Zoom Zoom: Adventures In Agility

Our first AKC Agility trial was a wonderful success. A year and a half of hard work and practice has taken us from knowing next to nothing about the sport, to qualifying on 5 of our 6 runs. Normally this is where I would shrug it off a little bit since this is the Novice class level and I expect a lot of both of us. The courses we typically run each week at class are at a more difficult skill level. After watching numerous dogs and handlers struggle with different parts of the courses this weekend there’s no shrugging anything off.

Day one we went 3/3 taking 1st Place in all three runs. Each run was clean with only a few minor positioning errors by me. While extremely happy with our results, I was still wondering what I can do to get him moving faster. I am truly our harshest critic.
Videos of the runs are here: [FAST]  [JWW]   [Standard]

CPE Trail at FYK9

CPE Trail at FYK9 – Jumps are stupid aka The Teeter Tractor Beam. Lesson learned, work on teeter discrimination.

Day two was a bit of a different story. This is the first time we’ve done two days of agility back to back, let alone two days of trialing. Our first run left a lot to be desired. He took off from the start line so fast and hit the weave entry so hard that he got stuck in the weaves. If he had any more weight on his frame he would have snapped the pole. In this case the frame bounced him back a little bit and stunned him for a second. He still finished the weaves and I was tempted to just stop the run to praise him for not giving up. We continued and then our nemesis got us. Send to tunnel, come out to a jump sequence and ignore the Teeter. For an obstacle he didn’t enjoy working on when he was younger… the Teeter Tractor Beam bested us again, just as it did in January. T2B Result: NQ

We had plenty of time between our runs so I took some of it to evaluate what we were doing to get ready for the run and what could we change to get him back in a groove. A simple change of going to the warm-up jump for a few minutes before we walked the course seemed to be the ticket. Even having to restart a run because the timing mechanism wasn’t on didn’t phase him. The JWW and Standard runs were both perfect. Everything was moving in slow motion and it felt like Merlin had found a new gear for speed. The jumpers course was run in 21.94 seconds, which was 44% faster than the judges measured time for the course. The standard course was run in 35.43 second, which was 51% faster than the measured time. Holy crap. We were moving. Day two resulted in 2/3 qualifying runs and two more 1st place awards.

It was such an amazing weekend. We finished our first AKC trial with a total of five qualifying scores and five 1st place finishes. On those five runs there were zero faults or refusals. Nothing but clean and fast. The support from our agility family was nothing short of spectacular. Thank you to Dr. Tara of Worron Family Chiropractic for adjusting Merlin. Thank you to Heather of Lucky Dog Academy for giving us the skills and tools we need to be a successful team. We learned a lot during the experience and have some new goals to work on. Thank you to Hope and my Mom for being a rock solid foundation of love and support. This weekend is always difficult without the added trial stress (tomorrow marks 4 years since the old man passed). Words can’t express how much their love and support means.

Merlin may not have the most athletic build when it comes to BCs, but his will, drive and determination to succeed and do things perfectly every time is nothing short of spectacular. Overhearing that we made it look easy is such a great compliment. We’re going to take a moment to enjoy our success and then it’s time to start working on some jumping skills that will hopefully extended his athletic career.

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The CF Open Experience 2013

Last year when Hope and I started CF, it was right at the beginning of the 2012 Open. As a total newbie I had absolutely no clue what was going on in the gym, some would say I still don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing. After doing a little research I learned that the open was available to anyone to compete in and based on the performances the top competitors from each region would go on to compete at regionals and hopefully earn themselves a spot in the CF Games. What I didn’t quite understand is why your average CrossFitter would sign up for this. Fast Forward to 2013. I now understand why your average CrossFitter would sign up for the open.

After putting in all sorts of effort in learning the movements and seeing the progression and transformation of my mind and body, I was eager to signup for this years open. I had a pretty simple goal. Do the best that I could, and survive whatever they threw at me. I knew there wouldn’t be a spot at regionals for me, but that didn’t matter. This was me vs me.Image

I wont go into the gory details of each workout (you can find those here if you’re really interested). What came out of the open was a better me. Physically I was able to complete all of the movements with the exception of the Muscle Up. I learned that there is nothing standing in my way, and that it will just take time. I need to listen to my body, and respect what it’s telling me. Every so often, ok almost every week there’s at least one WOD where I should have adjusted what I was doing. The fact is diabetes slows my recovery and I need to listen to that closer. As much as I don’t want to let it affect me, it does. Lesson #1: Listen to my body, deal with it and move on.

Mentally and Emotionally I was able to bust through a number of barriers. Unlike running, this was stretched out over 5 weeks. Every Wednesday we’d eagerly await the announcement of the WOD for the week. Every Thursday us average folk would get nervous about the workout and the movements. We’d go to the gym and do some skill work for the WOD, and an active recovery workout. Every Friday it was game time. The nervous energy either got the best of you, or it made you the best you could be. The excitement in the gym on Fridays was absolutely insane. The OCD in me really enjoyed the consistency from week to week. During this time I learned to focus my energy. I learned how effective it is to trash talk to an inanimate object. I learned that clearing my mind of negative thoughts and seeing the success before doing it is the foundation for my success. Most importantly, when screaming at the weight and clearing my mind are working together, it becomes very easy to breath. Which is also very easy to forget admits the chaos of the workout. Lesson 2: Breath.

With the open coming to a close, much to my surprise I have found myself going into post-event depression. When training for longer races, this is a common aftermath for runners. Usually signing up for another race cures those blue. For now, to counteract this effect it’s time to re-evaluate some fitness goals.

1 – Listen To My Body. Trying to be a super hero during one wod only to leave myself broken for a week or more isn’t worth it.
2 – Get a Muscle Up by the end of summer.
3 – Work on Double Unders every day.
4 – Squat. Squat. Squat. I need to be better about getting my legs and hips stronger and more involved.
5 – Find a Doctor locally that understands Diabetes and isn’t going to look at me cross-eyed when I tell them I don’t eat grains, processed foods, etc…
6 – Have fun each and everyday no matter how shitty the workout is. My friends are there suffering with me.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone makes me better than yesterday.

Did I Find The Fountain of Youth?

The short answer, sort of. My diet and exercise lifestyle changes a little over a year ago have produced some interesting results. A Paleo Diet was started, and the adventures of the cult of CrossFit began at Reckless CrossFit. At this point my fairly well balanced diabetic system and runner’s body were trying to figure out what hellish journey I was taking them on.

My insulin sensitivity spiked, resulting in me needing to cut my insulin dosage in half. I cut out grains so how was I going to manage on my long runs? Where would I get energy from? It took me a good 6-8 months to really get everything sorted out. During this time I completed a 30 Day Paleo Challenge at Reckless, a few month later a nationwide 90 Day Paleo Challenge and then ran the Chicago Marathon beating my goal time by over an hour. By the time November rolled around I felt like I was in a pretty good place in my life regarding my overall health. I wasn’t gaining weight, but I wasn’t loosing any either. This is something I’ve struggled with all of my life – yeah I know… whoa is me, I can’t gain weight (you can stop cursing at me now). I did a BMI Test and was pleased with the results. (165.2 lbs., 13.8% Body Fat, Metabolic Age of 18).

During the holidays I kept a 100% Paleo Diet 85% of the Time and started to push myself harder during the workouts since I was no longer concerned with running a marathon and possible injuries from over training. The middle of January presented me with another 30 Day Paleo Challenge through the gym. I took another BMI test to see where I was and the results showed improvement from November. (162.4 lbs, 11.5% Body Fat, Metabolic Age of 13).

That brings us to today, and another 30 Day Challenge in the books. This one marks the one year anniversary of changing over to a Paleo lifestyle. The Challenges at Reckless are a great way to gauge how my body reacts to being 100% strict. I don’t struggle keeping a strict diet, but I love seeing how my system responds.

This time around I decided to try upping my carbohydrates through veggies in an attempt to keep weight on. While this left me feeling much fuller and more satisfied, it had an interesting side effect. It left me craving fruit (sugar), which resulted in upping my insulin dosage. A week into the challenge I scaled the carbs back a little and added the supplements Beta-Alanine, Creatine and HMB (The Bloynx product is available at Reckless). Previous challenges I felt as though I could not eat enough protein to keep me from feeling hungry all day long. Adding those supplements into my daily diet gave me a sense of being full, without needing to be eating constantly. The supplements were helping with my muscle recovery, and not depleting my protein and fat stores.

I went through another BMI Test this morning and the numbers speak for themselves. (163.4 lbs., 9.6% Body Fat, Metabolic Age of 12). I’m turning 36 in a couple of weeks and the machine will not register a lower metabolic age.

bmi

For most people these numbers typically go up with age, while mine have seen a dramatic decrease. The secret? Eat Clean. A well balanced diet with proper supplementation is the starting point. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re not filling your body full of preservatives, sugars, processed foods and green sludge meat. Train dirty. When the typical warm-up we perform at Reckless is more difficult than most people’s regular workout, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing. If you are serious about your health, your workout should be just as serious. Surround yourself with people who will support you, love you and care for you. These are not the folks who are going to tell you what a great job you did swinging a 5# Kettle Bell. These are the people who are going to push you outside of your comfort zone. They will tell you when you’re doing it right, and they wont sugar coat it when you’re doing it wrong. As long as you are receptive to it, the feedback will make you better than you were yesterday.

Thank you to JoshBrittany for having such an amazing gym filled with amazing coaches and athletes. Thank you Brittany for running the 30 Day Challenges. They have helped me really pinpoint what my body needs to keep my system in order.

If you are on the fence about trying the Paleo Diet, give it a shot and see how your body responds. You can make every excuse in your head not to do it, but they are just that… excuses. Feel the fear and do it anyways.

Time For An Update

Been on a bit of a hiatus, and there weren’t any updates because the world was supposed to end last year. Since we survived the end of the world (again), the entire house has been fighting off the plague. I think we’re both back to the status of “mostly healthy”. Hope is well on her way to recovery from her hip surgery and if all goes well she can get back to CrossFit in a month. The Therapists over at ATI have been fantastic.

My adventures in running have stalled due to some foot pain and issues the pain caused my gait. I started going to see the wonderful Dr. Tara at Worron Family Chiropractic and what was initially a foot problem turned out to be a problem caused by my back. Very appreciative of all the help they have given my body. Looking to start running again by March, that is if I can pull myself away from CrossFit.

Our little Border Collie Merlin (aka Monster), has started to compete in Agility. We attended our first trial on January 6th and it was quite the experience. The positives: We qualified all four runs with a second place finish and three first place finishes. The courses were “easier” than we are used to running in class. The exposure to the trial environment and different equipment were the real tests, which he handled like a champ. The pictures from the trial (I’ll post once I get the digital copies) showed me just how effortless jumping at 20″ is for him. I decided to run him at 24″ during class last Monday and what a difference. His attention to the jumps and his strides were simply amazing. The higher jump height forced him to focus on what he was doing, and he looked great. Damn overachiever!

The negative: We were gone for 12 1/2 hours for him to be out on the course a total of 1 minute and 52 seconds. I love running him, but I don’t know if I can handle that much of day being wasted. We’ll see how the next one works out. Time to make some breakfast.

Priorities

For the last two weeks my primary job has been Hope’s caregiver. Her hip surgery was rough, and took a lot out of her mentally and physically. Simple tasks such as making something to eat were near impossible. “Things” were placed on hold since there was never enough time in the day to get everything done. Time for activities like CF and running were cut down. Going from 4 days a week of running and 4 days of CF a week to 2 (maybe 3) with no running was rough on myself mentally, but not nearly as rough as what Hope was dealing with. The lack of quality sleep left me feeling lackluster before, during and after the workouts. Every time I left the house, I felt like I was abandoning her.

This morning a switch flipped in my head. It is physically impossible to work 50-60 hours a week, CF 4 times a week, run 4 times a week, go to agility classes with Merlin, be a good husband to the woman I love and keep the house in one piece. Something has to give. Sorry running, but it’s been nearly a month since the marathon and I am not missing you all that much. I should clarify that a little. I don’t miss are the countless hours spent running at, what I consider, a slow casual pace. I don’t miss the pounding of the pavement and endless amounts of corn fields. I don’t miss the time alone. While is can be great to get away at times, more often than not it felt like a game of frogger dodging traffic.

I still plan on going out for a run, but going forward if it’s more than 50 minutes (10k or less) it’s not happening. I want to see just how much endurance (and speed) I can build with shorter, higher intensity workouts when it is combined with the CF workouts. 2013 is going to be a busy year. The focus is going to be on getting Hope back on her feet and pain free. The total recovery time for her surgery is 12 months. We have a long road ahead of us. CF will always be there for both of us. It’s part of our lives now. Hopefully sooner than later Hope can start working out again. Finally, Merlin will be of age to start competing in agility trails and I can’t wait. We’ve put a lot of hard work in this year and it should be exciting to see what we can do together.

Just some thought that have been bouncing around my cranium which needed to get out.

The Numbers Game – My 2012 Chicago Marathon Experience

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. -Thomas A. Edison

In 2011, I had decided I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for the Chicago Diabetes Project and to see if I could do it for myself. About 3 months prior to the race I managed to do a number on my knee and never made it to the start line. The longest race I was able to run that year was a 11.5mi race that left me decimated for weeks afterwards. Early this year I decided again that I would run the Marathon. Instead of dipping my toe in the pool, I jumped in and signed up. This would be the first Marathon I would run and would prove to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

When I woke up Sunday morning at 2:30 AM, I had a pretty good idea of what was ahead of me. There would be running, running, and yet more running. Looking back at it now, I would say I underestimated what this day would be by a considerable amount.

Since I signed up to run for the CDP, I had to meet up in one of the 3 charity villages that are setup for the race. It was nice having a more private area with food, water and port-o-johns that had lines of 2 people or less. It was about a .5mi walk from the village to the starting corral. We walked there as a group, sharing stories and finding out why everyone was running for this charity. I made the comment that I was running for me. That I had been fighting Diabetes for 25 years and wanted to help make a change for myself. The response of those around me was nothing short of overwhelming.

The race time temps were around 38 degrees, which was great for the runners and a little cold for the spectators. My goal was to run this beast in under 4 hours. When I signed up earlier in the year my goal was to finish and come in under 5 hours. I knew with the changes I made to my running form, the number of miles I had run in the rolling hills and corn fields of Plano as well as rebuilding my overall mental and physical strength though CrossFit at Reckless CrossFit that sub 4 would be a challenge, but it was doable.

The race was nothing short of spectacular. Running though such an amazing city with all of its diversity was fantastic. The crowds that turned out and lined the city streets were up to 20 rows deep at points. Seeing all of the signs with words of encouragement and reminders of why we are running brought on something I hadn’t planned on, emotional asthma. There were a few times throughout the course that I found myself unable to breath, not because of the run, but due to what was going on around me. Points included seeing the various signs from the CDP supporters, seeing two amputee runners moving right along on their blade and someplace in China Town when a young boy ran an orange out to a runner who had hit the wall and was in tears.

The first 13.1 miles are pretty much a blur. My biggest concern was to not loose myself in the adrenalin. I had people on my mind that helped me stay focused. With the exception of stopping to adjust my shoelaces between 5K and 10K my splits for 5k, 15K, 20K & Half all came in at 6.77 mi/hour. I don’t think I could run that consistent again if I tried. At the half way point, I was able to find Hope and my Mom which gave me a chance to test my sugar, refuel and get some much needed hugs. My sugar was higher than what I wanted, but I decided to skip taking any additional insulin. This decision led to a mental fight for the next 5 miles wonder what my sugar was going to do instead of focusing on the task at hand.

My pace started to slow down slightly around mile 17. Partly due to my legs showing signs of soreness, and partially due to being forced to pass other runners that had started to slow off the pace. By mile 20 my legs were on fire. I had fully expected this with the pace I was pushing. My longest training run of 21mi was done at a 9:21 min/mi pace and I was running a 8:57 min/mi pace. Between the bananas and water available on course and the gel blocks I had in my pocket I was able to keep my hydration and calorie intake up.

Mile 22 is when I hit the wall. My right knee had stiffened up and my left thigh felt like it was being pulled in 3 different directions. At this point I could slow down and try to walk it off, or keep going and try to run through it. My body was begging for a short walk, my brain told my body to suck it up and keep going. Brain >; Body. The leg pains were back to just being on fire by mile 23. At this point it was just another 5K run. I had this. However, a lot of the runners around me had spent everything. For the next 2.5 miles it was like running through a maze of bodies. The sheer number of people that were either slowing down, or just outright stopping in the middle of the course made it difficult to keep a consistent pace.

I couldn’t have asked for a stronger finish. The feedback my legs were giving me during the last mile said slow it down. The brain said speed it up. Again… Brain >; Body. When I noticed the “800m To Finish” sign, the CrossFit portion of my brain engaged. At this point my run turned into a sprint. I had to be careful since just about everyone around me was slowing down. I closed in on the “400m To Finish” and my speed increased. I passed the “200m To Finish” and found another gear. Once I hit the “100m to Finish” is was an all out sprint, running as fast as I could. I crossed the finish line in 3:58:02.

The other big number of the day was $1,323.20. Thanks to all of you, I was able to raise $50.46 for every mile I ran. As a collective, Cellmates raised $138,274. Enough money to get one more person into the clinical trial program and a good dent into getting a second person into the trial.

This was truly a life changing experience. Thanks to my loving wife Hope for being so supportive throughout the entire training process. Thanks to all the runners out there like Jason Robillard who use their blogs to help others improve. Thanks to the doctors that told me I shouldn’t do this because of the stress and toll it would take on my body… you gave me the motivation to shove those words down your throat. Thanks to the coaches and athletes at Reckless, you’ve made me mentally and physically stronger than I ever could have imagined. Finally, thank you to all of my friends, family and strangers I’ve met along the way. It is your support that helped me make this happen.

I am Tony Sulita. I am 35 years old and have been fighting Type 1 Diabetes for 25 years. I ran the 2012 Chicago Martahon in 3:58:02.

Finishing Medal

Energy

Today was the day before the big day… packet pickup and expo for the Chicago Marathon. I had been to the expo once before, but never as a participant. Walking into the welcome area was an adventure in and of itself. People stopping to take pictures at every turn. Pictures of the center, of their name on the Nike wall, of Ronald McDonald and even the mislabeled section of the Nike store that clearly read “Barefoot Running” which included no 0mm or 4mm drop shoes. Maybe someday Nike will have barefoot shoes, today is not the day.

Once you arrive in the expo you get sent through a gauntlet of sorts while picking everything up. First step is to get the bib number and timing chip. The next step is to verify that the timing chip is working and has the correct information. Your name flashes up on a screen and you move along to get your goodie bag. Just outside of the verification area was a gigantic video playing of the course route through the city, with a mileage tracker in the corner. The end of the race was nearing just as I noticed what was playing, and the crowd of 80 or so watching all erupted as the finish line was cross. At that point it all hit me upside the head. This is going to be intense.

On Sunday there will be close to 45,000 people running the Marathon. There will be over 12,000 volunteers helping to make the event possible. There will be millions of dollars raised to help over 100 charities. Some of the charities are there to help kids, to cure cancer, to feed those in need, to help homeless doggies and kitties, to cure diabetes… the list goes on and on. Everyone that crosses the starting line will be running with a purpose. It is that purpose that fueled the energy that was in the expo today. It didn’t matter where you walked in the expo, the energy followed.

The highlight for me was stopping at the Cellmates on the Run booth and meeting Katie, the director of marketing. Katie has an energy around her that is contagious. She has been absolutely amazing at organizing everything that goes into their fundraising with the marathon. As of tonight 163 of us have raised $128,945. We fell short of the goal of $500k, but we raised enough money to get one more person into the clinical trial. Thanks to all of you, we are one step closer to ending this awful disease. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday can’t get here soon enough. I’m ready to go.
Thank you again for helping me on this journey.