Thursday, January 19, 2012

Race Report: Tough Mudder Arizona

Last weekend I ran the Saturday morning edition of the Arizona Tough Mudder. 9:20 heat to be exact. I once again affirmed my personal choice to eschew the uber-structure of triathlon  for the utter non-conformity, everything is a workout mentality of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) in 2012. I am pleased with my overall  performance but focus everyday on getting better at this sport.

Held at the former GM Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona, the 12.5 mile course held 28 obstacles. Before the race even began, athletes had to climb over an 8' wall to get to the starting line. It was an interesting beginning and an eye opener to the new initiates of just what the course held in store.

I am going to be honest here. If I am running an obstacle race alone I pretty much just shut off most of my thinking rational brain and go over, under or through whatever is in front of me. I stop when someone hands me a shirt, medal, headband or other article of significance that I didn't already see on the course. So I can't recall all 28 obstacles in order. I do have some strong memories of positive and negative responses to some obstacles and will list these now.
Arctic Enema

The first spectacular obstacle was the Arctic Enema aka Chernobyl Jacuzzi. Climbing a pallet the racer jumps into a pool of ice, walks to and submerges under a partition that extends several inches under the ice, then walks to the other side of the pool and climbs out. This water was as near to freezing as I have felt in a race. I can say when I exited, my entire crotch and upper leg area was numbed cold. It took almost a minute of running to get any sensation back.

A very fun obstacles utilizing the flat terrain included a elevated section of gravel road, a couple football fields long, 4 yards wide, 1 yard high. At regular internals of approximately 10 feet, a 5 foot long section was removed and the racer had to jump over the gap. Using momentum and great deal of ballistic jumping, one could leap across without falling. Those without good cardiovascular conditioning would be stuck on these elevated island waiting for the energy to jump to the next section.

Walk the Plank is a daunting challenge to those with fear of heights. Scaling a 15 foot tall wood slope of greater than 45 degrees, the racer then must jump into a pool of water and swim to the other side. The water was not a cold as the Arctic Enema but the leap of faith is the true obstacle here.

My background and current training program have certainly helped me get more efficient in obstacle navigation. Of particular note, the log carry. This obstacle is picking up a section of railroad lumber and carrying it along a route. As this has become a staple in my training program using heavier items, I essentially ran with my log and overtook dozens of people who simply didn't have the strength or pain threshold to hold a cumbersome object that long.

I noticed Saturday that I have improved in climbing over high walls. With the exception of one wall, which I believe was 12 feet, I didn't need any help. Over the last month its something I have tried to improve on. My criticism of this race is that there was too many 8' walls. It became less an obstacle and more a lack of creativity. The last set of walls could have easily been a mental challenge or pull/push obstacle, which was sorely lacking on the course.

Tough Mudder is going to be remembered for ElectroShock Therapy, an apt name for their last obstacle. Standing mere feet from the finish line, 10,000 volts of electricity course through 100's of strands of hanging rope over about 50 feet of mud. Walk, run or crawl, getting shocked was inevitable as you moved through the final obstacle. Do not mistake the shock of electricity as a painful experience. The shock causes an involuntary spasm, your body reacting immediately but the physical sensation is gone as quickly as it comes. Of course you are shocked many, many more times as you navigate to the finish line. Each time a silent,  'thump' in your head.

Over the last two years I have done several obstacle course races all over the country. Each is a unique experience. I am often asked if one race is better than another. My response is that each needs to be judged on its climate and its terrain along with its obstacles. I have done easier obstacles in colder and harsher elevations that make comparing to flatter, warmer races unfair. I am also maturing as an racer and obstacles like 8' walls are becoming easier with each passing event. I will say that after completing the electric shock obstacles at Tough Mudder Arizona, yes there was another shock obstacle, a low crawl, earlier on the course, it doesn't make me want to rush out and do the race again. It did not give me the same thrill as the Walk the Plank or other unique navigational requirements.

Overall, an excellent obstacle race.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Challenge overload keeps me honest

What I love about social media is that it brings people and ideas together in a way that provides an opportunity to join in on or be invited to participate in interesting things. Over the last couple of months the themes have been physical challenges. Not the usual, "Belly Off" or "Biggest Loser" contests, rather accountability or challenges to reach short term goals. 

January looks to be an exciting month. Here are the challenges I am currently involved in that started before and run past January or just for the month of January. 

100 Burpee Challenge. Started in December runs 100 days. Do 1 burpee equaling the day of the challenge until on the 100th day I do 100 burpees. Today is 36 burpees, tomorrow 37.  

1,000 Ab challenge. Started in December. 100 repetitions of any combination of abdominal exercises every day. On Monday's add 100 repetitions, so the second week is 200 repetitions per day, and so forth, until the last week when I do 1,000 ab repetitions per day. 

Little Changes/Things You Didn't Used To Do Challenge. January only. Part of that is the other challenges I am listing here, things I have not done in this manner before. I also started making fresh fruit and vegetable juices from my new juicer I got for Christmas. On January 1, I retooled my supplements, my stretching routine and even using new clothing technology to help with cramping in longer distances. 

30 days of Spartan WOD workouts. January only. Spartan is an obstacle race company that puts out a really good Workout Of the Day, that usually does not need any gym specific equipment to complete. Meaning, you can do them outside at the park, in your yard, down the street with very little investment. Any props that might be recommended can easily be found in your house or around it. 

10,000 push ups challenge. January only. I only heard of this one on the 3rd of the month, so I am behind a couple days. I will need to average 350 push ups a day to reach this goal on time.  

January now seems a little bit more structured for daily training. I need to do at least 350 push ups everyday. 33-63 burpees depending on the day, 200-600 abs repetitions depending on the week. Whatever the Spartan WOD entails everyday. Oh, and specific training everyday for my upcoming races which will include running on trail, on road, with weighted rucksacks, logs, bricks, rocks, sledge hammering, sleep deprivation, cold immersion and rope work. 

Man, I love it. I love it so. Don't just survive-Thrive.