RR# 26, continued: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 2

This is part two of my Ragnar Washington DC race report – if you haven’t read part one, you should click on this right now to head over there and read that first.

When we left off, we were pulling into Exchange #12 for our first break of the event.  The exchange was at a high school, and I have never seen so many white vans in one place in my life.  People everywhere.  The school had a spaghetti dinner they were selling as a fundraiser, and access to showers, as well, so there were some nice amenities.  There was also a big shady area back behind their tennis courts where everybody was taking their sleeping bags to go lie down … a sea of runners, in repose.

Van #2 ran well, and it was after dark when Dottie came rolling in and handed off to Michele.  The night legs are always an interesting part of a Ragnar … some people love them, some people hate them.  They bring their own challenges, to the runners and the support vans.  It is easier to get turned around at night if you are a runner, and it is harder to tell which runner is yours if you are in a van.  All runners are required to wear a headlamp, a taillight, and a reflective safety vest.  One thing I learned this time around is that making that setup as unique as possible really helps your team to be able to figure out where you are.  There were people that had light strips around their hands, and you couldn’t miss them.  Emily, in our van, had a vest that had red lights on it on the front, which helped us to pick her out.  Little things like this make a difference.

Leg #13 did a little winding in the first mile, and then was a straight shot for nearly four miles to the next exchange.  This was a no-van-support leg – the vans weren’t allowed to stop on the course to support their runners – so we headed straight to that exchange and settled in.  Michele killed it again, handed off to Dave, and we were off.  His leg was also a no-van-support leg, so off to the next exchange we went.  This series of legs was in a very rural area, and many of the roads were narrow and winding, so they couldn’t have the vans pulling over and blocking roads.

I took over for my second leg at an elementary school in Williamsport, Maryland, and immediately ran into an interesting start.  About a quarter of a mile in, I was running on a sidewalk near a drop-off location at the school, and a car came up behind me through the drop-off lane.  I thought it was my van, so I raised my hand to wave as they came by … and a guy leaned out the window and yelled, “I’ll kick your fucking ass!” and then they drove off.  I shrugged, and actually laughed at them, because … really?  The exchange didn’t bother me – it just felt like stupid kids on a Friday night in a small town.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it at all, but I did mention it to Dan and Dave when I finished my run.  I hadn’t thought about the implications for Emily, who would run after me, and so that kept us extra aware during the rest of the night runs.  The neighborhood I ran through in the next half a mile or so was redolent with the smell of weed, too.  So … Friday night in America!  I will say here that I never feared for my safety or the safety of any of my teammates.  But , this was an interesting start.

After a bit of winding, I turned onto one big three mile straight stretch on the highway.  After that I made a right turn and then had a two mile straight stretch, for a six mile total run.  My first mile I did in 9:40, and then the rest of it settled in to a consistent pace between 10:00 and 10:30 miles.  I was passed a few times, but never by somebody that reeled me in slowly – when I got passed, that person absolutely blew past me.  Because I was the runner that had the Ragnar leg, all of my fellow Runners #3 were beasts.  So that felt good – I held my own.  The overall pace I was able to hold for the run was a 10:15 average mile, which is very close to my 10k PR pace. My handoff was at a small church in a small town, and then we were off to support Emily on a run that turned out to be full of drama.

The first fun little thing happened maybe a mile or two into her 5-mile run.  We were ahead of her in the van, looking for a place to pull over and cheer her on.  At one point, there was a shop light set up on a tripod out at the end of somebody’s driveway, pointing so that it was facing to the eyes of the van drivers.  When we got up to it, there were two gentlemen sitting on camp chairs at the end of the driveway, drinking beer.  They seemed friendly enough, though the fellow with the shirt that said “Balls Deep” might have rethought his wardrobe if he were going to be headed to the opera or the symphony or wherever you go after you change out of your Balls Deep shirt.  We wouldn’t have given these guys a second look except for my experience with the gentlemen at the beginning of my last leg, so we looked for a place as close to them as we could get to pull over.  When we asked her later, Emily said she hadn’t noticed them … which was a good thing.

And then we had the real drama.  At about mile #2 of this leg, there is a confusing little intersection, and the runners were meant to turn left.  When we came through in the van, we didn’t make that turn, and got maybe a half mile down the road before Dave, who was navigating from the first row of seats, called out that we were off course.  We spent a minute trying to figure out what was going on, and then we made a realization.

Some assholes had taken the signs at the turn.

At that point, we had three things to do.  First was to text race command and let them know.  Anna did that, and they got back quickly and said somebody was on the way.  Second was to get back to that intersection before Emily got there so that she didn’t miss the turn.  And third … we had to turn around all of the runners that had missed that intersection.  Since I was in the passenger seat, that was me – every time we would encounter a runner, we slowed down and I yelled at them that they were off course and then explained what happened.  There was a lot of confusion, and not a little bit of cursing.  But we got everybody turned around, and we made it back to the intersection about three minutes before Emily got there.  By then, there were a bunch of vans at that spot, so we left it with them and moved on.  That issue would have been figured out by somebody else very quickly – but it felt good to have helped and minimized the damage for those runners that had missed the turn.

From there, the rest of Emily’s run was uneventful and nice.  The weather was great – clear skies and cool at night – perfect for Ragnar night legs.  It was peaceful.  Dan took over at a little country church for his seven mile run, and I took over as driver with Emily in the passenger seat.  Dan hadn’t been happy with his first leg, so he was determined to really run this one hard – and he did.  Killed it.  His leg was in a very rural area, with narrow, winding roads and open fields.  At one point we went through a little community with a couple of one-lane bridges that were scenic even at night. His run was uneventful, and then Anna took over at yet another little country church.  Anna’s second leg was short – only 3.5 miles – but featured 2 miles of steep uphill followed by a 1.5 mile downhill bomb to the finish.  She lost something like 400 feet of elevation in that last 1.5 miles.  Exchange 18 was a major exchange, and was at a big creamery – a major dairy farm that the family had turned into a destination with an ice cream shop and activities centered around the cows.  We only really stopped twice for Anna, and on the last one she said she’d meet us at the exchange, so we headed over there to link up with Van #2.

The creamery opened for us through the night, which was cool.  We got some ice cream and went around to a booth they had set up for hamburgers and hot dogs, but they were already out, which was unfortunate.  The farm smelled like cattle farms do – smells like money! – and was somewhat loud, so we made the decision before Anna ever got there that we were going to move on to the next major exchange immediately.  Anna came in flying – she got a kill in the last few yards, which was awesome – and then Van #2 had the slap bracelet and we were off.

Exchange 24 was at a big park in Germantown, Maryland, and we got set up and then all tried to settle in to sleep.  I reclined the passenger seat in the front of the van and passed out for probably 3 – 4 hours.  Every Ragnar van has somebody that snores.  That is just one of those inevitable facts of life.  And it turns out … I was that person in our van.  I only snore if I’m lying on my back.  I know this because if I’m snoring at home I am summarily elbowed and asked (told) to roll over.  But lying on my back was all I had this time, so snore I did.  They told me after, and I felt bad, a little.  But only a little.  Next time I’ll bring my ENO hammock and do it that way.  I wished for it.

Breakfast shenanigans

The van began to rouse when the sun came up.  We breakfasted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars, and whatever we had.  We walked around to try and loosen up our legs.  I went over to the coffee table – but they had just started brewing, and it was going to be a few minutes.  We checked in on Van #2, which was going strong, and we got prepped up to go and get it.

Michele … literally flying

Our third set of legs was very different.  We were in suburban DC at this point, and the running began to look and feel like running in town.  There was traffic, and there were street crossings where we had to wait on lights.  And driving the support van became an exercise that required a lot more focus, as well, for the same reasons.  But the morning was nice, if a bit warm, and off Michele went.  We were able to actually give her some van support this time, and I was able to get a couple pictures that I thought turned out really good.  And then she was at the exchange and handed off to Dave.

“How long until we’re supposed to be finished?”

Another feature of our third set of legs was that they were generally shorter – with the big exception of Leg #30.  Dave’s leg was only 2.8 miles, so though we were technically able to support him, we really didn’t have time and headed straight to the next exchange.  My next leg was only 3.2 miles, slightly downhill until a decent bump in elevation in the last half mile.  Dave came flying in as only someone that knows they are now done running will do, and I was off.

I love this picture

My strategy on this one, since it was only 3 miles and was my last run, was to come out fast and try and hold it.  My first mile came in at 9 minutes flat, and my second mile came in at 9:30.  I was running without music – too many things to turn on and get right at the exchange – so I was really happy with this pace.  The third mile featured the hill, and all of the last 24 hours finally caught up and I bonked.  I did that last mile in 11:28 and then the last little bit at a 10:00 pace, for an average pace of exactly 10 minute miles.  That one hurt a little, but then I was also done running, and so didn’t really care at all. Emily then had about 4.5 miles through very busy residential and commercial areas, which she really ran fast, and then Dan took over for a 3.7 mile leg that was the first to feature some mileage on some local trails.  After he hit the trail we headed to the next exchange while Anna got ready, and then off she went.

Bringing it home…

Doesn’t she look crazy fast?

Anna’s last leg was the worst one our van ran, with the possible exception of my first leg.  It was 8.4 miles in the middle of a hot day – upper 80s – after she had already run two legs.  Much of the first part of her run was on trails, so we couldn’t support her with water.  And then much of the second part of her run was in areas so congested and busy that it was difficult to support her with water.  We did our best, though, and then headed over to her last exchange.  When we did see her, she was uniformly positive.  We couldn’t have asked for a better runner #6, especially considering she had only signed on three weeks prior and hadn’t specifically trained for this.

As we headed over to Exchange #30, we got word from Van #2 that the Ragnar folks had given teams permission to send the runner on leg #31 before the runner finished leg #30. The heat was pretty bad for folks that didn’t come from Florida, and apparently there were more teams still out on the course than they had anticipated by that time. So in order to make sure we all finished at a comfortable time, they left it to our discretion to send our runner. We were making good time – we were going to finish well ahead of the time that their pace calculation estimated – but we couldn’t come up with a good reason not to do that. So when we got to Exchange #30, Van #2 was already gone. Anna could not have cared less – she got her miles in and was now done running.  We took a “Yay, we are done running!” picture, and headed to the finish line.

“Yay! We’re done running!”

I say that only because I know we ended up at the finish line.  I passed out almost immediately when we got back in the van.  Maybe I snored again, I don’t know.  But it was nap time.

The Finish Line

The finish line was at the Navy Yards in Washington DC, which is a cool area.  Dan and Emily had a hotel room two blocks from the finish, so we were able to head over there and get showered and drink beer while we waited on Van #2 to bring it home.  Leg #36, Dottie’s final leg, was a full 12 miles – she finished up with a half marathon! – and we walked over to the finish to wait.  Generally the teams wait for their final runner a bit out in front of the finish line and the whole team crosses together.  We were expecting the rest of Van #2 to meet us in that area … when here comes Dottie, flying and focused!  I took off to intercept her, and nearly had to tackle her to get her to slow down.  By then the rest of Van #1 had caught up, and we all crossed the final bridge to the finish line together.  The rest of Van #2 missed it by like a minute – they saw us crossing the bridge, and were at the finish line within a few seconds of the end.

The Orange Line

And then we were done.  We collected our medals and SWAG, took a few pictures, and hung out.  You get free beer at the finish, but the laws in DC don’t allow them to give you a beer outside of a roped off area where they check everybody’s ID.  We wound up not partaking, and headed out.  A few of us drove Michele to the airport – she had to get to work the next day (!) – and then we headed over to the Grants for some delicious barbeque pork and beer.

Our time was … it doesn’t matter what our time was.  Dan told me the first time I did this that these events are 5 teams trying to win, 295 teams trying to have a good time.  We were solidly in the latter camp.  I had a blast.  My fitness level has improved dramatically – I am now probably in better shape than I have been since I played basketball in high school, and I am still improving weekly.  I got to meet some great new friends, and got to spend some time with old friends that I don’t see anywhere near often enough.  If any of The Orange Line is reading this – thank you.  Thank you for agreeing to the craziness, and thank you for running with me (us) and thank you for your generosity and friendship.  It was a joy running with you.  And you’ll be getting an email shortly … start thinking about the next one.

Notes:

  • Being a captain on one of these teams really is different from being a member. The three responsibilities that are the hardest all involve people – recruiting teammates, assigning legs, and fronting and then getting reimbursed money.  When you are a standard runner, you write your check and these things happen.  When you are captain, you have to consider a ton of different things – you need the right runners on the right legs, and you need the right people in the right vans, and you have to contend with 12 different travel schedules and training / injury statuses (stati?) and you want to make sure you don’t have anybody disgruntled at the end of the process.  You need people who are gruntled, for sure.  But it was fun, and I enjoyed it.
  • These aren’t cheap, either. I probably fronted $3k – $4k.  Divide that by 12 and it gets reasonable; for what it is, it is downright cheap.  What makes an event like this one more expensive is the need to travel in.  When I ran Ragnar Tennessee, I was the only one that had to fly in – everybody else lived there.  This time, there were three people that lived there and another that was only a little over an hour away.  Everybody else had to make it a good distance.  Makes it even cooler that we were able to do this.
  • I can’t imagine the logistical nightmare of putting one of these together and managing it through the night. All of these people went 200 miles, through multiple cities and towns, on state roads and county roads and local municipal roads.  They certainly had to get dozens, if not hundreds, of permits, and then staff this thing well enough to be able to manage it.  And this on top of worrying about the inevitable handful of idiots you’re going to get when you try to get this many people to do anything – it only takes one stupid van to ruin your race’s relationship with a whole community.  My hats off to the folks at Ragnar Relays.
  • I really enjoyed the hills. They obviously suck while you are running them, but I love the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment you get when you do them.  I really felt like a badass when I topped out that mountain on Leg #3.  That feeling was fleeting – I don’t still feel like a badass – but I still liked it.  I would love to do one of the big mountain Ragnars, particularly the ones out West – Wasatch Back or Colorado.
  • Most of my teammates do not share that view.
  • The weather was really an interesting x-factor. For those of us that came up from Florida, we really enjoyed it.  It was hot, but not quite as hot as we’d been training in … and certainly not as humid.  But for the folks that traveled in from farther north, or west, or even lived there, it was a really hot day that impacted things during the runs.
  • Ain’t no SWAG like Ragnar SWAG. The shirts this year are great – great material, great fit, great design.  I love mine.  We also got 10th anniversary pint glasses, decals, stickers, etc.  I still have our slap bracelet, though my intention is to get that framed and present it to Dottie as our team MVP – she ran 29 miles!  And then the Ragnar medal is always awesome, bottle opener and everything.  And I got a separate medal for running the Ragnar leg, and they didn’t skimp on that thing, either.  As I say – ain’t no SWAG like Ragnar SWAG.
  • I had planned that to be my last race for some time. I want to spend some time focusing on my deadlifts and a few other things at CrossFit.  BUT – it appears that a whole bunch of people are coming to my house and Dottie’s house to run the Celebration Marathon & Half Marathon in January … so I’m signed up for that now.  I also wound up running the Pancake Run 5k that I ran last year – that race report is forthcoming.  Dave is also now doing that peer pressure thing about getting me to finally run a full marathon.  We’re tentatively eyeing Flying Pig in Cincinnati, but who knows.  So my next scheduled race is the Celebration Half, January 28th.

Ragnar!

RR #26: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 1

OK – it is time.

Let’s talk about Ragnar.

So … last Thanksgiving I ran a 10k (still stands as my 10k PR, ahem) with my sister-in-law and very good friends who’s house we were crashing in the DC area.  Great morning, great race, really had a good time.  During the drive, somebody mentioned a Ragnar, and it turned out that none of the runners in the van had ever run a Ragnar … except me.  A sister had, but other than that no direct experience.  And everybody just casually said what a great idea it would be to do one of those things one day, and wouldn’t that be fun?

Yeah – I tend to be the type that actively tries to move things from talking to doing.  Especially at that time, I was reading a book that really had me thinking hard about the choices I was making and what I wanted to do with my time and energy.  So the week after Thanksgiving, after stewing on the idea for a few days, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen if somebody didn’t take the ball and run with it … so I sent an email out and volunteered to be captain.  By the second week of December, we were signed up for Ragnar Washington DC, to be run in late September, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, DC.

If you aren’t familiar with Ragnar, then two things.  First, follow that link up there a few lines ago (or this one) and read my description when I ran Ragnar Tennessee back in 2013.  I can’t say it any better than that right now.  And second, know that these things are a total blast.  They can be hard, and you don’t get much sleep, and there is various amounts of stress … but, man, what fun and adventure these things are.

What I learned this time is that being a captain takes the whole thing up another level or five.  Some of the logistical stuff isn’t so bad – getting signed up, booking the vans, arranging hotel rooms, etc.  Communicating and probably over-communicating.  The trick is finding 11 more people to run with you.  That trick is complicated when you’ve got a race people are traveling to … it is one thing to get somebody to sign up for the craziness.  It is another thing altogether to get them to sign up for all of that plus a trip across the country.  BUT … off we went.

There were several teammates built in because of how the idea started.  My good friend Dan and his wife Emily – the ones that turned me on to Ragnar in the first place – were in from the start.  My sister-in-law, Jessie, and brother-in-law, Dan (different Dan).  The folks whose house we crashed at Thanksgiving and one of their daughters – Dave, Erin, and Marlee.  Counting me, that was 8 people before we even got started good.  Then the sister that Erin mentioned during the Thanksgiving race … Rachel was 9.  The 10th fell into my lap during the CrossFit Open in early March – an ultrarunner!  Runner Number 12 was going to have to run a total of 29 miles, and I was stressed about who I was going to make do that.  When Dottie asked if she could run and told me she was an ultrarunner, I signed her up very, very quickly.  Then, as we got closer and all of our backups and our backup-backups started falling out, I put out a call to my gym and the 11th, Michele, the same one I had run into during the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, signed up over the summer.  And then, just as I was beginning to think I was going to have to go to the boards and get a stranger, one of Jessie’s friends, Anna, agreed to run with us just three weeks before the race.

We had a team!

The Celebration CrossFit crew representing at Ragnar DC!

After a couple of interesting false starts (Shit Flows Downhill, anyone?), Dan came up with the name and concept of The Orange Line for our team – with a metro-themed logo and a nice, poke-fun at the DC Metro slogan of “We Run All Night”.  A shirt design was drawn up, and I did my over-communication thing, and then I had to assign legs.

The Orange Line … but we run all night

So the assigning of the legs, it turns out, might be the critically important thing about getting this whole Ragnar captain thing right.  Not only do you need the right people running the right legs, but you also need the right people together in the different vans.  You are literally stuck in a van with 5 other stinky and tired people for the better part of 2 days – having some compatibility there makes a difference.  The trick with this course is that there were a lot of hills, include some big ones and two particularly beasty ones.  And there were also some very long legs.  The runner that went the shortest distance went about 14 miles.  The runner that went the longest distance went 29.  I volunteered for what they call the Ragnar Leg, which is the leg that has been designated as the hardest one on the course.  If I am honest, I did it because that leg gets an extra medal, and I like medals.  But still, I did it.  And since Dottie was the hero that was going to be able to take the 29 mile Runner #12 slot, the rest were able to fit in and mostly fall into place.  I was really happy with how the vans shook out – Dan, Emily, Dave, Michele, Anna, and I were in Van #1 … Anna didn’t know anybody before Friday afternoon, but I figured that if you can’t get along with me, Dan, and Dave, then there is a fundamental issue anyway.  Also, Anna was awesome.  And then Erin (who got the other beasty hill leg – for which we are all duly grateful to her for running), Marlee, Rachel, Jessie, Dan, and Dottie were in Van #2.

The Ragnar Leg, leg #3 in this course, was particularly nasty looking.  I was going to run 8 miles, and miles 2.5 – 6 were essentially running up a mountain, gaining about 1,300 feet of elevation over those 4 miles.  One thing you might be noting if you know me or have read anything on this blog before … I live in Central Florida.  There aren’t any hills to train on around here.  And when there aren’t any hills to train on, you have to get creative.

I used a parking garage.

Up and down that damn parking garage, once or twice a week for three months.  I did long slogs up and down.  I did sprints up and down.  I did what I think of as line drills – down one level, up one level, down two levels, up two levels, etc.  I am so used to running on pancake flat roads and sidewalks that I knew it would be a big mistake not to train for that hill somehow … and that parking garage is probably the biggest hill around here for miles.

A moment of repose…

Expert Van Decorators

We all met up at Dave & Erin’s house on Friday – three of us from Florida, two from Atlanta, one all the way in from California, one really all the way in from Seattle, one from New York, one from Baltimore.  Dan is an expert van decorator, and so vans were decorated.  We had a group dinner at a brew pub, and then Van #1 headed to Cumberland to crash at a hotel and get ready for our 8:30am start.

Van #1, at Rocky Gap State Park

The race itself was great.  We had good weather, mostly – it was a little hot, which impacted the folks from up north much more than it did those of us up from Florida.  But it was clear and not so humid.  The start was at Rocky Gap State Park, a beautiful park on a lake in the mountains of western Maryland.  The runners went around this lake, and the first exchange was within a couple hundred yards from the start line.  Because this was a trail run, we couldn’t support our runner (Michele) directly, so we headed over to the exchange to wait.  When Michele came out of the woods she looked strong … but then after she handed off to runner #2 (Dave), I realized she was bleeding.  There were some particularly nasty roots on this trail, and one of them had taken her down.  She had twisted her knee and her ankle was swelling – an ominous start.  But it turns out that Michele is a champ.  She cleaned it up and then never spoke of it again.

And she’s off!

We weren’t allowed to support runner #2, either, because of the way the roads were laid out, so we headed to the next exchange to await my turn.  I did my best to get ready for the beasty hill ahead, and waited.  Dave came in flying, handed off the bracelet, and off I went on my first leg.

The first couple of miles were nice – flat-ish, through a little town.  Nice.  Then we started up a long, straight hill on the highway that was one of those where they add extra passing lanes and you just go straight up the hill.  My van was able to stop and cheer me on and offer water, but I was afraid if I stopped I would struggle to get going again.  When I neared the top of that section, they were there with water, cheering, and a funny little exchange happened.

Dan – “You see that sign?  You made it to the top!”

Me – “Of this section.  I’m not even halfway up this mountain.”

Dan – “Oh.”

Oh, indeed.  From that little tiny stretch of relief, we turned up the hill onto basically a dirt road and headed straight up.  That section was one of the steepest sections of road I have ever tried to run, and I finally broke down into a walk for part of it just for sanity.  This started a good 3 mile stretch of just basically straight uphill running that was brutal.  Much of it was on dirt roads, so when vans passed I would get dusted out if they weren’t being careful.  About halfway up I got my first kill – I had been gaining on him for some time, and when I passed him he looked like he was trying to puke next to his van.  This was just brutal stuff.

See that mountain up there – yeah, I went up and over that thing.

My van was great, stopping with water and at one point I got a NutriGrain bar.  Eventually I topped out and then had another 2-or-so mile stretch that was pretty steeply downhill, then another mile of rollers, and finally I reached the finish line.  My Garmin said 7.66 miles in 1 hour, 34 minutes, and 2 seconds, for a 12:16 pace.  I was and am thrilled with that pace given the nastiness of that hill.  I gained 1,305 feet of elevation.  I lost 1,068 feet of elevation.  This was equal opportunity suck – my calves were dying from the run up, and my quads were trashed from the run down.  My fastest mile was the first one, in 10:22, and my slowest was mile 4, in 15:02.  In mile 3, which featured that crazy steep section, I gained 581 feet of elevation (in one mile!) and managed to do it in 14 minutes flat.  The run went as well as I could have hoped.

Leg #3, in the bag

I handed off to Emily at that point – who, incidentally, was the runner who handed off to me when we ran Ragnar Tennessee together, which I thought was cool – and then tried to cool down.  We were off supporting Emily for her run – she’s fast – and then when she handed off to Dan I became the driver.  Runner #6 was Anna … her leg sucked because it was steeply downhill and it was a very dry and dusty dirt road.  Support was not easy because I didn’t want to kick up dust.  But she was flying and knew the drill – Anna is a veteran of multiple Ragnar Adirondacks races – so we got through just fine.  Van #2 was waiting for us at the exchange, and Erin seemed nervous about the beasty hill in front of her.  The handoff went off without a hitch, and they were off.  After some pleasantries, we headed out in search of food.

Anna, coming down the mountain…

According to Yelp, the 4th best restaurant in Hancock, Maryland, is a place called the Potomac River Grill, right on the bridge over the Potomac to West Virginia. We didn’t know how much to trust that review since #5 was Pizza Hut, but we figured we would give it a shot.  They had gotten hammered with Ragnar folks – always six at a time – but we caught the tail end of the rush and wound up having a very pleasant meal.  Burgers and sandwiches and even some beers and the tip and everything … for the low, low price of about $80.  We recommend the place highly.

We headed to Exchange #12 and tried to rest while we waited for our next turn.  I’m already over 2,000 words, so I’m going to break this up – we’ll pick it up again with leg #13 shortly.

Van #1, in repose

Ragnar exchange sleeping EXPERT LEVEL

Ragnar!

 

Update:  Part 2 of this race report has now been posted.  Click here to head over there and read about the finish...

My Favorite Thing I’ve Ever Done

Last week, after a work trip up to North Carolina, I wound up attending an afternoon class at Celebration Crossfit, which is rare.  Normally it is either 6am or it doesn’t happen.  But, I was there, and the CCF social media guy – and fantastic photographer – Guillermo was also there, but waiting for the class after mine to start.  Guillermo takes great photos everyday at CCF, but they tend to be of the same-ish group of folks because of his timing for being in the box.  Since I was different, I was a target for him – we were doing push presses, which I suck at, and he got this shot, which was posted to the CCF social media sites with some very kind words:

Push Presses – 175#, a 10lb PR

It is always fun to have my picture featured on the sites – I still find it to be a bit surreal – but then this one had a little follow-up.  My wife showed it to my kids, and the 5-year old apparently studied it for a minute, got all wide-eyed, and gave a big thumbs-up.  And then moved on.  Like a 5-year old.  When she told me this, I initially smiled and also moved on … but over the last few days, this little moment – one that I didn’t even see – has stuck with me.  Maybe it is that we’re having a challenging few weeks at home – summertime means the boys are out of their routine, which means they can be little disasters – or maybe it is because Father’s Day just passed, or maybe it is because a couple of close friends and colleagues recently lost their dads … whatever is driving it, fatherhood is on my mind.

A few weeks ago, each of the boys battled a round of illness.  They hand it off to each other, and we’ve learned that one booger-y nose usually means 2 – 3 weeks of somebody not feeling right at our house.  When they’re bad enough, they get housebound, and then one of my jobs is to get the other one out of the house and get some fresh air and activity.  My go-to for that is Epcot, because Epcot is awesome.  And so, within a couple of weeks of each other, each of my boys had a Daddy day at Epcot while the other one stayed home and rested.

One of the challenges that I put on myself, as a father, is that I want to teach my boys how to notice things around them.  I want them to be curious, and to ask questions and seek answers, and to critically evaluate those answers.  About everything.  And I want to expose them to the widest possible array of things to be curious about and ask questions about.  We spend a lot of time talking about the natural world – plants, animals, stars, the moon, the ocean, all of it – but also about engineering and art and movies and building and cooking and exercise and music and books and math and anything they are, or for that matter I am, interested in.  And frankly, that’s exhausting sometimes.

Because if I am serious about this task, then not being exhausted means I’m doing it wrong.  I have seen the difference in people who have their curiousity encouraged and those that have had it stifled.  I have seen kids who ask questions because they get engagement and also kids who don’t ask questions anymore because those questions are discouraged.  I have seen kids that are allowed to help and are thereby taught the skills and confidence they need to be independent, and I have seen kids that want only to be a part of what their dad is doing but are instead parked in front of the TV so they are out of the way.  It is easier to not answer the questions, or to tell them they can’t help.  But I won’t have it – if I’m not going to do those things, why did I have kids in the first place?

There is a flip side to the exhaustion, though.  Some of it you’ve heard before – about how you get to watch these two little boys grow, and learn, and succeed, and fail, and figure it out, and about how your heart bursts with pride and joy and sadness and anger for them and on their behalf.  This weekend, my oldest was trying to set up a domino field in the shape of a square – tip one over, they all fall down – and he was struggling.  At one point he tried to quit, but I wouldn’t let him – just because it is hard doesn’t mean you should stop.  And when he finally did it, when he made it work, you cannot imagine the look on his face.  He learned a lesson that day that I hope he remembers for the whole rest of his life, and his happiness and pride might has well have been mine.

But there is another, more subtle thing that happens when you try to parent this way. In order to be able to engage and respond to them, you have to pay attention to them.  You have to see what interests them, and understand when something happens that surprises them or that they don’t understand.  You sometimes have to anticipate what will be fascinating and actually prepare to handle the discussion.  And then – and this is the absolute best – you get to experience these things again through their eyes, as though you are experiencing them yourself for the first time.

When your 2-year old gets fascinated by a puddle of water, or an ant, or the way a ball rolls down a hill – it reminds you about what it means to be fascinated by the things around you.  Our immediate world, however regular, is a miracle, and we should approach it as such.  When your 5-year old begs you to stop and watch the Japanese drumming at Epcot, or goes crazy at the idea of a strudel, or sees a film and asks if we can visit China one day – it reminds you to dream big, and to stop putting limits on yourself or your family, and to be open to the whole world.

These boys, they are making my life richer than they will ever know.  And they are pushing me to be a better father, a better husband, and a better person – because I want them to feel about their father like I felt about mine.  I want them, when they are nearly 40 and have kids and families and dreams and struggles all their own, to believe that my example can, in some way, help them navigate the crazy waters ahead.  And, if I’m very, very lucky, I want them to give me a call so that I can tell them I still love them.

Sometimes, when we’re sitting after a bedtime story, or we’re laughing at a silly joke, I will tell them that I like being their daddy.  That’s the language that they understand.  But one day, I will tell them what I really mean.  I will tell them that being their dad was my favorite thing I’ve ever done.  And that my life would be immeasurably poorer without them in it.

And that I hope that someday they know what it means to love somebody like this.

Father’s Day, 2017

 

An Anniversary

On April 18, 2016, one year ago today, I attended my first Couch-to-Crossfit class – and it began.  Three weeks later, on May 9, I walked into my first regular Crossfit class.  6am, Monday morning, Celebration Crossfit.  I didn’t know anybody.  I couldn’t do most of the movements.  I weighed about 315 pounds – I was enormous.  And I was scared to death.

Holy shit, was I scared to death.

That first day of regular class, I walked into a gym full of people that could actually do all of these things I simply could not physically do.  I was excited and ashamed and scared and nervous and embarrassed and a whole list of emotions all at once.  My shirts were too big because I couldn’t risk my belly hanging out.  I was wearing big thick running shoes.  I had no idea what I was doing – and I knew it.   And in some communities, when a newbie walks in like that they had better be ready to run the gauntlet.  The veterans make them earn it, every step of the way.  I was prepared to have to deal with being laughed at or getting the side-eye or feeling inadequate.  When you’re a fat guy trying to do something physical you have to approach it with a big dose of humility.

Very few pictures of me around that time – this was taken about two weeks prior to my first 6am class.  Probably around 315 – 320 here.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, I was welcomed in like I had been there forever.   I thought I would dislike the social aspect of Crossfit, that I would have to push through that discomfort indefinitely if I wanted the results.  I have come to like the social aspect the most – these people help me be a better me.  The 6am crew at Celebration Crossfit has become an integral support group.  They cheer me on when I succeed, and they encourage me when I am struggling. They help make it more fun.  They’ve taught me that I can push harder and go farther when I work with other people.  They (you, if you’re reading this) make it easier for me and help me on my path and never ask for anything other than that I keep working hard – and for that, I am eternally grateful.

The coaches, too, were a surprise for me.  I played basketball in high school, and our coaches were tough and aloof and gave the sense that they had a lot of things to be worrying about OTHER than me.  But regularly in class, and especially during the Open, I get the sense that Erik, JC, and Kaycie genuinely care about how I’m doing – care in a way that nobody else does except me.  They are invested in my success in all facets – as gym owners, yes, but also as human beings that personally want me to be a better me.  They are legitimately proud of the work I’ve done, in a way I could never have expected.

One of my favorite pictures from the Open is not the most technically sound or flattering shot.  It is a picture of me at the bottom of an overhead squat in 17.3 with JC sitting right in front of me, talking me through it.  He was there like that in every Open WOD – he and Erik cheered when I sped up to finish 17.1, and he was sitting right next to me during the row on 17.4.  Everybody else was encouraging and yelling – he was calmly talking me through the whole thing.  And Erik and Kaycie were the first two over to congratulate me after 17.4 – they were as happy as I was about my performance in that workout.  I work harder because I want to make them proud of me.  One year ago today I would have rolled my eyes if I had read that sentence from somebody else, and here I am writing it.  But it is true.  I didn’t expect to find a special thing, but I found it.

Coach. Coaching.

In the last year, I’ve accomplished more physically than I ever thought possible in this amount of time.  I can lift heavier weights, run longer distances – and run them faster – and generally move through the world in ways that were previously beyond me.  I have not missed a Monday since that one a year ago – a few times I’ve had to run because I was traveling, but I have not missed a Monday.  I have lost over 60 pounds out of the 100 that I plan to lose.  I look better than I have in maybe ever, and I feel like a million dollars.

Like one million damn dollars.

I freaking love deadlifts … and bacon

When I got the email from Erik about my membership renewal, I didn’t blink – I’d pay it at twice the cost (though they shouldn’t get any ideas).  I have a lot of goals still.  I have to get to work on that last 40 or so pounds.  And at next year’s open I’m going to have to be able to do pullups, double unders, and handstand pushups if my Rx scores are going to be meaningful.  I have drunk the Kool-aid on Crossfit, in a big way.

There have been many steps since that first one, 6am, Monday morning, just over one year ago. There will be many more, but I can say without reservation that that first one was the hardest one.  Maybe one of the hardest steps I’ve ever taken in my whole life.

In a Facebook post a few weeks ago Kaycie said that they were with me every step of the way.

So I guess I need to keep stepping.

See you guys at 6am.

Taken about 4 weeks ago. Like one million damn dollars.

And then this happened:

Friend, fellow Crossfitter, and super-talented photographer Guillermo Cummings took a picture of me doing 17.3 on Friday that I still don’t quite have a handle on.  He posted it across his social media last night, and shortly thereafter:

It is hard to know what even to say except that I wouldn’t believe this was even a picture of me if it weren’t for those socks…

So … this happened:

A couple of days ago the owner and head coach at my Crossfit box emailed and asked if they could use my before and now pictures for a post in their social media.  I agreed – I don’t like my fat picture, but, as I told him, if I didn’t want it out there I shouldn’t have put it out there.  I offered to take a current “now” picture, so I did that this morning and sent the pictures over.  The post below is the one they made on Instagram – they also posted this on Facebook.

I never dreamed I’d be the guy getting air time on a Crossfit gym’s social media, but it is happening.  I kind of don’t even know what to think – it feels surreal.  The best part has been the comments, both from my peers at the box as well as complete strangers.  The universal positivity and happy-for-me-ness is very gratifying.  Crossfit is a group effort, and I feel that more now than ever.  It makes a difference knowing all of those people are really rooting for me.

Now this, this is just pure HARD WORK & DEDICATION. @woody_mw1 works HARD! He didn't use magic pills or gimmicks, and he didn't do anything to take the easy road. He took the road that ensures a healthy lifelong habit is formed. That road is not easy. It is HARD! But, nothing good in life comes easy. Matt's journey has included coming to @celebrationcrossfit 5 days a week at 6am over the past year while also eating a nutritionally sound and consistent diet. And, his results show just that! Due to Matt's HARD WORK and DEDICATION he is down 60lbs a few weeks short of his 1 year mark into CrossFit. When Matt first started with us, he couldn't do a single sit up. Now he finishes each workout at the Box with 100 full range of motion Sit Ups. Keep up the great work, Matt! We are here every step of the way! #crossfit #crossfitter #crossfitathlete #weightloss #weightlossjourney #healthy #healthylifestyle #fitlife #fitfam #fitness #functionalfitness #crossfitbox #crossfitopen #crossfitlife #crossfitfamily #crossfitcommunity #crossfitlifestyle #crossfitdad #down60lbs #hardwork #dedication #celebrationfl #celebrationflorida #celebrationcrossfit #kissimmeefl #kissimmeeflorida #disneyworld #disneycrossfit #crossfitneardisney

A post shared by Celebration CrossFit (@celebrationcrossfit) on

Race Report #23: Celebration Half Marathon

When I registered for the Celebration Half Marathon, I actually viewed it as more of a training run than a goal race.  I’m registered for the Gasparilla Half Marathon in late February, and I had registered so early that I believed I could get in a “practice” half marathon and still have time to recover for a real push at Gasparilla.  Also – I live in Celebration.  It felt like if I were going to be doing a 12 or 13 mile training run in town, I might as well get a medal for it.  All indications are that the race is very well run and very runner friendly … so I signed up.

Training went well.  I’ve clearly gotten faster, which I attribute largely to endurance gained with Crossfit.  My taper was very non-traditional – two weeks before the race I ran most of the actual course, about 12.25 miles by the time I was done.  And then I didn’t go for another formal run for those two weeks.  I went to Crossfit 6 days a week, and that often included running, but at no time did I go out for a run.  For dinner on Saturday night I made a chicken barley soup and homemade bread to carb up, and called it a taper.  My prior half marathon PR was 2:36 flat – my stated goal going into this was a PR, my secondary but really no-brainer goal was under 2:30, my stretch goal was under 2:25, and in my wildest dreams I hoped to get under 2:20.

Florida in January is generally a glorious place to be.  For the last several weeks the highs have been from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, with lots of sunshine and low(ish) humidity.  Winter training here is a completely different thing than winter training in New York.  Everything was going great until we started checking the forecast a week or so out – mid to upper 40s and rain.  From like 4am to 10am on that Sunday – the exact window that the race was scheduled to run in – Central Florida was going to get rain.

<sigh>

The race expo was at town hall, from 5pm to 9pm on Friday and 10am to 6pm on Saturday.  My thought was that I’d get there right around 5 on Friday and beat the rush.  Apparently that was a good idea, because by the time I got there the line to pick up bibs was quite long.  They moved it along quickly, though, and we got our bibs and a bag full of coupons and headed inside to the expo.  We all got very nice steel tumblers as part of our SWAG (very nice), and my bib number won a door prize – which was one of last year’s shirts.  The shirts we all got this year are very nice, and there was a small but nice expo with several vendors and local companies.  Then I did my best to stay off my feet until Sunday morning.

Race day, I got up 20 minutes earlier than normal, ate my traditional pre-race oatmeal and coffee (got to keep things, well, moving) and prepped up.  Because of the rain I had purchased a throw-away rain jacket at BJs for $13, and tried to dress warmly but not too- warmly.  The walk down to the start line was a bit over a mile, and about halfway there I passed a parking lot and entered the masses.  I’d brought along a coat in a gear check bag, so when I made it downtown I went and checked that at the very neat little area they had set up and then started wandering around trying to stay warm.  I knew several people running the race, but never did see any of them before we got started.  Of course, there were 2,500 of us milling about between the half and the full, not including family and volunteers, etc.

celebration-half-start-line

The corrals were not formal, but there were plenty of signs designating where to start.  There were also professional pacers scattered throughout, so there was plenty of signage.  Lots of port-a-potties, so I got one last stop in, and then lined up just in front of the pacer with the 11:05 pace sign.  National Anthem, 3-2-1 go, and we were off.  I dropped my raincoat just on the other side of the start line and the race was on.

Lots of congestion early on.  The first mile of the course features several turns through a nice neighborhood, which is lovely when you’re running with a handful of people.  When you’re running with several hundred, though, those turns really bog down as people try to run the tangents.  Also, and I hate to be negative about this, but there is really no excuse in a start area this well signed for people that are going to be walking within the first mile to have been in front of me.  There were a few people running a Galloway-type run-walk program, some even with beepers, but they were all very courteous about stops and starts and stayed over to the side.  Other than that, though, if you’re going to be walking that early, line up farther back.  <sigh>  My first mile was the third slowest, at 11:09.

celebration-half-route

Right at the first mile marker, two things happened.  First, we turned out of that neighborhood and began running a much more straight course, which cleared up much of the congestion.  Another, though, was the first of the spectators that was specifically cheering for a group of friends running the race, including me.  She and her kids had created a sign with “You Can Do It!” on one side and “Go <insert names here>!” on the other.  I could tell I was the first of our group to go by, because I seemed to take her by surprise, and by the time she got the sign turned around I was already by.  That kind of support, though, makes a monster difference – it was cool.  My second mile settled into very comfortable pace and came in at 10:39.

The third mile is a big out-and-back through a neighborhood called North Village.  I don’t like out-and-backs, but I had practiced this particular one several times since I knew I’d be running it.  I passed the time on the way out scanning the runners that were coming back, and then vice-versa on the way back.  I didn’t recognize anybody, but it sure made the miles go faster.  Mile 3 was a 10:38 mile.

This course is very, very flat.  Over the whole 13.1 miles, my Garmin only picked up 32 feet of elevation gain, total – and that’s not net, just the number going up.  Mile 4 goes through a stretch, though, that I’ve always felt like is slightly downhill.  Any time I run that stretch I always feel great going through there, and this time was no different.  Nothing remarkable – we wound around near the Water Tower Shoppes and then ran in front of the Disney offices here in town, headed toward the hospital.  Only one turn in mile 4, which helped it come in at 10:31.   At this point I was feeling very good and knew I had a very good chance to hit my goals, even the stretch or dream goals.  The rain had been spitting all morning, and it was chilly, but overall things were going very well.

For mile 5, we wound in around behind the Celebration Hospital, running through their parking lot and access road.  Here I should also say that the support on-course was GREAT.  There were police and volunteers at every intersection, and water stops with water and Gatorade at very regular intervals.  Particularly with the weather like it was, it was great to have that much support.  In my practice run two weeks before, I had refueled with a Lara Bar at the end of mile 5.  It felt too heavy on my stomach, so this time I brought lighter Nutri-Grain bars.  There was a water stop just before the mile marker, so I took my first walk break to eat that bar and wash it down.  Because of that little stop, mile 5 was a bit slower at 10:50.

At that point, though, we turned off onto a roughly 2.5 mile stretch of just straight running.  They had blocked off a lane on the main road coming into town and we had the whole thing for that stretch.  Wide lanes, no turns, just running, leads to good splits, and miles 6 and 7 were my fastest in the race – 10:29 and 10:21, respectively.  The marathon organizers had several signs printed up to line this stretch (“You’re running better than the government!” and “Hurry up marathoners, the half-marathoners are eating all the food!”, etc.)  There were also a few spectators, including one couple that had a big sign “Free Gatorade for runners!” and a cooler full of 20oz Gatorades.  Again, the support means a great deal.   These miles seemed to fly by, and I hit the official 10K split in 1:06.44, which is less than 3 minutes off of my 10K PR that I set on Thanksgiving.  And I still felt strong.

Just after the mile 7 marker we turned off onto a potentially hazardous stretch.  Celebration was basically built on a big swamp, and throughout town there are miles of paths that include boardwalks through some of the old forest.  These boardwalks are very nice, and make a lovely stroll or even a run under normal circumstances.  They are also very slippery when they get wet – and it was raining.  Between that and how narrow they are, we were warned multiple times to be very careful, and to stay right unless passing but don’t even really do that.  Most of mile 8 was on a boardwalk, and though I didn’t see any accidents or incidents, I also slowed down to a manageable 10:48 pace.  I both wanted to stay safe and also wanted to start conserving energy – my legs were starting to feel the miles, and about mile 9 was when I bonked pretty hard on my long training run.  So I throttled back a bit, and in the end this was the right strategy.

2017-01-29-09-21-37-1

At about mile 8.5 we came off of the boardwalk and crossed over a bridge into a neighborhood called Artisan Park for about 1.5 miles.  That bridge is the only way in and out of Artisan Park, so that’s where I’d told my wife to be if she wanted to bring the kids to cheer.  Both of my kids, but particularly the young one, have been pretty sick lately – and it was raining – so I had told her the night before that if they couldn’t make it I would not have my feelings hurt.  It was more important to keep everybody healthy than to get them all wet.  So I rounded that corner not knowing what to think – and there they were!  Part of my motivation for doing all of this is to be a good role model for my kids – I want them to see their Daddy doing healthy things and making active choices and living that kind of life.  And so when they see me and smile and give me fives and act excited – well, there really isn’t anything better.  It was awesome.  Just past my family I took another walk break to eat my second Nutri-Grain bar.  Between stopping to say hi and then eating that bar, mile 9 was by far my slowest at 11:29.

I have a standard loop that I do through Artisan Park … and this course actually cuts that loop off, making it feel like I’m cheating.  That helped.  I also saw another group of spectators that I knew – some friends live down in Artisan Park, and the wife was also running the race.  It is always good to get personalized words of encouragement – in this case a big “Go Hogs!” in reference to the Arkansas Razorbacks pullover I was wearing.  This got me through mile 10 in 10:37.  We also crossed the 15k mat in Artisan Park – my official 15k split was 1:40.44, which is nearly a 9 minute PR at that distance.

2017-01-29-09-22-49

My family was still there when I came back over the bridge – so another round of high fives and smiles later, I had my motivation to finish.  The final three miles are always a mental exercise, making sure your mind doesn’t tell your body to stop.  At this point I knew that I was going to finish in under 2:25, and what kept me going was the chance at getting under 2:20.  But I was also tired, so I started hitting every water stop … and then it was just put your head down and get to the finish.  Mile 11 goes through a little neighborhood called Aquila Loop (10:54), Mile 12 is partly in East Village and partly on a very nice path on the back edge of town all the way to Lake Evalyn (11:11), and then at the beginning of Mile 13 the full marathon course turns for its second loop and the half marathoners loop around behind the main lake in town, cross through the original startline, and wind around to the finish right in the middle of downtown.  In Mile 13 the rain picked up a little, but it was an 11:00 mile, and that last 0.1 mile I did at a 10:00 pace, to finish in 2:21.52.

Nearly a 15 minute PR!

celebration-half-preliminary-results

So, yeah, I was pretty amped up.  They’ve got a chute set up to run through at the finish, and they were calling names.  Lots of people were cheering, music, a great atmosphere.  In the chute we got our medals, a Clif bar, a bottle of water, orange slices, bananas, and a little cover-up from the rain.  I inhaled all of that that was edible, probably through a big smile.  I went over and retrieved my checked bag so I could put a heavier coat on, and then cheered the other runners until my friends came by.  At about 2:40 the winner of the full marathon came through, flying – I saw him coming and thought “Wow, that guy is running fast” before I could see his bib and tell he had run a completely different race.  Once everybody around me realized what he was, there was a really big cheer.  It is impressive watching somebody do something you can’t.

And at that point I headed to the after-party, which is really really great for a race this size.  All of the local restaurants had a tent set up with food.  You got a card with all of their logos on it, which entitled you to a sample at their tent.  It was awesome.  We got two beers at the beer tent, a mimosa at that tent, and the restaurants had awesome food – standouts were the clam chowder from the Tavern, the black beans and rice from the Columbia, and the chili from Market Street diner.  Café D’Antonio had big doughy pizza, and Upper Crust had hot rolls.  I didn’t make it to all of the tents, but I know Imperium Wine and Avocado’s Mexican were out there, too – as well as Starbucks.  Just an awesome perk for the runners.

2017-01-29-10-25-14

I could not be happier with that run.  My training was good, but at the end of the day my mileage was lower than when I trained for the half marathons I did in the past.  I’m convinced that the difference is Crossfit – my cardiovascular endurance, as well as my leg and core strength, are drastically improved from what they were, and I got there without pounding my legs out on all of those miles.  To be this much faster than before, AND injury free, is an awesome feeling.

If you’re looking for a small, flat, fast, runner-friendly race, I’m not sure you could possibly do any better than the Celebration Marathon and Half Marathon.

15 minutes!

Notes:

  • Everybody on social media is raving about the race, as well they should. Lest I be considered biased, there is one decent complaint – the area where they do the bag check is not covered, and if you didn’t put your stuff inside something waterproof in your bag, your stuff probably got wet.  Mine did.  That was a bit annoying – to have thought ahead to pack a dry warm coat, and then have it be pretty wet, was not what I was looking for.  BUT – it wasn’t all that bad, and I’m going to give them a break.  I’m going to bet they haven’t seen weather this crappy since they started this race, and I’ll also bet that the next time it rains on race day they’ll have a solve for this.  At the end of the day, this was pretty minor.
  • It turns out that I’m not going to be running Gasparilla – the cost and logistics of getting to that area on that day are just prohibitive, and the Crossfit Open starts that weekend. Also, it’ll be nice to take a break from training for a race – though it’ll be a short break, because the next one is not that far out.  All of that to say – running this was absolutely the right call, all the way around.
  • There is something really odd about running a decently big goal-type race in your own town when you walk to and from the starting line. These are routes I run all the time, and this was just like a training run – except with a couple thousand of my closest friends, and water stops along the way.  Kind of surreal, really.  I imagine it’ll be even worse the next time I get out there to do a regular run.
  • The encouragement I got from my Crossfit box was incredible, and really means a lot. A couple of my fellow athletes also ran (go Nanette, Joanne, and Brooke!) also ran, and I got several texts and other encouragement from others.  The community is the best part of Crossfit, and this is just another example of that.
  • Also a big congrats to Holly and Elizabeth for killing that race, and thanks to Laura and William for standing out in the rain with a sign. I’ve never lived in a community where friends all root for friends like this.  I like it.
  • This race is worth it for the food after. Seriously – the beans and rice from the Columbia was absolutely perfect after this.  Also, for dinner that evening we came back down to the Tavern and I absolutely crushed a cheeseburger & fries & onion rings & beers & a post-race meal that I’d been planning for several days.
  • Back on the wagon on Monday morning, though.
  • Speaking of Monday morning – I had a checkup with my doctor the morning after the race. The nurse that took my vitals engaged me in my single favorite medical interaction of all time:

Nurse:  Is your pulse always very low?

Me:  Oh, uh … I run.

Nurse:  Ah – ok.

End of conversation.

(for the record, my resting pulse was 45 bpm) (#running)

  • The SWAG was awesome, too – our shirt was organic cotton from RawThreads, and is a shirt I’ll actually wear. The steel tumbler is exceptionally nice, and unlike anything I’ve ever gotten in race SWAG before.  And the flyers and coupons included are all for discounts for local restaurants and stores – which is handy, because I actually live here and may use them.  There was also a light-up safety arm band and something they called a “buff”, which really saved my ears going to and from the race.celebration-half-swag
  • My next scheduled race is The Dark Side Challenge on April 22nd and 23rd at Disney World. That’s Star Wars Dark Side weekend, and I’ll be running the 10K on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday.  Which, in retrospect, was crazy for me to sign up for.  May the force be with me.

 

Deadlift

I realize I never added this video.  As much as I’m loving Crossfit, what I’m really loving are the days when we do the big powerlifts.  This was a month or so ago, and we worked up to 90% of our one rep max.  This is 365#.  If things go right, I’m running a half marathon this morning, and then I’m going to start spending some more time on these power lifts.  Big fun.

Averages

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  – Jim Rohn

Wednesday morning at the gym (still can’t call it a box), and we had our normal 6am crew.  We show up, we work hard, we go about the rest of our day.  The coach this week is JC, who also does all of the programming, and can be beasty – he’s a great coach, and he pushes hard and expects maximum effort.  So we did the WOD, which this day included lots of power cleans and an interesting front rack carry that was harder than it had any right to be is going to have me sore for days.  We got done about 10 minutes early, so he had us cool down with a bunch of band pull-aparts, and then I started gathering my stuff to go.

At this point, two of the guys get on the floor and start doing situps.  I’m sure the look on my face was interesting – “what fresh hell is this?”  When I asked, they said that they wanted to get in 100 situps, so that’s what they were doing.

Well, hell.  Now I’VE got do situps or I feel like a lazy bum.  So I get down and start doing situps.  And then an extraordinary thing happened.

The whole class started doing situps.  Nobody left.  The 7am class had to start their warmups while dodging us, because we were all doing situps.  We could have left, but we didn’t – there was work still to do.

From now on, when somebody asks me how I’ve been successful at my weight loss and health journey –even if somebody asks me how I’ve been successful in my career or anything else in life – my answer is going to be that I upped my average.  We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and my average has gone way, way up since I started Crossfit.  So here’s a question – do the people around you push your average up or bring it down?