mens health urbanathlon

Adventure Racing!

With my triathlon season coming to a close at the end of August (thanks to not having a car and living in the middle of Chicago), my focus switched to obstacle racing! As soon as I made the decision to move to Chicago, I immediately signed up for my 4th Men's Health Urbanathlon. I had done this race 3 times previously, here in Chicago, and it's by far one of my favorite races. Plus, it's in downtown Chicago, so I can get there. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was doing this race and he told me he was doing a Spartan Race two weeks before the Urbanathlon. I desperately wanted to do this Spartan Race, but even though it was in "Chicago", it was over an hour away and I didn't have a way to get there. Luckily, my awesome friend wasn't doing the race with anyone, so we were able to carpool and get a hotel.

The race was a Spartan Super: 8+ miles of trail running and obstacles! Our wave got pushed back to 1:45 pm, which actually turned out perfect for me because I hate morning races. My body doesn't really wake up till 1 pm or so, and therefore I was able to really feel awake and ready to rock.

Within half a mile of starting the race, we were submerged in chest deep mud and water. There was no avoiding it. The keys to this race were being a strong runner, being agile and swift, being strong, and being alright with getting hurt. Also, being able to run in soaked and muddy shoes.

For every obstacle you weren't able to complete, the punishment was 30 burpees.  I ended up doing somewhere between 90-150 burpees, but mostly for avoidable reasons (messed up the spear throw by having the cord wrapped around my leg, falling off a 6-inch high balance beam, and slipping off the monkey bars, to name a few). I was really pleased with ability on a number of the obstacles though, mainly the rope climb. For this obstacle, you started in chest-deep water, then had to grab a rope above you, climb 20 feet into the air and ring a bell at the top, then climb down.  I'm very grateful now that I taught myself to climb a rope back at my old gym in Tampa.

I finished the race in just over 2 hours. I was really happy with this time, but was frustrated because I would have at least 20 minutes faster were it not for a huge jam up where at least 100 people were all trying to get up an impossible mudbank. It's all good, but I'll remember that for next time!

Rock the W!

A while later, I saw my friend making his way toward the finish line, but he was struggling by this point after a long day. I knew how hard the last obstacle were and that he wouldn't be able to (as I wasn't) get over the last couple without someone to help.  So I asked the staff if I could go back in, which they let me do! Together, we pulled him over the last hurdle (which was a slippery, sloped wall, covered in water and mud) and crossed the finish line together! It was such a great finish and amazing race!

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I can't wait for my next race and am already planning a lot of obstacle racing for next year. With my strength being running, plus my willingness to suffer and my love of lifting, this type of race caters much more to me. Here are some tips that I will remember for my next race and hopefully will help you in you in your next race:

  1. Know your strengths! I knew that some of the strength obstacles would take me longer, but that I could make up ground with my running. Therefore, every time I got the chance, I would run hard.
  2. Learn how to run downhill. I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of trail running and have had some good friends who've taught me to run downhill well.  You basically swing your arms out wide and take big steps and just barrel down the hill. It looks super dangerous, but its safe if you know how to do it right.
  3. Lift! You have to be strong to be competitive in these races. Lifting strengthens your both physically and mentally and those are key factors in this race.
  4. Help other racers and allow yourself to receive help. The only reason I made it up that mudbank I mentioned above was due to working with a few other guys and basically making a ladder out of ourselves to take turns climbing up. When we reached the top, we each instinctively turned around and started pulling other people up who were struggling. While I wanted to do well, the camaraderie is more rewarding than the podium in a race like this.
  5. However, if you do want the podium, like I would like to see in the future, chose the right wave. I'd like to go elite at obstacle racing next year and will be signing up for races to be in the first pack of elite racers who are the first on the course.

Fire Jump

Two weeks after the Spartan was the Men's Health Urbanathlon, which takes place right in downtown Chicago. I had absolutely no expectation going into this race since i had no idea where my fitness level would be. I always train hard, but had been doing less running mileage.

The race, as always, was fantastic. The obstacles weren't nearly as hard as the Spartan, but this race was 10.6 miles, colder, and had the added "fun" of Chicago winds. In fact, I don't know if I've ever felt like I was going "with" the wind since I've moved to this city... The obstacles in this race were more of crawling under obstacles, jumping over obstacles, and some more challenging tasks like 5 foot military hurdles, which aren't difficult if you approach them correctly.

The killer in this race, though, is the 1-mile worth of stairs you climb inside Soldier Field! (The Bears stadium). The portion consisted of running up, over, and down, the top tier of the stadium over and over. Talk about a quad burner.

The race ran North up Lake Shore, around Navy Pier, and back down Lake Shore past the Museum Campus, through Soldier Field, then around the Convention Center, before finishing in the parking lot of Soldier Field (If you've read Divergent, I know you're picturing this...)

The last obstacle of the race is what has killed me each previous year--the 9 foot wall. In past years, I've been so close to getting over, but having someone grab a leg and help me at the end. Feeling much stronger this year, I took a much more aggressive approach and flung myself up the wall! One of the race staff started to reach for my leg to help me out and I just remember screaming "NOOOOO! Don't touch me!" to make sure I got over all on my own : )

As for results, I finished 37th of 1,500, 8th in my age group of 227, and had the 13th fastest split overall on the Stairs! I was really happy with this!

I'm looking forward to writing again soon about a ton of other fun stuff that's been going on mixed with plenty of personal things I've been working on. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

2,822 Miles to San Diego!

I made it! After a long adventure across the country (with my brother for half the trip) I've finally made it to San Diego. This post is just going to be a lot of pictures and quick blurbs about what we did along the way! Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 9.58.05 PM

My brother flew into Tampa and we spent a couple days just clearing everything out of my apartment, mailing boxes to San Diego, and packing my car to the brim--to the point where if you opened a door or window, it would spell disaster.  Of course, this was the first thing my mom decided to do when we met her in Tulsa....

The plan was to drive from Tampa to Tulsa, where my cousin was getting married, attend the wedding, then continue on San Diego. My brother was going to go with me from Tampa to Tulsa, before he flew back to Virginia Tech to start work for the summer.  We rolled out of Tampa on Tuesday morning and made our first stop in Atlanta.

We got there unloaded our stuff, and met up with one of my best friends, Matt, and his Kristina. Matt and I met when I spent a summer in college living outside of New York City, in Hoboken, and I lived in the Beta Theta Pi house at Stevens Institute of Technology where Matt lived and went to school. Since then, we've done a number of fun races together, like the Men's Health Urbanathlon, which we hope to do again this year! We went to an awesome, local, hidden treasure style bar with great food and a beer list that was literally a novel.

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The next day, we grabbed a workout, packed up and headed out, en route to Nashville by the evening. Along the way though, we stopped at Ruby Falls, and amazing underground cave that ends with an incredible waterfall.  Apparently, we had stopped here years ago when my family took a road trip from Houston to upstate New York (don't ask me why my parents wanted to make that drive...) Anyways, the falls cave was amazing and so worth going a but off the beaten path to make the stop!

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We got back on the road, got an hour back thanks to the time zone change, and got into Nashville.  We ended up at the wrong hotel--a much nicer Marriott that was downtown--but I talked our way into getting two discounts to get a cheaper room than the original hotel. Score.  We met up with another good friend of mine, a renowned player in the fitness and personal training industry, JC Deen.  JC is a trainer and writer and is frequently featured in Men's Health as well as other publications like Forbes. He suggested that we check out a really cool jazz/funk show that was only on Wednesday nights where some classic names in the jazz/funk genre, the Wooten brother, got together to play as the house band at a local bar.  This was totally my brothers scene and I had a great time a well. These guys were amazing  and I saw possibly the best drum solo and base solo that I'll ever see (according to Stewart--and he knows what's he's talking about, since he is a drummer in multiple bands).

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Thursday morning was Stewart's birthday! He turned 22.  As my present, I opted to not tickle his feet in the morning when I woke up and they were the only visible part of him sticking out of the blankets in the morning. From Nashville we drove to Memphis, but first we stopped in Graceland, the home of Elvis.  Come on, we had to! It was actually pretty cool--having not grown up in any of the Elvis eras, it's hard to comprehend just how big his influence was and how many fans he had. Like, 35 years after his first song, he was still selling out Vegas 7 nights a week. We'd been to Graceland before too (on the same trip as aforementioned) but it was cool to go as an adult.

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When we got to Memphis, our first stop was some barbecue! I had running Stewart into the ground with our morning workouts and so we were hungry and he was ready to celebrate his birthday with some grub! Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Beka, we went to Charles Vergos' Rendezvous! This place is known for ribs, so that's what we had! If you're gonna do it, do it big, right?

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We then went out on Beale St. and celebrated his birthday... we'll leave it at that...

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Oh yeah, and we saw this: the Memphis what??

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When we could finally get out of bed the next morning, we started the final leg to Tulsa.  We stopped in Little Rock, but then realized the only to do there in the daytime was to like go to the Clinton Library... so we passed on that.

The weekend wedding was a blast though! From the bachelor party golf outing to the rehearsal dinner at the Hard Rock followed by hitting the casino, we had a lot of fun.  My cousin Erin is only a couple months younger than me, so we were always close growing up--her dad just sent me this picture:

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Her new husband, Paul, is great guy as well, and their  wedding was beautiful. It was outside and held at a mountain cabin overlooking a valley. They did a cowboy theme and so we all wore our boots. It was fun and I danced alllll night--I mean, somebody had to get the party started right?

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It was amazing to spend a weekend with my entire family. My dad is flying back out here next month and we are going to go camping in the Grand Canyon for a week.  This was also one of the best trips I've ever taken. My brother and I are close, but we've never really done something like this before and it was long overdue.

From there, I venture our alone.  My first stop was en route to Albuquerque, and I of course stopped at the Big Texan Steak House. If I'd had an accomplice, perhaps I would have thought about the 72 oz. steak challenge... but it's on my bucket list, and I'll try someday! The "scenery: around there was wild though!

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That night, I got into Albuquerque and found out from my brother (who was back in Virginia by then) that one of his friends and a kid we grew up with lived there. So, what the hell, I gave him a call and hung out with him for an hour while he rolled silverware after his shift at Applebee's haha.

The next morning I grabbed a workout and when I got on the road, I got a text from my mom (who on a road trip back to Virginia with my little sister). They were at a Starbucks in Memphis, where the Spurs were playing the Grizzlies in the NBA conference championships, and just happened to run into Boris Diaw. Kind of awesome

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My adventure for the day was driving through the mountains of Arizona en route to Phoenix. I lifted in the morning, so I as I drove through canyons, I stopped in Sedona, which is a beautiful, small, mountain town. I found a small turnoff to stop, parked my car, stripped down, and went for an amazing trail run! It was some of the most beautiful scenery I'd seen in a long time and made me feel like a million dollars.

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There wasn't much to do (alone) in Phoenix, BUT I did take an amazing midnight adventure! Remember the scene in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure when Napoleon takes the Ziggie Piggy Ice Challenge at the Ziggy Pig Restaurant? This is the Chuck E. Cheese that the scene was filmed at! Check out the scene here to refresh your memory. Gotta love the iPhone app that pointed that out to me.

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The last stop on my journey, from Phoenix to Felicity, California, to The Official Center of the World.  I still honestly have no idea what the f**k this place was, but I was the only one there and it was creepy as hell.  It was like something straight out of the Da Vinci Code or some Illuminati stuff. Pretty awesome though--there was this small church at the top of this hill and weird triangular stone pillars that lined the land in front of it with the history of Arizona (yes, I was in California, so I have no explanation there), the history of the United States, and the history of the World:

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I basically visited the place at a full sprint before running back to my truck and getting out of there! The rest of the trip was driving through incredible mountains and seeing deserts that I didn't even know existed in America

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Finally, 2,822 miles and a ton of fun later, I arrived in San Diego at my new home! I'm living with one of my best friends Roddy who did all the leg work finding us a spot

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Now that San Diego is my home, let me know if you're nearby and want to meet up or train! Or just some visit!