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I was at Target, picking out a fitness tracker to help me keep up with my mileage, when I spotted Travis and Hannah, a couple both sporting Spartan Race t-shirts.
This was reason enough to amble over and say, “Hi. I couldn’t help but notice your t-shirts. So, you’ve done a Spartan Race?”
The couple looked at each other. I don’t think I was the first person to walk up to them to ask.
We talked for probably 10 minutes. Last year, they’d run a couple of Spartan Races, but had also done Tough Mudder races (A different brand of obstacle race). Both looked like they were in ok shape, but didn’t look like the people I keep seeing in Spartan Race promotions.
It’s looking more and more like they hired a few models or actors, which is fine. Not everybody is photogenic. Doing all the crunches in the world can’t fix it if you look like a velociraptor.
They told me:
- They like the Tough Mudder races better.
“It’s more of a community,” Hanna said. “People will help you, if you need them, too. It’s about everyone getting across the finish line.”
2. Spartan Races have better swag.
“You get a better head band and it’s a good t-shirt,” Travis said.
3. The mile markers at Spartan Races might become scarce.
Hannah told me, “We stopped seeing them after a while and when you’d ask the volunteers, ‘How much farther? They’d always say, just another couple of miles.”
And the miles just rolled on.
4. Bring water, snacks and mustard.
I didn’t know this, but, apparently, you can wear a Camelback water bottle and take race refreshments with you –like Gatorade chews, Gu packs and even Cliff bars. This was also not apparent in the photos I’d seen of races.
I knew about Gu packs –they’re basically sugar and electolytes, sometimes with caffeine and protein. Long distance runners, cyclists and triathletes use them. I’d seen Gatorade chews at the grocery store and I eat Cliff Bars regularly (My fave is the Peanut Butter crunch).
Mustard was new, but Travis said, “Yeah, you see empty mustard packs all over the place. People will carry them.”
“Uh, why?” I asked. Eating mustard straight out of the packet seemed gross.
“It helps with cramps,” Travis said.
According to a couple of websites, yeah, that’s what it does. Mustard contains properties which will help prevent or ease cramps in the case of dehydration.
5. They believed I could handle the race.
“I’m not much of a runner,” Travis said. “But that’s not all that important.”
You never run that far, he explained. There is always another obstacle to get to. The obstacles are the thing, not the distance.
His wife didn’t entirely agree.
“Some of the obstacles are the running,” she said. “You might run straight up a mountain for a mile and a half.”
But it could be done –as long as I paced myself and kept my head.
“You can do this,” she said. “And there’s beer afterwards. It’s the best beer you’ve ever had.”
I parked the car near the swimming pool, but almost had the lot to myself.
At 7:30 in the morning, not many people were out at Coonskin Park –just a handful of men on mowers, a few others driving around in beat up county trucks and whoever had been banished from the civilized world to sit behind the lonely desk inside the building by the tennis courts.
Stretching was modest, but more than usual. I’m working on stretching before exercising. Not stretching, not warming up is an old, stupid habit. So, I did ten air squats, bent and twisted my spine, held on to my car with one hand and one after another, tried to wake up my thighs and hamstrings.
I hate running.
As a teenager, I’d been a distance runner –not a good or really competitive distance runner, but I’d run some races. I’d earned a couple of t-shirts. I’d sat in the bus after and eaten the french fries.
I needed to get my legs back. I needed to get my lungs back, and I needed to dump 30 pounds of weight.
Running is the only way I know how to do that inside of a couple of months –along with a tedious diet.
As stretched as I was going to get, I plugged my earbuds into the iPod strapped to my arm and chose something fun as my morning workout soundtrack.
What I listen to varies from day to day –a lot of the time I will go with aggressive or up tempo rock stuff. Heavy metal is great for lifting heavy weight, example, but for a run, I wanted something that would distract me from the basic unhappiness of having to do it at all.
Today’s run was accompanied by music from the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Agreed, kind of a weird thing to listen to while you run, but the struggles of Tevye and his family in late Czarist Russia soothed me as I hacked my way through about three miles of some running and a lot of brisk walking.
Along the way, a deer stumbled out of the woods like a drunk fraternity pledge lost during homecoming weekend. It looked at me, watched me struggle to maintain a trot for a few moments. Then, as if to mock me, the beast pranced away at full speed across the road and toward the golf course.
The “run” took me about 40 minutes, but it was good to get it out of the way.
I’ll do it again tomorrow, same course. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll run a little more, walk a little less and think to bring a rock to throw at smug forest animals.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out to run this morning. I ran into some trouble with my kid’s summer camp and had to run back to the house to find my checkbook.
So, we’ll try to get some time on the road later today or tack it on tomorrow. I really can’t skip the running.
Since there’s been kind of a lag between when I was last active with the blog, now seemed like a good time to update on a few past projects, some of which are still active.
While I’m not a full-on vegan these days, I am a vegetarian who leans vegan. Basically, I avoid animal products when I can, but accept that if I’m someplace where “clean” foods aren’t available, I go along with things that have eggs or dairy.
I will have a slice of pizza at the office, have a piece of chocolate or maybe get a donut every once in a while, but otherwise just leave it alone.
I probably have something with eggs or milk in it two or three times in a week.
I am still taking self defense classes at the Butch Hiles gym in Charleston. Over the last six months, I’ve gotten better at throwing a punch and learned a lot about getting out of several holds, while also horribly crippling your attacker.
That is the magic of Krav Maga.
I had a good time at the FOOTMAD contra dance in February when I was studying all things Celtic (well, mostly things Scottish) and went back. It’s a pretty good time, actually.
I have not, however, continued with learning the bagpipes or worn a kilt since. Everyone is happy about that, I think.
I am still a member of the Kanawha Kordsmen, which surprised them as much as it did me.
Since my performance with them in Cleveland back in April, I have continued to go to rehearsals pretty regularly, learned the words to a couple of songs and performed with them again during FestivALL.
They have been amazingly kind and welcoming.
I’m still not very good. I don’t have much range, but I think I’m getting better (slowly), and it’s great fun.
It was a weird way to spend my birthday.
June 18 (contrary to what Facebook says) I turned 47 and went over to the University of Charleston for a Spartan Race workout.
My race is coming up August 26 (now, just two months away) and I’m getting nervous about it. So far, I’ve read two books on the subject, but only have a general idea of what to expect, based largely on a few stories from very, very fit people who’ve attended a few of them.
So, I went because I wanted to see what kind of exercises would help and also see what kind of people do Spartan Races.
I learned a little –how to do a proper Spartan burpee, for example. I also saw people who will probably ace the West Virginia race in August. They seemed superhumanly fit, like the kind of people who wear spandex and fight crime on the cover of comic books.
But I also saw some people like me –not in terrible shape, but not really ready to run 15 miles while climbing walls, jumping over hot coals or crawling under barbed wire.
It was one of the most vigorous 90 minutes I think I’ve put myself through. I drank three bottles of water while on UC’s lawn overlooking the river and had a fourth one in the car.
I figure I got my money’s worth for the class. Ten bucks netted me a t-shirt, four bottles of water and about 10 Cliff bars.
I also met a woman with MS who told me she’d done six Trifectas –that’s when you do a sprint, a super and a beast race within a year or so.
The beast is usually a 13-15 mile race. She said she did a beast in New Jersey last year and with her illness, it took her 13 hours to complete, but she finished.
“A lot of people got a DNF –a Did Not Finish,” she said. “I didn’t quit.”
I took a lot of encouragement from that.
If she can do it in 13 hours, I can do it in 13 hours.
But I hope I can get it done a little faster than that, get home and maybe watch a lot of Netflix while eating my weight in Fritos.
This is the dream.
I didn’t do much in the way of exercise for the week following my birthday. I slacked off and focused on my upcoming show at The Comedy Zone, but I’m back at it today. I did a bunch of new exercises that are supposed to help me get ready and I’m going to do a better job of watching what I eat.
Tomorrow, I’m going to try to run/walk five miles before work. There’s no way that’s not going to suck. Tomorrow’s post will be all about the bellyaching.
Sorry about not updating the blog since February…
It’s a little funny, but bloggers have a habit of dropping out –unless they’re specifically paid to maintain a blog.
I’ve been a blogger off and on for over 10 years and I’ve gone through hiatuses, but the boss said, “Get back to blogging or you should just give up the site.”
Maybe he thinks we should do a blog about pet pictures. That could be fun.
The main thing that’s brought me back to blogging is that a lot is happening –or is about to happen and it felt like using a blog regularly was a good idea.
I just won’t be able to get as much in otherwise.
The Spartan Race is coming up in August. I have made little sustained progress, though I have lost a couple of pounds.
As of Sunday, I will be starting a grueling, new exercise plan and diet (Yay, journalism), which I’ll be reporting on.
I hope this works. Race time is getting closer.
Also, next month (SPOILER), I’m taking on traveling the state of West Virginia. The idea is to hit 55 counties within roughly 30 days. Actually, it will be 55 counties in less than 30 days –more like 55 counties in roughly 12 days. That’s about all I can do and still have even the barest hope of maintaining the other parts of my job.
I’m getting this information out a little early because I could use some help on this one.
I need places to maybe visit, possibly places to stay for the night.
So, if you want to help, chime in here with suggestions (including where these places might be found) or send me an email at email@example.com.
Getting your running legs back takes longer when you’re 46 instead of 15 maybe. Also, while I was making some progress the first couple of weeks, I slacked off last week.
I just didn’t get out on the practice field and run laps.
I’ll get back to it this week, which probably won’t help much for Saturday’s run, but this is all a process. I get that.
My time is limited.
I now have just six months to get myself up to running 14 miles and capable of leaping over fire or fighting dinosaurs or whatever it is they’re putting out there for the Spartan Race.
I haven’t looked too deeply. Why spoil the surprise?
In the meantime, I’ve subscribed to an email newsletter that’s supposed to provide me with workout tips and things to help me prepare.
I haven’t actually opened in any of these emails, but it’s a process, right? One step at a time.
I did my first bit of running in preparation for the Spartan Race this week. On the advise of my father, a retired cross country and track coach, I decided to run on gentle terrain as opposed to pavement.
I’m currently around 235 pounds, which is heavy for any runner on two legs.
The weight is going to have to come way down if I want to survive even just the training –and the sooner, the better, really.
I’m adjusting my diet as best I can –for me, this mostly means laying off the bread, veggie burgers and Fritos.
For my first day of training, I opted to run on the soccer field at the YMCA in Charleston. With it being winter and a Sunday, no one was using it. The sky was bright, but it was was a little cold. Even the clutch of surly teenagers I saw blowing off their afternoon by swearing at each other and making out with their girlfriends stayed close to the building rather than sneak off to the relative seclusion of the practice field.
This suited me fine. I didn’t really want a lot of company and I expected my first outing to be kind of sad. The last thing my ego needed was a group of 15-year-olds laughing at me.
I got enough of that when I was 15.
While dodging deer poop (the Y has the same problem I have at my house), I managed to put in 12 laps or around 30 minutes of exercise. I ran the first two laps then alternated between walking and running laps.
I’m not a hundred percent sure how long all of that was, but at a guess, probably somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.
I wheezed like a two pack a day smoker and threw up at my car when I finished for the day, but it happened. I started.
I came back for a second run Monday morning, after my usual workout inside the Y. I did about eight laps on the practice field, but ran about 2/3. I’d have done more, but I was starting to feel weak.
Breakfast had been a vegan protein shake and some coffee a couple of hours before.
My plan is to just do this over and over for a while –run laps around the soccer field and then eventually work up to another course. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll try running along the river.
Some friends have suggested I should find a trainer or join Crossfit, but there really isn’t a budget for that and it’s probably too soon.
What I can do now is get my running up to speed –shoot for steady gains. There’s no point really thinking about how I’m going to jump over fiery pits, dodge vampire bats or crawl under barbed wire if I can’t physically handle 12 to 14 miles of just running.
Besides, the hope is that the years of strength training will count for something. It’s a hope. I have a long way to go.