Monday, August 31, 2015

M-Cubed for 8.31.2015

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

- Goodbye August, hello September...and a long Labor Day weekend and the Cleveland Air Show next weekend! 2015 is 2/3 complete! Before we know it, those leaves will be changin'...

- If you're a Monday-only RTRSBM reader, I posted my race report yesterday from Saturday's "attempted" 50K. Big 'ol case of humble pie but it's all good. Still glad I impulse-registered for the race and no regrets for how it ended. Read it here.

- Last February, my wife and I went on our first "Love Like You Mean It" marriage cruise where on Day 2, we got to see a preview of "War Room" that was released this past Friday. It's written by, directed, and produced by the Kendrick brothers who also made movies like Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Courageous...all very successful. Back on the cruise ship, it got a standing ovation and afterwards, the filmmakers and a few stars sat on stage for an extensive interview. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of supporting the movie's opening weekend and taking our girls to see it. Early box office numbers have it coming in at #2 for the weekend but just barely. Hopefully, that'll push it into more screens across the country. It was sooooo good and our girls both loved it as well. Unfamiliar? Here's the movie's YouTube channel where you can watch the trailer and clips.

- Oh, Apple. Sneaky you are! This past week, they officially announced their "big" event for September 9th...precisely when we all thought it would happen. As usual, their press release got people talking. Below is what you'll find on the Apple website today. Know this...there are no accidents. The wavy colors, the choice of venue, the "Siri" reference. It's all part of their tease. Now do this: tell Siri on your iPhone "Hey Siri, give us a hint"...and do it several times. Apple has programmed Siri to tease the event when you ask the question. Hehe....I love it. :) Their choice of venue is really getting the Kool-Aid drinkers talking, too. Normally for these, under 1000 people are invited. The location for this event holds a whopping 7000 people, further fueling suspicions that there is something bigger than just the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus release. Something to do with Siri? Apple TV? Watch 2.0? Something new we've never seen before? We shall see on September 9th.

- I'd like to give a big 'ol shout out to my bride. She really does set the bar high when it comes to attitude in the CrossFit gym. She has fought for years to change herself physically with everything you can imagine. She has run countless miles, ate extremely well, done the macro thing, you name it. Most recently, though, and finally with good coaching and hard work, she is seeing results. She is getting stronger and finally was able to do push-ups TO THE FLOOR last week and is closer than ever to her first strict pull-up. We both entered the gym last November with zero upper body strength but her journey towards building that has been slower and more difficult...but she has persevered! Even more important, she keeps the right attitude even when things don't go so well. I struggle with keeping a good attitude on bad days in the gym and unfortunately, that often lingers with me for awhile afterwards. "Keep up the great work, Babe! You DO inspire others!" Age is nothing but a number, friends...go get it!

- Did you miss National Dog Day last Wednesday? It was all over social media as everyone shared their pooches. For us? 12 year old's glasses. "Love ya, Bristol!"

- So what website do I refresh more often than any other these days? This one. It's where promotion board results will be posted, hopefully within the next week or so. I'm hoping to see my name. :)

- Familiar with "Nightmare on Elm Street" and the "Scream" movies? Wes Craven directed those. He died yesterday at the age of 76 in his L.A. home from brain cancer. Love the Scream series! (and the spoofs that followed)

- So I signed up for that 50K on Saturday morning, did 20 miles of it and dropped. By that evening, I signed up for my next CrossFit event but unlike the traditional competition in May that I did, this one is more of a long, endurance workout with a good dose of running. It's called the "Run Amuck 5K" at CrossFit Independence, just south of Cleveland. Here's what it is:

- 200 meter run, 10 Pullups
- 400 meter run, 20 Burpees
- 600 meter run, 30 Hand Release Pushups
- 800 meter run, 40 Abmat Situps
- 1,000 meter run, 50 Air Squats
- 800 meter run, 40 Abmat Situps
- 600 meter run, 30 Hand Release Pushups
- 400 meter run, 20 Burpees
- 200 meter run, 10 Pullups (then yell...TIME!)

Fun, right?! There will be 5 heats, starting every 30min at 8:30am. I'm in the 9am heat. I'm looking forward to it! Running is definitely a strength of mine, even when my heart is pounding hard from those movements in between. The whole event exists to support the Cornerstone of Hope that exists to provide education, support and hope for the grieving. If you'd like to donate to them in my name, I have a fundraising page set up here. If you want to participate in the event, sign up here and join me! 

- In other CrossFit news, I did my first ring dip this past week! BOOM! One step closer to attempting my first muscle up. :)

- To seal up today's post, a running quote and fitting after my run on Saturday. One thing is for sure: I love to just isn't center stage anymore for me. I will run when I want to run. I will run where and as far as I please. I will enter races or not. No matter how it goes, it's my decision. My shoes. My path. My run. Have a GREAT week, everyone!

"If running is a means of escaping the trials of everyday life, then it meant taking my life into my own hands. It meant running for myself. And, in part, that meant getting away from the jostling of others. Even when I had only just started running it was plain to see that its appeal lay in the simplicity of the action, taken one step at a time, as well as in the possibility of nonconformity that it offered. We can run anywhere, anyhow, and at any time. Running should not be hemmed in by schedules and routines. Its beauty derives from the fact that it cannot be governed by the magnetic fields of others. We run for ourselves."

– Robin Harvie, The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Race Report: Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K

I had to let this race soak in for much of yesterday before writing this morning. For 99% of my race reports, they have a "happy ending" and a finishing time to report. Spoiler Alert! Not this time. Call it quitting or whatever, I pulled the plug early and headed home without the awesome, handmade finishers "medal" made from a tree limb. But since I did enter the race and paid the entry fee, I thought it was the only right thing to do and write a race report.

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that no race has been spoken about or forecast on my calendar. This race, however, has been on my radar and penciled in only in my mind. I did back in 2013 and dubbed it as a great first-timers 50K. (here's that race report) The Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K is held within Sunny Lake Park in northern Portage County in Aurora, OH. It really is a perfect "easy" 50K. It's five 10K loops on a trail that has rooty trail, some pavement, grassy meadow and hardly a "hill" to speak of. When there is a hill, most 50Ks would chuckle at them and say "that's not a hill!" and I would agree. It's scenic and highly predictable given the 5 loop design. For aid, it's perfect as well. An aid station is at the start/finish as well as exactly halfway so if you're analytical like me, every aid station is 10% of the race so that's how I carved it up in my head. In a marathon or more, it's always wise to break the event into small pieces to make them more manageable targets.

It was a gorgeous, perfect morning. Upper 50s and partly cloudy with zero rain in the forecast. In fact, we've had pretty much no rain for weeks in Ohio so the trail couldn't have been more bone dry. Here is sunrise over Sunny Lake and the ONLY (I know...shocking!) photo I took of the day.

I felt good waking up yesterday. I took Friday off from CrossFit simply so I would feel no soreness on Saturday morning and would feel refreshed and ready. I did. Taking Friday off was smart. Thursday was a heavy squat day at CrossFit and 2 hours in the gym. Eventually, I would come to feel Thursday on the trail. As 7am approached, I made my way to the start in just my trail shoes and shorts. I wanted the minimum on for clothing because the forecast called for rising humidity and the low 80s for a high.

Everything went very well in that first loop. I ran as smart as I could with a goal of just maintaining it throughout the day. As expected, the course was bone dry and beautiful. At the end of the first loop as I came across the start/finish, I was smack dab on 1hr which is a fast pace for a 50K. I ran this in 2013 in 5:37 so I knew I was ahead of that but like I said, the pace felt right so I continued on. I felt great, too. In that 2nd loop, I started to feel my hamstrings and more towards my butt where they connect. I have been doing a LOT of squat work in the gym and this has been normal, especially this past week. Well, they were letting me know they were there! Yowsers! Still, though, I kept the pace and clearly, the temperature was rising as my shorts went from a light Navy blue to a "completely soaked through blue" by the time I finished lap 2...again, right at the 1hr point or 2 hours into the race. the 40% complete point, I felt good!

Oh, Loop 3. Well, this is where the wheels fell off and walking was introduced sporadically. All the runners I had passed previously got me and the infamous Ron Ross caught me and passed me up, running strong and kicking butt as usual. I think I need to mention something at this point. I have not been at all when it comes to distance running. My prescription for running for several months now has only included the short 200m/400m runs at CrossFit or the occasional 5 or 6 miler on a Sunday morning from home. Other than that...nada. I bet I haven't even averaged 20-25 miles a month. That's a stark contrast to 2014 when I was averaging over 200 miles a month through September. The question as I approached this race was "Can I do it? No training but a long resume of races and wisdom in distance running and ultra running...would that be enough?" I posted on Facebook with that photo above "Time for #33." This would've been my 33rd ultra-marathon finish. Well, I got another full dose of wisdom on that third loop and really faced my mortality. I suppose I could blame it on the rising humidity (my arch rival) but it's simply this: I wasn't prepared or trained. While I have become the fittest in my life from head to toe, my endurance to go long has been vanquished. Back in January of this year, I did run a frozen 50K in West Virginia but I had only been out of distance running a few months. Come November 4th this year, my CrossFit "lifestyle" will be one year old so a lot of time has passed now...and I have not given running it's due time.

I finished Loop 3 much slower and honestly, I don't know the time but would assume I came in around 1:15. As I approached it, I debated whether to continue or not. "I paid the entry fee...of course I should continue." "I'm not a quitter." "Oh man, my hammies are screaming!" "This isn't fun anymore." "Why am I doing this again?" "I do love to was my "first love" so go for it!" Well, I kept going. Loop 3 complete. The sun was beating down hard now as I walked onto Loop 4. The mental battle continued as I eventually broke into a run and left the asphalt for the trail. I looked forward to the short climbs as I could stretch my hamstrings. They were so sore at this point and made even a jog very uncomfortable. Besides them, this was the first time running distance in a LONG time...actually, since the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in late April..on no training as well. I finished respectably back then but still suffered. So as I continued, I came upon a crossing over the asphalt path that circled Sunny Lake. I thought "Decide now. Either cross it and continue or hang a left, take your number off, and walk back and drop." I decided to drop. I was totally tanked...nothing left...and I had become miserable. I paused on the asphalt for just a second to be sure I wanted to do this and wouldn't regret it then I began the walk back...probably 3/4 of a mile to a mile. I took my bib off and enjoyed the walk while processing what I was doing. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of these 3 turtles sunning themselves on a log in the lake. They were lined up perfectly end to end and were small, medium and large...and all their heads stretched out as far as they could be. "Soak it in, turtles!!!" I thought the same about me and made the decision to not live in gloom after I spoke the words "I dropped" to the race director minutes later and think fondly of the day. Those turtles set me on the right course...simply by being who they are...out on the lake enjoying the sun.

Back at the start/finish, I walked up to Steve Godale, the race director, and spoke the words "I dropped at mile 20." He said ok, jotted down my bib number, and that was that. I grabbed my towel out of my trunk and crashed onto the ground for about 10min before going anywhere. I needed that. Honestly, that felt so good that I could've fallen asleep for hours. I texted my wife who was at CrossFit and told her not to bother coming out for the finish and I'd meet her at home.

Part of my CrossFit 881 Family
The next 4 or so hours told the tale of my physical condition and confirmed my decision to call it a day. I was a complete mess. I could hardly eat, I couldn't stay awake, and I was a comedy of positions had you had the "pleasure" of witnessing it all. After a salt-washing-down shower, I first curled up in bed, then fell asleep face down on the carpet in the living room, then face up, then curled up in a fetal position on the floor...then on the couch burying myself in the cushions. Hot one minute, freezing the next. I drank water every time I got up but not much else. Everything hurt and I couldn't keep my eyes open. "Wow...and that was only 20 miles," I thought. "I used to eat that for breakfast!" Eventually, the time came for a planned outing for last night...a planned CrossFit outing to the Cleveland Indians game. 10 of us met in Ohio City for dinner then took our right field perch for the Indians game. It was a great night but sitting in that cramped seat nearly killed me. The 7th Inning Stretch couldn't come soon enough. While I sat in right field, though, I did sign up for a CrossFit event in October, dubbed the Run Amuck 5K. Cumulatively, it's a 5K but it weaves in burpees, situps, pullups and squats into it...lots of them. While I may have lost my "long haul endurance," the running history and endurance certainly has benefits in the CrossFit world. This will be a FUN event!

Moving forward, I'm good. I'm good with where I am, where I've been and where I'm going. 61 races of a marathon or longer and 32 ultra marathon finishes is something to be proud of with humility. Yesterday was a dose of reality and I needed that. I have no regrets for backing way off running, dropping from the race or taking on CrossFit like I have. I will continue to sprinkle in running to my routine and continue to give CrossFit my 100% max effort. I'm happy for where I am "RIGHT NOW" and in my opinion, that's what is important. It's not for anyone else but me and if I'm not happy doing it, I should stop. For right now...August 2015, it's all good, but I DO love to run and I sure did love being back on the trails. The air, the birds singing, and all of God's nature surrounding me. It was worth the time spent out there. (I'm just thankful that I feel back to normal this morning!)

Do what you love, friends...and never give less than your everything.

Monday, August 24, 2015

M-Cubed for 8.24.2015

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

- We had a June that seemed like April with all the rain. Now, we've gone over a month with not even a thunderstorm and hardly any rain. The neighborhood is quiet with no lawnmowers, all the lawns are brown and honestly, I'm ok with that! I've loved all the sun, especially since two back-to-back brutal winters in NE Ohio.

- It's fair week! Almost time for my one Amish-style funnel cake of the year. Tons of fat, calories and powdered sugar. Bring it!

Kendrick Brothers
- If you're a fan of the Kendrick brothers who brought us the movies Fireproof and Courageous, definitely go see "War Room" that opens this Friday. On our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in February, they were on the cruise and premiered the movie to us then. It was super good and earned that standing ovation at the end. We'll definitely be going to see it again. Watch the trailer here.

- On Sundays, we definitely take a break from CrossFit and for the past few weeks have run together before heading off to Sunday morning church. Yesterday, we enjoyed an upper 50s, clear, gorgeous morning run along the Cuyahoga River in Kent, OH. Fantastic run and awesome to hear nothing but birds and the water moving in the river. Given the lack of rain, the water level is pretty low but still refreshing to see and hear.

- After our run yesterday and a visit to a new church in a nearby town, we did head back to our CrossFit gym but not to work out. Once a month, they clear it out and do a deep clean. With all the heavy weights and equipment, they opened it up to members this month with an added bonus of burgers and steaks on the grill afterwards. It was a great time to help out! Many hands make quick work! On Saturday, though, I had the choice of running roads down south, some trails out east, or head into the box for a surprise workout. I opted for the 3rd choice, mostly because it didn't gobble up the day in time and I'm definitely a glutton for "punishment." What waited for me was Ashley's "Sassy Saturday." Appropriately, I did with two female members at the gym and got my tail handed to me when it was all done. Still, a great workout and I bested my "Helen" time by 8 seconds. Not a huge PR but a PR nonetheless. That 3rd WOD within the WOD was a lion in sheep's clothing. We all thought that was going to be the easier one but it ended up being the hardest because you never get a chance to let your heart slow down. I was pretty happy with my deadlifts, too. I've been working a lot on them and this was a good test for me. Last week as a whole was a great week cumulatively as well. Our coach began a whole new method of programming that really helps us make the best of the limited time in the gym and helps him coach more efficiently as the membership grows. Still loving it! (Oh yea...I almost forgot. On Thursday, I tackled an "issue" of mine...the 30" box. I have zero issue with jumping all day on a 24" box but I have stood there and stared at the 30" box, unable to will myself to jump on it...nothing but fear! Well, I finally conquered that fear in a WOD that when all was done, I had jumped on it 50 times! BOOM!) ... and no bloody shins. :)

- I had the honor of doing my 4th veteran pinning last week via my volunteer effort I've talked about previously. This man was being ravaged by cancer but I had the chance at sitting down with him for a few minutes. Here was my summation of our few minutes together that I posted online: "Did my 4th Veteran to Veteran pinning today. Army yet again but sandwiched in between WW2 and Vietnam. Super kind man, sharp mind, but physically attacked by cancer and a weak heart. While waiting to talk to him, I sat with a lady who had a companion dog with her named "Sugar" who took a real liking to me. My visit was brief with the Army Vet and alumni of the 1st Calvary. I asked if he had seen We Were Soldiers and sure enough, he had. I said my goodbyes but before I left the facility, an Army Ranger vet stopped me and rendered me a quick salute and handshake from his wheelchair. I don't think I can volunteer with this program and not be changed. Up until today, I only went to a veteran's home. Today, it was a facility and while I tried to sneak by, every head turned and set of eyes scanned me on the way in and out...but they were awesome and cheerful. In fact, a guest musician was playing his accordion in a mini concert in the common area when I arrived. It put a smile on my stepping out of 2015 and into an era better represented by the population living there."

- Surely, many of you have an iPhone and perhaps even reading this on one. I drank that Kool Aid awhile back with the iPhone 4 that spawned multiple purchases from more iPhones to the iPad to an iMac and Macbook Pro. I'm a marketing junkie, too, and love watching how they market their stuff and like to predict what's coming before it does. Well, we're nearing the next big event that happens twice a year when they schedule a big press conference and make surprise announcements, some bigger than others. It hasn't been announced yet but most agree it will be on September 9th. Since we got the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last Fall, a mid-cycle update is expected, most likely as a 6S and 6S Plus. Visually, probably the same but inside some upgrades and tweaks. One interesting tidbit was the metal being used. Thanks to some production leaks, the man who tested the bendability of the current 6 and 6 Plus got a hold of a new, supposed case and the rumor mill says there is now zinc in it making it FAR more stronger than the current version. If you recall, some people have had their phones bend, especially the huge 6 Plus version. The new operating system is coming, too, called iOS 9. I've actually been running the beta version of it for the past month and like it. My #1 new feature is a battery saving mode you can turn on that absolutely works. There is also rumor that a 3rd iPhone model could be released...nicknamed the 6C..a lower cost version like the 5C was. That is more rumor than anything at this point. What's true is this...Apple has garnered a lot of Samsung's business via the 6 Plus. Samsung was leading the way for the larger phone market but with the release of the large 6 Plus, many waiting for such an Apple product gave up their Android operating systems and came to Apple...many for the first time. If you're an Apple junkie, too, I highly recommend and their Twitter feed.

- If you've been away from the news, you may not have heard of Ashley Madison yet. It's not a's the online website/service that has been facilitating those who want to have an extramarital affair...priding itself on protecting the identity of members and secrecy. Well, it turns out that a former disgruntled employee has led to the leaking and publishing of millions of users online. The Associated Press said “The list includes at least two assistant U.S. attorneys, an information technology administrator in the White House’s support staff, a Justice Department investigator, a division chief, and a government hacker and counterterrorism employee at the Homeland Security Department. Others visited from networks operated by the Pentagon.” Quite honestly, it's sickening. When you think about the last wedding you attended or photos you just looked at on Facebook from a friend's wedding, to think there is a service out there to totally dismantle those vows made is wrong on so many levels. It's surely a sad testament to the state of humanity...and not just here in America, but around the globe as this bar graph shows the number of users per country...and this is only the Top 25.

- Before I close up shop this Monday morning and "almost" the last Monday of August, let me give you a dose of I attempt to drink this same encouragement for myself. I encourage you to keep your priorities, faith, family and self in check and always strive to do the right thing, even in the face of fear and possible persecution and attacks from the outside. Often when we're faced with a fork in the road, either choice is going to offend, anger some and satisfy others. For me, I choose to go to prayer and seek what truly is right for me to do, how to lead my family, and let Him whom I elevate above all else lead the way. For me, the peace that follows whatever decision being made is priceless, even in the face of opposition like I mentioned. If we constantly seek to "people please" and seek the approval of others, we're destined for stress, disappointment and probably yet another course correction. In the end, it's about having courage which is defined as "Doing your duty in the face of fear." What is the most courageous thing you have ever done? I posed this question online earlier last week and am thankful for those who shared their stories. What is yours? Whatever it is, you most likely had to go to the core of who you are and your raw humanity came forth...regardless of the cost. That is the epitome of who we are and what we must own up to. If we don't like it, we need to start making changes in the right direction.

- If you're a friend of ours, you may have picked up on our pursuit of less...owning less, filling our schedules with less and focusing more on quality time instead of stuff. We're actually to the point now where we don't have our annual garage sale because there isn't enough to justify it. When there IS something for the garage sale pile, it gets donated or sold pronto! So instead of leaving you with an inspirational quote this week, I'm just going to leave the image below. It's true, you know! Have a fantastic week, everyone!

Monday, August 17, 2015

M-Cubed for 8.17.2015

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

- Not so "morning" as it is "afternoon" today but I relied on my inner clock to wake me up this morning and instead, the sunrise filled the bill...meaning a much later rise to the day.

- Follow me on Instagram? Subscribe here. I post less on Facebook these days and prefer the format of Instagram..especially when photos are a preferred medium for me.

- Have you seen the movie "Southpaw?" It's the story of a boxer who was undefeated, lived in luxury, had tragedy destroy his life and then the fight (both literally and figuratively) to come back. Jake Gyllenhaal did a fantastic job as lead actor as did Forest Whitaker and supporting actor. I'm a big fan of his and this role was right on par with his talent. Highly recommend this movie! (warning on the language, though, if you plan on taking your kids) Watch the trailer here.

- It was a good time in the CrossFit world this past week. For Saturday, it was less lifting (unlike Friday which ended up being two hours of nothing but that!) and more of a burner of a workout. It went like this: 400m fireman's carry of a 53lb kettle bell in each hand followed by 40 GHD situps then 40 front squats and wrapped up with 40 bar-facing burpees. I faced off in friendly competition with four other gym members and finished the carry without stopping and in first. For the GHD situps, I did all 40 without stopping but our female powerhouse in the gym passed me up and was on the bar before I even got to my front squats. For those front squats, they continue to be a struggle for me but I did them in sets of 10. At last, I tackled the bar-facing burpees. If you don't know, they are when you do one burpee then jump over the bar...two feet at once...not stepping...then turn around and do another burpee and continue the reps. Each rep finishes with a jump over the bar. It sounds easy but the key is to not stop amidst the sweat pouring and not trip over that dang bar! I ended up finishing in 16min, 29sec. Loved it! All in all, CrossFit continues to be a regular part of my day but doesn't own me or my life. I love the "mortality" of what I face there. I'm a 42 year old dad who has never been an athlete of any kind in my life yet I do my best to hold my own with those literally half my age on a daily basis. My biggest struggles physically are flexibility and upper body strength and mentally, it's keeping a good attitude when I fail at things daily. I just don't handle failure well in any part of my life so this is no surprise that I struggle with it here...especially when it's on a daily basis. I do have my strengths, though, like when a workout involves running...that's in my wheelhouse! Just gotta keep smiling and give my best every day...and be perfectly ok with that.

- In case you missed it, I wrote up some candid and raw thoughts on the 1 year anniversary of Robin Williams' passing earlier last week. If you missed them, you can read them here.

- It's hard to believe that we cut the cable over 3 years ago. If you've ever considered it and wonder what you could pick up via antenna, I bet it's quite a bit. Here is the antenna we got for 50 bucks and still use today. Today, the main networks broadcast in high definition free over-the-air. This is all we use. We also subscribe to Netflix but that's it...oh, and the occasional Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube. Those are always priceless and great family time to laugh together watching.

- Just a quick little quote today that I heard while watching a few minute bio on a CrossFit gym down in North Carolina. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." In CrossFit, it doesn't take much to be a "coach" or "Level One Trainer." Basically, you need $1000 and a weekend to give to CrossFit and are one. In my opinion, though, a coach isn't about holding a certificate or credential. It's having knowledge, yes, but also a caring for the person you are coaching. This can be in the gym, on the track, as a parent, as a teacher, as a a friend. I like to think this: "Don't show me your pedigree, show me your heart." People don't follow pedigrees...and if they do, it's short-lived. They follow authenticity...realness...caring...compassionate human beings.

Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Robin Williams: One Year Later

On August 11, 2014, the world lost a beloved suicide. I have been a lifelong fan of Robin Williams, stemming back to my days as a young boy watching Mork and Mindy. I'm pretty sure I saw "Good Morning, Vietnam!!!" earlier than I was supposed to but given my many years of service, I am looking forward to watching it again soon through a different set of eyes. Most recently, I played "Patch Adams" for my kids which, in my opinion, is one of the best portrayals of the "real" Robin Williams. He had such a real, authentic heart that came out when he spoke and performed for the troops and as Patch, it felt like seeing the "real" him. Earlier this year, we went and saw the 3rd installment of "Night at the Museum"...obviously, filmed prior to August of 2014. Then we have classics like Good Will Hunting, Jack and of course, Mrs. Doubtfire.

As this one year anniversary has approached, news anchors have mentioned his "passing" one year ago but never do they mention suicide. While I don't see it necessary to be graphic on the evening news or pull back the band-aid, my thoughts always to turn to how he died. Autopsy reports after his death showed that he didn't die of an overdose of drugs and alcohol wasn't present in his system. All they found was normal levels of a few prescribed meds. He knowingly hung himself and ended his life. I have my own journey down this dark road and obviously, turned the corner and thought better of alienating my wife and kids forever. I had to keep taking myself out of the equation and thinking of the ripple effect of such a decision. Ultimately, the damage done by giving up far outweighed a decision to give up. Looking back, I am happy for the decision to fight and know it was the right one. I also know what it's like to be there in that dismal swamp. Alone and struggling to find a valid reason to take another breath...that pretty much sums up what those days were like.

Today as I think about Robin, I'm still sad for him and for the family he left behind. I saw an interview of his son yesterday that was recorded 3 months after his death and the pain was evident. Today, family members are fighting over his estate...primarily, the cash contained within. That's just sick but the human way, I suppose. I wish Robin hadn't given up. I wish he found a way out...that someone would've outstretched their hand of friendship in such a way that he would've grabbed a hold and not let go. It is possible, though, that he masked his pain well. I know I did. I can tell you today that it's only by God's grace and never-retreating hand that I am here. There was no close friend or really anyone for that matter that even had a clue. Had I not had Him with His hand beneath me, my story would not be the same. That may, actually, be Robin's story. When we're left to our own resources, the well may very quickly run dry. If you even contemplate Robin's path, go find some help. It's never worth it...but you most certainly are...remember that.

Remembering Robin...

And lastly, this... Spare about 4min to go back to 2007 when he spoke to U.S. troops in Kuwait and got interrupted. Priceless. I just love how he responded. That was the REAL Robin Williams and why he is so sorely missed today.

Monday, August 10, 2015

M-Cubed for 8.10.2015

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

- A more-common-each-day thing to see on Facebook these days is a feature now woven directly into it called "On This Day" that goes back years on the same day and the longer an account has been active, the more is revealed. On this day in 2009, I read "M-Cubed for 8.10.2009" which was interesting. I'm not sure where my head was at that point because I had just finished my 2nd 100-miler a week prior and stated "no more than a 50K for the rest of the year"...yet I ran my 3rd 100-miler 9 weeks later. What the heck?! Someone or something certainly got to me! Here's the ultra-quick read...6 years ago today: M-Cubed for 8.10.2009. Also interesting in there is a mention of being about to put on the next rank. Ironically, I'm within a month of hearing if I've been selected for the next rank...two more than the one back then. At this point, I have to be selected. Back at that lower rank, it was essentially automatic.

- A fan of Peeps? Well, Easter may not be for a long time but Peeps are capitalizing on the Pumpkin Spice craze right around the corner this Fall and releasing their own version of the flavor on August 31st. Ick. They are also releasing caramel apple--a green chick dipped in a caramel-like fudge-- and candy corn--an orange speckled chick dipped in white chocolate. Ick ick ICK! (or should I say...chICK?!) Surely, this is good news to at least one of you out there.

- I had the privilege of spending Friday night and all day Saturday with many of my Supply Corps brethren in Columbus for our annual gathering. From the rank of O-1 all the way to was a diverse mix and excellent time. From networking, catching up with friends and very good presentations, it was a time not-to-miss. Saturday evening concluded with dinner at Bon Vie in Columbus where about 40 of us invaded half the restaurant for nearly three hours. Thank goodness for Starbucks "Flat White" that got me home.

- Let's see...what else can I say today? It's Monday...the clock is ticking away over to my left and work is calling. Quite honestly, I'm a bit numb to much these days. I'm questioning just about everything around me, it's authenticity, people's "realness," what truly matters, what demands my time (and if it's worthy of giving), how to spend every day and moment within, what kind of father/husband I am, and really...a realization that no one else cares about any of this but me. From the moment I get out of bed to let the dog out to when I close my eyes tonight and everything in between, it's important to find purpose in each step. Going through the motions is empty if purpose is absent. From weight lifted in the gym to conversations had with my family, colleagues and strangers, to whether or not I stop and get my morning java to how I manage my time in the office to what I choose to do after the day concludes but before my head hits the pillow tonight...what is the purpose and are my blinders on or do I see life as it truly is? Is my purpose to live for me? For others? For my God? A combination of all of it? If so, who or what is taking the lead and lion's share? Throw in a bunch of human ugliness that is sure to poison today's walk and without purpose, I just may get sucked in to the dismal abyss. "Just ignore that stuff," I'm told. That's a tough one for me. Often, I just wish those poisonous folks took a moment to "know" me and maybe the ugliness wouldn't be so ugly. Holding my breath, I won't be. Just gotta roll along and find that purpose and find a way to smile.

- That's it for today, friends. Have a fantastic week!

Monday, August 3, 2015

M-Cubed for 8.3.2015

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

- Good morning! For those of you who drift on by on Monday mornings, I posted my 9 month update since I began CrossFit. You can read it here.

- August?! Dang. You definitely know what's up when you visit all the retailers right now...from places like Wal-Mart and Target to the grocery stores: school supplies! That makes sense. What DOESN'T make sense is Halloween costumes. I've seen that more than once! In another few weeks, the snow-blowers will be out!

- I have a pretty decent commute and I'm often on the search for a great podcast. I'm a huge fan of FamilyLife and their daily radio show on families and marriage. I found a new one a week or so ago from Mashable. If you're into tech and the business/marketing surrounding it, you'll love it. They actually covered's Prime Day two weeks ago and it was super interesting. My education and passion is definitely in the business realm so I loved it...but I also love my gadgets. Great find! I also highly recommend their pages on Facebook: Mashable Tech and Mashable.

- You are probably chock full of CrossFit but just one thing on this Monday morning. One of the benchmark WOD's is named "Cindy" and it's also a great workout to prepare for the Hero WOD "Murph." It's a 20min AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 air squats. I've done it 3 times. The first was last November when I was brand new in CrossFit and did 10 complete rounds plus 10 more reps...using a band to assist the pull-ups. On July 8th, I did it and did much better at 13 rounds plus 13 more reps and without any band assistance. A few days ago, I did it again and scored 14 complete rounds plus 20 reps! Boom! My weak point and where I pause most is still the push-ups. The pull-ups went well (although I really want to learn the more efficient butterfly variety) and I did all the squats unbroken. Always room to get better but I'm happy with the progression in the short period of time!

- It was a lonely week at home as my wife and girls headed to the beach. It was just my baby girl, Bristol, and me. It helped that my parents' ice cream shop is only 3 miles away...and Bristol LOVES vanilla ice cream!

- I've wrote about the Chattanooga shootings over the past few weeks so as the investigation continues and the country raised their flags back to full staff and the 4 Marines and one sailor were buried, one news item that came out a few days ago was that the commanding officer of the Navy Reserve center did, in fact, discharge his personal weapon during the attack. I'm going to watch this story closely because while what he did was heroic in trying to defend his center, everyone knows he is strictly forbidden from carrying a firearm in uniform and also bringing one into the center itself.  It's an ugly situation and one I don't envy him for being in. As a father of 4 with a fifth on the way and a wife, I really hope for the best for him and his family. Here's one local story from Chattanooga. The rest of the investigation is ongoing. I was encouraged, though, that for those centers across the country that are unarmed (which are many), armed sentries are now authorized. Amen to that!

- Soda/pop drinker? Read this from Yahoo! News.

- Surely, you've seen the many faint rainbows behind your Facebook friends' profile photos ever since the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage...right? Well, a few Air Force officers thought "Why can't we do that with the American flag? So they did and you can create yours right now. Here's the story and the link is within.

- I had the honor of doing my 3rd Veteran Pinning on Friday. If you recall, I volunteered with a local hospital that has a program called Veteran to Veteran for patients in hospice care (expected to pass within 6 months) who are veterans. It's a way to say "Thank you" from one veteran to another. For this one, he was an 88 year old World War II vet. His memory wasn't so good but he was very kind. He told me of his time when he joined just after the war ended and he was in Europe. Like the previous two, it was an honor to read him the certificate, hear his story, pin him, and shake his hand while thanking him for serving his country and paving the way for folks like me. I won't forget his story about his job: At the age of 16, he went to a factory in Cleveland that made shells for the Army and Navy. They wouldn't hire him unless he proved he dropped out of school. Well, he did and never went back. When he joined the Army, the factory held his job and he went back and worked a total of 30 years for that company. I asked why he went at 16 and his reply was "I just felt like I was supposed to work for the rest of my life." What a concept!!! Can you imagine if our country's youth today had this mindset? Not one of quitting school, mind you, but of a work ethic like this. This man ended up raising 9 children and working at another factory for 15 years after retiring from the first. He repeatedly told me of how blessed he felt in his life and how he regretted nothing. Quite an inspiration!

- Do you know who Jared Fogle is? I didn't, either. But I do know who Subway's Jared is...the spokesman for years who lost all that weight. Ring a bell? Well, it turns out he allegedly paid $100 to have sex with a 16 year old girl. The FBI is all over him and as expected, Subway can't distance themselves fast enough. This is from their Facebook page. Sick. If you want to read any stories, just Google him. I won't be posting any links here. How does that saying go? "You're never too big to fall." Crash.

- Before I leave you today, I read this short article on Mashable over the weekend where a photographer used light to "show" the sound/music coming from a violin. The results are incredible! Below is just one image from the article. I can only imagine what it would be like if he did this with a variety of stringed instruments on stage during something like the 1812 Overture. That would be simply amazing. Here's the article.

- As I let you go this morning to get on with your week, I simply leave you with this today. It applies to us matter what! Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

CrossFit Update: 9 Month Report

Looking back prior to parking myself on my back patio this morning, I was surprised to see it's been a month and a half since I wrote on this topic in detail...June 17th, to be exact. At that point, my wife and I were two weeks into a new CrossFit gym/box and starting over in many ways. This journey, itself, began last November 4th and here in 2 days will be 9 months old. It has been a great experience, overall, and one we have no intention of stopping. We still hear the comments like "You know it's a cult, right?" ... but we continue on knowing such a statement is simply the result of misinformation and while as innocent as it is, can't be taken seriously or any offense taken. As I try to sum it all up in a single, concise blog post, it's going to be hard not to compare/contrast the two gyms we have been a part of while bringing you current on where we stand. It's a huge part of our "story."

Google image...not me!
It's incredibly personal. One thing that will eventually hit is the "why" of why to dive into this "sport" of CrossFit. Seriously...why pay a premium fee to work so hard, give so much, bleed, and do workouts where your insides want to come to the outside? I mean seriously...Planet Fitness is only 10 bucks and they serve pizza. Whatever reason it is when you walk in most likely won't be the reason a month or 9 months later. We all want to lose weight, get fitter, eat better, etc. It was only 10 days ago when I faced the rawest of days in the gym. It was an all-time low and brought out a side of me that may have never seen the light of day. I truly lost my cool. It was a WOD/high intensity workout that included a movement called chest-to-bar. (pictured here is a photo I found online...definitely not me...I don't have any photo proof of me doing this but this helps you picture the movement) It's something I couldn't do prior to joining my current gym. It takes the pull-up to a new level and forces you to make contact with the bar with your chest to be a legitimate rep which requires more pulling and strength. Anyway, there were a LOT of them and I could feel my hands begin to tear...a common by-product of being on the bar. The last time I was in a similar workout, my hands tore in 6 places but I wouldn't quit but my coach did...I mean he literally got in his car and left the gym. He quit on me and that event was one of the many reasons I had to leave that gym. This workout 10 days ago brought that memory full circle as I looked up at the bar and saw my blood and in my hand, blood-colored chalk on one hand and skin hanging off my left. I said some things out of frustration and anger...yet my coach didn't leave. The clock continued to tick and he said "I won't quit on you as long as you don't quit on me." Well, I wasn't pretty, though. I had also said some things I wasn't proud of. Before I left that day, I apologized but little did I know, the worst was yet to come...and it wasn't the raw skin on both hands. As I replayed the event in my head, I grew more and more ashamed of myself and the question presented itself again..."Why?" Why do I do this? It was clear from my coach and others that I gave off the vibe that I didn't want to be there and didn't enjoy it...but I do. Well, it turns out that he was just as upset as I was but in a different way. The anger poured out and negativity had no place in his gym or in CrossFit. I knew it. He knew it. My wife knew it. It was a turning point and a point to re-commit to pack it up and leave. I prayed on it, discussed it at length with my bride and one last time, hashed it out and "buried the hatchet" with my coach. We were good. Renewed. A little bit of grace shown and I felt welcomed back into the fold but with a new recommitment to how I would enter the gym every day and how I would react to opposition...not from others, but from myself when I hit that ugly spot again in the future because I promise you, that day will come. "It never gets easier," I was once told by my original coach. Truth. It doesn't. It's such an incredible parallel to life, too. Work, marriage, running, we deal with problems, pain, suffering, opposition, conflict...our reaction is such a reflection into our inner being, soul, and a glimpse into who we really are when the onion is truly peeled apart. will peel that onion time and time again. Peel away... To my coach: "Thanks, Will, for not quitting on me."

Community. It's something I had read about and watched countless videos about. One of the big allures of CrossFit is not only the ripped abs and bodies often produced but the community that CrossFit gyms have. Due to the extremely loose requirements to open a legit CrossFit box (simply a Level One certification), what every box looks like is one-of-a-kind. From the programming, structure, class-climate, equipment, etc.,  it's all different. The "vibe" and community, too, are one-of-a-kind and may or may not even exist. I had been looking for this community for several months into this journey yet never found it. I found some awesome new friends but the community, no matter how hard I tried to find it or even volunteer to build it, never appeared. My new home couldn't be more different. It's normal for the grill to get fired up and steaks thrown on it after a long day. It's normal for laughter, taking fun jabs at each other, and celebrating new achievements together. It's normal for the gym to post advice on nutrition and science behind it. It is normal to have a clean gym and pride in it. It's also normal to accept that we're all built differently, have different abilities, but to expect us to all give 100% within those abilities. Heck, we're even going to hit up a Cleveland Indians game soon as a "family." It's not just about moving weight around and sweating a ridiculous amount, it's also about living and living abundantly. Doing the workouts becomes empty if not for a growing "community" and for me, I'm incredibly thankful to have found mine.

This past Friday...a little bit of cleanup is needed! CHEST DAY!
Coaching matters. I could give you Webster's definition of it but honestly, it's common sense. A coach is someone who actually cares about his/her athlete, wants to see them succeed, is trained in the fundamentals, can teach and demonstrate those fundamentals, can motivate, will hold accountable, keeps safety in mind, and will stay grounded and true to the mission at hand. Slapping a label on a person because they hold a certificate, degree, etc. doesn't make them a coach. Maybe it puts some letters behind their name but it doesn't matter at all if the above don't jive. I have heard time and time again over the past month from new gym members how in ONE DAY, they have improved drastically in something...and why? They were actually coached one-on-one and not just shouted to from across the room as an afterthought. I saw it again yesterday when we had a free squat clinic. We had a visitor who really struggled in the squat and in only the clinic time itself, totally turned it around. The squat is fundamental to just about everything and if it's not right, pretty much nothing else will be either. So for me approaching 9 months, I've gotten so much better at fundamental things in the past two months due to the coaching, I'm pumped about what is to come. It's slow...but I'll get there. Plus, I've got this little thing called "age" and "in-flexibility" that are working against me. I'm just not as limber as some of these other guys and gals! One fellow gym member was shocked a few days back to find out I was twice his age. Yep...42 years young!

The Icing on the Cake. I am positive that many enter CrossFit the first time because of the pictures of others they see. The 8 packs...the shapely shoulders, toned chests and butts that clearly squat often. That wasn't my driving force...I'm the exception. I will also say that CrossFit's impact on the body is different for every person out there. Not only are we physiologically different but our stress levels, amount of sleep, nutrition, length of time spent in the gym, effort all feeds into the results. Yesterday, our newest coach, Ashley, did body fat measurements prior to the squat clinic using calipers. While it's not the most scientific method, it's better than what the military does to me...jump on a scale, measure my neck and abdomen, and call it a day. For years, they have called me borderline obese. Well, I came in at 10.2% body fat yesterday when I was expecting a number near 20. I haven't even lost 10 pounds since November last year, though. However, I've essentially flipped the "pear" over. Before, I was shaped more "pear" like with zero definition of anything in my upper body with a spare tire that would never go away, even running 200+ miles a month. Today, the tire is almost gone but I have that definition up top. The jeans were a tight 34 or 36 and today are a loose 32. While the scale shows little change, the mirror reflects a total change. I've got photo proof but for today, I'm just not comfortable showing them...not sure if I ever will be! But yea, it's the icing on the cake. It's great to finally "fill out" my military uniform as it should be and have clothes fit tighter in "good" areas and loose in the previous "bad" areas.

It wouldn't be a normal post of mine without some photos so I'm going to stop typing and share some photos. I've given a bit of narration under each one to explain it. If you want to stay more in touch on a daily basis, subscribe to my Instagram feed. (link is at top right of blog if viewing on a computer) I post most often there and try to post less on Facebook.
My little creation one day playing around. Ready to slap one of these on the back of my car!

Oh yes. This would be the bar I wrote about where I bled and spend a lot of time working. Of course, I cleaned the bar that day but I return daily to get stronger. I love working on this bar.

Yea...this is pretty normal lately along with my new addiction of sweet potatoes. Need protein!

Always proud of my bride. She has the attitude I need. She keeps it positive and displays the attitude I need in the gym.

Such a burn. It's not so bad pushing the sled with those tall bars. It's the return trip with the lower bar that light up the quads!

One photo from my first-ever competition during a hand stand hold at CrossFit Steeltown in PA.

Ah yes...gymnastic rings. The "holy grail" movement in CrossFit is the muscle up. I am slowly moving towards attempting my first one but for now, am working on pull-ups using the rings and getting my hands in the proper positions.

While I have lost some endurance fitness for distance running, I ran this 5K on July 4th and competed against local runners that I could never keep up with before. On a hilly course across Kent State University, I took first place in my age group! The pic, taken by my wife, does show how I have physically changed. There was zero muscle in my upper body before!

Work work work! Climbing this 18 foot rope has become a real test for me. Just a week ago, I finally figured out how to most efficiently wrap my foot to climb efficiently, quickly, and saving energy. I'm now to the point of making it to the ceiling in 3 pulls. I love climbing the rope.

Self-explanatory. One year before and after...same spot...different morning.

We use the GHD's in the background and the kettle bells and boxes quite a bit. It's commonplace now to warm up with back extensions and GHD situps daily on those guys back there.

On this day two weeks ago, I came within 10 pounds of a new back squat personal record but I didn't have it in me. On the flip side, I am squatting so much better and stronger. Today when I lift, I spend maybe an hour or more building strength and focusing on the fundamentals vs. 10min of strength work. Overall, I am much stronger.

Honestly, I wouldn't want to do this "just me." We're approaching 23 years now and doing this together is critical for me. It's safe to say I am not meant to be alone...she can attest to that! While we may not always sweat together at the gym, we share the journey, encourage each other, and celebrate the little victories. 23 years is a long time but I wouldn't want to travel this path with anyone else. CrossFit doesn't define me or us but it does teach us how to live better and enjoy it. That along with our grounded faith and commitment to each other makes a life worth living.

Click here for my entire CrossFit series since 11/2014