Monday, May 18, 2015

M-Cubed for 5.18.2015

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

- There was a moment about a week ago where I was going to draft and post a commencement address if I were to give one today. Well, as many things in my head are in "draft mode" to write here, time never did avail itself to write such a post but then I stumbled upon this gem of a speech by none other than famed actor, Denzel Washington. He gave the address to the graduates of Dillard University a week ago and I was really blown away by the humility, selflessness, and non-materialistic nature of his speech. Really, REALLY good and worth the watch/listen. Here is one quote I grabbed that I had to pause the video for: "Dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel have dreams, but have goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals..." You can watch it here.

Top is immediately after the workout.
- Last week was a really challenge at the CrossFit box. Two days of the five that I went to class, I was dead last...but finished. One day was pure endurance with no weights at all and was four 500m rows plus an all-out 800m run. That day, I took the lowest combined time in my class and the fastest 800m run at 2:49. Then, we had 2 Hero WODs as well. On Monday, we did "Klepto" that was in honor of an Air Force pilot who was killed in Afghanistan when I was over there, actually. Klepto was his call-sign. It was 4 rounds of 27 box jumps, 20 burpees, and 11 squat cleans. He was killed on  4-27-2011...thus the reason for those numbers. It was a long haul of a workout! On Friday, we did another one called Bradshaw. 1LT Bradshaw, U.S. Army was killed by an IED in 2009 in Afghanistan. "Bradshaw" tore me up. I've been working on pull-ups and this one had 120 of them! It was 10 rounds of 4 hand stand push ups (I did pike push ups instead), 6 dead lifts at 225lbs, 12 pull ups, and 24 DUBs (I did 48 single jump ropes). Well, since no one has ever told me to shave down my callouses on my hands, my hands 6 places. Since then, I've been trimming skin, using lots of neosporin, and NOT shaking hands. Bradshaw was one of the WODs where I was dead last, entirely because my hands hurt so dang bad and I could only do 2 or 3 pull ups at a time. I actually did all 60 dead lifts at the prescribed weight...very happy about that! The WOD ended up taking me 34min, 31sec..but I finished. (That's a LONG workout, by the way) I know some have their opinion about being so slow, but I tried my hardest and didn't quit from the pain. Luckily, I Googled Bradshaw prior to the workout to know who I was working in honor of...that definitely helped. A little bit of pain was worth it. Leaning forward, I'm really looking forward to the Hero WOD "Murph"...coming up one week from today on Memorial Day along with working hard every day no matter what the challenge.

- My wife and I had the pleasure and honor of attending a friend's wedding over the weekend. It was a rainy evening so the lakeside vows were moved inside. It was a perfect wedding. Instead of two massive bridal parties, there was his brother and her sister by their sides and two young nieces bringing the "cute factor" down the aisle. Purple and peacocks were clearly a theme and it was more of a fun atmosphere and interactive. Congratulations, Shawn and Abby!!! And were beautiful!!!

- Proud dad right here! I have a few very talented daughters. One loves to sing and rightfully so...such a beautiful voice. She also plays the guitar. The other plays piano and the flute. Yesterday, the annual music awards ceremony was held in our local high school and as my oldest gets ready to enter the high school, she received a few really awesome awards. First, she was voted on by her peers for the Leadership Award for the year. I told her how awesome that is because it's her fellow classmates who picked her as a leader...that says a lot! The second award and one she was really hoping for: "The Fred Waring Director's Award for Chorus® recognizes the talent and enthusiasm of outstanding choral members." It's "the" award to get as one leaves middle school. Well, she got it as well! Super proud to be her dad!

- It's time to start mixing things up a bit and getting myself back on the roads I love to run and hills I love to conquer. Usually after I pen this post, I head to CrossFit where in years past I was on the roads to run. Today and for many scattered days coming up, I'm back on the roads and will be going to some afternoon CrossFit classes. While the workouts are the same, different box members and a different coach leads those classes. I'm looking forward to the change! I'm very much a morning person so those afternoon/early evening classes should be interesting...but a refreshing change. I'm definitely looking forward to watching some sunrises from the run again. Yesterday, in fact, I got in a very sweaty/balmy/moist 7 miler on my favorite country route. Color, birds singing, and even some cows having breakfast. Of course, I grabbed a running selfie. I'd hate to disappoint the haters! :)

- Surely, you've heard of beer, brew, tap handles and kegs. Whether you enjoy some bland Bud Light or quality craft brew or don't drink at all, these terms are familiar. What probably ISN'T familiar is using terms like brew, keg and tap when referring to coffee. Well, my favorite coffee shop in Kent, OH (Bent Tree Coffee Roasters) where I stop en route to work every day for my daily French Press recently debuted their nitro cold brew. It's brewed and kept fresh in an ice cold keg with a blanket of nitrogen. On Saturday, I took a solo stroll through Kent along the Cuyahoga River and walked in the shop to finally try it. What I expected was a bland iced coffee taste. What I got was a very rich and creamy, full of complex flavor cup of ice cold coffee brew. INCREDIBLE is the only word I could use. It was so good! Like I told the owners, Mike and Ryan, that's what you get when you take craft beer lovers and they open a coffee shop! Well done, gentlemen...WELL DONE!

- Before I leave you today, I just want to say a hearty thanks to those of you who have served our country and to those of you who might be serving today. Saturday was Armed Forces Day and while most didn't know that, I did and just wanted to say thanks...just in case no one did!!! THANK YOU!!!

- This week's quote speaks straight to my inner being because lately, I have felt beat down and one person stands out in particular...maybe even two! I just have to remember to shrug those things off and get my head screwed back on straight and keep charging forward. I definitely take on challenges and dig deep...I just need help believing in myself more and stopping others from bringing me down. That just doesn't come easy to me! Have a GREAT week, everyone!

"Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going." ~ Chantal Sutherland

Monday, May 11, 2015

M-Cubed for 5.11.2015

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

- Did you make your mom/wife of your children or furry friends breakfast yesterday for Mother's Day? Well, in our house, I was specifically asked NOT to make anything! Instead, I just tried to make it the best day I could for my bride and even did my best to keep the kids at bay for an afternoon nap for her. Overall, it ended up being a lazy, great day and I think she ended it with a smile.

- On Saturday, we shed our children and sorta had a pre-Mother's Day walk through beautiful gardens in Youngstown, OH at Fellows Riverside Gardens. It would certainly be over-run with people yesterday so we walked the grounds early. The tulips were still in bloom, the grass was cool under our bare feet and we spotted two brides who were getting married. In fact, the grounds had four weddings lined up on Saturday. These gardens are notorious for weddings all summer long with their beautiful landscapes, gazebos and soon-to-bloom rose garden. Here's one tulip I digitally grabbed on our walk.

- Are you a fan of 60 Minutes? It's one of the last true news shows, in my opinion, that provides top notch reporting, is unbiased, and unique stories not heard anywhere else. I also recently heard it's one of the only news shows without an anchor. Instead, there are reporters but no one is at the helm. With the fall of Brian Williams of NBC, many believe the anchor is an unnecessary position meant for nothing more than ratings. Anyway, last night featured CrossFit, of all subjects. It was a story that 60 Minutes has been pursuing for over 2 years but finally convinced the founder of CrossFit to let them in. It was a raw and candid interview with Greg Glassman and in my opinion, gave a good look into this world that I've been a part of for 6 months now. It's intriguing and interesting to anyone in or out of the community. You'll definitely be caught off guard by Glassman if you've never heard him speak before. Here is the story and here is the extra not aired during the program.

Olentangy River
- I'm not a fan of being away from home but Thursday into Friday took me about 2 1/2 hours south in Columbus on a work trip. I really do love the city and it wouldn't be hard to convince me to sell up north and move down there. There's just an endless number of things to do and see and so much culture. Plus, it doesn't get blasted in the winter like we do in the snow belt. While there, I got to enjoy a nice 6 miler on Friday morning on the Olentangy Trail that included a run adjacent to The Ohio State University campus and the famed "Horseshoe" football stadium. Gorgeous morning for a run! Before the business of the trip began on Thursday, though, I showed up early to Columbus for a visit to Rogue Fitness Headquarters. In the CrossFit world, it portrays itself as king when it comes to equipment. Well, all of their equipment is American-made and they are based right here in Ohio...actually only a few miles from the hotel I strategically chose. They now have a retail store so I made a quick stop due to being squeezed on time, grabbed a shirt, and oodled at the most fantastic "display gym"...only for use by Rogue employees. It whispered "Come WOD with me..." as I walked through it. Beautiful facility! If ever a blank check with no limit would appear in my hand, this would be a most fantastic place to visit.

- I had the privilege of attending a Navy retirement on Friday afternoon on my way home from Columbus out in the country north of Columbus in Mount Vernon, OH. It was a standing-room only retirement in the Elks Lodge to celebrate 27 years of service by one of our Master Chiefs. While long at 2 hours, it was so good and worth every moment spent there to honor his service. The speeches, the focus of thanks given to his father and his wife, and to hear how his fellow shipmates and former commanding officers looked to him and held him in high regard was awesome to watch and hear. It was one of those experiences I won't soon forget and one that I'll file away as my day to retire is much closer than not. "Fair winds and following seas, Master Chief. We've got the watch."

- I'm not a fan of basketball...most definitely not. BUT, I will make an exception and jump on the Cleveland bandwagon for now. Last night, we all watched LeBron James make the winning basket at the buzzer to top the Chicago Bulls, silence the Chicago crowd and tie up the playoff series at 2 games a piece. They come home to Cleveland for game 5 tomorrow night. It was great to see a game since nearly all of the games so far have been on ESPN and we don't have cable. It was also so weird to cheer for a Cleveland team and not be let down with a loss...SO weird..and awesome! :)

- Last Monday was the completion of 6 months of CrossFit...SIX months! Hard to believe, especially from this "CrossFit Hater" I once was. I've been brewing some thoughts for a new post on where I'm at with it and just haven't jotted down those thoughts, yet. I did take some new photos for comparison purposes, too...those are on my Instagram account. Look for the recent black-n-white photo. (Instagram account link at top right of this blog in sidebar) Leaning forward, I'm more than ready to attack this week and close out week 26 after 3 days of much-needed rest, ready to attack the "Murph" WOD on Memorial Day and looking forward to my first competition at the end of June at CrossFit Steeltown in nearby Moon, PA. The photo below was posted last week by professional photographer, Brian Alls, who captured it on the last Saturday in March during the final workout of the CrossFit Games Open that I did. Much thanks, Brian!

- I read an article this morning in the current issue of Runner's World in their segment for Mind+Body. I always love to read an article that confirms something I'm already doing. Here are some bullet points I gleaned from the article:
  • Start Early: A run or workout before breakfast appears to encourage our bodies to burn more fat according to a recent research article due to having been in a fasting state all night...and encourages us to eat better throughout the day.
  • Drink Water: Chug some water as soon as you wake up. We've been DEhydrating all night because with every exhalation, we get rid of water, it helps fill our stomach when we might wanna feast PRIOR to our run or workout.
  • Roll: I'm a big fan of my foam roller so I was happy to read this. Rolling 10min each morning helps to release tight muscles and activate weaker ones that will help us move more efficiently during the day and will set us up for a stronger run and/or workout.
There are many more tips that are covered for the entire day like rest, nutrition and even caffeine...but you'll have to find your own edition to scan over...go to the June 2015 issue and flip to page 56. Great read!

- No inspirational quote to wrap up this week. I just want to encourage you to slow down, put down your device and live fully. Living a rat race? Slow down and trim the fat...cut some things out, put up some boundaries in your life...say "no" to things. As Mother's Day wrapped up yesterday, I told my wife that gone are days of Hallmark cards (my daughter recently got a $7 birthday card...SEVEN dollars!!!) and flowers that die in a day. Memories, handwritten notes, and walks in the petals. Yea... On Saturday at the Gardens, there was one surreal moment that could've been in the next love story. White petals were slowly floating to the ground from a nearby flowering tree and resting in the tall green grass. It was beautiful as we walked by, hand in hand, and just breathed in the aroma of what surrounded us. If we don't make time, we'll never have's a true fact! So make time, friends...tomorrow has no guarantee!

Walking in Petals

Monday, May 4, 2015

M-Cubed for 5.4.2015

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

- Let me be the first to tell you: "May the 4th be with you!" Oh's Star Wars Day! (insert eye roll from some of you.) Go celebrate by watching a trailer for the upcoming Episode 7 this Christmas or even better, watch one of the first 6 episodes. :)

- Ahhh, the sweet aroma of pear trees. They are in full bloom in our neighborhood and we have two in our front yard. With the breezes this weekend, they smelled so good...especially in the morning as the sun was rising. Soon, those white blooms will be gone and the green will prevail.

- I saw three movies over the past week. The first was on Thursday when I took some time off with my bride and enjoyed lunch at Aladdin's Eatery and saw the new "The Age of Adaline." Really, really good date movie, no doubt. It's rated PG-13 but I have no idea why. In my opinion, it was barely PG. It's best you check out the trailer to get an idea about it but if you're looking for a date movie, this is a great choice. 3 1/2 stars. The second movie was a matinee showing of Avengers: Age of Ultron on Saturday. Critics are on both ends of the spectrum on this one. For me, I liked it as did my family who went with me. It's got a LOT of stuff going on in that movie and the business student in me chuckled at all the product placements like Under Armour, Pepsi, Beats headphones, Samsung and Audi...lots of Audi. The one objection I have (without ruining it for you) is a line that a new character says near the end..."I am...I am." Basically, this is right out of the Bible and something Jesus said. Flat out sacrilegious and unnecessary given the story line. No need to imply that character is God incarnate. It felt more like a jab from the writer/producer rather than fit in the movie. Other than that, we loved it. Bonus: if you're a fan of The Blacklist and James Spader, you'll really enjoy the voice of Ultron and his mannerisms...almost like Raymond Reddington! 3 stars. The last movie was a date nite at home Saturday night and we watched the Golden Globe Picture of the Year..."Boyhood." This is the movie that was literally filmed over 10 years as the actors, most namely the boy and his sister, aged. It's a great story to show life of a kid over 10 years in a volatile environment but overall, I'd give it a "meh." Not Oscar or Golden Globes worthy, in my opinion. There were a lot of great movies in the running this year for the prize that beat this out. Dang long at 2hrs, 41min as well. 2 stars.

- This past week has been a great recovery week after last Sunday's Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon. I didn't miss any CrossFit all week and don't regret that at all. It was a GREAT week at CrossFit that ended perfect with a WOD made for me...or at least it seemed. I've been working hard on pull-ups and this one had 40 of them on Friday. It also had more running than any other WOD I've seen in my 6 months there. The burner was the 40 overhead walking lunges with a 45lb bumper plate locked out over my head...holy quads! (The WOD is at right) Before that, we went heavy on back squats, of my favorite lifts. I took it up to 210lbs for that. GREAT workout. All week was great with some tough days in there but this workout was my favorite. Today marks the last day of Week 26, too. 6 months! We began on November 4, 2014. WOO HOO! "Pass the Kool-Aid..." Oh yea, 3 weeks until Murph...

- I have owned a foam roller for years...and rarely used it. Now I use it multiple times a day. If you're unfamiliar with what one is, it's pretty basic. It's a cylinder of foam...hard to the touch but when rolled across your body parts, has some give to it as it rolls out your muscles and the kinks inside them. There is one common roll I do the majority of the time and more than any other and when I read this article, I had to share it. The first role is precisely what I do. I never did the 2nd roll before but am now. The very simple foam roller is an incredible tool to own and use. Highly recommend! Amazon is a great place to pick one up or at Vertical Runner in Hudson, Brecksville, or Wooster.

- On Saturday, there was a 5K race happening two miles from my house and since I've been wanting to test myself and see what I could do in a very short distance, I signed up. It was dubbed the Future Military Physicians 5K and held at NEOMED (Northeast Ohio Medical University), completely within the confines of campus. My only concern was the hill out back that I've run down many times. Well, they chose to go up that hill...twice. I entered the race with my primary goal to shoot for the 20min barrier...a healthy 6:24 pace. I had no idea if I could even get close. My "B" goal was 21min that equates to a 6:45 pace. I knew the field would be small and would be comprised of mostly young mid-20s, medical students. I was correct. It had 71 runners registered and I was easily one of the oldest runners there. At the 1 mile point, I crossed it in 6:23. "Oh boy," I thought. "I'm dead on a 20min finish pace and I don't know if I can hold this." As I passed by the start and waved to my wife who caught this photo, the front pack of 6 runners thinned to a few of us. I wasn't leading but I was in the top 3. As I passed mile 2 just as I started the hill for the 2nd time, I passed it at a flat 13min...meaning I lost 4 seconds in the 2nd mile. The 20min finish is in my reach but can I hold? Up the hill I went and the runner leading cramped up in front of me which put me in a solid 2nd place. I gave it all I had and tried to keep up with the leader but he just kept putting seconds on me. As I neared the finish and my wife cheered me on, the finishing clock came into was ticking slowly towards 20:00....19:50, 19:51, 19:52....I was running with all I had!!! The 20:00 clicked over as I lunged for the finish. Final Time: 20:01! Good grief! Well, while that's just plain comical, I was thrilled with that finish. That's a 6:26 average pace and the fastest I've run since 2007...and with no speed work for this kind of race. Plus, I'm 42 and racing against 20-somethings! Dang, this CrossFit is really hurting me, isn't it?! hehe....thrilled to finish 2nd overall! Hardware for me! Cherry on top = the race was raising money for the Wounded Warrior organization and it met it's goal! Way to go!

- It was a glorious day yesterday...upper 70s and sun. Perfect day to mow the yard sans shirt and take my time. Afterwards, the inevitable me laying on my back in the driveway cleaning the bottom of my John Deere while it's up on ramps. While down there, I heard the thumping of a chinook helicopter from the nearby arsenal where Army soldiers drill over the weekend...a very recognizable sound. I looked up to find the helicopter in the sky and saw this...Old Glory gently blowing in the breeze under beautiful, sunny skies. As I like to say, those chinooks are the "sound of freedom" flying overhead. Well, it was just one of those moments as I thought that and saw this over me. I am always flooded with emotion when I gaze upon Old means so much to me. That's a great coffee shop conversation for another day. This photo is totally untouched and unfiltered, by the way...just beautiful.

Have a great week, everyone...and be nice to people! Seriously...all this rage in Baltimore is sick...just be...HUMAN! :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

M-Cubed for 4.27.2015

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

- Not exactly Monday morning any longer but still Monday...and I always have musings floating in my head.

- Perhaps you haven't seen it yet, but the newest teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII movie was released back on April 16th. Only 9.2 million+ have watched it. Only. I've watched it 7 times. Going to be awesome! Here it is if you haven't seen it yet.

- In case you missed my race report from yesterday's 2nd Annual Pro Football Hall of Fame, here it is. By bedtime (and I mean before 9pm) last night, I was a walking zombie. I ran the marathon, got the lawn mowed, had a great dinner with my family and found time to get on the foam roller twice. Quads, hammies, my back, my neck and my calves. I still wanted to go to CrossFit this morning and was trying to put the best effort forward to wake up this morning absent of pain. I woke up still just a tad bit achy but overall, 100% better than I felt when I went to bed. Lots of water yesterday, rolling, and rest all helped. This morning at CrossFit, it was overhead squats and jump ropes. Overhead squats are my most difficult lift due to poor flexibility so I went super light on weight and focused on form while getting down into those squats...not the easiest thing post-marathon. The other part of the workout itself had 450 single jump ropes in it. Now THAT was an interesting treatment on quads! Sheesh! In the end, it was a mild morning compared to most...and perfectly fine by me. It warmed me up, stretched me out and got the blood pumping. Week #25 of CrossFit complete!

- I am thankful to say that I have never touched an illegal my life. But did you my county last month, we had a person die everyday from heroin? It's an epidemic and doesn't appear to be getting any better. It's on the news all of the time. Just so sad.

- Yesterday while my wife was waiting for me at the finish line (she ran the half marathon), she used the fleece blanket to keep warm on the 30 yard line. Well, a reporter from Stark County's newspaper, the Canton Repository, saw her, snapped this photo, then interviewed her. It's hilarious! That little poof of hair is her pony-tail sticking out. "You're a celebrity, Babe!"

- Am I only one that listens to the police scanner? There is an app called 5-0 Radio that you can pull up your local police scanner and listen in to the radio traffic. Quite interesting, entertaining and eye opening all at once. :)

- Speaking of what I put in my ears, my latest hook has been via iTunes Radio. I prefer this streaming service over others simply because there aren't any commercials. The channel called "Classical Chill" is my new favorite. Now if you don't like classical, don't bother. But if you do, I'd give it a try and see what you think. Early morning with my espresso and while I work in the office...perfect for both.

- Times of transition: Late last year, I wrote out some goal races for 2015 and if you haven't noticed yet, I've been deleting them as I go. Yesterday's race marks only the 2nd race of 2015. I already scrapped the Bull Run Run 50 Miler about 4 weeks ago and I've scrapped my return to the 100-mile race. It has nothing to do with yesterday but more about where my passions lie these days. I was a 100% runner prior to November of last year. It's all I did. Now I run a little (but still run) and CrossFit much more. I've sacrificed endurance but increased my strength and GREATLY increased my time with my a longshot. Overall, I'm happier and really treasure those miles on the road when I get out there. I love that time. So moving forward, I don't know where I'm headed. I'm kicking around a few 50Ks this year but haven't yet registered. I'd also like to see how fast I could run a 5K right now. (There happens to be one 2 miles from my house this Saturday...hmmm). There won't be any other marathons until next year's Hall of Fame Marathon, though. At the end of May, I'll do the Medina Half Marathon again...such a great race and it just sold out. On the CrossFit side of things, different gyms/boxes have comps...or competitions that they host. I'm doing my first near the end of June in a nearby box in Pennsylvania. There is one other one later this year that I am waiting for, too...and who knows what else might pop up. Besides that, not much else. I plan, simply, to get stronger, fitter, faster and enjoy it. If I lose the joy, you can count me out.

- Hey, back to that swag from the race. This blanket is awesome. On days where it's over 10 degrees below normal, it keeps the feet warm nicely. Last year, we got a blanket as well but it was blue...the same blue you see in this blanket. Now we have 3 in the house!

- My thoughts and prayers go out to the families impacted over the last day or so of two fallen Navy SEALs in Virginia. They were found at the bottom of a training pool on base in Virginia Beach. No official word, yet, but early reports point to a training accident. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and they die at home, training to be better at what they do for us. Very sad. Here is one of the many stories covering the tragedy.

- I have a few video suggestions for you. Whether you CrossFit, are a CrossFit hater, or are just curious, these few batches of videos are really, really good. The first is called "Road to Conviction." It is currently 4 episodes in (usually under 10min each) and is following the story of Fletcher who just got out of prison and found CrossFit. Go here for the series. The other batch is a culmination of video contest entries...the best of the best. Our personal favorite so far is the one of CrossFit SUBU in Orlando. They literally started on the grass in a backyard of someone's house...then another backyard. Totally grassroots and precisely the kind of community I'd love to be a part of someday. Here is the playlist I created for the contest videos. Enjoy! (seriously...give these a shot if you have a few...they'll suck you right in..both will!)

- Before I leave you today, just one dose of motivation. Earlier today, I got some undesired news. (not to worry...nothing tragic or anything I need prayers for...just another door closed...for the fourth time) Anyway, these words speak the truth and they reflect a decision each one of us must make no matter what it is we believe we have failed at. Have a GREAT week, everyone...and get back up!

"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down." ~ Mary Pickford

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Race Report: Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon

Spoiler Alert! I got my 29th marathon finish and my 61st finish at a race of a marathon or longer. (32 ultra marathon finishes) I'm pooped but super happy. I left everything I had out on that course today and loved it. So the report...

I ran the inaugural running of this event last year and that was my last marathon, actually. I've been sticking to only one official marathon per year, although sometimes I'll be known to just run one on the weekend "just because." Last year was awesome and the race management of this race took the results of it and learned from it, made some tweaks, and brought us a fantastic race this year. The course, from what I could tell, had only one super minor tweak in it around Mile 21 where the last relay hand-off takes place. Outside of that, it appeared to be the same course.

Logistics: At the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there isn't enough parking to host all the runners (marathon, half marathon, and relay runners) without disrupting regular attenders of the Hall itself. Last year, they had everyone park at the Stark County Fairgrounds and shuttle them over. I didn't use that but this year, they moved the parking spot to the huge open parking lot of Belden Village short exit down I-77 from the Hall. We arrived at 6:15am (7am race start) and didn't wait a moment for a bus. The Stark County transit was lined up to take us to the Fawcett Stadium and the start. Easy parking and super quick ride to the start...perfect and it couldn't be better. After the race, it was just as flawless. There were a plethora of buses lined up again so no wait at all. The drivers even had a great attitude, too. :) Upon arrival at the stadium, we walked on in to this view of the finish line and field...and a brilliant sunrise. The curve around the end zone at the bottom left is the sprint to the finish at the 50 yard line.

The Start: Both the half marathon and marathon races begin together just outside Fawcett Stadium and the Hall on the road in between them and I-77. A huge flag was hung over the start (which I especially loved) and easy to find pacers were scattered along the road so runners could seed themselves right where they need to be around others who plan to run around the same pace...very handy for preventing a stampede at the start. Prior to the start, the sun was rising fast, temps were in the 30s (but headed to the 50s) and my wife and I met up with longtime friend, Mindy, at the Hall's sign. This is definitely the most common meet-up spot for runners and for pre-race photos. The start is adjacent to this spot so it's perfect. The race was supposed to start at 7am but it sounds like some of those buses were still transporting runners so the race director decided to hold off on the start for about 10min or so. Once the time came, we were treated to a chorus singing the National Anthem...beautiful. To prove how the race management learned from last year, we couldn't hear a single word last year of the Anthem. This year, speakers were well-positioned and drowned out the chit-chat of the runners when it was time...perfect. THANK YOU! Moments after they finished, we were off...right under Old Glory!

The Course: This course is most easily described in two parts...the first half and the second half. All runners are together for the full and half marathon all the way until right before the half marathoners head back into Fawcett Stadium for their finish. This is pretty great, especially for those who are running with another runner of the opposing distance as I was. It's an easy break-off and easily understood. As for elevation, below is the elevation profile for the entire 26.2. "Rolling gently" is how I'd sum up this course. No big hills as I define them but certainly some rises and falls here and there.
First Half - click on it to enlarge
The first half takes you almost immediately under Interstate 77 and towards downtown Canton. Awesome architecture, tons of runners everywhere, not too much crowd support (or ever, for that matter) and an interesting route. The latter half of the first half takes you into a park setting and then the McKinley Monument and those famous steps...imagine Rocky Balboa in Philly...but many more of them. Tempting to run up...but I thought better of it. :) My plan today was to hang out around the 9min/mile area and the 4hr pace group leader and then if I had more to give later, I would. We moved past that pace group leader early on and maintained around a 8:45-ish pace. I haven't been training at all for this race and haven't done any serious distance since my last race, a 50K in early January. Since then, I think I've run at most 15 or 16 miles at once and only ran 2-3 days a week at the very most. Instead, I've been doing CrossFit five days a week. Today was to be a true litmus test of endurance. I believe I am more fit than ever in my life but when it comes to long distance running, endurance is bound to decrease if the miles aren't put in. Since I have a life outside of my 1hr of CrossFit a day, the running has taken a backseat. Still, though, I love to run and I'd like to run this marathon for as many years as I can without missing one. Usually, I know or have a good gut feeling for what waits for me, based on my prep but I had no idea today. As I approached the halfway point, I felt great...very comfy at my pace. I hung a left as the half marathoners cruised ahead towards their finish and the silence immediately took a hold. Quiet. Total.

The second half is almost entirely residential and takes place west of the southwest of the Hall. If you like turns and having the road all to yourself, this is your cup-o-tea. Now before you think I'm hating on the second half, please understand that I knew this before running it this year...not last year, though. I don't typically like to complain without offering a suggestion for improvement. In this case, I have no idea what I'd suggest. #1: the bulk of runners are finishing the half marathon...way more registrants. You can't do much about that and that's the trend nationwide. #2: Residential is...boring. Unless the residents come out to cheer us on, it's going to be painfully quiet except for the regular water stop and running families waiting for their runner to pass...and cheering others on while they wait. So while the second half is what it is, you just need to be prepared for it. For some, it may be music and if that's you, bring it! Here's the zig-zag second half:
2nd Half - click on it to enlarge
It was probably around the 17 mile point that I knew my time had come and the suffering was coming. By the time Mile 19 rolled around, "suck-it-up-buttercup" mode was fully engaged. From lifts I did in CrossFit last week (felt those in my upper and lower back) to my quads, hammies, and calves yelling (and cussing) at me. This was absolutely no surprise so now it was just a matter of keeping forward movement...and delaying the arrival of the 4hr pace group leader that would catch me...eventually.

One of my favorite (if not my favorite) parts of the course happens in the 20th mile just like last year. The Flags of Freedom put an incredible 1,000 3x5 flags on poles in the ground, one at a time along the course. With the clear blue skies and breeze, every Old Glory waved in a majestic way. This was a great distraction from the sucktastic Mile 20.

As the miles progressed, the discomfort grew and I slowed. It was in the 24th mile that the 4hr pace group leader went on by with only two runners at his side...pretty typical of what happens in a marathon. I told them "great job" and watched them go. There was no keeping up with them. Within about 1/2 mile of the finish, the series of downhills begin as the surrounding neighborhood roads took me back to Fawcett Stadium. If you reference the top photo in this report, all runners enter the stadium at the top left. We all pass over an electronic sensor that lets the finish line announcer know who's coming and as I turned the corner to the finish, I had the finish line all to myself. I heard my name announced and raised my hands as I crossed the finish. DONE. I didn't wear a watch so I had no idea what my time was until a little bit later. The volunteers draped the awesome medal over my neck and I loaded up with some Subway, a banana, some chocolate milk and water. All very appreciated! As promised, my wife was waiting for me in the sun on the 30 yard line and I hit the turf...hard. :) Mission accomplished! A short while later, I logged in the event's website and checked my finish time: 4hrs, ONE minute, 47 seconds. I guess I wasn't as far behind that pace group leader as I thought! :) But seriously...that's awfully close to being UNDER 4 hours. What's cool about running without a watch is the mental decision to leave it all out there on the course and hold nothing back. That's precisely what I did. I don't regret anything because I know I gave it all. Marathon #29 finish!

All in all, this is a GREAT race. Jim Chaney (race director) and his team have done a fantastic job. The ONLY downside is the second half and how lonely and quiet it is but like I said, I don't have a suggestion to fix that. The finish line at the 50 yard line, an uncrammed finish line area to get the medal and food, and wide open field to just crash in the sun is awesome. Then there is that medal. The marathon finishers got a medal that, I kid you not, has battery-powered stadium lights on them that flash. Talk about thinking outside the box!!! The half marathoners got a super-cool medal, too. Both are totally different but equally creative and awesome. I'll certainly be back next year but I think I'll turn on some tunes in the second half. I had them today...I just didn't turn them on. Great race, great organizers, super-awesome volunteers...and I do love Old Glory and it was everywhere today. Do it in 2016! Marathon, half marathon, marathon relay and Gold Jacket 5K on Saturday.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

CrossFit: 5 1/2 Months Complete

Where do I's been 4 weeks since I last wrote about CrossFit and haven't written a word here in two weeks so as you know, I could write, write, write for awhile. Let's stick to the subject at hand, shall we?

My last update was at Week 20 and you can read that here. You can read them all since Day 1 here. Tomorrow wraps up Week 24. I'm still going strong and loving it. If you're waiting for the injury to happen or for me to quit, I have to spoil this post right now...neither has happened. If you're waiting for me to say "I hate running and I've quit" then you'll be disappointed there as well. But, let's get that running "thing" out of the way first. I am still running, but it's only 2-3 days per week. I had been registered for the Bull Run Run 50 Miler in Virginia last weekend and I withdrew from that. Why? For no other reason than losing the desire/passion to do it. Given my background in ultra-running, I absolutely know that my head must be in it and especially at distances past 50K (31.2 miles). Instead of running that race last Saturday, I headed to my CrossFit box and did my 6th workout of the my head, it was sort of a way to salvage the withdrawal from the race. Quid pro quo...sorta. :) This time next Saturday, I will have run my 29th marathon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, OH. Since running the Frozen Sasquatch 50K a few days after New Year's Day this year, I haven't even come close to running 26.2 miles. A few days ago on my 42nd birthday, I ran 14 miles home after my morning CrossFit workout and while only 14 miles, I "felt it" more than I really should. The truth is, I am fitter than ever but my long distance running endurance is fading. Can I go the distance? Sure I can. Can I do as "well?"... most likely not. Next Sunday will be interesting and I'm sure I'll write up a post-race report about the experience. I'm really looking forward to the race. It'll also be my 61st race of a marathon or longer. Bottom Line: I'm ok with where I'm at and letting running take a back seat. I am happy and I spend more time with my family than ever. It's all good. :)

So as for CrossFit, I continue to make gains, get stronger, do the movements better, and reach new plateaus. I also recover faster now and have less soreness that bothers me. I think the reason is twofold: 1) I am well aware of bad form and what can hurt me. I have a great coach and I watch a fair amount of instructional videos. Getting hurt is NOT an option and I will shy away from more weight before I hurt myself. 2) My schedule. I never miss a weekday workout unless I'm on vacation and that's only been for one week in the past 5 1/2 months. I've even added a Saturday the past two weeks. Because my coaches program the workouts to vary so greatly, different muscle groups are still getting rest even though I'm not missing workouts. They are very cognizant of that and don't "punish" the same body part two days in a row. I could add a third, too: Nutrition. I recover/refuel strictly with Hammer Nutrition's Whey Protein and I eat pretty darn well. I still love my craft brew and the occasional basket of fresh cut fries and a burger but overall, I eat very well. I don't follow any specific plan, I just follow common sense. Sure, I may not be the chiseled person some seek to be but I'm happy with my progress. Speaking of which, I did a collage side-by-side photo last week after a run. If you follow me on Instagram (@RTRSBM), you may remember that photo from last summer sans shirt while out on a run. I thought it was a good comparison as it clearly shows the absence of any muscle tone whatsoever. Basically, it's just skin and flesh.
Back on April 3rd, a week after the CrossFit Open ended, we got a surprise workout on that Friday dubbed CrossFit Total. Basically, it's an hour to work towards a One Rep Max of three lifts: the Strict Press, the Back Squat and the Dead Lift. My first response was: "That's it? No workout?" Well, I ended up loving it. It was a chance to take our time, warm up to our previous best weight and see how heavy we could get up to. This is a very important number because so many of our strength workouts are based on "percentages of max effort" lifts. For example, we might be doing 5 rounds of 5 reps of push jerks at 80%. Well, if we don't know what our true push jerk max is, then it's hard to know I'm doing the 80% that I'm truly capable of. (Ironically, I really need a 1 rep max of the push jerk. We do them so often so that 1 rep max would be a huge help!) Anyway, the CrossFit Total was a blast and I hit new personal records for all three lifts with the biggest one being a 60lb PR for the dead lift. I hit 325 pounds but stopped there because my wife said my back was beginning to curve...a big no-no and early warning of pending injury if continued.

So what's going really well? Well, we don't climb rope much but on March 31st, we had a WOD with 3 rope climbs in it and I did it. Very happy about that. I'm also very close to getting T2B (Toes to Bar) done during a WOD. I can do it on the side but not fast during a I'm still doing "knees to elbow" instead. My other strengths are definitely rowing, box jumps, and anytime they send us outside to doubt. My biggest GRIN, though, came on Friday when after doing pull-ups in a WOD, I decided to practice them without the band. Up until now, I've been doing all pull-ups during workouts strict and with a band. Outside of workouts, I've been practicing plain 'ol strict pull-ups unassisted. Friday, I finally was able to connect kipping pull-ups that are commonplace in CrossFit. Outside of CrossFit, many people sneer at them and say they aren't pull-ups at all. True..they are kipping pull-ups! Anyway, they are a mainstay in so many WODs and a necessary skill. On Saturday, I went in for a workout and afterwards shot some video. I do this so I can critique myself, share with others from afar who will offer help/critique, and slow it down in slow motion to show my coaches who can offer help. Below is that video. I know I need to keep my legs straighter (not that 90 degree angle at the back) and keep my legs/feet more together.

There is another reason I am beyond thrilled to shed the band. Way before I began CrossFit back on November 4th, I knew about "Murph." Murph is a Hero WOD named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy, SEAL, who died in Afghanistan. In fact, when I was stationed there in 2011, I looked out over the Hindu Kush Mountains where he was killed. I take very seriously service to my country and love the part of CrossFit that has workouts named in honor of fallen heroes. Well, Murph is one of the grand-daddy Hero WODs and is done on Memorial Day. It is this: 1 mile run, then 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, and another 1 mile run. All along, I've had the goal of doing Murph without a band for the pullups and now I know I can. Granted, I won't do all 100 at a time, I'm most likely going to do 20 sets of: 5 pullups, 5 pushups, 15 squats, 5 pushups. In total, that'll hit the numbers...then go run a mile. I plan on carrying a full size American flag for that first and last mile, too. I promise...I will give every shred of effort I have to that WOD and nothing less than 100% will be acceptable. It's going to be very tough and grueling...but I can't wait! Just a few days before Murph on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, my wife and I are heading to our first CrossFit competition just outside of Pittsburgh called the MetCon Games. We are really looking forward to it!

As for what's still really a struggle for me: Well, anytime that barbell is going overhead, it's tough and my weight on that barbell is far from impressive...but that's OK! I'm still getting stronger and inching up the weight. My flexibility is also less than stellar. This makes things like front squats, overhead squats, and thrusters more of a balancing act rather than doing what's truly intended. I continue to stretch a lot and try new methods of stretching. I'm also still struggling at getting up in the handstand consistently. I need to eventually evolve into a handstand pushup from the handstand. Lastly...dips. If I'm ever to get on those rings and go for a muscle up, I have to be able to do dips on stationary bars. Plenty of things to work on! In CrossFit, it's never the intention to specialize in any one thing....just to be good in everything. That's why my trainer said on Week One: "It never gets easier." :)

Before I close out tonight's post, I have to say some thanks. In the photo below are some great people. My wife and I are on the left, Charlie is in the middle and he is one of the two coaches/owners of the gym and leads our class every morning, and Dave and Heidi are on the right. They are the ones responsible for inviting us back in November! We greatly value their friendships and the friendly competition they bring every day. We sweat together, laugh together, and push each other. It's one of the best parts of doing CrossFit...the friendships and community that surround the efforts everyday. Thank you to all 3 of you! (and to my wife...I'm so very proud of you! We continue to go together, cheer each other on, debrief each other on the way home, and celebrate every day's accomplishments. I couldn't ask for a better workout partner! I love you!)

I get some grief for watching a lot of videos...yea, yea, yea...I know. Well, I watched a documentary earlier today about the life back in Finland of the 2009 CrossFit Games champion, Mikko Salo. A very common term in Finnish culture is Sisu. I love it and it's a perfect mantra for how to approach every workout and every obstacle in life no matter what it is.

Till next time!

Monday, April 6, 2015

M-Cubed for 4.6.2015

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

- How was your Easter? We kicked the Easter bunny and his/her baskets to the curb this year and instead relied only on beautiful Easter dresses for our girls. We enjoyed a fantastic Easter breakfast (thanks to my wife) of ham (from her cousin's farm), her sinful cheesy potatoes and scrambled eggs. It's safe to say I didn't eat again until late afternoon! We took our traditional photo before church and headed off to the Easter service. I always love seeing the really little kids (under 5 years old) dressed up with their gorgeous dresses and suit/tie. Easter is certainly a huge "holiday" for me and how I believe. Without it, my faith is negated (in my opinion) and hollow/empty. Christmas is just the beginning...Easter provides the hope for me and everyone else.

- I had mentioned a book previously that I was reading called "A Case for Grace." After getting a whopping 10 hours of sleep on Saturday (compared to my daily 6), I laid around like a bum and was able to finish that book. Lee Strobel did a fantastic job with this book. He is a former agnostic who started out in journalism in Chicago years ago and is best known for his hugely popular investigative book "Case for Christ" where he uses science, personal accounts, history and facts to validate Christ. This book is a series of interviews he does with people who were either strung out on drugs (of the worst kind), given up to the streets as a kid in a foreign country, or an executioner in Cambodia...but all experienced true grace. One story actually flips the pattern on its head by beginning really good but plummets due to really bad choices...but then rebounds. It's a short 174 pages so if this guy can finish it, you can as well. I highly recommend it! After finishing it, I headed out for a sunny 6 miles in the country that gave me a few minutes to think about those stories and how I've experienced grace and/or how I can or should extend it to others. After my 6, I cooled down with this kettle bell. Often after a run, I can barely bend flexibility goes away the longer I run. I did a quick kettle bell and squat cool-down workout that restored that flexibility. We were shown this 4 minute workout in our Friday CrossFit class for warm-up so I thought I would try it. Worked perfectly! (Aren't the blue Brooks Pure Flows sweet? I just put my initial miles on them after racking up 410 miles on the last them!)

- April 4th on Saturday marked our 5 month point doing CrossFit. It went FAST. It was another good week at the gym and Friday was a great "cherry on top" of the week and the 5 months. Instead of the typical "WOD," we spent the hour on something called "CrossFit Total." This was our chance to hit our "1 rep max" on three different lifts then total the number. Many of our lifts on any given day are prescribed as percentages. In other words, we may be told to do 5 rounds of 3 reps of back squats at 85%. That 85% is 85% of our maximum weight...something different for everyone. To get the opportunity for "1 rep max" on lifts along the way is a great benchmark and serves as a way to show progress and keep you moving forward daily. CrossFit Total is comprised of the back squat (one of my favorites), the strict overhead press (harder than it looks!) and the dead lift. I had a great morning and set personal records in all 3 with the biggest jump being in the dead lift. My previous record was 265 pounds but I beat that by 60 pounds and hit 325 pounds. Overall, my total was 680 pounds. To put that in comparison, the beast of a lifter in my class hit 1115 pounds! His dead lift was a crazy 565 pounds and he is currently the top dead lifter in our gym. We also have a bunch of strong ladies in our gym that did what I did or even more. For me, though, I have shown tons of progress and couldn't be happier with the progress. Even better, my back wasn't sore in the slightest bit come Saturday morning...evidence I was actually doing those dead lifts CORRECTLY...something that wasn't necessarily true previously. Here is the less than 10 second video of me lifting the 325 pounds. Here is my friend, Dave, lifting his 565 pounds. Incredible!

- Signed up! My wife and I signed up for our first local CrossFit competition over Memorial Day weekend just outside nearby Pittburgh. Dubbed the "MetCon Games," we'll do 3 different workouts that day and they even feed us....a bonus! Looking forward to it! (info here about CrossFit SteelTown's MetCon Games)

- I'm sure (or maybe not) you heard about the Indiana debate going on this past week. It all centered around a law that supposedly gave business owners the right to turn away customers based on their belief structure, namely things like sexual orientation. That created a firestorm in social media, much like recent times that involved Chick-Fil-A and their public opinion/stance/belief on marriage. I'm not here to judge or offer my opinion on all of that. However, I did have to share some thoughts last Thursday as a response to a slew of hate online that while not directly at me, was using far too broad a brush to paint hate across the Christian landscape. It was the epitome of intolerance being shown by people who preach tolerance. Instead of engaging in debate and true "keyboard warrior" antics, I decided to write down some thoughts as objectively and factually as possible. Of course, those thoughts ruffled some feathers and as expected, a few folks showed themselves the door. Below is my post (sans comments and likes)...unsanitized and as originally posted.

- Friday night, I had the real privilege of attending a free screening of a new documentary called "Collecting Sgt. Dan." Dan Patron was killed on August 6, 2011 in southern Afghanistan (when I was there, actually) by a roadside bomb he was attempting to defuse. He was an EOD tech (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) in the Marine Corps. From Canton, OH, his brother decided to create this documentary to honor his brother. It's called "Collecting Sgt. Dan" because to tell the story, his brother headed to the east coast to find his brother's fellow Marines and "collect" the stories in order that he may tell his story. It was very well done and I recommend finding it on Amazon or iTunes where you can currently stream it via rental. Here is the website and trailer.

- About 6 days ago, I jotted down some random questions and among them, was asking them of myself. As we all begin another week, they are a good way to ground myself/yourself and if a change needs to happen, perhaps choose today to do it.

What will you choose today?
  • Lift up or beat down and discourage?
  • Smile or frown?
  • Meet people where they are or see only your standard?
  • Let them merge or cut them off?
  • Laugh at people or laugh with them?
  • Celebrate a new accomplishment of someone or remain ignorant?
  • Grow up or remain a child in words and actions?
  • Open the door for someone or walk in front of them, letting the door close in their face?
  • Tell your significant other/kids you love them or leave home in silence?
  • Betray the one you swore allegiance to or maintain your covenant?
  • Forgive or live behind the veil of bitterness?
  • Smoke/drink another or end your addiction today?
  • Text and drive...or drive?
  • Live in yesterday or live in today and never look back?
  • Be authentically you or hide behind makeup, clothing, image and stuff?
- As I say goodbye today, I'd like to share a quote from John "The Penguin" Bingham. You can replace the "running/walking" with anything here and make it your own. Have a great week, everyone!

"There's no reason to do any of it – to run, walk, or race – unless it brings joy into your life. You can find satisfaction in the act of moving your body from the first tentative steps. There's no need to postpone the joy until you've reached a dreamt up point of experience or skill. As a beginner, the time to find and embrace the joy is now."
– John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running

Monday, March 30, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.30.2015

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

- "In like a lion, out like a lamb..." That's how it's supposed to go, right? March came in like a lion...and thank goodness, all I see is rain for tomorrow and sunshine and 54F on April 1st. I just hope that's not an April Fool's joke! I'm encouraged to see the daffodil beginnings popping up in mulch beds everywhere. Come on, Spring!

- I read an article this past week titled "How Choosing Comfort Ultimately Leads to Pain" that was written by a 46 year old man, only a few years older than me, that talks about his reflection back on his life. He talks about not pursuing different passions early on and where he is today. It hit home on many angles and this one sentence really resonated: "If my younger self had met me today, I would have punched myself in the face." Ditto. Close friends can attest...I can't even recall much of my childhood and my early years serving in the military. It's a fog at best. So many had a dream of what they wanted to be when they grew up. My dream? I was approached by a Navy recruiter at the age of 17 and because I had no dream, no drive, no pursuit, I followed his lead and signed the many dotted lines. The rest, they say, is history. While I don't regret my journey, I do regret my lack of passion for someTHING. The seed that so many seem to have planted early be a nurse, attorney, fire fighter, advocate, entrepreneur...I had none of those. What I did have was a pursuit of integrity and excellence in everything I did and do and that has paved much of my path and kept me out of trouble. Today, I know what is important to me. I know that whatever vocation I choose is more of a means to an end of loving my wife then children, providing for them, and loving/serving others. My vocation doesn't define me and isn't what I want to be remembered for. Husband, father, authentic man who stood tall for those entrusted to him, loved them and protected them. That's who...or what I am called to be. (You can read the article here.)

- This past Saturday wrapped up the CrossFit Games Open for 2015. This last workout was a couplet of rowing on the Concept 2 rower followed by the almighty thruster. There was no time limit...just a number of reps to complete. 27, 21, 15, 9...calories on the rower then number of thrusters...back and forth until complete. Since I completed that online rowing competition a few months ago, my rowing has become strong. The thrusters, on the other hand, are a struggle, mostly because of my limited flexibility. In the end, I still did really well and probably my best effort of the 5 weeks. I did enjoy the Open and especially getting to meet a lot of the other members of the gym on the Saturday workouts. Being in the same class everyday when there are 6 different classes each day prevents crossing paths with many. This was a way to cross paths with many and support them as well towards their goal of finishing the Open. Week 21 wraps up today and the 4th of April will mark 5 months complete. Still loving it.

- So I've been mentioning the "true test" coming up at the Bull Run Run 50 Miler on April 11th. Well, I pulled the plug on that race yesterday morning. I won't be going to northern Virginia to tackle the 50 miles and am at peace with that decision. I have been questioning the "why" of why I was doing it and quite honestly, I was struggling with that answer and that's not good going into a race that'll take me 10-12 hours to complete. So it's done. No BRR50 and no regrets. To celebrate, I suppose, I set out along the Cuyahoga River yesterday afternoon for a full sun 8 miler with a few friends. It was mid-40s, breezy, and beautiful. I broke out a brand new pair of Brooks Pure Flow 3s, too, and enjoyed running in shorts. I'm still a runner...I swear! :)

- Bristol and I have spent a lot of time together this past week, too, while my family has been on the move. I've got caught up on The Blacklist, I watched Denzel Washington's "The Equalizer" and dove into another NetFlix series "House of Cards." I even began reading a new book on grace from Lee Strobel called "A Case for Grace" that is a series of stories of grace. Very good so far. Bristol is often this close as she snuggles on the couch.

- I was thinking a lot yesterday about that Germanwings jetliner that went down in the Alps last week. If you have been truly disengaged from all news sources, it had just reached cruising altitude when the pilot excused himself from the cockpit and upon his return, the co-pilot, alone in the cockpit, would not let him back in. While leaving the plane in autopilot, he dialed down the target altitude to 100 feet, the lowest setting and it made a gradual decent until crashing into the side of a mountain, instantly killing all on board. Sounds from the cockpit voice recorder never hear his voice but hear the captain banging on the cockpit door, begging him to let him in. I cannot fathom the horror of that captain, the passengers in the plane knowing they were going to die, and now the families as they re-live this very horror in their minds of their loved ones dying in such an awful way. Regardless of what they find in the co-pilot's life, my heart aches for the families of the dead. It also serves as a reminder to make sure I'm square with God each and every day and that I kiss my wife and kids daily and tell them I love them...for we will not know the time nor place when He will return nor when our ticket is going to get punched.

- To wrap up today's relatively short M-Cubed post, I stumbled across this post yesterday on Gibson's Daily Running Quotes Facebook page and I really resonated with it. I have said that there are certain benefits of the run that can't be realized in the gym...any gym. This nails it. Have a great week, everyone!

"Running is NOT just for those who are fit and healthy and strong. Running is a life-breathe for those who struggle with physical and mental illness, self-doubt, loss, anger, regret and other unspeakable pains. Why? Because running has the power to heal, to bring perspective, to instill confidence, to restore sanity and to make us believers again. This is why I run."

– Susan Husband,

Monday, March 23, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.23.2015

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

- Snow is gone, potholes are either eating cars or getting filled one at a time by workers working as fast as possible, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Eggs are at the entry to every retail store on the must be Spring! In case you missed it, Spring officially arrived Friday night. Welcome!

- If you happen to have missed my latest musings on my CrossFit journey, I wrote a Week 20 post a few days back. You can catch up here. Today: Week 20 wraps up and 21 starts tomorrow. The word on the street is that our coach/trainer who is writing all of the workouts this month is celebrating his birthday this week and he has some fun in store for us. "Fun" can be defined in so many ways by a kaleidoscope of people.

- With Spring comes Easter and some tradition around our home. I'm sure the Easter eggs will get colored but first, the bare pear tree in our front yard gets decorated with plastic eggs on thread. My wife and girls did the honors last night.

- Speaking of my girls...they are sure growing up. On one side, my oldest applied for her first job this weekend and high school orientation was at the end of last week (gulp!). The other helped my dad make over 210 gallons of homemade ice cream on Saturday. (They own an ice cream shop.) Talk of Fall 2016 schedules in high school and how many hours to work in a week now fill conversation. They say they grow up fast. 'Tis true...'tis true!

- Bull Run Run 50 Miler looms. T-19 days and counting now and I have been running much more regularly lately. With my oldest daughter turning 14 last week, I ran a brisk 14 miler for her and while it's nowhere near 50 miles, it felt really good and easy. Within the next week or so, I plan on getting out to the trails for a long trail run to make sure I still have my "trail legs" and get my head screwed on straight to accomplish the mission at hand. The race is remote and takes place in northern Virginia. (As I typed that, I paused to pull up Google Maps for the drive time....hmmmmm, I don't think I quite thought about my end game. "That's 50 miles, not 50K. You're going to finish much later in the day and then you want to drive home from VA...and stay awake to do it? Alone?") Anyway, I am so ready to run with the bluebells. (pictured here) I love Virginia!

- Regarding running and how the passion can be lost: I have some friends who have dove head first into the CrossFit world, leaving a life of ultra running behind them. Now at nearly 5 months in to heading to CrossFit 5 days a week and dropping my mileage drastically, I can see how the "love affair" with running can dwindle and even cease to exist. If I never in no more than a few times a month for a few miles, it would be easy. My mind and soul would be getting filled by the challenge, rush, and adrenaline produced at the box and running would get shoved out. I have found, though, that occasionally running home from the box (11-13 miles, depending on the route), getting sunrise Sunday morning runs in, and throwing in some pre-dinner runs during the week keeps my mind centered and open to the benefits of both "worlds." There are certainly physical benefits to both worlds that the other can't replicate but do compliment each other. Then there is the mental side...and spiritual side. In a one hour class with others, throwing weight around, taking my heart rate through the roof, and pushing myself like never before...there isn't a lot of mental time for decompressing, praying, breathing in fresh air out in the country, watching a sunrise, or hearing the birds sing. Only the run provides that and I greatly treasure that and the ability to still do it. The aches and "pains" are different in both sports and are as different as the "benefits" received but both are valuable to me. I really do hope that this upcoming race is confirmation that I still "have it" and the two can co-exist as they do now. I value both but for very different reasons and the run can't ever be truly replaced. Pictured here is my late sunrise photo from yesterday's Sunday morning pre-church run. For mid-March, it was a chilly 22F (14F windchill) but amazingly beautiful out there.

- A few weeks back, my wife and I led a marriage retreat for 22 other couples. It was a great weekend! One point made that weekend was about treating our marriages like a mission...together. Whether it's raising our children, financial independence/security, or our faith, we should go at it on a mission in lock-step with each other. We need to foster open communication and model forgiveness and humility daily. Yesterday, I stumbled across a tweet from Dr. Tony Evans and thought it fitting from that weekend: "A good marriage shares a mission, not just an emotion." It's true. Emotions are fleeting and are all over the place. Ground yourself/yourselves on a mission and stay the course!

- I love a great inspirational video/life story to watch. I have a few to share this morning. The first is of Ernestine Shepherd. She is 77 years young and a bodybuilder! I have heard "I'm too old" too many times to count so after watching this, it's proof that age is largely a state of mind and not something to hang your hat on and "blame" for inactivity or whatever. Watch Ernestine's story here. The second story is about Austin. Austin is a young man with Down Syndrome whose brother owns a CrossFit gym where they have a CrossFit Kids program. Absolutely inspiring! I loved watching this. It also represents the kind of community I envision in the CrossFit that I hope I can be a part of someday. So much intangible potential out there to impact others for good! Watch Austin's story here.

- Today as I close, I want to share a longer quote than normal and it centers around what I spoke of above with regards to running. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

"Once you start running, never stop. Keep after it. Keep going. If the enthusiasm drains out of you and you grow road-weary, go back to what attracted you to running in the first place. Rekindle that feeling, and your spirit will be restored.

Running is about being fit and keeping your heart pumping and staying healthy. But it's also about feeling that feeling, that anything-is-possible feeling of youth and adventure and challenge.

People who run do it because they love it. They're running for that feeling as much as for the physical benefits. Having the feeling helps them receive the physical benefits, which in turn makes the feeling even more pronounced. It's a lovely cycle to be caught up in. You can stop for a while. You don't have to run and run and run and run and do nothing else. It doesn't have to be an obsession.

In fact it's better if it isn't. Running is not a form of slavery. You choose to run. The fact that you choose to run increases the pleasure and the benefits derived from it. Think not about tomorrow or next month or next year. Just think about having a good run and a good time today. Do that, and you will never stop running."

– Kevin Nelson, The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration: A Year of Motivation, Revelation, and Instruction

Saturday, March 21, 2015

CrossFit: Week 20 Almost Done

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I primarily wrote about this journey called "CrossFit." If you're new to the discussion, I've been a distance runner for over 17 years and an ultra runner for about 7 or 8 years. 60 marathon or ultra marathon finishes under my belt. Back on November 4, 2014, I jumped head first into the CrossFit world and have rarely missed a workout since.

Things are going well but there has certainly been some ups and downs. I do regret not taking photos of myself back on the 4th of November, just for comparison...not for any bragging rights or anything. I would just like to see the before/after. I did get a photo taken a few days ago by my wife when she began making comments about my back when I was getting ready for work in the morning. I'll share that photo later on. Regardless, I still haven't lost much weight at all (maybe 5-10 pounds..and that's generous) but the way my clothes fit are completely different. Waist is slimmer and slimming more and more and more muscle is taking up residence in my upper body. Ironically, my thighs have shrunk. Before, I was logging 200 or more miles a month and my thighs had become tree trunks. Due to the decreased mileage, I do believe I have lost muscle mass there, as indicated by nothing more than observation and how a pair of jeans fit.

After my first Toes to Bar
Every day, I walk in the box with the intention of giving everything I have and hopefully, doing something new or greater than before. It may be hitting a new personal record on an olympic lift or doing a movement for the first time or simply doing a movement RIGHT and PROPER for the first time. There are so many integral parts to this sport that no one will ever master them all...and they shouldn't. A big part of CrossFit is doing everything well but not specializing in one particular thing. Constant change, every day is a surprise, the body (and mind) just needs to adapt and overcome. Here are some of my personal victories in the past 3 weeks since I last wrote:
  • 34 unassisted pullups. I didn't use a band. I did them on my own strength. (Hero WOD "Danny")
  • Toes to Bar: I have LONG legs in comparison to my upper body so this has been tough but I finally did it on Thursday! A result? I tore my palm for the first time...but it was worth it. I got in about 4 reps.
  • Strict Pull-Ups: Prior to November 4th, I could not do a strict pull-up...ever. Strict meaning hanging from the bar and using no body motion/momentum to go vertical. Nothing but raw strength. I did my first a week or so ago then a few days ago, I did 15...doing at most 3 in a row. My goal is to string 20 together unbroken. (without rest)
  • Multiple PRs in my many olympic lifts
  • Cleans: in the power clean and hang power clean, I have been struggling to get the movement down, back proper, and land it correctly on my shoulders. Since my flexibility is crap (putting it nicely), this has been tough. Lately, though, it's coming together and anytime I see clean "anything" on the daily board for a workout, I smile. It's an opportunity to get better and improve.
The "community" at our box is still lacking. We just don't see each other too often outside of classes. No overlap so no real sense of being a "family" like I see at many other CrossFit affiliates. I am still hopeful that someday we will come together, do more outside of class time and in the community. The one opportunity as of late has been the CrossFit Games Open. Today, we did week 4 (dubbed 15.4) at the box and lots of people were there, spread across 4 heats to complete the workout that was announced on Thursday night. Each Thursday night at 8pm, CrossFit Games Director, Dave Castro, has moved to a different city and announced the workout followed by two elite athletes facing off to do it. No one knows the workout prior to his announcement and once it's out, social media lights up with endless opinions/strategies about it. Today, it was a couplet workout for me doing push presses over my head and cleans that I just spoke of. 10 of each back and forth for 8min. Max intensity. I ended up with 78 reps and happy with that. That tear in my hand didn't slow me down but it did crack open during those 8min. Neosporin to the rescue! Overall, I'm "meh" about the Open. I was already driving myself hard prior to the Open and most workouts daily are harder than what I've seen so the scaled division, that is. I'm not doing the prescribed CrossFit Games Open workouts...I can't. I'm doing the "stepped down" version called "scaled." Still, though, it's afforded me the opportunity to meet others, see the rest of the gym on Saturday and root others on. I don't regret it but I can't say I've benefited from it greatly, either. My little victories are coming during the daily classes and staying a few minutes after class to practice and/or finally get a movement conquered...e.g.: toes to bar. I'll leave the 2016 Open undecided for now. Who knows if I'll even be doing CrossFit let alone where I'll be physically. The photo here is from today's workout. That's the push press locked out overhead...the legit end to that movement.

So what's my favorite part of CrossFit? Great question. It definitely has it's addictive side but why? I absolutely love to be challenged and pushed to the point of wanting to quit. I guess that's why I love ultra running as well. CrossFit does that but in a very short period of time! The "high intensity" of CrossFit is very real and I LOVE walking away from my 1hr per day knowing I gave everything I had and held nothing back. Also, it's not exactly a bad side effect to see the physical changes. For nearly 42 years, I have been either sedentary or a long distance runner. I have never been a gym "rat," lifted weights, or anything else. Running...or nothing. So prior to November 4th, I had a smooth back and nice love matter how far I ran. Today? Well, my wife snapped this photo a few days ago. I'm still a little bit stunned when I look at I can't believe it's MY back! The funny thing is that I had to Google the different muscle names when a friend started pointing them out. I had no idea!
So if I need motivation to keep moving, this will certainly fill the bill. I feel great, my running is still strong, and I love the surprise everyday of "what's next?" when I walk in the gym's door. Constantly varied, always challenging, and even some fun doing it every day. I will also add that I love the few friends I've made so far and how much fun it is to work hard every morning together...or almost every morning. (schedules are crazy!) The unspoken accountability to each other is something that also drives me and keeps it fun.

Moving forward, a true test lingers on the horizon. I am registered for a 50 miler on the second week on April down in the remote northern mountains of Virginia. I am certainly undertrained by ultra running standards (whatever those are) but whenever I run, I feel strong. I have not gone "long" since my last 50K in the first week of January so this should/could be interesting. I am eager (and a little bit scared) to know how I will fare over 50 miles and 10-12 hours of running in the mountains. How will doing CrossFit five days a week benefit me in that arena? Only time will tell. I'm sure I'll have a story to tell after that one.

Before I wrap today, I had some fun on St. Patrick's Day. The workout played on the 17th of March theme and became the WOD of 17s. 3 rounds of 17 box jumps, 17 kettle bell swings, and 17 pushups. I set up my iPhone and caught the whole thing on video. (awesome way to critique yourself, by the way) Below is a 15 second video of the workout....wearing green, of course. Off to Week 21...