Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nutrition and Health…Week In Review for June 27, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from the previous week on
Nutrition and Health

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for Nutrition and Health!!

OCR and Fitness…Week In Review for June 27th, 2015

ICYMI….Here are some of the best-of-the-best articles and posts from the previous week on OCR and Fitness:

******* The Great Amazing Race *******

What would you like to hear about each week?  Pass me the word and I’ll do my best to bring you exactly what you want to see for OCR and Fitness!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The One Constant....Training At The Gym

Life is a straight line for many people.  Whether it's their career, their personal life and relationships or their place in the world.  Mine has been anything but a line...straight or otherwise!  I don't hold that against them.  Life is different for each of us.  Not just our paths but our desires.  I've had many passions and interests in my life and I have chosen to pursue a number of these.  Sometimes in my career choices and other times as a personal interest.

The one constant over the last few years though has been my fitness training.  When I was younger....much younger....I 'dabbled' at the gym.  And I think dabbled is probably being very generous.  A few months here...a few months there...and never really any long range focus or even a sincere purpose in the workouts.  But then....a few years back, I got the obstacle course racing (OCR) bug.  And the rest, as they say, is history!

Since then, I've been focused on my training goals.  Soon afterwards, I started to realize, I really enjoyed the gym...enjoyed the training for itself.  Ok, not every minute of it...I mean, how many times do you drag yourself there because you know you should.  But once you start, all your focus is on the workout.  You're thinking about what you need to do...why your doing this particular workout...and the rest of the world just sort of...goes away for a while.  

Not to say though, that the training has always been precisely consistent.  Some periods I was at the gym six, even seven days a week.  Other times I was only there once a week...doing other training outside the gym for different reasons.  But I never gave it up!!  Through all these years.  And with all I've been through...professionally and personally...during this time, I'm actually amazed at that.  And thrilled about it at the same time.

The training, and the thoughts of the OCR races, has become a light in the darkness for me.  Not that I've developed those relationships and camaraderie that I read so much least not yet anyway.  And that's for a number of reasons I'm well aware of.  But the training has become part of me.  Something I choose to do, and want to do, as long as I'm able.  Even when the prospect of racing is months away.  Even if I'm only doing one or two races a year.

So now, the gym has become many things for me.  Peace of mind...Being in shape (the shape I always thought I was in!)...Most importantly, a feeling of being at home, when that feeling had all but disappeared.  

You's good to be home!

How  do feel about your training...your gym?  I'd love the hear how being at the gym has become a place that people want to be now.

Training for Spartan Races and the 2103 Spartan Events

There are levels to everything.  You can do just enough to get by.  You can even just look like you're doing enough while putting no effort at all.  Many people kick it up a notch and really make an effort to be ready for these races.  Inevitable you have those few...those rare individuals that are so driven that they take this training to the extreme.  Then of course you have me.  When I first signed up for the 2011 Spartan Sprint in Tuxedo, NY, I did set up a workout routine.  I mean, I had every intention of being as competitive as possible that race.  Looking back on it now, I would have been better off doing "wax on....wax off" every day considering how much those workouts helped.  After that race though, things got serious!  I wasn't expecting anything spectacular...never considered being truly competitive...but I just wanted to put on a better show than last time.  I realize that's not exactly setting the bar very high, but you have to start somewhere.

In the months prior to the 2012 Spartan Sprint in Tuxedo, most of my training was done at Eisenhower Park.  A local park with one of those fitness trails and exercise stations every so often.  Turns out, that those layouts area a pretty decent facsimile for a Spartan race.  A lot of running with some obstacles (stations) mixed in.  Of course these stations were about as close to the Spartan obstacles as juggling tennis balls is to juggling chainsaws....but let's not quibble.  Even though the race was brutal...and well documented in a previous post...I did manage to improve my splits by around 5 minutes a mile.  Ok, so I had massive room for improvement from 2011 but still...better is not worse!

However, eventually Fall comes, and for me it just got tougher and tougher to get some training in before dark...when the park closes.  Eventually the training would have stopped altogether.  Since I had to move soon after the 2012 race, I also ended up exactly no where near another decent park!  As fate would have it, a friend mentioned a nearby Planet Fitness.  Now, joining a gym wasn't quite in my budget, so I thought.  But I figured, at least go take a I did a drive by.  Well...not immediately...first I went to the wrong place and ended up at some late night health clinic.  In the end though, I did manage to find it.  Actually, it amazed me that I hadn't seen it before...I mean I drive around the area all the time.  This place must have been 15,000 square feet...of windows! you get to train with a few thousand friends.  But it turns out they had exactly what I needed.  Needless to say, I didn't actually have the best training plan in mind...but we'll talk about that next time.

Meanwhile, I've declared 2013 the year of the Spartan Beast. heard it here first!  This year I plan to run several Spartan races eventually culminating in the Vermont Beast next September.  Assuming of course that I'm not impaled, drowned, shredded by barbed wire or otherwise incapacitated along the way.  February will start the madness with a Super Spartan race in Miami.  I mean, I've done so well so far, why not try a race that's over twice as long and in the brutal heat (compared to New York in February).  Surviving this race, I'll be giving a shot at the April Citifield run here in NY, another stab at Tuxedo in June, then a sprint in Pennsylvania...maybe a couple more...spirit and budget willing!  Aroooo!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BattleFrog on TV.....Here We Go Again!

Well, to be fair, it wasn't BattleFrog on TV the last time I saw obstacle course racing (OCR) there.  That was Spartan Race and their first attempt to break into the TV market [Obstacle Course Racing on TV...well, it's a start!] Naturally, I was very curious to see what the results would be last night.  OCR has been increasing in popularity exponentially since I started with it in 2011.  However, translating this into a following off the course has been even more of a challenge.

BattleFrog is definitely on the right path with this format!  Brings to mind American Ninja Warrior meets dirt and mud.  One of the biggest problems with covering a typical 5k, 8k or longer race is that it's so spread out that the expense of following the race in total is just not feasible.  So what you're left with is snapshots (or is it snap-videos?) of the race.  And mixing in "human interest" snippets in between just bored me to death...personally.

So going with this ultra-short course allows you to see the entire race.  It also allows for closer races and a chance for comebacks (read: U Miami!....sorry, shameless plug) which many longer races don't have.  

This also begs the question...where exactly is BattleFrog going with this ultra-short course concept?  My guess is that they're not really looking to create a new distance for their race series.  Most likely it's a means of creating interest in the sport...and particularly in watching it!  As a proof-of-concept event, it also opens up the possibility of a longer short-course for future events.  That's  what I would personally love to see!

A longer short-course would be more in line with the general concept of the OCR races in general (a course layout I've been working on myself for some time now).  Bringing endurance back into the picture as well as being a much better lead-in to the real BattleFrog series of races, while still allowing for the same type of total race coverage you need to keep viewer attention.  Interestingly enough, this style of race reminds me of what Hobie Call and the short-lived Extreme Nation were trying to put together a couple of years back.  Maybe his idea was just a bit ahead of it's time.

The real genius though in this event was not just the ultra-short format, but the choice of racers.  College teams!  Even people who don't watch sports in general will root for their college in just about anything.  I mean some serious rooting here!  Some of the greatest viral vidoes are from rabid college football fans when their teams lose.  I've already given away that I'm a U-Miami alum and I know I'll be watching if it involves a chance for them to win...anything!  Put on full-contact debate squad and I'm in.

So...I will be watching the rest of this race series...even if Miami doesn't make it through.  I think we've seen the first real successful OCR event on TV.  And I suspect we'll see much more of this as BattleFrog builds on this success...but also as other OCR race series take notice and come up with their own TV friendly concepts.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Our Bodies as One Huge, Complicated Chemical Factory...and Why Natural Remedies Aren't So Amazing

The only subject more feared than chemistry is biochemistry. (I don't count physics...since that's not a real subject, having been created to keep people with extraordinarily large brains from annoying us constantly with their intelligence)  So...biochemistry is that field which deals with the incredibly complicated chemistry of life.

While most people will acknowledge the fact that our bodies are just one giant chemical factory in principal, they don't really think of it that way in day-to-day life.  In reality, everything we take into our bodies creates some sort of chemical reaction.  These reactions either help us create energy in some way, maintaining the mind-boggling balance within the body, or they cause this balance to somehow go sideways...creating chaos within the system.  The system, in this case, is what we stare at in the mirror every morning.

Therefore every bit of 'food' (and I do use the term loosely here) that we ingest is going to have to be processed in some way by our bodies.  So when this food contains some chemical that the body isn't naturally attuned to, the body does it's best to deal with it.  Unfortunately, the only way it can do this is through the chemical processes our 'factory' already has.  Just like a real factory, if you put in the wrong materials, you don't get the products you expected.

In biochemistry, these 'unnatural' chemicals can do anything from delaying the processing of necessary nutrients to shutting down our system altogether...and all sorts of undesirable things in between.  So this brings me to the question of natural health remedies...and why they really aren't so 'amazing'.

For decades now we have become more and more reliant on pharmaceuticals to fix whatever ails us.  Of course the problem with these pharmaceuticals is that they tend not to be very precise in their work.  Although they may have some effect on the ailment, they are also likely to release chemicals into the body which (by their own disclosures) create unwanted side-effects which can often be worse than the original problem.

When we talk about natural remedies though, it conjures up images of witch-doctors and crazed alchemists.  When in fact, they are merely chemicals in themselves, which react in a more benign way with our body.  Helping to remedy the issue while not injecting other potentially dangerous toxins into the body. And strangely enough, they work for the simple reason that it's chemistry matches those that have somehow come unbalanced.

More and more these days, we do see people...even those in the medical community, if not quite embracing the concept, at least open to the idea that something doesn't have to come from a pill bottle to be affective.  We just have to rediscover (as a society) things our ancestors understood.  That we are still a part of nature and that understanding nature's chemistry...whether it's in eating healthier food or utilizing natural remedies...can still be the best way to stay healthy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The BattleFrog Miami...and my first non-Spartan race

This post should have been done weeks months ago.  But just as the post comes months after the race, the decision leading up to this race goes back months before race day.  While I was working in the Doral, FL area, I stopped at a Taco Bell for lunch.  I noticed a couple of guys decked out in BattleFrog gear so I introduced myself...and wanted to know more about it.  I'd seen some Facebook news about them and it sounded like a race I would like to do.  Well, it turned out to be two of the founders (Mike and Don I believe....but don't hold me to that...please).  So we spoke for a bit....and I was sold on doing the next Miami event.  May have actually promised to do it...and I didn't really want to break even a promise like that to a Seal.

That Miami event happened to be the February race and the opening event for 2015.  Now, I should have known right off that things weren't going to go quite as planned.  Not only did I mistakenly take a roundabout route to the race, but after taking 3 photos at the venue my phone was dead! (full disclosure - I knew my battery was going and naturally I waited until it did go to replace it). to the race!  First, let me say, I loved the course!!  It began raining while we were still in the corral...a few minutes before the start...and kept raining for the next couple of hours.  So a course that was expected to include a lot of water obstacles ended up being virtually continuous water for most of the day.  And you need to understand, I'm not the faster racer by any stretch of the imagination.  It's more the relentless effort that's my style.  So a slick course was definitely not my friend.  Having only run Spartan races up to this point, there were a number of different...and several more difficult...obstacles to deal with.  All in all, it was an extremely challenging course, which made all the preparation worthwhile and completion of the race more satisfying.

I had expected any number of water obstacles, but what surprised me were the number of climbing obstacles.  Those are always a challenge for me...partly because of my size, and partly because I'm just a bit too old for this kind of shit!  The added challenge on one of these was that at the very top, you had to climb through a relatively small (read: tiny) opening to get to the other side of the wall.  Being smaller (and less wide) would definitely have been an advantage there. [editor's note: I found out much later in the year that you go over the top, not thru it!]  Of course, after all the brutalization they could dish out over 15K, they had the "down and up" monkey bars leading into the final ramp climb.  And if (when) you fail the monkey bars, it's right into the water trap which makes the ramp climb all but impossible.  Although I did give it my best shot, a slip at the top sent me slamming onto the ramp, then sliding down with a jarring stop into the dirt and sand at the bottom.

Ok, now to the shortcomings.  When you walked in from the parking lot there were no signs directing you to the festival area/start line.  So people...including me...wandered back and forth a bit just trying to get in.  The sign in and baggage check went well.  But the backups that plagued the first part of the race began right at the starting corral.  I had noticed when signing up that they had a number of heats starting at the same time.  There were 5K and 15K heats going off "together".  I'd thought there might be two start lines, but it turned out that everyone was going out the same chute!  Apparently the heats were too large also and we had to split up on our own to go out. 

Unfortunately, the delays and bottlenecks didn't end there.  Within a quarter mile or so, we hit the swimming obstacle.  The way they had the rescue/aid set up, every time a person had to be helped (helped...not rescued) the entire obstacle came to a dead stop for a few minutes.  The next bottleneck occurred about another half mile in, at the cargo net climb.  Just not enough space for more than 2 or 3 at a time and there are always people who are going to be slow on these.  At that point, anyone thinking of going for time had to give up on the idea completely. 

Up to that climb, the 5K and 15K courses were running together (most likely the reason for the delays...along with the timing of the heats).  Once past the cargo net climb though, the courses parted and allowed whatever pace you could handle....which for me is generally SLOW (although I like to think of it as methodical). 

The rest of the race was pretty much free of bottlenecks...and tough as hell by the way!    I even got to do a version of the Braveheart speech on the monkey bars to a guy I had been keeping pace with the last couple of miles to the finish.  Even though he didn't make the full distance either, I'm sure he was glad he tried.  I know how agonizing it can be to go home that night knowing you didn't give something your best shot because it looked too tough.

With all the little snafus in the beginning of the race, the biggest surprise for me though was at the finish.  There was no more beer!!!??  No...I'm not kidding!!  One of my favorite parts of the race has always been to have that beer and grab a bite to eat while hanging at the festival and watching racers still finishing.  Not only that, but the festival was all but closed. food....and nothing else there to drink either.  Very...very disappointing to say the least. 

I realize that the rain was not the ideal situation but really....not only did many people pay a nice entry fee to race, but for many this would be one of the few races (maybe the only race) they would run.  They deserved a much better event than this ended up being.  The surprising thing to me...allowing for the fact that it was their first event of that these guys are known for taking care of the details. Specially since this was opening up in their hometown.

In the end, course-wise, I definitely would like another shot at a BattleFrog.  I know they'll be back here to close out the 2015 season.  I'm fairly certain they'll have the kinks worked out by then too.  I'm just not so sure I want to bet my money on it....again.  If I do though, I'll make sure next time to BYOB and a BBQ!...just in case...