Saturday, May 11, 2019

Year in Review: CrossFit Linchpin

Just a few days ago, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary with CrossFit Linchpin. "They" are a real CrossFit affiliate but are completely virtual. With thousands of brick-n-mortar CrossFit affiliates across the globe, Linchpin is unique as its mailing address is a home in Washington state where only the owner (Pat Sherwood) and his wife (Emily) train. Today, I won't rehash the year or repeat the story of Linchpin, etc. but please feel free to read my first two reviews. The first was 6 weeks in and the second was 4 months in. Before I dive into my 1 year thoughts, take a look at the scattergram below. Focus on the vertical and horizontal axis. Notice a trend? Higher output at shorter time durations vs. lower power output as the duration grows. I'll get back to this in a minute.

The CrossFit Linchpin Community has continued to grow over the past year and more continues to be added to the bargain-basement $10 per month cost. I've also had the pleasure of helping out a bit as the new Private Track group on Facebook was launched last month. With over 600 Private Track members in there already (a portion of the total community), it's been awesome to see where people are from, where they work out, hear their stories, share successes, help and answer questions, and just GROW this awesome virtual community. From driveways to garages to affiliates to hotel gyms to basements. People are getting it in!

For me, I absolutely love it and won't be going anywhere anytime soon. In my core, I really believe in supporting things and people that resonate with me. The approach remains the same: Constantly varied, functional movement, performed at a high intensity. That's CrossFit, defined. However, there is no bias towards any one thing. Many programmers lean a certain direction, like towards olympic lifts or WODs or lifting heavy, for example. Here, though, it is extremely well balanced which points towards the overall goal of pouring our heart and soul into one hour a day that leads us to living a long and healthy life with the ones we love. Pat says it much better here, if you'd like to hear the "heart" behind CrossFit Linchpin. Check out the data below from my last year as compiled by Beyond the Whiteboard (BTWB) that is also included when a part of the Community. Click on any photo to see it better:

That is balance. Add in a healthy diet, showing up daily, not cherry-picking the non-sexy workouts (ie: sprints, core work), and a positive attitude and boom, you have fitness.

Here is my exact history since May 8, 2018. I have 667 logged workouts. Now that can be a bit deceiving. A "workout" is a WOD, an accessory piece, or something I entered manually that I did on my own as I often do in the world of rucking. The checkmarks are days that I put in the work and the others are rest days. Extreme consistency is how I'd characterize it. Thursdays and Sundays are traditionally my rest days and I, for the most part, follow them. I do slip, occasionally. :) All of this data pours from BTWB. This data is another reason to stay...not THE reason but dang, the data only gets richer for ME with every passing day. It helps me choose wisely the loading by showing me my past performances, previous personal records, and just creates lots of efficiency in the process. It's also a dose of reality. For example, I'm weak in a lot of areas, namely gymnastics and olympic lifts. I'm strong in other areas, too. Overall, it puts me just over mid-pack and this rarely moves more than two digits. Today, it's at a 59 and has been sitting at 60 or 61 for awhile. (Yesterday's hang power snatches, I'm sure, didn't help matters!)

So back to that scattergram at the top. That scattergram is me over those 667 "workouts." It tells a story and it tells the story as it should be. It tells me that I scale when I should to maintain the intensity and that I bring the intensity when I should. Shorter duration workouts are meant to do that. Monday's workout is exactly that. It's only 7 minutes! Outsiders might look at that and think: "how can it be that bad? It's only 7 minutes? How much "fitness" could possibly come from 7 MINUTES?! It's these workouts and others that we grind out over a half hour or more, the accessory work, the heavy's all variance at different time domains, intensity levels and showing no bias towards any one thing. Except the L-Sit...Pat really LOVES the L-Sit and it often appears in accessory work. As he says: "I don't care who you are, everyone can work on their L-Sit." Truth. I don't know if my L-Sit has gotten much better over the last year but I never skip them. It's always "accumulate 2 minutes" and mine always go 20sec, then chunks of 10-15sec until I hit 2 minutes. Grip, core, and just good 'ol work. Love it!

Closing out today, I just want to say how thankful I am to have found Pat's affiliate and that I joined a year ago. It has brought balance to an area that is very important to me. I don't have limitless time to spend in the garage. I have max 70min. I must be heading in by 5:40am or I'll never make to work by 7am. So while 4:30am sounds early to 99% of the population, it is VITAL and protected. Further? My wife joins me every day. We're both 46 years old and are in our 27th year of marriage. We are both our fittest in our life and love living life together, exploring and having fun. We want to live healthy lives for as long as we can and this 60-70min a day we do together is but one tool in our marriage toolbelt that just WORKS. Then, we get to do fun things like we did last month in Columbus, OH, when we took 2nd place at the GORUCK 50 Mile Star Course! Weight on our backs and unsupported all the way, except for each other! Like I often say on my IG...

"Do what you love with the ones you love."

Thanks to CrossFit Linchpin for helping make that a reality...from the both of us.

Daily CrossFit Linchpin workouts and other "life" things thrown in here and there. :)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Why I Ruck

It was 2015 and I was on recruiting duty for the Navy, recruiting future Naval Officers. One of those was a hopeful Navy SEAL. Spoiler Alert: he wasn't selected for the SEALs but did get selected to fly and today, he's in uniform pursuing his Wings of Gold. That person mentioned this thing called "rucking" to me, the challenge event, and of course, the gear. Like any good "GRT," he brought his ruck into the office to have a session of "show and tell." As someone who was an ultra-runner for the previous 17 years and a newbie CrossFitter, and watching the military "feel" that the GORUCK YouTube videos had, I dipped my toe into the water and did what anyone does when curious, I Googled it.

Very shortly after that, I stumbled on the newly founded Cleveland Area Rucking Crew (CARC) and decided I'd show up for a local ruck. That was January 3, 2016 in a local park and like any good rucking event, there was someone to take photos to prove it happened. Even if you don't read it, click here to read my report about it and at least browse the photos. They really sum it up well! It was THIS experience that thrust me "all in" to rucking. That little bug was planted and I wanted all of it. Like any smart GRT does (GRTs is an acronym used for anyone who has completed a GORUCK event....stands for GORUCK Tough.), I quickly signed up for my first event: The 24+ hour Heavy. This editorial today isn't about regurgitating every report and event I did, so I won't but let's just say the "Heavy" isn't typically the starting point in a GRT's journey. It was an epic experience and I earned my patch. All of my AARs can be read at the AAR link here on my blog.

From my experience over Father's Day 2016 in Detroit at the Heavy, I met more new friends and that's a MAJOR reason for "why" I ruck. From the Cadre who led that event, one of which is a Team RWB Eagle, to other GRTs who I continue to stay in touch with today, the people make rucking all that sweeter. As time progressed forward, I got more and more involved in our local rucking club, always meeting new friends and eventually, my wife got a ruck and did her first event a month after the Heavy. While she is not a fan of the challenges, she DID fall in love with rucking itself and today, she'll proudly proclaim "Rucking's my favorite!!!" Actually, the next time you see her, ask her about her first event. This was how it started. Now if you know her, you can only imagine her thoughts when the sprinklers popped up and Cadre Geoff told us all to start low-crawling through them...

In the end, though, she got her patch and she'll tell you it was the hardest thing she's ever done. Yes, it was a GORUCK Light but if you know anything about Cadre Geoff Reeves, a "Light" in his book is essentially a 5-6 hour "Tough." While she'll never do a traditional event again (we did the Rock-n-Roll Light in 2017), she loves to ruck at the rawest level. There is just something about putting weight on your back and heading out, especially with a least 1 other human...or your dog. If people would just give it one shot, many would be hooked.

Several months ago, we came up with an idea when I was involved in a leadership position with Team RWB, to lead local rucks that have an extremely low barrier-to-entry, had no PT, and simply served to introduce rucking, meet new friends, and break bread together. That's when our Ruck-n-Brew "series" was born. That first one was held at an ice cream shop but quickly morphed into a craft-beer centric thing. The concept was simple: ruck for about 90min, talk about rucking/life/etc., and end near the time that whatever establishment is opening for business. Park at or near that same location, too. We had a huge turnout at that first one which catapulted us to where we are today. Next Saturday, we lead our 6th Ruck-n-Brew in Akron, OH where we'll meet up at Thirsty Dog Brewing, ruck on the University of Akron campus, then end right when they open for business. EVERY SINGLE TIME, my bride and I think "maybe no one will show up and we'll still do it" and EVERY SINGLE TIME, they show up and always, someone new as well. It's contagious, it's fun, it burns some calories and you know what? It's not running. Yea, as a prior distance runner, I'm not going to hate on running but a lot of people who run and/or hate to run or are beat up by it love to ruck because of the zero-impact it brings.

Our first four ruck-n-brews
Elevation Ruck in Canton
Our reasons and drive aren't the same. I have done a handful events, to include two Heavys, 2 or 3 Toughs, a few Lights and now, the 50 Mile Star Course. I enjoy the "suck" where my wife doesn't. That last Heavy in August 2018 had special meaning to me and I'm so glad I did it. But in the end, we both just love to ruck, it's something we can do together and we continue to meet new friends. That's called LIVING LIFE to its FULLEST! Just this past weekend in Columbus, OH, we did the 50 Mile Star Course and it was incredible! I used my experience in ultra-running and caring for my feet and passed that on to this event and it paid off big time. We actually finished second overall which was stunning! Again, I wrote a report from that event and it's well worth the read if you're considering it. No PT in that event at all...just rucking a city hitting a bunch of points-of-interest. Then 5 days later this past Thursday night, an impromptu meeting in Canton, OH for the newly released GORUCK challenge dubbed "Elevation Ruck" where we had to climb 1500 steps with 4 or more others. SO glad we went out because EVERYONE who showed up was new to us! You see? It just keeps on flowing...and it's never the same. I could brainstorm just about anything and throw it out there to the local community and someone is going to show up. Everyone has at least a backpack sitting in the closet and everyone can throw some stuff in it and go for a walk. That's rucking. Sure, you'll probably want a "real" ruck and maybe even some steel plates to go in it (or wrapped up bricks) later but why not just dabble in it first and see what you think? You may just love it and if you do, there is a massive, growing community out here ready to welcome you in.

Our 50 Mile Finish in Columbus, OH on April 13, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

AAR: GORUCK 50 Mile Star Course - Columbus OH

Sunset at the start point
There was a time where I ran endurance events solo. Those days have long past. These days when I cover distance, it's with my bride of 26+ years and as she says often, "Rucking's my favorite!" (cue the Elf "Smiling's my favorite!" scene). Last summer at Team RWB's Eagle Up Ultra in Canal Fulton, OH, we conquered our first 50 mile distance, heavily supported, and on a 5 mile crushed limestone loop. Further, we slept at home and commuted to the start just in time for the 6am start, well rested. On April 12, 2019, we woke up on "race" day at 6:30am, commuted to Columbus, a 2 1/2 hour jaunt to our south and eventually made our way to the start, ready to set off at 9pm without any additional sleep. Through this AAR (After Action Report), I hope to paint a picture of our journey but also lend some advice to those who aspire to tackle one of these.

First off, some context. For those unfamiliar, rucking is simply defined as throwing some weight in a pack and going for a walk. GORUCK is the "rucking company" that has single-handedly spear-headed a rucking movement across the country when all they set out to do in the beginning was to create a military-grade ruck and sell it. The rest is history, as they say. They are mostly known for their challenge events that are team-based and very physical (think body weight exercises, carry large amounts of weight over distance, for 6, 12 or 24hrs). The "Star Course" is totally different. Participants build a team of 2-5 people and are given a "hit list" of waypoints at the start. Waypoints are locations in the city that everyone must visit. As they arrive at each location, they'll post a photo to Instagram using specific tagging directions and HQ staff will monitor and log each entry to ensure all points are visited. The only mode of transportation is rucking (no scooters, bikes, Uber, taxis, etc.). Once all are hit, at least 50 miles will be covered. HOW you cover them is up to you.

We arrived just prior to 8pm where we had our rucks weighed and checked in. For those under 150lbs, the weight requirement is 10lb dry (before water). Everyone else must carry 20lb dry. My ruck after a full 3L bladder and supplies was just over 37lbs. As 8:30pm approached, our 4 cadre hosts gathered the 30 teams and 98 participants around and went over the rules, took another roll call, and then called for a mother, someone from each of the services, and a police/fire person who all held Old Glory. As darkness filled the space, we all sung the National Anthem. THAT was awesome. Land of the free... and there we all were, ready to take Columbus by storm...or rucks. Mocha Mike offered some advice prior to handing out the waypoints regarding planning, apps we'll use to navigate, and safety. At 8:57pm, he cut us loose to plan and get out there. Quickly, 9pm arrived and Marjie and I continued to input the addresses into our choice app for the journey, the Road Warrior app. This is one of several suggested apps where you input coordinates and it'll "optimize" the route for the most efficient travel route. Once done, we showed our map to Mocha, got some more advice, and headed on out into the night around 9:30pm, already 1/2 hour in and we hadn't taken a step yet.

Pre-Event Brief (photo courtesy of Lisa Rich)
Now for some advice reflecting back. Right after we left, we stopped at our car because we forgot a pen. We needed to go over EVERY waypoint and ensure our plan was solid.
  • Trust but verify: You MUST go over the waypoints BEFORE you leave and bounce the list off of the app. What if you fat-fingered something and missed a point? If you miss a waypoint, you will be disqualified.
  • Does it make sense? Look at the map and the route. Does it make sense with the information you have? Does the direction of travel make sense? Reverse it? We went clockwise through the route but we could've flipped it.
  • Don't follow the app blindly: We never used the Road Warrior app again to navigate. We used our waypoint list and Google Maps in "Satellite" mode. That way, we could use common sense and also look and see possible alternatives like Google offers up. Google actually says if it's relatively flat or hilly...great information.
  • Drop a Pin: Once you identify the next waypoint, read the instructions closely. If it says "Take your group photo on the north side of the building in front of the statue" then drop a pin on that statue's head and let Google navigate you there. That'll save time, steps and frustration when you arrive there in the dark, unable to find your required photo spot. Attention to detail! ... and efficiency.
  • Battery Mode: While you are required to have a battery pack to charge your phone, I never needed it. All of that Instagram use and mapping on Google Maps and my iPhone still made it since I had it in battery saving mode, found in settings.
  • Waypoints: I can't stress it enough! BE SURE you have your plan ROCK SOLID before you head out. You cannot afford to miss a single waypoint. 
Green Lawn Abbey, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Elevator Brewing, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger statue at the Convention Center where the "Arnold" is held every year.

Woody Hayes statue at the Varsity Club restaurant, Jesse Owens Plaza at Ohio Stadium, Fred Beekman field, and the Jack Nicklaus Museum

Central Ohio Fire Museum, ROGUE FITNESS! (we had already been there during the day Friday!), Ohio History Museum
Our early miles were a lot of fun. We had hit half of the waypoints before we even left city limits. That passed time quickly and gave us a tour of the Ohio State Campus, lots of college parties, endless odor of pot, and even a toga party rocking to some great 80s music. Then, we began to head north and the segments started to get longer. We knew we'd end up north of I-270, the beltway surrounding the city, which was hard to imagine knowing how far it is just to drive it. Our first long segment that would take us north of I-270 was just over 8 miles long, over 2hrs without a waypoint. Below are the waypoints after wrestling with them over 17+ hours. You'll notice how they are numbered on the left. That's what we did after building the route while I navigated, Marjie kept this list and was referencing it constantly to ensure we didn't miss a beat.  They are listed in no particular order, except the start point/end point is listed first. You'd be in a world of hurt if you simply followed the list in THIS order. (The numbers at the right are the distances between waypoints in the order we did them that I tabulated after the event. I HAD to know the total mileage, not counting the few errors we made along the way.)

Nutrition and Gear: Try nothing new, OK? Nothing you put on your body or IN your body during an event like this should be new. No new pairs of socks, no new foods...nothing. Foot care should be tested and tried, chafing spots known and taken care of, and nutrition/hydration plans solid. For an event of this length, keeping the electrolytes and water flowing and food going in is critical. You WILL become grossly dehydrated and if you wait until those hairs stand up on your arm to hydrate, you've already lost the battle. Drink often and start early. What we carried total as a team:
  • 3L source bladder (me) ... weighs 7lb full
  • 6 water bottles (her)
  • 2 PB&J and some pretzel sticks (1 each of us)
  • 8 gels (variety of brands but most with caffeine)
  • BodyGlide (or your favorite lube)
  • Ibuprofen, water-proof band-aids, Biofreeze x 2
  • Socks (her)
  • Winter hat and gloves (me) .... gloves (her)
  • Lots of beef jerky to share (me)
  • Nuun fizz tablets (her) ... electrolyte source to mix in water bottles
  • Pelican Case: wallet, motrin, battery pack, replacement batteries for headlamps, bandaids
  • Headlamps: one each
As we arrived at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (stop 12), Cadres Mocha Mike and Brad were there with Mocha's beast of a truck. The last time I saw that truck was August 2018 when it held hundreds of pounds of sandbags and ammo cans. (Extortion 17 Heavy) Ahhh, "great" memories! We filled my water bladder, grabbed a few Cuties, and sip of Gatorade and were off on our largest segment, that being 8.3mi. At this point, we were TIRED but still feeling quite good. This segment would takes its toll on us physically and mentally. Eventually, there wasn't much talking and more just relentless, steady forward movement and a positive attitude. We knew from Eagle Up that we'd go through peaks and valleys but not at the same time. We were ready for that and always had the others back. Arriving at Magic Mountain, we were in the Polaris area (where we picked up some gels earlier in the day en route to Columbus) and then began our trek east into Westerville as we headed towards Hoover Dam. If you look at the map up above, see that LONG line on the right? That is what waited for us after Hoover Dam when it would be light out. We had no idea how long that would be...and we didn't want to know. In fact, we never tracked our mileage except in between segments. Biting off pieces is much easier than the whole when it comes to mental strategy.
Columbus Metropolitan Library (where Mocha and Brad met us), Magic Mountain in Polaris, First Responders Park (that's pieces of the World Trade Center behind us) and Hanby House.
It was at this point as we headed into Westerville that we wanted coffee BAD. I remember clearly it was 5:30am after we left Magic Mountain and how McDonald's wasn't open yet. Coffee, a water re-fill, bathroom break...all were going to happen if they were open. But alas, NOTHING was opening until 6am. We kept on going, hoping to pass something but just about 100% of the route headed to Hoover Dam would be residential neighborhoods...8 more miles, aka: 2+ hours. Westerville after the 6am hour, we spotted a pastry shop, specifically the Schneider's Bakery. Luckily, they had coffee brewed. One of the comments a patron made soon after walking in was "it looks like you two are out for a walk!" Well, you might say that! That led us down the path of explaining rucking and how our "walk" began yesterday at 9pm! We got our java, some carbs, and headed back out. That place was a blessing! I do wish I would've got a group selfie with everyone in there. We continued on through the sunrise hours through quiet neighborhoods and a straight line, one that ended at the Hoover Dam. 

Marjie was suffering quite a bit at this point. Her pace had slowed and for someone who adores silence, she put on some TayTay (Taylor Swift) to help put some pep in her step! At the end of the straight line, there was a gas station that granted her great reprieve with a clean bathroom vs. a nasty portapotty across the street. And off to cross the dam we went, find the trail head at the northeast corner, then plot a course for downtown Columbus.
Hoover Dam (not bad for being up over 24hrs and covering an unknown amount of miles, eh?!)
"Don't tell me." Very specific instructions. Just prior to that, I had plotted the route and simply said "Woah." Off we went. In GORUCK Heavy events and in the "rucking world" in general, a baseline distance to ruck is the 12 mile distance, hopefully in under 3 1/2 hours. That's the benchmark...FRESH. And here we were, 33+ miles in, and the distance to the next waypoint downtown? EXACTLY 12 miles. My lips were sealed! The worst part, outside of the distance, was the extremely busy road that made a beeline downtown. From time to time, the bike-n-hike was available so we used that, basically leapfrogging off and on for safety. This stretch seemed to never end and was very mentally taxing with all of the traffic. If we were to die doing this endeavor, it would be via automobile along this segment. Our feet both felt like we were walking on nails, but no blisters evident. The camber coming off the roads always hurt. Anything but flat was very uncomfortable inside our shoes. Speaking of which, we hadn't taken them off once and had no plans to. I'm very much against taking shoes off unless you get something in there that is causing a problem or WILL if left alone. Through my ultra-running years, I came to love powdered lubricant. I put that in my socks and lube up my feet with BodyGlide. (Here is the powdered lube I've used for 10+ years) Doing that has gotten me through countless endurance races and every GORUCK event, to include two 24+ hour Heavy events. Eventually, we made it and I divulged the number. SO glad that was behind us. Now to FINISH this!

We arrived at Waypoint 17 (Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens) and spirits took a dramatic up-swing. NOW we knew it was in the bag. We just had to keep moving.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus Museum of Art, Kelton House 
The last several waypoints, except for the segment to the Endex were under a mile each. Attention to detail was our friend, here, and missing no Instagram posts or required hashtags...and following specific directions. We had trouble finding a fountain at the Library and probably wasted a solid 15min. That's where my suggestion of dropping a pin directly on the required picture spot can really save you time, especially over a 50 mile trip.
Ohio State Capitol, the largest gavel on the planet, my foot care post-event, and two beers and two patches we got at the Endex.
Once we found that gavel above, we were 1.5mi to the finish. "If it's 5 or more miles to the finish, I'm going to cry," Marjie told me. I gave her a big, fat pregnant pause as I plotted the route and then told her it was only a mile and a half to the finish. YES! It was only a few minutes to 2pm so we certainly weren't going to hit the 2pm mark but probably 1/4 after the hour. Time to get this! As we arrived back at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, Mocha shouted to us as we approached "You're SECOND!!!" What?!?!?! Marjie had said many times "I bet we're going to be the last ones in or close to it." To hear we had placed 2nd and would get $200 in GORUCK credit to their store was simply stunning to us. THIS doesn't happen to us! Heck, we're 46 years old and it really shouldn't, right?! Remember, a rule to be eligible to place in the event is to finish as a team. Many teams became fractured through the event and some didn't post every waypoint. We did. 100% start and finish and 100% course completion in accordance with the rules. Honestly, we're still shocked! 17hrs, 15min, 17sec. Remember how I tabulated the distance? I did that just after finishing. I simply re-did the Google routes while they were fresh in my head and added up the segments. I was hoping and praying it wasn't under 50 miles. As I added up the final segments, I was afraid it wouldn't hit 50. 50.3 miles. DANG! Considering a few errors we made and the leap-frogging off and on that trail during the 12 mile jaunt, we are 150% confident that we achieved 50+ miles. WHEW!!!!

After hanging out for awhile, enjoying some pizza and talking with others about the event, we made our way back to our Airbnb in Short North Columbus. We showered and crashed for about 2hrs. That shower was another tell-tale of success. Neither of us screamed out in pain which is common in an event like that, thanks to chafing. NOTHING! Waking up 2hrs later, we felt like a ton of bricks had fallen in on us but we woke up, brewed some coffee and decided to hit up Hoof Hearted Brewing 0.4 mi away. That was a slooooooowwwwww walk! But it was perfect. Afterwards, another slow walk and BAM! Out for 9 hours...

Waking up on Sunday morning, we were shocked at how good we felt and how good the walk felt on the way to breakfast. It poured overnight and many of the blossoms were knocked to the ground where we walked, quite comfortably. No blisters, some redness, and shocked at our condition. We did it and we're more than fine post event. Now at 5pm Sunday, we still feel awesome and we're both nearing a gallon water intake for the day. Flushing our bodies out, moving often and resting.

We didn't have a big training plan for this event. We do CrossFit for an hour a day with CrossFit Linchpin in our garage, we ruck for shorter distances and the occasional 12 miler, I ruck my morning and afternoon breaks at work for 15min chunks and that's about it. Nutritionally, we track our macros and care for ourselves but aren't obsessed by it. Overall, we just enjoy life and being the best versions of ourselves...together. Too many years were spent doing our own thing. We're glad that's over. This was an awesome experience and we wouldn't want it any other way. I'm super proud of my bride and look forward to what lies ahead in the future!

Parting is a compilation of the Instagram Stories I posted throughout the event as we traveled.

Friday, February 1, 2019

CrossFit Linchpin, Nutrition, Rucking and More

I'm sitting here on a day off, temps are about 17 degrees outside, a balmy 20 degrees north of what it was only 48 hours ago, and I have the itch to write a few thoughts so here it is...and yes, it's about fitness, "CrossFit," etc.

Nearly 8 months ago, I signed up for CrossFit Linchpin and began following the programming of Pat Sherwood, a former Navy SEAL, owner of CrossFit Linchpin and current CrossFit Health staff. I have written twice before and most recently, at the 4 month point. You can read the first post here and the 4 month update here.

Not much has changed, really. Since the 4 month update, Pat has added more value to the $10 monthly price-tag by adding in a "limited equipment option" every single day...that being 5 out of 7 days a week. (Thursdays and Sundays are rest days) A pair of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, a jump rope, and a set of gymnastic rings to hang from that pull-up bar. That's it for the limited equipment option and believe me, those folks often get far more "brutality," courtesy of those dumbbells, than those of us with all the gear in our garages or boxes. Plus, coming up in a month or so, he's adding an additional option of nutrition and the macro feature on Beyond the Whiteboard (BTWB) for probably $10 more. I won't be using that as I already am very happy with my nutrition game and right where I'm at but it'll be a great feature for so many who don't track what they eat. Hear me when I say: "NUTRITION IS EVERYTHING." You can work out without end and will NEVER yield the results you could if you got your nutrition squared away. I'm proof of my mid-40s!

This winter has been fairly normal with warmer-than-usual days and then this past week, we had the "Polar Vortex" that dropped windchills into the negative mid-twenties and a high around minus 1. That's the coldest the garage has ever been and we actually brought in the dumbbells the night prior to warm up then did the limited equipment option in the living room which consisted of front squats with the dumbbells on our shoulders and dumbbell snatches. You see? No excuses for cold, etc. On most days, I head out early, turn on the baby space heater and prop up anything metal that we'll be using in front of the heater to warm it up like barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells. It works pretty good. One thing is for sure: no day is too cold to be out there. I NEED it and it's not for any narcissistic reason. The expenditure of calories, the pushing myself into uncomfortable, striving to do my best against myself...I need it for my dang sanity. Fitting in my never-before size 30 shorts is just icing on the cake. It's not the reason. Honestly, it's the nutrition that keeps those fitting, not my morning grind. I know my "why" you? Until you do, you'll always find an excuse.

You can always find a way to do what's important to you.

As for nutrition, it's on point! If you recall, I hired a nutrition coach from January - March 2018, shed 5" and about 20lbs and then went on my own since then and I've maintained that loss. I weigh myself every single morning (that scale is my accountability partner), still weigh out my breakfast and lunch, and then make good choices for dinner and extend myself some grace here and there. I LOVE food and the occasional craft beer so if I can still maintain, do well in the garage, and enjoy some of life's awesomeness, then it's a win-win all the way around. I do focus on water a lot, always trying to surpass a gallon a day. I never touch soda/pop and shy far away from processed garbage, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Whole, delicious foods is what you'll see on my plate the majority of the time. It's working!

But it's not just CrossFit. That's 60-75min out of my day (although I admittedly think about it FAR more). Marjie "likes" CrossFit and she is an awesome partner out there. We have serious fun together! Honestly, we have fun doing just about anything together, to include grocery shopping at Aldi but out there, it's just awesome. But she doesn't "love" it like I do. What she DOES love is rucking. She doesn't care for the rucking events that involve a cadre unleashing havoc but simply covering distance under weight. In fact, we'll be doing the GORUCK 50 Mile Star Course in April down in Columbus, OH together. Along those lines, we now host a "Ruck-n-Brew" every month. We choose a location to ruck for about 90min, then head to a local craft brewery or watering hole that is known for a great lineup and enjoy time together. We've hosted 4 so far and they are a BIG hit! We make it super-inviting to newcomers, too. No PT, no log-carrying, or anything like that. We just cover distance (with a purpose!), socialize, share rucking "wisdom," then break bread together. It really is a great time and will continue. Further, there is a monthly rucking challenge page that we're paying attention to and will weave that in. Tomorrow night, for example, we're rucking 86 flights of stairs for the 86 firefighters lost in 2018. We've got a handful of folks showing up and honestly, if it were just us, we'd have fun!

Our last Ruck-n-Brew: Salt Run Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

We also stay involved with a nutrition coaching company dubbed "PLT Nutrition and Fitness" where Marjie continues to be coached. Paul, the owner, is actually the catalyst for how she first discovered the world of macros which eventually over a year later, turned me on to it to give it a try. Life-changing! Since then, our story has spread and countless others have joined the ranks with us. A fun thing I wake up to every morning these days is a monthly challenge. For January, it was called the Buns of Fire Challenge and rotated back and forth between lunges and squats. I typically weave them into my warmup or workout but if they don't fit, I just do them while the espresso is brewing at 3:15am. :) For February, it's a month full of burpees and pushups. Bring it! It's just a little thing that breeds more community at PLT and gets people moving if "sedentary" is their normal.

So that's it! Family is good, we continue to lead the marriage ministry at our church, we parent teenagers (gulp!), and I still get to put on the uniform every once in a while. I won't say "living my best life" because Marjie detests that but I will say that I'm doing my best to live a full life with the ones I love, heed the calling on my life, and live authentically.

Stay warm, friends!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Update: CrossFit Linchpin at 4 months

6 weeks into joining the CrossFit Linchpin Community, I wrote a review of my experience up to that point and to date, it is my 4th most-read post ever. (if reading this on a computer, look at lower right sidebar for the top posts ever) I launched this blog on Dec. 30, 2007 and have posted 661 times...much less in recent years. So, as I crack the 4 month "anniversary" here in a few days, I thought I'd give an update as the private messages have increased as of late about my thoughts about the programming, comparing it to others, etc.

Zero regrets sums it up pretty well. It's not just Pat Sherwood's programming, either. It's the total package, baby! My mind operates in bullet points so here's a few to explain what I mean:
  • Programming: he's tracking it, creating it, and ensuring a great rotation through all the modalities without me having to worry about it.
  • Dark Humor: Seriously, this is a reason. Pat has this devilish way of presenting his workouts and you only get to see this on the Private Track. He records a daily YouTube bit that is accessed via CrossFit BTWB and in it, he sums up the workout. But how he delivers it and more funny, the way he begins each one is a pre-cursor to the level of suck coming our way. Today was a perfect much so, that I screen-shotted it and quoted him on my Instastory.
  • One Hour: often, I'll look at the day and think "dang, we're going to be done in 30min." NEVER happens. However, we're always done in 60-65min, unless we're milking rest periods or on our phones messing around. If we stay on track, we always finish on schedule and when I have to get to work, that matters.
  • CrossFit is NOT life: Pat is in his 40s, like I am. We're both dads, husbands, and have full-time jobs. Now granted, he works for CrossFit Health and I dominate my government cubicle, but the point is, that CrossFit is more a means to the goal of a long, healthy, fit life. It ISN'T life in itself. It's a tool in the toolbox. He often says "you don't need to do more than this to be perfectly fit."
  • Accountability: Wait a does subscribing to Pat's programming in your garage provide any accountability? No one cares BUT ME. 'Tis true. However, when I do something, I do it all the way and I'm not about to skip a workout because of how it looks or whatever. I feel accountable to the the COMMUNITY...and to MYSELF. So when I see something absurd like 10 sprints on the Airdyne, I don't roll over and go back to sleep. I show up, put in the work, and go on with life.
  • Community: Well actually, there is quite a large CrossFit Linchpin Community and it's worldwide. I've enjoyed getting to "know" many of them via social media and seeing how their workouts go on a daily basis. It's been fun and in the garage, it's a little positive nugget to appreciate. Check out the Community's IG's pretty solid and Pat shares much of what the community is up to on there on a daily basis.
  • Scaling is...awesome: Never have I felt so "ok" about scaling I workout. Now don't get me wrong, I don't scale unless appropriate but he "makes it ok" and offers ideas how to, even when I don't have the equipment...or the strength. Knowing the intent of the workout and the intended stimulus is key and if scaling accomplishes that, there is NO shame in scaling. My viewpoint on workouts has been revolutionized and I can attribute that to being here.
  • CrossFit BTWB (Beyond the Whiteboard): With your prescription, all of the workouts, Pat's video, and all of your stats are housed here. There is a lot BTWB does but what I most appreciate is when we re-do a workout and more importantly, a lift or accessory work and it tells me what I did last time and when. No more guessing, etc. It's right there in front of me on the day.
  • Responsiveness: Every once in awhile, I have a question about the workout or need a suggestion about loading, for example. I don't pester Pat with questions but when it's legit, I reach out and unless he is traveling, he responds dang quick. I really appreciate that.
  • Cost: I put this last because honestly, it's not the "why" I am here but really, $10 is a crazy low cost for what I get. He mentioned just two days ago that he has no intention of raising it and Pat, if you're reading this, THANK YOU. I'd stay on, by the way, but I appreciate it, nonetheless. For the time invested, he could get greedy and try to cash in but instead he doesn't. Character matters and for me, this speaks volumes.
Pat often says that all he does is's US that makes the magic happen. Well, if it weren't for the programming, there'd be no magic. Thanks, Pat. Call me a groupie or whatever but I'm proud to be a part of the community. If I'm ever near you, you can rest assured I'll track you down and hopefully throw down with you. Keep on being you. Real, authentic, cool dude, who knows what he's doing and has his priorities down pat. (pun intended)

'Till next time. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

AAR: GORUCK Extortion 17 Heavy

Ever since I did the GORUCK Heavy in Detroit, MI back in June 2016, I have wanted another shot at the Heavy and the HTL (Heavy, Tough, and Light). Since then, I was signed up for the Memorial Day events in 2017, the Philly events in June and now the Extortion 17 events in Columbus. I just kept withdrawing and transferring my credit on. I am in the best shape of my life at 45 years old and felt ready to tackle this beast. Plus, the Extortion 17 has a special place in my life. I was deployed to Afghanistan when this Chinook helicopter was shot down and stood on the flight line at Bagram Air Field when the fallen were honored and loaded aboard two C-17s for their flight to Dover Air Base. This event was centered around their story and honoring their ultimate sacrifice to their country.


I have rucked quite a bit since the bug bit me nearly 3 years ago. While I don't do a lot of events, I ruck a lot with my wife and have a background in ultra-running which helps when it comes to endurance and foot care. I'm a huge fan of powdered lubricant that I put in my socks just prior to the event after lubing them with BodyGlide. This was a winner again at this event. I wore Inov-8 trail shoes that I've been wearing for the past few months and for the HUGE win, Prana Zion Stretch shorts or pants. I can't rave enough about them. They are nice shorts to go out to dinner in but in an event, are incredible. Both pants and shorts have a pocket on the left leg that has a zipper at top and at side. I always kept my beef jerky here and a few gels. That way, I can eat anytime I want without having to get into my ruck. There are also drain ports in the crotch. Never a bad idea to drain/air out that area, right?! And, they are stretchy and easy to squat in. Lastly, they have a strap built right in to the waistband so when they get wet and sweaty and you need to cinch down, there is no need for a belt. Just give it a tug. This is how they look after a Tough event in Detroit in June and this Heavy event. This is prior to putting them in the wash. Side Note: I have the pants version in beige and gray and wear them to work every day. Bonus: they have a 36 length which is like finding a unicorn in the pants world for me.

Team Weight

There wasn't much activity on the Facebook event pages so I took it upon myself to build our team weight. Required weight: 50lbs. I still had my Army rucksack that I was issued in 2011 when I was deployed so I thought it was appropriate to use that. Then, I gathered up the 30 U.S. servicemembers plus the SEAL dog, Bart, and affixed them to the back of the pack. It all turned out really well and survived the event. Another team member brought the weight that we loaded prior to the start.

Friday, August 10th, 6pm start, Park of Roses, Columbus, OH

The start point was easy to find and the cadre were millin' about prior so there was zero doubt about where to be. We started with 15 at the start and timed perfectly for the 6pm start, the skies opened up and the downpour began. We still opened up our rucks for inspection and got moving on the Heavy's PT test: max situps in 2min and max pushups in 2min. The rest of the PT test is normally a 12-mile timed ruck but we got a curve ball thrown at us with a 6 mile run without our rucks. I was good with it since I was wearing trail shoes and like to run but many were wearing boots. But...the lightning began so that got held up. We instead headed to a shelter and began learning about the timeline of Extortion 17.

Photo Courtesy of Rocky Hogue
After that cleared, we set off on our 6mi run, an individual effort. It was made known that now was the time to see if we could meet the standard to join the team. The route, shown here, was (6) 1-mile loops counter-clockwise, starting at the parking lot. I assumed (wrongly) that this 6 mile run substituted the 12mi timed ruck. When I thought we were going to head out, we found out we were now going to do the 12mi ruck in the opposite direction. It was probably around 9pm at this point as it was dark. (watches/phones are not allowed during the event) At a good clip of 15min per mile that I am used to, I could finish the ruck in 3hrs....30min ahead of the 3hr, 30min time hack. I knew this would be no problem as I do this often. We lost one teammate during the ruck and I never saw him again. Now we're at 14. I finished in 3:02. Check! Now the fun can begin...

Welcome Party

Cadre Cleve (one of our two cadre), a Force Recon Marine, is known to bring his deck of cards to events. Now that the individual tests were complete, it was time for the infamous Welcome Party. They can take any form and totally up to the cadre's discretion. The deck of cards works like this: 52 cards in the deck plus the two jokers. Each ace, in our case, equaled 20 reps, each face card 15 reps and the rest were whatever number appeared. For the suits, he chose overhead squats for the spade, thrusters for the clubs, 4 count flutter kicks with ruck overhead for the diamonds, and 8-count body builders for the hearts. For the two jokers, it was Cadre Mocha Mike's call. Mocha is local to the Columbus area and brought all the "toys" for us to haul around. Mocha chose 38 burpees (with rucks) for the first joker and 38 lunges for the second. That first joker just happened to be the first card called. So there we went for the next hour in the rain in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Two would try to quit the event here but didn't. However, we did lose one after we finished. We are now 13 strong. Also, much thanks goes out to Mocha for identifying the youngest (17 years old) and oldest (ME!) in the class and nick-naming us War Baby and War Daddy. We got to stay in the middle of the circle during the deck of cards. The worst part about that deck? 8-count body doubt.

Side note: I haven't done many events so I haven't been a part of many Welcome Parties. However, I have experienced the spectrum. From screaming, demoralizing rants from the cadre to soft spoken words to Cleve and Mocha. These guys are class acts. Easy to talk to, approachable, but they hold you to the standard. In other words, they're awesome humans and treat others as they want to be treated. Sound familiar? It's not always the case with these events. Just pull up some YouTube videos and you'll see. I really appreciated this as my tolerance for that venom is low and it's not what I signed up for. So if you're reading this, Mocha or Cleve....THANK YOU.

First Movement North

We offloaded (4) 80lb sandbags, one 120lb sandbag named "Bertha," and two water jugs weighing in at 65lbs a piece from the back of Mocha's Ford. Cleve already told us that the weight would only increase as the night progressed and this is where we were starting. We were given a time hack and of course, we didn't meet it. I'm not sure how far or how many movements we did until we got to Antrim Lake. I do know it had to be around the 5am hour, though, as the first birds were starting to sing. During this trek, we got rained on more and I was getting really chilled so the warm water of Antrim Lake was a welcome addition to the event and cleaned all of the funk off of the team who were all smelling pretty ripe. Lucky me...I got to lead the class in hydro burpees (shown here).

We also knocked out some more 8-count body builders here. Apparently, Cleve loves these as they appeared time and time again. Mocha didn't leave with us after the Welcome Party. It was time for some zzzzz's for him before he'd swap with Cleve later on Saturday. We got some time to eat and clean out our shoes after the water before hitting the trail north again. We started seeing our first runners around now and it multiplied to a scale I have never seen before. Large running group after another passed by us all morning long as we continued north. The Olentangy Trail was extremely busy. There isn't much to share about this journey north except to say that when we didn't meet a time hack, we did more PT...and we missed just about all of them.

Worthington Hills Park + 250lbs

Until I wrote this, I never knew how far north we got during this event. I was really surprised that we got north of I-270! I also didn't realize how close we were to the Rusty Bucket and cold beer...but that's probably a good thing. We arrived here and Mocha was waiting for us.

Out came the two largest ammo cans I have ever seen, a large GORUCK kit bag full of rope, a tarp, straps, etc., and 4 steel poles...and of course, two fresh water jugs filled to the top. Cleve turned over to Mocha and Mocha was all ours. He gave us about 10min to figure out how to carry everything. We still had "Bertha" and the 80lb sandbags but now we had these. We used two poles and the tarp to carry many of the sandbags and suspended the ammo cans using straps with the other two poles. This contraption was called "Pain and Misery" by Mocha and appropriately so. Now if we thought we were moving slow before, slow took on a whole new definition. Not only were we slow, but we could only go so far before we had to put the weight down. The pressure on the shoulders from those steel poles were our limiting factor and would remain so until we rid ourselves of them. We left the park and started our return trip south, stopping often to re-adjust what we made to make it work better.

John Galipault Field

This was our destination after leaving Worthington Hills Park. We barely met the time hack to get there, too, which was a relief to finally do so. I seriously thought reward was coming after that movement in the form of dumping some weight (e.g. emptying some sandbags). We actually did dump 120lbs of sand en route because I think Mocha realized we were never going to get where we needed to unless we made a change to the weight. Prior to that, we were under 700 pounds of combined weight as a team. Dang.

So we got some time to chill out here, refill the water tanks and prepare to move again. What we found out is that this field, shown above, is about a 1/4 mile around and we were going to do the GORUCK-modified version of the Hero WOD "Murph" here as a team. "Now we're talkin' my language!" I thought to myself. Mocha laid it out like this:

  • 1 mile run (4 laps around field as a team)
  • 100 ruck swings (like a kettlebell swing)
  • 100 situps with ruck on chest
  • 100 walking lunges
  • Bear Crawl without ruck about 200m
  • Crab walk forward a little over 200m

I actually enjoyed this! We broke up the movements into 10 sets of 10 which made it far more manageable. Mocha gave us a 55min time hack and we did in 52+ minutes. Afterwards, we talked more about Extortion 17 and Mocha allowed me a moment to share my experience while deployed and being on the flightline that night. After that...time to move out.

Breaking Point

Our next destination was a BP station in order to get some electrolytes. There were a few very pasty-white looking individuals and many were out of electrolytes altogether. This was a very tough movement for me and I'm not proud of how it got to me. The Heavy is a very physical event but it is more-so a mental one. Every person WILL face themselves square on and if you're ugly on the inside, it'll come out. Sleep deprived, beat down, and constantly being pushed will do that. I was struggling a lot during this movement, being assigned to continue under the ammo cans. Many were seriously hurting and the strongest were needed to shoulder, quite literally, "Pain and Misery." The major stressors for me were twofold: the pressure on my shoulders and my right back muscles cramping up. That limited how long I could stay under the weight until it had to go down. Time for a sidebar:

When I see someone struggling, I talk to them, engage them, and ask them how they are doing. If I assess that they simply can't, then change needs to happen. If it's a case of "won't," then that's a different story and motivation is instead needed. Unfortunately, that approach isn't always reciprocated, especially when everyone is in the condition they are. Well, my "cries for help" were ignored which caused me to lose my cool and say some things I regret. We were under pressure to meet a time hack...I get that and believe me, I wanted to make it! However, to make a switch to the other shoulder can be done in 10-15sec. We missed the time hack by 2min, 53sec. You/we have to look out for our team, even when we perceive they are strong, etc. We are all human. So for those around me on my team and heard me, please accept my apologies. I got my head right after that but the sense of "team" was certainly diminished and I felt responsible for that...and still do.

Double-Snickers Bar

Once we reached our destination, I grabbed a Vitamin Water and a fancy double-Snickers bar. Oh my, how good that was! All I really had up until that point was two protein bars, some gels, and a lot of beef jerky. Not many carbs at all so I wanted to get that sugar infusion into my blood stream and oh my, did I feel better after that! Because we missed our time hack getting there, we did some mountain climbers on a grassy area while the traffic whizzed on by. We moved on out after this en route back to Antrim Lake where Cleve would be waiting. Just after we left, though, we came upon a row of telephone poles. Mocha told us that if we could get the pole onto our shoulders as a team, we could dump two 80lb sandbags. We did on the first try. He took a photo of that but I haven't seen it surface just yet.

Back at Antrim Lake, I was hoping we were going back in the water as that sounded so refreshing and the sun was blaring. Based on what Cleve posted online, they were planning to put us in there again but decided against it. We had a break once we arrived and we offloaded all weight except for the team weight I had brought. FINALLY. At this point, it's past 3pm and maybe even 4pm. The end is in sight.

Hit by Snipers

We were given an aggressive time hack and there was no way we'd meet it. Even fresh, you'd have to mix in shuffling or running to meet it and this team was in no condition to do that. Plus, we could only move as fast as our slowest person and we had a few who had feet in terrible condition. Still we lined up two-by-two and headed out at our fastest speed possible. Somewhere about a mile or mile and a half into this movement, our cadre picked off 3 of our team members one at a time and told them to sit alongside the trail and told them to simulate being hit by snipers. Then, our team leader was asked if we still had everyone. No one had been turning around so when we all did, we realized our team was fractured and we had lost a few. This stopped everything and we had to send people back down the trail and carry them back, simulating being killed or badly wounded. Once back, we got some training about watching our 6 and looking out for each other along with a super cool way to build a stretcher using rucks. We actually did it and it worked! Very cool and testament to the high quality and military grade of GORUCK rucksacks. No JanSport would ever survive that!


We did carry a few team members a very short distance using the rucks but then 3-man-carried our one team member who had the worst feet all the way back to the Park of Roses, over 1 mile away. We learned how to switch out while on the move and never stop and never put him down. Motivated by the knowledge of the end coming soon, we got it done.

Upon arrival back at the park, it was a very different experience as compared to the Detroit Heavy in June 2016. Back then, there were a lot of people waiting for us, a pavilion with food, and lots of photos being taken. There were only a couple of people here and half of them were Mocha's family. We formed up in two ranks and while most might think we were done, we weren't. Mocha called everyone to attention and read each name of the fallen. After each name, we did an 8-count body builder then shouted the name. Once we got through all 31, Mocha had some thoughts and thanks to share with us as did Cleve and then moved through the team, delivering to us the Extortion 17 Heavy patch. It was over. 25hrs, 17min and north of 35 miles covered. A red cooler sat nearby, filled with miniature Gatorades and Budweiser. I'm not a Bud guy and instead a craft beer snob, but that Budweiser sure did taste good. After cheers with the cadre, I headed to the car to contemplate the decision: move on to the Tough or call it.

Back in June 2016, I had this same conversation with myself and I decided then to not try the Tough and Light. I have never regretted that decision. Since then, though, I wanted another shot at it. I called my bride and had a very emotional conversation with her. Emotional for me, that is. I did NOT want to disappoint her and my girls. In order to really get through these events, you have to know your WHY for doing it and decide if it's worth it. I knew my "why" for the Heavy. I honored those heroes, I contributed to my team, and I didn't quit. For the Tough and Light, it felt more inward...more for the right to say "I got my HTL." Almost selfish, in a way. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong, but this was my rationalization at that moment with a very tight time window to make a decision. Given how my feet walking on needles and the fact that I had a Heavy patch in my hand...and after talking to my bride, I decided to be happy with what I had done and call it. With that, the pursuit of the coveted HTL patch also ended and I won't return to this. Not all things are meant to be. I love to ruck, the GORUCK company, and mentoring new ruckers, but this path has ended for me.

Afterwards, a good friend of mine let me crash on his couch for the night because driving home 2 1/2 hours would be far from wise and strictly forbidden! But first, I pulled up Google Maps and typed in "burgers and beer" and found a place, Pat and Gracie's, only a few miles away. It was the perfect capstone to an epic event.