Monday, August 27, 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.

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 403:

Today was my triumphant (ish) return to CrossFit, BlogLand. It's been like... more than a month (too long to count...) since I've been able to attend a class, between this stupid ankle injury, the issue I had with my knee after the Canada sprint and races/life in general.

I'm not going to lie, I was mildly apprehensive about walking back into that gym. I felt a little bit like a slacker. Now, I know that I've had some legitimate reasons not to be there, but at the same time, I feel like there were (mornings, especially) times I should've tried harder to get there. Less hits on the snooze button, less talking myself out of it. I had a little bit of guilt. Not to mention, I wondered how far behind I might be..... or how hard it would be, since I've been out of the loop a little bit. I've never shied away from it being hard... but.... I dunno. BlogLand, I was a little nervous. I was not, however, going to let that stop me. Time to get back on the horse and get everything moving again.

It would seem that I decided to pick a doozy of a day to get back into the game. I studied the WODs (yes... plural) on the board, as I waited for class to begin. I was definitely in for it. It was going to be a LONG class.

First, we began with a Warm Up:
(2x) 200m run
10 Over head (light - 16#) KB Swings
10 Inchworms

I felt good setting out at the run... I feel like my runs have at least remained pretty strong. I was good on the KB, too.... but the nerves set in a little bit as I worked through those inchworms. For those not in the know, an inchworm has a few variations, but I was doing it like this: From a standing position, get your hands on the floor near your feet. Walk your hands out forward until you are in a plank position. Walk your feet back up to your hands. That's One Rep. When I do these, BlogLand, I'm okay in my core, but my arms/shoulders - of notorious t-rex fame - started to feel it. OH geesh. This did not bode well for the rest of the WOD, if this was only the Warm up.

Next, we were ushered into WOD, Part 1:

(5 times, for Time)
5 (heavy) Deadlifts - #120 pounds for me, as I wasn't sure how the ankle would handle this.
10 Burpees

Well, if nothing else, I figured my Spartan Racing would help prepare me for the burpees, and Deadlifts are generally a strong point for me - just as long as my ankle held up.
The clock started, I took a deep breath and activated my legs for my first dead lift. YEAH. I was feeling strong. Beast Mode: On. Five Strong Dead lifts, and down I went for Burpees. As every veteran burpee'er knows... the first 5 or 10 burpees aren't THAT bad.... by the time I got to 15 fast ones, I was definitely sweating and puffing. (I say "fast ones" because I have this subconcious competitive desire that makes me want to keep up with the person next to me.... and DAMN if this 50 (ish?) year old guy wasn't going at it!)

Round 2 and 3 went okay. Still was feeling steady on the dead lifts, and pushing through the burpees at a solid pace (I've found this is the secret, Just. Keep. Moving.), even though I knew it was slower than I had started out. You know it's bad when you're looking forward to the next round of heavy deadlifts to "rest".

Round 4 and 5 got a bit ugly. My dead lifts were still spot on (on a normal day, I would definitely lift a much heavier deadlift - closer to 185-195 for something like this), but burpees were not a good time. I was having flashbacks to every set penalty burpees at monkey bars at a Spartan Race, or every traverse wall, thus far...ARGH. The last five burpees were on sheer will. Guy Next To Me was slowing down, but still moving... There was nothing to be done except take a quick swipe at the sweat dripping into my eye, take a breath and knock out 5 more, Spartan Style.

Getting it done, I finished with a time of: 7:02. Solidly in the middle of the class. I was happy with that... I was not the slowest person, but I still had room to work. I was acutely aware of the extra weight I'm still carrying and how much easier burpees would be if I didn't have to throw it around.

WOD Part 1a:

While we waited for the other group (finishing up WOD #2, so we could alternate), we set about attacking two one-minute benchmarks: Push ups and Air Squats. I groaned, my burpee-tired arms quivered a little, but I got on my knees, gritted my teeth and did my best at push ups. I had to sit back on my knees more times than I would like, but managed to complete 22, messy, tired, push ups. Clearly, here's my area to improve. Then, we moved on to our one-minute of air squats. This is usually my area to dominate... I think my record is like 56-57 in a minute, when I was fresh. However, my quads were a little spent from Deadlifts, and I only managed 39. A solid effort, I felt, all things considered. If my quads weren't tired before I started squats, they were definitely quaking now. I finished, sweat pouring off of me, muscles protesting and realized I was only halfway through the class. Oh. shit.

WOD Part 2:

(3 times, for time)
15 Box Jumps (16" box)
15 Pull ups (using a black, heavy assistance band)
15 Over head walking lunges (25#)
15 Sit Ups

All in all, that doesn't look TOO bad, right? Well. After doing WOD 1 and 1a, I wasn't so sure. I started out doing box jumps carefully to test out the ankle. It seemed to hold up alright for the first 15, but I was worried about it as I got tired, and transitioned to step-ups for the second and third rounds.

Pull ups, my arch enemy, were as expected. They KILLED me. I got out the initial 10 in a row... after that, and for all subsequent rounds, I was knocked down to doing 2-3 at a time. Fighting through to get 2-3 at a time. With the giant black assistance band. If that isn't frustrating, I don't know what is. Somewhere around the middle of my round 2 pull ups, I had to spend some seconds huffing and puffing and reminding myself that I had already used my arms extensively on burpees and push ups, as well as overhead lunges.... It's not that I'm weak (well, THAT weak), but just that I've been working. The only option was to KEEP WORKING.

I am proud to say that I did the over head lunges as prescribed - 25# solid. Arms locked out, over head, 15 lunges each round. I was doing well, there. It burned like battery acid the last round and I am not ashamed to say I let out the patented primal CrossFit exertion grunt to push out the last five.

I finished in a time of 11:47. Next to last in the class... mostly because of the time it takes me to do the pull ups. That is disappointing. However, I completed every single rep, and sweated through the whole workout, without having to quit. I was proud of that.

Sometimes, the WOD (or the race, or the moment) is going to be hard. But the success is not in the time it took you, but that you were there, you showed up, you were doing it. Slow or fast, heavy or light, you showed up and you did some work. Not every day is going to be a PR.

Today, as I crawled out of bed, stiff like my 90 year old granny from getting my ass handed to me by Crossfit yesterday, I felt accomplished. Not that I was enjoying the muscle soreness, but it felt good to be really hard back in the game. It wasn't my ankle that slowed me down as I had feared, but I just still had a lot of work to do. I could accept that.

Now... with a lot of ice and Tiger Balm, I prep for my next obstacle... tonight's 5 mile run. YEEHAW!! Oh, the life of a Spartan in Training....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nothing will work unless you do. - Maya Angelou

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 402:

As the sunny Saturday afternoon stretched before us, I instructed the CG to don his newly-acquired Spandex; I was taking him for a run.

We weren't "going running" ... implying that it was entirely voluntary activity... I was taking him for a run. My ankle is on the healing upswing and I needed to get back out there and on it to test it out a bit (and work out some of the stiffness). Also, the CG has expressed some genuine interest in getting back into running for health and fitness. It seemed like a perfect combination to me - I'd have to take it a little easy on my ankle, and an "easy" pace would be good for easing him back into it. Plus, I needed a reason to lace up my sneakers again and fight off the mental laziness that has tried to creep in, and he needed a push out the front door to get started. These, BlogLand, are the times when having a buddy is invaluable. You may not be at the same level of your training, but there is always something to be learned from each other.

I taped up my ankle Kenesio-Tape style (not a supportive taping, exactly), tied my Inov-8's and dragged him out the door. It was warm, but not horrid, there was a nice breeze and all was well with world. The plan was to do walk-run intervals (You know, run to that mailbox, walk until that tree, run to the next mail box), until we'd completed this roughly 3 mile circuit.

The first mile was a stiff one for me, until my stupid ankle warmed up, but it was a great reminder tool for me. Instead of concentrating on the frustrating feelings of having to take it slow on that injury, I got to hand out reminders of the basics, to the CG. Aside from taking the focus away from my ankle, it also helped me to center in on the little things - manually slowing down your breathing, deep breaths in, keeping a steady pace, relaxing your shoulders and pushing just a few steps farther than you want to.

The CG was a wonderful running partner, even egging me into a couple of cul-de-sac sprints, as I was feeling good at the end of our run. We both came back a sweaty mess, hot but smiling, so I deemed it a success. It was hard enough to be effective, but not miserable enough that he'd never want to get out there again. That, in my experience is the key. Your workouts need to push the limits of your capabilities, but still be within your ability to finish them.
(Here's to Day 1 of converting another poor, unsuspecting soul into running...)

Following our lovely run was a natural progression of re-hydrating and stretching, in his shaded back yard. I chattered on about stretching, sitting in the grass and reaching for my toes, doing pigeon poses, and generally feeling my creaky muscles loosen up....  when I stretched out a hand into the grass and felt like a nail had just gone through my palm.

With an instinctual reaction, I whipped my hand up to find a yellow-jacket dangling and wriggling in that pissed-off imma-sting-the-shit-out-of-you way that they do. Well, FML, BlogLand. That hurt like crazy, and knowing I have a sensitivity to stings and such, I was a little concerned. As I clutched my hand and watched the purple lump rise, the medically-knowledgeable CG fed me some allergy meds and got me some ice.... and interestingly enough, put a meat-tenderizer paste on the sting. What, you say?! I know. I did the same thing. However, when that sting starts throbbing and swelling, you're pretty much willing to try anything. Apparently, the venom is protein based... and meat tenderizer breaks down protein. SO, hypothetically, if you can get it in the sting, it helps to lessen the venom. Whether it was this, or the allergy med, or the ice, or just my brain wanting to believe it was better.... it did feel better in about an hour or so, so we decided to press on with our day.

I refuse to let a tiny yellow jacket with anger management issues ruin my weekend. Ba!

Off to climbing. The CG was on a mission to get in a workout - not just "go climbing." I had the slight feeling that I was in for it, despite a touchy ankle and a slightly swollen hand. My inner Spartan was not yet ready to admit defeat though. Climbing, here I go.

Today's plan was to do a pyramid workout with the climbs, taking advantage of the mostly-empty climbing gym. First, we'd climb all the super easy climbs, emphasis on getting up them fast and not wasting time. Then, we'd move up the grades (all the next easiest, all the slightly harder), until we didn't successfully complete a climb. Ideally, then, we'd go back down the ladder, backing down to a route level that we could do, and so on.

We did a slightly modified version of this plan, but got a raging amount of climbing in. I'm pretty sure I went up and down the wall a million times.... or like 12? 13? more? which is a lot in the scheme of things. The CG was putting me to shame with the ease that he got up the routes that tapped me out, and then was able to keep going. I feel off the wall at one of my project 5.6's and at a project 5.7. Basically, my arms were toasted at this point. On a good day, when I was fresh, I think I could've gotten up these climbs, but our endurance climbing day had taken it's toll. Even though these were "easy" climbs, you still have to use your body, your grip, your muscles.... slowly, they'll get stronger and I'll be able to do more. Effectively, I feel like this is the equivalent of the interval runnings I got the CG to do.... Push until you can't go anymore, then back off a little bit, until you can push a little bit further. It's the only way you get better.

After about an hour of hard, fast climbing, my hands (and my damn bee sting) were exhausted; I'm pretty sure I couldn't have opened a water bottle if I tried (thank god for the push-button water fountain), and my ankle was feeling tired (not painful, but worked).

.... and it only took a 35 minute interval run, a recovering ankle injury, a bee sting and an hour or so of rock climbing to get me there. Interesting thought, I just had. Old Me wouldn't have even made it through that "easy" run.... let alone have the stamina or energy to push through all of those things.

Aja 2.0, for the win. The best thing about this process has not been the weight loss, or the muscle gain, or the compliments or the successes.... but simply the fact that I can now live Out Loud and do the things I want to do, without having to factor in my physical limitations. I am not limited by anything except my own mind... and I choose to make that get on board and Spartan Up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The best way out is always through. - Robert Frost

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 398:

It's official. I'm a runner.

I don't just run, but I'm a runner.

HOLY SHIT. (sorry. excuse me.)

Oddly enough, it was this stupid ankle injury that has allowed me to come to this realization, BlogLand. All week long I've been nursing this ankle, icing it, taking ibuprofen, trying to stay off it and getting it to heal. Admittedly, I've had a few freak outs at the people close to me in my life, because of the fear that this injury was going to put me far behind in my training and take me out of the game for some of the big races I'd planned on this season.

I won't lie, I had some real fear about "going back to the way I was." Now, I don't mean just gaining weight back, but slowly becoming more complacent with life, letting it pass by, and not being the best version of me. As I sat on the couch, night after night, with ice, unable to go out and do things, this was the cloud of fear that sat with me. What if it just happened? What if my ankle took a long time to heal and I just never got back on track?

Thankfully, I have a lot of amazing people in my life who mentally bitch-slapped me into my right mind. I had Spartans everywhere telling me what I COULD do (upper body WODs, say what?!), I had the CG encouraging me and reminding me that injuries heal and it was temporary, and I had the GT lay it out for me, "You're not the same person anymore. You've changed. You look forward to working out and being active and go stir crazy when you can't. You can't go back. It's too late."
... Which I took as a nice way of telling me to STFU. I'm losing my mind just because I can't do the things I want to do, and the fact that I want to do them so badly is indication that there is no longer "old me" to go back to. While "Old Me" may be a voice in the back of my head sometimes, it's not a way of life I could ever, or will ever just fall back to. Once you Spartan Up, BlogLand, it's irreversible.

This point was reinforced to me tonight. My ankle has felt better and better. The swelling has been minimal, I've been walking on it and feeling okay.... I needed to get out and try a run. I NEEDED to. I drove home from work with the rock music blaring, psyched up and looking forward to go meet up with Stacey to try "an easy 5k." (Remember when 5K was a goal distance? Oh my.)

It was really silly, BlogLand. I got home, buzzed around my house gathering my Spandex and munching a little pre-run snack. There was a moment, as I applied my Kenesio Tape to my ankle (as a cautionary measure of support and to hopefully prevent worse swelling) that I was struck with a little bit of worry. I think it was applying the tape. Subconciously, that implies injury and all the things that come with that. What if I got half way down the block and the ankle WASN'T better. I was afraid of what was going to happen when I stepped out that door....... but was DYING to step out that door.

As I finished tying the laces on my favorite pair of Inov-8's, Stacey popped in the door, ready to roll. A deep breath had me stepping out the door, with the one concession that we'd only do 5K and we'd keep it slow and flat.

My first few strides were tenative... I was really just internally praying that all would be well. When I wasn't feeling anything in the ankle but a little stiffness, a wave of relief crashed over me and I got down to the business of running. I did, at this point, have to remind myself that I still wasn't 100%, so it would probably not be a bad idea to keep the speed down a bit and go easy.

... but my lungs were burning (it's been a while since I've really been able to run!), I felt the sweat start to bead up on my forehead and the kinks work out of my quads, as the blood started flowing.... I FELT AWESOME.

I felt awesome.... running. Hmm.

Now, there were a few questionable steps here and there where I hit some uneven sidewalk, or was forced onto the grass thanks to inconsiderate pedestrians, but over all, it was a pain-free run. It felt a little bit "tight" towards the end, but that seems to have been solved with the subsequent icing I did later in the evening.

Trotting to the finish line of our 5K with Stacey, I was smiling. I had gotten to go out and run. I had completed a decent run with no pain in my ankle, and in a decent time. Everything was going to be okay.

I'd MISSED running.

My internal self was stirred with confusion.

Plopping down on the couch with my ice pack, I was smiling, as I set about texting a few key people with the great news. I had run! YAY!

I was happy about it.

I stopped in mid-text at one point, like I'd been hit in the face with a cold hose.

....... I may be carrying a big extra tire of weight, I may not look like a racer, I may still eat too many tasty things some days, I still hate getting up early, but I'm not the "Fat Chick" that I once was. It has nothing to do with my outside appearance, but the internal shift that I seem to have made.... The GT was right... I had changed. There is no going back.

I'm a runner.

I belong to a set of people that look forward to lacking up their favorite pair of sneakers and attacking the sidewalk. People that run to get rid of the stress of the day, to see what's around that next corner, to test their will to make it one more mile. I am now one of those people that measure their success in the amount of sweat soaking into their shirt, or by the extra tenth of a mile I eeked out. Runners are people that put the mild discomfort of the run out of their mind and hold on to the euphoric feeling at the end and notion of accomplishment. I look forward to the pouring rain, and step squarely in the puddles. And yes, I stand still and glare angrily at the crosswalk light.

Yes. My lungs burned. My quads screamed..... I didn't notice.

I was having fun.


Wow. When the EFF did that happen!?!?!

I'm so glad to be back in the game (albeit a little slowly), and getting down to business. Two weeks until the Spartan Super in NJ and four SHORT weeks until The BEAST .... After that, we focus to my two half marathons... it's a big end of the season BlogLand, and I fully intend to be present and accounted for for all of it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines." - Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 387-388:
The New England Spartan Sprint, Amesbury, Ma. 

Race Weekend dawned like any other, BlogLand. I was up early, pulling my pink spandex tank over my head (Spartan Chicks, represent!), and heading down to the hotel breakfast to get some good fuel in me to get me through the trials ahead. As I noshed my cakey blueberry muffin, a rare carby indulgence saved just for race weekends, I had no idea that in less than 3 hours, I'd be down for the count and earning my first race DNF ever.

As I drove past the race grounds that morning on my way to parking, I saw an awesome sight that got my adrenaline running for the day: a small army of black-clad Spartans violently and triumphantly cresting the top of the Amesbury hill and careening down the other side, smoke billowing around them, mud everywhere. I later found out that this was the Hurricane Heaters finishing up their almost 4-hour time, getting to know the course with their team mates, in a way that can only be experienced and not described. An Epic Sight to start the day, I let out an AROO! in my head and headed to find my own teammates.

I was running that day with Spartan First-Timer, April, who was psyched and ready for the challenge. Having run several road races with April, and having her as a regular motivator at Sprint Night Hell, I knew she had phenomenal tiny-person speed (seriously, the tiny-people are super human, I think.). I was excited to see what kind of time we were going to make through this course, as Saturday Morning's goal was to push myself and do my best to run for time. As much as I thought I'd be guiding April through her first Spartan, I knew she'd be pushing me to run a little more or a little faster. I was stoked. Through the columns and smoke, Dropkick Murphy's resounding through air, we were off, running steadily up the hill - Spartan Race's idea of how to start a race (warm-up, what?!).

In the theme of pushing ourselves, we kept running up the hill, until we hit a bottle-necked wall of walking people, that forced us to a walk at the steep part. My lungs were super grateful to the walkers that prevented us from running through, but I felt accomplished to know that I could've continued it right to the top. My legs were feeling great. Yes!

The obstacles are a little out of order in my head at this point... shoulder-high mud pits, low walls, over-under-throughs, cargo nets, sandbag carries, muddy swamp walks... Spartan Race was in fine form, here in Amesbury. I was having a BLAST. I felt in shape, strong and in great company. April and I laughed, joked, sweated and ran, enjoying every moment.

My highlight of the day came as we broke into a clearing in the woods to the Hercules Hoist (hoist a large cement weight up to the top of a large pulley and gently put it back down). The Men's weights were empty, but there was a long line for the women's (maybe half the weight?) pulleys. Standing in line, but eager to continue our race, I eyed the Men's Weights. Heavy lifting is my specialty and I was reasonably confident that I could do the Men's weight... egged on a little by April, I decided to go for it. With a big mental AROO! I grabbed that rope and squatted a powerful force of determination and strength against it. Hand over hand, using well-practiced body weight squats to help pull the rope, with a couple of grunts of exertion, I found myself slowly lowering it back down. Success! I suppose there is something to be said for being a burly Amazonian... I may not be able to delicately leap walls, but I'll be damned if I can't hoist that men's weight!

My burpees of the day had found me at my usual enemies... the rope climb, the traverse wall (AH!!!! two moves from the end, when a foot slipped!) and the monkey bars. Damn you, monkey bars. I tried, BlogLand. I was prepared... but no matter how prepared you are, monkey bars are evil when your hands are freshly wet and muddied. There was just no holding these bars. My first valiant swing sent me sliding right to the ground and trudging over to do my penalty burpees. Grr. SOMEDAY, Monkey Bars!!!

Finishing up my burpees at the rope climb (Let me just take this moment to say that April BEASTED up that rope climb and hit that bell!! Yes!), April and I began our steady trot (still feeling strong!) towards the tall walls that we could see not too far ahead.

My steady left, right, left, right rhythm was suddenly interrupted as my right foot found a hole hidden in the grass... I felt my leg buckle underneath me and heard a stomach-flipping, POP! as my ankle rolled and sent me sprawling. Sitting up, April remarked that she, too had heard the pop, and was I okay!? No stranger to ankle injuries in the not too distant past, I sat there for a moment, assessing the situation. Maybe I'd just tweaked it and it'd be okay in a second and I could stand up and continue on. No sooner did I finish this thought that the sickening wave of pain shot through my ankle and up my leg. I bit my lip, holding back the tears and taking deep breaths to abate the throbbing in my ankle, mentally wrestling with the decision I knew I was going to have to make... there was no way I was going to be able to finish on this ankle.

As I sat on the ground, clutching my ankle and trying to remain the picture of Spartan Strength, numerous Spartans checked in with me on their way by. Sending April to grab the (thankfully close by!) volunteer with a radio, I came to the horrible realization: I'd be letting my new-spartan down, unable to finish with her. However, no sooner did I finishing thinking that, Sparta answered. Jessica, the very first Spartan Chick I ever met in person, happened to trot by. She took it on as her personal mission to make sure April finished, just as she knew that I would've. If that isn't the Spartan community showing it's tight-knit nature, I don't know what is. Jessica and April had never met prior to briefly that morning, but Spartans help each other when in need regardless, and I felt relieved to know that I had left April in good hands.

The burly EMT guy roared up on his 4-wheeler, making jokes about needing to amputate my leg and helped me on to the back of his ride. I accepted the inevitable as he navigated us back down the mountain and away from the course, trying to keep a neutral face and grit my teeth as the pain surged with each bump. He told me that hey, I should be proud that I made it through 70% of the course. I won't lie, BlogLand, my first thought was, "DAMN IT. I was almost to the end!!!" However, he made an excellent point. I had mentioned to him that this would'e been something like my 6 or 7th Spartan finish line... and he remarked that given the nature of the sport and the training that goes into it, it was amazing that I had gone this long without serious injury. I guess when you train hard to race hard, to just live out loud hard, eventually fate is going to slow you down every once in a while. Clearly, it was my turn.

Getting helped off the four-wheeler and into the First-Aid tent, I was greeted by the most fabulous honorary Spartans out there. I'd like to take this moment to give a heartfelt AROO! to the staff of that first-aid tent, who made a really rough moment for me as painless as it could be. An experienced EMT handled my ankle delicately as he peeled off my mud-dripping sock and shoe. He delivered some excellent news - my ankle wasn't broken. I felt my body relax a half a degree at this news, as broken bones are a long process to come back from. I knew how to deal with a rolled ankle... that, at least, is a known evil. He then proceeded to employ a technique that I am totally stealing; he plastic-wrapped the ice pack to my ankle. With cling wrap. Yep. Saran-wrap. When I commented on this in awe of the ingenuity, he informed me that the key is to get the real stuff - not the cheap imitation. I just doesn't stick the same.

With professional efficiency, I was escorted to a shady chair to elevate my ankle for a minimum of 15 minutes, while I was to eat this banana and drink this water. With the immediate situation resolved, I sat in the chair to let it all sink in. I bit my lip in frustration. I hurt. I knew I would be out of commission for several weeks while this healed. I hadn't finished. I didn't have my medal. I was currently alone and it would be quite a while before my friends realized I hadn't finished, and April would carry the news across the finish line with her. I was alone with my not-happy thoughts and throbbing ankle. This, BlogLand, is never a good place to be.

Again, Sparta answered. Sitting down next to me was another spartan chick, knee immobilized in a temporary splint, waiting to go for x-rays at the local hospital. She struck up a conversation and we compared battle notes. As it turns out, this was her first Spartan and she was really disappointed about not finishing. Lucky for me, though, she was there and we were able to chat a bit and keep ourselves out of our frustrated, pained minds for a little while. Not only that, but her friends, after coming to check on her, even brought me an ice-cold beer in solidarity. To my fellow injured Spartan lady, THANK YOU for our chat and my beer. I'll see you next year and would be happy to return the favor!

It was not too long before April had finished and come to find me. Helping me hobble to the line for the hoses, she gave me the low down on the rest of the course. It sounded awesome, and I felt hot frustration burning in my stomach as I stood in the line of muddied Spartans, beaming with their accomplishments. It was right then that I heard my name over the noise of the crowd. Looking around, I didn't see any faces I recognized, but then Kelly from the Spartan Chicks came up and introduced herself. I had been on a mission to meet as many Spartan Chicks as possible this weekend, and was thrilled that Kelly had spotted me and said Hello. With muddy hugs and a quick explanation about my stupid ankle, we parted ways to get cleaned up. It was great, though, to be able to put another name to a face and see the triumphant muddy smiles of another Chick chasing down the finish line.

T-Rex, Representing the Mud Mafia!
The rest of the afternoon was a little bit of an ouchy blur. I hobbled around the festival a bit, saying hello to my GT (rockin' the very-important-looking earpiece of a staffer!) and taking a brief moment to get the "Rest. Ice." instructions. I'm sure he's brewing up a series of appropriately evil upper-body centric WODs for the next few weeks. *gulp*

I winced and whined alone in the car as I drove the 10 minutes over to meet up with my CG, and rock-solid support of the weekend, at the rock climbing competition where he had been showing some shoes. The weight of the day was starting to catch up with me. My ankle hurt like crazy (driving wasn't helping!), and I hadn't crossed the finish line. I definitely wouldn't be able to run on Sunday with a whole bunch of people, as per planned. In fact, I probably wouldn't be running at all for weeks. Plural. I have big races coming up in not too long, and I felt my training time ticking away. I wanted to cry. Hard. However, I had just pulled into the parking lot full of people, and now was not the time. A deep breath and I pushed it back. It was time to try and look at this differently, not as a defeat.

"Everything is still possible."

After many internal temper tantrums, each time I tried to step on my foot and pain ran through my leg, I started to find a slightly calmer center. I wasn't happy with this. I wasn't going to be happy with this situation. But it was the reality, at the moment. Time to Spartan Up.

On the upside, I had not been seriously benched - my ankle was not broken, for instance. This is a familiar injury to me, one that I know how to take care of. I still had use of 95% of my body, if I was careful of my ankle. THAT means 95% of me can still be training, with a little thought and consideration to some different workouts. That also means that I will be focusing on my upper body again, a part of me that could certainly use the extra attention. All would not be lost, it would just be different. 

Now, I won't kid you, BlogLand... this was not an easy viewpoint to find, nor can I say it does not waiver slightly every time I am thwarted at doing something mundane (walking around my kitchen, for example!) by this ankle. To get to this point, I lost my mind in my head on and off the rest of Saturday and all of today, and I straight out turned the crazy, frustrated, pained, angry, disappointed waterworks on the poor, unsuspecting CG. Yep, a big 'ol Ugly Cry, BlogLand. A nose-running, sobbing, big teared, chest heaving, air gulping cry. 

Here's the lesson there; you can hold it together. You can be strong, you can present the happy face to the world, but you can't help feeling what you feel. Eventually, to move forward, you have to get  it (let it) out. It was a cathartic sob-fest this evening, BlogLand. With some very helpful positive words from the CG to help bring around my point of view, I was able to pour out the negativity and work on building a plan - not wallowing in my temporary defeat. 


It is not the end of the world, or the end of my Spartan journey. Not even the end of my Race Season. Just a temporary detour, involving a lot of ice, tiger balm and upper body WODs. Things have been worse. 

As someone commented on my FaceBook status earlier today - at least I incurred this while doing something AWESOME, not just walking across a parking lot. Why's my ankle swollen and taped up? Because I dared cross the Starting Line of my 7th Spartan Race. Because I got up off my couch and was pushing the limits of my life. Because I was chasing my potential to see what I could do. Because I was too busy, covered in mud, smiling and laughing with a friend, while running through a field, after conquering a dozen obstacles, to climb up a 10-12 foot wall, to notice a tiny hole in the grass. 

There are worse things, BlogLand. 

"If you've had enough of all your tryin', just give up the state of mind you're in: If you want to be somebody else, if you're tired of fighting battles with yourself, if you want to be somebody else.... CHANGE YOUR MIND."

Friday, August 10, 2012

"It's never too late to become what you might have been." - George Elliot

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 386:

Oooooo, BlogLand!!!! It's RACE WEEKEND!!!

So, thanks to a company picnic, I'm out of work early and just about ready to get in the car to head down to Massachusetts for this weekend's Spartan Sprint in Amesbury.


Not that I'm not always excited for race weekends, but this one seems different, for a few reasons.

First, I'll be racing BOTH days this weekend. Extra Race Time, who doesn't love that? Also, I'm racing this weekend with some first timers, making sure they get through the course and watching their Awesome Realizations at the Finish Line (this is my favorite part. You really DO know at the finish line), as WELL as some of my favorite veteran Spartans. I am pretty sure you can't beat that either - the excitement and accomplishment of the first timers, coupled with the confidence, determination and experience of the experienced Spartans!

Also, I can't help but note that this is going to be a HUGE race, attendance-wise. Because of the location (Boston-area), the turnout seems like it's going to be incredible, with much of the Northeast Spartans representing and a number of Spartans travelling in from farther reaching areas. It's never to far when you're going to get muddy with friends and family you haven't met yet....

I'm REALLY excited because there seems to be a particularly strong representation coming from the Spartan Chicked group. Many first time "Sparkles" (Sparkle, n., a Spartan Chick who has not yet raced...) will be earning their mud this weekend, while so many of the infamous (hehe) ladies will be in attendance sporting the Pink and Black! My goal is to meet as MANY of them as humanly possible, because these ladies have been my inspiration, motivation and support system through some of the ugliest WODs and weakest moments. Pictures will be taken. Hugs will be dispensed.  (Let's see how many of you I can get up on the Blog in pictures with me, eh?!)

Having said that, how am I prepping?

Well, since I've been feeling a little extra worked in my legs this week, I made sure to take an ice bath after my last Sprint WOD, as well as spend a lot of time that night stretching and foam rolling. I've taken a couple of days off, where I've just been taking some brisk walks on my breaks at work, and more stretching and rolling in the evenings. I'm aiming to have my muscles in tip-top, ready to rock and roll shape by Saturday morning.

Also, what I've been paying attention to - equally as important as ice baths, WODs, stretching - is my hydration. LOTS of water this week. Making extra sure to get my daily required amount (about 3L). I'm driving today for a few hours, so I'll be sure to have my water bottle with me, to sip on as I go. One of your worst enemies on hot Race Weekends (so I've learned the hard way), is not being hydrated enough, as well as not fueling appropriately. Having said that, I've been eating clean, keeping my protein intake high and planned to have appropriate breakfast each day that I'm racing (because you just can't count on the hotel continental breakfast!).

OO... Random side note, my GT informs me there's going to be some great side challenges at the festival: a traverse wall, slosh pipe and a tire flip, to name a few. He wants me to check them out (because clearly, running both days isn't enough?! hehe), and I must say I find them intriguing.... Any idea how many overhead presses I can do with a slosh pipe?? Yeah. Me neither. Tire flip, though, I got you. I think I may have to leave the traverse wall challenge to my CG... speed on the tiny grips is not (YET.) my forte.

SO, BlogLand... here's the scoop, whether you're a spectator or a racer, there's an event not to be missed in Amesbury, MA this weekend. I'll be there ALL weekend (racing around 10:30am both days), milling around the festival, checking out the challenges and enjoying the shenanigans. Saturday I'll be sportin' the race outfit you always see me in - Pink and Black! - and Sunday, I'll be representing Spartan Race in a while logo top. Please come introduce yourself when you see me. Let's take pictures and swap mud stories. Spartans are just muddy family members you haven't met yet. ;-)

Weird Random Thought: When I started this whole Spartan Shape-Up, last July, this was my "goal" race. The big plan was to be in good enough shape to be able to crawl to the finish line of this Spartan Sprint in Amesbury. Wow. Barring any distasters (that's a lie, because even if I broke my leg, I know unequivocally, that my Spartans would buddy carry me to the finish line!), I know I will finish. This will be my 6th (?) Spartan.... And to think, a year ago, I wasn't sure I'd be able to stumble across the finish line, by now. 
Don't you just love it when a plan comes together? ;-) 


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Whether you be man or woman you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. - James Allen

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 381 - 383:

BlogLand, I'm sorry. I've been completely falling down on the job on updating you appropriately about what I've been up to. HOWEVER, I think at least I've got an acceptable reason - I've been having lots of adventures!!! Between going climbing, keeping up on my sprints, trying to get in some recovery swimming, other runs.... it's been crazy. Although, I have been enjoying one of the best side effects of regular exercise: better sleep. Typically, I'm a raging insomniac, but when I get back on a good exercise schedule, I'm legitimately tired and I've been falling asleep early (...earlier.).

This weekend got a bit busy, and somehow, I found myself at Sunday night, without having done my assigned 5K run. I had gotten in a recovery swim on Saturday... but it was 8pm on Sunday and it was starting to look like my run wasn't going to happen. I have been really diligent about trying to stick to my training plan, so I was talking myself out of making excuses and not going. I pulled a trick that I have learned in the last year - I called in for help. I texted one of my run regulars, Stacey, to see if she'd gone running yet (she's quite often a late-runner, too.), thinking that if she hadn't, I'd have a buddy and it'd be more fun. Luckily, she had not and headed over to my house. No. Excuses.

While lacing up my sneakers and waiting for Stacey, the light rain that was in the air, turned into a full blown down pour. But, HEY. Spartan Up! Who's afraid of a little rain (I'm going to be soaked with sweat, anyway!)? Stacey arrived with a big grin on her face and we joked about running in the rain - but never discussing how we weren't going to do it. Just how we'd become "those people," because we were not phased by the fact that the rain was down complete torrential downpours. We stepped off my porch into the deluge and without blinking, started our run.

I LOVE running in the rain, BlogLand. Not only is it cooler, but it just feels great. There seems to be a lot of energy in the storm and I always feel like I'm running better. True to form, Stacey and I kept having to slow ourselves down, as the faster and harder the rain came, the faster and harder we found ourselves running. We powered up some hills, all around town, and concluded our wet run somewhere around a 4-miler. I rang out my clothes when I got home, and fell in to bed, satisfied that I hadn't let myself off the hook, and had gotten my workout done, regardless of the time of day or the weather. No Excuses Training, people. That's where it's at!

Monday Morning, after our rain run, found me stiff and limping like a granny. Apparently, between last week's sprints and our fast and hard run, my legs were a little less than unimpressed with me. Whining at the GT got me no where.... just two sets of 25 air squats to get the blood moving. D'oh!
I did a lot of stretching and hydrating. I'm learning to pay a little closer attention to my body when it grumbles. I don't want any repeats of my knee injury!

I also had a really tragic moment, BlogLand. Doing my best 90 year old woman impression, I hobbled up to my medicine cabinet, tossed it open and then stood blinking in disbelief. The spot where my relief-giving wonder-rub, Tiger Balm, was supposed to be.... was EMPTY. EMPTY!!!! I suddenly remembered a few weeks prior, finishing off that jar and mentally reminding myself to get a new one.... Hmm. Yeah. Apparently that had not happened. My angry quad quivered in triumph. I groaned and went back to stretching.


Tuesday, Spartan Shape Up Day 383:

Sprint Night. I swear, BlogLand, there is some sort of weird time-warp where it is ALWAYS sprint night. I blink, and we're back to Sprint Night.

Nonetheless, it was time to get it done. My legs were feeling a little stiff from the increased work schedule they've had and I wasn't entirely sure how this was going to go, but my sprinting partners in crime were there and there was no option but to get it done.

The Task: Five, 200m sprints.

That, BlogLand, is at least WAY BETTER than 400m sprints. I took a tiny amount of comfort in that.

We lined up to the start line, each of us concentrating on our individual goals, and we were off. Although my legs felt tight, I felt strong and fast and April and I were neck and neck. Lap One: 39.90. Awesome! We were right on track and doing well. 40 seconds is roughly my average, so anything right around there is what I'm shooting for; if I'm under 40, it's a good run!

Lining up for Lap Two, my legs were not feeling so in tune with this process. Sprinting takes a lot out of them, but I should be able to handle these 200's, as I've been handling 400's! I pushed of the start, and ran as hard as I could manage. As I completed the lap and checked my clock, I shook my head and took another look: 43.23 . What?? Usually I'm not hitting the 43 second mark until I'm done 3-4 sprints. This was only my second lap, I felt like I'd been pushing and going fast..... and I'd gained 3+ seconds. That's a LOT in the terms of these short sprints.

Lap Three brought some similar results at: 45.41. I admit, now I was starting to panic a bit. I was pushing as hard as I could, but I haven't had times that slow with laps left to go, in quite a while. What was going on? Was I overworking my poor legs?? Was this just a learning curve? To forestall any further freaking out, I decided to do the best thing... consult the Oracle. Text messaging from the track brought some reassurance from my GT, acknowledging that my times were slower, but not horrifically bad. Instead of doing five sprints, though, we'd put in a little extra walking time and try the fourth, and see if I could pick up the pace. It may just be that my legs need a little more recovery time at this stage of the game.

Sure enough, with a real determined face, a LOT of grunts of exertion as I struggled to keep pace with my sprint buddy, April (can't let her win all the time!!), I barreled down to the finish line at: 43.49. I was happy with that, and also completely DONE. It looks like my legs aren't quite up to that fifth sprint yet. Lesson learned.... I must just keep pushing, until they get there and I can do a little more. There was a time that sprints under 50 seconds were murderous. One WOD at a time.

With that, I go on an active recovery (AHHH... ice bath and walking!), to prep for this weekend's race. I'm running twice this weekend, with a myriad of Spartans new and old, and I couldn't be happier. YIKES! What a life this is!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 378:

As per usual, while driving to work this morning, I began my dread of that evening's Sprint WOD. Yes, I know how beneficial they are. Yes, I know I'm going to do it anyway. But before every.single.WOD I decidely need to aknowledge the incredible voluntary suckfest that I'm going to put myself through. Insert regular dread and loathing.

As the day progressed, I got a couple of texts from my partners-in-suffering for the evening, both expressing a similar sentiment. Everyone was feeling lazy and unmotivated; my Inner Fat Chick was trying to convince me that it wouldn't be SO bad to take a day off...

I am happy to report that my girls and I Embraced The Suck in a big way and got our Spartan butts over to the track to bust out this WOD. Reaching the track, we found it was not as deserted as it usually has been, but instead was pretty crowded with people.... I had a bit of a momentary bout of FCS (Fat Chick Syndrome), where I thought, "OMG. People are going to WATCH ME?!" I had to remind myself that there are tons of pictures of me running now, I'm mildly competent, they probably don't CARE, and if they did and had anything to say about it... I'm pretty sure I could probably break them in half, thanks to all the CrossFit and Spartan-ish stuff I do. SO THERE. Inner Fat Chick, STFU. We were going to kick the ass of this Sprint WOD.

Lining up on the Start Line for that first sprint was touch. We were all a little whiny and moaning and groaning... My legs are still adjusting to Sprinting twice a week and weren't entirely sure they were on board with this, and my mind was still trying to talk me into the fact that 400m sprints were a good idea.

Away we went and, as usual, I felt pretty strong out of the gate and for the first.... maybe 150m. Then we came into the turn and I had to push myself a bit - but thankfully, I was fueled my my competitive spirit, as April was trucking along right next to me. I couldn't let her pass!! (whatever gets you through these sprints. lol). As we completed the first half of our lap, my body started to struggle. 200m is what it is comfortable with, and as I hit that second straight stretch, I could feel the power just drain from my legs. My lungs were heaving and I was still moving, but nowhere near the sprint power I would usually have. Careening through the finish line (Right behind April, DOH!!), I dropped to starfish for a moment on the grass. I just needed a moment to convince my lungs that there was still air in the atmosphere to breathe. I checked my lap time: Lap One: 1:40:52.
That lap time was not quite as fast as my fastest time last week, but considering this was my second sprint night of this week, I was pretty happy with it. Small steps!

After a much-needed recovery walk, my legs were protesting. I was feeling the activity in my quads and was just feeling tired. Nonetheless, there were two more sprints to do. Down to business and down to that starting line. The second lap went much like the first... about a solid half a lap of sprinting, then in feels like my lungs can't suck in any air - AT ALL. I'm DYING, I'm SURE OF IT! - and my legs are trying desperately to move, but the best we can do feels like I'm running through molasses. I forced myself over that finish line at the fastest pace I could muster (again, right behind April! DAMN.), clocking a Second Lap: 1:46:04.

Looking at that six second drop off, and acknowledging the feeling in my legs, I decided it might be best to touch base with the TortureMaster... er... the GT. Alfter telling me to take a little longer rest, the conversation went like this:
Me: Legs feel real empty. This suuucks! But only one more to do...
GT: Aim for 1:42 for the last one
GT: Fast Feet and Breathe
GT: Puke after if you'd like
Me: It feels like I can't breathe for the last half. Like NO. AIR.
GT: Breathe after, too.

Well, there's no arguing with that one... suck it up, get it done, was the message I got there. So, after a little more walking, trying to force my breathing back to normal, April and I found ourselves on the starting line for the third time.

This time, with focus: We had to go FASTER than we had done in the previous lap. Push a little harder. We were effectively aiming to empty out our legs of any possible remaining energy that might be lingering in there. 110% effort. We whined a little more. But it was just ONE MORE. ONE. I can do anything for two more minutes... even if I'm sure my lungs are going to collapse.

So, run we did.

This lap absolutely crushed me. I'm not sure if it was the fact I'd done sprints earlier this week, or what it was, but this was incredibly difficult. I had a decent initial sprint, then I felt like I was trying to run with concrete blocks on my legs. I fought my body as April started to pull away from me in the second half, and I pushed to keep myself in the best semblence of a run that I could muster. It was not impressive, let me tell you, BlogLand. April widened the gap between us and I used my frustration to fuel the last push toward the finish line.
Last UGLY, HARD, EXHAUSTING Lap: Lap Three: 1:47:53
So, that's not exactly the 1:42 we were aiming for, but it was at least a much smaller time drop off than between lap two and three. Also, I was happy to note that this time (my slowest time this week) was at least FASTER than my slowest time last week. Is that an improvement or a fluke, I dunno.... but I'm happy with the progress.

Also, that I finished, with nothing left in the tank. How do I know that? Because this is me directly following Sprint Number Three:

Yep. Face Down Starfish. A sign of complete DONE.

Next, we have the great camera work that caught my "Death Crawl" where I'm cursing my GT, proclaiming my death and wondering how I will make it home, because I'm sure I have absolutely no legs left.

Lastly, we have the quintessential picture of the evening, that really reflected our thoughts on the evening. We survived (look! my eyes were open!), but we were spent.

So.... yeah. Another Sprint Night in the books. I didn't die (I wanted to). My support system and cheering section (April and Stacey! Yay!), were in great form and suffered through our workout, with smiles and jokes the whole way. At least it we're going to die, we were going to die getting our Spartan on and we'd do it together!

Revelation of the evening: We collectively decided it would be acceptable to die/pass out/fall down as long as you did that while still attempting to sprint.... rather than quit and step to the side.

Oh, Amesbury Spartan Sprint (in a week!), you got some badass ladies headed your way!!!!