Monday, February 13, 2012

‎"When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word "succeed," you find that it simply means to follow through." ~F. W. Nichol~

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 205-207:
(Also known as The Weekend of Awesomeness)

WHEW. As much as I hate Sunday nights, Blogland, as they
indicate Monday is shortly arriving, this has been a full weekend. Day 205 (Friday) was a break of sorts... it involved me going to work really early (this is fascinating stuff, I know), then getting right in my car after work (5pm) and making a trek to Portsmouth, NH (2:45 hrs) to meet up with one of my Spartan Chicks (Hi Peyton!). I won't bore you with the phone/GPS malfunction (... just because it's plugged in, apparently doesn't mean it's charging...) and the lesson I learned about how reliant we are on our mobile devices, but nonetheless, I arrived safe and sound, if a little later than anticipated.

Me and Ellie, part of the welcome committee!
First, I would like to take this moment to recognize how awesome Spartan People are proving to be. Seriously. Yes, I drove to a total strangers house for a sleepover, to head to a race. No, Mom, she was not a serial killer. In fact, I was welcomed with a great dinner, fabulous conversation, an adorable furry critter (seriously. I'm stealing your dog), and more than open arms. More importantly, we talked about our "weird" hobbies - running in New England cold, learning to deal with Spandex, and race-entry anxiety - without any judgement. That, I'm learning, is hard to come by... it seems that there is a select few people that will be supportive if your hobbies go off the traditional grid. To meet people that not only respect, but advocate, your interests is invaluable. This is the second instance of this untold Spartan Hospitality... I'm sensing a trend here. :-)

My arrival was also greeted with a gift, complete with a big pink bow:
Yep, that's a BIG TIRE... with a bow. In fact, I later worked out that that is a 32# SUV tire, to be specific. Who doesn't love presents like that? Except when they get you in trouble.... More on that later.

Currently, I'm pondering names for this new workout buddy. All suggestions will be considered. :-)

After a long drive, and some great conversation, I hit the pillow hard and the next thing I knew, it was RACE MORNING!! EE!! (I don't care how big or little the races are, whenever competition is involved, I am like a kid at Christmas.)

Fueled on some Oatmeal (YUM. I think it's been 6 months since I've had oatmeal. lol) and excellent coffee, we met the rest of our race entourage and headed down to Salisbury, MA. Our destination: The Frosty Knuckle 5K.

Contrary to what the name implied, it was an unseasonably warm 38 degrees (seriously, this northern dweller had *no* idea what sort of layering to do for that. Did I need shorts?! I wondered.), and a perfectly lovely day. The race description promised a flat, scenic course, with "part" on the beach. WOO! It's been a couple solid months of training since my last 5K, and I've made some big leaps since then, so I was thinking this would be an awesome new PR. FLAT course!!! We just don't have that in VT.
.... little did I know.... *insert scary music*...

We gathered at the starting area, staring out at the beach and ocean. That's my favorite thing ever. I love the ocean so much... it was a weirdly calming way to get ready for a race. The announcer gave us the rundown and said something about "half" the race being on the beach. I raised an eyebrow ("half" is much different than "part"), but figured I'd work it out when I got there.

We got the go, and took off at a steady pace down some totally flat roads around Salisbury (seriously. I thought I was running on the "flat" in VT... not so. lol.). I felt awesome. The temperature was comfortable, there was no icy wind in my face, I was running with some awesome people (shout out to Amy & Brian!) and was ready to kick the ass of this Frosty Knuckle. After a half mile or so, my hostess, Peyton began pulling away. She's definitely significantly faster paced than I, but I found this working to my advantage; while I could not keep up with her, I found myself running just a smidge faster than was "comfortable" to keep her in my sights. I highly recommend finding a running buddy that might be slightly faster. This experience showed me that maybe I could be a little faster than I think, if I push the comfort zone... HMM. Things to ponder.

Anyway, we ran down the road and I surveyed the people around me, as the pack thinned out. There were all kinds: The crowd in the joke costumes, who dropped back quickly, the 60+ year old Asian woman in her baseball capped that went by me like I was standing still, the high school girl with her bouncy pony tail and iPod... it was an interesting cross section.

I ran. I started passing people. I internally thanked my GT for pushing me on distances, and the mountains of VT for crafting some good lungs and legs. Rawr. I was in this one to win it.

... then we turned the corner to The Beach.

Through a sandy parking lot we ran, then a flagger directed us to the beach. My legs were pumping at a good pace across the black top, and as I put one foot, then two, into the sand, I felt ALL momentum leave my body. I heard myself grunt unhappily outloud. I pressed on. I haven't been doing heavy squats for nothing. Surely these legs were good for something?

My plan became simple: surely the sand must be more compacted down near the water's edge. I struggled, but worked my way down. It may have been mildly better. A wave came in and chased me back up the beach a bit. Let's take this moment to talk about the beach, why don't we. The Beach (of Death) was not only soft and sandy (made worse by the churning up of the racers before you), but on a slight downward incline to the water (meaning you were running across the incline. Not easy.), and complemented by small rolling sand hills.

I was determined to keep running.

My feet slid into the sand, sideways down the incline, and generally found no traction. It was like running through jello. I trotted back down toward the water. Not much better. Back up toward the softer beach. I was on sheer mental Will at this point. I could feel the energy just sapping from my body. Running in sand is a new kind of evil.

I ran back down to the water's edge, and something very freeing happened. A beautiful big wave came in, and I turned my head for a moment to admire it.... completely forgetting that I was running on the wet sand at the edge of the water. I got soaked half way up my calves with freezing salt water. I heard "ohh....'s" from the other racers, who'd all been avoiding it. But really, what did I care? The footing was marginally firmer, wet shoes for a couple miles couldn't be any more uncomfortable than sand-filled shoes, and really... I was pretty sure wet feet were the least of my troubles at that point.
I would like to note that I was running in my Inov-8's, which was an excellent choice. They were super light, and didn't hold the water at all. No wet-feet friction blisters for me!

I trotted on a little more. I felt my triumphant mile time running right out of my hands. I admit... I walked for 20 seconds. Then ran some more. Struggled, fought, cursed every grain of sand... and walked for 20 more seconds. Back to running... then down to a 20 second walk.

It may have been the single most frustrating run I have ever experienced, to date.

Imagine this: You know you're trained up for this, your legs feel great and strong, you're halfway through to your best time yet, and then you just can't move forward, no matter how much you fight. Right, Left, Right, Left.... you've only moved forward inches, it seems.

NOT FUN. It was the single longest 1.75 miles of my LIFE. I was angry. I reminded myself it was out of my control, and just continued to fight on, to the best of my abilities. It didn't feel like enough at several points. Every time I walked, I felt disappointed. By hey... I don't train in sand, and that shit is HARD to run in.

As we got to the end of the beach, I saw it. The Finish Line. I needed to get through a little more sand, then I had a SUPER short sprint on some pavement, then my torture would be done. I dig deep. There was a woman in a tutu in front of me, and I was DETERMINED I was not to be beat by a tutu.

I beasted through the sand... my feet were sinking, I was sliding... but I just keep trying to move my legs faster. I hit the pavement, and without all the crazy resistance, my legs had no idea what to do. Coordination and functioning were a little out the window for a second or two... but then, I focused. Spotted the clock... AND tutu lady.

Sprint to the end was on. It was a short one, but my legs were SO happy to not be in the sand, that they rewarded me. Tutu lady prematurely threw her hands up in triumph, as she neared the line, thinking she had zipped past me..... little did she know, I had crept up on her. She almost punched me in the eye. But then again, I am told that as I ducked her flung out arm, I almost elbowed her in the gut.... But I can neither confirm nor deny that. I made it over that finish line, and felt the rush of accomplishment (and I beat you, tutu lady!). WOO!!! FINISH LINE!!

I confess, at this moment, I did assume the hands-on-knees, try not to die, reassure yourself that you don't have to throw up, posture. Running 1.75 miles on the beach, trying to keep the pace up, really had ruined my life. However, all was not lost. Race stats were:

Distance: 3.5 miles (1.75 down the beach)
Time: 42:03
Ave. Pace: 12:01

By FAR not my fastest time... but then again, I've never run down a beach before. SO... I'm considering this a success. Pushed myself in a new way, didn't die, and crossed the finish line at a pace that a year ago I would've only dreamed of (that I now consider horrifically slow).

Dear Frosty Knuckle 5K... Flat course my ass. You were a beast of a short course. OW.

I'll spare you the details of the post-race recovery, but like every good recovering racer, it involved coconut water, beer, chili and beach pizza. And coffee. OM nom nom.

This race just went to prove something for me, that really hit home as I was frustrated and angry trying to run on the beach. Most of this training and competing is a mental exercise. I had only my own limitations to beat. So what if my legs were burning? The answer, always push harder. Who knows what you're capable of, unless you try?

L-R: Amy, Peyton and I,
Beach-Hell survivors with free t-shirt swag!
(It has a snowflake in beer bottles, on the back. lol!)

Home to VT greeted me with a cold snap... Today (Sunday) was supposed to be my Long Run day at 7.5 miles. We had a windchill advisory for double-digit negative temps, advising everyone to stay inside. Running was probably not the best choice.

HOWEVER. I had a new 32# tire, and a real creative GT on the line. New WOD for the day, on the fly. And I quote:
GT: 50 Overhead Squats then keep it overhead until I text you. 
Me: LOL... with my tire?!
GT: Yep
Me: Okay... should I text you when I'm done my 50 squats then?
GT: Nope, just hang out with it over head until I text. Might want to do it in front of tv....3.2.1. GO.

Seemed simple enough. I pressed the tire up overhead, compensating for the wobble (Lesson of the day: Hold tire evenly to prevent forward-back wobble), and confronted my arch nemesis: the Overhead Squat. You see, those of us with arms of the t-rex variety, struggle with this a little more than the norm.... but hey, it was only 32#, right? No problemo.

I finished my squats with only a slight pause at halfway to readjust my grip on the tire. So far, so good. I hadn't dropped it on my head, and I was still feeling good to go. I moved onto the second part of the WOD.... keep it over head. Again, seemed simple enough. I stood there with my tire-halo looming. I paced around my living room, trying to distract myself from the burning in my shoulders. I thought of my CrossFit training... "engage your shoulders". They were on fire, in response.
I breathed and paced. Ow, ow OW.
WTF was the GT with the stop-text??

I briefly thought it might be a good idea to sit on the couch with a tire over head. Not so. You're much more unstable, causing more muscle-compensations for the non-balanced tire.

I stood back up and caught my reflection in my giant picture windows... Yep, I was just chilling, holding a tire over my head. I laughed, and my back muscles began to pump acid. Eh, it was all good. I could handle it.

Another few minutes went by... I wondered if the GT had forgotten me. I had to bring the tire down to my chest, for a wee break. I decided letting it touch the floor wasn't acceptable, but my t-rex arms had to have a rest.

Completed a good-form push press and it was back up. I stood.

It was at this point that I had an interesting thought. My arms and back were burning like hell and beginning to quiver... at which point I realized that I have lost almost the equivalent of 3 of these tires. I am not longer carrying that weight around. Now I hold it over my head for "fun"... really gives a new meaning to having a "spare tire..."

I had to lower my tire again for a second. This was starting to get to the mental-push stage.

Push press to overhead tire hold... stand. burn. quiver. Grit teeth.


I have never been so excited to hear a text message come in, in all my life.

After reviewing the WOD with the GT, I laughed out loud (for realz... not just an LOL), when I read this part:

GT: I briefly thought maybe I shouldn't let it go on for 22 minutes...

LOL. People wonder why I've made so many great strides in the last year or so... it's from things like this. Just people believing that you can, or challenging you to see just how far you can go. He could've stopped me at 10 minutes.... but, how much of a challenge would that have been? What would I have learned? It was in the last 2 minutes that I found my "fight"... as I thought about my weight loss journey, and how much harder THAT was, than the burning in my shoulders. Would I have gotten to that place of reflection, if 10 minutes had been "good enough"?

With that, I think I'll take my leave. My brain is tired, my upper body is beginning to feel the fun it had with today's tire, and tomorrow's back to the grind...

Whew. What a weekend. Can we do that again??

1 comment:

  1. I'm game for a do-over! We know the course, we are spartan chicks, and we can always finish with Beach Pizza! Awesome meeting you! We will reace again. :)