Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tales from the front - the Good, the Bad, and the Dirty - Part 1

"I think it would look like this - you get taken into a room that has nothing but an elliptical machine, and a door that leads to another room that has another elliptical machine, this one with the moveable arms (still don't understand what those do), which opens to another room that has only an Arc trainer in it, with a door that opens to another room that has a step aerobics class going on. You then spend eternity alternating between all 4 rooms, listening to nothing but the collective works of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. Yeah, I think that's it."

- How I defined my vision of the 7th circle of Hell, when talking with a close friend who wishes to remain anonymous - MARK!!!

So, yeah. Its been a bit. Most of you can guess why I haven't written. For those who don't know, I'll keep it simple - I was slotted to race the Great Lakes 100 mile Tri on October 4, on Lake Ontario. I was feeling extremely fit, dialed in with nutrition, everything. I got up to Barker, NY without issue. Race morning was cold, and rainy. My kind of weather. It was 40 minutes before the start, and I was just shaking out my legs with a light jog on the run course. The part of the run course that was grass and dirt. I felt great. Then, without warning, my legs came right out from under me, I fell on my back, with my right elbow lodged into my ribs. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe. I got up, tried to shake it off, and I couldn't catch my breath. My entire chest hurt. I grabbed my wet suit, and almost passed out from bending over. A race organizer saw me, and grabbed my arm. She took me inside the lodge where the medics were. I swore I was fine, and I was going to prove it by pulling on my wet suit. I couldn't get it past my ankles without screaming in pain. Race over before the cannon sounded.

The medics suspected broken ribs, and suggested a nearby ER. I passed on that, having broken ribs in the past, I wanted to get home ASAP and get checked out there. I wasn't going to get stuck in upstate NY. I put everything back in the truck, contacted a few people to let them know what was up, and headed home. Nine hours later I was getting xrays at a critical care clinic in Downers Grove, IL. No fractures. But something wasn't right. Fast forward to last Friday, another doctor visit, another set of x-rays. This time - 3 fractured ribs on my right side. Ribs 6,7,8. Rehab began, as did the litany of things I couldn't do.

Its been 2 weeks since I fell. I haven't over-analyzed the fall, it was such a freak thing; I don't know if I could replicate it if I tried. What has been gnawing at me is what was lost in that instant, and I'm not just talking about the race. The time, the effort, the training and sacrificing to get to the line in one piece, and in the best shape of my life. It only took seconds to lose it. And it will take 2 months to regain it. That's some hard math to swallow. So yeah, I'm pissed. It was a wonderful punctuation mark to what has been an otherwise abysmal season. Minor success with lots of lost time. Summer came and went and I can't think of more than 2 days in a row where I felt like I was making progress.

But, there is good - truly good, which brings me to the title of this blog. So here's the good -

1. I've spent more time studying movement patterns of people taking classes at INTENT to get a better insight as to where I can help people become more efficient and more fit.

2. My strength coach and goddaughter has been able to clean up my bad form in my squat, which I know has been suspect for at least a month. I now have a prescription for improving form, for gaining more strength and mobility. All of which will translate to better and more efficient running and cycling.

3. Its only fractured ribs, so I can still ride, deep water run, and do other conditioning work to get ready to race in late November. And I will be racing in late November.

4. I got to connect with an old friend on Friday and in our conversation, came the following conclusions -

a. Moderation is for cowards.

b. When we train or race, we must be prepared to fight our way out of the darkest, ugliest places in our mind, the places we know exist, but avoid at all costs. But the only way to succeed is to go to those places, and prepare to get just as ugly and dark as those demons, those recesses in our mind , and claw, scratch, kick, scream our way through the dark. We are more than athletes, we are warriors. We are primal. We are savages.

c. The world is always ready to tell you why you can't. The majority of the population wants you to come back to the middle, where things are comfortable, where they feel better about themselves, and how little they do. Its a reflection of them - not you. People hate looking at themselves through the very clear lens of someone who has decided to live life at full volume.

d. We want to fight at the highest level, where the fight is the loudest, where it is the darkest, where others won't dare. That's why we are always tougher.

e. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door. It takes someone who knows how to get dark, what it means to fight in the muck, in the most awful mental and physical conditions possible to keep those who wish to do us harm, be it physical, mental or emotional from getting in. From polluting what is good, and right, and true.

The last 2 weeks have helped me become even more clear in my purpose at INTENT - to work side by side with the other coaches - Rick, Mary Ann, Kara and Matt in constantly evolving fitness. Not simply for athletes, but for everyone. To experiment daily alongside this amazing group of individuals, to share ideas, to brainstorm, to laugh, to debate, to express ourselves at our highest level all for the betterment of others. To ensure that any person who walks through the door realizes they are becoming part of a tribe, a community of converts. People who are willing to turn their backs on the failed system that is the health club industry; the bullshit fad diets and fad forms of exercise. To get people - you - to recognize that when you come in the gym, you don't need a machine - you are the machine. That we are not here to waste the gift that is our body; that we need to treat it better. That if you aren't giving 100%, then what the hell are you doing?

Because, ladies and gentlemen, if you aren't, and you know if you aren't, then you are living half a life. Life with a constant safety net. Never knowing the true beauty that lies in failing. And to understand that there is no better place to fail then within the 4 walls of INTENT, where there is no judgment, where there is someone there to pick you up when you fall, to encourage you through every step.

Yes, its hard. Its hard to fail, to accept that we will all fail. I fight that feeling too. But the growth that it provides, if you are open to it, no one can teach that. This isn't simply about getting outside of your comfort zone. That phrase has been played out. This is about not having a comfort zone. Colors become brighter, food tastes better, your body tingles with a feeling of heightened awareness.  This won't ever happen in a Globo-gym. But if you are willing to check your ego at the door, this will happen at INTENT.

Part 2 of this will be continued in a couple days. Here's your teaser - why the health club industry has failed you, and why it isn't going to change. Stay tuned.

Stay strong,