Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tough Mudder: Dirty, Adventurous Fun!

Tammy and I just did the Tough Mudder (NorCal), and it was a blast! Tough Mudder bills themselves as
the TOUGHEST one day event on the planet. This is not your average mud run or boring, spirit-crushing road race. It's Ironman meets Burning Man: our 7-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around toughness, strength, stamina, fitness, camaraderie, and mental grit. Forget about your finish time. ... Simply completing the event is a badge of honor.
All the machismo and marketing hype aside, we love new adventures. Hearing that this one amounted to dashing all over a ski hill sprinkled with nineteen military-style obstacles that we would get to play on, we knew we had to go check it out! Factor in doing it at elevation, an air temperature of 60 degrees or so, with water and ice among those obstacles, and that's pretty much irresistible for a pair of CrossFitters. ;^)

Costumes are strongly encouraged, though strangely there weren't a lot in evidence when we got there. No matter -- we were on a mission to maximize the fun! Rather than go with choices we could see in photos from past events, like some sort of Braveheart warrior thing, or natives from Avatar (or the sometimes super-risque ones that left a lot of skin exposed) we decided to hit it with an old-school prison-break theme! This earned us a lot of attention throughout the course: As we passed people or approached obstacle managers, they would often chuckle, making comments about Alcatraz, or how they could hear the dogs and that we should run faster. At one point, a couple of guys behind me were singing about workin' on the chain gang. Lots of people called out Hey, Convict!, asking what we did ("nothing, we're innocent!") and why we were running ("we were framed!"). And whenever the helicopter was hovering overhead capturing images, people commented about the search closing in which only increased the feeling of our making an escape -- like something out of a movie.

The course really did have a lot of fun twists! Here's the blow-by-blow. (Sorry for the length of this post; feel free to just skim and look at pictures. :^)

1. The start was a mob-dash straight down a ski slope right, after we all recited a little Pledge acknowledging that this was a challenge and not a race; that mudders help each other out; and that mudders don't whine ("kids whine!"). I think this last is clever of them, given how likely it is for hiccups to happen in a complicated event like this. They called this part the Braveheart Charge ("Charge into battle with 5000 fellow Tough Mudders. Battle cries essential.")

2. After running back uphill for a while, we hit the Kiss of Mud ("Eat dirt as you crawl on your belly under wire set only 8 inches from the ground.")  Yeah! A low-crawl through cold mud, under barbed wire -- that'll take the shine off your uniform!

3. After that came the Death March ("Feel the burn early on as you charge straight up this red graded ski run right to the top of the mountain.") Burning legs and lungs, check. But their description forgot to mention the descent that precedes the ascent: steep, switchbacking, single-track, winding through a field of boulders. (You can see how the single-track aspect  bottled people up a bit in the picture on the right.)

4. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by Boa Constrictor ("Prove you can cope with cold dark confined spaces and a few nasty scratches with our specially designed Tough Mudder tire tunnels.") This was basically some lengths of corrugated culvert pipes connected with a bend so you couldn't see light until you were halfway through them. And they were tight enough that we had to basically drag ourselves through with our arms.

5. After some more running, we came up on Dragon Wheels ("Just when you thought it was all running and crawling, try your hand a climbing. Claw up and over these three giant spools lined end to end. Stop complaining.") I got a little clumsy on these -- couldn't swing my legs to the side since the vertical parts made it too narrow, and there were Mudders doing their best to be helpful to other Mudders, which was cool, but basically put them in my way. So I flailed going over and landed in an undignified heap on the far side.

6. Next came The Gauntlet ("Prepare to feel like you're at a South American political demonstration as you get high pressure hosed from both sides as you run though Bear Valley's half pipe.") This was awesome, just the kind of thing you'd expect out of Tough Mudder: running up a really muddy halfpipe, getting hit by snowmaking machines blasting water at you from both sides. Refreshing!

7. That was followed by Cliffhanger ("Grab onto anything you can as you scramble back to the top of the mountain up this nasty slippery and very steep black run.") This was an even steeper ascent that was just loooong -- I hit my threshold and was powerwalking a bunch of it, but Tammy just ran all the way up. Enduro-trail-running badass! (A Marine who had just limped to the top was giving her big props for making what's on the right look easy. :^)

(Something about climbing up a glacier wall was supposed to happen about now, but we didn't notice any 100-foot ice sheets that needed scaling... not that we were worried about this at the time, as the course was basically a blur of activity anyway.)

8. We came up on a crowd of people all bottled up, briefly wondering what we should do and why people weren't moving. Turns out it was the Swamp Stomp ("Get stuck in with our knee-high energy-sapping trademark Tough Mudder thick mud.") Seriously, you could lose a shoe running through this stuff! The wait wasn't too long, and they kept us entertained by letting a handful of folks try to demonstrate their best bellyflops into it.

9. Next was the Kentucky Derby ("These eight foot jumps are too much for even the biggest of thoroughbreds, so you'll need teamwork and camaraderie to get yourself and your fellow Mudders over these giant beams.") No kidding -- the top of that big, smooth beam was way up there!

10. After some more dashing, we all clambered over a schoolbus at the School of Tough Knocks ("Be the kelly Slater of bus surfing as you climb cargo nets to the top of this yellow beauty just to make the 12 foot jump back down again.") Looks like they skipped the jump down in favor of cargo nets on both sides.

11. Then there was more mud, and we hit the Berlin Walls ("Show team spirit and camaraderie as you work with other Tough Mudders to scale our series of 12 foot high walls, tough enough when dry, but really fun when wet.") Now it was Tammy's turn to be a little clumsy -- she hit that slick white board on the front side and went down hard, rocking and holding her leg like Peter in that recurring joke in Family Guy. Walk it off, Mudder!

We fled the scene and soon arrived at a manmade reservoir way up on top of the mountain. Approaching it from the far side in this photo, there were four ropes that people were using to climb down to the water for...

12. The Underwater Tunnels ("Bob underneath the obstacles on the surface of the water as your head shrinks to the size of a walnut.") Yeeeeahh!! Swim across, going under the floating barrels. Okay, I'll just say that swimming in a cotton jumpsuit isn't the best idea, but the challenge was really the temperature: apparently it snowed the day before and the water was 40 degrees! We could seriously feel the clock ticking the entire time we were in it. When I first waded in up to my chest, my diaphragm stopped cooperating on that whole breathing thing, so I backed up to knee-depth to let the shock settle in a bit and hit it again. Unfortunately, Tammy (who was already working on enjoying the cold) thought something was going really wrong because I was suddenly coming back at her, and I wasn't able to speak very well to explain what I was up to.

13. After swimming across and climbing up the other side, we were sent right back in with Greased Lightening ("Have some fun sliding down the hill, real Tough Mudders go head first back into the pond.") Woo!!  That really was fun! Well, at least until we hit the freezing water a second time and had to swim around a boat out there before climbing out again. Oh, and getting in the water wasn't only unpleasant because of the cold: it absolutely REEKED. We're pretty sure it was the smell of a thousand years of fermented goose poop.

14. Dashing away, I noticed that I couldn't feel a few of my toes and fingers, and Tammy was saying that she couldn't feel her feet, so at this point we were looking forward to anything that might warm us back up. That turned out to be Hold Your Wood ("Make like a lumberjack and drag a log up a ski slope and then try to keep your footing on the way back down."). Grabbing a couple of good-sized ones (the longer, shared ones were all gone), we headed straight downhill. Eventually there was a turnaround, and we all headed right back up! Sure, sounds less than stimulating, but I'm pretty sure everyone was enjoying warming up at this point.

15. Next up was Devil's Beard ("Try as you might you will get caught like a fly in a spider's web time and time again in our annoyingly low cargo nets."). This was just another quick low-crawl, but under a big cargo net. Meh.

16. Running along the ridge at this point, we arrived at a long snow/wind break co-opted for the next event: Fenced Off ("Show your mental toughness as you cross back and forth four times over this 8 foot fence."). This actually felt a lot like part of a CrossFit workout: You go over on this segment, come back on the next, and continued doing that until you run out of fence. We crossed the fence sixteen times in total.

17. Continuing along the ridge as we headed down, it was starting to feel like it might be ending. Sure enough, that's when the Mystery Obstacle showed up, which was supposed to be the last thing before the finish. It turned out to be a table filled with shots of the world's nastiest, most badass hot sauce. Or so they said. As best we could tell it was only watered-down sriracha sauce, so maybe this was supposed to be more of a test of mental grit or whatever (willingness to just throw back the "fearsome" stuff and move on).

18. More winding downhill, then finally -- a little more than two hours after starting -- we hit the finish line of Fire Walker ("Plain and simple, run through our blazing kerosene soaked straw. Expect flames at least 4 foot high.") Looks like the Forest Service nixed the flaming bales of straw, because it was a gauntlet of propane flames that marked the end. Woo! High fives!!

The event was of course followed by the all-important party, where everyone was drinking beer and listening to a decent band. The organizers noticed our costumes and pulled us up on stage to be interviewed for a while (and we're pretty sure we would have won the Best Costume contest if we hadn't missed it by being off at the porta-potties to relieve SOMEONE's tiny chick-bladder ;^).

Unfortunately, we were driving home the next day and couldn't take the organizers up on their challenge for everyone who did it on Saturday to return and do it again on Sunday. That would have been a hoot! Next time.

We are seriously impressed with a relatively new and inexperienced organization putting on so large and complicated (and well-designed) an event, and seeing it all go so smoothly! That's not easy. The bottom line is that if you're reasonably fit, you'll have a great time doing Tough Mudder. (And if you're a CrossFitter, you can probably show up with no event-specific preparation and turn in a strong performance. :^) Just be sure to wear a costume -- the people in costumes have way more fun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Barbara Sucks

CrossFit has been kicking my butt for the past few weeks. We've had a lot of met-cons including large volume of pull-ups, push-ups, burpees, box jumps, etc. I've been so sore that I've done very little running - and absolutely no CrossFit Endurance workouts since my ultra!

So when I saw “Barbara” was our workout for today, I hate to say, I was not excited:

Five rounds, each for time of:

20 Pull-ups

30 Push-ups

40 Sit-ups

50 Squats

I wasn't feeling that peppy today for the workout but pushed through it. I did see an improvement in time and strength from the last time we did Barbara in January:

1-2-10; 5-3-10
R1-6:16; 5:49
R2-7:04; 6:12
R3-7:34; 6:29
R4-9:34; 6:32
R5-9:26; 7:43

The difference between the 2 workouts is that in January I was still using a band, and now I am doing kipping pull-ups without assistance. Also, in January I did plank negative knee pushups, and today I did 2 rounds of negative plank knee pushups and 3 rounds of knee pushups.

This is the 2nd workout that I've done 100 pull-ups so that's a significant improvement. I had the most difficulty with pull-ups since I'm still not that strong - having been able to do only 1 set of 5 pull-ups in a row, then struggling through sets of 2, then down to singles until I reached 20 - Ugh!

Pull-ups and push-ups are the worst for me and take forever to complete!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Well Deserved Rest Day

I'm feeling extremely fatigued and today is my rest day and I'm happy to take it!

After last week at CrossFit I was having a lot of shoulder/chest/back soreness. The weekend I planned on lifting nothing, did get in a run on Saturday in my five fingers, and then attempted a mountain bike ride on Sunday. I ended up bagging out half-way through the ride :( I was making stupid mistakes, not feeling confident - and the more I worried about it the more mistakes I was making. Physical fatigue was playing with me mentally. I decided further riding was not going to go well, and it was best to go home rather than risk injury. So that's what I did. It's unlike me to bag out on a ride! And in fact, I don't think I've ever done that before.

And then the beginning of this week was two very intense and difficult workouts for me at CrossFit - including a lot of pull-ups and upper body - Ugh!

I'm sore. I'm tired. My body wants recovery time. Today is a well deserved rest day :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Post Robie Bragging

I am very proud of achieving 1st place in my age division at the Race to Robie Creek. The race is a 13.1 mile run and coined the "toughest half-marathon in the Northwest". A 2000+ foot ascent up and over Aldape Summit and almost 2,000 foot descent. And since this is my blog...I'm going to brag and show a picture of my 1st place award (as well as other photos)!

It's hard to achieve, but I finished 1st in my age division (35-39), 25th overall female (out of 1100 females) and 218th overall across the finish line. And I didn't even prepare for this race! I had run a 53.7 mile trail run in Moab 3 weeks prior and didn't even know if my legs would run. I actually thought I might end up walking/running.

Greg after he finished Robie - soaking his feet in the icy cold water. I asked him to flex for this shot and he happily complied! Great legs, Greg! Greg did GREAT as well! He never ran a race, and did not prepare for this race as a runner - he prepared by doing CrossFit and going out for under 10 runs with me. Plus, he never ran anything over 12 miles! So his finish in 2:02:59 was absolutely incredible!!! He wanted to come in under 2 hours, but I think his time was extremely impressive!

Curt Hardy, Sheri Edmond, and me at the post-Robie race party - which is always too much fun. Drink too much beer, and not drink enough water. So much fun!

Me and Sheri Edmond. She's so supportive! She loaned me her Garmin for the race, and she was the first person I saw as I crossed the finish line. Big hugs to Sheri!

Me and Greg after completing the Race to Robie Creek -sharing our experiences. It was so much fun to hear what Greg thought of the race. It was his 1st race and it was his first time running Robie so I was very curious what he thought of all of it. We're both very happy the race is over, and very happy with our times.

Greg came in at 2:02:59, and I finished at 1:53:57. Woo Us!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

OMG-Tomorrow's Workout

Recall, today I just did my first 100 pull-ups without band assistance. My hands are torn up and I am currently wearing bandages on both hands - I look like a boxer ;) I can't even get any water on my hands - I can't even wash my hair because the shampoo stings; and can only use soap on the tip of my fingers to wash my body. It's sad. Very sad and painful.

So when I saw tomorrow's workout, I was a tad bit distressed:

30 Handstand push-ups
40 Pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings, 1.5 poods
60 Sit-ups
70 Burpees

But after looking at it for awhile, I accepted the fact that I will be going to CF tomorrow morning and will have to do the WOD. So I looked at each task and asked myself "Can I do this?". I can do the hanstand pushups using bands - so no issue there. I can swing a 35lb KB swings - well I can do 5 sets of 10. I have no problems at all with sit-ups - I can do hundreds without issue. And burpees are really fun though I haven't done 70 in a row - but they are do-able and I enjoy them so I don't see a big problem here. The only task I have an issue with is the pull-ups. My hands are torn up which makes my hands unbearable when grasping the bar. If my hands were not torn up, I would attempt them -- but I don't know. If I tear them up more then I healing time will be longer. So, I wonder if there is an alternate to pull-ups? Or should I just buck up, apply tape and just go for it. It's only 40...right?!

100 Pull-ups!!

Today's CrossFit WOD was a killer:

50 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
10 Muscle-ups
40 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
8 Muscle-ups
30 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
6 Muscle-ups
20 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
4 Muscle-ups
10 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
2 Muscle-ups

The usual prescribed ball for da' ladies is 10#, not 20#. Also, while I am working on muscle ups, I just don't have the strength (yet) to hold up my own weight. So the alternative to muscle-ups is 4 times the number of dips and pull-ups. That means for every 1 muscle-up, I had to do 4 pull-ups and 4 dips. I also had to use a purple band for assistance on the dips - it's the lightest assistance before doing dips without assistance. I did, however, do pull-ups without the use of a band - since last Monday. So...like a week. Yay, me!

The results of this WOD can be seen on my hands:

Doesn't look too bad but hurts terribly.

It took me 30 minutes just to get half-way through the WOD - completing rounds through 30 wall balls and 2 rounds of dips/pullups. My hands were just too torn up, and my upper body just did not want to throw myself over the bar anymore. I'm satisfied with my pullups - having just learned to link them 1 week ago, I completed 100 today!! Again, yay me!!

My next goal will be to learn muscle-ups!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I've Gone Global!

These are just too cool not to post! These are statistical information on people around the world who have watched my Ultra video. It's too cool to see that people in other counties like Canada, Great Britain, Spain, South Korea, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway - just to name a few, have viewed my video. I'm not quite sure why I'm so excited about that, but I am :)

Pull Up Goal - Finally!!

Since joining CF, I have been working on my pull-ups. I began by using a green band for assistance, and over the months progressed to less assistance bands - blue, then red, then finally purple. Purple is it though and then you have to work without a band. I made great progress on the purple band but could not get the movement of the kip down without the band - it had become a security blanket. In December I finally got my first unassisted pull-up, but it really looked bad, felt bad and required a much greater effort than was necessary. After a couple weeks, I gave up hope of progressing to unassisted pull-ups and used the purple band. But at the same time, one of my coaches recommended I do negative pull-ups - where you hop up so the chin was over the bar and slowly drop your body down. So, I incorporated a few of those when doing my pull-ups.

It is now April and I still didn't have my unassisted pull-ups. But while watching some CrossFit videos, I noticed a gal doing unassisted kipping pull-ups - and it looked so easy. I said to myself - Oh, I can do that! So, on Monday morning I walked into the gym newly inspired to work on my pull-ups. After stretching, I chalked my hands and walked over to the pull-up bar. Without hesitate, I grabbed hold of the bar and stared at the wall in front of me. I didn't think - I just did. I cranked out 3 linked, unassisted pull-ups! I jumped down off the bar. Wooo Hooo!!! So that I would not forget my form, I did another set - and cranked out 4 in a row. Inspired I tried again. This time, I put together another 3. All sets felt great!

I have now included 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 4 unassisted linked pull-ups in my CF warm up. I will continue to work on pull-ups but it seems like I'm the right track and will continue progressing - without the assistance of bands!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Running Robie in Five Fingers?

Today I ran one of my favorite runs - Hulls Gulch - in my five fingers (5F) During the run I was thinking about how I was running today versus 1 week ago today when I was running Robie. Could I have run Robie in my 5F? Should I have run Robie in my 5F?

To answer this question, I paid for close attention to both my uphill and downhill form. On the uphill, I felt very strong. What you realize when running in 5F is that you land very lightly and you pay attention to where your feet landing - fearing the dreaded pebble you could land on at the softest most tender part of your foot. Ouch! Something you really don't need to worry about is that on your feet versus the bounding you do when you know you have soles to protect your feet.

The downhill is another question. I ran downhill at Robie at an average pace of 7:05. I know I could not have run that fast downhill in my 5F as fast as I ran in my normal running shoes. Most of my attention would have to focus on the terrain and landing instead of just focusing in on running due to the worry about pebbles and the lack of traction. And, the slush, ice and mud would have been a problem - in my normal running shoes is was a precarious situation but in 5F it would have been much worse - again because of lack of traction.

Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't run Robie in my 5F. They/me would have done well on the uphills, but the flats and downhill need some work and not enough that I think I would ever do as well in my five fingers as I did in my normal running shoes on the downhill. And, I'm not sure I would ever run Robie, or any other race that I was competing in for time, because you do have to be more cautious in your foot landing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Better Test of CrossFit: "Toughest Half-Marathon in the Northwest"

[Originally written for Modern Paleo]

Greg here, again. Recall that the goal with CrossFit training is not to be elite at anything in particular, but rather to perform well at everything in general -- to "specialize in not specializing" athletically. CrossFit's founder thinks this is possible, and that their methodology is the best way to pull it off. Of course this just begs to be put to the test, as I explained last time with the story of Tammy taking on her first ultra run.

We had a lot of fun with that test, but wouldn't it have been even more interesting to use someone who didn't start out as a trained runner? Sure!

That would require finding the right lab rat. Maybe someone who wasn't athletic and sporty growing up... think "classic band-geek who's into computers." Like me. :^) Even as an adult who became active, I simply didn't enjoy running. "Sorry dear, I know you looooove running, but it's mountain biking for me -- your 'fun' hurts too much!" So of course I've never trained to run any of the races I would never have thought to enter in the first place. Like Robie. (Cue the ominous music.) Growing up in Boise, I was well aware of this annual rite that draws thousands of masochistic runners from all over: The Race to Robie Creek, billed as "the toughest half-marathon in the Northwest." No kidding.

It's so easy to be all macho about stuff in the future, isn't it? "Alright, T -- if you actually run that Moab ultra, I'll run Robie!"

Then, wouldn't you know it, the future arrived. It was test time. Would my unspecialized training let me "perform well" at this fabled exercise in running brutality? Or, failing that, could I at least finish the horrid thing and not be prevented from using stairs for a week? Here's how it all went down:

As for the stairs question: happily, no problem! While I could certainly feel tightness in my legs for a couple of days, I wasn't hampered. Case in point: the Monday morning following the race I turned in a strong performance on our regularly-scheduled random CrossFit beatdown, which happened to be dominated by lunge-walking and squats.

(P.S.: Did you notice who was already there, waiting for me at the finish line? Yeah, the little sandbagger. Even that morning, Tammy was saying she didn't expect to be able to do more than jog/walk Robie in a social way because of training for, running, and having only three weeks to recover from a very different kind of race. Yet she ended up being the 25th female over the line and outright won her age division! Needless to say, she's thrilled with having gained the capacity to so casually demolish the best results she ever saw with her previous training methods.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Greg and Tammy - Strengths for Robie

Ha Ha!! It's funny that people say/think Greg and I are competing in the Race to Robie Creek. Friends/family have said to both of us that they expect me to beat Greg because I'm a runner.

First and foremost I am not in competition with Greg - we are each others biggest fans and they only thing we are racing is the clock. I've never thought of this race and asked myself if I could beat Greg to the end! My questions have always been whether I am recovered enough to run the race, and if I can run it, will I do a good job. Greg has always just wanted to "represent" well.

Second, I don't think people understand how Greg has been training or what he is capable of doing! They don't see him at CrossFit. If they saw him perform, they would think Greg has the capability of doing extremely well at this race! No, Greg is not the typical runner, and has not done typical typical training for Robie. He's added a few distance runs into his regimen - something like 8 to 10 runs of various distances but nothing totalling 13 miles. What I have seen is that he kicks my butt on every sprint workout we do and he flies on any downhill we run. Plus, he has this amazing ability to mentally endure far beyond what his body wants to do. It's a skill I have not yet acquired. So I think Greg will finish before me. Kick butt Greg!!!

As for me, I am good at endurance and hills, but have not trained for this race - it requires a much faster pace than the 10 minute pace I was working to maintain for my 53.7 mile Moab run. Robie is less of an endurance and more of a strength race. By the time I can calm into a pace the race will shift to the down. And running downhill is NOT my strength! I seem to run downhill with my brakes on :(

I am a runner just starting to get strength, and Greg is a strength guy just learning to run. How it ends up -- we'll find out soon!


I know predictions are a bad thing to make BUT...

I predict the following for Greg
Up Pace: 9:40-9:50...if not quicker!
Down Pace: 7:15-7:30...if not quicker!!

It may be shown to be incorrect in my prediction - but I don't think so. Greg is extremely strong and has power and can really kick it in on the down.

He'll do very well!

Morning of Robie Creek

Greg and Tammy's Morning-Of Robie Schedule
7:00 wake and drank coffee
8:30 Tammy shower (Greg should...but will he ??)
9:00 Pick up timing chip - the old fashioned ankle kind
9:30 Check in with friends and family who have sent Good luck's and a few Don't hurt yourselves
10:00 Greg shower (Thank goodness!)
10:15 Make goo packets
10:30 Walk from our house to the start line :)
12:00 Start running!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ready for Robie Creek Race?

Well, Robie Creek race is scheduled for next week Saturday (4/17) at noon. Am I ready?

The quick answer is NO!! I've run 2 times (less than 2 miles each) since my Ultra in Moab. I just don't understand -- I can CrossFit 4 days a week, go skiing and snowboarding, but my legs/hip/knee don't want to run.

My first attempt to run was with Greg on Wednesday night - 1/4 mile repeats up Kestrel x 3. Uphill I felt fine - though did not run too aggressively - partly because it is not the plan for me to run aggressively and partly because my legs are a little fatigued running. The downhill was terrible - feeling soreness in my hip and that same nagging left knee pain that slowed me to a walk during my Ultra! So, I stopped a few times and performed the squat that I performed during the Ultra that actually relieved the knee pain enough so I could run again -- and it worked. But only for the remainder of that downhill lap. Ugh!

I'm stretching out my hip and low back, rolling my back and IT band out with a foam roller, stretching my hip flexor to its max, and now taking anti-inflammatories to decrease any inflammation.

On Friday, I went out for a 1 mile run on the flats to check out my new orthotics. Again, my legs didn't want to run and my hip hurt during and after the run - though I had no knee pain - probably the result of no downhill action.

So, Robie will suck - as my legs are still too fatigued to do an adequate aggressive run on the up, and hip and left knee still too unhappy and painful to do an aggressive downhill. All in all - I do not suspect a great, or even, mediocre performance at Robie :( Bummer!

Correction to Putting CrossFit to the Test: Tammy's First Ultra

I want to correct one statement in this article. While I do believe I would have performed much better had it not been for the IT band/knee issue, and unknowingly wasting time during transition; it is my loving husband/author Greg who believes I would have "outperformed all of the female solo runners and all but a couple of the males" -- that's a pretty bold statement considering the super incredible runners in this race. What I can say is that I will work to improve my overall strength and conditioning using CF/CFE so that I can run this race next year without injury and prove to myself that I can maintain a goal pace, run my goal # of laps in under 12 hrs, and feel great doing it! For now, I am happy I completed my first ultra!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Moab Swag

Here's my Moab swag: a t-shirt, 3rd place medal and really cool race number. T-shirt says 24 hours but I only did 12 hours - apparently one t-shirt for both events. Unfortunately the t-shirt is a little too big to wear - but I think attaining the goal and getting the t-shirt is maybe worthy of getting it tailored to fit me :) I'm actually pretty proud of it so maybe....

When you race, you receive a race number on some unknown type of crinkly paper that you know is attached to your shorts for the first few miles of your race because it's noisy and uncomfortable. I always ask myself, where do I put this so that it doesn't annoy me? So, I was super excited to see my race number for Moab 12/24 race! The number is CLOTH and includes my number as well as my team name (even though I ran solo), DirtyAnkles! How cool is that!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ready to Run!

It's been 9 days since I ran the Moab 12 Hour, 53.7 mile race. During this time, I returned to my regular weekly CrossFit routine: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I didn't run over the weekend, heck- I didn't even think about it! Instead, I went snowboarding Saturday morning, and skiing Saturday afternoon.

Today is the first day I actually felt like running - even though my body has probably been ready for it for several days. My goal was just to really get my legs out there and see how I felt doing it, and especially to check on my left knee.

Overall I felt great running but my left knee was giving me problems on my downhill. So I'm unhappy with that. So I'm going to focus on proper use of my core - engaging my hollow body (for example, when you lie flat on the ground and lift your legs and shoulders and arms, so that only your back and butt are on the ground. If you are doing it correctly, your stomach should become hard and it should be difficult.) - to help take the strain off the troublesome threesome, hips/IT band/knee. Hopefully that will do the trick so I can run downhill without problems!

Monday, March 29, 2010

First Ultra: 53.7 Miles!

Earlier, I (Greg) shared what CrossFit is about and that Tammy and I had decided to give it a try. Eight months in, I'm happy to report that we're still having a blast with it! The feeling of adventure is still there, with no burnout or boredom, no noticeable wear-n-tear on my mid-40's body, lots more physical capacity, and new friendships formed through a little joyful shared-strife bonding. Very cool.

Recall that the goal with CrossFit training is not to be elite at anything in particular, but rather to perform well at everything in general. CrossFit's founder thinks this is possible, and that the CrossFit methodology is a great way to pull it off. Doesn't that just beg to be put to the test? We think so.

Tammy loves to run. When I met her, she'd finished a bunch of races including a couple of marathons, and she had trained for several more. But her tight focus on the endurance thing meant that she simply hadn't developed (and had maybe even untrained!) the kind of core strength needed to sustain her in those sorts of efforts. That's why she ran so many fewer marathons than she trained for. She spent lots of time just grinding out long miles on her legs, totally avoiding interval and strength training. And it didn't help that she'd spent decades eating a lowfat vegetarian version of the typical distance-runners' carb-heavy diet filled with lots of grains and legumes. This was not exactly a sustainable recipe for robust fitness and health.

After jumping into CrossFit we got wind of CrossFit Endurance, which purports to let endurance athletes avoid those "chronic cardio" workouts while providing the sport-specific conditioning necessary to go out and supposedly crush ultramarathons and triathlons and such. CrossFit Endurance basically turns the conventional approach to endurance training on its head: their prescription is first to do the same CrossFit training that every CrossFitter does, and to then supplement that with run-biased workouts a few times a week. But these additional workouts are not long chronic-cardio sessions: they're relatively short interval and intensity work, skills work, some tempo work and specific conditioning for body parts that will need to withstand the stress of an actual endurance event.

Tammy hasn't raced for several years, and had never attempted anything as ambitious as a 50-mile ultrarun. But she was intrigued by the idea that she might be able to complete one -- and with a dramatically smaller training investment that also avoided the chronic-cardio thing. So this January, about five months into our general CrossFit adventure (and long after we were both eating paleo), she signed up for the 12/24 Hours of Utah ultra in Moab. To gear up for it, she added two or three CrossFit Endurance style workouts per week (varying tempo runs, tabata interval runs, etc.), coordinated with our usual four-day-a-week random CrossFit regimen to not step on recovery days. Oh, and she also started using our normal CrossFit warmup periods for a little additional conditioning of her core and legs.

It would be an understatement to say this was counterintuitive for Tammy. These super-long running events are no joke, and she wasn't out there getting ready by running! Imagine training for your first marathon by doing mostly weights, some sprints, and no running over, say, an occasional 5K. This was leaving her with a lot of questions, doubts, and insecurity... Was she just setting herself up for failure, even injury? What if the CrossFit Endurance poster-children she'd read about were simply elites in the first place who would do great whether or not they flouted everything the experts said? Or what if they were more normal but had previously established a huge capacity the standard way and were now just maintaining it with CrossFit Endurance? On and on. It left her uncertain enough that she even panicked a bit and tried to slide a bunch of standard-issue miles in near the end of her training window, over a few weekends last month. Of course those miles were insignificant compared to the volume that the traditional approach would counsel.

After three short months of this training, we packed the car and headed to Moab to put it to the test! Sensing a little adventure in the making, I borrowed a video camera to stick in her face all along the way. She absolutely loved that! (Um, NOT. But stressing her out with all that camera time really was for a worthy documentary cause. ;^) Here's how it all went down:

Tammy's 53.7 Mile Run for Time on Vimeo.

Woo! Mission accomplished!! She ended up placing 3rd (just one minute shy of 2nd place) in the Solo Female 12-Hour category, an unexpected bit of fun. And with no limping around for a week afterwards like with earlier marathon efforts: though a bit depleted, she was right back in the gym for our usual Monday-morning random CrossFit beatdown.

Most interesting was what she learned from actually doing it and watching other runners do it -- in contrast to imagining doing it and reading lots of runners' online descriptions and hints for doing it. The bottom line? CrossFit Endurance was vindicated! Her doubts and insecurities around it are now gone: even with the weird IT band/knee thing that progressively diminished her pace and forced her into walking a few laps in the middle, she ended up doing better than average. And I'm pretty sure that without that hip issue, and with some obvious, easy improvements like a little discipline on her pit stops, she would have outperformed all of the other females, and all but one or two of the males! Sure, that's kind of bold for a newbie, but here's the deal: she found so many ultrarunners talking online about their "walk strategies" and how only the elite didn't walk that she went there fully expecting walking to be a necessity -- and sure enough, we saw a lot of walking at the event. But Tammy's training left her feeling just fine motoring up all the hills, etc. If it weren't for the weird IT band/knee thing, she would not have needed to walk at all. She would have simply run the entire thing at her "easy" pace of around 10 or 10.5 minutes/mile.

I expect she'll want to verify that by going and running every step of it next year, so we'll see!

[originally published on Modern Paleo's blog]