“What if we committed to keeping pace with one another like a team for the whole race, ha ha..”
“I’d totally be down for that!”
I had that conversation with a friend on March 8th, and by March 11th we had registered for UBC’s 38th annual Storm the Wall event in the Iron Woman category. Haven’t heard of Storm the Wall? Well, you need to learn so that you can observe or participate in the excitement as a student, alum, or faculty/staff member of UBC! It is a relay consisting of swim, sprint, cycle, and run portions that lead a team (or individual) to a 12-foot wall to overcome.
This can be accomplished with one team member tackling each leg of the race, or by one individual. The individuals are called “Iron Persons” or “Super Iron Persons” in either the Men’s or Women’s categories (they are working on incorporating non-binary options into the event). If you are an Iron Woman, you have someone lift you from the bottom of the wall and then must pull yourself over the top, and if you are a Super Iron Woman you must use the wall to launch yourself up to someone whose arm is hanging from the top of the wall. If you are an Iron Man, you perform the same task as Super Iron Women, and if you are a Super Iron Man you will receive no help getting over the wall.
Over the previous four years, I have completed Storm the Wall as a member of numerous teams. This year, however, in anticipation of graduation, my friend and I wanted to complete the race as Iron Women. Agreeing to do so as a “team” approximately a week and a half before the race day, we began to… Train. For a week and a half.
Training: Over the summer, both my friend and I were on a fairly regular swim schedule, and this portion of the training was challenging to get back into, but not impossible! I could tell that my arms would be tired on the day of the race, but my swimming abilities had not disappeared entirely.
Race day: The swim went about as well as I had expected! My experience with swimming is that you need to stick to it for a couple of weeks, and then it becomes a lot easier to mentally and physically get into the pool and do a few laps. If this is something you want to achieve, I believe it is 100% possible!
Training: This “sprint” has taken many forms over the years I have been involved in this event, and this year the length was approximately 450 metres – not a sprint, if you ask me! Nonetheless, I semi-regularly do cardiovascular exercise and did not training for sprinting 450 metres (half of which is uphill?!).
Race day: The sprint was more like a jog, which we were advised to be realistic about due to the 200 metre uphill portion of the sprint. I could tell at this point that my legs were fatigued from a short run on the treadmill from two days before, and I knew that the cycle and run would not be easy.
Training: Cycling is one area of exercise that I do not touch upon very often. I erroneously assume (time and time again) that it will be manageable because I do other forms of exercise that focus on my leg muscles and that increase my cardiovascular strength. However, this is not the reality I am met with whenever I hop on a bike, and it is not the reality I was met with during training. I needed a few weeks of training to adequately prepare for this, and that was time that I did not have. Thus, the bike was relegated to the back-burner for training and I only did two stints on a stationary bike.
Race day: Again, my short run from two days before had fatigued my legs and my lack of cycling preparation was evident as I fell behind most of the other women in my heat during this leg of the race.
Training: This run is a mere 3x the length of the so-called “sprint”, but I felt confident that 1.5 kilometres was doable and went for a steady jog that exceeded this distance on the treadmill two days before the event – I felt confident.
Race day: My concerns came to fruition and upon dismounting my bicycle, I realized that my legs felt like anchors – they were not moving fast and they were not coming far from the ground. I believe I would have benefitted from not doing any leg exercises in the three or four days leading up to the race. I caved and walked for 20 metres to let them rest, and then slowly but steadily jogged for the remained of the race.
Training: My practice clinic for getting over the wall was successful! I did not need help at the top and my “wall person” was impressive in shoulder-pressing my body weight above his head so that I could reach the top of the wall. We agreed that I needed to relax a bit more and let him lift me and that my footing would need to be strategic to make it easier for him to get his hands underneath my runners.
Race day: I took a minute to catch my breath and then said, “Alright, let’s do this.” It was far speedier than I expected considering I had completed the race before doing so! With my tired body, I was less resistent to the moments between standing on my wall person’s shoulders and getting my hands over the top of the wall and instead I just let it happen. It felt like I was over the wall in 15 seconds and then I was done.
My too-short training and tiring out my body #forstorm this year was an experience I really, really valued. It is a highlight of the work I have done to be a healthier and more engaged student and individual in my time in university and an overall highlight of my UBC experience. I only began to actively engage with exercise and healthy eating and body training when I was done my first year of university, and to complete this short but challenging race in my fifth year felt like a great way to prove to myself how far I have come and what I am capable of. If you want to accomplish something similar to this, don’t be afraid to! I raced alongside two others whose goals were simply to complete the race and say that they had done it and I think that if you have the opportunity, you should do the same. Do it #foryou.
Thinking of preparing your body for life or #forstorm? Check out these UBC Vancouver resources: Personal training programs and fitness classes at the Student Recreation Center, join an Intramurals sports team, or take a look at one of these at-home fitness programs to get you started!