Mission: Unbreakable – 10km OCR Review

For the first time in 2 years, I had an obstacle course race last weekend. Sunday 15 Oct, North Molton (N Devon), “Mission: Unbreakable”, 10km. In support of North Devon Hospice charity.

I’ll start by saying that I loved it. Highly recommended, this is now my second favourite OCR. Having completed Tough Guy (Summer and Winter), Rat Race Dirty Weekend, Brutal 10km, Spartan Beast, and Rock Solid Race, I can compare and contrast evenly. With Spartan Beast at the bottom, and Rock Solid Race at the top, this comes a very healthy second.

Billed as “definitely not a race”, I should have paid more attention to the blurb about it being a team event. Arriving without a team, I was pretty stand-up obvious. Being as competitive as I am, I also wasn’t going to let “not a race” hold me back, but I’ll get to that.

On arrival, we were greeted, marshalled, and warmed up by the highly enthusiastic and professional support team of 24 Commando Royal Engineers. Throughout, they were excellent, encouraging and very humorous. Big B.Z. to them!

Registration was smooth, well controlled and swift. With none of the “village” (stalls, shops, etc) to divert the attentions, it was clear where to be and when. After check in, and the beautiful mock-camouflage t-shirt, we were funneled into a holding pen, awaiting our turn to begin.

Not A Race. In the spirit of the event, we were “cammed up” by on-hand soldiers; seeing my t-shirt, they let me do my own face painting. We then received a safety brief, again articulating the “not a race” message, a thorough, and very good natured warm-up from the physical training instructors, and were off. There was no starting pistol, no horn, no timings chips…we simply strolled off.

  • Shoes: Inov-8
  • Compression Tights: Sub Zero
  • Shorts: New Balance
  • T-Shirt: 30 Commando IX Group

The Not Race. Well, that was weird. Somewhat disorientated by the start, I bimbled off with “The A Team”, a four person crew of 3rd-timers. We hit the first obstacle, some monkey bars, together but their team leader quickly identified that I was champing at the bit to get moving and so told me not to wait around. So, picking up the pace, I opened it up and found myself crawling through mud, under barbed wire, over hay bails, up ropes, across chasms, against strong water flow, up lots of hills, down an extremely long water slide, through ice baths, over fire, and scaling cargo nets. There was all the usual fayre that you would expect.

Unlike my Spartan experience, this was all highly professional, well-marshalled and safe. As I had no team, I did take safety in to my own hands on one occasion though – the telegraph pole carry. It was supposed to be a minimum of a 2 man-lift, following a short course. Unperturbed by lack of anyone around me, I lifted and carried it myself. The same was true on the tyre flips although arguably it was only a 1-man lift for that really. Where I joined another team was for the paintball event (awesome!).

The Difference. For me, what made this event standout was the team nature of it. All the way round, I got to chat to teams from far and wide who were there to help each other through it. Their collective humour was infectious. The marshalls and 24 Commando soldiers absolutely bought in to the humour side of it all. The level of encouragement was absolutely fantastic and for me it places this event high on my list of “must repeat”.

Improvements. For me (for Mrs Nomad and the Team Nomad), one change could have been made. By giving out a map of the course, and permission to allow people to watch at certain locations would have made the world of difference to the supporters. In my case, they ‘only’had to wait an hour before I popped up at the water-slide and then the ice bath. Other than that, there was nowhere to view the event which meant a long wait for many before their athletes returned. It’s a no-cost, huge return change that really would make a difference.

Time. 1 hr 13 mins. Of course, it wasn’t a race 😉

Thank you. A big thank you goes to North Devon Hospice, 24 Commando Royal Engineers, and to the sponsors. I will be returning to this event next year, family with me to take part!

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I LOVE Coaching! (and PRs) – Thurs 12 Oct

It hasn’t quite been the case for a while but this morning I leapt out of bed and in to my gear, buoyed by the impending class at CrossFit Watford. After last night’s awesome power play (92.5kg Overhead Squat 1RM, followed by 5 RFT: 20 x Med Ball Cleans, 10 x Push Press @ 50kg, 5 x Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups – 11:19 Rx), you’d think I’d be a little wary of firing my way in to another huge WOD so soon after. But I wasn’t in the WOD, I was taking it. Tuesday and Thursday 6AM classes are my chance to give something to the CrossFit Watford Dawn Patrol. On Tuesday, I wrote a small dit on the board as they walked in, “If 6am is the only time of the day to Workout, it’s the Best time of the day to Workout!”. I’ve said it many times before but if someone can motivate themself to push themself through a brutal S&C session at 6am then they deserve my respect; the least I can do is be positive, enthusiastic and on top of my game for them.

And so, it was down the hatch with the Costa Americano, stuffing a few jaffa oranges in to my mouth, and a sprint down to the car. The drive in is always the same, a little Radio 4 to catch the news and then a switch to Absolute Radio to wake me up. Getting in to the box before the athletes, I get to pick the music; (nearly) always some kind of power ballad / rock anthems – I grew up in the late 80s guy, what can I say?

There was a look of horror on the faces of the stars as they saw the board. 2 MetCons, a 21-minuter and a short sprint to the finish.

EMOM 21

  • Row 12/10 Kcal
  • 50 x Double Unders
  • 10 x Burpees
  • 15 x Kettlebell Swings
  • 20 x Sit Ups
  • 25 x Air Squats
  • 10 x Squat Tuck Jumps

 

Depending on ability, there was enough time after each movement to get the breath back and really go for it in the next one. Having a workout like this is excellent for a coach because it gives us the chance to get around a lot of people with cues, tips, and (today none) no-reps 😉 Working the far end of the Anaerobic/Glycolytic pathway, and just about in to the Aerobic/Oxidative pathway, it also meant that there was enough in the tank for MetCon 2:

21-15-9

  • Wall Balls @ 9/6kg
  • Push Ups
  • Empty Bar Thrusters @ 20/15kg

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there would have been little appetite or intent to complete this after the first one. But you’d be wrong. They went for it. There is a quiet, brooding sense of sense of competition in the morning class but it is there nonetheless. Julie R knows it and you can see it on her face; when she knows she’s within sight of someone close to her, she really digs in and finds another gear. But this morning, it was Hannah vs Jessie that really made my morning. This morning Jessie was going for it. Powerful and strong, (and, as I’ve just found, a spinning instructor) Jessie took the lead from the outset. Hannah’s normal position is out in front so I knew she was not going to let this lie. Just one or two reps ahead at all times, Jessie hit the 9 Push Ups while Hannah still had about 5 Wall Balls remaining. Hannah clawed back 2 reps and Jessie started the Thrusters 3 ahead. Hannah put her foot on the gas and they completed their 9 Thrusters at exactly the same time! Boom! Fist Bumps all round! I love the morning class!

And, then it was my turn.

After last night’s was complete, Charlie said to me, “you’re gonna love tomorrow’s – get yourself a weight vest – it’s a Hero WOD – “RILEY””

We typically do weekday Hero WODs with a partner; this is because getting something like this in to a single session is often unworkable. With the late nights and darkness drawing in, you also don’t want people running around the streets en masse. So, for tonight, we amended it slightly to “Almost RILEY“:

  • 1 mile Run (800m each)
  • 150 x Burpees, between partners
  • 1 mile Run (full distance together)

 

Of course, I still did this with a 10kg weight vest. Teaming up with a Royal Navy Diver, called Tom, we completed the Split Jerk work first. My previous best for this was 115kg, and I have a video of it somewhere, which I was really pleased with. Tom is a big guy, and deadly strong. It was clear he was going to destroy whatever I put up; and so it proved. While I hit a new PR of 117.5kg (SMASH!), he went up to 150kg. The guy is STRONG. And then, on to “Almost RILEY”.

Weight vest on, he ran first, getting his 800m in around 4.5 mins. I headed off next, realising the weight vest wasn’t tightened properly and securing it en route. 3 mins 44secs – not bad. We did the burpees in 5s, non-stop, rapid. And then the 1 mile run (together). Despite him being immensely strong, I had the edge in the running. I got around the loop 2 mins ahead, waited for him on the line and we got back in to the box dead on 25 mins!

Teamwork. An immense day, inspired by the athletes in the morning class, and finishing with a new PR, meeting a new athlete, and feel pretty awesome. Boom.

 

 

 

 

 

Gains, Losses, Goodbye Instagram

Wow. Well, what a few weeks it has been. Utterly maniacal at work, I’ve been unable to blog since my Jiminis Insect Protein bar review. Even then, it was a few weeks before that too. I promise to get back on track as of now. In that time, there have been gains to the Snatch (oh yes!), the Thruster (vom!), and I’ve said goodbye to Instagram. I’ve reviewed my own outlook and perspective on my fitness, nutrition and goals. It’s been a busy time, that’s for sure.

Starting in reverse order:

Outlook. I’ve written about it before; I am competitive by nature. I always was while growing up and used to play a lot of rugby, sprint a lot of races, and jump in a lot of sandpits. My aptitude my have been somewhat debatable but I competed. I am motivated by competition. It’s what got me through the Commando Course, and it motivated me to leave the Army for the Royal Marines (competition against myself). As I’ve grown older (😢) so I’ve moved away from rugby and ahletics, no longer spend time yomping around the hills and sleeping in bushes, and instead found CrossFit. At the same time, I’ve hit a point in my career where I’ve taken on a lot more, and where family situations mean I simply don’t have the time to compete at weekends. That may change in the future but not yet (standfast the 10km OCR I have coming up this Sunday). But I still work best under the pressure of competition. So what? So I’ll be using my time in CrossFit Watford more wisely to identify specific individuals and compete against them. It’s what CrossFit should be about anyway but we tend to be a little ‘British’ about it over here…very polite. I’ve also begun revisiting those things that motivated me to push myself to great lengths before and will regularly refer back to a few ‘totems’ such as the Commando Dagger and Dartmoor Map above.

Nutrition. I’ve not been eating enough to build mass and strength. Simple. I have been carefully managing my intake to not appear flabby and soft. Appearance-first. Well, you can’t put on muscle mass and stay trim easily. I’ll now be upping my intake, still monitored, to at least 2500Kcal per day, and to 40% Carbs, 30% Protein, 30% Fat. Close to Christmas, I’ll reevaluate and begin to focus on conditioning once more.

Instagram. Instagram made me sad. I’ve concluded that unless you are happy to take your top off (which noone wants to see of me!), make awesome food, or take amazing photos, then Instagram just isn’t going to work (oh, and post at least 5 times a day). After a year, I have the total of 240 followers, even though over 1500 have followed/unfollowed (highly irritating). I only joined to try and build an audience for this blog but the time taken to fight for followers in a congested domain (fitness) wasn’t worth it. I found instead that I was rearranging coffee pots, contriving situations, and staring at my phone during workouts. I noticed a horrible narcissism developing and I got upset every time I saw someone in better shape than me (perceptively, everyone). So, I’m taking that time back. Goodbye Instagram. I’ll still be on Twitter @nomadiccrossfit though!

THE GAINS

Now, the successes.

3 weeks ago, CrossFit Watford, “15mins to a heavy Thruster”. Previous best of 90kg. New Personal Record of 100kg!

2 weeks ago, at home in the garage, @amrapplusone programming to work up to a heavy Snatch. Previous best of 77.5kg (achieved only about a month or so ago). I fought and fought for this, failing 3 times on the way up. 80kg. Boom. I have chased and chased this for 2 years or more when I finally took 75kg after years of trying. I was ecstatic all day after this. Done at home, with a York Beefy Bar (no spin) and 1″ hole mixed plates, this went up easier than I was expecting. It took a lot of working up to, granted. I couldn’t have achieved this on a 6am session, for example. However, I’ve reset my numbers on the Amrapplusone programme and will continue to push onwards.

There we have it, all caught up. Well, the main events anyway.

As I endeavour to write more often again, what would YOU like to see on here?

Let me know.

Jimini’s Cricket Flour Protein Bars – a Review

The review you are about to read is my own work, my personal opinion, and has not been influenced by the producer/distributor of the product.

Yes, you read that right. Cricket Flour. From Crickets. You know, Grasshoppers.

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Jiminis Protein and Energy Bars

Unless you’ve been living in an isolated bubble from environmental change conversation, you’ll have seen a slow but assertive rise in the discussion about the farming of insects as a potential protein source for the the future. Billed as a sustainable way to alleviate the problem of providing enough protein to fill this globe’s need for food, insects have been pounced upon to save the day. As you might expect within western nations, the thought of eating insects hasn’t really gone down all that well. But marketers being clever people, they always find a way around it.

Despite evidence disproving the sustainability angle of eating insects (here), I’d like to introduce you to Jimini’s Cricket Flour protein and energy bars. I read about them while researching alternative protein powder sources for sports supplementation and boldly approached them to ask for freebies in exchange for a review- who doesn’t like a freebie!?

Enthusiastically, they swiftly despatched 4 bars to me, 2 of the protein bars and 2 of the energy bars. I distributed them around our coaches in CrossFit Watford and their thoughts are incorporated in this.

In order to overcome the squeamishness of the western European market, they’ve done away with presenting insects to us in an “I’m a celebrity…” fashion. Instead, the insects are bred (they are animals after all), killed (or left to naturally die, I don’t know), dried out and powdered. That ‘flour’ is then what is contained in the bars.

Ingredients. And a top way of doing it it is too. Containing nuts, fruit, a little honey, and some spices, they look and feel a lot like the explosion of other cold-pressed ‘paleo’ bars on the market. They taste almost identical too. And the texture is no different. In fact, the very best thing that I think I can report is that you would have no way of knowing that insect powder makes up a significant portion of it, without looking at the packaging.

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Taste & Sugar. They are nice. Very nice. What’s not to love about a sweet snack bar that you know is ‘healthy’? They’re not too sweet either. I tried the energy ones (still containing over 5g of protein per bar) and wasn’t left with the sickly taste that often come a from sweetened products. They’ve got the balance right there. Still, there was over 14g sugar (honey) in each small energy bar. Typically, you don’t find added sugars in a cold-pressed fruit product and I wonder why it was felt necessary.

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Protein. Despite them focusing on crickets as the source of protein, there’s actually more pea and sunflower protein than that from crickets. I do find this a little disingenuous but nothing out of the ordinary; you see, in order to gain a comprehensive and more complete amino acid profile, you need multiple sources, you can’t rely on one. The protein bar versions have approx 8.2g of protein each, as I say.

CrossFit. I typically train at 0600hrs. This requires waking at 0520 and I’m not able to eat much beforehand. I used 2 of these bars, 1 per morning, to see if I had enough energy to get through a morning’s Strength and MetCon workouts. Normally, I eat an orange or have a teaspoon of peanut butter as it’s mostly all I can stomach at that time. Although it was only 2 workouts, I can say that I had more endurance than normal for the hour period. I put this down to the honey in each bar and it’s prompted me to include a little more sugar in my pre-WOD. I can’t vouch for the effects of the protein though, I think that takes a little longer 😀

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The flavours are nice and varied. My favourite was the Banana & Dark Chocolate.

Allergens. Responsibly, I have to mention that those with seafood allergies need to steery well clear of any product containing insect matter; the same reactions came develop! Enough said on that one!

Summary. I liked these bars. Taking the insect element out of it, I found them to be tasty, with a good texture and not sickly. They have a bit more sugar in than I am personally used to but this based on my own approach to macro-nutrients and should not be taken as a negative. As I write above though, they may have powered me to a bit more in my workout than my usual early morning feed. I RECOMMEND this product if you are looking for something a little different in your diet and take the view that insects just might be the future of mass protein intake.

Travel Fitness

I travel. A lot. It’s what gave name first to NomadCelt, and then NomadicCrossFit. We move home every 2 years (mostly), I travel to multiple countries regularly with work, and we get away for annual holidays abroad. With this travel comes the mode of transport, the lack of routine and general lack of equipment. So how is a fitness practitioner supposed to workout?

It would be too easy each time to shrug your shoulders each time and claim, “there’s nothing I can do, I could use the rest anyway”. However, if you travel as I do then your well-gotten gains will swiftly vanish. You have to find a use for what is around you and fit it to your goals. Of course, better yet, ask a coach before you go! You have your bodyweight, you can find heavy shit to lift, there’s always somewhere to run/jump/move. At worst, you can at least maintain your fitness while away, if not improve upon it.

I spent this last week in Spain, away from the awesomeness of Crossfit Watford but inspired by their daily endeavours.

Hypertrophic exercise is a superb way to maintain (and build) strength. This simply means “time under tension”. In this case, holding the eccentric (stretch) phase of a push up, followed by a rapid and explosive release, is great. You may have noticed how we enable new athletes to progress to pull ups through “negatives” – slowly releasing from a complete pull all the way to full extension. It’s the same thing. It builds strength quickly and safely. You can do this with pull ups, push ups, squats, sit ups…be imaginative! Just don’t expect to be able to achieve max reps with this method, they’re tough and they take it out of you 😉

Gymnastic movements are the best way to use bodyweight to build strength. Multi-joint, compound movements that require a good degree of skill, coupled with high volume, less skill movements makes for a good little workout. This particular one requires no equipment other than a wall, and even then can be done as decline push-ups if no wall is forthcoming – as it happened, I had no wall.

Monostructural movements (running, swimming, cycling, etc) are obviously superb and accessible anywhere. Why not add a little something extra though. With a small pool, and no running shoes, you’re almost forced to. Instead of trudging begrudgingly through mindless laps of a tiny pool, throw in some other movements. This has the added bonus of forcing you to move quickly in and out of the pool, practicing muscle up skill movements too! I was also pretty fortunate this week to find a beach with an awesome current that I could swim against in a kind of “infinity pool” fashion – great exercise!

Power and explosive strength work is possible too. This little couplet was a beaut, smashed out on a soft, sandy beach. Sure, it was only 3 mins (or so) of work but I was busting a gut by the end. The squat tuck jump is a unique skill too, give it a try. This particular one workout had me feeling like I should name it… what do you think? Know any particularly mean people you want immortalised as a WOD?

Flight WODs are also possible. Requiring little space (even the space between the aisles), there are plenty of movements that you can stitch together in to a meaningful workout. This particular effort had the cabin crew stealing it for future flights! Of course, that was after staring and laughing at me while I brazenly hammered it out over the north Atlantic. For all of the in-flight advice to do a little light stretching throughout, I think mine is better.

Slow Down, you’ll go further, perhaps faster.

While walking along the north Norfolk coast this weekend, I had a glimpse of true relaxation. For a brief moment I understood something that self-help books have preached for years – Slow Down.

In the modern world, Expectation governs all we do. Everything is at 100 miles per hour. Everything has a deadline. Everything has to be completed perfectly or not at all. Yet, rarely do we achieve perfection, and certainly not to the deadline. We rush about thinking we know what is expected of us, believing we know what others want from us, or what we absolutely must get done for ourselves.

And the fact is, it’s bullshit.

We wrap ourselves up in this expectation, without seeing the stress and damage it is putting on us. Sure, we all have responsibilities, that’s true. And some things do need to be done on time, and sometimes highly precisely. But not everything. Indeed, not even most things. The harm that this stress is putting on us (me) is far more critical and must be addressed. Tension, disagreements, upset. It all becomes too frequent. Mistakes happen. The stress increases.

And it was while laying on my back on a sun-dried marsh, staring at the sky, that I took a deep breath and …. relaxed. The clouds wandered past, the faces and animal shapes morphing gently. The boats floated to the breeze alongside. There may have been a call from a tern but I started not to notice or care. I lay there and realised how tightly wound up, how tensed, how detached I have become. I saw how the expectations of my working life have driven my behaviour in my private life. For that fleeting space, my mind lifted to those clouds and I discovered how some times could be if I just slowed down for a moment.

Imagine dropping from 100 miles per hour to 80. Pretend that the spelling mistake in that bit of work doesn’t matter. Take a chance and disbelieve that you know what the important person next to you really wants. Will anyone notice, as they speed around in their own frenzied bubble? When you’ve tried it, picture how your shoulders might feel. See your vision opening to take in more of the world around you and not simply tunnelling in to that one task. Enjoy the unexpected for-no-reason-at-all smile.

Do you think you may just achieve that next task a smidge better without the stress? You just may!

Do you think someone might notice that smile though? You betcha!

And, of course, the brief break in time was sped up as my little Action Princesses lost interest in the clouds and wanted their next hit of excitement, almost skidding over in a less dried out area of the marsh as the rush restarted.

But I did notice that my strides were a little shorter, my pace a tad slower, and my breathing just a fraction quieter.

The smile broadened that bit bigger, in to a grin