Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Top 7 Favorite Rides/Races of 2015

As you learned last year, I love favorites lists. They help me clarify what I enjoy doing, they help race promoters adjust their offerings and they spread the word about events you might not have heard of. This was a unique year because I actually had sponsors. Help from Bicycles International, Luksha Reconstruction and SixSixOne products motivated me to hit a few more stops around the state. These included several places I had never been before. This year's list includes some personal victories and a couple unique locations. Here are my top seven favorite rides/races of 2015.

Autumn is the busiest time of year in Florida for many reasons. The snowbirds return, businesses get busy and both CX and XC kick off their seasons often pairing races on the same weekends. This forces all of us racers to choose one or the other. For the last two years I chose CX. However, my piggy bank only allowed for a couple forays. They were run by Zach Fout of Cycology Solutions so I was able to enjoy a high level of quality in both the course and the competitors. My personal performance was crippled by illness but you can bet that I took notes for next year - Edinburgh CX Challenge.

I always wanted to race a Regional Championship. The austere title alone gets my blood pumping. Gone Riding is the premiere MTB racing organization in Florida and SERC is one of their many events. The turnout was nominal and my bike decided to fall apart but the trails did not disappoint. Hailes is private property that contains some of the most beautiful inland features in the entire state. It's a place you must visit at least once. That is why this is - A MTB Race for those who Don't Race.

Adverse weather sometimes makes for perfect racing conditions. This was the case as Tim Reifschneider did whatever it took to put together an off road time trial. As it happened we braced ourselves for a rain storm at the Carlton Reserve. It looked like lightning was going to cause a second cancellation but a few brave souls decided to go for it. The result was a sloppy fun race on BoldlyGo that was made all the better as it got wetter - Timmy's Lightning Swamp Time Trial.

The Withlacoochee forest is probably the second most comfortable chunk of woods in the Sunshine State. There were several sections where I almost forgot I was in Florida. I will return to this event someday, in better health I hope. As it was I suffered a little more than needed and came up short on the ride but it was still worth the effort, after all - How do you Measure Progress?

If you have never been to Santos then you simply must go! People told me that for a long time and this year I finally listened. Not only did I get to race on their well crafted trails but I also camped right near the trailhead. The Hump Day Hustle was set up by the Santos Bike Shop and they really did a great job. The best woods in Florida plus an awards ceremony at a local eatery. We even had dinner with National Champ Ryan Woodall. Had I done better in the race this might have topped the list. Who knows, maybe next year - The Hump Day Hustle.

This will take some explaining. Last Year Piggy's was my Number 1 pick. That year I completed the 40 and broke through to a new level of confidence. In 2015 I complete the 60 mile route and as the online promoter put together an aggressive outreach program that doubled the number of riders who attended. However, it me took 6 distracted hours to complete the course. I was a success as a promoter but a failure as a rider. This year Piggy's Revenge will be even bigger but I will be volunteering - Redemption in the Ruts.

At the Tour de Picayune my roles were reversed. They asked me to help promote this race as well but I blew it. It drew only 40 riders. However, racing 50 miles on a singlespeed fat bike over seven hours through scorching singletrack and deep sand was my greatest accomplishment as a mountain biker. Due to the small turnout the Tour is no more. They might replace it with a gravel grinder (Which should be more successful). Still, I will never forget the pain and suffering I overcame to complete that course and finish in the top ten. It was amazing! - Tour de Picayune.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Contemplating Crossfit Competitions

On Saturday, December 12th, 2015 North Port Crossfit held their first local competition: The Jingle Bell Throwdown. This involved an entire day of WODs starting at 9am and carrying through to 3pm. The participants were broke up into four categories: Scaled for men, scaled for women, RX for men and RX for women, For the uninitiated Scaled is a scaled down version of a listed WOD where as RX is the actual WOD (Weight and reps) as prescribed. There was an even mix among the genders with seventeen men and seventeen women taking part.

For those who follow my humble little blog you are aware that I have been studying up on Crossfit since last summer. Why the study? Because I can't afford to sign up. Instead I have been hitting the weights at home and learning what I can to improve my form and function. Visiting a Box and watching a live competition seemed like the next best step.

As a spectator there were a few things I noticed right away. First was that the range of people doing this contest is not what you might imagine. The Crossfit Games on ESPN gives you a spectacle of beautiful, muscle bound men and women lifting enormous weights. That is not the case at a local box. Some had big muscles but not like you see on TV. Most of the guys had Dad bodies whereas the ladies ranged from skinny to curvy. It was refreshing to see people of all types giving their best against the clock.

The second observation was that it was hard to follow the action. When watching on TV you get to see real time graphics of who is leading. When watching live you kinda have to wait until the end of each WOD for the scores to be added up and updated on the electronic score board. 

My best guess is that competitors scored a point for each correct rep and those were added up over the course of the day. The more proper reps they completed, the higher they moved up the ladder. I didn't actually know anyone at the event but I did recognize a few names from the many running races I have attended in the area. These same people must be all around good athletes because a couple of them (Chris Beers & Jamie Ramos) landed on the podium.

So this begs the next question: Do I want to compete? Apparently you can sign up for events like this without belonging to a box. Being unaffiliated is a big plus for me because I prefer to train alone. The second question to grapple with is: When will I be ready? I think I can break down this competition by workouts and points to determine what it would take to participate without embarrassing myself.

Having seen it with my own eyes I do still have a few hesitations. One is that these small competitions are basically open class. You are up against other athletes of any age. That can be a huge disadvantage for those of us over 40. It's not that I have to do well in order to enjoy myself but who wants to come in last to a bunch of college age athletes? The other worry is that of endurance. Doing one WOD is awesome, two is a serious workout but doing four in one day might be too much for me. I got tired just taking pictures of these people.

Granted you don't have to compete in order to enjoy the benefits of this new sport but I am a competitor. I love competition and need to do something. Now I just have to decide if Crossfit is the right fit.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Before Pictures/Stats

I always forget to do the before/after pictures but not this time. These were taken on Dec 6th, 2015. As I said in the previous post, my goals are both physical and performance based but here I will list some of the stats that are most relevant. I hope to share encouragement with others who are going through the same process. I'm excited by the prospect of great change.

Height 5'9"  Weight 182pds

Chest: 41in
Arms: 14.75in
Legs: 23in

Overhead Max: 130pds
Deadlift Max: 160pds
Snatch Max: 60pds

Pull-ups (Non-stop): 15reps
Push-ups (Non-stop): 40reps

Current 5K race: 32min

Crossfit Cindy (20min): 8 rds + 5 reps
Crossfit Fran (21-15-9): Unable to complete

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Time to Stack the Weights

In 1987 I bought my first Muscle & Fitness Magazine (Pictured above). I loved lifting weights and wanted more than anything to strengthen myself and perhaps become a bodybuilder. The problem was that I was a very skinny kid with many problems. These included an eating disorder, emotional issues and a volatile home life. By age 16 I was 5'6" tall but only 116 pounds and I wasn't getting any bigger. It wasn't until I hit 38 that my life truly started to stabilize. I began to gain weight (And Muscle) reaching my current condition of 5'9" and 180 pds.

At 42 I have the opportunity to fulfill that lifelong dream. Stability has allowed for the growth of self-discipline. I have just enough equipment, food, supplements and time to work on this worthy goal. I have to put some of my other hobbies aside but I believe it will be worth it. Many of my past endeavors have been hampered by my desire to do this. For the next ten months or so I will be writing a new book and I will be lifting weights. Other interests like running or biking will be done on occasion but mostly for social reasons.

Rest assured, I will be back in some manner. In the meantime I will be using this blog to record the slow and steady steps towards physical and performance based goals. So, wish me luck!