OCR Training with Leaderboard: Trading My Bikini Gig For Running and Rigs

My Last Pro Show of 2017

At the beginning of the year, I began to plan out my race season. Typically this would involve the Peachtree Road Race (the only road race I enjoy) and some other trail runs scattered throughout the year. However, as I embarked on a new adventure in obstacle course racing, I quickly found myself lost.

As a former pro bikini competitor, I thought my traditional workouts mixed with some runs throughout the week would suffice. Once I realized the types of skill I would need and began to add that to my plate, I started to notice that my recovery was not what it once was and honestly I began to wonder if it had something to do with my age (yikes!).

During my podcast interview with Matt B. Davis on Obstacle Racing Media Podcast, he mentioned Hunter McIntyre and at the time, I am ashamed to say, I had no idea who he was. Matt told me to reach out to him on IG for pointers and I did. I was blown away by his kindness and willingness to help. If you know Hunter, even through his social media, you know he is quite the character, but under all that craziness is a guy who is super passionate about helping people as much as he is about winning races.

After our chat, I realized that bodybuilding mixed with some running and grip work was not going to cut it. I started researching OCR training and tips, but still felt lost, so I talked to Hunter once again after hearing he and Brakken Kraker on the ORM podcast discussing their online training platform for athletes. Enter Leaderboard.

There are 8 different paths on Leaderboard, each designed to prepare you for your course preference or OCR specific skills. There is everything from a short course path for those athletes who race shorter distances, like TMX, an ultra path for endurance athletes, Hunter’s Biceps Win Races (BWR) line up, and more. I am on the BWR AD program, where I receive daily WODs with personalized RX and pacing AND mobility WODs. Mobility was something I never had much focus on prior to LB.

Heavy Carry Practice

Heavy Carry Practice

After each WOD I complete, I record my results and can see how I stack up compared to the rest of the community that is on the same path, hence the name Leaderboard. I was super intimidated at first by these scores, but the entire community of athletes on LB is so supportive that it really pushed me even harder. When I would feel discouraged by my scores because let’s face it, I am a total newb, and didn’t exactly light up the leaderboard, I would receive comments congratulating me or telling me how quickly I would improve. Take a guess at how many bikini competitors make it a point to genuinely encourage one another – not many.

The coaches have also been super encouraging and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to get tips and tricks from coaches that are pros in the sport! As a fitness coach and former bikini competition coach, I know how valuable this is. The best part of LB is the communication forum curated by the LB Coaches.

As a new OCR athlete, I had tons of questions and really just dove into the training and pushed through even when fatigued. The coaches guided me through some of the rough spots and even had me back off a bit instead of pushing through like you do in bodybuilding. Don’t get me wrong, they never told me to be lazy, but they wanted me fully recovered and getting in quality workouts even if that meant scaling down for efficiency.

I ended up tweaking something in my hip due to my poor running mechanics (I’ll save this one for another post) and ALL of the LB coaches checked on my issues and made sure that I had particular mobility WODs to perform aside from the ones already assigned in LB. In addition, they routinely checked in to ensure that it was I was getting better and was in a healthy place to be able to run my first race. This is something that I had never experienced before. Former coaches that I have had would make me feel like I needed to work harder or grind more and give the “how bad do you want it” speech over and over when something happened. My experience with LB coaches can be boiled down to if you want it bad enough, you have to be able to distinguish between quality and quantity.

The community I have found in LB is truly inspiring. Not only do I have accountability, I have support from people all over the world who are going through the same thing with me at their own pace and skill level. Did I mention that I have that without having to leave my home gym? I was worried I would need a fancy (aka expensive) membership to have access to the equipment I needed, but aside from buying a super affordable sandbag, I had everything I needed in my garage gym. If something came up on the WOD that I didn’t have, there was always a substitute exercise with common equipment to perform and trying to figure that on my own with other OCR workouts was frustrating. As a mom, I really appreciate that I can workout on my own time, in my own gym, with my own equipment, so that I can still train like a badass without missing precious family time. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As I am writing this, I am 3 days away from my first OCR race of the season. I wasn’t supposed to race until the Georgia Spring Savage, but I had the opportunity to race in the Talladega Bonefrog and didn’t want to pass it up. The coaches reached out to meet to make sure I was feeling up to it with my hip issues and tailored my race week taper to ensure that I was well rested and ready to go for Saturday.

One thing that I wish I had worked on a little more during the past couple of months as I trained for these two upcoming races is my grip. The majority of work in the WODs do include lifts and exercises that require grip strength, but as a total new OCR athlete starting from ground zero, I probably needed a little more.

I did reach out to the coaches at LB and told them I think I could use more and low and behold, they gave me some tailored Grip work to do. Moral of the story is communication! I wish I had communicated my weakness in grip before, but I had been working on it a bit aside from LB but should have used the professional resources at my disposal (insert facepalm here). Lesson learned.

The great thing is that I have plenty of races this season to see how much I improve so I will be able to really see how I do this weekend with only a couple of months of training under LB and see how that translates on race day as compared to when I first started. To me, there is nothing more important than seeing the training translate to performance but the goal is just to have fun. So let’s see how I feel after my first OCR!

 

Whether you are new to OCR or a seasoned OCR athlete who has hit a plateau, head over to leaderboardfit.com to push your training to the next level.

Time to take the ORM Strava Group up a notch

Ready for some competition?

Summer is almost over, and with the back-to-school spirit in the air, it’s time to start getting some use out of the ORM Strava Group. Fabulous prizes will be forthcoming.

Wait, there’s a group for ORM fans on Strava? Why yes, yes there is. You can find it here, and join up while you’re at it.

Wait, what’s Strava?

Strava is a website and app that uses GPS to track athletic activity, and it shoehorns all that social-media goodness to foster competition. Mostly the healthy kind, and sometimes notIf you use some kind of GPS device to track your workouts, you can link that data to Strava and then feel inadequate about your performance when you compare it with others. Or rather, you can then see who else is running and riding and swimming on the same routes as you and compete with them virtually. Judging from the current members of the group, ORM’s readers come from around the world, and many of you spend a lot of time running, much of it on trails, but a surprising number of people run on tracks, which makes for satisfying oval maps.

How is this competition going to work?

I had hoped that we could get Strava to give us monthly totals, but it turns out that’s not something they do yet, so we’ll have a weekly competition once a month. I’ll post when the competition starts and ends. At the end, I’ll see who is in the lead, and the winner will be awarded a prize. What, exactly? Something out of the ORM swag bag, or perhaps even a free race entry. We’ll work something out. It will be totally worth it.

And how do we determine who is the winner?

You’re all winners in my eyes, of course, but each month I’ll use a different metric. Strava measures distance, speed, average pace and even elevation gain. To keep things fair, I’ll mix it up each time, and sometimes I’ll reward creativity: if you record a run that is particularly epic, or if you spell out “ORM” on your GPS map, that’s the sort of thing that will catch my eye.

When does this start?

September’s challenge will start on Monday, September 11th, and end on Monday, September 18th so you have time to download your grueling weekend endurance workouts. In the meantime, have fun, stay safe and keep posting those results.

Clydesdales and Athenas – The Next BIG Thing!

The Clydesdale and Athena divisions should be added to OCR and running events. There – I said it.  Burn me at the stake, throw tomatoes or emphatically disagree if you’d like. But before you do, at least finish the article. Deal?

What are the Clydesdale and Athena divisions?  Both divisions are classifications based on weight, rather than the standard age group.  The Clydesdale division is typically males over 220 pounds while the Athena division is women over 165.  Who cares, right?  It doesn’t affect the majority of people today, right?  Before you brush off the logistics already, let’s look at other sporting events for a moment.

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Would the world’s greatest boxers still be the greatest if no weight classes existed? Would Floyd Mayweather be able to beat Evander Holyfield in his prime?  Could Manny Pacquiao have withstood punches from Mike Tyson?  We will never know because it would be “unfair” to place them together in a ring.

Would Olympic weightlifting results differ if they didn’t have Bantamweight, Lightweight, Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight divisions? Chances are – the super heavyweights would take gold, silver and bronze every single time.

Would the MMA be the same if Conor McGregor fought heavyweights like Fedor Emelianenko, Junior dos Santos, or Andrei Arlovski?  We will never know – they will never fight.

The majority of individual sports can be broken down into two major categories – skill vs speed/strength.  Size or weight is less of an issue in skate boarding, tennis, golf, or surfing because you either have the skill at these sports or you don’t. Not every person has the balance to surf or hand-eye coordination for tennis.  However, Boxing, MMA, Weightlifting, Power lifting, and all forms of martial arts are restricted by weight class. Not to say that skill or talent isn’t involved, but a 130 pound wrestler is far less likely to win against a 250 pound heavyweight.

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What makes running different? What makes OCR different? What makes Triathlons different? That, my friend, is the question. Why are they different? The answer is- They aren’t. It’s just that nobody has challenged the norm. Running isn’t split by weight because runners are almost exclusively less than 200 pounds. Competitive runners are ALL under 200. Why change now?  I’d ask the opposite, why not? How many people started their journey as a runner in the Clydesdale or Athena division?  Many people who were overweight to start likely fell in that category.  However – some people are just larger athletes, regardless of effort or training.  Wouldn’t it be great to have the option to compete against other larger athletes who are of similar build?

If you want to be a nurse, do you pursue it? If you love painting, do you paint? If your passion is music, do you practice singing, playing an instrument or composing music?  Fitness has become a passion of mine and I have been sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from personal experience ever since. I’m pursuing that passion with every run; every weight lifted; every training session.  Why should that passion be thwarted because I’m 6’5” – 260 pounds running against 160-pound individuals?  Regardless of your opinion, the truth is a larger framed individual will never be competitive in running against the “typical runner”.  The body supplies oxygen and energy to working muscles, so the lighter the load, the better.  If you took two runners, identical in all physical abilities, different only in their weight, odds are that the lighter runner would finish with a faster time than the heavier runner.  Some might say “then lose the weight and quit bitching”. While I agree to an extent, and I will never stop training to be better, most Clydesdales and Athenas will ALWAYS be larger regardless of effort toward losing weight.  Should we be punished because our genetics have pushed us out of the “fit” category in running?

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I’ll leave this with a final thought…

At 6’5” – 260lbs, I have more mass to hold up on monkey bars, more mass to swing across rigs, and a more difficult time trudging up hills than Ryan Atkins.  Yes– he trains his arse off – but put the same training into someone 230 pounds and in the same shape as Atkins.  Who wins? Atkins still wins all day and twice on Sunday.  Why are bigger males still chasing Jonathon Albon or Ryan Atkins and females chasing Lindsey Webster or Alexandra Walker for a medal when we wouldn’t be placed in the same boxing ring for the title match?

The opportunity to challenge and compete against other athletes of similar build is long overdue. These divisions aren’t about me, my family, friends or acquaintances to acquire more medals or achievements for “mediocrity”, as most would consider it.  This isn’t about one man’s journey to “win events” and be famous. It is to change society’s view regarding the larger athlete while being the motivation for acceptance and change.  Regardless if my fitness journey takes me below 220 pounds or not – I’m a f&%king Clydesdale and proud of it. It’s time to remove the stigma that has been placed on these weight classes over the years and be proud to be a larger athlete. It’s time for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions to be represented in the OCR and running world.

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Photo Credit: Starr Mulvihill, Jason Akers and Billy Howard – Single Stone Studios Photography

Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

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If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

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Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

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PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

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PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Because of Kraker and Diaz, Caldwell Runs

Sometimes the world of OCR can touch the lives of those who are not part of that world.  This is the continuing story of my son Aaron and his journey towards a better world for himself and others.  You may recall that Aaron is autistic.  He has a dream to be a part of something big.  Just like us.  That’s what I love about OCR.  Everyone is welcome.  Everyone gets a shot.

Last year I started training Aaron in OCR.  I invited him up on the mountain at Palmerton where he saw it all with his own eyes and heart.  This year he is halfway to OCR.  He runs cross country on his high school team.  His progress is nothing short of phenomenal given the obstacles of autism he has to overcome.

He learned a lot from me on how to endure, overcome pain, and work hard.  He can still do all his pullups and pushups.  Now he is learning to run.  Thanks to Natural Running coach Richard Diaz, I take everything I learn from him and apply it not only to myself, but especially to my son.  Since he is a new runner without bad habits, I get to see him grasp and quickly apply critical running techniques like posture, lean, and foot strike.  I watch him, correct him, video tape him, and critique him.  He’s a sponge.  Thank you Richard.  One day Aaron will attend your clinic and I know you will not only be pleased, you’ll also help him shave another minute off his time.  Aaron might not know it, but because of you, he is a runner.  He has a big dream to compete in the 2020 Olympics.

Yesterday I met up with Brakken Kraker.  He just tore up the Citizen’s Bank Park Spartan Stadium Sprint with a blistering pace just over 24 minutes.  After talking for a few minutes, it became easily apparent why he didn’t even break a sweat.

Besides being a super nice guy and super fast, we have a few things in common.  I was curious why he ran CBP instead of Wintergreen.  He told me he was an 800m runner in college, so he loves the speed.  He said he would take a sprint like this over a mountain any time.  I told him my son Aaron also runs the 800 in winter and spring track and currently runs cross country at high school.  Then I mentioned that Aaron is autistic.  That really made Brakken’s eyes light up.  Turns out he is a special ed teacher.  So he kindly offered to help Aaron in any way he could.  That just made my day.

Aaron - 2nd from Left

Aaron – 2nd from Left

What I also did not know is that while I was having this conversation, my buddy behind me snapped a photo of me and Brakken.  He IM’d it to me and I immediately forwarded it to my son.  That was a real treat.

Brakken Kraker meets the OCRMudmaster

Brakken Kraker meets the OCRMudmaster

Perhaps one day Aaron will join me on the course.  Right now he is not allowed.  Coach’s rule.  But he is getting plenty of run time on the open course, single track, hills, and flats.  He’s learning his technique from the best OCR running coach Richard Diaz.  He’s learning his body weight training skills from the OCRMudmaster.  And soon, he’ll put it all together from the top elite OCR athlete, Brakken Kraker.  This grateful dad thanks you all.

Spartan Race: Beauty and the (Montana) Beast – 2016

As I sit here pondering what to write for my review of the Spartan Race Montana Beast, what repeatedly pops into my head is this…

TANGO 521-5409, over and over and OVER again!  Forever etched in my memory and likely the only thing that kept me from full on delirium, at least for a few miles while trudging, cursing, and sweating up those brutally relentless hills.  Plus, who wants to do more burpees if they can avoid it so the memory challenge was one that no one wanted to fail!

Speaking of that elevation, THAT ELEVATION!  Anyone that was at the Spartan Race Montana Beast knows exactly what I’m talking about and the starring role it played.  For those that chose not to lose a piece of their soul that weekend, let me paint you a picture of the cruel mistress known as Bigfork!  A battle royale between you and your mind is the best way to describe it.  Saturday’s Beast entertained us with a cool 13.05-ish miles (21-ish kilometres) and over 4,000 feet of climbing!  (Stats provided by Canadian Elite racer Stefan Wieclawek…follow him and his bro at @yycbrosocr on Instagram to check out their OCR journey)  For a gal from The Pas, Manitoba where we have zero, I mean ZERO elevation change (search it on the internet and you’ll know what I mean), this was a test of not only my physical grit but mental as well (and undoubtedly why I thought at several points that breaking my own ankle to get off course was a viable option)!

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(Photo Credit: Gene Quisisem)

Mile 2 was likely the one that crushed everyone’s soul.  The sandbag carry to end all sandbag carries!  And see where the picture was taken?  That wasn’t the full length of it.  We were about halfway up at this point!

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One of two of the barbwire crawls…but look at that view?  How could you not stop and take in the scenery?  I talk plenty about the suckage that occurred that day but really, in hindsight, would have been utterly disappointed if Spartan race had lightened up to appease the masses.  Isn’t this what we all sign up for anyway?  The view was breathtaking (although that may very well have just been the lack of oxygen).

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Along with the usual obstacles (more to come on those) and wicked elevation (I know, I sound redundant but for real, THAT ELEVATION!), we had to contend with THIS for most of the race!  Bushwhacking at its finest!  The buzz through the festival the next day was that the elites blazed most of the non-existent trail for the rest of us that went in the later heats, so thank you for that!  With that being said, there were still plenty of nature’s obstacles to avoid while clipping along downhill.  One wrong step and one would have ended up with quite the tale to tell (and probably losing a good chunk of your tail from landing on your butt)!

map

Nothing too out of the ordinary for obstacles.  The course map stated there were 40 of them and the newest of the bunch, the Tyrolean ladder traverse was included in that.  It wasn’t difficult per se, but it took till the Sprint the next day for me to figure out a flow for it.  I think the biggest hurdle for this was the backlog of people waiting for it on the second day.  This seems to be an ongoing issue for races so hopefully it’s something addressed in the future because it definitely kills your vibe when you’re stuck in line for 15 minutes.  Chastise me for my opinion but I am not of the belief to skip obstacles simply because of a line up.  Other honourable mentions in the obstacle line up were the second barbwire crawl that was I believe was approximately 500’ long.  And yes, the dust was insane, but I have to say it was one of my absolute favourite ones.  I also wasn’t as unfortunate as my friend, Glenn (check out his review of the Sprint here and check him out on Instagram at @thespartanupguy) that almost lost an eye the second day.  The dunk wall washed off whatever dust remained into a nicely smelling mix of mud and manure.  A quick little trek up and down a small hill brought us to what everyone was likely dreading from before they were even corralled into the starting line…the BUCKET BRIGADE!  It was long, it was steep, and I legitimately saw people pulled to the side in tears.  For those of you not in the know of this obstacle, the gist of it is to grab a five gallon bucket (red for women and black for men) that have holes strategically drilled in it near the top.  Fill the bucket up from the gravel pile to cover the holes and get on with the ascending climb, holding on for dear life so you don’t lose any of those rocks that were more precious than all the gems in the world at that point of the race.  If they didn’t cover the holes upon return (and yes, they were checking EVERYONE when I went through), you had to repeat the obstacle.  A friend of mine saw a girl trip right at the bottom and literally just lie there, sobbing uncontrollably on the ground.  As the popular term goes, embrace the suck.  We signed up for this!

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(I have never been so happy to see this wall in my life!)  It also marked that the end was near, but not before the a-frame cargo net and multi-rig that included an ascending bar and rings mixed with more rings and ropes.

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The Hercules Hoist that was perched atop the action was an amazing view as well and of course, didn’t disappoint.  It wasn’t so heavy that it made me take flight but it was definitely enough to make me earn completing it!

Other noteworthy bonuses from the course that day were the water stations.  Most had a hydration pack on for the race but if you didn’t, rest assured you would have stayed hydrated adequately and one of them even provided Shotbloks.  It definitely made for a no-brainer decision to toss the pack for the Sprint the next day.

Overall, my first attendance at the Montana venue was a memorable one and I think everyone that attended can attest to the anticipation already building for next year.  For the ones that didn’t, it’s safe to say that we will all be recruiting newbies to get dragged into the awesome suckfest of this particular course!  Till next time Montana!  It’s been a slice.

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(My crew and I looking naively optimistic and excited in the corral before the send off…9.5 weeks cannot come SOON enough for the next one!)