Tag Archives: Bogatyr

JungFrau

jungfrau finish kids

I squinted when we left the shadowy city streets and faced the sunny slope towards the mountains.  My long-sleeved shirt weighed 50 pounds, and I had to strip it off , and tie it around my waist in a way that its flapping wouldn’t annoy me for the duration of the race.

This was Kilometer FIVE.

I vowed never to run the JungFrau again.

Four THOUSAND runners corralled like feedlot cattle on the streets of Interlaken. It was elbow to sweaty elbow.

The 4,5 hour pacemaker blew by me like he was doing a 200 meter sprint. When the 5 hour pacemaker rushed past as if his shorts were on fire, I was concerned. When the 5,5 hour pacemaker caught up to me, I thought: “What the hell kind of race IS this?”

This, my friends, is a mountain marathon.

Willkommen in der Schweiz.

Bottlenecks. Staus. Runners coming to a complete and utter standstill on the trail due to sheer numbers. It was a tooth-grinding experience.

Facing the long slope to Lauterbrunnen, I said to myself: “This is NOT a race for time. Run your own race.”

With that thought carrying me through the frustration. I could finally look around and see exactly WHY I was running.

The sheer beauty of the mountains, the power and ruggedness, the full technicolor landscape; it saturates your mind.

Lauterbrunnen marked the halfway point, and as we passed through the town, there, near the campgrounds, stood my kids cheering. After briefly fantasizing of ducking into my tent, taking off my shoes and having a beer, I kept going, bolstered by my kids’ confidence in me.

We looped around Lauterbrunnen, and when we hit Kilometer 25 and headed up the mountain towards Wengen, everything went into slow motion.

You know a race is tough when walking is faster than running.

My strategy was this: run when you can. Walk when you’re dying.

Surprisingly, this worked.

And also surprisingly, I’m pretty good on the switchbacks.

I credit my CrossFit Bogatyr training for this completely.

I never felt out of breath on the climb, as I worked hard to stay upright, so my lungs could fill with air. And I was able to keep going up the mountainside by using my hams and glutes. I saw a lot of runners clutching their quads, trying to give themselves more power on the climbs, but I was in a different gear. Passing a lot of people on the climbs.

When I looked at the stats later, I found that in my age group, I moved from 105th place to 80th in the last half of the race. That means I passed 25 of my competitors on those switchbacks. I passed a lot of men too. Probably because we were outnumbered 4 to 1.

When the switchbacks ended, we were on a narrow trail, single file. At one point we were stepping up from one boulder to another. It seemed like miles of this. And I kept thinking of the weighted box step-ups we do in Crossfit, and how I HAD to keep moving.

My legs were strong.

Runners were cramping up, crying in pain, sitting by the path waiting for the massage team to come to them, and I kept going.

Finally we were along the narrow ridge line, and I was happy when the bottleneck got so bad we had to pause, so I could look away from the stony trail and take in the mountains and glaciers. But it’s like sitting too close to a movie screen, your eyes just aren’t big enough to take it all in. And you wish that you could somehow absorb the majesty of it all and let it fill you.

My heart leapt when we reached KM 40. And when the trail broke wide open and began to descent, I had a burst of energy and sprinted the last 2,2km, passing a few more competitors.

Some of them tried to keep up, but my legs were flying, and I had a smile on my face.

I was going so fast, that I couldn’t see my kids. They jumped out from the crowd and chased me down the lane before I saw them.

The very best part of the marathon is finishing with my kids. They inspire me. They support me. And even if I had stopped at the halfway point, they would still cheer for me just the same.

I don’t know if I’ll have the chance, or the drive, or the time, or the energy to run another marathon. But if I do, the Jungfrau is at the top of my list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How CrossFit Changed my Running

Bulgarian Split Squat

Last year I was a thirty year-old male named Kevi Williams, at least, according to a translation error while anmelding.

It’s too early to tell who I was this year.

As I stood in the Sunday sunshine, waiting for the starting gun and wearing traditional CrossFit black in a sea of neon, I was nervous because:

a) I’ve only taken two ‘real’ runs in the past four months, the longest of which was only 40 minutes long.

b) Instead of training runs, I’ve been swinging kettle bells and doing many, many back squats.

c) It was a 10k (which means ‘fast’).

d) People (especially Germans who have sport clubs for things that aren’t even sports) are pretty serious when it comes to racing. Plus, they usually practice.

But the goal of this city race wasn’t to go fast, per say, but to have fun (if possible); represent CrossFit Ansbach (since I was wearing the t-shirt); and to test how my CrossFit Training has affected my running.

I’d been a runner for about four years before I succumbed to CrossFit’s siren song. My running had changed during that time, especially after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (who DIDN’T start barefoot running after that?!) and slowly, I was able to change my form to a minimalist style: barefoot shoes, forefront strike. That slow evolution strengthened my arches (a previous weakness) and significantly helped my knee problems.

Now I was adding CrossFit.

I remember Rob once saying that you have to use your ass when you run; and at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. However, it IS possible to run 4 or 5 or even 6 marathons without ever using the biggest single muscle in your body.

What a waste of potential.

At last year’s race, I’d only been CrossFitting 2 or possibly 3 days a week for 4 months. This time, not only did I have another year under my significantly smaller belt, but I’ve been at the box consistently 5 days a week, doing the Bogatyr training program, which I love because while my life goes to hell, it makes me feel good to be part of a group of ‘warriors.’

CrossFit isn’t simply doing some kind of exercise: it’s about mastering movement.

Mostly, you’re using your hips, core and ass–and when you do it right, it feels right.

These foundational movements are also utilized in minimalist running technique.

That was the biggest difference for me.

When others were wilting on the long, hot stretch with no breeze, I was keeping my shoulders back, my gaze up, and my hips open.

When ‘in the groove’ my core floated along, and I felt light as my feet pushed the ground away behind me.

Mid-race, I was picking people off, staying strong and increasing my speed until the final sprint at the finish.

After the race (and this morning) I could feel it in my butt, which is something new (of course–that COULD be leftover from Saturday’s Bulgarian Split Squats; but my legs didn’t feel tired at all.

I don’t know how Kevi Williams did this year, but as for CrossFitter Mama, when she crossed the finish line the clock said 54 minutes (not bad for a chick turning 41 this week); and she finished strong and smiling–like a Bogatyr should.

It was a PR.

Next stop: Swiss Alps.

After that…the sky’s the limit.

As long as I can take my kettle bells.  

 

 

 


Are All Crossfit Coaches a Little Sadistic?

kbpain

One prerequisite for Crossfit Coach Advanced Certification is a psychological eval to determine whether the candidate is sadistic enough to derive “pleasure as a result of inflicting pain…or watching such behaviors inflicted on others.”

You might want to fact-check that statement. 

But it feels true. 

My arms are STILL sore from last Monday. And here we are again, facing 100 more pushups–as a ‘simple set.’

Tell me that’s not sadistic!

Of course, the next day’s WOD is written on the website, so we can see beforehand what we are about to endure, and we can imagine the PAIN involved on our already beleaguered appendages.

Now, my Crossfit friends will tell me to HTFU. And they’re right. I should stop crying and just do 100 more stupid pushups.

But I think our coach LIKES to hear us complain. It gives him a sense of accomplishment to know that whatever creative program he’s designed for our ‘benefit’ is actually working.

If the right muscles hurt, then we KNOW we’re doing things correctly.

For example:

If your back hurts after double kettle bell rack holds, you’re doing it wrong.

If your ass hurts, it’s okay.

Pain is how the coach measures success.

A while back, the Coach started this program that is tailored to the different needs of different athletes. I started in Tier 1, but after the first day, I asked to switch to “Bogatyr.” He told me that I COULD switch–but only once. And then I had to stick with it.

I’m still not sure WHY I switched. I think I just liked the name, which means ‘warrior,’ and truly, I need some kind of label to get me through my current personal life–and Bogatyr is a GREAT label. If I were going to get a tattoo, I might consider that one in a scrawly script on some body part nobody could easily see.

I digress.

I am a Bogatyr, and quite often, we get to play with the toys at the box, some of which were most-likely purchased at the Medieval Torture Museum at Rothenburg.

As a Bogatyr, we do things that often hurt (like nearly 300 Russian Kettle Bell swings) or HUNDREDS of pushups. And while I complain a lot and whip out ranting blogs on the subjects of pain and sadism, you should SEE my arms. I’m really proud of them.

And the fact that I can do 100 push-ups (and not from my knees anymore) means that something HAS improved. Ok, so my push-ups still resemble a Sea Lion flopping onto a rocky ledge, especially after the first ten, but at least I can DO them (sort of).

The fact is, I love being a Bogatyr.

I love the pain.

I joke about it with my friends.

I sign up for mountain marathons and look at the course elevation map and say, “That’s going to be frigging hard!” and then I laugh. I get excited about the challenge of it, and the fact that I WILL BE IN PAIN.

And then I dream about bigger races. 100 miles through the Himalayas is on my radar. 100 miles–at altitude. Little Sherpas will have to carry my sorry ass across the finish line, where I’ll smile and laugh and look for my kettle bells for a post-run WOD.

Which leaves me with one question:

Who is the sadistic one?

It might not be my coach after all.