Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Amesbury Sprint- Triumph and Camaraderie

"People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Carrabassett Valley Academy kids representing at the Amesbury Spartan sprint.
This weekend's Amesbury Spartan Sprint was more than just another race for me. It was a memorable event filled with challenges, surprises and great people. I came with hopes of a little more practice on Spartan obstacles for some of the upcoming endurance challenges and left with a new sense of renewed energy for the sport of obstacle racing.

My day started at 5 am with a wakeup on an amazingly comfortable featherbed couch at my aunt and uncle's  house in Gorham, Maine, about 1 1/2 hours from the venue in Amesbury (I should add that the featherbed couch is worthy of an entirely separate post). I shook off the urge to stay in bed and made my way south while sun made it's way over the horizon as a thick layer of fog hung on to the lowlands and rivers. As the sun's rays blanketed the August landscape, I began to feel the energy of what would be an exciting day.

I arrived at Amesbury just in time for a quick warm up and visit with some of my Spartan friends. My first heat of the day, the elite heat, went off at 8 am as planned. While I enjoy the shorter obstacle racing distances, my long distance training has certainly taken its toll on my short game. My personal goal for the day was simply to focus on being uncomfortable. The idea of a sprint distance, after all, isn't to feel like I can maintain the effort all day. This would not be easy for me.

For the most part, mission accomplished. Despite the temptation to ease into my familiar comfortable pace, I made a deliberate effort to push my pace harder with the knowledge that the effort would likely last less than an hour. Where I continue to struggle is slowing my heart rate quickly for focus on the obstacles. This is responsible for the vast majority of my spear throw misses, and delivered as usual on this day. Part poor technique, part failure to bring myself down fast enough to focus, I have missed this obstacle on all efforts save one. This was no exception, but thankfully, the only obstacle that would give me any trouble.
Me, emerging from the mud at the end of the elite heat.

In the end, the result was my best sprint distance yet. I was greeted at the finish line with hugs from the amazing Chris Davis and Andi Hardy, which made the finish just a little more special. With an age group win and 6th overall female finish, I am thrilled to see my shorter distance effort pay off. While I can't say that I finished feeling like dropping to the ground, I am happy to say that I was grateful that my next heat wouldn't begin until noon.

Maria, Me, Sam, Sean, Briggs, Matt and Max before the race.

The second heat of the day was the one I that would prove to transform the day from great to amazing. Six of my students from Carrabassett Valley Academy had decided to join in the fun for a day of Spartan racing. For today's race, the kids would compete in the Open event, meaning that they would compete against the field of over 4,600 finishers and 821 teams. We started the morning with some fun in the Air National Guard pull up challenge a little warm up on the turf. My original plan was to run with the kids in their heat and provide assistance and support along the way. It was evident early on, however, that I was gassed enough from round 1 of the day that I would be rendered useless to our kids, as they are all talented athletes. As the gun went off and all six kids disappeared over the first hill, I decided that my adventure would be a little different than the one I had planned.

Although I have done a half-dozen or so Spartan style obstacle races, this was the first time I had run with no plan: no companion, no agenda, and with no regard to time or placement. I was free to cover the course on a whim, take my time when I wanted to, and stop to chat or help as I pleased. Always having some kind of distraction or focus, I never before realized what I have missed in all of these races:  a chance to glimpse the worlds of the thousands of other people on the course, each on their own journey on that day. Along the way, I made new friends. I had the privilege of helping others when they needed a hand and heard the stories of what brought them out to a Spartan Race. I pulled two people out of waist deep, black mud. I got to help Steve-o Opie Bones (whom I had met at a Death Race) encourage one of his teammates who had taken several nasty falls on the slippery wally to give it one more shot after she had decided to quit: she made it with two more attempts. I came across Nele
Nele and Reload Fitness getting ready for their heat.
Schulz, a fellow Death Racer, with her team Reload Fitness. Despite a suspected stress fracture, Nele was part of a team showing an unwavering commitment to help a disabled friend and teammate complete the entire course. The group dynamic was powerful and made me proud to be amongst the family of Spartans who don't leave people behind. I helped a dozen people complete the inclined wall obstacle and waited with an injured athlete for EMS to arrive. I watched a fellow Spartan fall from the top of the rope climb and emerge from the swampy water with a smile on his face. I convinced two guys to let a woman help them over the 8-foot wall after they had made several unsuccessful attempts on their own. On this lap, I witnessed courage, leadership, fear, composure, triumph and humility. Some of these people I know, some were strangers. All were part of making this day remarkable. I am pleased to say that I finally slowed down to take in all that I have missed.

I arrived in the festival area to the sight of 6 mud caked smiling familiar faces, all of whom blew my
Matt and Briggs celebrating a great race.
socks off with an effort of true Spartans. Each of them had their own stories of success on the course (2   of them hit the spear throw that continues to plague me), failures and burpees, and stories of how they
were empowered by others around them on the course. The final results revealed that all of the kids finished in the top 10% of the entire field of Open competitors and the Carrabassett Valley Academy team represented with a finish of 18th out of 821 teams. I couldn't be more proud of these guys and look forward to doing it all over again when given the chance.

So for this one, I say thanks to everyone for giving me the privilege of sharing your day and stories. Next time, I'll be sure to pay more attention.

Happy trails.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Spartans on NBC & Free Spartan Race Giveaway!

In the world of obstacle racing, today was a pretty big day. Reebok Spartan race has managed to do what no other obstacle racing organizing has been able to do thus far: bring  mainstream obstacle racing to TV. Spartan Race has partnered with NBC Sports to bring obstacle racing to television. While this is certainly not a new idea, Reebok Spartan race has succeeded where others have failed. NBC will be filming 8 professional ahtletes and 4 everyday Spartans at the Spartan Race World Championships in Killington, VT on September 21 for a 90 minuteTV special to air October 19, 2013. 

In addition, Spartan Race has launched a Get On TV campaign in which people will submit their story about how training and racing in Spartan Race has transformed their life for a chance to be featured on their special. For those of you who have exciting stories, here is your chance to get in on the fun. CLick on the casting link below to learn how to get started.

Click here to learn more about NBC's casting call.

In addition to creating a new opportunity to increase participation and viewership of an emerging sport, this announcement is also exciting as it is the next step in creating a standardized, legitimate competitive sport. Look out world, here we come! 

What do you think about this announcement? Do you think this will benefit the athletes in obstacle racing? Will it be interesting to the general viewing public? Share your thoughts!

In light of this announcement, it seems like a good time to invite you to get off your couch. I am giving away a FREE ENTRY to any upcoming SPARTAN RACE- click on the link below to enter. 

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Get out of the gym! Try this fun workout that you can do outside with no gym equipment.

Get out for your workout. Find a campground, a park, a trail or even your backyard to enjoy beautiful summer and fall workouts outside!
"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately" - Henry David Thoreau.

On those beautiful summer days, there is no reason to be stuck in a hot, dingy gym when you can get your workout done outside. Here is the second installment in alternative workouts that can be done anywhere. All you need for this one is a rock (or other object with some heft to it). I recommend choosing a rock that you can squat-to-overhead-press about 15 times before feeling fatigued. This will likely range from about 10 lbs to 35 lbs depending on your age, size, gender, fitness, etc. If you start out with the wrong size, you can always adjust the weight appropriately.

Start out with an easy warm up jog- about 15 minutes.

1) 100 meter forward rock throw. Starting with the rock at your chest, squat down and jump upward while pushing the rock (and release) forward. Jog to rock, repeat. Remember to bend down and pick up the rock using your legs to lift, not your back. After several reps, improper lifting can put strain on your back.
**Advanced- complete the rock throw uphill.
Jog back to start after 100m and take a 2 minute rest.

2) 30m burpee broad jump. These are just what they sound like. Complete a burpee (with full pushup) and then complete a broad jump forward. I find generally 30 m is about 11 or 12 cycles.
A modification to make this a little easier would be to eliminate the push up (instead completing a squat thrust in place of the full burpee).
2 minute rest

3) 100 bodyweight squats. Try to complete as many as possible without resting. Minimize rest between reps when rest is needed.
Feet should be shoulder width (or even a little more) apart.  

4) 20 reverse rock throws. Starting at chest height (palms up), throw the rock overhead behind you and release. Tighten your abdominal muscles to ensure you are engaging your core muscles to do this. If you are concerned that you might cluck yourself in the head with the rock, choose a lighter rock.
2 min rest.

5) 30 clean and press with rock. Start with rock just above the ground in squatting position. As you move to standing, bring rock up through chest and finish with arms extended overhead as you come to a full standing position.

6) 50 bodyweight squats (again, not a typo). Try to complete as many as possible without resting within set, otherwise, minimize rest between reps when rest is needed.
* If you feel you need a little more challenge, grab your rock!
1 minute rest.

7) 50 Step ups with rock. Use a bench, stable log, or rock and step up with one leg at a time finishing each rep with full extension and both feet on top of object at the top of the step-up (without locking out knee). 25 reps with each leg.

2 minutes rest.

Repeat cycle 2-5 times.

Train Hard. Play hard. Be awesome. Happy trails.

Summer is fleeting. Don't let it pass you by.