Race Review: MN Spartan Sprint

Posted on Jul 10, 2015 under Race Review | No Comment

Wow. That was the hardest 4.5 mile race I’ve ever completed. We did at least 6,000 feet of climbing, most of it in the last 2 miles. Brutal on the legs would be an understatement. Oh, and did I mention that there were 21 obstacles to complete throughout the course as well? Oh yea! My official time of 2:28:33 (yes 2 hours for 4.5 miles) was good enough for 463rd place (out of 822) overall, 376th man (out of 574) and 62nd (out of 100) in my age group (30-34). The winner was a 34 year old man named Ryan Samson who finished in 1:13:41. My sister and I ran it together! She placed better than I did in the female and age group categories. We finished 1 second apart (my bad…) 20150627_092732

I didn’t do much specific training thinking that my Crossfit workouts and running would be enough to get me through.  Well, it obviously got me through, but I’ve got some things to work on.  Like running more hills!  Seriously though, I had some surprises and some disappointments.
I was surprised, was that I successfully threw my spear into the hay bale! Yay!! That was obstacle number 13 and most people were missing and having to do burpees.  Each failed obstacle required 30 burpees as a penalty. I was generally surprised at how relatively easy some of the obstacles were, especially if you were smart about them.







IMG_9467My biggest disappointment was the rope climb.  We do rope climbs somewhat regularly at Crossfit and I’m able to climb the rope and touch the top of the rig.  I’m usually good for a few climbs in any given WOD.  Granted the Spartan rope climb was way harder than anything I’d done I figured I’d be ok with it. I couldn’t get out of the 4 foot deep water pit and even try to climb the rope.  I think I just wasn’t able to get a good latch with my foot (slippery shoes) and the exhaustion by that point (Obstacle 19) just made it impossible.
I was generally disappointed at how hard it was to climb the hill and how easily my heart rate went up and wouldn’t come back down.  My sister did a much better job repeatedly going up the hills and she’d stop and wait and then we’d keep going.  Lots of people were struggling with the hills and the sun/heat (hardly any shade on the ski hills) so I wasn’t abnormal, just disappointed that my cardio wasn’t there when I needed it most.
IMG_9470My sister and I ended up with same number of penalties throughout the course. We each failed 3 events (though we realize now the errors of our ways) and yes we each did 30 burpees for each failure (sure).  She failed the spear throw, while I failed the Z walls.  We both then failed the rope climb and Multi-bars. Our error was in not helping each other more.  Obviously we couldn’t have done much for each other on the spear throw (I got lucky) or the rope climb (maybe climb up each other to start?).   But on the Z walls, she probably could have helped hold me on the wall and to make some of the harder stretches.  When we did the monkey bars the volunteer was telling us to help each other, so we could have done that for the multi-bar as well.
IMG_9499Probably the hardest obstacle I completed successfully which didn’t require a little bit of luck was the atlas lift (obstacle 12).  We had to pick up a huge (70 – 100 lbs) stone, carry it 10 yards (under a 3 or 4 ft rope), do 5 burpees, and return the stone to its place. I seriously almost couldn’t lift the ball off the ground the first time.
I think being a parent of a toddler and pre-schooler helped with a couple of obstacles.  Obstacle 7 was supposed to be a hay wall, but instead was a sandbag carry.  I got a 40 lb bag (some people were forced to carry two bags as a penalty for not running between two hills, but it really seemed arbitrary). The problem with this was that you had to carry it for maybe 50 yards, but it was down a steep hill over and then back up the hill.  The other was obstacle 9, bucket brigade.  Don’t get me wrong, this was hard.  We had to fill a 5 gallon bucket with rocks then carry it up and down a hill for about 50 yards. Without the handle! I started out carrying it from the bottom and then part way up shifted to carry it at a little bit of an angle more like I might a screaming toddler! That seemed to work okay and I didn’t spill too many rocks!
IMG_9507I’m not going to write about all the obstacles, but I think 2 that required a little bit of thinking or knowledge to be successful involved moving heavy weights around. Both involved moving weights by pulling a rope.  I think some people were trying to pull them hand over hand (like belaying) which actually requires a lot from your upper body.  Both easily allowed for use of your whole body to help move the weight.  The plate drag (obstacle 3) had a sled with 80 pounds on it that needed to be drug about 10 yards by a rope and the pulled back using a short chain loop until the rope was taunt against the stake. I had to pull hand over hand for the first few to get enough rope length on the slack side, but then once you get a good grip you can just pull and walk it back until it hits the stake. The other is the herculian hoist (obstacle 10) involved pulling a 150 pound bag up about 20-25 feet using a rope and pulley, you also had to lower it to the ground carefully.  Some people were also trying to pull hand over hand on this.  It is easier to get a good grip, pull and lower your body to the ground, climb the rope and repeat.  This required using the leverage of the log on the ground, but worked pretty well.  Lowering it was a little harder, but required pretty much the same technique.
IMG_9509A lot of the obstacles involved climbing up and over a variety of things and those vary in difficulty but really come down to more about being comfortable on the various nets or walls.  I think most people can climb a cargo net, but the fear of heights and the tension of turning yourself around and over the top can be a challenge.  Pulling up and over the walls can be a tough challenge and I don’t have any good thoughts on that.  I slammed my toe really hard on the 8ft wall and it still hurts over a week later.  For awhile I thought I might have actually broken it.
My sister and I both wore sunscreen, but still got burnt.  We were grateful for 3 water stops to drink water from and several “cooling stations” were water was spraying down on the course.  The last few mud pits felt really, really good!
IMG_9518I guess I should make a note of what I wore.  It was a tough decision… I ended up wearing a Under Armour compression shirt (wouldn’t snag on barbed wire as easily), with a pair of triathlon shorts (same thing wouldn’t snag).  Both also would dry out and not require me to carry a bunch of extra weight. I ended up wearing a pair of triathlon socks (I think they are actually Ironman brand, but not sure) and a pair of North Face trail running shoes that I’ve had for awhile – they don’t have any style marking so I’m not sure what they are, but I think the Cardiac.
IMG_9520I wanted a shoe with the traction of a trail shoe, but not one that would retain a lot of water and mud.  Gore-tex shoes would repel the water off the wet grass or small amounts of mud, but would retain it when submerged into a moat. A full on mesh shoe would retain the least water but probably wouldn’t be sturdy enough for the trails and definitely would make rope climb hard.
IMG_9523The last thing I wore, besides my required headband/bib, was a pair of gloves. I bought a pair of Under Armour CTR Trainer finger-less gloves. They provide a little bit of protection on the palms with a lot of mesh on the back of the hand. They are also usable for me at the gym, etc. I did a little bit of research on the gloves and the ideas ranged from man-up and go gloveless to wearing a specific pair of gardening gloves. I also wore my gloves the whole race and a lot people took them on and off.  The only complaint about the gloves was that I slipped right off the first monkey bar obstacle.  It was a combination of wet gloves and a wet bar, I’m sure.  Ok, and maybe some grip strength problems! For the second I grabbed some grass to try my hand a bit first and that helped a lot.
As we were leaving the Spartan Festival Grounds at Welch Village, I heard someone say that he’s done a bunch of Spartan races and this was the hardest one he’s done.  His reason – the terrain!  Should I do it again next year?  Only time will tell.

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Functional Training

Posted on Jun 24, 2015 under Cross-Training, CrossFit, Health, My Running, Training | 2 Comments

The idea of Functional Fitness has been around for awhile.  I’m not 100% sure of its origins, but it is based around the idea that going to the gym and lifting weights doesn’t necessarily make you strong enough to do every day tasks. Say that you can bench press 300 pounds but you can’t move a couch across the room – you are really strong, but lack functional fitness. Your 300 pound bench is meaningless in real life. Your fitness lacks a daily function.

Crossfit is a huge proponent of Functional Fitness.  I’m not sure what flipping tires has to do with daily function, but really we don’t do that very often.  Much of our workouts improve or focus on our core strength which can have a huge impact on our daily functioning.  We are also constantly working on improving overall strength in areas that are weakened by our sedentary lifestyle and office/seated working styles.

But my thought today is about more than being functionally fit. It is about using our fitness, but more specifically our daily training as a part of daily life. What does that idea mean to you? To me this could look like a few different things:

1. Stretching or doing yoga poses while standing in line.  You might get some funny looks, but why not reclaim some of that time?

2. Changing daily activities like sitting at your desk, to improve fitness.  Get a treadmill desk, standing desk, or balance ball chair.

3. Using your training to complete a task.  Ride your bike to work, the store, etc.  Or even literally run errands.

This cam to my mind recently as I literally ran some errands.  Based on the schedule I couldn’t get a morning run in, but I was dropping the car off the get serviced.  It was going to be a good 2 hour service, so I decided to run the 5 miles home.  I rode my bike back to pick up the car later.  I’ve done this before with the bike, but I needed to get a run in that day so I swapped it around.  Running to work can be hard as you’ll most likely need a shower even in cooler weather while biking is a little more forgiving in that area!

I’ve been using a balance ball chair for over a year now.  Two things I have to remember are to keep it inflated and to make sure I’m sitting properly in it.  Mine has a little bit of a back so it is easy to slouch which negates some of the benefits.  Having it fully inflated makes it harder to slouch!

I have a friend who often would stretch while waiting in line. Of course some people gave him funny looks,  but really who cares. Most of the people you will never see again.  Some stretches are super easy to do and don’t require you to expand your personal bubble too far!

How can you integrate your fitness regime more into your daily life?

8 Weeks to Wellness

Posted on Jun 14, 2015 under My Running | No Comment

At least that’s the idea behind my organization’s wellness policies.  To be eligible for discounted co-pays (or in my case a gift card) you have to complete a health assessment and some type of wellness activity.  The activity should be based on your health assessment has to be logged into the insurance company’s system and be approved.  A variety of wellness activities can be completed to obtain the rewards.

We gathered a team for a district wide volleyball tournament and in the 2 hours of volleyball playing we earned the desired reward.  I’m not quite sure how 2 hours of volleyball is equivalent to 8 weeks of activity, but that’s out of my purview.  I had already started my 8 weeks of activity before I knew that, but I continued with the plan just to see what would happen.  My chosen three activities were to “be more active” walk 10,000 steps, be less stressed, and to sleep 8 hours a night.

Only one night during the last 8 weeks did I actually sleep 8 hours!! Several nights I got over 7 hours of sleep in, but woke up refreshed.  I think the idea of trying to get as much sleep as possible is good, but 8 hours seems a little arbitrary.

sleep goal

Another goal was to be more active. But really what does that mean? The method of tracking this was to walk more steps.  But really for me, that isn’t an accurate measure of my fitness.  Being more active would be more consistent at Crossfit or running/biking more often.  But why work too hard for this assessment of wellness?

So I set the goal of walking 10,000 steps and used my phone’s step tracking software. The problem with using your phone is that if you ever just leave it sit on the desk or counter then you miss counting those steps. And I’m not sure how the Fitbit tracks this but while riding my bike I would get a lot of extra steps and on some of my runs I wouldn’t get very many.  So this isn’t exactly the most accurate look at the steps I take.  But it was a good look at wow, I was super busy that day and walked around the building a ton! If you use a Fitbit there is direct integration into their website which makes a plan such as walk 10,000 steps pretty simple. In the 8 weeks I monitored this I “walked” 281 miles!

steps goal

My initial health assessment said I had too much stress and that I needed to reduce it. Well duh. I felt like the tracking for this goal was the least objective. Each day I chose certain stressors and then how stressed I was by it.  So there wasn’t a true consistent metric across time to see if you were able to reduce stress in one area or another.  Monitoring my stress over the time frame when we moved made for some stressful days! It is also hard to quantify stress over the whole day in a 5 point scale.  The short-term high stress over 3 or 4 days while selling and buying a house can be averaged out if I said there was no work or family stress that day.  Here is a look at the stress data in two different ways. Obviously work and family are the most stress inducing things in life!

stress goal stress goal1


Does your work place have a wellness program?  As of this minute I’m ranked 19th “company-wide” for total number of points.

June Goals

Posted on Jun 02, 2015 under 30Days | No Comment

June is here already? Wow!  May has been a crazy month!! I wouldn’t ever choose to have a major life transition, like buying and selling a house at the end of the school year again!  In May we traveled to Ohio for my brother’s graduation, then I flew back (almost getting stuck at the airport) to MN so I could finish packing the house while the family stayed in Indiana.  Then on the 15th we sold our house and drove directly to close on purchasing our house. Then we drove to our new home and started unloading!! Within 10 days we had all the boxes into our house and hosted a Memorial Day/Housewarming/House 100 Year Old Party!! Not to mention the super stress of the end of the school year! Then end of the month mellowed a little bit as we slowly start settling in.  We didn’t have to do anything major to our new house, but we’ve gotten stuck on some of the littler things and finding the time to plan and complete them!

One amazing benefit of our new house is the proximity to Theodore Wirth Park and its mixture of single track, wide trails, and pavement.  I’ve already done a handful of runs and have really enjoyed it.  One night I took the kids for a run and stopped at the playground at Wirth Beach for awhile before running home!  Now I just need to figure out distances and loops that I can run from my house! I’ve already got a 5k and 5 mile so that is a good start! Not to mention being able to both bike and drive along the gorgeous Wirth and Memorial Parkways!

I did a lot of box and furniture lifting in May! Some of it felt intense, but not quite WOD intensity! There is no easy way to quantify all the moving.  On two of our biggest moving days I did Crossfit in the morning and box loading in the evening.  The next day it was hard to say what made me sore!!

The stats are currently in a bit of a mess as I haven’t been updating them consistently with all of the transitions! I love using Running Ahead, but there isn’t a good mobile app for it yet.  I also know that May wasn’t a great month for reaching my goals.  I should have realized that at the beginning of the month and modified them.

My May Goal was to do Yoga every day.  I only did yoga 13 days in the month.  The days I actually did a full routine actually felt really good! I need more yoga in my life!  I did do better on mobility completing 27 days, this often just one or two simple things and again not a full mobility routine that my body would benefit from!

Sometime at the end of April I started an 8 week Wellness Challenge for work and I’ve been completing my daily check-ins.  They are walk 10,000 steps, reduce stress, and sleep 8 hours.  I’ve been getting the steps in pretty consistently (based on my Galaxy S6 data) but obviously not so much on the stress end of things or with the sleep.  I think I’ve hit 8 hours once in the 5 weeks, but I usually wake up on my own before my alarm even goes off which makes me think that it is ok.

Crossfit – I was able to go 5 of the 13 times I would normally attend.  This works out to be every time that I could go based on our schedules.  Christy worked a week of weekdays so we could travel home and then flying and closing messed up a couple of more times.  I need to get better at doing some type of body weight WOD at home.

Running – 29.1  miles – I’ve been running fairly consistently on Saturday mornings with the Team World Vision crew.  This is the bulk of my mileage. Last week’s run had to be aborted due to a flat tire! With summer coming and living near Wirth I’m hoping to increase my mileage!

Biking – 31.9 miles – What a drastic change from last month! With the moving and weird schedules I had to do more daycare drop-off than normal so that cut into some of my bike commuting.  My new commute isn’t actually too much shorter, but overall a more scenic ride – no more semis and downtown traffic! The entire ride is still almost exclusively on bike infrastructure.

Dating – I don’t recall going on any kid-less dates this month.  Oops!  Does going to closing count as a date? Maybe the most expensive date ever!!

June will be a less stressful month as I’ll be winding down with work.  I’m actually going to a lot of training in June, which won’t be ideal.  However sitting in a training is probably less-stressful than regular work.  We shall see.  My June goals are to watch a TED talk and do push-ups every day. I’ll probably just end up watching 30 TED talks catching a few on the weekends and I’m going to say at least 10 push-ups is the minimum that will count.

May Goals!

Posted on May 03, 2015 under 30Days | 2 Comments

April was quite a busy/weird month.  At the end of March we decided to sell our house and buy a new one! So we began April frantically cleaning and getting our house staged for selling while also looking at new houses.  In less than 2 weeks of signing a contract with a real estate agent we had a purchase agreement for both a new house and selling our current house!  The rest of April was a blur of purging, packing, cleaning, and trying to maintain some regular life! We were fortunate that Christy’s parents had already planned to come up over spring break so they were able to watch the kids while we looked at houses and stage ours.  My Mom was already planning to come up to watch the kid’s for me to ride the Dickie’s Scramble so she also helped with a ton of packing and starting to load our moving pod. We really couldn’t have done it without their help!

This whole process obviously added some stress to our life and preempted some others plans.

My main goal for April was #30daysofbiking  I thought that since I finally wasn’t travelling in April that I’d do a lot better.  Eh.. Incorrect! I only rode 22 of the days.  I’ll blame some of the moving stress! I actually did a good job riding for the first 8 days, missed one and rode a bunch more. I wasn’t able to sneak away while my Mom was here the first part and then once I rode the Dickie Scramble I was pretty shot for the next few days!  My total monthly mileage was huge!  In one month I tripled my yearly total! I had mentioned that I was going to try and wear bike apparel daily, but I gave up on that one after the first week.  I could have done it, but it was hard to keep track of wearing something different.


Running – 8.5 miles – I was focusing on riding more which meant I rode to work and didn’t feel like running first. I was tempted to ride one way and run home and almost did before I wisely realized my body wasn’t ready for a 9 mile run.

Biking – 230 miles – Riding an 85 mile race and a 33 mile training ride while also a month of trying to ride every day meant I really ramped up my mileage, which could be why I’m dragging a bit now!

Swim – 200 meters – I wanted to see what it felt like to swim since I haven’t really done it in 2 years.  I was briefly tempted to do a triathlon with my old work buddies.  I could probably do it, but given the stress of moving it didn’t seem wise to try and force myself to hit the pool on a regular basis.

Crossfit – I went 5 times.  It was a little frustrating that the week that I can go all 3 times was also the week before my race, so I didn’t go as part of the taper.  I’m still enjoying it and feeling stronger.

Mobility – I did 24 times which has been a fairly consistent number.  Maybe not so consistent on what that actually means.  On days when  I do Crossfit, I spend some time after using the mobility tools they have. At home it is less consistent.

Dating my Wife – We did go on two dates this month!! Yay!! Having family in town 2x’s this month meant we didn’t even have to pay for a babysitter!

My Goal for May is to do Yoga every day. I’ve downloaded a couple of yoga apps for my phone to help me with poses and some sort of program.  We shall see!


How was your April did you get out and do #30daysofbiking ?

First Blush: Dickie’s Scramble

Posted on Apr 26, 2015 under Bike, My Running, Race Review | No Comment

A brutally hilly ride on a super windy day! I finished, it was definitely a challenge to keep moving.

Support my efforts to provide clean water in the Congo!

Spartan Sprint, Here I Come!

Posted on Apr 20, 2015 under 5 Mile, 5K, Obstacle | 1 Comment

I’m not 100% sure how it happened, but I’m “enlisted” for my first Spartan Sprint race this summer.  My sister has done a few different obstacle/mud races in the past few years. My secret Santa at school this year got me a copy of Mud & Obstacle Magazine. I think those two events and the fact that I’ve been doing Crossfit for awhile now made me think that I could enjoy doing an obstacle race.

So then it was more of a matter of finding one. So I found this helpful website: Mud Run Guide. According to the list there are 8 events this year, but last year’s calendar had 38 different events so I don’t think it is fully accurate.  So my sister and I reviewed the events and dates and chose to compete in the 1st Twin Cities based Spartan Sprint on June 27.

From the website:

Welcome to Welch Village.

Located less than an hour outside the Twin Cities, this mountain will have you running up, down, across, and around this 1,060 foot mountain in a 3+ mile Sprint. Who will be the first Spartan to conquer this new location? Looming hills, dense woods, and brutal barbed wire are just a few of the obstacles that will stand in your way. Will you reign supreme?

Distance: 3-5 miles
Obstacles: 20-23

Avg. Temperature: High 80, Low 59
Avg. rainfall: 4.21 in.
Elevation: 1,060 ft
Avg. finish time: 1.5 hours
Fastest finish time: 40 minutes
Special gear needed: Racers should plan to bring appropriate fuel for their needs. No fuel will be provided on course, only water. Hydration packs (or water containers of some variety) are strongly suggested for all racers.

Start Time: 7:30am

Waves of 250 athletes will be released every 15 minutes across 3 groups (Elite, Morning, Afternoon).


Did you see that? 3-5 mile race that takes 40 minutes for the winner, that’s because there will be 20+ obstacles and 1,ooo feet of elevation gain.  That should be fairly rough!

So, how does one train for this? The Elite’s do a pretty rugged regime that includes endurance and strength work combined with obstacle specific work. There are also places to go specifically to train for these type of events. But that isn’t really a good option.  Spartan offers a 30 day training plan and they have the Spartan Workout Tour which is a few hour boot camp. The Workout Tour is coming to Minneapolis and Rochester in May.

My plan? I’ll continue my training as normal – Crossfit, Running, and Biking each a few times a week.  I will incorporate more hill work and try to find some places that I can do some “obstacle” type things in the middle of my runs.  Or if all else fails do body weight work every mile or so on a run.  Pushing a stroller is tough work too right?

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