Friday, March 29, 2013

Miami Super Spartan - 2013

Until the Miami Super Spartan, the only Spartan races I had ever run, in fact the only obstacle races I had ever run, were the Spartan Sprints at Tuxedo NY.  I had read from one of the top Spartan racers that the Tuxedo course (3.5-4 miles) was just as hard as a Tough Mudder (appx 10 miles) and harder than the Miami Super (appx 8 miles).  Nevertheless, I had never run that kind of distance and I found the thought of doing it very intimidating.  But if you're going to avoid challenges because you might fail, you can never expect to experience the thrill of achieving something you thought was impossible!  My first time was Tuxedo and I just want to keep finding ways to have that feeling again.
So, once more, I prepared to face down the doubts and fears you have when going up against an unknown challenge.  In general I knew the biggest hurdle (no pun intended) was going to be the distance and heat.  I'd lived in Miami for 14 years so I knew very well that the heat, even in February, would be grueling for us northeners.  Even on the shorter Tuxedo course, muscle cramps were a factor.  So I took some steps to try to limit the damage.  Besides a training program that included a lot more running, I also took along a Camelbak and some "packs of GU"...(which I'll leave as a homework assignment for you to find out what that is).  I also knew that I needed to work on my upper body strength.  The rope climb, the Hercules lift and a few other dainties are unforgiving if you don't have the strength.
Of course the one consistent factor about the Spartan races is that you never really know what to expect.  The spear throw was AWOL...and I think I had that one down!  The rope climb was off dry land for once...I liked that!  Someone somewhere decided that lifting and carrying a concrete cylinder the size of a 5 gallon bucket 20 feet, then doing some burpees was fun...oh, and bring it back over here when you're done...please.  And how many walls were there on that course??!!  I can remember 12 but I'd swear there were more than that.  Who knows...maybe I climbed a few was a long, hot day out there.  Maybe the biggest surprise...hills!  Well, they wouldn't be called hills in most parts of the country.  But knowing that the highest point in the everglades is 3 feet above sea level, I was absolutely shocked to find climbs throughout the course of 15-20 feet.
Another experiment no doubt, was the placement of 4 of the obstacles in a row at the end of the run.  I'm sure this was to give the spectators a chance to see more of the actual race.  Not a bad intention, but for the racers, having to do the rope climb, wall traverse, mud crawl and "slippery incline" one after another was a bit much.

The funny thing is though, when I finished, I wasn't dead!  I had fully expected to be.  Before I left NY, I had carefully bequeathed all my office paraphernalia to my teammates...knowing full well what awaited in Miami (and I think they were surprised and disappointed too, when I returned to reclaim my stuff!).  I told my daughter, who lives in Miami, that whatever we were going to do, needed to be done before the race, because I planned to be horizontal from the finish until my plane trip back.  I honestly don't know how much to credit my training (and GU...thanks Janice!) or the fact that the elevation changes were minimal compared to NY, but I actually felt a bit disappointed.  I know, it sounds strange...but somehow, not being brutalized and beaten to a pulp by the course left me feeling like I missed out on something!  So I guess maybe I reached another level.  I've got Citifield coming up in around 2 weeks, so we'll see how that goes.  Overall though, I have to say I'm still enjoying this sport and feel like there's greater potential yet untapped.  Time will tell.  One last thing...I finished Tuxedo in around 2:39.  I finished Miami in around 2:52.  That means I finished the extra four miles at an average pace of 3 minutes, 15 seconds!  Hey, do the math!!...I'm just saying....
I would be remiss if I didn't thank my daughter Dawn and her husband Brian for the airport rides, the rides to the race and for putting me up (or is it putting up with me...maybe both) for the days I was there...and to the grandkids for...well...just for being themselves.  Until next time....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spartan Race WOD's aka "Workout Of the Day"...what they don't tell you

One of the basic assumptions that these WOD's seem to make is that you have, at hand, a fully equipped gym alongside a running track with a hill just outside the door.  I guess it's also assumed that you have a field where you can do all sorts of imaginative exercises which may include old tires, large rocks and tree parts.  I haven't seen any yet that involved wrestling wild animals or carrying domestic ones...but I'm sure that's just an oversight and will be addressed at some point soon.

Well....I belong to a gym...just an ordinary, regular gym.  So that pretty much puts most of the WOD's out of any practical reach.  I do however, read them on a daily basis.  And much to my surprise, along came a WOD that I could not only do at my gym, but was only 5 lines long!!  What was even more surprising was the fact that it looked pretty easy.  Now, anyone familiar with Spartan Race knows, if it looks too out!  Since I've written about these guys before (see 2012 Spartan Race at Tuxedo NY ) I really should have known better.  I suppose we all know where this one's going!

So...WOD in hand...I trotted off to the gym one day, intent on doing my first WOD.  This was an exciting day!  Knowing how difficult most of these are, and knowing that there were people out there doing them regularly, I felt like I was on the threshold of some exclusive and elusive society.

Now, it took a bit of innovating but I worked out a way to do this oh-so-simple WOD.  Of course it wouldn't be perfect.  There would be an unavoidable, relatively small time lag between exercises.  Overall though, it would be close enough to get the feel of really doing one.  They also have a rating system for these.  Each one is rated up to 5 in the areas of strength, endurance and speed.  So I did one rotation through the WOD exercises!  And the first thing that hit me was, "how the hell could something this short be so freaking hard??!!"  For Spartan athletes these ratings were fine I guess.  For me, they better put them in dog years!  20 minutes later, it was done...and I was done!  It was my first one...but hopefully not my last.  Unfortunately, a gym is just not the ideal place for these...which is probably a big reason I'm still alive!!

Just a final note about one of the people that creates these "things", Dr Jeff [aka Dr. Jeff Godin].  For those who like the science of exercise, he writes some of the most technically interesting articles.  I credit him with my breakthrough performance in longer distance running endurance....all due to one of his posts on the "long slow run".  Aroo Doc...keep 'em coming...even if I can only manage a few.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spartan Race 2013 World Rankings....and how the hell did I get on there?!

One of the special moments in writing a blog is when you see that people all over the world are actually looking at it. I have no idea who they are or what they think about it. But just knowing that someone in Croatia or Ukraine or Australia is reading these is exciting. Another special (read: strange) moment is to one day wake up and find that you are an internationally ranked obstacle racer! No really...stop's the picture to prove it.  I wouldn't lie to you!  Well...ok...maybe I would, but not about this.

Ok...the fact is, everybody that finishes a race has a ranking. And while being 118th out of 222 in my age group is personally gratifying, I'm not expecting Reebok or Wheaties (do they still make that??!) to come knocking on my door anytime soon. The truth of the matter is, there is great advantage in attrition! Being old lessens the competition. You can check out on their website, the formula for how Spartan Race calculates these ranking points.   It's pretty simply to understand really...I only had to pull out my college calculus, physics and actuarial books to follow some of the math.

So, at the age of 55, it seems I've managed to achieve something in sports that I'd never even thought of before. I had all but given up hope on an NFL career (anyone that knows me will tell you I have this little problem with giving up on things). Even a respectable college football career seems unlikely and I will have to settle for attending that NFL football factory now known as "The U".  But somehow, through the magic of Spartan Race, I have become a world ranked obstacle racer!  How does it feel? doesn't suck!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Spartan Race Times Square Demonstration Event - 2013

Some opportunities in life come along once...and you have a choice to either make the sacrifice to do it, or know that you missed out on something that will never happen again.  That's the way I felt about the Spartan Race demonstration event in Times Square NY last month.  Originally it was to be held last November 1st...but Hurricane Sandy hit just days before that and Spartan Race wisely postponed the event.  When it was first announced I offered immediately to volunteer...having absolutely no idea what was involved.  Just being a part of this event sounded I was in!  The sacrifice??!...besides taking off from work, it meant being in Times Square by 3:00am for the setup....which also meant being up at 12:30am to do that.  Yikes!!  Then staying until after 3pm for the dis-assembly...and for anyone keeping score, that's a long day on what amounted to a nap the night before.  Add to that, freezing temperatures, no "facilities" on site and no where to change out of wet clothes...well, it was typically Spartan.  

So spending the wee hours in Times square, helping put together this mini-Spartan course was a blast.  I even got the plum assignment of stenciling on the Spartan logo for the vertical wall!  The most exciting part though was the event itself.  Between the Spartan racers that showed up...including Hobie Call and Team Braveheart, celebrities and broadcasters, it was pretty much a non-stop day of competition and fun.  We also had the privilege of watching Team X-T.R.E.M.E run the course twice...the first time I think I just stared, simply in awe of these individuals.  And the best part...besides meeting a new that we watched the entire event inside the course at the finish line...even handing out the medals when no one else was doing it.  In fact...the funny thing is, watching all the videos, seeing all the pictures, I realized that we were standing right there with the photographers the whole time.  Like I said...some opportunities come along once...and this was one I'll never forget.  If there was any regret that day, it was that I never got to run the course.  My "plan" had been to wait until around midday so I could run it once then change...somehow/somewhere...and finish the day in dry clothes.  But after 7 hours or so, standing out in the cold, my legs were stiff and my hands wouldn't grip, so I had to fore-go that chance.  It was a bit of a disappointment but in the big picture, I don't even think about it now.

So for now, it's back to training and the next stop is the Super Spartan in Miami.  That is the major test of where I am physically after all the work in the gym.  Very excited...and very anxious too!