Thursday, December 18, 2014

Equality...or not...in my CrossFit box

* Disclaimer: There are over 5,500 CrossFit affiliates in the world and growing daily. (Source: http://www.crossfit.com/affiliation) That being said, the variety of trainers, coaches, and "ways of doing business" are incredibly diverse. My experiences and thoughts here are of one single "box". Your experience can and will most likely be different than mine.

I have started and stopped this blog post three times before today. The general thoughts going around this are the level of equality upon stepping inside a CrossFit box. Let me explain:

I am an extreme novice at this point...about halfway through my 7th week. I have been very consistent and have only missed one weekday workout and only because I was racing a half marathon the next day. I even made it on Thanksgiving. So with that being said, take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Working out in a mainstream gym like Gold's, Planet Fitness, etc. is very different than in a CrossFit affiliate. For one, the level of accountability is huge. From what I hear, if you say you're going to be there and you don't show, they'll be texting you about where you are at. I haven't had that issue yet so I can't verify. Anyway, the accountability spills into everything. From every movement being executed correctly, the amount of weight, the level of intensity...the trainers hold you to the line. What about that line, though? Where is it and how do you know?

Let's back up to walking in the door. It doesn't matter what your pedigree is when you show up. You could be a PhD teaching nuclear physics at the local college or a college student in economics or a high school student or a stay-at-home mom or whatever...fill in the blank. I'm 7+ weeks in and not a single person has asked what I do for a living. I don't care, either, because while some are clearly there for the workout+social activity, I am not. That doesn't mean I'm cold to others but I'm there for a reason and making new friends with similar goals is simply a fringe benefit that I like and makes it all a little more "fun" and less miserable. :) Miserable? Well yea..it sucks! Haven't I mentioned that before?! Heck, I just started a new book called "Embrace the Suck" so I know I'm not alone here. So there is equality across the board here...scrape off your pedigree and letters behind your name and just show up. First Name. Last Name. Present!

Then there is the "not all are created equal." That is very true, too. God has bestowed each of us with different abilities, talents, different types of muscle fibers, etc. There are some things that some of us will never be able to master like the person across the room. That's ok. Instead, I have to keep reminding myself to focus on learning, getting better/stronger every day, and NOT quitting. I won't lie: the idea to quit and not return visits me a few times a week at this point. That whole comparison trap is one reason and the other is the social "outcast" I have always been...for some 41 years now. I was that kid in high school picked last, played no sports, played in the band, and did very well in school. Not a "geek" but not popular, either. I still remember by name my #1 bully who still lives nearby. I couldn't pick him out of a crowd but some 20+ years later, I haven't forgotten how that feels. I never thought the feeling of inadequacy would leak into this new routine of mine but it has. Nope...I'm not being bullied but feeling like all eyes are on me because I SUCK at this certainly is there.

Show up, give your absolute best, do your best to keep a positive attitude about it, leave your pedigree and "life issues" at the door, listen to your trainer and leave with your head held high ready to attack the day. That's the best advice I could give and give to myself. The icing on the cake is having the coaches/trainers say "Nice job! Way to get down in that squat. Nice intensity. Keep up the great work! Keep going! Great form. Way to keep your back straight." Those little comments, even from across the room are gold. They are the measuring stick that success is measured by. They also hold the right to call you out when you need to be...or corrected when the movement isn't being executed correctly.

So equality...lots of it and still, not much...depending on your viewpoint. It's a unique environment where anyone can show up and choose to give it a whirl. It's easy to get intimidated, too, but with great coaches, forward progress can be made if you commit. I often wonder if I'd prefer a one-on-one coaching environment or a class environment like I'm in now. I'd appreciate the attention in a one-on-one session but I love the daily interactions with fellow athletes and pushing through a tough WOD together...and finishing. It's always a priceless sight to see so many collapsed on the ground post-WOD. The benefits of the class setting, in my opinion, outweigh the one-on-one. I'm happy right where I am and will keep pressing on...and posing in the mirror...looking for those little changes. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

M-Cubed for 12.15.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for December Fifteenth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Skipped a week but just a few thoughts to kick off this 15th of December. After all, my arms are still a little wobbly from this morning's CrossFit workout. Sheesh. Shaving = a challenge.

- As the year winds down, my eyes and keyboard strokes turn to the few "sponsorships" I have. Honestly, I don't know if that word is appropriate...it's not like I'm an elite but I do get good discounts in exchange for wearing the brands and being active in the blogosphere and in social media. The two on deck again are Brooks Running and Hammer Nutrition.
  • Brooks Running: Hmmm. I've been with them since 2010 and originally, it was under the banner of Brooks ID...aka: "Inspire Daily." That was an incredible program and I loved it. A year ago this month, most ID athletes were shown the door unless they were elite or a coach. (hundreds exited) We were all welcomed into the Brooks Fanatics program. Still a discount, just a lesser one plus zero free product like the ID program provided. Also with ID, we had a great connection with Brooks HQ and frequent communication. In Fanatics? Nada. Well, just this past week all Fanatics were notified that Brooks is disbanding it...totally. They eluded that a new program was coming in 2015 but my confidence isn't very good in that. So am I disappointed? I sure am as many are. On the private Facebook group, anyone who posts respectful but disappointed thoughts are getting censored and deleted. Then there is the writing on the wall from a few years ago. I had noticed that they hired a new head of marketing and her main goal was to grow annual revenue in a BIG way and grow globally. The shift right there turned the ship from the community-driven "Run Happy" mantra and shifted to a big company wanting to simply get bigger and leave the "people factor" in the dust. So while I am disappointed in the company, I'll continue to wear their Pure Flow shoes as they are the best for me but I'm wide open to trying new products.

  • Hammer Nutrition: I should find out soon if year #2 is in my future. I'm hopeful that I'll be selected again and hope to represent them well in my few chosen ultras in 2015. Being connected with them is totally different. Much smaller, tight knit group and connection to Hammer HQ is very easy and encouraged. I have really enjoyed being a part of their team in 2014. While I'm still in, please click on the banner at the top right and save 15% if you want to place a first time order.
- So I'm on a run this past Saturday. I left home at 5:30am and knew I wanted to go long but wasn't sure how long. All I knew is that I wanted to end up at the CrossFit gym a town over. I hadn't run in 6 days but with the Frozen Sasquatch 50K only 3 weeks out, it was time to reprogram my brain into thinking "long run" again and make sure I'm ready. As the morning wore in with temps in the upper 20s and a light breeze, I was feeling pretty dang good so I decided to push it up towards the marathon distance. Somewhere in the 15 mile-ish area, I ran down a sidewalk and must have stomped the ground pretty hard because my bright-n-shiny new iPhone 6 popped out of the back of my waist pack and did a faceplant on the concrete beside the Cuyahoga River in Kent. Since I had a bumper on it, I hoped for the best. Nope, the worst...completely shattered glass screen. The next few moments are a blur so I can't quite recall them. :) Anyway, I kept on running but did insert a few walking sections as I spoke to Apple Care and the local Apple Store to determine my options. By the end of the run, I did end up running the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles and ended up at the "box". Since it seems most dislike running greatly there, I thought I'd snap a pic to capture the moment. I'm guessing no such pic has ever been taken. (hehe) The end of the smashed iPhone story concluded last night at the Apple Store. $109 and it looks brand new.

- Speaking of spending money, aren't buying new hot water heaters awesome? I knew you'd agree. $700 later and #3 is being installed today...and our house is only about 11 years old. This time, I paid a little more and got the 12 year warrantied Whirlpool. It was most certainly an expensive weekend!

- Reese Witherspoon's "Wild" came out a week ago and due to the rapid success and demand, they rolled it out to many more theaters than originally planned. We found it playing at the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights last night and saw it. It's the screen version of Cheryl Strayed's book of the same name. The short story for how it came to be was that Reese read her book, loved it, found the author, and told her she wanted to produce it and star in it. Then boom...we have a movie. From my wife's feedback, she says it stuck to the book quite well. Overall, it was pretty good but dang, that girl has led quite a life...not one that I'd imagine one would want to write about. Sure, it centers around her 1,000 mile trek of the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast but it's really about her life before this trek. Well made movie and Oscar worthy? I'd say yes. Life to live up to, admire, or be inspired by? Not at all. Actually, it's more of a "don't do life this way" kind of movie. Glad I saw it...sorta. Click here for the trailer. Oh yea, do NOT take your kids to see this movie. It earned every part of that "R" rating.

- Week 6 wrapped up today with CrossFit. Today's workout was one that called on my mostly weak upper body. Prior to the workout, it was a back squat Monday as expected and I PR'd my lift by another 20 pounds. Next week, I should finally hit my body weight in that lift. That is easily my favorite lift. Why? No upper body! HA! Shocking, eh?! So all in all, a good morning but another reminder to not compare myself to others and remember who I am there for. That dang trap door of comparison lurks around every corner. The pic to the right here is me doing band-assisted pull-ups. Up until last week, I did ring rows when the workout called for pull-ups. Now, I'm using this green band to assist in the pull-up. I'll lessen the band (thinner = weaker band) over time with the ultimate goal to be able to do a unassisted pull-up. Baby steps...

- Recitals, recitals! Friday and Saturday brought three different performances by our girls. From piano to voice to guitar and those were preceded by school concerts for band and choir earlier in the week. All went well!

- We live not too far from Amish Country. Saturday night, we went to the fairly new Amish Country Theater in Walnut Creek, OH. From a blue grass family band (the oldest being 19 and youngest being 6!) to a ventriloquist to a singer who clearly loves Johnny Cash, it was a great family night. Great laughs, too.

- Today's quote...a good one. I added a little of my own 2 cents in there. :)

"Before you decide you're too old to run across mountains, rock-climb in canyons, (start CrossFit- my add!) or take up scuba diving, remember: It's never too late—muscles never lose the ability to improve, no matter how old you are. We are raised with the idea that when you hit fifty, you should relax and take it easy. I think this is a mistake. The more energy you expend, the more you get back. I get more tired sitting all day than when I run fifty miles."

-Helen Klein, holder of approximately 75 World and American running records. Klein's running career began with no previous experience in 1978 at age 55.

Have a GREAT week!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Running + CrossFit: 5+ Weeks Complete

It's been about 3 weeks since I typed up a "debrief" of the progress and new road I'm on. Two days ago began Week 6, amazingly. It's gone fast. Except for the day before a half marathon race, I haven't missed a weekday workout. From what I've read, the recommended schedule for many is 5 days on, 2 days off or 3 days on, 1 day off, and so on. I have stuck to the weekday schedule only and reserved the weekend for rest and my long run(s). It's worked perfectly.

So to sum it up in a few words? I will defer to the title of a book released two days ago and one that I ordered last night called "Embrace the Suck." I'm not much of a reader but I've read a whoppin' two books in the past few months and I kinda like it! :) So, I'm going to give this a spin. I've also been a sucker for CrossFit videos on YouTube. From inspiration to instruction, there are a plethora of them out there. But yea, Embrace the Suck is perfect. Some days, it sucks big time and other days, just a little but it always does in its own, mysterious, sneaky, puddle-of-sweat kind of way.

Going back, let's remember I have been a long distance runner for over 17 years. My first marathon was in 1997 and in recent years, my passion is within the ultra marathon distance. Not a lick of upper body work in there. Basically, my legs have been strong and my upper body has simply existed. Period. This is taking awhile to balance out and because of that, those movements and lifts that are big on upper body strength, I struggle at. Those that directly rely on leg strength, I'm doing well (e.g. box jumps). So, as I look around the gym at folks much younger than me (the overwhelming majority), it is easy to compare myself to them and what they are doing. I have said it before and I'll say it again: comparison will end you in this environment. Ego, etc. must be left at the door and not brought in. It contradicts human nature but it's true. Like a great friend told me two days ago in some tough love, "get out of the way of yourself...you have met your match at CrossFit." True dat. Regarding weight and seeing progression in the right direction, here is a quote from Steve Madden, the author of "Embrace the Suck," during his Q&A Sports Illustrated interview yesterday:

SI Edge: People I talk to who don’t want to try CrossFit don’t want to try it because they’ve heard it’s easy to get hurt. What’s your protection against injury in CrossFit?

Madden: Sanity. Self-awareness. First of all, you need to make sure you’re doing the exercise properly. You need to make sure that you can do it properly repeatedly. You need to make sure you can do it properly, repeatedly, with weight. And you need to make sure you can do all of that when you’re fatigued. And if you can’t, you’re not ready to add more weight.

The times I’ve seen people get injured, it’s when they don’t do the exercise right to begin with. Some of the guys I started this whole thing with were willfully ignorant of their form, until they got injured, and then had come-to-Jesus moments making sure their form was right, and not worrying about how much weight they were throwing on. If you do all the other stuff right, the weight will come.


Oh so true. That first paragraph just nails it. I am fortunate...I have awesome coaches/trainers that are HUGE on form, safety, and proper execution. Remove that and you have a recipe for injury and disaster.

24" Box Jump
I'm not to give you a play-by-play of the workouts every day. One thing is consistent: surprise. Every day is one. Now there are some predictables: Friday is Dead Lift Friday. Monday is often back squats. For everything in between, blindfold yourself and start throwing darts at the wall and that's about how random it is. If you like muscle/mind confusion, you'll love it! :) So back to the mental game. I'll give you a "for instance" here. On Monday of this week, we did back squats as predicted and I lifted 40 pounds more than ever before...a PR (personal record). I love that lift. The WOD involved running which totally made my morning! This was only the 2nd time that running was involved. It began with a 400m run outside then a round of 5 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats x 4 rounds...then finish with a 400m run. I killed it. (note: I'm not doing pull-ups yet...doing "ring rows" instead) I left feeling awesome. Tuesday arrives and the mystery continues. It involves a flavor of overhead presses along with burpees. OK...remember my upper body woes. In a nutshell, what happened was me not listening to my trainer, letting my ego take over, and suffering because of it...and getting called out. Anger, frustration...all present and rightfully so, but my own fault. I could have listened and still suffered and that would have been ok. But no...I couldn't get out of the way of myself and I left the workout infuriated. Such a stark contrast from Monday, eh?! The nice thing about CrossFit is that once it's over, it's over and the next day is well...next. Wednesday arrives and yesterday, it was tough, for sure, but I "got over myself" since Tuesday, talked it out with a few fellow CrossFitters and walked in with the RIGHT ATTITUDE. No ill feelings from my trainer the day prior and a fresh, clean slate to do it again. Mental, mental, mental... it's the name of the game. Like I said prior, I have met my match at CrossFit. As my friend said which is common in this world: "HTFU"...or "Harden the f--- up." :)

Generally speaking, I love it and I love the relationships with my fellow athletes that are new and growing. I love the challenge and I love how my body is already changing. I love the fact that I just bought my first pair of size 33 jeans last week IN MY LIFE!!!! I love how when I do run, it's strong. But yea, it sucks but choosing to "embrace the suck" is key. If it doesn't suck, then I'm probably not giving it my all and let me tell you, it is a cruddy drive home after a workout if I feel like I held back. It is like a barbell around my neck in the form of self-guilt. I want to give it all and no less...and I will be hardest on myself every single day if I don't deliver.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. My goal is a 20+ mile run to remind myself I'm still a runner and get my head screwed on straight for that January race of 50 kilometers down in the mountains of West Virginia. It'll be here before I know it! On to Week 6, Day 3...

Monday, December 1, 2014

M-Cubed for 12.1.2014

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

- Welcome to December! Boom. Goodbye, November. Shall we crunch some numbers? Back in September, I ran 218 miles. In October, I ran 80.7. In November? 74.5. Through September 30th, I averaged over 200/mo for 2014. Obviously, I have changed things up. On November 4th, I began CrossFit five days a week and only run 1 or 2 days a week. To date for 2014, I sit at 2005.2 miles. Originally targeted to be 2400 miles. Regrets? None. I'm thrilled with the course change and the path I'm on now.

600th post was yesterday!
- Welcome to #601. Yes, today is my 601st post...but before we get carried away, let's celebrate the big 600 with Saturday's race report, ok?! In true 20th Century Fox fashion, here's to 600! WOO HOO! :)

- In case you missed it, I ran the Amish Country Half Marathon yesterday and kicked it in the tail. Here's the full recap.

- I really should be ashamed to have missed it, but I never mentioned last Monday that we celebrated 22 years of wedding bliss a weeks back. It's been quite a journey but I'm blessed to be one of those guys who can say that I'm married to my best friend. She is and it's great to journey life together.

- Last night, we watched a documentary called "Serving Life" which is narrated by Academy Award winner, Forest Whitaker. It's a true story from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, once considered the bloodiest of it's kind in the south and America's largest maximum security prison at about 5,000 inmates. The story is of the hospice care unit formed there to support those who die which is many. The unit is staffed by volunteers from the inmate population. This is the story of four of them. I highly recommend it! Here is NPR's story that they did on the documentary to give you an idea. It's on Netflix and also available on Google Play, VUDU and Amazon.

- You've seen "A Christmas Story," right? Not me. I've seen bits and pieces but never watched it start to finish. Speaking of visuals on TV, any chance you're a watcher of NBC's Parenthood? We had 4 episodes to make up and used the Thanksgiving break to do so. So good! Only 4 episodes to go until the series says goodbye. If I had one character I can't stand, it would be Julia. Argh!!!!

Run home on Thanksgiving
- How was your Thanksgiving? Ours began with a very quick workout at our CrossFit gym together and then I ran home 11 miles. It was a heavy snowflake run with next to no traffic at all. Great kickoff to Turkey Day. My wife made a most fantastic feast with all of the traditional fixins'. My favorite? Her homemade stuffing that was passed to her from my mom. Unbelievably awesome in every way. The rest of the day was lazy.

- Did you catch the new and first trailer for the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens that was released on Friday morning? It comes out in December 2015 but fans like me are more than ready. I think I've watched it 7 times now. How about that new, wicked lightsaber? Watch it here.

- I finished T.J. Murphy's book "Inside the Box" this past week. Such an excellent read and one that gives the history of CrossFit as well as his personal experience of going from marathons and triathlons into this at the age of 47. I immediately shipped it to a good friend of mine in PA for her to read but first captured his very last paragraph of the book. I thought it captured the essence of it all quite well:

"This is how they get you, I realized. It is this march towards personal records, goals, and programs, checking new skills off the list, making new records, seeing gains in strength and endurance, losing pounds of weight or fat. Being able to do a pull-up or being able to "Rx" a workout. This is the drug that gets you - and keeps you."

- Yesterday, I did my first trail WOD. I met Doug, one of the trainers who is also a runner, and one other member at Munroe Falls Metro Park. I was feeling pretty good after racing Saturday but knew this workout would ground me in such a way to expose whether or not I was really recovered. It started with a 10min timed AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible) and one rep was 5 kettle bell swings, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. After the 10min, we hauled a sandbag up the stairs on the trail and back down again then a 2.2 mile rolling trail run through the woods at high an effort as possible. I got through 8 complete reps plus 13 (5 KBS + 8 push-ups). Those push-ups were the death of me...again. Overall, I had a great time and am already looking forward to the next one. However, those squats clearly called out my quads that took a pounding during the half marathon. "Well, hello there!" The pic here is of our 3 kettle bells. Mine was the lightest at 35lb... "Baby Blue."

- To wrap up today, I leave you with a quote from the 2014 Boston Marathon champion and 2009 New York City Marathon champion. Have a GREAT week!:

"No matter how fast you are, it all comes down to commitment, hard work perseverance and passion. If you have those things and have the courage to test yourself from time to time, you never know how things might turn out or whom you might inspire. Reach for the stars; you might only get one or two or maybe 10, but you won't get any if you don't reach for them." ~ Meb Keflezighi

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Race Report: Amish Country Half Marathon

I'm not really too fond of half marathons except for a key few that I like to do for other reasons than just running. Since running 13.1 miles is something I just like to do on a whim, I don't find a lot of attraction in paying a fee to do it. But like I said, there are a few, namely the Medina Half Marathon in May, the Akron Half Marathon (tradition to run it with my wife) and today's race, the Amish Country Half Marathon down in Berlin, OH...in the heart of Amish country. I ran it two years ago and finished in 1hr, 47min, 22sec, placing pretty well...within the top 10 of my age group. However, that year taught me one huge lesson about this race: hills. BIG ones...and many of them. The way I explained the hills to a friend earlier today was to explain that they are the kind of hills that cause your car to drop to a lower gear to go up...ya know, THOSE kind. It's a twisting, turning course that within the first 6 miles and miles 10 to the finish, those hills are plentiful. Of course, with those gut-wrenching hills come many fast downhills. Kind of a quid pro quo of a race course...plus the lung-burning thrown in for free. Below is proof.

Elevation Profile
Pre-Race
The race headquarters and start/finish are at Hiland High School in Berlin, OH, right on Route 39 in Berlin. Easy parking, easy packet pickup, and a start and finish that takes place on the high school track just down below the building. From a spectator standpoint, it's great for the start/finish and not so good for out on the course. For my #1 "spectator," she sees me off then hits up the few shops about 1/2 mile away. Since today was "Christmas in Berlin," there was plenty of shopping/browsing to do. They offered packet pickup Friday night but being over an hour away, we just showed up early and checked in. I highly recommend that if you're any distance away. We also ran into a great friend of ours, "Kimba" who was also racing it for her 2nd time. We hung out waiting for 8:30am start, catching up on life. (here's Kimba's blog) The race also boasts pacers, courtesy of Vertical Runner of Wooster, a sponsor and big supporter of the race since its inception in 2012. Basically, there was a pacer for every 5 minute finishing time. This was a surprise to me which was nice. Now, I could just run and keep the ones in sight that aligned with my goal instead of running according to the Garmin on my wrist. That being said, I decided to hang with the 1:45 pacer since my only goal for the day was to PR the course...finish under 1:47:22. However, given that I've gone from 7 days a week running to 1 or 2 days a week in the past two months and added in CrossFit 5 days a week, I had no idea what to expect.

At the start, just over 300 runners took off on the course. The beginning heads down a very long downhill so just plan on having a very fast Mile 1. Just be careful with "how" you run the downhills on this course. Run them in such a way to trash your quads and you'll pay later. You NEED those quads for the "mountains." Anyway, I tucked in with the pacers and life was good. Clear skies, a light breeze, and temperature in the low 30s...the "warmest" its been in the race's 3 year history.

You can see the course elevation up above...that needs no explanation. As for the view out on the course, it's Amish country! Here's what you'll get at this one and no other race probably offers: manure and lots of it and many, many Amish families out in their front yards to cheer you on...silently. I say this with the utmost respect, I really do. But, if you could frame each one, they'd be a perfect portrait of the Amish family. Grandparents, parents, kids, etc. I often shouted "Good morning!" to them about half of the time, I'd get a response. The other half, just silence. As for the manure, it's all over the road because again, it's Amish country and instead of oil slicks from cars, we have manure from the horses. If you love the smell of country, beautiful landscapes, lots and lots of farms where horses and cattle are grazing, you'll love this race. Something else unique to this race is some of the runners who are Amish yet are not wearing what you and I would consider "running attire." They were wearing their boots, jeans, and sweaters...just like the families in the front yards. In the picture here, I'm about to finish, but this gentleman and I ran close to each other for about the last 4 miles. So, he was bookin' along sub 8min miles in jeans and boots! I was impressed...no way that's comfy and chafing is definitely a factor. But, there he is. He was one of many. I didn't see any girls today, though, in their dresses...not to say there weren't any.

As you can see in the elevation profile, there is a "little" hill that begins in the 11th mile that takes runners up to Route 39. It's a monster. After climbing that, you hang a left onto Route 39 and the high school comes into sight. Before getting back to the track, though, you have to climb one last hill with about 3/4 mile to go and then it's "mostly" downhill before you circle almost the whole track for the finish. Unlike in 2012 where I powerwalked some of the steepest sections, I didn't walk a step today. I focused on form and controlling my effort on the hills and using the downhills to their maximum advantage. There is NO doubt: much of what I've learned in CrossFit in the past 4 weeks when it comes to effort, form, and giving it all leaked into this race. CrossFit is so much more than just pushing weight around. (see my other blog posts on that topic) Back to the pacers: I eventually got the 1:40 pacer behind me early on. My goal was to keep him there. However, at every glance over my shoulder, I could see him. He caught me on that 11th mile hill but then I got him back at mile 12. In the end, he wasn't on the 1:40 pace (which was ok since no one was with him) because I finished slower than 1:40 with him behind me but passing him up cemented my early-on goal to keep him in my rear view mirror. In the end, I finished in 1:43:48, about a 3 1/2 minute PR for this course. I was THRILLED! I really did give it all and I was blessed with meeting my goal.

Back in the high school, hot buttered noodles, chocolate milk, water, cookies, Subway, and some chips awaited. Also, though, they were handing out age group awards. I thought "Why not? I'll go ask and see...ya never know!" I told him my name and approximate time and BAM! 3rd place in my age group of 21 men ages 40-44! That never happens, mind you! So I got a second medal around my neck and one much more valuable to me. I don't think anyone could've wiped that smile off my face. Kimba arrived shortly thereafter, we enjoyed the noodles, etc., caught up on some race stories then headed on out. Back home, results were already up and my final stats were 45 of 311 finishers and 36 of 165 men. Average pace was 7:55. Could I ask for more? Not really. That was a really good measure of where I'm at and if my greatly reduced running schedule is hurting my ability to run. The next test will be a 50K on the first weekend in January. If that goes well, the next big goals for 2015 contain a marathon, 50 miler, 100 miler, and 24hr race. For the Amish Country Half Marathon, though? Check in the box.

By the way, what other race gives you a block of cheese at the finish?!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Success - What it is and what it isn't

What is success? This morning, I walked up to my trainer after the workout and said: "Today is Day 1 of Week 4. I need some candid feedback." Her reply, without hesitation, was "You need to work on your mental toughness." Yea, I know. The dangerous trap and slippery slope of a week mind in a CrossFit gym is readily apparent. It is THE key thing that, outside physical injury, will end it all in that aggressive environment. I also asked her if she saw potential...a totally selfish question but one I needed answered...I mean, if not, what's the point, right? She does...and she asked if I liked it (I love it) and if I've noticed anything outside of the gym. "Sure. My upper body is tightening up, shirts are a little snugger and I feel a little less mass around the mid-section." Well there you go! Progress.

On the way home, I was speaking aloud and comparing my 17 year regimen of the run. Long run, short run, marathon, 5K, ultra marathon...whatever. I went out, did it, and felt tired at the end but quite accomplished. I'm "trained" to feel that way nearly 100% of the time in running. I knock out a solid 10 miler before work and chock that up to a "job well done" and carry on with my day. No taking myself to the feeling of nausea, to collapsing on the gym floor post-workout, no heart quite literally beating out of my chest...just a solid and easy (for me) run...no matter the distance and with few exceptions. Now, I finish a workout and it's nothing like that. I feel like I gave it my all, I'm totally exhausted, and it doesn't "feel" like it's going to get better, even with hard work. So the question I asked myself, is that a successful workout? What exactly IS success?

Yea, you're stepping inside my thoughts today and this is more inner reflection today and fleshing this out for my own selfish reasons, but I think it's valid for all. How do you/I define it? Depending on what we do, the measure is different. For those in school, it could be a letter grade and for those doing an outreach to the community, it could be the number of people reached or fed, for example. So many variances out there. In this situation where I am mentally "weak," I propose that "success" is giving every last drop of effort, every time, with safety and proper form, and understanding that the only measure or competition is right there in front of me....me. In time, I must have the confidence that "it will come"...the weights will go up/on...the flexibility will increase...the form will become what it should be. What you may notice is the absence of the word "easy" or "getting easier." One thing I heard early on was "It never gets easier." It's true. With "success" comes increased pounds, or repetitions...or pure speed. While a 5 miler may seem like death to the newbie and like a breakfast snack to me, things are quite different inside the "box." As a friend posted yesterday on Facebook, "the only way to get better at CrossFit...is to do more CrossFit." Oh how true.

So negative talk...be gone! Comparison...be gone! Best effort...every time! Success? I choose to define it and do so with every passing day and completed workout. For today, I'll chalk up victory this morning to doing 65 box jumps on a 24" box...a first. Prior to today, that box sat at 18" and I thought I could barely get up on it...guess I was wrong and I had some more to give. Had my trainer not said "flip that box over," I never would have.

Success. Go have some and make sure you know what it is.

Monday, November 24, 2014

M-Cubed for 11.24.2014

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

- Could it be? The last Monday in November? Oh yes...Turkey Day is on deck and Christmas is barely over 30 days away. I actually prefer to speed through this season as expeditiously as possible. The shopping, the craziness...let's move on! Plus, the quicker we move, the quicker we get to Spring. Ahhh....

- So let's sum up the running history since my last M-Cubed 7 days ago. 1 run. 8 miles. Strong as heck. Felt awesome. That's it. #stillarunner :)

- On Friday, I guess the trainers save dead lifts for one of the last workouts prior to the weekend because of the soreness that follows. Well, for this looking-forward-to-the-weekend-so-I-can-run-runner, that doesn't work so well! Friday, the strength part of the workout was dead lifts and the WOD was also deadlifts but bar-facing burpees. At the end, I melted into a puddle of sweat but getting there, I gave it my all. I've got a lot of work to do in the dead lift area and have a hard time getting the bar back down to the ground while keeping my back straight. I'm sitting at about 225 pounds right now and I don't plan on increasing that anytime soon. My back needs to get stronger. Anyway, I very much felt those dead lifts on Saturday so Saturday turned into a rest day...thus, the only day I ran in the past 7 days was yesterday for a dawn 8 miler.

- Christmas came a bit early on Friday. Got my first pair of Inov-8 shoes to wear for CrossFit. I Googled, searched, and read as many reviews as possible to find something to wear. Some traction, close to barefoot...those make good shoes for this. Actually, I took my shoes off for the dead lift on Friday which made it a lot easier. These are the fLite-240s. We'll see how they do.

- I don't get much into politics or other heavily debated topics on here...like abortion rights. However, one question to ponder today: If we as a human race consider death to have happened when the heart ceases to beat, why do we not consider life to begin when a heart begins to beat for the first time? Why do we leave that up to interpretation and the courts? If we did consider it "life" then we'd protect it, right? Something to think about.

- In Ohio, we have the Ohio Music Education Association and this past Friday, I attended a concert down at the College of Wooster. It was a band and choir concert. The students were the ones selected from their respective schools throughout northeast Ohio...as chosen/nominated by their teachers. My daughter was one of them for the choir and it was awesome! For the band and as one who played the trumpet all throughout grade school and through my 20s, I was super impressed. They were VERY good and for only 8th graders?! Wow. They were led by a conductor from a nearby university. What a GREAT program to bring together students from all walks of life and bring them together to make music...by instrument and voice. They spent all day Thursday practicing and late afternoon on Friday prior to the 7pm concert.

- Got cheese? I will. Amish Country Half Marathon THIS Saturday! How many races hand you a block of Amish cheese at the finish? One. This one. Before that, though, a crazy number of humbling hills and Amish families sitting all perfect and proper in their front yards...silently rooting us on as we pass on by. Wanna run? Registration still open here.

- Are you maybe one of those guys who can't find a pair of jeans to save their life? I'm an oddity...long legs and not exactly in proportion to my upper body and my quads are big...must be all that running. So many jeans and around the waist they'd be fine but geez...I really don't want them painted on my legs. I'm a big fan of American Eagle Outfitters and I've never found a pair of jeans that fit...until Saturday. Turns out, they carry one style simply dubbed "Loose" on their website. Well on their clearance rack, someone ordered them online but then returned them. BINGO! They fit. Anyway, they are a forty dollar pair of jeans that I ended up getting for $13 with the clearance rack and e-mail coupon I had...so I bought two pair. The best part? They're comfy and a size 34 waist. :) (I used to wear a tight 38) Here they are.

- 2015 keeps circling in my head as for my race calendar. I hope to run very few races but when I do, make them count. Briefly, the penciled in calendar looks like this: Frozen Sasquatch 50K in January, Bull Run Run 50 Miler in mid April, Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon end of April, Medina Half Marathon in May, Kettle Moraine 100 Miler first weekend in June, and the North Coast 24hr Endurance Run on the 3rd weekend in September. The big ones...a 50M, 100M, and the 24hr. The only ones registered for so far are Sasquatch and Medina...so the others continue to swirl in my consciousness. I also hope to be picked up by Hammer Nutrition for my 2nd year and perhaps gain an entry to one of those via sponsorship. We shall see.

- So it's Turkey Week. Stuffed birds, family traditions, and tough times for many where the holiday brings up memories of loved ones no longer here...perhaps an empty chair at the dinner table. I read a suggestion this past week of setting a place at your table that remained empty...in memory of that person or in this case, a fallen service-member who gave their life in Afghanistan. While we won't set a place, I always lead the prayer at our dinner and I never forget to pray for those serving away from home over the holidays and for those families who are at home without their loved one...because they are serving or they lost him/her. It's so easy to forget in our fast-paced lives, isn't it? So please...set a place or at least remember them this week. Our freedom to celebrate the day and everyday comes at a cost that is paid 24/7, bar none. To you and yours, Happy Thanksgiving! (gobble, gobble)

- To wrap up today, a quote to inspire you to keep on charging ahead. Have a great week, everyone!

"I do, after all, love a challenge. Not just the result at the end, but the drudgery in the middle, the hard work, the sweat, the mess of transformation. I love the process of getting there, especially when 'there' isn't a fixed point, but the constant renaming as each finish line morphs into another start line."

-Kristin Armstrong, Mile Markers blog

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Running + Crossfit, 2 Weeks+ Down

They say, and by "they" I mean popular opinion, it takes 21 days to form a new habit to get it to stick. However, if you pose that question to the almighty Google, that number is quickly debunked and called a myth. I dug a little deeper and ran across this healthy living post from the Huffington Post that sums up a study done on this very topic. Well, the span of days went from 18 to 254 days...or in other words, an average of 66 days...or in other words, it's different for everyone! Regarding my new "habit" of hitting the box every single weekday morning, today was Day 3 of Week 3 so day #13...lucky #13. (actually, I prefer #5 but I digress...) It sure does feel like a habit at this point, or routine as I prefer to say. It also helps that my bride goes with me. It's much easier to crawl back in bed if it's only you but when you have someone to answer to, the chances are much better than success will follow. It's also cool to debrief the workout on the way home. That's always an interesting conversation, to say the least...and sometime it's silence like today.

I have been working through the book I mentioned before, Inside the Box by T.J. Murphy and am learning a lot. It's nice to read his experience and bounce it off of mine. One chapter I just finished was on nutrition. While not a word has been spoken to me where I go every day, it doesn't make sense to start this new routine while not paying close attention to what I'm eating and fueling with. Eating and consumption is half of the equation. No way is someone going to get the results they want if they only do the workouts. Well, I have been eating quite well. I'm not following a specific plan but I think it's extremely close if not dead on Paleo. Lots of fresh, colorful veggies, meats, fruit, nuts, etc. Paleo also calls for the abandonment of milk and cheese. We now drink almond milk and quite honestly, we love it. Cheese...that's still sneaking in here and there but not much. I have even cut back on my PB&J sandwiches because of the bread. Instead, if I have a craving for peanut butter, I put it on some celery sticks. This morning, my one Navy uniform that is the perfect check for physical mass is my khaki polyester uniform. No stretch, no grace, no give at all. There is no hiding in that uniform. Well, I could absolutely notice a difference today. The best way I can describe it is less mass in my mid-section...just slightly. I'm also downing a gallon of water a day which is a real struggle with me at times. Often, I'm chugging the last gulp as I lay down to bed (which results in a bathroom break 3 or 4 hours later).

Regarding effort and comparison: Dang, this is a dangerous area that needs to be met straight on. For effort, I love this quote from the book. It's by Leon Chang, the co-owner and co-founder of CrossFit Elysium in California. He offers one-on-one coaching but he has the following pre-requisite:

MOTIVATED PEOPLE ONLY

By entering here, you agree to give 100% of what you have. There are no excuses or second chances. Every day, every moment is an opportunity to excel, to be more, to achieve your best. Do not squander your time going through the motions. Train hard and get results. At the end of the day, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you gave your all. If you don't have that level of commitment, don't waste your time or ours.

That's how I walk in every day and honestly, I'm downright angry if I leave the box without giving it my all. Take this morning for example: I am struggling with my flexibility in my arms and it's negatively hurting my ability to do a front squat as I should. Late in the strength section this morning, I learned that I wasn't the only one and there is another way of doing this while still increasing the weight. I ended up not putting the weight on because I ran out of time and remain a bit ticked at myself for that right now. For the following WOD, it was timed and consisted of a back-n-forth pattern of doing air squats and sit-ups. 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 squats and 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 sit-ups. I did it in 11:08 and felt nauseous at the finish which honestly, made me quite happy...and totally wiped out. Those frickin' sit-ups got really tough and the squats got easier while I got lower and lower. If you know me, that's huge. My flexibility to lower deep with my heels on the ground has been a struggle. So, I really "enjoyed" today's WOD and where it took me. I look forward to the confirmation of this when I wake up tomorrow and feel it. :) In shameless fashion, I grabbed this selfie immediately post-WOD sneakily. Yesterday, a friend (who is quite responsible for getting us to start this whole new 'routine') texted me and mentioned how he looked over at me mid-WOD and the expression he interpreted was "what the heck am I doing here?!". Perfect! We were doing box jumps, kettle bell swings and T2B (toes to bar). I could do the first two things but toes to bar? Ha! Not even close yet. I'll keep working on them.

Then to comparison: Well, I was put in check by one of my trainers earlier this week after comparing myself to someone else. It's a dangerously slippery slope. I really have to NOT do it and simply execute every day to the best of my ability and what I can do. Everyone is built differently and has different abilities...and what they bring to the table (age, habits, past experience, physical makeup, genes!) is all unknown. I will say this: the women at my box are KILLING it. I'm just in awe at watching many of them. The guys are bringing it, too, but I think society in general would have their jaws on the floor if they saw what I see and from what I'm reading in the book and online, it's more the rule rather than the exception across the country. 

As for running? Talk about a change in daily life. I was streaking for about 4 months, not missing a single day on the roads and now it's been reduced to 2-3 days a week max. When I do run, I feel strong and confident and feel less "flab" bouncing around...like I'm tightening up physically. Make sense? I'm still thinking about 2015 heavily and what it holds. The Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Run opens up on January 1st. That is the race squarely on my radar. I am anxious to take a new, fitter me into the 100 mile trail race environment and see what happens.

Monday, November 17, 2014

M-Cubed for 11.17.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for November Seventeenth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- So it's like a M-Cubed a month now? Sorry, y'all. Sometimes I have nothing to say (or willing to write)...or lack the time.

- Crossfit Day 10 a wrap today! Tomorrow marks the beginning of Week 3 (we began on November 4th). So far, so good...and plenty sore. On Friday, I did my first dead lift and still feel it today. Luckily, I didn't bail on this morning's workout because once I warmed up, I was fine. A funny story is this: while working on the dead lift for the first time ever on Friday, my trainer (Lisa) told me to get two more 25's. So, I grabbed two more that said "25" on them. After I had lifted it once, she said "Those are 25 kilos...not pounds." Yikes. So I lifted more than she wanted but I maintained my form. Not horrible for my first-ever DL at 227 pounds. But, that's what I still feel today. I first felt this in my back yesterday when I was on my country 13.2 miler. Speaking of that, here's a "running selfie" from that run...and the corn still hasn't been harvested! Gorgeous, quiet Sunday run in the hills.


- I finished a great book over the weekend called "Beyond Ordinary" by Justin and Trisha Davis. It is the basis for the marriage retreat we're leading in February next year. Ordinary is where most people are....extraordinary is where couples can be. The book is their story of hitting rock bottom...and I mean the very bottom and how they came back and took their marriage to heights never seen before for them. It's one of those books that just about anyone will relate to personally. So easy to read, too.

- After finishing the aforementioned book, I picked up "Inside the Box" by T.J. Murphy and am reading it now. It was written by a 47 year old distance runner and triathlete who turned to CrossFit. It's his account of that experience from start till now along with a good background on the birth of CrossFit. Worth sharing is a snapshot of a passage on the right. Glassman is considered the "father" of CrossFit and this is the first-ever "WOD" that just so happened to be the one prescribed this morning. It kinda gives you an idea of where it all came from. This is known as "Fran" and follows the same 21, 15, 9 pattern. (in full disclosure...I did it without weights on the bar and substituted ring rows for the pull-ups...no way I can even do a single pull-up yet) - Click to make the image bigger/readable. Moral of the story: If you think you're about to vomit...you're on the right track! :)

- Foodie Comment: I grew up hating sweet potatoes...thanks to my Grandma Mary. I don't remember the specifics, but I just remember hating them. Well, she'd be proud of me now because I love them. A new staple in our home is baked sweet potatoes. We slice them up in little-bit-bigger-than-bite-size pieces, toss in some olive oil, nuke for about 4 minutes then spread out on a baking stone. Sprinkle with some sea salt then bake them. Once their edges start getting a little crunchy, their done. Incredible! We also mix in brussels sprouts and broccoli here and there...but those potatoes are to die for!

- We watched Dumb and Dumber last week with our kids...their first time and who knows how many times we've seen it. Stupid humor but nothing really that crosses the line to make me as a dad cringe. So Dumb and Dumber To just came out...Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels starring in it again. BUT, I know the kind of world we live in and what a PG-13 rating really means. So, I looked it up before I took the girls to see it. If you're considering, READ this quick, factual review. Then, if you still choose to go with your kids, at least you won't be surprised. We won't be there.

- Our first snowfall came down today...a heavy, wet snow. No doubt, some weak branches out there suffered under the weight. Here, though, in our backyard, it was beautiful.


- To say goodbye today, I found this quote a few days back. Our perspective determines so much, doesn't it? 


“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ― Abraham Lincoln


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Running + Crossfit, 1 Week Down

I have been a long distance runner since 1997 so for about 17 years. I use that year as a landmark as it was the first year I ran a marathon and have so nearly every year since and more so ultra marathons in the past several years. To date, 28 marathons and 31 ultra marathons. In that time, I haven't done much else. I rarely stretch, I don't belong to a gym, but I can run a very long time. To me, a Saturday morning run that lasts 3 to 4 hours is a "perfect" morning along with 5 mile to 10 mile runs scattered in throughout the week. Physically, I don't have a lot of fat on me except for my arch nemesis, the love handles. No matter how many races or miles I run, they remain. Legs are strong, big and lean...above my waist "exists" with not much fat but no real definition to speak of. "Weak" is a good one word definition for that. For 2014, I've been running more than ever and enjoying it. While I've run less races than normal, my mileage has been up and consistently over 200 miles per month. When I began to feel injury knocking on my door in late September, I wasn't ok with doing nothing or measly miles. I decided to walk into a box (read: Crossfit gym) for the first time. That was 8 days ago.

From time to time, I want to log my thoughts as this longtime distance runner morphs into hopefully a Crossfitter runner...or is it runner Crossfitter. Whatever! I'm not much into labels! My goals are simple: Become stronger, fitter, run fewer miles, and set big ultra marathon goals and conquer them. My goal is NOT to bulk up, put on a ton of weight in muscle, and lose my mojo as a runner. Simple. Or is it?

Week 1 has been humbling. Today was Day 7 at the box. (Monday-Friday schedule) Every day, I have sweat it out and taken my heart rate to new heights that running never does. I have learned all kinds of terms like squat (many varieties), kettle bell, tempo push up, "WOD," lunges, double-unders, open hold, burpee, box jump, "AMRAP," hollow rock, sumo dead lift, box-overs, and I'm sure there are more. It's a whole different language but thanks to the awesome coaches, I'm getting a hang of it. Day 1 was more of an intro and not with the class. Rowing, kettle bell swings, and squats. I sweat like a pig in under 10min. When our coach that day, Lisa, said "This will take you about 10 minutes," I honestly thought to myself: "That's it? Only 10 minutes? Hmmm...this shouldn't be too hard." OK, reflect back to what I called myself earlier..."weak." Yea. Puddle of Mud.

Day 2 came and it was more learning and a huge focus on form over weight lifted. One thing that has been consistent is the distinct attention to form, safety, and flexibility. The trainers hold that all in high regard. It's not about the wimp or hulk you are, it's about executing the "movements" correctly, with intensity, and safely. Over time, it's my "understanding" that it'll get easier and the weight and intensity can increase...which essentially will negate the "easy" comment. :) Another observation was the environment in the class. The class varies in size day to day but is usually 15-25 people. From day 1, the word "acceptance" I think best defines how I've felt. That's an irony against what I thought it would be and many others probably think. On the outside, I'm betting that many assume the terms "family" and "acceptance" wouldn't be in the same sentence as "Crossfit." Well, that's the case here and what really got me to show up day 1...accounts from others (friends) there who said that exact thing.

This isn't a training log so I won't go day by day or share the WOD (workout of the day) for each day.  (See Instagram for more of that) I'll just say this: every day is humbling. Every day is a challenge and pushes me. Every day, I feel held accountable to show up, give it my all, focus on my form, stretch, and I am encouraged. Yea...the climate is one of being pushed but encouraged all along the way. Condemnation and intimidation don't exist. If I wake up tomorrow and think I'm just going to try and skate by, I should just stay home. On the flip side, if I wake up physically feeling the prior morning's hour at the box and hungry for more and whatever it throws at me today, it's time to shut up, show up, and give it everything...with heart.

What I know I need a lot of work on: Being a runner for 17 years and mostly long-distance minus any stretching, my muscles are short and tight! Holy hamstrings! This hasn't bode well in Crossfit. I have a lot more work to do than maybe others who haven't been runners. In fact, it kinda feels like "running" is a cuss word! For me, I actually ran home 11 miles from the box yesterday. Felt so good! So flexibility...need to work on that consistently. Keeping my heels flat in the squat, getting the bar to rest on my chest without my fingers feeling like they're going to snap, and jumping forward in the burpee...so sloppy. All of these things will get "easier" with increased flexibility and practice. I was pretty darn happy this morning to do overhead walking lunges with the 35lb kettle bell high above my head...all 60 of them. That was 33% of today's WOD. Guaran-dang-tee I will feel that tomorrow morning at zero dark thirty. What I haven't done yet and am admittedly kinda sorta worried about: rope climbing and hand-stand pushups....and real pull-ups (I've been doing ring-rows). I'm sure there's much more (every day is a surprise!), too. If you like surprises, you'll love Crossfit! :) No need to plan every day...the trainers do it all for me. Show up, execute with 110%, go home.

7 days in, I'm all in. My symptoms of running injury have disappeared and the decreased running I have been doing has felt strong and confident. With each passing successful day in the box and each successful long run that confirms "I'm still a runner," I look more forward to 2015 and the ultra marathons I want to do, kicking off during the first weekend of January at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K in West Virginia. I hope to get a book in the next few days called "Inside the Box" by T.J. Murphy. It's his account of a long-distance runner and triathlete who turned to Crossfit and the journey...his story.

Stronger? Yes. Lots of work to do? Heck yea. Made new friends? Lots. Challenged? Every day. Humbling? Always. Do it again tomorrow? Can't wait.

Fitting name for my new home/box, don't you think?