Monthly Archives: August 2011

Paddle Fit ‘Vook’ Now Available

By Pete Williams

Paddle Fit, the Vook

If you’re looking to learn the sport of stand-up paddleboarding, improve your technique, or perhaps take up an awesome core training program that can be done on the water on the board or on the beach, then you’ll want to check out Paddle Fit, the new “vook” I’ve had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte of Stand Up Fitness in St. Petersburg.

What is a vook? It’s an exciting new digital platform that combines text and video into one multimedia package for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. With Paddle Fit, you don’t just read about how to paddle or see photos of workout routines, you click onto videos shot in the Florida Keys by the talented folks at Encounter Creative.

I took up stand-up paddleboarding a year ago and it’s changed my life. Like Brody, I believe it’s the best workout ever created. You’re training on an unstable surface: a board on the water. It’s like working out on a giant BOSU ball. Proper paddle technique requires you to use your hips, shoulders and core properly. I’ve never had washboard abs until taking up SUP.

Best of all, it’s a lot of fun. Who wants to hang out in a gym, risk getting killed on a bicycle, or pound the pavement running when you can be getting a full-body, cardio core workout on the water, encountering all manner of cool wildlife in the process? Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than owning a boat.

Even if you just want to take leisurely paddles, you’ll have a blast with SUP, which is much easier than it looks. Anyone can get up on a board on the first try.

Paddle Fit, which includes more than 30 minutes of instructional video, is only $7.99 online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore.

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Obstacle Mud Run Specialization?

By Pete Williams

Savage Racers

It’s hard to pinpoint the reason for the booming popularity of obstacle mud runs. No doubt they tap into the growth of boot camps, running, and CrossFit, all of which have exploded in the last two years.

For some, the allure of such races is simply getting muddy and silly.

But after finishing fourth (out of 113) in my age group at the Savage Race on Saturday, I wonder if these races don’t also appeal to us jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none-types.

Admittedly, these races are not as competitive as triathlons. After all, a good chunk of an obstacle mud run field walks much of the course.

Still, these races require a versatile skill set. You must have a solid running base to navigate the course briskly and the strength and power to blow through the obstacles. Depending on the course, you might also need to know how to swim (like the Savage Race), throw a spear or fire a gun (the Spartan Race).

Having trained with endurance athletes from all walks of life, it’s fair to make some generalizations:

1. Runners and triathletes lack strength. They have tremendous endurance, but they struggle with climbing walls, carrying buckets of sand and gravel, and hurling heavy objects.

2. CrossFitters and other gym rats typically lack cardio endurance. They have awesome anaerobic power and have no problem with the obstacles, but they’re going to take more time traveling between them.

3. Triathletes are prima donnas who whine when they can’t buy their way into faster times with more expensive equipment and know exactly what the course will entail. (Easy now. Just kidding.)

4. Way too few people know how to swim properly. (This isn’t just about racing. It’s about saving your life.)

For those of us who do a little of everything fairly well – but nothing at an elite level – the obstacle mud run is a godsend. If you could design an ideal obstacle mud run male athlete, he’d be a guy with a strong background both in running and core/strength training who perhaps has done some sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons and dabbled in CrossFit and Pilates. He’d have a hybrid physique, lean but not too bulky. Figure 5-foot-10 and 170-175 pounds.

I think I know a guy like that!

Not sure I’m bullish on obstacle mud runs for the longterm. The field already is flooded – not just literally – and part of the attraction is the unexpected. Will people be gung-ho to run a race for the second or third time knowing it can be only so different? Muddy Buddy got away with trotting out the same course annually until mixing it up this year, but now that the field has mushroomed athletes expect more.

For now, it’s an interesting phenomenon to watch — especially when you’ve finally found your calling.

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Savage Race Report

By Pete Williams

Holding on at The Savage Race

CLERMONT – By now the challenge for any obstacle mud run is to come up with a new wrinkle to stand out among a crowded field that includes 23 races put on by 18 companies this year in Florida alone.

It’s hard to say whether the debut of The Savage Race today here at a sprawling facility usually used for ATV riding provided anything unique, though it did a lot of things well. Billed as “the race designed to kick your ass,” it wasn’t overly difficult – tougher than a Muddy Buddy, easier than The Spartan Race I did in Virginia in June, and presumably much easier than the Tough Mudder coming to Florida in December – but judging by the masses of people walking from obstacle to obstacle, it was plenty challenging for most.

That means Savage Race organizers likely have found the sweet spot in a category best known for attracting a get-up-later demographic that’s not as hardcore as the triathlon crowd.

Unlike The Spartan Race I did in June, which packed so many obstacles into a paintball facility it seemed like you rarely ran for more than 100 yards at a clip, the Savage Race required some significant running. There were plenty of six-foot walls, rope obstacles, a waterslide, and a task of carrying a 20-pound bag of sand (less for women) in a circle for about 50 yards.

The heat was brutal – low-90s when my first-wave (9 a.m. start) finished and mid-90s thereafter (last wave at noon). But I don’t think I’ve done a race of any distance in any category with as many water stops.

Lots of walkers

The biggest task for some was swimming about 150-yards around a three-buoy lake course. Water was deep so there was no way to walk it. Non-swimmers had the option of doing 30 Burpees and taking a 5-minute penalty and it was remarkable to see so many people going that route.

I know I only learned to swim properly four years ago to take up triathlon, but shouldn’t anyone who lives in Florida be required to learn to swim well enough to go at least 150 yards?

The swim did not come until three-quarters into the course, which added to the degree of difficulty. Last were some familiar obstacle run staples: a rope-pull wall, jumping over three lines of firelogs and crawling through a mudpit under barbwire.

Savage Race organizers clearly took the best from various events and the blend overall was effective. Speaking of blends, the blended cotton, fitted T-shirts — no sponsor logos — were among the best race shirts I’ve seen in a while. And I can’t think of a race that’s done a better job of branding its course in race colors, logos, and flags.

Navigating a rope ladder

But the best part was post-race. Like most obstacle runs, you had to pay for food, but our good friends from Mix1 were there, so if nothing else you could load up on free all-natural post-workout protein shakes. And unlike other events that provide hoses and makeshift showers that rinse off some of the mud, or at least enough not to trash your car, Savage Racers could just jump in a lake and wash it all off. This gave the event something of a Woodstock feel, though nobody got naked. We’ll save that for the Caliente Bare Dare 5K in October.

As athletes rinsed off, representatives from a kayak company offered test-drives on stand-up paddleboards.

Seems like that’s exactly the unique obstacle Savage Race needs for 2012 – a loop around the lake on a paddleboard.


Filed under Races, Running, SUP

Chipotle Creates “Chipotle Cultivate Foundation”

By Pete Williams

CMG: Furthering the cause

Chipotle Mexican Grill already has helped transform the way Americans eat with its”Food With Integrity” vision, using ingredients that wherever possible are sustainably grown and naturally raised.

Now the Denver-based company, which has dozens of restaurants in Florida, has created the “Chipotle Cultivate Foundation,” aimed at supporting people, organizations and institutions that are committed to making a better, more sustainable future.

“For more than a decade, we have been working to improve the nation’s food supply by finding more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use in our restaurants,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “By creating the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, we are extending our reach beyond our restaurants and will be supporting organizations and people that are working to improve individual family farms, animals and the environment, and youth and education programs.”

We’re huge fans of Chipotle here at EnduranceSportsFlorida. It’s tough to think of a better power-food lunch or dinner for an endurance athlete than a burrito bowl. The best part about it is that you know you’re eating organic food, especially farm-raised meat from animals that have not been shot up with hormones. And, of course, it’s delicious and affordable.

Chipotle has a history of supporting causes related to improving the way people eat. Over the last two years, the company has donated more than $2 million to philanthropic organizations, with much of that benefitting groups that are working to improve some element of the food system, including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Nature Conservancy,,

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Cyclist Killed in DeLand Crash

By Pete Williams

Sara and Brent McLarty

Very sad news today from Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Brent McLarty, father of pro triathlete Sara McLarty, died while riding his bicycle near DeLand when he was struck by a car.

McLarty, 62, was riding his bike north on the paved shoulder of State Road 11, at Lake Diaz Park Road, about 7:30 a.m. when he was hit by a van that was also northbound, state troopers told The Sentinel.

Troopers said Cody Haynes, 23, drifted on the shoulder of the road and hit McLarty, who died at the scene.

No charges have been filed, but the crash remains under investigation.

Sara McLarty, 28, is a Central Florida native who lives and trains in Clermont. An All-American swimmer at the University of Florida, she is regarded as one of, if not the fastest, swimmers in triathlon.

She posted the above photo on her Facebook page, where condolences quickly poured in from the endurance sports community.

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The Chipotletarian Diet

By Pete Williams

The Chipotle chicken bowl

I love the idea of vegetarianism and veganism. I love the concept of organic foods.

But this all-or-nothing approach seems stifling, impractical and impossible to sustain.

One of the major beefs, pun intended, that vegetarians have with the meat industry is how animals are treated – long before slaughter. There’s no question that it’s downright scary what’s going into our food supply, from all of the corn animals eat to the hormones to the feces and other stuff that inevitably gets into our food because of the way animals are mass produced.

That’s why I decided to undergo an experiment for August. The only meat I would consume would be chicken from Chipotle, which comes from free-range chickens like those raised at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia, which was featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the movie Food Inc.

So this month I’ve eaten an average of four meals a week at Chipotle, sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner. Same thing every time: burrito bowl with one scoop of white rice, black beans, chicken, corn and mild salsa, sprinkling of cheese, guacamole, and lettuce. All other meals I go totally vegan, though I have consumed all-natural Mix1 protein shakes, which include whey protein.

I’m not sure how much of this is the diet – probably most of it, though I’ve trained a lot this month, too – but I’m in the best shape of my life. My energy levels are off the charts, my productivity is high, and my athletic performance across strength, speed, and endurance is incredible.

September is almost here, but I’m going to continue The Chipotletarian Diet.


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Back to Tough Mudder Training Camp

By Pete Williams

Will we be ready for this?

TAMPAEric Stratman mixed things up for this morning’s version of Tough Mudder training camp, which is only appropriate. After all, Stratman’s The Next Level Training Center near Westchase specializes in CrossFit, which constantly throws the unexpected at you.

Of course, part of the allure of obstacle mud runs like Tough Mudder, which comes to Florida for the first time in December, is seeing how well you can handle the unexpected.

Today’s wrinkles in the TNL parking lot included running 400 yards with a tire, which was not too bad, at least the first time around. Moving 400 yards laterally was a welcome addition for me; the lateral lunge has been a staple of my workout since writing the first Core Performance book with Mark Verstegen.

I was a little disappointed not to have the farmer’s carry return, having incorporated walking long distances while carrying 45-pound plates into other workouts since participating in Tough Mudder camp two weeks ago.

Then there was a rope obstacle. With one end of a heavy rope looped around a concrete pole, you had to take a 20-foot end in each hand and shake the ropes until the slack reached the pole….100 times. I suffered through the first 100, but like so many obstacles in this category, it’s all about technique.

A fellow trainee showed me how to grab the ropes below the handles. You could do 50 overhand and 50 underhand. That didn’t make it easy, just doable.

The tire toss returned, along with plenty of 800-meter runs around the parking lot between obstacles. Also returning was the dreaded “Prowler,” a sled with 300 pounds of weight plates. This time we had to use a lower grip on the thing, increasing the degree of difficulty.

Today’s workout began at 10:30 a.m. and we enjoyed a bit of a cool front, with temperatures only 87 degrees.

Unlike the 45-minute session of two weeks ago, Stratman extended today’s workout to an hour. I’ll be more than prepared for next weekend’s Savage Race in Clermont, which shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. The Tough Mudder takes most athletes more than two hours, so presumably our workout on Sept. 3 will be longer.

The free program continues every other Saturday until the race in December.  Interested? Check out TNL HERE.


Filed under Races, Running, Training

Working a Savage Tan

By Pete Williams

Savage Racers

I just signed up for The Savage Race, the Aug. 27 event in Clermont billed as “the race built to kick your ass.”

If nothing else, it might be the hottest race the ever-expanding obstacle mud run category, which includes at least 22 events put on by 17 companies this year in Florida alone. High temperatures in Clermont are projected by to be 89 degrees on Aug. 27 — last wave goes off at noon, so that’s entirely possible.

I’m interested to see what will set the Savage Race apart. For starters, there’s a lake swim where athletes go across a 150-yard body of water that’s deep in the middle. That should separate the swimmers from the pretenders. (Like most obstacle runs, I’m guessing there’s an alternative punishment for those unable or unwilling to complete a challenge). The now-familiar mud run standards will be there: mud, barbwire, one free beer, $10 parking, etc.

I did Muddy Buddy in April, The Spartan Race in June and am signed up for Tough Mudder in December. Who knows? Maybe I’ll jump in a few more before the Year of the Obstacle Mud Run is over.

If nothing else, I’ll be prepared. Saturday is another edition of Tough Mudder training at The Next Level Training Center in Tampa at 10 a.m. It’s no charge and definitely worth it – if you can take the heat.

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Triathlon Boom Continues

By Pete Williams

Three of 2.3 million triathletes in 2010

It’s no secret that triathlon not only has survived during the recession, it’s thrived.

Races seem to sell out faster than ever and it’s tough to keep track of all of the new events, whether it’s a sprint distance or another addition to the Ironman circuit. Here in Florida, we have more races than any other state in the country. New additions over the last year such as the Key West Triathlon in December and the upcoming HITS Triathlon Series event in January have made it possible to do a Florida race every month of the year.

This week, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) and USA Triathlon put out some numbers that quantify the sport’s astounding growth.

An estimated 2.3 million individuals completed a triathlon in 2010, representing 55 percent growth in one year, according to the SGMA. In addition, USA Triathlon annual membership totals reached an all-time high in excess of 140,000 last year, with another 326,000-plus one-day license holders.

According to the SGMA, approximately 2,295,000 individuals completed at least one triathlon in 2010, up from 1,481,000 unique participants in 2009. Additionally, an estimated 1,978,000 individuals participated in an on-road triathlon in 2010, while 929,000 athletes competed in an off-road event last year.

The 1.9-million on-road competitors marked a 63.7 percent increase from 2009 (1.2 million participants) and a 147.9 percent increase since 2007 (798,000 participants). Additionally, the 929,000 off-road participants demonstrated 39.5 percent growth since 2009 (666,000 participants) and 92.3 percent growth since 2007 (483,000 participants).

Additionally, the SGMA estimated that there were 1.2 million core on-road triathletes and another 694,000 core off-road participants in 2010. The SGMA defines core participants as athletes that completed two or more events last year.

Further demonstrating the growth of multisport in the U.S. is the continued expansion of USA Triathlon’s annual membership base and the organization’s varied programs. In 2010, USA Triathlon reached a record total of 140,244 annual members.

By comparison, USA Triathlon had 21,341 annual members in 2000 and totaled 58,073 annual members in 2005. The high-water mark from 2010 of 140,244 annual members represents approximately 557 percent growth since 2000 and 141 percent growth since 2005. Additionally, the 140,244 annual members from August 2010 marked 9 percent growth since year end 2009 (128,653 annual members).

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Biggest Spartan Ever?

By Pete Williams

Spartan Warrior?

Al Harrington, like any NBA player, has some time on his hands these days. With the NBA lockout nearly two months old and labor peace nowhere in sight, pro basketball players are looking for something to do.

On Sept. 24, the Denver Nuggets forward will compete in The Spartan Race at Wolfe’s Pond Park on Staten Island. This is the eight-mile Super Spartan Race. I admire Harrington, 31, for attempting it, but having done the 3-mile version of The Spartan Race in Virginia in June, I’m skeptical of any 6-foot-9, 250-pound guy getting through it, world-class athlete or not.

The Spartan Race, which debuted in Florida this year and returns to Miami on April 23, is one of the tougher events in the ever-growing obstacle mud run category. There’s a lot of crawling under barbwire and other tight areas, climbing through and around obstacles, carrying huge rocks, and doing 30 Burpees for being unwilling or unable to complete challenges.

I can’t imagine navigating the Spartan Race balance beam with Harrington’s size-17 feet. (Thirty Burpees for Al there). In Virginia, where the event was held at a paintball site, a sniper took aim at us during one obstacle. Al would provide a huge target. And I’m guessing Burpees are a lot tougher being 6-foot-9 than 5-10.

I’d be most concerned with an event that provides literally a thousand opportunities to twist an ankle or throw out a knee. Maybe Harrington doesn’t have to worry about playing basketball anytime soon, but what if an unlikely settlement is reached?

Then again, it can’t be any worse than risking a knee or ankle over the course of a basketball game.

When you spend two-plus hours on the ground and in the woods, poison ivy is likely. I acquired the worse case of my life at The Spartan Race. Fortunately, a cycle of prescription steroids knocked it out quickly. Would Harrington be allowed to ‘roid up? Does it matter in a lockout?

“This competition is definitely outside – way outside – my comfort zone,” Harrington said in a Spartan Race release. “But I’m hoping to inspire people to focus on finishing despite the obstacles before them. The Spartan Race is all about doing one’s best. Sure it’s great to win, but just as good to know that you came to play, played all the way, and didn’t hold back.”

Harrington will have no trouble leaping over fire, a staple at The Spartan Race. If he can make it to the end, his size and jumping ability will come in handy. Athletes must climb over a six-foot wall, seven-foot wall, and eight-foot wall, all greased from previous competitors. Most of us struggle. Harrington can probably leap over them.

As for the guys dressed as extras from the movie 300 who guard the finish line and swing giant mallets at the athletes, I’d be worried if I was them. What Spartan wannabe is going to challenge a guy as big as Xerses?

Heck, when Harrington completes the race, he should don the red cape and loincloth and guard the finish line himself.

Spartan Race organizers say 20 percent of the field doesn’t finish. I’m predicting a Harrington finish, some pain for the guys guarding the finish line, and some sore knees the following day.

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