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  • How To Train For GORUCK 6 Hours Before GORUCK

    Mike and I headed out to my gym along with our loaded up backpacks – six bricks in each. 5min, warm-up, start at 5.0, increase speed every minute to 7.5 5min, jumping rope – a guy who just finished a Muay Thai session showed us some tricks, like trying to come into a squat while jumping – so here’s a new skill to work on 10min, foam rolling – new activity for Mike: I’m pretty sure he saw stars. 30min, treadmill intervals, 7×60-60, 3.0/6.5 @15% 10min, play around on the pull-up bars – snapped couple of cool shots and practiced monkey bars 5min, cooldown – jogging on the treadmill with loaded up backpacks. Last time I did treadmill incline running at 15%, I was going at 6.0 speed, so I knew I could probably push to about 6.1. “Nah,” says Mike, “we will take it to 6.5”. Of course… We lasted for three intervals before having to take a longer break. Then squeaked out the remaining four with 2-3 minutes in between. This was HARD. Definitely that pukey “holy moly, I do not think I can do this for another 10 seconds” feeling. After the last interval, we were a pile on the floor. Leaving you with a couple of action shots: 364 days! Hugs, SOLO

  • Spartan Sprint Toronto 2012 - Race Recap

    The alarm goes off at 6am. After the previous day’s craziness and sleep deprivation, 6 hours of sleep feels downright luxurious. I decide against breakfast. Empty stomach feels great during a race, and as long as I get a gel in 15 minutes before the start, I will be good to go. Some things cannot be skipped, however… COFFEE! The drive goes by fast, and we follow a string of cars, who seem to be going to the same place we are, into a grassy parking lot. At least thirty minutes before the 9am elite wave start… We have time to look around, wave some hellos and simply chill. Mike runs into a fellow Death Racer – Leyla is part of the “You Just Got Chicked” gang. She is racing with us again in Ottawa next weekend. I’m actually starting to recognize faces at the start line. How cool is that? At the start line, Goss starts her warm-up as Mike and I muscle our way to the front. I say hello to Rose-Marie and Sebastien – the Kronobar team – these two came first in a number of previous Spartan races. If I manage to ever SPOT Rose-Marie on course, I will consider it to be my big racing success. This girl is fast! Couple of gladiators at the front are pumping up the crowd. “Who are we?” “We are Spartans!” “WHO ARE WE?” “WE ARE SPARTANS!!!” We take off! This picture was accidentally snapped by an onlooker… Any female racer would understand how flattering the photo actually is… Rope ladder is the first obstacle, and I can’t find my footing. Mike is right behind me, then in front of me. He flies over the rope ladder… Every Spartan race, we are racing each other shoulder to shoulder. Yet, he looks back, sees me fumbling with the rope, and before I realize what is happening, he is holding the rope ladder tight, so I can climb down. This is why I love racing… we all race each other, until one person seems to be in trouble, and then everyone turns around to help. It’s incredible. The rest of the race goes by pretty quickly. “You are 2nd woman overall”, one of the volunteers exclaims. I breathe out sharply. I know exactly who is ahead of me (hi, Rose-Marie), and at least today I do not stand a chance of catching her. Right now all I need to do is to keep going at the same steady pace, to keep my position. I settle in with another racer just ahead of me, and we edge each other on for the next fifteen minutes or so. As I pull out a chocolate gel, the trail ends in a clearing. I toss the gel, jump over the fire, and run into the last stretch of obstacles, a crowd of spectators are cheering. Among the noise, I hear “Katya?!!!!”. I recognize the absolutely bewildered voice of my mother. It’s not exactly a surprise that she is here, since my dad is running this race too, however, it does throw me off a little bit. She has never seen me race. I jump on a rowing machine, bang out 15 reps (or was it 20? 30? all a blur). Barb wire is next. This time it’s stretched over a big box of ice. In theory, the obstacle is fantastic, however, the wire hangs way too low, at times lying on the ice cubes. There is a traffic jam, almost immediately. I wait for a couple of guys in front of me impatiently. “Come on, get in there!”, I exclaim. Many hesitate. If you have never done a similar obstacle, this one is difficult psychologically. Once the barb wire snags the skin, many freeze. Those with loose t-shirts are at a disadvantage – there is a reason Mike always ends up shirtless at the finish line. I finally sneak into the corner of the ice box, and work my hands and arms into the ice to create a little bit of a tunnel. Barb wire snags. Unhook the best you can, keep moving. A tall wide-shouldered racer behind me gets a hold of my feet and starts pushing me forward. Excellent! That definitely helps. I snake around couple of guys who seem to be hopelessly stuck, and finally grab onto the edge of the icebox. That’s it! Pull myself to the edge and get out. My hands are bleeding, and my pants are down. I have to keep running, as there are hay stacks in front of me. I attempt to pull up my yoga bottoms with one hand, but (as it turns out later) not before at least a couple of photos are snapped. Fantastic. The beauty of having your friends and family at the finish line is having shots like these: Last few obstacles are always a blur. I muscle up the signature rope wall at the very end, and a red Sprint medal is placed around my neck. I loved this course! It was about 7km, so long-ish for a Sprint, but unlike the Mont Tremblant Super and Sprint, the obstacles were much more evenly placed. Rolling hills provided just enough of a challenge, but they were gentle enough that I was able to jog up all of them. Mike finishes minutes (seconds?) after me, and after a celebratory hug, we make our way to the finishers’ photo stand. Leyla joins us soon after. Mike definitely beats me in terms of abdominal definition… But I think I catch up once we turn around… We catch with Goss, and compare battle wounds… That barb wire got her good. Medals are earned… Blood, sweat, and tears. Podium shots. Rose-Marie and Sebastian came first. Again. Patrick, one of my teammates from 5 Peaks Trail Racing Series, came swooping in and took 3rd male overall!!!! Go, Patrick. 2nd male overall, and 2nd female overall. Can I just say that I’m tickled pink to be on the same podium step as this guy???? TEAM TRIFECTA! Ottawa Beast next weekend, and we officially earn that title! The whole insane gang (and my mom… LOL) Catch me in the Get Out There magazine’s race recap video!

  • Fuego Y Agua Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer 50k & 100k - Guest Race Recap

    S.E.R.E. Performance in NYC. At 44, David has been a competitive athlete for most of his life. Raised in California, he now calls New Jersey home. After rock climbing for 14 years he and his wife, Angela (hi, Angela!), did a Spartan race in 2010 and were immediately hooked on OCR. They competed in the first Vermont Beast and the inaugural 2012 UltraBeast. In 2013 David completed 13 (!) S.E.R.E. Performance events, including the inaugural S.E.R.E. Assault, where he was one of the the only two finishers. When not climbing or running, he works as a psychologist in a maximum security prison and plays with his pugs, Dante and Loki. Without further adieu… Fuego y Agua 50K Survival Run For months I'd been preparing: I'd made Luna sandals from scratch and done long runs in them, I'd carved a survival bow, built a travois, studied the local plants, thrown a club at a target, and practiced making fire with a bow drill. And, most importantly, I'd just completed the Spartan Ultra Beast - nearly 30 miles with 11,000' of elevation - just two weeks earlier. My confidence going into the Fuego y Agua Hunter Gatherer Survival Run was high. I was prepared! After flying into San Antonio and driving two hours to Camp Eagle, the last eight miles of which involved driving down a dirt road, I pitched my tent and headed to the Pavilion for Package Pickup. As the "pure" Ultra runners received their bibs and bags of swag the Survival runners stood around edgily awaiting whatever task that Josue Stephens, the Race Director, had in mind for us. A short while later we learned that in order to get our bib we had to carry a log 2.5 miles uphill and carve our Race Number into it. No problem! *    *     * Up next - an interview with the race director Josue Stephens, the race winner and fellow Canadian Shane McKay, elite racer Isaiah Vidal, who biked from Texas to Vermont and completed both the Beast and the Ultra Beast only two weeks earlier, as well as a female perspective on the 50k ultra run from Kim Kendra who came 3rd in the 50k Ultra Trail Run. Signing off, SOLO *Disclaimer: Please note that Fuego Y Agua has not paid or compensated me or David Kalal in any way to cover their event or give them a positive review.

  • Fuego Y Agua Survival Run 2013 - The Racers’ Perspective

    As a number of you are gearing up for the upcoming run in Nicaragua, I’d like to share the perspectives of three more racers on the recent Survival Run in Texas. In this post, Kim Kendra, one of the few female racers, describes the course, the race winner Shane McKay shares his training regimen, and Isaiah Vidal, “the superfreak of fitness”, discloses a surprising career aspiration. KIM KENDRA “Lots of hills, lots of rocks, and lots of bushwhacking” is how Kim Kendra, one of the racers, competing in the “obstacle-free” 50k Ultra Run, describes the course. She podiumed as a 3rd female, finishing in 10 hours and 45 minutes. To compare – a 3rd female in a recent 50k in Ontario finished in 4 hours and 14 minutes. Despite (or maybe thanks to) the brutal terrain, it seems Josue Stephens is onto something – these events are addictive. “Less than a week after the Hunter Gatherer Ultra, and I’m already thinking about signing up for the Survival Run” says Kendra. *Time above – one hour behind due to staggered starts. Kim Kendra, a 32-year old from Sleepy Hollow, NY, is no stranger to gruelling events. Although fairly new to racing, she has been steadily amping up the length and difficulty of her events, quickly graduating from road running to obstacle racing, and finally completing her first 50-miler as well as S.E.R.E. Performance Assault Challenge in 2013. The latter event lasted 22 hours, and covered 48 miles. The racers carried their own water, food, gear as well as mandatory sand weight. They walked on the railroad tracks for miles. They invaded local eateries while covered in stinky mud, humbly asking to use the phone. Assault had only 2 (unofficial) finishers. Kendra was one of them. The other was David Kalal whom you may remember from a recent guest race recap. When she is not bushwhacking through the underbrush, Kim wears a white coat and goggles, and works on developing drug candidates for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and muscle disorders. SHANE MCKAY As I started talking to athletes and the race director himself about the Survival Run, every single one of them recommended that I talked to Shane. He was referred to as an “absolutely amazing athlete”, an “inspirational beast”, and a “super cool Canadian dude”. If that wasn’t enough, 53-year old Shane was the Survival run winner, and the only person to collect all 4 amulets (i.e. complete all the challenges) and finish the 50km in around 16 hours. I reached Shane at his small ranch in Invermere, British Columbia, and he was kind enough to share some insights into his training and his racing accomplishments. What is your main sport? I have played hockey my whole life but I’m taking this year off to focus on running and Crossfit training. I started running two years ago and since then have completed around 25 Spartan races and numerous trail races. What are some of the other races that you are proud of? My best races have been a second place finish at Spartan race Edmonton and 1st in AG in grizzly mountain marathon. You are the winner of this event. Did you enter 50k or 100k? Did you finish? How long did it take? At Hunter Gatherer, I completed the 50 km in around 16 hrs. I was told by race director Josue that I had won the race and it was not necessary to continue. He also said if I chose to go on I had his full support, they would man the obstacles and watch me closely. I started the second loop, but by the time it came back past the venue I had reconsidered. Nothing more from a fitness point could be gained, except, perhaps, an injury. It would also mean keeping volunteers on the course and if I were injured and required evacuation someone else’s health may be on the line. It would have been great to have more runners make the cut off and keep going. The race would be over and the real survival run could take place. What was the most challenging about the course? My biggest challenge was the swim. I have worked hard all summer and even practiced in sandals. I wasn’t sure how long it would be so I went slow a tried to conserve energy I would need it for the rest of the race. After being in the water for about an hr and a half I was starting to shiver, I still had about 200 yrds to go, I decided I would have to really pick it up and get out of the water. Also, I hadn’t been able to take in any nutrition while swimming and was starting to feel the result. As soon as I hit the shore I downed about a litre of Carbo pro mix and had a protein bar, it took a couple hrs before I felt good. According to the race director, “If I get lost, hurt or die, it is my OWN damn fault”. You obviously didn’t die. Did you get lost or hurt? Haha, I did not get lost or hurt either. I paid close attention to the markings and always backtracked if I was unsure. I paid close attention to my nutrition making sure I was consuming at least 250 calories per hr plus electrolyte and salt. I also kept a close feel for my feet, always checking and adjusting sandals as required and taking it easy on the rougher terrain. Would you have done anything differently to prepare for this race? I think I covered all the bases in preparation for this one, all the challenges I thought would come up I had practiced daily, from starting fires to cutting and lacing sandals. I hit my Crossfit gym just about every day in August to increase my strength and made some very long hikes in the mountains with extra weight to increase my long endurance. I tapered and rested through September. Shane will be returning to Nicaragua in 2014 to race either the Survival Run or the 100k Ultra. Meanwhile, we are on to our youngest Survival Run athlete… ISAIAH VIDAL Isaiah Vidal is perhaps best known as “that crazy guy who biked from Texas to Vermont and then ran the Beast AND the Ultra Beast”. It was only fitting that two weeks after the Vermont championships, this smiley 20-year old toed the start line in Texas, as the youngest Survival Run competitor. I chat with Isaiah only a week after the event, and he reports feeling pretty good, apart from his neck and shoulders that were completely ripped up by the 100+ lb log he had to carry for hours. What was your favorite obstacle? It took me three hours to make fire. I am a stubborn guy, and I didn’t care how long it took me. I would have rather run out of time that quit. When it finally happened, I cried. There were so many racers who couldn’t do it. And I did. I made fire! Why do you think the idea of a Hunter/Gatherer race may be appealing to the modern human? After all, to get fire today all we need is a lighter. This race teaches you to persevere. It’s about being outside of your comfort zone, being able to do something completely different from normal runners in a normal event. For example, making shoes of my own – I’ve never done that before. You have to learn how to be uncomfortable. You are in college. What program are you currently pursuing? I am stuck between kinesiology and theatre. I can be a good actor. It’s another gift that I have been given. I’ve done some casting, but would love to do more speeches, and work on stage. When it comes to casting, they look at me as a young jock, the football player. There are not too many roles like that. I would need to reshape my body in order to fit more diverse roles. But I don’t want to change who I am. I am also part of FCA – Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I want to share my faith with other people, and follow the Lord. I want people to be inspired. You just give me a mike, and I start speaking from the heart. We will see Isaiah on the extreme endurance racing circuit in 2014 or maybe on stage, acting. In either case, he will be pushing himself even further, no doubt. And that’s a wrap on the Hunter/Gatherer series of posts. At least for now. On February 5th, the Survival Run: Nicaragua will return. Last year there were only two official finishers. This year, who knows? Some crazies will attempt the Deadly Devil’s Double Challenge – a 75+km Survival Run followed by a 100km Ultra mere three days later. I’m looking forward to chatting with some of the athletes after the upcoming race in Nicaragua, and of course, bringing their stories to you. Journalistically yours, Solo *Disclaimer: Please note that Fuego Y Agua has not paid or compensated me in any way to cover their event or give them a positive review. Anything you read here is my independent opinion based on interviewing the race director and racers.

  • Fuego Y Agua, And The Origin Of The Egg Obstacle - Interview With Josue Stephens

    After a much discussed Survival Run in Nicaragua, the race director Josue Stephens announced that he was bringing a similar event to the United States. Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer 50k & 100k took place few weeks ago in Texas, and the social media outlets are still chattering about the brutal terrain. The races that Josue organizes are hot, hot hot – and not just in the temperature sense – do not go further than the Fall 2013 of TrailRunner. Alex Kurt in his feature article “Running through Fire” refers to Nicaragua’s Fuego Y Agua as “a trail-running experience like none other”. In today’s post, I am happy to present the man himself, as he talks about the origin of the egg obstacle, how he started organizing races, and what it’s like to grow up with 10 siblings. What is your name? Josue Antonio Stephens Where are you from? I was born in Burbank, CA, and currently live in Austin, TX. How old are you? 32 What is your background? Sport? How did you become a race director? I grew up living and traveling around Central America, Mexico, Canada and the US. Many times we lived in campers or tents in the mountains, forest or jungle. With 10 siblings living together in these types of situations and no TV, we were very outdoorsy. Growing up I trained for an ultra between the ages of 11 and 12 with my dad, played soccer in high school, rock climbed, mountain biked, hiked and did pretty much everything outdoors. In a nutshell, at the age of 25, I decided I wanted to get into ultras again, so in 2007 I entered my first. I then ran multiple ultras through the fall of 2007 and 2008, including winning and placing in the top 10 for several regional races. I have since run several ultras per year, 50k to 100 miles, a few marathons, Spartan Races (10th at Ultra Beast) and Joe Deckers SUCK event. I was hooked! I had been traveling to an island in Nicaragua since 2003 and immediately knew I wanted to do an event there. The terrain was brutal and the culture was intriguing. In 2008 I put on a “trial run” of the Fuego y Agua Ultras by doing a donation based entry. We had 27 people and a great time. After that I began putting the event on yearly with continued growth. In 2012, a good friend and inspiration of mine, Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco, passed away. We had been in touch since 2007, and I had run the race in the Copper Canyons in 2008. Once he passed away, the big question was “who is going to keep this race going?” I decided with my experience, passion for Latin America and love of ultras, I would help continue the race. With the help of Micah’s girlfriend Maria Walton, who heads up the Norawas nonprofit, we have brought the race back and continued the traditions. Since then, I have been busy full time expanding the idea of extreme endurance events with a philanthropic twist. My goal is to create events that are much more than “show up, get a shirt, race, get a medal, and leave.” How many similar events have you organized in the past? How was this event similar to the Survival Run in Nicaragua? How is it different? I am on my 2nd year for Ultra Caballo Blanco in Mexico, 5th year for the Fuego y Agua Ultras in Nicaragua, and working on the 2nd Edition of Survival Run: Nicaragua. Survival Run: Nicaragua was the first “obstacle race” I directed, but you can hardly call it that. The idea for Survival Run actually began the first year I put on Nicaragua in 2008. The original idea was no aid stations, super tough trail with bushwhacking, carry all of your own gear etc. I called it Survival Run 100k when I sent the first email to all the potential participants. However, as the race details progressed, I wanted to make it more accessible to everyone, so I added aid stations and a 50k option. That’s how Ultra Fuego y Agua was born. In September of 2012, I finally decided to implement the Survival Run idea. I know the Nicaragua course like the back of my hand, so I stayed up all night writing out the ideas and essentially compiling the entire course. Everything was built on the concept of traditional daily life on the island, except for the egg obstacle, which was inspired by the Birdman Race (Tangata Manu) on Easter Island. As for the difference between the Hunter Gatherer and the Nicaragua events… I aimed for both events to have a practical and an educational components to them. For example, in a Survival Run, all the challenges serve a purpose – for example, you may climb a tree to get something that you need later. In Nicaragua, the runners had an opportunity to learn a little bit about life on the island. To summarize, Hunter Gatherer was more about true self-sufficiency, and survival skills. It definitely required some preliminary training. I chose Texas as a race venue, because the Texas Hill Country is rough and tough! Meanwhile, Nicaragua was more about adaptation and being ready for anything that happened. Wait… Rewind. The egg obstacle? Haha, sorry. I had the racers do the egg obstacle in Nicaragua. About 2/3rds into the race they went up the volcano (again!), swam into the crater lagoon and retrieve an egg floating in a basket. This egg had to be tied to their forehead using a bandanna from that point until the end of the race. If the egg broke, they could not get the last piece of their medal. This idea came from the Tangata Manu race on Easter Island, where, as a rite of passage, local young men had to swim to an island, retrieve the egg from a bird, then bring it back unbroken to the mainland. The first one back won the maiden’s hand in marriage. Of course we do not include that last part. However, it’s a neat story. [Solo’s note: Are you already putting the Tangata Manu race on your racing bucket list? Unfortunately, this traditional competition was suppressed by Christian missionaries sometime in the 1860s. Yay, Christian missionaries.] What is the demographic of the racers you attract? Why do you think racers are attracted to the idea of a Hunter/Gatherer themed event? As the second Survival Run, Hunter Gatherer really began to define exactly what a Survival Run is and who will race it. However, the main group now seems to be the ultra endurance athlete or the obstacle course racer who wants something more. It is interesting watching the two worlds collide, the ultras can run but are a bit taken aback by challenges, the ocr runners are slower but take the challenges by storm. As Survival Run evolves into a unique event, outside of the standard Ultra, OCR or Adventure Race, it will develop its own breed of racer. Hunter Gatherer is the race that scared a lot of people away, the concept was so far out there, many people just did not want to even try it. Fashioning their own footwear was a huge roadblock for a lot of people, but those who made it to the race, had less of a problem with footwear than they thought. In racing, in life, we get to where we rely on our gear, our packs, shoes, electronics, gels, special drinks, you name it. The appeal of Hunter Gatherer was that it stripped you from your “blankie,” then it put you through one of the toughest challenges of your life. Everyone who toed that start line overcame a lot of fear to get there. Can you give me some numbers for your recent events? How many people applied? Registered? Showed up? Finished? Fuego y Agua Nicaragua started in 2008 with 27 people, we are expecting over 500 in 2014. Ultra Caballo Blanco had 585 starters. Our finish rate for the 100k in Nicaragua is always around 40%, and for 50k is about 70%. For Survival Run Only: Survival Run Nicaragua 2013, we had 130 applicants, 38 starters and 2 finishers. Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer 50k we had over 150 applicants, 23 starters, 13 Finishers, but only 1 who completed the course and received all 4 Amulets ( I – DID – NOT – FAIL). [Solo’s note: The one who completed the course is a fellow Canadian Shane McKay. Read on for some of his thoughts on this event!] Why make the event application only? Do you accept everyone who applies? How do you make a decision? Is there a cap on the number of runners per event? The event is application only because we do not want people going out and killing themselves. Nutrition, Hydration, navigating tough terrain, those are all things an athlete must be experienced in for a Survival Run. Ultra distance and obstacle course racing experience are required in these events. We also require our applicants to have volunteered at an event before, this way they are able to understand what goes into producing an event. I do not accept everyone who applies, but surprisingly, 95% of those who do apply, are eligible. I think just reading the race description keeps people away. I make a decision based on Ultra experience, OCR experience, and if the person seems they are missing the right amount of screws. After Nicaragua, we are overhauling the application process and will have a few additional criteria. As demand grows for these events, we will be turning more people away. I cap the Survival Runs depending on the course and what it can handle. This will always be a smaller and more exclusive event. Those who participate in Survival Run belong to a tribe of the select few who dared take on the challenge. Survival Run: Nica is capped at 100, Ultras are capped at 400 for those who only want to run. Do you race the course yourself? If not, how do you know that it’s actually doable? I have gone over each section multiple times, camped out on the volcanoes in Nicaragua, spent hours with a heavy pack marking miles of course, sleepless nights coming up with the obstacles, working out details, etc. I “test” the obstacles/challenges, and I master the skills myself. Since coming up with the Hunter Gatherer concept, I made bowdrill fires, learned how to identify medicinal plants, and how to make and shoot a bow. I ran. I swam with logs. The race challenges are built on the way I train at home or when traveling. I never have anyone do a tree climb I cannot do, and having done long endurance events, I am aware of human capabilities and limits. We have our first draft, where I come up with all of the challenges, then the process where we test for difficulty, scalability and logistical reality. The race we produce is much easier than the rough draft! What was the hardest part about planning this event as a director? What is your favorite part? There are always logistics to deal with, but scaling the challenges to work for multiple people is always tough. My favorite part is the camaraderie that comes from the event. Do you come up with all the obstacles yourself? Where do you find inspiration? I do come up with the obstacles/challenges. I draw a lot of it from my Dad, who always showed us new things and kept us thinking. As kids, we were very well read on indigenous tribes, how they hunted, and how they lived their lives day in and day out. My Dad is the one who inspired the egg obstacle from Easter Island’s Birdman Race. What kind of training would you recommend to a racer considering one of your events? Get out of the gym and into the woods. Hunter Gatherer does require some skills, but the premise of Survival Run is to be comfortable in natural environments, climbing trees and rocks, swimming, jumping, carrying, throwing, and adapting. What is your next event? I am co-directing a road marathon with a friend of mine, and then I go into full planning mode for Fuego y Agua Nicaragua (Feb 5-8 2014) and Ultra Caballo Blanco – Copper Canyon Mexico (March 2). Are you planning to bring the Survival Run back to the United States? Yes, Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer will be in the US again next year! We also have an event in Wales we are planning. * * * Are you booking your tickets yet? Wait. There’s more. In an upcoming post, the race winner Shane McKay shares his training regimen, and Isaiah Vidal, “the superfreak of fitness”, discloses a surprising career aspiration. Off to hunt (and maybe gather), Solo *Disclaimer: Please note that Fuego Y Agua has not paid or compensated me in any way to cover their event or give them a positive review. Anything you read here is my independent opinion based on interviewing the race director and/or racers.

  • Spartan Race Time Trial @ Fenway Park, Boston - Race Recap

    This past weekend, Spartan Race has joined the celebrations of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary. To celebrate in style, the ballpark has been converted into an obstacle racing venue for the Spartan Sprint Time Trial, the shortest distance race in the series. We could not have asked for a nicer day. I have to do a double take to make sure it is, indeed, middle of November in Boston. We make it over to the race site for the 8.30am wave – excitement is in the air, as racers are picking up their bibs and painting their faces. The first trial wave, including Joe DeSena, the Spartan race co-founder, takes off at 7.00am. I’m pretty sure this consent form says that I may die… eh? How many of these have I signed this year? Unlike Spartan’s regular starts, each wave only has 10-15 people. Two minutes before the start, we line up, and warm up with 10 burpees. I am asked to demonstrate the form. I use the opportunity to crank out ten of the best-looking burpees I can master, knowing the burpee quality will diminish severely throughout the race. As I take off, it is at the same time strange and exciting to know that this race I will finish fairly dry. And not covered in mud. Weird. We run up the incline having to duck, crawl under, and jump over the strips of strategically placed tape. I scrape my palm against the cement floor pretty early on – there may not be mud, but at least there will be blood! One of the first obstacles – pick up a jug of water and carry it down the stairs. And then… up the stairs, obviously… Guys had to carry two at the same time! We also covered quite a bit of ground, running through the bleachers. I am sporting a huge bruise on the side of my thigh, where I kept bumping into the chairs… As expected… lots of stairs. Some of the obstacles we encountered (in no particular order): climbing rope spear throw traverse wall sandbag carry walls cargo net rowing machines push-ups stairs jumping rope throw a ball into the basket bunny hop up the stairs medicine ball slams burpees (and burpees, and burpees) This sandbag was heavy. Holy moly. And we had to carry it for a bit. Up and down the stairs, naturally. But the reward was… yours truly on the Fenway Jumbotron. Oh yeah… Some classic Spartan obstacles close to the finish: Last obstacle before the gladiator pit – looking pretty fresh! I finish the race in 47:56, 8th woman, and 2nd in my age category. Not bad after the peak week insanity… Lessons learned: I look really mean while I race. What’s up, angry face? I still suck at the spear throw. Push-ups are easy. Yay! As I walk around after the race, I run into a number of familiar faces. After racing in the first wave, Joe DeSena, is now busy around the race course. His kids are climbing the obstacle closest to him. I approach to say hello, and extend my hand for a friendly shake. I nod at his children climbing the closest obstacle, and ask if they are participating in the Spartan Kids race. “No”, he shrugs casually. “They are doing the regular race – they’ve upgraded”. Of course, they have… Margaret Schlachter says hello after finishing, and is shortly off for her second lap – not an unusual occurrence! Before we leave, I also get a chance to talk to Brian Duncanson, the other Spartan Race co-founder, who was also the race director for Fenway time trial. Brian’s background is in orienteering and adventure racing, so organizing a sprint in an enclosed space is definitely a new experience for him. Solo: Was this race more difficult to set up and organize in terms of logistics and security? Brian: Actually, this one was probably easier, as the whole thing took place in an enclosed space. We came here on Tuesday. Putting up tape between the seats took a lot of time. Solo: Do you think you will do anything like this in the future or was this a one-off? Brian: Oh, we will definitely be back. Indeed, we will!!! Be on the look-out for my video race report for Get Out There magazine coming out soon, including close-ups of specific obstacles, and interviews with Chris Davis, who lost over 300 pounds after discovering Spartan races, as well as with the parents of Margaret Schlachter from Dirt In Your Skirt who talk about raising and loving an extreme athlete. Signing off, SOLO

  • Chilly Half Marathon 2013 - Race Recap

    Crisp and chilly morning = perfect recipe for a winter race. We arrived with lots of time to spare, and found Burlington overrun with… well, runners. I have been to this town a number of times for races, but never for this particular event, and it was definitely the biggest one yet. Free parking was a nice touch. You could just see smiles on people’s faces, as they learned that they didn’t have to pay for parking. Not a big deal, but such a mood booster. Free coffee for runners at the coffee shop nearby was also a nice touch. Overall, this race definitely lived up to the expectations. Run without a hitch. Like clockwork. We take off shortly after 10am. I gently elbow my way through the crowd towards the 1:45 pacing bunny. The plan is to try and pace myself with this group. As we take off shortly after 10am, I take the edge of the road, running a pretty fast pace, until the crowd thins out a bit. The pacing bunny is somewhere behind me. I keep track of pace for the first couple of kilometers – the most difficult thing here is not to run too fast. It seems slow, but I need to settle into a pace that I can actually maintain for the full race. The most common mistake during longer races is to take off too fast, and “die” half way through. At about 3km marker, I am getting too warm. After checking the weather this morning, I threw on another long sleeve shirt. Should have followed Coco Chanel’s advice on accessorizing: “Always take off the last thing you put on”. Unzip the jacket, and keep going. Water and e-load at aid stations are mostly ice. Mmm… mmm… crunchy. I get couple of mouthfuls. Now, I’m actually getting pretty good at running through the stations. At one of them, I manage to get a paper cup with water, then reach into my pocket, get a gel, open a gel, squeeze most of it in my mouth, and wash it down with water. All while running. Not bad. Practice makes perfect. My pace starts to seem pretty challenging around 11km marker. The 1:45 bunny and the little pack of runners around him catch up to me. I take a breath, and speed up, trying to keep them just behind my shoulder. Slight sense of panic here – we are only half way through, will I be able to keep this up for another 10km? I pick a bright shirt in front of me. The guy’s purple top says: “Never forget”. Ok, this will work. I can keep myself busy trying to figure what the heck it is that I am supposed to never forget. My favorite part of the out-and-back races is always approaching the turn-around, when elite runners are starting to come back. It’s just so inspiring and mesmerizing at the same time. I found myself picking up the pace, just watching them. Around kilometer 11 or 12, we start seeing the first runners sprinting back. The first two guys are pacing each other shoulder to shoulder. Then no one. For a while. Another pack of two or three athletes. Another pause. I count 27 male runners before spotting the first woman. She is flying. The course is fairly flat, with some gentle rolling hills in the second half. When you are tired, even a slight incline is noticeable, however. I try not to slow down on an incline, and take advantage of even the slightest downhill by picking up the pace – these are free seconds off your time – just move your legs, and the downhill does the work for you. I feel pretty strong throughout the race. In fact… I have never seen the kilometer markers fly by so quickly. Which probably signals that I could be running that much faster. I know that when I’m running all out in a 5k or a 10k, those markers simply cannot come fast enough. Every kilometer seems to be at least a mile long. A team of firefighters is running this race in full gear. I spot one of the firefighters trudging along in front of me around 17km marker. The white letters on his butt spell out “Captain”. I smile to myself, picking up the pace – Captain Craig managed to keep me on pace, even without being there. Virtual nod from a friend. Awesome. Even faster during the last kilometer. Familiar barfy feeling. Legs are starting to burn. I start passing runners. One. Two. Three. Faster. I see the finish line, and book it, passing at least five or more six people right at the finish, and literally flying past the timing rubber mat, and landing in an embrace from the Italian. “Two hours, eh?”, he says, smiling. “You know you suck at these things, right?”. Chip time: 1:41:44 NEW PR. After the race, free chili and beer are served at 7 or 8 local restaurants. The approach proves to be very effective, as multiple locations ensure no bottleneck at any one place. I finish a bowl of chili, and head towards the Performing Arts Centre for a massage provided by massage therapy students. I found that free massages available after races tend to be pretty hit-and-miss. In general, you get what you (don’t) pay for. Usually, it’s a pretty tame 10-15 minute session, which is just enough to get your legs moving. Today’s treatment reminded me of making out with a 16-year old (if memory serves) – little bit all over the place, lacking confidence and finesse to be effective, and generally, leaving you mildly dissatisfied and mostly confused. In the middle of shaking and stroking, I half expected my (female) masseuse to reach out for my buttock, squeeze, and say “honk-honk”. However, I firmly believe that massage is like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Awesome day. I could have worn one less layer. I could have paced myself better. I could have… I could have… This race was not perfect. [No race is…] But it was pretty damn close. Oh, and the front of that guy’s shirt said: “My mom is a hero. Never forget”. Leaving you with my ultimate racing song… “‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up. But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse. Until the roof The roof comes off Until my legs Give out from underneath me I will not fall, I will stand tall, Feels like no one can beat me.” Signing off, Solo

  • My Thoughts On The Vermont World Championship NBC Sports Network Special

    Bachelorette was a smashing success. Yes, poles were involved. And champagne. And I finally got a chance to sit down and watch the NBC Sports Network Special on the Vermont World Championship. Highlights of the coverage: Amelia overtaking Morgan on the rope climb. I admire Amelia’s consistence - incredibly solid performance throughout the event. Hunter’s epic plunge into the lake 14-year old Winter lugging over half her body weight in sand up the mountain Iram Leon’s smiling face - this guy rivals yours truly for the biggest smile on course Morgan Arritola dropping out, while in the lead. That girl worked hard. Another testament to the fact how mental this sport is. Matt Novakovich’s admirable comeback after struggling with severe muscle cramps Deanna Blegg emerging second in the last third of the race Although it was a fantastic way to relive some of the obstacles from the event, I gotta say, I never realized how dramatic our sport is. Next time, I am definitely racing with a soundtrack. How to make any activity seem more glamorous than it is: Pick the most dramatic music you can find, find a guy with a radio voice, throw in a couple of tear jerking stories, and a bunch of inspirational platitudes (preferably spoken in a choked up female voice) and you are good to go. And WHO is the guy narrating the coverage? I want him to come in and talk over one of my workouts. Can you imagine? “Today is the day! There is no tomorrow! I Here in the wilds of the Great White North, six days a week a modest gym becomes a scene for a battle. It’s a baptism by iron! THIS is Solo’s workout. We are back. Solo is now twenty minutes into her workout. Mobility work is next. Her IT bands are screaming, as the foam roller digs into her flesh. The pain is palpable. She pushes herself to the limit. One of her shoelaces comes undone, but she doesn’t let it slow her momentum. Such obstacles hardly phase this native Siberian. And now…. This is it. The moment you’ve been waiting for. She picks up the Olympic bar. Will she add weight? She reaches for the weight plate. 10 pounds? 25 pounds? Solo grabs a 45-pounder. The crowd gasps. She forges on. Amidst the murmurs, this college professor cannot afford to get bogged down. Here, persistence and positive attitude are crucial. Will she be able to handle the pressure? When we return, we’ll check in with Solo, and see whether she is able to dominate the squat rack.” Oh, dear. YOUR TURN: What were your thoughts on the NBC coverage? P.S. Did you enter the raffle to win a free Spartan Race yet? You have 9 days! Go to my athlete page, and click on Giveaways. Signing off, Solo

  • Jesus Christ SuperStar And Small Towns - Travel Notes

    Another item crossed off my bucket list – to see Jesus Christ Superstar musical. I’ve actually seen the show once before, but I was so small that I barely remember. And it was in Russian. As a Christmas present, my mom got us all tickets to see the show put on by a local theatre in small town, just over an hour outside of Toronto – Port Hope, ON. My baby brother flew in from BC for a bit, so it was a perfect opportunity to some family time. As we are taking our seats, I start skimming the program. “To bring this show to the stage, we could have taken the usual “classic” route…” “Uh-oh”, I think. “… but we chose to bring our audience a modern interpretation.” “UH-OH”. “We challenged the actors to bring Jesus and some of his ideas into the world of modern commerce.” “I’m afraid this is going to be really bad”, I catch myself thinking. Enter Jay Sea Tech. I kid you not. JC, CEO and co-founder, is currently in an ongoing conflict with his former partner… Judas. The singers had a multitude of cell phones, Blackberries, iPads and the like. Facebook event was flashed onto the backscreen. So was Twitter. #showyourfaithtoJC #JCisawesome #doyoubelieve How was the show? #ohmygod #punintended Perfectly mediocre. Not that there is anything wrong with it. And I enjoyed it immensely. Just like sometimes you enjoy a mediocre bowl of Chinese food, perfect in its predictability. Or a drunken rendition of your favorite song from a neighbor, delivering both nostalgia and humour in one tune. Funny enough, they dropped the commerce angle pretty quickly. By the end of the second act, JC was sporting a crown of thorns, and little else. And nobody was tweeting the crucifixion itself. Jesus earned a solid B- for his title solo, while Judas failed the class. Although Judas got A for effort (which made the actual singing even more painful to endure). Now, here’s a thought: If Jesus Christ goes by JC, what would Judas go by? Judy? Jude? Jay? For those not familiar with the musical, when I say title solo, I am referring to Gethsemane. This is one of my most favorite songs of all time, along with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. Gethsemane is a garden in Jerusalem, known as the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before the crucifixion, and serves as a true climax of the musical. If it does not give you goosebumps, you must be dead. Here’s my favorite production by far – Glenn Carter is magnificent. On every level. [The actual song starts at about 1:40] Random observations: Physical attractiveness seems to be a must for Jesus – all the singers who I have seen play Jesus can compete with each other for a Calvin Klein ad. They’d have to lose the robes, of course. Pontius Pilate was a gorgeous (female) redhead, which I thought was a nice twist. The chemistry between Jesus and Mary was anything but pure. In fact, I think these two made out while off stage. After Jesus was crucified, the lights went out, and his lifeless body was carried off stage in the dark. That was it. Was I wrong to expect the actors to come out and take a bow? Or would that be too festive given the whole crucifixion thing? The stage at the end of the show: After the show, back at our guesthouse, my father proceeded to present a compare-and-contract analysis of the title solo, against other productions from the past – five of them, in two different languages. Needless to say, I am a little JC’d out for the time being. All in all, it was a great weekend. And we won gold! But… if you hear of another JCS production taking place, do give me a shout, will ya? Yours in Christ (or something like that), Solo

  • Operation Bucket List 1.0

    Welcome to the Operation Bucket List. Here are the things I hope to accomplish before I kick the bucket. [Read more about how this list came to be here.] EXPLORE swim in the ocean swim with the dolphins donate blood go to a casino see a drag show get my belly button pierced <2000> go skinny dipping <2001> get into grad school <2006> dye my hair black <2009> get M1 motorcycle license <2010> get M2 motorcycle license <2010> fly a helicopter <2010> meet Sue Johanssen <2010> buy my own place <2011> take a course in Sanskrit <2011> practice ashtanga yoga in Moscow with authorized teachers <2011> watch a sunrise and a sunset in the same day <2011> complete a 10-day silent meditation retreat <2011> watch Pulp Fiction <2011> get my eyebrow pierced <2012> go to a movie by yourself <2012> feel comfortable dancing <2013> participate in a flashmob <2013> see a Cirque du Soleil show <2013> see Jesus Christ Superstar musical <2014> visit a drive-in movie theatre <2014> eat local (100 miles) for a month <2015> watch a movie at TIFF <2015> participate in a free hugs campaign <2015, for my birthday!> have a dinner date over Skype shave my head <2016> sleep under the stars <2016, that time at a bus shelter in nicaragua, 2016> throw a large family picnic <2016> get married <2016> attend a Toast Masters meeting <2017> write poetry every day for a week <2017> test drive Subaru STI <2017> attend a poetry slam <2017> attend a religious house of every major religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism) attend an Indian wedding buy a bonsai tree <2017> dive off a cliff crowd surf dress up as Trinity for Halloween <2017> experience zero gravity get a dog get a short haircut <2017> get a tattoo get my fortune read <2017> shoot (a) gun(s) milk a cow organize a flashmob give a TED talk participate in Caribana parade ride a horse really fast meet Dan Savage set a world record take a picture with my best friend in a photobooth volunteer at animal shelter act in a play attend a live UFC fight have a child watch everything by Aaron Sorkin get a too-expensive pair of beige pumps have a boudoir photoshoot have a custom action hero doll made train my dog to understand commands in Russian and hand signals LEARN learn to write haikus <2013> take a creative writing course <2012> attend TED conference - York TEDx <2013> study with Natalie Goldberg read Darwin's Origin of Species read the main works of the Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse play Moonlight sonata on piano learn enough Hindi to get around learn the Canadian anthem by heart learn to play/sing 10 songs by heart on a guitar take an IQ test take a defensive driving course become conversational in Italian take a bartending class get a PhD/MFA be able to tell a merlot from a shiraz learn to change a tire develop a consistent meditation practice take Intro to Buddhism course at Tushita Centre in Dharmsala, India make peace with boredom take improv or writing classes at Second City <2018> learn to solve a Rubik's Cube attend a church service that feels like a party take a wine class TRAVEL go to Oktoberfest in Waterloo, ON - second largest in the world <2009> float in Dead Sea, Israel <2010> run in a desert <2010, half marathon in israel> ride an elephant 2011, saw one in the wild, and didn't want to ride one any more] go to Mysore, India to study yoga <2011> fly first class <2011> see white nights in St. Petersburg, Russia <2011> spend a night on a yacht with a bedroom [ 2011] go to New York for a weekend, race and check out the best vegetarian restaurants <2011> go on a girl road trip <2012> go on a road trip without a preset destination <2012> go on a road trip to Kripalu Yoga Centre in MA, USA <2012> explore Toronto's Chinatown <2012> explore Toronto's Little India <2013> go to the Bata Show museum in Toronto <2013> go to Burning Man <2013> visit Mount Rushmore in South Dakota <2013> go to San Franscisco and walk across the Golden Gate bridge <2013 - drove across, 2015 - ran across> visit Vancouver <2014> eat pizza at the oldest pizzeria in Naples, Italy <2014> lean on the Leaning Tower of Pisa <2014> see an active volcano <2015, sat on the crater edge of an active volcano in 2016> go on a solo camping trip and read Thoreau's Walden <2015, did that while living in a hut on an island in nicaragua - good enough!> Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls <2015> watch a Shakespeare play in Stratford, ON <2015> see ballet at The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow <2016> go to Hermitage in St. Petersburg <2016> see something weird in Portland - yes, it's a reference to Portlandia! <2016> take a working road trip <2016> take Italian to Russia <2016> go on a West Coast road trip go on a "Europe" trip in Ontario - Paris, London, Brussels.. meh, got my share of small Ontario towns visit the towns of Marathon, ON and Sparta, ON visit all Ontario breweries shifted attention to wine! :) drink Primitivo wine in Puglia, Italy <2017> eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant <2017> go on a coast to coast Canada road trip almost," but="but" not="not" quite...="quite..." drove="drove" from="from" Toronto="Toronto" to="to" Calgary in="Calgary in" 2013,="2013," Vancouver="Vancouver" TO="TO" in="in" 2017;="2017;" next="next" up="up" east="east" coast="coast"> visit every Canadian province (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland/Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon) visit every US state (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississipi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, District of Columbia) set foot on each of the seven continents (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, Australia) jump at the world's highest bungee (so far jumps in India, Russia and Canada, highest jump approx. 80m) ride a motorcycle from Manali to Leh, India - highest passable road in the world stay in Varanasi during monsoon ride a toy train in India ride the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia see Lake Baikal run in Kenya see a whale see Northern lights go to Iceland for my honeymoon go on a yoga retreat/massage course in Thailand go hang gliding over the Grand Canyon walk across the desert trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal solo skip winter use a fancy toilet in Japan visit a coffee farm in Ethiopia go to Purple Valley Yoga Centre in Goa, India ride a Vespa in Rome spend a layover in a fancy business lounge stay at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity TRY snorkeling white water rafting taking hip hop lessons <2010> indoor rock climbing <2011> bungee jumping <2011, jumped in india, russia and canada since> orienteering <2012> improv <2013> parcour <2014> a Polar bear dip <2016> surfing <2016, in costa rica> Tai Chi aerial yoga Capoeira circus training krav maga doing stand-up comedy hunting CREATE create my personal website <2012, www.solovieva.com=">www.solovieva.com"> start a blog <2012> bake pie from scratch <2012> make bread <2010> get blog professionally designed <2013> start my own business <2013> get to 100 Likes on my athlete Facebook page <2013> make Indian curry <2012> see my article in print <2013> read at least 12 books a year <2014,=">2014,"> get to 1,000 Likes on my athlete Facebook page <2014, reached 2,500 in 2015> raise at least $1,000 for charity <2014> write a paid article for a magazine <2015> reach 100,000 views in a year on my blog <91,000 in 2014, 103,000 in 2015> get my nutrition coaching certification <2015, l2 precision nutrition> pay off debt <2016> get paid to speak <2016> have a logo designed <2016> make Ukranian borscht <2017> create a tradition <2017> read a graphic novel be interviewed on CBC radio write a book write a fictional short story participate complete 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo plant a Siberian birch grow a spice garden design a personal day retreat and carry it out redesign my personal website bake bread without supervision <2018> perform at an open mic take a Think Week (like Bill Gates) MOVE teach a yoga class <2010> go skydiving tandem <2010> complete yoga teacher training <2010> practice yoga on top of a mountain <2011> practice yoga on a beach <2011> get a running gait assessment <2012> have a fitness photoshoot <2012> get under 20% body fat <2012> meet New Year's running <2012> do at least a month of CrossFit <2013> do 20 double-unders in a row <2013, reached 70 in a row> learn to chop wood <2013> do 10 kipping pull-ups in a row <2014, did 15 in a row!> do one pull-up with 45lb weight <2014, two pull-ups; one pull-up with 53lb in 2015> do the SkyWalk around CN tower <2015> overhead squat 100lb <2015> learn how to throw a spear <2015> do a handstand push-up <2016> do a muscle up (2016, bar muscle-up in 16.3!) participate in a powerlifting competition <2016> snatch 100lb (practicing with 55lb in 2014, 85lb in 2015, 115lb in 2016) participate in a CrossFit competition <2016, and omg - 2010?> participate in an olympic lifting competition <2017> bench press my own body weight (120lb in 2014, 125lb in 2015, 147lb in 2016) complete a beep test complete Fran workout Rx sport a 6-pack (long enough to snap a picture!) learn a flip turn in swimming go skydiving solo deadlift 300lb (250lb in 2016, current max = 280lb) participate in CrossFit Games do one ring muscle up dance on stage again learn to dance salsa learn contemporary dance hike the Grand Canyon Rim To Rim To Rim RACE run a 5k <2009, pride 5k> run a 10k <2009> run a half marathon <2010, ottawa army run> complete a Warrior Dash <2010> complete a Super Spartan race <2011> complete a try-a-tri <2011> complete a Sprint distance triathlon <2012> complete a Spartan Beast <2012> complete a Spartan Trifecta <2012> complete a Spartan Ultra Beast <2012> complete a Goruck Challenge <2012> complete a Tough Mudder <2012, did two laps> complete three laps of Tough Mudder complete a Spartan Hurricane Heat <2013> complete Spartan Death Race <2013> complete an Olympic distance triathlon <2013> participate in Run for the Toad relay trail race <2013> run a night race <2012> run a race in the rain <2012> run Chilly Half Marathon (PR) <2013> run Around the Bay 30k race <2013> run a marathon <2013> participate in an adventure race <2014> win a race <2014, mudhero toronto, 1st female, baby!> run an ultra marathon <2014> run a happy ultra marathon <2015> participate in obstacle race outside of Canada/US <2015> run the Great Canadian Death Race <2015, team relay, legs 1, 3 and 5> DNF a race <2015, twice :)> participate in OCR World Championships <2015> run a burpee free Spartan Race <2015> participate in BattleFrog Race <2016> run a race barefoot <2016> participate in Ragnar relay <2017> participate in a time-based race <2017> complete a century bike ride complete a half IRONMAN complete an IRONMAN participate in Sahara Race participate in UK Tough Guy run a sub-20 5k run a sub-40 10k participate in a mountain bike race run a trail race in Italy run the entire course of the Great Canadian Death Race (leg 1, leg 2, leg 3, leg 4, leg 5) finish a Survival Run run Sinister 7 Ultra in the Alberta Rockies run Fat Dog Trail Race in British Columbia see how long it takes me to hike up to the top of the Grouse Grind <2017> run across a country do an ultra in Siberia EVERY YEAR come up with the word of the year write my personal mission statement check off a bucket list item on January 1st read at least 12 books <41 in 2017> visit at least one new country <2014 - italy, 2015 - nicaragua, 2016 - costa rica, 2017 - vatican> make a difference in someone's life <2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017> Anything cool that I have missed? What else do you think should be on my list? Can you steal from this list? Absolutely. I would be only flattered. Liked this post? Read why you should have a bucket list, how I add/remove items to the list, and 30 things a woman should do before turning 30. Hugs, SOLO

  • Spartan Ultra Beast Australia - Race Recap

    As obstacle racing events go, there was one race that seemed to have passed under the radar of our attention. The third ever Spartan Ultra Beast, taking place in Australia, came and went without the usual fanfare that accompanies the handing out of glow-in-the-dark medals. Even Obstacle Racing Media did not talk about it. It’s almost as if… it didn’t happen! Here’s one scene from this completely fictional event. MEANWHILE IN AUSSIELAND by Solo ----------------------------------------------------------------- CAST OF CHARACTERS DAVE HUCKLE, a 33-year old obstacle racer, founder of the Weeple Army, the largest Spartan Race team JOHNNY WAITE, International Quality Control Manager at Spartan Race, and the sweetheart of the sport PAUL BUIJS, a 36-year old New Yorker, founder of Mud and Adventure ALEX MULVIHILL, a 27-year old Aussie obstacle racer and Crossfitter, who keeps making OCR podium despite her asthma MELISSA ROBERTSON, an Aussie obstacle racer, and 1st female in the Sydney Ultra Beast SETTING: Sydney, Australia TIME: November 2, 2013 SCENE 1 As racers are still finishing up, DAVE, JOHNNY, PAUL, ALEX and MELISSA congregate not too far from the finish line, with huge medals hanging around their necks, some with a beer in hand. JOHNNY: (wiping his face with a towel) And done! How long was each lap? DAVE: I didn’t have a GPS, but it was under 13 miles each loop. It felt like somewhere between 22-24 total miles instead of 26.2. ALEX: (joining the group) How did you guys go? DAVE: Just under 10 hours. I ran the whole thing with JOHNNY, so we waited for each other to do burpees when the time came. JOHNNY: I am always just in it for the experience and don’t worry too much about placing. Unlike Melissa over here. Am I right? (winking at MELISSA) MELISSA: Haha. I was pretty happy with coming first, that’s for sure. DAVE: How long did it take? MELISSA: Well, the results are up already. (glances over DAVE’s shoulder on the results board) Took me 6 hours and 13 minutes. PAUL: (incredulously) Seriously? The results are up? I love Australian Spartan Race! Did everyone finish? ALEX: Well, I know that 105 racers started - 96 men and 9 women. MELISSA: Yeah, 1 guy DNFed. PAUL: Holy moly, only 9 women? MELISSA: Let me tell ya, the line-ups at the girls bathroom were not an issue. ALEX: For once! (laughing) JOHNNY: (examining the results) The fastest finish time was 4 hours and 50 minutes. Holy shit! It took Pak over eight and a half hours to complete the Vermont Ultra Beast. MELISSA: Yeah, and Morgan, the first female in Vermont’s Ultra was out there for eleven and a half hours! Our course was definitely shorter. ALEX: Were any of you guys at Vermont Championship? JOHNNY: I was there in 2012 and 2013, but could not participate, as I was running the Team Death Race. DAVE: Right! I remember those poor guys doing burpees out in the parking lot in the middle of the night. Pouring rain and all. PAUL: I was signed  up for both the Beast and the Ultra Beast in Vermont, but the Beast kicked my butt so bad, I didn’t even toe the start line for the Ultra. MELISSA: Sydney can’t match Vermont for its terrain, so we make up for it with the heat! (smiles) Besides, many standard obstacles were harder. Monkey bars were much thicker, and none of the rope climbs had knots. ALEX: Today the terrain was an obstacle in itself! It was so dry and dusty. PAUL: Yeah, the terrain was hilly, but not ski resort hilly. And my lips were dry and cracked the whole time! (turning to Melissa) So you were in Vermont? ALEX: She came 15th in the Saturday Beast Elite wave! MELISSA: (nods) I definitely found Vermont to be the harder. DAVE: Well, I thought this course was the best laid out Beast course I have done. The terrain was rough and rugged and the course designer used it extremely effectively. JOHNNY: (also nodding emphatically) Nonstop hills! It was always up or down, and uneven footing most of the way. DAVE: I loved the water obstacles, but the Herculean Hoist and the Dead Ball were the most challenging for me. I'm no beefcake. PAUL: I know! I’m not sure how heavy that kettlebell was, but I gave it a strong tug, and the damn thing wouldn’t budge. And I’m strong for my 150 pounds. JOHNNY: I loved it all! Although I had trouble with the second round rope climbs, as I used all arms and they were fried. ALEX: (exasperated) And can you believe that damn sandbag carry? JOHNNY: Yes! Crazy steep through bushwhacking! ALEX: (explains) Thistle plants. And bindies were those sharp prickly ones. PAUL: The sandbag carry sucked! Then again, it’s amazing how much experience plays into it - after that epic sandbag carry at Vermont, I was able to complete this section without putting the bag down once. (pauses to reflect) I hated the long barbed wire crawl more! ALEX: (nodding) It was pretty much gravel by the second lap. And rolling made me nauseous, so I dragged myself on my side and on my back. PAUL: And we had to do two laps! So the first time it was brutal because of the sun, and the second time around, it was frustrating  trying to maneuver around all the people from the non-elite beast waves. JOHNNY: It WAS really hot. Over 35 Celsius. Not Vermont temperatures. DAVE: You Canadians, and your strange metric system! JOHNNY: (jokingly punching DAVE in the shoulder) WE are strange? You know Aussies use Celsius too, right? MELISSA: 35 Celsius is about 95 Fahrenheit. ALEX: The fact that they ran out of water at the aid stations really did not help. My bladder was empty at one point and I got very worried. Thankfully, we ended up getting boxes of sports drink at all the obstacles. DAVE: What I loved was the way the Australian Spartan races use water obstacles. I did the Brisbane Super earlier in the year and they used lots of natural water obstacles there too. JOHNNY: I loved all the water and mud. So much mud! ALEX: (laughing) Yeah, the flies must have loved that too. DAVE: Would you guys do anything differently? ALEX: Ha! I would have definitely done more hill training. As a trail runner, I was at ease on trails, but wasn’t used to so many hills. I walked 60-70% of the course. PAUL: I wore my Salomon Sense Ultra’s, and given the inclines and mud pits, I think I may have been better off with FellCross. MELISSA: (turning to DAVE, JOHNNY and PAUL) Will we see you in Australia next year? DAVE: Sure, why not! I never miss an opportunity to visit Exmouth. PAUL: I’m definitely open to the idea. I much prefer the hot to the cold. ALEX: I am contemplating doing the Vermont Beastin 2014. It’d be cool to get my Trifecta over in US next year. JOHNNY: Well, I’m focusing on the super long distances next year, but I’d definitely do this one again. The Aussies do it right!!! MELISSA: (smiling) They do, indeed. Something tells me Aussies will do it right again at the upcoming WTM2013. My bet is on Deanna. PAUL: (shaking his head) Amelia Boone will be back to defend her title. MELISSA: (shrugging) You never know.. Things often change last minute JOHNNY: So what do you say, guys? Same time, same place, next year? ALL TOGETHER: Aroo! Group hugs at the end, and heads out to get another beer. THE END ----------------------------------------------------------------- P.S. Read Melissa Robertson’s Ultra Beast race report here and another one written by Bec Grimwood here. Those interested in the Sydney Beast, here’s a race recap for you: YOUR TURN: Did the Ultra Beast Sydney really happen? Are we forgetting that there’s more to obstacle racing than just North America? Hoo roo, mates - love you heaps, Solo

  • Product Review - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

    Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey is the best selling brand of protein powder at Bodybuilding.com, which is how I found this powder initially. I never had a reason to go to any other brand. PROS1. LOW IN FAT, LOW IN CARBOHYDRATES Before you bite my head off, and tell me how carbohydrates are not evil, hear me out. I like my supplements separate, so I can mix and match. So in my protein powder, I want - protein. Best quality, pure protein. The other two are easy enough to get from food. The nutrition label is flavour specific. Let’s take a look at the one for Vanilla Ice Cream flavour. . However, I maintain that adding carbohydrates to your protein shake is really easy. Fruit is an easy way to do that. However, if you are looking for a stronger carb punch, they won’t be calorie dense enough. In which case, add oats to the liquid, and let it sit for few minutes, then blend. The oats get soggy quickly, and add thickness to the smoothie too.My default smoothie looks like this: 1 scoop of protein powder ½ banana 1-2 cups of spinach 1 tsp of peanut butter 1 cup of almond milk (or other milk) 1 cup of water 3-4 ice cubes And here’s what I could use between meals as a snack: 1 scoop of protein powder ½ cup of coffee ½ cup of almond milk 1 cup of water 5-6 ice cubes *Time-saving tip - freeze your coffee, and use coffee ice cubes instead. Brilliant, right? 2. (PRETTY) SIMPLE INGREDIENT LIST Protein powder is one of the few “processed” foods I consume on a regular basis. And yes, I’m a big fan of knowing what exactly goes into my body. This brand has no vitamins, green extracts, BCAAs or anything else added to it. And that’s the way I like it. Here is the ingredient list for Vanilla Ice Cream flavour: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolates, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Peptides), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Lecithin, Acesulfame Potassium, Aminogen, Lactase This list is significantly shorter than the ingredient list on a typical vanilla ice cream box, let me tell ya. Now, you can always go even simpler. It’s called egg whites. So what the heck are all these things?Protein blend (Whey Protein Isolates, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Peptides). This is what we are buying. Check. More expensive protein powders would include an even simpler protein profile. For example, Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey (review coming soon!) lists Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolates as the only protein source. This product is 1.5 more expensive, and features other added nutrients as well as a longer ingredient list. Thus, you'd have to weigh the pros and cons - just like we are doing here! Natural and artificial flavours. Let’s be honest, whey protein isolates do not naturally taste like Vanilla Ice Cream.Lecithin. Emulsifier, which helps in mixing. Usually derived from eggs or soy. Check your candy bar ingredient list - this is what keeps cocoa and cocoa butter from separating. Aminogen. Patented digestive enzyme which breaks down the protein. It is often added to high quality protein powders. Lactase. Enzyme that breaks down lactose, sugar found in all dairy products. Those lacking lactase may experience symptoms of lactose intolerance, when consuming dairy. Lactase is the ingredient added to lactose free milk to aid digestion. Because whey is filtered many times, it actually has very little lactose (and very little carbohydrate). Therefore, most people with lactose intolerance will have no trouble digesting protein powders, however, lactase is often added, just in case. Acesulfame potassium. Artificial sweetener, commonly used in baking and carbonated drinks. 3. TASTE I loved the taste of this protein powder from the get go. There are loads of flavours to choose from. Although, if you check out the flavours of a typical protein powder, it’s almost like they have already tried all the flavours, and settled on the ten that seem to work. You’ll never see an Apple Cinnamon protein powder. Or Grape Explosion. I have tried: Chocolate Peanut Butter - my favorite one so far! Cinnamon Graham Cracker - ok. hope you like cinnamon. Double Rich Chocolate - this one did not blow me away, and I’d be interested in trying Extreme Milk Chocolate as well as White Chocolate and Chocolate Malt to compare French Vanilla Creme - a solid vanilla flavour, which goes well with pretty much anything If you have never bought a protein powder before, I’d recommend starting with a vanilla flavour, as it would most easily blend with any other ingredients you want to try. Anything very fruit specific - like Banana Cream or Delicious Strawberry, I personally would get sick of very quickly. I’m sticking with chocolate and coffee flavours. As for peanut butter… Well, you could put it into nail polish, and I’d be licking my fingers. 4. COST When it comes to cost per serving, this brand delivers some of the best bang for your buck that you can find on the market. As a rule, larger container size would yield cheaper protein powder, starting from $1.04 per servings for the smallest 453g container (15 servings) to 0.70 per servings for 2.2kg (80 servings) container. To compare, Gaspari Nutrition MyoFusion Probiotic Series Elite Athlete Protein Powder (holy moly long name!) is $0.90 per serving at the same size container. Although look at the prices carefully, because in case of Optimum Nutrition, 2.2kg is indeed the best deal. The mammoth packages of 4.5kg are a little bit more expensive. But those would probably be only practical if you have multiple protein drinkers in the family, or protein powder is your main food group. In which case, please drop me an email. You poor thing. CONS Let’s see. I’m a fan of this product, so this part will be difficult. 1. NOT VEGAN If you are vegan, this is not the protein powder for you, but then you knew that already. :) 2. HARD TO ACCESS For my Canadian friends, this is either impossible to find in stores, or ridiculously overpriced once you do, so you are stuck with ordering this online. YOUR TURN: What is your favorite protein powder? Flavour? Why? Powered by protein, Solo

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