exercise

Mail Call — Day 84

14552042_web1_181127-BPD-rainSgt. T. Polisher,

I send my warmest regards to you. There has been much discussion and gossiping since you were wounded. The rumor spreading around camp is Boot Duhe failed to fill the latrine with dirt, and you tripped in the hole, leaving your knee mangled like a opossum run over on the side of the road.

I surely hope your injuries are nothing more than of the flesh, and you haveth not the battle fatigue. Your sharp mind and skillful leadership is greatly needed at Forward Operating Base Frat House to lead the troops through this seemingly never ending war.

I don’t think I can take much more of the bickering between Captain Crank and Lance Corporal Good Hair over how a simple task must be performed. Life inside Frat House has become so unbearable I requested a brief leave for some much needed RnR. It was swiftly denied by General News.

According to the general I’m being sent South to hold the front lines against the most formidable of foes, Cristobal.

Whilst I was not too concerned about the new fighting I must face, I was however concerned with whom the general is pairing me with. News has paired me with a man I hath only run across once before. If you recall my time in the gulag, it turns out, the primate I was held captive with was once a photographer of sort who had been imprisoned for many years. Somehow he has clawed his way out of the depths of hell and has been recruited into the ranks by the general.

I sure hope this “man” called Left Eye has bothered to take a shower since I last saw him, or i fear I might not survive the stench.

I’m out of time, I must start the long journey south. I bid you farewell, and if this is the last time we shall correspond, it’s been a true honor to serve under you.

Best,

Private Slappy
1st News Division
9th Battalion

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Mail Call — Day 31

92673478_10215712756347597_1061778068042940416_n

Dearest Rick,

Today was rather busy so I didn’t have time to reminisce about your cartoonish antics and monkey like physique. Your letter, however, brought me crashing to earth with a tremendous thud!!

Thanks for holding my hand as you were my tour guide down sweet memory lane. My eye ducts are leaking a salty substance.

When we are reunited I will never take for granted the days I sneak your phone away to take random photos of the toilet. Asking you why a man in his 50’s double knots his New Balance sneakers, and my never ending queries about the process of the lathe contraption.

The joy I get when you exit the men’s room with your running attire. Do you remember the joke about your legs???

I will finish my 5pm pkg with ugly face and tears streaming down my wrinkled face.

Be strong my prince,

Left Eye Daquano
2nd Regime
69th Battalion

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The Road to Fitness

40918392201_1fa5b18e42_oThe morning air clings to my skin like sweat after a long, afternoon run, and I’m less than a quarter mile in. A morning run is different. There is none of the clutter from the day to cloud my thoughts. Only possibilities. Time to relax into my warm-up pace and let the Peter Frampton tune in my headphones take me back to starting line of this crazy race.

IMG_3387I discovered Frampton back in seventh grade — that was about the time I discovered the gym. I was a scrawny kid trying to bulk up for football season. Olympic lifting and peanut butter sandwiches coated with chalky, imitation-banana flavored Weight On powder ruled the day. It was like eating wet cement, but at 60 pounds with three pounds of rocks in my pocket, I was hardly an intimidating presence in the St. Genevieve Catholic Elementary third-string defensive secondary. I would do anything to gain weight.

It didn’t happen.

But in the gym and on the field, I found a love for hard work.

By mile two, my breathing is steady. My feet bound off the pavement like I could do this all day. Running slow is harder than running fast. My body wants to go, so I throttle up. 9:05 should be just about right. I’ve got 8.75 miles, today, and Barry White is telling me I Can’t Get Enough.

In high school, it became painfully obvious that I was not a football player. Hell, I didn’t break 100 pounds till the summer before my junior year. IMG_3388That didn’t keep me from slinging iron around the small gym above the furniture store half-a-mile from my house. I would run to and from my workout. I hated running then. Not for any other reason than it sucked.

By the time I graduated high school, I had a gym partner who shit bigger turds than me. He beat the crap out of me every day after work. Working out was more about getting massive to look good in the bars than anything else. With hair like that, I needed all the help I could get. It worked for him. I remained kinda puny.

By the half-way point, my feet are swimming inside my shoes. I can feel my toenails rake the inside, and I pray I don’t rip a couple off before I get home. Billy Joel is in a New York State of Mind, as I make the turn for home.

clownsThen came a wife and kids. Those little bundles of joy, smelling all fresh, and cooing back from behind the blanket are the perfect recipe for pounds. My workouts became shagging flies in the back yard. The only gym I ever entered was to watch my kids get buff on the gymnastics floor, or roll around the wrestling mat.

The weight I had so desperately chased caught me after my 40th birthday. Two knee injuries, and my 50th birthday had me convinced I’d never lift again. My entire body paid the price. Then came the phone call.

DSC_0249My cousin wanted me to run. Not just run. Run through mud. And climb stuff. And carry things. He called it a Tough Mudder. It sounded like fun, but could I get my fat, broken body in shape in just 3 months?

I downloaded the Nike Running Club app to train for the run, and found a bootcamp to whip the rest of my body into shape.

My trainer’s first bit of advice — You can’t sculpt fat, so don’t even try. Just eat right and work hard. Everything else will take care of itself.

Mile 6.

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My mind wanders off Greg Allman’s guitar bleeding into my ears, and onto the aches I’m going to feel in my knees later today. I’m still running my 9-minute pace, feeling strong, but these last three miles are going to be long.

The feeling of accomplishment in conquering the Mudder drove my team to run 5 more obstacle course races that year, including the grueling Spartan Trifecta. My wife called it my mid-life crisis, but I was hooked. If I was going to run obstacle races, I needed more strength than bootcamp could provide.

I found Crossfit.

The weight lifting, the gymnastics, the rowing, sweat angels, the rips, the camaraderie, the family. I had forgotten how much fun slinging iron could be.

crossfit1Crossfit taught me how to attack training. How to push through the pain. How to embrace the suck, to suffer with a smile. It taught me when to push, and when to pull back.

It taught me that for an old guy, I’m in pretty decent shape.

The tinkling keyboards of Eminence Front drift through my headphones as Mile 7 begins. I feel like I could run forever.

In the three years that followed the first rush of obstacle races, I have only taken about 8 months off — that was to rebuild our house after the floods of August 2016. I have begun to cut back on the obstacle races. I still run at least two a year, but training like I did that first year takes a toll on old joints. Last January, I competed in my first half marathon.

I still love it. I’m just a little more focused on strength. Crossfit taught me that fitness is not about how you look, how much you can lift, or how far you can run. Fitness is about living better.

One mile left. Lynard Skynard is complaining about That Smell. I can’t blame them. Time to kick it up a notch and finish this thing. I cross my driveway three and a half years since my first run — 25 pounds lighter, 2 minutes faster, and more than 2007 miles from where I started.DSC_0019 (1)

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Earn Your Rank

18402930_10211113874019994_8400291433473830259_nGrains of sand tumbled over each other then took flight, hurling themselves across my legs at speeds enough to shave the skin off my ankles. This was not what I signed up for. At least we were’t racing on the beach.

The Battle Race course, set up ten miles inland, awaited my partner and me. We had run Sid Morris‘ epic first Battle Race in Baton Rouge last year.

This year’s series promised to be even better — 3+ miles and 38 obstacles, complete with extra burpees and penalty laps. Needless to say, we were amped.

Our strategy was nothing new, after half-a-dozen OCRs together, we just looked at each other as the rookies sprintedP4290383 out of the starting gate. We knew we would see them again, gasping for air about 7 obstacles in. Slow and steady is the way to handle a Battle.

Terrain isn’t much of a challenge in Gulfport, MS. The obstacles were the reason we were here, nearly 40 in a 5.5-mile course. And Battle Race did not disappoint.

Cargo nets to crawl under and climb over. Ladders. Inverted ladders. Short walls. Tall walls. Cliffhangers. Rope climbs. Rope swings. Sandbag carries. And that was the
easy stuff.
P4290287I have never seen this much variety, and this many obstacles packed into any OCR anyhere. And as we battled deeper into the course, the obstacles just got better. Barbed wire crawls. A-frames. Tire flips. And a literal mountain of sand. (So much for terrain not  being an obstacle on the Gulf Coast.

You want log carries? Try humping a log down a gentle slope, then crawling under barbed wire while rolling that log up a dried gully.

Tough Mudder has Everest. Spartan has the Bucket Carry. Battle Race has at least three signature obstacles. The first we faced was Limitless. P4290201Imagine Victor Frankenstein as a fitness freak instead of a mad scientist.

This contraption could have come straight from his lab. First you shimmy up an angled pole, swing up and down monkey bars, then back up another angled bar before crossing another set of monkey bars and out of the obstacle. And the best part is, this thing has so many rigs, there can be a different set-up for every race.

Unmovable should be dubbed MissionAlmostImpossible. Grab a 150+ pound sandbag, and schlep it 20 yards. But that, my wheezing sherpa, is just the beginning. 18320595_1718903321740732_5350041093897681042_oDrop that behemoth onto a 24-inch platform then push it over to the other side. Now, jump on top, and cross to the other side. Now, pick up that beast, flip it over the box, jump back, and again hoist the dead weight off the ground and carry at back to where you started.

It’s enough to knock the wind out of the most seasoned OCR strongman. I watched the action at this one for nearly half an hour before our race. No one ran out of this obstacle.

The FF5 Rig, is . . . well . . . words fail me. If Limitless was something from Frankenstein’s lab. FF5 is another dimension. Ropes, balls, and freaky little handlebars all unstable, all dangling from trusses, IMG_6056just daring you to grab one and swing.

Choose wrong, and risk a penalty lap with even more challenges.

Battle Race is the race for obstacle lovers and novices alike. It is a great introduction into what OCRs are all about. Challenging for the individual. Fun to run as a team. On a bigger course, it could easily challenge Spartan as the baddest race in the land. The price is better than any of the big-name races, and the swag aint bad either.

IMG_6035After happy damsels plied us with protein bars and battlefield medals, we retired again to the beach where the winds had intensified. But what’s a sand-blasted ankle when there are beers to be drunk by returning heroes.

If you missed Gulfport, don’t cry in your sports drink. There are two more Battle Races scheduled for New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I’m already signed up.

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A Bag of Ass

17362917_10210828317876893_2968130807892576018_nIt’s been an entire week since I ran the Tough Mudder NOLA, and I’m still blowing mud out of my nose. I’d call that success.

The TM guys said that this year, they had upped their game. I can attest, Tough Mudder 2.0 is a beast. New obstacles. Improved old obstacles. And more mud!

I’m not going to lie, when my team and I crossed the finish line back in 2015, we were ready to run again. This time, I don’t think any of us wanted any more of this course.

The NOLA trail snaked for 10.9 miles across acres of old sugar cane fields, and through sparse woods. I grew up in cane country. The smell of the sugar mill is not one you want to wear to a black tie affair.Bagasse

Once cane is crushed and drained of its sweet nectar, it is thrown into huge piles outside the mill and left to ferment and rot. It’s called bagasse (pronounced bag-ass), which I believe it’s French for “bag of ass,” because that’s what it smells like.

Now, imagine thick, gumbo mud churned to cake-batter and smelling of bagasse. I was a kid again!

The re-magined Everest2.0 is a leg-slayer. 2014_training_everest_420x220px_1The run-up is shorter, and steeper. If you want to make it to the top, don’t stop churning your legs — even when the mountain falls away from you.

Then, swing wildly for one of the dozen or so outstretched arms of your fellow mudders waiting to pull you up.

If you miss, it’s a short, humiliating slide down the Everest’s muddy face all the way back to base camp for a short rest, and another run at it.13116039_10154117816772790_3498648781963682248_oPyramid Scheme is a blast, as long as you don’t mind strangers grabbing any body part available to heave their muddy carcasses over you. I want to apologize to the woman who’s crotch I may have grabbed on my way to the top. That’s what happens when someone is hanging upside-down and her legs look like a fork in the branches of that big oak tree from your childhood.

She was a good sport and yelled at me, “Just get your ass to the top! I can’t hang here all day!”race_3517_photo_50969411

Standing at the base if an eight foot, mud wall with no foot-holds to help me out of the chest-deep goop I was wading through, I thought, “This is gonna be fun.” Mile of Mud is one of the trademarks of Tough Mudder. This year, it was the slickest, nastiest, most fun on the course, and we got to do it TWICE.

But the best thing about a TM is the mudder to your left and the one to your right. Your team is every single mudder on the course. You’re all in this mad, muddy dash together, and the only way you’ll make it through is with the help of the dudes around you.

And THAT is what Tough Mudder is all about. Now hit the showers. You smell like a bag of ass.17362575_10210828317716889_3419742437002249856_n

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Return to Everest

o-MOUNT-EVEREST-BRAWL-facebookIt started as a whisper, somewhere in the distance, a nagging call among my team. You need to do this. . . Again. The voice was seductive, like the siren’s songs that draws sailors to the sea, only this whispered echo was calling us home.

There was much to do: Gear to clean. Weights to lift. Miles to run. Diets to perfect. In short, we were in no shape to return to Everest. But it was April. Our ascent wasn’t until March. That gave us an entire year to prepare for the grueling trek up the face of an obstacle that has stolen the hopes and dreams of so many.

Preparations the first time around had almost killed us, but they paid off in every member of our team scaling the monolithic half-pipe that is the single toughest Tough Mudder obstacle.

14232489_10208956828370825_7740601966627015887_nWe were all two years older now, and one member of our team was AWOL. (Actually, he’s now a Marine, scaling much tougher obstacles.) Still, we were determined to meet the challenge as any Legionnaire would: With lots of help from our friends.

Then, the historic floods of August 2016 took our home. It could not take our drive.

Training would have to wait while we rebuilt our lives from the ground up. Healthy diets would have to be put aside for something we could eat single-handed on the fly with a hammer in our free hand. Running? Only if dashes to the lumber yard for more sheetrock mud counts.

DSC_0249Last time I scaled Everest, I was in perhaps the best shape of my life. This time, with only two months to prepare, I enter the fray 10 pounds heavier, and a full minute off my mile pace.

Now, with two days left before we get muddy, that siren call blares like a trumpet in our ears.

Rebuilding your life from the ground up in just three months throws up every mental road block anyone can imagine. The crushing blow of learning your home will have to be demolished, the joy of learning it will not, daunting five-hour work sessions after a full nine on your day job, sixteen-hour days on the weekend, sheetrock dust — pounds and pounds of sheetrock dust settled on your skin and in your lungs, decisions on everything from walls to be moved to cabinet pulls.

We may enter this trial slower and heavier, but we enter it stronger. Mudder Nation, prepare for Team Geezer!

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17.0-Shit!

Sounds like ego talking.

Those were the words that sealed my fate. Actually, I had every reason not to get involved. With all I had been through in the last year, no one would have blamed me. Work had been a beast. My family had lost everything in a flood last August. My diet had been crap. Hell, I had only been back in the gym for two months.

crossfit 2But my trainer knew right where to hit me. And she guilted me into joining the 2017 CrossFit Open.

For those who are not part of the cult. The Open is this ridiculous competition to see who is the fittest person in the land. And it is brutal.

It starts on the home gym, or Box level. More than 300,000 athletes from around the world hit their home gym or garage to do the same exact workout. Stuff like cleans, and snatches, and deadlifts, or squats, or combo moves like squat snatches. Then the sadists at CrossFit’s home office throw in pullups, or double-unders, or burpees to take the wind right out of you.

It sucks.

What’s worse, there are judges who can make you do it all over again if you don’t do it right. Even worse than that, it is timed, and scored.

crossfit4The day of the first workout, I dropped my 20 bucks in the pot and signed my name on the death waiver. Then, I started making excuses.Shit, I’m 52 years old; I’m lucky to roll my ass out of bed in the morning. I haven’t worked out in months. I’m still training for a half-marathon, so I’m always tired. This is just for fun, a benchmark for when I can train like I want to. . . 
Through three of the five workouts in this first round, I’ve learned a couple things about myself. Competition is a great motivator, at least for me.There’s nothing quite like knowing people are going to see your results to push you to get in one more rep. No matter how much it sucks.

Wind is my strong suit. It must be all the running I’m doing. Those wind-sucking exercises could not suck more, but I seem to recover from them pretty quickly. (I never thought weighted lunges would be part of my recovery.)

crossfit1I’m a lot stronger than I thought. It’s not that I cruise through my regular workouts, I just never had an idea of how hard I could push myself. Hell, before last week, I had never done a squat snatch in my life. I thought I’d pass at 75 pounds. I actually didn’t time out until the I hit two rounds at 115.

I need to push harder. Even though my workouts are scaled (because I’m old and broken), I’m not dead.

Two workouts left, and I start training for next year.

Oh yeah, and Ego, is still the best way to motivate me.

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Crossfitter’s Psalm

I told you I joined a cult. And every cult needs a good Psalm. Something to offer up to the gods in praise and thanksgiving. Something to encourage it’s minions to press on through tough times. Something to reflect upon when times are good.

With that in mind, I give you The Crossfitter’s Psalm.

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The MURPH is my shepherd; I shall not quit.

He makes me lie down and do burpees: he leads me in muscle ups.

He rows for my soul: he leads me in paths of handstand walks for his name sake.

Yea as I walk through the valley of the Rogue Plates I shall fear no WOD for MURPH is with me; thy chalk and thy timer challenge me.

Thou prepare a Paleo table before me in the presence of all fad diets; and I will dwell in the box of the MURPH all the days of my life.

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