New training goals

Happy New Year! A lot of people bring new goals or new habits to a new year – I’m not a fan of that. Unfortunately the countdown to the next adventure happens to coincide with the new year though, but that doesn’t matter! In March we’re heading back to Mt Bogong to do the Conquestathon again. This time last year we’d been training for a while already, but this year it just hasn’t happened. With 8 weekends and 10 weeks to train, there’s not a huge amount of time – but there’s definitely enough.

With that in mind, there’s two things I need to do to improve on my time and performance from last year.

  1. Improve my cardio
  2. Lose some weight

Getting the weight off means there’s less weight to lug up (and down!) that mountain. Improving my cardio means that I can go longer, go stronger, break less often, and break for shorter amounts of time. I was quite happy with my recovery times last year, but I was still stopping too often for my liking. I want to move more, stop less, and be still for less time when I do stop.

I haven’t mentioned improving leg strength in those goals. Although I can always do with improved leg strength, I also know that I have enough to get me up the mountain. More would be better, but it’s not the main focus.

So with all of that in mind, I’m aiming to get to the gym at least four times per week in the lead up to Bogong. Between PT sessions, workouts with J and a few of my own ones thrown in, plus our practice hikes, I think I’ll be fine to maintain that. Fingers crossed for some results.

4/01/2016

  • (70 kg deadlift x 3) x every minute for 5 minutes
  • (40 kg deadlift x 10) x every minute for 5 minutes
  • 5 minutes rowing (at a pace where I can still breathe through my nose)

Review: Spartan Race (Sprint – 7km), Melbourne 2015

My weekend involved a couple of blog-worthy events- on Saturday I took part in my first Spartan Race, and on Sunday I attended the Swift Health & Wellness Summit. I’ll write about the summit later, but I thought I’d kick off the week by writing about my Spartan experience.

I should start this post off with two disclaimers:

  1. I’ve been sick recently. I didn’t fast on Friday, and I woke up on Saturday unsure about whether I was in any kind of shape to do the race. I did it anyway.
  2. This is my second obstacle race. My first was The Stampede, late last year. Having done both, I’m finding myself comparing them quite a bit.

So, Spartan. After completing the 10km Stampede event last year I was certain I wanted to do more obstacle racing, and the 7 km Spartan Sprint is the first opportunity I’ve had. Each of the different obstacle races out there have their own unique approach (some would call it a selling point). Some claim that you might die, and they don’t care (*cough*Tough Mudder*cough), some provide you with cammo gear and tell you to make like a solider (Operation Blackhawk), some are about pushing boundaries while keeping it supportive (The Stampede). Then there’s Spartan, who’s war cry is “I AM SPARTAN”. They’re tough (but not as tough as Tough Mudder), they’re warriors (but in a more Gladiator style than Operation Blackhawk), and while like Stampede they tell you you’ll need a team, they really don’t push the teamwork aspect.

The ‘festival’

I hate the ‘festival’ concept for these events. Reality? They’re a bunch of food stalls with some merchandise tents. This festival was particularly annoying. It was completely unclear from the outset where we were supposed to go to get our race kit or where we were supposed to line up to start. Perhaps unsurprisingly the festival area was already so muddy when we arrived at 10:30 that we were in ankle deep mud – although it was amusing seeing spectators traipse through the mud! Less amusing was post-race, where there was absolutely zero signage pointing to the showers. At least at Stampede these were obvious, and easy to access.

Pre-Race

I’m never one for pre-race antics- I very much dislike the DJ yelling over blaring music telling us all to stretch, to give your neighbour a shoulder massage, and trying to keep us excited for the 15 minutes we’re required to marshal before the race. Major fun runs do it, Stadium Stomp does it, and it seems that all obstacles races do it. To compare Stampede and Spartan, at Stampede these pre-race antics were received reasonably well by the crowd. The voice booming down the mic made some jokes, spoke to people about costumes, and overall the crowd seemed to be smiley and super pumped. Spartan was somewhat different. I don’t know if it was a rain that was starting to drizzle on us, or the fact that one of the hardest obstacles on the course was sitting right next to us with people failing to complete it left, right and centre, but the crowd was considerably more demure. There were some genuinely scared faces in that crowd.

In my experience at fun runs/obstacle races/stair climb events etc, once the siren goes the crowd normally sprints. You can’t help but run along, for the first hundred metres at least, before a bottle neck begins. Not here. We walked, as a group, to the first obstacle where we all politely helped each other under a net without much ado at all. Which brings me to the obstacles…

The Obstacles

Spartan’s obstacles genuinely ranged from 1 (so easy. So so easy) to 10 (could not even attempt) on my scale. They also ranged from 1 (hated it) to 10 (loved it) in terms of engagement and enjoyment for me. I’ve really got no idea how many obstacles, or indeed how many of the obstacles I encountered were official or just part of the terrain (Spartan does not publish race maps or obstacle lists), so I’ll list some below and rate them on my Difficulty and Enjoyment scales. In no particular order:

  • Atlas Carry
    Carry a dead ball around a (seemingly very short) circuit. Men 50 kg, women 35kg. Difficulty: 6 (35kg is slippery when you’re covered in mud), Enjoyment: 9
  • Barbed Wire Crawl
    Travel approx. 40 metres in mud under barbed wire. Commando crawling and rolling seemed to be the two methods of choice. I chose rolling, and it worked incredibly well. I got speed up, it was sustainable, and I didn’t tear any clothing. Difficulty: 4 Enjoyment: 8
  • Fire Jump
    Literally jump over a fire. This is a very small obstacle, and there’s not much to it besides a photo op. Difficulty: 1 Enjoyment: 2
  • Cargo net crawl
    Cargo net is layed out on the ground – in this obstacle, you crawl approx. 10 metres under the net. Difficulty: 2 Enjoyment: 5 (it was an easy first win)
  • Hercules Hoist
    Pull a kettlebell attached to a rope up a pully (maybe 5 metres up?) then lower it slowly. Men – 35 kg, Women – 20 kg. I feel like my pully was a bit caught up for this one – this made it simultaneously easier and harder. Either way, lots of fun. Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 9
  • Over Under Through
    A series of walls probably 1.5 – 1.7 metres tall. Climb over one, under one, and through the third. Lots of satisfaction in completing this one after watching plenty need help in getting over and through! Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 9
  • Rope Climb
    Climb a rope and ring a bell at the top. Probably 5 metres tall? I really wanted to ace this. I’ve never climbed a rope before, but I studied the technique, and I really hoped that I’d miraculously smash it. I definitely didn’t!! That’s ok. One to actually practice for next time. (note: Stampede had an unanchored rope ladder alternative for this, which was great for those of us who genuinely have nowhere to practice climing a rope) Difficulty: 10 Enjoyment: 1
  • Tractor Pull
    Drag a lump of concrete attached to a rope around a course. The concrete was, seriously, way too light. This was easy. However I did hear people complaining about how hard it was on their grip at the end, so you never know! Difficulty: 3 Enjoyment: 5
  • Deadball throw
    Throw a deadball over a 3 metre (?) wall. 12 kg for the girls, 20 (?) for the guys. This took me two shots, but it shouldn’t have! Difficulty: 5 Enjoyment: 8
  • Incline Wall
    The wall is on a 45 degree angle, like an A frame, with ropes hanging down it. Everyone’s muddy, so the surface is super slippery. Your job is to climb the wall. I’ve done this one before and succeeded, at Stampede, but this time is wasn’t happening for me. Twice I got to the top, twice I let go of the rope and grabbed the top of the frame, and twice I couldn’t get the foot grip to get myself up and over. So twice, I slid down the wall on my belly. I left this one with tears in my eyes, and without the mental energy to go back and try for a third time. Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 2
  • Dam Swim
    The location for this Spartan, Lake Dewar Lodge, has a man made lake on site, which we had to cross three times. Getting in the water that first time was hard, but the really hard bit came when your chest hit the water. My breath left me completely, and with a couple of slow movers in front of me I really struggled. None the less, it was a great mental challenge having to just push through. After all, you can’t just stop doing the obstacle when you’re half way through a lake! Difficult: 9.5 Enjoyment: 4
  • Monkey Bars
    It’s literally a series of (very wide grip) monkey bars, perhaps 25 of them, with some rings at the end. Cross them all and ring a bell to complete. Hanging is not a strength of mine, so set myself the goal of getting across five of the bars and made it. It’s something to work on next time, but I was please with it. Difficulty: 9 Enjoyment: 6
  • Wall Jump
    Approach the 4(ish) metre wall. Get over the wall. Simple. J and I approached the wall apprehensively, realising that our team of two was not enough to get over this wall. We ended up buddying up with two others, and completed it easily. I got a boost up, stood on the side support (pretty sure that’s not allowed), and boosted myself over. I then hung out up the top and pulled someone else up, and returned to the original side to boost the final person over. Difficulty: 5 Enjoyment: 9
  • Wall Traverse
    This is the penultimate obstacle, and it seems to be a Spartan staple. There’s a wall, maybe 8 metres long and 3 metres tall, with small bits of 2×4 wood across it like a rock climbing wall. I genuinely thought I’d have no chance on this, but I gave it a shot at surprised myself. I actually made it to the literal halfway point and was feeling like I was doing really well, when I got distracted. The lapse in concentration meant that I was off that wall in an instant, and by that stage I just had no mental energy to go back and give it another shot. Difficulty: 8 Enjoyment: 8
  • Final challenge
    I have no idea what this was called. Effectively, you had to climb up a negatively inclined wooden wall with bits on 4×2 on it, up the side of two stacked shipping containers, then cross a stretch of cargo net and climb down cargo net on the other side. This obstacle was incredibly disappointing – as the final obstacle, literally metres from the end, it was what I would consider to be the second hardest obstacle on the course. It was clear that maybe 30% of participants were actually succeeding, while the rest were trying and failing, and walking around it to the finish line. It left a pretty bitter taste in the mouth at the end of the race. Difficulty: 9 Enjoyment: 0

Post-Race

Despite the major let-down of the final obstacle, the finishing line was well manned. Unlike other events I’ve done where people are handing out medals still in their plastic bags from boxes, here there were people waiting to hang them around our necks. And I should say, these medals are massive. There’s a large Melbourne 2015 Sprint medal, plus the ‘pie piece’ that fits into the trifecta medal if you complete all three distances. Beyond the medals were people handing out water, coconut water and tshirts. I’m yet to try my tshirt on, but J reckons they’re nice to wear.

As I mentioned earlier, though, the disappointing thing post-race was the lack of signage to the showers. We ran past them several times on the course, but for some reason we just couldn’t find them again when we needed them. We ended up heading to the car, towelling down and getting changed, despite still being covered in mud. Most cars around us had people doing the same thing.

The Verdict
Here’s the thing. This race broke me a little bit. I attempted every single obstacle except for one, and I reckon I completed about two thirds of them. But it was the ones that I failed that really got to me. I knew going into this that there’d be things I couldn’t do, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to race it while sick. It meant that I didn’t go back and have a third go after failing obstacles a couple of times. It meant that when I walked away from those obstacles, I couldn’t laugh it off. It upset me, and it affected my performance, and it affected how I felt about the event.

I walked away from the Spartan Sprint glad that I’d done it, but certain that I wouldn’t do it again. But then, as the days have passed, I’ve decided I want to give it another shot and do it better. I want to train for the obstacles I couldn’t do, so that next time I can give them a better shot. In December, Spartan is holding a Stadium Sprint in Geelong. Although it’s a similar distance, the emphasis really seems to be on obstacles rather than running (not that there was heaps of that on Saturday). So anyway, I think I’m going to give it a shot. If nothing else, just to do a Spartan while (hopefully!) not sick, but with any luck I’ll be able to up the training and hit it harder.

I’m off to climb a mountain

Staircase Spur

It’s a long weekend here in Victoria- we get Monday off to celebrate Labour Day. Which no-one does, but we very much enjoy the day off!!!

final ascentI’m spending my weekend with some very close friends- we’re off to climb a mountain. The tallest mountain in Victoria, to be precise. I’ve written about Mt Bogong before- I climbed it in November, across two days, and in February this year I did the full 22km loop in one day. This weekend is exciting because the group of eight of us are climbing it together, which is something we’ve been working towards for a long time. We’ve done a lot of training hikes, and we’ve figured out our hiking rhythm as a group. Each of us has a hiking style on our own, but to walk as group takes practice. We’ve figured out who the trail blazers are- they’ll walk at a faster pace, then pause at pre-determined resting points for the back group to catch up. That group likes to power on through, and take longer rests at intervals. Then there’s the plodders- the group that will go at a slow but steady pace. This group prefers to just keep walking, but walk slowly. This group finds it harder to get going again after frequent rests, so they’ll take less ‘big’ breaks throughout the walk.

I’ll be in the back group. I’m a loud and proud plodder- resting too frequently makes my bushwalking experience pretty painful. bogong signMy legs hate me, and my mind starts focussing on the negatives. By plodding, I find a rhythm and stick to it. Going uphill I’ll take plenty of 20 second breathers, but that’s about it. I’ve recently been introduced to the Camelbak style of hydration system- it’s a bladder that sits in your backpack, with a hose that you can sip on. It stops me needing to pause my walking to get a drink bottle out, and by sipping regularly I end up drinking more water throughout the hike (I’m terrible at drinking enough normally). It also helps me regain breathe control while I’m hiking, which once again helps me to keep walking and stop less.

I’m not concerned that I’m a plodder- my style of walking gets me where I want to go, in the time that I want to get there. Practicing group hiking has been a really interesting exercise in each of us identifying our own style, and becoming comfortable with it. I think we’ve all had our moments, questioning our style (would I not be better going faster?! Why can’t I go faster?!) but ultimately we’ve all settled into something that’s comfy.

Sunday’s walk is going to be challenging. 22km is a long distance for relatively inexperienced walkers like ourselves, and it’s the longest distance some of our group have ever walked. Add into that a very steep ascent (and decent!), and we’re up for a big day. A very big day. None the less, I’m really excited to be taking this adventure with my friends, and I’m looking forward to challenge of ensuring everyone succeeds in this oddly team sport.

Hiking, bikinis, and… what should I eat?

The Cathedral Range- looking south along the ridge towards The Farmyard

The Cathedral Range- looking south along the ridge towards The Farmyard

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what I was going to write about here this week. I want to tell you that I went hiking last weekend, and I want to tell you that I wore two-piece bathers (swimsuit? togs?) and felt comfortable in them for the first time in my life. I want to tell you about a discussion I had with my colleague about growing up as a ‘not very active’ kid, and about my idea to just smash out the clean eating for one week. Just one week- baby steps!! I guess I’ll talk about it all, at least for a little bit.

cathedrals1

View from the top

Last weekend had the Australia Day public holiday tacked onto the end of it, so after only a week back at work I got a long weekend. With some friends I headed out to the Cathedral Range State Park to do a day hike- and what a day hike it was. The hike was part of our training in preparation to climb Mt Bogong in March, so we knew the day would be a tough slog, but it turned out to be a tougher slog than expected. For a variety of reasons, the walk that we’d estimated to take 4-5 hours ultimately ended up taking 8. You know what though? Physically I was fine – in fact I was great. It was a long day of walking across 12km and very varied terrain, but I pulled up really well at the end of it all. About 2 km from the end we faced a huge staircase uphill, and for some unknown reason I ran up the entire thing. I guess I had energy to spare!! Ultimately a full day hiking through beautiful countryside is definitely not a bad thing at all, as long as everyone’s safe and happy. Which we were!! I’ve put a map of our hike further down in this post, in case any of you care to follow in our footsteps (perhaps next long weekend!).

The long weekend was warm, so as well as hiking I ended up at the beach. It was just an afternoon trip to take a dip in the ocean to cool down, but I still managed to pack two sets of bathers. When my friend and I parked the car a decision had to be made: should I wear the one-piece with the built in support that hides my podgy tummy, or should I accept the fact that the only person I was going to see that I knew was my very non-judgemental friend, and therefore wear the halter neck bikini? I thought about it for a bit. I put sunscreen on. Then I sucked it up, put on the bikini and a huge hat and sunglasses, went swimming, and promptly forgot to care about how I looked. Lesson learned.

I think I might save my discussion on growing up ‘not very active’ for another day- there’s probably a lot more than half a post’s worth of musings and discussions in me on that topic, I reckon!

So, on to the week’s worth of eating clean. I was doing great last year. I cut out the refined carbs and refined sugars, was limiting the amount of unrefined carbs I was eating, and once I got through the week 3 withdrawal craziness I felt really good (and I was losing weight). Then stuff got busy, Christmas happened, and suddenly I can barely remember the last time I brought my own breakfast or lunch to work. It’s time to get back on it. I find it a bit overwhelming thinking about getting back into it all- I still feel like I don’t have much time, and honestly my habits have slipped badly. I’m back on a freddo-a-day habit. So in an attempt to #SayNoToFreddo I’m thinking I might start out with a week of hard line healthy eating, and go from there. Plan it all out, do some cooking, make no excuses- just for a week. I can handle that. I hope! I really do hope, because I’m really not sure. Except I’ve done it before, for longer than a week, so I can do it again 🙂

I’m not starting today, or tomorrow, so watch this space- and in the mean time I’ll attempt to be kind to myself by easing my way into it all.

cathedrals3

Our hiking route at the Cathedral Range State Park- starting at Ned’s Gully car park, and ending at Cook’s Mill car park (click for enlarged view)

 

I’m taking the stairs

stairs

There was an ad on tv years ago, I think it was for Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers or something like that, that showed a woman carrying bags of groceries arriving at the bottom of a set of stairs and an escalator. In the ad she looks up the escalator, bags in hand, then sighs with a smile on her face and starts to walk (trudge?) up the stairs. All of that takes place to the soundtrack of some kind of upbeat happy music (I want to say maybe it was Heather Small’s Proud).

I have no real idea what the product was that the ad was selling, so I guess it failed in that respect, but the idea of choosing the stairs over the escalator has stuck with me ever since. Don’t you hate it when advertising works?!

I work on the 9th floor of a 16 story building. I’ve spent a bit of time in the stairwell in the last year- my exercise group at work used to train in there until we got kicked out, and while I was prepping for the Eureka Climb in November I made my way up and down the whole building over and over as means of training. The whole building’s subject to a fair amount of security, meaning it’s not really possible to enter the stairwell at the very bottom and make your way up, but if you enter further up you’ve got free reign to head up and down.

The point of the story is, I’m going to start trying to avoid the lifts as much as possible and make my way up (and down) by stairs whenever I can. The limiting factor is, of course, that I can’t be arriving at meetings completely red and puffed out- but that’s easy to work around. The easiest way to get more stair walking into my day is to get out of the lift at level 6 and make my way up at the start of the day and after lunch, but 3 floors a few times a day isn’t much.

Still, it’s a bit more movement in my day and it’s a few more steps on my fitbit (which tend to be woefully low on work days), and I guess it will be interesting to see if such a small change can make a difference at all.

I climbed a mountain (and a great quote from Socrates)

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted (again!!). There’s been a bit happening since I last wrote here, and there’s more to come, but I’ll write about that very soon. Perhaps even this afternoon.

In the mean time, I’ve stumbled across a quote that I love:

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

– Socrates

I did a quick google search to see if I could find a great image to go with this quote, but none of them quite matched what I picture in my head. I love this quote- it quite nicely summarizes why I’m starting to do some physical challenges at the moment: because I want to see just what I’m capable of, and what my body is capable of.

mt bogong summit

The summit of Mt Bogong

On the weekend, I climbed Mt Bogong– the tallest mountain in Victoria, and second tallest in Australia. It measures in at 1986 metres, of which I climbed about 1600. The track to the summit at 6 km long, so when you consider that I was gaining a metre’s height for every 3.75 metres I walked, you’ll understand that it’s a pretty steep ascent!

My work colleagues (and my temporary PT, actually) have all been asking me why I did the Bogong climb. Why would I want to spend two days lugging a 15kg bag on my back up a mountain, only to turn around and come back down again (having spent the night in a tent eating re-hydrated food)? There’s a couple of answers. Firstly, I’ve been looking at Mt Bogong since I was a kid and wondering if I’d ever climb it. I always assumed I wouldn’t (couldn’t?). Secondly, my dad was doing the hike and I really enjoy doing these kinds of things with him. Thirdly, I love the Australian alps. I’ve spent time in them all of my life, and I have a particular affinity to them in the summer months when the flowers are out and nothing’s covered in snow.

But the main reason (although only marginally more main than the others) relates to the Socrates quote. I wanted to see what my body is capable of. What I’ve learned is that my body is most definitely capable of climbing Mt Bogong. Today I’m sitting at my desk feeling surprisingly good. My calves are a little stiff, and my hip flexors are too, but it’s only mild. My body has taken the recovery of the climb in its stride. It was slow going getting up the mountain, but I made it- and I’m even contemplating doing it again. In one day, instead of two.

Maybe I’m a little bit crazy, but I want to know what my body is capable of- and I think it’s capable of that.