Monday, July 27, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.27.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for July Twenty-Seventh, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Hot and humid and in the upper 80s. That was the forecast over the weekend as the Burning River 100 Mile trail race took place from east of Cleveland to downtown Cuyahoga Falls. That's been the typical offering of weather for that race and the main reason I have said since my 2009 finish of this event that I wouldn't return. Heat and humidity is definitely my kryptonite and I'm just not up for that kind of suffering again. It has grown to massive proportions now with over 800 participants in the 100 miler, 50 miler and relays, too. From all accounts, it was another great event.

- It's now been 11 days since the horrific shootings in Chattanooga, TN where four U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor lost their lives. It's been interesting to see how things have progressed since then and the reaction of many. If you skim social media, you'll see that the fallen are being laid to rest now. For the immediate days that followed July 16th, there was a social media outcry about why the flag wasn't ordered to half staff. 5 days after the shooting, the President finally ordered it to half staff until this past Saturday at sunset. The biggest contrast for this taking so long was the very recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states when the White House was lit up in rainbow colors 2 hours after the ruling. I'm not making a statement about that ruling but just stating the facts. You can decide to think what you may about this. There has also been an out-pouring from the gun-rights community and concerned citizens as many armed citizens from around the country have shown up at recruiting centers to stand watch in an effort to protect military on U.S. soil. On Friday, the Pentagon released a statement, asking those to not show up any longer. "We take the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer — including our recruiting stations," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. "While we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support for our recruiters from the American public, we ask that individuals not stand guard at recruiting offices as it could adversely impact our mission, and potentially create unintended security risks," Cook said. "We continue to partner with and rely on first responders for the safety of the communities where our service members live and work." Lastly, it turns out that those killed "could" get awarded the Purple Heart...but first, the act of "terrorism" must actually be proven to be tied to terrorism. Amazing, isn't it?! The red tape is crazy. Before I sign off this subject, I just want to say this: I hope you're angry if you consider yourself an American. You should be. You should be livid. Servicemembers killed on our soil in our backyard...the outcry should be deafening. But it isn't...and social media is a perfect litmus test for it. There are certain "issues" in our world that light up social media and sadly, garbage stories like Bruce Jenner light it up more than this. That's messed up!

- It was an "interesting" week of CrossFit. I won't bore you with the details but I will say that I let my emotions, past "baggage," and self-hatred get the best of me. In the end, I feel I came out stronger and even my hands are healing. On Wednesday's workout, I tore them in 3 places during one workout. Skin was dangling afterwards and my blood was on the pull-up bar where I was fighting for chest-to-bar pull-ups. I was back on the pull-up bar on Saturday, not shying away from the chalk bucket one bit. Speaking of Saturday, it was a great workout and the gym had nearly the entire membership present. The picture here is all the components of the workout I ended up doing before I left for the day. It was an up-and-down ladder workout of: 30 GHD sit-ups, 40 kettle bell swings at 55 pounds, 50 box jumps, 40 more swings and wrapped up with 30 more sit-ups on the GHD. (that piece of equipment in the background is the GHD) I did it in 12:02. Before I left, the rope was pulled down so I decided to fully zap my arms by getting about 6 climbs in. I've been working on a more efficient hook grip with my feet and I finally nailed it. It's far more efficient, faster, burns less and I can get up the rope 18 feet consistently in 3 pulls. Now, I need to work on doing them in succession with no rest and moving faster. Doing one at rest is easy...but doing a second immediately thereafter is another story entirely. Here's the last climb I did before leaving on Saturday. CLICK HERE. (pardon the vulgar language in the background music. :) ) All in all, the week ended well and I'm pumped to get back at it tonight...8 1/2 months in!

They picked silver and gold.
- If you think about it, you probably haven't heard much talk of the iPod in recent months and years. For many, the smartphone has replaced the music player. In fact, the 5th generation of Apple's iPod Touch came out in 2012 and most thought that Apple was letting it die. In Apple's most recent press conference, no mention of a refresh was made, either. Then, about 12 days ago, Apple released the 6th generation of the iPod Touch at a very competitive price point of $199. It's physical design is almost identical but the insides are brought current, including the same zippy processor that powers the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This release prompted my wife and I to do what we hadn't done ever before. For years, our girls have been the recipients of hand-me-downs...old iPhones that were deactivated and turned into virtual iPods. Well, I took them on a surprise trip to an Apple Store on Thursday night and it went off without a hitch! Seriously...they had NO idea what was happening until we were standing in front of them at the Apple Store. So much fun and as a dad, a blast to hear their surprise, giggling and joy for getting them.

- I got a few sunrise runs in this past week. This was one of them where I ran my favorite 10K route. It was moist as heck but a great run! I really appreciate every run I do.

- I mentioned Donald Trump last week and simply asked him to zip it after his slams on John McCain's service history as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. I won't dive into politics this week except to say this. "Republican candidates: I recommend you stop slamming him and spewing tons of negative rhetoric. Look at the polls...people are jumping on his bandwagon. I wouldn't suggest jumping on, too, but instead sticking to your own campaign and creating distance from his...but leave him alone." That's my 2 cents! Ya know Hillary is just licking her chops to take him on!

- A huge congratulations to my parents...44 years of wedded "bliss"!!! Well, I don't know if it has all been "bliss" but they've made it 44 flippin' years and that's awesome. "Happy 44th, Mom and Dad!"

- To wrap up this week, this is a fitting quote. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Monday, July 20, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.20.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for July Twentieth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Did you get your ice cream yesterday? It was National Ice Cream Day! We sure did.

- There is more than enough to write about if I released the shackles off my fingers this morning but I won't. The biggest story out there right now is, and rightfully so, is the killing of 4 U.S. Marines and one U.S Navy sailor last week by a lone gunman in Chattanooga, TN. There are all kinds of opinions swirling around like arming military members while stateside, arming recruiters, armed guards at every military facility, Muslims, safety at home vs. at war, etc. Push those all aside and what do we have? We have 5 people who lost their lives and for most of them, left a wife and children behind. We had a Purple Heart recipient. We had multiple tours to war represented. There is a major ripple effect by this one man's actions. My heart aches for the families today. Please lift them up in your prayers. In my opinion from what I know, not much could've been done to prevent what happened. You can bet, though, that there will be a different ripple effect that'll move quickly amongst all the services and how they operate and secure themselves on a daily basis. In fact, it's already happening...I promise. All I ask from you is to keep your head on a swivel and always be watching and questioning things around you. We don't live in the world where you can leave the back porch unlocked while you sleep at night. We need to be vigilant. We need to be aware. We need to stand as one. That gunman didn't weaken a nation last week...he strengthened it.

Gone Never Forgotten...

United States Marine Corps

Lance Corporal Skip "Squire" Wells
Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan
Sergeant Carson Holmquist
Staff Sergeant David Wyatt

United States Navy

Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith

- CrossFit is going AWESOME. Simple as that! I took some more photos yesterday and compared them to several months ago and just two months ago and I'm still showing progress. In the gym itself, a huge concentration continues to focus on the squat. Through that, my back is getting much stronger as are my glutes. I record myself often so I can critique my form and discuss with my coach...that really helps be real with where I am. From a pure upper body strength standpoint, that's also getting better. I'm now clipping multiple sets of chest-to-bars in succession, doing sets of dips, lots of strict pull-ups, and for July...all gym members start the day with an 800m run and 50 push-ups. Wanna warm up? That'll do it! There was this one workout I did this past week that nearly broke me...wanted to puke and wanted to quit. Emotionally, it tapped into that area that usually gets left alone! I have been practicing climbing the rope to the ceiling and a workout appeared that at first glance, wasn't too bad. Well, it was. It was this: 3 rounds of > 3 rope climbs, 15 burpees, and 15 GHD situps. I cruised through that first set in 4min, 3sec but then that second set of climbs destroyed me. It took me over 27min to do it all! That was a huge mind over body workout. One big takeaway from that particular workout was the way I climb and cinch my feet to the rope. There is a faster, more efficient way of doing it and I'm working on that now. In the future, I plan to use it but I have to master the method first in order to climb with it. Below is a snapshot from Saturday when I worked on heavy back squats. I was aiming to set a new personal record but it didn't happen. Still, it was a good lifting day followed by a fire-breathing chipper WOD. I hesitate saying it was a blast but I am glad I did it!

- My daughter and I watched a movie a few days ago on NetFlix called "Ragamuffin" that is the true story of Rich Mullins, a "rough around the edges" Christian singer/songwriter that tragically died early in his life in a Jeep accident. It was a raw account of his life that included his struggle with alcohol, love, multiple failures/tragedies and his relationship with his dad. It was so good and really hit home for me personally. During his life, a man and priest by the name of Brennan Manning made a huge impact on his life and later wrote a book called "The Ragamuffin Gospel." I found it for $4 on Amazon and it's already on the way. :) Rich never really fit the mold of what anyone thought he should be. I know what that feels like...and respect how he stayed true to himself...but I wish he didn't have to suffer like he did. Here's the trailer if you want to check it out. Here are some Brennan Manning quotes I found as well...many of which are found in his Ragamuffin Gospel book. Here are one of my favorites...not favorite in that I love it but it so accurately portrays Christianity in America today:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” ~ Brennan Manning

- I'm not sure what side of the fence you're on when it comes to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner but in my opinion, it was pure absurdity that he/she got the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards by ESPN. Really? How about this: I met a Vietnam war veteran who is missing half his face last week from a battle in Vietnam yet returned home to a country that didn't welcome him. I had the honor of meeting him and thanking him for his service. This, amongst countless others who serve our country in the military and as police/firemen demonstrate courage day in and day out. Jenner switched his gender then did a photo shoot to tell the world. That's courage? Even if you think it is, is the world stage appropriate for such level of "courage?"

- "Dear Mr. Trump: SHUT UP!!!!" That is all.

- Anyone else a big fan of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox? This family can't dance but we all love it! It's really shaping up to be an awesome season. Monday nights!

- Lastly today, a short blog post to read on "Blank Spaces." I can't even give you a worthy excerpt to sum it up...just read it here. Really good. We're living it, too...but can always do better! Think: less stuff, more in emptiness...more time for what matters...FREEDOM.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, July 13, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.13.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for July Thirteenth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- I don't mean to be a downer, but summer is essentially 1/2 over...especially if you're one with kids. July 15th just feels like the middle...with schools letting out around June 1st and most back to the grind by the end of August. Can't believe we'll have a high schooler!

- It was a great running weekend where I didn't run much except for yesterday's sunrise 10K. The most popular 50K trail race was a mud-fest on Saturday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park...the Buckeye Trail 50K. I've done the BT50K more than any other 50K but highly doubt I'll return anytime soon. Still, it's a classic and extremely well done. Another cool running story was by famous ultra-runner, Scott Jurek, who broke the Appalachian Trail thru-hike record by 3 hours. He started at Springer Mountain in Georgia and 46 days, 8 hours (and change) later, he finished in Maine, breaking the 4-year old record held by a woman. The AT is almost 2200 miles long! I actually met Scott 3 years ago when we were on vacation in Washington, D.C. His new book was out (Eat and Run) and he was doing a group run at a nearby running store. I showed up for the run, got my photo taken with him and he signed my copy of his book. Check out my Instagram feed (link on sidebar) for that photo that I posted last night.

- Did you know the Tour de France is well underway...9 stages in? neither. If not for that trending feed on Facebook...

- Yesterday, I headed out on my favorite 10K loop and made the mistake of running through a patch of woods...holy horseflies!!!! I got attacked like never before. On the way back, I recalled a photo I took last year sans shirt. I have always been uncomfortable shedding my shirt in public but after distance running for 17 years and last year averaging over 200 miles a month yet never changing physically "up top," I posted the unimpressive "runner fat" photo. It was a photo that garnered lots of comments of support and "likes" in social media. Ultra marathon after ultra marathon, a good diet, and tons of miles...yet I never changed from the waist up. That photo is on the left below. Yesterday, I took the photo on the right at the exact same year later. The irony here is that I don't even run 50 miles a month now yet that "runner fat" upper body is gone. So is about 3 inches around my waist and only about 5 pounds on the scale. I've also lost a lot of that long endurance running conditioning because I haven't been doing it. I knew that would happen. BUT, a lot of that endurance conditioning has spilled into the CrossFit gym and helped me do really well in some shorter races like that July 4th 5K race where I took 1st place in my age group. Regardless, I'm happy where I am now and posted this along with this photo yesterday: "Overall, happy not primarily of the physical change but because I'm happy doing what brings joy today and that I share the journey with my wife. Running was a solo journey whereas we travel this path together. 42 years old may qualify me as a masters athlete and the young guns may crush me in the gym but as long as I give my all, keep my attitude good and I see small baby steps of progress, it just makes the rest of life and the things that really matter (family life/marriage) all the more enjoyable."

- Oh, baby girl...we do love you! I took this photo a few days back but will spare you the "ugly" photos from yesterday. I was sitting at my computer, trying to track Scott Jurek finishing the AT and all of a sudden, all I heard was a "splat!" I looked to my right and Bristol lost her stomach across the corner of the couch and all over the carpet...and it smelled BAD! I didn't scold her but moved her outside quickly and she lost it 3 more times. The cleanup began and wow, it was awful. I eventually let her back in and she cowered behind the furniture thinking I was mad at her...I wasn't! While below a chair in the living room, she left me puddle #5. Good grief! A little bit later, everyone got home, Bristol chugged some water, and lost it again in a massive way...behind more furniture. The smell was even worse. So for the rest of the night, water/food was limited and she crashed hard. She made it through the night and is currently snoring right here next to me...curled up tight. Food and water are out but she's chosen not to touch anything. We're not sure what she ate that upset her but whatever it was...was violent! Ugh....poor baby girl.

- We had a really good message delivered by our pastor yesterday at church. He's been working through a series on the book of Acts. Yesterday, he found himself in Acts 19 and was telling the story of the Jewish exorcists, commonly known as the Sons of Sceva. I had never heard this story before. Basically, they traveled around doing exorcisms of evil spirits but did them in the name of Jesus who Paul believed in...not the Jesus THEY believed in. It was a story of authenticity and being REAL. What happened was that the evil spirits said (in my own words): "I know who Paul is...I know who Jesus is...but who are you? You're nothing." The sons were taken over, wounded and fled naked. The moral of the story is being real with who you are. These sons were faking it and when true evil faced them, they had no prayer...they had no advocate. They were a fraud. As someone who has faced evil directly, I can't tell you how thankful I am to have the One advocate on my side that matters...and that no matter what happens and how alone I ended up when the crap hits the fan...I'm not alone. These days, especially in America, "Christians'" true colors are showing as so many give in to popular culture to avoid persecution vs. standing strong in what they believe and stand for. They are standing on their own strength and when the evil arrives (and it will), who is going to intercede for them/you? We certainly can't do it alone. (If you want to read this section, look up Acts 19, starting in verse 11.)

- I mentioned several weeks ago that I was volunteering for a program with the local Summa Hospital System in their "Veteran to Veteran" program within hospice. For someone in hospice, they are typically terminal. For this program, a veteran will visit the patient, in uniform, and present them with a certificate, thanking them for their service and "pin" them with a flag pin. Many of these patients are the ones who came before me from the Vietnam era, Korean War, World War II, etc. Well, I finally got to go on my first pinning on Friday where I met a Vietnam era Marine. He even had the regulation and most-recognizable Marine haircut. His apartment was easy to find, too, as Old Glory was waving outside along with a Marine Corps flag. I got to hear his stories, shake his hand along with his wife, and thank him for serving his country. I'm looking forward to this...especially for these Vietnam era veterans. It was a very different country back then when it came to the military and for many, very very bitter. I consider it an honor to thank them for their service and hear their may be the first time for them!

- I shared my thoughts back on June 22nd about taking down the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina capitol. I fully supported that action. Well, that became reality last week as a bill was passed and it came down at 10am on Friday. It represents nothing good today and it's place is best in the museum of history.

- Can you believe it? I'm going to spare you CrossFit talk this week. No workouts, no anything. Things are going well, though. Small baby steps at a great gym with great people. More to follow later.

- To close out today, it's fitting to quote Scott Jurek from his book, "Eat and Run." Have a great week, everyone!

“We all lose sometimes. We fail to get what we want. Friends and loved ones leave. We make a decision we regret. We try our hardest and come up short. It's not the losing that defines us. It's how we lose. It's what we do afterward.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.6.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for July Sixth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- How was your July 4th holiday? I definitely appreciated the "observed" holiday on Friday followed by the real deal on Saturday. My wife and I took full advantage of the day off Friday by spending 3 hours at our CrossFit home in the morning. By the time we left, nearly the entire gym membership had arrived and lots of weight was being moved! We had to leave, but a cookout followed and continued into the late afternoon. For July 4th itself, we stuck to tradition and headed to Stow (a few towns northwest of us) for the July 4th parade...the best one around, in our opinion. It lasted about an hour and 15min and began with lots of Old Glory as you can see below. The best is at the lower left...a LIVE re-creation of the Iwo Jima Memorial. They do this every year and it never gets old. It was great, too, to see the crowd stand for Old Glory as she passed on by.

Afterwards, we headed into Kent for the farmers market and the beginning of the Heritage Festival happening on the streets of Kent. While there, I made the last minute decision to sign up for a 5K to take place on the Kent State University campus at 7pm. I was already warned of the heat and the hilly course but thought it would be a good opportunity to test myself in not-so-ideal conditions. Before 7pm arrived, we spent some more time in Kent then headed home to relax a bit and perhaps even a mid-day nap. As evening approached, we headed on back to Kent. It was upper 70s and a bit sticky. I noticed a few friends were running the race, too. I warmed up, stretched and told my wife I was about to get my tail handed to me. The time arrived and the race started directly up hill for about 1/2 mile onto a course shaped like a lollipop. I found myself immediately within a group of friends whom I had never been able to run with before and stick with. I passed mile 1 in 7min flat and kept the pace up and opened it up on 2 short down-hills...knowing I'd have to crest them both on the return trip. The 2nd mile was under 7...more around 6:50...and I was still hanging with them. As the last crest happened, it was a 1/2 mile downhill to the finish. Every thing I had...I gave. Nearing the finish, I was right behind a friend of mine (you can see his foot in the photo below) and did everything I could to catch him. I did and finished 2 seconds in front of him, good enough for a 1st place finish in my 40-44 age group and 17th overall!!! For those of you who know me, you know how rare this is! I was super happy and in fact, I didn't get my tail handed to me! I kicked IT in the tail! Final time was 21min, 17sec for a 6:53 average pace. Photo credit below goes to my wife who was along the route near the finish and caught the sprint. "Thanks, Babe!"

- Given all the debate lately on the Confederate flag, same-sex marriage legalization in all 50 states, etc., I have just one question....

Did you know that OFFENSE is a CHOICE? Think about have to CHOOSE to take on an offense. What's worse is that when we own that offense, it becomes front-and-center in our minds. It consumes us and wrecks everything. It's all we can think about! Instead, let me challenge you to reverse this for yourself and don't let offense ruin today for you. Focus on something good. Focus on things you are thankful for. Bless someone! Don't give in to the norm and gain "keyboard bravery" and lash out on social media about how offended you are. Oh yea...on January 26, 1979, the Dukes of Hazzard premiered and has been in syndication for years, most recently on TV Land. I grew up watching that show. Now, it's been pulled. Why? The Confederate flag on the Dodge Charger...or better known as the "General Lee." So because of the social outcry of a Confederate flag flying over a state capitol, it's now appropriate to yank the Dukes? A month problem. Now...  Good grief. It's just all so ridiculous and reactive to...wait for it...OFFENSE. What a waste of time and completely absurd.

- Big time life lesson learned the hard way: don't celebrate the win until you actually WIN. On left below is Ben Payne, an Air Force pilot who began celebrating his assumed win of the 60,000 runner strong AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA on Saturday and every July 4th since 1970. On right is British Olympian marathon runner, Scott Overall who was sprinting to the finish, trying to beat Payne. While Payne's arm was in the air celebrating, Overall passed him and beat him by 9/100ths of a second...the first photo finish in the race's 45 year history. Truly..."it's not over till it's over." The irony? A Brit beat an American on Independence Day on American soil.

- This past week has been...a struggle in my CrossFit box. There are some things that I'm better at but overall, I'm playing catch up big time as compared to so many others. I don't know if it's because of how God made me, my age, etc. But things like poor flexibility continue to plague me. I refuse to quit and give up, though. I have had some great gains in my first month at CrossFit 881 and on Saturday, I hit 8 months doing CrossFit. Overall, I love it but often, my attitude turns sharply sour. Let me explain one major hurdle that remains today. Below, you'll see a photo of me that was posted a week ago from my first CrossFit competition on June 27th. I am doing a front squat. If you know anything about position when the bar is on the shoulders, you know what's terribly bad elbows/arms. My upper arms should be parallel to the floor...not pointed down at a 45 degree angle. If they were up, the bar would rest across my shoulders and not cause me to lean forward...back should be straight. This horrible flexibility spills into a plethora of Olympic lifting movements and really frustrates the heck out of me. I do all kinds of stretches and lift them "elbows up!!!!" the best I can....I just can't. Still, I'm going to keep on trying but this is such an issue right's tough for me to stay positive because of the lack of progress. For some, this comes easy...really easy! They just do it without even trying because the flexibility is there. To end this on a positive note, I will say that I made progress in my most difficult lift this past week...the overhead squat and hit a new personal record by 30lbs! On the same day, I hit a new front squat record by 5 pounds. I also began progressions towards doing the butterfly pullup. :))))

- Last Monday, I partially drafted an M-Cubed but just didn't like where it was going so I spared you the pain. Also on Monday, I had a short trip to Columbus, OH where I visited the Rogue Fitness headquarters. While there, I picked up a t-shirt and on that shirt is part of the this week's quote you see below. I posted it on Facebook and was amazed at how many people had personal stories regarding this quote so I definitely wanted to close out today with it. It's powerful and I challenge you to make it your own and decide what it means to you. Have a great week, everyone!

The Man in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

President Theodore Roosevelt, from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic".

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Report: 2015 Metcon Games at CrossFit Steeltown

I almost called this a "race report" because as you'll see along the header of my blog, I have a LOT of race reports from lots of marathons and ultra marathons. Well, this is my first "race report" from my first CrossFit competition that my wife and I competed in yesterday, just outside Pittsburgh, PA at CrossFit Steeltown in Moon, PA. A small  *disclaimer before I even start: I know that in comparison to many mainstream CrossFit athletes, I have far to go, am weak, am old(er), and lack the flexibility and proper form if examined under the educated eye of a great coach or judge. I got it. I am, however, an open book and strive daily to learn and be better so my report is just that...MY report of my/our experience at our first competition. I'm sure my coach will point out all kinds of "issues" but that's his job and will give us more to work on and be better at. The learning NEVER stops and form/function/performance is never perfect. An openness to critique, pursuit to be better, and giving nothing less than everything in my opinion, really defines what a CrossFit athlete should be and I'd like to think I am one. So with that said...our first comp!

CrossFit gyms can make a comp whatever they want it to be. It can be a partner comp where you sign up as a 2-person team to compete. That team could be specific to male/female or female only, for example. The comp could specify that the "elite" athletes at gyms aren't welcome to attend. read that correctly! There was a comp recently that wanted all of us "average" athletes only. Other comps have options to scale down the events to make them achievable for all and others won't. So many variables out there and the 2nd Annual Metcon Games were no exception. For the Metcon Games, the format was: 4 events or "WODs" and the results would be tabulated as male and female. No age divisions and no scaled division. Everyone does everything to the best of their ability as an individual and that's it! At the end of 4 workouts, the top 5 moved on to the semi-finals and after that, the top 3 competed in the final to find the ultimate champion of the day for the men and women. Our day began with an 8:30am meeting and WOD #1 began at 9am and continued non-stop in countless heats throughout the day until reaching the semi's and finals. By 4pm, we were done and enjoying sumptuous burgers at a local watering hole called "Burgatory." Oh my my...

WOD #1: Row 2000 meters then do as many over-the-rower burpees as possible within 10 minutes. When this workout got announced early in the week, I practiced it twice. Both times I finished within a few seconds of 7min, 21sec then worked on an immediate transition into burpees while doing a lateral jump over the rower. My plan going in was to insert 5 pull "pick-ups" at every odd numbered interval (e.g. 1700 to go, 1500 to go, etc.) then get my breathing back under control for the final 200m to ensure a smooth transition into burpees. It all went to plan and I did the row in 7min, 24sec and did 27 burpees. While my technique and form have a lot to be desired (my coach will certainly work with me on this), I have no regrets. I really felt I gave it 100% and did it to the best of my ability. The video here actually captures one of those 5-pull bursts. Most of the time, I wasn't moving that fast and hard. My standing amongst all men for this heat: 19th of 36 men for the 2000m row and 27th of 36 men for the burpees.

WOD #2: 4 minutes to achieve 2 rep max shoulder-to-overhead (in any way you wish..strict press, push press, push jerk or split jerk) followed immediately by as many front squats as possible in one minute using the weight you hit 2 lifts with successfully. Well, if you know me, you know this WOD was probably not one I was looking forward to. It was my wife's favorite. (opposites attract!) I worked on this for the 3 days prior to the event and had a game plan. It didn't help that just prior to my heat, there was this one super strong girl who out-lifted my goal! (I got "chicked" before I even started!) Anyway, I got in one good lift at an easy weight to at least get a score but then had to strip the weight off the bar because the hooks were too low that held the bar. I raised them up at least 6" and re-loaded the bar for my 2nd lift at 115lbs. I got in two good lifts then loaded it at 135lbs. My goal was 145lbs that I hit earlier last week. Once I got two at 135lbs, a quick glance at the clock told me I was out of time. Only 30sec of my 4min remained...not enough time to pull off the springs, load two plates and re-lift so I just waited it out until the 1min clock started for front squats. I got in 5 at 135, took about a 10sec break then got 5 more in for a total of 10 in the minute. Lesson learned: make sure the J-hooks are at the right height before I start. That messed everything up! Regardless, it was a solid effort. My stats just in this heat against all men: 35th of 36 men for the weight overhead and 34th of 36 for the squats. The guy who took 1st in this lifted 275lbs and then squatted that 16 times. Dang. He is also 21 and won the whole competition at the end of the day. This definitely knocked me down a bit in the overall standings. (I'm the one in the blue shirt in the video spectators were allowed in the room)

WOD #3
: Sled Push with 90lbs on sled, 15 box jumps at 24", sled push with 135lbs, 25 box jumps, sled push with 180lbs, 35 box jumps, then 225 lbs on sled for as long as you can push it...all within a 7min time cap. Score is how far you could get. For the jumps, stepping on box was authorized and what just about everyone ended up doing because the sled totally gasses your legs and makes jumping on a 24" box downright....bloody! I started out great and jumped those first 15 jumps. After that second push, though, my first jump nearly ended with a cut shin and I resolved to step and but not stop. To my left and right, the other men were doing the same so I felt good. In my small heat of 5 men in a row, I initially trailed them all but by the final 2 minutes, I caught them all and was leading. I simply never stopped and rested and that paid dividends. I have found a lot of my endurance running mindset works in many CrossFit workouts when it comes to how to pace yourself for the long haul. I definitely have an engine! (I just need more strength to compliment it!) LOL! I ended up with 33 box jumps in my 3rd set of jumps and 3 completed sled pushes. My standings amongst all men during this WOD: 18th of 36 men.

WOD #4:'s the setup: 5 different movements and for each, you have 100 seconds (or 1min, 40sec). In between each movement, a 20sec rest not much! For the first 3, the score was the greatest number of unbroken done without stopping. #1 was double-unders (jump-rope), #2 was wall-balls (see video down below), and #3 was kettle-bell thrusters (I had never done them before!). For the 4th, it was a handstand hold. Score was the max time you could hold it. The last movement was the number of calories pedaled on the Air Assault wind-bike. So here we go: I grabbed my jump rope that I brought with me and told my judge that I've never strung two double-unders together. I can do 2 - 1 - 2 - 1, etc. but not two in a row. I still tried and didn't get any. I moved on to wall balls and really didn't know how I'd do. I surprised myself big time and got in 42 wall balls with the 20lb ball unbroken. Moving to the kettle bell thrusters...well, I got a big fat 5. I did 4 then rested and then got 5. Not good at all and something I could use a lot of work on. Next up was the hand stand hold. I faced the wall vs. facing out because I have a hard time getting up into the hold. For my group of 4 men, I held it the longest at 58 seconds. The last movement was the air assault bike (see video below). Again, a first for me but I did great at 33 calories. That was a total burn!  Everything was on fire so I just put my head down and pedaled and pushed with my arms as hard and fast as I could. In my mind, I just told myself it was just a short pain and then the day is over! It went well and that effort ended up being my best of the day. My standings amongst all men for WOD #4: Double-Unders: tied with others for last! :), Wall-Balls: 12th of 36 men :), Kettle bell thrusters: 35th of 36 men, Hand stand hold: 10th of 36 men, Air Assault bike: 6th of 36 men!!!

My attempts at stringing two double-unders together

Locking out after a kettle bell thruster

Hand stand hold for 58 seconds

At the end of the day, that last WOD moved me from 31st overall to 26th overall (I was 31st after WOD #3). Happy? Oh yea. I gave my best effort at the Metcon Games and looking around the room, I felt pretty darn good since my wife and I easily were some of the oldest competitors there. For our first competition, it was a great first impression! Here is immediately after getting off that air assault bike...courtesy of my wife. :)

After I got up from this, we both cracked open the Hammer Nutrition Whey and got that protein in our body where it was needed. We had been sipping on Hammer's Heed electrolyte but were looking forward to getting repair going with strawberry whey. Shortly after that, the top 5 women and men were announced for the semi-final WOD and then the top 3 of each moved on to the final WOD. Here is what they did and it WAS an awesome two events to watch! Brutal! (good thing I didn't make it to either...I would've been in serious trouble!)

Many thanks to Dannielle Ripper who calls CrossFit Steeltown home and invited us out for our first competition. You and Eric were great hosts and your "family" there at Steeltown are great! I know many didn't participate because they were the army of judge volunteers. They were great so thank you to you and them...and a belated Happy Birthday! For my bride and I, we had a great time and really enjoyed spending the time together and being in different heats so we could root each other on and photograph each other, too. (added benefit) We both told each other we wouldn't want to be there without the other...just like our first 7 months in CrossFit so far. We're already looking forward to the 3rd Annual Metcon Games next year!

Monday, June 22, 2015

M-Cubed for 6.22.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for June Twenty-Second, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Good morning, friends, and my apologies for no M-Cubed a week ago. A little thing called family vacation was in full swing at the time. I took my family on a 10 1/2 hour road trip to Cape Cod, MA for the second time in about 8 years, specifically Falmouth, MA. I'll ask them again soon but I do believe they all had a great week. Highlights included a day in Boston, MA where we walked the Freedom Trail, stood atop the Boston Marathon finish line, and pushed our young girls to the limit as they covered many miles on foot. Another day took us to Newport, RI where I gave them a driving tour of the naval base, lunch at the Officers Club, a walk around Fort Adams along with a stop at the Eisenhower House, some mansion viewing and finally dinner with grilled calamari. A rainy day brought us to the only craft brewery on the cape, Cape Cod Beer, where we got the free tour led by none other than a CrossFit Level 1 trainer (sweet!), a tour of the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory, and a viewing of Jurassic World. Loved it! Hmmm...another day took us less than an hour north to Plymouth where we saw where the Pilgrims hit Plymouth Rock, we toured the Mayflower II (the to-scale replica of the original Mayflower) and even found another craft brewer, the Mayflower Brewing Company. Another great day! The rest of the time was spent relaxing, sleeping in and I did squeeze in a few runs along the coast. Below are just a few snapshots of our time away.
The Mayflower II in Plymouth, MA

Dodging traffic to stand atop the Boston Marathon Finish Line...something I've never done!

Fort Adams

Favorite photo whilst running in Cape Cod. This is "Green Pond." Postcard worthy!

Last day of running along the coast. A beautiful morning but never saw the sun!
- So we saw Jurassic World. Loved it. To me, that was the true sequel to the original Jurassic Park some 20 years ago. I really appreciated how Steven Spielberg tied in so many little details from the original...and I'll be honest (spoiler alert!), I forgot about the T-Rex! Great movie. After we got home, we had a date nite at home and watched "Listen to Your Heart" on Netflix. I just can't recommend this one highly enough. I do love music (listening to the Classical channel right now on iTunes Radio as I type) and can appreciate a raw, authentic, "human" love story. This is it. I may watch it again, too. (Cybill Shepherd only has a co-star role...everyone else, you probably have never heard of) Looking forward, I'll admit that I am looking forward to seeing "Inside Out" by Disney/Pixar. I caught a piece of an interview with the writer at Pixar who made the movie while driving to Cape Cod on NPR. The birth of the movie came from his actual 12 year old daughter and wondering about all the things that go on inside her brain. From that came forth the beginning of Inside Out. Looking forward to it!

- I started typing a blog post on Saturday about the shooting massacre at the church in South Carolina and into my second paragraph, I deleted the post and put the computer away. I have lots of thoughts on the tragedy but I'll just say a few things here today and let it go.
  • Politicians: get off your agenda and desire for re-election by using this to re-ignite the gun control debate. NO LAW would've kept this hate crime from happening. If someone wants to get a firearm to kill others like this, they'll get it....with or without the help from Uncle Sam. Period.
  • Confederate Flag: If you dig into the history of the flag, it's beginning was not founded on hate or racist motives. That's an arguing point for those wanting to keep it on license plates and flying over the SC capitol. HOWEVER, I will agree with those who say that TODAY, it does not represent what it once did. Be honest: what do you immediately think when you see a big 'ol truck with that flag plastered across the back window and who do you think will be driving the truck when you look? What do you automatically "assume" when you see someone parading that flag? All food for thought. My opinion: in today's society, it has no place. It has a place in history that is fully justified but it doesn't represent anything good today. That's just a reality.
  • The real issue: The real issue here is a heart-sick country and lack of leadership that begins in the home. Broken homes, lack of parental leadership, lack of dads leading their sons (and daughters), and a lack of principles to guide our youth into becoming loving, giving, sacrificial members of society. It's not gun control. (beating the drum on that one) You want reform in this country? It starts in the your dinner those bed-side prayers with your kids and/or your spouse. Change starts with me...with you...with us.
  • Grace: The grace shown by the family members of the fallen has been hugely inspirational and shouldn't be brushed aside. They are uniformly returning grace after receiving hate. They are living out the principle of "turning the other cheek" and extending grace where none is deserved. It began by welcoming this young man into their Bible study and continues after he murdered the majority of them. How much will we learn from this?
- It was a huge running weekend and I didn't run a step. Nope, not one! I ran the Highlands Sky 40 Mile trail run for the past two years and it took place this weekend in WV. The Mohican 100 Miler also took place and I have to give a huge shout-out to a most inspirational man, Mr. Ron Ross. He became the first person to finish 20 Mohican incredible feat! "Congratulations, Ron!" I have never run Mohican but Ron has pleaded with me to consider it. These were only two of the many trail ultras over the weekend. May you all recover well! Here is Ron's post-finish interview. So awesome!

20 Mohican 100 Trail Run Finishes
"No quit. I raised my kids to be that way." - Ron RossRon Ross finished his 20th Mohican 100 Trail Run today in over 31 hours while being cheered on by his family.Happy Fathers day to Ron and all the other awesome dads out there. #mohican100 #fathersdayOMBC/Mohican 100/100k MTB, Mohican 100/50 Trail and Marathon Trail Races
Posted by on Sunday, June 21, 2015

- I'm not going to say much about CrossFit today and I'm really going to try and stop saying much at all on social media about it as well. It's going very well and my wife and I spent over two hours on Saturday morning working through a long workout that included all kinds of movements. (Check out my Instagram feed for the workout details) I'll just share our one fun photo of the session during our 10 sets on the GHD. You wanna work your abs? This will do it! Holy moly...still feel them this morning! I actually got closer to puking during these 10 sets than in any other workout in the last 7 months. We had a great time together! One thing that keeps getting confirmed to us: we are very happy we joined CrossFit 881. It's awesome to smile and have fun while working out, working hard, and to encourage each other along the way...and to get the same positive feedback, encouragement, and required prodding from our coach when necessary. Thankful!

- I wish you all a fantastic week and if you live in NE Ohio, a hearty "good luck" in getting your lawn mowed. Ours is very high and very wet. We need some heat and dryness...and a swift breeze to help us out!

In keeping with Disney/Pixar and thoughts on beliefs today, I thought this week's quote was fitting:

"When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable."
  ~Walt Disney

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CrossFit Update: 7 1/2 Months

Back on May 30th, I last gave my CrossFit-only update at 31 weeks in and on the cusp of a major change. Here's that post. Today, only 18 days later, lots has changed and everything is looking really good. I'm taking a break, actually, from the box for a week to rest, recharge, see new sights, and spend time with my family so this time is letting a lot soak in and give me time to think.

Rest and Relaxation Week
For 7 months, I tried on a new routine which was a strong departure from days prior. I had been running 200+ miles per month and felt another injury lurking should I continue. I tried a running streak where I took no days off for awhile and I had lofty goals for 2015 that included a return to the 100 mile race, several 50Ks, a 50 miler and even a 24hr race in Cleveland. Well, that 100 mile race took place over a week ago and obviously, I didn't go. In fact, many goal races for 2015 got scrapped and I've only gone the "ultra"distance once, a marathon once and a few half marathons. I suppose I could still do the 24hr race in September...considering it. So during those 7 months, instead of running the country roads early before sunrise, I've thrown around weight, climbed ropes, chewed up my hands like never before, got my heart pumping like never before and changed my physical body drastically. Gone is the typical running body that does nothing but run...strong legs but weak everywhere else. Instead, I can still run but have a strong upper body and have burned the majority of the fat there and replaced it with muscle definition like I've never seen before in my 42+ years. I'm not saying I'm some powerhouse (far from it!) but guess what...there really are muscles in there, contrary to popular belief! I've also made some great friends during these 7 months. At the end of May, though, as the 7 month marker followed a few days later on June 4th, change was imminent as a new CrossFit box opened closer to home and offered a completely different approach to the "sport" of CrossFit. (in quotes as that's a highly debated statement!)

For months, I never tried things like dips or handstand push-ups or even a chest-to-bar pull-up. I showed up, did what the coach told me to, got some instruction, did the workout and went home 60min later. When things like these movements showed up in a workout, it was just assumed I couldn't do them so I scaled it to something lesser that I could do. While I saw rapid gains in the first several months of CrossFit, my gains certainly tapered off over the last 1-2 months. I simply wasn't getting any stronger or adding muscle. If I didn't get stronger, I'd never be able do a hand-stand push-up or dip. I was at a plateau and nothing I was doing nor being told to do would change it. Then there is my crappy form. On Day 1 at CrossFit 881 (my new gym/box), my coach had me squat which was awful. I was curving my back in a nasty way as I neared the bottom of my squat which limits what I can lift and opens me up to injury. That set me up for lots of work on my squat AND a break from Olympic lifting, except for push presses and dead lifts that have continued. In the meantime, a HUGE concentration on strength has commenced.

A typical day: Disclaimer first: I'm not saying what I've been doing the past 7 months has been wrong. This is a fluid and constantly changing activity...that being CrossFit. It is subject to limitless interpretation. I have seen huge gains in the past 7 months and I'm thankful for it! However, the before and after are very different in what a typical day holds. BEFORE: It was a typical class environment with 10-25 athletes, involved lots of warmup, something gymnastic, a strength component, and a WOD. Classes last 1 hour and often follow immediately by another class. At most...two coaches for the class and most often, one coach.  

Today, I rarely spend only one hour in the box and if often 75-90min. A warm-up usually consists of some running, rowing, or maybe even some kettle bell swings. It's also a solo workout and is much more reflective of a personal training session vs. class environment. I'm sure this may change over time as CrossFit 881 grows but for now, it's very one-on-one. After warmed up, instead of 10min or so being spent on strength, it's more like a half hour or so and may follow 2-3 different movements. Higher reps, lower weight and then increased weight and lower reps...then back down again. A huge focus has also been on body weight strength work via pull-ups and dips then more of those with a weighted vest (20lbs) or even a small kettle bell chained around my waist for added resistance. I'll be honest: when I see my coach bring out the weighted "options" (not options at all!), I shake my head and consider it "not possible so why even try?" That's been my real learning curve. I have learned that I AM far more capable. Case in point: A week ago today, my coach wrote the following on the whiteboard: 200m run, 7 burpees, 7 pull-ups for 3 rounds, then rest 3min, then do it for 2 more rounds, rest 2min and finally one last round. Given that all 7 of my tears on my hands healed, I didn't shy away from this. What he DIDN'T write was I was to wear a weighted vest for all of it. Cue the head-shaking left and right and total self-doubt. Enter bad attitude. "I'll be here all day," I believe I said. I sucked it up and did the first round and that vest was way loose so he tightened it up and I charged on and a crazy thing happened...I WAS able. As I went, I actually got a hunger to fight and work harder and ended up getting faster. Crazy, isn't it?!  In the end, I loved it and made a huge mental break-through and thinking back to the "Murph" WOD that calls for a vest, it made me believe that the day is coming when I'll do Murph as prescribed. (video below shows one set of those pull-ups with the vest on) The other crazy mental thing has been the kettle bell. Up until June 1st, I never touched a kettle bell greater than 45 pounds. Most WODs that have a KB in it prescribe 53 or 55lbs for the men. The video below was the first day I swung a KB at 881. The KB on the floor is 55lbs...the one I'm swinging is 70 pounds! I'm pretty sure I muttered "whatever..." when he pulled that out. More self doubt...more being WRONG. Now, swinging this KB is becoming more common which will make future WODs with the 55lb seem...."easier." Go figure!

The first time doing dips - no band!
So while I haven't been doing a bunch of bar work, I am getting stronger and starting to believe in myself more. Dips, pull-ups (vest, too), and I even did my first chest-to-bar last week.  I also would be wrong to not mention the added benefit of having someone believe in me, deal out some "tough love" when necessary and push me out of my comfort zone. What happens in the gym has lots to spill out into daily life and as someone who is stupid hard on myself, I could even chalk up my workouts to a form of mental counseling! I've said it many's not just about moving weight or feeling like death is imminent during a workout! There is much more to apply to life if you're willing to let that happen. :)

Moving forward, both my wife and I couldn't be more confident in our decision to change CrossFit "homes." We both need a lot of work in the fundamentals and need to grow much stronger from head to toe in order to grow in the other areas of CrossFit that we really struggle with. We also really appreciate the climate we find ourselves working in now and the constant push and positive reinforcement received. Icing on the cake is being a part of a brand new community from the beginning. (CrossFit 881 is only a few months old!) In the very short term, we are looking forward to our first competition coming up on June 27th at CrossFit Steeltown outside nearby Pittsburgh, dubbed the "Metcon Games." Down the line...who knows...but I am really looking forward to returning to Olympic lifting soon and what I can accomplish in that area. I need a lot of help there and I know I'll get it. I know I'm far more capable than I've shown so far.

Monday, June 8, 2015

M-Cubed for 6.8.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for June Eighth, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Usually I'm passed out and in bed by 9 or 9:30pm. Last night was a well-decided exception as we watched the Cavs and Warriors head into overtime in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Cavs for the win! Cavs fans are chomping at the bit to root on the wine-n-gold on Tuesday night at home in Cleveland...I just wish every stinkin' game wasn't at 9pm! One little factoid: that was the first-ever Cavs win in any NBA Finals in history. Way to go, Cavs! (and please fire those referees...good grief, they were bad last night)

- I'm a sucker for a good Broadway tune. Last week, a video went viral when the cast of Disney's Lion King and Aladdin got stuck on a 6hr flight delay in the airport. Pretty awesome way to kill time but notice the execs in the their suits in the background...can't say they're loving it as much as the other onlookers there and the millions like me out in cyberspace. Watch it, here.

- I don't talk much about what I do for a living here simply due to security, blah blah blah...but in the course of my job, I get to help people move towards achieving their of which happens to be piloting a fighter jet one day. A few days back, this photo was sent to me via text of one such dream realized as this unnamed pilot flew the Super Hornet for the first time. In a world of selfies, this one takes the cake. See the reflection? This photo totally made my day...and I'm super proud of him for achieving his childhood goal!

- Well on June 4th, only 4 days ago, my wife and I celebrated our 7 month point doing CrossFit. Seven months! So much has happened and changed in those 7 months in our lives...not only the introduction of CrossFit. I bet if you dug back into history around January 1st in my blog you'd find some goals for 2015, one of which was to return to the 100-mile trail race this year. Well, my running goals have really taken a hit this year. Some I did and some I simply erased. The Kettle Moraine 100 Miler was one of them. Had I stuck to the original plan, I would've run 100 miles over the past weekend in southern Wisconsin. Instead, I did an under 15min workout Saturday morning. That was the extent of my physical exercise all weekend. While my thoughts escaped to the kettles on Saturday morning, I feel good about where I am right now and have no regrets. Things change, ya know!? Here were some thoughts I typed Friday night as I thought about the 100-milers going to sleep before their journey Saturday morning.

- Speaking of CrossFit (you know I had to go there), we've now completed our first week at our new home, CrossFit 881. Why 881? One thing that many CrossFit boxes do is name their boxes using zip codes, area codes or addresses. I know...not terribly creative but it kinda works! Others get really creative. For this one, it happens to be the street address and after watching the CrossFit Games Regionals, I now know that it's more common than I thought. Lots of lots of boxes out there with random numbers as part of their name. Anyway, the week went awesome. Our prior routine had us attending a class daily with other members and that class was pretty typical: warmup, a gymnastic type of movement, some kind of strength element and the WOD/workout. Done in an hour. In our new box, it's custom one-on-one training and particular to the member, their goals, their current status (physically), how much time they have, etc. We have both found we are weaker than we should be after doing this for 7 months so we're spending more time on building that strength...a stronger foundation. So each day, we're moving through different muscle groups much like a weightlifter might do. We'll usually wrap up the session with a high intensity workout, too. I'm definitely more of a sucker the "suck factor" of a WOD vs. my wife. She'd be happy just lifting all the time. All in all, it's been great so far and we're charging forward into a new week. I'm really curious to see where this all goes and how I can do things better once my strength is greater and some of my foundational movements (like the squat) are better. Bottom line: it was a great change for us to make and we love our new home.

- Did you see the headline a few days ago about us destroying an ISIS heaquarters building, thanks to social media? Many know that ISIS uses social media to tweet out instructions and push their beliefs to the world. Well, our folks in the Air Force were paying close attention to some bragging by them that divulged a location in Syria. 22 hours later, 3 of our JDAMs took it out. The article is a quick read and worth the few minutes to see how a 21st century war is being fought without putting thousands and thousands of U.S. boots on the ground. Read it here.

- Back to CrossFit for just a moment to mention a few victories. One thing I never really even tried before was the dip. Well, I did them this past week for the first time...several sets of them without any assistance. It was an awesome feeling! Then on Friday, I stopped in late that day (I had already worked out in the morning) just to hang out but got put to work swinging a kettlebell. Prior to that day, I had never swung heavier than a 45lb kettlebell. For most workouts, the weight prescribed for men is 55lbs but I've stayed clear of that and never been nudged to even try it. That changed on Friday as I did and then swung the 70lb kettlebell soon thereafter. Ha! (Check out my Instagram feed for that video) That short stop got my wheels turning about a WOD called "Helen." It's one of the "girls" and a benchmark WOD in the world of CrossFit. It's 3 rounds as fast as possible of: 400m run, 21 KB swings at 55lbs, and 12 pullups. I decided to show up Saturday morning and do it just as prescribed. All 7 of my tears on my hands had healed and I decided that I could probably get through these 36 pullups without tearing them again if I gripped correctly and used a nice bit of chalk. Come Saturday morning, I did it and while not super fast by CrossFit standards, it was great for me and 100% legit! I finished it in 11min, 50sec. Now I have a baseline to compare to later as I get stronger and more efficient, especially, on those pullups. (image is of the 55lb KB I used for "Helen.")

- Ever feel like folks are talking about you? I will definitely have that feeling this week but for good reason. At my current rank and for how long I've been it, I'm up for promotion to the next one and starting today, a selection board will meet privately, taking a oath of secrecy, and select those officers who will promote to the next rank. My record is in tip-top shape and I'm confident good news will follow! The bummer is that word won't follow until late August or even early September. Fingers crossed!

- For all you Apple junkies: This afternoon is another big Apple press event at the WWDC '15 kicks off (Worldwide Developers Conference) in California. I'm always curious to see what news Apple will release. Nothing huge this time around but software and hardware news/updates are expected. Yea..I'll probably skim through the whole presentation later tonight as it gets published to their channel on the Apple TV. I'm just a sucker at their marketing, products and how they do business.

- This week's quote is a bit long-winded but it's worth it. Regardless of your chosen workout regimen, I hope it strikes a chord with you. We can all stand to learn something from a champion! Have a great week, everyone!

"In an endurance athlete's life, discomfort is never far away. Discomfort is little more than a conversation between your body and your brain – another reason why a strong mind is so important.

The brain is the master computer of the body. Even when we are working on the efficiency of the peripheral components – the legs, the arms, the butt cheeks – we can recruit the seat of all power to enhance the effectiveness of our work. It's a question of testing limits.

You are not just working your muscles and lungs, you are working your brain to learn to accept each new level of exertion as something that can be endured safely. The brain – at least, the safety-first part of the brain – will try to dig its heels in.

Eventually it will prevail, because, of course, there are limits. I can't launch into an Ironman as if it were a sprint, so a sense of what really is too much is always crucial.

The key is to push that point back as far as possible.

The interface between the conservative and ambitious impulses in our brain should be a frontier of continual struggle. Remembering the pain of previous sessions or races we have successfully endured gives us the confidence to go through it again and the evidence to present to the brain that we are capable of handling it."

– Chrissie Wellington, four-time World Ironman champion

Monday, June 1, 2015

M-Cubed for 6.1.2015

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for June First, Two-Thousand Fifteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Oh, I do love the 1st of the that proper grammar?! Another chapter closed and another one opened. Then, of course, we have bills to pay and the big ones always appear at the start like the mortgage or rent, monthly dues to things like Netflix, insurance, the gym, etc. etc. etc. It's also the chance to get a re-do...every month. Didn't like how many miles you ran last month? Run more this month. Didn't eat well? Eat better now. Didn't get enough sleep? Resolve to find time for more this month. Don't recall last month because it's all a blur???? Time to simplify...draw some boundaries...get your priorities in check. Start by writing down everything that you're doing on a weekly basis by the day then prioritize them....can you shed anything? I bet you can...and guess what: it's ok to say "no"! Make June great!

- I'd like to give a huge shout-out to Lisa Shiu, the co-owner and CrossFit Level 2 trainer from All Heart CrossFit in Brimfield, CrossFit home since last November thru last month. During this Spring's CrossFit Open, she qualified for the Central Regional by finishing 9th in the entire region and during the past 3 days, she competed for a spot at the CrossFit Games that brings the world's fittest together in one spot. While she didn't obtain one of the Top 5 spots, she gave a valiant effort and should be proud to have "simply" made it to Regionals. Thanks to CrossFit HQ's use of YouTube's LIVE streaming, I was able to watch all 7 of her heats. This photo was published last night by CrossFit. It is Lisa during Event 7 after finishing muscle-ups and working through the ascending squat clean ladder. She began at 135lbs and worked to 175lbs. This is her at 155lbs. She finished second in this particular heat. "Way to go, Lisa, and I wish you an awesome recovery and safe trip home!"

- Everything happens for a reason and often, we don't know the "why" of many things but when looking back, much makes sense. I met a former Army nurse a few months ago at my CrossFit gym who told me about this program called "Veteran to Veteran" at her job at a local hospital system. She is a hospice nurse. When someone is placed in hospice, they aren't expected to live for more than 6 more months. For veterans who enter hospice, they are given the chance to accept the gift of the veteran to veteran program where a veteran will conduct a "pinning ceremony" where they will be honored and given a plaque and pin. It's simply a way to say "thank you." Well, I loved what I heard about it, I interviewed for it, was accepted then attended 2 of the 3 orientation sessions last week. Friday was an all-day session and tonight is a quick wrap-up. I'm really looking forward to it and thanking those who have come before me.  When I give medals and awards to my sailors, it's a ceremonial time. I hope to bring that same level of honor and respect to these veterans whose lives are coming to a close...and just sit down and talk to them/listen to them about their life and service.

- Did you know that touch and hearing stay with us until we die? On Friday during orientation...a day heavy with talking about death, we talked about those final days and hours of life. Often, people seem unresponsive but in fact, they can still hear and feel. This really gave me some peace when I think about my two grandmas who passed...that they heard me talking to them and felt me holding their hand.

- Ready for some Monday Morning Laughter??? This will fit the bill perfectly...especially if you love cats. This video is of a cat who obviously doesn't want to go for a walk. Totally playing dead and Oscar worthy!!! Enjoy it! Click here to watch it.

- This is becoming all too common. Our oldest non-human in the house, a Seal-Point Siamese cat named Berkeley likes to be in the spotlight but this is taking it a bit far!

- In case you missed my last post yesterday morning (a CrossFit update and report from Saturday's half marathon), that humidity really did kick my butt. I woke up yesterday still totally gassed from that short 13.1 miles. I stuck to a strict rest day yesterday and feel a lot better this morning...and good thing I do. Today, we begin at our new CrossFit box. New location, new trainer, new friends and a different approach at training. Gone are the days of classes and here are the days of more one-on-one training/ least for now. It's a brand new gym in only month two of operation and we're excited to be a part of it's beginning. The one huge downside to the move is not training with many of our friends any longer. However, after a lot of discussion, weighing the pros and cons, and plenty of discussion about our long-term goals and the "why" of what we're doing, we decided it was the best thing for us...right this moment.

- I chose today's quote below for a reason. While it may appear running-centric, it really applies to anything that requires training and preparation and with our new chapter beginning today, I found it especially applicable. Have a fantastic week, everyone!

"Juma Ikangaa (noted Tanzanian runner, who won the 1989 New York City Marathon in 2:08:01) is quoted as saying: 'The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.' His message, I believe, is that no matter how hard you will yourself to win in a race, it will not happen unless you put the supreme effort into your training and race preparation.

As a coach, I have frequently told my athletes that if you pay attention to your training, train hard when it is required, and prepare for a competition, the race can be much more enjoyable than if you are ill-prepared on race day and attempt to win by absolutely thrashing yourself. Sooner rather than later, such methods will catch up with you. It will only take one or two races of trying to 'will' yourself to win without sufficient training and race preparation for you to realize the benefit of proper training and the wisdom of Ikangaa's words."

– Jack Miller, from Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes by Steve King & Dan Cumming

Saturday, May 30, 2015

CrossFit at 31 Weeks and a Half Marathon

It's been since April 19th since my last update on my journey into quite awhile and a lot can happen in that time span. Today, I'd like to simply gloss over a few things and give you an update after this morning's Medina Half Marathon. I'm not in much of a race report writing mood but I would like to report on it.

I looked back on my 5 1/2 month report on April 19th and my attitude was pretty good back then. No injury, more forward progress, and praise for those who helped get me to that point. In more recent days and weeks, I've stalled out a bit. While I haven't decreased the volume, I also haven't gotten any better. There are some things I know I'm awful at and when those things aren't getting any's discouraging. One of my biggest issues is my squat. The squat is so fundamental to so many things. For me, my back curves badly. My rear end should be sticking out then a nice curve upward. My curve is going the other way. It's a recipe for disaster and injury. This poor form is the anchor in so many things, especially in Olympic lifting. Add lots of lifting into high intensity workouts with garbage form and what result can realistically be expected? This constant struggle along with not knowing how to correct it and continue my upward trajectory has caused a lot of discouragement. I simply can't coach myself or teach myself. Then there is another issue that arose over the past 3 weeks. I'll just let the photo speak for itself:
Those 6 tears happened on ONE workout. It was a Hero WOD that included in it 120 pull-ups. Well not too long ago I shed the band and started doing pull-ups via kipping and nothing else. One thing I learned after this multiple tear is that I should be shaving down my callouses. I guess I should've just known that because no one ever told me. So when I did those pull-ups, the callouses got caught up on the bar and ripped the heck out of my hands. The shower that immediately followed this tear was NOT nice! Oh my my. Even worse, this happened about 10 days before Memorial Day, the day I was targeting the Murph Hero WOD that included 100 pull-ups...a long-standing goal of mine. So over the next week, I did everything I could to let my hands heal until a high-volume workout of pull-ups was introduced only a few days before Memorial Day. Foolish me again...I should've walked away but I didn't. I did it with my healing hands and a ton of athletic tape but it didn't matter. My right hand tore again in a 7th location just inside my right thumb. That workout was my first DNF..."did not finish." I couldn't even grab the bar it hurt so bad. I was fighting to finish it but was moving so slow that the whole gym had cleared out except for two other members. With 10 reps left, I quit. It simply wasn't worth the pain. Who'd notice anyhow? Everyone was gone...and Murph was 4 days away. I went home and Googled the heck out of this injury and how to fix my hands. I decided to not do head was in a bad place.

In comes a great friend of mine about 90min to my east. Memorial Day weekend was knocking and another nationwide workout was sweeping boxes from coast to coast called 21 Guns. It was being driven by Team Red, White, Blue (Team RWB) and included running, box jumping, burpees, push-ups and pull-ups. I couldn't get it programmed or offered at my gym so I just figured I wouldn't be doing it...until that Saturday morning. My good CrossFit friend convinced me to figure out how to do it at home. I have no pull-up bar and my hands were trash so I replaced them with 20 second hand-stand holds...against my garage door! For the 24" box jumps, I used an 18" boulder at the end of my driveway. Everything else I could do. 21 Guns was a 21min AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of: 400m run, 21 box jumps, 21 push-ups, 15 burpees, 9 pull-ups. I got in 3 full rounds plus another run, a set of push-ups, and 20 "boulder" jumps. Done! That Sunday, my friend had about FORTY people show up for 21 Guns...FORTY! Ironically, she got the exact same number of reps as me...but she was actually doing pull-ups. Very thankful for the nudge and push from her when I needed it. She's a no-bull kinda girl...tough love...but a great friend that I can always count on, even when I never see her.

But what about Murph? The Murph Hero WOD is a 1mi run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and finally another 1mi run. I originally decided to can it...but in came the self-talk: "Am I too good or proud to scale it down and find a different way? Am I better to sit on the couch?" I decided to re-introduce the band and do strict pull-ups. No swinging around (kipping) at all. It may not be what I originally intended, but it would still honor LT Michael Murphy. I showed up on Monday morning, Memorial Day, and did it...all of it. I did the run then did 20 sets of 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 squats 5 push-ups...then ran another mile. I finished in 48min, first Murph. I will most certainly go back and do Murph legit...unassisted pull-ups and with a 20lb vest. Today, my hands are healing up nicely and I have avoided anything that would tear them. I have, however, done a lot of bar work but have chalked them heavily to minimize the friction. I've also been using healing ointment to get them better faster and keep them moist to prevent cracking as they heal.

Throughout all of this, I decided to look outside the gym at a brand new location only 2 miles away. I took one day 8 days ago to stop in for a workout for free just to see how I liked it and how the coaching/programming worked. Being a totally new startup CrossFit affiliate, there are very few members and no classes are being held. Instead, the coach there is big on individual training and making it whatever it needs to be. He had me squat within a few minutes of walking in the door and immediately pointed out my curved back...a fundamental flaw of mine that has got to be corrected. Fundamentals first! We worked on that, bench pressed, did some arm curls and then he pulled out the sled...a device I had never used before. Basically, it's a metal sled with weights on top of it and it gets pushed over the asphalt. On one side, two high bars get pushed against and on the return trip, you have to get low to push on the lower bar....much MUCH harder! That workout included 6 sled pushes and lots of box jumps and burpees. My wife joined me for the fun as well. (she didn't "appreciate" the sweat-fest as much as I did!) I visited alone a few days ago for a second visit to help me decide if I wanted to make the switch to this new gym and after about 90min there, my rear-end got handed to me again! The sled came out and it was that along with knees-to-elbows and push-presses...4 rounds. Before we even got there, though, I found myself on the rower, doing lunges and a 10min EMOM of deadlifting off the boxes...another first. That curved back was a problem in dead lifts and the rower. I negatively impacts everything! The push-presses went well, though...just not very heavy but that's ok!
Once the day was a wrap, I had made up my mind. I was making the switch. The quality of one-on-one coaching is something I really appreciate and I know I need the help and he is unwilling to propel me forward until I'm ready. I'm excited about what the future holds when I get some things is my new coach. I hope to shed off some of the stagnancy, frustration and poor form and have a blast at doing this along with seeing gains along the way...properly. So far, everyone I have met there has been super nice and with a hand outstretched to welcome me to the family. I'm sure I'll have bumps in the road but I'm encouraged by everything I've seen so far. The one downside in the switch is not seeing many of the new friends I've made over the last 6 months any longer. Thanks to social media, though, I'll stay in touch and hopefully meet up here and there. I've been blessed to meet some really awesome people!

So how about that half marathon?! Well, I ran the Medina Half Marathon this morning. It is an extremely well-executed race that supports some awesome non-profits. Last year, I killed it with a 1:38 finish and 7:33 pace. This morning, however, brought with it 80% humidity....yikes. It wasn't hot but wow, was it moist!!! I decided to run sans shirt (for the first race ever!) and see what happened. The first few miles were fast and on target from last year but within the first 5 miles, I realized that the humidity was going to trump any intentions I had of setting a course personal record. By mile 6, it turned into a slug-fest and I fought for a backup goal of getting in under 1hr, 50min. In the end, my shorts were completely soaked top to bottom but I finished in 1:49:19. That was good for 115 of 874 finishers, 83 of 346 men, 12th of 61 in my age group, and 40th of 176 men in the masters division. (good grief...I can't believe I'm in the masters division!!) Great race and I'm already signed up for 2016!

All-in-all...things are good. I'm excited for what lays ahead and I'm ready to work hard. No huge goals on the horizon...just to be the best I can be and stay injury-free. (oh I'm rhyming!) Well...there is one small goal. Our first CrossFit competition is the last Saturday of this month out at my friend's gym in PA. My wife and I are both really looking forward to it!