TGUs and a 15 min AMRAP

6:00 am crew looking beautiful this morning at CFA. Day 4 of Half Marathon recovery and my knees are back to 90% while my right big toe still has a sprained knuckle. But I got 8 hours of shut eye and had about 10 oz of iced Joe before class so I was feeling zippy and determined.

Warm Up

Jog/crawl complex dislocs mobility pull ups (3, 3, 5) push ups (11), overhead squats (11) GHD extensions (10) k2es (5) t2bs (5) GHD sit-ups (5). Post wod: 5 more pull ups.

Turkish Get Ups

3xeach side x45 / then w/ med balls 10, 25

WOD: “Patty”

AMRAP 15 min 90 single unders (rx’d as 30 d.u.), 20 deadlfts 10 front squats

Rx was 60% of front squat 5 rm but I used only 65 lbs (~45% of my 5 RM).

8 rounds + 90 s.u. + 12 d.l.

Lots of sweat + no joint pain = happy Matt.

Remember: you are awesome.

Day Three

For me, the third day of Half Marathon recovery. I still have pain in both knees, and in my right foot (big toe base knuckle). And also: first day in the new CFA space! Very nice.

I opted for a light warm up, chats with Corey and Shanna and various buddies, a brief strength session, and some rolling and additional mobility work. Time for a re-set.

Warm Up

Footwork, crawling, dislocates and mobility, squats (10), overhead squats (10), GHD sit ups (10), push-ups (10), pull-ups (2), ring dips (2), ring pull ups (4)

Strength: Shoulder Press

60% 2×12 @ 30s
(70 lbs, 24 reps, 5:36)
Volume: 1,680

Sleep and Recovery

It’s not just about diet and exercise. It’s diet, exercise and sleep. Last night my wife and I watched a 2008 episode of CBS’ 60 minutes called “The Science of Sleep” (here’s a link), that emphasized this point as clearly and succinctly as it can be stated.

You can eat and work out in an evolutionarily appropriate manner, but if you don’t attempt to get an evolutionarily appropriate amount of sleep, you’ll never see the benefits.

There’s an obesity epidemic. Let’s put it better: there’s an epidemic of metabolic syndrome (obesity, hypertension, hyperglycemia, etc.) That’s why we say that millions of Americans are plagued by metabolic derangement.

Connected to this fact is that millions are also chronically deprived of sleep.

You can address metabolic derangement with diet and exercise, but without adequate sleep, our bodies will never fully overcome the stress of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep results in lowered leptin (which means greater hunger), and impaired glucose metabolism (which means elevated insulin and inflammation).

Until we admit that sleep deprivation plays a major role in the prevalence of these conditions, our progress against them will be uncertain.

The bottom line is: if you remain deprived of sleep, you’ll remain at higher risk of getting Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and of exacerbating autoimmune disorders related to inflammation up to and including Alzheimers disease.

So, I guess, if you WANT to remain overweight, stressed out, and plagued by the diseases of civilization, then go ahead and forget about sleep. But if not, do something to make sure you get your eight hours a day.

These ideas were on my mind this morning when my alarm went off at 5:20, summoning me to join my comrades at CrossFit Asheville for the first in a new week of WODs. I knew right away something was wrong. I needed sleep more than I needed training. Hell, sleep is a part of my training! Having just completed the Half Marathon on Saturday, and having spent the previous day hobbling around trying to rest and recover in one brief day, I knew what to do. I turned off the alarm and snuggled back down for another 90 minutes of rest. I’m stronger, and more pain free because of it.

Race Week Weigh-In

Weight Measurements Sunday Sep. 19th
Weight Observed Body Fat % Implied Fat Mass Implied Lean Mass Comment
180.5 lbs 14% 25 lbs 155.5 lbs
182.0 lbs 14% 25.5 lbs 156.5 lbs highest lean mass

The Fog of War (ACT Half Marathon)

It was grey, misty, and relatively warm at 7:30 am on Saturday, Sep. 18th, as more than twelve hundred runners lined up on O’Henry street in downtown Asheville. And then we set off down onto Battery, and Patton, and through the streets of downtown.

Andi Lahti took this photo of me arriving at Beaver Lake, just about 7 miles in.

Graphical Representation of the Elevation Changes

Getting closer to the finish, I'm trying to "pose" here … can you tell? (Photo: Shanna Duvall)

The Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon Official Course Map

I should begin by stating my opinion that, clearly, the course of the Citizen-Times Half Marathon can only have been designed by a committee… it is too cruel and punishing to have been worked out by any one sadistic individual. Of course, Asheville is too small a city, and too tightly knotted with hills and ridgelines, to chart a flat or even a rolling course. But was it necessary for the route to snake up and down the hillsides?

I was still feeling good after passing the second mile marker, where the course makes a sadistic turn up Cherokee, one of the steepest hills in Asheville. At that time, I felt strong and happy to have been working my squats and lunges. They made taking that steep hill seem like a breeze. My pace was faster than it needed to be. I had moved well ahead of the pace runners in the 2:10 group, and was feeling chatty.

I made my first tactical mistake as we reached that first crest, and turned down Canturbury. I ran far too fast down that steep hill, trying to use gravity to pick up speed. Something seemed to rip on the outside of my right knee. I was being stupid, by trying to catch up with fellow CrossFitter and badass runner Kim Schwartz, who had pulled ahead of me just before Cherokee. Between miles two and three, the course snakes up and down town mountain several times, each turn in the route providing a steep up followed by a steep down. I did not moderate my pace, but as I came into mile three, my knee was beginning to ache, badly. I figured, if I kept running on it, maybe it would work itself out. I checked my watch. I was at about 28 minutes for the first 3 miles, comfortably sub-10, and since the pain wasn’t killing me, I decided to press on.

How long would the pain last? Oh my god. It didn’t go away. I spent the next ten miles pushing through it! I’m going to pay for this stupidity for a long time.

Dropping back down to Kimberly, from just before mile 4 the course climbs mostly upwards through the hills of North Asheville, past the Grove Park Inn, and towards the neighborhood around the Country Club. I focused on trying to relax my limbs, breath into the pain, and I coached myself with every Pose-Running cue I could remember. Sometimes it seemed to work. Something else that seemed to work was telling myself that the pain was temporary, most-likely superficial, and that it could be mastered with mental effort. Hmm. Now I’m not so sure, but it made sense at the time.

I took my first walk up the not so steep hill beside the golf course, right before I reached mile 6. I was relieved to discover that my pain disappeared when I walked. This gave me the confidence to keep going. But the pain returned right away, and my momentum began to drop, my pace slowed. I was still under 10 minute miles at mile six, and even at mile seven, as I reached Beaver Lake. There I saw Andi, who took a picture of me, looking a lot happier than I felt, that’s for sure.

I had to begin alternating walking and running after I reached the seventh mile. I would walk for a few seconds, and then begin a quick, shuffling run. The trail along Beaver Lake made for a softer run. And the fog, the fog mirrored the obscuring veil of pain in my head. I began to enter a kind of dream state.

After mile 7, the course gradually climbs for a mile and a half from the Lakeshore up into Woodfin, and then drops steeply down Weaverville Rd. to the French Broad river. This is an unnecessary cruelty, but by the time you reach the 9th mile marker, who cares. This was my slowest mile. At mile 8 I had dropped a minute behind my 10 minute mile pace, but I was still ahead of the 2:10 pace group leaders. By mile 9 I was 3 minutes behind pace, and then, before I reached mile 10, the 2:10 pace leaders passed me. By this time, I was in a place of extreme fatigue and exhaustion. I was well beyond the pain in the connective tissues of my right knee. I was: tight illio tibial bands, spent hip-flexors, spasming calves, leaden thighs, sawdust for hamstrings, muscle fibers grinding and ripping instead of smoothly firing. It was at about this point that I realized I was setting my own pace this day, and there wasn’t going to be any victorious reaching of a goal… besides just finishing. I was chanting to myself, “the will to finish,” and “running beyond the pain,” and other such new agey athletic nonsense. Whatever kept me going.

Speaking of cruelty. It is impossible to justify the fact that the ACT Half Marathon goes up from Riverside onto Lookout Road, a 1 mile, 250 foot climb that starts after 9 miles into a 13 mile race. But even more impossible to justify, when you realize that the climb is followed by a steep drop right back down to the elevation of the river, before a final mile and a half up Broadway, Lexington, Walnut, and Haywood to the finish.

But this was in fact the most fun part of the race. I have to admit it. I felt like dying. But I had fun with it. Going up Lookout, I alternated walking 50 steps and swiftly short-step running 50 steps, as fast as I could, up this hill. I had the 2:10 pace group leader in my sights the entire way. But he was receding.

As it turned out, the effort I put out did not pay off. At the top of that hill, having passed the 10 mile mark up above the heights of the UNCA campus, I couldn’t return to anything resembling a smooth jog. The 2:10 pace group disappeared in front of me. There was no possibility now of ever catching them.

There, at the top, I found I had to walk for 200 yards or more before I could even begin to shuffle again. And then I slowly, painfully, jogged and walked my way through the next mile back down to Weaver.

I was running again as I came onto Broadway, painfully aware of how close I was coming, and determined to keep moving, but it didn’t last. I alternated running and walking all the way up Broadway, losing minutes on each of those last two miles, falling farther and farther behind my original pace plan. Now it was just a desire to finish. The sun was out now, and in my eyes, along with the salty sweat.

After hiking as quickly as possible up Walnut, I took off running up Haywood. I was stoked to see Yael and my kids sitting at Cafe Ello, and Shanna and Kim Stewart (already long finished) of course, cheering me on. Shanna snapped my picture. I was trying to remain in a good posture, even at the snail’s pace I was running. And then, from somewhere inside me, I found the power to sprint that last 300 meters down O’Henry to finish.

Taking stock of my injured frame immediately after the race, I found that both knees, both shins, and my right big toe felt massacred. I could barely walk. My right foot didn’t like pressure. There was no possibility of enjoying the endorphin rush. I would be lucky to find relief of pain by lying down. What had I done to myself?

I greeted and congratulated friends, Jody Kuhne, Jessica, Kim Schwartz, Britt Cannon, and others, all of whom had handily beaten me, and contemplated my accomplishment, and the lessons to be learned from my painful race.

The simple truth is: I under-trained. I didn’t put in the miles needed to accustom my body to the strains of long distances. I must have gotten lucky on my two longer training runs, somehow avoiding the technical challenge of steep downhill running (where I clearly did the most damage to myself).

The simple remedy is to train more.

But first, recovery.


My clock time was 2:19:56, and my racing chip time (the accurate time, start line to finish line) was 2:18:54. (The discrepancy is due to the fact that it took me more than a minute to cross the START line after the starting gun went off.)

Overall, I placed 936 out of 1288 runners. (See the official results for details). I was 88/97 in my age group. I think I can do better.

KBs and BSs

Kettlebell Swings and Back Squats today in a strength only session. No more WODs this week for me; I’m tapering before the Half Marathon on Saturday.

Kettlebell Swings

35 x 10 x 3 @ 45s / 72 x 7 x 3 @ 60s / 53 x 30 x 2 @ 120s.

I.E. I warmed up with three sets of 10 with the 35, hit three sets of 7 with the 72, the “silver bullet” which was awesome, and then did two endurance sets of 30 with the 53. Good times. Thanks, Shanna, for the innovative programming!

Back Squat Work Sets

70% of 5 RM (175 lbs). I.E. 125 x 2 x 12 @ 60s

24 total reps of back squat, with 125 lbs, dynamic effort; twelve sets of 2 at the top of the minute for about eleven minutes. Volume of 3,000 lbs.

Squat Cleans / Burpee Box Jumps

The Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon is coming up… this Saturday! Accordingly, I have a bit of a different plan for this week, the fifth week of my training cycle. The plan is: full WOD on Monday, strength only (two lifts) on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, rehab strength on Thursday, Friday rest, Saturday: RUN.

A plan is a plan, but then there’s the reality. And the reality was I got less than 5 quality hours of sleep coming into this morning. So, tired and mentally not fully with it, I arrived at the 6:00 am workout, determined to push on, but feeling like all was not entirely well with my (training) world.

When I got there, I took stock of the workout. Rx’d: full squat cleans (5 heavy reps), followed by a simple, but brutal, WOD: 50 burpee box jumps. Difficult stuff.

The WOD, in brief:

Strength: Squat Cleans

On the record books, I have a 1 rep PR of 150. So I figured, 5 reps at 135 ought to be doable.

Result: 5 x 45 / 5 x 75 / 5 x 105 / 3 x 115 / 1 x 125 / 3 x 135 (pathetic fail on 4).

I felt like there was no reason why I hadn’t done sets of 5 on the 115 and the 125, especially since I didn’t get the 135. I played this strength cycle wrong; and the issue was mental alacrity, not power. I chalk that up to fatigue.

WOD: 50 Burpee Box Jumps

I never question Shanna’s programming, and I won’t today! This was a perfect workout, essentially combining two of my least favorite body weight movements.

I repped this one out, slow as a tortoise, but happy at least for one thing. A year ago, my old broken leg hurt lie hell every time I took a step, and by October I had entirely given up running and jumping, before being knocked out of all dynamic work for weeks starting in February. So when I came in nearly last in the group, at 24″ box / 6:57 / bare feet!, I was happy to be doing it. But bummed to feel so beat down.

My Training Cycle

General exhaustion has me questioning my plan to keep a 7 week training cycle, consisting of 6 weeks on, 1 week off. I have worked very hard for the past four weeks (Aug. 15th to Sep. 11th), hit tons of PRs, made progress in various areas, but now, I’m way tired, and for the past week, my performance has suffered, along with my focus and even my sleep. It all points to cortisol overload and a danger of overtraining.

What could be more frustrating than being exhausted but not being able to sleep? That’s been me of late. And yet, I have only myself to blame. I can’t seem to give up caffeine! Can you? It’s the one anti-sleep factor in my life that I could control, if I chose to. Or is it an addiction? A disease? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’ll try to fix my sleep. But I’m also thinking it’s time to re-think my training cycles.

This week, the start of my fifth week, feels like it ought to be a rest week. (I will rest more this week, but only because the HALF MARATHON is on Saturday!) My level of fatigue has got me thinking that I ought to work on an 8 week cycle with something like 3 weeks on, 1 week of strength only, 3 weeks on, 1 week of full rest. Or something like that.

Weight and Comp Check-in

Time for another weigh-in. Looks like I lost a little bit of weight this week, but it will be impossible to tell how much of it was fat for another couple of weeks. Today’s measurements vary wildly because I started out the day with at least 48 oz. of water and a lot of coffee, so I was over hydrated at first.

Weight Measurements Sunday Sep. 12th
Weight Observed Body Fat % Implied Fat Mass Implied Lean Mass Comment
182.5 lbs 16% 29.2 lbs 153.3 lbs After morning fluids and coffee.
180.5 lbs 15% 27.1 lbs 153.4 lbs Mid-morning.
179.5 lbs 14% 25.1 lbs 154.4 lbs Afternoon.
179.0 lbs 14% 25 lbs lbs 154 lbs Before dinner.
181.5 lbs 14% 25.4 lbs 156.1 lbs After dinner.

“100% Paleo” (My Food Day in Pictures)

Here’s a look at my eating today. I ate three meals, at about 8:00 am, about 1:00 pm, and about 8:00 pm. Besides these foods, between and after meals I ate almost no snacks. Before breakfast I think I ate a few pieces of apple, and after work, I had a few more slices of orange, some apple, and ate some almonds. After dinner I ate a small plum. I started eating at about 7:45 am and quit eating at about 8:45 pm. I won’t eat tomorrow until about 9:00 am.

Breakfast: 3 eggs fried in bacon fat, over the top of fresh boiled dandelion greens dressed with bacon fat and apple cider vinegar; poached peach slices with cinnamon, a few slices of orange, some smoked salmon, and about 3 oz. of Hickory Nut Gap pastured pork sausage. And of course, coffee. I had unsweetened pure cocoa powder in my coffee this morning too, whipped into the hot coffee with a little battery powered whisk (the “Aerolatte”… a very useful kitchen tool—I finally agree with my wife on that one).

Lunch: a boatload of leftovers. Leftover wild Salmon (from dinner on Tuesday), leftover Rotisserie Chicken (from dinner on Wednesday), leftover dandelion greens (from breakfast), collard greens (from dinner Wed.), fig slices (also from Wed), boiled cubes of yellow beet and celery root (dinner Wed). It took just a few minutes, to throw this lunch together into my tupperware lunch plate and took it to school. Very yummy. I ate it cold, and loved it.

For dinner, I made a great salad with spinach, purple cabbage, chopped fig, chopped strawberry, toasted nuts, and dressed with a vinaigrette made of pureed strawberry, cider and balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, and salt; I grilled some NY strip steaks from grass fed mountainside raised Hickory Nut Gap cows, and I grilled some zucchini after dressing them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garam masala. And I sliced up an avocado. I shared this stuff with my wife and mother-in-law. I ended up eating maybe 12 oz. of steak (awesome), had about 3/4 of that avocado, the equivalent of a whole zucchini, and maybe 1/3 of the salad.

Yes this is a typical day and yes, I spend all my money on meat. At least that’s the way it seems sometimes. But… well. I don’t ever go out, lately don’t drink, and have few other vices. So, heck yeah I spend my money on meat. What else am I going to do? Invest in the stock market?

If you think some aspect of this diet “isn’t paleo” then… I guess you should let me know since I’m supposedly trying to be paleo during this 30 day window. But please be aware: I don’t give a shit about: too many eggs, arachidonic acid, saturated fat, fatty cuts of meat, salt, cured meats, vinegar, or “eating too much fruit” (which I definitely am NOT doing anyway, so, you don’t think that).