Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Spartan Family

Most of you that know me have already heard about the misstep that cost myself and several other racers a chance at elite placement at the Spartan World Championships in Vermont last September. Since that race, I have spent countless hours wondering what would have happened if Nick, Melinda, Alec, and myself hadn't followed the wrong path that day. There isn't a blog that I could pen that could express my immense disappointment at the way everything played out that morning. During this race, following the path ahead of me was a mistake that not only marked me ineligible for the championship, but also meant that I couldn't head up and complete a second lap; Spartan's first Ultra Beast had slipped from my grasp. The rest of my weekend was a whirlwind that culminated with an unexpected turn of events that left me reeling.

After the race on Sunday, Corinne Kohlen, Jeff Bent, and I drove from Killington to New York City to spend a final night together as friends before our chaotic weekend came to a close. Somewhere around 2:00 A.M. we headed back to New Jersey so I could catch an early flight back to Los Angeles. As we pulled our luggage from the car to the hotel, Jeff snagged the handle of my racing bag. "You don't need to bring that in. It's just my bag of muddy, wet racing clothes." I consider offering that sentence as one of the biggest mistakes that I made that weekend. Jeff threw my bag back in the back of his SUV and we walked into the hotel, crashing as soon as we hit the beds. Early the next morning we packed up and headed out to the car. As we approached the car we noticed that all of the windows were rolled down. We looked at each other confused and wondered whether we had somehow forgotten to roll up the windows? When we neared the car, it was clear that the driver's side lock had been broken and was lying in pieces on the ground. Upon opening the car we realized that several items were missing from the car including Jeff's headphones, a backpack, and my racing bag. The bag that had seemed unimportant enough to leave in the car was gone. My mind instantly started racing and going over the contents of the bag as Jeff walked into get the hotel manager. The manager of the hotel was unhelpful and assured us that the police would not come out for such a trivial crime. He suggested that we call when we had time and file a report. I needed to catch a flight, and it seemed that the three of us were in some sort of stupor. We headed to the airport, I checked my only remaining belongings, and wandered to the gate. I sat down alone waiting for my flight, and began to revisit the contents of my bag again. As processed everything that was in the bag, I started to cry. I cried in the airport that day for over an hour. After leaving my friends and having my bag taken, I was emotionally overwhelmed at the thought of everything that I had lost.

I returned to L.A. that day disheartened. Not only had my race gone awry, but now all of my racing gear was gone. I couldn't do anything but wait for a police report and insurance money, I assumed the waiting game would be long, and I would have to work with the gear was left, replacing a few key pieces until I had enough gear to race again. I was so disheartened that I had to try to forget about everything until more information about how to replace my gear had presented itself. In the meantime I e-mailed Jason at Spartan and he contacted Inov-8 and iTab to get the process of replacing my gear moving. After a week had passed, Jeff called to let me know that the advice that the hotel manager had given us that day was incorrect. The police wouldn't file a report over the phone, and there wouldn't be any insurance money to replace my gear. I had another good cry that day and Jeff assured me that he would do everything he could to help me out.

Jeff posted on the Spartan 300, an elite racer Facebook group and let everyone know that I needed some help. Allowing him to do this was incredibly tough for me. I pride myself on struggling through life on my own and typically find it hard to accept help when it is offered. Living life on my own with three kids for the last five years has taught me that the struggle is often part of the reward, and few things come without hardship. I had already turned down help from a few individuals that had offered it in the week immediately following Killington, hoping that I would receive money from the insurance company. At this point, I knew that replacing all the gear on my own would be impossible.

Within seconds of Jeff's post, both Jeff and I began to receive messages, texts, and e-mails with offers to help. I begrudgingly provided Jeff with my Paypal address and financial help started pouring in. I was shocked that much of this help came from individuals in the Spartan 300 group that I had never met. To say that I am incredibly thankful to these people is an understatement. My gratitude is overwhelming. I have never felt so loved by a group of people. Even though my "thanks" may never seem like enough, I want to thank my Spartan family. You are amazing and wonderful. I wouldn't be able to race again without you. Though so many offered to help, I feel like I need to recognize several by name. Thank you (in no particular order) to Junyoung Pack, Shane McKay, Janice Marie Ferguson, Melinda Branch, Eric Matta, Leslie St. Louis, Shawn Feiock, Sue Luck, Leslie St. Louis, Jeff Cain, Shannon Hulme, Kevin Brodsky, Jeffrey Bent, Jason Rita, Caitlin at Inov-8, iTab, and Spartan Race. Each and every one of you are my personal hero's. :) -Ang

*** While most of these pictures are in no way a representation of this blog content, I couldn't miss a chance to post a few of my favorites from my weekend in Killington. Special thanks to Eric and Andrew for getting me through day #2. Without your humor and support, I'm not sure I would have fared so well. :) ***

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Building Leg Strength and Endurance

Building Leg Strength and Endurance

In racing my past two races, I realized my leg strength and endurance was my biggest weakness. My legs were just not ready for the terrain or distance. I struggled on the hills, hills that I should have been able to run up at a steady pace. My legs groaned with exhaustion just a few miles into the races. My body, my lungs, and my mind wanted to explode, but it was my legs that held me back. I decided I needed work on quadriceps, hamstring, and glute strength and endurance.  Just long distance running up and down steep hills were not enough.  I needed to be able to count on my legs to explode and endure.
Here are three workouts that I created to step up my leg training:
One: Twenty-fives to success
Pull ups (to failure)
25 shoulder press squats (w/dumbells)
25 burpees
25 box jumps
25 sit ups
25 - 4 step lunges each leg (lunge forward, to side, reverse, to side count as one lunge)
Rest 1-2 minutes after this round. Repeat for 3-5 rounds

Note: I threw in exercises that involved other body parts between the leg exercises to give my legs a little rest before the next explosion. If the number of reps doesn’t cause burn by the second round, increase the number of reps.
Two: Hill repeats with leg concentration
Find a section of a steep hill that you can run up for at least 1 minute.
Dedicate a start and end point.
Using a stop watch, sprint all out for the distance.
Jog down and repeat 4 times, keeping interval speed at same pace.
25 – 50 body weight squats
25 – 50 push ups
50 walking lunges
Rest 60 seconds
Repeat all of above for 3-5 rounds

Three: Love for Legs
100 walking lunges with weight on shoulders (sandbag, plate, dumbbell, etc.)
15 push ups
15 mountain climbers
10 pull ups
25 body weight squats with one leg on a 12” box/step (switch to other leg)
15 push ups
15 burpees
10 sit ups
25 frog jump squats
1-2 minute rest
Repeat for as many rounds as possible

You can have a strong heart, defined muscles, large lung capacity, and all the will in the world. But when your legs fail you, the rest cannot get you across the finish line.  It’s the legs that will carry you through. Train them well and don’t forget to stretch.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Gladiator Rock n' Run

Even though I haven't given you my race recap of my Vermont weekend, I'm going to skip forward to what will be a less emotionally charged blog. (No need to fear, I will eventually revisit the championship race and all of the craziness that surrounded it.) Last week Corinne, Scott, Candy, myself, and several of my other Weeple friends, had the chance to run the Gladiator Rock n' Run at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

I was so excited to do run the Rock n' Run for the first time. I had absolutely no idea what to expect in terms of terrain or obstacles because I haven't ever done a mud run other than a Spartan. Before the race I watched  several videos on YouTube of the previous year so I would have an idea what to expect. (I decided to go with my racing flats which definitely seemed to be the right decision given the terrain.)

Scott and I headed down early in the morning to check in for my 7:30 A.M. 10K heat. It was super cold, but nice once we started running it warmed up nicely. The first 1/2 mile of the 10K included a jaunt inside the Rose Bowl and up and down the stairs. That really worked my legs which made the race a lot rougher than I had originally planned. After that, it was mostly an asphalt run with mud obstacles thrown in the mix including a rope climb, "spider web," many dumpster dives, and some mud pits and barb wire. It was definitely nothing like the hilly terrain in Vermont which gave my heavy legs and largely damaged left food a nice break. The 10K included some beautiful trail and a few rolling hills. The one thing that was more apparent than anything else was the amazing course marking. Many of you know that I had a slight "problem" with the course in VT. There was NO way I could have gotten lost here. Multiple signs, flagged ropes, and arrows assured that even the most horrid navigators (that's me) wouldn't get lost. I was excited to see Scott at the finish and headed over with him to begin his 5K heat. We ran the whole race together; his warm up for the Malibu Spartan Sprint in December. I remembered how much more fun it is to run these races with a friend, and how I got involved in these obstacle races in the first place.

My only qualm with the race: I ran most of the 10K heat in third place. At the end of my race I caught up to the two women that had been in front of me. They skipped the last obstacle and ran around it when they saw me coming up behind them. This made me third overall, but first to complete all of the obstacles. I truly wish this race had some accountability for their competitive heats and making sure that people don't just run around the obstacles. If you plan to skip the obstacles in order to place top 3, why not just run a traditional road race ladies? I had to head home to coach my soccer team before awards, so I stole this pic from Corinne. She and I both placed third overall. (I suspect she was the first woman to complete all of the obstacles in the 5K as well.) I'm still crossing my fingers that my awards will be sent out as promised. They are really sweet.

Oh, and a shout out on a separate line for the race shirt. These are the most KILLER race shirts I have ever seen! Awesome shirts by Affliction that I will wear everyday for the rest of my life. (Well, maybe not everyday, but any time I get the chance.) The picture definitely doesn't do it justice.

I would definitely run this race again and look forward to it next year. Thanks to Dan "Nitro" for putting on a great event. I look forward to rockin' your shirt all over the city. ;) -Ang

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mighty things come in little packages: the story of a true Beast-ess!

Sue Luck.  I have dropped her name before and I don’t mean to be redundant or continually recognize the same competitors but she amazes me time after time.  Vermont was no different and this girl re-defined what it means to persevere, to not quit, to be strong, to be fearless, to be brave, and to inspire.  She is a Beast-ess!

While we had originally signed up to do the Beast as a team we ended up running as individuals and I am thankful I got to share the first half of the course with her.  She is one of the smaller racers – probably 5 feet tall and on a good day 100 lbs but she is one of the fiercest.  She can usually be recognized by her infectious smile and her bright knee high socks and matching tops. 

This weekend she did what no other woman including myself could do, she ran the Vermont Beast 3 times!  Twice on Saturday to be one of only 19 ladies to finish the UltraBeast, and once on Sunday – moving herself into complete badass status!  I may or may not have convinced her to do it Sunday, I had wanted to run it myself on Sunday and we started together… she completed what I couldn’t and didn’t, she is my idol. 
This is a little bit about Sue's Ultrabeast and beast experience in her own words!  I can't even imagine how she did what she did and knew she could explain it best.  Myself and all our friends knew Sue would finish strong, had no doubts in our mind, and were so excited when she did!  If your looking for some inspiration/motivation/determination....look at SUE!

1. Was there any time that you wanted to quit/thought you couldn't make it?/ what made the course os hard? 
 The toughest part for me was when it started to get dark ascending up the hug mountain ( Bears Ass ) trying to rely on people helping me see in the pitch darkness because my headlamp was so dim. Then rain started pouring down so hard I could hardly see. I made out of the mountain but now I had to descend down the mountain. At this point I was shivering, using my hands and feeting trying to feel my way down the course. I thought how I'm I going to finish. I sure did not want to be stuck in darkness of the mountain and it could be hours before anyone got rescued. My survival mode kicked in and I knew I had to fight my way finish no matter what!

2. What was the worst/best part?
 The best part was being excepted into the Ultra Beast and being one of the people that finished such an epic race. It was the most emotional race I have ever done. Once I crossed the finish line I broke down with so much emotion. I couldn't believe I did! The worst part was actually the terrain and weather. The obstacles and burpees I can overcome but when you mix cold weather, water, mountains and deep incline and decent in pitch darkness it a whole other ball game! You can sense the urgency and hear the panic in peoples voices wondering if they can make it to the finish. I was one of them!

3. Was there anything that helped push you on? A mantra? a thought? a person?
Since my dads passing in February the week of the Arizona Super! I always think about him and how he is looking down on me to keep pushing! Everytime I thought about quiting on the second lap of the Ultra Beast I kept saying, "dad give me strength, help me push through this! Help me dad help me!" I also kept repeating over and over," you can do this!" And my rock who pushes me to never give up...Shawn! I thought about him through the whole race thinking he had to be worried sick about me. Waiting for hours after he had already finished wondering if I was ok up in the dark, cold, muddy mountain! I can't thank him enough for being the strongest and most encouraging man I know and being an inspiration to so many people.

4.  How about Sunday!?  You did what I wish I would have done/not quit on!
The second day running the Sunday Beast was just last minute. Finishing so late in the Ultra Beast, tired, hungry and beat up I did not want to run the next day. We got up that morning Shawn was in pain from the huge cut on his leg and hobbling around. He says, "I'm running!" I knew at that point if he was in so much pain and was still running it. I had no excuse not to! We get to the starting line and the rest is history! I never once thought about quiting but to dig deep and putting one foot in front of the other and finishing!

Sue continues to inspire me and impress me.  She is a great competitor and friend.  Look forward to seeing her in SC and Texas beast!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Fastest Treatment Ever for Poison Ivy (Oak, Sumac)

I have always been allergic to poison ivy. Being the outdoorsy, roll in the mud kind of girl I am, I got a lot of it in my days.  Even if I would wash the skin upon contact when I went indoors, the toxin still managed to stick to my skin.  First, a little itch about two days later. I’d scratch, more itch. Then the little bumps appeared.  Each time I’d think, “How did I get it this time? I totally watched every step I took.” I’d joke that I could get Poison Ivy just from looking at it from 10 feet away.  The bumps would increase in number and size; my skin became raw from my scratching and rubbing. And the Poison Ivy symptoms would take from 2-3 weeks minimal to disappear. I tried Ivy Rest, Calamine, soap, Benadryl, and whatever else I could to try to keep the symptoms manageable while the rash ran its course on my body.  There were a few times in my life I even had to get Cortisone shots to ease the misery.

Since Obstacle Course Racing, poison ivy has remained a part of my life. I cannot seem to avoid it as it grows in the places I like to crawl. When racing I certainly do not have the time to look around for it, and then avoid it. So I race on and if I encounter it, I deal with it later.  In Virginia and New Jersey‘s early fall Spartan Races, I had the unfortunate luck of picking up the poison ivy toxins. I didn’t notice until a few days later when the itching and the bumps appeared.  A few of my good racing friends told me they had the misfortune of poison ivy, too. Some had it worse than others.

I was most fortunate to be contacted by Dan Boelman from the company, ZANFEL. He wanted to send me a tube of the product to test it out. What did I have to lose besides that itchy, welled up, and seepy rash?

Amazing! I applied some of the cream as directed. Waited 15 minutes and rinsed it off.   The spots stopped itching immediately. The welts began to disappear and had completely vanished within 36 hours. I am never leaving home without a tube of Zanfel in my bag.

Thank you, Zanfel, and for coming to my rescue. You can find your tube of Zanfel on the counters of any local pharmacy and it’s easy to order online.


Zanfel continues to be the only product clinically shown to remove the poison ivy plant's toxin, urushiol, from the skin any time after outbreak of the rash. Once the plant's toxin (the allergen that stays in your skin for 2 – 3 weeks after exposure to the plant, and causes the rash and itching to continue) is removed, the person is able to experience itch relief and their body is put in a position to begin the healing process.