Great Twitter Row Race: Week One

MPC_RowRaceThe wall is in your head.

Surely you’ve said it before during physical challenges, “I hit the wall!”

Today was the first 2000m component of the Great Twitter Row Race for My Peak Challenge prep program 2016. Kim has a bye today because she’s doing the Princess Half Marathon at Disney this weekend, lucky duck.

On Tuesday she beat my 1000m time by a full 54 seconds. I knew that I was going to win by default today, but that didn’t seem to do much to ease my mind. I went in thinking “Kim is going to win anyway, so I’ll just do what I can.” This is backwards positivity. Yes, I can only work within my own limits but I basically started today’s challenge having already given up.

For the majority of the 2000m I was able to keep pace with my time from Tuesday, but suddenly just before the 1500m mark…I hit the wall.

The wall feels physical – a sudden onset of extreme fatigue, muscle pain, laboured breathing, energy running on absolute fumes. For me, my only hope of pushing through hinges on what is happening in my head. Today, my mind was working against me. When that moment came I thought, “I can’t” and it was my kryptonite.

I watched as 38 strokes/min dropped to 20, my estimated 10:05 finish time jumped to 10:30, 10:40, 11:00 and continued to climb – I completely gave up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, only something to improve from.

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Final time: 11:30 (Yikes!)

I kept saying to myself, “If this was a powerlifting competition, I would own this!” – but it’s not. It’s The Great Twitter Row Race. The whole point is about taking the absolute weakest part of my overall fitness and pushing myself past my comfort zone to improve it and doing it with my friend Kim, who not only challenges me but encourages me.

I can, and I will. I may not be the fastest, but I’ll still be there at the finish.

The one about a challenge…

MPC_RowRaceCombining fitness with collecting charitable donations has long been a regular activity for me; whether it’s Run for the Cure, Relay for Life, the Terry Fox Run and many others.

A relatively new event is breaking the boundaries of the more traditional fundraiser, creating a challenge that is individual to each participant while bringing together people from around the globe.

My Peak Challenge was created by actor Sam Heughan, along with his trainer and good friend John Valbonesi, as a way to raise money for Bloodwise, a UK-based blood cancer research charity. The concept is simple – choose something that challenges you and reach your peak potential. It could be fitness or weight loss related, or just be something in life that participants have put off for too long and need to check off their list.

More than £100,000 ($145,060 USD) was raised for Leukemia and Lymphoma in 2015. Now entering in its second year, My Peak Challenge has raised the bar, putting out a formal fitness and nutrition prep program to help guide participants along the path to personal success while continuing to raise money for charity.

MPC has special significance to both myself and special guest blogger Kim. We each have a family member that has been afflicted by a form of lymphatic cancer, so joining this challenge was a no-brainer. With solid foundations in training and nutrition, we both joined the prep program as a way to contribute to Bloodwise and maybe get a few new ideas to amp up our current training but really felt there was room to push ourselves further.

Enter: The Great Twitter Row Race.

Living on opposite sides of North America does make it a bit more difficult to come up with a team style challenge. Starting next week, Kim and I will utilize social media as well as the space here at Fatty to compete in a rowing based race. We will row twice each week, 1000m one day and 2000m another day and log the time. At the conclusion of the MPC prep program at the end of March, the person with the fastest total average across the weeks wins prestige and a whole lot of bragging rights. To keep things fair and account for the natural ebbs and flows that come with performance, we will each get a bye – a free week where we don’t have to row.

Kim has a much stronger cardio background than I do, since as readers know mine has mostly been in power/strength based sports, so I know for me I’m really looking forward to seeing how I’m able to improve week over week. Many more updates are to come as we get this fun, web-based challenge put together. Check this space for updates from both myself and Kim as we put our internet money where our mouth is and go head-to-head for charity.


The one on the exhale…part II

Asthma Story_0In my last post, The one on the exhale…, I spoke about my history of asthma and the frustrating judgement I feel when people immediately connect the limitations of my lungs with my overall physical fitness. As I mentioned in that post, I usually try to avoid doing cardio in public because of the embarrassment I feel looking weak and out of shape while struggling to keep up.

A coworker recently invited me to attended a new class that was starting up at the gym. She describe it as being a mix of spin and circuit training and I thought I might check it out because at least on a spin bike I don’t need to worry about falling behind. The class, which is mostly attended by experienced endurance athletes, is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

Don’t get me wrong, challenging is a great thing. The first couple classes we went through a nine-station circuit including kettle bell swings, ball slams, battle ropes, Bosu hopscotch and a slew of other things, mixed in with 15-minute sessions of intervals on the spin bike. I didn’t in any way feel strong throughout that 90-minutes, but I finished and felt accomplished for having done so.

This week, things changed a bit. The class was taken outside, which is something I had been dreading. All day at work I prayed it would rain so we wouldn’t have to do the class outdoors. Breathing outside is an entirely different scenario compared to inside. I suddenly have to contend not only with my usual exercise-related asthma challenges, but also with the environment. Allergens in the air, the wind, the temperature, humidity (or lack thereof) and a host of other factors all irritate the delicate bronchial lining of my lungs, leading to increased mucus production and airway inflammation.

The plan for the class was a trail run to a steep set of stairs, followed by stair sprints, some flat sprints then a trail run back to the gym for a spin session and a bodyweight circuit. I had kind of hoped there would be at least one person in the class who was not a runner, like myself, and that I wouldn’t be the only person holding everyone back. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.

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The one on the exhale…

asthma_inhalerPicture yourself at the gym, on a treadmill next to someone else. The person next to you doesn’t appear to be exerting that much effort but is red-faced, winded and wheezing. Most people’s first thought would be to assume that person is out of shape, maybe even lazy, especially if they happen to also be overweight. A lot of people avoid going to the gym because they assume these thoughts are rampantly playing through other people’s minds as they work out. For me, it’s why I avoid doing cardio in front of other people.

Anyone who knows I am a regular to the gym would assume that I am in shape, given that I have been a frequent gym goer for more than a third of my life. When I do cardio though, I become the dictionary definition of what so many people think of as “out of shape.” I wheeze, huff and puff and get red in the face while doing something as simple as walking on an incline or pushing the stepmill up to level 2.

Like 3 million Canadians and 15 million Americans, I am asthmatic.

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The one with a fond farewell…

It is with great sadness that I announce the retirement of my favourite Nikes.

So long, old friend

So long, old friend

Admittedly, I allowed these runners to extend well past their prime. I loved them though – both aesthetically and for comfort reasons.

I have a hard time finding running shoes because I have an odd shoe size – 10.5 – and most companies either only go up to a 10 or only have half sizes up to 9.5. Nike is one of the few companies that makes running shoes that fit me perfectly.

I got these in the fall of 2012 and I have put well beyond the recommended 500 miles on them. They’ve gotten me through multiple races and everyday cardio but as I was training for the Bluenose Marathon these past couple of months I really started to notice that they were near the end of their life. The tread looks good from the surface, but below it, the midsole has worn down considerably, leading to a fairly noticeable underpronation.

For a brief moment, in the days leading up to the Bluenose, I considered running in my trainers (gasp!) because I didn’t think I would have a good run if I wore these and it was just too close to the race to get a new pair of shoes and break them in. I knew deep down though, that they could come through for me one more time. So I strapped them on, relishing in the comfort that comes with a pair of shoes that has, over time, conformed to the exact shape of my foot and I ran the best race of my life.

Finished the 2013 Bluenose Marathon 10K a full 10 minutes faster than last year!

Finished the 2013 Bluenose Marathon 10k a full 10 minutes faster than last year and 2 minutes faster than all of my training runs!

Now it’s time to say goodbye to my faithful friends and send them off to running shoe heaven. Hopefully I will be able to find a pair of Nikes that I love half as much as my Lunarglide 2’s (they’re actually on the Lunarglide 4 now!) and if they could be pink… well that would just be the perfect way to pay homage to the shoes that took me from out-of-breath-after-30-seconds to 10k’s.

The one about Stacy Chesnutt…

A few months back I got a call from the editor over at OptiMYz Magazine looking for a writer to do a story for the mag’s annual triathlon issue. I, of course, accepted and anxiously waited to find out what the assignment was. They were looking to feature a woman named Stacy Chesnutt. I hadn’t heard of her at the time but I really wish I had because she is truly an outstanding individual and a remarkable athlete.

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee she now lives here in Halifax with her husband. She has competed the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii… you know… THE Ironman Triathlon. More than one of them. Her husband recently organized the area’s first ultramarathon and Ironman-length tri and I believe this year she said she wanted to do “a couple” of ultramarathons. Because running 50k a couple times is what everyone does… right? RIGHT?

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The one with the first week finish…

I’m hungry and it’s awesome.

Most people would be pretty disappointed to be hungry but I find it to be supremely satisfying. Why? Because it’s a sign that my metabolism is starting to chug along again.

I’m coming up on two weeks on my new-and-improved competition diet and I think my body is finally starting to adjust. I found it really hard at first to get all of my food in through the day because I was so full. (TMI alert) I spent more than a week feeling huge, bloated and uncomfortable but yesterday I woke up and could feel a significant difference in my body. I think I could even see it, my stomach wasn’t as distended as it was just hours before and a layer of water had disappeared from under my skin, giving me a peek at definition I hadn’t seen in months! (Oh, hey quads! Nice to see you again!)

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The one where another run bites the dust…

Yesterday I took part in the CIBC Run for the Cure to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

It was the first time I’ve done a run like this where I’ve actually been running for someone – my mother. It made it especially important to participate.

I fundraised $750 in the weeks leading up to the run, which was beyond my $500 goal, so thank you to the friends and family who all threw a couple of dollars my way to help with such a great cause!

My sister and I at the CIBC Run for the Cure in Halifax

It was a 5K fun run and I was running with my sister who had never done a 5K event before. It was sort of nice to not have the pressure of meeting/beating a specific time but just get to go for a run with other people.

I didn’t push myself because I wanted to stay back and support my sister’s run so it was a nice 35-ish minute jog and I really enjoyed it! It did rain but to tell you the truth I almost liked it better when it was raining because the rest of the time it was bloody humid!

I think this run also marked the end of the season for my races. I don’t have any more planned and there’s not a whole lot coming up as it gets closer to winter.

The next big run in this area is the Hypothermic Half on February 10th. I’d love to be able to get my endurance up to a half by then but we’ll have to see how things go!

And just to lighten the mood I will share with you the crowning moment of my day yesterday. On the way to the run I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my sister’s car drinking my pre-workout. I stopped drinking when she hit the brakes, then started drinking while stopped at a light but I didn’t see the light change so the bottle was still at my mouth when she hit the gas and it proceeded to spill all over me! Well done, me! (they did end up giving me a new shirt so I wouldn’t look like a slob, the other one was too big anyway! :P)

Moments before the Run for the Cure I spilled pre-workout all over my shirt – at least it was pink!

The one about discouragement…

I was going to post a product review today but something has been bugging me and I feel the need to talk about it.

I follow a lot of fitness-minded people on Twitter and Facebook and am acquaintances with a few folks who compete on the fitness circuit and there’s one thing that a good chunk of these people keep doing that pisses me off, quite frankly.

I keep seeing comments similar to this:

“Don’t come in my gym if all you’re going to do is walk on the treadmill!”

“Why bother coming if you’re just going to spend your whole workout on a mat?”

“Either put down the Barbie weights or get out of the weight room!”

I appreciate that a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing in the weight room but a lot of that is a lack of experience and being afraid to ask because of people who mock the inexperienced. I see a lot of gym rats with terrible form and terrible manners in my gym but somehow when they’re doing half of a mediocre squat because they’ve loaded the bar too heavy just so they can throw it on the ground with a slam that’s okay?

You don’t know what it took for that person to get on the treadmill. You don’t why the person on the mat is focusing on building a strong core and back. You don’t know whether the person with the pink 3-lb weights has an injury preventing them from going heavier.

The fact is, that person woke up that morning and decided to work on themselves by bettering their fitness. Sure, they’re probably not optimizing their time and they may not be getting the most out of what they’re doing but so long as they feel accomplished and satisfied for the job they did while they’re in there why does it matter?

Encourage those people to keep going, to get better, to get stronger, to learn more about the human body and the exercises they can do to better play to their strengths. Encourage them to walk farther, marvel at how long they can hold a plank position or ask a trainer at the gym to suggest a heavier weight for ol’ Barbie weights.

Discouraging people while they’re in the gym just ensures that they’ll never want to come back. Is that better in the end? As healthy active people shouldn’t we want to share the satisfaction this brings to our lives? I would think so.

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