Saturday, July 28, 2012

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. - William Shakespeare

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 370 & 371:

Well, BlogLand, it was time to face the inevitable. My knee has no longer been an issue (100% Woo!), so there was no more "good" excuses for procrastinating; it was time for my return to Sprint Night. I absolutely hate this WOD, but really, truly understand the benefits that I get from it. I've seen some drastic increases in my sprint times, which have directly correlated to some majorly increased mile times in my regular runs, among other things. Therefore one must, in true Spartan fashion, just "embrace the suck."

This week's Sprint Night was going to be a little different. With the passing of my 1-Year milestone and an upcoming race in a few weeks (Spartan Sprint, Amesbury, MA!), the GT has decided to mix up the routine a bit. Now (because he clearly loves me so much), I'll be doing TWO Sprint Nights a week. One will be the regular short sprints (200m) like I have been doing (just a few more of them than usual) and one will be long sprints (400m, full track). Tonight was slated to be 400m Sprints. While I had done a test run of these before, as in I've run a 400m sprint maybe twice, I'd never done a whole WOD centered around 400m sprints. Needless to say, I was a little bit apprehensive.

As usual for Sprint Night, I woke up that morning and while getting ready for work, I was thinking about what I had to do for the day...... and thus began my dreading of that evening's Sprints. They do just really suck. However, I am lucky to say that I haven't had to sprint alone since the very first sprint WOD I did. I have had some great companions each and every night to cheer me on and get me through the major uglyness. Stacey and April were on track (pun intended. hehe) to be there on the new night to keep me going and all would be as minimally sucky as possible.

Until it started raining. And then my buddies didn't look like they were going to be able to come, last minute. Let me tell you, BlogLand. These are the moments when your resolve and commitment is really tested: Will you do what needs to be done, even if it is not what you feel like doing, when you have no one to cheer you through it? Will you be your own motivation? Is your drive and commitment to succeed, no matter what, enough to get you through that ugly workout alone? To get your sneakers on when there is no one telling you that you need to? Will you Spartan Up?

Just about the time that I had steeled up my resolve to do my long sprints no matter what, I think I was rewarded by the Cosmos; Stacey would be able to come after all AND we would have a new victim. I mean... participant. My CG would be in town, was feeling up to a challenge, and agreed to check it out. Stacey and I chuckled a little to ourselves, as we knew what to expect from those short bursts of 110% exertion...... but we weren't sure the CG knew what he had just agree to.

We began with our usual half mile jog warm-up. I had to remind myself to take it down a notch and actually warm up - not just beast through a run pace like my legs wanted to. I've found that since I had several weeks off from running, when I go out now, my legs really want to GO. None of this hold back and warm up sort of stuff. We reached the track, continued our warm up by walking around the track one time, while reviewing what each of our goals were for the day. You see, BlogLand, there is nothing more important that having a goal to chase - even if it's a tiny one. My goal was simply to complete three 400m sprints, with my best effort. I had no time expectations or anything like that... simply finish them (puking and the patented CrossFit Starfish on the ground movement would be acceptable at the end, if it came to that.).

Lining up at our starting line, I felt the apprehension flip-flop my stomach. I wasn't entirely sure I was going to be able to do these 400m sprints, I haven't been running as consistently because of that knee thing.... the cavalcade of excuses started to flood my brain. Thankfully, crazy peeps were there with me and started our countdown.

So, the first 100m was AWESOME. Totally burned off the line, legs felt strong, and I was owning my run. The next 100m was the usual "Ehhhh.... can't breath, must. keep. running."...... and then we entered the distinct outer limits of my comfort zone. As I pushed past the 200m line, my body was all like, WTF?! THIS is where we stop! .... and I had to keep running. There was about 10 seconds, as I tried desperately to propel myself down the next second straightaway that I flashed through my brain every motivational saying, thought, word, face, picture that I could possibly think of. Still, my body was unconvinced. I felt that familiar slightly nauseous feeling of my body protesting, and tried to ignore the empty feeling that was growing in my legs. I knew I was slowing, but decided I would at least keep moving and finish the lap. Rounding the last curve, my CG was there (having not died through his shorter sprints!) shouting encouragement. I think, BlogLand, sometimes that is what you need - someone outside of your own head reminding you to get after it. From somewhere, I kicked on the afterburners and fought through the last few meters, to cross the finish line. 400m complete....... and hands on knees, sucking air and wanting to just lay down and starfish on the track. I am happy to report I did not do that. It seems to me that until you are completely done, it sets a bad state of mine to have a mini "quit". I stayed standing and paced (slowly) around, reminding my body that we were going to live, while checking the time I'd clocked in at:
Lap One: 00:01:35:881
Decidedly not a great time, but I'm looking that as the baseline 400m sprint, from which I will improve. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Lap two was just a long soul-suck, where I pushed hard and tried to not die. That is my basic operating mantra for any difficult workout... "Try not to die." ("Die" being an interpretive term... meaning don't throw up, get a raging muscle spasm, pass out, starfish, etc.)
Lap Two: 00:01:44:552 Definitely gained some time on that one, but I suppose that was to be expected.

Lap three had me really concerned. My legs were feeling pretty spent (sprinting causes this "empty" feeling - not fatigue - unlike any other WOD) and I wasn't sure I could do it. Like physically, I wasn't sure if I could actually sprint another whole lap. However, the challenge was THREE laps and I knew the GT would not accept anything less than a valiant attempt. I could pass out, throw up or starfish mid-lap, if that happened... but I better have at least gotten off the starting line. These are the moments that you are thankful that you have people that will push you to your limits. It is very easy to, at this point in the workout, to let yourself stop. "Clearly" you've worked enough, pushed hard enough, it was "enough." But here's the thing, you have more. There is always a little bit more than you think, and when you push hard enough to find that, not only is it empowering (Holy crap! I can do that?!), but that is when real growth in your training occurs.

Needless to say, I did my best with Lap three. As I completed my first straightaway, I remember gasping out to Stacy and the CG as I passed, "I've got nothing left in my legs! Nothing at all!" .....  but there was 3/4 of a lap to be finished. Finding that finish line that third time was awesome, BlogLand. AWESOME. Not only did it mean that I got to stop doing this, but that I had also completed the challenge set before me.
Time was Lap Three: 00:01:51:457 Another big gain on time, but I was so happy I was able to even DO the third lap that the time gain was okay. Next time, we shoot for some more consistent times.

While I put myself through this necessary evil, it was somewhat gratifying to see my Sprint buddies hitting it hard, too. It is always nice to know that you're not suffering alone, no matter how necessary the suffering is. In honor of my transition to 400m sprints, Stacey bumped her sprints up to 200m sprints, and Hans (my CG)  did some excellent 100m sprints to complete his first sprint wod. When you want to take on something as Herculean as Changing Your Life (yes, capital letters), these are the types of people that you need by your side - Spartans in Spirit and Mind, that are not afraid to disregard "limitations" and work hard.


Sprint night had me waking up on Friday morning a little bit stiff, but not too bad, considering I haven't been doing sprints for weeks. It was Climbing Friday, though! I must admit, I'm really starting to enjoy this new hobby. It feels great to workout my upper body in a taxing way that *isn't* pull ups or push ups. Also, the successes - much like what I like about weight-lifting - are very tangible. You can say, "yes, I went two moves beyond where I did before." or "I finished that route, that I couldn't do before."

Tonight's climbing was a little more challenging for me on my lower body, as my legs were feeling a little spent from the previous night's exertions, but not enough to stop me. We didn't do quite as many climbs as we might have usually, but still made some great progress.

I was able to climb under-over this overhanging route, which had previously thwarted me before. It involved a few just massive (for me) explosions - coupled with grunts of exertion - of arm power just to reach to the hold, without being able to support myself much at all with the tree trunks I call legs. Yeaaah!! T-Rex arms are being destroyed.

I also have been working the last few weeks on a project, which I'm told should be technically described as "A overhanging jug-haul, 5.6, which ended in a desperate dead point move." What this translates to for the rest of us humans as ... Hard. Hard (for me) and at the very last move, a moment where I had to dig deep and make a leap of faith and hope that my right hand still had enough oomph in it to hang on. Luckily, it did.... just barely. Project OWNED.

Having said that, it's on to the next project, that I can't quite get through.... the foot holds are a little smaller, the hand grips not quite as comfortable...... but just another challenge to be owned.


Today (Happy Saturday!), I'm really in Recovery mode. My quads have a massive case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) from sprints and I'm pretty ouchy. I think I'm off to drag the CG to a swimming hole of some sort for a combination ice bath/aqua therapy moment. Ohhhh yeah. That's what my life has come to.... When super cold Vermont swimming holes sound like an excellent plan. Good times!

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