Sunday, July 26, 2015

Congratulations to the Iron Cowboy!

Last month I wrote about James Lawrence and his challenge to complete 50 Iron Man length triathlons in 50 states in 50 days. I have followed his progress daily as he made his way from state to state and was amazed at the determination he showed. I'm not a triathlon athlete and the sport doesn't really appeal to me (since I suck at swimming and biking.... and running) but I totally respect any endurance athlete who accomplishes great things especially when it is considered to be "impossible" by most people.

Yesterday I was able to witness the Cowboy complete his final run in Utah and conquer the challenge. He invited the public out for the final 5K like he has in other states.and there was a pretty impressive showing of people who came to support him and celebrate his success. He was nice enough to allow those who came out to get photos with him and he gave high fives to the crowds. It was cool to see him finish the 50 50 50 challenge like he said he would.

I have been cheering for him since he started in Hawaii. After hearing him speak in May I never doubted his resolve, determination, or belief that he could do it, but I was still concerned with his ability to remain injury free long enough to finish the challenge. I know he had several injuries and health concerns over the last 50 days, but am still in awe that he was able to keep his body going the whole time. I know he picked up a bunch of fans as he progressed along the challenge and silenced many critics. 

I congratulate Lawrence, his family, and support team for their hard work and dedication and for making this one of the most entertaining and inspiring events I have ever witnessed. I just hope the guy can finally get some quality rest now and hopefully pick up some good endorsement deals. I think it's time for Energizer to scrap the bunny and make him their new spokesman.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

2015 Utah Spartan Super Recap

This was my third year of running the Spartan race. The prior two years have been Beast races that were 13 miles long so I was looking forward to trying the "easier" Super race. One of the things I learned from last year was to not depend on what the race organizers may or may not have for fuel for the runners. Last year they had nothing but water and I was exhausted and weak for most of the race. This year I made sure to take some Cliff Bars and gel blocks in a plastic bag and I was not nearly as fatigued as last year (I'm sure a 5 mile shorter course also helped.)

I arrived at the race with only a minute or two to spare before it started so I was the last person in the back of the holding pen for my heat. The start was the same this year as prior ones. After about 100 yards you hit a couple mud pits then do some fairly easy over/under obstacles before heading up the mountain trail. Once you get to the steep part of the trail it is pretty much a single file hike. Next year I will remember to get better positioning for the start and to go harder for the first part of the race in order to not be held back by hundreds of slower runners on the trail that are impossible to pass unless you run through bushes and sage brush like a jack rabbit.

One of the differences I noticed this year was around the mid point when you come back toward the main hub of camp. They stacked several strength obstacles one after the other instead of the usual alternating running with obstacles like they usually do. My first year I made both rope climbs, but last year I really struggled wrestling with the rope climb way too long only to fail and then do burpees in an exhausted state.  For some reason my intuition said to just run past it and I did burpees instead. I'm kind of glad I did since there were several more strength obstacles immediately after that.

One of the new obstacles was the hanging rope traverse where you loop your legs over the rope and go hand over hand pulling yourself while facing the sky. I had never done it before so my technique was not very polished but I finished it. I didn't really realize it at the time but I gave my calves some pretty nasty rope burns in the process.

About 5 or 6 miles into the race, the pack I was with thinned out and I found myself following a guy in front of me and must have been on auto pilot and not paying attention. A group of us lemmings somehow missed a turn and ended up going the wrong way so we had to back track to get back to the correct trail which cost me a good 5-10 minutes.

This year I was really frustrated with the wall traverse since I did 75% of it and thought I was done so I hopped down but then realized I was supposed to turn the corner first and do one more section and then ring the bell. More burpees. I also blew it on the monkey bars. I don't know why they are so easy at the park but when you are 6 miles into a race with muddy slippery hands it is s different story. Those take more hand grip and forearm strength than I remember. More burpees.

One of the highlights for me this year was finally getting the spear throw to stick in the target. I've hit it square the last two years but it didn't stick. This year I had a great throw and it went deep into the target. I never knew how good it felt to nail a throw like that. I' have since added that feat to my resume of useful life skills.

I always felt that jumping and climbing over walls was one of my few strengths when it comes to these races but apparently I need to work on my form since I just jump and swing by right arm over the barrier to catch myself then pull the rest of me over. I guess after doing that on nearly 9 different walls and barriers I got some really nasty bruises. Next time instead of jumping up and karate chopping the wall with my bicep I will pull myself up with better technique to avoid the battered runner look for the next week.

This year there was also a mud pit that required you to submerge your entire body under a barrier in order to pass. That was a new twist for the usual mud pits, but the water was nice and cold and really cooled me off. I paid extra for an earlier heat this year and I'm glad I did since the temperature that day was in the high 90's and as the day goes on with thousands of runners, the course just gets muddier and harder, not to mention the increased heat you have to deal with that is inevitable in the afternoon starting times. This year did not seem to be half as muddy as last year and I was not complaining.

In summary, I had a good time with the Spartan Super race and felt the organizers did a good job. I was plenty sore for the next few days but it was a good challenge.