Race Report: Bear Bait 25k (2023)

Welcome back to the wild world of ultramarathon training and trail running. As many of you may know, 2022 was not my year. I collapsed at work in January which caused me to miss the 2022 Bear Bait 25k. From there, I endured surgery (March), two failed courses of medication (summer), a week where I was in the ER three times in eight days (August), and finally my desperate search for a doctor willing to take my case (September/October) and perform what was arguably life saving surgery (November).

Whew, what a year!

While many of you know I’m no quitter: I endure the pain cave like a champ and finally completed the Mississippi 50 in 2021, I’m sure many wondered if I would, or even could, get back to trail races and ultramarathon.

Honestly? I questioned it too. I spent a year in pain. I was in pain for so long my doctors would start writing “chronic pain” in my notes. I was sent to a pain management specialist. The scar tissue building up across my organs began to impinge on my hip and by October I walked with a visible limp. Fatigue from Lupron (AKA – the “hell drug”) made it nearly impossible to work, let alone work out. And at my lowest points, my only goal was not to die.

I can still remember sitting at my gaming computer, back to my rack of race medals, sobbing and whispering across Discord to a friend who was miles away: “I don’t even care about that anymore, I just don’t want to die.”

But thanks to friends who were able to link me up with doctors are Walter Reed National Military Hospital, I was able to receive the surgery I needed. I came out with five few organs and five new scars, but alive and feeling better than I had the entire year.

I hobbled out of Walter Reed on Veterans Day, 2022, and swore I would complete the race I missed that January.

Only nine weeks later, I crossed that finish line!

It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty, but I met my very, very simple goals for the first race back.

goals

Today you’re getting my full race report for Bear Bait Ultra – 25k (15.53 mile) Race

Check in:

Bear Bait is run by a new race director as of this year, but the race maintained its same high quality, no frills approach. They offered two options for packet pick up, one of which was close to where I live. I was in and out in about five minutes and even had a chance to check on our Little Free Library to see if anyone picked up my copies of Pantheon and Pantheon 2: Ares & Athena from around Thanksgiving. (They had!)

Starting line:

For the 2021 race, COVID restrictions meant the race director was unable to get a permit to run at Bear Lake, the race’s namesake location. They had to do a rapid shift to Adventures Unlimited, a nearby outdoor park. The new course was so popular, the race has remained there while retaining its “Bear Bait” name.

I’m a big fan of the new course because while it is more technical terrain, the start/finish loop through a large barn and past a parking lot which allows for easy crewing. I was lucky enough to grab a parking spot at the final turn before the barn which made refills very easy.

New this year, they added a single four mile race and split the four races, into two days. This meant that, unlike last time when I started at 6:45, before the sun was fully up, I was able to start at an easy 8:00. And yes, like last time, the starting temperature was in the 30s. Brr!

Four laps ~3.75 miles long

The course:

I was glad to have seen this course before because it meant I could mentally prepare for its challenges. Fortunately, it was drier this year and I was happy to finish with dry feet!

Weather: A brisk 37F at opening and race start but warmed up to about 52F by the time I was done around 1pm. I started with every layer I had, including my windbreaker. The windbreaker, gloves, and vest came off after the first lap and I was relatively comfortable for the last three laps.

Trail conditions: Overall, great with only a few minor “I hate this” points. There were a few creek crossings but every single one had a bridge so my feet stayed dry! The trail was primarily single track but very technical due to the roots. The only breaks were one slightly swampy area that was mostly dry this year. There was also a slight change to the course route which still included the 0.25 mile long stretch of deep sand, but a jog over to the water line which was also deep sand.

Terrain: Flat. Mercifully, blissfully flat compared to BUTS. In 15 miles I had ~500ft of elevation change. There were a couple of steep drops but nothing terrible for a 25k runner. It will be a challenging course for those running into the night.

Aid stations:

As a looped course, I came through the main aid station three times during the race and finished basically in the main aid station. A local running club also set up a small aid station on the far side of the course which is where I got my beloved M&Ms.

Last time they had everything in individual cups, a trend I hoped would continue, but this year it was back to communal bowls. I mostly skipped those, choosing the individual cups of M&Ms on the far side of the course. I also had my car parked less than 100 meters from the barn and was able to get my own snacks.

Did I hit the Pain Cave?

Nope. Not even close. My running partner and I did this at a walk and while my calves and glutes got a good workout, we weren’t moving fast enough to hit the pain cave.

The unknowns:

The biggest unknown was me. In the nine weeks after getting out of the hospital, I worked diligently to get back to fighting form, but did not have the time to get any long walks in. We rolled the dice that my baseline level of fitness would be enough to carry me through. We also rolled the dice that my body would react well and I wouldn’t fall apart. The fact that it’s a looped course and I was never more than a half mile from the barn gave me some measure of safety. My running buddy having my Mom on speed dial helped too, just in case.

Crew:

Yes! For the first time, I had what could be considered a crew. Namely, my usual running partner. He was under strict orders from my Mom not to let me run and served as my safety net in case things went wrong. Things went well and we had odd conversations about which Muppets we would fight, which American President we wanted to punch the most, and what we would do if we had won the Mega Millions drawing from the night before. (Spoiler: neither of us won.)

The finish line:

Low key as always. We were some of the last folks in, having done the course at a brisk walk. (Or “power hike” in ultra lingo.)

Final time:

4:35 for 14.72 mi (the course was just shy of the billed 25k). The unofficial results showed me as the 54th of 80 racers. That was a full 1.5 hours slower than in 2021, but I achieved my main goal: finish!

My timing goal was sub-5:00. I’m very happy to have been nearly 30 minutes under my goal given the circumstances.

Overall thoughts:

Comparatively, it was an agonizingly slow race, despite holding a brisk walking pace. But I genuinely didn’t care about the time or pace, I wanted to finish and prove to myself I could make it back. To have gone from crying to a friend, not wanting to die, to walking across the finish line feeling more alive than I had in a year was the right way to start 2023.

Counting down from four days out to four laps on the course. This BeegeesACDC mash up perfectly matched my mood too: Stayin’ Alive, but make it rock! Find it on TikTok here

The Gear List:

I’m going to start adding gear lists to all my runs so folks can see what I’m carrying and how it changes between courses and weather. Some affiliate links, most aren’t.

Clothes:

Top: Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Element Long Sleeve Running Top – This one is a good top (45-55F) or middle layer (<45F). Plus, thumb holes and it covers half my hand.

Tank top: My race shirt from the Charlotte RaceFest. What can I say, I love the color!

Bra: SheFit ULTIMATE SPORTS BRA – a qualified “good.” I like that you buy based on cup size and both the chest band and shoulder straps are adjustable; it’s probably the most comfortable sports bra I have. I had found these tore up my back at the metal cinch, but at a walking pace I had no issues.

Tights: Curve ‘n’ Combat Boots Empowered Black (V1) – These were the same tights as the 2021 race and they showed their age. The elastic is going and I was pulling them up constantly. That said, they’re five years old and I got my money’s worth.

Socks: Balega Blister Resist Quarter Socks – These are thick and comfy but the “blister resist” is only as good as how well you lace your shoes. I did not lace my right shoe tight enough and have a small blister to show for my slipping around inside the shoe.

Shoes: Altra Olympus Trail Shoe – These have the thickest soles of my trail shoes which was good for all the roots on the trail. If it hadn’t been as technical, I might have considered dropping down to my Lone Peaks which have a thinner sole and are lighter weight.

Gaiter: Altra Trailer Gaiter – Designed specifically for Altra trail shoes and fits well (will not work on other shoes!). Kept out the sand pit I slogged through around mile 3 of each loop.

Gloves: Cheap ($1) knit cotton gloves bought from either Michaels or Hobby Lobby a few years back. I highly recommend finding a very cheap cotton glove to carry. Expensive bougie gloves are great but get lost so often… buy the cheap ones and they’ll never disappear on you.

Hat: Brooks and probably some type of dry fit? It was a gift so I have no idea where it was purchased. Wears well and kept my head warm.

Nutrition:

Vest: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0 – This is my “new to me” but “older model” vest I got on sale for half price. There’s a new version but I’m glad I gambled on buying this one as it’s been a real champ. Lots of easily accessible pockets, good bottle holders, and the bladder holding set up keeps it from rattling around or slipping its loops like my other vest. Not as easy to access the bladder for refills once it’s on but I didn’t need a refill this race so it hasn’t impacted me yet.

Snacks: Both the Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews (caffeinated version) and the Honey Stinger Organic Waffle. For the cold, this wasn’t a great pairing. The waffle was stiff and hard to chew from cold and since the chews are caffeinated, they aren’t a good “only” option. I supplemented with snacks from the aid station during this race. But for a race in more normal temps, they work really well for me.

Other:

GPS: Garmin Forerunner 945 – Y’all know I love this watch and I’ve talked about it before, the good and bad. I didn’t have any track walk offs today and I’m confident in the recorded distance/time. Also, can confirm the Incident Detection worked as advertised… except that it doesn’t send if you have no cell service. Probably a good thing or I would have scared the hubs! I was rattled enough that I didn’t have my wits about me in time to halt it sending the distress call. Fortunately (for today) it couldn’t complete the send.


Happy trails!


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To my friends seeking divorce in 2022

wedding ring divorce

Divorce in 2022. What a ride.

As many of you know, 2022 has not been my year. In addition to many health issues, I finalized a divorce earlier this year. Since then, I have spoken with many of my friends as they worked through divorces. I have found several themes among them: their situation was genuinely irretrievably broken, but despite that, they felt guilt and shame for leaving what was already a broken relationship. So, my purpose today, as my situation is finally stabilizing, is to let you know that you shouldn’t feel ashamed, it does get better, and you deserve to heal.

The holidays are a wonderful time for many, but for those in a marriage that is gasping its last breath, this is not the most wonderful time of year.

Maybe you have considered divorce several times in the past, but obligations have pressured you into staying. Maybe you’ve choked down neglect or abuse for too long and your spouse refusing to defend you against their mother was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe you’ve already asked for the divorce, but you’re putting on a show for the kids to give them the illusion of one last family holiday before you tell them.

Regardless of your situation, you have my empathy; divorce is a painful process, even when it could be titled “amicable.” While many would blame life after COVID for divorces in 2023, I also see it as the generation whose parents “stayed together for the kids” finally hitting a time in their life where the fairytale is over and they have to start making hard decisions. This generation grew up watching their Boomer parents passive-aggressively snipe at each other over the dinner table, refusing to let divorce stigmatize them in social situations and inflicting more harm than good as they tried to maintain their idolized Nuclear Family.

Our generation gets labeled entitled and spoiled, but we are also more aware of the importance of our mental health. Years of tearing down the social stigma of mental health have made a generation willing to consider what fulfills them and when to walk away from toxic situations. Unfortunately, for many of us, our own marriages are what is toxic and we make the heartbreaking decision to prioritize our own mental, physical, and emotional health over a partner who is no longer willing or able to meet our needs.
“But that’s so selfish!” you cry. “What about your children/family?” And you make a great point. What about those in our inner circle? Our children, especially?

The Fallacy of Good or Bad Choices

I think there is a culturally accepted idea that all choices have a “good” and ”bad” answer. That, somehow, a spouse considering divorce should be able to weigh the available options and make a perfect choice that ensures everyone (spouse, children, self) is happy. But that idea is as much a fairytale as the idea of a perfect marriage that requires no work.

In the real world, sometimes the choices are “least bad or destructive,” “slightly more bad and destructive,” or “my divorce lawyer will hate constantly talking me off the proverbial ledge.” No one really “wins” in a divorce. Feelings are hurt, hearts are broken, and even an amicable divorce will require a division of assets that drives difficult discussions. Do the hurt feelings make this a bad decision? No. The best example I can give is the impact of divorce on children. Would you rather your children be harmed by parents whose toxic relationship spills onto them, or would you prefer they see you make the healthy choice, heal as a person, and be a more present parent? I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen my child cry as hard as they did when informed we were divorcing. However, being away from the emotional toll of a broken relationship has given me more energy to devote to our relationship and she is both happier and healthier now.

It will seem like everyone in your life who knows of your divorce will have an opinion on the matter.

Parents. Siblings. Friends. Neighbors. Coworkers. Everyone. (I elected to tell only my closest friends, family, and coworkers. Huge shout out to my boss for never making me feel judged!) But remember, you made the choice healthiest for you and you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings; they are of their own making. But people will still seek to impose their opinions on you.

And what’s worse? Many of their comments will induce a feeling of shame, even the well meaning comments. American culture is arguably more accepting of divorce than it was in our parents’ generation, but there is still a stigma associated with it. Many people view divorce as a failure, a lack of moral conviction, or laziness in maintaining one’s relationships. But every person who seeks a divorce has their reason and everyone’s reason is valid to them.

My friend, you had your reason for seeking a divorce, it’s valid, and you should not be ashamed. Don’t let anyone’s comments make you feel ashamed; you are making the right choice for your mental and emotional well-being.

Removing wedding ring
Image courtesy of Pexels

The Emotional Rollercoaster

Have you ever ridden a rollercoaster? There is the long wait in line to get on the coaster, then the disconcerting rattle as the car chugs up the first hill. A sense of trepidation and fear sets in. “What have I done? Did I really want to ride this ride?” And before you can complete the thought, you hit the first drop. Your stomach climbs into your throat and all you can do is hold on for dear life. At the bottom of the first hill, you immediately zip up the next, maybe even inverting and wondering if it will ever end. But the hills and drops get smaller as the ride goes on before it levels off completely and you move on with your life.

And that, my friend, is what the emotions of divorce feel like.

As you wait to file for divorce, like standing in line, you know this will be intense with ups and downs, but you don’t fully comprehend until you’re on the ride.

The moments before telling your spouse you want a divorce is the chug up the first hill and their reaction is the first drop. Maybe it’s a shock, like the case of a “walkaway wife” (or husband/spouse). Maybe they lash out and the abuse you’ve endured for years intensifies. Maybe it’s a quiet acceptance of something you both knew was inevitable. (In this rare case, you’re on the teacup ride at Disney: you don’t ride an up and down so much as a dizzying twirl through the legal system.)

In the days and months that follow, you must ride the ups and downs of informing family and friends, seeking a lawyer, splitting assets, and finding new living accommodations. Having children in the home will add extra twists and turns as you navigate a successful co-parenting relationship. But slowly, the rollercoaster winds down and you find a new stasis. It gets more stable, especially if you are able to work with a counselor, and life begins to feel normal again. A feeling of hope returns.

Divorce wedding ring
Image courtesy of Pexels

Is the Grass Greener?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Everyone’s situation is different. But even if the grass isn’t greener, you are the gardener. You get to decide when the grass gets trimmed or decide to tear it all out and plant a flower bed instead.

To the outside world, this is the most visible part of the divorce. You redecorate your house. You ask yourself why you do something a certain way you hate and realize you did it for them, and habit patterns change. You do something you never did because your former spouse disliked it. (Hello, new tattoo!) To those on the outside that have never experienced divorce, it seems chaotic. Mercurial.

But with every little (and not so little) choice you make, you walk closer to who you are. You find the things that make you happy. You begin to heal.

And what I want you to know most of all is that you deserve to heal. You deserve to live a healthy life.

I liken a dying/toxic relationship to a boil. The only way to cure it is to lance the wound and drain the bad. Is it painful? Yes. But until you can remove the harmful effects, you can never fully heal.

Self care
Image courtesy of Pexels

Recommendations

I hope my words help you feel a sense of relief, that you aren’t alone, and that your health and happiness are worth more than being miserable for appearances. I will leave you with a few recommendations from my own experience and from helping several friends navigate the process this year.

1) Consult with a divorce lawyer before you do anything else. I meant it. Before you say a word to your spouse, you should know your rights, what a reasonable timeline is, and what you are both entitled to in the split. Every state is different and you need to know the law in your state so you aren’t caught by surprise when your spouse suddenly asks for half your paycheck AND your house AND child support. You will also what to know how much access you have to your property and what the rules are for co-parenting before the divorce is finalized. A lawyer will set realistic expectations.

2) Have housing lined up before you inform your spouse. There is nothing worse than being forced to cohabitate with someone when both your emotions are on the rollercoaster.

3)  DO NOT BE AN ASS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Or, as one lawyer I consulted with told me, “Don’t tweet anything you’d be embarrassed to read in a courtroom. Make sure your social media would impress the judge.” He was not wrong. Bad mouthing your soon-to-be former spouse will not only anger them, potentially making the mediation process more difficult but it could also be seen as a sign of instability in a custody fight.

4) Be realistic but give yourself grace. It takes two to tango: you and your former arrived at this point together. It is incredibly rare for one party to be completely in the wrong and the other be a saint. You need to be prepared to accept that you had your faults too. But you should also give yourself grace. No one is perfect and people change.

Resources:

The divorce process will bring out a range of emotions and when feelings are raw, past trauma can sometimes come to light. If you need them, below are a few resources that can help:

RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – 988

Veteran’s Crisis Line – 988, option 1 or text 838255


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

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Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

The Great Powerlifting Experiment


For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know I recently competed in my first powerlifting competition. You also know that I suffer from a diagnosed chronic illness that was finally diagnosed back in March and it’s been doing a number on my body. But me being me, of course I decided to give my chronic illness the bird and competed anyway.

My goals were simple: spend 2 months training under a powerlifting style of lifting, gain strength, complete all three lifts, and attain a combined lift of 500lbs.

Spoiler: I accomplished all my goals, despite a few bumps in the road.


What is Powerlifting?

From USA Powerlifting: Distinct from weightlifting, a sport made up of two lifts: the Snatch and the Clean-and-Jerk, where the weight is lifted above the head, powerlifting comprises three lifts: the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. Powerlifting competitions may be comprised of one, two or all three of the lifting disciplines.

As you may recall from my post on bodybuilding, I didn’t mean to become a bodybuilder, I wanted to do weightlifting, but a recently repaired shoulder just couldn’t handle the overhead work. That’s why I went with powerlifting instead of weightlifting; my shoulder can now handle a modest bench press, but not the overhead lifts needed in weightlifting.

Powerlifting is as very distinct from bodybuilding. The goal of bodybuilding is to mold and shape the body, through exercise and nutrition, to fit a very specific athletic aesthetic. Powerlifting is about using weightlifting to build a body capable of maximum lifting capability. And yes, your body’s shape is very different in each discipline.


What are the Lifts?

The Three Kings of weightlifting: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Regardless of sports focus, most weightlifting regimes will incorporate these three foundational lifts and their variations.

Squat: Pop it like a squat! The booty makers and quad killer. A squat requires the standing lifter to hold a loaded barbell across their shoulders and bend deeply at the knees until the knee goes parallel to the hip crease, then return to the standing position.

Bench press: The simplest of the three, the lifter lays on a bench, holds the loaded barbell over their chest, allows it to come down (slowly, please!) to the chest, and then presses up until it returns to its original position.

Deadlift: A standing lifter uses two hands to pull the loaded barbell from the ground until the lifter is standing fully erect.


How Did I Train?

As you know, I have a very long history of sports and a five year background in weightlifting for bodybuilding. Surprisingly, the program I found and used was similar to my bodybuilding regime but with fewer reps. I focus on hypertrophy for bodybuilding, which is achieved by lifting a lower weight for higher reps. The goal is to use volume to build muscle fibers and that is why bodybuilders achieve that wonderfully sculpted look.

For powerlifting, I needed the exact opposite: high weight, low reps, and go until failure on the last set. (Failure is when the muscles are no longer capable of the exercise.) Because you go to failure, you also do fewer sets overall. My bodybuilding workout takes me anywhere from 45-75 minutes in the gym and I found I could finish my powerlifting workouts in 30-40 minutes.

In bodybuilding, I used a fabulous coach who set both my workouts and nutrition/macros. Once I took a break from bodybuilding, I started leaning heavily on ExRx.net to find new and interesting lifts. ExRx.net came through for me during my experiment and I found their 5/3/1 Program.

5/3/1 Program powerlifting lifts and weights
From the 5/3/1 Program

This program builds your strength on 4 week cycles, 3 building weeks and one active recovery week. I liked that everything scales to your known single rep max (the greatest weight you can lift one single time). Everyone has that one exercise they are best at; for me it’s the deadlift, and it allows you to progress up in each lift based on your own strengths.

The only drawback was that it doesn’t have much accessory work. I know I shouldn’t be focused on accessory lifts while training for powerlifting, but after five years, I felt like something was missing from my lifting days. The only thing I used as any kind of accessory work was my Fat Grips, to build my grip strength up, since I knew I was weak there and it would have a direct impact on my lifts.

And I ate. So much more than in bodybuilding. I did keep track of my intake, I did have a specific macro load I was trying to hit, but when you are eating to maintain or even gain, it’s like mana from heaven. There’s so much more wiggle room in the diet. Pizza? Sure! Another delicious cinnamon roll protein bar? Sure! A glass of wine? Well, yes, in moderation. While I do enjoy my wine and IPAs, alcohol is still a detractor when you’re building.

One note about my health and this program: the medication I’m on, Lupron, is a hell drug. It’s the G-D devil and I intend to refuse treatment before the next course. Lupron is used for folks with prostate or ovarian cancer, endometriosis (Hi! It’s me!), and other illnesses that require full hormone suppression. Lupron is chemo-adjacent and sent me into a very rapid and early chemically induced menopause while I started this program. I knew it would cause weight gain and hoped to capitalize on those extra calories for muscle building; however, it also included fatigue, bone pain, joint pain, loss of strength, sleep loss, and hair loss. I hit a few new PRs (personal records) the first couple of weeks, but as the rapid onset menopause hit me, I plateaued just as I should have been hitting my new goal lifts. If I do this again when I’m healthy, it will be a much more accurate look at how the ExRx program’s efficacy.


Day of the Meet

What I expected: I’ll admit I had no idea what to expect from this meet. It was small, run by a dedicated but inexperienced team, and many of the competitors were also new to the sport. It was perfect for me to dip my toes in but it lead to a very long day. I think the only thing I expected was that I would do my three lifts and hope I made my target total weight.

What I saw: First and foremost, lifting for a crowd is amazing! The announcer always noted when a lift was someone’s PR attempt and hearing a crowded room scream for you as you lift the heaviest thing you’ve ever held is powerful. One of the other ladies took me under her wing and helped explain how competitive lifts worked because it was very different from how I trained. (Oops!)

What sucked: I had no idea that competitive lifts differed from how I lift in a workout. There are commands to start and/or return to your starting position. I also learned that I needed to squat much deeper than I was used to in my workouts. That threw me and I had to drop my starting lift by 40lbs to ensure I could make at least one lift.

Why one lift? Well, as I learned, you get three attempts to lift the heaviest weight you can successfully complete, but once you state your first weight, you cannot go down. So, if you fail your first lift, you can’t drop weight and most people are stuck with three failed lifts. Fortunately, my new mentor helped me set three good weights and the organizers allowed me to change before we officially started. And thank goodness, too, because it got rough!


My Three Lifts

With a goal total of 500lbs, I needed to make sure I had a successful lift in each category.

Squat: I had hoped to lift between 185lbs and 195lbs (my PR), but after testing out the much lower squat depth, I changed my starting weight from 175lbs to 135bs. Thank goodness! I lifted 135lbs, 155lbs, and 170lbs successfully, but I’m not sure I would have made that 175lbs opening lift which would have resulted in a failure.

Opening squat of 135lbs

Bench press: I didn’t realize how far down I would have to go for the bench and didn’t factor in the small pause at the bottom where I waited for the “lift!” command. I’m glad I started at only 105lbs because that pause killed me. I was successful on 105lbs but failed twice at 115lbs, a weight where I can I normally do two or three reps. It was disappointing to now be a combined 30lbs below where I thought I would be as I chased 500lbs and it meant I would have to attain a new PR on the deadlift. Thank goodness for that crowd!

Deadlift: Deadlift is my specialty. I have thick thighs and dumps like a truck from years and years of running, cycling, and lifting. It’s also the only lift that I performed in the gym like they do in competition; the only difference is locking at the top until they give the command. But since I lift to lock out anyway, it was just holding on a little longer. My previous PR is 220lbs but if I didn’t try at least 225, I would miss my 500lbs goal.

I’m happy to say I successfully lifted 185lbs, 200lbs, and then went for it on 225lbs. Hearing the head judge yell “PR! PR! PR attempt” and the crowd immediately responding and cheering as I set for the lift was powerful. The weight went up so smoothly, that I probably could have added another 5-10lbs and made it, but I made the safe choice at 225lbs.

Total weight: 500lbs
Squat: 170lbs
Bench: 105lbs
Deadlift: 225lbs

Second place powerlifting medal

Will I do it again?

A strong maybe. Even now, about a month later, my health and strength are still declining and I have another month before this course of medication ends. I know I’m facing another two months or so before my body normalizes and then it’ll be time for a second round of surgery with a 6-8 week recovery. It will be a while before I can compete again and while I’m open to it, I’m waiting to see how recovery goes before committing to my next big adventure.


Happy trails!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Race Report: Memorial Day Gate-to-Gate

Race reports in 2022… We’re going get to the race report part, but first… boy howdy, 2022 has been a dang year already, hasn’t’ it?

If you get my news letter, you know I’ve been battling some health issues. (If you don’t get the newsletter, you can sign up here.) After too many doctors visits, multiple ultrasounds/CTs, a trip to the ER, and surgery, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness known as endometriosis. Unlucky for me, it’s in Stage III with DIE (“deeply infiltrative endometriosis,” it also makes you feel like you’re dying) and I’m really going through it right now.

Surgery was semi-successful, dropping my daily pain from 7/10 down to 3/10. But the first course of medication was a failure and the new meds have some gnarly side effects. (Blah, blah, blah: “this medication has been prescribed because your doctor has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects.”)

Side effects: nausea, vomiting, insomnia, amenorrhea, hot flashes, fatigue, more fatigue, and for fun, and extra side of fatigue. To say it’s had an impact on running would be putting it mildly. However, I’ve been slogging through and trying to keep my focus on small goals. No ultra marathons for me this year, but a 4.4-miler sounded like a small, but surmountable challenge.


Today you’re getting my full race report for Memorial Day Gate-to-Gate – 4.4 mi Race

This is an interesting one because it is executed by and run entirely on Eglin Air Force Base. The race is held the morning of Memorial Day and has some beautiful tributes to our fallen heroes.

Check in:

Because this is run by the base, the first two days you can only do packet pick up on base. No ID, no pick up. Closer to the race, you can pick them up at the local running shop. I was a dumbass and forgot all four day and therefore had to pick up at 5:30 the morning of the race.

Starting line:

Wow. This was a military race. Pad the pad, to pad the pad. Race starts at 7, be in place no later than 6:30, have to get your packet by 6am and expect 30-60 minutes to get on base if you aren’t an ID holder. Fortunately I live on base so I was able to leave my house at 5:30 and be in line for my packet at 5:45. I then had over an hour to stand around.

The starting line was nice though. They had corrals for different paces but I think they over estimate the abilities of their average runner: 6 min/mi, 6:30 min/mi, 7, 7:30, 8…. then a gaggle of hundreds with those fast pace groups almost empty. They also offered paper carnations to everyone that would late be dropped at the All Wars memorial which was a very nice touch.

The course:

Not the most beautiful course, it was run on the base roads but I appreciated dropping flowers at the All War memorial and the bag piper serenading us as we ran by.

Race course
One big 4.4 mile loop

Weather: Hot and hotter! At the 7 am race start, it was a warm 78F and humid. There was a weird, early morning fog layer that laid on the upper parts of the course (looked cool running past a bag piper in the mist) but it all burned off by the time we got down the hill. Which is unfortunate because there wasn’t an inch of shade the last two miles.

Terrain: Flat for the first mile, a gentle downhill to the base of the runway. Then it’s all flat until the very end where you run back up every inch you ran down earlier in about 200m.

Aid stations:

Let me start with a big “WTAF?” to the course organizers. There were probably 600 folks between walkers and runners, Athlinks says I was the 76th person to cross the finish line, rough math says top 15%…. and by the FIRST aid station, they were out of cups. And the second. And the third. And the last.

Honest to goodness, how do you have a race with 600 registered participants and have cups for only 10% of them???

I was so mad. My running partner was mad. Everyone around us was mad. By mile three people were stopping to throw up on the side of the course due to heat and no water. They were already rolling the fire trucks and ambulance as we came up the last hill and they tried to stop us crossing to get the truck by. It was bad!

Did I hit the Pain Cave?

Not really. Not for running anyway. Hot and humid with no water? Eh, not too bad. But I’ve been in pain so long they’re bumped me over into the chronic pain management regime. So, one could say I’ve made a home in the Pain Cave for the last few months. I’m ready to move out and move on.

Crew:

No crew for this race and it was short enough that I didn’t need a pacer, but my usual running partner was there and we pushed each other despite dehydration driven crankiness.

The finish line:

A little party with a small up of beer and some cold Popeye’s chicken then the usual booths of post run junk: cups, magnets, fliers for other races. My partner and I declined all but the beer then hunted down bottles of water. We were scorched and cranky and didn’t stay for awards.

Memorial Day race medal

Final time:

43:52 for 4.4 mi. My goal was to hold a gentle 10:00 min/mi pace and I was just a hair faster, clocking in at 9:54 min/mi. It was slow and plodding for a road course but I made my goal and these days, that’s a win.

Overall thoughts:

This was the first time the base was able to hold this race in two years and it showed. The volunteers were polite and friendly but the logistics of the race were a disaster. I can’t say I’ll come back again, even with it being literally in my backyard. Unfortunately, this is last local race of the season, we don’t get anything else until Paddle at the Park in August and no running races until October’s Wicked Triple. If I want another race, it’ll have to be north of here, like the Charlotte RaceFest.


The Gear List:

My gear lists so folks can see what I’m carrying and how it changes between courses and weather. As usual, some affiliate links, most aren’t; I am not sponsored by any specific companies.

Clothes:

Tank top: my trusty Skirt Sports tank top. Unfortunately, then the original owners sold, they dropped this particular top and its not for sale any longer. It’s a great top layer for hot/humid runs and it gave me minimal chaffing.

Bra: SheFit ULTIMATE SPORTS BRA – a qualified “good.” I like that you buy based on cup size and both the chest band and shoulder straps are adjustable; it’s probably the most comfortable sports bra I have. That said, the metal loop that holds the chest band tab tears my back up after 5 miles and I was starting to feel it coming up the hill at mile 4. I should have put my two strips of sports tape under the tab.

Shorts: Nike Fast Shorts – What a game changer for me! I have thick, thicc thighs from trail running and squats. They rub together. All the time. In tights, it’s not an issue but in loose shorts, I end up chaffed. And most stretch shorts only have a 5″ inseam which means the end *right* where my thighs rub. However, Nike’s new trail shorts have a blessed 7″ inseam which left me mostly chaffing free, but for the humidity, it was inevitable.

Socks: Balega Blister Resist Quarter Socks – These are thick and comfy, but the “blister resist” is only as good as how well you lace your shoes and how wet your feet get. At some point, no sock/shoe combo will save you from everything.

Shoes: Altra Provision – I have both the Provision and the Torin but chose the Provision today since it gives a little more stability, something I probably needed with the foot pain I’ve experienced lately.

Hat: My trusty finishers hat from the River Cities Tri a few years ago. It wasn’t cool enough to need a warmer hat.

Nutrition:

Snacks, self carried: None because I didn’t think I’d need to carry water.

Other:

GPS: Garmin Forerunner 945 – Y’all know I love this watch and I’ve talked about it before, the good and bad. I didn’t have any tracks walk-offs today and I’m confident in the recorded distance/time accurately.


Happy trails!


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Book Review – Small Gods


KR Paul Book Review - Small Gods

Full Title: Small Gods

Author: Terry Pratchett (On GoodReads)

ISBN: 978-0062237378

Purchase link: Want your own copy in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook

Synopsis:

“Lost in the chill deeps of space between the galaxies, it sails on forever, a flat, circular world carried on the back of a giant turtle— Discworld —a land where the unexpected can be expected. Where the strangest things happen to the nicest people. Like Brutha, a simple lad who only wants to tend his melon patch. Until one day he hears the voice of a god calling his name. A small god, to be sure. But bossy as Hell.”

Review:

My gods, one of my favorite books ever and one I go back to reread at least once a year. Sir Terry Pratchett is a master of the craft and Small Gods is one of his best works. “Small Gods” is comedy, religious satire, and an interesting social commentary on organized religion (easily read as Catholicism) set in his Discworld universe.

The main character, Brutha, is seen as a dimwitted novice by all who meet him, even the god he claims to worship. AS the story progresses, the reader learns more of the Great God Om (holy horns) and how the god’s religion seems to have gotten away from him a bit. And as much as his own religion has processed away from him, his prophets seem to be running amok as well. Even his own god notes Brutha’s “not the chosen one I would have chosen” as they adventure together. At its heart, this is a reluctant hero novel with a dash of religious satire.

As a reader, I love this for many reasons, some very personal. First, I enjoy the Discworld universe immensely. The world is vast and with so many books loosely connected through the universe, almost everyone touches on characters or plots the reader has seen before. It gives everything an incredible depth and breadth so that even a single book has the feel of a whole world. I love Brutha as a character because he holds hidden depth and complexity, despite his simple description, and he is a great “straight man” to his tempestuous god and counterpart.

On a more personal level, I love this book because of how I was introduced to it. As a teen, my group of friends was religiously diverse: a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Jew, and a Presbyterian who was strongly considering being an atheist. My introduction to this was sitting on my living room floor as our Buddhist read aloud. We listened, enthralled, to her melodious voice and giggled over Brutha hoeing the melons. (“Melons. Melons. Well, that goes some way toward explaining things, of course.”) While it’s not a book that pushes one to atheism, apostasy, or agnosticism, for a teenage girl who was already questioning the need for organized religion, it was an awakening to see an entire book that gently mocked the bureaucracy of organized religion.

As an author, I love this book for its technical mastery. Like “Legends and Lattes,” it not only plays to an established world, but it uses well known tropes and executes them masterfully. Brutha is a perfectly written reluctant hero. His god, Om, is a dynamic anti-hero. And the villain is written so well that his villainhood comes to you slowly until the reader is staring at the pages in horror at their actions. It follows the standard plot arc, and the climax is perfectly timed and built.

Rating: 5 cups of tea


NOTE: Like my race reports, this post does contain some affiliate links. If you purchase from that link, I may get a small commission. That said it doesn’t impact what you pay or the author receives in royalties!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Book Review – Legends & Lattes


Book Review Bottom Line: I can definitely say Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes, is best described as the book equivalent of curling up with your favorite latte, under a cozy blanket on a rainy day. It’s warm, and cozy, and makes you feel good about life.

book review legends & lattes

Full Title: Legends and Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes

Author: Travis Baldree (On Twitter and GoodReads)

ISBN: 979-8985663235

Purchase link: paperback, Kindle, Want your own copy in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and of course audiobook because Travis Baldree is an amazing voice actor!

Synopsis:

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

Review:

As a D&D nerd, avid reader, and author, this book was right up my alley. The review that pointed me to “Legends & Lattes” said it “reads like a cozy cup of coffee,” and I found that description 100% accurate with a twist of high fantasy.

Basically, the plot is what would happen if your barbarian orc decided to retire from combat and open a coffee house. From a reader standpoint, I found it light and engaging, I loved the characters, and found the setting charming. It includes fun new phrases like “an insufferable shitweasel” and delicately balances a few other creative curses without being obscene.

From an author’s perspective, I considered it well written, with a plot that follows the standard American plot arc (which keeps things moving), and good world building on a familiar high fantasy/D&D setting.

I read it while convalescing from surgery and tore through it in a day. You could chalk the quick read up to being mostly confined to my couch or the compelling plot, but I haven’t done that in a hot minute. Even the cat loved it!

Rating: 5 cups of tea (or lattes, as would be thematically appropriate)



NOTE: Like my race reports, this post does contain some affiliate links. If you purchase from that link, I may get a small commission. That said it doesn’t impact what you pay or the author receives in royalties!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Rewriting a Novel in Fifteen Easy Steps

Edited papers

Just kidding, none of this is easy!


I was recently asked by my publisher to shift the focus of my next writing project slightly. I’m still slowly working on Pantheon 3, but my primary focus has shifted to a project I started over a decade ago. In fact, it was the first full novel I ever wrote and one that was rejected thirty-seven times. The only glimmer of hope I ever had from literary agents about my writing was being told it was “good writing/plot, but not commercially viable” because I couldn’t or wouldn’t commit to publishing a book every 18-24 months.

That little glimmer of hope was the spark that kept me going and a major factor in how I linked up with Force Poseidon. I sent them Pantheon and when they asked if I had anything else, I sheepishly handed over this story as well. My editor was enthralled, but we both acknowledged that it needed major reworking before it could be fit for publication. Additionally, due to my day job and the subject of the work, it will be an uphill battle to get it approved for release. So, we shelved it in favor of Pantheon 2: Ares & Athena, which was 75% complete at that point. But now P2 is published and P3 is only in the storyboarding phase, so it seems like as good a time as any to work on this new project. And who knows, given the possible timelines for approval from the Air Force, P3 may be complete by the time we hear back about this project.

Where does that leave me today? The work from 2009/2010 currently has 61,000 words; however, it needs a full reworking. I initially thought it might be an easy process. After all, 61k words is a lot to work with, but as I broke the process down, I realized I had more work in front of me than I initially thought. Since many of you have enjoyed reading about my writing process for the Pantheon series, I figured I could write about this process as well.

With fifteen steps, there’s a lot to write about! I’ve already written about some of the things on the list below, so I won’t re-write those posts. Expect that as I go through the process, I’ll add links to the “To Do” list.


To Do:

1. Finish re-reading old work (Complete: 12 Nov 22)

2. Character profiles (In works)

3. Scene/Act breakout (Complete: 17 Nov 22)

            A. Structure 3 Acts (Complete: 17 Nov 22)

B. Scene cards for existing scenes (Complete: 12 Nov 22)

            C. Scene cards for new scenes (B-Plot, Complete: 17 Nov 22)

4. Re-structure w/new scenes (Complete: 17 Nov 22)

5. Cut out the shit scenes

6. Re-write from plot cards

7. Re-read full plot, by Act; make notes on impact/themes/scenes

8. Edit for clarity/continuity

9. Edit for grammar/formatting

10. Beta readers; may require NDA

A. Incorporate edits

11. Publisher edit and updates

12. Update and read for continuity

13. HAF PA approval (who knows how long this is?)

14. Release process

            A. Title finalized and released

            B. Cover art finalized and released

            C. Pre-orders

15. Pub day and French 75s!

            A. Marketing before/during/after

            B. Author meet and greet

            C. Newsletter/mailing list releases

The writing process

As you can see, it’s a lengthy process, but I have faith I can get through my part with speed and ease. The hardest part right now is reading my work from a decade ago when my technical writing skills were not what they are today. Oof. That’s tough to read without cringing.

Wish me luck!

Edited papers
Edit with red pen and highlighters

Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 3)

Show Weekend and What I Learned


I can only start this section with telling you that a bodybuilding show weekend is a wild ride and the more you know, the less stressed or shocked you will be! In my first two bodybuilding articles, you learned Bodybuilding 101 and what is takes to get on stage. Rather than breaking this into subsections like the first two articles, I’m giving you more of a timeline of events with explanations as you go from leaving home to getting home.


In the Beginning: Peak Week

It all starts with the famed bodybuilding “Peak Week,” a process to slowly replenish the lost glycogen in your muscles and dehydrate you at the end for that paper thin skinned look on stage. I won’t detail how I achieve this because it’s only designed for that one week and downright dangerous. It is all done solely for the one day on stage.

It’s also miserable.

peak week
There was no energy left in my body

For me, I had been dieting for 50 weeks, I had lost over 45lbs, and I had no energy. I still had to maintain my workouts and now I was altering my diet again. It was the suck.

peak week

Show Weekend

For smaller bodybuilding shows held on a Saturday, check in’s are conducted on Friday night. Most competitors drive in from out of town which is a real delight because most of us are also overloading on the water to drive it out the next day.

At the event venue, they check you in, give you your number, check your height/weight to ensure you’re in the correct division, and send you on your way. Most bodybuilding competitors will also choose to have their first lay of spray tan done now. Others opt to do their own, but I find them to be messy, uneven, and difficult to apply on your own, even with the little wand applicator. This is one of the few areas I don’t begrudge the money spent.

Tanning

But let’s talk about the bodybuilding spray tan process. At my first show, I assumed I’d wear my suit and they’d spray around it.

Wrong!

When I first walked in the spray area, a hotel conference room covered in plastic sheeting and filled with tiny pop up tents, I was greeted by fully nude women strolling across the floor. Needless to say, I did not expect that. However, there is a method to this madness. Those spray gun spray tanning product everywhere and there is no way to protect your very expensive suit from it. So, you get sprayed nude. Or, at least the ladies do. I haven’t seen the guys tents, so I assume it’s the same.

Now I was well on my way to becoming friends with all the other girl competing because, once you see each other naked, how can you not be friends I guess?

I was very glad that this was the best I had ever looked in my life because I strolled from the changing area to the little tent in my birthday suit to get sprayed. And damn, that spray is kind of cold! You spend 10 to 15 minutes having every inch of you sprayed then spend another 20 minutes letting it dry. I got over my initial shock fast and spent most of my drying time chatting with other competitors.

bodybuilding

You know what? They were not what I expected at all. Not a one of them was catty or mean. We may have all started our journey in a different place, but we’d all faced similar challenges: the ups an downs of the scale, unsympathetic coaches who cut calories without mercy, fitting lifting and cardio around busy lives, and slogging through workouts when dead on our feet.

bodybuilding
We spent out backstage time discussing post-show meals and fart jokes

A sense of sisterhood began to grow with these women. They were from all walks of life but shared a common goal: be their best selves, even if only for one moment. I loved the mutual respect and kindness each had for the others. We’d all driven ourselves through hell and made it to the other side.

With my spray tan done, I hurried back to my hotel to catch what sleep I could before my 5am second spray tan and 5:30 make up appointments.

That’s right. 5. A. M.

The bodybuilding show you see in the evenings is only the final event. There’s a whole pre-judging that occurs in the morning and bodybuilding competitors have to be in full hair, make up, and stage wear at show start. With my shows usually starting at 9, I was stuck with an early make up appointment do I could do my hair after.


Show Day

4:30 am: Wake up, pee very carefully to keep little splashes from wrecking my base tan. Eat meal one which consists of about an ounce of chicken and an ounce of sweet potato. Ahh, the bodybuilding speacial!

5:00 am: More naked time with my new friends and the second coat spray tan I described in “What It Takes to Get to the Stage.” I spend as long as possible letting it dry to not leave little lines from my PJ pants.

5:30 am: In the make up chair letting my MUA turn me into Aphrodite of the Weights

bodybuilding
Half way through my makeup application

6:15 am: I’m jamming meal two in my mouth while curling my hair. Wistfully eyeing the tap water because from now until the night show, I only get tiny sips of water to maximize my dehydration.

7:30 am: Pack my bags and drive from my hotel to the show hotel. I’m in loose PJ pants to keep from wrecking my tan and have my bikini plus a tackle box of make up and styling tools in a bag.

8:45 am: Battling boredom because I showed up way too early. Expediters are out! They’re dropping the event listing. And of course, true to bodybuilding show standards, the women’s bikini division is last. Always. I’m in for a long morning.

9:00 am: Show start. I’m waiting. I eat a rice cake coated in honey.

bodybuilding
Pre-show rice cake, but you get the idea

9:45 am: Still waiting. I break and sip some water with my rice cake.

10:30 am: Judge’s break, most of the men are done but the bikini division is still waiting. Eat a rice cake.

10:55 am: I sneak off to the bathroom and almost miss my line up call and glaze. Damn it.

10:59 am: A random stranger is gluing my bikini to my butt (to keep it from riding, hooray Bikini Bite) and another is rubbing/spraying me with glaze. My legs are shaking in 4” stilettos from hungry, dehydration, and nerves. I’m mentally chanting my stage walk and posing: strut, strut, strut, strut, stop! Pose and SMILE. Turn and push that hip. SMILE! Turn again and pop that booty. Half turn. Turn again and pose and SMILE. Strut, strut, strut off stage.

11:03 am: OMG I’M ON THE STAGE. I can’t see the judges beyond the stage lights but the stage is taped so I know my marks. strut, strut, strut, strut, stop! Pose and SMILE. Turn and push that hip. SMILE! Turn again and pop that booty. Half turn. Turn again and pose and SMILE. Little wave to the crowd. (There’s vague cheering behind the ringing in my ears.) Strut, strut, strut off stage.

(Fun fact, my first bodybuilding show was only 3 months after I returned from a deployment. Between the local National Guard unit providing a color guard, the National anthem being played too loud, and my own MH issues, I started having a panic attack at the show’s start. I pulled it together by the time I was on stage, but I think I disassociated a bit on stage.)

bodybuilding
Thank goodness they tape your spots because I’d be lost in those lights otherwise

11:05 am: Still trying to calm down. WHAT? I HAVE TO GO BACK OUT? Oh yeah, line up. Now the ladies all line up directly next to each other and the judges to side-by-side comparisons. Each girl hopes to end up near the center as the woman in the center is usually the first place and everyone else is moved to compare next to her.

11:06 am: They have us line up and pose. Quarter turn and pose and SMILE. Quarter turn to the back and walk 10 steps to the rear. Flex those glutes! Turn to the front and walk back up to the line. Number 1 switch places with number 7. Number 5 swap places with number 3. HOLY SHIT I’M DEAD FREAKING CENTER???

bodybuilding
All I could think was “I’m dead center, I’m DEAD CENTER! STAND IN THE BOX”

11:15 am: Off the stage for the rest of the day. We all pack up and head back to our hotels to rest until the night show.

12:00 pm: Eat meal number 3 and a nap. I try to settle into the sleeping beauty pose so I don’t smudge my make up.

5:00 pm: Eat meal 4 as I hastily repair my make up and tidy up my hair.

5:55 pm: Back at the show venue and getting ready to start. Kinda. I know I have hours yet so I’m trying to be relaxed.

6:49 pm: Magic. VIC’s “Wobble” comes on, loud enough to be heard backstage, and 37 women clad in everything from pajamas to bikinis and robes are suddenly on their feet dancing. Somewhere on my Instagram page, I still have the video one of the spray tan ladies shot of us all dancing together.

bodybuilding
Yes, that really happened

7:15 pm: Practicing my walk and posing in one of the other girl’s mirrors. We’re mostly discussing what we intend to eat once we’re off stage. Some competitions have a table of goodies set up for competitors after they’re done and it takes the utmost self control not to dive in early.

bodybuilding
The level of sisterhood I felt with these amazing women still floors me

7:30 pm: Bodybuilding night shows take forever! They do more pose downs for the audience’s benefit plus handing out trophies. The other addition is that the winners from each height or weight category are all brought up together for the overall winner. That winner and sometimes the runner up are given a chance to compete in Nationals in the fall.

8:12 pm: I’m finally called for line up. I hastily stuff another rice cake in my mouth, sip some Gatorade, and hustle to pump and get a last layer of glaze. (And Bikini Bite). I feel confident from my center stage placement earlier in the day.

8:15 pm: I can see the judges as I walk this time. They look happy, I react well, and get even more sassy on stage. My strut is on point, my hips pop, and I bring the very best version of me I could have hope to present. No matter how I place, I’ve achieved my goal. This time my smile is real.

8:16 pm: Instead of going back stage, we stay out there for each girls walk. This means holding your awkward, uncomfortable, and tiring pose for almost 15 minutes. You’re allow to swap from a front to side pose, but don’t be obvious, it detracts from the girl doing her walk, which is rude.

8:22 pm: The last girl has walked and it’s go time. At the night show, only those in the top five of each class are called up to the line. If you’re number isn’t called you have to stay on the wings and try not to look too disappointed.

bodybuilding
I made it out of the wings

8:23 pm: Not me. Also, not me. Also, not OH HOLY SHIT THAT’S MY NUMBER!

8:24 pm: Be cool. Be cool. Be cool. Moved closer to center. Be cool, don’t fall over. One more close to center. I’M DEAD CENTER AGAIN.

bodybuilding
Don’t cry. Don’t cry!

8:25 pm: I’ve won my height class! Someone loops a medal around my neck and drops a tiara on my head. DO NOT CRY. YOU WONT YOUR CLASS AND HAVE TO GET UP THERE AGAIN WITH THE OTHER WINNERS AND YOU CANT SMUDGE YOUR MAKE UP! I run to drop my medal on my bag and hustle back on stage.

8:30 pm: Be cool. Moved closer to center. Be cool, don’t fall over. Be cool. Not moving. Be calm. I did not win the overall.

bodybuilding
The winners from each open height class before the swaps

8:31 pm: (One single moment of disappointment)

8:32 pm: Wait, I met or exceeded every goal I set for myself. I one a pile of medals. And I pushed myself to achieve something I would not have thought myself capable of five years ago. Nah, it’s is an absolute win.

8:33 pm: I hug my fellow winners. We wish each other well and exchange Instagram handles. I saunter our in PJs ready for pizza and beer (and a shower!).

9:00 pm: Having scrubbed as much tan and make up off as possible, I’m exhausted. I grab raw oysters, cheese sticks, and a glass of wine from the hotel bar because it’s the only thing they offer this late at night.

9:45 pm: Asleep.


What happens after?

FOOD! But slowly so you don’t balloon and/or hurt your already damaged system. After weeks/months/a year on a very strict diet, too much too soon leads to some nasty side effects. First, your body isn’t used to rich foods and introducing them back quickly (like 3 slices of cheesecake in a single night) will have negative, but transient, effects. Even with careful management, your body will clamor for you to build back up your fat stores. These pesky bodies still think we have to outlast a freezing winter and constantly work to add a minimum level of fat. To that end, even a modest increase in calories always brought 5-8 pounds back quickly. Some of it was the water I had shoved off to get on stage, but some is most definitely fat as well.

There’s an emotional rebound to competing as well. I experienced it training for Ironman and for the ultramarathon as well. You set your focus so narrowly on a specific goal, and when you finally achieve it, there’s a gradual let down as you struggle to find new focus. There is the double-whammy of the Instagram effect. After struggling to achieve photo perfection like the photoshopped bodies on Instagram, it feels a little bit like failure watching your hard won abs disappear, even when it’s necessary for your own physical health. I learned to post my stage photos and then ignore Instagram for about a month.

Eventually, my body came back to equilibrium. My strength, hair, and period came back. My tan faded. And while the high of winning or low of losing faded, I could look back on my weekends on stage with a smile.


What did I learn?

The women who compete in this sport and nothing but commendable. With very few exceptions, none were catty or mean. They rallied around one another and supported each other on stage, yelling and cheering for strangers and friends alike from the wings.

I learned how to do my own make up. Not just what I wear to work, but real stage make up which has translated over to my cosplaying as well. It may seem like a small thing, but now that I do I myself, it saves me around $100 and two hours of time on show day! Or in cosplay.

Wonder Woman
I do my own makeup, but not my own stunts

Of course, I learned more about nutrition which translated into better fueling during ultramarathons. I learned how to calculate my nutritional needs to achieve a goal. Lose, gain, or maintain, I feel more confident in how I eat and have maintained a healthy weight since my last competition.

I learned more about lifting weights and how my body response to exercise of all types. I knew how I responded to long endurance cardio, but weights had only been a passing fancy every now and again, not a habit that stuck with me. Once I understood more about weightlifting and balancing muscle groups, I was able to keep it in my repertoire for ultramarathon and was arguably a strong runner for it.

Finally, I learned, or perhaps re-learned how hard I could push myself. Like endurance sports, bodybuilding show prep is a long haul. It requires strength and discipline over a long time, even if it is a mostly anaerobic exercise. It have it’s own kind of Pain Cave as you weather the ups and downs of low energy, doubt, and pain. But strong discipline gets your through. The same strength I saw shining in every woman on that stage, I found shining within myself.

You can find parts one and two of this three part series below:

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 1): Bodybuilding 101

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 2): What It Takes to Get to the Stage


Happy trails!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 2)

What It Takes to Get to the Stage


I feel like most people assume bodybuilding is about lifting heavy weights. Slightly more informed folks understand that the diet is a massive undertaking. But, did you know that there are two other parts to competing in a bodybuilding competition? You can’t just be lean and jacked; you also have to have the right swimsuit and be able to pose in a way that best highlights your hard work. In the last article, you learned Bodybuilding 101. Now, let’s break down the four components.


Weightlifting

First off, everyone starts this story on a different page. Some folks, like myself, start with a good base level of fitness and their primary goal is to work the nutrition and add a little mass to strategic areas to make their overall body composition balanced. Some folks have never lifted weights in their life and have a lot of muscle to build before they can lean out.

Because I was already fit, just fat, I was able to work on toning down my massive cycling quads, build my glutes, and maintain shoulders sculpted by hours in the pool. My coach and I had to play a very delicate game with my nutrition so that my muscle loss was minimal over the year I trained. Others need to shoot for more muscle mass than needed as they accept that some will be lost as fat is lost.

bodybuilding peak week
Maintaining a full workout schedule while eating minimal calories is the pits

There are as many ways to tackle your weight training as there are body types. For me, I responded best to a five day a week regime with progressive overload. The first three days were my “bro split” days, designed to build muscle tissue: chest/triceps, back/bicep, and legs. After a one day break, I did two more days of lifting designed to build strength: upper and lower body. (My current workouts are a modified version of this five day split.) Judges are looking for a competitor that is balanced both left and side sides of the body as well as a general balance top and bottom. No chicken legs here! For more information about judging criteria in the different categories, you can find the NPC rules here.


Diet

It sucks.

There is just no getting around how much the diet sucks (unless you’re on gear and that’s a whole other article). Even on gear and every supplement you can buy, the diet sucks. You are tweaking your nutrition to effectively bring your body to the leanest point it can possibly be. Why? Because the judges want to see all that glorious muscles and the layer of fat that all human beings have and need to survive acts like a door, not a window. Bodybuilders must cut well below what is considered healthy in addition to dehydrating themselves to get that ultrathin skinned look.

And here is the real secret, they cannot maintain that look for longer than a day. They also rarely hold that level of body fat for greater than a few weeks. It’s why you see competitors go through several shows in a short period. They minimize the time spent at dangerously low levels of body fat then go into a reset period to allow their bodies to heal. I have done two seasons of two shows each and took over a year between seasons to rebuild lost muscle and allow my metabolism to come back to normal.

There are two main ways to alter your nutrition to achieve that stage look: crash dieting and slow dieting. Both are valid if you know the impact they will have on you. I have always done the slow method to preserve muscle, but I pay for it by being super restrictive for a long time, which has mental health impacts. Crash dieting will get you quicker results, but it has the greatest impact on health and the greatest muscle loss.

bodybuilding meal prep
Prepping meals on Sunday saved me from making poor choices later in the week

Regardless of your weight loss method, there are certain dangers associated with being at low body fat. The mildest impacts are being cold and tired constantly, more susceptible to illness, muscle loss, and sleep loss. The greater impacts are loss of sex drive, hair loss, changes to skin texture (that crepe look in the skin of older people), and organ failure if maintained for prolonged periods. Ladies, some of you may not consider this a negative impact, but low body fat can cause you to lose your period… but you’ll also lose your sex drive as your hormones go out of whack.

If you read my article on nutrition or balancing weight for racing, you know there are several ways to alter your nutrition to achieve weight loss. I use “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM) during show prep because it works best for me: how I eat, how I think, and how I plan my meals. My coach sets my calorie intake with an approximately 250 calorie deficit. We then determine the appropriate protein intake to preserve muscle and fill in the rest of the calories with fats and carbs. My protein intake remains constant as we continue cutting calories while my carbs get cut. I appreciated the latitude it gave me to pick my own meals so I wasn’t eating chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes every meal.


Posing

Have you ever watched a bodybuilding show? Been curious why the men and women on stage move so oddly? Why don’t they just walk normally? And what’s with those ridiculous poses?

It’s all about the muscles, baby!

Each and every person on that stage has spent hours perfecting their walk, stop, flex, and turn to display their muscles to the greatest advantage. The posing side of bodybuilding competitions is the most transparent. When done well, it seems natural, fluid, and displays the competitors’ bodies to emphasize their best attributes while minimizing flaws. Done poorly, you look stiff, nervous, and an otherwise trim waist for which you worked months to achieve is thickened by the wrong shift of a hip.

bodybuilding pose
Posing? Nailed it!

I’ve worked with two posing coaches, one for each season and both were good for different reasons. I adored my first coach and the foundations she taught me set me up for success in both seasons. She talked about posing in terms of choreography, which I could understand with my moderate background in dance. Sadly, she isn’t a coach anymore and I wasn’t able to use her my second season. In my second season, I did both bikini and figure in the same competition (called a “cross-over”) and I hired someone through Instagram to help me build my figure posing. I felt very confident in my bikini style posing based on my excellent coach from the season before. My new coach was good, effective, but I never clicked with him, and unfortunately, I think it was reflected in my posing.


Stage Prep: On Your Body

I wish I could say that bodybuilding is 100% about the perfect balance of muscle and leanness that each competitor brings to the stage, but it is a subjective sport judged by humans and those humans can and are swayed by a broad range of other areas. Everything from the cut and color of your suit to the hue of your spray tan can impact the overall look you have on stage. Blonde? Sorry, most of the top female competitors are brunettes. And don’t get me started on the epic levels of makeup you wear… only some of it is really enhancing your facial features!

Stage Wear

Each bodybuilding category has guidelines for the style and cut of suit required and each league has varying levels of modesty requirements. That said, even the more modest women’s suits are still bikinis. When you step on that stage, you will be wearing no more clothing than can fit in a sandwich bag. The most modest of all categories is the men’s physique, where they are allowed to wear surf trunks. And here’s the real rub: men can buy an off the rack pair of trunks and be fine; there are no off the rack bikinis in a bikini competition! Oh, and those competition suits? The cheap ones start at $100. Want bling? (Yes, trust me you do) It’s $200. Want a fully crystalized suit with crystal connections? $500 and up! Men’s suits are a fraction the price of women’s suits and not having the same bling as the other girls takes away from your “overall package.” (Which is a fancy way of saying, “honey, you need to pretty up a bit.”)

The suits generally vary but cut, coverage, and color. The cut will be determined by category. Bikini and wellness wear what is closest to a normal bikini, but the suit bottom is … shaped? Shrunk? To display your glute muscles appropriately. And if you think that means that you’re wearing a very skimpy bottom to show off your bottom, you would be right. For physique and bodybuilding, it’s a much more modified cut. Instead of a normal tie in the back, the two ties connect to the bikini bottom. This design enhanced the competitors’ V-shape (shoulders to waist).

Coverage is how much of your ass-ets you’re really covering. There is some variation in top coverage but it’s comparable to a normal bikini. The bottoms vary from semi-modest (about half the cheek covered) to the “pro” cut, which tends to be no wider than 3” at its widest point along the competitor’s bottom. Various shows state they won’t allow “pro” cut suits for amateur competitors and they say they inspect suits at check-in, but I have yet to have my suit checked and haven’t seen anyone told to change.

Color is the last factor in suits and while I’ve seen rowdy debate on how much it could impact your “overall package” based on tan color or hair color, I don’t buy it. Why? Because all of those debates seem to happen on suit retailer Facebook pages and messaging boards. Is it possible to pick an unflattering color? Sure. Are there colors that work better with some tan formulations than others? Yeah. But pick a color you love and feel confident wearing! That confidence will shine through more than a slightly less than optimal color detracts.

Next up are the heels, a mandatory item in three categories and forbidden I two. Bikini, wellness, and figure all require heels. There is no minimum or maximum height, but the average is 5”. I tried 5” heels and then bought 4,” so I’m an outlier. That said, I already compete in the tallest height category and I’m a graceless klutz in the 5” heels. My stage walk and posing smoothed out considerably as soon as I switched down. Like the swimwear, you can’t buy these off the rack and there are varying levels of bling involved. I chose unadorned heels as a cost saving measure. For the physique and bodybuilding categories, the mandatory poses preclude wearing heels. So, if my bulking season goes well, I hope to never have to compete in heels again! The last bit of “stage wear” is the jewelry. Don’t ask me why every girl is decked out in twenty pounds of fake crystals, but they do. Of all the aspects of what you wear, I think this impacts your look the least. I grabbed a three pack of stretchy, sparkly bracelets from Claire’s and slapped on a pair of CZ earrings and was fine.

Makeup

Based on the stage photos alone, I initially thought bodybuilding was nothing more than beauty pageants for girls who like lifting heavy objects. There is so much makeup! However, I did learn there is a purpose to all that makeup, not just looking like a toned down drag queen.

makeup
I used what I learned to perfect some of my cosplay as well. Like, Morticia

Anyone who has done theater can tell you that stage lighting washes everyone out. No matter who you are or how good your physique, stage lights will blank out your face. And because it’s the “overall package” that drives women to slap on layers of makeup to bring back what stage lights wash out. We look garish off stage, but on stage I don’t think I look too much more made up than at work. The makeup also lets you match your face to your (very dark) spray tan. The chemicals in the tanning products are harsh and can lead to bad breakouts, so most ladies skip spray tanning their faces and use a darker foundation to match their tan.

Tan

Oh, that tan! For the same reason we do heavy makeup, we have to get a spray tan. Those stage lights will wash out every curve and shadow from muscle. The spray tan helps bring back and enhance those curves and striations, allowing the judges a chance to see your muscles. It also serves to even out any flaws or imperfections and puts almost every competitor on an even field. Even POC competitors get spray tanned because it can cover tan lines. It also has a side benefit of everyone walking on stage as almost the same color and shade.

In my case, I look like a walking brownie.

bodybuilding brownie
I’m literally the same color as the brownie

The tans are multi-layer too. The first coat, done the night before, is a base coat to darken your skin. The second coat is the deeply tan bronzer. Finally, just before competing, most competitors receive a final touch of and glaze to give them that slightly shiny look that makes muscles pop.

bodybuilding tan
Everything about the tan is shocking at first

I hope this helps you build a better understanding of what it takes to get a competitor on stage. From lifting, to eating, to lights, camera, pose! It’s a more complicated sport than I ever realized, but I learned from the experience.

In the next article, I’ll walk you through a typical show weekend and you’ll learn what surprised me.


This is not be a post focused on weight loss because everything you need to know about nutrition can be found here. (Warning, this article has swear words; but if you’re on my blog, you’re probably ok with that.) Second, I don’t care about weight loss right now. I care about fueling my body.

You can find parts one and three of this three part series below:

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 1): Bodybuilding 101

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 3): Show Weekend and What I Learned


Happy trails!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 1)

Bodybuilding 101


My dear readers, you’ve followed along my ultramarathon journey and read about adventures in blacksmithing and paddleboarding. It should be no surprise that I’ve also combined my love of adventure with endurance sports to compete as a bodybuilder. And like many of you, I had no idea what I was getting into with this new sport.

I didn’t set out to be a bodybuilder and thought it was just a beauty pageant for girls who liked to lift weights. Over the course of a year, I learned what bodybuilding was really like, how many different categories exist, and how much effort goes in behind the scenes. From backstage drama to meeting new friends to learning to count every gram of food that entered my body, it was a wild ride and as much an endurance sport as Ironman or ultramarathons.

How did I become a bodybuilder?

I never had serious plans to become a bodybuilder. From the outside, it’s tiny ripped women in sparkly bikinis prancing around on stage. No thanks. I had a decent background in endurance sports: five half Ironman’s, half and full marathons, and obstacle races. I’m a tank on legs, and the idea of walking around on 5” stilettos wearing an outfit that could fit in a sandwich bag was intimidating. Plus, all that god-awful makeup. I wanted to keep doing endurance sports.

Before bodybuilding, I was an Ironman
Thicc and on the run

My body, of course, had other plans. During my month of training for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, I was diagnosed with a heart murmur/flutter. Not a huge deal, the doctor explained that the strength of my very well trained heart was squeezing so hard it caused the flutter. “Keep calm and if you feel faint, call us back. Maybe dial it back a bit, eh?” No biggie, I kept training. Two weeks later, on what was supposed to be one of my last long rides, I start feeling… weird. (This sounds a lot like my last long run before MS50k, TBH.) Finally, I decided I should head back, slow down to turn towards my car, and wake up lying in the middle of the road.

Yup, I had blacked out mid-turn and more than 10 miles from my car. I, being a dumbass, biked it back and called the ER as I drove. Long story short, I could do my race, but I had to dial back the aerobic exercise for a while.

Ok. Fine. New goals.

I can’t do as much aerobic exercise? Cool, I’ll go anaerobic and switch to weight lifting. I find a coach who will work with me and we discuss cutting down to an appropriate weight class and my level of knowledge/familiarity with lifting. The day after Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, I started a cutting diet for the 50+ lbs. I need to lose to get to my planned weight class (59kg/130lbs). You see, I was strong. I could swim, bike, and run with the best of them. But I was carrying a lot of postpartum (and PPD) weight. I was living proof that you can be fat and fit, but I needed to lean out for this sport.

Fat Ironman to lean Ironman to bodybuilding queen
Fat and fit (2015), to fit (2017), to lean and fit (2018)

My coach had to focus on the two most important things: keeping up my fitness and learning how to appropriately fuel my body. Not diet. Fuel. He also set realistic expectations: it would take at least a year to reach my goal weight without sacrificing muscle.

Fast forward several months: the shoulder that I had repaired a year before and held up through Ironman training is struggling to keep up with bench press and overhead lifts. Depending on how I compete, I’m not going to have a high enough total weight to be competitive. Somewhere in a flurry of emails back and forth (I may or may not have been on an extended work trip to the Middle East at the time…), my coach mentioned that he also coach bikini girls and if I’d be willing to lose a pound or two of fat more, I could easily compete in NPC bikini.

Training for bodybuilding in a land far, far away

Well, seemed like a good shift in goals and not too far off from the original goal, I suppose.

And that, friends, is how I started the journey to the stage.


Bodybuilding basics:

What the heck is bodybuilding and why compete? At its heart, bodybuilding is a journey. The stage is neither the end, not the beginning, merely a single point in time. It is a goal to work towards when you want to shape your body into your idea of perfection. But that perfection is fleeting, as is the look. It’s why bodybuilders talk in seasons or cycles. We strive to bring a better package to the next show, build more muscle, adapt to new judging criteria, or earn that elusive National Qualifier that grants you an opportunity to chase down your pro card.

Regardless of which league you compete in, competitions are broken down two main ways: your division and class. The division is which type of physique you are bringing to the stage. The class is your height (women) or weight (men) category. Larger shows will even break down into novice (never won), true novice (never even competed), and age categories.

For women, the most common categories are:

Bikini: The smallest and most feminine of competitors, a bikini competitor looks like a very athletic bikini model.

Wellness: Created for bikini competitors who, like me, end up with a lot of lower body mass than their upper body. Thick thighs and rounded glutes for these very lovely ladies.

Figure: Very athletic competitors but still in heels.

Physique: These women are ripped as hell but still beautiful! Thick with muscle and vascular, they’ll be larger than figure competitors and can ditch the high heels.

Bodybuilding: The only women’s division divides classes by weight. There are the most muscular and most lean competitors. These are the woman you envision when someone derisively says “female bodybuilder.”

For men:

Physique: This is analogous to the women’s bikini division. They look like very fit fitness models with defined abs and a body fat short of vascularity. These lucky dudes get to wear Walmart board shorts and still stay competitive.

Classic physique: A well-balanced athlete that balances dense muscle mass with low body fat. The division is split into specified weight ranges for the height, with competitors aiming for a very narrow window in which to meet a classic look. (Up to and including the classic briefs.)

Bodybuilding: The true beasts of bodybuilding. These men aim to add as much muscle mass to their frame as possible while whittling down their body fat to almost nothing.

There are also multiple leagues from which a competitor can choose. Some are muscle focused (NPC), some are modeling focused (WBFF Diva), and some are professional only (IFBB, which is fed by NPC). Some are also strictly tested while others… aren’t. I chose NPC for my first season because they had the greatest number of shows, including one in my town, precisely one year after Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga. NPC is not a tested league which puts me at a disadvantage. Because I’m not on gear, my coach pushed me to pick a tested league for my second season, but the best shows were too far from where I lived to justify the cost of an airline ticket. That said, the next time I compete, I want to go against other drug-free competitors. I have nothing against anyone on gear, it’s a personal choice, but when my job precludes me from using it, I don’t want to compete at a disadvantage.


I hope this helps those unfamiliar with bodybuilding gain some understanding of the basics of the sport and how I ever ended up in such a wild sport! In my next article, I’ll cover what it takes to get on stage: the work outs, the diet, the stage wear, and all the things I never considered!

(Spoiler alert: I did ok!)

Bodybuilding: sometimes it's worth it!

This is not be a post focused on weight loss because everything you need to know about nutrition can be found here. (Warning, this article has swear words; but if you’re on my blog, you’re probably ok with that.) Second, I don’t care about weight loss right now. I care about fueling my body.

You can find parts two and three of this three part series below:

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 2): What It Takes to Get to the Stage

Bodybuilding – My Other Endurance Sport (Part 3): Show Weekend and What I Learned


Happy trails!


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!