Category Archives: Cross Training

Hey! Who Likes Mud? – A Tough Mudder Race Report

A couple weeks ago, some friends and I ran the Spring Tough Mudder Toronto, and by all accounts it was pretty awesome.

The morning started out early and unseasonably cold. Our 2hr drive to the parking area gave the day time to warm up but it simply ignored our gesture and kept is cloudy grey demeanor. We boarded buses and were driven 45minutes to the ski hill where the race was held. Quickly and efficiently we grabbed out race packages, changed into our race gear, ditched our bags at bag-check and got our game faces on.
Before I get in to race specifics let me just say that this “race” ran like a well-oiled-machine. The race organizers didn’t cut corners on anything; if you needed it, it was there for you; there was hardly any waiting for ANYTHING, lines were short and quick!

Back to business: At our appointed start time we crossed the Start line threshold and were faced with our first obstacle: a 8ft wall we had to scale. Our team worked well to help each other over, only to find out we really hadn’t started the race yet. About 100 people were jammed into this small corral where a short time later the MC started giving us the pre-race pep talk. There was a lot of “Hoo-Ah”s and the reminder that this wasn’t a race, but a personal challenge. Also, we were encouraged to help our each other whenever/wherever possible. After the national anthem we were off, running down the first section of trail, crossing over top of one of the final obstacles we’d see 3hrs later.

If there were two things that exemplified the day they were mud & hills. We’d had some significant rain in the days leading up to the race, but honestly there was enough water on site that the place would have been a sloppy mess anyway. Since the Toronto event was run at a ski hill the organizers thought it’d be a great idea to have you run/walk up and down the slopes about eleventy-billion times. Say what you want about the obstacles, the hills and continually treacherous footing caused the most pain.

The obstacles were great, and varied enough to hit both your strengths and weaknesses alike. I could have done all of the obstacles on my own, but part of the fun was helping/supporting your teammates when they needed it. Obstacles ranged from climbing over walls (two 15ft walls in a row, and two 8ft walls which leaned toward you significantly giving you no footholds), crawling on your belly through mud with barbwire or wires that delivered electric shocks above you, tunnels underground, tubes which descend into and back out of muddy water, jumping into ice cold water where you have to swim under a board to the other side and climb out (through ice cubes) of, climbing up onto platforms and jumping into deep water or sliding down into a watery mud pit, and even running up a huge skateboarding/snowboarding quarter pipe and trying to reach the top (where your teammates and strangers waited to help haul you up.). I’m sure I’m missing some but you can find a good list of samples here: The final obstacle (right at the finish line) is called Electroshock Therapy; you walk through a sloppy mud pit where electrically charged wires are hanging down to waist level. Upon arriving our team decided to link arms and walk through all at once….which was an experience…I think I received 5 shocks but it was hard to say for sure…it was an awesome way to finish the day though.

As I said earlier, the weather didn’t exactly co-operate, the day remained cloudy until just before we finished and a cold wind blew pretty much all day. It seemed like every time you started to dry out the course would get you wet again (usually some form of submersion) so you were forced to keep moving to stay warm. Hypothermia was a big concern and one of our more fit teammates had to skip a few obstacles near the end because she could get warm again after being wet. To be honest I was shivering most of the day as well, especially after running through the snow section they made on one of the downhill sections (you slide down a rubber sheet into a huge bank of snow/slush).

I was able to do all the obstacles without issue which I was pretty proud of, but I did have issues with rocks getting lodged under the insoles in my shoes so I had to stop and dislodge those more than once. All in all it was a great day!

Ugggg, how did I use to do this?

When I started running, there was a period of 3 months where I did mainly stair climbing at an outdoor set of steel steps (300+ of them).  I’d trot to the stairs, and trot home, occasionally adding a few extra kms here or there generally building my strength base before tackling any major mileage.  At one point (to break the monotony of the continual up & down) I started having a beer (or three) before I left the house, then hit the stairs grinning like the Cheshire Cat at my private joke. Eventually I started running seriously and practice fell by the way-side…mostly.

Last night we had a few friends over for dinner, and to be honest I had no idea how long the evening would last. I had 6 easy kms on the schedule but whether or not I’d actually get to run them was still up in the air.  Fortunately everyone had things they needed to do and everyone left in a timely manner, UNfortunately though, after a few drink over dinner I decided it’d be a REALLY good idea to finish all the “left over” beer before I went for my run…after all,  it was just an “easy 6km” …(I’ll take “drunk logic” for 200 please Alex).

The run itself went fine, albeit slow, but this morning was a different story.  I don’t know how I used to do this on a regular basis and enjoy it, but I can tell you that surprisingly (or maybe not); it sucks now.  Live and learn, live and learn…

Now I’m off to run some lunchtime trails and hopefully sweat the poisons out of my body, and clear my aching head. Why do I constantly have to be the example of what NOT to do?

Use your brain kids 😉

More Cross Training Goodness


Bike -> Trail-a-Bike -> Bike Trailer

Want strength training? Try carting 100lbs of kids around for an hour…uphill…both ways 😉

Cross Training Like a Boss

So, what do you do when your spouse is out of town for the weekend, leaving you on solo parent duty, and you feel the need to burn of some energy (but can’t leave the house)?  Answer: Bike + wind trainer + Walking Dead season 1 on DVD

Sometimes it feels like I’m cheating 😉

Let the good times roll, have a great one kids!

Aqua Jogging? Water Running? Stationary Swimming?

Water running is: “flotation assisted running motions performed in a body of water”.  So how does Water Running (…errr….Aqua Jogging?…Wet Sprinting?…whatever) work?  Easy – strap a flotation belt to your waist, jump in the deep in and haul ass like you’re being chased by hungry beavers and you’re wearing wooden underwear.

Most pools should have flotation belts that you can use, however if they don’t the belts seem easy enough to find online.  The majority of times I’ve used this training technique the pool has been setup for adult laps (as lurid as that may sound it’s actually pretty benign), however you should be able to do this during an adult or family swim period as well.  If the pool is setup for laps, jump in the ultra slow lane and ensure you aren’t impeding anyone else’s swim (if you aren’t sure where to go, ask the lifeguards they will know where you should/could fit best).

“How fast? How long? How hard?” (raises eyebrow) excuse me?

Since grinding away a 45-60min water run is nearly as boring as doing a treadmill run, I suggest treating your session as a speed or fartlek workout.  Set timed intervals of “sprinting” with rest periods between e.g. – 60sec. hard, 60sec. recovery, 120sec. hard, 120sec. recovery, etc.  My typical workout has been a 10 minute warmup, then alternating 5min. of strides and 5min of higher cadence “peddling” motion for 30-40min total, and 10min cool down.  By alternating the strides and high cadence I reduce the risk of injuring myself further plus I work different muscle groups….plus it’s just more interesting than staring at a brick wall for an hour.

Without a surface to push off with your feet it can difficult to mimic a true running stride and since you’d probably like to make the best use of your time while you’re there it’s important to find a way to do this.  I found that my natural tendency was to pump my legs up and down in a stair-stepping motion which really doesn’t do much for your running fitness.  After some experimentation I found that using strides and cycling motions better worked the “running” muscles.  When using strides ensure you pull forward hard enough to feel it in your quads, then pull back with the hamstring and engage the glute muscles, FEEL THE BURN!  As for the higher cadence sets I focus mainly on “landing” my feet directly below my body, and moving my legs quickly.  This tends to be more of a cycling motion than the strides but as long as you are keeping the movement light and quick it gets the job done.

Hopefully a few weeks of rest will let my stress fracture heal and I can get back to hitting the trails, until then I’m there will be some water running in my future.

Have a good one kids, stay healthy!