Sunday, April 29, 2012

The sexiest I have ever been

After today, I think all the important pre-triathlon checklist items have been completed.

Today I tried out my Hanukkah gift from my Dad - my very own wetsuit! For you gentiles, Hanukkah is in December, so it's been hanging out in my closet for awhile. With an open water swim scheduled at 2pm, around 10:00 this morning I thought maybe I should unwrap it and make sure it fits. Eric was a tad surprised when he looked up from the laptop to find me standing next to him huffing and puffing, attempting to put on a wetsuit.

I was able to get it on and off independently, so I'm one step closer to Half Ironman success.

When I was about to leave for the swim, bike, run that the triathlon club was hosting, the temperature hadn't even reached 60 yet. The water temperature in Baltimore is 58 degrees. Perfect for jumping in a lake to do some swimming!

I can't jump in freezing water without my training buddy.
The instructions were that we had to wade in to the first buoy together before we began swimming. I was freaking out a little bit about how cold the water was going to be, but I tried to remind myself that no matter what happened, I didn't have to carry a telephone pole later.

The wetsuit was magical - my feet were freezing, but my legs weren't cold at all. Everything the wetsuit covered was nice and warm. Of course, when we started swimming, I thought my face was going to turn to ice and fall off like a stalactite. The wetsuit restricted my motion a bit, so I had to get used to that, but I was so buoyant that swimming felt so much easier.

We swam around the two buoys for a little while and then the guy in charge told everyone to swim to shore and get out. I was pretty shocked when I glanced at my watch and it had only been 15 minutes. In addition to feeling like I couldn't catch my breath due to the cold, the current was an unwelcome surprise. I forgot that fighting waves and sighting is a lot harder than laps at the YMCA. 

Once again, I got the wetsuit off (a little more challenging when it was actually wet), busted the bike out, and we did a 14.9 mile ride. My quads were burning from last weekend, but other than that it was a great ride. After the ride, we completed an easy 5K around the park (average pace 9:22). 

I have no idea why my face looks like that.
Now, I just need to do it all again in two weeks. With a ton of additional distance in each sport. 

I was starving when I was done, and Lily and her grandmother were nice enough to bring me some arepas, which are Colombian corn cakes. She told me to heat it up on the stove and put some butter on it, so I decided to combine the two and cook them in a load of butter. Delicious.

I'm noticing a theme here of me jumping into bodies of really cold water on the weekends. I think I need to come up with some other (more normal) recreational activities.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Last weekend, I brought my bike in for a tune up, so it would be all squeaky clean and operating perfectly for the half ironman. I actually kind of missed it while it was in the shop. Both Lily and I were supposed to pick our bikes up on Tuesday from the tune ups, but both of us were having trouble even walking, so we had to postpone. 

We met this morning for an hour long run before getting the bikes. Running on a totally flat route at a 9:32 pace felt tougher than it should have - aka still working on recovering from GORUCK. We got our bikes slightly adjusted for a better fit, then took them out for a super slow half hour ride to make sure everything was ok. I was wearing a jacket, tights, and gloves, and I was so cold the ride was miserable. It's almost May - are we ever going to have spring?

Earlier in the week, I compared GORUCK to a 50 mile race, and declared that GORUCK won in the category of dirtiness. Now I'm realizing that I didn't even fully comprehend how huge the margin was. 

 Today I finally embarked on the adventure of cleaning up from GORUCK. Don't judge me for being a scumbag, or I'll be forced to email you a long list of excuses detailing the boring tasks I had to attend to this week that didn't allow me to unpack my bags or wash my clothes, complete with a ton of complains about how sore I was.

There was a whole line of conversation in our GORUCK Facebook group about how to get the nasty swamp smell out of clothing. It wasn't easy. I'd intended to wear all clothes I could throw away but after suffering a panic attack due to dropping temperatures the day of the event, I'd accidentally ended up wearing my good Under Armour leggings, smart wool socks and my second best sports bra. My hands were throbbing by the time I'd rinsed my stuff like 99 times and I was still squeezing out mud and sand. After several hours of soaking and rinsing, I finally soaked the clothes in vinegar, per Facebook suggestion. Nothing makes a bathroom smell delicious like nasty swamp clothes soaking in vinegar. 

Once that was all taken care of, I gave myself a little at home pedicure, and removed a frightening amount of sand from beneath my toenails. Gross, but you should just all be thankful I'm not posting my picture of my nasty post GORUCK feet yet again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Running hurts my arms

I noticed Thursday morning that I was able to get out of bed without a 12 step process that involved a lot of moaning, groaning, and other unattractive sounds. As soon as I walked past Eric, he remarked "You're moving a lot better!" right away. I was even almost able to keep up with my class in the hallway again, so it was clear it was time to do something after work other than attaching my butt to the couch.

It was a beautiful day, but I really wasn't feeling running quite yet, and my bike is still in the shop getting a tune up. It was a clear call for my favorite type of lazy day exercise - the elliptical. Not the the elliptical can't provide a good work, but it's an option, not a given. I did 50 minutes of hill intervals with Self magazine, got a bit sweaty, and learned how many calories snowboarding burns. Perfect.

It was also clearly my lucky day, and I got the last yoga ticket. I was able to do warrior 2.

A good teacher always provides visuals
Anything else where I was supposed to be supporting myself on my arms was just embarrassing. I did hold the planks though, mainly because I couldn't face the humiliation of going to my knees.

I don't know about you guys, but when I got to the beach, I plan on doing nothing but yoga poses all over the place.

Being back to normal, I went for a five mile run this morning. After a big race, I like to leave my Garmin at home on my first run. I know it's going to be slow, so no use getting depressed over the specific numbers, especially on a beautiful Friday morning. On my run, I realized maybe I wasn't back to normal. It was harder than it should have been. I never knew running could make my arms hurt, but they are still on fire. Could that be why GORUCK recommends actually training with the pack prior to the event?

My entire goal for this week was to recover from GORUCK, so any exercise prior to Sunday is a bonus. I'm less than three weeks out from the half ironman, so I'd be tapering at this point anyway. I think I'm as trained as I'm going to get. While this week may look (and feel, for me) pretty pathetic in terms of training, I'd rather fully recover than jump back in and feel tired at the HIM, which is my goal race. 

It's amazing how much more I am looking forward to a weekend when it doesn't include a night of torture.

How long do you like to recover after races?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

GORUCK vs. 50 Miler

Now that I've done both, the thought of doing either one again still terrifies me. I think it's safe to say that those two events will be among the most challenging things I'll be paying to do in my lifetime, so in case you are considering one or the other, let's do a little comparison shopping and see which one was worse.

The preparation:
As with any race, I completely agonized over what to wear, and with both races, the stakes were higher because I knew I'd be out a lot longer than a typical race. (14 + hours for the 50 miler, 12 hours for GORUCK).

50 Miler (Stone Mill, aka SM): I had two drop bags to fill with crap, and I needed to try to anticipate what I thought I might want at mile 23 compared to mile 39 (I was way off on both). I didn't really have to worry too much about food or hydration because there were so many aid stations. Basically I spent a lot of time packing a lot of crap that I never touched.

GORUCK (GR): I think the fact that I had to buy bricks and duct tape them together takes the cake. Not only that, in addition to freaking out about the weather, I had to try to plan for being submerged in water at some point in the night. I also had to bring all my own food and hydration, and water proof everything. Finally, I had to accept that everything I was going to wear may have to go directly in the trash when I was done.

Winner: GORUCK

Anxiety: My anxiety is totally out of control, so I anticipated the worst through a series of nightmares and daymares for both events. As a result, neither one was as horrible as I’d imagined.

Winner: TIE


SM: I ran through the woods for more than 50 miles, I had several falls, and mud and water were involved. Still, since the majority of the race was just running, with only the bottom of my feet hitting the dirt, it wasn’t too bad.

GORUCK: One of our first activites was belly crawling through mud. We were also assigned to cover ourselves in mud, and then jumped in some filthy water, heads under and everything. After that we did more running and relatively clean activites, but the damage was done. People are still trying to get the mud out of their clothes.

Winner: GORUCK


SM: Headlamps were required at the beginning of the race. I knew I’d be starting in the dark, but I didn’t know I’d be finishing in the dark. And by finishing, I mean running more than the last three hours in the dark. I still shudder thinking of that - running in darkness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. If my headlamp had gone out, my life would have been over. One wrong step on a wet leaf and I was done. Terrifying.

Beginnging - dark. Much like the end.
GORUCK: It started at 10pm, so the darkness was all part of the package. I had my headlamp, and stayed in well lit neighborhoods. The only time I was in pitch blackness was the split second after I jumped in the harbor before I surfaced. Nothing to be scared of there.

Several hours in with many to go - dark

Winner: Stone Mill

Wetness (that’s what she said):

SM: The website boasted about an amazing stream crossing, but most of them were just little baby creeks. Little did I know that it would be at mile 47, in that pitch blackness, and it would be more like an icy river. I had to hold onto a rope to get across. Then, a few miles later, I got to do it again. Still, I was never wet above the waist, and most of the wetness was towards the end.

I did a lot of this

GR: Again, the word on the street was that all challenges featured getting in a body of water. When we were bear crawling through the marsh first thing, I thought that was it, and I was relieved, because it wasn’t too cold, and my head never went in. Little did I know that two hours or so later I’d be fully submerged. Jumping in the cold water was unpleasant, but it was also over in less than a minute. Hanging around in soaking wet clothes lasted hours and hours. Oh, and it rained.

No avoiding the water this time
Winner: GORUCK

Mental Toughness

SM: Running 50 miles can really mess with your head. Imagine running 10 miles and realizing you have 40 more to go. Just trying to keep running knowing how far I had to go was harder than I thought it would be. I struggled through a lot of low points where I felt weak, shaky, and totally defeated - early on in the race. It hit me at mile 23 and I went through some peaks and valleys after that. At the end of the race, the miles just kept increasing and defying math (for example, we were told we were at mile 44, but we had 9 miles to go). Never knowing how far we had to go or when the next magic increase would be wreaked havoc on my motivation. Add that to running on hilly, wet leave covered minefields in utter darkness and you have some serious mind games. Let’s not forget the icy stream crossing that cropped up.

GR: I went in knowing that I wasn’t going to have a clue how far I’d gone or how much longer it was going to last, so I think releasing that control ahead of time was really helpful (unlike Stone Mill, where I thought I knew what I was getting in to). Jackie kept telling me ahead of time that when I thought I couldn’t go on, just to remind myself it would get better. In the first minute or two, Colleen turned to me and told me that if I ever felt like I couldn’t handle it, I needed to come to her and tell her right away and she’d get me through it. That was such a confidence boost, and I honestly never wanted to quit or felt like I couldn’t make it through. I was actually in pretty good spirits most of the time, not exactly in the “yay, I love life, carrying telephone poles is awesome!” way, but in the “I feel calm and in no way like I’m close to an melt down” sort of way.

It's all about the team
Winner: Stone Mill


SM: I had to lift my legs out of bed one by one the next morning. I couldn’t walk at all the next day, but I healed fairly quickly after that.

This is how I rolled after Stone Mill
GR: My legs were just as sore, but using my arms to lift myself up was useless. EVERYTHING was in agony for three days, and just now am I even starting to get better. I also have cuts, bruises, and let’s not even talk about what running in wet shoes for 10 hours does to your feet.

Everyone's favorite picture

Winner: GORUCK

Sense of accomplishment:

SM: I trained for months for this, so it was fantastic to see it all pay off. Plus I got extra badass points for the surprise extra miles at the end. While I wasn’t thrilled with my time, I’m still pretty proud of myself for sticking it out. I can honestly say this race was the only time I’ve ever truly considered dropping out. There were times in those dark, hellish miles at the end that I prayed for the sweepers to pull us from the course (we were WAY over the cutoff limit, and in fact the sweepers even came back and started tearing down the course, telling Eric that all the runners were in while we were still out there!). All that considered, a huge sense of accomplishment.

GR: I laughed my ass off the first time I heard about this nonsense. Mike wanted me to try on his pack back in October for laughs and I had to be begged and coerced just to put it on for a picture, and even then I couldn’t wait to rip it off. I don’t do strength training. If I do, Jillian Michaels is involved. I very, VERY firmly put GORUCK in the “never, hell no, not if my life depended on it” category, so the fact that I completed this challenge is pretty amazing to me right now.

Trying on the pack, thinking "hell no".
Winner: TIE

Reaction from coworkers:

It’s pretty similar all around “You’re crazy” or “Why?” (I don’t know). Still, SM has the advantage of being able to just tell people what you did. “I ran 55 miles”. Boom, done, they understand. I’ve tried to explain GORUCK and obviously it takes forever and requires all sorts of details to be shared to get the point across. There was a rumor going around work today (ok, I started it) that I carried a telephone pole this weekend, so that was awesome.

So it's like Warrior Dash? Is it a marathon?
Winner: TIE

So, all in all, both of them were insanely difficult in different ways. It doesn’t seem logical, but while I think Stone Mill was harder, and it’s also the experience that I want to repeat. (Not Stone Mill, I’ll NEVER do that again. Doing another 50 miler is on my list though!).

Despite all that, nothing is worse than paintball. I’ll gladly take on another GORUCK or another Stone Mill before I’ll do even half an hour of paintball again.

That's whack.

Monday, April 23, 2012

GORUCK - the frightening visuals

I woke up to a text message this morning, and when I tried to roll over to check my phone, I couldn't. After a tremendous amount of effort and pain, I made it, and it was a text from Lily telling me rolling over in bed hurt. 

My soreness is at the level where scratching an itch hurts. This is a new level for me.

My friend at work laughed hysterically at the sight of me attempting to walk down the hall. I wrote my daily objective on a piece of paper and had a student write it on the board because lifting my arm to use the chalk was too hard. 

Here's a little peek (by no means all inclusive) into the night that brought on such pain. Obviously, the pictures are dark and it's hard to see me, but I have a red headband and Lily has a lime green one. I start out wearing a white shirt and bright yellow gloves but soon everything is covered in mud. 

At the beginning, they checked our packs to make sure we had bricks, money, and ID. Lily and I are looking at each other like "what on God's green earth are we doing here?".

We started out with a classic: pushups. Eric asked if he told us how many we were doing. Well, we counted, but he didn't tell us where we were stopping, so I'm not sure that was helpful. Also we kept messing up and having to start over.

And still looking around.
Shortly after we began we headed into the water for the first time. 

Just getting in to the water would have been no fun. We low crawled through the mud first, then bear crawled through the rocky marsh and the water. Then we did it again.

Jackie low crawling through the mud like a champ.
Next was a super fun exercise: inchworm pushups. Doing pushups with 40 lbs on your back isn't challenging enough, so you line up and you are also lifting everyone in front of you, with the added bonus of a crotch in your face, and a stranger looking at your crotch.

I pushed as hard as I could and my arms were shaking like crazy but I couldn't even do one. Sad.

I might pretend to be a badass with my sneaking headphones into races where they are prohibited and all, but I'm really terrified of getting in trouble. When the man in charge says you have 3 minutes to cover yourself in mud OR ELSE, I don't play around.

Others sat down, I dived in facedown.

A true friend helps you rub mud all over your body
in the middle of the night.

And has fun doing it.

When Lily gave up, I enlisted strangers who were my new
friends to cover every last spot. I was really afraid of getting yelled at.

Remember when that shirt was white?

I spent my Saturday night having strange men carry me through crowded streets.
After getting so dirty, it was only natural that we had to clean off.

With the drunks watching, Lily and I held hands and jumped right in. It was COLD.

 I'm in the middle, smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.
After more marching and carrying each other, the real fun started.

45 feet long, 1450 - 1600 pounds.
Lifting it had to be done in stages. First to the knees, then to the shoulder, then up above the shoulder (or for us short ladies, over our heads).  We'd carry it a few hundred yards, then take a break, then start again. Watches weren't allowed but it was at least a 2 hour process, probably more.

Seriously, you want us to lift this thing?
The first lift of many

3/4 of the way up

Still working on it

We're moving!

I busted out my classic marathon face for GORUCK. 
After we were finished, Colleen couldn't wait for her next one, which she's already registered for, and Lily and I swore we'd never do that again. This picture sums that up so well.

That was also right around the time Lily swore she was quitting, planned to call her hotel to send a van to pick her up, and we had to beg her to stay.

Finally, we were done with the telephone pole, and took a picture sitting on it. We should have been elated but as you can see, it was still pitch black, meaning we had hours and hours of more good living ahead of us and we had no idea what was in store next.

Several challenges later, the sun was up, people were out and about again, and we were at what Lily and I thought was our final destination. We were expecting the cadre to say we were done, but instead he started explaining our next mission. The look on Lily's face says it all (she's in the lime green headband on the left, the cadre, or man in charge, is in the camo kneeling on the far right).

 More fun, more rain, then finally we could see the finish. Of course, seeing it didn't mean it was going to be easy for us to get to it.

Looking to see if Eric happened to be driving by so I could escape and trying not to cry

I saw the camera and tried to smile here.
I didn't quite make it happen.
 WE MADE IT! Finally, we got to the end point, and the cadre announced we had completed the challenge.  I love that the photographer caught this picture. I can't repeat verbatim what I was telling Lily, because it's way too R-rated for this blog, but the gist was "we are getting out of here and forgetting this ever happened".

We lined up to get our patches from the cadre. I'm putting pictures of the four of us girls up so you can see the dichotomy.

Jackie: looking excited and proud

Colleen: looking impressed and satisfied

Me: looking barely alive and unsure what's happening

Lily: looking like she can't decide if she should take the patch or drown him in the harbor
 Once we got a little chocolate cake in us, we were all smiles.

Team Bitch - the shorties who had to take the end of the pole.
 All jokes aside, I'll repeat what I said yesterday - this experience was amazing. I may not want to ever find myself underneath a telephone pole again, but I'm so glad that I did it. If you are at all considering it, as some people commented that they were, GO FOR IT! You won't regret it. I may have wanted to get the hell out of there at the end because it was tough, but that's how it's supposed to be. I couldn't have made it through without my awesome crew though.

Had to remove a photobomer who snuck in behind Colleen

 We are having a caption contest. Write a caption for what Lily is thinking in this picture.