Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to the Gym - Tough Night

After three days off, I was expecting to feel pretty strong in the gym last night. But, it didn't happen that way at all.

After our warm-up, we spent ten minutes working on rope jumping; I spent the time working on double-unders. I did get two in a row at one point, so bit by bit, I'm improving. But, I was also sweating a lot just from the rope jumping and I felt out of breath at times. That seemed odd, given that I should have been rested.

Then came the main workout, a really tough one, especially for me:

21-15-9, as quickly as possible
squat snatches
dumbbell thrusters

Both of these are difficult moves for me, although, to be honest, I think the second is tough for just about everyone. My overhead squat sucks, which means that legit squat snatches are next to impossible. Eventually, I transitioned from crappy squat snatches to a power snatch followed by an overhead squat and then just to power snatches.

On the DB thrusters, I started at 25 pounds per hand and eventually dropped to 15 pounds, and I still struggled at the end. My time was just under 11 minutes and I felt like a failure. Low weights, poor form on the lifts, and completely gassed.

Hopefully, tonight will be better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Exciting weekend - crazy weather edition

I last posted on Friday morning, after going to CrossFit for my 4th consecutive day. I went again on Friday, as planned and then hurried home that night. I will admit that I was pretty sore over the weekend from 5 straight days of CrossFit, but it was an excellent training week.

Saturday was mostly spent getting ready for the big storm. We did some grocery shopping, got some ice to help protect the contents of our large meat freezer in the basement, did some work outside, such as moving things into the garage. We rarely put our cars in the garage, but we did make room for one as this storm approached, and we parked the other car where no falling trees could reach it.

Our daughter wanted to stay overnight with friends, but with the storm due, we vetoed that choice, much to her dismay.

I spent so much time prepping for the storm on Saturday that a workout was never an option; there simply wasn't time.

As we went to bed on Saturday night, the forecast was still very ominous and we had no idea what to really expect. I woke up about 2:00 a.m. to make a trip to the bathroom and discovered that it was already raining lightly. I slept in on Sunday until about 8:30. It was raining harder when I woke up and we had some light breezes out of the north with some occasional higher gusts. But, by noon, the wind had died down and we were left with very heavy rain and no wind for much of the day.

We were trying to keep abreast of the storm on local news and the Weather Channel. Our satellite signal for TV was very intermittent during the heaviest periods of rain. At one point, we were surprised to hear the next town over and a particular local road mentioned on the Weather Channel. Apparently, the road had flooded and a bridge was gone. This was one of the two routes we could have used to pick up our daughter at her friend's house, so forcing her to stay home was clearly a good idea, at least in the adult world view.

During the afternoon, the electricity blinked a few times, which seemed odd given the lack of wind. The local radio station that I usually listen to for local weather details was off the air. We discovered later that they had some serious flooding issues.

In reality, we had no idea how bad the flooding was around the state. We live at 1100' and our property drains reasonably well. We had one minor roof leak at our chimney during the heaviest rains and some water in the basement, but no other issues on our property.

I was working on cooking dinner when the lights suddenly went out. Because we use propane, I was able to finish cooking dinner, and we ate by candlelight. We even played a game of Mousetrap with the kids, who delighted in killing my wife's mouse first and me next.

About the time it got completely dark, the rain was diminishing, but the winds were picking up. We had a couple hours of gusty winds, but nothing super strong. As the winds diminished, the house was amazingly quiet with no electricity to fuel gadgets.

I used my cellphone to keep up with local events on the web, but eventually, I needed to save some battery life. So, by 9:30, we went to sleep. We knew there was no school for our daughter the next day and my offices were closed, but I could work remotely if the town had power.

On Monday morning, the drive to town wasn't too bad. The local golf course had flooded and a few businesses and houses had been damaged, but we seemed much better off than the rest of the surrounding towns. And, according to the power company web site, our power was due to be restored by 10:00 p.m. on Monday, much better than radio projections of weeks for some people.

And then, around 1:00 p.m., downtown went dark. The power company had apparently discovered some issues with cables near a river and they needed to take the entire town, plus some neighboring towns, offline. We were told that the best we could hope for was Wednesday, and Friday was quite possible. Now I had a new concern. I have a large freezer that I use so I can buy local grass-fed and pastured meat in bulk. It had about $1000 worth of meat in it.

I contacted some friends who had extra freezer space and power and then packed up and took the meat to their house. Meanwhile, my wife and kids went to visit some family locally, for dinner and a shower.

And then, around 9:00, the power came back. I have no idea why it happened so soon, but I won't complain. So, I'm an hour away from home, our meat is nearby in a friend's freezer, and my family is at home. My wife's office is closed today. My daughter's entire first week of school has been cancelled. We have friends and neighbors without power and with extensive property damage.

We managed to survive unhurt, with no property damage, and at most, lost a couple hundred dollars worth of refrigerated food. Compared to what many other people are going through, we were very lucky.

Today, I hope to get back to the gym. I was disappointed to miss the CrossFit Total workout yesterday, which was the test workout after our 12-week Wendler Cycle. I may do it on my own later in the week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

4 Consecutive Days

My goal for this week has been to go to CrossFit five days in a row, something I've only done once before. To be honest, it's not what CrossFit officially recommends. If someone looked at the workout of the day on the official CF site, he or she would see that Thursday and Sunday are rest days - never more than three days in a row.

But, this was as much a challenge to see where my fitness is as a goal for a tough workout week. While I've done some longer workouts this summer, such as a marathon and the 100 mile relay, my total number of workout days has dropped off since late June. Work has been busy, life has been busy, etc. As of this past Sunday, I'd only exercised 33 out of 59 days, which is less than I prefer.

So, I decided I wanted six workout days this week and five of them at CrossFit.

Last night was a "Work Your Weakness" night, so I got to pick my own workout after the warm-up. I got to the gym early, so I got to do some extra stretching and foam rolling, and I did some practicing with the jump rope. One of these days, I'll get double-unders.

The WYW workout has two parts, one for strength and one more for speed.

For the first part, I chose Turkish Get-ups and Stiff legged deadlifts. For the first ten minutes, I did 2 TGUs per minute for ten minutes. For one, I started with the kettlebell in my left hand and for the other, in my right hand.

For the SLDLs, I did 3 per minute for ten minutes, at 155 pounds. This is a really low weight for a regular deadlift, but it works my hamstrings pretty well on the SLDLs.

For the second part of the workout, I chose weighted Bulgarian Split Squats and Abmat sit-ups. Each round was 5 BSSs per leg, followed by 15 sit-ups. In 12 minutes, I completed 80 split squats (40 per leg) and 125 sit-ups. Amazingly, my abs aren't sore today, so maybe the sit-up wasn't the weakness I thought it was. Perhaps I should have done wall climbs or toes-to-bar instead.

Tonight, we have our final workout of the Wendler lifting cycle - a low weight deadlift workout. I'm not sure what the second half of the workout will be, but I should survive it.

Monday we have a workout that will test the results of the 12-week cycle.

Tomorrow, I have a lot of prep work around the house before the hurricane hits on Sunday. I'm hoping to squeeze a bike ride in sometime on Saturday, but getting ready for the storm takes precedence. The current weather forecasts, even for central Vermont, are pretty ominous.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lots and lots of deadlifts

Before I describe last night's workout, above is a photo from Monday's burpees. I like the fact that I'm not only doing the burpee correctly here, but I am also clearly leaner than I was a couple months ago. I need to step on the scale and see how it's moved, if at all.

Last night was an easier workout than the night before. And, it contained no squats or burpees, either one of which might have sent me running away from the gym. Luckily, I managed to get out of work just in time for the class.

We started with our final day of Wendler strict press work, a de-loading week:
5 @ 60
5 @ 72.5
5 @ 85

Then, 5x10 of DB strict presses. I did the first three sets with a pair of 35s and then dropped to 30s. Then, 3 x max of chest to bar pull-ups. I used a band and got about 8 on each set. Then, we had the main workout:

As quickly as possible:
21 deadlifts
Run 400 meters
18 deadlifts
Run 400 meters
15 deadlifts
Run 400 meters
12 deadlifts
Run 400 meters

The prescribed level was 225 pounds for deadlifts, and if I was more rested, I would have done that. Level 1 was 155 pounds, which was too low for me, so I picked 185 pounds, in between the two.

I got through the first 21 reps without a break and ran my 400. On each of the next three deadlift sets, I had to take a short break, about 2/3 of the way through the set. I also had to be careful lowering the bar, so I wouldn't hurt my back.

My time was 14:42, and I've got no complaints with that.

I'm still sore today, but I'll go to CF tonight. My goal of five straight days is getting closer to reality.

This coming weekend, I think I'll do some bike riding and mowing on Saturday, before the hurricane arrives. I'm not sure what, if anything, we'll do on Sunday - maybe an early hike somewhere.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CrossFit - Helton

When we do back to back workouts at CF that use the same or similar movements, I usually end up pretty sore for a couple of days. After doing squats and burpees on Monday night, we had a variation of squats plus a lot of burpees on Tuesday. I'm walking a bit slowly today.

The workout was Helton - another in the seemingly endless series of "Hero" WODs. It's sad how many workouts we have that are named for soldiers killed in the line of duty. Joseph Helton from Georgia died from an IED explosion in Iraq in 2009.

Once again, as soon as I walked into the gym, I knew it would be tough. One of my frequent strength training partners, Bob, was still doing the workout when I arrived at the gym. He was in the 4:30 class yesterday and I arrived about 5:30. And, the clock was over 40 minutes and ticking for him. There was no strength work on the board either. That all meant a grueling MetCon.

Helton - 3 rounds, as quickly as possible
Run 800 meters
30 dumbbell squat cleans (the little hop in the video isn't necessary or maybe even appropriate)
30 burpees

The Rx weight for the squat cleans was 2 x 50 pounds. Level 1 was 40 pounds and level 2 was 25 pounds. I chose 30 pounds and had a pair of 25s nearby in case I needed to drop down, but I stayed with the 30s, as it turned out.

I'm pretty sure our 800m loop is a bit long. It took me 4:45 to do the loop and I was running faster than that, or at least it seemed that way. Maybe I'll double-check it with my GPS sometime. By the time I was through the first round, I'd used almost 12 minutes. I figured that if I could do 12-13-14, I'd be pretty happy. And, that's about what I did, finishing in 38:21. At that time, I was about mid-pack in the class. We had some people in the mid to high 40s, and everyone looked beat. Already on Facebook this morning, I've seen a comment from someone else in the class that she is sore today.

Today, I have a 7 hour meeting that might force me to miss CrossFit after work. Hopefully, I'll make it, but if not, I can probably use the rest. Or, if I do miss the class, I might do an easy bike ride instead.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CrossFit Simplicity

Last night's workout was incredibly simple, yet plenty tough.

We started with our Wendler squat work. This was a deloading week, so the squats were fairly easy, and I maxed out at 210 pounds.

We did 3 sets of 5 reps at easy weights.

Next was 5 sets of 10 reps of box squats - a squat where you actually sit down for a second at the bottom and then return to the standing position. I did one set at 135 and 4 sets at 155.

And then, the MetCon:

10 minutes, as many reps as possible
10 burpees
10 pull-ups

How can anything be more simple than that? Most people could do this at home, although band-assisted pull-ups are tougher at home.

I came within 3 reps of 5 rounds - just couldn't get those last three pull-ups to finish the round. Most people got 6-7 rounds. The best part for me was that all 50 burpees were done with good form - no crawling back to a standing position, followed by a slight jump. That is the most quality burpees I've done in a workout at CF.

I feel pretty good today after that workout. Let's see what tonight brings...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Long-ish run on the Kingdom Trails

Thursday, I did a short sprint workout at home. All told, including warm-up and cool-down, I did 2.5 miles, with 10 minutes of hard effort. I felt stronger than I'd felt on this workout recently, and really had a fun workout.

Friday, I was planning to squeeze in a workout, and I was allegedly on vacation, but I ended up working most of the day and never got to the gym. That was fine though, as I was planning a long run on the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT on Saturday. The runners for that run included my wife, two friends from Canada - Pat and Lorne - and me.

Lorne is planning a rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon next month, and this was his fifth consecutive weekend with a run of 5 hours or more. He is as lean and fit as I have ever seen him.

We started our run right about 9:00 a.m., on the easier side of the trail system, rather than on the Burke Mountain ski area trails. For a while, we took it fairly easy. Pat and I ran towards the front, talking away, while Lorne was hanging back a bit with my wife. About 75 minutes into the run, my wife took a hard fall and hurt her right pinkie, but luckily it wasn't broken or dislocated. About half an hour later, we crossed a paved road that provided an easy way back to the car, and Cheryl called it a day. She still had two miles to the car, but she could do them at her own pace.

By this point in time, I had decided that three hours was enough for me. I'm glad I didn't have thoughts of going longer than that, because as soon as my wife headed for the car, the pace changed quickly. I was walking through a sunny meadow, trying to take an electrolyte capsule, and suddenly Lorne and Pat were gone. I spent most of the next hour trying to stay close enough to see them, and not get lost.

As we closed in on three hours, we got back to the car and discovered that my wife had just gotten there. She and I changed clothes and did almost a mile back to town, where we had some lunch and relaxed until Lorne and Pat were done. I did just under 12 miles for my workout. By the time Pat and Lorne finished, in about 5.5 hours, they'd done about 22 miles.

Lorne seems to be in great shape for his run in the Canyon next month. My wife and I were both happy with our runs. We each did a run that matched our fitness levels and our training goals. Pat hadn't gone nearly as long this year as he did Saturday, but as usual, he was strong the whole way through.

We spent the rest of the day getting some food and hanging out together. I don't get to see my two friends from Canada very often, and we were up well after midnight, just catching up with each other.

Today, it's back to work and back to CrossFit. This is our final week in the Wendler strength cycle. I have made every single strict press workout in the cycle, but my attendance for squats and deadlifts in the last 3 weeks wasn't very good.

Next Monday, we try the CrossFit total again, and I'm hopeful that I'll improve from last time. But, I honestly don't expect a big improvement. If I can keep my squat at 315, add 5 pounds to my press to get to 130, and add 10-20 pounds to my deadlift, I'd end up at at 820-830 total pounds, vs. an 805 last time we were tested. That's not a big improvement, but my training probably hasn't earned me any more than that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two (mediocre) CrossFit workouts

I'm clearly still feeling the effects of the race on Saturday, despite two rest days. I would never have needed two rest days after a race like this 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. But, I guess that's what happens when you get old(er).

Last night, I rode to CrossFit after work. The warm-up was ten minutes of stretching and foam rolling - whatever you wanted to work on. I used the foam roller the entire time, really focusing on a slightly sore ITB where it attaches to my right knee. I worked on my quads a bit as well.

Then, we had ten minute of rope jumping practice. I'm getting closer and closer on double-unders. I had a least 10 times that I got one rep, and once that I got two. Within a month or so, I think I'll have it down. I have to remember to stay on my toes and not get "happy feet" and start jumping too quickly as the rope speeds up. I also need to get the pulsing of the rope rotation down - fast, slow, fast, slow, fast, slow...

Then, we had the following main workout.

3 rounds, as many reps as possible, do each exercise for 40 seconds, and then use 20 seconds to transition to the next:
Box Jumps
Med Ball Slams
Kettlebell Swings
Wall Balls
Kettlebell sumo deadlift high pulls

Because I was still feeling the effects from Saturday, I chose the weights for level 2. This worked fine except for the high pulls, where I definitely should have had more weight. I did 239 total reps in 12 minutes of work - about 20 reps/minute of active time. I was soaked with sweat, but it was a good workout for me after the run on Saturday. It was fast without being too much stress on my tired leg muscles.

After the workout, I rode home, helped to cook dinner (I grilled salmon and made Bearnaise sauce as my contribution), and headed to bed early.

At 4:45 this morning, the alarm went off and I got dressed to head back to the gym on my bike. I was surprised by how dark it was, and when I left a little after 5:00, it was still darker than I'd like. I used a flashing light on my back, but I could have used a headlight too. I was about a mile from the gym when my bike started to act a bit funny. It took a bit for me to remember the feeling that comes from a flat tire, but that's what it was. I rode for a bit more until the tire was really flat and then walked the last half mile to the gym, just in time for the workout.

This morning was a Wendler Strict Press workout - the last heavy day before we'll do a test in a couple weeks.

Here is the workout as scheduled:
5 reps at 105
3 reps at 115
1 rep (or more) at 127.5 - my best ever is 125

I got the first two sets, but failed badly on the last. I did a couple push-presses at the weight, just to get the feeling of having it overhead.

Then, 10x5 close grip bench presses
3x10 band-assisted chin-ups

And, the main workout:

12 minutes, as many reps as possible:
10 toes to bar, or knees to armpits, or knee-ups (I did knee ups and need to work on all of these)

I had never done wall climbs before and did not do them nearly as well as the demos at the link. After three rounds of wall climbs, I switched to the alternate movement - push-ups with a five second hold at the top of each rep.

I completed 6 rounds plus 5 push-ups in the 12 minutes. My shoulders are trashed right now.

After the workout, I fixed my flat tire. The flat had been caused by a staple. I'm not sure how I picked up a staple on the road, but that's what I found. I rode home, showered, packed to go home for the rest of the week, and then managed to miss the bus to work. I managed to catch a later bus and got to work much later than usual.

I'm leaving early this afternoon and taking some time off this week. I haven't really had any time off this summer, so just a shortened week this week will be nice. Saturday, I'm meeting a couple friends to run long on the Kingdom trails at Burke Mountain.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

100 on 100 relay

This past weekend, I ran the 100 on 100 relay here in Vermont for the fourth time. In 2007, I was on a fast team and we finished in the top 15 or so. We had one runner who ran 5:30s the entire time he was out there. I was in pretty good shape that year, although I'd run the Vermont 100 a few weeks earlier. I don't remember our exact team time and I can't find it on the web anywhere, but we were close to 13 hours, if I recall correctly.

In 2008, we barely made it to the starting line. Our fastest runner dropped out on race morning with an alleged death in the family. Our team captain had some sort of cardiac "event" while at the hospital for a lung function test and he was out. And, another runner got stuck at JFK airport and didn't make the start. That last runner's boyfriend filled in for her, even though he wasn't a runner. We found one more runner who was a lot slower than anyone else on the team, and she gamely gave us some miles. I ran a fourth leg that day - a very steep leg up the access road to a ski resort - to let another runner rest a bit more. Despite our best efforts, we skipped legs 16 and 17 and showed up last in the standings, even though we didn't really finish.

I skipped the race for some reason in 2009. Last year, I was out with some friends on the weekend of the Vermont City Marathon and someone asked if I was running the relay. I said no - my old team had disintegrated and I didn't have a team. A few days later, I was on a team. That team needed an alternate, in case a runner dropped out, and my wife agreed to be the alternate. Within days, someone dropped out, and my wife and I were on the team. We aren't a fast team, but it's a fun team. We finished fairly late last year, but we finished. This year, five of the six runners returned:

Christy: Team Captain
Kristin: The lady who was stuck in JFK in 2008
Jack: Her boyfriend, and now a two time finisher of the Spartan Death Race
Katie: A last-minute replacement after an injury took out another runner
Cheryl: My wife

Katie turned out to be a very solid and competitive runner, although I think she had a bit of performance anxiety. Every single one of us runs as hard as we can when we're running, but when others are running, we are pretty laid back - no pressure, let's have fun, make it to the finish sometime. But, Katie seemed to be putting a lot of pressure on herself. At one point during the day, I saw a team with a clipboard for recording splits. While I record my own time, if the team ever starts recording everyone's time, I want out. This might be a race, but I want it to be fun as well.

Kristin has run a 100K, her first two 100 milers, and at least on marathon already this year.

Christy had a tough time with asthma and blisters at the Vermont City Marathon earlier this year, but she's always in shape to race.

Jack has been swimming a lot since the Death Race in June. He told me on Sunday morning, after the race, that he was glad to have another non-runner on the team to prove that you could run this thing without run training. He meant me and my CrossFit and bicycling training.

Cheryl isn't in the kind of shape she was a year ago, when she paced the last 30 at the Vermont 100 and had a really good running year. Nonetheless, she took second in her age group in a 5 miler two nights before this race.

I'm in better shape than a year ago, lighter, a bit faster, and I've run a little more this year than last, but like Jack said, I'm pretty close to a non-runner these day, despite finishing a marathon in July.

Our running order was Christy, Jack, Cheryl, me, Kristin, and Katie. Runner #2 has the toughest day and runner #3 has the easiest. Number 5 is somewhat long but mostly flat. Number 6 has a hilly first leg and then things get easier. Runner 1 starts easily and ends with a brutal long climb in the afternoon heat. And my run started with a four mile climb in a 5.2 mile leg, an easy 4+ miler, and then a late-day 10K that seemed to be just slightly uphill the whole way. I've now run all of legs 3, 4, and 5, plus parts of 1 and 6 (the 2008 team led to us running mixed legs). I hope to someday be in good enough shape to be runner #2. On Sunday, I think I already claimed leg 6 for next year.

Compared to drama in other years (missing runners, a migraine that almost took out a runner, runners late for exchanges, getting lost, losing a required safety light, runner dropping on race morning, etc.), this year was fairly calm and methodical. The weather wasn't quite what we expected as some afternoon cloud cover dissipated and let temperatures go higher than forecast. Otherwise, things went very smoothly. Christy, Jack and Cheryl cruised through the first three legs. Jack lost a little time to an unscheduled "elimination" break, and Cheryl ran her 7 miles more than 5 minutes faster than projected.

I have to admit that when we are out there, we tend to find a team close to us and fixate on beating that team. It helps to keep us focused as we run. Last year, it was Team Port-a-Potty, and I can't remember if we beat them or not. I think we did. This year, we discovered that our ex-Governor, Jim Douglas, was the driver for Team Douglas. Between our teammates, I don't know if any of us had ever voted for Douglas, a four-term Republican. Christy and I, in particular, were adamant that we hadn't, and we targeted them as the team to beat.

I joked that we should be able to beat them, because the ex-Governor wouldn't be able to navigate correctly during the day. I assumed he'd turn right at every intersection. Regretfully, he knew how to make a left turn in a vehicle.

On my first leg, which was almost all uphill for the first four miles, I somewhat "stalked" the Team Douglas runner. I was waiting for the downhill in the last mile to make my move. The team met me partway up the hill, and I even told them that I was stalking my prey. Just before the four mile mark, I used a short downhill to close the gap. Then, just after four miles, I made my move and passed the Team Douglas runner.

Regretfully, they had their best runner in the #5 slot, and he was able to pass Kristin and open up a pretty good lead - about 6 minutes. That was somewhat disappointing to us, after having taken the lead. But, Katie came back in leg 6 and closed the gap to 3 minutes. So, after each runner had gone once, we were down three minutes.

Leg #1 had been pretty short, and Christy warned us that the #1 runner for Team Douglas was pretty strong, and they had a long leg coming up. This leg was uphill for just a bit, screaming downhill for a while, and then a moderate uphill for about 3 miles. Our deficit increased. On the next leg - the longest of the race - Jack maintained the deficit for a while, but eventually lost a bit more. Cheryl and I were running against their weakest runners, and we each made up some time, but didn't catch them. Team Douglas was an open team and we were masters open. Plus, they had 5 male runners and we had 2. At this point in time, it appeared to be a losing battle.

On the second longest leg, Kristin didn't seem to lose any ground, and we discovered that the Team Douglas runner needed medical assistance after pushing so hard in the long leg in the afternoon heat. We were glad that the runner was OK, but Jack and I, at least, quietly saw this as an opening. Next Katie ran another strong leg and closed the gap for us. As we started our last legs, we had three interesting legs to go. Christy had a long uphill leg that is very difficult. Jack had a four-mile uphill to run. And then Cheryl had a leg that rolled up and down for three miles, before a screaming 1.5 mile descent. Try as we might, we couldn't catch up to the Douglas team on these legs. Next, I had my final leg, a 10K. It started with a downhill mile, and then seemed to go up for most of the rest of the run.

At this point in time, fast teams that had started well behind us were starting to catch us. I had 8 runners pass me on this leg and I couldn't do a thing about it.

I handed off to Kristin, and she and Katie had great runs to the finish. While we were waiting to see if Kristin needed any aid, we were somewhat confused by two women hanging out at another team's van, dressed in nice summer dresses. This wasn't runner attire. It turned out that they were at a nearby wedding, they'd had too much to drink, and they were looking for runners from their college alma mater, and also randomly inviting runners to the wedding reception. We declined as we were seriously underdressed and we doubted that we'd really be welcomed by the rest of the party. We were sure they'd been drinking when they asked us how we were doing and Jack told them we were winning, and they didn't doubt it for a second.

Our final time was 15:03:19, about nine minutes behind the Douglas team. However, something still smells fishy. In leg 17, they didn't use the same runner who'd had the medical issue earlier. We don't know if they followed race rules and used runner #6 to run leg 17 and then runner #1 to run #18. However, we aren't competitive or petty enough to consider protesting something like that. Yet, we aren't non-nonchalant about the the whole thing to not at least think about it.

We did notice at the awards ceremony that the ex-Governor had gotten a finisher's medal. It was mentioned that somebody should have a few beers and then snip off his medal. But, nothing like that happened.

We also spent some time talking to the race winners - the Hello Kitty Athletic Club, who won for the second consecutive year with an average pace of 6:22/mile. A year ago, they averaged 6:10. They are quite a team - uniforms, patches, and they hand out Hello Kitty swag to their adoring fans. People on our team received a patch and a Pez dispenser.

We finally left the awards ceremony after dinner, somewhere around 11:00. We checked into a local condo for some well-deserved sleep.

Here are my mile splits from my legs:

7:44 (for 0.36 miles)

Total climbing for this leg was about 770'

4.11 miles, 9:36 pace, 200' of climbing

6.05 miles, 10:24 pace, 370' of climbing

My quads are shot from pushing hard all three legs. I averaged 10:05 per mile for 15.5 miles. Last year, I averaged 9:48 per mile for three easier legs. So, maybe I'm not really in any better shape than a year ago.

I can't wait to do it again next year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Should I be sore the day before a race?

I'm not really too sore, but three straight days of CrossFit have left me a bit tired. I think that after a rest day today that I'll be fine for the relay tomorrow.

My wife ran a race last night (5 miles, dirt road, rolling course), so she isn't exactly tapering into the relay either. But, today is a rest day for both of us.

CrossFit was pretty straightforward last night:

Strength Work:
7 x 1 squat snatch - Due to shoulder mobility issues that also affect some other overhead lifts, I was doing a partial squat on each snatch - something between a muscle snatch and a squat snatch. I checked my logbook and my max lift of 115 pounds last night was 10 pounds better than the last time we did this one. If my shoulder was healthy, I'd be around 155 pounds.

Then, the MetCon:
3 rounds, as quickly as possible
10 kettlebell overhead squats, left hand
10 kettlebell overhead squats, right hand
20 pull-ups
run 400m

I used light KBs at 26 pounds and still struggled with my depth on the OH squats. I am getting better on these lifts, but slowly. I used an assistance band for the pull-ups. And, one of my 400s was pretty slow because my shoe came untied. Basically, I did this one fairly easy, at level 2, trying to save something for the relay tomorrow. Last week, I did 170 pull-ups in 3 CF workouts. This must have been an easy week - only 110. I'm trying to work on getting rid of the bands for these, but I'm nowhere close to doing large number of pull-ups without bands (or kipping pull-ups). But, I'm getting better week by week.

The weather looks great for the relay tomorrow. It should be a fun day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dodging Thunderstorms

It's been about 3.5 months since I rented a room close to my office and began bike commuting. That will end at the end of this month, and it will be nice to be living at my own home full time again. It's been a good experiment with some positives and some negatives. I've definitely exercised more than I would have otherwise, I've been able to work longer hours, I've saved money, and I've saved two hours per day in a car. But, I've missed being home on a daily basis, and I know my wife has had to pick up a lot of slack, like cooking dinner while I'm gone midweek. On the other hand, I've been doing all of my own laundry, so that's probably helped her somewhat.

Yesterday, we had a nasty thunderstorm come through the area about 3:30. More were in the forecast, but they all seemed to miss the local area. Last night I was thinking about how lucky I've been with these storms all summer. Despite a very rainy spring, and our normal summer thunderstorms, I haven't been caught on my bike in a bad thunderstorm yet. I've gotten wet and I've heard thunder while on the bike. And, I've modified my schedule at times due to the weather, either arriving at or leaving work a bit earlier or later than planned to miss a storm.

I've got three weeks of bike commuting left. I wonder if the luck will continue.

Last night's CrossFit workout was pretty straightforward and not as difficult as the night before.

Strength work:
3 strict presses at 97.5 pounds
3 at 110 pounds
max at 122.5 pounds (two strict plus two push presses)

5x10 ring dips (band assisted)
3x10 pull-ups (band-assisted)

MetCon: 3 rounds, as many reps as possible:

Row 1 minute (use calories burned as rep count)
Rest 30 seconds
Sumo Deadlift High Pulls (75 pounds)
Rest 30 seconds
Tuck Jumps (in lieu of double-unders)
Rest 30 seconds

I averaged about 13-14 calories on the rows, mid-20s on the high pulls, and low-40s on the tuck jumps, for a total score of 246.

The rowing was almost a rest interval in comparison to the other two "on" minutes each round. The high pulls were definitely the toughest part for me, especially by the third round. The rest interval was really a misnomer, because we needed those 30 seconds to record our score and move to the next station. The toughest part of the workout might have been sharing a barbell on a humid evening. The sumo deadlift high pull uses a grip on the inner part of the barbell - a smooth part of the bar with no knurling. So, holding onto the bar was difficult, as sweat accumulated and chalk dissipated.

I'll go to CrossFit again tonight, but with the 100 on 100 relay on Saturday, I'll probably do the workout at an easy level. I did last night at the Rx level, but tonight will be somewhere in the level 1 or level 2 range, based on the difficulty of the assigned work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CrossFit - Jack

Last week really beat me up. It was three days of CrossFit with some bike riding each day that did it, but the real issue was squats. We did heavy back squats on Monday with high rep, lower weight front squats. Then, on Wednesday, while still sore from Monday, the workout included 150 air squats, done in sets of 30. On Thursday, I could barely walk. CrossFit wasn't even an option.

Friday after work, my wife and I went out for a 4 mile run. I could barely run due to soreness, and it took almost an hour to walk/shuffle 4 miles. On Saturday, I was still sore. I started a deadlift workout that I'd skipped on Friday, but even that wasn't working. After my warm-ups, I did 5 reps at 255 pounds - an easy lift for me - and then quit. I knew if I increased the weight at all, I'd end up hurting myself.

Sunday needed to be a rest day. After not sleeping well on Sunday night, I was exhausted by the time I got off work on Monday, and I simply went home, ate dinner and went to bed. Finally, yesterday, I was rested enough and ready to go again. In the previous 5 days, I'd done a slow four miles and a few moderate weight deadlifts. But, I needed the rest. My body made that very clear.

Anyway, last night at CrossFit, after the warm-up, we did practice for muscle-ups. Of all the movements we do at CrossFit, this may be the last one I'll get. I'm nowhere close right now. To do a muscle-up properly, you need to be able to do an unassisted chest-to-bar pull-up and unassisted ring dips. Plus, there are some technique issues during the "transition" from pull-up to ring dip that are not easy to master. For those of us who couldn't do actual muscle-ups (most of us at the gym last night), we worked on components of the movement. I chose unassisted pull-ups. Normally, when we do pull-ups, we do so many of them that I need an assistance band to get through the workout. Last night, I decided to do 2 unassisted pull-ups, every minute on the minute, for 10 minutes. I hadn't even tried any unassisted pull-ups in a while and I was happy with how this portion of the workout went. Next was the MetCon - Jack:

20 minutes, as many reps as possible:
10 barbell push presses
10 kettlebell swings
10 box jumps

I chose 85 pounds for the push presses, 53 pounds for the KB swings, and 18" for the box jumps. Well, I chose 21" for the jumps, but after just a couple reps, I knew that I was going to have issues with that height.

The push presses were the limiting factor for most of us. As set after set accumulated, it became tough to do 10 straight without putting the bar down, or resting with the bar in the clean position, which isn't really a comfortable resting position.

I ended up doing 7 rounds, and on 6 of the rounds, I did the push presses without the bar going to the ground.

I was really happy with my KB swings. This was the most reps I'd done in a day with the 53 pound KB. I worked really hard on form and using hip extension to push the KB up. I think I'm just about done using the 35 pounders and I'll be at 53 until I'm ready to go to the 70s.

I'll go to CrossFit tonight and probably tomorrow morning, and then rest for 48 hours until the 100 on 100 relay this Saturday. This will be my 4th time running this relay, and I'll be runner number 4 on our team. I've never run this leg before. My first run is a hilly 5.5 miles. My second leg is the easiest, a fairly flat 4.2 miles. My third leg is mostly flat and 6.2 miles. Our team starts at 6:00 a.m. with a projected finish time just after 9:00 p.m. - 13 hours for 100 miles. We have 5 of our 6 team members back from last year, and I believe that our new runner is faster than the person she is replacing. I'm in better shape than last year, but at least one runner on our team (perhaps my wife...) is not in the same shape as last year.

Our time was close to 13 hours last year, so we should be close to that again this year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Discretion - sometimes you just need a rest day

Apparently, doing 150 air squats in a workout where your legs are already fried from squats earlier in the week is a bad idea. As much as I wanted to go to CrossFit yesterday, I am clearly an injury waiting to happen. So, I took a rest day yesterday. I worked late, cooked dinner, did some laundry, watched some baseball, and got some good sleep. Tonight, my wife and I will do a slow easy run.

I want to be especially careful because I'm on a 6-person, 100-mile relay team next weekend. And right now, one of our 6 is out with an injury, so we are searching for a replacement runner. If I hurt myself, the team is really in trouble.

So, despite my head wanting to go to CrossFit last night, my body said no and I listened.

But, I'll be back at CrossFit on Monday, and I'll get in some workouts this weekend at home as well.

Next week, I'll probably start tapering for the relay after Wednesday's workout. I'll probably do something easy on Thursday and rest on Friday.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

CrossFit Wednesday

I got to the gym early and spent about 20 minutes with a foam roller, working on my quads and hamstrings. By the time we started our warm-up, my legs felt better, but not great.

The strength work was our Wendler strict press work:

5 strict presses at 95#
5 at 105#
max at 115# - I got three

The coach was watching closely on the rep where I failed. She said she could see that it was right shoulder (the one that I injured) that was causing me to fail. I'm not surprised that the right shoulder is weaker right now, but at least I'm healthy enough that I'm building it back up.

Next was 5x10 of bench presses. We were supposed to use the regular (wider) grip, but I did close grip to protect the shoulder.

Then, 3x10 of chin-ups, bringing my three day chin-up/pull-up total to 170 (all band-assisted, but still a lot of work).

The Metcon was pretty easy:

5 rounds, as quickly as possible:
30 air squats
50 double unders

If you can't do double-unders, you are supposed to do 50 single-unders and then 25 tuck-jumps per round. But, given my sore quads, I thought the tuck jumps would be somewhat risky or painful, so I substituted 100 single unders instead in each round. My total time was 9:41.

Today, I realize that 150 air squats, as easy as they are, can exacerbate soreness from "real" squats. I'm more sore now than I was 24 hours ago.

So, should I rest today? Tomorrow? Or when I'm dead?

Last night, we were talking at the gym about being sore, about injuries, and about modifying workouts. The owner and primary coach is absolutely fine with people modifying workouts to protect their health. In that respect, he sees CrossFit as training. But, there is also the competitive side of CrossFit. We have a big white board that contains the best results posted in the gym for 30 or so standard workouts. To make that list, you need to do the workout as prescribed and all reps should be legal. To compete at the CrossFit games, you have to do each rep of each workout correctly and as prescribed.

I'm on the side of using CrossFit as a goal to help with other things. I do like the workouts themselves, and I like the group workout aspect, but I also see CrossFit as something that helps with body composition, strength, mobility, endurance, balance, etc. These things help me with my running, my cycling, and my skiing - activities that I enjoy outside the gym. So, I use CrossFit to improve other things, and not just to improve or even compete at CrossFit. Others have a different approach and see CrossFit as a competitive sport rather than just a training method. Luckily, it seems to work for all of us.

But, back to the conversation we had about training and injuries last night. One of things I said was that the only thing worse than being tortured by these workouts would be an injury that prevents me from doing the workouts. So, I'll continue to scale or adapt the workouts or even skip workouts as necessary. I'm not sure of the logic there. I'm trying to be sure to avoid injury so that I can train hard enough to feel like I'm on the edge of going too far and getting injured.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CrossFit and then a nice anniversary dinner

Right now, my quads are sore to the touch from front squats on Monday at CrossFit. I think I love CrossFit more than CrossFit loves me. It seems like some sort of abusive relationship that I should try to escape, but I keep going back.

Last night, after the warm-up, we spent ten minutes working on rope jumping technique. I spent the time trying to to double-unders, which continue to frustrate me. I know I'll get there someday, but I'm not there yet. Then, the main workout was as follows:

20 minutes, as many reps as possible:
4 pull-ups (band assisted)
4 ring dips (band assisted)
8 kettlebell swings (35#)

That's what I did. The prescribed workout included muscle-ups and hand-stand push-ups and heavy KB swings. I did a scaling between level 1 and level 2. And, in retrospect, perhaps I should have gone heavier on something. I completed 15 rounds, which was near the top of anyone all day. I know I couldn't have done nearly as many KB swings at 53 pounds. Even though I dropped the amount of assistance on my pull-ups from what I used the day before, doing them 4 at a time made them seem much easier. I have now done 140 pull-ups the last two days and I know tonight has at least 30 more.

After the workout, I got cleaned up and my wife and I went to The Belted Cow Bistro for dinner to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The meal was definitely non-Paleo, and the chef had agreed to do a special tasting menu for us. This is what he served to us:

Seared scallop in a cauliflower puree, pea sprouts, a little bit of blood orange juice
Tuna tartare (yellowtail) topped with deep fried bits of onion
Soup and Salad - a tiny cup of a perfect cream of corn soup that tasted like corn but had no corn in it. The salad was a bit of local mesclun wrapped in prosciutto with a scallion vinaigrette
Tortellini made with two Vermont cheeses, in a brown butter and fresh roasted tomato sauce
Deconstructed Duck - Pepper crusted sauteed breast with leg confit, served in a fig-balsamic sauce
Rack of Lamb (2 chops - we were getting stuffed), basil mashed potatoes, roasted red peppers

Dessert - one of each:
Warm Strawberry Rhubarb tart with ice cream
Chocolate creme brulee with hot chili powder and curry powder (odd but interestingly good)

Despite how my quads feel, after that dinner, I'm headed to CrossFit after work. I need to keep on working out to see if I can make it through the next 25 years of marriage.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sunday Sprints and Monday CrossFit

For the second weekend in a row, I took it pretty easy. My wife and I had planned on going for a short run on Friday night, but we skipped it due to rain. Saturday, I slept it and then didn't do much at all. I spent most of the day relaxing, catching up on episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert on the DVR, and I watched a baseball game. Sunday, I slept in again.

I've been working a lot of hours and working out really hard during the week, and the past few weekends, I've felt the effects. It's nice not to have any big events that I'm training for, knowing that I can relax when my body tells me I need some extra sleep or a rest day.

Sunday afternoon, I finally got my lazy butt out the door, and I did a short running workout - 10 x 1 minute. After my warm-up, I ran hard for a minute, walked for a minute, and repeated until I'd done 10 hard minutes. Then a cool-down and I was done.

Sunday night, I think I discovered I'd slept too much earlier in the weekend. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. But, the alarm was set for 4:30, so I didn't have to wait too long until it was time to get up. I was at work before 7:00 and had a busy day with a new employee.

CrossFit was tough last night. It was a hot day and I knew the gym would be warm. We started with our Wendler cycle work for squats:

5 reps at 225
5 reps at 255
2 reps at 285

I was supposed to do max reps on the last set, with a goal of 5, but it just wasn't there. On this Wendler cycle, I haven't missed a single strict press workout, but I haven't been as consistent with squats and deadlifts. On both reps at 285, my form wasn't good - I was letting my back round a bit and not keeping my chest high. I was worried about failing and getting hurt on a third rep, so I stopped after two.

Then, 5 x 8 front squats at 135 pounds was next. I was supposed to lift heavier, but I am trying to work on using the standard grip for front squats rather than the alternative "cross-hand" grip. It has only been recently that I've gotten to 135 with that grip, despite a best of over 200 pounds with the other grip. I've basically decided to re-build my front squat by only using the standard grip, and working at whatever weight I can handle. And, those 40 reps were plenty.

Next came the MetCon:
Rep scheme: 5-10-15-20-15-10-5, as quickly as possible
2 x 25 pound dumbbells - ground to overhead, any technique allowed
pull-ups (I used an assistance band)

For the dumbbell work, I started doing power snatches, which are quick, but taxing to the arms if you get lazy with your hips. By the time I got to the first set of 15, I mixed in some clean and jerks instead. The set of 20 was all C&Js, and as the reps descended, I gradually went back to power snatches. My time was 16:45 - one of the slower times in the class. I'd spent most of the workout right on the verge of throwing up, so I don't think I could have gone any faster. Given the heat, and the number of reps, I've got no complaints.

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. In my head, I don't really feel much older than when I got married all those years ago. My body tells a different story though. But, my wife looks as beautiful to me today as she did all those years ago.

I'm going to leave work early today to go to CrossFit. Then, my wife is going to visit me in my rented room for the evening. I have talked a local chef into doing a custom menu for us at a highly regarded local restaurant this evening. No kids. No dogs. Just the two of us for an evening. It doesn't seem that long ago that it was just the two of us - no kids, no dogs, no mortgage, etc. Now our son is out of high school, our daughter is 13 going on 25, and I've got an awful lot of gray hair. But still, it's not a bad place to be.