Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Pictorial History of SoCal Tough Mudder 2011 - Sunday Edition

With great fanfare and limited commentary - the story of the three unwise men!

 Pondering - What is the saddest thing?

Pre-Race Posing by Phil
Reason #264 why I cannot run for public office

Chris and Debbie

Shoving off to Parts Unknown

A fine look at Chris's UnderArmor Physique and my Blue Mohawk

Our ladies in waiting

Not pictured: Incoming snowstorm, 7000 foot elevation, and sub-zero temperature

Dotingly pining for their heroes

They arrive! To scale the wire!

Guest appearance by chilled snowmaking pond

The trick here is to have someone on both ends holding the two ropes steady while the guys traverse across it. This worked for Phil.

The lack of such a counterbalance worked for me up until this point.

Climbed and jumped off this.

Me in the front with my eyes closed

6 miles and several degrees of hypothermia later...we arrive!

Oh no wait the last obstacle of high voltage wires!

(This...this is the saddest thing)


Victory Protein Shakes!

Whatever point I was making, I am sure it was very eloquent.

Victory Beers!
(we don't always drink beer, and when we do, it's usually with a core temp above the low 90s and on days above 32 deg F, but when it is free, we drink whatever)
Last 2 weeks - been working on keeping up with a routine daily exercise, and have kept myself around 190. The abdominals are finally beginning to show definition. Keep up the fight.


Monday, May 30, 2011

5/30 - Mission Accomplished

Here we stand with the competition now behind us and the three of us safely nestled at home.

For those readers (i.e. Zlisto) who were not there, the photos (here) and official recap (here) fail to do it justice. For what is meant to be a warm spring and summer event, Big Bear Lake weather decided to do a 180 on all of us and return to its wintry spirits that it had left behind at least 2 months ago. With the snow having melted entirely in April, Snow Valley presented sub-30 degree temperatures for the first time in a few weeks.

The problems began when almost all of the water/mud obstacles presented themselves in the first half-hour of the race. Capped off with diving into a bath of ice cubes that were supposed to have melted in the midday sun that never shone. This ensured that everyone was soaked to the bone as possible before they started ascending the ski slopes on foot. As we began climbing the truck route to one of the ponds, we observed trucks full of racers driving down the mountain. The trucks were too full and too frequent to be normal. Surely, something was amiss.

That thing was hypothermia.

Following an additional ascension, we came to one of the large ponds they hold for snowmaking. One first had to cross the pond on two thin zipwires (one for your hands and one for your feet) and then one had to jump off a ledge into the pond and swim back across it. Topping it off, nobody was holding the zipwires steady except us - so everyone but Phil fell in and had to traverse the pond twice.

The frigid water combined with the wind and subzero temperatures led to a swath of people standing around uncontrollably shivering - which was one of the scariest sights to behold. Scores of people flocked into the "heating tent," which was just a plastic tarp tent with one heat lamp inside. More people were warmed by the body heat of their fellow man. We only were able to survive thanks to our loved ones coming to us with blankets and fleeces. Thanks only to the fleeces, Phil and I were able to continue onwards.

And then at 11 AM, it began to snow. This was not so much a sign of bad weather turning severe as it was a demoralizing energy sapper laughing at your torment.

Space blankets became the new valued currency amongst the competitors. Without a way to retain body heat, you'd not only be able to progress but you'd be stuck atop a mountaintop far from medical attention. So grab as many as you can. One for your back. One for your head. One for your hands. One more for good measure. Wind or rocky terrain often meant people lost them. Were you to lose yours, it was up to you to find one on the course edge or in a trash can. It was also up to you to find a way to stuff them on your person as you traversed all the new obstacles.

And most dishearteningly, the next set of obstacles was little more than scaling a ski mountain 3 or 4 times. Crossing into the cloud layer and through frosted trees with freezing winds was bad. But hiking the same mountain twice? Can't we vary things a little bit more?

Coming down the mountain in the last 2 miles felt much simpler, even with obstacles like wall-scaling and getting snow-makers blown in your face. The final obstacle, the 10K volts, brought me down with a powerful blow to the left shoulder. Thankfully I had made enough forward progress that I could crawl forward and avoid any more shocks. Amber noticed several people who fell down only to stand up and get tazed repeatedly.

And with that, I did not want my celebratory beer. I did not want the toasty brats or the rock music or the headband and t-shirt of victory. I wanted to get in the car and crank the heat. And that was the apparent thought of some several thousand other competitors who were huddling in the baselodge. We hightailed it out of there and cranked the juice.

In all, I am happy to be part of the 63% that completed, but I'm more happy to not have lost feeling in my limbs. I am frustrated at having dropped pounds of fat for this - pounds of fat I was happy to have insulating me. I was happy to be born with a high tolerance for cold and pain. I was happy that I went hiking for a few months before this. And I was more than happy that I have a girlfriend who gives me fleeces. But I am most eager to try and refocus on something like a triathlon - which I know I can train for and I know will not take place on a frozen tundra.

So this blog must continue - until physical mastery has taken place. Stay strong and be well, fellow athletes. Photos to come.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Fitocracy - The Training RPG.

Everything that's facebooky about working out with partners without being as useless a timesink as facebook.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Week of 5/20 - Tryin' to keep up or Kickbox my heart

ed. note - happy May 19th

Imagine, if you would, a very challenging game of Simon. Red, blue, yellow, blue. Repeat. Now imagine that red is a right handed punch and yellow is a left leg front kick. Your challenge is physical. Now make it a guitar hero style rhythm game. Do it on the beat. 1, 2, 3, 4. Punch, block, kick, block. Sounds intense. Heck, sounds fun!

Were you to make an exercise out of this, you could. You could make it a very good exercise. There are only 3 things that can make this exercise not work.

1)    You can’t hear what the pattern is.
2)    The pattern is only described in clues.
3)    The pattern is changed every 10 seconds.

Welcome to Santa Monica’s version of kickboxing.

CW Boston Taekwondo kickboxing was awesome. Loud sadistic Russian woman barking the pattern at you. Repeating it twice and doing it in front of the class. You trying to make your punches and turning kicks as crisp as possible. And when you’ve finally mastered it after a good 16 tries, she barks out “NOW ADD A SNAP KICK!” and you do. And this goes on for an hour as you sweat yourself into a lean mean fighting machine.

Santa Monica kickboxing has a sadistic halfie with impossible bress, but she is neither lucid with her language nor do her commands ever make it over the din of the Dance Dance Revolution soundtrack. You do not follow her moves, but rather the people in the front who have apparently memorized the entire 60 minute workout. Except they have not memorized anything, and their form, you recognize as an adept green belt blue stripe, is poor. And before you know it, half of the class is suddenly touching the floor and punching to the left when you were just doing a left-right-uppercut combo. Pardon me? When was anything like this mentioned? What is this pattern’s rhythm? And are we alternating – AND WHY ARE WE DOING SQUAT KICKS NOW? Then spin, then add two more kicks. Then take them away. Then try not to run into the punches being thrown by the people around you.

This continues for an hour. Or rather, it goes on for about 6 minutes with a one or two minute rest. Indeed, you are getting a workout in those 6 minutes, one comparable to the boston one but does one really need 10 water breaks over the span of the workout? How about I train my cardio through 30 minutes of elevated work instead of 10 bursts? Maybe this is some new fad.

And lest we forget that you are only one of two men in the class, the other being a large guy with his late 40s that looks straight out of Revenge of the Nerds. And all the ladies are giving you a wide berth because your (well placed and perfectly formed) roundhouse kicks could take them out. And given that at any given moment half the class is shuffling left with the other half throwing hooks and elbows, it’s quite the possibility.

So concludes two weeks of working out at least 3 times a week. All things considered, I should be at a solid 190 and legs looking like a race horse come race day. The midsection, while better, will still be round on the edges.

We come now to the tapering phase for our last week of training. Light exercise, pumping up the muscles, and storing energy for one full blast on Sunday morning. As you may have seen, the start times are out. Our start time is near the end on Sunday, meaning we’ll have been able to see several waves of people go before us and learn what works and what doesn’t. We have taken the element of surprise away. And now we must take away the element of fear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5/6 5/10 and 5/11 - It gets better

"When the music begins... your heart...your legs...your lungs will all begin working in unison - they will talk to you, and you will listen! ... You decided to come here and not go get a beer, so now make the most of it ... ARE YOU WITH ME, SANTA MONICA?!"

The wiry man has a smile on his face that clearly indicates his mind is in some world that is not connected to the one I've known for decades. He is about to embark on an hour of physical exhaustion and drag us all along for the ride. It is a fool's errand. And yet yes, I am, quite undoubtedly, one resident of Santa Monica that is 100 percent with him.

And so I deliver a genuine "Woo!" in the spirit of the great Ric Flair. Why am I doing this? Whenever I see that townie chick on The Biggest Loser blab on and on to the contestants about "I am a fighter" I can't roll my eyes hard enough. I prefer instructors to show me how it is done, do the exercise 10 times better and faster than me, then shut the hell up. The very reason I would not buy P90X or Intensity is because I know that no matter their earnestness, I'd still find a way to shut the DVD off. What on wrought this exemption to the rule?

It is Justin Rubin. Shotokan Karate specialist. Wiry without an ounce of fat like a boxer. Trainer to the stars and the lowly gym rats like myself. Well-groomed even after 30 minutes of crunches. Lover of using the "Tru Blood" theme song for hill climbs. Motivational maven.

I did not develop a man crush as some men might certain athletes, rather I decided "here is a man whose life I wish to emulate." It started during his first spinning class when he walked in with a Chris Paul jersey the day after the Lakers won the playoffs. He looked around the room and said "So what?" in a defiant tone. "Lakertown" he continued sarcastically. "Show of hands who watched from the Western Conference Semi-finals" No hands went up. "EXACTLY! Now get on your bikes!" And then I laughed. For probably a good 2 minutes. Much respect.

But to the title. While I couldn't say one way or another what his preference is, Justin is the frame and personality that undoubtedly was teased relentlessly in the deep south for seeming gay. And yet he stuck it out through the discipline of marital arte. And now, he lives West Hollywood, is in amazing shape, has a cult-like following, is great at his job, and probably gets more tail than anyone you know. As he damn well deserves.

Which should be a message to our own workout regimens. While we remain flabby diamonds in the rough, it too will get better. The pounds will drop, the runs will become easier, the breathing will become more regulated, and one day you may even get crazy Rubin abs.

And that was what was going through my mind as I finished my Friday workout - finishing a full on 5 days of 1+ hour runs and gym classes with Justin's 30 minute abs class. As he told us that we were better than our friends who rewarded their lack of work with a happy hour while we strove towards more nobler goals, I was amazed at how I was able to keep up with some of his ab work. This indeed was something I'm usually not able to do and end up collapsing after 10 crunches on the bosu ball. It is indeed...slowly but surely...getting better.

Took the weekend off and got back on track with some weight lifting and stair climbing on Monday, then a run with the dog and (gym-teacher) Amber's spinning class on Tuesday...which was not so motivational. We press on.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5/4 and 5/5 - A retraction and Cinco De Mayo is Numero Uno

Wednesday and Thursday continued in the running of the Sparky an average of 28 blocks. It was on Wednesday afternoon that I learned, and must now report, that my previous workout was not "Rockin' Model Workout" but indeed "Total Body Workout" which I think is actually trademarked by Body By Jake.

[ed note: almost]

So Wednesday Amber and I drive to the gym to try to get into a spinning class. We are too late. Let us instead try to go to the real Rockin' Model Workout, I decide. And this .... cannot happen.

There are no men whatsoever. There is no room whatsoever either. It is jam packed with what are most likely actresses. And it should more appropriately be called TEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAASE.

That is to say, the exercises are comprised of yoga moves and calisthenics that may as well be in Carmen Electra's videos. After watching the class go from child pose (butt in the air) to lifting from your abs to go straight up on your knees (lolololz) to a modified macarena (cross hands to your hips then hands straight in the air and sway your shoulders) and then repeat the motion, we left chortling and worked out at the pool.

Today I ran the dog once again and then went to a class called ViPR, not to be confused with the character in that game Ray and I played on my Thai roommate's PS2 during M.Eng. I was again prepared for more torture on my core and back. But lo and behold, it was I that mastered the class. Of the 10 women, 1 50 year-old guy, and 1 Eliza Dushku lookalike, and even the instructor herself, I was the best in the class. I kept up with the pliometric activities. I pushed through all the squats. And even when the instructor had to stop for a breather on the pushups, there I was keeping the time. When she asked "who is OK with abs for the last 10 minutes" and I raised my hand, she exasperatedly said "of course you're OK with it." Now for a first time class, that is a victory.

Anyway, this two-a-day mini-workout is doing great for mental and physical capacity. Although I think I'm just as flabby (by the metrics) as I was a month ago. But it is about velocity, not position! Where we are going, and not where we are! Let us cap the week off with another hour-long burn workout!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

5/2 and 5/3 Rock the party that rocks the body body

Efforts have been redoubled and improvements have been seen. A two pronged attack has helped retain motivation over the last several days - the first of which is setting aside at least 30 minutes of lunch to run Sparky the 3-legged dog to help that count towards an hour's worth of daily exercise and the second of which is Amber pulling a half-hearted Lysistrata routine should I fall off the wagaon again.

Monday worked out very well - with the run allowing me to stay late at work with the assumption that I would not do so on Tuesday. I finished the day up with pushups and situps.

Tuesday found me not getting out of work by 5:30 and not having my clothes ready for a 6:00 gym class, meaning that my next option would be the "Rockin' Model Workout" Having been to several classes primarily meant for college girls, women wishing to look like college girls, and ogling men that end up kicking your tail, I felt somewhat ready for the task at hand. Work some set of core muscles for an hour, do some cario, be sore and sweaty. This was not the case. The intensity was ever-present and the routines kept shifting from pliometrics to cardio moves to weights and back again, all while killing every muscle group you could imagine. You had no time to ogle. Ogling would take too much effort away from air gulping.  I felt fortunate to have someone actually lend me their station - which had an 18 lb bar and two sets of 8 and 12 lb dumbbells. Worst mistake of my life. By the time we got to the Triple-H style slow-motion lateral raises after 10 other sets of exercises, I was damn near crying. The trainer (a male who looks like the pony-tailed Gazelle infomercial man, which saved my ego somewhat more than an unbelievably fit woman with a gaze of steel) twice asked if I was ok, which I don't think was unique but I can't be sure.

I figure that if I'm paying for the gym and the gym can make me P90X for a good hour plus, I should hit these classes as often as possible. With an improved diet, I'm finally moving in the right weight direction again. Whether I can attain something reasonable with mere weeks to go is still up for debate.

In other news: The race is now sold out for the first day. Though we are going the second day, it's quite likely we'll have a full crowd on hand in addition to our girlfriends and wives. Let this be more inspiration - to not look bad in front of lots of strangers.