Friday, August 31, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 3

Workout of the Day

WOD 1 – in the morning…
In teams of two, complete the following:
200 meter partner band shuttle
800 meter run/100 pushups
100 double unders/50 squat jumps
20 partner scarecrow climbs
200 meter partner handstand walk shuttle
WOD 2 – in the afternoon…
200 meter hill sprint for time
Photo: just 100 hand release push-ups - even Blair Morrison needs to rest

Big training day for the group on Day 3, our last in Munich.  We started at Nymphenburg Castle just north of the city, and found ourselves a spot in the back gardens away from most of the tourists.  The place we stopped was so perfect: a long stretch of green grass between walls of trees, the only obstruction being a lonely towering Sycamore anchoring the lawn at dead center.  Although there were posted signs to stay off the grass we tucked ourselves in and went to work.  We began with a short handstand skill session, some people working on pure balancing, some on walking, others on pressing to handstand. 

Afterwards everyone paired up according to weight and set off on the band shuttles.  The idea here is to provide enough resistance that your partner’s forward movement is restricted to little more than a jogging pace, but there effort is a full sprint.  After 10 meters the partners switch and run back to the start line.  Following is sets of 20 meters, then sets of 30, and finally sets of 40.  As you might expect, our legs were pretty smoked after this, making the half mile run a little interesting.  Partner 2 began doing pushups immediately and tried to finish all 100 before Partner 1 could make it back from the run. As soon as both finished, they switched roles and continued on.  Same progression for the double under/squat jump section as well. 
By this point the group had shaken out pretty good, but everyone slowed down on the scarecrows.  If you’re not familiar with this exercise, imagine one person standing with arms outstretched and the other climbing around them 360 degrees without touching the ground.  There’s a steep learning curve here, but no matter how good we got, this was still a huge challenge.  Definitely an exercise that needs to be implanted more often, even if it’s just in warm ups.
Photo: just 100 hand release push-ups

At this point things started to go a little haywire.  During one of the runs our group was spotted by a park official who made it VERY clear that he did not approve of our presence on the grass.  By the time everyone was making it to the scarecrows there were 2 more administrators discussing the matter with a few of our German hosts.  Finally it was decided that we could not continue and we were asked to leave.  Not a huge deal since most of us had completed the majority of the WOD, but a little disappointing to get so close and not be able to finish.
From Nymphenburg we went directly to Olympic Park, home of the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich.  Today just happened to be the 40th anniversary of those games, so the park was absolutely smashing with people.  There were volleyball exhibitions, zip line tours, wakeboarding in the lakes, and all manners of vendors scattered throughout the place.  After getting a quick lunch, we led the group to a huge manmade hill in the center of the park for our 2nd workout of the day: the hill sprint.  In what reminded me loosely of the 2009 Games, we split into 2 heats and 3, 2, 1… go’d up the grassy incline as fast as possible.  The grade was close to 15% the entire way with only brief flats where regular paths switch-backed across.  The first :30 seconds felt pretty decent, but as the sprint continued I could feel the lactic acid building up quicker and quicker.  By the time we hit the top portion of the hill I could barely lift my legs.  I was more stumbling than running, a technique reminiscent of the hill in Aromas 3 years ago. 

After both groups had finished we chilled on top of the hill for a bit to enjoy the view and catch our breaths, then began bear crawling down to the bottom.  There was a large crowd of visitors watching us below but they couldn’t quite figure out what they were watching.  Pretty funny trying to answer their questions while posing for pictures.
The rest of the day was free to explore the park and meet back at the hotel later.  Some checked out the BMW world and museum while others went back early to relax before dinner.  Early morning wake up for the trip to Salzburg tomorrow.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 2

Workout of the Day
Rest Day

After long trips and a hard first day of training, Day 2 was more about relaxation and enjoyment than was Day 1.  We started things off in the renowned “English Garden” with a dip in the Isar River, a tributary that runs through the heart of Munich and is said to improve virility and strength in those who bath there.  Naturally, we were all on board.  Turns out the river is relatively shallow, so everyone who had reservations about the safety of the current, the need to swim, or the temperature of the water were quickly put at ease.  The section where Marco took us was no more than thigh deep.  After playing around a bit on our own, the group started getting creative as a whole.  We were doing squat holds while linking arms, plyo pushups, and trying to dam the river with our legs.  The sun was shining and everyone laughed.  Great start to the day.
Photo: warm up with blair and the anywherefit europe group and german crossfitters
From there we walked through the park to a beer garden for a traditional Bavarian breakfast of jumbo pretzels, weisse sausage, and beer.  Now, as a general rule crossfitters are known for being big eaters.  We were no match for the amount of food provided us this morning.  Enormous pots of poached sausage links that could have been handed out one at a time were dropped in the middle of each table.  Somebody somewhere has to have a picture of this ridiculous scene, but believe me when I tell you that it would’ve taken 20 Andre the Giant types to finish all that food.

With full bellies we all headed to Dachau, home of the first concentration camp constructed during the World War II era.  While this was certainly no uplifting experience, it was unforgettable and amazing nonetheless.  Walking through the old barracks; seeing with our own eyes the gas chambers, furnaces, and bunks where so many spent the worst years a human can spend; it was surreal.  Bits of history like this often slide past us. Maybe we’re afraid of how connected we will feel to the victims. Or maybe it’s the opposite: we’re uncomfortable with how detached we feel from something so horrible.  Either way, missing the opportunity to see it with my own eyes on this trip wasn’t an option.
Photo: Sensationelle Muscle ups!!
We made our way back to the city and quickly rallied to one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.  The Bavarian beer was flowing, the pork and dumplings were piling high, and everyone appeared to have bounced back from a somewhat depressing afternoon.  After dinner we attended a Variety Show off the Maximillian Strasse that has made it’s reputation on phenomenal acrobatics.  It didn’t disappoint.  Imagine a Cirque du Solei show but on a 30 foot stage instead of a 300 foot one.  There were silk ribbon routines, duet pole dancing, tight ropes, juggling, extreme aerials, and more.  As a group of reasonably fit and strong individuals, we were stunned to a man.  In between acts, people were telling each other how weak they felt just watching these amazing athletes.  But it was also motivating for most to try to improve their gymnastics in order to even attempt some of the skills these people were pulling off effortlessly.  I know I came away with a few ideas for programming that I’d never thought of before. 
I’m certain that if today is any indication for the rest of the trip, we are in for an incredible ride.

Monday, August 27, 2012

AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague Day 1

Workout of the Day
WOD 1 – in the afternoon…
In teams of 5, complete the following:
20 meter lunge relay, 20 meter broad jump relay, 20 meter inch worm pushup relay, 20 meter forward crab relay, 20 meter backward crab relay
WOD 2 – in the evening…
10 minute amrap:
15 kb swing (24 kg/16 kg)
3 muscle ups
5 minute rest
10 minute amrap:
9 story stair assent
5 minute rest
10 minute amrap:
10 deadlift (100 kg/60 kg)
20 meter bear crawl


AWF Munich-Vienna-Prague began on a Friday afternoon at Munich central station. Our arranged meeting point was a Burger King on the second level of the concourse, an attempted irony that was too good to pass up.  Unfortunately, there turned out to be 2 Burger Kings in the central station… Oops.  Wasn’t expecting to arrive in Munich and find multiple BK’s in a single location.  Luckily we realized the issue before long and split up the welcoming committee to cover all bases. 
Once assembled, we set out on a brief walking tour of the downtown area.  Nothing like chasing locals through cross walks to get a group of strangers to talk to one another. 
We grabbed lunch at a beer garden amidst some scattered showers, a reality that would become more and more regular as the days wore on.  Despite their jet lag, everyone was in great spirits and obviously excited to have the trip finally starting. 
Our next stop was Odeonsplatz, a beautiful open square where a quartet of amateur musicians were playing piano and violin.  This felt the perfect spot to kick off the first workout of the trip so we formed a circle of 20 around our backpacks and started warming up.  We quickly divided into teams of 5 and distributed ourselves across a span of 20 meters for a bodyweight relay.  The movements were as follows: walking lunge, broad jump, inch worm pushup, forward crab walk, backward crabwalk.  As this was unfolding, we naturally attracted a crowd.  It’s funny to observe the reactions of bystanders when a group like ours starts to organize itself.  At first it’s annoyance at having to adjust their vector; then it’s curiosity as they try to predict what is about to happen; and finally it’s astonishment that anyone would choose to exercise like that.
The intention of this WOD was more ice breaker than ass kicker.  I wanted everyone to get used to doing things in public and in plain view of strange foreigners because that’s what much of the trip would be for them.  Turned out to be no issue at all.  Everyone was totally down to get their hands dirty and make a spectacle of themselves: REALLY good sign.
We continued our walk for about another hour then circled back to the main station to pick up the larger luggage and head to Marco’s gym for the evening.  On the docket was a split skill session featuring ring skills and overhead mobility followed by a 45 minute combo-WOD with the members of CrossFit Vivamus.  This proved to be just about as much as most could handle after the long flights and lack of sleep, but to everyone’s credit, nobody quit on the workout.  Highlight performances included Doug completing 5 rounds up and down the stairs, Jeff getting 8 rounds on the KB/muscle up couplet, and Paul getting his first non-false grip muscle up. 
After the workout, we began preparing dinner on the rooftop of the box for an evening barbeque.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Marco’s gym sits on the 9th floor of a building overlooking the city and comes with full rooftop access.  The deadlift/bear crawl couplet took place on this roof.  Holler.  While the food was being prepared, members of the trip were drinking beers and socializing with the members of the gym, getting visibly more and more comfortable with one another.  By the end of the night everyone had been assigned a host for the weekend, providing them a place to sleep, a travel agent, and a translator.  More than anything, this was intended to give everyone a more authentically German experience while in Munich. 
The first day couldn’t have gone better in my opinion.  We got some seriously hard training in, saw enough of the city to get our feet under us, and set the tone for another amazing adventure.

Friday, August 10, 2012

AWF Iceland Days 9-10

Workout of the Day
WOD 1 – in the morning…
Establish 1RM Strict Press
3 rounds for completion @ 75% 1RM:
5 strict press
5 push press
AMRAP jerk
WOD 2 – in the afternoon…
68 team Swamp Soccer Tournament!!!
Day 9 was our last official training day of the trip because day 10 would be spent mostly on the bus driving the 6+ hours back to Reykjavik.  Everyone was feeling decently recovered from the run a few days before, at least enough to pull the barbells out and throw some weight around.  We set up shop in the dirt parking lot just outside the ski lodge, putting our feet towards the long canyon overlooking the fjord.  We could see the swamp soccer tournament already beginning off in the distance and used it as motivation to intimidate our opponents.  Not sure if that happened or not, but it was fun to imagine them looking up at 26 crazy people with their shirts off dropping weights and screaming and wonder what they must think. 
More than a few people PR’d during the pressing portion… I was not one of them.  I only made it to 80 kg before tapping out.  By far the best part of this workout was watching everyone grit their way through the AMRAP jerks.  By the end of each set you can barely keep the bar in a front rack, let alone stabilize it overhead, but people kept trying.  I was forced to start dropping into full depth split jerks at 135#, just to give you an idea of the muscle fatigue that was happening.  As we were putting the weights away and heading down to the soccer fields, I felt like I had just done an old school chest and tri’s superset back in the day.  Everything was so full of blood and pumped out that we must’ve looked like the biggest bunch of muscle heads to the rest of the teams.
But soon the beer started flowing and all auspices of fitness and health were long forgotten.  All there was in the world at that moment was mud, soccer, and winning.  It’s a funny thing to watch people transform under the influence of team sports.  And let me be clear, this was not your average soccer match.  The mud was knee deep at the shallowest, the field was only 30 yards long, and physical contact was strongly encouraged.  People were flat out tackling each other, then trying to kick the ball.  There were scrums, melees, and mud flung in faces.  The requirements of the game were hard core, and with alcohol as an aid, people weren’t holding back.  At the same time, putting out so much effort in what was essentially quicksand is downright exhausting.  You’re good for maybe 1- 2 minutes of decently functional time before you need to get a sub.  Otherwise your dead tired ass is just a liability. 
Our group was divided into 2 teams, men and women.  Our men’s team had the advantage of numbers, giving us more reserve players than our women.  Unfortunately for them, this was the way our demographics worked out and they just had to work a little harder.  The first game was definitely a learning experience with a few key takeaways: 1) socks and shoes do not work in deep mud.  You either go barefoot and lace the shoes up as tight as possible or you ditch the shoes entirely and get caveman on it.  2) two people need to stay up on offense while the other 4 fight like hell on defense and get constantly rotated.  3) you must obstruct the goalie.  4) hit first, then kick.  Picking up these bits of strategic wisdom along the way, we went from a 0-0 tie our first game to a 2-0 victory the second and a 2-2 tie in the 3rd (a last second miracle goal from being a 2-1 win).  This was enough for us to win our heat and set up a good draw for the following days championship rounds. 
Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were heading home early the next day so we had to forfeit our placing.  Not that anyone really cared much, the day itself had been worth the time and effort in spades.  Imagine being caked in some dried, some still dripping mud from head to toe, so much so that you can’t see a dot of clean skin anywhere on your body.  Now imagine 1000 people like that in one place.  Then add beer, music, and costumes.  It was pretty unreal.  Later that night we headed downtown for a bonfire and fireworks with the rest of the town.  There was live music playing at a few of the local pubs and a few in our group didn’t make it back to the lodge til well past 5 am.  Not a problem when you have 6 hours on a bus the next day to sleep it off. 
When we made it back to Reykjavik Sunday night, we all went out for one last dinner together.  There was constant chatter and laughter about the things that had happened the past 10 days, but also a sense of sadness that this group that had grown so close would have to leave each other the following morning.  I overheard a few say they were ready to book their tickets for the Buenos Aires trip in 6 months that night!  From my perspective, I couldn’t have been happier with how this trip turned out.  The personalities that came together were so complimentary to each other that everything seemed easy.  The things we saw and did were always connected by elements of challenge and beauty, perhaps the two most insoluble qualities that Iceland represents.  The success here for a second year offers nothing but promise for the future of these adventures, a future that begins in less that 2 weeks when a new group will land in Munich.  For those of you who made this trip possible, thank you!  For those who want to be a part of the next one, you won’t be disappointed.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

AWF Iceland Day 8

Workout of the Day
Ring Skill Session

Day 8 was mostly a rest day for the crew.  After a really long couple of days that left most of us battered and bruised, we needed a low key day to lick our wounds.  Luckily for us, the ski lodge where we were staying had a 15 inch television set circa 1983 on which we could watch the Olympics.  Through the snowy resolution we got to watch Iceland topple France in handball, the men’s shotput competition, and bits and piece of the heptathalon.  Not bad for a cozy couch day.
In the afternoon we rallied the troops and took a short trip into town to collect souvenirs.  The town of Isafjordur is the definition of a blue collar port town, but it had it’s share of touristy spots where people could buy all things traditionally Icelandic.  On the way into town I spotted a building that appeared to have been abandoned while under construction.  All that stood was a steel skeleton on a cement pad.  Naturally this would serve as a perfect location to hang rings and practice muscle ups, skin the cats, etc.
Using Carl Paoli’s kipping muscle up progression on the bands, we worked as a group towards more efficient general movement patterns.  Quite a few in the group got significantly better and spent the remainder of the time working on stringing their reps together more smoothly.  Others stayed with the bands and simply tried to improve their kip. 

For those who needed a bigger challenge, we began working on forward rolls to support and back rolls to support on the lower rings.  This was a lot of fun as well.  We even pulled out some human flags on the uprights.  All in all this was about an hour of technical and creative play time with no real rules.  It was great.  Everyone helping each other, offering personal advice on “how they got their first muscle up,” or “what they think about while doing a flag.”  I think it was a welcome lull in the action from the past few days that we needed before heading into the swamp soccer tournament on Day 9.

Monday, August 6, 2012

AWF Iceland Day 7

Workout of the Day
27 km trail run

On the bus ride back from kayaking yesterday, we had some “car trouble.”  This was the first hiccup of the trip, but it gave us an opportunity to pull off one of the best roadside bbq’s in Icelandic history (possible exaggeration).  High up on the cliffs overlooking the fjord, an empty road for handstands and sprints, and delicious beef, squash, and corn.  It doesn’t get much better. 
I figured this was a good time to announce to the group that Day 7’s workout would be a 27 km trail run through the cliffs overlooking the Denmark Strait.  There was a stunned silence that followed this announcement, followed by some laughter, a few nervous whispers, and even some tears.  We explained that the point was to finish the run as quickly as you could, but that for some merely completing the distance would be the goal.  This eased some tension but not all.  It was easy to see that the group was going to have it’s work cut out for it the next morning.
We got up early and packed in a solid breakfast before heading for the coast.  Right away there was a hang up with the run.  Because our bus had been traded out for a temporary model, we didn’t have the ground clearance to get to the start line without risking damage to the under carriage.  We were about 12 km from the beginning of the run and would have to be shuttled forward 4 at a time in a rented SUV.  The first wave set off, expecting to be the slower runners anyway.  Not long after they left, a group of 6 decided to just start the run from where we were, making their distance 39 km!!!  That’s 2 km short of a full marathon, an off road marathon.  The remaining passengers, including myself, began walking the trail so as to expedite the pick up process as Sven and the rental came back and forth.
When things got going for me, it was immediately clear that this was going to be no ordinary trail run.  I was crossing streams that cut straight from the high bluffs above us, bouncing from stone to stone.  To my left, the landscape fell beautifully away from mountains to the sea, at times causing me to stop and try to take a mental picture.  There were cracks in the rock to run through, steep climbs over clay roads, and abandoned farm houses from decades ago dotting the coastline.  There were times when I didn’t see anybody in front or behind me for 30 minutes and all there was in the world were my thoughts and this incredible landscape.  Some of these views were among the emptiest and most austere I have ever seen.
Within 5 kilometers I had found my groove and was clicking along at a great pace.  By 10 km I slipped into a legitimate runner’s high where I felt no pain, no effort, and no hindrance whatsoever.  By 15 km, however, I was starting to labor.  My joints, not being used to that much consistent pounding, started to feel stiff and swollen.  My feet hurt and my heels began to blister.  By 20 km I had to start taking breaks to walk.  I came upon our pace car with Sven and Ross and gladly gulped down the electrolytes and protein bar they offered me, hoping that it would carry me the remaining 4-5 km.  What proved more powerful in keeping me moving was the thought of the other 25 people enduring the same hardships.  I knew that if I felt this way, so did everyone else, and that was enough to keep pushing on.  My strides were short and I certainly didn’t look much like the runner I was at the beginning, but I finished the distance running nonetheless in a time of 2:12. 
Everyone at the bus was sprawled on the ground taking in fluids.  There was a mutual appreciation for what everyone had accomplished and the manner in which they’d done it.  A group of crossfitters who rarely run further than 400 meters on concrete just ran 17 miles over rocky cliffs and sand.  That is badass, I don’t care how you slice it.  As we waited together for the remaining runners to finish, this fact sank in deeper.  Many people were talking about how they felt for the first time why runners love running.  Maybe not enough to start taking on marathons, but enough to get out on a trail once a month for sure. 
That night we enjoyed the famous Isafjordur fish buffet at Tjoruhusid.  All you can eat soup, sides, and fresh caught Icelandic Cod, Sea Wolf, Halibut, Herring, and more.  It was UNREAL, and exactly what everyone needed after such a hard couple of days.  If the group gelled after the sea kayaking, they were knit like a sweater after the run.  There wasn’t a moment’s lapse in conversation at the table, nor at the ldoge later that night.  People were uncontrollably happy and proud of what they’d accomplished, and so was I.  With only 3 days remaining in the trip, I felt my first touch of dread for the end.  You know it’s coming, but at moments like this you just don’t want it to.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

AWF Iceland Day 6

Workout of the Day
17 kilometer sea kayak
Day 6 saw us testing our fitness on the open water of Isafjordur.  Without much experience in our group, everyone was paying very close attention to the instructions of our guides.  Near freezing water temperatures and moderate wind conditions weren’t exactly comforting conditions for the uninitiated.  Still, people didn’t seem overly nervous, just anxious and excited.  The plan was to kayak 8 km across the fjord to the island of Vigur for lunch and coffee, spend some time there warming up, then paddle back.  The whole adventure was expected to take 6 hours.
The paddle across was a decent challenge due to the wind and current—both were directly into us so we were constantly having to overcome them with our strokes.  Dan and I were sharing a tandem kayak, so our communication had to be on point in order to sync our paddles and keep our nose in the right direction.  Another issue was the wetness. All of us were equipped with wet skirts to keep the water out of our boats, but these proved no match for the choppy waves.  We were all soaked by the time we reached the halfway point, leaving everyone wet, cold, and a little disgruntled.  The worst part was the anticipation of having to hop back in and do it all over again. 
Luckily for us, the island family had lots of coffee and cakes ready for us.  And believe me, when you’re cold and wet there’s nothing like sweet baked goods to pick up your spirits.  We mowed them down in a way that would make Little Debbie proud.  The poor girls in charge of feeding us were scrambling back and forth between the buildings trying to find more bread, cookies, and pies because everything was eaten as soon it hit the counter. 
Finally we rallied ourselves back to the boats and began the paddle along the coast of the island before turning towards the mainland for the final 5k.  Here’s where things got dicey.  The winds had gone from moderate to heavy and the waves from small to large.  As soon as we were away from the shelter of the island we found ourselves smack in the middle of a situation that none of us were equipped to handle.  We were a pack of 26, frantically corralled by 6 guides, trying to learn on the fly how best to stabilize small slabs of fiberglass in severely choppy wave.  Tense doesn’t begin to describe the mental state we were in as a group.  Every few minutes you’d hear some call out, ‘Man down!’, signaling to the guides that one of our party had capsized and was in need of assistance.  We were taking waves on from the side, from the back, and pretty much at every angle you can imagine, each requiring a different bracing technique to keep the boat from tipping.  And because people were tipping so often, we spent a great deal of time waiting against the waves without moving any closer to shore.  It was literally 2 hours of constant focus and attention without lapse, every stroke expecting to be tossed over.  It was probably the most intense group situation I’ve ever been in. 

Finally we made it to shore, everyone hugging and laughing at how crazy the “calm kayak” trip turned out to be.  Even the guides were high fiving the group and showing visible relief.  This was one of those activities that went way beyond people’s physical limits and tested their mental toughness as well.  I could tell that having gone through it together, everyone in this group felt closer to one another.  Perfect timing as we turn towards the back half of the trip.

Friday, August 3, 2012

AWF Iceland Day 5

Workout of the Day
WOD 1 – in the morning…
Partner smashing and static stretch
WOD 2 – in the morning…
Establish a 1RM barbell Turkish Getup
2 x max rep back squat at 120 kg (265#)
WOD 3 – in the evening…
In teams of 2, complete the following for time:
200 meter wheelbarrow walk (switch after 100 m)
200 meter partner carry (switch after 100 m)
200 meter burpee broad jump (2 people working at a time)
50 thick bar pullups
400 meter downhill run
80 meter ocean swim
400 meter uphill run
Coming off a rest day and starting day 5 with a long stretch was just what the doctor ordered.  Everyone was lighthearted and excited for what they knew to be a hard day of training. 
Heading out we didn’t know exactly where we would stop to do the TGU’s and squats, but figured we would find a good spot along the way.  And boy did we ever.  Nestled back at the far end of one of the fjords we drove through was a town that time forgot.  At one point one of the largest herring harvesters in Europe, this place now was almost completely deserted.  All that remains are a few private residences, a bed and breakfast, and the ruins of the herring factory and an old steel tanker.  Rising above it are cliffs on all sides, one of which houses a towering and majestic waterfall.  It felt like something out of Lord of the Rings.  Knowing we were unlikely to find any place better than this, we pulled the bus over just outside of town at a lonely wood dock and started unloading the weights. 
After a brief technical review on Turkish getups, the group wags off and working.  To limit the risk of injury and structural damage to the dock we only required that the lift be controlled to a standing position.  The majority of people had never done this lift with a barbell before, so it was fun to watch how quickly they picked it up, made adjustments, and gained confidence.
After a solid 30-40 minutes of this we transitioned to back squats.  Everyone had to choose a weight and complete two sets of max reps resting as needed in between.  The weights to choose from were 40 kg, 60 kg, 80 kg, 100 kg, and 120 kg.  Surprisingly, many individuals scored better on their second set of squats then their first, myself included.  I went from 22 reps to 25 at 120 kg, and I don’t have any good explanation for it.  It was as if my legs just went numb during the second set and I could continue to execute repetitions without pain.  Kelly went from 27 to 40 reps, Dan from 24 to 35.  The scenery was surreal, so much so that I’m hard pressed to remember a more unique combination of nature and town.
To cool down the legs we walked into the village and spent a short time enjoying coffee and shopping for souvenirs.  Soon after we drove on to a pool by the sea to have lunch and relax before heading back to Dragsnes, our home for the night.  Here we took advantage of the full sized soccer field overlooking the sea and partnered up according to weight.  This WOD was cool because different partners were better at different elements, making it a true team effort to finish the workout.  Teamwork was displayed fullest during the swim, as few of our group had ever swam in waters as cold as the North Atlantic.  Although the distance was short, it took plenty of moxie to stay relaxed and avoid the feeling of panic that cold water tends to induce.  The fastest team through this gauntlet was Erik and Jessica, who made it look easy.  But all who completed it were brimming afterwards for the experience.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AWF Iceland Day 4

Rest Day
Day 4 for AWF Iceland was designed to be a rest day.  We had a long day of travel in store, with smaller stops along the way for pictures and snacks.  But after 3 days of climbing, swimming, lifting, hiking, and bus pulling, everyone’s bodies needed the reprieve.  We slept in and drove to Holmavik, a small town famous for a witch craft museum and a small shipping industry.  While the rest of the group took time to stroll around and take in some of the sights, Sven, Einar, and I re-stocked on supplies and the grocery and evaluated how our meal planning had gone thus far.  I think the food has been exceptional this year, in quantity, quality, and variety.  The only complaints I have heard is that people are stuffed to the gills, which is something I’ll gladly continue hearing.  To this point we’ve eaten burgers, salmon, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, buckets of Icelandic Skyr, and fresh fruit & nuts by the bagful.  I may be gaining weight on this trip, if anything.  The refrain “bulking not sulking” has made its way into the vernacular of the group, largely thanks to Dan Edwards, the pride and joy of jolly old England and honorary NorCal gnarly.  If we can continue the good eats the rest of the way, I think it will buoy the group for the challenges to come.
In the evening, we were presented with another cool opportunity that was unexpected: sea fishing.  For what amounted to about 15 bucks a head, a group of 20 was taken out into the fjord and given poles to fish Icelandic cod.  Now, because of modern technology, our captain was able to use sonar to position us directly over a large school of fish, so this didn’t take a whole heap of skill.  But this didn’t limit the amount of fun we could have doing it.  In roughly an hour we had caught over 30 fish, some of us 3 or 4 apiece.  One particular catch was upwards of 11 lbs, easily the biggest fish of the day.  For this feat, the catcher was given the privilege of eating the heart of his prey…. While it was still beating.  I’m not joking, this actually happened.  Erik, who is a bay area firefighter by day, snagged an enormous cod and by the time he had turned around the first mate had gutted it and placed the walnut sized heart on the ice chest for all of us to see.  Then ensued the goading of the group, until Erik popped the thing into his mouth, chewed a few times, and gulped it down.  Don’t know if this is tradition or just a disgusting way to trick some mainlanders, but I won’t forget it, that’s for sure.
The best part of this fishing expedition was the fact that we got to keep our catch, and are planning on preparing it for dinner tomorrow night.  Boiled cod is an Icelandic dietary mainstay, as it turns out, so the circumstances could not have been better.  

AWF Iceland Day 3

Workout of the Day
WOD 1 – in the morning…
5 km sea cliff hike
Headstand/handstand practice
WOD 2 – in the afternoon…
3 minute AMRAP:
In teams of 8-9, pull the 16 ton bus for distance
Day 3 brought with it some traditionally Icelandic weather, the first of this trip.  Gray skies, misty air, and the occasional drizzle set the stage appropriately for a “highlander” like experience on the cliffs.  Originally we had planned to walk the trail from east to west, finishing at the bird cliffs overlooking the westernmost point in Europe.  But because the fog had crept in so thick overnight, we decided to start at the coast instead, and work our way back towards the approaching clouds.  This turned out to be a good decision because it afforded us clear views of the more than 400 meter drop to the sea below.  This was made more unnerving by the stories of tourists who had fallen to their deaths by crowding too close to the edge.  Locals have gone so far as to spray paint a line along the border of the cliff to encourage a safe viewing distance for foreigners. 
We climbed higher and higher along the bluffs until we caught up with the fog and could no longer see the ocean below.  This experience felt akin to how I imagine some ancient Viking life to have been, trekking inland from the sea in search of villages to sack.  But instead of raping and pillaging, our party was content to stand on our heads and hands in the middle of the marsh beside the cliffs.  Taking advantage of the spongy moss, we were 26 upside-down bodies fighting the wind and rain to balance.  Quite the spectacle for the walkers outside our party, I imagine.
After taking lunch at a nearby campsite, we drove away from the cliffs and made an unscheduled stop at an abandoned airfield.  Here we etched what will undoubtedly be one of the more indelible memories of this trip: 8-9 people at a time towing the 16 ton bus down the empty airstrip.  Cool doesn’t begin to describe this WOD.  We were 3 teams, evenly distributed by weight so as to keep the pulls closely competitive.  The goal was to pull the bus as far as possible in 3 minutes, but we really had no idea what distance was possible.  Team 1 had a slow start and only was able to move the bus 100 meters or so.  This made teams 2 and 3 a little more nervous to get on the rope, having watched the agony of the first group.  Team 2 refined the technique, however, and got the bus moving at a faster speed than Team 1, utilizing momentum and almost doubling the distance first achieved.  That left only Team 3, down a man due to odd numbers and a little lighter than the other two, but certainly motivated to overcome.  As team 2 before them, team 3 got the speed up early and was able to maintain it through the end, taking the top distance by about 50 meters when all was said and done.  For only 3 minutes of effort, the level of fatigue and exertion was pretty impressive.  But more memorable was the scenery and camaraderie of the moment.  In the middle of nowhere, with nothing but wind and grass and sheep around us, 26 strangers willing to work, sweat, and laugh together at a moment’s notice.  This gives me a great appreciation for those who decided to join this trip, and an even greater anticipation for what’s in store the rest of the way.