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!

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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!

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 Results and Another 30 Days

Fit Test Results + another 30 Days

So it’s been a while since I last posted… my bad! That’s more a function of how busy things have gotten.

So let’s do something of a chronological update. When I last left off, It was Day 16 of a 20 Day Bootcamp…

Day 20 of Bootcamp: Fit Test. I had an Old Time of 11:38 and my new time was 12:27… I swear I must have counted the first round incorrectly and either shorted a series… because I killed myself on the test. Good news is that I have another round of boot camp to do better.

Day 21 of Bootcamp (first day of Round 2): Big class! There are around 12 people in this class. Last class we started with 8 and dwindled to 5 by the end of week 2. There are some folks in this class that are pretty fit… a couple of guys look like seasoned weight lifters.

Day 34 of Bootcamp (yesterday):  Yesterday was a quick workout… called the “LumberJack 20″… 20 Deadlifts (@115lbs), Run 200m, 20 KB Swings (@20kg), Run 200m, 20 Walking Lunges, Run 200m, 20 Pull Ups, Run 200m, 20 Box Jumps, Run 200m… time was 12:48… first guy to finish… felt good about that.

Day 35 of Bootcamp (today): Tabata! I also like Tabatas… was 4 rounds of 4 minutes… 20 seconds of max reps followed by 10 seconds of rest (8 rounds x 4). We started with Pull Ups, and then went to Push Ups, then Sit Ups then Squats…50/64/70/92… not bad… should have done better on the squats.

Tomorrow is supposed to be terrible. I recall this workout from last time and I almost kept driving when I saw what they were doing… going to suck it up and own it tomorrow… but it’ll hurt. I think I almost puked the last time. One week and I get to do the Fit Test again! Looking forward to those results… now that I can count!

I missed last Friday as my wife and I decided to take a trip to Chicago… the kids were away visiting their Grandparents so a getaway was in order… was a blast… great food, no itinerary… didn’t go nuts on deep dish pizza while I was there. I did end up going to Xoco and it was great… fresh, fast food. It’s one of the 3 Rick Bayless spots and just next door to Frontera Grill. We went to fancier places but the food here was outstanding (and not pricey). We also went to the Publican for brunch… it’s located in the meatpacking district and the bacon there is something you MUST order… best bacon I’ve ever had. The other two spots we went to, based on recommendations were GT Fish and Oyster for great seafood and a great vibe… and we also went to Acadia. Acadia was the swankiest of all the spots and the cocktails there were pretty killer!

Oh yeah! I hit my target weight at the end of the last boot camp. WTG ME! I think I can still shave off a few pounds and am now aiming for 175 lbs. I also have a new target for Body Fat %… and it’s 16%. Those new targets should keep me in check!

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 180 lbs (distance to target is 5 lbs), new target is 175lbs

BMI: 25.1

Fat %: 19.5 (target is 16% 18%)

Hit my target! But now I have a new one.

CrossFit: Day 16

Last two days of CrossFit Bootcamp have been fun and challenging at the same time. Yesterday we had a partner workout consisting of Push-ups, Sit-Ups, Kettle Bells and Rowing… you definitely didn’t want to let up because your partner would have to do extra reps… today it was Squats, Kettles (or 200m run… which I opted for) and Pull-Ups. Friday is the Fit Test where we compare our weak week 1 results with our week 4.

I think I’ll be signing up for another 30 days of Bootcamp. I’m not nervous about starting the straight-up CrossFit class… but I like the Monday-Friday expectation of the Bootcamp and I could use another month to tweak my endurance, strength and cardio. I feel that I need to go 5 days per week since there is a 5-day-per-week expectation in the BootCamp… with CrossFit, I think I could end up talking myself out of sessions… one more round of the BootCamp and then I think I’ll ready for a 3-day-per week CrossFit commitment.

The weight has been coming off nicely… mostly due to a bout of nausea this past Friday and Saturday. I took Friday off to go on a day trip with my wife and I was miserable… by the time we got back, I was feverish. I spent the entirety of the next day in bed. Sunday I recovered and spent one hour, in 2 sessions, stretching since I tightened up a lot from Friday onwards.

I did cheat on the eating thing yesterday… was going nuts for a Club Sandwich (with fries and gravy) from a little place down the street… and I caved. I will say that after I was done, I was ho-hum about it. I did feel overly full. Cravings are gone. Guess my innards are adjusting to eating mostly healthy stuff. Tonight I have grilled chicken, quinoa and salad.

This CrossFit BootCamp has actually been a blast. I like the gym (no nonsense and no frills), the instructor means business without being a jerk and the crew that comes out is a supportive bunch. They work hard and are all good natured. There are twin sisters in the class, both runners and one of them is getting married in 2 weeks. Talk about commitment to getting in shape for the big day (and she’s already pretty fit). Virtually all of them are in better shape (stronger, faster or more endurance) than me… but I’m closing the gap. It feels good knowing that this Father’s Day I’ll be in better shape (and lighter) than I’ve been since before I had kids.

My two young sons notice mommy and daddy going to the gym for their work-out… I like that they see this as normal. One has soccer tonight and the other tomorrow night… I’d like them to think of me and my wife as role models for them when it comes to this stuff… focus on health, positive attitude and achieving a goal…. Speaking of goals… I’m now 4lbs away from my target of 180. I’m thinking that I should probably hit that number in 3 weeks (maybe 2). My immediate focus is killing that Fit Test on Friday… and leaving everything I have on the gym floor.

Current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 184 lbs (distance to target is 4 lbs)

BMI: 25.7

Fat %: 21.0 (target is 18%)

SOOOOOOO.... CLOSE

Back Issue Reboot

So on March 14 (like a jinx) I messed up my back again. My son (5 years old) had a nightmare and my wife brought him into our room so he’d get to sleep. My wife took up 50% of the bed, my  year old starfishes and took up 45% of the bed and I managed to hang on to the edge… I held some really bad posture for hours and wrecked my back… missed work the next day and symptoms showed like either sciatica or piriformis syndrome… not sure which it is but leaning towards piriformis. Been doing the stretches for it daily, walking a lot to loosen it up and trying not to sit much as that causes pain over time.Good news is that its taken about 2 weeks to get to normal, last time it took a month, covered here.

This also means I’ve been away from the treadmill and yoga studio since the last post. But I go back tomorrow for the usual Tuesday Night Prep Yoga session… small class and lots of focus… looking forward to it.

In the meantime, the weight has been coming off nicely. Been eating responsibly… not feeling hungry… snacking on the right stuff throughout the day.

So current stats:

Height: 5’11″

Weight: 200lbs (down 5 from 2 weeks ago, target is 185 for now)

BMI: 27.9 (target is 25.8)

Yoga again tonight… looking forward to it

Not sure if I mentioned where I go in my last post.The place is called Downward Dog Yoga and they have 2 locations in Toronto. Naturally, I go to the one in The Beaches since its a 5 minute drive home. The link to it can be found here.

Taking this stuff somewhat seriously as I purchased a new yoga mat. I’ve added one lunch time run into my week… Wednesday’s I hit the workplace gym and I just started a Couch to 5K program… needless to say I’m way more couch than 5K… but you gotta start somewhere.

Groceries have been pretty healthy lately. But cripes it takes a long time to make good stuff from scratch. Pasta or Kraft Dinner takes 11-15 minutes tops… once the water is boiling. I made a Greek Salad with chicken last night and after all the cutting, washing, dicing and mixing… it took way longer. Least I had left overs I could roll into lunch for today. Just finished it a short spell ago and I’m not feeling the least bit sleepy or sluggish. Big surprise! Duh!

So current stats:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 206lbs (down 1 from last week, target is 185 for now)

BMI: 28.7 (target is 25.8)