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. 

Hanging Out with Mom, Spartan Revolution Workout 2.0, Beast Prep

The day after I got back from the West, I got to hang out with my mom.  We did a yoga class in an idyllic setting among tall trees at a pavilion at the US National Whitewater Center.  Then, we watched some madness as people raced homemade boats down the whitewater course.  After that, we had lunch at a public house.

I was still tired and recovering, so I didn't do too much early in the week.  One evening, we played boccee, but that's about it.

Thursday, Oct 13:
On Thursday, I did 2 rounds of 30 minute biking (8.2 mi & 8.25 mi), 25 minutes of strength, and another 30 minutes of biking (8.15 mi).  The strength part helped me rack up some Deez Nutz workout reps.
  • 3x25 = 75 pushups
  • 95 jumping jacks
  • 155 squats
  • 45 + 70 = 115 flutter kicks
  • 4 min plank (I'm nearing the end of my planking challenge, so I'm not doing as much as I usually do, so that I will still have capacity to throw that "easier" exercise in, amidst other exercises that are harder for me)
  • 2x100 mountain climbers
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 1.4 mi ruck to/from the gym
Saturday, Oct 15:
 All over the world, about 4,000 Spartans and Future Spartans would simultaneously do the same 1-hr workout.  It took place at 10am Eastern, to account for people in other time zones.  It was cool to think that fellow Spartans all over the place were doing this together with the group that had assembled at Crossfit Mecklenburg.

 The Crossfit box was nice, with a spongy surface, and we got to work out indoors.  They made good use of the space.  
  • We started with warmups of jogging in place, high knees, and jumping jacks.  I nose breathed during this.
  • Next were animal moves, which are surprisingly useful in OCRs... crab walk, broad jump, forward ape.
  • The first WOD was a partner burpee challenge.  We alternated 10s on/off, 2x 20s on/off, 3x30s on/off, 60s on/off, then back down the pyramid.  During the "on" time, you did burpees.  During the "off" time, your partner did burpees and you cheered them on.  The challenge was to see how many you could do total, during the WOD, with prizes on the line for top 2 for each gender.  Big motivation!  I was glad that I didn't go all-out on Thursday.  I ended up with 121.
  • The second WOD was 15 minutes of 1 rep each, 2 rep each, 3 rep each, 4 rep each, etc, as high as you could go, of a series of 5 exercises... Jumping Jack (1 move = 1), Backwards lunge, Mountain Climber, Squat, Push-up.  The push-ups were by far the toughest, maybe because those muscles were worn out from the burpees.  I got up to 10 full, plus everything on the 11th round other than the 11 push-ups.
  • After the workout, we played around on cool obstacle training equipment, like grip slings, ropes, and a wall.  I was able to successfully climb a rope with the foot pinching technique, for the first time.  In the past, I've always used my arms plus friction from pinching the rope between my thighs.  It was incredible and so easy.  I've tried pinching with my feet in the past, but it never worked.  I wonder if it's because of the shape of the shoe that I used this time vs. the one I used in previous attempts.  It made me feel like I'd be invincible on the rope climb in the future.  Granted, muddy ropes may make it much harder.

After that, I headed out to the Whitewater Center and did 14.2 mi in 2:33:52, 10:50 average.  The 50K and 50 miler races were taking place that day, so there were hard-core runners about.  I moseyed around various trails.  The trails looked so different from how they looked in the past.  I don't know if I've lost my mind, or if it's because they do look different after Hurricane Matthew washed out some of the usual dirt and exposed large rocks, roots, and other features that were previously hidden.  I wore New Balance 858's, which were not a good choice.  They didn't have much arch support, and my feet really hurt for the first couple of miles, before they warmed up.  It was ok after that.  After the run, I whitewater rafted in coldish temperatures.  Another fun fitness day.

Monday, Oct 17:
Really needed the workout to keep my mind busy.  It was a rough week, mentally.  Did 60 minutes of biking, covering 8.1 mi and 8.3 mi in the 30 minute reps.  

Wednesday, Oct 19:
Deez Nutz WOD, while watching the third presidential debate.
  • Rucked 1.8 mi roundtrip to/from the gym
  • 1 mi ruck on 7 degrees of incline in 16:40
  • 100 sit-ups
  • 3 min plank
  • 1 mi ruck on 7 degrees of incline in 15:20
  • 55 flutter kicks
  • 110 squats
  • 1 mi ruck on 7 degrees of incline in 15:30
  • assorted dumbells
  • 25 pushups
  • 45 flutter kicks
 My nerves were still recovering from the trail run, so the slow paced rucking and strength session was more appealing than a run.

Thursday, Oct 20:
60 minute biking session, with 8.1 mi and 8.4 mi.  Plus the 1.8 mi ruck to/from the gym.  I had hoped for 2 hours of biking, but my body was not up for it.  Each of the 30 minute reps even mentally felt like they took a long time.

My left foot felt stress fractury.  I hoped that it would completely heal up in time for the Spartan Carolinas Beast the following weekend.

Sunday, Oct 23:
I didn't even feel comfortable enough to bike until Sunday.  I did manage 2 hrs of biking, with 34.5 mi total, allowing me to reach the Amerithon "run/walk/bike/whatever across America" Powerhouse (Hoover Dam) milestone, after having virtually left San Francisco back on July 4th. 

My left foot felt better on Monday.

Tuesday, Oct 25:
Debated whether or not I wanted to try running, to make sure that my body would be used to that motion after a 9 day break from running, or if I wanted to continue resting to make sure that nothing was wrong with my left foot.  I decided to go for the run, and it worked out.  5.0 mi in 42:39 at 3 degrees of incline, 8:32 ave (7:51 effort).  It's only like the third run in almost 30 days.  I kept it controlled and went by comfort, without pushing anything.