Why We Help

Tough Mudder Help

We’ve all seen the “Lindsay video” by now. You know… the one where the tiny powerhouse with the big heart effortlessly hauls all her competitors over Everest and then goes on to win the Tougher Mudder World Championship.

What got me was that many of the commenters, seemingly deeply involved in the OCR community, had no idea that in all Tough Mudder events, we help each other.

That’s what makes us mudders. 

And I’ve heard more and more competitors talking about how they refuse to buy in. It’s a competitive race right?

Or the rule that if you can do an obstacle solo, you don’t have to help anyone else.

It’s an interesting debate. But I know that even if I can solo Blockness now, I couldn’t before. Or that take the ropes off Everest and I’m useless.

And I also don’t think that matters.

Tough Mudder is so much more than a race – or an event. It always has been. For me it’s a philosophy. A commitment to better myself in body and spirit. A decision that I want to be a part of a community. An understanding that working toward a crazy mental and physical challenge only means anything because of the people I’m out there with.

You can still work toward your goal while lifting others around you up… both literally and figuratively. Case and point, Lindsay.

And the coolest part is that as you get better as an athlete, you get better at muddering. The fitter you get, the easier you are to assist, and the more you can lend a hand over tricky obstacles. It gives a deeper purpose to your training.

But what about elites? If all our goals have value, why let the contenders through?

The same reason you stay to the right on an escalator. If you’re moving at a more relaxed pace, and someone is trying to haul ass up the stairs to get to where they’re going, you step aside. Maybe you’ll even hold the door if you see them coming.

There is almost no better feeling than crushing a lofty goal. But it’s fleeting. Being a good person and living to a higher standard of kindness, brotherhood and compassion brings lasting joy.

Sure it’s kinda cheesy, but it’s true.

It’s not what you do or how successful you are out there on course that matters as a Mudder, it’s who you are.

The Great Canuck

June 27 marked the day of the inaugural Great Canuck at John Oliver Secondary School. ELL students had a great sunny day, running the field and experiencing some of the great Canadian activities: tight rope walking with images of the Niagara Falls, salmon spear fishing the Salish way, carrying logs like a lumber jack, climbing up and sliding down the Rocky Mountains and into an icy lake, swinging and climbing as a salmon would battle up stream. They had a quick lesson about the Provincial flags.

 

Emerging from seeds

8 years in the making, the Grit Farm takes shape in an above average sized Vancouver residential lot. The modest frontage blossoms as one enters into the yard. The apple and cherry trees, the magnolias, the day lilies and other bright colours greet visitors in mid summer. The tranquil green of the tree coverage is year-round. The bees buzz their welcome buzzes. Behind the tall cedar hedges and the small house built in the “war zone,” is an array of obstacles that hint at the training once performed by the veterans of old. Balance yourself as you cross the small stumps that emerges from the ground. Walk with care as you pass the birds of prey (it’s okay, they are actually cuddly chickens defending their coupe). Climb the walls, jump high and hang on tight as you swing across the monkey bars. If unsure, check with the kids who have mastered the technique. Take care not to crash and tear down the clematis or knock off the pears, plums and figs before they are ripe. Training is all about control, discipline and respect for the environment. Don’t let the smell of roses distract you; they are there to help you stay calm and relaxed. It’s not about conquering nature, work with it. If you can be half as strong, you are doing well. Don’t trample on the lettuce, carrots, arugula and other greens on the ground; we need to save them for consumption to keep us healthy. Stay sure, calm, determined and focused like the water moving down to gravity. When the going gets turbulent, roar like the rapids and forge on.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Race Day Advice for your First Spartan

So it’s your first Spartan Race and you’re not sure what to expect? Read on for two top ten lists that will help you get to the start line easy.

Pack a Bag

A well packed bag is worth it’s weight when you’re dealing with the elements. Here’s a few of the items that have earned their way into my nap sack the hard way:

  1. Government issued photo ID and a completed waiver WITH my bib number on it (look it up online so you can save time and headache morning of.)
  2. An extra pen and cash.
  3. Sunscreen (and gloves to apply it), lip chap, deodorant and a comb.
  4. Gloves, compression sleeves, tights, a tank top and shorts (in case the weather changes).
  5. Blister pads, band-aids and body glide.
  6. Soap, a scrub mit, quick dry towel and a water-proof bag to keep dirty clothes.
  7. An outfit that is warm, snugly and easy to get into with wet skin. No tights. Lord no tights.
  8. Slip on shoes. I would advise against flip-flops if you plan to stay at the festival area for any length of time since they are hard to walk in if the ground is uneven or muddy (or more than likely both).
  9. Gloves, toque and winter jacket to stay warm before and after even in June.
  10. A bottle of water and some snacks. They’ll usually have a Clif Bar and some water or FitAid for you but it’s better to be over prepared when it comes to essentials.

Race Day

It can be a scary experience showing up for the first time. I figured I’d condense the experience so that you can fully know what to expect before the gun goes off. After that third AROO, you’re on your own. You’ll know at the finish line as they say.

  1. Be familiar with the route to the race and where to park. Bring cash for parking as there is usually a charge ($10 is common).
  2. Arrive early. You should have time to register, warm-up, go to the bathroom and check your bag. And you should have plenty of padding in case things go sideways.
  3. Hopefully you have your printed waiver (with bib number) and ID ready. If not, sign a waiver at the first table and look up your bib number on the big wall. You absolutely need to have ID to pick up your kit.
  4. Enter the lane that corresponds with your bib number. Hand them your waiver and tell them your bib number. Show them your ID.
  5. They’ll give you an envelope. The headband goes around your head, numbers to the front. The blue chip gets threaded through the yellow band and affixes to your wrist (you want it tight enough it does not come off but not so tight it interferes with the mobility of your wrist). Sometimes they’ll be a little chip that zap straps onto your shoe laces instead. If you’re elite, they’ll possibly give you a sweat band for your arm. Although you’re probably not reading this if you’re elite.
  6. There may be a marking station in case you want to write your number on your arms (or forehead or whatever). It’ll help you better find yourself in photos later… and you’ll have a badass looking momento for days.
  7. Apply sunscreen with gloves so you don’t grease up your hands, do any last minute adjustments to your wardrobe and make sure your shoelaces are triple knotted.
  8. Go for your easy warm-up jog and do some drills and dynamic stretches. This is also a good time to scope the course a bit and find out where the start, port-potties and bag check are.
  9. Use the washroom and check your bag.
  10. Aim to be in the pit at least 10 minutes before your wave ready to go!

Last but not least have fun and relax. If you need help, ask. Spartans are more than happy to help.

Help! How do I Fuel and Hydrate my Workouts?

You may have noticed that you probably need something a little more than just a swig of water to make it through the longer workouts. Although there is no real hard and fast rules about fuelling and hydration, there are some good general rules of thumb I’ll share with you here.

If the workout lasts less than 60 minutes, water alone should get you through it. However, you should have had a pre-workout snack beforehand if your last meals was more than three hours earlier. But in the case of pre-workout snacks, less is almost always more. When you exercise, blood is diverted away from your digestive tract and too much food doesn’t break down properly… usually trying to claw it’s way out mid burpee. 100 calories less than an hour out or 200 calories 2 hours out generally works.

If the workout lasts 60 – 90 minutes, you might add a little something to your water or have a wee bit of calories. You can make your own energy drink or have a handful of raisins. I advise against most packaged drinks as they are a terrifying mix of chemicals. Seriously, what in nature is that colour? Once in a while in a race situation, OK… but in training it should be reserved to trials to ensure it’s works for you. We are doing this to be healthy right? I personally use NorthStar Organic Sportdrink because it’s made of food yet it’s still convenient. Although, I’d still say that most people don’t need anything but water.

If the workout lasts 90 minutes or more, you’ll want to at least bring something to eat or a drink high in calories. You should aim to take in 150 – 250 calories per hour of easily digested carbohydrate. That becomes increasingly important for efforts longer than three hours, like a Spartan Beast or Tough Mudder for most folks. In this case, you want to start 30 minutes in (even if you’re not hungry) to keep your blood sugar level. I advise you break your caloric intake up into 2/3 times per hour. I literally will “sip” on a gel.

I’m a big dude. Should I eat more?

Unfortunately for big dudes, the limits of human digestion are as such no matter your size. Although, since you expend heaps more calories than us small folk, you have to be way more on top of your fuelling and hydration…. perhaps adding a pre-race gel or energy drink. Your fluid needs and capacity will likely also be higher as you have less skin area for heat to dissipate and a bigger body to power.

What are some ideas for easy pre-workout snacks?

It’s almost always a matter of personal preference combined with general rules. No excessive fibres, spice, fat or protein. Easily digested but healthy sources of carbohydrate include oatmeal, bananas, oranges, rice and the like. Keep in mind again that you should still be eating healthy food since pre-workout snacks still comprise a big portion of your diet.

Is there any value in trying my race day fuelling and hydration strategy before race day?

Yes. Never eat or drink anything that you have not tested in training. Long days make the perfect laboratory to test how your body reacts to everything you plan to race with from gear to nutrition. Keep in mind that weather (and a boat load of other things) also effect your hydration needs so with fluid intake, get to know your body… instead of creating a set in stone drinking schedule.

What should I eat and drink after I run?

On an easy day, you can probably just get away with fuelling and hydrating normally depending on weather. However, if the session was particularly long or taxing, you need to start reloading your muscles right away… both to reap the most benefit from that workout and to ensure the success of the next one. It doesn’t have to be complicated… an apple with almond butter and a big glass of water would suffice. You don’t need to chug 2 litres of chocolate milk after every easy 5k run… but if you’re spent, it’s crucial to recovery (which is where you actually grow stronger).

Does your nutrition strategy change for a two race weekend?

Yes. You need to be extra diligent on taking in a solid carbohydrate based snack with some protein and lots of water. Water is necessary to help you digest the carbs. I also started taking in a gel on the second day regardless of distance since glycogen stores are so depleted, and felt it made a huge difference.

I’m not remotely thirsty, should I drink?

Probably not. The research is pretty clear at this point that thirst is actually a good indicator if you pay attention to it. Your performance will drop dramatically though if you are thirsty. So I like to have athletes check-in with their thirst and get familiar with their fluid needs rather than get used to drinking on a schedule. What is key is that you have access to water and sip at it before you get thirsty enough to chug it (at which point it will slosh around in your tummy instead of quench your thirst). During really hot long duration races, you’ll likely want to add some electrolytes.

I’m not hungry, should I eat?

It depends. Do you plan to be out for more than three hours or is this your longest run to date? I’d say yes. Especially if you are racing. You will be running on the limits of your energetic capacities and your digestive system is very limited in terms of processing power so you really don’t want to go down that hole. If, however, you can run easily for two hours without getting hungry or seeing a decline in your mood or performance, why the heck not? I have seen people who have routinely taken one or two gels over the course of a marathon and see unimaginable leaps in performance once they took in the required amount of fuel. I have also seen people run very well on very little.

Girl Power

OK so this is going to be a bit cheese balls.

But I just have to say it: lately I’ve felt like there has been a shift in female sport towards more fierce fitness.

And I mean fierce and fast at any speed.

A couple weeks ago at run club, I ran 400s with the fast ladies at the track. That’s right… ladIES. For so long, it’s been the other lady – or just me. But now. Now we had a wolf pack. A lady wolf pack. Right in there. Running hard and loving it.

We were all having a great time pumping out 400s … and I didn’t even fully realize our combined estrogen output until someone yelled, “girl power!” as we huffed past.

So cool.

Ten years ago, before GU existed and when I owned a discman waist belt, I ran college cross country with the guys. Not because there weren’t females on the team… but because most of them weren’t interested in vomiting on themselves to shave 30 seconds off their 5k. There is pretty much nothing I wouldn’t have done to shave 10 seconds off… so I’d set my claws into the back of the men’s pack and hang on for dear life like Zellers.

That’s probably where I’ve spent most of my time running… in my bubble, just behind the boys.

I like it there. Don’t get me wrong. You can spit and snot rocket and talk trash freely. It’s probably also been super good training to always be in chase mode (and way more fun.)

But I feel like I see more ladies running in what was once a weird little void… just a few meters off the guys. And with those ladies come community, healthy rivalry: comrades in sport.

I ran a 5k race that Saturday.

There was a strong female pack and I ended up feeling good and pushing off about one mile in. Three of us broke the course record (19:04) and another two just barely missed it.

Would anyone have broken the course record if we weren’t there pushing each other? Probably not. Was anyone thinking about thigh gap or visible abs? Not a chance.

As we approached the finish line I overheard someone from the crowd say, “Wow… the women are coming through already.”

Yeah. You betcha. We’re coming through.

westvan

#ExpressYourStrong

alli reebok talk

OK, so being a part of a major ad campaign for a major fitness apparel company is pretty darn cool in and of itself.

The fact that this brand represents my sport makes it doubly cool. But the message behind the campaign itself is truly the coolest part.

The Express your Strong campaign is based on the idea that people are born with innate strength that is fed in the wake of the challenges and rigours of training. The message obviously resonated profoundly with me since I overcame a serious accident with the same attributes I had forged in training after many years of being sedentary.

Strength is expressed in many areas of our lives: illness, injury, career, family. Hence, training your body really does change you, inside and out.

The kicker for me is that the campaign focuses on women… which I feel is especially important. Those who know me, know I have an inner feminist drilling away at my core values.

Years ago, I fought my way into a dead-end, only to be publicly ridiculed for suggesting that women race the same distances as men in collegiate cross country. How absurd that women be made to run as far as men… even though they are clearly biologically better-suited to longer distance events.

I cringe at the campaigns that suggest fit women are just as sexy at any weight. It’s not that I disagree with the message. And a part of me loves the premise. Every one of those women are sexy. I just feel like we missed the point. Every one of those women are capable and strong. Their bodies and minds are able to express that in different and yet equally amazing ways. I want “sexy” to loose it’s place as the central issue for us ladies so that we can truly transcend the barriers of valuing a body for it’s ascetics alone.

Fitness is just so much more than that.

Part way into my fitness journey, I realized that I was really discovering that I was strong. I wasn’t fast, I couldn’t lift heavy things, I couldn’t throw or catch. I couldn’t express my strong on Track and Field day. But it was there… as soon as I had an outlet, I found it and it made me who I am today.

Many of us women put ourselves last. We let others lead us, make our choices. We lead others down their own paths. We do it all for the ones we love. But in so, we lose ourselves.

I’ve seen it happen. The eyes that flash, “Oh my god. I can do this.” There is no feeling like it. That strength that surges through your body at the top of a rope climb or at the peak of a mountain. That strength that surges through you just the same when you follow your own heart, overcome your demons or come sliding through the other side of a tragedy.

Sure, there’s room for every fit body to feel sexy. But there’s room for every fit body to feel accomplished, powerful… strong. Isn’t that so much more amazing?

In case you missed the ad…