Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

I just finished scrolling through all of the titles of my blog posts, looking at the calendar on the fridge, and scanning the race reports and running log. Seriously, I could type until the ball drops tonight at midnight but to save my fingers and your time, I thought a subject-oriented approach might be a good summation of the year. So here we go...and I promise to be as succinct as possible:

Awesome bobble-head male/female awards at the 5K
Building Marriages/Community/Relationships: My wife and I, now in our 23rd "official" year, certainly have a passion for others in hurting marriages, those looking for financial freedom, and encouraging community amongst each other whether that's in the church, across church lines, within our community or in a geographical area. We basically remain "at the ready" and definitely feel called and equipped in this area to help. Our year began with an 11-week marriage study in our home dubbed "Real Marriage" that went very well. We took a week or two off after that and immediately launched our first "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey. We filled a class to capacity and held it at our local town hall for free.  That was 9 weeks and my only regret/disappointment is that the program really doesn't provide a follow-up piece for afterwards. I often wonder how all the families are doing today with their budgets and debt snowball. Regarding community, I have to brag on my wife a bit. She leads a "Weekend Backpack Outreach" that provides meals to kids every other Friday for them to take home for the weekend. In a nutshell, a group of churches across denomination lines along with a local business fund this program that is offered to all families in our school district on the "free lunch" program. If they accept, they get a "backpack" full of food for the weekend. (It's actually a bag) Today, she leads the distribution of 85 backpacks every two weeks to our elementary/middle/high schools. Awesome, eh?! Sort of joined to this program was a 5K race I directed in November called the Run with the Son 5K. I kinda just fell into the race director job and was my first stint at it. It went well and collected some food for the local food pantry and the monetary "profit" went straight into the backpack program. I can't skip one last community-minded event...the 8th Annual Waterfalls Run that took place last Saturday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Some 300-400 runners took to the trails in warmer-than-normal conditions to see our three majestic waterfalls but first filled our SUV full of non-perishables and gift card/cash/check donations in the amount of $1115!! This went immediately to the Freedom House in Kent, OH where male veterans are moving from homelessness to getting up on their own two feet in their own home/apartment. If there was a "cherry on top" in 2014 for this category, this would be it. Leaning into 2015, we'll be leading a marriage retreat in Amish Country at the end of February. We can't wait!

Travel: This will be quick as I tend to keep this pretty close to my chest and don't write about family vacations. 2014 was relatively tame in comparison to 2013 that included Hawaii but it was still great. We spent a week in Williamsburg, VA that included seeing great friends, some beach time and a day at Busch Gardens. On our departure day, we were being ran out of town by Hurricane Arthur. Quite literally, the outer bands were over Williamsburg the day we left and I went on a very memorable run, regardless. This photo is from that run where I managed to get in 10 miles on July 4th. It was a blast! We also did a few other mini-vacations, one to Rehoboth Beach, DE and the other to Lakewood, NY. I'm a self-proclaimed craft beer snob and Rehoboth is home to Dogfish Head and Lakewood to Southern Tier, two of my favorite craft brewers. At both, we found a bed-n-breakfast to stay at sans kids and really enjoyed the time away together. Both were fantastic trips so please reach out if you want any details for yourself. For 2015? Well, that's just gonna stay hush-hush. :)

Career: Unfortunately, I don't talk too much about this anymore on here due to privacy/security concerns. Bad guys in the middle east tweeting out to kill folks just doesn't sit well with me. You'll notice I won't name those groups or give any detail. Search engines are crafty in finding things and I won't help them! I will say this, though: For those of you who know how I pay the bills, 2014 was a banner year. It really couldn't be better. In fact, I received an award last week as the Inspirational Leader of the Year...for the entire eastern half of the country. It was quite a humbling honor to receive and I'll do my best to continue to be worthy of such an award in 2015. I wish I could remain in my current "occupation" for many, many more years to come but that's not possible. I expect it all to come to a close within the next 4 or so years.

Running: Ha..yea, I'd save this for last, right?! Actually, I'm saving my newfound passion for last. Running was good and strong in 2014. I started it out with an unwritten or unmentioned goal of running 200 miles per month for a cumulative 2400 for the year. Well, I was well on track for that! I ran less races and when I did race, I set a few PRs, particularly at the 50K and 40 mile distances. I also ran one of my strongest-ever marathons at the Inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in late April. (In 2015, it will be my one and only marathon for the year.) I also began a running streak on June 19th that meant I must run at least 1 mile per day and I had a goal to do it for years. Well, it lasted until October 18th when I called it quits, 122 days into my streak. Why, you ask? Well, in late September, I began to feel what I felt in late 2009 during my last 100-mile finish and most of 2010...a symptom that lead to a MRI of a stress fracture. This time, it was on the opposite leg. Warning signs were going off everywhere. In October, I backed my mileage WAY off just to keep the streak alive and on October 18th, I bagged it. It just wasn't worth it. Knowing I need to get stronger "whole body" to ward these running injuries off led me to what I began in November...CrossFit. Today, those symptoms are gone...completely gone. Not a lick to be felt at all and I've tested myself for 26.2 miles on asphalt to be sure. So as the year closes, I'm very happy with my running in 2014. I ran my final 3 miles this morning to round out my annual total to 2100.00 miles. That's a 30 mile personal record for any other year of my life! While my mileage has dropped to under 100 miles a month as you can see in the graph below, I'm running stronger than ever, thanks to my new "routine" Monday-Friday. For 2015, the mileage totals will be far lower but I still have lofty goals that include race distances from the half marathon to the 100-mile trail race and even a 24hr endurance run. The races will be few but carefully selected and I plan to give it everything I have at every one. My most sought after goal in it all would be to finish the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Trail Run in under 24 hours. In my three 100-mile finishes, I have not cracked that barrier but I was closest at the Kettle. Stay tuned! Also in the running arena: sponsorships. Brooks Running has taken a huge turn away from empowering the local runner that promotes them via social media, blogging, etc. The big downturn began last year at this time and this year, they have killed the entire program. It ends my 5 year relationship with them but it comes as no surprise. Watching them from a business standpoint, I knew it was only a matter of time. I still continue to wear their Pure Flow 3 as my primary road shoe and the Pure Grit as my chosen trail shoe. My other sponsorship is with Hammer Nutrition and I just found out that I was selected again for 2015! I absolutely love Hammer, how they do business, how they keep their products U.S.-made, and focus on quality. It is an honor to represent them again in 2015!

CrossFit: It's been quite a ride for the first 8 weeks! If you want to catch up on my perspective of it all, there is a label on the right sidebar labeled crossfit and you can see all the posts together. Bottom line: humbling, awesome, tough, challenging, fruitful. This image, here, though is from a few days ago that I haven't blogged. Known simply as a "sweat angel," these can often be found right after a workout in a CrossFit gym/box as athletes collapse to the floor after finishing and leave what you see here. Just prior to starting a workout a few days ago, I told a friend that it was going to be a "sweat angel worthy" workout and wow, how right I was. I didn't pass up the opportunity to make my own angel afterwards...and put my heart back in my chest. CrossFit gets a bad rap by many and many consider it some kind of cult. I have been addressing all of these things as I write about my own journey because I once hated on this whole CrossFit thing myself. However, I have no problem admitting that and also how it's working for me. The added benefit outside of becoming stronger and fitter is the time with my wife because we do it together. For 2015? Keep on doing it. Dues already paid for January! I am anxious to see how it impacts ultra running without increasing the mileage much at all. I will share one tidbit from today's workout, the last workout of the year: We were doing an overhead squat as part of the WOD (Workout of the Day) that involves holding the weighted bar overhead while lowering all the way down in a squat. As a distance runner for 17+ years, my flexibility is total garbage and squatting down was a joke when I started. Today, it is SO much better and it's because I work on it there and at home...even in the office. :) Anyway, my trainer threw a compliment my way during the workout and again afterwards which totally made my day. He's an awesome trainer but compliments are earned and not a given. Because I know that and because this is something I've struggled at, it meant the world. "Thanks, Charlie!"

Happy New Year, everyone! Instead of making resolutions, resolve to make permanent change...for the better!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 8 Things I've Learned in my 8 Weeks of CrossFit

Today, I wrapped up my 8th week of CrossFit at All Heart CrossFit in Kent, OH. I have learned so much in these first 8 weeks and continue to on a daily basis. Today, though, I'd like to give you the Top 8 things I've learned in my first 8 weeks:
  1. Show up ready to give it all. There is no other way and a complete and devoted commitment to the task at hand has to be your focus. I have learned that leaving a workout questioning my effort is an awful feeling and one of regret.
  2. Resist the urge to compare yourself. This is a dangerous slippery slope. I am literally twice the age of many in the box where I work out and similar to others while younger than a few. Every person has a different reason for being there, has been there for different lengths of time, has a different physical makeup, and different levels of commitment. Focus on getting better and stronger every day. Focus on you and no one else. The one exception: There is a great social benefit to CrossFit and the feeling of family. It's absolutely for real and one you can choose to enjoy or not. I have loved meeting new friends and "family" and look forward to seeing them every day!
  3. It's not about the weight, it's about safety first. We are wired to want to hit big numbers and gain bragging rights. It is imperative to get form and safety first and the weight will come. CrossFit gets a bad rap and this is often due to doing too much, too soon, and poor coaches/students.
  4. Listen to your coaches. There was a day where we did an EMOM followed by a WOD using the same overhead press. It was stressed over and over again to "lower your weight" after we finished that EMOM because the WOD would be very tough. My coach said it over and over again (which I learned later was pointed towards me because I wasn't removing weight). The WOD began and halfway through, I had to remove some weight and I was called out. It was humiliating, frustrating and I left angry. I learned a humbling lesson that day: listen and follow the coach's instruction. (This plays big with regards to safety as well.)
  5. Work hard and watch yourself change. I still run but not nearly as much. However, my running has become stronger and more confident. I am still able to go long distances and my endurance has not decreased. Physically, I have gone down two jeans sizes and my upper body is developing for the first time in 41+ years. As the changes progress and I see more changes, it's simply more fuel to keep charging forward. Note: I have not weighed myself as that can be misleading with the addition of muscle. Instead, I pay attention to the mirror, how I feel and how clothes fit. I may ask my wife what she thinks from time to time as well. :)
  6. Eat right. I have found that a Paleo diet and Paleo/Zone are common in the CrossFit universe. I am following neither but am close to the Paleo diet. If you're following my first point of giving it all yet you still eat like garbage, my opinion is that it'll all be for naught...or darn close to it. I have found that my intense workouts fuel a desire to eat right. Not eating right only makes recovery worse and waking up for that 5:30am class feeling "bleh." If you truly want change, it's a lifestyle change and not just "one hour a day at the box" change.
  7. CrossFit YouTube Channel. In my spare time, I have found myself watching short training videos or competition videos on CrossFit's channel. I often seek out one that's covering a lift or movement that I just did and want to get better at. For example, I want to become strong at the thruster. It's half of the WOD that makes up "Fran," the original WOD that fueled the beginning of CrossFit. I have been watching training videos and picking up on "cues" to remember when it's time to execute it again. Today, I had that opportunity as we did a thruster/burpee WOD. Instead of needing to be taught again by my coaches, I remembered the video instruction and did it and didn't get corrected one time. With so many lifts and movements, it's tough to keep them straight this early but in time, it will get easier and is.
  8. Remind yourself why you're there. Prepare yourself for the negative self talk and the naysayers out there on social media, at your workplace, etc. I was one of those naysayers and couldn't stand the "WOD talk" on my Facebook feed for the longest time. If you don't know why you're going, you need to know and keep going back to that. If not, you'll feel defeated, compare yourself, and probably quit. I won't forget what my coach told me on day 2: "It never gets easier." It's true. As you get stronger and faster, the bar just keeps getting raised. There is no top. Know why you're there and you'll keep challenging yourself.

M-Cubed for 12.29.2014

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

- 2083.70 miles. That's my total miles for 2014 as of this morning with 3 days left in 2014 to log miles. On September 1st, I was on track 2400 but a course correction was made and I'm all the better because of it. Now? Well, I'm a bit OCD when it comes to my running log so I'd sure like to see 2100.00 on my 2014 log so I'm thinking a few miles on each of these last 3 days is in order. 16.3 is all I need!

- If you've been around here awhile, you will remember a group run dubbed the Annual Waterfalls Group Run. This past Saturday was the 8th running of it. Back in 2007, I came up with the idea of gathering a few friends together (about 10 of us back then) on the last Saturday of the year and visiting each of the 3 main waterfalls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and take photos at each...simply to celebrate the outgoing year and welcome in the new year. The "fun factor" of the run caught on and for the past several years, somewhere between 200-400 runners show up. Every year, people rave about the fun and now groups have formed that carpool from 1-2 hours away. Many head to a local restaurant afterwards for an early lunch and beverages as well. 3 years ago, I decided to harness the power of the local running community and give back. Locally, I chose Freedom House Kent to support which is a transitional home for male veterans who are recently homeless and often struggling with some kind of addiction. The house counsels them, provides a roof and food, and helps get them up on their own two feet again...eventually in an apartment of their own and hopefully with a job, too. They have a big donation list of non-perishables so I collected those items and some petty cash. This year (the 3rd), I did it again and wow...just humbled! I stuffed our SUV more than ever and collected a whopping $1115 in cash, gift cards, and checks! With all of that, I didn't run the group run and instead, my wife and I left the park and drove straight to the Freedom House where the vets helped us offload the goods. Just a priceless experience and one that tugs at my heartstrings every time. The Freedom House Kent has been at-capacity for months and no matter what their past, these men are my brothers and I consider it an honor to come alongside them. If you are reading this and are one who has supported this, thank you so much! Below are the two starts of the run (8am and 9am from Lock 29 and Boston Store, respectively) and the 3rd photo is our packed SUV. If you want to learn more about Freedom House Kent, you can check out their website here. You can also "like" the group run's Facebook page here. The 9th annual group run will take place on Saturday, December 26, 2015.

8am, Lock 29, 17 mile start
9am, Boston Store, 7 mile start (8am starters are running through here at this time, too)
The front seat and floor was full, too!
- How was your Christmas? Ours was low-key and perfect as such. My most-received gift was a variation of Reese's Peanut Butter and Chocolate eggs or hearts. I even got one large one made in the shape of a snowboarder. All are currently frozen in the freezer to maximize the length of time I can enjoy them and avoid over-consumption! We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve family photo and a traditional ham-and-eggs breakfast on Christmas morning made by my wife along with egg nog. Oh so good! The Christmas spirit wrapped up last night as the tree came down and only the snowmen remain on bookshelves and around the house. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

- Lots of movies out there right now and some good and many just "eh." For us, we saw "Unbroken" a few days ago and loved it. There is a reason it's received multiple Golden Globe nominations. I highly recommend it! The only reason it has a PG-13 rating is the violence. For language, it was clean which is amazing considering it is a military-centric movie. I'm still most looking forward to seeing American Sniper...opening wide on January 16th.

- Are you a Michael W. Smith fan? For those unfamiliar with the Christian music scene, he is hugely successful there. Well, I heard his story for the first time two days ago that I had never heard before. At the age of 17 and continuing for the next 3 years, lots of drugs and a spiral fall ensued bringing him near death. Hear his story from him directly in this short video here. Amazing and inspiring!

- CrossFit continues to rage on! Today, I'll wrap up my 8th consecutive week. It continues to be as challenging as heck but I love it. Running is still remaining strong with over a 50% reduction in monthly mileage and physically I'm different. In this short time, the few changes are more definition in my upper body and a slimming waist as indicated by every pair of jeans or pants I wear. (I've already bought two new pairs of jeans of smaller sizes.) My running shorts are also starting to fit a bit "sloppy" so no doubt, I'm changing. One thing I've read many times in articles has addressed long-time runners who don't lose weight anymore. They all say that the key is to add strength training. Well, I can attest to that! It works. On Christmas Eve, I not only got in a Christmas CrossFit workout in fine "tabata" fashion but ran 1/2 marathon home! I just love doing that...especially from a gym where most hate on running. :) My guilty pleasure. The image here was that day's workout and proof of the half marathon that followed...fueled by Hammer Nutrition, of course.

- Did you see "Restrepo"? It is the documentary was shot in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. It is a raw, in-your-face story of war and was released to wide acclaim a few years back. Well, additional footage gathered during that same period of time was put into a sequel of sorts and called "Korengal." Where the first movie took us on missions with the soldiers, this is more of an interview-style of movie and takes us deep into the personal side of our soldiers. I highly recommend it if you saw Restrepo. It is on Netflix now.

- About this time next week, I will owe you another race report. The Frozen Sasquatch 50K is this Saturday just outside Charleston, WV...another fine event put on by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners. Last year, the start was in the teens and rose to near 40. I remember ice and lots of it. This year with the much warmer temps and rain, it will be quite a different course and this Friday/Saturday forecast guarantees it along with a week with no snow in the forecast. I'm really looking forward to it! It will be my 60th race of a marathon or longer. Specifically, this will be the 32nd ultra marathon (I have 28 marathon finishes). Sheesh! It will also be my first ultra since starting CrossFit. I am eager to see my new routine's effect on my ultra running performance. Big plans for 2015 if all goes well!

- I normally end M-Cubed with some kind of inspirational quote. Today, I'll leave you with one of my own from yesterday. I enjoyed a quiet, peaceful 10 miles in the country yesterday afternoon after church...nice and hilly. Below is a pic I captured at mile 8 and the thoughts I had as I went through this hilly section. (The pic doesn't do the hills justice...there are two successive "cereal bowls" in this stretch as I like to call them.) Have a GREAT week, everyone, and Happy New Year!


Monday, December 22, 2014

M-Cubed for 12.22.2014

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

- Tick tock, is your shopping done?! 4 days until Rudolph covers the planet in the efficiency that only he, his fellow reindeer and Santa can. 5 days until the tree can come down! :)

- "We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a Hammer Nutrition athlete ambassador for the 2015 season! You are among a very select group of athletes and we’re excited about the opportunity to help you fuel right to feel great to your most successful season yet!" ~ yea, that happened last night! Woo hoo! I wrote about this recently and I'm super excited to be selected for my 2nd year! It will be a year with not as many bibs being pinned on but very key races being chosen to challenge myself. Hammer will fuel every step and continue to fuel my recovery both on the road and trail and after workouts in the box. "HAMMER ON!!!!" :)

- I have friends who are police...friends who are firemen...oodles of friends that are veterans and/or whom are serving right now within our borders or somewhere on the globe. Is it not a sad testament to the condition of our world and our fellow man's heart that all need to watch their back while on U.S. soil? From tweeted instructions from terrorists to find the military to police officers being assassinated while they sit in their squad car, it's sick. To watch it is a feeling of helplessness. "What can I do?" Well, I can start in my own home and practice intolerance of hate, racism, and discrimination and teach my family about serving those around us and what we owe and to whom for our freedom. Outside my home, I shall remain vigilant "watch my 6" as I've read many times lately from those in blue. I know the feeling of sitting in a restaurant and while enjoying my meal, keeping my range of vision to include the entrance to the establishment and on those around me. It IS that kind of world. Be safe out there, friends, and look out for each other.

- On Friday, my bride and I traveled about 3 hours to our southwest and joined about 300+ others for our annual awards banquet. It was a GREAT time and felt good to get dressed up again, bow tie and all! I was also very thankful to receive the "Inspirational Leader of the Year" award. Not only for my district but for all districts that cover the eastern side of the United States...very thankful! I couldn't be happier to do a job in which I can finally lead others without restriction and can pour my heart into every last thing I do.

No, that's not me! ;)
- So today wraps up Week 7 of CrossFit and I've been diligent and accountable to sticking to it. I've missed one day and this week, will take Christmas Day off. In that time, my running has taken a severe downturn in volume/miles BUT has remained strong. One thing that I've struggled with for a long time and still do is post-run, my flexibility is nearly non-existent. In CrossFit, I have found how unflexible I am and how poor my mobility is but once warmed up, it's gotten a lot better, especially my squat. After a run, though, I can't squat to save my life and can hardly untie my shoes by bending over. The longer the run, the worse it is. Interesting. So, after Saturday's afternoon 10 miler in the country, it was more of the same but I decided to "cool down" with squats. You'd think that after 10 miles, I'd be all warmed up and limber but that couldn't be further from the truth. The muscles necessary to run are good but that's very limited movement and range of travel within the needed muscles. So as Lisa, one of my coaches, has pleaded with me, I stretched post run but worked in a squat workout to facilitate it. I did 4 sets of 50 air squats and in between each set, did some of my favorite static stretches. The early squats didn't get far down at all and were a struggle. However, as I neared the end of that first set, I was getting nice and deep. By the 200th squat, I was sweating and feeling the burn! It was an AWESOME way to cool down and limber up...and work out my flexibility and mobility.

- So do you have a Christmas Day movie tradition? More often than not, I end up in a movie theater on Christmas Day and I know I'm not alone. If I was, the movie makers of Hollywood wouldn't always have some major releases right ON Christmas Day. This year? Well, we have Into the Woods and Unbroken. American Sniper is not too far behind it on January 16th, the one I can't wait to see. However, Unbroken is definitely on the must-see list. I have a feeling my kids will want to see Into the Woods and Annie.

- Back on November 25th, a man whom I had only met once sent me a Facebook message asking if I could answer some questions about general health, exercise, etc. He has been consuming pop/soda from morning to night for years, never drank water, didn't exercise, yet had free weights and a pull-up bar in the basement like many Americans. Sound familiar? I told him some basics that included weening himself off the carbonated poison, cooking good food, the "couch-to-5K" program to begin running, and greatly starting and ramping up the water intake. That was November 25th. He checks in a few days a week to give me a status update and/or ask a question but as of two days ago, he's down 10 pounds! He's down to 16oz of soda a day, drinks a lot of water, is working out on his not-so-dusty-anymore workout equipment in his basement and doing the C25K program. I told him the holidays would be tough but he's doing it! WAY TO GO, J.F.!!!

- I used to hate on CrossFit...I did! Many will attest. Well, my wife and I stumbled on this short video series that is ongoing right now. It's being produced by CrossFit HQ and each video is about 10min long and so far, 7 videos have been published. It's dubbed "Fit to Teach" and is tracking 15 teachers and administrators from a school who began CrossFit (episode 1) and follows the progress. Of course, by episode 7, not all 15 stuck around but it's awesome to see what's happening to those who did. It's not just the physical, either. The ripple effect is cool to watch and inspirational. I highly recommend to all! Here's the link to the video series on YouTube.

- To say goodbye, I'll leave you with a very short quote that I grabbed from the Fit to Teach series. It's true, you know! Have a great week, everyone!

"Believe you can and you're halfway there!"


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