Monday, July 27, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.27.2015

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

- Hot and humid and in the upper 80s. That was the forecast over the weekend as the Burning River 100 Mile trail race took place from east of Cleveland to downtown Cuyahoga Falls. That's been the typical offering of weather for that race and the main reason I have said since my 2009 finish of this event that I wouldn't return. Heat and humidity is definitely my kryptonite and I'm just not up for that kind of suffering again. It has grown to massive proportions now with over 800 participants in the 100 miler, 50 miler and relays, too. From all accounts, it was another great event.

- It's now been 11 days since the horrific shootings in Chattanooga, TN where four U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor lost their lives. It's been interesting to see how things have progressed since then and the reaction of many. If you skim social media, you'll see that the fallen are being laid to rest now. For the immediate days that followed July 16th, there was a social media outcry about why the flag wasn't ordered to half staff. 5 days after the shooting, the President finally ordered it to half staff until this past Saturday at sunset. The biggest contrast for this taking so long was the very recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states when the White House was lit up in rainbow colors 2 hours after the ruling. I'm not making a statement about that ruling but just stating the facts. You can decide to think what you may about this. There has also been an out-pouring from the gun-rights community and concerned citizens as many armed citizens from around the country have shown up at recruiting centers to stand watch in an effort to protect military on U.S. soil. On Friday, the Pentagon released a statement, asking those to not show up any longer. "We take the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer — including our recruiting stations," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. "While we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support for our recruiters from the American public, we ask that individuals not stand guard at recruiting offices as it could adversely impact our mission, and potentially create unintended security risks," Cook said. "We continue to partner with and rely on first responders for the safety of the communities where our service members live and work." Lastly, it turns out that those killed "could" get awarded the Purple Heart...but first, the act of "terrorism" must actually be proven to be tied to terrorism. Amazing, isn't it?! The red tape is crazy. Before I sign off this subject, I just want to say this: I hope you're angry if you consider yourself an American. You should be. You should be livid. Servicemembers killed on our soil in our backyard...the outcry should be deafening. But it isn't...and social media is a perfect litmus test for it. There are certain "issues" in our world that light up social media and sadly, garbage stories like Bruce Jenner light it up more than this. That's messed up!

- It was an "interesting" week of CrossFit. I won't bore you with the details but I will say that I let my emotions, past "baggage," and self-hatred get the best of me. In the end, I feel I came out stronger and even my hands are healing. On Wednesday's workout, I tore them in 3 places during one workout. Skin was dangling afterwards and my blood was on the pull-up bar where I was fighting for chest-to-bar pull-ups. I was back on the pull-up bar on Saturday, not shying away from the chalk bucket one bit. Speaking of Saturday, it was a great workout and the gym had nearly the entire membership present. The picture here is all the components of the workout I ended up doing before I left for the day. It was an up-and-down ladder workout of: 30 GHD sit-ups, 40 kettle bell swings at 55 pounds, 50 box jumps, 40 more swings and wrapped up with 30 more sit-ups on the GHD. (that piece of equipment in the background is the GHD) I did it in 12:02. Before I left, the rope was pulled down so I decided to fully zap my arms by getting about 6 climbs in. I've been working on a more efficient hook grip with my feet and I finally nailed it. It's far more efficient, faster, burns less and I can get up the rope 18 feet consistently in 3 pulls. Now, I need to work on doing them in succession with no rest and moving faster. Doing one at rest is easy...but doing a second immediately thereafter is another story entirely. Here's the last climb I did before leaving on Saturday. CLICK HERE. (pardon the vulgar language in the background music. :) ) All in all, the week ended well and I'm pumped to get back at it tonight...8 1/2 months in!

They picked silver and gold.
- If you think about it, you probably haven't heard much talk of the iPod in recent months and years. For many, the smartphone has replaced the music player. In fact, the 5th generation of Apple's iPod Touch came out in 2012 and most thought that Apple was letting it die. In Apple's most recent press conference, no mention of a refresh was made, either. Then, about 12 days ago, Apple released the 6th generation of the iPod Touch at a very competitive price point of $199. It's physical design is almost identical but the insides are brought current, including the same zippy processor that powers the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This release prompted my wife and I to do what we hadn't done ever before. For years, our girls have been the recipients of hand-me-downs...old iPhones that were deactivated and turned into virtual iPods. Well, I took them on a surprise trip to an Apple Store on Thursday night and it went off without a hitch! Seriously...they had NO idea what was happening until we were standing in front of them at the Apple Store. So much fun and as a dad, a blast to hear their surprise, giggling and joy for getting them.

- I got a few sunrise runs in this past week. This was one of them where I ran my favorite 10K route. It was moist as heck but a great run! I really appreciate every run I do.

- I mentioned Donald Trump last week and simply asked him to zip it after his slams on John McCain's service history as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. I won't dive into politics this week except to say this. "Republican candidates: I recommend you stop slamming him and spewing tons of negative rhetoric. Look at the polls...people are jumping on his bandwagon. I wouldn't suggest jumping on, too, but instead sticking to your own campaign and creating distance from his...but leave him alone." That's my 2 cents! Ya know Hillary is just licking her chops to take him on!

- A huge congratulations to my parents...44 years of wedded "bliss"!!! Well, I don't know if it has all been "bliss" but they've made it 44 flippin' years and that's awesome. "Happy 44th, Mom and Dad!"

- To wrap up this week, this is a fitting quote. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Monday, July 20, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.20.2015

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

- Did you get your ice cream yesterday? It was National Ice Cream Day! We sure did.

- There is more than enough to write about if I released the shackles off my fingers this morning but I won't. The biggest story out there right now is, and rightfully so, is the killing of 4 U.S. Marines and one U.S Navy sailor last week by a lone gunman in Chattanooga, TN. There are all kinds of opinions swirling around like arming military members while stateside, arming recruiters, armed guards at every military facility, Muslims, safety at home vs. at war, etc. Push those all aside and what do we have? We have 5 people who lost their lives and for most of them, left a wife and children behind. We had a Purple Heart recipient. We had multiple tours to war represented. There is a major ripple effect by this one man's actions. My heart aches for the families today. Please lift them up in your prayers. In my opinion from what I know, not much could've been done to prevent what happened. You can bet, though, that there will be a different ripple effect that'll move quickly amongst all the services and how they operate and secure themselves on a daily basis. In fact, it's already happening...I promise. All I ask from you is to keep your head on a swivel and always be watching and questioning things around you. We don't live in the world where you can leave the back porch unlocked while you sleep at night. We need to be vigilant. We need to be aware. We need to stand as one. That gunman didn't weaken a nation last week...he strengthened it.

Gone Never Forgotten...

United States Marine Corps

Lance Corporal Skip "Squire" Wells
Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan
Sergeant Carson Holmquist
Staff Sergeant David Wyatt

United States Navy

Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith

- CrossFit is going AWESOME. Simple as that! I took some more photos yesterday and compared them to several months ago and just two months ago and I'm still showing progress. In the gym itself, a huge concentration continues to focus on the squat. Through that, my back is getting much stronger as are my glutes. I record myself often so I can critique my form and discuss with my coach...that really helps be real with where I am. From a pure upper body strength standpoint, that's also getting better. I'm now clipping multiple sets of chest-to-bars in succession, doing sets of dips, lots of strict pull-ups, and for July...all gym members start the day with an 800m run and 50 push-ups. Wanna warm up? That'll do it! There was this one workout I did this past week that nearly broke me...wanted to puke and wanted to quit. Emotionally, it tapped into that area that usually gets left alone! I have been practicing climbing the rope to the ceiling and a workout appeared that at first glance, wasn't too bad. Well, it was. It was this: 3 rounds of > 3 rope climbs, 15 burpees, and 15 GHD situps. I cruised through that first set in 4min, 3sec but then that second set of climbs destroyed me. It took me over 27min to do it all! That was a huge mind over body workout. One big takeaway from that particular workout was the way I climb and cinch my feet to the rope. There is a faster, more efficient way of doing it and I'm working on that now. In the future, I plan to use it but I have to master the method first in order to climb with it. Below is a snapshot from Saturday when I worked on heavy back squats. I was aiming to set a new personal record but it didn't happen. Still, it was a good lifting day followed by a fire-breathing chipper WOD. I hesitate saying it was a blast but I am glad I did it!

- My daughter and I watched a movie a few days ago on NetFlix called "Ragamuffin" that is the true story of Rich Mullins, a "rough around the edges" Christian singer/songwriter that tragically died early in his life in a Jeep accident. It was a raw account of his life that included his struggle with alcohol, love, multiple failures/tragedies and his relationship with his dad. It was so good and really hit home for me personally. During his life, a man and priest by the name of Brennan Manning made a huge impact on his life and later wrote a book called "The Ragamuffin Gospel." I found it for $4 on Amazon and it's already on the way. :) Rich never really fit the mold of what anyone thought he should be. I know what that feels like...and respect how he stayed true to himself...but I wish he didn't have to suffer like he did. Here's the trailer if you want to check it out. Here are some Brennan Manning quotes I found as well...many of which are found in his Ragamuffin Gospel book. Here are one of my favorites...not favorite in that I love it but it so accurately portrays Christianity in America today:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” ~ Brennan Manning

- I'm not sure what side of the fence you're on when it comes to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner but in my opinion, it was pure absurdity that he/she got the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards by ESPN. Really? How about this: I met a Vietnam war veteran who is missing half his face last week from a battle in Vietnam yet returned home to a country that didn't welcome him. I had the honor of meeting him and thanking him for his service. This, amongst countless others who serve our country in the military and as police/firemen demonstrate courage day in and day out. Jenner switched his gender then did a photo shoot to tell the world. That's courage? Even if you think it is, is the world stage appropriate for such level of "courage?"

- "Dear Mr. Trump: SHUT UP!!!!" That is all.

- Anyone else a big fan of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox? This family can't dance but we all love it! It's really shaping up to be an awesome season. Monday nights!

- Lastly today, a short blog post to read on "Blank Spaces." I can't even give you a worthy excerpt to sum it up...just read it here. Really good. We're living it, too...but can always do better! Think: less stuff, more in emptiness...more time for what matters...FREEDOM.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, July 13, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.13.2015

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

- I don't mean to be a downer, but summer is essentially 1/2 over...especially if you're one with kids. July 15th just feels like the middle...with schools letting out around June 1st and most back to the grind by the end of August. Can't believe we'll have a high schooler!

- It was a great running weekend where I didn't run much except for yesterday's sunrise 10K. The most popular 50K trail race was a mud-fest on Saturday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park...the Buckeye Trail 50K. I've done the BT50K more than any other 50K but highly doubt I'll return anytime soon. Still, it's a classic and extremely well done. Another cool running story was by famous ultra-runner, Scott Jurek, who broke the Appalachian Trail thru-hike record by 3 hours. He started at Springer Mountain in Georgia and 46 days, 8 hours (and change) later, he finished in Maine, breaking the 4-year old record held by a woman. The AT is almost 2200 miles long! I actually met Scott 3 years ago when we were on vacation in Washington, D.C. His new book was out (Eat and Run) and he was doing a group run at a nearby running store. I showed up for the run, got my photo taken with him and he signed my copy of his book. Check out my Instagram feed (link on sidebar) for that photo that I posted last night.

- Did you know the Tour de France is well underway...9 stages in? neither. If not for that trending feed on Facebook...

- Yesterday, I headed out on my favorite 10K loop and made the mistake of running through a patch of woods...holy horseflies!!!! I got attacked like never before. On the way back, I recalled a photo I took last year sans shirt. I have always been uncomfortable shedding my shirt in public but after distance running for 17 years and last year averaging over 200 miles a month yet never changing physically "up top," I posted the unimpressive "runner fat" photo. It was a photo that garnered lots of comments of support and "likes" in social media. Ultra marathon after ultra marathon, a good diet, and tons of miles...yet I never changed from the waist up. That photo is on the left below. Yesterday, I took the photo on the right at the exact same year later. The irony here is that I don't even run 50 miles a month now yet that "runner fat" upper body is gone. So is about 3 inches around my waist and only about 5 pounds on the scale. I've also lost a lot of that long endurance running conditioning because I haven't been doing it. I knew that would happen. BUT, a lot of that endurance conditioning has spilled into the CrossFit gym and helped me do really well in some shorter races like that July 4th 5K race where I took 1st place in my age group. Regardless, I'm happy where I am now and posted this along with this photo yesterday: "Overall, happy not primarily of the physical change but because I'm happy doing what brings joy today and that I share the journey with my wife. Running was a solo journey whereas we travel this path together. 42 years old may qualify me as a masters athlete and the young guns may crush me in the gym but as long as I give my all, keep my attitude good and I see small baby steps of progress, it just makes the rest of life and the things that really matter (family life/marriage) all the more enjoyable."

- Oh, baby girl...we do love you! I took this photo a few days back but will spare you the "ugly" photos from yesterday. I was sitting at my computer, trying to track Scott Jurek finishing the AT and all of a sudden, all I heard was a "splat!" I looked to my right and Bristol lost her stomach across the corner of the couch and all over the carpet...and it smelled BAD! I didn't scold her but moved her outside quickly and she lost it 3 more times. The cleanup began and wow, it was awful. I eventually let her back in and she cowered behind the furniture thinking I was mad at her...I wasn't! While below a chair in the living room, she left me puddle #5. Good grief! A little bit later, everyone got home, Bristol chugged some water, and lost it again in a massive way...behind more furniture. The smell was even worse. So for the rest of the night, water/food was limited and she crashed hard. She made it through the night and is currently snoring right here next to me...curled up tight. Food and water are out but she's chosen not to touch anything. We're not sure what she ate that upset her but whatever it was...was violent! Ugh....poor baby girl.

- We had a really good message delivered by our pastor yesterday at church. He's been working through a series on the book of Acts. Yesterday, he found himself in Acts 19 and was telling the story of the Jewish exorcists, commonly known as the Sons of Sceva. I had never heard this story before. Basically, they traveled around doing exorcisms of evil spirits but did them in the name of Jesus who Paul believed in...not the Jesus THEY believed in. It was a story of authenticity and being REAL. What happened was that the evil spirits said (in my own words): "I know who Paul is...I know who Jesus is...but who are you? You're nothing." The sons were taken over, wounded and fled naked. The moral of the story is being real with who you are. These sons were faking it and when true evil faced them, they had no prayer...they had no advocate. They were a fraud. As someone who has faced evil directly, I can't tell you how thankful I am to have the One advocate on my side that matters...and that no matter what happens and how alone I ended up when the crap hits the fan...I'm not alone. These days, especially in America, "Christians'" true colors are showing as so many give in to popular culture to avoid persecution vs. standing strong in what they believe and stand for. They are standing on their own strength and when the evil arrives (and it will), who is going to intercede for them/you? We certainly can't do it alone. (If you want to read this section, look up Acts 19, starting in verse 11.)

- I mentioned several weeks ago that I was volunteering for a program with the local Summa Hospital System in their "Veteran to Veteran" program within hospice. For someone in hospice, they are typically terminal. For this program, a veteran will visit the patient, in uniform, and present them with a certificate, thanking them for their service and "pin" them with a flag pin. Many of these patients are the ones who came before me from the Vietnam era, Korean War, World War II, etc. Well, I finally got to go on my first pinning on Friday where I met a Vietnam era Marine. He even had the regulation and most-recognizable Marine haircut. His apartment was easy to find, too, as Old Glory was waving outside along with a Marine Corps flag. I got to hear his stories, shake his hand along with his wife, and thank him for serving his country. I'm looking forward to this...especially for these Vietnam era veterans. It was a very different country back then when it came to the military and for many, very very bitter. I consider it an honor to thank them for their service and hear their may be the first time for them!

- I shared my thoughts back on June 22nd about taking down the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina capitol. I fully supported that action. Well, that became reality last week as a bill was passed and it came down at 10am on Friday. It represents nothing good today and it's place is best in the museum of history.

- Can you believe it? I'm going to spare you CrossFit talk this week. No workouts, no anything. Things are going well, though. Small baby steps at a great gym with great people. More to follow later.

- To close out today, it's fitting to quote Scott Jurek from his book, "Eat and Run." Have a great week, everyone!

“We all lose sometimes. We fail to get what we want. Friends and loved ones leave. We make a decision we regret. We try our hardest and come up short. It's not the losing that defines us. It's how we lose. It's what we do afterward.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

M-Cubed for 7.6.2015

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

- How was your July 4th holiday? I definitely appreciated the "observed" holiday on Friday followed by the real deal on Saturday. My wife and I took full advantage of the day off Friday by spending 3 hours at our CrossFit home in the morning. By the time we left, nearly the entire gym membership had arrived and lots of weight was being moved! We had to leave, but a cookout followed and continued into the late afternoon. For July 4th itself, we stuck to tradition and headed to Stow (a few towns northwest of us) for the July 4th parade...the best one around, in our opinion. It lasted about an hour and 15min and began with lots of Old Glory as you can see below. The best is at the lower left...a LIVE re-creation of the Iwo Jima Memorial. They do this every year and it never gets old. It was great, too, to see the crowd stand for Old Glory as she passed on by.

Afterwards, we headed into Kent for the farmers market and the beginning of the Heritage Festival happening on the streets of Kent. While there, I made the last minute decision to sign up for a 5K to take place on the Kent State University campus at 7pm. I was already warned of the heat and the hilly course but thought it would be a good opportunity to test myself in not-so-ideal conditions. Before 7pm arrived, we spent some more time in Kent then headed home to relax a bit and perhaps even a mid-day nap. As evening approached, we headed on back to Kent. It was upper 70s and a bit sticky. I noticed a few friends were running the race, too. I warmed up, stretched and told my wife I was about to get my tail handed to me. The time arrived and the race started directly up hill for about 1/2 mile onto a course shaped like a lollipop. I found myself immediately within a group of friends whom I had never been able to run with before and stick with. I passed mile 1 in 7min flat and kept the pace up and opened it up on 2 short down-hills...knowing I'd have to crest them both on the return trip. The 2nd mile was under 7...more around 6:50...and I was still hanging with them. As the last crest happened, it was a 1/2 mile downhill to the finish. Every thing I had...I gave. Nearing the finish, I was right behind a friend of mine (you can see his foot in the photo below) and did everything I could to catch him. I did and finished 2 seconds in front of him, good enough for a 1st place finish in my 40-44 age group and 17th overall!!! For those of you who know me, you know how rare this is! I was super happy and in fact, I didn't get my tail handed to me! I kicked IT in the tail! Final time was 21min, 17sec for a 6:53 average pace. Photo credit below goes to my wife who was along the route near the finish and caught the sprint. "Thanks, Babe!"

- Given all the debate lately on the Confederate flag, same-sex marriage legalization in all 50 states, etc., I have just one question....

Did you know that OFFENSE is a CHOICE? Think about have to CHOOSE to take on an offense. What's worse is that when we own that offense, it becomes front-and-center in our minds. It consumes us and wrecks everything. It's all we can think about! Instead, let me challenge you to reverse this for yourself and don't let offense ruin today for you. Focus on something good. Focus on things you are thankful for. Bless someone! Don't give in to the norm and gain "keyboard bravery" and lash out on social media about how offended you are. Oh yea...on January 26, 1979, the Dukes of Hazzard premiered and has been in syndication for years, most recently on TV Land. I grew up watching that show. Now, it's been pulled. Why? The Confederate flag on the Dodge Charger...or better known as the "General Lee." So because of the social outcry of a Confederate flag flying over a state capitol, it's now appropriate to yank the Dukes? A month problem. Now...  Good grief. It's just all so ridiculous and reactive to...wait for it...OFFENSE. What a waste of time and completely absurd.

- Big time life lesson learned the hard way: don't celebrate the win until you actually WIN. On left below is Ben Payne, an Air Force pilot who began celebrating his assumed win of the 60,000 runner strong AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA on Saturday and every July 4th since 1970. On right is British Olympian marathon runner, Scott Overall who was sprinting to the finish, trying to beat Payne. While Payne's arm was in the air celebrating, Overall passed him and beat him by 9/100ths of a second...the first photo finish in the race's 45 year history. Truly..."it's not over till it's over." The irony? A Brit beat an American on Independence Day on American soil.

- This past week has been...a struggle in my CrossFit box. There are some things that I'm better at but overall, I'm playing catch up big time as compared to so many others. I don't know if it's because of how God made me, my age, etc. But things like poor flexibility continue to plague me. I refuse to quit and give up, though. I have had some great gains in my first month at CrossFit 881 and on Saturday, I hit 8 months doing CrossFit. Overall, I love it but often, my attitude turns sharply sour. Let me explain one major hurdle that remains today. Below, you'll see a photo of me that was posted a week ago from my first CrossFit competition on June 27th. I am doing a front squat. If you know anything about position when the bar is on the shoulders, you know what's terribly bad elbows/arms. My upper arms should be parallel to the floor...not pointed down at a 45 degree angle. If they were up, the bar would rest across my shoulders and not cause me to lean forward...back should be straight. This horrible flexibility spills into a plethora of Olympic lifting movements and really frustrates the heck out of me. I do all kinds of stretches and lift them "elbows up!!!!" the best I can....I just can't. Still, I'm going to keep on trying but this is such an issue right's tough for me to stay positive because of the lack of progress. For some, this comes easy...really easy! They just do it without even trying because the flexibility is there. To end this on a positive note, I will say that I made progress in my most difficult lift this past week...the overhead squat and hit a new personal record by 30lbs! On the same day, I hit a new front squat record by 5 pounds. I also began progressions towards doing the butterfly pullup. :))))

- Last Monday, I partially drafted an M-Cubed but just didn't like where it was going so I spared you the pain. Also on Monday, I had a short trip to Columbus, OH where I visited the Rogue Fitness headquarters. While there, I picked up a t-shirt and on that shirt is part of the this week's quote you see below. I posted it on Facebook and was amazed at how many people had personal stories regarding this quote so I definitely wanted to close out today with it. It's powerful and I challenge you to make it your own and decide what it means to you. Have a great week, everyone!

The Man in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

President Theodore Roosevelt, from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic".