Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spartan Vermont Beast World Champs recap

The Spartan World Championships event was quite the experience. It all started back in May, when I registered, and decided to do well at this event. The length, and climbing involved suits my strength, although it is a little short for me. I happened to be in town, for the Toronto Spartan events, which I raced, and had a lot of fun doing. The Eastern Canadian scene is lots of fun, and all the competitors were very welcoming, and cool. As the summer progressed, and I worked 10-14 physical days of work, I kept running, and visiting the mountains whenever possible. September descended upon us quickly, and before I know it, all the "hay was in the barn" and I was en route to Vermont.

I drove down with some local Toronto OCR athletes, and had a blast on the way down. I wasn't a part of the athlete panels, or even on the VIP list. Its as if no one knew, or cared that I was coming. I wasn't on the "vote for me" page either. I loved this, and it only fired my ambition to run hard.

I attended the athlete panel on Friday night, and got to meet briefly with a few of the athletes. I got a ride down the hill with Matt Novakovich, whom I had never met. After dinner, it was off to bed, with an early departure.

The race started at 7:30 am, which seemed a little early to me, but it was fine. Downhill start suited me well, and I pushed that first descent hard, and ended up sitting in second position up the first hill, before I passed the leader and took the lead on the way back down the mountain. The pace felt quick, but comfortable, and I just started getting into a groove. After the Tarzan swing, I had a decent lead of maybe 1-2 minutes, and after a confused official stopped me for about 30 seconds to try to get me to do the memory test (he was clearly confused), I still had the lead and settled in. I think I settled a little too hard, because my pace dropped and I felt like I was just out for a trail run by myself.

We hit a few obstacles, like a log carry, and a bucket carry, which I enjoyed, as well as a balance beam.

It was after this that I started noticing a guy in a red shirt was catching up to me. We ran together for a little while, and he seemed really nice. After this, he passed me, but I passed him back at the tractor pull.
It seemed that Jon was running the hills faster, but that I was stronger through the obstacles. After I missed the first spear throw, he passed me again, and put about 1 minute lead on me. It was at this point, that I realized all my remaining food had fallen out of my pockets, and I was left with the last 8 miles to do, without any food, only water. This was an issue.
At about mile 10 I started to slow, and bonk, and cramp. I wasn't getting any electrolytes, or nutrition of any sort. Cody Moat passed me, and him and Jon started to  distance themselves from me. Fortunately, we hit the Sandbag carry, where I closed about a 1.5 minute gap, and passed them both.
After the carry, I knew I would have to conserve my legs a bit, so I pushed as hard as I could, without cramping, or going too deep in the red. I was leading, and feeling pretty good. This is when the second spear throw came. I missed it, and Jon ran past me. AGAIN. grr, I was pretty upset at spears at this point. Why do they have spears? It seems so gimmicky to me. I though maybe the next world champs they would make athletes fold an origami crane, or maybe build and Inuksuk. I pushed those thoughts aside, did my burpees, and went as fast as possible. I was able to close the gap on Jon by the last monkey bars but the effort that I put out was too much, and I was unable to keep up with him on the final hill.
I crossed the finish line about 1 minute behind Jon, and it was sweet to come in second, but I knew that I could have won the race. Oh well! That's what racing is all about. I congratulated Jon on an excellent race, and I was thrilled when I learned that my Girlfriend Lindsay has placed 4th in the elite women's field. A good day for both of us!

Overall I had lots of fun racing the Vermont Beast, and I'm excited to race these athletes more often, hopefully on even tougher courses!

Like my Athlete Page if you haven't already. See you at the races!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Battle Frog Pennsylvania Race Review

This last weekend, I got to participate in one of the most fun Obstacle Course Races that I've ever done. It was called the "Battle Frog" and its an event put on by a wonderful group of people, including a bunch of the United States' Navy Seals.

The event was held at a place called "The Mines and Meadows ATV Park" in Wampum, PA. It was only a 5 hour drive from Toronto, so not too bad. I checked out the venue on Friday night, ate dinner with some other competitors and event staff, and then got ready to race the next day.

Overall, the event feel for the Battle Frog was very good. The race went off without a hitch, and it seems like everything ran with military precision, starting at exactly 8:00 am. The fist 100 yards had a few over, under and throughs. Then the next few miles had lots of creek running. They ran the course right down a creek bed for about a mile, interspersed with great natural obstacles, culverts, and logs to jump over. After this, we hit a couple of obstacles, including a huge A-Frame structure that we had to climb over and a few cargo nets.
 After this, we went into a mine. Yes, that's right, and underground mine. They included a few obstacles INSIDE the mine, and also gave us headlights so that we could see. They had us do a 200 yard swim, through fairly cold water, and also had a shooting section, in which we had to hit targets with a paintball gun. The whole mine was a surreal experience, and unlike any other race feature I've ever seen.
After popping out of the mine, it was a little more trail running, a rope climb, and a set of monkey bars. Up to this point in the race, I was leading by maybe 1 minute. I attacked the monkey bars with everything I had. Instead of just monkey bars, the elite men had half the monkey bars replaced with rock climbing holds. This made a high failure rate, since the grips were very small, and hard to grab. The rest of the elite field got shuffled around, since so many people failed on the obstacle. At Battle Frog, they have a "Pass/Fail" obstacle policy. So, if you can't do the obstacle, you can re-try it, but then if you keep failing it, you are out of the money, for the elites. I really like this policy, since I think the obstacles for the elite men need to start getting harder in this sport.

After the Monkey Bars, we did a bunch more running, lots of cool, big obstacles, and the action just kept coming with slick mud, steep hills, technical footing, and even more obstacles. I believe there was over 30 obstacles on the 15 km course, and they were all pretty serious, big obstacles. I had a smile on my face for the whole race, and just had a blast the whole time. The finishing chute had a big obstacle called "Tsunami", and another wall obstacle, with ropes, and quick slides into big water pits. I came through the final crawl, muddy, and giddy with excitement, gushing to the event organizers about what a good time I had out of their course.
Finishing off the day, there was a great event festival feel, kids races, Navy Seal demonstrations and food. I hung out, and talked with all the other racers.

I finished the race in first, in a time of 1:08, and took home a big cheque. The race was tons of fun, with great people, great obstacles, and great use of the natural terrain. I'm not sure what more someone can ask for from an OCR. I hope Battle Frog sticks around for a long time, and becomes a major player in the obstacle course business. If you have the chance to check out one of their races, I strongly recommend it!
Thanks for checking out my review, and like my new Facebook Athlete page, for training tips, and more.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 Winter Death Race

The last day of January, and the first of February this year, I spent getting a first hand crash course on death racing. Here's how it all played out...

Andy telling directions for the hike
Drive down: My wonderful Girlfriend, Lindsay and our magnificent Malamute, Suunto drove down with me. We left on Thursday night, made it about 3 hours, and then drove the last 6 hours in the morning. Pittsfield is pretty far south, so it was a long drive. Overall it was a great drive. Lots of stops at Timmy's, and yummy treats.

Preface: Each activity we completed earned us a puzzle piece. Once we completed our puzzles, we were done the race.

Friday 1:30 pm: We arrived in Pittsfield, and went to the cabin, where our drop bags were supposed to be. I was told to hurry up, and get to Amee Farm. So, we went back up the road to Amee. I was told to sign a contract, and start chopping wood. All the email contacts said that we should arrive between 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. I started chopping wood at about 1:40. I was told we had to chop wood for 2 hours. At 3:00pm, everyone who had started chopping at 1:00 got to leave. I stayed until the end, about 4:40, chopping wood, with the rest of the people who were "late". This was just how they mess with you in this race. I found out later that we didn't even have to chop wood, and that the race started at 3:00, with a time trial. I missed the time trial, and got to attend the fire making workshop, while the people doing their TT were still out on the mountain, finishing up. Little did I know it, but this would come in later as a very important detail.
Chopping wood: Totally "My Jam"
Friday 5:00-6:30: The fire building workshop was really cool. I learned a lot, and I'm glad I did. I managed to make several char cloths, and managed to get a fire going with a pretty wicked tinder ball. Overall, I didn't think that I was particularly good at making fire, but I am an Engineer, and once I understood all the components of making fire, I got it mastered pretty quick. After this, we all hiked the 2.5ish miles over to Amee Farm.
Fire Building: Blowing on my Tinder Ball
Friday 7:00-11:00: We went and all did a Ballet class together. This was a lot of fun, until Joe DeSena started to intervene. We had to do a ton of single leg lifts, and hold squats for long periods of time. Once again, the unfairness of the Death Race came into play, as some people would get called out for not doing the exercises properly, but others were allowed to perform sub-par exercises. Oh well... Just keep going.

Ballet: I'm better than I could have guessed!
Friday 11:30pm- Saturday 5:00am: After we hiked back to the barn, we were told we'd have make a fire with our partner. Cool! I had the fire building nailed. I was surprised that we weren't the first ones to make our fire, but apparently some people were using road flares to make their fires! I thought this wasn't very fair, but oh well. I think a road flare would qualify as a "modern fire starting technique". Once our first reached a certain height, we had to hike up to the top of the mountain, with our sandbags, and our full gear. I got up the mountain first, and there was no one there. I think I beat the volunteer up there. I had to do some convincing, because they didn't believe I had made it up there and back already. We had to keep going up and down, taking our sandbags one time, and leaving them the next. at 3:20 am, I was finished my 4th trip, and I decided that I didn't want to go back up another time with the sandbag, so I sat down, and ate a ton of food and rested until 5:00.

Saturday 5:00am-9:00am: We all had to go for a big hike at this point, with all our gear, but sans sandbag. I love hiking mountains, and I quickly went to the front of the pack. I was having such a good time, that I forgot I was racing for over 2 hours. We had to do some burpees at the base of the mountains. I got to see a lovely sunrise.

Burpees at 6:30am... They best kind

Saturday 9:00-11:00am: At this point, I was told that I had to do my "T.T." of the sandbag hike. I didn't want to do any more hiking with the sandbag, but I set off anyways. Foolishly, I thought that I should bring my super-light pack for this hike. BIG MISTAKE. The little straps dug into my shoulders badly, and the sandbag fell off at least ten times. At one point, I just lay down in the snow, and thought about sand bags for a while. After about 60 seconds of thought, I realized that I don't like them very much. I finished the TT nearly 2 hours after starting. For me, this was brutally slow. Also, I lost about 2 hours on the leaders during this activity, since they had already done their TT at 3pm the previous day.

Saturday 11:00am-12:30ish pm: I'm really not sure about time here, but we had to hike our sandbags back to Amee farm, and hold them over our heads for 45 minutes. This one really wasn't fun, and it further cemented my earlier thought about sand bags. After this we hiked back. Without the sand bags. yessss.

I'm a little hazy about what happened next, because I was getting tired. I think we hiked back up the mountain again.

Saturday 2:00pm-4:00pm: We had to hike over to a farm, and find pennies in the snow. They zip tied one of our hands to one of our feet. This really was depressing. I looked through the big field, and the stream for about 45 minutes until I realized that someone else had found all their pennies in about 5 minutes, and went to look where they were. I found them all a few minutes later. This was a great example of how they mess with us. It got me kind of upset.
Another Fire: I was taking about 3 minutes each time

Saturday 4:00-8:00pm: At this point we were tasked with a repetitive loop. It involved started a fire (up to about 18 inches), then hiking up the mountain and back. For those of you who know me, I love going up mountains. I am very good at it, and just love every minute of it. I also figured out, that if I kept all my kindling from my previous fire, in a hidden, sheltered location, it made my next fire easier to make. I also collected more tinder on my hikes up and down the mountain. once I combined all these factors, I just put my head down, and started jamming. I was able to hike up and down the mountain, and start a fire, plus collect my puzzle pieces in about 40-45 minutes per lap.

I started eating into the time deficit that I had. On the last lap, I was told I had to go up the mountain one more time. About 900ft of ascent. The leader had about 1 minute lead on me. I realized that I should just unleash all the power that I had left. I knew that running up a mountain would make me really hot, so i took off my shirts. about 2 minutes into the climb, I realized I had dropped my bib! I turned around, and lost another minute picking it back up, out of the snow. With my bib securely zipped in my pocket, I rocketed up the mountain, only slowing on two stair sections. I passed the leader on this climb. I put the puzzle together at the top, and ran back down. I completed the last climb in about 12 minutes, and the descent in about 6 minutes. I ran in, and finished.
All done
I won my first Death Race! The Stoke was on. It took just under 29 hours, and was a lot of fun. I met every challenge, with intelligence, and fitness, and just kept pushing.

Post Race Thoughts: I think the concept for these races is pretty cool. I did a lot of things that I would NEVER have done before, and a lot of things that I do all the time. I liked coming from behind, and I loved that they tried to mess us over with the start time. Being able to come back from a deficit like that was awesome. I met tons of really cool people, and had lots of fun racing with them. A lot of these people aren't elite athletes, just really cool people, pushing themselves to their limits. I have a lot of respect for everyone involved. I'm not going to do the rest of the Death Race Series, mainly due to money, and time, and then fact that I want to focus of different types of races this summer and fall. Having said that, I would LOVE to, and I think this type of racing suits me very well.
Thanks to everyone involved, and thanks to Andy Weinberg for suggesting that I do the race.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Don't Get Lost Snowshoe Raid 2014

This year's "Snowshoe Raid" marks the 3rd consecutive year that I have done the event, and I really don't want to ever miss this fabulous event. It won the "Get Out There" award for best snowshoe race, and I couldn't agree more. This is how the whole event shaped up.
The event is billed as a "Snowshoe Orienteering" race. What a cool concept! (pun intended). The day starts with picking up your map, and planning your route. This goes on for about 1.5 hours, but after I've signed-in, and said hello to everyone I know, it seems like there isn't much time left to plan the route. Decisions are made as to which CPs (Check Points) seem the most worthwhile, and which ones are better left off the menu for the day. The last two years, me and my team mate "Cleared" the course. This means we got all the CPs in the allotted time frame of 3 hours. This is dependent on running speed, orienteering ability, and route selection.

The race had a little twist to it this year, being that we were given our first map before the event and told that we can pick up the second map after 1.5 hours had elapsed. Also, we started at the bottom of Blue Mountain, instead of the top. I love climbing, so this just got me even more fired up.

All the competitors walked to the start, and then the gun went off. It was a mad dash across the field, and then up the hill. I settled into a good rhythm, and was able to run nearly the whole hill. we made it to the top in 10 minutes, with about 250m already under our belts.
After hitting the first few CPs, we settled into the routine of hitting a CP, checking our bearing, and running to the next. A rather funny thing happened about 55 minutes into the race, when I fell into a well. It was completely covered in snow and it just looked like flat ground. I dropped down, and was in the water up to my waist. Overall, I dropped about 8 feet. I managed to catch myself, and took about 5 seconds to process what had happened. As my partner tried to pull me out, I was more concerned with not dropping my gummy-bear snacks that were in the hand. I managed to get out, I ate the gummies, and we kept going. I'm really glad it was me that fell in, because I didn't get hurt. Oh well!
Our strategy wasn't the best, since we tried to clear the entire first map before picking up the second. The snow was a little slow, and our speed was suffering. We didn't get our second map until after 2 hours had elapsed. This left us with lots of CPs to look for, and little time. We ran our hardest, but were only able to pick off about 8 of the closest CPs, before we had to return, to meet the 3 hour time limit. We came in with 1.5 minutes to spare!
After the race, we got bused back to the start, and changed into some dry clothes. We got to talk about the event a whole bunch, and even won some cool prizes! (Orange camel-back bag). Eric and I managed to sneak by with a win, by a margin of only 10 points. WOW, that was close. We ran about 19.5 km, in the 3 hours, and cleared approximately 900m of ascent. Mostly off-trail, through snow. What a day.

After the event, I went Telemark skiing at Blue Mountain, which was fun, but doesn't event compare to how awesome the Snowshoe Raid was. I can't believe people pay nearly as much to ski, as the registration for this event. Mark your calendars, and make sure its not an event that you miss next year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Worlds Toughest Mudder training

Several people asked me what I did for training for the WTM this year. Its hard to put it down in words and even harder to remember since I don't log or write any of my training down, but I will try.

Before we start, I will talk about my training philosophy.
Most of my training is done when I feel like it, at a pace that I feel like going. I do very few "focused" training sessions. I do however, do lots of racing. I love racing, and I love the competition it brings. I love how my body changes states on the start line, and the single goal becomes crossing the finish line in first. I average approximately 16-18 hours of "training" (or having fun!) per week, however, there is a massive variance. For example, I did a week of nearly 60 hours this year, as well as a week of about 4 hours.
Also, I think that training isn't something you do for 3 or 4 months before an event. It is a life philosophy. You can get "ripped" in that time frame, but I don't think you can even approach your fitness potential. I've been partaking in explosive power, and endurance sports, in one form or another since I was about 13. That's 13 years of development, in a time-frame during which activity is well absorbed. I'm saying this, because I think that very few people will do what I did for training, and accomplish the type of fitness gains they are expecting. Its a journey, a life path. enjoy it, and don't rush!

Doing the "simba" with our pup. He's a great training partner.

2013 in review:

January: I started out the year, by going for a 2 week hiking trip, with my friend, on the AT. Looking back, it was great "LSD" training, but at the time, it was just fun. Putting in 10-12 hours per day of hiking up and down steep trails. After this, I got back home, and starting doing lots of nordic skiing. I also did a snowshoe orienteering race, which me and a friend won.
Winter Hiking
February: I kept skiing, and raced in the "Gatineau Loppet", finishing third, in the 50km, skate. It was a great race, and a result that I wasn't fully expecting. I also did the "Fisher Loppet" which I won.

March: I kept skiing until the snow was melted. During this time frame, I started riding my bike more, mixing in the odd outdoor ride. My room mates are all elite mountain biker racers, so they motivate me to ride a lot. I also went on a solo snowshoe/camping/orienteering trip. It was in really deep snow, and on questionable ice over the lakes. This was incredibly taxing.

April: Almost all riding outside now. Doing more mountain biking, and working outside a lot. This means physical labour! Also, always keeping up with about 3-4 runs per week.

May: Getting into the mountain bike race season. Things didn't go as well as I had hoped, with the highlights being a 3 place finish at an Ontario Cup race, and the low-lights being that I was running more than biking, and the legs were feeling it!

June: Working for Mud Hero, doing course building. This involved 10 days straight of very physical labour, and usually running for 1-2 hours after work. I rode in a 24 hour mountain bike race (super last minute). It is called 24 hours of Summer Solstice. Its a great event, and I won the solo. This was the catalyst to sign up for WTM. I felt so powerful after 24 hours of racing, that I knew I had the ability to race at a high intensity for the whole time, and still have some matches left!

July: Still working for Mud Hero. Unable to bike, due to a lack of bike at events! I would usually run the course at least 6 times during the time we were there. I like to test the course to make sure its perfect for the competitors. I did my first "real" adventure race. It was called "Wilderness Traverse", and was a 24 hours mountain bike race. I love it, and my team won! I also raced Canadian Mountain bike Nationals. I think I finished 20th. It was my second time on a bike in over a month. It hurt like heck, and I felt terrible, but I was fine with it, and had lots of fun.

August: Mud Hero, and lots of running. I spent 4 days in Canmore, AB, running mountains. I did one day involving 6.5 hours, and over 4000m of ascent, with 40 km of running. Probably my favorite thing to do. I got some biking in here as well. I think I raced a few mountain bike races in here as well.

September: I really started increasing my run training, and did a few 14-15km trail run races. I finished them in about 52-54 minutes, and won them. My favourite was a local race called "Chase the Coyote". Great fun! I started to increase my strength training as well. Usually this involved stopping on my runs, and doing push ups, or pull ups, then continuing. I usually mix it into an interval, so, run 1k at 3:30 on trail, stop hammer out 60 pushups, and then run another km, in roughly the same time. Lots of fun! I also went to California for 8 days, and did tons of running, and a little biking. I think I did 125 miles of running, and 6 hours of biking while I was there. Mostly on trails.

Peak of Mt. Whitney. What a day!
October: Now things were getting real.  I started to purchase supplies for WTM. I used a 3mm full length wetsuit. It was a cheap one, I got for $99, but it fit really nicely. I started doing a few runs in the wetsuit. I would usually run beside a river, and every 10 minutes, I would jump in, and swim around, then keep going. Starting on october 13th, I would run about 50km every weekend. I did a 50 km race in ottawa, which I won (in gnarly conditions!), as well as did a 9 hour run on the Vermont long trail. Every weekend was pretty big volume, which I would back up with speed work, and rest during the week.

November: I did a 30km orienteering race the weekend before WTM, and then I pretty much shut down the training for the whole week prior to WTM. I rode my mountain bike 3 times during the week, but no more than 2 hours, and at a chill pace. I slept 10 hours the last 3 nights before the event, and made lists. I checked, and re-checked every piece of gear, and made sure I was prepared to everything. The event day was very tough, but manageable. In  hindsight, I started too fast.

End notes: I broke down the event into all the 'knowns' and 'unknowns' that I could come up with. I came up with solutions to every problem,that I came up with. and example would be blisters/wet feet: I used a neoprene sock, with body glide, and did all my running in the last month before the event in the set-up that I wanted to use. I would also make sure I hit every puddle and stream during my runs, to keep my feet wet all the time.

I determined that it would take between 90 and 120 miles to win the event. I don't think I could have done 120 miles, but I'm confident that I could have done 110-115 miles if I needed to.

Gear list:
Head lamp x4
Strobe lights x5
tent: Mec Tarn3
sleeping bag: down, -12 rating
hand and footwarmers : brought, didn't use
towels x5
socks x6. All the same, my favourite ones
neoprene socks. MEC x2
hooded base layer, x2 in hindsight, the hood was useless
tights x3 (used as a base layer)
VBL socks, shirt, pants, gloves. In case I got really cold. Never needed.
wetsuit 3mm
wetsuit pants: not needed
neoprene shirt: used in day times
neoprene hood. useful if swimming
neoprene gloves: 2mm, 3mm, and 5mm (didn't use 5mm)
camelback: didn't use
Shoes: first 7 laps New Balance MT1210, remainder of laps, Brooks Pure Grit

I hope this helps everyone out there!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Worlds Toughest Mudder Race Recap

On the car ride down from Toronto, to New Jersey, we were asked by the border patrol, where we were going, and what we doing. My Girlfriend was driving at the moment, and she said "We're going to New Jersey. One of us, Ryan, is doing an event called the Worlds Toughest Mudder!" He replied saying that he already had several people cross tonight who were doing that event. She replied by saying "Yeah, but you haven't had the winner come through yet, have you?". I have the best, most supportive girlfriend ever!

Taking a post race pic with all the Tough Mudder employees. They were all so nice.

Self belief, confidence, and cockiness shouldn't be confused. I had 100% focus coming into this event, 100% belief in myself, and although there was a ton of uncertainty, I had come for a purpose.

We drove the 8 hours down on Friday, and ate at the Olive Garden. I had raviolis, and pumpkin cheesecake. Even though I had rested for 1 full day, and had a very low-key week leading up to the event, I was super hungry, and just mowed down. We got 2 for 1 meals, and I decided I would take my extra meal for the race. After we got to the Hotel, me and my friends all fell asleep.

Just after the first lap. I look like
i'm in a Powerade poster!
We arrived at the venue at 7:00 am. Perfect timing. I got signed in, got my tent set up, and then got all set-up, and ready to rock. From then, until the start, we just hung out, and chatted. My support person, Kelsey Krushel was totally ready. He knew all the gear I brought, were it was, and what to do with it. Kelsey, my girlfriend Lindsay, and my other roommate, Matt, all have the ability to rock a top 10 finish at this event, so having such a great athletes there to run ideas by, was invaluable. I arrived at the start line in an ideal mental state, and then just chatted with some other Mudders. The start went off, and boom. I went.

The first lap was foolish. I ran it pretty fast. I pulled through the pit after doing the first 5 miles in 30:20. This was a little bit reckless, but I was only running at about 70%, and really trying to dial the excitement down. After this, I pitted for about 30 seconds, grabbed a drink, and headed out for lap 2. I think this one was 42 minutes. I really tried to "feel" the pace, on the pavement, and dial it in, to a speed that I would be able to maintain for the next 23 hours, and 29 minutes.

After this I just kept going. I got to run with Knut. He seemed really nice, once I finally got him to talk to me (which took a few laps). The one thing that I wasn't impressed with, was his lack of "Mudder" mentality. To me, it seemed like was just "in it to win it". I kept catching him on all the running sections, then he would push by other Mudders, when going through obstacles, never helping out, and butting in line, in front of others. I knew it was a long race, and I couldn't keep this yo-yo-ing all day long, so I let the gap go on lap 7. I believe it was on lap 9 that I learned that he had hurt himself. As bad as it seemed, I felt like there was some Mudder karma being dished out, but I felt terrible for his misfortune. I think I was down about 5-10 minutes when he pulled out, and from then on, I would sit in first place.
Being the funkiest of all monkeys

I think it was also on lap 7, that I was interviewed by Matt Davis, from Obstacle Racing Media. He asked me if I knew that I was in second. I said yes. He hinted that I was going too fast. I said that I was running "my pace" and that I felt "really good". It honestly felt like I was running on a cloud. Each step was pure pleasure, and I was in that place where everything flows. He asked if I knew the caliber of the athletes that were behind me. I did. I had one person on my mind the whole time... Junyong Pak. I had prepared myself for the logistics, and physical requirements, by watching videos, and reading all about Junyong, so I had put up on a pretty high pedestal. He is an obstacle racing demi-god. He is an amazing athlete, and I knew this. But somehow, I still believed in myself. It seemed like the only other 3 people who also believed in me, in all of New Jersey, were my three friends. That was all that I needed. It made me feel like I wasn't crazy, for thinking I could possibly out pace this Tough Mudder machine.

From then on, my laps slowly got slower. I took breaks of approximately 2-4 minutes each lap, and then I would follow this, by walking the next 1/4 mile. After that, I would always run. Run to the obstacles. Run between them. Run after. Run through the woods. Just keep running. I kept thinking of "Finding Nemo"... where the blue fish sings "just keep swimming". Starting on lap 4 almost every lap was about 1 minute slower than the previous, and this trend held almost perfectly true, until my last lap of 1:15. I kept getting splits, and I kept running. My friends ran around the spectator route, and gave me cheers all night long. Once the sun came up, I knew I had it. My lap had grown to 2 laps, and I still felt good enough to keep running. I finally got to meet Mr. Pak. I told him that I had so much respect for him, and his performances. I also felt like he was a ninja, because I only saw him on my 18th lap. It was about time! He must have been in stealth mode all race long.

I don't like getting shocked... Shocking!
For some reason, I thought that when the Tough Mudder site said that you had to stay on course all 24 hours to be a finisher, that Mudders had to finish after 10:00 am. So, my second last lap involved a lot of walking, trying to kill time. Halfway through my last lap, the race official came up to me, and asked me if I had any questions. I told him that I was confused about when I could finish. He said that I can finish whenever I want! So, I started running, again, and ran the rest of the last lap. I ran in with 100 miles, and 20 laps complete (maybe slightly over, if you count penalty obstacles) in 23:02. Average pace of 13:49/mi, or 8:35/km. I had a few moments of worry, that I would have to run another lap, but after some quick math, I realized that to force a 21st lap, Pak would have to run two laps in 45 minutes. So, with that knowledge, I went to my tent, and got out of my wet-suit.

Overall, Worlds Toughest Mudder was a great experience. I would like to thank my Girlfriend, Lindsay Webster, and my two roommates/best friends Kelsey Krushel, and Matt Farquharson. Everyone was super nice, and the whole event was run so smoothly, and well, that I was really blown away. Tough Mudder Staff was AWESOME! Also, all the volunteers were incredible. Junyong Pak, and Olaf Dallner were really well spoken, great guys, and it was a privilege to race with them, and meet them. If anyone wants to learn about my training, leave a comment.

take care, and HOO-RAH!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ramblings on Diet, Stress and Training

Required "summit flex" after a big day down in the Adirondacks.
Having been an athlete from a young age, I have always been trying to find ways to improve performance. Until I started mountain biking, all my training had been unfocused speed-play. Speaking with cyclists, and other endurance athletes, they would always prescribe a much more focused style of training, periodization, and specific workouts to reach peak fitness. However, I believe that the human body/spirit is much more complicated than an automobile engine. Henceforth, I’ve been searching for and idealistic, healthy, wholesome approach to training / lifestyle for the last five years.  I believe I have finally reached a breakthrough training, and wanted to share it with all my friends.

So, a little background: I played team sports like most young kids in Canada. Hockey, football, soccer, etc. I started mountain biking at around age 10, in a super fun, non-competitive camp environment. At the start of high school, I started unicycling (a lot). I also played rugby, football, and wrestling at the high school level. What I came to realize years later, is that long hours on the unicycle, (very hard, high intensity spurts of effort, mixed into easy riding, and just chilling) set the stage for a very deep, and solid endurance foundation. All without burning out.

This brings me to my next point. I feel that one of the most common (and sad!) thing that I see in competitive youth cycling is burnout. Kids get into it for all the right reasons (fun, social, thrilling and staying active), then they see some success. Eventually someone tells them that they need to start riding lots in zone 1, doing intervals, riding road, focusing on goal events, losing weight, etc. This seems cool at first, but then it starts to seem like work. The fun gets sucked out, and if they have a few mediocre results, they get really down on themselves. Combine this with the fact that their hormones / ferritin levels / Other physiological markers are possible messed up from high training volumes, and depression, eating disorders, and many other negative things start coming up. Typically this happens around the junior / U23 age. This is pure badness.

I came to mountain biking just from background fitness, and progressed to the elite level in one year. Only once I started to “seriously train” did my progress falter. I developed very low testosterone levels. Ferritin levels down in the teens. Some of my social relationships were compromised, etc. I was lucky enough to have perspective enough to step back, take time off, try other sports, etc.

Last fall, I started playing around with more running than I’ve ever done. I tried doing my first ultra marathon distance runs, mountain running, and doing other really cool workouts. Over the winter, I hardly rode my bike at all (I think I took about 7 months off the bike!). I did lots of running, mixed with stretching, and then when I started to ride, I rode for fun. My friends and I would go out and hammer each other into the ground. I felt like I was 14 again! I kept running, doing around 60-100 km weeks. I also did 4-6 hours on the bike, almost all just hammering with buds. I showed up at my first O-Cup, and placed 7th. Considering it was my 4th ride of the year (and second longest ride of the year!), I was pretty happy. I raced a few other O-cups, finishing 3rd at Buckwallow. I won an 8 hour. I won an off-road triathlon. I won an adventure race. I ran fast. I set 3 long distance trail records in the last year. I rode fast. I slept enough, I stopped eating meat. I am feeling stronger than ever.

Now, here’s the biggest difference. Ever since December, I have found that I am excited to ride again! I get finished work (9-5 job), and I hit the trails. I am buzzing with energy before I run/ride. I am excited! I’m still training 14-20 hours per week.

Here are the few keys I’ve discovered that seem to work for me regarding Diet, Stress and training:

Diet: I stopped eating meat about 6 months ago. This corresponds with when my performance really took off. I lost about 10lbs. I started eating 3-5 eggs per day (the most “bio available” protein). I upped my veggie content. I cut out dairy (it makes me feel sick). I decreased my gluten consumption (same thing, I feel gross when I eat it!). Beyond this, I just eat good food. Lots of nuts, veggies, chocolate, and good stuff in general. Dark chocolate is my vice. Seems to work for me.

Stress: I got out of a negative relationship. I started focusing on what I wanted. I signed up for events that excited me! I started looking at really inspiring trips. I went hiking, and backpacking more often. I expanded my social circle, and I didn’t get all stressed out when I over drank at a party. I kept things in proportion, and stopped worrying about the future. Every day that I get out, and I’m able to sweat / breathe hard, is a great day. If I get to see friends, its even better!

Training: I’ve nearly stopped doing any form of intervals (maybe 5 times this year). I’ve started running and riding when I feel like it. I crank it out when I feel good. I chill when I feel tired. I sleep more when I can / need to. I stay up late when I’m at fun parties (no longer go to sleep at 11, because I ‘should’). I slackline 2-4 times per week, which I think is great cross training, and provides good balance and mental focus. I do 2-a-days when I feel like it. I take days off when I’m tired. I ride with a variety of people. I try new stuff whenever I can. I do “Rambo” workouts, mixed into 10-20 km runs, to keep good body balance.

Overall, this shift in training, and sport perspective has left me feeling great. I am training more like a teenager. I can only hope that someone out there can use this information to help them in their quest for a healthy, active lifestyle.