Monday, May 16, 2016

M-Cubed for 5.16.2016

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

- Yesterday, a Sunday in the middle of May, would normally yield a day of sunshine, a walk in the park, maybe a melting S'mores out back as the weekend came to a close. Not in NE Ohio...we had hail, rain, snow, high winds, sunshine, and a frost warning. If ever there was a day to curl up, hibernate, and come back to life when it was all over, this was it! For those who ran in the Cleveland Marathon yesterday, it was miserable! Forecast is looking good, though, moving forward.

- Just a few weeks ago, SO1 Charles Keating was killed in Iraq. He was a Navy SEAL. "SO1" means he was a Special Operator (SEAL), 1st Class Petty Officer. It's interesting to lose a servicemember in combat in a country where we have no one on the ground doing combat, isn't it??? Food for thought. Petty Officer Keating was laid to rest late last week and ceremonies were held both in NYC and at the home of SEAL training in Coronado. He was also post-humously promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. Here are a few photos, officially released by the Navy. May his family be protected and his death be avenged. 
Memorial Mass Held at St. Patrick's Cathedral

The Navy Recruiting District New York color guard parades the colors to begin a memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City honoring Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Charles Keating IV, of San Diego, May 12. Keating was killed in action in northern Iraq May 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Matthew Stroup/released)

SAN DIEGO (May 13, 2016) San Diego residents await the arrival of the funeral procession for Chief Special Warfare Operator Charles Keating IV. The procession made its way from Coronado, Calif. to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Richard A. Miller/Released)
- While Saturday was cold, windy and rainy, I still spent the morning out at Sand Run Metro Park in Akron with the Cleveland Area Rucking Crew. We had a scheduled "Navigation Ruck" planned as well as a picnic. Where most gatherings involve wearing our weighted rucks for miles, carrying logs and a variety of other things and lots of PT, this day was more about education and learning how to read a map and navigate via compass. It was a good time, we still got to play in the woods and get dirty a bit, we rucked a few miles near the end and then enjoyed some grilled goodness and fellowship before heading out with the rest of our weekend. Great time!
We were each given some map coordinates then had to find the spot on the map.

I can't believe I lived for 43 years and never learned how to properly use a compass.

That's us out there, counting paces and doing our best to stay on our heading until the next waypoint. Some water, some prickly bushes, and nothing but a good time.
- It was a pretty great week in the home "box" sweating out some CrossFit. If you didn't read my most recent CrossFit update at the 18 month point, you can read it here. Many thanks to those who stopped by to read it. It ended up gathering the most traffic of any post in the last year! Back mid-week, I woke up and decided it was time for a Hero WOD. There was one I had been looking at and waiting for the right day for it. I woke up Wednesday morning wanting to do (and overdue for them) squats so it was time for "Manion." Manion is in honor of 1Lt Travis Manion who was killed by sniper fire in Iraq. I found the right music, read his story and headed out to do it. Manion is a 7 round couplet of 400m runs and 29 back squats at 135 pounds. While 135lbs is not heavy for a back squat, 203 of them is. My plan was to break them up into 10-10-9 each round with minimal rest which really worked out well. Still, it took me 34:59 to complete it. I loved it, Old Glory stared me down the whole time and anytime I thought "this sucks so bad," I thought of him and his family...and the sacrifice paid. The rest of the week was pretty good with some solid workouts with my wife. As for those squats? I felt them for 3 days! Nothing but good soreness, pain at all. Coming up this week, I'm going to start the week with a beat down called "Filthy Fifty" (check out my Instagram feed for the aftermath later today) and this Saturday is "The Hammy" workout at Dix Stadium in Kent. I'm teaming up with a friend for my first go at this event, an event in honor of Adam Hamilton who died in Afghanistan in May 2011. Below is a photo from Travis Manion's funeral in 2007. He was a Marine officer.

- Did you hear that Prince didn't have a will?!?! Seriously, if you don't have one, get one. We all should have one, especially those with kids! Don't leave it up to your family (or the courts) to figure it all out when you're gone.

- I'm not crafty at all with my hands, I lack the "handyman" skills that many have, but somehow my kids got some of that talent. They're musicians and thanks to my wife's mother, they can make a quilt all by themselves! Just a few days back, my oldest finished one. Now I'm no watcher/fan of "Dr. Who" but if you are, you probably see the influence here. This quilt fits perfectly on her twin bed and she's going to enter it into the competition at the county fair this August. Proud!

- I have a little chuckle for an outgoing quote today for you...but first: It is easy to come up against opposition, get taken advantage of, fall into the trap of being naive once again and just want to call it quits, throw in the towel, and boom...disappear. But what kind of life is that? What kind of legacy will be left? Is that how you/we/I want to live? So instead of sitting on our butts, we need to get moving and whether or not we accept the past (or present), it is what it is. We need to blaze a trail and get moving. Write your own story, know who YOU are, listen to your gut (big weakness of mine!), and GO! Have a great week, everyone!

"You can't make footprints on the sands of time by sitting on your butt...and who wants to make buttprints?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

CrossFit Update: 18 Months and Counting

Can you believe it's been since August 2, 2015 since I did an "official" update?! I have written on the topic and in particular, my experience with the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, but not in general about the journey. In case you're just joining for the first time, here's a super fast recap: I'm now a 43 year old guy who ran marathons and ultra marathons for over 17 years, totaling 61 finishes of a marathon or longer. (see them all here) More of those finishes are ultra marathons and include 3 100-mile finishes. (yes, all 100 miles at once!) In November 2014, friends of ours convinced us to give CrossFit a try and we did. "We" being my wife of over 23 years and I. Since then, running tapered WAY off and we've been through 2 CrossFit gyms and now are totally on our own...but that's jumping the gun on the update. As of August 2015, we were still cruising along at our second CrossFit home...

200+ miles per month (left) vs.
Little running + lots of CrossFit (right)
Our first gym wasn't necessarily a bad place, but we were certainly there during a transitional time and never really fit in, no matter how hard we tried. The "community" aspect of CrossFit that we've watched on countless YouTube videos put out by CrossFit HQ told us that the tight community part of CrossFit was out there...we just weren't finding it. For others, though, that place worked great for them and still does today. The #1 downside to leaving in May 2015 was leaving those friends who invited us in the first place. Throwing down with them every morning at 5:30am was awesome and a ton of fun. But, a change had to happen and that change became an easy one when another gym opened up only 2 miles away and actually closer to our home. We started there on June 1, 2015.

The second place was totally different. No classes, an oddity for a CrossFit affiliate, a small membership, top-end equipment and direct coaching, much similar to what you'd expect if you had a personal trainer. With such a small membership, this was possible but the small membership also forced a higher membership fee. We considered it worth it, though, and as the months progressed, we both sky-rocketed in strength and confidence. It was awesome to watch my wife totally come out of her shell. She gained a whole new confidence and muscles she had never seen before were emerging, her jeans were literally falling off and her "ability to generate intensity" (inside joke!) kept increasing. Her infectious smile really made working out even more fun and it rubbed off on fellow gym members. We had a great coach who knew what he was doing and he focused on the foundation first before building from there. Heck, I could hardly squat properly at all when I walked in there due to horrible flexibility so of course, that was the first issue to get addressed. I also lacked a lot of upper body strength. (just look at those photos above) So, I started doing a LOT of pullups, dips, hand stand push ups, push ups, and bench pressing for the first time in my life. Basically, I began building an upper body I never had before and the 1hr class at the first gym really didn't build that much, nor did I get coached like I did here. The improved flexibility and form over time along with greatly increased strength really started to yield results, not just in the mirror and how my clothes fit but how I could perform in workouts. The same was happening to my wife.

One dark cloud, though, continued to hang over my head through both gym experiences. I am super hard on myself and super critical of everything. I am my own worst judge ever. I also wear my emotions on my sleeve. This is often perceived from others to be a sour attitude and a dislike for even being in the gym. That couldn't be further from the truth but that's how I was perceived and there were many days I didn't know if I'd ever walk back in those doors. Sometimes, I took a few days off to cool down and get my head screwed on straight. Unfortunately, my dismay and personal struggle just hurt my wife and her almost-always-happy demeanor. I couldn't fathom leaving the gym and leaving her behind. We've always done this together and no person or place was going to rip us apart. I resolved many times to just suck it up and keep showing up. I loved working out hard, often for 2 hours plus, and the friendships I had made with others at the gym. In March 2016, the CrossFit Games Open arrived and my coach encouraged me to register, a suggestion that still baffles me today. (read my whole 5 week recap here) It was a fun 5 weeks and unlike 2015, my wife did the workouts, too, and surprised the heck out of herself week after week! It was awesome to watch. After the last workout on the last Saturday in March, we had a cookout to celebrate the Open and that's when we found the gym was a week. Jaws hit the floor along with a few tears and after enjoying some awesome food from the grill, we headed on home, not sure what the future would hold.

March 31, 2016
Our heads spun with the "what to do?" question and where to go. The first gym really wasn't an option as it just didn't work out the first time and we had no reason to believe things would be different the second time around. Other than that, no other gym was close enough to home. Unlike cities and towns where there are multiple options within a few miles of each other, we live in the country and simply don't have that convenience. Within a few days, we resolved to bring it all home. We would make a trip to Columbus, OH and the home of Rogue Fitness and drop a "few" bucks and build our own garage gym. Because of the excellent coaching we received over the previous 10 months, we could do it safely. We also had the knowledge of knowing what we needed. As for the daily workouts and "programming," I had all of the workouts for the previous year plus there are many resources and other gyms online that post their daily workouts. IT COULD BE DONE. So, we began researching every last component we needed and planned that trip for the next weekend. In the interim, though, we wanted to finish and finish strong at the gym. We kept on going that whole next week and on March 31st, we said goodbye. On April 1st, we began for the 3rd time at home.

Over that weekend, almost everything needed was acquired except for the bumper plates and the rower. The majority of our garage is filled from gear from Rogue but I did find those horse stall mats off of Craigslist so that saved some money. About a week later, the bumper plates showed up and we could finally get to work like we were used to.

So far, it's going really good but there have been bumps in the road. There is a major convenience to having it all right outside your door but the big word ACCOUNTABILITY is gone. Before, perhaps it was our coach or fellow gym members who were expecting us at the gym that ensured we showed up. There was also the routine of it. Each day of the week is different but we had a rhythm to it all and we did it...and it worked. Now, it's all on us to program the workouts and do them...alone. There's good and bad in everything! Now as we're about 7 weeks into this new routine of ours, we're getting traction under us. Morning vs. evening, together vs. alone, length of time to workout, what to do...all of those questions have been getting answered. We have found we certainly enjoy the time together. It doesn't work 100% of the time but we try. We have found that mornings are certainly better, even if that means sacrificing some sleep. I have also found a few really good sources of programming that I call upon every morning to keep us rolling along and keep it all "constantly varied" and still quite intense. We also focus on many of the foundational strength components that got us where we are today and continue to work on them. Heck, my ring dips are better than EVER right now!

One thing I really appreciate and value these days is the choice over what I do. I am a military man and I take seriously the sacrifices of others to keep us free. There are many Hero WODs within the CrossFit universe and most are attached to a fallen servicemember. They are typically not easy at all and require going to that "dark place" to get through them...vs. quitting. I like to read their short story of their family and when/where/how they died and think about them as I do the workout. I found a channel on iHeart Radio, too, that is heavily patriotic so I turn that on as well. Just this morning, for example, I was due for a heavy squatting day and give my upper body a rest so I did "Manion," named for 1st Lt Travis Manion who was killed by sniper fire on April 29, 2007. Check out my Instagram account for his photo, the details, and the workout. (IG account: RTRSBM)

We also had the privilege of inviting over those friends that invited us all the way back in November 2014 to throw down a few Saturdays ago. I came up with a team workout (Beauty vs. Brawn) since we have limited equipment and it was awesome. GREAT time, lots of work done, and great conversation and fellowship after. We definitely plan on future workouts with them and others, too. We continue, too, to exchange banter and encouragement daily via texts to help motivate each other and celebrate those victories as they come and new personal records. Great friends ARE hard to find but I think we found a few. ;)

A few days ago on "Flex Friday" and
Military Spouse Appreciation Day
Moving forward, we hope to add on a 3rd car garage and move the gym into that. If things go right, I'll hang a climbing rope in there and gymnastic rings to hopefully one day allow that first muscle-up to happen. Everything happens for a reason and I'm for sure thankful that I have the ability to not only build out a home gym but that I get to workout and do it with my bride. I told her yesterday that we need to keep in focus the "why" of why we do this. Are we trying to be compete in the future? Do we have something to prove to someone? The truth is that we'll never "compete" and no one really cares what we do in the gym...or what the scale says...or how our clothes get the idea. We simply want to live life to it's fullest, enjoy each other, be healthy, and work hard in every facet of our life. God made the human body to work. He gave it muscles, a brain, a strong heart and it can do more than we can even imagine. Why waste such a gift? We should strive to be the very best version of us and if that means we can do it with the very person we love more than life itself, it makes it all the sweeter.

(Follow me on Instagram for almost-daily posts of our workouts and more. @RTRSBM)

Monday, May 9, 2016


Happy Monday, all! One thing has been weighing heavy lately, and such is the subject of today. One small warning as there is quite a diverse group that stops by here. This post is certainly going down the path of personal faith and if you find yourself quickly offended if someone doesn't drink from the same fountain of beliefs as you do, maybe come back another day?! Or, just stick around and maybe just consider my thoughts with an open mind.

Eggs. They can be awesome, rotten, delish, a perfect post-workout food, be a component to a festive beverage whilst decorating the Christmas tree and colored for fun around Easter each year. Untouched from their origin, though, they are fragile as heck. If you don't handle with care, they are ruined with no amount of super glue on the planet that will repair them. It's a one-way path to the end.

We've all heard the saying "Don't put all your eggs in the same basket." As I travel into my 43rd year on the planet and my 24th year of marriage, I continue to learn from this in so many facets of life. I totally agree with this with the exception of one thing...but I'll address that later.

Finances: I used to work for Snoopy...(read: MetLife) and gave advice about investing, insurance, etc. and moved money around for clients quite a bit. I spoke about "diversity" and "spreading the wealth" often because if you put it all in one basket and that basket hits the will you. The stock market crash along with the housing market is proof of that. If you have $100,000 of retirement money, putting it all in one growth fund is probably not the best idea....but that's not official financial advice! Just a thought. Spread it around.

Kids: We love 'em! Yesterday, we became a 100% teenager home. My youngest turned 13 and she joined her sister in the teenager ranks. I will never forget sitting in a home Bible study many years ago in Colorado Springs and a couple said this: "We are focusing 100% on our kids now. We'll focus on each other once they're gone."  That has got to be the worst game plan ever. Guess probably won't even know each other once they're gone. Don't put your all into your kids. They deserve a good portion but they aren't the all in all. Even if you're a single mom or dad, 100% to them and 0% for you or anything else will crush you. Save a few eggs...

Friends: If social media has proven anything, it's proven that friends can become UNfriends quicker than ever. The REAL awesome friends...the friends who will never leave your side no matter what are diamonds in the rough...and sadly, aren't known until the real poo hits the fan. Some "friends" are a matter of convenience and not authentic and others really are just acquaintances...not friends. If you are one of those awesome, rare friends and/or have one...hold on tight! But, remember the a few.

Fitness: Whether it's running, being a gym rat, yoga, DVDs, CrossFit, adventure races, swimming, biking, hiking, etc. etc. etc., .... diversify! For example, things may grow stale, you might get injured, the seasons change, your family grows, your time allowances fluctuate in such ways that crush your current schedule and the possibilities never end. Personally, I have not lived this rule very well. I HAVE put all my eggs in the same basket more than once. For some 17 years, I did NOTHING but run and when injury presented itself, it shut me down with nowhere to turn. I had nothing else. More recently when my recent CrossFit gym closed its doors, I learned the lesson yet again. I put so much time and weight in that ONE place that when it got ripped away, I was faced with a decision and I had to move fast. I could either quit (because there was no Plan B) or build a place at my home to continue. I chose the latter and continue to try and find the balance there. My eggs were stacked disproportionately and luckily, some got injured but not broken altogether. The scars will remain and serve as a reminder but now...I'm back on track. So as I step towards each day, it's not just CrossFit in my garage, but it's dabbling in other things like rucking and the new friends I have there. The one chief difference is that all the weight is now on me. No accountability, no coach waiting, and no one who really cares what I do or don't do. It's me vs. me. Every egg...under my care and fully my responsibility. Having a few baskets to share and disperse the weight helps.

Career: Here today, gone tomorrow. You've heard the stories of companies selling out to an offer they couldn't refuse or taking their business overseas. To never be looking down the road in case "what if" happens is foolish. We always have to have a "Plan B" in the back of our thoughts because if "it" happens, it's up to us to make it. It's not other's responsibility to bail us out or the government to step in to bail us out. It's us vs. us. It's hard not to stack the eggs in your career but always be looking to see where else you can hatch a few.

Marriage/Relationships: Are you thinking this is the one that I think should take all the eggs? Put all your eggs into one marriage basket? All or nothing, right?! Maybe you don't believe in marriage at all and you choose to simply cohabitate forever. Same concept. Do you think it wise to still put every last egg into that basket? We are human creatures, born into the world with many failures. We make mistakes. We fail others. We disappoint. We make bad decisions. Heck, this world has cancer, tragic accidents, etc. that we can't control and the life we know today can be wrecked in a minute. Still, if we think about our vows we take at the altar to each other and before God, shouldn't we put ALL eggs in this basket? Shouldn't it be #1? many eggs for one basket to hold. I submit that even marriage is an imperfect union made up of imperfect people that MUST give their entire being to the other to truly achieve oneness and live, as they say, in holy matrimony till death to they part. But, what if the basket breaks? Can we not have absolutes in life?! We cannot.

Faith: Some 5 years ago, I deployed to a war zone and through it all, hit some pretty rough patches. If there was ever a bottom in my life, I found it. Would I re-live it by choice? Heck no. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. However, I wouldn't be the man I am today without it. There was a day in November 2011 that is painted in my head. There I was free-falling down and ready to call it quits. But, the One who I called Savior...Father...Christ...caught me. It's one of those times where those who don't believe as I do roll their eyes and move on by it and don't buy it. However, it's the truth. My faith goes all the way back to when I was 5 years old and I made that profession of faith...I invited Him in. I was a good kid and a good husband up to that point in 2011. I spent a life going to church, was a man of my word, integrity was gigantic to me but God...well, He was always there and we spoke often but I never really truly put ALL my eggs in His basket. I always kept a few out...ya know, because I could handle it myself. I can be an 80-85% Christian, right? How about 99%? Hmmm. It doesn't work that way.

What I have found is that my faith in Christ simply never fails. He may not always give me the answer I want but He never leaves, He always answers, and no matter how many baskets fail and eggs break, He never does. He is the only fool-proof solution to life, the only answer to all the questions, the only shelter from life's storms, and the only One that is 100%. I am sure not all who have gotten to this point in my post agree or "buy in" to this and to those I ask you this: Who or what is your 100% solution if every basket gives out today and every egg goes crashing to the floor? Every mortal walking this planet is a failed creature and every person/being/idol worshipped is dead, save One.

So diversify, friends! Diversify, hatch a few new eggs, plan for the unexpected, and live fully today for today (or tomorrow) is not guaranteed.