Posts tagged team
Posts tagged team
The faded sharpie-written number 2003 peeks out from my sweater sleeve along my forearm and an outline from the dark black stripe of K-tape is barely noticeable through the bright orange on my back. My turfed arena playground isn’t understood by most of my colleagues – so I’d have a hard time explaining my weekend of competitive combat… a Cold War team-reunited, battling against our own gym frienemies.
The 2 days involved everything from yolk carries and sled pulls, to Husafell stone holds and long lasting inversions. Our cars made a mini fortress surrounding an indoor battle ground… we looked like a sort of super strong homeless contingent; rolling out on folded refrigerator boxes and catching cat naps under stolen spots of shade. We woke up way to early. We laughed. We strategized. We nearly won one. This time we may have known more of what to expect, but the butterflies were just the same. Here is a short list of some newly discovered lessons learned:
Maybe it was the return of the neon wrist band… or what we’d like to call the “dreamcatcher…” but consistent finishes landed us in second place on the podium in the scaled division. We didn’t cheat range of motion. We didn’t yell at judges. We inducted a competition newbie. And, our tradition of celebration post-comp pizza continued.
The weekend moved to fast. It feels slow in the moment – 30 seconds of thrusters feel like eternity, but the 6 WODs disappeared into thin air and you want to go back and do it again - but perhaps that’s just my post-comp energy and glow working. In a blink, it’s back to business black. As I made my way to CrossFit this week, I worked out the kinks, pulled off the K-tape… The weekend wasn’t just about a win, it was a kick-start to my motivation, another reason to keep pushing forward. Inspiration in observing others – watching friends struggle - digging within myself. The quest continues. Pull-ups… watch out, I’m coming for you.
41. The faded black sharpie on my arms is a reminder of the weekend. So are the stiff shoulders and sore quads. I completed 9 workouts, but walking down stairs seems almost impossible.
You could see our breath in the air when we’d arrived at the field house on Saturday before dawn. The pull-up cage in the middle of the arena was a very tall and daunting reminder of why we were here… a CrossFit-style Cold War. And man, was it cold. I don’t think any of us knew what to truly expect. For three of us, it was our first real CrossFit competition. But after our final strategy session on Friday night, we’d agreed that we were in it to win it - go big or go home. We’d spent the weeks prior loading our workouts with mile long buddy carries and sledge hammer strikes. We were prepared for the first few pre-announced WODs, but the others were a mystery. Anything was fair game.
The 2 days involved everything from swimming and air squats to carrying atlas stones, hanging from pull-up bars and leaping walls, to mile runs with weighted rucksacks. And, laughing… lots of laughing. This blog would be pages if I detailed all of the ins and outs of the weekend, so instead, here is a short highlight reel mixed in with some lessons learned:
For me personally, the toughest battle came on Sunday in the foggy early morning air. A mile ruck run as a team. I knew it was coming, but my heart sank when they made the announcement. Even though I’m a pretty regular runner and shit, I just did a GoRuck, I felt like the weakest link… I’m a woman of pace, damn it… and the last runner to cross the finish line would mark the recorded time. We’d toyed with having two runners run ahead, but decided to stay as a group and help each other push the pace. Joking before we took off that we were aiming for 8 minutes… are you crazy!? I think my fear of the mile run stems from High School. Those four stupid laps around the track in gym class have forever made me put added pressure on myself when it comes to the words “timed” and “mile.” Feels like some superficial benchmark of success. My goal on Sunday: just keep swimming… I mean running. The backpack felt heavy and awkward - I synched it tight across my hips eliminating my ability to breath. I couldn’t feel my toes. We took off along the path and the up a steady clay incline. The teams were taking off every minute on the minute, and we could see the team ahead crest the peak. Over a log and back on the grass… Dave and Jay took the lead, Steve stuck with me and pushed me to the finish… 7 seconds behind the team to take first in the event. Gerrrr! But, looking back and realizing that a mile felt pretty short was astonishing - a short 10:07 with weight. Great way to warm-up on a dewy and cold Sunday morning after a full Saturday of workouts.
We wrapped up the weekend with a good long chipper on Sunday night. After placing well in most of the weekend events, we knew that our score in the final Wod didn’t matter, we were landing on the podium either way. It took off a lot of the pressure and just let us have a good time. An out of the blue afternoon rain shower made our military crawl with a ruck muddy, and we got to close it out with buddy carries and SITUPS - boom! My wheelhouse!
Maybe it was the neon wrist band… or what we’d like to call the “dreamcatcher”, either way, we rocked the scaled division of the competition… and we gorged ourselves on pizza and a pitcher of beer as a Sunday night celebration. Aside from the bruised collarbone and added thirst/hunger/fatigue the past few days, I’d say we came out unscathed. Two loads of laundry, a good scrub, yoga and a full body roll out… Dave’s jeep still smells a little like weight plates and wet ruck sacks, but aside from that and the singlet wearing, barbell holding, little golden man sitting next to my TV, the weekend war seems like a memory. Back to business as usual. Another adventure for the books. It’s hard to believe that the Cold War came and went… and that we won.
Day 330: hard work pays off in golden mantle hardware.
Day 329: This means war… Cold War day 1.
On the evening of June 15, 2012 I took on my toughest personal challenge yet. After training for months mixing bricks with running and crossfit… it was time to see what I was truly made of. Since I can’t fit it all in here, this is a short summary of our battle with the bricks. Disclaimer: All times are approximations since the use of portable electronic devices was not permitted.
20:00 - Me and six friends unload at a hidden park in upper Georgetown. The nervousness was palpable on the ride over… each of us throwing sarcastic jabs back and forth. None of us knew what to expect. I’d personally built the challenge up in my mind as a never ending session of yelling and pain, my tummy twisted as start time neared but having my small group of buddies together eased my nerves. I knew no matter what happened we’d pull each other through. We placed ourselves on the grass among about 50 other individuals wearing rucks and donned in military/camping style gear. It was like we were all just expecting something really big to happen – sitting ducks, waiting on an apocalypse of sorts. Spandy Andy was a cross between an energizer bunny and overly excited dog; Dave was quiet; Tommy seemed un-affected, cool and collected; my head raced, but I tried to play it off as calm – reminding myself that this was all just for fun. We all sat cautiously on the grass awaiting our fate. One guy in the back of the group jumped up and said, “They’re over there.” And the entire crew took off sprinting to the center of the park.
20:30 - Chaos ensued as we scrambled to form into groups and lines on the grass. Orders flew like bullets… First task: rip up pre-signed death waivers. “We don’t trust you – fill out new ones.” And on command we all fumbled to initial and sign new copies on the backs of our newly found teammates. I scanned side-to-side: We were a rough looking platoon, just shy of 30.
20:45 - A black case was thrust in front of each group which we were ordered to fill. Beer cans materialized out of rucks. When the case was full, it was taken away and replaced with two “tokens” – aka black 50lb pelican cases. “First rule of GORUCK… Your ruck sacks of bricks will never touch the ground, either will your tokens.” In addition to the two cases our team fashioned a 25lb team weight of two 12lb bowling balls connected with a 1lb chain and an ammo case filled with dirt from Arlington Cemetery.
21:00 - PT begins. What doesn’t break us, makes us. Caterpillar pushups. Squats. Ruck sack presses. Flutter kicks in counts of four… Sweat drooled… “No grunting! Suffer in silence!” Flashlights danced in between the rows of us struggling to survive. It reminded me of a grinder WOD, except in the darkness, with people you’ve never met.
23:30 - We broke into groups and began our first mission.
Throughout the course of the night we completed a series of missions, each requiring more team work than the next. Unlike some of the other groups, at no point during the night was team 183 allowed to turn on our headlamps. We moved at a brisk pace through the solitude of the empty city – canvassing Rock Creek, the National Mall and eventually Roosevelt Island. Along the way we encountered “downed pilots” in the form of heavy logs, we learned how to evade uniformed enemy and we rendezvoused with other platoons. Team members needed to be carried when they were “injured,” and beers decorated in Americana needed to be consumed to lighten the load. Without giving away too much – I’d say that over the course of 12+ hours we used our brains and our brawn… As the night broke into dawn, the punishments became fewer and fewer. We moved faster. We became a team.
04:00 - Reverent and in formation we made our way along the Vietnam wall. The flag few in the front and we marched silently in lines of two. I brushed my fingers along the etched marble names and thought of my dad… recalling the first time I’d brought him to this spot. His words echoed in my mind, “Sarah babe, if you make it to sunrise, then you know you only have a few more hours to go…” The sky began turn purple…
05:00 - After we buddy carried each other up to the temple. We sat for a moment on the steps. The sun slowly crept up over the Washington Monument melting lavender into a red and pink glow. Snickers bars and bourbon were passed down the line… a healthy slice of ‘merica. A few deep breaths. A mental photograph. But, the longer we sat the more I realized we needed to keep moving… I was getting stiff.
05:45 – I reminded myself, be careful what you wish for… We crossed back into Virginia and in-between Indian runs, we stopped to do handstand pushups on the memorial bridge… not because we deserved but because it was one hell of a picture.
06:00 - We rendezvoused with the other teams from June 15th at Roosevelt park. As we sat waiting for the next mission, we all scoped each other out, wondering what type of night the others had. How heavy were their pilots?
08:00 – After a joint safari mission, group 183 crossed back into the city for a last few tests of survival that included a very steep, very skinny and very creepy set of stairs.
At the end of the morning, patches were passed around. Beers flowed as freely as handshakes and hugs. Some people tossed their bricks… but I kept mine as a memento, figuring I’d probably miss them on my Monday commute and what was a few more miles. My lulu wonder-under survived unscathed. I had some sort of funky rash on my legs. The welt on my forehead from getting hit in the head with a log throbbed. We all stank. Our eyes burned and our bodies ached with exhaustion. As we flagged down cabs, we found the $20 that each of us had diligently packed to come in handy. We were on a personal mission for brunch and beverages.
The memories aren’t captured in photos or Facebook updates. We lived the good livin in the moment… soaking in the experience – something that so many of us forget to do these days. No watches. No phones. No outside distractions. Just ourselves and our teammates… reliant upon one another… venturing to a place outside of our comfort zones. Each of us digging deep and figuring out ourselves as individuals… together. The moments are too many to recount, but they are something that I will carry with me. A physical and mental toughness that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Registering for GoRuck: $120
Four bricks from the hardware store: $5.50
The ability to say that I am a proud member of class 183 and the owner of a patch proving I’m GoRuck Tough: Priceless
As promised… Photos from Greenhorn Adventure Race 2012 at Rocky Gap State Park. Adventure race virgin no longer!
Open windows, back roads… there’s nothing as beautiful as stars in the country. Without the florescent glow of the city defusing them, they shine like little mag-lights in a deep black sky. Fresh cold air that’s easy to breath. You can hear yourself think. Just being in Rocky Gap State Park draws me back to Ragnar, the beginning of this blog adventure… but as we pulled into the empty parking lot, we lined up the jeeps almost right where my parents had watched me finish leg one a few years back. I had a feeling most of our trekking/mountain biking tomorrow would lead us on the very same trail out and around the lake. We rolled out sleeping bags in the back of the jeep… and caught just a few short hours shut eye.
By the time we rolled out of the backseat and towards check-in at 7:30AM, the parking lot had exploded, and was buzzing with SUVs and mountain bikes and open hatchbacks. We sleepily signed waivers and secured the map… the punch key hung on lanyard around my neck. Team 373. At the car we plotted points, filled camel backs and loaded the transition with bikes and Lara bars and apple sauce and water. Talking through checkpoints and colors, we came up with some sort of strategy. I honestly wasn’t exactly how the race would go or what to expect… friends who’d raced Rocky Gap before had shared some horror stories… but we were dodging the forecast and for now, it wasn’t raining! Walking to the race brief/start I realized how light my pack was without the bricks. Body felt good. I didn’t have the same butterflies I usually get before races – I only really feared the bike. I reminded the team that I hate going out fast as we lined up along the edge of the fence in effort to beat a few people out of the gate… 3.2.1. The crowd scattered and we were off in search of checkpoints.
As hard as I try, I can’t even begin to paint an accurate picture of a race recap and a detailed blow-by-blow of the entire race would take far too long… in all honesty, we were a very focused and fit comedy of sarcasm and errors. I mean what other team throws out “thats what she said” a dozen times during an adventure race? For now, here is my feeble attempt at the highlights of my first adventure race (more photos to come, promise!):
Almost everyone took off in the same direction, up the road and into the hills. Action plan: hit four colored checkpoints before checking in at CP1. Red and white had to be snagged in this order or they wouldn’t count. We’d decided to run more and rack up points early. After hitting two colors, we found ourselves on an empty trail and as we got closer to what should have been a white check point, there was a sharp drop. Sherpa Sean attempted to start climbing down the sheer rocky edge, but between the dry tree trunks and white stone there was a steep drop-off… we would have needed rope and harnesses. First lesson learned: Cliffs are bad. 30 minutes into the race, we abandoned the game plan – points later, CP1 first.
As we whipped around the back side of the lake, we crossed in and out of a wooded trail covered in a deep blanket of dry leaves and branches. Sean and Dave were leading, maybe 50 feet ahead of me. My mind was wondering; my legs were trying to keep up with the boys. I found myself forecasting my bike performance, positive thoughts… I kept looking up, scanning for the guys than glancing back to the ground. As I went to plant my foot in an effort to log hop what looked to be a very black branch, the log moved toward my ankle. SNAKE! I let out a blood curdling scream. I could feel the adrenaline surge, the hair on my arm stood at attention – fight or flight? I flew about 10ft into the air. The boys flipped around. For a second I just stopped… blahhahaaeaehhhahh. “Better you than me,” both of the teased. A quick shake out, then back to business.
After presenting our whistles, we checked in at the beach. While making wisecracks about who was going in the water first, we crossed to the canoes and grabbed some sexy PDFs. Sean in front, myself in the middle, Dave in back. Pulling through the water was a nice breather for the legs. You’d think we’d be rockstars considering we row at Crossfit, but it took time for us to get into the rhythm. The canoe had a few deep teeters… close calls with the water before we finally managed to set up some sort of “2-1-switch” system. While gliding past some of the other boats, we decided whether we should or shouldn’t snag the points to be grabbed via canoe, during the paddle switch, Sean somehow flung his oar and sent it splashing into the lake. We watched as it floated toward the back of the boat. SHIT! We had to put on the breaks and flip the boat around. Again, against our original plan, we skipped the colored checkpoint reachable by canoe and decided that’d we spend the last moments of the race swimming. As we pulled up onto the beach to run to transition, we fumbled the canoe… I fell backwards into the boat. The race paparazzi captured it all nicely on film. I’d say, awkward would be an understatement.
Pulling out of transition, I ran myself through my gears and breaks. Control. Breath. Going fast on bikes downhill is not my forte; I have some innate fear of crashing and getting terrible road rash. But what goes down must go up. At CP3, the race director commented, “Damn, you guys got here fast.” He’d seen us last on the beach before the paddle. I managed to keep the legs moving up the long crawl back up the hill of hell. Once we were back on the trail, we pulled the bikes up over the some cement steps… time to face my fear. I could feel my hands death gripping the handle bars and laser focusing on the path just ahead of the front tire. Every few minutes I’d lose site of the boys and they’d shout back, “Shank?” and I’d say “Coming!” As long as I kept pedaling, I knew I’d be fine. Rocks, roots, there were a few rough points… but I managed to hold my own in my personal battle with the bike. Besides throwing Dave into a tree… I’d say I fared better than expected.
Since we’d missed the first two colored checkpoints, we needed to cash in for 20 points at silver. We checked in at CP5, dropped the bikes and headed up the hill. After crossing an empty creek bed, the incline increased, quickly. Reading elevation lines is a good idea: From the map, we knew the check-in would be at the very top of the hill, we just didn’t really realize how steep of a climb it would be. Sean trekked up ahead and kept looking back shouting, “keep moving.” Oh, I was moving… but my calves were cramping with every step. The deep dead leaves and rotten trees made it hard to navigate. My legs were on fire… one foot in front of the other. When we finally reached the top, I scribbled our time, heard the key box beep and then we were headed back down. We all broke into a jog when we hit the grass and after a brief run in with a local and his shotgun telling us we were on private property, we crossed back to CP6. Back on the bikes for the last section of trail… and boom, it finally started to rain.
We were lucky that it had held off for most of the morning, but the drizzle quickly became a downpour and as we started onto the single track, I could see little pieces of hail bouncing off the number card attached to the handle bars. The trail was muddy and fast! I slid out in one of the corners landing sideways on the hill with the bike splayed out below, but quickly hopped back on and fell back in line with the rest of the chain of bikers. When we finally hit the beach, we ditched the bikes, our packs and helmets and took to the water.
Cold water + tired legs + giant PDF = slow swimming Sarah. Last checkpoint was buoy maybe 100 yards off-shore. The PFD I’d grabbed was probably about 4 sizes too big and in an effort to keep up with the boys I couldn’t synch it down fast enough. The water wasn’t as cold as it could have been, but still a shock to the system. It felt like my legs just weren’t working… and the giant PFD was making it almost impossible to pull with my arms. I probably looked like a little kid drowning. After hitting the buoy we checked in and then flipped around to get to the beach where we’d finish. I felt like I was swimming in slow motion. But when we could finally stand… We ran onto the beach, ditched the PFDS, grabbed our stuff and ran up to the final checkpoint.
When we buzzed in, the woman told us we were likely 3rd or 4th. First adventure race complete! Wet. Tired. We walked the bikes to the car. Hit the park showers. Then head to the tent in search of post-race nomnom. The sun had come back out and racers filled the grass waiting for the awards ceremony.
I was a tad nervous when they started announcing brackets, specifically the 3 person co-eds. They announced 5th, then 4th… I kinda sighed, maybe we didn’t place after all. My goal from the start had been to earn a pint glass. Then 3rd: 2 Bros and a Hoe! The crowd seemed to appreciate our name. Three of us shared the small podium space, holding onto our rightfully earned hardware.
As quickly as it started, it was over. We threw our packs and dirty cloths and winnings in the car. As we rolled out of the parking lot, I had that happy/tired/sore feeling. Anyone who’s done a longer race knows exactly what I’m talking about. The moment when you’re relieved to be done, but sad it’s all over… tired but accomplished… a sort of post-race glow and hangover all at once. Recounting it comes back in pieces… quick quips, comments from other teams, polo shirt for camping, snakes, paddle dropping, missing out on 2nd by 6 seconds, winning prizes for jumping in the lake with clean clothes on…
Cars with muddy mountain bikes dotted the highway on the way back to DC and passing each one made me smile.
Bucket list item #82: Adventure Race, check!
I pulled up the sleeve of my sweater at work and caught the remnants of number 9979. The permanent marker outline was faded, but still there. I swear I’ve tried to scrub it off in the shower, but in some ways it’s my reminder of the epic Tough Mudder weekend and holding onto it is a sort of badge of honor. Just like my Ragnar tattoo a few weeks back, it’s funny to see it juxtaposed against my business black. Out of place perhaps, but to me a hidden reminder of my other weekend life. Honestly, if it weren’t for it, or the bruises on my underarms and shins, the race feels like a distant memory faded into the florescent sun and conference calls. Much like my other weekend adventures, this was one that not many people would understand. A Sunday race through the woods, perhaps… but a diving into a dumpster of ice? climbing a black diamond? paying to get shocked? The questions would be too many to answer. Yes, I am crazy and yes, I do this for fun.
I’ve done mud runs before, so I must admit the thought of falling into an icy lake in October while attempting monkey bars wasn’t super appealing at first – buuutttt turning down a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course? Me? Wasn’t going to happen. I’ve likened my willingness to get talked into races to how others get talked into drugs or drinking… the game plan is simple. Lay the peer pressure on thick, make it sound like a fun adventure, and usually… I fold. This course, designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie, included 10+ miles and 25 obstacles. Trust me, it lived up to its promise.
The setting was perfect! Beautiful fall day in the mountains… changing leaves… brisk mountain air… limited cell phone service. In expectation of rocks and mud, I’d picked to don running tights and tight long sleeves. After a winding bus ride from the overflow parking field, we were consumed by a crowd of costumes and bare chested men with smatterings of body paint. Upon receiving my registration information, I was asked to pull up my hair and my race number was tattooed to my forehead in permanent marker, then my arm… oh it was going to be one of those types of races!! We met our team, “Health and Wholeness” to shake out a few last minute jitters (aka performance pees) and apply our war stripes. We split into groups of four – mine, which we appropriately named “Team Awesome” during the race, included Dan, TJ, Melina and myself. Since a 4 hour blow-by-blow would take pages… I’ve consolidated my race report into bullets. Here goes:
With our headbands on, we each got a beer as we passed through the finish. Some people got tattoos, others peeled off layers of wet clothes in exchange for a t-shirt… I eventually called my mom, and blurted out, “well, we’re alive.” Somewhere between trying to explain the ice bath and the 12ft walls, I realized that as much as it was a rough race, something about it was super awesome. The toughest event on the planet? Debatable, but definitely one for the record books. Each of us that forged our way to the finish were officially Tough Mudders and those of us that survived have a common bond – a secret hand-shake if you will, maybe a nod, an understanding of the battle it took to get there.
For me, the joy in racing is pushing myself to a new place, stepping out of my comfort zone. On the ride home I realized a few things:
Exhausted, muddy and cold, we finally made it back home. For now, I’ll settle for rocking my orange headband. But I can’t imagine that Mudder 2012 will take too much convincing.