Thursday, January 29, 2015

CrossFit, the Games and Greed

As a newcomer to the CrossFit scene, it's clear that the big, international event that unites boxes across the globe is the Reebok CrossFit Games...call it the Championship Season of CrossFit. It's a leveling field across the globe that begins right in each individual box in the "Open" then moves to the Regionals and finally the Games in California. Online, there is a flurry of activity in the past few weeks as registration has opened for the CrossFit Games Open that begins at the end of February. The comments surrounding this opening is what fuels today's post...some thoughts on the Games and greed, an ever-present characteristic in our country.

My background has taken me through over 17 years of running in races from the 5K distance to the marathon to 100 mile races. I'm very familiar with fees to enter events and the landscape of the running scene has changed incredibly in those 17 years. What many of us refer to as "old school" races are out there but far less in numbers. By "old school," I mean a race that keeps registration fees low, focuses on the runners, and uses the entry fees to give back to an organization or even the park system, etc. where the event takes place. Unfortunately, the sport has largely been poisoned by big for-profit companies who have bought or created new events and focus more on the "experience" of the event and have insane registration fees for what you get. For example, two local marathons (Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon and the Akron Marathon) cost $90 and $85 and take place in April and September, respectively. The New York City Marathon costs $266. $266!!!! Furthermore, you have to get in via lottery! Tens of thousands run that marathon and they have to go to a lottery system every year due to the demand. I just don't get it. You know hotels feast on this so add that in there, too. Then we have the themed races like the Warrior Dash that cover a huge 3.2 miles and 12 obstacles. Lots of photos and a plastic helmet with horns are provided, too, for $58.77. That's for the one here in Ohio this May. (options to buy extra helmets are provided at registration) Now I may be hatin' a little on Warrior Dash. A lot of folks have fun at those and nearly 60 bucks isn't horrible but it's not for me. At the lower end of the running race spectrum is the local 5K. Outside of the small 5K I directed back in November, most 5Ks are $25 and up. Once you dip into the ultra world, that's where the biggest bang for your buck typically comes from. From a pure cost per mile perspective, a 50K ultra or a 50 miler often costs less than a road marathon yet the swag is normally very nice and tons of logistical support and FOOD throughout the race! So as you can see, there are lots of variances out there. For me, I dig a little deeper into a race before I send my money in. I care about the "why" of its existence and where the funds go. I have more of a purist mindset when it comes to running and keeping it that way. There are lots of ways to make a living out there...I'm just not a fan of building that living on the back of recreational runners.

Enter the CrossFit Games. Reebok and CrossFit are cashing in big time via the boom of CrossFit. There are now over 10,000 CrossFit "affiliates" across the globe...or boxes...or gyms. Pick your name! Those affiliates pay an annual fee to CrossFit and also gain different certifications via training by CrossFit, Inc. themselves. Is CrossFit a business? Sure is. But WHO is paying? Am I, a newbie CrossFit athlete writing a check to CrossFit like I do to run a 5K or 100 mile trail race? Where are MY funds going? Keep in mind that you are reading one person's opinion at one box in one little corner of this planet called Earth. For me, it really matters how I spend my money and where it ultimately ends up. I don't split hairs when it comes to big businesses like Starbucks, Target, Apple, etc. and how they spend. That's a monster that honestly, isn't worth my time. It's just not personal with them. Locally, though, I care so when I stroke a check to my local CrossFit affiliate, I need to believe in them, their processes, how they conduct themselves, and heck, their resume matters in this sport and where they come from...athletically speaking, of course. So no, I don't line the pockets of CrossFit, Inc. but I sure do support my local affiliate. They have to pay them, though, as well as keep up their insurance, pay the power bill, etc. just like every other company's overhead costs. Now I have paid CrossFit directly so far in my short 13 weeks of doing CrossFit. I have paid $20 to enter the CrossFit Open and just over the weekend, I paid another $10 to take the Judges Course. Even if I NEVER judge, that course taught me SO much that I now use daily when I work out. That was one of the best 10 bucks I've spent in a long time.

The Debate: I have to be careful when I read comments online. The "keyboard bravery" that people have can really get under my skin. Their ignorance, intolerance and uneducated opinions just wear me the wrong way. They speak of the mega-giant CrossFit rolling in the dough and how the Open is just another way to line their pockets. OK, remember back to how I set the stage for entry fees in the running world? I pay a fee, I run a distance, I finish, I get some stuff and I go home. Within the CrossFit Open, ANY athlete can compete for a whopping 20 dollars. $20. So what do you get? Each week, a workout will be announced (e.g. 15.1, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4, 15.5) and athletes will have until a certain day and time to upload their scores. Even the "Fittest Man on Earth" Rich Froning starts in the Open in his affiliate down south. At the Open, we are one massive community. Locally, our box will do the workouts together as a community. We'll sweat, encourage, and tough it out together. In 2011, 26,000 athletes signed up for the Open. In 2012, 69,240 signed up. In 2013, 138,000 signed up. In 2014? 209,585 signed up. As the numbers grow, so does the revenue stream into CrossFit HQ. Some basic math tells me that at $20 a person last year, that yields almost $4.2 million in just the Open alone. Hate the machine? Why? Let me encourage you to take a step back here and not balk at that so quickly.

Running 200 miles/month prior to CrossFit 5
days a week now and about 50 miles per month
CrossFit is absolutely what you make of it. My last post was a before/after photo after 11 weeks. Today, I'm midway through Week 13. Here's the photo again that I shared. I commented back then that I've met new friends, been challenged every day, and am seeing results that this nearly 42 year old has never seen before. When I look at a $20 bill as shown up above and the opportunity to "compete" in the Open and be a part of the Games themselves WITH the understanding that it is nothing more, at its heart, than an opportunity to challenge myself, expose my weaknesses, log my score and get ranked with everyone else, then continue on with my life, getting stronger and fitter every day. Oh yea, and understanding I will go no further than the Open, too. It's all a matter of perspective.

Further, there has been a lot written against a new feature in the Open this year: the Scaled option. This year, athletes will be able to elect the non-Rx (prescribed) workout and do a scaled down version. This athlete won't be able to compete for the Regionals (and that's ok!). This is what got me registered because I know I can't do a handstand pushup...a muscle up...and a lot of the weights required for Olympic lifts. I just can't. Now, I can elect either the Rx workout or scaled workout each week and give it my all...for 5 weeks. I.can't.wait! So why the fight against the Scaled option? Well, many point to the CrossFit money-making machine again. I have a feeling that this option will cause last year's $4.2 million to be dwarfed. They are opening it up to so many more people now. Tell me again how letting people challenge themselves at their local box in these workouts is bad? Tell me, too...do you have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iPod? Apple just posted their quarterly earnings yesterday. It was the biggest quarter EVER for any company. EVER!!!! For the first quarter 2015, Apple brought in $74.6 BILLION dollars in revenue and $18 BILLION in profit. For you non-economics folks, the $18 BILLION is their take home, essentially, after accounting for expenses. Wow. Furthermore, they have $137.1 BILLION in cash on hand. Zero debt and a mountain of money...more than Hewlett Packard makes in an entire year. Back to your iPhone or Apple whatever...  OK, I think you get my point.

Bottom Line: If CrossFit continues to foster an environment of fitness, inclusion of all who wish to grace local affiliates' doors and give it all, and puts on the CrossFit Games in such a way that still finds the Fittest on Earth while letting the newbies like me get a taste of the excitement and challenge, then I have NO issue. From a purely dollars and cents perspective in my pocket, it's a no-brainer. 20 bucks. 5 weeks. Stronger. Fitter. Better.

Monday, January 26, 2015

M-Cubed for 1.26.2015

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

- Last week of January 2015! Springtime...still out there in the distance but one step closer. I'll take it!

- Any chance you're a Parenthood fan? THIS Thursday is the SERIES finale. Six seasons and this is it. My wife and I came to watch Parenthood late but thanks to Netflix, we caught up and have watched season 6, the final season, right on schedule. It is a FANTASTIC show that has no comparison on network TV. We are really going to miss it and wish somehow that they'd keep it around. So many storylines, so many things to relate to, so "real" in many ways. To the Bravermans...we will miss you all!

- Oh mercy! As you know, I've been "competing" in a 4-week rowing competition called Row'd Royalty. As a new rower, it's been a steep learning curve but I've come a long way in a short period of time. Last Wednesday at 3pm, they announced week 3 of 4. It began with a 500m row then 30 burpees OVER the rower (jump or step over the rower before each one) then a whopping 2000m row. Wow. I eventually couldn't see because of the salty sweat filling my eyes...but I got it done. Week 4 will be announced today at 3pm and I'll have until 3pm next Monday to submit my score. I'm anticipating a LONG endurance row for the final workout.

- Got 1 minute to spare? Sure you do! This brand new, hot off the press commercial was just published a few days ago. You'll notice they Navy has dropped "A Global Force for Good" from the end and will continue from this point forward. This is a GREAT commercial as was the one that preceded it that launched this new campaign.


- On Saturday, I had a choice. Stay home alone while my family went in multiple directions or take one of my great friends up on an offer to join her at a workout out near Pittsburgh, PA at CrossFit Steel Town. I made the 90min drive for the 10am class and ended up being so glad I did. Typically, I don't know the workout before I show up on any given day but she was "kind" enough to share with me Friday night: Partner WOD that was 36 minutes long (WOW!) that went like this: 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. During rest, our partner worked. First it was 30 seconds of dumbbell snatches then 30 seconds of kettle bell swings then 30 seconds of 24" box jumps then 30 seconds of burpees then 30 seconds of wall balls then 30 seconds of rest. Our count built on each other. After 6 full rounds, we racked up 727 reps! Yea, it was a lung burner/heart thumper but we both loved it. I met her (Dannielle) in the ultra running scene several years ago and have stayed friends ever since. We were both deployed overseas together in 2011, just in different time zones and countries. My fondest memories are watching A Few Good Men at the same time on the Armed Forces Network...which they played ALL the time! After the workout, we along with her husband Eric got a bite to eat at the local Market District and caught up on life before the drive home. Awesome way to spend a Saturday! "Thanks, Ripper!"

- I'm always in a constant search for knowledge so I took an hour or so yesterday to get certified as a judge for the upcoming CrossFit Games. It was an online course that was well worth the 10 bucks. If nothing else, it taught me proper form and technique on things I do everyday. As for use, I can now be a judge at the upcoming 2015 CrossFit Open that'll happen locally and if I really wanted to travel to the Regionals, I could apply to judge there. (no intention)

- Seen American Sniper yet? If not, you have surely seen the news of it's absolute destruction of the box office. It's now the biggest hit EVER by an R-rated film and in revenue numbers, is millions of dollars ahead from any other movie it's competing with for "Best Picture" at the upcoming Oscars in late February. You've also probably seen the hate being spewed at this movie and Chris Kyle. Honestly, I have to be very careful at reading those stories or the comments on them, especially by supposed "friends" of mine in the social media sphere. It's ugly. One of the biggest debates is how his autobiography of the same name told of bar fights and a different side of Chris but the movie kept that out. I haven't read the book so I can't opine on that but SO many make him out to be evil. Was he perfect? Oh heck no. Did he save countless military lives? ABSOLUTELY. He took it personally to defend those he was ordered to protect, often from rooftops as the soldiers and Marines went from building to building trying to flush out the bad guys. Got some hate to spew? Spew it elsewhere and if not, please cut ties with me so I don't have to see your unpatriotic, hateful comments ever again. If you really hate that much, jump on a plane and leave...the country...forever.

- Own a foam roller? Many do yet have no clue how to use it. I have been one of those owners. I've owned a good one for years but never educated myself on how to use it until this past week. If you have one, please reference this video and learn 13 different exercises to properly and effectively use it.

- My quote of choice for today? General George S. Patton has something to say today once again. What do you live and/or fight for?

"Better to fight for something than live for nothing."

Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Running + CrossFit: Before and After 11 Weeks

Photos my box just posted but from back on December 9th.
Today marks the beginning of Week 12 and this morning was a big 'ol slice of humble pie. Ever had that? It's not the kind of pie you eat with manners and a fork. It's served over your head and you feel like the only one partaking in it. While I lifted more in this particular lift (the hang power clean) than ever before, it was dwarfed by most and even some of the women. Progress? Sure was and I'll be sure to learn from it. I have to. Yesterday was a heart-out-of-my chest workout. I actually joined the afternoon class where I knew no one due to a conflict in the morning and I nearly passed out during the strength portion of the workout. It involved back squats at 75% of our max but we held it for 5 seconds at the bottom of the squat...and we did that for 4 sets. I don't know if I was pinching a nerve or what during the final set but the lights nearly went out. During the workout (WOD) itself, it was an all-out go-as-fast-as-you-can workout that lasted 11 minutes. Burpees, jump rope and squats...I loved the burn!

So to the subject of today's post in my CrossFit Journal...Before and After. Let's see how long I can leave this post up. I'm certainly the one who is on social media a lot but definitely NOT the one who posts photos like this. I am stepping outside my comfort zone, for sure. I asked around and couldn't find someone to say "nope...shouldn't post that" so here it is. Below is a photo from earlier in 2014 or maybe even late 2013. I'm not 100% sure but regardless, it's representative of me prior to November 4, 2014 when I first stepped into a CrossFit box. One of my frustrations in running (where I had very, very few) is that I never physically changed. I essentially flat-lined as far as physical progress. I could run for hours....40 miles...62.4 miles...even some 100-milers back in 2009 but I never looked any different and I never shed weight (unless returning from a period of being sedentary). During the past several years, CrossFit came on the scene and no doubt, I hated on it...often snubbing my nose at it. I just kept running and LOVED it. I seriously did. I'm not sure the actual trigger for beginning in November but it was pushed forward by talking with friends of my ours who have been going together for the past year and progress they've made. Seeing them going together (read: spending more time together), them reaping benefits, and the personal accounts of community within the box was enough to go for the one free session and see what happens. That free session was on November 4th and I have missed very few weekdays since then. I'll never forget that first free session. All Lisa (one of the trainers) did was have us row, do air squats, and swing a kettlebell around...and create a nice puddle of sweat below us. It was a piece of humble pie like today was. I committed, wrote the membership check the next morning and today, Week 12 begins.

Outside of the 60min workout each weekday, I have reduced my running to 1-3 days per week and well under 100mi a month. Regarding diet, I eat "well" but don't follow any specific off-the-shelf plan like the Zone Diet or Paleo. I will say that a lot of what I eat resembles Paleo but overall, it's not. I have done things like having a goal of a gallon of water a day, completely avoid high fructose corn syrup, focus on natural from-the-earth foods and for meat, we recently purchased a quarter of beef that was grass fed and free of any antibiotics, etc. Do I cheat? Sure I do. I love those Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs/Trees/Hearts. I also love the occasional craft brew and trip to Outback Steakhouse where I indulge a bit. Overall, though, I "behave," work hard, still enjoy what I like...within limits. I don't measure anything (unless within a recipe), count calories, or anything like that. Back to the running, I'm still doing my best at keeping my endurance up and finished 10th overall at a trail 50K about two weeks ago and focusing on getting a solid 15-20 miler in over the weekends. I'm not sure what the future holds for future running events, though. I'm still a runner...but I'm debating on if I want to continue my previous trajectory. The two paths can't really totally co-exist since there are 23 other hours in my day and while I love this, it doesn't define me. I'm a husband, father, and sailor first. I love this new path, though...not just because of the photo below (although that does fuel the fire!), but for many reasons: Community, new challenges, "it never gets easier," more time with my wife of 22+ years, and these size 32 pair of jeans below. First.pair.ever. :)


Monday, January 19, 2015

M-Cubed for 1.19.2015

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

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday is celebrated today. He was an incredible man, leader, and beacon of hope for so many. Have you seen "Selma" yet that is in theaters now and has a few Oscar nominations? It's on my short list of movies to see and one I'd like to take my whole family to.

- Speaking of movies, I took my wife to see "American Sniper" over the weekend and apparently, so did a lot of America. It shattered by a LONG shot any other opening in January in history and was easily director Clint Eastwood's biggest opening of his career, easily eclipsing Gran Torino. Not too bad for being 84 years old! Out of 4 stars, I'd easily give American Sniper the full 4 stars. It's the kind of movie I think every American should be required to see. From what I've heard and read from those who knew Chief Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper portrayed him extremely well...even eery for some. I appreciated how they showed the impact on the family, the invisible wounds of war and didn't hold back when it came to show the absolute brutality of war. It is most definitely not for children. They need taught the lessons of this movie but they don't need the war imagery in their young minds just yet. If you haven't seen it...GO.

- It's almost embarrassing to call myself a runner this past week. I mean, I only ran ONE day and only for 6.2 miles. One thing I revealed yesterday on Instagram (handle: RTRSBM) was how my "love affair" with running is somewhat diminished. Why embarrassing? Well, I've been running marathons and longer since late 1997. It's been "my thing." For a guy who was always the last guy chosen in grade school in gym class during picking teams and the one bullied by the chief bully on campus in high school, finding something I could do well has been huge for me. I still do love running and enjoyed a shorts-wearing 42F 10K yesterday. It was windy, the rain was blowing sideways but I felt great. Throughout that run, I thought about what I could do afterwards and by the time I got home, the world of CrossFit cemented itself in my brain and I "cooled down" with 4 rounds of 50 air squats and 10 burpees in the living room. It was awesome. I'm really not sure what's going on in my head these days with regards to running and my goals. It's kinda scary, actually. One thing influencing me is my physical self. Today marks the end of Week 11 of CrossFit and tomorrow is Day 1 of Week 12. I am dead serious when I tell you that I see and feel more physical difference (feel and in the mirror) in the past 11 weeks than in over a decade of running. It's weird and awesome at the same time. That kind of progress physically, the new community I'm in, and making small gains along the way is only fueling me to move forward and keep giving it all I have. I'm also done comparing myself...I no longer struggle with that. MYSELF...that's the comparison. Compare to Day 1 Week 1 and to yesterday...that's enough. More to come later on this but it's safe to say it is impacting how I am planning out 2015. Several goals have been stated but only a few registered for. Stay tuned...

- Speaking of CrossFit, I just posted a week-in-review a few days back. See my whole series on my journey entering CrossFit here.

- If you haven't been around this blog for long and you have a dog at home, may I suggest reading this post from awhile back? It's our recipe on making homemade dog treats...good enough for human consumption and estimated at under a buck a batch. Oats, water, flour and peanut butter...that's all the ingredients. Seriously, you can't go wrong with these! Read it here.

- A week ago today, my girls had a snow day and the temps were just below freezing which meant sticky snow perfect for snowball fights and/or awesome snowman making. Below is their creation with Dad's twist. 'Ol Frosty decided to do a handstand and a little bit of non-eco-friendly black paint did a great job making the buttons, mouth, nose and eyes...and the buttons on his shoes. :) Sadly, I must report, he fell to pieces during church yesterday due to the rain and temperatures in the 40s. May he rest in peace!

- Before I go today, I first leave you with some comedy that will only cost you under 3 minutes of your day. Enjoy! ...then a quote. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

 

"The time is always right to do what is right."
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 16, 2015

CrossFit Week 11: A Week of Gains

If you count Monday, it'll wrap up 11 weeks into this new lifestyle of CrossFit...nearly 3 months. Since this week has really been a great one, I wanted to enter the weekend with a recap of the week. It wasn't a week of nothing but sunshine and rainbows but a week full of education, some new commitments, and hitting some new benchmarks. If you are thinking that I do nothing but this then think again. I devote 1 hour to it per day and if you count the commute, 1hr 22min. Do I think about it, often? Sure, I do. I also watch short 4-6min instructional videos online as well as I run across them. I have found one of the most appealing parts of this journey is the constant state of learning I find myself in. Luckily, there is a plethora of information out there in cyberspace. Plus, with the rowing online competition I'm doing, I really had a lot to learn. "About rowing? A lot to learn??" Sure did. The easiest way to debrief this week is to break it down by the day.

Thrusters
Monday: This is always back squat day...my favorite lift. I struggle a lot anytime the bar goes over my head, thanks to the 41+ years of doing no upper body strength training. The back squat uses the legs...no arms. The arms only hold the bar and weight behind your head on your shoulders. It wasn't a day to set any personal records and more of high reps at 70% of our max weight. Great workout and burn but what waited was something to drain plenty of energy and sweat. 21, 15, and 9 thrusters and burpees. Oh joy. The thruster is part of what CrossFit was founded on and involves thrusting the weighted bar over your head, locking out the arms and sticking head forward and then as it comes down to your shoulders, you go deep into a squat then thrust all the way back up again. (see image inset) Burpees are "like" pushups except your whole body touches the ground...you kinda fall to it and then stand up and jump. That's a burpee. The workout took me 8min, 1sec. Short, eh?! Yea, well, that was a killer! I didn't use the prescribed weight for the thrusters, though, since that's a "work in progress." My form was spot on, though...goal #1.

Tuesday: We did power cleans which is essentially lifting the weighted bar from the floor and catching it on your shoulders while the workout includes a lot of jump rope and hanging from a bar while trying to lift my knees to my elbows. Ultimately, the idea is to get my toes to the bar above but for now, I do the scaled version and do my best to get my knees in the same zip code as my elbows.

Wednesday: Well, the day began with my coach showing us new stretches to open up the shoulders while saying "Today is going to be a massive overhead day." Oh joy!!!!! Not. The strength portion of the workout was "1RM" which meant one rep max...try to lift your heaviest weight with proper form and movement. The movement was the Push Jerk. The weighted bar begins on your chest and you slightly bend your knees then thrust the bar straight overhead and push your head forward while straightening the knees. This was my first victory of the week. I had only done a light 65 pounds prior but got 1RM of 125 pounds. Quite happy with that! Then the workout, dubbed "Death by Push Jerk." Starting with the 1st minute, everyone does 1. Minute 2...you do two...and so on. The workout is over when you can no longer do them all within the prescribed minute. I got to the 10th round and only squeaked out 9 lifts. Arms were very wobbly and it was all I had. Two men in the class gained an audience as they battled it out into the SIXTEENTH round. That's a lot of jerks! :) Tough workout but I walked away happy with my effort and I really enjoyed it. Wednesday was also the day when Week 2 of Row'd Royalty was announced so I spent some time educating myself more on proper rowing technique and efficiency. I really wanted to do better on Week 2 of this 4 week rowing competition.

Thursday: Oh for the love of all that is good in this world...MORE overhead. This time, my most hated lift...the overhead squat. Arms spread wide on the bar and arms locked with it suspended overhead...then squat. For those (ME!!!) with poor shoulder mobility, this is very tough. It's one thing to do squats but to put the weight up there...yea, no. It's just so difficult. I could barely put any weight on at all. "Comical" is what I'm sure I looked like. I did the best I could then came the workout that had more of those in them (10 each) but mixed in 24" box jumps (10 each) and knees-to-elbow burpees (9 each)...all of that 4 times through. Those overhead squats were sucktastic. Enough said. I re-did those stretches from Wednesday and called it a day. Later on after work, I felt ready to return for the rowing workout for Week 2. This week, we have to row 400 meters, 1min rest, then 1200 meters. I did my very best to apply all I learned in the last week and hit all the marks. I lowered my revolutions per minute from 41 to 30 (as instructed by coach and friends) and leaned back at the end of the stroke. The result was more time to breathe on the recovery but still maintained close to the same pace as last week's fast-paced workout. The key is a full stroke with excellent posture and POWER in the pull. Everything must be done to not waste energy.

The last thing I did yesterday was sign up for another competition...THE competition that leads to the international CrossFit Games in California...call it the Olympics of CrossFit. The Games "season" all begins with the Open which takes place throughout the country and world locally at CrossFit affiliates. At the end of February and for 5 straight weeks, there will be a humbling workout announced each week and all athletes will complete it and enter their scores. Even the elite start here which is pretty darn cool. Those who excel in the Open will move to the Regionals and then to the Games...the place for the less than 1% elite CrossFitter. For the Open, I hope to learn a ton about myself and push myself harder than ever before. Last year, my gym fielded 60 athletes in the Open.

Friday: With any Friday comes some flavor of dead lift. It's simple...pick the weight straight up off the floor and stand up straight...while keeping the back straight and NOT arched. (very tough for me near my limit) Today, it was sumo dead lift. The chief difference is that the legs are wide apart versus being shoulder-width apart. My previous PR was 205 pounds. Today, I bested that by 20 pounds for 225 pounds three times. To put this in perspective, the gym record is 600 pounds but that guy is gone. Our strongest man there can push into the 500s. You should see him lift that weight! Dang. He can't fit another weight on the bar! For me...baby steps! (and not get hurt...so easy to hurt the back in a dead lift if done wrong) For the workout, it was a mixed bag of rowing, walking lunges, pike pushups, and jump ropes. I was sweating...just a touch at the end. Enough to leave my mark. :)

Afterwards, it was time to practice some more my kipping pull ups. As one of my 2015 goals, I need to consistently work on this. Plus, it's a part of SO many workouts. A strict pull up is one where you are hanging on the bar and pull yourself straight up, chin over the bar. Kipping is a motion where you use your body weight to propel yourself upwards and then pull yourself into the bar. Until now, I haven't been able to do it. Today, I got a few legit ones and had my wife record it. The video is on my Instagram account (username: RTRSBM) but here are a few screen shots. I'm super happy. I just need to learn, now, how to string several together.

I know it's not textbook or pretty but it's a beginning. Last week, I couldn't get my chin up there. That's progress.

Leaning into the weekend, I think REST is a fantastic idea...with some running and family time. I'm definitely going to see American Sniper at some point. Before I go, though...one thing I have never owned in my life is a pair of Size 32 jeans. Today, this showed up on my doorstep and guess what, they fit. How can I NOT love what I'm doing with results like this?! I was in a tight 34 when I started back in early November....then a 33...now this. Wearing them now. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2015

M-Cubed for 1.12.2015

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

- Did you watch the Golden Globes last night? You'll rarely catch me up late enough to see one of those shows through but I did catch some red carpet interviews and the first hour or so of the night. Typically, the Golden Globes are a pretty good indicator of what will happen at the Oscars and "normally," one movie takes the lion's share of awards, including "Best Picture." Not so this year! It's like the International Foreign Press got together and made sure they were fair and even with the dissemination of awards last night. Total mixed bag. I had a hunch that the new Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. movie "Selma" would clean up but it didn't. It only took home one or two awards. I haven't seen the majority of movies talked about last night but Selma is at the top of the list of ones I want to see. Here are all of the results.

- One disadvantage of cutting the cable over two years ago will be more pronounced tonight than ever. The college football National Championship game is being aired ONLY on ESPN so unless I want to hang out at a bar all night, I'm out of luck. It's a serious bummer that it can't be broadcast on network TV. BUT, ESPN has been kind enough to offer many other options...most for the cost of a cable subscription, of course. Here are there 12 different ways to watch/listen to the game tonight.

- With a full week of CrossFit Monday thru Friday last week, I couldn't wait for Saturday to run long, especially with the frigid temperatures all week. NOTHING was going to stop my run on Saturday. The day presented me with a -2F morning with a -16F windchill BUT beautiful sunny skies. I'll admit...I had some trouble keeping my fingers warm a few miles in and my Hammer Nutrition Heed electrolyte drink did turn into a slushy out there but overall, it was awesome. I expected 15 or so miles on a new route but I ended up with 18 awesome miles. Here are a few shots from the run.
Crossing Mogadore Reservoir, ice fishing was going down! No way you'd catch me on that ice!
Priceless narcissistic selfie, eh?! I had to melt the lashscicles just so I could see from time to time. (a selfie shadow, too!)
 - In case you missed it, I published my 9th post in my Running + CrossFit series, here at my 10 weeks complete point. See them all with the newest first HERE. As I wrote a few days back, Tabata Times published my "Top 8 Things" post and it continues to be shared and read throughout the country. The most common comments I've seen resonate with many other CrossFit newbies. It's awesome to watch it spread!

- A few years back, my wife and I went on a new path of living with less. Over and over and over again, we went through shelves and closets and even had our kids do the same. We've never donated, given away or garage-saled so much "stuff." You can really tell on Christmas morning where the view for me growing up was presents stacked halfway up the tree but for our kids? It looks kinda scarce! We keep it simple, feel bad late on Christmas Eve but then have awesome confirmations from our kids when they love what "little" they got and are fully thankful. I read this quote this morning in one of the minimalist feeds I subscribe to. It's a good punch in the gut if you read it then take a wander around your house.

"Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” —Peace Pilgrim

- Today is going to be short, sweet and to the point and I'll end with this. I ran across this photo and it's a few months old now but relevant and timeless. Fort Hood is a huge Army military base in Texas. In November, they put out a display again to represent the service-members who have given their lives in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. About 7,000 single boots...each with the name of the fallen member. If that doesn't rock you a bit inside, I honestly don't know what will. These are our brothers, sisters, moms, dads, neighbors, friends, aunts and uncles. Our nation's sons and daughters. Please remember the families left behind, remember the ones who survived but struggle today with the wounds of war and remember the ones still in the fight this very moment. Freedom is so very not free...it is paid for. (read a story about this memorial here)



Have a great week and STAY WARM!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Running + CrossFit: 10+ Weeks Complete

Hard to believe...Tuesday will start week 11 since I first sipped the Kool-Aid of CrossFit. I seriously could post here daily after each workout but that's way too much time to devote here. Now if blogging was my job like some of those mommy-bloggers out there (and being a mom), I could do that and I promise, those posts would be entertaining. The emotion and feeling of "what just happened" after every workout is always a trip. Good, bad, fantastic, awful and everything in between. Overall, though? Awesome. My last post on CrossFit a week ago was about the top 8 things I learned in my first 8 weeks. I posted that in conjunction with submitting it to Tabata Times...an online article website, mostly focused on CrossFit. I had applied to be a writer for them and was accepted and this post was my submission. Well, they accepted it then blast it out on all of their channels, including Facebook and Twitter, even pulling quotes out and tweeting them. Earlier today, they posted it again and said it was their 3rd most popular article of the week! What's been super cool is clicking on the "shares" from the original post. CrossFit boxes across the country and even the U.K. have been sharing it on their own pages with their members. Like I posted earlier, it makes me downright giddy! :) (image here on the right/above is their Facebook post from earlier today...click on it to read it better...and the photos in the online version of the article aren't mine...they are stock photos)

Back to the actual CrossFit: Last Saturday's 50K in West Virginia was another good test of where and how CrossFit is impacting my endurance and ability to go long in ultra running. After cutting my monthly mileage by far over 50% since September, I was rolling the dice with that mud-pie of a 50K. Finishing 10th overall and under 6 hours and a recovery nearly non-existent is enough of a confirmation to me that I'm on the right track. I was back in the box on Monday morning and had a great 10th week. One thing I learned big time was post-race. I did several squats and really stretched myself out. I could barely touch the ground after the race but after squatting next to the car, I stretched everything out and I recovered that way. Come Monday morning, my flexibility was awesome where in the past, that's been a problem...especially post race.

2015 Goals: I ran these by one of my trainers and then wrote them up on the board at the gym, more for accountability than anything else. There is a large dry erase board dedicated to nothing but annual goals (see right). To let you know where I am now, I can't do a single kipping pull up...but I'm practicing almost every day. For the back squat, I'm at 195 right now. Double unders? I can do ONE. I just can't get them going and it's costing me a lot more work in workouts where they are prescribed because I have to triple the number and do single jump ropes. Hand stand push ups? Nada. That's why the number is so low. :) Lofty goals and I will have to apply myself and work hard to get them. So different than setting a goal to do "x" number of races or whatever. That's easy. This? Not so much. But, I know I can do it.

10 weeks in and physically, I can't prove it but I'm feeling in some of the best shape of my life. It has always boggled my mind how I can consistently run over 200 miles a month, lots of ultra marathons, have many, many days of calorie deficits, eat pretty good, and never lose a pound or an inch around my waist. Strong legs but those darn love handles around my waist? Permanent...or so I have always thought. While you won't see me posting half-naked photos of me on my blog like others, I will share this one selfie from yesterday. This is the Navy's khaki uniform...an all-polyester uniform that has zero give. It is the ultimate truth-teller in my closet full of uniforms. It has always been snug since I bought it some 7+ years ago and more so in the last year. So yesterday as I buttoned that internal button then hooked the front, I had play...I had room...slack...like never before. Dang, I was happy. Now THAT was confirmation...maybe even more than the respectable 50K finish. From talking to others and reading several articles, my understanding is this: Over time, our bodies simply get used to what we're doing and when we do the same thing forever and ever, the results just fade away. I didn't fall out of shape, but I wasn't burning any fat off my body. One of the principles of CrossFit is "constantly varied" and always changing. Every day is totally different and different muscle groups are always being used...and muscle is being built. This growth of muscle increases the metabolic rate and the end result is the building of muscle and burning of fat...in places there has never been a "fire" before! I've never washed a pair of jeans hoping they'd shrink...until this past week. Yea. I got into a size 33 from American Eagle a month or more ago (a first for me) and they are quite loose. That spare tire is going away, abs are appearing and my upper body is developing for the first time in my life. It's just more motivation to keep charging forward.

One of the coaches at All Heart suggested a rowing competition recently called "Row'd Royalty." It's being run by Diablo CrossFit way out west and is an online competition. The only requirement is to be a member of a CrossFit affiliate which I am. It's a 4-week competition on the Concept 2 rowing machine and the workout is posted at Noon each Wednesday and right now, we're in Week 1. I joined a few days ago (13 bucks) and the first workout was 1 min on, 30sec rest and do that 6 times...a timed interval workout. After setting the machine up yesterday afternoon after a deadlift workout in the morning, I did it. The image here shows the results. For each interval, you can see the meters rowed. I have asked several people to critique this and the glaring problem is the s/m column. That number is way high. The goal is to be under 30. S/M is strokes per minute. For one, I had the resistance too low on the rower and I'm rowing wrong. I got a lot of help from my "unofficial trainer" in Pittsburgh and I'll be practicing next week what she taught me. More power from my legs and how and when I pull is what I'll be changing. This Wednesday, workout #2 will be posted. I'm pretty jazzed to be doing my first competition, even if only online. My blood flows even better through competition so I'll take it!

Overall, I love it. I'm eating it up and trying to learn as much as I can. It's not dominating my life...heck, I'm only there an hour a day, but I do take some time to watch YouTube training videos and read articles here and there about getting better, improving form, and other miscellaneous stories. There is so much to learn and I'm a dry sponge ready for it. I've done a whole lot better on the comparison front as well. I quickly identified that comparison in the CrossFit box is death. So when a fellow female athlete at the box is lifting the same or MORE than me, I often joke about it because I know she sees it, too! Heck, we're family, right?! I have been focusing much less on how much weight I'm moving and more about my form. That doesn't mean I'm going "light" on purpose but I'm putting on the most weight I can withOUT compromising form. The last thing I want to happen is injury so I'm often one of the last people finishing a workout, especially when it involves lifting the weighted bar over my head because I am weakest there and form is critical. While many fly through those movements, I often reset myself and do my best to properly execute the movement...as fast as I can while maintaining form. In time, the weight and speed will come...I am confident. Speaking of family, there is definitely something special about building friendships early every day and going through the grueling workouts together. Everyone is a different age, different shape, has different goals, has different stressors in their life, is physically endowed with more/less than the other, but in there, we're on equal and level ground. When we all give 100% together, it's awesome. It's awesome to root each other on and motivate each other to not give up and charge on...and give some kudos after it's over. This hand photo above is from yesterday. It was dead-lift Friday and a fellow CrossFitter snapped our chalked hands and growing callouses. The "soft" hands at the top are mine. :) "Thanks for the pic, Laura!" (Laura kicks my butt often.)

To close out this post, I thought I'd share this post from the WOD Nation Facebook page from earlier today. It is SO true and this is something seen quite often after a workout...not every day but often. It made me chuckle.

Monday, January 5, 2015

M-Cubed for 1.5.2015

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

- Tree is down, Christmas decorations stored, but the snowmen and decorations of the winter season remain. So far (knock on wood), it's been a mild winter but a long road still remains up here in the snowbelt of Lake Erie. Still, Spring is coming...

- In case you missed it, Saturday's Frozen Sasquatch 50K race report was posted Saturday night before I hit the sack. Another fantastic West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners event! Results were posted last night and I was 3rd in my age group of men, ages 40-99 and 10th overall. The 25K finishers were over double in number and there were about 30 less 50K finishers as compared to last year. I'm not sure why because the race was sold out. It's possible that the event doesn't limit the number of 25K slots that are sold. Often, races limit the 25K entries to ensure the race truly remains an ultra marathon. I also know a few runners that were registered for the 50K and dropped to the 25K distance.

Source: http://www.icasualties.org/oef/
- So with the conclusion of 2014, we supposedly marked the end of the Afghan war. Believe it? I don't. The Taliban is still on the offensive and we still have sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen in harm's way. Once they get home, they can call it anything they want but until then, we're still in the fight...and we need to bring our men and women home now. Ironically, 2014 was the bloodiest year for Afghan local security forces as they began taking the lead against the insurgents. Since 2001, 3485 international coalition troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan with the U.S. absorbing the majority of those deaths at 2356. For what? That is the subject of great debate...but won't be debated here. Where there was widespread support as we hunted the masterminds of 9/11 to invade, support has greatly decreased over the years.

- On the way home from West Virginia yesterday, we were listening to NPR and I heard this TED talk from September 2013 on the story of David and Goliath. I have heard this story countless times for 30+ years. I was a bit skeptical when the story began...I mean, a Biblical story on NPR?! Well, it was VERY good and I watched the talk again when I got home. I absolutely love when someone tells a story from a long time ago or from a different culture and puts it all in context so we, the watcher/listener/reader can understand it better. It can and does literally change everything. Here it is and I highly recommend it. It's story is so transferable into how we approach everyday life and challenges.


- Week 9 about to wrap up in the world of CrossFit. Today should be quite interesting given I pounded and shredded by quads and hammies just two days ago. Hips are still a bit tender. Did I mention that Monday's are "Back Squat Mondays?!" Still, though, I'm anxious to get back at it. Honestly, I felt pretty darn good when I woke up Sunday morning which is par for the course as far as my recoveries go. Usually, I need a good night's sleep after taking my Hammer Nutrition Recoverite immediately after the finish of the race and then I'm good to go the next day. It's both scary and exciting to start each new week of CrossFit because we really have no flippin' idea what is going to be thrown at us. We were warned last week...it's going to be a tough week.

- A week ago, I wrote an article for Tabata Times which is an online article/journal website mostly for CrossFit. They are scouting writers and I applied to be one...and was accepted. I'm not sure where people will find it but it has gotten just a tad bit of traffic. I also posted it as a blog post just after M-Cubed a week ago so you may have missed it. If so, it's titled "Top 8 Things I've Learned in my 8 Weeks of CrossFit" and you can read it here.

- I'm a sucker for documentaries and over New Year's break, I watched another one on Netflix called A Place at the Table. Excellent and "safe for the whole family." Actually, I'd watch it with everyone including your kids if you have them. It's about hunger in our country and is raw as it goes into the lives of people just trying to get food on the table and how the system is so broken. I especially appreciated the contrast that they made near the end with a single mom living on food stamps and then got a job that disqualified her from food stamps and where she ended up at the end of each week in each situation...that hit home big time.

- "Good morning, Carl!!!" (Carl came up to me after he finished the race on Saturday and introduced himself. He said he was a big "fan" of M-Cubed!) "Great job out there, Carl...recover well!" :)

- We have this large white dry erase board at the CrossFit gym that is reserved for 2015 goals. The idea is that we name our goals that will be vetted by the trainers to make sure they're reasonable and challenging "enough." I drafted up a few and shared them with my trainer and he thought they were good goals with a one year horizon to accomplish. Today, I plan on writing them on the board and are as follows:
  1. 21 kipping pull-ups; What they are
  2. Back squat 250 pounds (I'm at 195 now and I weigh 200-205 pounds.)
  3. 20 unbroken dubs (double-unders); What they are
  4. 5 HSPU (hand stand push ups); What they are
Have some goals for 2015? Be sure to 1) Write them down, and 2) Tell someone! Gotta have that accountability to help keep you moving forward!

- Before I sign off on this first Monday of 2015, I'd like to share just a few photos that were snapped at the race on Saturday and were uploaded last night. Photos courtesy of Todd Bolgrin/Life on Paws Photography.
Mile 8.1 as I began the 2nd giant climb of the day
Just seconds after my 5hr, 50min, 13sec finish at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K
Mindy and me post-finish with our slices of wood...aka: branded finisher awards! One of a kind!
Have a GREAT week, everyone and Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Race Report: Frozen Sasquatch 50K

Last year, I ran this race for the first time and after a great experience, I signed up right after registration opened last year. Out of town races are really attractive once I've done them before because it makes the logistics so much easier like where to stay, where to eat, etc. Last year, race conditions were a lot different. We had 9F at the start and it warmed a whopping 40F during the race. This year, the forecast changed daily over the last week but always included warm, unseasonable temperatures and rain. I got into town early on Friday and picked up my shirt (a Patagonia 1/4 zip next-to-skin tech shirt...great as a base layer) and bib number at Robert's Running Shop in Charleston, WV and while there, got great advice on dinner. Once we got checked in to the hotel near Kanawha State Forest, we headed out to Lola's. It's a pizza shop in the middle of a residential neighborhood IN an old house. Really good! Super fresh ingredients and we first enjoyed a salad with roma tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, a lightly fried square of gouda cheese...oh my. Before crashing for the night, we sat poolside while the kids played and caught up with friends who used to live in Ohio and were in town for the race.

This morning, the rain was already falling before we left the hotel and it was 37F with a forecast still predicted to head north to the upper 50s. Shorts, my brand new Hammer Nutrition tech tee, 5 Hammer Gels, 6 Hammer Endurolytes Extreme and a bottle of Heed equipped me with all I needed. About 10min prior to the start, we received final instructions from race director, Mike Dolin, and a prayer...and the downpour began. Shortly after the "amen," we were off.

The Sasquatch 50K and 25K consist of one or two 25K loops and are most easily understood if you divide the loop into 4 pieces. The race begins with about 1/4 mile run down the run before hopping on the trail and immediately, a half mile climb begins without a break. "Welcome to the Sasquatch!!!" The first section is 5.1 miles and the other 3 are around 4mi each...just a bit less in each segment. Other than that major climb and some other climbs in that first section, there is also a "slicker-than-snot" downhill through the hemlocks just prior to AS #1. In the second section, there is another climb followed by 1-2 miles of road before appearing at AS #2...the best aid station, in my opinion. They were cheering like the finish which definitely put a smile on my face. Oh yea, the sasquatch was out there! Near some ledges, he was lurking and grunting...apparently disturbed by all the runners out there. I almost stopped for a photo op...but didn't. Seeing him sure did put a smile on my face. (Nice touch, Mike!) After AS #2, another very steep climb awaits. I was dreading that one both times today. Getting to AS #3 is a huge landmark, in my opinion. Only 4-ish miles remain to the finish for the 25K'ers and halfway point for us doing the 50K...AND, no real climbs. Somewhere around a mile to mile and a half to go to AS #4, a series of switchbacks begin that are rocky and steep. Oh how foolish it would be to not keep your eyes on the trail here! Eventually, I arrived at AS #4, refilled my Heed and grabbed my first real food of the day...well "sorta" real: PRINGLES! So so good. Other than that, I spent next to no time in the aid stations and only fueled with what I was carrying. I did have a drop bag here for the "just in case" things like a need to change a shirt or re-lube any areas that started to chafe due to the rain. Since I had zero physical issues (except ready for a shower, thanks to the caked on mud on my legs), I just got going on loop #2 while the bulk of runners around me headed towards their 25K finish. Course map is below. Nice elevation map, eh?! See that nearly vertical spike? That would be that ugly "hill" after leaving AS #2. It's maybe just a sliver more in climb than the initial climb that starts the race.
The 2nd loop was humbling. I finished the 1st loop 13 whopping minutes faster than last year. That's almost a minute faster per mile. The thing is...I was tired and knew I would not repeat that time nor even come close to it. Earlier this week at All Heart CrossFit, we did overhead squats. It was a serious burn, especially doing it for the first time ever at only 9+ weeks into doing CrossFit. I rested on Thursday/Friday from CrossFit but I still felt that workout today on the climbs. Anyway, I got moving and had only one guy pass me on the entire second loop. The power in my uphill climbs just waned from the first loop but I kept moving with a purpose. Arriving at AS #2, the roar of the aid station workers once again put a smile on my face. Right away, this conversation:
  • Timekeeper: You guys are really chasing each other out there!
  • Me: Huh?
  • Timekeeper: Yea, you're 10th overall!
  • Me: Wait a minute, that's impossible. This guy (pointing at myself) never does that.
  • Timekeeper: Look! (shows me his clipboard)
  • Me: Oh I know, I am just never anywhere near the front. I'm typically a mid-packer...but thank you!
I look over his shoulder and I see the next runner. Oh geez...now I'm the hunted! Better get moving. The runner had a bright orange hunting hat on...easy to spot through the woods. While I don't really care about placement of 10th overall vs. 11th, the competitive blood in me charged...and what waited for me? That stupid climb on tired legs! I was off...and that climb sucked, no doubt. No nice way to put it. All I cared about was getting to AS #4 because I knew the climbing was over and eventually, the fast, technical switchbacks were waiting for me...my forte. That section of the course wasn't muddy and I love to dance over those jagged rocks while flying downhill. Knock on wood...I've never bit it within terrain like that. While I'm not a fan of looking over my shoulder, I looked...a LOT during the 2nd half of this 2nd loop...always looking for that orange hat. Man, woman...it didn't matter. As I was getting close to those switchbacks, I took a look at my Garmin and it read 5hrs, 44min. I let out a sigh because after my first loop being much faster than last year, I thought a course PR (personal record) was "easily" in reach. Well, I ate a big piece of humble pie here because last year, I ran a 5:47:49. Not gonna happen this year. I still didn't let up and figured I'd still do my very best and see where I end up. I got back down to AS #4 took the turn towards the finish at the other end of two parking lots. My wife and girls saw me and sprung into action and cheered me in to the finish. (She snapped the photo above just prior to the finish.) At the finish, the clock read 5:50:13...2min, 24sec behind last year's race. Unhappy? Not at all. I left it all out there! BUT, did I really finish 10th overall? I asked the finish line timekeepers who did verify it...I did! The official results aren't out yet but they mentioned that I was 2nd or 3rd in my age group, too. Regardless, I was on top of the world with that finish. I'm also curious where I end up in the Master's Division...those over 40 years old. I'm guessing 2nd or 3rd as well. Afterwards, I grabbed some finish line food, snapped some photos and waited for my friend to finish before heading back to the hotel to shower up and wash all the mud down the shower drain. Here are some other photos from the finish. Sorry, no course photos this year. With the rain at the start and prediction for more of it all day, the phone stayed nice and dry back at the hotel.


Unique, eh?! The race director had a brand made and he takes slices of trees and brands them. One of a kind!

Overall, another first class event put on by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners. I've now run in five events of theirs and in every case, it's been a fantastic experience. The aid stations were well stocked, the course was extremely well marked and simply not a thing missed. I just wish I saw some of my WVMTR friends more often. Recommend it? Of course.

As an aside, today marked another big milestone for me. Back in 1997, I ran my first marathon at the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA. Today was my 60th finish of a marathon or longer. This made my 32nd ultra marathon finish and I have 28 marathon finishes. (The full chronological list is at top of this blog under the "Racing Resume" menu.)  Ironically, I didn't run my first ultra until 2007 and I have more finishes, even though I started running marathons 10 years earlier. The future? I thought a lot about that out there today and posted the following on Facebook just a few hours ago: "Had a lot of alone time (almost 6hrs worth) today to consider my goals and the "why" behind them. I think that sometimes we/I/you pick goals because we think others expect us to...but if our heart isn't in it, perhaps a rethinking of said goals should be done. Passion is fleeting and moves from this to that over time...our goals should follow suit." Today was a blast and I gave it my everything...I'm certainly passionate about the sport. However, my mind did wander quite a bit about that passion moving forward. I want "it" to lead me. Otherwise, joy will be absent no matter how far or fast I run. For now, the Sasquatch who continues to reign as the world champion in the game of hide-n-seek, delivered plenty of joy...and I'm better and stronger because of it.