Sunday, December 2, 2012

Spartan: marked by simplicity, frugality, or avoidance of luxury and comfort

10/20 race around 5 hours <cough> @ Spartan Beast in Winnsboro, SC in NB MT10 trail minimus (ouch!)

temp high 50's to low 70's and sunny

So last year we "ran" the Carolina's Super Spartan in Winnsboro, SC.  I believe the course was around 8 miles and chock-full of some of the best obstacles we had encountered to date.  This year they had converted the race to a "Spartan Beast" and listed the distance as 10-12 miles (last year I believe the pre-race information stated 8-10).  We were looking for redemption, as one our team had rolled his ankle badly in the first mile last time, slowing our team down for the rest of the race.

Cool pic of me trying to dry out my taint
My general conditioning was pretty good coming into this race, but my running conditioning was way off from our previous attempt, so I was afraid I might be holding us up a bit.  We covered the first 7 miles in around 90 minutes and were on track for a pretty good finish.  No food was provided on the course and only water was available to drink.  They did have salt packets at least.  I brought along a packet of Clif Shot Bloks (my preferred race fuel) and split them with one of my teammates.  Thankfully, I got stronger as the race progressed (or my team got slower).  I didn't know it, but at some point early in the race, I took what looked like a baseball bat hit to my outer right quad, as I was already having problems with it tightening up around the 4 mile mark, but never to the point I couldn't jog.  As a team, the wheels started to come off around mile 10.  One of my teammates, who has torn his calf muscle before, started to have it lock up again and we were forced to walk most of the remaining course.  Having food on the course might have helped, as he didn't bring anything to eat.  It was around this point, other teams were starting to fall apart too.  People were dropping out, or locking up with cramps.  We had a guy throw up right after one of the water stops directly in front of us, thankfully I missed the spray...

quality stitchwork on the collar
I did have fun at certain points on the course, but overall, I was very disappointed with the Spartan this year.  They set a high bar last year, but it seems they have done everything possible to maximize profits and minimize their expenses this year.  Many of the obstacles repeated.  I don't know how many times I climbed a rope, went over a net, dragged/carried an object or crawled under barbed wire.  At the finish, we learned the course was 14.5 miles long.  I'm sorry, but it's just inexcusable to put on a 14.5 mile obstacle course without a single aid station providing sports drinks or gels/food at least.  You're just increasing the injury potential for all participants involved.  Also the post-race meal, which was free last year, now cost $10 just for the bbq plate.  Parking was also $10, which I believe was free last year.  Then there is the shirt.  Check out the quality stitching and try to decipher the material and washing instructions.  Then there is the distance issue.  I see on the main page they now list "Beast" courses as 13+, but the page for our race still states 10-12.  When you have a 3 hour drive and are supposed to start work that night at 7pm, it really messes with your schedule to have a race throw in an extra 2.5 miles (with obstacles).  Thankfully our start time was early enough I was only about 10 minutes late to work.  So I guess I'll do a pros and cons list below, as we don't plan to do another Spartan.  I just hope Tough Mudder hasn't followed in their footsteps.

challenging obstacles
difficult terrain (lots of hills and rocky terrain)
longer distance than most obstacle races
free post race pictures
free Dial body wash at post race hose down

extremely repetitive obstacles
no food or carbohydrate drinks at aid stations
conflicting website information regarding potential race distance
$10 charge for parking (free last year)
$10 charge for post-race bbq plate (free last year)
low quality race shirt of questionable material

So the first bit roughly translates to, "wash before wearing," this would have been crucial information to know right after hosing 4lbs of mud off and the only clean shirt you have is the one they just handed you at the finish.

I think we all know what "made in prc" means (Peoples Republic of China).

So, initially, I figured the last bit was just a bit of engrish, but further research indicates it might be some kind of real thing, even though it makes zero grammatical sense. Check out this link: Made in Green.  I guess "Made in Green" still doesn't make a shirt clean enough to wear off the shelf though, bummer...

So, after all this whining, I could still see myself doing another one these just to have the opportunity to truly perform up to my potential, and to see if their 2012 race course was just a fluke, as I've read a few blogs that make some of the other 2012 events sound as creative and unique as the original 2011 race.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ticked on, off the run *warning: graphic*

10/7 run 130 mins @ ATT Scott King Road in black Altra Instincts (new color, same old model)

temp 55 wet and windy

HR avg 150 max 176

They can't help you.
I don't look like a victim.  I only run the parts of the trail south of I-40.  I'm trained in self defense.  I'm always aware of my surroundings.  These are the lies I told myself to feel safe.  So I never thought I would become another statistic, a victim, but here I am, the 14th person to be attacked on the American Tobacco Trail.  They came out of nowhere, attacking me at my most vulnerable.  I was around 6 miles into my run and I felt the call of nature, but thanks to the construction project, my regular rest spot was closed, so I did what my forefathers have done before me.  I stepped off the trail and into the woods to relieve myself, and this was where I made my fatal mistake.  I never saw them stalking me.  They were hiding in the tall grass, watching my every move.  I never had a chance.

I didn't even realize I was being attacked at the time, but as soon as I made it back onto the trail, I had a distinct feeling something was crawling on me.  I brushed off my legs a couple of times (I had on compression shorts), but I never saw anything, so I continued on with the rest of my run, not realizing my attackers were already swarming on me, finding the choicest spots to rob me of my precious lifeblood.  I got home, changed out of my running clothes and put my feet up on the couch to relax when I saw something.  An almost imperceptible speck was slowly crawling across my leg.  I grabbed the speck I saw and moved to the bathroom, where I had enough light to determine what I was looking at, and that's when I freaked. A seed tick.  And anyone who has found one seed tick, knows what that means.... MORE seed ticks.  I managed to find and remove at least 6 or 7 before I moved into the stage 2 decontamination shower protocol.  All garments and shoes were washed, quarantined in plastic bags and are still sitting in my deep freezer right now.  I set fire to the Jeep I rode home in (ok, I didn't really burn the Jeep).

My left leg got the worst of it.
The last few nights I would have gnawed my left leg off, if not for the drug induced coma of combining Benadryl caplets and Caladryl clear lotion.  I was stupid, the cold weather lured me into a false sense of security, and I didn't hose down in my regular 40% deet bath before the run that Sunday.  Not to say that would have saved me either.  Oh, and when I ran on Tuesday, I made extra sure to pee right before I left the house... and wouldn't you know it...half way in, I had to go.  So I did what anyone in my situation would do.  I did what I had to do.  I pissed right in the middle of the trail.  I'll never feel safe again.  They're watching me out there.  Calling to me as I run along, "step off the trail, we dare you."  My attackers are still on the loose, waiting for their next victim.  No one is safe.

butt crack?
Nope, just my knee!

Monday, September 17, 2012

post baby "long" run

9/16 run 92 mins @ ATT Scott King Road in black Altra Instincts (new color, same old model)

temp 63 and overcast

HR avg 160 max 173

I decided to wait until Sunday for my "long" run with the rains coming through Saturday night to help cool things off.  This strategy helped, as the temps were in the 60's and the sun was nowhere to be seen.  My HRM readings are back to normal, so I guess it was the strap all along.  The first 40 minutes were going great, but after that point, the imaginary nail being hammered into the ball of my left made its appearance and the rest of the run was an ebb and flow of bearable/unbearable pain. 

I feel kind of silly calling this a long run, but seeing as how I haven't done anything longer than a 6 miler since April, I guess it's a fair assessment.  So far everything is holding together.  This Thursday will mark the start of week 3, which is the statistical point where most people end up tweaking something.  I've been on a steady diet of The Stick and foam roller, so hopefully my crash course return to running will continue without interruption.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Eno and Altra's

9/13 run 80 mins @ Eno River Cox Mtn and Fanny Ford in Altra Lone Peaks

temp 75ish, mid-day

HR avg 154 max 179 (back to normal!)

My HRM strap was just getting to the point where it would finally hold it's shape and here I go, having to wash it.  Hopefully this fixed it and my previous weird readings aren't the result of interference or a bad ticker.

squint and it could be a buzzard
First time back on the mountain since 4/17.  I was happy to be back and my, old friend, the pain in the ball of my foot, was kind enough to join me for the trip.  Some counts for the trip:

snake count: 1 (black)
buzzard count: 5
large animal carcass in river count: 1
turtle count: 10+

I didn't run with a camera, as I was worried about staying upright with just my water bottle, but I really wish I had.  Like something out of a movie, there was a large animal carcass, stripped to the ribs out in the river near the ford.  At first, I thought I was coming up a group of graceful Great Blue Herons, until I got closer.  It turned out to be a cluster of buzzards around something I couldn't really identify.  All I could see was a giant collection of ribs jutting up out of the water, that were already picked completely clean.  On a side note, I wouldn't drink the water downstream of fanny's ford for awhile...just saying.

The run went as well as can be expected, I was slow, but my heart rate and pacing felt about right.  Baby steps helped to keep the knee pain down.  I was afraid the weight and clumsiness of my Lone Peaks would bother me, as it did when I first started wearing them, but instead, it was like coming home to an old friend.  They worked great, and I remember why I love them so much.  I can't wait for the arrival of the Altra Superior this month.  I hope to make it my new short distance and racing trail shoe.  I've also heard talk of the stability wedge being offered independently of the Provision, as this is something I'd like to play with using in just my left shoe, as my left foot is a bit more flipper like than my right.

Weekly Lifting updates

9/10 lift box squat 1x350 towel bench 1x295-failed (did 5x5,4,3,2,1 this workout) plus 110lb dumbell snatch, pull-ups bw+50lbs and 2 laps farmers walk w/125lb thick-handled dumbells

Thick handles illustrated by my finger wrap in both pics
Today wasn't my best day or my worst day.  My knees were giving me hell, but the single was super easy compared to the sets leading up to it (should have moved up).  The towel bench gave me some trouble again.  We missed quite a few workouts in June and July with all the summer vacations and holidays.  I've been paying for it on the towel bench having slipped at least 10lbs off of where I was at the beginning of July.  The dumbell snatches went well, as I've missed them for the last 2 weeks in a row due to baby care and doctor visits (for the knees).  I did cut down on my number of reps for the snatch.  My weighted pull-ups are still garbage and I can't quite figure out when they started going down hill.  Farmers walk went well, as the thick handles cut us down from 5 laps to barely 1-2.

9/12 lift power clean 1x245-failed deadlift 1x445 (5x5,4,3,2,1) 

Still trying to recover from the inconsistency of the previous months.  My single power clean is down, even though my 5x5 is on par.  My single deadlift is also down, but at least I got it this time.  My knees were hurting me so bad, I almost quit on my second set of deadlifts, but I muddle through (probably not in my best interest).  I turned on left one on my 2nd attempt @ 245 on the power clean and called it at that point.

9/14 lift squat 1x310 close-grip bench press 1x285 pull-ups +50lbs and 170lb atlas stone shoulder and walk x2 plus 250lb atlas stone lift

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do any squats as my knees were already hurting pretty bad this morning.  Things went ok, once warmed up, until the single, which really put a hurt on the left knee.  Sadly, my squat still sucks, but at least I've made a little improvement.  Thankfully the rest of the workout doesn't require a ton of knee flexion.  Bench is still on the comeback, 10lbs closer to my previous weight.  Shouldering the atlas stone has been going better for me these days.  I still have trouble walking the full down/back as the stone sits right on the bony protrusion on top of my shoulder.  Feels kind of like it's separating my shoulder, but it's not leaving me with any residual pain after I drop it (outside of the bruising).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

92 days into Phase E (303 to go)

9/11 run 51 mins @ ATT Scott King Road in NEW black Altra Instincts (new color, same old model)

temp high 60's before dark

HR avg 177 max 228 (Either Hard Harry is broadcasting nearby or I need to see a cardiologist)

Scott King toward I-40
So Phase E of the ATT project is in full swing and even though the Fayetteville Road parking lot is closed for storage of construction equipment (yet I've never seen any parked there, ever), you can still access the trail via Scott King, as long as it's after hours or on weekends.  Things are pretty runnable currently.  Everything south of Scott King has been compacted, while the north side is still in progress, so be prepared for big rocks, sometimes in piles.  I'm still not a big fan of the surface improvements for this section of trail, as I preferred the dirt, roots and rocks, but I'm excited that the bridge is part of this phase.

Scott King toward O'kelly Chapel

For this run, I decided to start at Scott King and run to the end of the trail on the I-40 side and back.  This area was my favorite stretch of the entire ATT trail due to the terrain.  It's been cleared and graded.  They are in the process of compacting gravel and rocks into the surface to complete the grading phase.  You can keep track of the project at this link: 2012 American Tobacco Trail and Bridge. They even have a nifty graphic.  I didn't realize the bridge was included in Phase E before, so I apologize for that error in my previous post.

Monday, September 10, 2012

From the Archives: Little River Big Hills (A Race Report)

I have quite a few race report rough drafts floating around.  I'll never get them properly finished, but I figure they hold some entertainment or informational value to someone (even if by someone, I mean myself).  I completely forgot I ran Little River last year.  After reading what I wrote then, I can see why..BRRRR!


1/14 race 110 mins @ Little River Trail Run 10 mile in Altra Lone Peaks

temp REALLY COLD (20-30's)
HR avg 169 max 181

I'm pretty sure this was at the finish.
Sporadic holiday training combined with extreme cold resulted in a what felt like a very lackluster, yet incredibly hard race.  I didn't intend to run this hard, but everyone seemed to be going for it and I decided to stick it out.  Although part of the problem was my desired pace did not want to align with my desired effort level.  So I said screw you effort and kicked up the pace, although this doesn't seem like it worked out too well as I could feel myself slowing down as the cold crept into my body.  Perhaps the course really is significantly more difficult than the races I am using for mental comparison (Medoc and Run at the Rock).  Oh well, let's get to the race  report part.

While the +1 was at home snuggled in her bed (while visions of bouncing baby boys danced in her head).  I was making the difficult decision between silk shirt or arm sleeves.  I don't own a pair of tights (yet), so at least I didn't have to worry about that.  Although around the 6 mile mark I started wishing I owned a pair, as my long johns weren't offering quite the level of heat retention I desired.  After gathering up my gear and my breakfast, off I headed to the beater Jeep and into the great white north Durham (ok, none of those words really go together).  The Jeep battery seemed to be feeling the effects of the cold as much as I was, as I nearly had a DNS on my hands.  Thankfully she got me there with minimal fuss.  I got parked near the registration area and shut her down to <end>


Ok, seeing as how I forgot I even ran this race until I saw the report draft, I don't remember specifics, but I do remember feeling like even my bones were cold on this one.  I also remember my Jeep BARELY started when I went to fire it up after picking up my bib and stuff before the start.  This would have made for a really rough morning, as sitting an hour in the cold before the race would have put a real damper on my spirits.  Although I got to spend the whole race wondering if my Jeep would start for the ride home and thinking that if it didn't, everyone would have probably gone home already by the time I finished, so I'd most likely die of exposure and wouldn't be found until the next LRTR.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On the 2nd day of re-running...

Photo taken prior to Nannerpuss attack
My true love gave to me:

The gluten free version of Ryan Hall's Chocolate Griddlecakes.  Here's the recipe for those of you who don't get Runner's World (modified to be gluten free):

1/2 cup Bisquick Gluten Free
2 large egg whites
1 scoop Muscle Milk, cake batter flavor (gluten free, but manufactured in a shared facility)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Water (enough to thin the batter)

She threw some chocolate chips into them, but the Muscle Milk sweetens up the cakes enough, you don't really need it.  They remind me of cottage cheese pancakes, with a nice chewy, dense texture and the flavor is delicious.  I didn't eat these until after my run, so I'll have to wait until Tuesday to see if they worked.  Using Ryan Hall's numbers as a reference, I should be able to slash about 8 minutes off my current pace for a mile and about 2.5 hours off my marathon.

9/9 run 60 mins @ ATT O'kelly Chapel access in Altra Instincts

temp high 70's

HR avg 177 max 230  (either I now have the heart of Jack Rabbit, or my watch must've picked up some interference, as I'm still alive at the moment)

First, a moment of silence to honor the end of the last truly unpaved portion of the ATT trail.  I will be pouring a bottle of NUUN out in it's honor and holding a dedication service this coming week.  Why they couldn't put these funds toward the bridge over I-40 and leave this beautiful section of trail untouched, I don't know.  Ok, back to the run.

My legs were absolutely trashed from Friday's 5x5 squats and atlas stone shoulder carries.  (yes, we now shoulder the 170lb atlas stone and carry it around.)  I'll try to start adding in a few of my weight training posts again, just for fun.  So I wasn't expecting much from my legs and they delivered in that respect.  The cooler temps allowed me to run just a hair faster, but every step would remind me of the dull ache that I couldn't seem to shake out of my legs.  I was hoping to go further, but I'll take what I can get and be glad I'm still healthy for the moment.  A beautiful day for running overall.  Now back to working on that honey-do list.