Pulse Check: Racing, Training, The Off Season, and a mile for time.

Pulse Check: Racing, Training, The Off Season, and a mile for time.

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post about anything other than my experience racing the previous weekend. Well, I didn’t race last weekend and I don’t race this weekend. In fact, I don’t have another race until 11/2/17, which will be my last OCR for the year! The race season is ending and I am meeting it with mixed emotions. Part of me has loved traveling around seeing all these new races and venues – it’s been an incredible experience! But there is also part of me that is just tired. Not just physically, but mentally. I never really understood it when I would hear athletes talk about the difficulty in maintaining their training during their sport’s season. I have learned that trying to keep your personal/family life together, to keep training at a high intensity, and to race at least once every two weeks or so is extremely difficult. So, it will be nice to have some time off.

After my race in Fayetteville I decided to take the entire next week off. I didn’t run, I didn’t lift a weight, and I slept in everyday. It was amazing! But what was even more amazing was by Thursday my body was yelling at me to move. I know that I wasn’t 100% healed up as I still had (and have) some sore spots, but those few days of relaxation were enough for my body to catch up and it was ready to start working again. I resisted the urge and held out until that Monday to start working out again, just to be sure I was ready.

I am very surprised when I started doing my normal workouts again. It has been months since I was on any solid workout plan because I was trying to give my body the time it needed to heal in between events. I’d workout when I could and I would try to hit the things that felt the least tired, but it was more cardio and yoga, and less strength training. Now that I am strength training again my body is responding very well to it. It seems that it has been missing that aspect of my training and it feels great to be doing it again. The most interesting part is how much strength I’ve lost. I suppose the muscles that were involved in racing have been maintained, but I have lost a lot of strength and even endurance in a lot of exercises. I have even lost some of the progress I was making towards doing pull ups. I thought that the OCR events would have been enough to maintain that strength, but I was mistaken. The good news is that I can feel that strength returning pretty quickly and with each workout things are getting better.

I am pretty excited about training this Winter and to come in strong next year. I am in a much better and more fit place than I was this time last year, so if I can make the same improvements this Winter that I made last Winter I should be in a very good spot come Spring! In addition to getting stronger I, of course, want to be a much faster runner. I haven’t really done any running (outside of a race) since late Spring. The races were just too frequent and with my history of injuries I couldn’t risk pushing too hard. While most of my strength was  diminishing over the season, I felt that my running was doing ok. I wasn’t really getting much faster and I’ve been having a little more trouble in the longer events with endurance, but for the most part I think that aspect of my fitness has been holding up pretty well over the months.

I decided this week that it was a good time to try my legs out and to see where I am with my running. Again, I hadn’t done any training runs and I haven’t done a mile time trial for almost a year now, and I was really curious to see what my time would be. Remember, when I started I finished my mile in 9:45 and my second test was 8:44. I wasn’t really sure how this one would go, I was hopeful, but didn’t set my expectations too high.

Unfortunately, most of the schools around here have been locking their tracks a lot more often lately. I am not sure why, but it’s really disappointing. I don’t really have the time to drive all over the city trying to find a track that I can run on, and honestly that would be stressful than it’s worth. I have a few relatively flat roads in my neighborhood, so I decided, for simplicity’s sake, I would just go out and use my phone to track my distance as I ran on the road. I know it’s not quite as accurate and that the uneven road surfaces and elevation changes would affect my time, but it would probably be close enough that I could feel good about it. I also used 3 different run apps at the same time to be sure my results were as accurate as possible.

It was a hot and muggy morning, not ideal for running, but I did it in the early morning so at least the sun wasn’t up to make it more uncomfortable. As I was running I felt like I was definitely moving at a pretty good pace. It felt faster than I remember running in any other test or race. By the half mile mark I was getting pretty winded and I was a little worried about keeping up that pace until the end, but my legs were feeling pretty good, so I tried to just keep pushing it. I think somewhere around the 3/4 mile mark I started really hurting and I slowed down a bit, but knowing I was almost done gave me a little push at the end and I stepped it back up. I have to say when I hit that mile mark I was pretty impressed with my time!

I ended up running that mile in 7 minutes and 12 seconds! That is the fastest mile I have run in my entire adult life! I am amazed that I was able to run that as I haven’t really been doing much ‘running’ and I figured progress wouldn’t be so dramatic! Oddly, being so close to breaking 7 minutes made me a little sad. I’m not sure if everyone is like this but I feel like that 7 minute mile is sort of the bridge between a casual runner and someone who is a fast runner. I do realize there are a lot of people who can’t even run a 7  minute mile, but I was the most proud of my running when people would ask what my mile time was an I could start it off with a 6. Even though I am not there yet, I am so close! And I think that this really reinforces that I can reach my goal of breaking 5 minutes. I still have a good amount of weight to lose and I know that I am capable of so much more. Now that race season is just about over I am very excited to continue my training and to see where I am this time next year!

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Spartan Super – Fayetteville, NC (9/23/17)

Spartan Super – Fayetteville, NC (9/23/17)

Another new race venue for me in Fayetteville, NC! Now, I did race the Fort Bragg Military Sprint last year, which was just down the road, but that is/was a different race. So, I’m not completely new to the area, but this is my first time at this race. It’s my second to last OCR race for this season and my second to last race needed to get my 3x Trifecta for the year!

The first thing I noticed about this venue was, of course, the course itself. As you drive in you drive past the festival area and finish line, including those last few obstacles. There is something exciting about seeing what you are about to get into before you actually get to it. This is one of the few races that I’ve been to where VIP parking was actually something I wish I had purchased. Us regular folk had to park close to a half mile away and walk back to the festival area we had just passed. That’s ok though, a few extra steps shouldn’t bother anyone that is about to tackle a Spartan Super! Parking was also quick and easy, so I won’t complain about that!

It was a pretty warm day to run, especially since it’s supposed to technically be fall now. The temperature very quickly rose above 80 degrees (27C). I think when I finished the race it was around 86. When I was driving home my car said it was at or above 90. Since I was running early the start wasn’t so bad though, and the grass (and obstacles!) were still wet with dew.  The sun came out during the race and it was very aggressive, and there were few clouds to protect us. Luckily, there wasn’t too much open running and most of the race had some tree coverage.

The race course was exceptionally flat! I’m having trouble making my mind up about this trend. The more races I do, the flatter they seem to become. I know there are still a few serious climbs at some of the races, but so many other races have flattened out. I think running a flat course once in awhile is pretty cool, it gives you a chance to really open up and run instead of just power hiking, but I prefer the courses to have some variation. Anyway,  this was a fast course! The winning time was exactly one hour, and the course was over 8.5 miles. The course had some technical terrain, but for the most part it was kind of standard trail running. I will say, this course had a lot more muddy spots than most races I’ve done recently, which I really liked! It was a real mud run!

The obstacles were really well placed too, none of them seemed too on top of each other, even the ones that were right next to each other. It seemed to have a good flow and everything made sense. They did some interesting things with obstacle placement in this race though, and I thought it was really cool. For example, the Multi-Rig lead directly into a really long Barbed Wire Crawl. This crawl was probably the longest one I’ve ever done. It was mostly flat or downhill, and there was some mud, but not too much, so you could roll most of it. As soon as you completed that you did the Rolling Mud and Dunk Wall, followed immediately by the Slip Wall. The end of the race too, which usually does have some back to back obstacles had Twister, then Olympus, the Spear Throw then it finished with the A-Frame Cargo Net leading into the fire jump. I hadn’t dont a race with the A-Frame as the last real obstacle. It was also cool to see the Spear Throw at the end again. It’s been along time since I’ve seen that.

My performance was both better than I was expecting and worse than I wanted. Though, I suppose until I am on  the 1st place podium I will find something to harass myself about. I have been feel super fatigued lately. I think the combination of frequent races, home workouts, and not enough sleep have just got me in a perpetual state of fatigue. My shoulders and parts of my arms haven’t stopped hurting since WV. My legs often feel like lead, even if I haven’t done anything. Most days I’m just tired and don’t have the energy to do much. Last weekend’s race had me really worried about this weekend. I did really poorly in that race, by my standards, and I didn’t know how I’d fair in this race.

I am happy to say that I took some rest days and upped my calorie intake and it seems to have made a difference and I was feeling pretty good most of the race. I was able to actually run a good portion of it and most of the obstacles didn’t give me much trouble at all. Around mile 6 I started feeling it and after mile 7 I had pretty much drained the tank. That last two miles of the race were easily the slowest of the whole race. I didn’t have much left to summon up and I needed that strength for the obstacles, so I didn’t run much in that last bit. I think that with my fatigue and the fact that I haven’t really been running at all, other than in my races, I was doomed to bonk at the end of this race. I’m not too upset about it though, as it was, on the whole, a very good race for me. I did set my Super PR by 9 minutes. I really wanted to break 2 hours, but I didn’t quite make it and come in at 2:09. Still, considering everything I think I did pretty great!

As for the obstacles I managed to climb the rope and nail the spear again in this race! That’s 4 races in a row that I have conquered those obstacles. Since those two were ones I could never complete before, it feels really good to finish them now, and save myself all that time and energy from doing those would-be 60 burpees. I also redeemed myself on the Monkey Bars from my race in DC two weeks ago! The bars were wet this time too, but not as quite as slippery. I did use my FitFour gloves, but I found that they actually almost made me slip off a couple of times, so I had to be careful, but I made it and that’s all that matters! I think I talked myself out of Twister before I even got there. Looking back on it I didn’t give it everything I had. Defeated, I did my burpees and marched over to Olympus. I have been thinking a lot about this obstacle and I had worked out some tactics to get me through it. I put those tactics to the test and I successfully got through it! Feeling pretty pumped about that it helped me land the spear throw a dig up a tiny bit of energy for a little push at the end. I also didn’t make the rig, I tried it with the gloves, as there were ropes on it, not just rings, and my hands are pretty torn up. I think If I had fresh hands and wasn’t wearing the gloves I would have had it. But still, 60 burpees ina race is a record low for me so I won’t complain! I’m getting that much close to a clean race!!

This was a fun course, even though I complained about how flat it was. I think if I were in a better physical state I would have loved it because I would have been flying around the course. For now I will tentatively be coming back here next year. I am tossing around the idea of getting an Endurance Trifecta and it will host both Hurricane Heats that I will need to do so. If I do come back for that I don’t know that I’ll be able to resist the urge to tackle this Super again, and if I’m feeling really daring I might sign up for the Sprint on Sunday as well!

 

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