Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anxious for the Spartan Beast

I am very anxious for the Spartan Beast Race on the 30th of this month, just over a week away! My strategy at this point is to be as well rested and injury free as possible come race day. I had 2 chiropractor appointments this week for my back and neck injuries (from car accident) at I also was able to get a massage in between those 2 visits. I have decided that I will benefit more from getting better then packing in some more training.

  My knees are still very inflamed from my workout this past Sunday. I attempted to run up El Capitan Mountain in San Diego while my friends were hiking it. We got a late start and were going up in the heat of the day. I was able to finish 9 miles of it in the heat; I was fairly pleased with my performance in the heat. The last time I ran up it was in the cool of the morning. At about mile 4 I was not able to take any more fluids in, which I feel was a sign of dehydration setting in. With my knees hurting, chaffing on my chest from my shirt, dehydration setting in, and time running out before the parking lot closed, I had to make the decision at mile 4.5  to turn around to meet up with my friends that were hiking. It was a great last high intensity workout before my upcoming races. It was also a chance for me to try out the KT tape I bought.
  I have mixed reviews on the KT tape.... It was very effective for my pain on the top of my right  foot, but it is not effective at all for people who have lots of leg hair. Around mile 2.5, the tape separated from what little bond it had on the skin and was only sticking to the hair. I ended up having to pull it off so that it did not irritate me while I was running up the mountain. The tape on my foot lasted for about 5 days. It seems at this point the tape will only be effective for my legs if I shave them, which is not going to happen. I may still attempt the tape job at the beast race, because I cannot find a knee brace or sleeve that does not irritate the back of the knee/leg.

Here's a little preview of last years Spartan Super Race in Utah. On the 30th I will be doing the Beast there, which is around 50% longer in distance and has almost double the obstacles!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Super Spartan Temecula, Culmination of 2 months of training

January 28th, 2012

My race on January 28th was arguably my most successful race this year. All of the crazy training I talked about in my last post paid off this day.

  Another reason what made this day so great is that I talked 2 of my favorite people into doing the race with me. My friend Jeremy and my cousin Caleb. Unfortunately I was unable to get them into the same 2pm heat, but they were not too far behind by getting into the 2:30 heat.

  We carpooled together and just barely got me there in time to make the long run from the parking lot to the starting line with a few minutes to spare. I polished off my pre-workout drink from Biotest and did my warmup stretches and lunges around the staging area. I was very fortunate that the rest of my group made it in time to see me off... which also allowed for some great pre-race-clean photo ops.

   The guy in spartan uniform gave a motivational send off  speech and we were off!! After my last humbling spartan race experience I had placed myself in the middle of the 250 person pack. I started with a slow steady pace as others were in a fast sprint across a large field to the first set of hills. Not knowing what to expect during this race turned out to be a big time killer during the race. The very first steep hill climb turned out to be  a very very slow hike up it since the trail was so narrow and there was no room to pass anyone. Every once in a while I would squeeze past a person or two on the way up. By the time I got to the top of the hill I was very frustrated but I was able to turn the frustration into adrenaline. Immediately the trail opened up a bit and I was able to begin passing the racers in droves. For the next hour or so I had passed a few hundred people on the trails and was not passed once by anyone. When everyone else was walking the steep downhills, I was able to find great traction and able to sprint down all of me great momentum for the uphill swing of the trail. The first set of obstacles were a bit of a mental challenge as opposed to a physical one. There was 2 different areas where we had to climb up on a fairly high stack of hay bales and jump off the top into a pile of hay before continuing on. Most everyone would hang off the edge  and only fall a few feet. Trying not to lose any time, I immediately went for the big jump hoping I would not get injured. Luckily I survived those first few obstacles with no injuries to my ankles or legs. My first injury came when I began the run through a dried up river bed over uneven slick stones. I lost my footing a few times and twisted my ankle . It was not so bad that I had to stop, so I continued on at a comfortable pace. I did not see many people on the trail at this point since I had passed almost everyone from my heat and I had just started to pass people from the earlier heats. There were some great muddy and water sections before coming to the first barbed wire crawl. I got to it at a great time since it was not too muddy and there was almost no one there. I was able to incorporate both my rolling and crawling techniques into it ,which helped me get through it very fast. Nearby the barbed wire crawl were some of the many walls that had to be climbed over during the race. There must of been at least 10 to 15 walls during the race.... I felt as if I was constantly having to climb over one.

  After completing a few more obstacles, including some walls and a concrete bucket rope lift, I finally made it to the halfway point. I really liked how the halfway point was at the race grounds, nearby the starting line. There were a series of 3 obstacles that the spectators got to witness, the spear throw, traverse wall, and the 8ft wall. My photographer/wife got some great shots of me doing burpees.

                       Here I am after failing to hit the mark with the spear, doing my set of 30 burpees(2nd set of the  day, the first after falling on the balance beam)

After learning a few things from the previous spartan race, I utterly killed the traverse wall in a quick fashion.

  I was sad that NUVISION photography didn't get any shots of me going over the 8 ft walls. Given that  I approached the wall going at sprint speed and flung myself over the top and onto the other side, I probably didn't give them much time for the shot. I was at a bit of advantage being 6'1 and felt sorry for the shorter people. It was a great/tough challenge even with being tall!! After completing the sand bucket carry through the sand pits, I headed up the second largest hill of the race, passing people along the way. At this point in the race the heats from the day were so mixed up that I did not know which one I was passing.... some of them had even started a few hours before me. The top of the hill looked like a dust storm in the Sahara desert! The wind was so strong and the dirt so dry that it created a massive sand storm up there. Everyone doing the tire carry was having to hold their shirts over their mouths to keep from breathing it in. The obstacle after this was one of the highlights of the race, it was a cargo net climb placed on top of the highest hill in the area, and the view from the top was spectacular.

  After the cargo net there was some great trail running through some valleys with lots and lots of 4 and 6ft walls to jump over. During the last third of the race was the famous "goat" hill. My quads have never burned so much! It was so steep in some sections that in order to pass people with speed I was having to  use my hands on the ground to keep the momentum going forward. I had long forgotten about the bottle necking at the beginning of the race until I reached the top of this hill. The trail got very narrow and very very slow. People were so exhausted after the big hill that they were just walking this long flat section that was mixed with some slight inclines. I tried  to pass a few times but I was only met with thorns from the bushes and not any gains on the crowd. I kept voicing my discontent to the people around me about having to walk when I wanted to run, , but my comments were met with blank stares of exhaustion from the others. Once the trail finally opened back up, and  after about 10 to 15 minutes of walking, I was able to pick up the pace into what was probably my fastest running pace of the day. Knowing that the end was near was great motivation to go all out!

  Arriving back at the race grounds for the final time, I was met with a great string of obstacles in front of the crowd. First was the concrete block with rope pull ,rope climb, and mud pits. The mud pits smelled toxic but I had fun with it while people were watching. Everyone around me was tip-toeing into them, so I decided to be amusing to watch and I charged at them, doing long jumps into the middle of the pits, causing a big splash of mud at each one. I had some strangers on the sidelines cheering me on to keep doing it, which encouraged me all the more :-)

  The last 3 obstacles were the 2nd barbed wire crawl, the pyramid wall climb (my least favorite) and the fire jump.

No injuries going over the top this time!

  I felt bad after running into this guy when I was rolling, I apologized when he said I could pass him

The fire was really weak when I went across it at this race, but I had fun with it posing for the photographer

As always, the race ends with a nice hit to the chest or legs to slow you down

  End results:  9.3 mile obstacle course time of 2:05 , 12th place in age category  and 50st overall finish for the day( out of 2300). And lots of battle wounds to help keep the memories alive for a long time! :-) Moved up 300 places in the ranks compared to the Malibu sprint!! 2 months solid of training paid off for this one. The biggest thing I took away from this race was that you need an early heat time if you want to compete for a good time. I know that I could of cut off another 15 minutes off my time if I was not forced to walk in the bottle necked sections. Fantastic race overall and I look forward to the competitive heat in 2013!!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Unhealthy soreness

  This last weekend, on Sunday,  was a chance for me to test the state of my well being before I embark on the two hardest races I might possibly ever do..... The Utah Spartan Beast race and the
Cuyamaca 3 peaks 50k trail run. I know what you must be thinking after reading my first blog post, that he must be off his rocker!! Both of these races are in less then a month and I expect I will be pushing myself way beyond my current fitness comfort zone.

The statement that is pictured here is the direct representation of my "training strategy" ....and apparently, as you can tell by those races I signed up for, that it is of my race-sign-up strategy as well.  "No Pain No Gain!" I have finally come to realize after this weekend that it is a bunch of hogwash! The snowball effect of my training strategy had gained me severe tendinitis in my left forearm, painful shin splints,  2 pulled calf muscles, pain above the knee, on the inside of the knee and on the outside of the knee(due to IT band syndrome.) I have spent many a nights scouring the medical websites, trying to diagnose all of my latest training ailments. The latest of which is a really bad strain of one of the main tendons on top of my right foot. I first experienced this while doing a 13 mile run by my house. The pain took about 2 weeks before it suppressed enough for me to run on it again. I am now currently suffering through the same pain again after a 15 mile run on the local beaches of La Jolla and Del Mar on Sunday.

As I sit here reflecting back on the weekend and thinking about how much pain I am in right now, I am asking myself, where did I get all these injuries? Well, after finishing up the Spartan Race in Malibu in November, I immediately started doing my research on how others trained for these races. I began with hiking the local 3 mile trail, Cowles Mtn. while carrying a 40 lb jug of water....that then lead to running the Mt. Nebo Secret stairs with my friend Jeremy with the same water jug.

245 steps of pure pain!!


We got so obsessed with training that we started doing training hikes in the middle of the night. We would hike to the top of Cowles Mtn. and find large rocks to carry down with us. Anything to keep the intensity up! Well it turns out that holding a heavy object in your arms in a fixed position can cause some serious problems with your tendons. I had to cut out this type of training as it was causing me problems in my job as an Automotive Technician. Luckily short after, I discovered a smarter way to train for the 8+ mile Super Spartan race. After stumbling across some Spartan Race  videos on youtube and seeing how successful this guy, Hobie Call was, I knew I needed to adopt some of his training techniques. Anyone who can win every single Spartan Race across the country must be on to something! I immediately went out and bought a weight vest that was adjustable up to 40 pounds and his DVD that had just come out, entitled “Hobie Call’s How To Train For Obstacle Course Racing.” The DVD is available for purchase here :  I must of watched the the entire DVD through 3 times before even attempting the 40 minute "warmup." The workouts were very simple to perform but the intensity of them was like nothing else I had done before! My workout routine during the week would consist of starting with half of the warmup exercises and then putting on the weight vest for the run-lunge-burpee-run. There is nothing else like finishing off a set of traveling lunges with a weight vest, dropping down and doing 10 pushup burpees and having to immediately hop up and start running again.

In my next post I will talk about how the training affected the outcome of the 8+ mile Super Spartan Race I completed in Temecula.

Until then, take care and stay injury free. Train smarter, not harder!
Christopher Brill
P.s. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about Spartan races, exercise and nutrition, or anything else for that matter!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How it all started...

  My name is Christopher Brill and if anyone is reading this, welcome to my first blog.
I am 27 years old, from San Diego, California and have a newly discovered, deep passion
for racing both on and off the trails. I have always loved fitness, but this new passion for competetive racing was discovered haphazardly this last November when I heard an advertisement on Pandora radio station for a Spartan Race in Malibu,Ca. I had no idea what it was, I had never heard of it or known anyone who had participated in one. After looking it up I just knew I had to do it, it looked like a lot of fun! My compulsive nature kicked into full gear and I signed up on the spot with the Pandora discount.

  Keep in mind I hadn't done any running in 7 years! The "oh crap what have I got myself into" thoughts started pouring through my head. I knew I needed to starting training immediately as the race was in a few weeks. I have always considered myself to be in pretty good shape....well at least I did prior to being on disability from august to November due to a laceration of my thumb.

  I was 6 weeks into a weight training program called "Scrawny to Brawny." I had packed on over 20 lbs of muscle to my scrawny frame (was 6'1 and 158 lb prior.) I felt strong muscle wise despite never running more then a mile in the last 7 years. I retained some of that muscle but lost a significant amount after sitting around for 3 months.

  I remember my first run after the negative thoughts had been suppressed. I was running the streets in my home town of La Mesa and Spring Valley, it was a beautiful sunny San Diego day and the conditions for running were perfect. As I started running I felt invincible and knew I was going to dominate the Spartan Race in November. I was just coming out of disability and I was going to have a whole 2 weeks to jam-pack the training in. The invincible feeling quickly subsided when my shins started burning in pain. I was all to familiar with this pain since it is what caused me to stop running 7 years prior. For you fortunate people who don't know what I am talking about, it was the dreaded onset of shin splints!

  I finally finished the 3 mile run in excruciating pain and continued for the next few weeks beating myself up with runs I had no business doing.
In my convoluted perception of reality, I figured I might not be able to get 1st place because of the shin splints but surely I would be in the top 10!!

  With my self confidence peaking at the race and adrenaline in high gear, I waited for the 2:30 pm heat to get under way so I could place myself right at the starting line in front of everyone.
As I stood there waiting and warming up for the next 30 minutes, I started getting surrounded by ripped, young military guys. I knew I was going to have to start off in a strong sprint if I was going to make it to the first obstacle before it started getting backed up. The man in full spartan costume comes to the start line to give a motivational speech before sending us off into the man made clouds of smoke between the trees.

  We were off!!  and I was flying ahead of the pack!! only 1 young guy and an entire race ahead of me. The first obstacle in my racing career... crossing a waist deep river. A few yards ahead of me the young man plunged into the river and I follow suite by making a dramatic long jump into the middle of the crossing. After a moment of hesitation on both our parts and the others a ways back, he begins trekking upstream and of course I follow.... after reaching a point of not being able to touch the bottom, we started swimming. As we began to do so, we heard dozens of people crossing the river and continuing there way out the other side towards the marked trail. By the time we made it back to the trail, it seemed that about 200 of the 250 person 3pm heat had passed us.

  The adrenaline that gave me my speed at the  beginning was completely dissipated and gave way to a slow pace. As the race went on I was able to gain on and pass most of the people the blew by us in the
beginning. The weight lifting training paid off on the obstacles but the steep trails were brutal and I was ill-prepared for them. I had to hike up a lot of the hills using my fastest hiking pace. I finally came to an obstacle that seemed impossible... the wall traverse. As I looked on at people attempting it, I finally
decided to mount up on it. With awful form I began traversing across the wooden  pegs that were caked with mud from the day. I reached for the top of the wall and got yelled at by the obstacle captain telling me I could not touch the top. As I went back to the pegs with my hands I slipped and fell to the ground. I was ordered to perform a  full set of 30 push up burpees. This was my first time ever doing burpees and it wouldn't be my last. After watching others to see how its done, I finished my set that seemed to take all afternoon.
  Back to the trails and the obstacles and what seemed like hours later, I came to the 3rd to last obstacle. The spear throw. It was definitely harder then I anticipated... I thought I would be showing off my
sweet throwing "skills" in front of the crowd, but instead I lunged the spear into the abyss completely missing the hay bale target. I was ordered once again to do another set of 30 burpees. I had the finish line in sight as I slowly did the set, constantly having to take breaks. I felt like an old race horse about to have a heart attack on the track!

 As I came out of the spear throw area I came to the fire pit, as you can kind of make out in this picture the race crew handed me a spartan flag to hold as  I jumped over the roaring fire

  The fire jump ended up being a real treat to the deep chill I was experiencing from the ice cold water obstacles!

  I ran up to the last obstacle which was the pyramid wall with a rope attached. I scrambled to the top of this muddy obstacle and flung my leg over the top of it. When doing so I hit my ankle on the wooden rungs, bruising it very bad. I climbed down and limped across the finish line to receive my 2011 red Spartan Sprint Finishers Medal.

  The next thought that crossed my head, still makes me laugh to this day. I was thinking that as I went to the timing computers to look up my time I would surely see myself for sure in the top 20!  Had I not just witnessed the last 50 minute pain fest!?!?? I looked up my time and this is what I saw:

 I placed 367 out of about 3000, and 77th in my age category.
I told myself at that point I would never do one of these races again.....Near hypothermia from the cold water,multiple bruises, a dozen cuts across my chest and back from the barbed wire crawl, burning muscles, aching shins, yes......I possibly did place in the top 20, top 20 of the most injured people of the day!!

  The day after this race I experienced the first racing "high" of my life, it was pure bliss :-) You tend to forget about the pain of the injuries and you want to tell everyone you meet how amazing the race was... how you persevered......pushed..... and battled your way through the obstacles! This lasts around a week before it starts to fade, this usually gives way to you wanting it to be prolonged and you starting scouring the race listings in your area in desperation to find another "fix" for your racing high to continue. Everyone around you tells you are insane to pay to be put through it again, but they just don't understand and you ignore them and sign up immediately.

  I am creating this blog to detail my own journey since then and into the future.  If nothing else, I will have an account of it for when my memories start to fade! I will go into more details in my next entry about the training and preparation that went into my prep for the 2012 SoCal Super spartan race and the subsequent races that followed up until now.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I wish you the best on your own, Long road to Racing Success!
Christopher Brill,