The Festivus Games was such an amazing experience.  It’s incredible how far I’ve come this past year since breaking my ankle.  It was kind of a turning point for me.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I remember laying in my bed thinking, “I have an opportunity right now.  An opportunity to lead my daughter by example.  To show her how to deal with adversity in a positive manner.  And to set the tone for myself moving forward.”  No moping.  Instead, action.  And a positive attitude. Aside from figuring out all my daily logistics with a broken foot (and there are plenty in a 3 story townhouse when you are on crutches – like navigating the kitchen to make a pot of coffee… crucial), I committed to getting to the gym 5 days a week and working on everything I was still capable of doing.  And there were plenty of exercises I was capable of… like everything dealing with my entire upper body and core. Most importantly, I took some time for reflection and set some goals for the end of the year… and a couple for the following.  This was what would fire me up every day.  Short term goals, mid-term and a few bigger ones for the end of the year. My goals included finally doing The Murph (broke the ankle just two weeks before… and I was SOOOO excited to participate), running a 7 minute mile, doing my first bar muscle up, doing my first handstand pushup, doing my first double-unders, participating in the CrossFit Open and competing in my first local CrossFit Competition in the Masters or Novice Division. Well, as I got healthy and back on my feet I was able to begin adding more movements back into my regime.  I was super-diligent about my physical therapy which I know played a very important part in my recovery process.  It seemed like an eternity training my body how to walk normally again.  But every 1-2 weeks I would have a small breakthrough. Then a couple setbacks as I tested my limits.  Followed by more breakthroughs.  A couple setbacks.  Etc. That’s how these things go.  Never in a straight line.  More like a bunch of zigzags.   By late September/early October I was doing some light jogging and jumping.  By December I was back on the trails, testing my limits with some 5-6 mile runs.  None of it felt normal or fantastic by any means (far from it), but I was doing it. And I finally did The Murph!  I was also beginning to add box jumps back into my training.  More than anything, jumping on that box was an exercise of overcoming fear.  Fear that I would re-injure my ankle.  Terror, really.  But it was more than ready.  My brain needed the push. By the end of last year I had done my first hand stand pushups and double unders.  And just before the New Year, my coach, Amanda Jennings, helped me accomplish my first bar muscle up.  That was incredibly exciting.  For anyone who doesn’t know what a bar muscle up is, it’s basically like a pullup-meets-ring-dip on steroids.  But instead of bringing your chest to the bar, you get your entire upper body over the bar.  It takes a lot of skill and strength.  And when they are done right, they look so simple. As I got into February, I finally got my 7 minute mile.  This to me was significant.  Before I broke my foot I was getting close.  I had run a 7:07.  And to come back and run a 6:55 just 9 months after the break was a huge confidence boost. Honestly, to be anywhere under 8 felt like a massive victory. So it was time to set my sights on the CrossFit Open and then Festivus Games.  The CrossFit Open is a community event where each week, for 5 weeks the entire Crossfit Community does a super grueling workout which is announced on a Thursday evening, and must be completed in the presence of a certified judge by Monday.  Your scores are uploaded by 5:00pm and you can see where you stack up against the rest of the world.   To get ready for this I had to focus on building some serious strength and power.  And somehow maintain my conditioning.  For example, most of my core dumbbell movements (snatches, shoulder presses, push presses etc.) were typically done with 25-35lb weights. I had to work my way up to 50s. And my core barbell movements required even more work. So over 2-3 months I packed on about 8-9 pounds of lean mass.  That’s a whole lotta heavy lifting and some diligent nutrition choices… a ton of protein (roughly 1g per pound).  And by two weeks before the Open, I was just dipping into using the types of weights I needed to participate in a few “RX” events.  Keep in mind, I didn’t expect to compete in every event at the “RX” (prescribed weights) but I really wanted to do as many as possible.  I knew I just didn’t have certain skills yet to do all of them.  And when the Open rolled around it turns out I was able to compete in 3 of the 5 events at the RX.   And I completed my first Open (despite getting the Flu between weeks 2 and 3).  I did my second workout the day I started to feel bad.  Next day I was in bed for a week straight.  Then right out of bed and into the next workout, just before the cutoff.  I wasn’t myself, but I got it done.  I was really happy with the outcome and I finished my very first Open in the 58thpercentile of all men worldwide in my division.  2 of my events landed me in the 75thand 76thpercentile.  Fittingly, the workouts I did while dealing with the flu I was in the 42ndand 36thpercentile.  I also had to scale those ones.  One of the coolest aspects of this experience was being pushed WAY outside my comfort zone and having to do some new movements I had never previously achieved, such as my first overhead squats.  And also my first Thrusters at 100 lbs (lots of them). Which brings me to Festivus. I had planned on signing up for the Masters or Novice Divisions.  This made sense to me considering it was my first real local competition.  And let’s face it… I am a Masters athlete.  I’m 46.  And I kind of wanted to see if I could nab a podium spot.  But my coaches (Amanda and Eric) had different ideas for me.  They thought Novice and Masters wouldn’t really be the right fit.  They challenged me to participate in the Intermediate Division (the highest division of the competition) alongside all the teenagers, twenty and thirty somethings. So, not being one to shy away from a challenge, I agreed.  I was anxious about it, but I knew I had to do it.  It was the right move for where I was performing and it would be a true test. I sat with Amanda (super Coach!) and we created a game plan for my final month of training.  I had the strength and muscle, but had to build some confidence on some of the movements.  And I really needed to work on some mobility to be able to hit the standards for some of the workouts.  So 4 days a week hitting my strength, power, skills and conditioning, and three days a week of focused mobility work.  The mobility work for me is primarily focused on shoulder, thoracic, hip, wrists/forearms and ankles.  Everything needed to get below parallel on a squat, my nose against the wall in a handstand position and the bar against my shoulders in a front rack position. The idea of dedicating 2-3 days a week to stretching and mobility was not easy to accept.  I’m one of those kinds of people who has always associated a good workout with an intense effort, lots of sweat and a few tears. But I knew Amanda and Eric were right. For so many reasons, this was going to be the path toward all the skills I needed to develop.  And I have years of effort built upon limited mobility which needed to be reshaped.  Another way to put this is, “I am old and don’t stretch enough.” So, I stuck with the plan. I also took some time each day to focus on my mindset.  Everything from breathing techniques to visualization to some light meditation each morning.  Amanda and I also went over strategy for some of the events, which I then took the time to practice and visualize.  This was so important. Along this path I also had some incredible support.  I cannot stress enough just how important this was.  All the coaches at my gym really took extra time with me on all kinds of details.  Randy, Eric G., Scott, Sarah, Matt – I truly love these coaches.  They are so focused and dedicated and have exceptional spirits and it’s contagious.  My weekend Warrior buddies led by Molly Cohen (who also took some extra time to help me get my macros right to pack on the muscle).  Matt Polly, Nicole Dunn, Ben Creekbaum, Morgana, Neva, Frida, Michel, Todd DeMann and Barak Kraus (who is also and embraced the special technique of calling me a “pussy” every time I limped).  And a very special callout to Evan McNamara.   This guy.  What a champ. He not only won the entire Intermediate competition (as a Masters competitor) but who has shown me what is possible in my mid to late 40s.  I am constantly chasing this guy at the gym.  He is a living, breathing Captain America.  He and Nicole are a couple of the most supportive and kindest athletes you will find at Lift Off Strength/CrossFit Encino.  If you ever get an opportunity, buy them a beer.  And of course, Eric Amzalag. You have created a special environment at your gym that fosters community, transformation and the results that come with it.  You have been on this journey with me since day one.  You are always providing leadership and guidance.  You are always striving to improve every aspect of your business.  Good enough isn’t, every single day.  I am grateful for you. I am also extraordinarily blessed to have my wife Randy and daughter Shayna, who let me leave every Sat and Sunday morning for a couple hours to train.  They are always supportive and encouraging and incredibly patient with me and all my wild fitness adventures.  And always patient when I need a bit of recovery time. Perhaps most important for me on my journey is my Mom.  My very first real life super hero.  She took me with her to the track when I was just 8 when she wanted to change her own life. And I watched firsthand how somebody with focus, drive and ambition could transform their entire self.  I watched her evolve into an incredible endurance athlete.  She finally made it to the Boston Marathon in her 50s.  And she was winning all her local races in her age group.  I still look up to her as one of the greatest inspirations of my life.  And while she is lost now… somewhere in the dark clouds of Dementia, she remains a shining beacon of inspiration. And all of this… the training, the support, the community, the planning and execution…  culminated in last weekend.  The Festivus Games finally arrived.  Nearly a year since breaking my ankle.. and all the hard work, the physical therapy, the rebuilding, the re-learning to do the basics, the grueling Sunday sessions… each small milestone along the way… led the way.  Festivus finally arrived.  And I competed at the highest possible level I was capable of.  I left nothing behind.  Not the slightest bit of “if only.” I had a chance to review my results earlier today.  I feel proud. No, I didn’t win.  But I did come in 12thin the Intermediate Division.  And considering I am 46 and competed against mostly twenty and thirty somethings (aside from our winner and very own Evan McNamara), I feel really accomplished. So I’m gonna take a week to enjoy this and smell the flowers.  What’s the point of working this hard without appreciating the journey.   Life is precious and short and wonderful.   It was an incredible journey and an adventure I will not soon forget.  I am so thankful for everyone who has contributed to this experience. This is only the beginning.