Training for the Iron Warrior Dash

Recently, I participated in the Iron Warrior Dash (IWD), a 15-mile off-road obstacle course. In early January I suddenly had the urge to start running again. No, this wasn’t a New Year resolution, just a coincidence that I suddenly felt the desire to begin running again. The weather here in Texas was pretty mild and running is a great way to take advantage of that. My other motivation to start running was this race. I happened to have seen an email in my junkbox from the folks that put on the Warrior Dash, that advertised that they would run three new races this year called the Iron Warrior Dash. The original Warrior Dash is a 5k with 12 obstacles; the new Iron version is 15.2 miles with 24 obstacles. I ran the 5k version in 2011 and it was a lot of fun and well produced, so this sounded like a great challenge. I invited my good friend and business partner Chris Hackerd  to join me and he heartily accepted…Truth be told he had already asked me if I wanted to do event this with him but I must not have been listening….some people say I’m hard of hearing, others say I have selective hearing…

A Goal With 10 Weeks of Training
I put together a training plan similar to one I used for a marathon I ran in 2004. The plan is essentially a graduated step-up plan, with four days of running per week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being a long run day. For example, Week #4: Monday, 4 miles, Wednesday, 3 miles, Friday, 3 miles and Saturday, 8 miles, the following week would be 5, 4, 4 and 9.

Throughout my training  I was pretty excited because I managed to stick to the schedule almost perfectly from week 1 through week 8. Unfortunately week 9 brought about a couple of wrinkles. First, I had traveled the prior week, and somehow tweaked my lower back during the trip. I’m not sure if it was the hill running I had done or the bed I slept in, but the pain was intense enough that standing up for longer than 20 minutes was near impossible. To add insult to injury, we had a rather large wind storm here while I was gone and my mother-in-law’s fence blew down. I spent a few hours rebuilding it on Friday night and in the process really aggravated my lower back and probably tore some back muscles. So running during week eight was non-existent. But by Wednesday of week nine I felt better and ran Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, although there was another wrinkle that week, which was that I was on vacation and in Colorado. So these runs were at elevation and I learned a valuable lesson here, running in Austin at 700’ on mostly flat terrain is incredibly different than running real hills or at elevation. I know, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but actually experiencing it makes it really hit home. Taking this into consideration, my next training plan will involve real hills and varied inclines on the treadmill.

Some things I did and learned along the way…First, I ran a total of 140 miles during my training period. My goal was 175, but the week and a half of injury and my vacation scrubbed two long runs.

Urban Running

Road vs. Treadmill
Treadmills…boring. Almost everyone agrees. In January about half of my runs were on treadmills but in February only 20% were treadmill and in March, none of them. I found that 3-4 miles is my limit on the rolling electric road, anything more and it bores me to tears. So to the real road I went. I learned something out there as well. I am a point to point runner. Meaning I don’t enjoy running laps, loops or circles, rather I’d really enjoy starting at point ‘A’ and finishing at point ‘B’. This revelation turned into a great experience. Not only was I running in a lot of new places, I also enjoyed the process of planning the runs. Through this I ran on routes such as starting from our neighborhood, through the University of Texas campus, around the State Capitol, down to Lady Bird Lake and along the shoreline of the lake. Nine miles of sightseeing. What an awesome experience. Obviously this takes some planning and often a partner. Fortunately my wife was always ready and willing to pick me up, drop me off or help me drop a car somewhere the night before so that my run would be fun and different. I also managed to run home from work a couple of times, a 6-mile jaunt, and then I rode my bike to work the following day to recover my car.

Trail Running (What I Learned)
I don’t have a lot of experience with trail running, at least not recent experience. Years ago I use to participate in adventure races, but that seems like forever ago. I learned one thing while training, you really need to concentrate on picking up your feet on the trail. It’s easy to shuffle along on the road, sidewalk or track, but on the trail this will most definitely lead to a trip and possibly a fall, especially as you tire.

My Training Gear

Merrell Bare Access

Shoes: I mostly run in zero drop barefoot runners. All my training was done in Merrell Bare Access and Bare Access 2 Runners and about 90% of my training runs took place on asphalt or hard packed, decomposed granite trails. I love these shoes, but when I did my first real trail run with them at a local park, I realized that I could feel even the tiniest pebble through the sole and this made for a pretty uncomfortable experience. Even though they feature an 8mm cushion, I was pretty sure I would hate them in the Iron Warrior so about three-quarters of the way through my training I got a pair of New Balance Minimus 10 Trail shoes. The Minimus appeared to have a more substantial sole, more conducive to trails.

NB Minimus

While these aren’t a zero drop shoe like my Merrills, they are close with only a 4mm drop.  I can’t find a spec for the cushion thickness but the bottoms looked much more conducive to trails, so I gave them a shot. While I wouldn’t recommend them for extreme off-road running through unpacked trails, they worked really well for my purpose on hard packed trails. They are light at 8 oz., durable with a grippy Vibram sole and they drain well, which is super important in a race that involves multiple water crossings.

Compression Socks and Sleeves: I experimented with several versions of compression socks and a set of compression sleeves for my calves. The socks I run in are the CEP Progreesive Running Socks. I ran in them for most of my long runs as well as some of the shorter ones. I also wore a pair for several hours after many of the long runs. While it is difficult for me to quantify how helpful they were, I do know that even after a 20+ mile week of running, that my legs while tired, were in much better shape than I ever expected.

Hydration & Food: Leading up to the race I used a waist mounted bottle system from CamelBak called the Arc 4 Hydration Belt, it features four convenient 8 oz. snap-in bottles that are easy to remove and replace while maintaining pace. The back band of the belt has a small zipper pocket for keys or maybe some gels. It seems to awkward with four bottles so I removed the two from the front. While it was good for 16 oz. of water when I needed it, I just never got used the weight on my waist while running.

So I learned a lot along the way. This was the most serious training that I have put in since a marathon almost a decade ago. While I missed my goal for total mileage during my training period, I feel like I built a solid foundation to which I look forward to continuing to build upon after I recover from the Iron Warrior Dash. I already have several other races on the docket to continue to motivate me throughout the spring and summer. If you’re interested in hearing more about the race itself and how I did, come check out my personal blog where I recap the event. I also share plenty of things for future races plus I some insight about the very unique obstacles.

Steve @ACK

Exercise = Amonia Stench? What’s Going On?

I’ve recently started running again, trying to work my distance up to 15 miles so I can compete (I use the term “compete” loosely) in the Iron Warrior Dash in March. The Iron Warrior Dash is a 15.2 mile off-road run that features 25 obstacles along the way, not including the varied terrain, elevation changes and natural obstacles…but enough about the race, that was not the point of this blog.

I’ve noticed that after my longer runs that I could smell something that reeked of household cleaner or ammonia and it seemed to be emanating from my body. I know, what the heck? At first I thought it was in my head, then after the second time, I though maybe my wife changed the laundry soap, but after the third time I was convinced it was coming from me and I was a little worried so I did a quick Google search and found out something very interesting. When your body is working hard and lacks adequate carbs for fuel, it burns protein. When it burns protein, a byproduct of the metabolism of the protein is ammonia. The fact is everyone burns off some protein while exercising but if you have adequate water intake, the ammonia is diluted and not always noticeable.

So what does this mean? Well, first off, I’m not drinking enough water while exercising, a common error when the weather is cooler like it is now, and second, my carb intake before and during my runs is inadequate. Both problems are easily remedied now that I know what is going on with my body. I’ll be adding a running belt to my next long run as well as some carb replacement bars or gels. Problem solved.

Hope you found this as interesting as I did.

Steve @ACK

Fitness Paddling Tips

I wanted to follow up on my previous post about fitness paddling to discuss some tips for making kayaking part of your daily routine. I feel that the biggest reason kayaking isn’t integrated into regular workouts is because the time it takes prep for a paddling outing but by streamlining the storage and launch processes, you can hopefully cut down the time it takes to get on the water.

Keep your kayak secure with kayak cable lock such as this one by Lasso Kong

Kayak or canoe storage can be the biggest hassle of paddling. After a long day of paddling I sometimes find myself dreading the take down of the boats when I get back home — I was just paddling all day, I’m ready to kick back and relax! Well, if you feel comfortable in your neighborhood, it can actually really speed things along if you leave your boat mounted on your car. We DO NOT recommend this for everyone but depending on your comfort level and the type of rack system that you have, leaving your boat on your car overnight for periods of time is something some people choose to do. If you do choose to do this, you should take great care. We offer a number of locks and tie downs that could come in handy which you can find here. If this is not an option for you, consider a quick load/unload hoist or garage rack system.

Make it easy to load and unload with a hoist system such as this Harken 60 lbs Kayak Lift System

Once you’ve decided how to store your kayak or canoe, you should familiarize yourself with loading it on and off your car. After a couple of outings, you’ll do this naturally but it doesn’t hurt to practice. Mastering a quick loading technique can really speed up the time it takes before and after a paddling workout. Keep an eye out for our in-store seminar “Loading and Unloading a Kayak” for tips from our expert staff on how to do this quickly and properly. The seminars take place in Houston, Austin and San Marcos.

Finally, finding the perfect launch point for your paddling workouts is a must. Our Kayak Launch Points App should help you find what you are looking for. Ideally, you will be able to find a point that doesn’t require a long drive time but also allows you to back right up to the water so that you don’t have to lug your kayak very far before paddling. Boat ramps and designated kayak/canoe launch points are a great place for quick unloads.

These are just a few tips I could think of when it comes to fitness paddling, but if you have any pointers yourself, we would love to hear them! Just comment below. – Joseph @ACK

Benefits of Fitness Paddling

Getting a good workout is important for a healthy lifestyle and something I try to do daily. I’ve been interested in ways to integrate paddling into my routine, but have found it difficult to do because I haven’t known exactly what kind of workout I get when I’m on a yak and the prep time/storage involved with using a boat. After doing some research, I decided on doing a two part blog. This week, I wanted to define the type of workout you get from paddling. Next week, expect tips and strategy to integrating paddling into your routine.

Paddling for Exercise

With spring upon us, fitness enthusiasts have the opportunity to emerge from the climate safety of their gyms and return to the outdoors. This might mean getting off a stationary bike and getting on a real one, or leaving the treadmill for a running trail. But for those of you who want something completely different, consider integrating paddling into your daily exercise routine.

Most people think of paddling as a way to connect with nature – and it is. But what many people forget is that paddling can actually provide a very unique workout. Specifically, paddling will strengthen the upper body and offer aerobic and cardio benefits. This makes paddling a great exercise to pair with something like running or cycling, which focus more on lower body strength.

Some of the Many Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of paddling for fitness is that it provides an excellent core workout. The core, made up of the lower and upper abdominal muscles, are strengthened through the turning and shifting of the kayak. Each turn of the kayak results in the use of these abdominal muscles and over time, builds this area. A strong core is important for everyone — it will give you stability, balance and support for your back, hips and joints.

Of course, the continuous paddling motion does more than benefit your core. Each stroke uses the shoulder and arm muscles which over time will increase muscle mass and muscle tone. This repetitive movement also makes paddling a great aerobic workout. Calorie burn varies by paddler and will be dependent on how hard and long you paddle and whether or not you are paddling against wind or currents. It has been said to be comparable to swimming at a moderate pace or a slow jog. Finally, this continuous movement raises the heart rate and increases cardiovascular health. Not many sports offer such a great combination of strength training, cardiovascular health and aerobic calorie burn while enjoying the great outdoors!

For those looking to build your anaerobic capacity, interval training can be a great way to achieve this. This entails paddling hard for one minute, relaxing for two or three and then going hard again. Interval training is very commonly done by kayak specific athletes but can be useful for anyone looking for additional anaerobic workouts.

Balancing Your Workout

Paddling provides an excellent alternative to other workout routines. It can help to break up just about any exercise program, which is great for overall fitness, strength and endurance. Conventional fitness training focuses mainly on lower body, like running and cycling, so paddling supplements these very well.

Paddling is easy to jump right into, but overtime skill and technique will improve to make for more effective workouts. We encourage you to investigate further into all of the things that will increase the benefits of paddling workout. Learning proper stroke technique and posture are both key to ensuring a good workout. If you are in the Austin or Houston areas, consider our upcoming Paddles and Paddling seminar! Danny Mongno of Werner Paddles will be discussing technique and paddle fit for all skill levels. He will be visiting our Houston store on Wednesday, March 14th 6pm-8pm and the Austin store on Thursday, March 15th 6pm-8pm.

Joseph @ACK