Friday, January 24, 2014

Spartan Race in Malibu - Part I


Alright, I am not a runner. I repeat, I am not a runner. So when a buddy approaches me to do some race (or maybe better called 'another event wherein I trick myself into being active so my body doesn't know it's really doing exercise'), but this time it even involves RUNNING, I am not really interested.

That said, he is a good friend, so I thought I would hear him out. (For purposes of this article, I think each of the people will be given a nickname. So, I will call this buddy Muscles. Not that he's super ripped or anything, but as he does work out more than I do, which means 'at all' I will call him Muscles.) What I knew from what Muscles told me, and a quick view of the website, was this: 
  • This race would be ~5k. (So I was telling myself 'Okay, 3 miles'. See, I need to round down as part of the mind fooling process. Upon further looking into the race material I discovered it was 4 miles. I realize that 4 miles is nothing to you runner folk, but let me remind you that I AM NOT a runner. I don't think I could jog a mile straight, and couldn't remember the last time a ran/jogged/walked a mile. So how would I overcome this?
  • There would be obstacles - something like 12 to 16 of them if I remember correctly. What they were, they wouldn't tell you before the race. However, there were a few events that seemed to be in most events (i.e. spear throwing, rope climbing, some sort of water obstacle, a barb wire crawl). Two things I knew about the obstacles would be, regardless of what the actual obstacles were. 1 - They looked fun. What guy doesn't want to get muddy climbing over stuff, under stuff, through stuff, maybe be throwing stuff, even swimming through know 'stuff!'. and 2 - These obstacles actually broke up the running. All of the sudden I wasn't going to run 4 miles, I was going to run a few (16 now called a 'few', see, more trickery of the mind) quarter mile legs. This was much easier to swallow than the 4 mile run I was previously confronted with.
  • We would get a group of guys, and be doing this with more of a team approach. This also added to the appeal of the event. Rather than feel like I would simply be smoked by Muscles, and anyone else that agreed to do it, and thus be left to my own devices, we would actually be working all together. We could help encourage and push each other to succeed. Now, I wasn't alone.
Anyways, with these things in mind, I told Muscles I was in and we put together a small team of guys to take on the Spartan Race in Malibu. Truth be told the team looked to be as big as 7 or 8 guys at one point, but we ended up with 4 of us. (As 3 or 4 guys didn't actually make it out, they will be excluded from receiving super dapper nicknames.) Those that remained were Muscles, myself, and guys that I shall refer to as Legs and Honest.


Leading up to the race, Legs and I decided we needed to hit the gym to start preparing. Legs is a tall guy and was more worried about getting some upper body strength in the whopping month that we had to get ready for this event. I, on the other hand, was worried about one thing, and one thing only, running. Legs and I would usually spin for a few minutes at the gym to warm up, go lift some weights, and then finish with time on the treadmill. Legs and I would start slow on the treadmill and work our speed up. It was difficult at times for both of us, but all I could remember as I would try and keep pace with Legs's speed was, 'If only I was taller and had longer legs like he does, this wouldn't be so bad.' Thus my decision to call Legs, Legs. 

So as to provide the evidence of our dedication, we probably hit the gym 5 or so times before the event, so you could tell we would be ready. (Luckily, I did at least get in a good ride or two each week to help get the heart rate up, so I guess I did have a little more help.)

As stated earlier, Muscles was pretty regular at the gym so I knew he would be fine. As for Honest, he actually likes to run, so I also knew this race wouldn't be difficult for him either.


Before actually getting to the race itself, I will give you a couple other 'known' facts we had before the start of the race. First, we had one of the last start times of the day, at 3:30. It would be dark before we were done, and we would need headlamps. This could be great, but it would also mean that it would be a colder day in December to do the race. But Malibu in December can be cool (maybe even warm) to cold, all depending on the weather. Second, the actual forecast for the day showed the temperature to be in the 50's, with rain. Rainy, cold, dark. Suddenly, the race began to get real.

(Legs, Myself, Muscles, and Honest trying to give the 'Tough Guy' face. Funny how most of us equate that to squinting our eyes.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 Fall Tour de St. George - Part II


...After the quick break, I found my new acquaintance, and we were ready to go. 'I didn't get your name,' I said, as we pulled out of the stop and back on to the road. As I said this all I could think was, 'Watch it be Gary. No, it's not Gary. Don't be Gary. Okay, BE GARY!'

'It's Gary,' he replied.

'What!? Gary?'

'Yeah, Gary.'

I couldn't help but laugh. You see, when I was riding in my first event I road for a bit with a guy named Gary who was just as pleasant as this guy, and right about the same age. Apparently, I have a thing for riding with guys named Gary, and I didn't even know it.

Putting the odds of something like that aside, Gary and I were back in the saddle and were getting to know each other. Turns out Gary was from British Columbia, and had a winter home in St. George. As I served my mission in BC, we had a good chat while taking in a few flat miles. When the road started rising Gary was kind enough to let me ride on, but I knew the real hills were still ahead of us, so I didn't get too far in front. I was also good enough to stop with Gary at the next stop so he could refill his bottles. (At this point, I thought it better to ride with someone to help pace myself rather than push too hard too soon and burnout too early in the ride.)


We were about 30 miles in and had two smaller climbs under our belt. Up next would be a quick, short climb of over 300 feet in a two mile span on Red Hills Parkway on the north side of St. George that would then drop down to Bluff Street. Once on Bluff, we would head north for 16 miles to Veyo. This would be the longest climb of the day with ~1,600 feet of climbing over the first 10 miles, with the road turning fairly flat with a little downhill the rest of the way to Veyo. I had climbed steeper sections than these before, but this would still be a challenge for me due to the length of consistent climbing that would be required. (It seems most of my local riding are shorter climbs ranging up to ~5 or 6 miles in length.)

Gary and I stayed together through the climb on Red Hills Parkway, but once onto Bluff Street and headed to Veyo it wasn't long before I had dropped him. (I really enjoyed riding with Gary and all, but it comes to a point when climbing that you don't dare go any slower, or faster for that matter, as you know you will burn out. Had I slowed it would have felt just as painful climbing and it would have only taken longer.) Midway up the climb there was a water cooler for people to refill at, so I did wait for Gary there. But once we were climbing again, it didn't take long before I pulled away.

There wasn't too much passing on this stretch of road. I am happy to report the only passing I encountered was me passing others, as I was not passed until I stopped at the SAG station in Veyo.


Gary got in to the SAG station just a couple minutes later and spoke very highly of my climbing skills. (Don't worry, I know I am a novice, and most people I ride with are better climbers and riders overall than I am.) It was while refilling our bottles the lead peloton of riders doing the full century passed us. It was actually pretty stunning to watch a good group of riders speed by the SAG station just after a good climb and see the group of guys pushing each other to go faster. Gary was quick to refill and run, stating he wanted to get a head start on me and that I would be catching him shortly. I filled topped off the bottles and was on my way.

The next section was mostly flat or somewhat downhill. The only thing I didn't like about the course was the one steep section of road ended with a sharp turn, taking away any chance for me to use that momentum for a quick breather off the pedals. Instead, it was here that I found myself starting to hurt. The funny thing was my legs were in pretty good shape. Besides a quick twitch of my right quad threatening to cramp up when I was trying to attack the peak of the climb toward Veyo, I had no indication of tiredness or exhaustion. Instead, what I found was that my stomach wanted to rip itself out of my body and be thrown under the wheels of the previously mentioned peloton to get back at me for possible neglect.

I hadn't eaten much of a breakfast, and I am still working out what does and doesn't work on longer rides, so I guess this is just part of the learning experience. That said, I do not like it.

All I remember over the first 15 miles of the back 30 was 2 things: 1) Stomach pains are as bad or worse than legs pains when trying to ride; and 2) from the looks of the elevation map before the ride, there was more flat or slight incline riding that what I hoped for. Also, I did not catch Gary until passing him at the last SAG station around mile 65.

This time, however, I didn't stop. I couldn't. My stomach had started to wear me down, and all I wanted to do was finish. My stomach hurt, and my butt was quickly becoming tired of being on such a small seat. It longed for a soft couch or recliner on which it could share the load amongst all parts equally, instead of only one small mid section.

Miles 65-73 are some of the worst road I have ridden. I remembered this section of road from the Spring Tour, and was more than ready for it to be over. As tired as I was, I found myself counting down the last 12 miles to the ride. Each time a would hit a mile marker I would say aloud, "10...9...8!" It was here Gary would pass, yell something negative as he passed for motivational purposes (unfortunately, that does not work on me), and I would see him ride a little ways in front. My legs were getting tired, but I still kept a good pace. Finally, I could see the last hill before the school. I was up it and through the finish line.
(The one time I stopped to take a picture, not the most scenic.)


Gary was there to congratulate me (the family arrived less than two minutes after I rode through the finish line), and I was happy to be done. The route was a great route (outside of the 8 miles towards the end), and SpinGeeks had done a great job putting on the event. I ended up 14th of the 95 that finished the 75 (actually 80) mile course, which is about where I had hoped. Gary finished 4 minutes ahead of me in 12th. Part of me thinks I should have not stopped as many times with him as I did so I could have beaten him. Then I realize the good he did probably outweighed the 4 minutes. Besides, I wasn't in it to win it.

(Pic taken from the Spring Tour de St. George. As I paid like $7 for it, it better get posted!)