So, I've decided to write a book. It's going to be partly a journal chronicling the training, nutrition and progress of myself and the BTG Spartan Team as we prepare for the 2017 season, partly a training and nutrition guide to preparing for your first Spartan Beast (in particular, a mountainous grinder like Sun Peaks, Montana or Lake Tahoe) or just to become a great all-rounder fitness-wise, and hopefully a little bit of an inspirational and entertaining tale along the way.
Here's the first part of the Introduction (or maybe chapter 1?) that I just finished writing, covering a bit of back-story, including our semi-disastrous 2016 preseason, breaking my ankle one week before our first Spartan Race of 2016, and the beginning of my comeback from that disaster at the end of May to completing four Spartan Races in 49 days from early September to yesterday (October 22), including a Trifecta (Sprint, Super and Beast in the same year) plus a second Beast. It's 2166 words so far, and I've only gotten to where I got the OK from the doctor to start walking unassisted!
The continuation of the introduction (or maybe chapter 2?), which I'll also publish here on the blog, will complete the journey through to the end of our racing season, and bring things up to the current date.
If you're interested in reading the whole book online, as it is created, sign up to my advance reader list by clicking THIS LINK. I'll also provide a link at the end of this preview chapter as well, just in case you need to be hooked on my riveting content first - LOL! Seriously, though, I'd really appreciate having a few more sets of eyes on this as I create it to help catch any typos and to give me quick feedback on whether it's interesting/useful enough reading or not!
Without further ado, here's what I've got so far.
2016.10.23| The 2017 Pre-Season Begins
It’s the day after finishing the Spartan Race Seattle Beast with “BTG Badass” Kyle H. Even though I felt pretty OK immediately after finishing, yesterday evening I was B-R-O-K-E-N! Stiff and sore all over, barely able to walk. Sitting down and standing up both happened extremely slowly and painfully, and I had periodic spasms/cramps in my left leg, especially my hamstring. I know, I’m selling the “Beast” experience well, but bear with me it does get better!
Today, I’m moving much better. Almost normal, aside from a pre-existing hip/back issue I went into the race with, which was the result of an injury sustained moving some equipment at my daytime office job. Contrast that with a year ago, after our team’s first attempt at the Sun Peaks Beast, when it took FIVE DAYS for me to walk normally, and I was sore all over for more than a week, and you get a picture of how much better this year has been.
The Back Story
Our main goal this year was to finish our races without being as broken as last year, and for some of us, to complete a Trifecta (all three Spartan Race distances in a season). To our 2015 BTG Spartan Race Team of myself, Coach Julia, and the brothers, Scott & Dillon, we added Kyle H (mentioned earlier), and Brooke M decided to “Do The Crazy” like we did last year and make the Sun Peaks Beast her first ever Spartan Race. My cousin, Richard, also joined in to run the Spartan Race Red Deer Super with the brothers, Kyle and I.
We had a great plan mapped out for six months of prep, and we started off well. We were getting consistently faster and stronger, breathing easier and recovering better on our stair work and trail runs, right on plan until disaster struck.
The Best Laid Plans…
It was the inaugural running of the Run For Water Trail Race on the mountain bike trails of nearby Sumas Mountain, and Scott, Dillon and me were all entered. The plan was to use this race as a “warm-up” before our first Spartan Race of the season, the Vancouver Sprint, which was the following weekend. The day dawned on a downpour – it ended up being the rainiest day of the year to that point, and the trails on Sumas Mountain were slick with mud. We planned to just go easy, but when the race started, we took off from the lower parking lot, moving fast with the lead group through the first section, a trail called “No Time Out”.
I’m not sure how to describe the feeling I had when trail running back then (and I hope to get back soon!), but let’s be clear: I HATE road running. Maybe it hates me, I don’t know. Either way, a couple of KM into and road run, my hips, knees and ankles ache, and after 20-30 minutes or so I get so bored with the monotonous, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-forever-and-ever that my brain just tunes out and I want it to be over. This isn’t a case of sour grapes – I don’t suck at it, and in that time before I hit my mental limit, I’m fast for a 5’7, 200-ish pound ex-sprinter. My fastest 5K currently sits at just over 22 minutes, and I do still have the goal of getting that under 20 minutes soon just to be able to say I did. Once again, though, I must stress that I HATE road running. I can honestly say I have zero interest in running anything longer than a 5K on the road at this point.
Somehow, though, putting me on a trail transforms the experience for me. This is something I only discovered after our team’s first attempt at the Spartan Race Sun Peaks Beast in 2015, when we spent a bit of time running the trails along some of the high ridges on the course. My body feels better on the trails despite the much more challenging terrain I have run on so far, and my brain seems to stay switched on the whole time because I’m constantly scanning the trail in front of me for footing, etc. I suppose it might also help that you can only fast walk and grind out the non-runnable steep inclines on the kind of terrain we’ve been working, and that variation in demand is enough to keep me interested. The odd irony is that I am NOT an outdoors kind of person – ask my wife, who constantly referred to me as her “city boy” when we were dating. Bear Grylls, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination.
Whatever, put me on a trail and I love it, and on that rainy day in late May 2016, I was FLYING. As we started to head up the steeper second section (“World Cup”), Scott & Dillon began to fall behind as Dillon started to struggle with a hip issue (I think), and the boys told me to just run ahead. I ground my way up “Devil’s Throat”, and blew through the upper parking lot (the highest part of the course, having gained just under 700m of elevation in the first 3.3 km) just under the 40-minute mark. That time was well ahead of anything I had achieved on our two previous training runs.
I started down “Rock Diva”, which was the steepest, most treacherous part of the long descent back to the Start/Finish area. There were a couple of times where my feet shot out and I slid on my ass before recovering my footing and continuing, but my pace barely slowed. My legs felt great, my wind felt great – better than any hard run I’d ever done before. I headed off through “Noah Fear” and “Holiday Sauce” feeling more and more comfortable, keeping pace with and even passing some of the people who actually looked like runners around me. Based on where the couple of people whose names I caught from their racing bibs eventually finished, if I kept it up I was on pace for a time somewhere below 1:30, and then it happened.
Looking at the trail map now, I’m not 100% sure where it was, but I believe it was on “Extra Sauce”, a short section between two access roads because the bit at the second access road looks about right, and I think I remember that being where Kyle H and I turned out from the trail onto the road when we visited the site a while back.
Anyway, right around the middle of that section, with nobody close behind or in front of me, I came over a small rise and into a slight bend, hit a slick section of trail and kind of rotated and slid sideways, and my right foot trailed behind me. Before I could get my weight back forward and regain my stride, my front foot shot out from under me, and I crunched down HARD on my right ankle, shouting out the F word because I immediately knew it wasn’t good. I bounced right back up, but the sound as I went down was revolting to hear from your own leg – like a bundle of dry spaghetti noodles or small sticks being snapped in half. I took a couple of strides to slow down, but I already knew it was broken (how, I don’t know, since I’d never broken a bone before – but I was 100% certain right away). Race Over.
I quickly found a sturdy stick to use as a crutch, and started making my way towards the lower access road, knowing that if I stayed on the trail, it would be a LONG time before I’d be recovered by the medical crew. Several folks caught up to me in short order, and pretty near everyone at least slowed to ask if I was OK and if I needed help. I didn’t want to screw up anyone else’s race, so I told them I’d make it out to the access road on my own, and get a hold of someone to send the ambulance. Not too long after, Scotty caught up and immediately stopped to walk with me, refusing to run on ahead.
As we made our way towards the access road, we heard someone start screaming for help up ahead, and to his credit, Scotty just turned to me and said, “are you good?” and when I nodded, he immediately bolted off down the trail to see what he could do to help. Now there’s a “hero moment” if I ever saw one, but that’s just the kind of character I have come to expect from Scott and his brother – two of the most stand-up guys I know!
Turns out, just at the sharp drop from the trail down to the access road, another runner had grabbed onto a nearby tree or branch for assistance as she jumped down and failed to release it in time, snapping her arm in the process. As I hobbled down to the access road, I found her still lying there, with her arm sitting at a very odd angle, and a couple of other runners had also stopped to assist. We eventually got her up off the ground and out of harm’s way, over nearer the main road where assistance could reach us. Scotty was nowhere in sight, but I soon discovered he had run off down the road to try and find help, and he soon returned with some mountain bikers. One of the other runners had already put a call in to race control, however, and had the ambulance on its way to assist the two of us. When Dillon appeared on the trail, I told him and Scott to continue on and finish their race.
My ambulance buddy, Deb, and I rode down to the Start/Finish area together, where we were attended to by the excellent local sports medicine and ER doctor, Reg Peters, who coincidentally also treated me after I tore my plantar fascia sprinting a few years prior (thanks, Reg!). I decided to wait for the boys to come in and get them to take me to the hospital so that I could enjoy my post-race cheeseburger. We were literally racing for just a finisher’s medal, a burger and a beer, and I would be damned if I’d miss my burger! The good folks from Lepp’s Farm Market who supplied the burgers gave me two as I waited, so I was as happy as I could be given the circumstances.
I started to worry a bit, since the boys seemed to be taking a long time to get to the finish from when they had left me on the trail. Sure enough, as they came into the steep descent down to the parking lot at the end of the course, Dillon was moving very carefully and slowly, and limped badly. After the boys had their burger and beer, we took the shuttle bus down to Scott’s car, and off we went to the hospital, with both Dillon and I checking in to the ER, where we once again met my ambulance buddy, Deb.
Official diagnosis for me – spiral fracture of the fibula. Deb - broken humerus. Dillon had a bad strain or possible tear of his adductor from a similar slippery moment on the trail further along after they had left me, likely caused by a compromised gait due to whatever issue he was struggling with from earlier in the race. So, two of us out of action a week before our first Spartan Race of the season. Not good.
I ended up with no surgery, and in a cast for only 24 days. It seemed like much longer to me, but I just double-checked, and the cast went on the day I broke the ankle on May 28, and was cut off for good on June 21. Well, technically, the first cast that was applied in the ER I had cut off after a little over two weeks of excruciating pressure and pain because it was too tight, and I had a second hard cast put on from then until June 21. Because I was tired of having to arrange rides with friends and co-workers to and from work, I negotiated with the doctor to be put into an Air Cast splint instead of a walking boot so I could drive myself to and from work.
I was on crutches for another three weeks or so after that, then switched to partial weight-bearing with a cane until my final follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon on August 2. When he gave me the all-clear to start full weight bearing, I decided to immediately go without the cane and see what I could do.
OK - so that's what I've got so far! Let me know what you think, and again, if you're interested in getting all the content for the book as I write it, in exchange for providing me your feedback, then sign up to my advance reader list by clicking THIS LINK.