Monday, March 30, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.30.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Susan Husband,

Monday, March 23, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.23.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

CrossFit: Week 20 Almost Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.16.2015

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

- Forecast of 66F today. Let me say that again: FORECAST OF 66F TODAY!!! Welcome, Spring!

- It was a tough last week during my 1hr at the CrossFit box each morning, but I did make the very best of it. Back on Tuesday, we did a Hero WOD named "Danny." Hero workouts are named after fallen servicemembers, law enforcement or firemen. Daniel "Danny" Sakai was a SWAT officer who died in the line of duty in 2009. Believe it or not, in my 19 weeks of CrossFit, not one single Hero WOD had been programmed in. We'd done some of the benchmark workouts that have names but not actual Hero WODs. Also in those 19 weeks, I had not done a workout "Rx" which means doing it precisely as prescribed with the set weight and movements without scaling it down. For Danny, the workout consisted of: 20min with as many reps as possible of: 30 box jumps at 24" (I could do that), 20 push-presses at 115lbs and 30 pull-ups. Well, I could push press 115lbs, but could I do it that many times and over again in those 20min. 20 minutes is a long WOD, too. As for those pull-ups, I had never done a WOD with pull-ups without using a band to assist. I had been practicing, though. I looked at the board and inside thought: "If I'm ever going to do it Rx, today is the day for a Hero WOD. I walked outside to get a cell signal so I could read about "Danny" and his story because for me, I wanted to honor his's the whole point of the Hero WOD. When I came back in and it was time for the workout, I loaded my bar but did so where I could pull some weight off if need be and I staged a band for pull-ups in case I couldn't do them. Was I in over my head? Perhaps. I wanted to try, though, and take myself to that darker mental place and emerge victorious. As the workout counted down to start, no mention was made about "Danny" or his sacrifice but in my mind, I reminded myself who this was for...and for me. I began and after finishing the box jumps and beginning the push presses, I heard my coach say "that's pretty heavy" as he walked by. "Yea, I know" is what I thought but kept working. I finished all 20 and did break them up in order to not lose my form and get hurt. I moved on over to the pull-up bar and started 30...unassisted pull-ups. I never did more than 3 at a time but I DID THEM ALL UNASSISTED. Chin breaking the horizontal plane 30 times. 1 round down but it was taking me much longer than the others. I quickly got back to my box and began round 2 and got through 30 more box jumps without a problem but I knew after those pull-ups and first 20 presses, that second round of push-presses was going to be not-so-pretty. I got working and got through another set of 20. However, I mixed up the "how" of how I got it locked out overhead, split-jerking it a few times to do it...totally authorized. With the 20min ticking down fast, I moved to the pull-up bar and got 4 more in before time was called. I finished with a score of 1 round plus 54 reps (1+54). Most in the class scored 3 or 4 rounds complete so of course, I was last...but I DID it Rx and did my first ever WOD with unassisted pull-ups!!! YEA! I headed on over to tell my coach and in went the proverbial needle into the balloon when instead of "good job on Rx, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and unassisted pull-ups!" I got "It's not about going Rx. Look how much work you missed out on." The best thing I could do was walk away because no good would come out of what was stewing in my mind. "I just busted my butt over there and didn't give up. I broke through a barrier! I did something I had never done! I did "Danny" honorably!" Anyway, so began a day and night full of frustration, anger, and talking to others about the workout. Looking back 6 days later as I close out Week 19 today, I regret nothing and would change nothing. To have scaled "Danny" while comparing myself to the rest of the class would've been the wrong and cowardly move. I didn't do it to compare myself. I did it for ME and to honor the Hero...just how I'm going to do the ultimate Hero WOD "Murph" on Memorial Day. "Murph" is a 1mi run then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then ends with a 1mi run. LT Michael Murphy was a Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life for his fellow SEALs and for my country. He WILL be honored this Memorial Day. For last Tuesday, though, it was for Danny and I regret nothing.

- Are you winded yet? Sorry...but that last bullet has been brewing for days now and was intended for a "CrossFit-only" post but never happened. The rest of the week was pretty good and I set a new sumo deadlift PR on Friday at 265 pounds then ran home 12 miles after the chipper workout that I LOVED. It was a cool-crisp morning but I was blessed with running east the whole way and watching the sun rise from First Light through sunrise. Here is the photo I captured along the way...can't get that in the box, now can I?! It felt awesome to put some distance on my legs again and I felt great, even after the workout.

- We watched another episode yesterday in the "Wounded" series on NetFlix, episode #4 and called "Jason." Jason served for only a year in the Army and is now 100% disabled. He was immediately sent to Iraq back in 2006 and was hit by an IED. At the time of his injury and stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was the most severely injured/disabled in the state of Maryland and his parents could've left him with the VA...forever. Instead, they brought him and are his caregivers. Two years into his recovery, the VA cut him off from physical therapy and his recovery. He lost his left leg, severely injured his right leg and both arms, suffered TBI and our country has abandoned him. It just stuns me when I see a real-life current story like this. By the end of the short 20-25min episode, they ended up on Capitol Hill with a congressman telling the story and advocating for change, while he shells out his and his parent's money for therapy and other services. What exactly does "Never Forget" mean to people in our country and who make our laws/policies?

- Thanks to my long writing up above, I am running short of time now so this will be coming to an abrupt end here. Looking forward, I'm 26 days days from needing to hop in the car and head to Virginia for a 50 miler. Do I have recent long LONG runs in for this? No. Will I be relying heavily on muscle memory and my new-found fitness in CrossFit? Heck, yes. In the meantime, I'm going to get some more runs in and hopefully at least one 4-5 hour trail run in our national park. After Friday's 12, I got in another 9.1 yesterday that began as a goal for 5 or 6. It was a run more mentally needed than anything else. While I run less these days, there are non-physical benefits to running that CrossFit can't and won't ever provide and for those benefits, I hope to never stop running. Before I leave you today, I'd like to share just this one quote from one of our great former presidents. It fits me perfectly and how I live my life.

Have a great week, everyone! For me, it's time to do the CrossFit Games Open 15.3 workout this morning...pray for me! :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

M-Cubed for 3.9.2015

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

- March! Time change yesterday, sunset AFTER 7pm, I just love this time of year. No matter what the day brings, we are all moving towards Spring, the snow melt, warmer temperatures, shorts weather and a driveway free of 3" of ice...well, that's my house if not yours. Just awesome. We will still get some snow, I'm sure, but the big picture is bright. Enjoy it!

- Week 2 of the CrossFit Games Open is complete! 3 more weeks to go. Last Thursday night, we huddled yet again on the couch to watch the Open announcement, this week from Austin, TX, and it turned out to be a repeat of last year's 14.2 workout...overhead squats and chest-to-bars. Well, if you were to be a fly on the wall and watching me for the past 19 weeks, you'd know I have garbage flexibility and the overhead squat is my #1 lifting weakness. Many will say that this movement is a true test of overall strength, skill and flexibility. The move starts with the bar on the ground and you must get it high overhead where you begin downward travel. Your quads must break parallel before you come back up. At the top, arms must be locked out and hips forward. That's one. Last Tuesday, my coach actually forbid me from putting weight on my 45lb bar. He told me that I hadn't even broke parallel with ONLY the bar so there wasn't any way I was loading the bar until that happened. (sucker punch!...but the right answer...form/function first then weight second) Then, the Open announcement two days later announcing that very movement. I am doing the scaled version of the Open and for this, the weight required was 65 pounds so two 10lb bumper plates on my 45lb bar. After a high rep dead lift workout Friday morning, I practiced the lift without weight and then with it. I did it...and I looked forward to Saturday morning 15.2 heat with the rest of my gym's family. The second part of the workout was doing chest-to-bars that was scaled down to chin over bar pull-ups. I have been using a band for pull-ups but a week ago was able to finally do a strict pull up with no band. What I DIDN'T practice was literally pushing my chin OVER the bar. Instead, I practiced just going high enough to break the horizontal plane. What a difference to push my chin over! I was only able to squeak out 2 chin-over-bars. So when some took several minutes to do many, many reps of 15.2, my day ended in 3 minutes with 6 overhead squat reps and 2 legit chin-over-bar unassisted pull-ups. No regrets! It's all I had and a week prior, I couldn't break parallel in the overhead squat. The Open isn't about competing with's about exposing one's weaknesses and giving it everything I have..and learning/growing from it. As they say, CrossFit isn't about specializing in any one thing, it's about getting strong across the board in everything. Next year when these squats and chest-to-bars show up, I'll be able to do them and more of them.

- A brand new 12-part series was recently premiered on NetFlix from the Wounded Warrior Project called "Wounded: the Battle Back Home" and "is an exclusive documentary series that brings to life this generation’s injured service member experiences as they battle both the visible and invisible wounds of war. Watch these inspiring individuals navigate their post-war lives in a society that struggles to understand them and a system that is failing to support them." We watched the first 3 over the weekend and I highly recommend this series. Each episode is far short of 30min long so it won't be a big hog of your time. It's safe for the family, too. Each episode is named after the veteran's story being told during that episode. Here is the trailer for the series. Please watch!

- I didn't write M-Cubed last Monday so I never did share about last weekend. My wife and I had the privilege yet again to host a marriage retreat. This time, it was in Amish Country and we hosted 22 couples. We began Friday night and wrapped up before dinner on Saturday. It was a really good time from all reports and all of the surveys that have come in so far. In fact, 100% of respondents said that they'd come back for another one! That's awesome to hear! The photo here is a collage of the weekend: a frozen tundra outside, "RefineUs" seminar material to guide us through, and our accommodations at the Carlisle Inn: Sugarcreek where the retreat took place. GREAT time!

- It was a pretty good week last week during my work days. I had the privilege of swearing three different people back in the Navy. While I normally work with those who aspire to be Naval Officers, I also help out the enlisted side of recruiting by swearing people in. In this case, three different sailors who had previously served decided to return...just as I did back in September 2007. Each with a different story and reason but all back in uniform. The first one was the coolest as he brought his grandfather with him who is a World War II Navy veteran. Of course, he had his signature hat designating such, hearing aids in both ears and a cane to help him along. Before he left, I gave him an American flag/Navy flag lapel pin and he thought I was only showing it to him and not giving it to him. It made his day...well, not exactly. Watching his grandson take the oath made his day but the pin was the icing on top, I guess. It was an honor to meet him, thank him, and shake his hand.

- Last Thursday, I dug through my "running folder" in the archives of my basement. There are some things in my past that I do my best to navigate around, other things I have no recollection of, and others I remember fondly. Back then, I saved all of my bib numbers and in those days, races published big booklets of finisher results and mailed them out. I have a lot of those. Here is one that I found and even the medal has some green verdigris on it. The medal is 16 years old now and wow, so much life has happened since then! The travesty unseen here is what I was wearing. SHORT shorts in bright purple! I found a handful of photos from this race and rolled my eyes at each one. I was only 26 years old back then, it was marathon #4, but I still ran a respectable 3:49:50. As I look at this one last time this morning, I really did hold on to that "pear shape" of a body forever...until now. So much has changed since this photo...physically and in life. I don't know him!

- Any chance you caught Mr. Moon this past week? For two nights, he was full and if you caught him rising from the east, he was bigger than ever, especially on that second night. Just brilliant! We had two nights of clear skies, too, so we got to sleep with the backyard illuminated and light pushing around the curtains all night long. I LOVE those nights and look forward to days soon where we can leave the windows open yet again.

- Yesterday, I had a most fantastic morning run. I slept in (code for 6:30am) and timed my morning run to coincide with the sunrise at 7:47am. It was "Spring Ahead Sunday" and by the looks of it, it would be a gorgeous morning and day. I hit the road right around sunrise and ran east, hoping for a front row seat. I got it! It sure was beautiful. I took the route through my local park and ended up, not on purpose (sort of), in 1 foot plus deep snow, if that makes sense. With the sun then freeze over the last few days, running through it in shorts made my shins bleed as I pulled them up for each step. It was quite a workout and once I got out of that park, I re-designed my return route home and dodged pot-holes and black ice vs. bleeding more. All in all, it was great to run which I have been slacking in lately. I felt strong and confident but stopped at the 10K mark. I hope to get more runs in mid-week as the temperatures warm at that 50 miler ONE month. (gulp!) Here's that sunrise...

- Have you seen the movie "Gone Girl"? It was at the library and had heard about it, it got a few Golden Globe nominations and one Oscar nomination so I thought "Why not?" Plus, it was one of two movies that Reese Witherspoon produced in 2014 so I wanted to see it for that reason, too. Well, if I were to rate it on a 5-star scale, I'd give it a solid 3 but definitely not an Oscar nod. It is most certainly NOT for the young-ins and is most certainly twisted. Often, my wife can predict the end to a thriller but not this time. As the end approached (and at 2 1/2 hours seemed like it was never going to get there!), we asked each other "how in the world is this movie going to end?!" and in the end, my arms went in the air..."that's how it ends?!"...argh!!!! Anyway, it's a good movie if you like twists and turns, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and a movie about a total psychopath. (Some of you just reserved it on Redbox, didn't you?!)

- Before I close today, I want to share not some stranger's quote but something I penned just a few days ago..just random thoughts from my head and then a few photos I took from Saturday's CrossFit Games Open 15.2 at my gym. We have some great athletes and I was able to capture many moments for a lot of them. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

School, relationships, work, the run, the box, parenting...showing up to give less than 100% mutes what could be and robs you of the joy, accomplishment, and fulfillment that waits. ~ Me

- Here are the photos and here is the entire 61-photo album.

Lisa Shiu, CrossFit Games athlete, co-owner/coach of All Heart CrossFit and 2015 hopeful to move on to Regionals. "GO, LISA!!!" (being judged here by my other coach and gym owner, Charlie Dunifer)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CrossFit: "Hello, Week 18."

It's been a little bit since I've written on the personal side of this new journey so I just want to take a few minutes today to flesh out my progress and let you know: I haven't quit.

2015 CrossFit Open 15.1 and 15.1A
This Thursday, the 2nd of 5 workouts will be announced by CrossFit HQ as part of the 2015 CrossFit Games Open. Last Thursday night, my whole family gathered around the TV and watched 15.1 announced live from Boston, MA and the two top male athletes from 2014 go head to head. You might say we were passing the jug of "CrossFit Kool-Aid" to our kids after chugging a lot on our own. Friday morning, I did 15.1 and 15.1A because my weekend was full with a marriage retreat my wife and I were leading. The 15.1 portion of the workout was a triplet of knee raises, dead lifts, and snatches...for 9min. Then, they added a 15.1A portion that was pure strength. We had an additional 6min to get our max weight up in a Clean & Jerk. To be totally honest, I had never done that lift prior to the workout...ever. I had some baseline data from recent lifts to know where to go with it but I didn't actually have a log of a C&J. I ended up getting 135lbs over my head that was great for me. I actually failed at 130 then came back at got 135 with about 10sec to spare. Photo here is of all 4 movements. The bottom right is my final lift in the Clean and Jerk. See me on my toes? BAD! I have got to focus on driving from my heels and stay there. There are times where being on my toes is ok (lifting in the first part of a clean, for example) but when driving overhead, I need to get on my heels. All in all, I'm happy with 15.1 and continue to struggle with comparing myself to others. As a whole, this is NOT heavy. For me, though, and my garbage flexibility and weaker upper body, it's all I could muster. This Thursday night at 8pm, we'll find out with 15.2 is and I'll be doing it this Saturday with the rest of my fellow athletes at the box.

Back at 6 weeks.
For the past month, my progress has been solid. On most days, I do something new for the first time or I set a new personal record on something. One lift that stands out is from Monday, Feb. 16. I finally back squatted more than my body weight at 215 pounds. That was a 20lb personal record that day. But some days, I don't do either but still have a great workout. Often, though, my weight has been going up on a variety of lifts and I continue to work on pull-ups, rope climbs, and hand stands...all weaknesses of mine but getting better. Back 18 weeks ago, I could not do a pull-up. Not one. Not even close. Since then, I've been doing them but they have been band-assisted. This photo here is from week 6 and I struggled to do them WITH a band! Today, we started by doing pull-up holds. We pull our chins up over the bar and hold it until told to release. Prior to starting and hooking up my band, I grabbed the bar and pulled myself up, clearly over the bar with no assistance! I hadn't even tried to do that since I began. I came down and just stood there stunned. Kinda funny to surprise myself like that! The workout began and I didn't do anymore but I will be revisiting that to see how many strict ones I can do. (no kipping, that is)

One thing that has been on the not-so-good area is community. I work out at a box that has several classes during the day and those people, for the most part, don't cross paths. This keeps us all segregated, essentially, and isn't very "community-building." I am hopeful that as the air warms outside, that other events/opportunities will arise that will maybe bring together the athletes. This sense of "community" is one thing that was a draw some 18 weeks ago and while I have made some great new friends, I know there is a lot more potential. To do my part, I continue to volunteer to do things around the gym to be more involved and take more "ownership" and pride in it, but I still haven't been taken up on that. I'm hopeful that things will turn more heavy towards community and pride in our box soon. The training, however, is spot on and I'm truly appreciative of it.

I started to do a new side-by-side photo of myself a few days back. I posted a "before and after" blog back 6 weeks ago. (read it here) I thought better of it and put the camera down. While I could see more change, it seemed a bit narcissistic so I didn't. Physically, though, I can tell you that those size 32 jeans in that photo are a little more loose these days and a whole lot more definition is present in my upper body in every area above my waistline. On the pain and soreness front, I have no pain. Obviously, I have soreness after tough workouts and definitely feel my shoulders today, thanks to two days of heavy shoulder work. But, that's expected with high intensity work. I refuel/rebuild now with Hammer Nutrition's whey powder after these workouts so I'm giving my body what it needs to rebuild and be ready for the next day. On the scale, I don't own an operational scale but I do have one at my office. Fully clothed in uniform, I haven't really lost more than 5 or so pounds but I really don't care what the scale says. What I care about is how I feel about myself and my clothes and how they fit give me all the feedback I need...whether I like it or not! I will say that I donated a huge box of sweatshirts, sweaters, and shirts to AMVETS yesterday that simply have no place in my closet! No looking back!

Nutritionally speaking, I still tend to eat pretty well but don't follow any particular "plan." I do not consume high fructose corn syrup at all. That's easy to avoid. I have oatmeal with walnuts and honey often for breakfast or farm fresh eggs that my wife prepares. Check out this omelet she made from last week. Incredible. Farm fresh eggs from friends of ours, mushrooms, spinach, and avocado. Oh so good and perfect after a hard workout. Outside of breakfast, I do love the sweet and salty bars from Nature Valley, I drink a lot of water, and our dinner time meals often consist of beef, pork, or chicken with some kind of vegetable and/or sweet potatoes. The occasional visit to a restaurant for a cheat meal definitely happens but all in all, I eat pretty good. I love good food and it's important to me to enjoy it and not eat it because some plan tells me to. I may not be as "chiseled" or lean as I could be but I'm happy just as I am via hard work and smart decisions for what I eat. That's good enough for me.

Before I leave you today, I want to share this photo that is my current Facebook Timeline photo. I got this Reebok CrossFit shirt late last week, thanks to a 40% off coupon code and I love it. Most tees out there are cotton and as a runner, I can't stand them. I prefer a tech tee every time. Anyway, I wore this yesterday and the workout took me to a place where I felt closer to throwing up than ever before. It was a mixture of thrusters and kettle bell swings. It was 5-10-15-10-5 thrusters and 10-20-30-20-10 kettle bell swings for time. HARD workout. Afterwards, the song "let the bodies hit the floor!" rang in my brain as I immediately took the mat at my feet as a bed for a few moments...just to catch my breath and get my heart back in my chest. When I got up, I had "branded" the mat with my sweat...picture perfect, eh?! I think that tells the story just perfectly. Oh yea, I loved it. :)