Monday, January 31, 2011

First Monday on the Job at Spartan Race HQ

It's official.  March 5th I'm going to try and snowshoe 100 straight miles...and I went snowshoeing for the first time yesterday.  Coming from an Ironman background I've never even ran 100 miles yet.  I'm waiting for the McNaughten to attempt that in May!  

But, anyway, even if it's impossible on paper to do, as many will say, I'm going to give it all I have.  If I listened to my inner doubts I never would have accomplished half of my best races.

Woke up fresh at 5am and got to office work so I could have a few hours to train once the sun was out and it wasn't 0 degrees F.  Pounded out some office work (man, I love working in the same beautiful Barn loft that I sleep in) until 10 where I got a wicked tasty breakfast at the General Store.  Spinach ommellette with home fries.  Then I could squeeze in my workout.

Training for this season will be VERY different than my typical Ironman training.  The Peak Events are rugged long.  The Death Race is insane full body functional fitness.  I can't rely on being super specialized to just swim bike and run, I need to be a full fledged monster. 

Especially in this new snowshoe scenario.  The course is approx 6.5 miles relatively straight up and down Joe's Mountain.  Going to have to dig deep and train hard, fast, without over-training.

But life is about doing pushing past normal.  About doing what I feel might be impossible.  I can't let the notion of failure deter me.  The possibility of failure is the mark of quality.  I high degree of failure is the mark of attempting something excellent.

And that's why I've moved up to Pittsfield, VT, Spartan Race HQ, to work and train non-stop.  Doing things I never dreamed - getting ready for the big Death Race after doing all the preceding Peak Events.

1)  Moved a big ol' pile of wood.  Kept tempo up and my heart rate monitor stayed right around 145bmp.  Full aerobic mode with great arm work since the pile I was stacking got taller than me.  1.00.00
2)  Straight to 2.15.00 snow shoe up and down Joe's Mountain on parts of Snowshoe Challenge course.  Put for pieces of wood (approx 30 lbs) in my back pack for the ascent.  Just walking with load pushed me near my lactate threshold.  Forget about running.  Gradients are just too steep going up.  Dumped load at top and sprinted down mountain. 
3)  Once I hit the street I ran 30 minutes carrying all my snowshoe gear.

3.45.00 in total and I was glued to office chair IMMEDIATELY upon return for Spartan Race work in office.  Couldn't even change of eat for near 2 hours.  Just settling in some 5 hours later and have a second to type this.

So, I actually had to miss Bikram Yoga which I had on the schedule.  Tomorrow, I guess.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Day Snowshoing...

I'm proud to present the pilot episode of the soon-to-be-hit series:

Matt and Jason Live in a Barn:  Adventures from Spartan Headquarters in Pittsfield, VT.

This was my very first film using iMovie on my Mac.  In can only go up and get better from here - which, by all cinematic standards, is most likely rock bottom.)

This is our adventure where I have to learn to snowshoe 30 days before a snowshoe marathon.  But a revelations occurs to me before the summit!  Oh no, what can it be????

And be sure to schedule your own snowshoe tour under the guidance of Matt by clicking HERE

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Can't Possibly Do It

5/5/11    100 mile ultra run through Green Mountains of Vermont
5/21/11  Ironman TX (2.4m Swim, 112m Bike, 26.2m Run)
6/4/11    53 mile ultra run over steep gradients of Vermont
6/24/11  The 48 hr Death Race

When I wrote this list out before me I distinctly heard of voice well up in my mind:  You can't possibly do it.

Each of these races will knock me out for months, and I'm going to do them all within 7 weeks?

It begs the question, why?  But I don't have an answer for you.  Sorry.

When George Hillary was asked why he wanted to climb Mt Everest, he simply said:  "Because it's there."

Maybe I'll just follow his lead.

Otherwise, an answer would have to lie within the immediate resistance that surfaced when I faced this goal.  Something in me said not to attempt this.  This was difficult.  Possibly impossible for someone such as myself who has very ordinary DNA.

Nope, no super high lactate threshold or VO2 max for me.  No frighteningly low resting heart rate.  I sucked at high school sports.  I never went jogging till I was over 20 years old!  After only 8 on and off years of training can I do this?

So, of course, my brain is screaming at me to cease and desist this nonsense.  My primitive, reptilian brain is suggesting I better go hide under a rock lest I die!  After all, for The Death Race I had to sign a waiver that stated very simply, 3 words:  I may die.

A simple 5k usually has a whole page of waivers.  Obviously those waivers must be unnecessary if you readily sign you life away.  Literally.

And why do this when it will make my Ironman time so much slower than it should be?  Maybe I could break 10 hrs in Ironman TX, but probably not after ultra-running 100 miles two weeks prior.  Why jepordize excelling at a race to do mediocre at all?

No.  There are no straightforward answers.  Is it about ego?  Only in the indirect sense.  I have questions about who I am.  What can I survive?  How far can I push myself?  What are my limits?  It is only ego in so far as much as ego is a component in the desire for self discovery.

One can dial up 'ordinary' everyday.  And most people do try to escape it by booking a cruise ship to the Bahamas or touring vineyards in Napa.  That's good for them.  But something in me screams to shut up the voice that says I can't do something.  And currently part of me is saying I can't accomplish this goal, these four grueling races in succession.

And to me, that is motive enough.  Something worth pursuing even in the face up absolute failure.  It's hard to fail wine tasting in Napa.  You're not really putting yourself on the line.  And believe me, after I'm done with these races, I want a cruise to the Bahamas.  But I have some self discovery to attend to first.

And, I think I deliniated a route in the race schedule above.


There is little I will need to say within this post.  The link included below speaks for itself.  The reasons for its admission into my blog should be self evident.  I believe in strength.  I believe in overcoming adversity.  I believe in finding hope when you feel hopeless.  I believe in getting back up and moving forward.

Katie Piper speaks to each of these beliefs by having the courage to share her story with the world.  I have nothing but complete admiration for this brave and inspiring woman.  Please enjoy this brief 'about Katie' from her website:

Monday, January 3, 2011

What is Fitness?

(Written for

Is fitness the ability to lift up heavy objects and put them back down again?  Some would think so, I suppose.  There are quite a few individuals I see in the weight room who, in between looking at their biceps in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, hoist some weights up and down.
Or is fitness about 30 hours of cardio a week?  Sure, your body fat is way down, but you are about as strong as a 12-year-old video game junky and you need to ask your neighbor to carry your grocery bags from the car to the house for you.
Let’s get literal for a minute.  The New Oxford American Dictionary defines fitness as:  The quality of being able to fulfill a particular role or task.
But what task?  Lifting up heavy objects is a task.  So is running a marathon in 2:08:00.
Obviously the merits of both can be argued.  That is not my point in here.  I’m going to suggest a task that acts as a good criteria for fitness.
Fitness should allow for you to fulfill the role of living.  Fitness should allow you to function and survive.
Now if your life revolves around bench-pressing 400 pounds, then by all means, focus just on that.  And if you are a pro marathoner, well, you know what you should be doing in order to get paid and eat.
But what about the rest of us?
In terms of functional fitness, survival suggests itself as our goal.  We need to be strong and fast in life.  Why not bench press 180lbs for multiple reps and run a 3.15.00 marathon?  Why not keep yourself solidly entrenched in cardio and muscular training?
These are the things that are going to offer the best benefits on all levels of, well, not dying.  Things like blood pressure, body fat, bone density, muscle and tendon strength, mental health, immune function, and heart vitality are proven to depend on both.
And also, in the ‘not die’ category, let’s step back 300 or 500 years. Before then, who would be most likely to pass on their genes to the next generation:  the body builder or the pro marathoner?  Maybe one, maybe both?  Maybe neither?
For sure, my money is on the person who is functionally fit.  He’s able to both run and scramble from wild animals and hostile people as well as wrestle them down and pound them to death.
This the holistic fitness that Spartans needed to have.  This is what they still need to have.  This primitive understanding of fitness is what Spartan Races cultivates.
In times of crisis, you won’t find yourself on a treadmill with a bottle of Fiji water watching Dr. Phil on a TV hanging from the wall.  You also won’t find yourself doing a bench press.
You are going to be on your feet, moving fast, and doing what needs to be done to survive.  You are going to have to be able to dig deep and push your limits of endurance.
So what is fitness?  I really don’t know.  What do you think?
Until a clear answers gets spelled out for me, I’m going to be fast and strong, full of both endurance and explosive power.  I’ll leave the extremes for the specialists.  I’ll take lean, cut, strong, and fast any day.
Anyway, this meets the alternative definition of fitness my dictionary describes:  the condition of being physically fit and healthy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Racer's Guide to the Hangover

Happy New Year Folks!  How are you feeling today?
Maybe this would be an opportune time to share with you one of my favorite articles of all time, written by Joan Acocella for the New Yorker Magazine entitled “A Few Too Many”.
It is a detailed and in-depth examination of the history, science, and culture of the hangover.
In my mind this piece pretty much will answer any question you have about the phenomenon of being hung-over.  I was just hoping to add a bit of racer wisdom on the matter.  Consider this the Racer’s Guide to the Hangover.
Whatever your race, if it’s tough enough, you are going to go through some trying times.  In my history of Ironman Triathlon and ultra running/cycling racing, I’ve NEVER gotten through an event without having to battle severe nausea.  It’s just par for course. 
So is hitting the wall at some point.  That dead feeling where you can’t imagine going on another step but it just so happens you have miles and miles and miles ahead of you.
It’s all about coping with the adversity at hand and moving forward.
I keep this in mind when waking up dehydrated, puking, and feeling like I fell down the stairs a few times, and have a day of workouts planned.
Rising to a difficult challenge is required in extreme racing.  So, practice makes perfect, I rationalize. 
When I wake up after a night of too much fun and feel like death, I know that this feeling is a great simulation of how I’ll probably feel in the midst of my next big race when I have to dig deep and pull myself through hell one step at a time.
Also, when training ramps up, even if I’m 100% sober, I’m going to want to stay in bed many mornings.  I’ve found a 25-hour training week can produce morning far worse than any hangover.
So, as a racer, as an athlete, and as a person who’s going to achieve so much this year:  Suck it up and get your workout in!  If you puke a few times just be discreet as to not get arrested.

NOTE:  Interestingly, this article was written in the absence of any hangover, whatsoever.  Cheers to a sober New Years eve!  I wanted to give it a try and found it quite lovely.  Looking forward to a solid day of training now.