Tackling the Beast

•October 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m going to take a minute to give myself the ol’ butt slap and “Good game”.

To celebrate my 33rd birthday two weeks ago, I “raced” my first Spartan Beast (solo) and my second Spartan Sprint (with our wicked team!) to complete my 2017 Trifecta.  And now that I no longer have to use my hands to sit down on the toilet and pull myself back up again, I feel like I can reflect on my experience in a non-biased manner.

Race Courses

The Beast and Sprint courses with obstacles.  Note the 48-km race distance on the left side image.  That was for the crazy people doing the Ultra (2 laps of the Beast).  Ick!

Let’s talk about this Beast.

Remember when I said that I was going to “actually train” for the next race.  Oops.

We went on a two-week “vacation” in Montreal, Fredericton, and the Muskoka region of Ontario to attend a couple of weddings and relive our youth.  I ran…twice.  That counts as training, right?

My Beast was 6 hours and 42 minutes of totally-exhausting terrain, including 24km (my watch showed 26 when all was said and done); scaling 3 peaks (like actual ski hills), one of which was so steep that we were climbing up it like a ladder; and completing 30+ obstacles, climbing walls and ropes, carrying buckets of rocks and sand, flipping tires, and the like.  I was hoping for under 6 hours, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen, and I realized that I was doing pretty good when – at hour 5 – I was chatting with some other racers who were already on hour 8.  For many of us, it was definitely a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race-activity.  I was running to finish…in one piece.

While this race was physically challenging, more than that, it challenged me mentally.  And I definitely had to fight that sneaky voice that telling me to give up. There were many moments of doubt that I would make it (without seizing so badly that I couldn’t finish) and times when I wanted to give up saying – in the words of my friend’s 3-year-old (who, for the record, clearly did not learn this from his parents) – “Damn, son, f*ck it!”

The nice thing about these races, however, is that even if you are racing solo, you are never truly alone.  Before you set out, they actually emphasize that fellow racers take care of each other.  We commiserated and joked with each other to help make the not-so-enjoyable parts a little easier to handle.  If someone was sitting off to the side of the trail, we checked in with them to make sure they were okay.  It is like a little community of racers, some looking to better their time, most looking just for an incredible experience, all looking to challenge themselves and reach new limits.

The next day, our team “Pigs & Chalk” ran the Sprint together.  This was to be my “recovery run”.  I did not recover.  Instead, my stiff, sore, tired body barely made it through the 8k of torture (much of which was a repeat from the previous day).  We had a tough team of Spartans who proved themselves by doing their own 30 burpees with each failed obstacle (I did 60…it was gross).  It was long and hard, but we ended up victoriously jumping the fire together.  No men left behind.

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Still smiling, even after 2+ hours of running, hiking, obstacles, and too many burpees.

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Look who learned how to J-hook herself up a rope!

As with most of my ridiculous endeavours, I learn a lot about myself and what I am capable of doing:

  • I can climb my own damn rope.  And I did.  TWICE.  Eat that Spartan Super.
  • I still can’t throw a spear or get through the platinum rig.  I’m coming for you next time, damn obstacles.
  • I may or may not do this ever again (read: you better believe I’ll do this again, but maybe not at Sun Peaks haha).
  • I may find some other crazy race to try (read: I’m already looking).

Now that it’s over, I’m going back to a little more old-school lifting mixed in with some CF, gymnastics to improve my fitness routines, figure skating to feed my creative heart, and – because at 33, I’m already noticing a huge change from even just 3 years ago – mobility.  Time to get back to basics.

Beefcake out.

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120 burpees later

•July 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This weekend, I completed the first of three Spartan races on my way to personal glory…and by that I mean achieving what is known as the Trifecta (running 3 Spartan distances – Sprint, Super, Beast – in the same calendar year).  For anyone that is unfamiliar with Spartan races, it’s basically a bunch of running with ridiculous obstacles in between.  Every time you fail an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees.  Yeah.  Gross.

The Race Map

A shot of the obstacle map.  Notice the capital bold letters “YOU MUST DO 30 BURPEES!!”  In my case, I had to do that 4x.

I often have to do things like this by myself.  My friends are working up to it (shout out to the Pigs ‘n’ Chalk crew running the Sun Peaks Sprint in September!!!), and M. doesn’t have the luxury of summers off.  But this race felt a little different from my other solo runs.  When I arrived at the race site, Heritage Ranch in Red Deer, I immediately felt intimidated by the crowds and the potential athletic ability of the mass of people decked out in hundreds of dollars of Reebok CrossFit gear.  Uh…I registered for the Open, right?

Only a matter of minutes into the race, I was reminded that there is nothing to fear because (1) the run is about pushing your own boundaries and (2) there is something to be said for the community that is offered in this style of race.  This community-in-the-midst-of-pursuing-individual-achievement concept is why I was so drawn to and continue to love CrossFit.

For the first third of the race, I ended up keeping pace with a pair of guys – one of whom was running his 22nd Spartan race – and a woman, who I later decided was not much of a Spartan because she failed the same obstacles that I did, but would do like 10 burpees and move on [insert resounding BOOO here].  We chatted, encouraged each other, and kept an eye out for logs and tree roots that somehow manage to reach out and grab you when you least suspect it, causing you to fall face first into a thorny bush.  At some point (i.e., when I failed obstacles that they didn’t), I got left in their dust, but there were so many people at different places in their own run, it was never difficult to find more encouragement and Spartan-community spirit.


A few highlights from the run:

  • I killed the Z walls, an obstacle I failed at Sun Peaks.  Picture 3 planks of plywood standing vertical in a Z-pattern with little chunks of 2×4 that act as your hand and foot holds and are staggered just far enough apart that you have to channel your inner Spiderman to get across.  Ringing the bell at the end of the Z wall was personally satisfying.  I clapped for myself.  No joke.
  • I failed three obstacles IN A ROW.  It sucked.  Especially because they were all obstacles that relied on upper body strength…with 30 burpees in between…it was like torture.  On the bright side, I only failed one more obstacle later on for a race total of 120 burpees.  I’m okay with that, although at the time, there were definitely some choice curse words.

    Platinum Rig

    One of the obstacles I failed.  I made it about halfway across, but with the winning combination of the rope and my pathetic grip strength, I fell into the hay.  30 BURPEES!

  • Every wall – with the exception of the opening 4-foot wall and the go-through wall – was a minimum of 6 feet tall.  Great for small people [insert eye roll here].  Basically, I would hook my fingers on the top edge of the wall and do a complete pull-up to get over.  Made me feel like a beast.
  • There were 4 obstacles during which I had to get into water.  Anyone that knows me, knows in my firm belief that water is for drinking and bathing.  I will go to Mexico for an entire week and only set foot in the ocean on the last day so that I can say that I went in the water in the event someone asks.  One of these water obstacles was a “river” crossing.  It wasn’t wide, but it certainly was deep enough that I actually had to swim across.  As I approached, I chuckled to myself, remembering when M. wanted me to swim across the river at the bottom of Kinuseo Falls to this little island where he intended to propose (I had no idea).  Already thoroughly soaked from bushwhacking through a wet, poorly-groomed hiking trail, my response was something akin to, “Maybe you should date someone who likes cold water!”  Needless to say, he proposed that day anyway (just not on an island), we’re married now, and I swam across a river this weekend because, well, I’m a freaking Spartan.  Sorry, M.

Tired & Muddy

Muddy, but satisfied.

With one race done, I’m feeling a little more comfortable, but I’m definitely going to have to, well, actually train for the next one (21 km of torture on Sun Peaks hill followed with a Sprint the next morning).

Cheers to another participation medal and another race done!

Sorry, Bruce, tramps like me were clearly not born to run

•July 19, 2017 • 1 Comment

So it’s been a gross amount of time since I last wrote.  Let me fill you in a little…

Last September a friend of ours visited from Chetwynd to run the Mount Robson marathon, a 50-km return trip up the Berg Lake trail.  After a considerable amount of peer pressure (on his part), I told him that I would complete the run the following September.

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Berg Lake and the Mount Robson Marathon:  “You can’t just do the half-marathon because the turn-around point makes you miss all the pretty parts.”  Totally jacked this from photo from Wikipedia so hopefully they don’t get mad. 

Anyone who knows me, knows that if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to make it happen one way or another.  But let’s face it.  Sometimes even our best laid plans don’t work out.

The run this year is scheduled for September 9th, a weekend during which M. and I will be in New Brunswick for a wedding.  My plan became to do the “unofficial Mount Robson 50k,” running solo the weekend before.  This meant running with a pack of water, possibly food, band-aids, basically my personal triage station.  It also meant training began in April and mileage started building quickly, adding 2-3 miles each week (I vomit in my mouth just thinking about it).  My resistance training was nearly non-existent, throwing in a couple of core workouts and – on the rare occasion I wasn’t exhausted from running – a random upper body workout.  My hard-earned glutes slowly melted away…sadness ensued.

 

Enter wedding.

Most brides would be happy to lose weight before their wedding.

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So this happened.  Photo cred to my sister’s boyfriend.  I also masterfully photoshopped out the DJ.

Not so much.  My dress – already ordered in a size smaller than my measurements – was beginning to feel a little loose and my belt was 4 inches too big.  Oops.

On top of that, apparently planning and putting on a wedding all by yourself is stressful and exhausting.  (In M.’s defense, he chose our first dance song “almost by himself” and he writes a good set of vows.)  And don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of our party.  But that’s when it all kind of fell apart.

I missed my long run leading up to the wedding, and then decided that sleeping – almost straight – for 4-5 days was a necessary component of surviving the post-wedding-stress collapse that occurred, missing a second long run in a row. This may not mean much to you, but when the goal is running 50 km and – like me – you’re not really a good runner, it’s important to continually build mileage and train the body to just keep going for extended periods of time.

 

So, I pushed the Reset button and decided to downsize the next long run (only 25 km) to ease my way into it.

I failed.

Between my allergies and taking almost 3 weeks off completely, I made it through about 5 km before conceding in tears.  Yes, there were tears.

M. convinced me to just regroup and try again the next week, but after looking at my summer schedule – including 4 weekends away to judge skating and run Spartan races – I realized that training properly was just not feasible. And therein died the dream of the unofficial Mount Robson marathon.

Maybe next year it will happen.  But for now, I’m happy to return to lifting – like a boss – and focusing on the next goal: my Spartan Trifecta.  First Spartan Super this weekend…we’ll see if I survive!

Spartan 2016

Last year’s Sprint finisher medal.  This year, I hope to receive THREE awards for PARTICIPATION, and I’m so excited!

Older and…wiser…?

•September 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Eight years ago, on my champagne birthday, I made a promise to myself to do one “crazy” thing every year, usually on or around my birthday.  It could’ve been something on my bucket list or just something that forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.  That was the year I did my first jump course and flailed out of a plane solo.  Don’t worry.  I had a parachute…which – by the way – I totally recommend…both wearing a parachute and jumping out of a plane.

In the years to come…

  • I jumped off a bridge with Whistler Bungee.  Apparently jumping out or off of things was an initial theme…
  • I took a solo trip to Newfoundland.  And while for anyone else, this might seem normal, I find it unbelievably uncomfortable to do things like travel, eat in restaurants, go to a bar, etc. by myself.
  • I entered a CrossFit competition without knowing what the hell CrossFit even was.  I also wasn’t able to lift my arms above my head for a good two weeks afterwards.
  • I drove a fire truck.  Technically it wasn’t legal.  My bad.

Then at some point, I stopped.  I crawled into the deep, dark little hole of my daily routine.  I got set in my ways and stuck in my comfort zone.

Perhaps this year was the time to change that.  On September 25, Marc and I ran the Spartan (Sprint) Race at Sun Peaks.  People typically train for races like this.  We did not.  It was amazingly gross (the mud was mixed with cow patties because they pasture there) and grossly amazing.

Things that I was so sure I would fail at, I didn’t.  I even hit the hay with my spear…it didn’t stick and I still had to 30 burpees, but I hit the hay!

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Modelling our sweet participation medals.

8 km (2 of which were straight up a ski hill), 23 obstacles, and 95 burpees later (I failed at 3 obstacles – 30 burpees each – but Marc took 10 of my burpees in exchange for me doing 15 of his…apparently I pulled the short straw with the math), we were tired and muddy, yet satisfied.

Usually I’m not a huge fan of anything that awards an “Everybody Wins” participation medal, but damn it, I gladly took this one.  It was not important to be “first”, “fastest”, “fittest”…it was important for me to challenge myself to do something “crazy” again.

But did you die?

Yes.  Yes, I did.  And it was awesome.

 

Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway.  Live forever (32 years) young.

 

 

There is always something to be thankful for…

•July 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The title of this blog is actually a quote from my speech to the CSS grad class this year.  Time to take a little of my own advice!be-grateful3.png

Thanks to all of you who sent me good luck before the show and congratulations after. It was a great weekend! I was (almost) totally satisfied with my new routine that I was able to pull off despite not being able to lift my right hand above my head or do a push-up until about 3 weeks out. I still have a lot of work to do before Nationals, but that’s what the next 4 weeks 4.5 days is for. But, hey, who’s counting?

A few things I have to get off my chest before the training re-begins…

On the business end of things, I need to give a shout out to IFBB Fitness Pro Caitlin Bailie for helping me put together my routine! I had to move some stuff out and around when I was injured, but she lit the spark for the choreography and gave me some challenging things to work on so that maybe when I grow up, I can be just like her.

Also I want to praise the design and sewing skills of Jaclyn Wilson, head cheese of JWCouture in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She made me an awesome routine outfit and FAST! I am always impressed with people that can sew custom suits because I have a difficult time patching Marc’s pants and stitching on buttons without getting knots in the thread. It’s sad really. Check her out here: http://www.jwcouture.ca/

To the handful of super supportive friends that don’t give me a hard time when I have to eat exactly 110 g of white fish and ¼ cup of rice while they eat cake…and don’t laugh at me when I’m up at 4 a.m. to do cardio…and – most importantly – understand the difference between hangry Kang and just-pissed-off-because-people-are-stupid Kang. You are the bestest!

On to the bigger thank-you’s…

I have the greatest trainer of all time: DAWN ALISON. Despite also training for her own nationals in bodybuilding (in which she is going to kick ass!!!), she gives me and the rest of her athletes, like, a MILLION percent effort and expertise. And yes, they let me teach math.

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Even after what seemed like the LONGEST NIGHT EVER (waiting 6 hours just to do the night-show fitness routines…first-world problems, I know!)…Even though she had cardio to do and her hubby/Fitbody co-torturer/jack-of-all-trades/human-insane-at-everything had to compete in a whole whack of categories first thing in the a.m….Even when she was surely tired and hungry and had to get up in 3 hours to train and get her team ready, she (they) stayed to watch me. That is devotion to the sport. That is devotion to her FitBody team. That is Dawn Alison. And that is why we love her.

 

Last but certainly not least, M., who continues to stands by me through the days akin to the peach pie meltdown, and this time even did a contest prep (but without the end contest)….just to see if he could push his own body…just so he could understand what it’s like. I call that crazy.

This prep, we were living apart, trying to sell a house, trying to make arrangements to move while managing two households, and (stupidly?) taking on another dog. Despite all of this, he was still patient when I was not and level-headed when I was REALLY not. This is the man that I get to marry next June. Hot as a teapot. Ladies, eat your hearts out.

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Nationals on August 13th!  Here we go again!

 

 

 

 

 

•June 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I hear some pretty interesting things from people when I’m prepping for a show. Some of them ask me what I like to call “legitimate” questions because they are actually meant to obtain information that was not previously known. “How often do you train?” “When is your competition?” “How do you do that when your trainer doesn’t live here?”

Then there are the not-so-legitimate questions that I’m sure are meant to be rhetorical, but sometimes I want to answer anyway. “You brought your own food again?” “Don’t you want a cookie?” “Doesn’t this cake look good?” Well, yes. Yes, it does. But I’m fairly certain it won’t when it’s transformed into the extra couple pounds on your butt. That was my inside voice.  I’m sorry for the things I say when I am hungry.

These are the top 3 things I’ve heard from people this prep:

3.  “You’re lucky. Your muscles look big because you’re short.” ~CSS grade 12 student.  Uh, what?  Actually…although having a more compact body structure might help, my muscles look big because they are big.

2.  “You have beautiful arms.” ~Lady in front of me in line at the post office…as she strokes my deltoid. I didn’t know who she was.  Or why she felt so comfortable stroking me.  It was awkward and flattering all at the same time.

1.  “Forgive me for saying, but I can’t decide if I want to f*ck you or fight you.” ~Skeezy guy at the gas station. I was at a loss for words.  Only in Chetwynd.

Sometimes I wonder what goes through people’s heads when they open their mouths, but if they’re anything like me, the answer is “not much”!

 

Run, Kang, Run

•June 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

During this contest prep, I began running again. I never thought I’d see the day when I actually enjoyed running again. When I was going to school in Fredericton, I started running because it seemed like the healthy thing to do. I kept running because it made me look good (I’m vain, I know). Then Depot happened and Sgt. Leblanc killed any love of running I might have had. (Really, did he have to yell that much?)

Since then – and now that I’ve started running again – I’ve learned a lot about running and what can make it great (at least for me).

  1. Know where you’re going. Last weekend, I went running in Valemount. Usually when I run in unfamiliar areas, I do half of my run-time, then turn around and follow my route back. M. showed me the route on his phone and I figured I could hack it. Then I got lost (ok, I also avoided this dirt road because I was wearing white shoes)…and the planned 9-km run became a considerably longer 12 km.
  1. When you don’t know where you’re going, it helps if it’s beautiful out.

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   Enough said.

  1. There is always time to find something fun(ny) on a run. Like Valemount road signs.

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I laughed when I saw this…and then I remembered that lady in Quebec that stopped to help the ducks cross the road and caused two fatalities. That’s probably why they put this sign up.

  1. The “Run, Forrest, run” cat-calls have never been, nor will they ever be, funny. (That one was for those of you that yell this at me when I’m running…)
  1. Nothing beats a good playlist…especially when the songs shuffle in a perfect order for a run.  It’s like the stars aligned, synced up with my iPod, and put all the songs in just the right order for that particular run.  A thing of beauty.
  1. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re running as long as you’re out there givin’er.   Sometimes I’m running like I stole something. Other days, I literally cry while I’m on the treadmill (I reserve these moments for when the gym is empty at 3:45 a.m.).  It doesn’t matter.

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And last but not least…

  1. Always take care of your body…you only have one. A sad realization has come over me in the last few months. My body is getting old(er). If I don’t stretch, roll, and recover, I start to fall apart rather quickly. On the bright side, I’m learning a lot about my pain tolerance from my massage therapist.

 However you run…for whatever reasons you run…just remember….

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