February 4th 2012
I was a little confused as to where this put this review. Is it an event? Is it just a training camp? My confusion stemmed from the fact that this little "training camp" blew away all the full blown events that I've done. It's run by the infamous Tire Guys. They got this name by attempting the Spartan Beast last year while carrying a giant tractor tire. They are brothers, Death Race finishers, and they own their fitness training company called Outer Limits Fitness. (for those not familiar with the Spartan Death Race visit: http://www.youmaydie.com)They’ve put together a series of training camps to train prospective Death Racers and prepare them for the rigors of the race. This was their 12-hour version. While other camps focussed on trying to get people to finish, this camp was to be 12 hours long with only a few breaks, and if you wanted to quit, they won't stop you. It sounded like it'd be a pretty miserable time. I'm in. This is how it went down.
I arrive to the house at around 5:30 or 6:00 am thinking "why the hell do I do these things to myself". I'm the first one there, so I chit chat a little bit waiting for the rest of the victims to get there. Once most people show, it's off to the back to start chopping wood. Wood chopping is a sure bet at any Death Race, so it's good to know what you're doing with an axe. While we're chopping wood, they call us one by one over to a rope and pulley hanging from a tree attached to two big concrete blocks. Anybody who's done a Spartan Race is probably familiar with this particular obstacle.
A couple guys went and were able to get 1 or 2... some none. Not happy with this, they got 100 burpees punishment. One of the Tire Guys grabbed the rope and nailed 6. That became the mark you had to reach. My turn came, and I nailed all 6. So ends any exceptional performance by me the rest of the day. The next challenge was to shimmy up a thick branchless tree 3 times. Failure all around except for the guy that was smart enough to bring a ladder. I was able to get up once, which at least knocked my punishment burpees down to 50 or 100. I can't remember which. All I know is some people were doing A LOT of burpees. After about 2 or 3 hours of this, it was a quick 5 minute break.
After the break, we headed out for a quick 3-4 mile run to the beach. I was a bit surprised. For some reason, I thought this was going to be mostly weighted trekking, but our packs were being transported there. I had stupidly worn my crappiest pair of shoes that I hate running in and didn't wear my knee brace, which I needed at that time to guarantee my runs didn't cause my knee injury to flare up. Needless to say, I went very slow as everybody else shot off to probably a little under an 8:00/mile pace. I found a running buddy in whoever happened to be last in line. That person ended up having to stop from his own poor shoe selection and hip flexor problem, so I picked up my pace to catch up to the next in line and keep them company while praying I didn't feel any knee pain.
My last place buddy and I showed up to the beach with everybody else doing jumping jacks while waiting for us. This happened the rest of the day. It did not pay to be a winner. You never really got to rest while waiting for others. You always had to do something while waiting. At this beach, we were told to take our shoes and socks off and then head out knee deep into the water. This was Rhode Island and the first weekend of February. The sand was cold enough, and the water was just a hair over freezing. After a stint in the water, we were told that there were 9 lego pieces buried in a 90-120 square foot section of beach. We had 5 minutes to find one. If we couldn't, then we had to stand in the water for another minute. That cycle continued until you found one. Once you did find one, you had to go in and out of the water for decreasing intervals of time and then had the luxury of carrying odd objects up and down the beach.
I think I finished 3rd to last here. All I know is that I was in and out of that water for a long time. The scenery was actually quite beautiful, so I paid attention to that to take my mind off the cold water. After everybody was finished, you were randomly selected to receive one of these following items: a tractor tire, two 5 gallon buckets filled with water, 2 tires and a long metal rod to carry them, a large slab of rock, a wheelbarrow with 2 cement balls in it, a wood pallet, a flatbed dolly with a cinderblock, and I'm probably missing something.
I got the buckets which weren't that bad. It was basically farmer's carrying 40 or so pounds for hours on end. The hours started with a trip through a thorn patch. No trail... just directly through. The buckets allowed me to make quicker work of it than most, but again it didn’t pay to be a winner. On and on this went for I don't know how long. We went on trail, off trail, through water, through mud... At one point we had to try to climb a tree again. If we couldn't (nobody could), it was 100 burpees. We switched up items shortly after the burpees. I got the wheelbarrow with stones. That thing sucked.
There was a steep trailess hill that I had to go up and down 3 times in order to carry each stone and the wheelbarrow individually. We hit a marsh crossing shortly after. I was let off the hook by only having to carry one of my stones through it. However I had to bushwack the wheelbarrow and other stone to the end point, which was no easy task. My ass was basically getting kicked by this wheelbarrow. If you want a taste of what these hours were like, grab something heavy that you hate having to carry for 20 yards and then walk around off trail through muck and water for 6 hours while doing burpees or some other exercise every time you stop to rest. That about sums it up.
We finally reach a small pond partly covered in ice and are told to walk across it, get a stone and bring it back. Whatever. Easy enough. We make our way across and end up breaking through the ice. The bottom was THICK THICK mud making it easy to lose your balance or a shoe. We all get to the other side, find a big rock, and carry it back trying not to lose our balance. We get there and put the rock down. DONE.
Not so fast. We are told to keep crossing until we have a stack of rocks 3 feet high. My first thought is "Are you fucking kidding me?” My next thought is "Well I'm here and have to do it. May as well suck it up and start" Back and forth we go over and over again. The muck on the pond floor is getting thicker and thicker by the repeated crossings. I'm not exaggerating at all to say you'd get sunk past your knee in submerged mud at times. This is where intelligence paid off, and I showed I was using very little. One guy did the smart thing. He gathered all his rocks on the other side, stacked them there, and then took them one by one across. Very smart and elegant solution. I on the other hand decided to just brute force it by bringing big rock after big rock across. That didn't work out so well for me. I think I finished 2nd or 3rd from last. Need I mention that when you finish, you had to climb a tree? If you couldn't (nobody could), you had to bring all your rocks back across. Yay for the brute force method! That really screwed me.
By the time we finish up here, time was a ticking and the Tire Guys wanted to get more activities in before the 12 hours was up. Luckily this forced them to stay on trail back to the next location. Having the wheelbarrow actually helped here as I was able to get there long minutes before anybody else. They brought out candy, water, and Power Aid. I think I destroyed more peanut butter eggs than in my whole childhood combined. This is where we were faced with the known Death Race obstacle, the lego block construction.
A shape is made out of different colored legos, and you have to diagram it and rebuild it to pass. The trick here is that we only had a small amount of time to diagram it. Then the lego blocks were in the middle of a small drainage pond in the wheelbarrow. You had to wade out to retrieve them and then construct your block in the water. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for us, the wheelbarrow quickly sank taking legos with it. After struggling for a while to assemble it with it become obvious nobody had enough pieces, we were allowed to pool pieces into a single block. Once this was done, were told to sit down and wait while they brought all our gear and items back to their truck nearby. With sitting, came the shivers and cramps as things started tightening up and core temperatures started dropping.
Luckily that didn’t last long. We went for a short run to a stream that we had to walk up. The final portion was up a small but not insignificant waterfall. One of the Tire Guys actually had to help everybody up here to ensure our safety. A slip or fall would have ended badly. After a bit more roadside wading, we hopped on the road for another run. I again took the tactic of laying behind near the back of the pack because with everything tightening up, I didn't want to tweak my knee. This run was maybe 20-30 minutes and took us back to the beach where we started.
After a few buddy carries up and down the beach and up and down the stairs, we were handed pieces of wood with "SPARTAN" written on them. There were dots at various points of each letter. It was here we were told to take out the screw drivers and screws we were told to carry. I had known that the Death Race can be about working the rules, so I bust out my electric screw driver (and my regular one just in case). Turns out I had anticipated correctly. The only problem was that the cold exposure had sapped the battery. We had to screw in screws on each dot in each letter, and we had to alternate doing one letter on the beach without shoes and one letter in the water. I decided to use my regular screw driver for land and the electric one for water to save its battery.
I think I was on my 3rd letter when they noticed my feet. They were in ROUGH shape... stark white and no feeling at all. I was jabbing them with my screw driver to no avail. They thought that could be pre-frostbite, so they told me to go into the truck to warm them up. I still brought my wood with my to finish it. It was getting late at this point. At about 11 hours in, they told everybody to stop and get into dry shoes for the run back to the house; the finish. I excitedly put on my actual running shoes and was determined to stay with the front of the pack. It was the end, so who cares if I tweak an injury? I could suck it up for an hour.
Off we go, and it felt amazing to be in shoes I didn't despise. The run seemed a bit longer than before to my tired body, but it was no problem keeping up with everybody. No injuries were tweaked either, so double bonus. After the final kick to the house, we have to put away everything from our training. Then it was handshakes, cleaning up, and warming up. All in all, this was a very fun experience and tons harder than any other event I've ever done.
My conclusions? Do it. It’s that simple. Even if you’re not a prospective Death Racer, it’s a fun, challenging event. It boggles my mind that I pay 3-4x as much for a similar “event” to challenge me. These guys could easily build a challenge around a day like this and charge more money. My biggest lesson learned? Wear comfortable shoes regardless of what you think you’ll be doing. It took weeks for my feet to go back to normal after this.
Outer Limits Fitness website: http://www.outerlimitsfitness.com
Tire Guys Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002244808268
Want to change your life for $6? Ok, I may be overstating it, but here’s the deal. I’ve taken supplements for a long time now... over a decade in fact. Heck nearing in on 2 decades. One thing that constantly annoyed me, but I just dealt with it was mixing protein/MRP/and whatever type of powder by hand. True I could use a blender, but that was usually inconvenient and clean-up was a pain. What I was left with was often clumpy liquid that I just had to learn how to chug fast. On the bright side of this is I can shotgun beers like a champ now.
In comes a $100+ order to Bodybuilding.com where I get a lot of supplements. They usually give free gifts with orders, so my house is full of calipers, measuring tapes, poor quality gym bags, and of course hand shaker cups. When I was completing an order this time, I noticed there was what was called a “Vortex” mixer there. I figured what the hell and added it in. When my order came and I saw what I got free, I was impressed.
It was great. I couldn’t believe what I was missing before. It was small, portable, came with a travel drinking lid, and above all that, it worked. It blended all my powders almost perfectly. No more clumps! To top it off, I no longer needed to train with a Shake Weight 3x/week in order to strengthen my shaker cup technique. Now the freebie mixer was good, but the plastic mixing blade was a little flimsy and water had a tendency to get into the battery compartment if you weren’t careful. I decided to try the cheapest pay-for version that they had.
The $6 version (The Power Mixer) was a good deal better. The construction quality was better and the mixing blade was metal. It seemed to have more power behind it as well. I did like the travel lid on the freebie more. These things are really great though. I have one in my office and a couple at home. I can bring a shake to the gym to sip, and I don’t have to worry constant shaking and liquid leaking out of the seal on the lid because of it. I just press the power button for a few seconds, and it’s ready to go.
I’ve even started having shakes with lunch at times. Since I can sip now instead of chugging, I find myself able to drink more of these. At the end of the day, it’s worth the $6 to find out for yourself. If I’m right and you think these are the greatest thing since sliced bread, well you got it for only $6. If I’m wrong, well you got it for $6.
Direct link to product on Bodybuilding.com website: http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/bbcom/powermixer.html
A fellow adventure runner, Army vet, and Simple Brandz founder gave me some of her signature Simple Granola to try, and it was so good that I wanted to share my thoughts on it. First let me tell you about Simple Brandz. It’s a company founded by Sherry Post, who is a holistic wellness coach based in the Philadelphia area. Her philosophy is to provide a comprehensive, holistic training approach, and Simple Brandz is an extension of that as it provides an all-natural, organic alternative to the other health food and supplements on the market.
Simple Granola comes packaged as balls of soft, fresh granola mixed with agave nectar, unsalted peanut butter, rolled oats, maple, almond butter, steel cut oats, pecans, hemp nuts, ground flax seeds, coconut flakes, textured vegetable protein, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond slices, and cinnamon. You’d think with the nuts and peanut butter, it’d be difficult to get through without a glass of water at your side, but that’s not the case. You could bring some with you on a long trail run or hike, and it’d be fine to eat during a short break or even while moving.
Some may find it a little sweet, but I enjoyed the taste. At $5 per bag, it’s a worth a try for yourself. For my information on Simple Brandz and their products, look at their website:
Polar is a well-known name in heart rate monitors and for good reason. They work. I picked up a Polar F11 a while ago when I decided to start training in target heart rate zones after ignoring such things for a very long time. Quite honestly, I was looking for a simple HRM, and this thing is loaded with options I never use but others may find useful. A great bonus of Polar HRM’s is that nearly all cardio equipment you’ll find at a gym is Polar-ready. It will instantly pick up your transmitter’s signal and display your current HR on its own display.
The HRM itself is in three parts. You have the wrist unit, the chest band, and the transmitter (which snaps onto the chest band). The wrist unit is the brains of the operation. It can function as a watch or simple stop watch on top of providing a visible output of your current heart rate. The chest band is adjustable and fits snugly around your chest. You don’t even realize it’s there.
The three pieces of the Polar F11.
The tight but comfortable fit of the Polar F11 chest band.
The main function I use on top of just getting an average heart rate for a particular workout is the zone training. While you are in HRM mode, you can choose to set target zones and alarms for your heart rate. You can then choose to view either your beats per minute (bpm) or a percentage of the max end of your target zone. You can choose to set your own minimum and maximum heart rate manually, or you can allow your F11 to do it for you. It will do so based on your age and your desired workout intensity. It has three levels: light, moderate, and hard. One thing to note is while in HRM mode, you will also see kcal burned during your workout based on your previously entered weight, your workout duration, and workout intensity.
This is where you’d expect a HRM to end, but for the F11, this is only the beginning. You can have Polar actually map out your weekly training in the Keep U Fit function on the F11. This is based on your own fitness level as Polar will take you through a fitness test to measure it. It keeps a running diary of your workouts, and if you can test your fitness level once or twice a month, the Polar will trend your fitness level over time.
You think that’s the end of it? Think again. Polar has Personal Trainer web service on which you can create your own program and then transfer it to your wrist unit. In the cases of both the Polar-created program or your own, your wrist unit will tell you your weekly and daily exercise goals in terms of HR zones, workout duration, total calories you’ll burn, etc.
I’m really just scratching the surface on the programming as well. At the bottom of this page, I’ve included a link to the owner’s manual in PDF format for you to download if you want a detailed look at all the features. In the end, the Polar F11’s features were way overkill for me. If you want a feature-rich HRM, then certainly consider it. If you are like me and really just wanted a simple HRM to see bpm and perhaps set target zone alarms, then you’d be better suited looking for a cheaper option seeing that these start at $160 on Amazon.
Polar F11 Instruction Manual in PDF Format