Last Saturday I won my second consecutive Houston Fittest Entrepreneur Challenge! That turns out not to be very impressive as there weren’t many entrepreneurs competing this year but I still took second among all male competitors and improved on my performance from last year so I feel very good about the results.
This year’s event was much like last year’s: it took place at the Houston Dynamo Sports Complex, the events were almost identical to last year’s, and I had the same awesome team of my former Rice students cheering me on, plying me with water, etc. There were two main differences, though: 1. there were ~3x as many people competing this year and 2. there were many more corporate teams competing as opposed to individuals. This second factor probably accounts for the dearth of entrepreneur entrants and the glut of executive, professional, doctor, lawyer, and consultant competitors, most of whom were part of company teams.
After warmup, mobilization, and review of my race strategy with my “pit crew,” I got after it:
Event 1: 30 bodyweight inverted rows on a suspension trainer. I finished in 23 seconds, #5 overall. Last year my 28 seconds was good enough for #4 so already you can see that the competition was stiffer this year.
Event 2: 40 plyo box step-ups while carrying a 25-lb sandbell. Last year I finished in 1:14 (#9) and this year I swear my judge said 1:14 as well. However, in the final results I’m listed at 1:24 (#54, my worst place). I can’t think of any reason that I would have dropped 10 seconds in this event since last year. Still, a 1:14 only would have bumped me up to #34, so this still would have been my worst event.
Event 3: 40 had-release push-ups (You have to rest fully on your chest and take your hands off the ground between reps.). Last year I finished the normal push-ups in 29 seconds (#4) but I found the hand-release push-ups much harder. I had to break up 40 into five sets of eight with a 4-5 second rest between sets otherwise my shoulders would get totally smoked. This strategy took me 56 seconds (#31). Given that I was near the top for push-ups last year and so far off this year (The top performers in this event were in the low 30s.) I think there was something I didn’t understand about the optimal way to blast through this movement.
Event 4: 40 35-lb kettlebell swings. I finished in 48 seconds (#6) vs. 52 seconds (also #6) last year.
Event 5: 40 arms-behind-your-head to fingers-past-your-toes sit-ups. Last year this was my worst event, finishing in 1:18 (#12). This year I paced myself better and improved my time to 1:11 (but placed worse at #18).
Event 6: 20 burpees. I finished in 44 seconds (#5), pausing for two breaths at the halfway point, vs 45 seconds (#4) last year.
Event 7: two-minute plank hold. This was my undoing last year as I didn’t even make it a full minute, tapping out at 52 seconds. This year I worked hard on my plank in an already exhausted state and it paid off: I completed the full two minutes to tie for #1. It’s a good thing, too – last year 52 seconds was enough for #8 in the event; this year it would have only earned me #61!
Clearly the field was much more competitive this year: I had improved my performance in almost all of the events yet, instead of placing #8 overall for the first course as I had last year, I was down at #13! Even if my second event time was indeed incorrect, the correct time would only have boosted me to #10.
After a rest and some coconut water, I hopped into Course 2. This was completed in pairs and I was fortunate to be paired with someone else who was very competitive. We both pushed each other through each of the four events, which I believe improved both of our scores.
Event 1: agility drills. Up and back through these speed ladders and hurdles took 29 seconds (#3) vs 1:23 (#4) on a longer version of the course last year.
Event 2: 10 15-lb sandbell tosses over a high barrier followed by suicide sprints. 50 seconds (#8) vs 60 seconds, (#9) last year. Already I could feel that I was doing better on this course than I had done last year – and my partner was helping to motivate me as he kept beating me by just a hair.
Event 3: 20 15-lb sandbell slams followed by a 100-yard out-and-back bear crawl. 43 seconds (#2!) vs 1:16 (#12) last year – a huge improvement. My partner was ahead of me heading out of the slams but I caught him at the turnaround of the bear crawl and never looked back.
Event 4: 100 yard out-and-back sprint while carrying a 10-ft, 40-lb sandrope followed by a 100 yard out-and-back sprint while carrying a 50-lb sandbell. 39 seconds (#3). Last year’s event was just the second half of this one and I finished in 17 seconds (#4).
I improved my performance in every single event of this course and it showed as I completed this course #2 overall vs. #8 last year. My calf started cramping a bit in the final event so I rested and coconut watered up a bit before the 5k.
Last year the course was a bit short, just 4.8k My km splits were:
4:39 (166 BPM heart rate)
3:18 (only 800m)
for a 21:54 (#3) finish.
Two weeks before this event I ran a 5k time trial in Oregon after an intense SHOP workout. My km splits were:
for a 21:55 finish. That was substantially faster than last year’s competition since it was the same time for a full 5k vs just 4.8k. Given that performance in a training run, I was optimistic that I would do even better in a race situation.
This year the race course was a full 5k. Amped up on competition adrenaline I went out a little faster than intended and then had to rein it in a bit as the heat, humidity (very different weather than we had during my Oregon training run!), and exhaustion from the previous courses conspired to make my right calf threaten to cramp. I managed to stave off the cramp, though, and still beat last year’s short course time on this longer course. My splits were:
for a 21:50 finish (#6) overall – much slower than my fresh 5k PR but a new “exhausted” 5k PR!
In the end I finished #13 on Course 1, #2 on Course 2, and #6 on Course 3 for a total score of 21, which was good enough for the top Entrepreneur spot and #2 among all male competitors. The #1 finisher earned #2, #4, and #4 on the respective courses for a total score of 10 so he was way ahead of me and even a correction to my plyobox step-ups event wouldn’t have helped me make up much ground on him. Clearly I’ll need to improve my performance in Course #1 substantially next year if I want to make a run at the overall title!
Once again this was a really fun event for which to train and in which to compete. I have to offer up huge shout outs to everyone who helped me out along the way:
The SHOP – my go-to source for all matters strength, conditioning, and nutrition
Paleo Runner – my running coach who is helping me improve my running with a less-is-more, smarter-not-harder approach
Unbound Body – my fascial stretching therapist who is helping me work through my mobility limitations
Chapel Hill Obstacle Run Conditioning Group – working out in this group has definitely improved my performance in things like the bear crawl.
Sid – my friend in Oregon who paced me during the 5k time trial
Matt – my Virginia friend who helped me train for courses 1 and 2 in Abingdon
Katie – my devoted wife who timed me on many training run-throughs and was so supportive of my efforts
Vivas and Veronica – my on-site pit crew was so incredibly helpful as I was nearing exhaustion in each event!
Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way! It was a blast and next year I’m thinking of putting together a team!