was pretty hard... not sure I could've made it without the gloves and calf sleeves, even if I had pushed 100%.  That ended up being the only obstacle where I felt like I didn't give it a full go.  This race, since it wasn't about going super speedy and was more about just finishing, was about doing the obstacles well, and not mentally giving up like I had at the Carolina Beast in several obstacles.  This race felt like more of a willpower game more than a physical one, and I feel like I did redeem myself.  At the spear throw, I probably did my best yet at it, scraping the bale, but at a totally bad angle.  Still haven't made it yet, but maybe I'll tweak the angles next time... one day.... I'll yell so loud when I finally do get it.  Sandbag carry through trail and a creek that was deep, where I face-planted with the extra help of the sandbag on my upper back at one point.

One thing I really liked about the previous Conyers race was the back half where we went through some tunnels with water, and where we ran over giant boulders.  I had done several races at the Horse Park before, but this was our first time going there, and it was special.  This year, we did that again, but I was expecting a similar short out-and-back and saw people coming down in the opposite direction, but we ended up continuing on the boulder part for a long time (I call it "Stone Mountain"), and we crossed the road into a different part of the park where we did a wide loop, so it was an interesting and unexpected twist.  We didn't end up coming back to the "back" part of the out-and-back for a long time, and as I saw people going out as I was coming back in, I thought to myself, "you guys are in for a surprise if you think it'll be like last time!".  At the z-wall, it was about patience, again... that and avoiding 2 daddy long leg spiders that were right at belly level.  8" wall also harder than usual for me, like all the other walls on this day, but I stuck with it and eventually made it.  Was it the wetsuit?  Or did I lose strength?/  Plate drag, multi-rig failed again transitioning from the pipe to the ring, although this time, I was more patient trying to build up momentum before the transition, but still no luck this time.  A-frame cargo, barbed wire army crawl uphill, and a fireless finish, due to the fire ban.

8.6 mi in 2:11:56, 15:20 average, 95 burpees.  Didn't place above the 50th percentile this time.  Oh well, that's ok.  I had obstacle redemption.  Last race of the season done.  Volunteered later that day.  I'll be taking a break from OCRs until May, to focus on training for Boston without risking injury.  It's been a big year for me in OCR...
  • ATL Sprint & Hurricane Heat in March - my last time not making the tall walls or hurdles
  • Asheville Super in August - finally made hurdles and walls, and haven't looked back since
  • HH12HR in Fort Campbell in August - proud to have made it
  • Fort Bragg Sprint in September - showed that Asheville wasn't a fluke, made the rig
  • Tahoe Ultrabeast - not something I'd typically do, but wanted to get my Endurance Trifecta - lucky to have finished, in October, also locked the 1x TRIFECTA
  • Carolina Beast in October - some mental giving up on obstacles
  • GORUCK Tough in Columbia, SC in November - I think I like the variation in activities of HH12HRs more, but still interesting to experience
  • ATL Super in December - obstacle redemption, willpower event, 2x TRIFECTA earned

Thanksgiving 2016


Tue, Nov 8:
Biking 17.1 mi in 60 min, nose breathing.

Plus 25 min of strength:
  • Push-ups: 20 + 25 = 45
  • Plank: 2.5 + 2 minutes = 4.5 min
  • Sit-ups: 95
  • Flutter Kicks (4-count): 40 + 45 = 95
I didn't feel like I had done a whole lot of strength stuff during the GORUCK, oddly, so it wasn't too soon for a mini-session

Thur, Nov 10: 
3.5 mi on a 2 degree treadmill at night.  Didn't have my watch, so I only knew the total time.  28 min, 8:00 ave, 7:41 effort.  It was short, because I went until my lower digestive tract couldn't handle it anymore, with running too soon after dinner.... could've otherwise gone on.  Felt harder than it should've, maybe because of digestion, maybe from not having trained with anything faster than long run trail pace in the past many months, or maybe it was because I was sick since Monday.

Fri, Nov 11:
90 minute bike covering 25.4 mi.  Nose breathed.  Along with a 18 mi ruck.

Volunteered at the Charlotte Marathon, in the VIP tent, keeping it clean and serving food.  It was my first time in uptown Charlotte since moving here, oddly.  They had cool spinner medals, so maybe I'll do the half next year.  I did some geocaching afterwards, and explored 1/4 of Uptown (not a huge city, area-wise).

I had planned on going to the Whitewater center and running afterwards, but after being on my feet all day volunteering (that was fine) and then walking a lot on top of that (that put it over the edge), not possible.  So instead, I had a picnic at the airport overlook ("picnic" makes it sound more glamorous than it was... it was a tupperware of carrots and apples, and maybe a chunk of cheese, if I was lucky).  Then, I went home and read some more of the "Training Essentials for Ultrarunning" book... this may be the first book that I've read in like 2 years... getting close to the end of it!  

Sun, Nov 13:
Did get to the Whitewater Center today.  12.3 mi in 2:17:27, 11:09 average.  Trails: Figure 8 -> Carolina Thread -> Academy Loop -> East Main -> Lake Loop.  It was sprinkling at times.  Half-rolled an ankle, but it was fine.  Ate nut & fruit bar @ mi 6... could've eaten more.  Could've gone on farther after drinking some water, but I called it a day.  A good run... could've gone on, but no reason to push it now... it's supposed to be the off-season.

Got to catch up with a college friend in Chapel Hill.  So glad for the chance.  The past couple of months have been hard, so it was good to be able to talk to a good friend. 

Lots of long days at work.

Thurs, Nov 17:
Treadmill run at a hotel... kind of a sketchy one, since my usual one was booked.  5.0 in 41:46, 8:21 ave, 3 degrees of incline = 7:43 effort.  Felt harder than it should.  Ran at 5:30 am.  Was going to do just 4.5 mi, but I pushed it to 5.  Had drank some before the run, but not at usual hydration levels.

Fri, Nov 18:
60 min Strength session for the Deez Nutz WOD:
  • Ruck: 1.4 mi
  • Pushups: 25 + 20 = 45
  • Plank: 3.5 + 2.5 = 6
  • Situps: 205 + 130 = 335
  • Lunges: 45 (knees less happy than usual, so I may need to get strong again, after not having done them for a while)
  • Flutter Kicks: 60 + 50 + 50 = 160
  • Burpees: 60
  • Jumping Jacks: 100
  • Squats: 135 (out of practice in my quads)
Sat, Nov 19:
Wildfires have been making air quality at yellow level, and it was anticipated that they may stay active until early Spring.  I don't recall ever having this impact my decisions to run or not before.  It was windy on this day, so I decided to get in a run while I could, on a day when the air may be a bit clearer, since I wouldn't know how many such chances I'd get over the next few months.  Did the Figure 8-> Carolina Thread -> Academy Loop -> East Main -> Lake Loop, at 3pm, with 902 feet of elevation gain.  Felt good and fast in my first Kinvaras.  No food or water needed.  It's odd that I've done the same route several times, and I've gotten distances of 11.2, 12.3, and 13.1 mi on those runs.  That's a lot of variation, for runs tracked by iPhone data!  Met a snake on the trail.  I don't like crawly things or slithery things.  Yelled at it until it slowly went away.

11.2 mi in 2:15:00, 12:03/mi.

Sun, Nov 20:
90 min of biking, covering 24.6 mi.  Not fast, but it helped to flush out everything from the past 3 days of consecutive working out, which I don't do often.

 Good food and beer with dad... my dad has been helping me a lot as I've moved cities.

At noon, did my first interval session perhaps all year, after waking up from a post-breakfast nap.  Drank a Fit-Aid right before.  I think I've done that before, but not a good choice today.  My left kidney had a side stitch, and it was generally difficult, although part of the difficulty may just be me not in speed shape.  4.0 in 30:21, 7:35 ave, 7:17 effort, at 2 degrees of incline.
  • 1 mi warmup to 7.5mph in 8:12/mi
  • 0.5 mi @ 9mph in 3:20
  • 0.25 mi @ 7.5ph in 1:58
  • 0.25 mi @ 9mph in 1:40
  • 0.25 mi @ 7.5ph in 1:58
  • 0.25 mi @ 9mph in 1:40
  • Rest (couldn't have continued like I was)
  • 1 mi warmup to 7.5mph in 8:11 (got back on the horse)
  • 0.5 mi @ 9mph in 3:20

Not stellar, but it's step 1 for getting back into speed shape.  The Ultrarunning book covers lots of topics, including designing a training plan, and one of its principles is moving towards specificity as your plan goes on.  Speedwork is the opposite of marathoning, so now's a great time for it.  I need to get it back before I get deep into the phase.

My dad and I like Black Friday shopping.  I know many people prefer to avoid the crowds and chaos and consumerism, but it's kind of a tradition for us.  We like sales, the thrill of the hunt, people watching is interesting (there is some craziness), and getting into the season.  I typically don't get much more than a couple of DVDs and towels.  One year, I got a pre-lit Christmas tree that I now use, and this year, I finally got the Deer that I've wanted for many years.  Now, I have a yard of my own to house them.

(Daddy Deer, Mommy Deer, my Sister Deer, and Me Deer)

("Expecto Patroni!")

Went to the Whitewater center with my dad to get in a walk/ruck.  We feel better when we can exercise a bit.

Went to IKEA afterwards and got some furniture for my dining room/bar for my beer glassware and swag:

Went to Freedom Park, for a walk.  It looks like a decent-sized place to do marathon long runs in the future.  The Whitewater center is great for escaping into nature and putting in time, but you don't get to work on speed, and your tempo is thrown off by all of the elevation changes and technical portions.  I'll need flat grass to be able to cover the required distances with the required speed, and this looks promising.

Thankful for friends and family.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

GORUCK TOUGH Class 2123 - 2016 - Columbia, SC

I'd normally start with a recap of my training leading up to the event, but in the week between the Spartan Carolinas Beast and Friday night's GORUCK Tough, I didn't do anything.  My plantars were roughed up from the weekend's activities, and I was simply tired.

How'd I find myself in a GORUCK event?  For the Spartan Hurricane Heat 12 HR event, we had to carry 20lb plus supplies, and the GORUCK GR1 was the most recommended backpack model.  You didn't want to go into a big event with time hacks and all kinds of unknown rough activity with lack of confidence in a bag that may give out from the weight and wear partway through.  I visited the website periodically, and on July 4th, there was a great deal on a GR1 which included a free standard event.  The GR1 did great in the HH12HR in August, even with my makeshift waist belt (they had sold out of real ones on the website).  Even after everything it went through, you could hardly tell it was used.  I continued to wear it on my walks to the fitness center, to make those walks a little bit more challenging, and to keep my body used to carrying weight.

I didn't do much training specifically for this event.  It was 12 hours and overnight.  I did one incline treadmill rucking workout with some ruckless body weight strength exercises after each of the three one mile rucks, a couple of weeks earlier, but that was the only ruck-specific one.  I figured that my usual combination of strength and cardio for Spartan training would be enough to get me through.

It was different to have an event on a Friday night.  I drove down to Columbia after work and killed some time after getting there early.  I found a parking spot and went to Finlay park where fellow ruckers gradually amassed.  When it was time, we got in formation with our rucks in front of us, and the Cadre came.  There were three for this event, since a large group of 60-70 was expected, although just 44 showed up at the start.  Cadre Montreal, a super funny guy, checked our names off the list.  One Cadre was named Shredder, which is frightening.  There was a surprising amount of women at the event, and a good mix of newbies and experienced ruckers.  It was different, not quite knowing what to expect.  I had checked on a couple of blogs the previous day, so I got the general idea, but this would be interesting.

We started with some sprints up and down big stairs, for gear checks and some PT punishments along the way.  Then, we went to the trailer to get our "coupons" for the event.  I have no idea why random heavy items that we have to carry are called "coupons", but they included various logs, boxes, duffels, jerry cans of water, ammo cans and fake pumpkins filled with concrete or something, and sandbags.  We started along a paved walking trail, carrying the coupons.  We did a human conveyor belt for the coupons, then worked as a team to get the coupons up the slope under an overpass and sang the national anthem afterwards.

This event ended up being a special one for Veterans Day.  Each of us brought the picture and story of a veteran to honor during this ruck.  A few times over the course of the event, we'd stop and share the stories of our vets.  There were many who had grandparents who had served, and it was really touching to see the ruckers challenge themselves with this event in their honor.

We continued carrying coupons through different parts of town.  There was one coupon called the Krakken, which was three logs tied together with heavy ropes, and no part of the Krakken could touch the ground at any point.  There were time hacks in this event, too, although unlike the HH12HR with individual challenges, you passed or failed as a group, and failure meant more PT.  All of the coupons were heavy... you thought the sandbags were heavy, but you try the pumpkin and ammo can, and it's no easier.  All heavy.  I no longer think happy thoughts when I see pumpkins, haha.  I thought farmers carries were my strength, but the coupons showed my weakness. 

After the first couple of legs of our trip, where the men had taken on the Krakken, there was a surprise twist... the females had to take the Krakken now.  I thought "no way", but we started.  I thought we'd just have to take it a short leg of the trip, but we ended up taking it for a few long [never-ending] legs.  I wasn't able to contribute that much, unfortunately.  I was a few inches shorter than the rest, so I couldn't carry any of the load while on teams of three.  In teams of two, I don't know whether it was where I was relative to the center of mass, or whether it was like that for everyone, but it was only tolerable on my shoulder for very short periods of time, before someone had to pick up my slack.  A couple of times, on teams of two, I could actually make it, and it seemed to be when the log was able to sit on my ruck instead of my shoulder.  

The other women, though, they were beasts.  Some weren't much bigger or taller than me, and they suffered through that thing for long periods of time like champions.  It wasn't easy.  I felt pretty useless, but they'd be carrying it then lifting it overhead repeatedly, to switch shoulders, and they'd take on the weight when others needed switching out.  They were so tough.  There was even one girl who had shoulder issues but toughed it out and would help with that crazy heavy stuff as much as she could.

We continued through the night, carrying coupons through residential areas and bushwhacking through tall grass and a little stream.  Didn't do so well on all of the time hacks, but we tried.   There were sprint challenges, and there were casualties.  I was a casualty.  Despite the smiles, being a casualty isn't as easy as you'd think.  Your arms get stretched in trio mode, and you get bruised all over in farmer carry mode.

Finally, the sun began to rise.  Throughout the event, different people got to be the Team Leader and practice their leadership skills.  It's a tough job, wrangling a bunch of ruckers and trying to keep them in formation.  You have to keep everyone together while keeping everyone going fast enough to have a chance at the time hacks.  You also have to coordinate distributing the workload - always more coupons than people, and the logs don't get any easier.  At the end of your leg/trip/mission, the group gives you feedback, and you give the group feedback.  The TLs that night (lots of men and lots of women) all did great, and the hardest TL role was the one as the sun rose, when everyone had gone through a long, hard night already and was cranky and tired and ready for it to be over.  They did great, though.  The sight of the sun rising in the morning was so very welcome, but the Cardres did not let up on us at all, continuing to press on us with time hacks and the need to stay in formation.

Finally, we got back to the park.  I had hardly eaten or drank.  There wasn't much time, and I used Nalgenes rather than a handy hydration pack.  I didn't use the restroom, either, since it meant going into the woods with a buddy.  Thankfully, just 12 hours, so it was doable.  We ran into the park with our flags, paid up our PT for the demerits, and finished with tiered climbs up to the top of the park, where we received our patches.  The newbies became GRTs and were welcomed into the family.  44/44 finished.

Final Thoughts: What a tough and dedicated group of people.   Met some great people who were very encouraging.  At personal cost and pain, many took on great loads for the good of the group.  Like with some other events, in the midst of it, I think "one and done", but a few days later, I start thinking about signing up for another.  Supposedly, each GORUCK event is a bit different, so there's always something new to look forward to. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

RACE REPORT: Spartan Carolina Beast 2016

We descended upon Carolina Adventure World once again.  This race sold out on Saturday.  It's the only Beast-distance event in our region.  Temps were pretty much perfect.  Not too cold or hot.  I wore leggings, to avoid scratching up my legs with rocks or scratchy plants.... or obstacles.  I wanted to see if I could continue to hold my own in the elite heat and improve on the obstacles.  The Beast course started with the Sprint course, veered off and wound around Carolina Adventure World for like 8 miles, then merged back onto the Sprint course.  Most of the obstacles were on the portion that coincided with the Sprint course.

(Beast in Green+Red, Sprint in Red)

We started with short walls, hurdles, Over-Under-Through, failed Monkey bars (at least I touched the second bar this time... I saw some videos after the race, where all of the women were lache-ing from the lower bars to the higher bars... I guess that's how to get it done, so I'll try that next time), sandbag, low crawl, atlast carry, sandbag 2, devil's ladder, cargo net up a hill, tyrollean traverse fail not too far from the bell, a-frame cargo, 8-foot wall, plate drag, multi-rig fail as I transition from the pipe to a higher ring (I tried lache-ing, but I couldn't hold on to the ring), z-wall, 7-foot wall oddly fail even though I made the 8-foot wall because the top of the wall was wet and slippery, barbed wire, mounds of grounds, inverted wall, dunk wall, rope climb got to the top but slipped down before I could hit the bell and didnt' have the strength to make it up again (rope burn not as bad as last time this happened), herc hoist fail as ususal this year, spear throw fail (did running start, did grab the rope and the spear at the same time, but forgot to try giving it a bit of an arc), slip wall, fire jump.

The hills and rooty terrain were brutal.  I volunteered on course sweep later that day, and the course looks sooo different in the evening than in the morning.  In the morning, everything is bush-whacked, and you have to look hard to make out the trail.  In the evening, after 6,000 pairs of feet have already trampled through, it looks as if those trails have been there forever.  Parts of the course felt like jungle, as they were a mixture of bog and tropical-looking trees.  And did I mention lots of roots and sprigs of plants sticking out of the ground?  The elevation change (or gain?) was 2,600 feet.  

I finished in 3:55:47, 18:09 average.  Still a bit above the 50th percentile of the heat, so I'm happy.  

I do feel like I mentally gave up on some obstacles that I came so close on but failed.
  • Tyrolean Traverse : I wasn't too far from the end, when my hand slipped, and I fell hard on my back.  Not only do you feel the pain of being dropped from a moderate height, but you've used up energy traversing most of the rope, and then you end up having to do the burpee penalties anyways.  I feel like if I had told myself that hanging on until the end was life-or-death, I could've made it through.  Mental game.  When I start off on it, it feels like the bell is so far away, and I keep going and am actually making progress, but it's so hard... gotta hang on until the end.
  • Rope Climb : Same thing... It was there for the taking.  I only had to do one more pull upwards, and I could've reached the bell.  It's scary letting go with one hand to try to hit the bell.  It's a long way down.  Uhh...
  • 7-foot Wall : It's the first time in a few races that I've failed this (first since Atlanta early this year).  The slipperiness definitely made it harder, but I should've tried the opposite side, to see if it was any better.  I didn't, because it involved an uphill run, followed by a jump, but it could've been just fine.
  • Multi-Rig : Maybe if I was more patient, and built up a bigger lache, it would've worked... I was close.  
  • Herc, Spear, and Monkey, I couldn't do much about.  Know that I know the staggered height Monkey Bar technique, I may be able to start improving on that.  But I don't have high expectations for myself on those yet.

I realized that bringing only one gel for an even that had a 3-hr fastest estimated finish time was too little, but fortunately, Clif Shot Bloks were offered at three aid stations.  I had 6 total, and they were just what I needed.  I tend to prefer gels, but I was grateful to have the Bloks to carb up on.

What did go well:
  • Z-wall patience, to make sure my grips were secure
  • Gloves for burpees
  • Leggings for protection from the trees
  • Keeping the gas pedal on during the runs
I like how fellow competitors on the course are so encouraging, even though we're going up against each other.  Spartans are great people.

I had a blast volunteering for the rest of the weekend.  I started with Course Sweep, checking that the course was still well-marked at the end of the first day, and picking up trash so that the next day's racers would have the same quality experience as the first day's racers.  Ideally, people wouldn't drop trash, and I hope people learn not to do it intentionally... I get that it happens unintentionally sometimes, but come on, intentional people.  I got to work with the course designer, and I really admire him.  He cares a lot about the racers and what they get to experience on this special day.  The following day, I started at the bag check (always a favorite of mine), followed by food and beverage (making awesome chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, pulled pork sandwiches, and veggie burgers with kale salad with the Capital City Catering crew), followed by the finish line (not too many people coming through, that late in the evening), and breakdown.  I like volunteering with Spartan.  You learn different kinds of skills and how to organize big events and how to learn and adapt and be efficient.  They're always looking for ways to improve how they do things, and I like that.