Sarah Finding Fit

An unconventional look at fitness... my journey in reaching goals, laughing and having a bunch of outstanding adventures.

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The Mid Atlantic Affiliate Challenge - Team Too Tall Takes Two

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:

  • I am capable of sleeping anywhere. Yes, I passed out cold, on my back, on a turf floor inside an arena filled with pumping music, lots of people and the sound of heavy weight dropping. Not once, but twice. Apparently my body needed sleep.
  • Adrenaline is a powerful tool – 3 sets of 5, 185# deadlifts. Unbroken wall balls. I almost passed out, but it felt a little bit like flying.
  • Not everything goes according to plan.
  • True speed only happens in competition.
  • Simultaneously carrying a yolk and appearing to be sober is crazy hard.
  • Thrusters blow. Always. At any weight. Under any circumstance.
  • K tape makes you look sexy. Maybe that’s why some people put it everywhere.
  • Voodoo bands really do work magic
  • Bicep curls? We don’t do those at the gym, so…  someone must be doing them in his spare time – that, or Photoshop works wonders.image
  • There are two places where it is acceptable to wear next to nothing: The beach and Crossfit Comps. Hard bodies rocking tiny clothes galore.
  • Handstand holds are harder then they appear – even if you do yoga. Yup, we made the right decision, thank you Sarah and Dave.image

  • PRs sometimes happen when you least expect them.
  • Crossfit folk are incestuous.
  • They might play loud-ass music - but you’ll hear nothing except yourself breathing. Then you’ll wonder… did they play music during MY heat.
  • No and Rep are two really dirty words.
  • I’m content being known as the girl carrying around toilet paper – because then I always have some.
  • Poop is a consuming topic of conversation.
  • Lifting ladders are long, but inspirational.
  • Nutrition aids in recovery – easy in theory, but officially put into practice this go around and I was barely sore.
  • Routines die hard. Same restaurant post Day 1. Same food post Day 2.
  • Going first has its positives, but it also has some huge setbacks.
  • Remember, everyone plays to win. 
  • My “game face” really is not cute – all of the recently tagged Facebook photos prove it.image
  • Morning work-outs = good practice for 8AM heat times.

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.

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Filed under crossfit competition mid-atlantic affilliate challenge cfsa team weekend betterthanyesterday winning friends fun food lessons learned cold war

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This Means War

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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:

  • When you think you packed enough clothes, pack more. I had on 5 layers Saturday and still couldn’t get warm.
  • Wearing flip-flops to a competition in the middle of December is a terrible idea. Cold toes = cold core.
  • If you are double under jump-roping rockstar, make sure you can still rock out some single unders… they might come back to haunt you. Jay and Dave doing 200 single unders. Amateurs!
  • Work as a team. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
  • When a teammate says they are scared of an activity, there is likely a reason. Some people are just not good at med-ball cleans. Sorry Steve. Lesson learned.
  • Rely on your teammates, but also rely on yourself. Trust your gut.
  • When your coach offers to give you athletic tape to take with you, do it. There will likely be a need for it.
  • But desperate times call for desperate measures… when in a pinch ask a mom, she’ll likely feel bad and let you borrow some.
  • "When you go up, I go down."
  • Cement stones are heavy, awkward to carry, and hurt your ears. But apparently it’s easy for some people to roll a 120-pound atlas stone from one shoulder to the other while still moving forward.
  • Atlas stones make you walk sideways.
  • Consistency is key. Be decently good at everything. Easy enough said.
  • "Take a breath and go" and "don’t you even look at that clock" are probably the last thingsyou want to hear when you’re 6+ minutes into an "as many reps as possible" workout.
  • 17 front squats off the floor at 95# - I call that a win.
  • Judge: “Wait you’re not planning to do ANY pull-ups?” Me: Nope Judge: “Nice. Well that makes my job easy” (Marks 0 on my score card) whomp whomp.
  • Crosswords and CrossFit don’t mix. The entire team made considerable progress on our 1 bonus point crossword puzzle while doing the one-mile rucksack run. Just kidding. It never left Steve’s pocket.
  • Workouts that include things like “man makers” and “snatch punishers” are hard core. Fun, but brutal.
  • Things that look easy can be deceivingly difficult!
  • Know what work you have to complete ahead of time, because sometimes even the judge may stop counting. “You’re done, no wait, you have 20 more reps? Okay, NOW you’re done.”
  • Judging is like life, it isn’t always fair. Deal with it.
  • Lunging a lot makes your legs feel like Jell-o.
  • The catastro-fudge that was our team’s sledgehammer experience. Count your own reps. Screaming at the judge “WE HAVE OUR OWN REP SCHEME” probably isn’t the best choice of words in any situation.
  • Having the team meltdown caught on film… priceless.
  • There is a mixed feeling of wanting to barf, pee yourself, and run for your life when your drill sergeant like judge screams at you to “RUN, RUN, RUN” half way through the workout.
  • Watching wind-up toy Steve take off like a rocket and bolt back into the gym at a zillion miles an hour is also priceless.
  • Apparently there are moments when none of us are impressed.
  • Wait, they played music during our Wod’s?
  • Hanging from a monkey bar is harder than you think. We give Steve credit for non-chalently thinking he’d hang from the cage while the rest of us did 80 med-ball cleans, but laughed our asses off when at rep 20 he was hanging from his pinky fingers and frantically screaming for help. Guys? Guys?
  • Standing under a cage with your arms in the air calling for a boost from your teammates like a little kid isn’t an ideal position to be in during a Wod. Funny, but not ideal.
  • Spelling abilities go downhill quickly while crossfitting. Rabdo… Rhabdo… Rhabdomyolysis…
  • After competing all day, you want food fast. Waiting at Ray’s the Third for 40 … no, 50 … no, 60 minutes for a table. Hostess: “You all ready to be seated? Okay… just give me three more minutes.” Not cool!
  • Mind over matter, except when your grip just totally fails. Then there is absolutely nothing you can do besides drop the bar.
  • All girls like the song “Call Me Maybe.” For those that it helped during the mini-Wod on Saturday, you’re welcome.

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.

Filed under crossfit competition coldwar running lifting workouts team weekend

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Becoming GoRuck Tough - A Proud Member of Devin’s Cupcakes!

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

Filed under goruck bricks crossfit running team challenge

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Bucket List Item #82: Trek, Paddle, Mt. Bike, Swim?

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!

Filed under swim Adventure Race mountainbiking trails trailrunning team crossfit paddle ragnar relay winning

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Surviving Tough Mudder

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:

  •  I have a new appreciation for skiing DOWN black diamond mountains. The race started, ended and included approximately 3 mid-course steep climbs. One was appropriately named the “death march.” Yes, there were burning calves. Yes, there was heaving breathing. Yes, we passed people throwing up. Running was absolutely not an option.
  • The race was 70 percent men, most of whom fit the profile of: military, ripped, super fit. I must admit that I smirked when I passed a bunch of them on the uphill portion of the Lumberjack AKA “carry a log of wood up and down a mountain” obstacle. Thank you sand bag getups.
  • Being short may be great for some things, but… climbing over 12ft walls is not one of them. There is a major need for boosting up and over, and the drop back to the ground is SUPER far. I think my death grip at the top might be the culprit of my bruised arms.
  • There is a fun little thing called ASS RASH that you get at Crossfit when you do a zillion abs on an Ab Mat. What is Ass Rash you ask?: basically rug burn on the top of your butt crack. Sexy, right? Well… Crossfit makes people sexy in many ways, but that is a totally separate blog post. Sliding down a hill on a giant adult slip-and-slide and into a pool of icy mud is actually super fun, but it irritates the hell out of ass rash and burns like crazy. Aquafor and Neosporin were much needed post-race. Nuff said.
  • Sports bras are the perfect place to store race fuel. Thank god we did, because when what was supposed to be a 9 mile/2.5 hour race became an 11mile/4 hour test of survival, having fuel was key.
  • People should climb cargo nets more often. In fact, maybe it should be part of job interviews. Super fun.
  • Chapstick is a race necessity. Don’t leave the start without it.
  • The Shenandoah Mountains are beautiful in the fall – go see them! Taking a second to check out the fall foliage while running along the crest of a mountain, made being muddy, cold and wet almost enjoyable. It proved that trails rather than roads is where I belong.
  • Jumping into a giant trash dumpster of icy, food-colored water can kill you, or wait, at least make you feel like you’re dying. Team Awesome “manned up” and in pairs, jumped into the Chernobyl Jacuzzi that was filled with the most ice – literally the two other bins looked almost empty. Hand-in-hand on the count of 3, Dan pulled me into the water. He went immediately under to the other side of the barbed wire board. I, on the other hand, popped up before the crossing under the board and I believe stammered, “I. can’t. breath.” To which Dan responded, “I’m not getting out without you. GO!” I managed to catch enough air to go under water and swim to the other side. We then climbed up and over the piles of ice and out of the bin with the help of our teammates. I mean, at this point I felt like we were in a war, not running a race. Worst obstacle by far! Early race ice bath equals frozen wet clothes for the rest of the race.
  • Back to the beauty of being short. “Shallow” water, is actually pretty darn deep. Places where others can stand comfortably, usually means that I am under water. When the water is icy, not so awesome. I’d say I was fully submerged during at least 5 obstacles.
  • Monkey bars are only easy when you are 5. The threat of falling into an icy pond has absolutely no impact on your ability to hang on to spinning metal bars.
  • Being sprayed by high pressure fire-hoses doesn’t only happen when you are protesting. Apparently people, like myself, pay to get sprayed by them. They are both cold and ouchy, promise.
  • Hurling yourself over obstacles, running through the woods in wet and heavy clothing/sneekers, and prancing up and down a ski resort without much water or food for 4 hours is utterly exhausting – much more difficult than running any road race.
  • Thank god for dudes – seriously! Normally I’d attribute my success to training (which no doubt played part), but this serves as a huge public thank you to both my guy teammates and fellow-mudders who let me stand on their shoulders/hoisted me over the giant “Everest” quarter pipe, held my hand when I jumped into a bath of ice, and lended their knee to boost me up over 4 walls. In all honesty, the race may have been an epic failure without you guys.
  • Running around golf courses is boring.
  • Realizing that you can barely run because your muscles are cramping, but feeling like you have to run to get warm is a very bizarre experience.
  • If you have a team, stick together.
  • Watching your teammates lips start to match your blue team t-shirt is frightening.
  • The thought of getting zapped by a car battery at the end of a 4 hour race seems easy enough when compared with the thought of getting wet by a freezing fire hose again (especially when you finally feel semi-dry). Yes, we were watered up and then trust through a framework of hanging wires. All I remember is holding my breath and running with my hands in front of me. The zap to my arm felt a little like sticking your finger in a light socket, but the joy in being at the finish more than made up for it.
  •  Headbands are good swag! Especially when they are orange and come as the reward for living through one hell of an adventure.

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:

  • It is possible to inhale a loaded Five Guys Double Cheese Burger in a matter of minutes.
  • Babywipes are an amazing invention.
  • Warm sweat pants are now officially my favorite item of clothing.
  • Even though, I’d initially vowed to just throw out my clothes upon race finish, they had somehow landed in a giant trash bag in the trunk, ready to be washed and saved.
  • Being surrounded by a bunch of crazy adrenaline- seeking, fitness junky friends is priceless. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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.

Filed under crossfit mud mudrun obstacle course races ragnar relay running team toughmudder