I ruined an absolutely beautiful fall day in Northern VA. It has been nearly 5 years since my last bout with long-duration (> 1.5 hours or so) endurance sports, and last Sunday, I broke that stretch…no, I completely ruptured that stretch with one hell of an event. Brent (apprentice trainer in our 6am class) and Greg (endurance athlete extraordinaire and closet CrossFitter) invited me to participate in an Adventure Race at Fountainhead Park just south of D.C.
A fitness challenge? Hell yes…I’m in. Running/Trekking, Biking and Canoeing? I can handle that.
So, as I took in the pre-dawn Virginia air on my 2 hour drive to Fountainhead , I welcomed the challenge ahead. CrossFit has taught me to be more comfortable with the unknown aspects of physical challenges, so I was filled with a sense of anticipation, not fear of the challenge.
Here’s the gist of the Adventure Race: it is a culture (much like CrossFit) of dedicated and fanatical followers. Teams are given a map, compass, and an electronic “key” that is used at checkpoints to prove you were there and what time you arrived. How you get to each checkpoint is where the “Adventure” comes in. I will first provide you with a summary of our race route and mileage, then I’ll add the fill-ins of how it went.
Race start: 8am
1. About 20 minutes of running/scrambling through the forest (rarely on a path) over plenty of topography to our first Checkpoint
2. 20 minutes of running/scrambling back to the starting point where we picked up a canoe (literally). We carried the canoe down to the lake (about .3 miles)
3. Canoe about 1.5-2 miles to a checkpoint. Carry the canoe up to a staging area.
4. Run about 2 miles to our prepositioned bikes (here comes the fun)
5. Appx 10 miles of Mountain biking trails on Fountainhead (for those not familiar…it not exactly a “smooth” trail)
6. Off the bikes, run 1 mile or so back to the Canoe.
7. Canoe appx 2.5-3 miles down the lake. Park the canoe, get out, trek appx 800m to find 4 hidden checkpoints. Trek back to the boat
8. Canoe about 1 mile back up the lake to a checkpoint.
9. Run the canoe about .25mi up a hill, run back down to the lake.
10. Get into a 1-man raft and paddle across the lake with only your hands
11. Run about 1-1.5 miles back to the bikes
12. 5+ more miles of technical mountain biking to the finish
Finish Time for our team: 3:45pm (just under the 4pm cutoff time)
OK, now the details.
Exiting the first run and canoe (i.e. before we got on the bikes), we were probably in the top 3 teams. The last time I was on a mountain bike was after graduating college in 1998; I took a trip with some friends to Moab Utah (the Mecca of Mt Biking) to do the “Slick Rock” trail. When I got on the Mt. Bike on Sunday, I was initially comfortable…until we hit the trail. Immediately, I channeled my inner Austin Powers as I began to think, “it’s not my bag baby, really, it’s not my bag…yeah. “ The trail began with a steep downhill single-track with plenty of roots and rocks. This was greatly complicated by the fact that my rear brake was disconnected—fall #1.
We finished under the time limit and met every checkpoint in the allotted time. That’s pretty cool. Much of that was in spite of my presence, but we did it nonetheless. It was truly a challenge to my type-A personality. I did not expect to win…I expected to finish, and I did. However, I have a much greater appreciation for the sport of Mountain Biking. The constant hammering & jolting, and the required balance and focus drained me and pissed me off to no end. About 50 minutes into the last bike ride I was truly frustrated and could not wait for the end. In hindsight, I still hated the bike ride, but I am happy I stuck with it till the end.
Food (you knew this was coming):
My forays into the Oxidative metabolic pathway (i.e. aerobic work) have been, at most, in the 1 hour timeframe for the past 5 yrs or so. I have not practiced fueling during a long stint of aerobic excursion. I generally run relatively low on carbs (80-100g max in a day with periodic cycles in the 30-50g range…but i really don’t count anymore) during my day, with most carbs coming immediately AFTER my workout.
1. Long endurance sports require persistent levels of glucose during the activity
2. The metabolism of the carbs eaten, as well as the high rate of Oxidative Metabolism (production of ATP) used to sustain aerobic excursion have negative effects on long-term health
3. Those who persistently live in this realm of Oxidation and Glycolisis are essentially rusting themselves from the inside out. Higher HbA1C levels over time, increased Advanced Glycation End Products, elevated insulin levels (due to the food and corisol)…all of these are aging factors and contributors to inflammation—bad juju if you want to live disease-free for long time.
4. You can effectively fuel for endurance sports WITHOUT grains.