Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Faith, Fitness and Family

I'm inking this post from a comfy chair at my daughters' orthodontist. Child #2 gets her braces on today. Child #1 gets them off in a few months. So with the ending of one payment plan begins another but I'm thankful for that. Thankful for non-overlapping bills and a little bit of insurance to ease the burden of a costly service. So, while she gets the metal in her mouth, a few minutes here to catch up.

Only a few more weeks and another birthday rolls in. It'll be my 43rd year of completion on this earth and to me, it's just another day. Seriously, I'm good with a birthday kiss from my bride and perhaps one of my favorite craft brews at dinner and I'll be good. Many say that "age is just a number" but in my opinion,  it means a lot more to folks. It's used as an excuse, a point of complaint, often hidden and considered "private" but really, it just is. We all grow older by the moment and really, it's just a number. To let it define you, your limits, your "whatever" is to hold yourself back!

March 23rd...2016. It's amazing to me to think that 5 years ago, I was about to head on over to Afghanistan. Thanks to Facebook's "On This Day" feature, I get reminded of that daily, how I felt moving towards the day and forced to reflect on the "me" of 2011 vs. the me of now. Like I tell many, perhaps I'll write a book on that journey but suffice to say for now, it has been filled with the lowest of lows along with some incredible highs. Today, though, it has taught me to live in the NOW, capitalize on TODAY, love those around me NOW and never let a kiss go un-given, a hug not shared or the sun to go down on emblazoned debate. It has taught me to not count on tomorrow and to be the best version of all the knowledge and resources I have before me.

Faith: If you asked me when I became a Christian, I'd tell you something like: "Well, I was 5 years old, WKRP in Cincinnati was on the TV, and I was eating a bowl of buttered rice at the table in our modest home in Canfield, OH." That's really my recollection! I was raised in a Christian home, attended church my entire upbringing, was active in the youth groups of many churches, attended summer camps, and in all, I was a pretty good kid. To this day, I have never touched, let alone smoked (or whatever) an illegal drug. I kept clean, got good grades, and had parents that provided a safe and stable home to grow up in. Faith, though, or my religion never really matured. I definitely had the mouth of a sailor in the 90s and I led my home/marriage the best I could. We were active in using our talents for music and we were always engaged in groups within the church. It wasn't until late in 2011 (just after my return from the desert 10,000 miles away) where my faith was put to the test. It was a fork in the road of sorts and I could either say "I'm done with you, God." or fully devote myself to Him, let Him take the lead, and in turn, lead my wife and family. I chose the latter and I'm living testament to an awesome God who just never fails me. I really despise the term "religion" and the societal rules it has forced into our country and world. Instead, I am a Christian with a heavenly Father who is my all in interceder, my leader, the one I talk to first when I wake up, and my protector. When the crap hits the fan, I know "He's got me" and won't let me go. There is great peace to quite literally KNOW Him and cast all the worries of this life on Him and let Him lead instead of me. There really isn't anything comparable in this world.

Pre-November 2014
Fitness: Back in 1997, I ran my first marathon and for the next 17 years, that's all I did. It began with marathons but then upon our move to Ohio in 2002, the taste for trail-running was sparked and ultra running followed soon thereafter...and eventually a few 100-mile races in 2009. It wasn't that I grew tired of running or hated it, but I was tired of hurting...and aching. I was also tired of never looking different in the mirror. I thought "How could I run 200+ miles per month yet never lose a pound, an ounce of fat, or even look anything but sedentary?" I wanted a change so I accepted the invitation from friends of ours to try CrossFit. That was November 4, 2014. In the beginning, I still ran but cut the mileage way back because too much mileage made me too sore to really give it all in the gym. Fast forward to today and I might run 10-20 miles a month now...max. I find it hard to still call myself a runner but my body still remembers it and when I do head out, it's all groovy! I love it. But, the fire that burned bright before that pushed me out into the dark at 4:30am most days is all but snuffed out.

Today, I truly feel like I am in the best shape of my life. I could never do a dip, a pull-up, climb a rope or lift much of anything heavy. I can do that and a lot more AND I can often hold my own with those half my age. The long-distance running part of me (aka: endurance) helps me often for those long, grueling workouts where others just want to die and give up. The "engine" is my ace in the overall strength is ironically my weakness and kryptonite. But since 2014? It is far better and greater as indicated in the current CrossFit Games Open competition that I am a part of. The photo here is from last Saturday and was captured part of the way through 55 dead lifts at 225 pounds. I could lift that a year ago but there is no way I could've done it 55 times. My daily grind is overall positive but I still fight myself and my shortcomings. I have always been and always will be very, very hard on myself and unfortunately, those around me just don't get it. They perceive a bad attitude, a desire to not be there, a "whatever." The truth is, I love pushing myself hard and seeing/feeling change. It's not one of vanity to show off, but feeling good in my own skin and accomplished. I still look like a goof in so much I do but my heart is fully in it. I'm not sure where the future is headed here. I know I love it and I won't stop doing it. The rest is a blank slate.

Before I close the book on fitness, I would be remiss if I didn't share a little something with you. You probably know I recently got into rucking and GORUCK via the local Cleveland Area Rucking Crew and had signed up for my inaugural event over July 4th weekend on July 1st in Cleveland. Well, I dove a little more head first into that world by signing up for a triplet of sorts dubbed the HTL. In June, I will head to Detroit, MI for a 3-event series that begins with the GORUCK Heavy, followed by the GORUCK Tough and then finally the GORUCK Light. If you really want to know the "suck" factor here, just click on the hyperlinks you just read over in the preceding sentence. In a nutshell, the Heavy will be 24+ hours and cover 40+ miles. A special forces guy will lead it (aka: cadre) along with Old Glory and it'll be all about team and not quitting. Of course, I will always be carrying my 30 pound ruck on my back. A few hours after finishing, I'll do the Tough event  which will be 10-12 hours and cover 15-20 miles. After that, it's onto the Light that will be 4-5 hours and cover 7-10 miles. No sleep. No quitting. 3 patches.

Family: While faith has to come first, family is as tight a second place as it can be. My focus to keep my marriage alive, fresh, fun, selfless and loving is laser-focused. Who says 23+ years has to be boring, dull and meh?! I think my bride would agree that through our journey, we are closer than ever and stronger than ever. While we have had our bumps, bruises and near total collapses, we have made it to this point. I read something this morning about the enemy (aka: devil, Satan, evil)...if you hear him talking, he's lying! It's so true! He is a king, for sure...the king of lies and deception. The sooner you realize that and who is talking, the sooner you can be set free from it and call it for what it is every time he comes around.

Being a father also is a challenge to say the least! I swear they are a sponge for everything! Our youngest said something last night and while it wasn't a cuss word and I have certainly said it, it should not come out of her mouth! LOL! I kindly told her "You really can't say that." (insert chuckle) But, I will continue to do my best by them and hopefully, we'll stay close for a lifetime and they'll always know that I love them no matter what and through anything life deals them.

In closing, I'll just say that things are good. Change is constant. There are many knowns and unknowns in the near and distant future but as long as I keep priorities in check, be passionate about all that I do, and never compromise who I am, it'll all work out as it should. I just gotta remember to smile thing that doesn't come natural for me! "I promise...I'm not angry!!"

Go be epic, friends!

Monday, March 14, 2016

M-Cubed for 3.14.2016

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

- Week #3 of the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open is here. On Thursday night, Games director Dave Castro dropped another bomb on me. Last week, it was toes-to-bar and double-unders...two distinct weaknesses of mine and this week? The bar muscle-up. It's coupled with lightweight power-snatches which are easy. The bar muscle-up, though, is something that I can't do. This past Friday and Saturday, I did work on them quite a bit but so far...a no-go. I'll give it another try tomorrow but don't expect for it to click. Luckily, the snatches come first so I can still log a score but it'll be dismal. That's ok, though...the Open is known for pointing out the weaknesses of everyone and/or highlighting the strengths. It's just another thing to work on!

- Any wooden spoon survivors out there? Hehehehe... I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw this yesterday. Yes...I am one! :) (get the t-shirt here)

- I was browsing through Netflix yesterday on a constant-rain Sunday and stumbled upon "Before We Go" independent film made in 2014 by Chris Evans...the actor and now director who plays Captain America in the Marvel films. Pretty great flick that we all watched. It's actually rated "NR" and I only counted one f-bomb in the whole movie...that's it. I'd call it a romantic film and great to watch with your significant other. Check out the trailer here.

- In my office, we have had a small dog as our office dog for about 6 years. Her name was Abby and she was a tiny little thing. She came to work everyday with my co-worker who has been working there for 34 years. Abby was 14 which was 4 years longer than her anticipated lifespan. On Thursday, Abby took a turn for the worse and passed away. She'll be sorely missed! Here are a few photos of us over the past few years.

- Here in Ohio, we have election day and the primary for the upcoming presidential election. Ugh! Like I posted last night on Facebook, it's sad that our country can't produce a single respectable candidate for the Oval Office...of any party! While I will vote as I always do, there really isn't a person on any ticket I really want in the Office. It's frustrating as heck when imagining any candidate with a real chance actually being sworn in as the POTUS. America...we have to do better!!!

- This past Saturday was planned to be a rest day but the invisible pull of the CrossFit gym won me over. After spending about an hour doing all kinds of pull-ups, even to include doing singles with a 45lb kettlebell strapped around my waist, I moved on to back squats. It's something I use to warm up with a lot but haven't gone heavy in them for awhile. My personal record for the back squat went all the way back to April 2015 at my previous gym at 240lbs. I really wanted it gone as my last lingering PR from that gym. As I moved up in weight, it felt pretty good so I went for it and got two sets in at 255 pounds! While that's not HEAVY by many people's standards, it's heavy for me. I haven't even challenged 240 again since July last year and all I could get then was 220. Pretty happy! I'm also happy with my form, back position, chest up, below parallel, etc. It all went awesome! I also love it when I feel 100% the day after with no soreness of any kind...especially when I just lifted the most ever. It's easy to hurt yourself if you don't know what you're doing so the day-after feeling is great confirmation of a successful lift..and safely at that!

- There is a pretty cool company/husband and wife team down in Texas that opened up a company called Peacemaker Trading Company. He's ex-Special Forces and she works IT. Their names are Bert and Candace. They formed the company because as he says "we firmly believe that there isn't much better in this world than a favorite t-shirt." When they release a shirt, it sells out in hours, then he produces it, and finally ships it, each with a note. So to get one, I've learned to be subscribed to their email list and when I see an announcement, get on it immediately if I want it. I finally got my first shirt dubbed "The Paw" on Friday. This is the back of it and I tried to show the sleeves, too. There is also a front that you can see on their website at The one I REALLY want is their deadlift shirt. I literally bugged the heck out of Bert to get one but no dice. Hopefully, he'll make it again. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy wearing my super-soft "Paw" shirt. Check them out, read their story, and look at some of the past shirts they made. Pretty sweet!

- I like to end these posts with something positive to launch into the week. Below is a post by the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Champion and current "Fittest on Earth". I'm a big fan of Ben Smith who always exhibits humility, doesn't hide his faith, and is crazy talented and strong. To win it all last year yet still come across as "normal" is admirable. Great words by the champ! Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, March 7, 2016

M-Cubed for 3.7.2016

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

- First M-Cubed since January 18th. I took a nap, ok?! Ok. On with the day...and SPRING!!! This forecast is nothing short of spectacular this week...

- "Rest in Peace" to our former First Lady, Mrs. Nancy Reagan. I have always been a fan of her and President Reagan...always a class act. She passed away yesterday at the age of 94 and was married to "Ronnie" for 52 years.

"You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we're all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it's going to be over, and you better make this count." ~ Nancy Reagan 

- CrossFit is going, well, fantastic these days. My wife and I are now a year and four months into this journey and now have been with our current gym longer than the original, a switch that is confirmed daily as the right move. If you recall, I participated in the CrossFit Games Open last year...a 5-week event that kicks off the big CrossFit Games season that ends this summer in Carson, CA where the "Fittest on Earth" will be crowned. For us mere mortals, though, it's a chance to see where we've come over the last year, face our weaknesses, and be one of over 323,000 athletes "competing" worldwide. Yes, that many registered this year from 177 countries and all 7 continents for the first time. Yes, Antarctica has Deep Freeze CrossFit! :) Below are screenshots from my Instagram posts quickly summing up Weeks 1 and 2 or workouts 16.1 and 16.2. 16.3 will be announced live on YouTube this Thursday night. Bottom Line: I have definitely gotten stronger and can do far more than I could a year ago! ... a little backstory on the first photo: I did it and got 109 reps as shown on Saturday, the 27th. I analyzed (shocker, eh?!) how I did it over the weekend then came back on Monday and re-did it and got myself 16 more reps for a score of 125. I switched up my grip on the bar and broke none of the 25ft stretches up (I had broke two up before) and rested less on the burpees and chest-to-bars. With 3 min to go, I reached the was awesome!

- Who to vote for, who to vote for.... Well, if the election were today, I'd be writing in a candidate. Who? I don't know...maybe myself?! Seriously, there isn't anyone with a chance at getting on the ballot that is going to get my vote. I've never actually written in my name on a ballot so this may be a first. Trump? Come on. Morals? Ability to lead our country's military? Bully. Yes, he definitely is that. On the other side, I think Hillary has the best bet at getting on the ticket...but wait, the FBI investigation of her continues to escalate by the day. Then there is Benghazi. ARGH! Is this the best our country has to offer? Trump or Hillary? Yep...writing in my name.  Enter name here: ____________________

- So yesterday, we stumbled upon this new little donut shop in Hartville, OH called Peace, Love and Little Donuts. Think small, warm, fresh donuts with toppings applied to order before your eyes. All kinds of things to satisfy the sweet tooth and if you were buying a lot, it would be expensive. However, I felt like my $1.35 was well spent for this circle of joy...this one called the Triple Chocolate Meltdown. I know, I know...awesome, isn't it?

- A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of heading down to Columbus for yet another Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony for my commanding officer who now is enjoying retired life in North Carolina after 21 years of service as a Naval Aviator. I really enjoyed serving with him and being there for his retirement. Each one brings me a little closer to my own ceremony. I go back and forth about whether to have an actual ceremony and I always come back to doing it for my family, for closure of a major chapter, and to just seal it all up. But mostly, I'd want to do it to honor my family and thank them for supporting me.

- Can we just talk running for a minute? Unless this is visit #1 to my blog, you know that for years and years (17+, actually), I was a long distance runner and every year had a long list of races to complete from the short 5K to in 2009, three 100-milers. It's all I did outside of a job and family. That all changed in late 2014 and I've pinned on just a few bibs for races since then. For 2016, the only ones planned for are May's Medina Half Marathon and late April's Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon. For the marathon, it's been held two years now and I've run both with a goal of running it every year. Up until now, the military have been entered for free. That is ending this year as no sponsor could be found so now I'm faced with the decision of paying to enter (untrained, mind you) or abandoning the goal of doing every one for as long as possible. I'm leaning towards not running it. Why? No one cares about a streak but me...and if my passion and time isn't spent training for it...then why pay for it? I try to be as logical and sensical as possible and it just doesn't feel right to do it "just to do it." So I'm erasing it from my calendar. I hope I don't regret it as once I miss it, I can't get it back and be a legacy runner of the event. I'm still a runner...I really am. I just don't run...a lot. :)

- Before I leave you today, just a skip back to CrossFit for a moment. I was on a deadlifting PR (personal record) streak over the last month. The photo below is when I pulled 380 pounds back on February 24th. My coach has been programming in this deadlift workout that goes like this: 6-5-4-3-2-1. Those are the number of reps and you work up to a starting weight for 6 pulls then keep adding weight. It was a little tricky to get the math right but it's been a blast week after week doing it again and slightly besting myself over and over. 380lbs is where I'll sit for a bit as I need to strengthen my back more before I go heavier. Still, this photo blows me away because I had zero muscle tone when this journey began. While it's the not the reason to show up each day, it's a nice side-benefit to working hard.

So have a great week, everyone and as I posted a few days, ago, let this one soak in no matter what you find yourself doing this week...within your home, workplace, "gym," the open road...

The best you can do is enough. Just be sure it's the best.