29 December 2014

Project Deliverance: How I Got Here

I've alluded to it many times in my 2014 race reports: I had a secret weapon this year. Not a pill or superfood or piece of carbon gear. Well, I suppose you could call it a piece of gear, but this secret weapon was designed to be as heavy as possible instead of lightweight.
Visiting GoSonja in 2011!
Like many things in my athletic life, it all goes back to my former triathlon coach, GoSonja. I was coached by her in 2011 and 2012 as I got more serious about doing well in long-ass races, specifically Ironman triathlon. Before becoming a speedy triathlete herself, Sonja had a background in trail ultras and mountaineering, and I felt she would be able to understand training me for on-road triathlons while also accommodating my need to throw in an off-road adventure race every so often. Early on in our coach-athlete relationship, she sent me an article written by a climber that she felt described training me: TNSTAAFL by Mark Twight.

It's hard to find a copy of the entire TNSTAAFL article on-line, but I'll give you the acronym: There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Mr. Twight specifically references pursuing aerobic fitness through anaerobic interval training, and how it doesn't work. Then Mr. Twight further writes about the need to develop aerobic base through actual aerobic training, which is time consuming and deceptively easy, instead of more intense anaerobic efforts, like interval workouts, that can be squeezed in to a much shorter time frame.
I read the article. I read it again. And again. It educated me and fired me up at the same time. Who was this Mark Twight guy, anyway? Google to the rescue, natch. To sum things up rather primitively, Mr. Twight is the founder of Gym Jones, a gym based on Salt Lake City that prepares people to do all sorts of mind-bendingly amazing things, from lift large amounts of weight off of the floor to go to the top of tall mountains to some things that are probably classified to the American public. Oh yes, and they also train a bunch of movie stars.

Fast-forward to December 2013, this Gym Jones place had been floating around in my consciousness for about two years, but I never quite knew where to start along their path to badassery. I certainly couldn't show up to Salt Lake and ask to join in a few sessions, plus that's not really how the place works, anyway. And then I heard about a gym in St. Louis, Project Deliverance, which was expanding into a new location and hosting an open house for new athletes. I didn't know anyone associated with the gym, but when I found out that its owners were in tight with the Gym Jones folks, I had to check it out. So I stopped by their open house on my way home from one of my most satisfying solo race victories of all time, just to see what was up.

I liked it right away. A bare-bones gym set-up, no fancy machines or mirrors, just a space with racks, rings, and a mis-matched fleet of AirDyne bikes, C2 rowers, and a SKIerg or two. Yes, this will do. I liked what I heard even more. After chatting with Matt Owen, owner and chief motivator/trainer/coach/interior decorator, I knew this would be a great fit. He was interested in adventure racing and how he could use his knowledge of strength to help my capacity for endurance. The thing that sealed it was Matt asked me to send him a copy of my training plan, so he could concoct some strength workouts that would compliment the rhythm of my season.
from one of my first sessions at PD. I think that's 165# on DL which was my 1RM at the time.
I agreed to send him my schedule, and after a few more emails, I found myself in the gym the next week. Matt paired me up with a few other veteran girls and coached us through a workout, stopping often to demonstrate proper form and make technique suggestions. Here it is, my first ever Project Deliverance session:
WU: 10min EZ AirDyne, foam roll, 2x10 air squat, 3x5 wall squat, 2x10 shoulder dislocate, 2x20m forward/backward walking lunge  
THEN: back squat: 10x45#, 5x70#, 3x105# 
AND: 5 rounds of: 5x70# back squat, 40m sled push +15#, rest
CD: some core stuff and 50cal AirDyne relay.
Even after that short session, I was hooked. What got me most was the atmosphere at Project Deliverance seemed to balance all sorts of life goals. Some people in the gym were obviously athletes, focusing on Olympic lifting or bike racing. Some people were there for weight loss. Some people were there to reclaim their youth, or postpone getting old, whichever way you want to look at it. But despite the wide range of fitness and goals, everyone had a mission and was executing it. That sort of community is really hard to develop, but here it was, just 3 miles from my apartment. I had struck gold, thanks to a long-lost Gym Jones article landing in my lap and refusing to be ignored.

Next up: what it's like to train at Project Deliverance.

While you wait, check out Project Deliverance's instagram feed full of awesome people doing awesome things, and website with examples of daily training. Oh yeah, they're on bookface too.

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