Tough Mudder: Part 1

So 6 months ago I agreed to be part of a Tough Mudder team comprised of a bunch of folks from my gym. To put this into perspective, most of the people on the team are fitter, faster and stronger than me.

Those 6 months went by very fast. I should have done some extra things to prepare, like running hills or running, period. Thankfully my cardio wasn’t totally shot since we made ample use of the rowing machines at CrossFit during the winter. I also signed up for the O Course (again) 2 weeks prior to the Mudder Event to get some distance running in (8km) along with some practice with obstacles. I was surprised by how well I handled the run and I finished in the top third of people there.

This takes us to the few days before the event. I took a few days off of going to CrossFit to rest up. I also went to Mountain Equipment Co-Op and picked up some Merrell TrailGloves and snacks (gels) to consume while on the course. Stupidly, I also started watching YouTube videos of people doing the obstacles. Bad Idea!. I started worrying about getting electrocuted. There are tons of videos of people doing epic faceplants while getting zapped running through Electroshock Therapy… the last obstacle. I didn’t worry about the walls, water or mud.

My family was supposed to come with me but Cooper had a birthday party to go to on the same day and it had a cool murder mystery theme… so they stayed behind and I set out solo.

I drove out early… way earlier than needed since I thought the drive was going to be bad. It really wasn’t. We were directed to park in a huge field and then we’d get bussed to the final location. It was COLD and RAINY and my feet got soaked waiting for the bus. I didn’t see any of the team yet and didn’t expect to until a little later on. The bus ride was around 30 minutes long and there were lots of people making nervous jokes about the days upcoming events. I could have been the oldest guy on that specific bus.

We got to Mount St Louis Moonstone… a ski hill, where the event was staged. A SKI HILL… nice.. We filed out of the bus to the entry stalls where they checked our ID, made sure we signed our 4 page Death Waivers and then they put our bracelets on… one for entry to the beer tent at the end, one for my bag drop and one for entry to the starting gate. I’m guessing that the folks there to cheer people on got some other color.

Once inside the gates, the place teemed with energy. It had the feel of a very, very small Olympic Village… tons of port-a-potties, a huge tent with merchandise (where people went to get warm) and tents with vendors set up… who offered tons of free samples. They also had a closed off Beer Area set up along with a stage where some DJ was making announcements and playing music.

I walked around for around 2 hours trying to stay warm… I had time to kill. Our team’s start time was noon. We were in the second to last group to head up the mountain… did I mention we were on a SKI HILL? Anyways… I hung out around the Start/Finish line. I managed to catch several of the earlier teams head out and was eager to see someone come across the Finish line. There were some interesting costumes on display. Tons of teams got dressed up. Some like their favorite superheroes, some like bees and some like Chippendale’s Dancers. I was cold and I had leggings, shorts, a long sleeve moisture wicking shirt and a Dri-Fit T-Shirt over that. I couldn’t imagine how cold those folks were. I kept bouncing around between the Clif Bar Vendor Tent and the starting gate. Eventually I bumped into a bunch of my teammates and we stuck together until the start time.

We headed to the Starting Line and started stretching… last chance to warm up a little before the Big Show starts up. By then we started to see more and more people go through the finish line.. some faceplanting did occur. Also noticeable was that the mountain that was once green just a few hours before was now turning brown, as hundreds of people chew up the course.

As we readied ourselves and take a group “before” picture, Matt from our box comes by. He had done the run earlier in the day… around 8:30am or so and finished in 1 hour and 50 minutes… he also volunteered to run it again with us. Not a knock on Matt… who I now believe is some undercover superhero, but when someone tells you they ran it in under 2 hours and had enough energy to run it again, I start to think that this thing is actually not as hard as I thought it was.

So there we were.. Navin, Syd, Matt, Sarah, Karl, Michelle and myself heading to the Start Line, our numbers pinned to our shirts, not saying too much. We collectively scale a wall to get to the starting gate (yeah… an obstacle on the way to the starting gate) and the announcer starts his speech. As he does so… I can’t help but think that we’re on a freaking  SKI HILL! Click here to see the race announcer get everyone psyched up… same guy but different speech for us. He was awesome. Off we go!

Posting Slacker November to May Re-Cap

Okay… so I understand that I haven’t posted anything since last September. So why don’t I give you all a recap.

October 2012… turned 42… felt like I could kick the crap out of the 32 year old version of myself. That’s not saying much.

November 2012… friends at the box (gym) asked me if I’d be up for joining their Tough Mudder Team. Tough Mudder was coming to Toronto in May. I said yes… I reasoned that I had 6 months to get in shape or come up with a great excuse… skip ahead to the next post for the results.

December… went home for Xmas. Kids enjoyed that. I think they ate most of the chocolate in the house.

January… no resolutions other than to try and figure out how to master Double Unders this year. If my kid could do it…

February… more of the same. Eat Paleo, go to CrossFit, rinse, repeat. Wife starts going to CrossFit Bootcamp… still haven’t mastered DUs.

March… Holy Crap… is it really only 8 weeks until Mudder. I should start running.

April… OMG… is it really only  weeks until Mudder. I wish I had started running.

May… uh oh!

Seriously, Double-Unders Are Hard!

So my last post was around a month ago… and I talked a little about the O-Course. I’ve almost forgotten how hard that was and that means I might be ready to try it again. There seems to be some interest at work to form a team that is willing to do the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. I’m game for all three… but I’d be lying if I told you I’m super excited about running a race where the only thing that stands between you and the finish line (after a ton of running) are live electrical wires… don’t even ask me how you’d train for that. I was always taught NOT to stick your fingers in the electrical outlets.

So the last month I’ve been able to stick to my 4-5 day a week sessions at CrossFit. It’s turned into a solid habit where I now ponder doing a weekend class or attending some of their skills sessions on stuff like Weightlifting, Pull-Ups and Pistols… yesterday I missed my morning class because I was home sick. By 4:30pm I was feeling better and decided to go do a session rather than miss it. Really enjoyed it and felt like the right thing to do. Someone needs to tell me the difference between a habit and an addiction… not which one I’m experiencing.

Four weeks ago I hit my first double under after trying for a few weeks. A double under is when you are skipping and are able to rotate the rope around twice in one jump. This means you need to spin the rope quickly and jump a little higher than normal. After practicing daily during the warm-ups, I was able to string together a few more. Now I can do 5-10 where you do a double, skip normal, do a double…  I was stoked! I went home and told my wife and kids about how happy I was that I finally hit one. I even showed them, on the front walk, with a skip rope we had around. I went back inside and my 8 year old son, Cooper, grabs the skip rope. After practicing for 10-15 minutes, he managed to hit a double under. My wife laughed. Cooper asked me when he can start coming to CrossFit with me. Sigh! Guess I’m going to have to up the stakes and get those doubles going unbroken! That goes on a long list of stuff I want to be able to do like; hand-stand push-ups, pistols, muscle-ups and a 95lbs thruster. Sooooooo many things I suck at!

You might have noticed that I’ve stopped with the charts and graphs. Reason is that I’ve hit my target and now I’m really working on getting stronger. That means dropping body fat% and trading a pound of fat for a pound of muscle. Sounds easy… but it isn’t. This is slow, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Next week I’m off to Paris with my wife (no kids… grandparents coming up to watch them). Found a CrossFit gym near our apartment. For what it’s worth… if you plan to go to Paris for more than a few days, get an apartment. We are using a company called Cobble Stay. They are great and have places all over the city. I’m saying right now that I will be eating baguettes, cheese and croissants. I will drink red wine. I will likely need to work it off when I get back… some things are worth the sacrifice! Least I’ll be able to walk a ton while I’m there! Looking forward to getting away for a week.

The O(MG) Course

So I’ve been humming and hawing about doing this Endurance Course called the O-Course. It’s touted as Canada’s first and only Obstacle Training Course based on US Marine Fitness courses. People I’ve talked to liken it to training for Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and the Tough Mudder. More have come back and said it’s harder than Spartan Race and Warrior Dash. It was developed by the folks at Fit Factory Fitness. Tony A runs it and I refer to him in a post from over a year ago when I tried to make it through one of his fitness classes with my wife. Re-cap… wife was fine; I couldn’t speak for 45 minutes for fear of hurling. This guy gives Freddie Kruger nightmares.

I signed up earlier this week, feeling pretty good about myself. The CrossFit workouts were hard in middle of the week and really burned my legs out. I was on the fence about going to the O-Course on Saturday morning… I went to bed super early and I think the anxiety got to me. I was up at 4am; 5am and 6am… you get the picture. At 7am, I finally made the decision I was going to go. The Course starts at 9am, but they ask you to show up at 8am for registration. My wife and two boys went with me.

I started off with signing-in at the indoor soccer dome also known as “the Barracks” and tucked my change of clothes and water bottle behind the short bleachers. Then I started stretching a little. The kids occupied themselves by also stretching (showing off their kid-like flexibility) and running from one end of the field to the other. While I was stretching, other people were coming in… you could tell some were veterans of this course and others were first-timers like me. Some had headbands they picked up from completing Tough Mudder the previous weekend. While we were warming up, the O-Course Team was finishing setting things up for the morning.

We’re all ask to go pick out our rifle… which was actually a 4lb length of 4×4 wooden fence post. Cooper (my 8 year old) picked one out for me. If you do the course 4 times, you get to keep it… like a badge of honor; otherwise you have to return it. You can decorate it, you can make it heavier but you cannot add handles or subtract weight.

At 9am sharp, we started. Tony got on a platform and gave us some basic instructions and reminded us why we were here. How we made the decisions to step away from the Playstations (Xbox 360 in my case) and cartoons to show up… and how we train harder than the actual fight is going to be. The instructors and folks keeping people in line all had “Show up. Man Up” t-shirts. He went over some basic ground rules covering safety and respect. I got the sense that some people get offended when the trainers get in their face about their efforts. I’m fine with it…. whatever gets me over the finish line. We formed up in columns and rows. And then it began… 45 minutes of holding that 4lb piece of wood over our heads, in front of us and then overhead again. We did presses with them; we did squats and held them straight ahead… we did push-ups when someone failed. A few people chatted at the back of the class… we paid for it in the form of 25 push-ups per infraction. It felt like a CrossFit class with a massive focus on arms and core. We must have done a total of 150 push-ups in that 45 minutes… on top of the squats and presses… my arms have never burned like that.  Mercifully, it was over after 45 minutes and we were given a water break and we were on to the next phase. At this point I wondered if anyone would notice me sneaking away… I figured that the hard part was over. It wasn’t.

At the start, no problem holding these “rifles’ overhead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony going over the rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now it’s starting to hurt. How can 4lbs hurt so much!

I’m guessing there were 150 people in attendance and we all went and grabbed our water bottles prior to starting the next act. Vega was here giving out some Endurance Gel and I grabbed a raspberry flavored one… it wasn’t that awesome… but they had other flavors and I’d try another flavor the next time. We all filed out of the soccer dome and congregated in the parking lot for instructions on the run. I’m guessing the run was around 5km and we had 6 stations where we stopped and did some fitness work. Five of the stations were in the water (Cherry Beach).  It went a little like this:

  1. Run from parking lot to Cherry Beach
  2. Get in the water and do 50 V-Ups
  3. Run through the sand to the next station… in the water do 26 push-ups
  4. Stay in the water (rifles overhead) and make your way to the next station (was a long walk)… in the water do 26 squats
  5. Run through the sand to the run course
  6. Run to water station… guessing 1.5KM on winding run path
  7. Turn at station and run back
  8. Detour to outdoor soccer field (Cherry Beach) where we run to the far side and come back but need to do 26 push-ups, feet on ledge before we continue
  9. Back to the beach and repeat steps 5,4 and 3 in that order
  10. Run back to the parking lot and drop off the “rifle”
  11. Start the obstacle course….and complete 16 different obstacles… won’t go through all of them but you can see several in action if you go to the O Course website. They have some videos of people doing the course. The worst ones involved dragging, carrying or lifting very heavy things through sand and back.

Pick up heavy item and move it!

The water was a nice break since it was super-hot out… good chance to get cooled off.  I suck at running but the main focus was to just keep putting one foot ahead of the other. I looked up the distance on Google Maps and it looks like the run portion was roughly 4 miles or 6.5km. Now I know what that feels like.

I finished the Run and Obstacles in 1 hour and 40-45 minutes or so… that put me in the middle of the pack. Not bad since I was hoping to not come in last… which I changed to “just finish” after the run.

All in all it was a great course. I understand that the organizers will continue to add stuff and make it tougher. It’s going to run all year, although it’ll be interesting to see what they do in the wintertime. I fully expect them to turn this into an epic event next year with prizes and add it to the schedule of Obstacle/Endurance races out there.

I won’t lie and say I can’t wait for the next one… because I can wait. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. My muscles were aching mightily. I had dirt in my ears. I felt like I was made of rubber. I’m glad I did it but I’m in no hurry to rush back. I’ll definitely try it again. Maybe as part of a Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, “O” Course trifecta. Next time, I hope I’m in even better shape and will shoot for a time to beat.

Sitting at the Big Kids Table

Last Friday marked my last day of CrossFit Bootcamp (Monday marked the start of the Regular CrossFit class) … which means 12 weeks of 5-day-a-week BootCamp workouts is done. For clarity, I repeated the BootCamp three times (each is 4 weeks long).  A lot of people do the 4-week BootCamp once then move to the Regular CrossFit class, a few people do the Bootcamp twice, fewer still do it three times. I went three times because I know I needed to form a habit. After 3 months of getting up early every weekday, I’ve managed to establish something of a routine… I think it’ll be a routine that’s hard to break. I also felt I needed some time to try and get in better shape and keep up with the CrossFit regulars. The added benefit is that over the last 3 months, I’ve gotten to know 3 classes worth of people and a handful of them now are regulars and show up at the same 6am class I go to. The CrossFit BootCamp introduces you to a lot of the CrossFit terminology and a lot of the main non-weightlifting-type of workouts. We do a ton of lunges, GHD work, Kettle-bells, box jumps, running, pull-ups, sit-ups… you get the picture…makes it easy to hit the ground running with doing the Regular class.

Last Friday also marked my last BootCamp Fit Test. So what were the results? My time was 11 minutes and 55 seconds… down 55 seconds from 4 weeks prior.  Oddly enough only two of us were there that day. Kind of odd since it was like only two people showing up to graduate.

Now that I’m doing the regular CrossFit workouts (sticking with 5 days a week), what’s the difference you ask?  The focus on As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible (AMRAP) during a fixed time or a fixed number of rounds/reps in as short amount of time as possible is common across both. The warm up (around 15 minutes) is different and incorporates burpees, ring dips, pull-ups along with stretching. After that there is always a weightlifting component where we do 2-3 focused lifting routines. Lastly we have the option of Strength and Conditioning Stream or a more focused Weightlifting Stream… I tend to always go for the Strength and Conditioning Stream because there is a good mix of stuff. I’m guessing people get to choose because they might want to focus on different aspects of their fitness or maybe they are prepping for a competition.

Today’s WOD (Workout of the Day) had us doing the following (can also see it here:

High hang clean 3×3 @ 50%-65% 1RM
Bench press 3×5 reps @ 73% 1RM

Rest 5 minutes

Complete the following for time:

  • Run 800m
  • 40 Push-ups
  • 20 Box jumps
  • Run 100m
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Run 100m
  • 20 Burpees
  • 40 Pull-ups
  • Run 800m

I tend to have the most problems with the weightlifting. Not due to the weight. Weight can always be scaled or adjusted… but more around the terminology and the coordination of the lift. Bench press is easy… pretty straight forward. The High Hang Clean is a different story and requires a little hop, deep squat, elbows out, loosen hand grip and then driving upwards to a standing position. It sounds easy but it’s not yet second nature… but it’ll come with time. Thinking of getting one of those narrow PVC pipes and practicing. It’s like trying to do Double-Unders… at some point it’s just gotta click (hope its soon!).

Glad it’s the weekend! Tomorrow I might be hitting the yoga session at CrossFit but not before I go to the market with one or both of my sons. One is an early bird and one isn’t. They both love the Peameal Bacon Sandwich they have there. See below… that’s the spot… Carousel Bakery. I also need to load up on some veggies and fruit and maybe something to grill!

$5.25 buys you a piece of deliciousness.

Why Cross Fit (for me)?

I was fit for the first two-thirds of my life (0-28)… and I’m assuming I was a fit baby/toddler/infant. I turn 42 this year so it’s really been the last third of my existence that I’ve let myself go. I played soccer most of my life and would spend weekends with “the guys” playing football on Sundays at a nearby field. It’s really when my job became a career that I started to cut corners on taking care of myself. Snacking rather than cooking, driving rather than running and sitting rather walking. Now I find myself working to undo the damage I’ve done over the last 14 years.

Today marks my 11th week of doing Cross Fit at 5 days a week. Not looking/fishing for kudos… rather, I realized that I managed to commit to this longer (much longer) than any of the other things that I tried… longer than running and longer than regular gym workouts… and I’m not sick of it. I actually kind of love it.

In those 11 weeks… I’ve noticed my endurance go up as well as noticing increases in my strength and agility. Clothes fit differently (the downside is the cost to get new clothes), my back doesn’t hurt and I seem to be more focused at work… err… well maybe less so on Mondays.

The benefits of going are great… I’m back down to a weight I haven’t seen in 14 years. So I wonder why I like this stuff so much. I thought about it and figured I’d list a few thoughts here… guessing some will be consistent with what a lot of Cross-Fitters say… and guessing some of it more my spin. Here goes:

It’s hard

Often stupidly, I’m drawn to assignments or things that are difficult, like cooking difficult dishes, putting Ikea furniture together and trying to fix my dad’s computer over the phone. If Cross Fit were easy, then I’d likely not be drawn to it. I like it when people thing I can’t do something and I prove them wrong. I like the struggle and pushing through it. I check the board every day ahead of the workout to determine what crazy WOD they cooked up for us and then say to myself “Seriously! This is gonna suck” and then I say “#&$@ it… going to own this one”. If it’s not hard, it isn’t worth doing.

It’s intense

So I show up every day at around 6am… class/session starts at 6:30am. The warm up lasts 15 minutes or so and then its 30-45 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training. No stops, no texting, no chit chatting. Just all-out effort until you have nothing left in the tank. Mark down your reps and your time and check if you beat your last scores (PRs anyone?). When you are done, you leave (feeling good about what you just did) and the next crew starts.

Competition

Golf is one of those games where I tend to try and beat my best score (by the way… I suck at golf). When I’m out with my buddies, I’m very focused on trying to beat my best score… but I’m also trying not to end up on the bottom for the day (cause I’d have to buy the beers at the club house). I’ll check the scorecard and make sure I’m keeping pace or try and determine what I need to do to stay ahead. I always tend to play with people who are better than me and I think that makes me “up my game”. Cross Fit is like that as well. As much I as am trying to beat my last time or shoot for a PR… I also work towards staying in the top third of the times or reps. It’s the competition that helps me drive to better results. Constantly with “if X can do it, then I can too”. Although my wife doesn’t Cross Fit, she does workout at arguably one of the toughest boot camps in Toronto (Fit Factory Fitness). I once went with her (pre-Cross Fit) and nearly hurled in the car on the way home. I’m a little competitive with her when it comes to this stuff. She keeps me honest. I think we push each other. She pushes me without being annoying… not sure if I can say the same.

The People

I recall my first day at the Box I go to. I was doing the warm-up for the Cross Fit Bootcamp… and was struggling on the Ring Dips (I was struggling at all the stations)… one of the regulars turned to me and cheered me on while she was between reps. I was struck by how a complete stranger would stop focusing on themselves and give me a little motivation to get through my reps. This seems typical, if not expected and I’ve tried to pay it forward. You end up forging a respect and bond with people the same way you do if you play team sports. The trainers are great and always present to help you fine tune a lift or posture over a routine. They push you because they get to know you and your goals. It’s like having a multi-tiered support system ensuring success.

The Gym (The Box)

Not sure if all Cross Fit gyms are like this but the one I go to is elegantly spartan. It’s literally a warehouse… complete with loading dock and 2 huge garage-like doors. No fluff. No fancy machines. I also love that it’s very close to where I live. It’s around 5kms (3.3miles)… 11 minutes in the car. I’ve seen pictures of a few other Cross Fit gyms and they seem to stay within the same minimalist theme… little waste of space, no unnecessary bells and whistles… very Apple-like.

The Results

11 weeks ago I was a whole lot rounder. I’m starting to get cuts where my abs are. My shoulders and arms are starting to pop. I can run further and faster than before. I can lift heavier than I ever have. Nuff said!

There you have it. Send a comment or post a question if you have any!

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 178 lbs (distance to target is 3 lbs), new target is 175lbs

BMI: 24.8

Fat %: 17.4 (target is 14%)

Fit Test Round 2

Gah… I was wrong about my time… the time I had to beat was 13:08 and I came in at 12:50… which was great. Now I need to shave off more time… my last Fit Test is 2.5 weeks away and I will be trying hard to get less than 12 minutes. A couple of guys in the earlier class (pretty fit) killed the test and came in around 10 minutes. It’s the walking lunges that kill me… 20 in the first round isn’t bad… by the time I hit 12 on the second… the legs stop cooperating. Burpees and box jumps are fine… though after the walking lunges… I need a second before I can jump. A couple of people clipped their ankles on the boxes and went over them in an earlier class.

So the workouts are going smoothly and are part of my weekday routine. Now I need to focus on stretching and food. I had been stretching 5 times a week to keep the lower back loose but then backed off as I wasn’t getting any pain… now it’s starting to tighten up ever so slightly so I need to go back to the regular stretching routine, especially after days with a lot of sitting or meetings.

I saw my chiropractor last Thursday and he was amazed by the changes in my morphology. I pretended to know what he meant and then went home to look up what it means. In essence, he was surprised by the changes in my “shape”. I was clearly taking up a lot more room on his table 4-6 months ago and now I’m not. Since the “change in shape”, I’ve also had less need to go see him for adjustments to my lower back and now go see him only once a month.

Food -wise… I have been looking over several sites with Paleo recipes and links to books or other material. I would characterize my eating habits as 90/10 Eat Clean. I drink water and green tea more than anything else…. way more. All the foods are non-processed with lots of lean meats and vegetables. Not much, if any fruit, after 4PM.

Paleo is close but differs in a number of ways. But they don’t allow legumes (beans), grains, dairy and a few other things. There is a great guide on this that can be read here. It’s not for everyone… like anything it takes a little time to get used to it. I can try anything for 30 days. I think the thing to keep in mind is the 80/20 rule… give yourself some space to enjoy a dinner out or grab some Five Guys with the kids. Just maybe sub in water for the Coke.

Some of my favorites are as follows (this list will likely change or grow as I get more into it):

Paleomg.com

This site is run by avid Cross-Fitter Juli Bauer. Tons of great stories and recipes. She has a solid following based on the comments and feedback I’ve read on the site. One of the sites I regularly visit for all things Paleo and Cross Fit.

NomNomPaleo.com

Came across this one just a few weeks ago. Great recipes AND a fantastic App for the iPad. I downloaded it and it has great stuff like shopping lists and recipes. I’m using my iPad more and more to store recipes and cookbook material so it’s all in one handy place.

I don’t yet have any Paleo cookbooks… but I intend to get this one:

Food Bible

It’s supposed to come out early August and I’m pre-ordering it from Amazon. I can be accused of judging a book by its cover, because that’s how I selected it… I’m a sucker for good branding and packaging and the cover sets the tone for some intriguing content… like meal plans and lots of recipes. This book will soon be my go-to for recipes.

Stats coming by end of week… not much has changed… except for Body Fat %… that’s a good thing.

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