Monday, September 30, 2013
I know, the ideal me would look like I was in the film 300. At least, part of me wishes that. Heaven forbid, however, I get that big and people start to think that they should use me to guard some mountain pass with my life. We all know how that ended in 371. Just don't attack my right with that many men.
Nevertheless, I signed up. I trained. I ate like a madman on Friday (because, well, 'Merica).
So Saturday, I pull into the parking lot and put sign the form which prominently highlights, bolds and underlines the words "YOU MAY DIE" and smiled.
I mean, thanks for that, right?
And then I put on my chip and wristband, put on my headband/race bib number and took a picture. Because, well, Sparta.
Then I entered the stadium and peered around. Thousands of people, massed in clumps. Some, sporting medals already, drenched in sweat and smiling while taking photos. Others were anxiously stretching. Still others were in groups checking their chest mounted cameras and other gear.
I was there alone. This was my first foray into adventure racing, and I was understandably a little nervous. Afterall, earlier in the year, I weighed a full thirty pounds more than I was at that moment. I still say I'm fat half the time because I don't know better. And I still get fearful when I'm playing a sport, because I never was that guy. I'm a little bit short, a little bit fat, and a little bit slow. And all those things aren't always easily balanced by my positive attitude, inability to quit something once I've set my mind on it, and pure dumb male bravado.
When they called my heat, I lined up, shaking back and forth from one leg to another. One neat feature to the spartan races (if you want to call it a "neat feature") is the complete lack of understanding of the course. That is, there is no map. You follow the directions realtime. The arrows point this way, you run this way. If there is an obstacle, you take it.
They release the waves in groups of fifteen people, every minute. The countdown was intense. I ran out of the gate with a smile.
I was sweating within 100 yards.
Over and under the ropes, over and under the ropes up to the upper deck. Then stadiums -- stairs and aisles and aisles and stairs. Around a bend and then medicine ball slams -- 30 of them. Run on. Jump over walls, crawl below them, jump through them. Four footers, six footers, eight footers. Row 500 meters in under 2 minutes or 30 burpees (WAHOO, says the machine when I beat it, no burpees for me there) then on to the next thing. Pull a giant weight up a pulley (How heavy is this sonova? I yell. Bout One Fifteen the man says. Felt like a bloody ton). Run more. Stadiums.
Put the elastic around your legs and hop up the platform. Run down the stairs. Jump over more walls. Crawl under more ropes. Race outside. Throw a spear into the hay bales (a miss, 30 burpees), Climb a 20 foot rope to ring a bell (a miss, 30 more burpees). Pick up the 50 pound hunk of concrete and carry it across the street, do five burpees, bring the brick back.
I was gassed, but kept on.
Carry a sandbag through the stadium. Carry two ten gallon water bottles through the stadium. Run. Hands-up Pushups, twenty in the dugout. Making the final run. Making the final push. Sweating hard and panting.
Then out onto the warning track. 20 box jumps. My thighs and calves burning. Military hurdles -- walls that were four foot high, five of them in a row. Then to climb across a giant wall covered in small two by four pieces. then a cargo net.
Finally, two spartans, holding giant q-tips, beat you as you cross the finish line.
And they put a medal around your neck. And you smile. Because you did it.
Not bad for an old, fat italian. Fastest time was around 40 minutes. But I wasn't the slowest. And for that, I can be happy. I did it.
I poured water over my head and panted and smiled and looked back at it all and said "I am a Spartan!" and wore the tee shirt and am as sore as I expected to be (okay, maybe a little less-- apparently the training helped) and I already started thinking about the big dog, my dream event. The Tough Mudder.
So, if you want to do the crazy with me -- it's going to be cold-- Poconos Tough Mudder is April 19/20. 10-12 miles, 20-22 obstacles. Average temps in the mid fifties. Brutal. Harsh. But I will take all people who want to do it with me. Let's be a team. Let's be crazy. Let's have fun. Let's enjoy the pain and prove we can.
Six months to train, no problem. I am a Spartan now. I'm hooked.
(besides. What's life without an event touting death as a side effect?)
Monday, September 09, 2013
This weekend was the 28th anniversary Mushroom Festival in Kennet Square, PA. So I made a weekend of it. Friday night I rushed home to pack the kids up for the parade, watching fire engines and politicians walk the streets. I ate at a little streetside cade with the family and we planned the rest of the weekend out. It was just lovely.
And walking out of the building, there was a few information booths for the festival itself. Listing of vendors and times for performers. The street had a myriad of individuals all dancing and enjoying the revelry. It was really neat.
Amid the information, a small poster about the annual five-kay run.
Now, for all of you blog followers who don't know, I'm a short, fat italian (yes. getting fit. so a short overweight italian will do). My running is more of a falling forward and catching myself. Take your average child who has just learned his or her thing, and then blow it up to 37 year old size, and speed it up, and you have me. I'm not much of an athlete.
But, what the hell, why not.
(why are all five-kays in the morning. I mean, honestly, aren't weekends for sleep?)
I pay a fee. get a teeshirt.
"what size sir?"
"Medium" (does a happy dance. I mean, when does that happen)
Then I affix the numbers to my belly and wait for the race.
And then, they put us in the chute, and they say ready/set/go and I start off down the road amid a mass of people. I'm listening to my workout mix with runkeeper, and it's randomly selecting some awesome stuff (one day as a lion, faith no more, metallica, passion pit, lcd soundsystem) and I'm hammering away. The crowd thins a little. All the fast people are way out there. I'm just keeping on.
My goal for a 5k has always been under 30 minutes. That's an average speed of a bit over 6 miles per hour. When I started jogging, that felt like, oh, lightning fast. Like faster than the speed of sound fast. So, for you runners out there, quit your giggling. Fat dudes don't run that fast when they start. Doing it for three point one feels unrealistic. (oh, like a target weight of 175 you might say? well don't say it. I'm relishing my goal completion and not yet ready to modify).
When the first mile passed, runkeeper informed me I was running at approximately 6.6 miles per hour. I used a few surprised expletives in my head. I mean, who wouldn't.
And when I saw the finish line coming round the bend, and could see the blinking green of the timer slowly ticking off the time, and it had 29 minutes in the front, I picked up my pace. I ran hard. I panted, and groaned, and pumped my arms. I felt like I was a freight train, a monster truck, a superhero.
And I crossed at 29:59. ONE SECOND. but it beat my goal time. I did it.
And then I grabbed a water, and enjoyed the drenching sweat I had built up.
It was wonderful. Wonderful. I ran a five kay in under thirty minutes. I did it.
I drove home feeling the winner. And then I got myself prepped to head out to the fair. My thighs and hamstrings were tender, but not sore. I felt wonderful. After I got out of the shower, I did a double-take in the mirror. Wait. Who is this guy?
I took a photo. Just for prosperity. Short Italian. That's it. Although I have ten pounds or so more to lose to hit my new goal, I'm finally feeling wonderful about myself. I feel great. I feel... fit.
And so I put on a teeshirt. A geek shirt, I'll admit, but one I love to wear. Cap'n America! Because I felt like a superhero.
And honestly, I know 29:59 is slow. I know I have weight to lose. I know I have lots of flab to erase and muscle to build. But, there is a point when you're working out and eating well and able to run a five kay in under thirty that you suddenly realize it's all sort of worth it. And your self-esteem takes a bonus round and your body feels right and you take the word "fat" out of your personal descriptor.
There are days you really do feel like you're a bit of a superhero.
(and that's why I just signed up for a spartan sprint at the end of the month...
... yeah. It's hubris. And it will wreck me. but I don't care.
I feel invincible today)
Thursday, August 22, 2013
8:05 PM. The sun going down on a small town in Pennsylvania. I'm feeling a little lethargic due to two days of non-ideal eating (pasta twice in a single day? Well, there was a pasta bar at work, what was I going to do, NOT eat the tortellini with alfredo sauce? At least I added loads of veggies to it). So I decided to wreck my workout.
Step 1: Get your run on.
Once you get your shoes on. Once you put your headphones in. Once you put your runkeeper on and select your playlist. Once the music starts and your body feels charged. Run. Run hard. Not so hard you can't finish, not so hard you can't speak, but hard enough you feel your legs pounding and your body pushing. Hard enough that you have to stop thinking all the work crap that goes on, about all the people you know who you want to help, about your family and the things that are draining your emotions, about all the negativity you see in the world, about the things that make so little sense you simply have to get angry. You surrender yourself to that emptiness, so you can remind yourself to keep your chest up, your chin up. That you remind yourself to breathe.
You fall into the rhythm of the songs, finding the driving guitar riffs to give yourself inspiration. You allow yourself to go all organic with the earth and surrender to your breath, your panting breath and the sweat.
I'm not a fast runner by any stretch. I'm quite happy at five and a half miles an hour. The neighborhood loop I do is about three and a quarter.
I felt wonderful when I arrived sweaty and heavy in breath at my front door when done.
Step 2: Hit the Bells Hard...
Seven minute circuit.
One minute two handed swing, one minute one handed alternating, one minute squat and press, one minute windmills, one minute pass through lunge, one minute high pulls in sets of five per side, one minute clean and press.
One minute break, pouring sweat, dripping on my floor. Take a sip of water, bend down and try to catch the fleeting breath. Think of the emptiness that was where all the thoughts were.
Punish yourself three times with that. Know that you're getting stronger when you feel weakest.
Step 3: Crush your core
20 Russian twists with the bell, bell press at the bottom between situps. 50 second plank.
Do that thrice.
Remember, this is good for you. Remember that when your belly quivers and your can't hold it one second more. Remember that when you put the bell down with a thud and your arms and chest and back and shoulders and thighs are still trembling with the workout. Remember that when you're so tired you can't even begin to think about crawling up the stairs and taking a shower.
Step 4: Celebrate.
You shut off your ipod, letting AC/DC go from loud to silent. You shut off the lights and pick up your sweaty clothes. You peel them off in the laundry room, because you'd rather throw them right in the washer than have them fester in the laundry basket. You walk upstairs buck naked and drenched in sweat. You put on the shower, colder than your normal morning temperature, and you get in and put your hand on the wall. You let the water cascade over you washing the salty remnants of your workout from your body.
you count to yourself. Run. Four hundred or so. Kettlebells, six hundred or so. Abs. Another fifty or sixty. One thousand. One thousand. One thousand.
You smile in your wonderfully spent way, and you say: "yeah. I did it. Go me."
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Friday. Somewhere beyond the hours of traffic on the garden state parkway (which incidentally, was more like a park-way than a high-way), I arrived at a quaint little hotel in middle of bustling Morristown, New Jersey to see a friend of mine from my Fraternity days married to the first girl he ever asked out 23 years ago, who, through the miracles of facebook and persistence finally said yes to a date all those years later and was fixin' to say yes on a permanent basis that evening.
(Holy run-on sentence batman!)
I put on a BCBG tie, because, if you haven't heard, I'm a bit of a closet metrosexual and love fashion. I also was wearing Calvin Klein shoes, if you wanted to know. Jos. A. Bank traveler shirt. Silver shirt collar stays with suggestive and inappropriate sayings carved into them. Unfortunately, I hadn't tried on my suit in a while -- a Jones New York pinstripe affair that went well with my wife's dress-- and the 25 pounds meant that my belt was the only thing keeping me safe from an unfortunate underwear sighting. It also made my legs and ass look terrible due to the copious amounts of extra fabric there. Shucks. All that good work and...
... even the Bond no. 9 Hamptons cologne there wouldn't cover that up...
I grabbed the gift and (a little nervously) walked down to the spot where the wedding would be.
(for the record, my wife looked great too -- her weight loss journey is proceeding slower than mine, but it's having its effect, and she was glad to have been forced to buy a new dress for the occasion)
There I ran into five of my closest friends from a decade ago. Some a little larger than before, others more bald. And we ordered drinks. And then it was like memory lane. We laughed and poked fun. We brought up old jokes from ages ago, and we watched our friend get married. We clapped at appropriate times and made the most wonderful but not fit for public consumption inappropriate comments, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.
There was the 21 year old buxom blonde from australia who hit on my old roommate in front of his wife, laughing off the giggles of his guy friends nearby. I remember dancing over to her to help him escape so he wouldn't have to sleep on the couch in the hotel later that evening. There was the terrible poking of fun at the guy who still drinks only girlish drinks (appletini, please -- he'd say, and we'd say "oh, you're so bold. That's no wine spritzer") and gets drunk when someone mentions shots. There's the one guy who couldn't make it who got texts all night long with entirely inappropriate photos attached.
Oh, fraternity, you make me smile so.
And aside from the fact that my doctor roommate confirmed that the prognosis for my niece is not good (see last blog post), while providing sufficient cya ("I've not seen her specific case-- this is only in general, it could be much better"), it was a magical reunion beneath the stars and chandeliers and alongside flowers and ice sculptures.
We promised to keep in better touch -- but beating a decade apart should be pretty easy. We've been in text-touch all weekend since.
And somewhere in there I remembered why life is so much fun, and why I don't need to count calories at a wedding and why vodka is a perfect social lubricant and why friendships mean so much. It was a priceless moment and I feel healthy for having attended and been there. It doesn't hurt that after my entire cape vacation and the wedding and the baseball game of last night (no blog post on that necessary, took the kids to a baseball game which equals franks and beer and funnel cakes and popcorn and no shortage of poor choices) I'm only weighing in at 176.2, a three pound shift from my low of nearly a month ago, but a whole ten pounds happier in the headspace than I've ever been.
Life is funny like that, important like that. Friends come in all ways and shapes, and help you see things differently if you take time to reflect. My fraternity brothers just another wonderful reminder that life is precious. Like my email friends who get to peer deep inside me. Like those I've met here at SP who I feel comfortable sharing the most wonderful details with. Like my new workplace and the people who work there. Like my family and the wonderful times I have.
Like those mornings working out at the gym before my body had time to protest and those choices I make at lunch when I'd make something different. Like the me, the new me, who is really finding more moments of happiness along the way. It's not perfect, far from it -- don't even begin to admit I'm not a ridiculous poor choice maker and proud of it -- but happy.
And who would have thought a set of decade old friends found at a wedding together would be the reminder I needed...
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