Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lewis County Leviathan Race Report: Ready For Anything

Sally Edwards is a former professional triathlete and a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame.  She is also an entrepreneur, author, and professional speaker.  When she speaks to athletes about health and fitness, she frequently uses the phrase "365-fit."  Sally describes 365-fit as being fit enough and ready to participate in any sport on any day 365 days a year.  That is her personal goal and mine.  

Three weeks ago on a bike ride with some friends, one asked if I would be racing in the Lewis County Leviathan.  When I said "no" he suggested I take his place.  I had already been considering it, so I thought about it for a day tor two.  Then, I spoke with our mutual friend, Gary Hackmann, the other half of the team, and decided to join him in the adventure.  I was still in good condition after the spring and summer race season so I didn't do any specific training for it.  I knew it would be challenging, but I figured I was ready.

The Leviathan is an adventure race of seven parts, with an emphasis on having fun.  It is different than most adventure races in that everyone starts each segment of the race together.  So, it actually is seven individual events.

1. The race started with a canoe trip across the Mighty Mississippi.  It was windy and some water was coming through the dam, so the river was a bit rough.  We had to paddle across and turn upriver around a flag, then return.  We had some trouble steering for part of the trip, but our IndoRow training paid off.  We finished second among the two person teams and stayed mostly dry.  It actually felt easy.  However, after being out of the water for a little while, my arms started shaking.

2. The second event was a four mile trail run.  Since both Gary and I are runners, I expected we would do well.  I had heard of another runner--the race director's son--who was quite fast though.  As always, I just ran my own race.  I started near the front and trotted along at a manageable pace.  I passed two or three people in the middle section and kept up my pace.  Toward the end when we came out of the woods and the finish was visible (with about a half mile to go) I decided to pick it up.  I wasn't sure who was in front of me, but I thought If Gary was close to the front (he was) and I could finish close, our total time might be good enough to win.  It worked.  We won by less than a minute.

3. Third was target shooting with a .22 rifle.  I have not fired a gun in quite some time and my inexperience showed.  I only hit the first of the five progressively smaller targets.  I could not hold the rifle steady and had trouble lining up my eye with the scope.  Gary was only one shot better.  I'm not sure how we placed there.

4. A twenty mile mountain bike ride was the fourth segment of the race.  The course covered mostly gravel roads--freshly graded!  Lucky us!  There was also a short section that went off road on some farm lanes and a bit of single track that was quite rocky.  We started down a big hill and I just bombed down entering the short section of blacktop in the lead.  Then, as I shifted into a high gear, my chain came off.  #$%&!  Did I mention I was riding a borrowed bike?  I quickly replaced the chain and sprinted to the front of the pack, entering the gravel road toward the front.  That is where I stayed.  The chain came off one other time, but there were just three of us at the front then and I quickly returned to the lead.  I finished several minutes ahead of the second place rider.  That was the highlight of my day.  Gary finished fifth, I think, which was good enough for us to win the bike portion too.

As I stated earlier, all competitors started each race together.  So, the early finishers had plenty of time to rest before the next one.  The cyclists where greatly spread out, so I had lots of time to rest (and eat) afterward.  

5. The fifth segment of the race consisted of several strength challenges to be completed as fast as possible.  We started with a wheel barrow carry--I carried; Gary walked on his hands.  He. Was. Fast.  That put us in the lead.  Next, Gary flipped a tractor tire end-for-end, while I worked the post hole digger fifteen times.  Then, Gary worked the post hole digger while I started carrying two five-gallon buckets of water to fill a fifty-five gallon drum.  Gary joined me to finish the water carry.  Finally, we had to roll a round straw bale and stack eight square bales on top.  All the Cross Fit workouts paid off.  We smoked the competition, finishing first by quite a margin.

6. The part I was dreading most was speed golf.  My goal was to focus on "speed" more than "golf."  I do not golf.  It was painfully obvious.  I think I had two good shots on the nine holes, two whiffs, and several unintentionally short shots.  By the way, the format was to alternate shots, playing as fast as possible.  Putting was only necessary on the ninth hole, otherwise the ball just had to land in the chalked circles on the greens.  We placed third in our division.

7. We had alternated being in the lead with another team a few times up to the last event.  Basically, whichever team finished first in the obstacle course would be the winner.  We first had to climb over a pyramid of straw bales, then a cargo net.  On the way to the cargo net, I was feeling the previous events of the day and not hitting top speed.  Next, we went under a barbed-wire fence, rolled a propane tank, and under another barbed-wire fence (this one grabbed my shorts.)  Then we went off the island green into some mud that would have been several feet of water if not for the drought and over a seven-ish foot tall wall (I needed a little push there.)  Next was a floating tire bridge which bounced me off about two thirds of the way over.  No worries.  Being wet helped me to slide downhill through the fifteen-ish foot pipe next.  We had to run through some more mud, crawl through another pipe, walk across a utility pole, then run up hill to the finish.  

I was completely spent; I had nothing left in the tank.  In fact, I struggled most of the way.  We finished second on the obstacle course and thus, second overall.  We celebrated immediately with a beer.

It was a hard day, but fun.  I was completely satisfied with my performance.  I did well in the areas that I train: running, cycling, strength.  My accuracy limited my performance in the other segments, but my fitness helped me to be competitive.  I could participate in this event and be competitive, because I train to be 365-fit.  I'm ready for anything.  Or, at the very least, I can be ready with minimal focused training.  I certainly recommend this event to anyone interested in adventure racing.  It is beginner-friendly and a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

When discussing my training and racing, I am often asked by less active people why I do it.  My first thought is usually, "you won't understand."  But, then I attempt to explain, using one or several reasons that motivate me to seemingly torture myself.

My most common explanation relates to staying healthy and looking fit.  I generally do better when I have a goal to work toward, so I race.  Over the years, the goals have become loftier and the races have become tougher and thus, more intimidating to others who don't train like I do.  They don't realize that I started out like everyone else, trying to run just one mile or swim one lap, for example.  While this response is still very true, now I emphasize it less in my own mind because I have reached the point of maintenance with respect to these goals.

Now, I have other goals to maintain my focus.  I want to push myself and discover new limits; see what I can accomplish.  I think these struggles help me in other pursuits as well, rising to the challenge, learning life lessons.  I also appreciate the mental health benefits, when a hard or long workout cheers me up and eliminates frustration or anger.  It can be meditative at times.  I often solve a lot of problems during long runs by myself.  I think I am a more productive person as an athlete.

There are still other reasons: the feeling of accomplishment and pride when I do well, the recognition.  It validates my hard work and my approach to training.  It is frequently a culmination of all my education and experience.  The successes are personal and professional.

By the way, I thinks it is fun too!

But...why?  Why should anyone else care?  Well, because they can earn these benefits also.  This is my blog, it is all about me.  Some might see it as bragging, just like some of my Facebook posts.  Of course, I smile when I receive acknowledgement of my athletic successes, but I am trying to show others that these things can be done.

Everyone can improve themselves. It is possible to lose pounds, inches, body fat; increase strength, endurance, flexibility; feel better and sleep better; decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, preventable cancers, and a multitude of other maladies saving health care costs and improving the quality and longevity of life.  It is not easy.  It may not happen quickly.  But, it can be done.

Choose to change your life for the better.

Start right now.

Set a goal.

Make a plan.

Start simple, earn some small successes and build upon that.

Be consistent and diligent in working your plan.

You. Can. Do. It.

Helping others to realize this starts with me setting a good example, illustrating these points.  I am proof.  I did it and you can too.