Archive for category OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES

Our New Year’s Day Football Tradition

Another New Year's Day football game—1/1/2012

Another New Year’s Day football game—1/1/2012

Dave Nichols has spent a lifetime examining sports as an athletic director, professor and teacher. He just sent me this heart-warming story about an annual football game he and his buddies have been playing for 45 years. And he says he is working on his abs. In the group shot below, Dave is wearing a red hat and standing seventh from the right.

On a crisp winter’s day in 1969 Massachusetts, a group of Medford High School students met after partying the evening before to play tackle football in the morning’s snow. The student’s consisted of high school athletes and dubbed themselves the “Fast Guys.” Across the park that New Year’s morn, the Fast Guys noticed another group of young men who lived in the vicinity of the public park playing football as well. A verbal challenge to a game ensued, and the rivalry of the Park Boys versus the Fast Guys began in what would be called their “Snow Bowl.”

For 45 consecutive New Year’s mornings at 11 am, the two teams of seven men each have met to play not for crowds or glory, but simply for their own amusement, regardless of weather or life’s situations. Conditions have run the gamut. During the 1973 game, temperatures climbed into the 60’s, while the 1997 game was played in single digits. The turf has been muddied, iced, and covered with over two feet of snow, and the men—now in their 60’s—simply play on. The rules remain the same as the original contest: centers are still eligible, three consecutive passes warrants a first down, and the field sides change after each touchdown. Protective gear is not allowed, and uniforms simply don’t exist.

The games used to last for hours, but get shorter each year. Basically the length is determined by what the men can stand. When someone who is exhausted says “How about two possessions each,” that is what happens. The Fast Guys dominated in the early years, but the Park Boys have made recent gains, as the Fast Guys are simply not that fast anymore. Snow is a great equalizer. The total record is always in dispute.

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

Players know which team they are on, as many participants have been together since kindergarten, and “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never know me” is the sentiment that prevails. The men travel from all over the east coast to come to their game and do so because they simply love to play.

During the off season (the other 364 days of the year), players harass each other, suggesting their superiority, arguing about the total won-lost records, and glorifying past performances. Sometimes they get together for other athletic endeavors, and other times it is a “Same Time, Next Year” event. No calls are necessary as it just happens.

One guy got married the night before and showed up the next morning. Needless to say he got the game ball. Both teams were hung over in the early years, but knowing what is coming the next day deters serious debauchery. One of the players has actually had surgery three different times the day after the game. Children seldom play. Last year one of the teammates passed, and his son came to take his spot. Families sometimes come by, but generally the fans consist of a passerby walking his dog. Most of the wives don’t really understand why their men do this, and the mantra when guys depart for the game is generally “Don’t come home if you get hurt.”

The only concession made to age is that the men greet each other with a hug instead of a handshake and have come to actually appreciate their opponents. They also hang on to the thought that they may not be as athletically gifted as they once were, but for a moment, just one more instant, they might be as good as ever. To a man they believe that playing together with friends outside in the snow is not just for children, but for men as well, and they are determined to play as long as they can put one foot in front of the other. It is a revolution of sorts, spawned by the spirit of a society of aging men who believe they are exemplary in their pursuit of athletic longevity.

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Silly Dancing While Traveling

In 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2012, Matt Harding made videos of himself and others in multiple countries doing a little dance he mastered of a few repetitive steps. They went viral, garnering 18 million viewings of the second one and 44 million of the third. He became a celebrity, and you can see videos two and three below. I love ’em. Very upbeat, inspirational and even promoting good will among all peoples. Can’t we just get along and have a little more peace in the world?

Now I read about newlyweds, Larry and Abbey Plawecki, who went to six European countries on their honeymoon and danced at various sites there. They hoped to make a video their friends would look at instead of a thousand smiling, similar, boringly-posed photos with different backgrounds that few would wade through. Who cares if they were influenced by Matt’s videos. What impressed me the most is how varied their steps and movements are. I kept wondering what they would do next. And also that they look so unlikely to be so uninhibited. So much for my stereotypes!

The Plawecki’s have one piece of advice they’d like to offer: “Do it. Don’t hold back. You’re never going to see these people again. You’re not going to be embarrassed. It’s for you,” Larry said. “And now, one of my friends told me, you can look back in 35 years and be like yeah, I did a cartwheel in front of the Louvre.”

I have to confess that my original intention on this site (inspired by Matt) was to flash my growing abs as I traveled around the country and the world. But it turned out people were embarrassed to take my picture, and I was stopped at some locations from baring my chest. And then my abs stopped growing. So I did give up. But if you look at my early progress photos, you can see me at a few domestic and overseas locations.

Here is Matt’s second video that really went viral of him dancing mostly alone in 31 countries.

His third video took him to 42 countries in which he organized groups of people to dance with him. Lotsa fun to watch. And here is a great interview about how his dancing videos all got started.

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Overcoming Your Fears

“Channel Your Fear Into Positive Energy” is a suggestion I have heard and attempted to apply for decades. You have that exciting tension that is outside of the normal sensation, and you have to break through some kind of barrier. I remember standing on the edge of a 20-foot-high diving board for half an hour when I was not yet a teen. I came down the steps…although I eventually climbed back up and jumped.

I remember standing in the open door of a military plane for five minutes as we approached the drop zone. What am I doing here, I wondered? Was I going to die in a few minutes? Then the green light came on, and the jumpmaster punched me in the butt and out into the air. I remember the next day in the plane, when a fellow jumper refused to go, after having a dream the night before that his mother was crying over his coffin. We all deal with fears somehow and to varying degrees. Some people can’t even watch others in risky or dangerous or death-defying situations. What are your thresholds?

Before yesterday, Felix Baumgartner said he was nervous about his leap from the stratosphere. But the 43-year-old daredevil—who has jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings and soared across the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing—regards a tinge of fear as a good thing.

“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner said. “Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”

And from another article: A number of things could go wrong: his blood could boil, he could go into an uncontrolled spin and be knocked unconscious, he could smash into the ground.

Ironically, the one thing that the Austrian extremes-man feared the most was the full body gear that will ultimately protect him from all these terrible possibilities.

The New York Times’ John Tierny writes: Mr. Baumgartner, a former Austrian paratrooper who became known as Fearless Felix by leaping off buildings, landmarks and once into a 600-foot cave, said that this was his toughest challenge, because of the complexity involved and because of an unexpected fear he had to overcome: claustrophobia. During five years of training, he started suffering panic attacks when he had to spend hours locked inside the stiff pressurized suit and helmet necessary for survival at the edge of space

Baumgartner conquered his fear through therapy and guidance from 84-year-old Joseph Kittinger, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960. Until Baumgartner’s successful jump is completed, Kittinger still holds the current world record for highest altitude parachute jump.

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Sari Keeps On Changing

Sari Max is a new person

Sari Max is just melting away, and it’s having a huge effect. She wrote earlier in March about how she’d lost over 60 pounds. Now she has dropped another 15! And she has brought fitness and athletics into her life. She is biking for the first time in maybe 15 years, kayaking, which she hadn’t done in at least 20 years, and sometimes adding running spurts to her fast walking.

Sari with son Ben

She is a changed woman, with her new hair style and a bit of color. “I am full of vigor, she tells me proudly.”

I know it takes a lot of discipline to exercise when you haven’t been. But Sari is even doing floor exercises at home, including push ups and 25 sit ups at a time. Way to go, Sari!

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Nico Calabria Inspires With Just One Leg

Meet Nico Calabria, a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts who was born with one leg. But despite only having a left leg, Calabria is co-captain of the school’s junior varsity soccer team along with the varsity wrestling team. In a game against Newton South, Calabria scored one of Concord’s nine goals with an amazing volley that would have been difficult for every player on the field.

Concord-Carlisle was given a corner kick and Calabria stationed himself on crutches by the far post just outside the box. The ball sailed past the goal where Calabria planted his crutches, turned his body and connected with a scissor-kick to put the ball in the back of the net.

But if you think that highlight is amazing, you should probably check out the documentary called “Nico’s Challenge,” a story about how Calabria climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 13. Kilimanjaro. 13 years old. One leg.

In 2007, he went on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show and explained that he climbed the mountain to raise money for kids in Africa who need wheelchairs.

If the goal just didn’t do it for you (not sure how that’s possible), check out Calabria’s domination in wrestling below:

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Joe Marshall Reports From New Home

My tennis mentor, Joe Marshall (who has written over 15 articles on this site about tennis strategy), emailed that he was having trouble finding a regular tennis game after he relocated to New York from his home in Connecticut. I missed his advice and unconventional game right away. Joe is a very strong ping pong player and brings that talent into tennis, with many slices and lobs. Here is his latest report.

We moved. I didn’t want to at first, but my wife insisted that life would be better if we were closer to the kids and the grand-daughter.

“But what about my tennis friends?” I wailed.

“They’ll be plenty of tennis up there,” she insisted. “And you can always come back to visit.”
Oh well……

I’ve played a few times, beating the opponents easily with my whacky game. But today I made a classic mistake. I played a guy I had beaten easily in the wind on clay. And today I took the first set on a hard court 6-1. Then I started taking it easy a little bit…..Not too different, just being a little less aggressive, and not moving in between shots……In no time he was up 2-0.

I said to myself “Better buckle down”…Close game….I lost it….3-0….I got to 3-1, but he won the next two game, and he EARNED them…..tremendous play….AND movement….he was figuring me out! Down 5-1, I took the next three games. But he hit the line on every serve in the next game and had me set point……he hit me a jamming serve, which I mishit….It bounced twice on the net and dropped over…..From there I won in a tiebreak…..playing one key point where I brought him in and lobbed him FOUR times, and he STILL won the point….but I think I got to his legs on that one, and it cost him the next couple of points…..I’m glad it didn’t get to go to a third set….he seemed a lot fitter than me.

Playing a lot less tennis, I have been surviving on ping pong. What a great game….The local University has a tremendous ping pong club that is open to the public…..ON a Thursday night at ten PM, it was forty college kids and 57-year-old yours truly hacking it out……I could beat most of the hackers, but some of the kids from the team are superb, playing in a style like the Olympic champs….a couple of young ladies from China were better than all but 2 or 3 of the boys.

Ping Pong is a lot better for my back and legs…..Singles tennis, especially, can really do a number on your body….stretching is essential.

My tennis friend said he would recommend me to a group of guys who play more at my level….But he warned me….”They are an insular group, and if you don’t do well the first time you play them, they won’t invite you back.”

Talk about pressure! Now I know how Andy Murray felt!

If I play poorly, I’m in tennis limbo at least until next spring when the local tournament roles around…….Wish me luck!

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Armless Archer Matt Stutzman Wins Silver At Paralympics

Champion Archer Matt Stutzman

Matt Stutzman calls himself the Inspirational Archer (which he certainly is) on his web site , but he’s better known as the Armless Archer. What an achievement. He also has a sense of humor, with the site subtitle, A Foot Above the Competition.

Born without arms, Stutzman inserts the arrow using his left foot, lifts and steadies his bow with his bare right foot, and uses his teeth, shoulder and jaw to pull back and release the arrow. He only took up the sport two or three years ago.

At the 2012 Paralympics, Stutzman won silver for the United States, placing behind Finland’s Jere Forsberg, 6-4, in the final contest of the Men’s Individual Compound – Open event on Sept. 3. It turns out Matt was aiming for the Gold, so he was probably disappointed with this result.

According to USA Today, Stutzman’s competitors were all wheelchair users but had use of their arms.

“My goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude,” Stutzman told the Herald-Sun after winning his silver medal.

The excitement around Stutzman’s performance was palpable in the archery final. Whereas his opponent, Forsberg, shot his arrows in silence, the Telegraph likened the sound of camera shutters going off around Stutzman to “exploding birdshot.”

If you jump immediately to 0:41 in the video below, you can see how Matt inserts arrows into the bow with his feet and uses an off-the-shelf wrist device (although he has it on his shoulder) to draw (pull back) the arrow, and then his jaw movement releases the arrow for flight. All his equipment is standard and not adapted to his unique situation. What a talent.

If you go right to 2:00 in the video below, you can see how Matt uses his foot and toes EXACTLY like able-bodied people use their hands and fingers. Amazing.

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Early Life Of An Extreme Outdoorsman And Speed Junky (Part 1 Of 3)

idyllic cruising in the great outdoors

Met a new friend out West who described his life of total immersion in the outdoors and his love of fast cars and motorcycles. His stories were so astonishing and descriptive that I urged him to write them down. Who could have guessed that his prose would be extraordinary too. I told him he reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style or other journalists I imagine writing about speed on speed…or some other hallucinogenic. You are in for a real treat! (I hope he doesn’t mind that I relocated the first paragraph from deep within the story to give you a perspective of what is going on)

For whatever reasons, not the least of which was my father having a triple bypass at 35, I always figured on needing to pack as much experience into one presumably short life as a person could. So I’ve had the pedal down as far back as I can remember. The joke is on me of course, I never developed heart disease, but I did break a few bones, lose a shitload of skin and probably deserve to be dead 30 times over doing various things. Also got a late start building a career, so I’ll probably be working until I am in fact dead—but I design/test outdoor gear. How bad can that be?

OK, a quick bio: I’ve always been bipolar or multi-polar regarding outdoor sports, grew up at the beach but was sneaking onto the Irvine Ranch (before it was developed) behind our house with my .22 to hunt rabbits and quail (yes, quail, you just have to make a head shot, and I don’t mean when they are flying) and started fly fishing in the mountains around LA whenever my mom could drive me or with the Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts. Luckily the Explorer group I joined was the mountaineering group in Anaheim, which gave me my first glimpse of the High Sierra’s, and I got as interested in Golden Trout as I did in peak bagging.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was good bye to the scouts, and I was off every winter weekend to cross country ski tour/snowcamp in the San Gorgonio or San Jacinto Wilderness areas, often alone, which would drive my mom crazy, then backpack with a fly rod in the summer. Surf, ski, climb, hunt, fish, and of course getting around when younger I got everywhere on a bike, which became a nicer and nicer bike which became another, lifelong passion including a little bit of road racing in high school. I quit that because I kept getting clobbered by motorists who in those days weren’t used to seeing humans on road racing bikes out in traffic. Last crash involved being hit from behind by a car and flung through traffic across three fast lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber and surviving without a scratch. The rear wheel and rear triangle of my bike absorbed most of the impact and I came to a stop on the center divider balancing on my crank set, still clipped in, cars whizzing by in both directions. I did not get religion, I just left the bike laying in the highway and hitched home. No more road bikes for me.

Then one summer I came through Ketchum on a fly fishing trip and saw my first mountain bike—one of Tom Ritchey’s first hand-made bikes at the Elephant’s Perch, and my life was wrecked. I was living in Laguna at the time and the steep coastal hills were crawling with jeep roads, single track and game trails.

In a fitting way I was wrapping up my involvement with motorhead activities. My first car was a red Alfa Romeo Duetto softail Spider which I rescued from ruin and re-built myself. My second car was a raging-fast Lotus Elan which followed the same pattern, find a junker and bring it back to life one turn of the wrench at a time. I’d had a go-kart my Dad built for me when I was about 7, motorcycles, etc. so high performance driving was written into the software by the time I was a teen, and I could really drive. At one point I actually thought about it as a career, maybe an F1 pilot like Dan Gurney, but as I started hanging out at various tracks I realized I couldn’t stand the people who were involved with the sport. They were like golfers on crack.

With some irony I had long been co-evolving into a leftist tree hugging wilderness freak motorhead. I joined David Brower’s F.O.E. (Friends of the Earth) when I was 16, was reading Abbey, getting pangs about joining Dave Foreman’s Earth First gang but didn’t like the idea of prison. Note that both cars I mentioned were small, light, fast, fuel-efficient machines. But showing up to a Sierra Club meeting with my Lotus (even though it got 30 mpg) didn’t go too well. Which I found really disappointing. The leftist tree huggers turned out to be like accountants on crack.

In those years I tried everything that fit my personal ethos of small footprint, treading lightly, loving wild places, and having a fucking great time getting to those places. Think of hand-made (by me), aero cross-country ski racks and skis tucked behind the tiny roof line of a Lotus Elan howling through the desert North of LA at 2 A.M., on the way to Mammoth Tamarack lodge with the headlights off, navigating by the full moon at 120 mph with the Doors playing Riders on the Storm backed up by the sound of a nasty, tweaked-out twin cam motor pushing a low, smooth glass slipper through the void. Fuck the Sierra Club. (Continue to Part 2/3 in post below)

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Addicted To The Duck’s Most Musical Power Plant On Earth (Part 2 Of 3)

the author in his younger days

In this second part of my friend’s exciting story, I really feel the contrast between his life of extreme sports and unfettered risk-taking, compared to how most people live. Just this week I yet once again chose to lease an Audi A4 that will hit 60 in 6.3 seconds and not spend more than double for the RS5 that can soar from 0 to 60 in 4.5. I can’t spend that, so I ask how can an extra $40K justify 1.8 seconds faster takeoff from the light, lower gas mileage, danger when others drive my car, yatta, yatta, yatta. My friend lives his fantasy, while I just keep on dreaming…What about you?

The world was fascinating and crazy. My sister was in a rock band in Hollywood, so now and then I would dip into the dark side, Whiskeys, the Rainbow, Club Lingerie, The Troubador, Wongs; see X, China White, Fear, the Gears, Dead Kennedys, Nina Hagen; stay up till 4 then crash with bizarre creatures in strange motels or sleep in the chaparral on dirt trails above Mulholland, get up and go to work. Over time things happened that sharpened me up. Met an interesting girl. Started to get serious about doing something with my 5 years of university. Realized I could turn my outdoor addictions into a career.

So for the last few years I lived in the Southern Lands, my time was spent riding with the Radz, (including Hans Rey), hitting the mountain bike races all over, going to Fat Tire Bike Week in C.B., paddling/surfing my kayak, training with road wheels on my mountain bike by playing chicken with traffic and drafting trucks on Sunset from Hollywood to Santa Monica . . . and starting my biz…

About the Ducks. I grew up riding dirt bikes from age 8, always wanted a sportbike but, having self-knowledge about my impulse control, swore I wouldn’t buy one until I was 30, you know, Mature. So I waited, and then I did. Always having European cars, I wasn’t interested in rice rockets. I wanted a Ducati. I thought I wanted an older (78) 900ss. I had ridden a couple over the years and to me, besides being narrow and easy to ride fast, the Ducati motor was the most musical power plant on earth. I went into a local dealer looking at a 900ss bevel-head, and while I was haggling with the store owner he casually walked over to a low miles 851 Superbike that was already cammed and chipped and Termignoni-piped and started it up, letting it idle lumpily, the way tuned motors do . . . (Uuhhh, what’s THAT bike?). He blipped the throttle a coupla times. Boy did he have me made. “Why is this guy selling a bike with 800 miles on it?” I asked. “Because it scares the shit of of him”, the shop owner said. We smiled. Ah, Maturity. Ah, hubris.

I’d ridden a bunch a street bikes, from Harleys (ridiculous) to Ninjas and GXR’s, etc. and for the most part even the fast bikes were engineered to be very docile below their powerbands, except for Harleys, which don’t have powerbands because they don’t have any power to band. But nonetheless, all of these bikes could roll around town like two-wheeled sewing machines if you kept the revs down. Leaving the dealer on the 851, on the other hand, was quite an eye-opener. It made so much torque so low in the rev range it was like taking a tiger for a walk on a six-inch leash. On my ride back home I figured if I lived a week, I might make it a month, and if I made the month I was probably going to be OK. Talk about impulse control. Riding that bike was like jogging through the woods with a shotgun taped to your temple. But like with sports cars, the software was installed in my head long before—it just needed to boot back up. (Continue to Part 3/3 in the post below)

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Street Racing On My Ducati (Part 3 Of 3)

fearless racing on his Duck

Here is the last of a three-part story from a friend who loves Ducati motorcycles. This just describes one little outing on his bike, but his writing style is so powerful that I think you will not only feel his emotion and excitement, but also wish you’d been on the rear seat behind him. It’s never too late. I think I will ride my own cycle this week as soon as I have a chance and see if I can reach its max acceleration of “just” 4.9 seconds…without crashing of course.

This was Southern California, mind you. It was war. I’d tool around Costa Mesa, Newport or C.D.M. in street clothes, no helmet, but if I went anywhere else I had the full kit—race leathers with body armor, boots and gloves and a Kevin Schwantz replica Arai helmet. Too cool. But still, it was indeed war. One time near South Coast Plaza, as I was leaving my lawyer’s office, I had a gang banger in a lowered turbo Nopar sled try to squeeze me into the car next to us coming off a red light. My offense was splitting lanes to the front row at the red, usurping his turf as it were, which in California is perfectly legal but was an outrageous trespass to the guy behind the dark tinted windows and the subwoofer boom. As he squeezed he expected me to slow down and back off. Instead I squeezed back by making the Duck go quack. We had just passed a Cop on a motorbike when he heard the Nopar’s front tires light up, saw me accelerate away and (not that I was paying any attention) he started to chase us down. We hit another red a block later and the Vato tried the same thing. No traffic ahead, so I slipped around him—now I was not only adrenalized but really pissed off, and just pinned the 851, tucked my helmet, shifted my weight forward and rode a wheelie crossed-up and flat fucking out through 4 gears up and over and down the Bristol St. overpass, until I found some traffic ahead, finally, and put some cars between myself and the angry banger, then backed off, following from ahead. I half expected a pistol to come out.

Fast. This was 23 years ago and Ducati had just won the World Superbike Championship with a race version of the 851. The chasis was good, but the motor was superb. Water cooled, desmodromic four-valve, fuel injected fury. A “Supercar” from that era would do 0-60 in 5-6 seconds. A quick superbike would do it in 2.5 seconds in first gear, if you could keep the front down. The sensation is like nothing else. Tucked in tight with your tailbone pressed against the acceleration pad, in three seconds you are well on your way to 100 mph and you start to see in tunnel vision because what isn’t in front of you is passing at your periphery in a blur. If you expect to live much longer you can only look far ahead, where you WILL be . . . in another heartbeat. In 1989, with any superbike, when you decided to leave the party no production street car on earth could do anything but watch your ass-end very rapidly disappear. With an open-exhaust Ducati Superbike, the sound of your departure was akin to a P51 Mustang making a low pass. Talk about fun.

Then the flashing blue light of the policeman on the Kawasaki was behind me and I tried to play back what he’d just seen: A guy doing crazy shit in heavy traffic on a sport bike, hitting triple digits on an overpass on the rear wheel, etc. I pulled over. He started screaming at me, and it wasn’t until I had my helmet off that I realized he was angry that I had pulled over, that “we” let “him” get away. He had seen the whole episode, seen the Vatto try and clip me. I put my lid back on and “we” proceeded, in vain, to chase down the offender. When he finally pulled over on a side street, we shot the shit for a while, and he started asking about the Duck. I offered to let him ride it and to my surprise he accepted. Without thinking I told him to be careful and he smiled, “I have a gun” he said. “No worries.”

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90 Stories Of Weight Losers

Ryan Norton at 305 pounds—1/15/2012

Just bumped into a slide show (at bottom of the page of this link) of 90 people who lost weight, showing the before and after pictures. Amazing. Also included are the stories of how they gained and lost weight and what it took to finally start dropping the pounds. Pretty inspirational. Check ’em out And here are photos from one of the stories by an ex-marine who lost 74 pounds when his buddies forced him to prepare for a Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge that I have mentioned in an earlier post .

Ryan at 231 in the Tough Mudder—Summer 2012

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J. Roundtree Loses 200 Pounds

He lost 200 pounds in 19 months

Here is a really inspiring story about a kid who weighed 405 and finally decided to lose some weight. I always wonder what clicks to get someone to overcome their inertia—whether weight loss, healthy living, starting a new career—and choose a new routine. His father had died of a heart attack, but that didn’t prevent the son from gaining all that weight.

J. Roundtree, 21, from Lancaster, Ohio, lost 200 pounds in 19 months in order to join the Army, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reports. In November, he will begin basic training at Ft. Benning in Georgia, and he eventually wants to become a police officer.

So how’d he go from 405 pounds to 205? Roundtree started with P90X and then stuck to a strict 1,500 calorie-a-day diet and adopted an active lifestyle—spending his time jogging, playing basketball, swimming and using home workout DVDs. When hand and foot injuries threatened to hinder his progress, Roundtree persevered.

“There’s going to be days where you’re like, ‘Oh I don’t want to do it’, but you gotta keep doing it,” Roundtree told the station.

As a child, Roundtree played football, baseball and basketball, but eventually picked up video games as a hobby and began to gain weight due to lack of exercise. He went on to play in gaming tournaments when he was in high school.

Roundtree comes from a family of servicemen and women. His father, mother, and sister all served in the Army, according to the news outlet. But while he always had his sights set on serving himself, Roundtree found his poor health seemed to pose an insurmountable problem.

“I never would have imagined that he would do that,” Roundtree’s mother explained. “But when J. sets his mind to something, don’t tell him he can’t do it…because he’ll prove you wrong.”

And this attitude is exactly what has led him to where he is today. “I want to be better than I was today,” he said. “I wanna look the best I can. I wanna feel the best I can. I wanna run the farthest or the fastest.”

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Inductee Stories To Applaud And Cry About At Hall Of Fame Ceremony

Capriati (left) and Seles on the podium

Last year’s group included Andre Agassi. This year (7/14) I’d heard only of Jennifer Capriati. She was introduced by earlier inductee, Monica Seles. Both women were crying like babies…so overcome with emotion and pride and thrilled to be acknowledged by their peers. Two others in the class are Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten and Randy Snow.

Other Hall of Famers on the podium included Vic Seixas (14 Grand Slams), Owen Davidson (12 GS), Rosie Casals (9GS), Stan Smith (7 GS), Gigi Fernandez (17 GS), Butch Buchholz, and Brad Parks who created wheelchair tennis competitions. Many of these wins were in doubles and mixed doubles.

The stories and histories described are powerful and overwhelming.

Monica Seles: In 1990, at the age of 16, Seles became the youngest-ever French Open champion. She went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday and was the year-end world no. 1 in 1991 and 1992. However, in April 1993 she was the victim of an on-court attack, when a man stabbed her in the back with a 9-inch-long knife. Though she enjoyed some success after rejoining the tour in 1995, including a fourth Australian Open success in 1996, she was unable to consistently reproduce her best form.

Guga walking around the court with his certificate of induction

Jennifer Capriati: A former number one, and the winner of three women’s singles Grand Slams. She was the youngest ever player to crack the top 10 at age 14 and reached the semifinals at her first Grand Slam event—the 1990 French Open. She won a Gold Medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, defeating Steffi Graf in the final. Then she burned out in 1993, took a 14-month break from competitive pro tennis and had personal struggles that included arrests for shoplifting and possession of marijuana. She also spent time in drug rehabilitation in 1994. She then made an admirable 6-year comeback, winning her first title in 1999, then two Grand Slams in 2001, and finally becoming world number one…until injuries derailed her career in 2004.

Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten: Another former number one, he won the French Open three times (the first time when he was ranked 66 in the world). He was introduced at the ceremony Saturday by his mother, who was crying with pride, and then Guga gave a 10-minute speech without reading any notes, speaking off the cuff, and crying himself throughout. He said he can barely speak English, so how could he possibly write a speech in English. His mother told how his tennis player/coach father died when Guga was 8 in a country that adored soccer and had minimal interest in tennis. Once his talent became apparent, the family sold their car, their house, and used their savings to promote Guga’s career. It was stopped by injuries and many hip surgeries.

His youngest brother had oxygen deprivation during birth, and as a result suffered from mental retardation and severe physical disability until his death in 2007. Kuerten was deeply affected by his brother’s daily struggles, later donating the entire prize money from one tournament he won every year to a hometown NGO that provides assistance for people with similar disabilities. He gave every trophy he won to his younger brother as a souvenir, including the three miniature replicas of the French Open men’s singles trophy.

I am going to devote a separate post to Randy Snow, who was so amazing and inspirational.

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Problems In Taking Your Own Abs Photos

Too funny. A friend is getting in shape partly by having a personal trainer visit his house twice a week. He has been to this site and complained to me that he has so much white hair on his chest that you can’t see his abs. In desperation he decided to slick down his fur with oil to make any possible cut lines visible. However he couldn’t find any baby oil or other greasy product to do the trick.

So off he went to the kitchen shelf to choose Mazzola cooking oil. Picture him smelling like a corn cob trying to take a photo in the mirror! He said no shots came out to his satisfaction, so we will have to use our imaginations. Aren’t some older folks innovative, creative and downright ridiculous??? Although what is really wrong with corn oil? Maybe it doesn’t go rancid, like olive oil…

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Marc Sokolik Keeps On Winning Medals

softball throw

Marc Sokolik has done it again. In his latest St. Louis, Memorial Day, Senior Olympics competition, with 1800 competitors, he placed sixth or better in all 11 events he entered: four golds, two bronzes, one fourth, two fifths, two sixths. I love the different events he competes in. I mean this guy is 71 years old. I bet he could beat many people half his age! You can read about him and his earlier achievements by typing his name in the search box above right.

BENCH PRESS GOLD MEDAL…145 LB
SOCCER KICK GOLD MEDAL…6 OUT OF TEN KICKS
FOOTBALL ACCURACY GOLD MEDAL…51 POINTS
BASKETBALL AROUND THE WORLD GOLD MEDAL…11 OUT OF 15 SHOTS
SHOT PUT BRONZE MEDAL…30′ 10″
FOOTBALL FOR DISTANCE BRONZE MEDAL…33 YARDS
FOOTBALL PUNT FOR DISTANCE 4TH PLACE…33 YARDS
BASKETBALL FREE THROWS… 5TH PLACE
SOFTBALL DISTANCE…5TH PLACE 112′
SOFTBALL ACCURACY…6TH PLACE
FOOTBALL KICKOFF FOR DISTANCE 6TH PLACE

football accuracy

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Aimee Mullins Has Opportunities Not Disabilities

Aimee is the new face of Loreal—nothing has held her back

My fellow blogger Paolo and his friends have a web site ( betarista.com ) that deals with challenges of all kinds, so here is his story involving another handicapped athlete, Aimee Mullins, who is a double amputee and has overcome her physical limitations. She is not only a competitive athlete, but also an actress, fashion model and motivational speaker. In her recent TED speech below, however, she stated that she wasn’t disabled. “From an identity standpoint, what does it mean to have a disability? Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled.”

You can read more about Aimee on her web site , and here are some excerpts from her biography:

Aimee first received worldwide media attention as an athlete. Born without fibulae in both legs, Aimee was told she would never walk, and would likely spend the rest of her life using a wheelchair. In an attempt for an outside chance at increased mobility, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee on her first birthday. The decision paid off. By age two, she had learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and spent her childhood doing the usual athletic activities of her peers: swimming, biking, softball, soccer, and skiing, always alongside “able-bodies” kids.

After graduating from high school and working at the Department of Defense, she rediscovered her love of competitive sports. While a dean’s list student at the prestigious School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, she set her sights on making the US Team for the 1996 Atlanta Games. She trained with track coach, Frank Gagliano, and became the first amputee in history, male or female, to compete in the NCAA, doing so on Georgetown’s nationally-ranked Division I track team. She was the first person to be outfitted with woven carbon-fiber prostheses that were modeled after the hind legs of a cheetah. Then she went on to set World Records in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, and the long jump, sparking a frenzy over the radical design of her prototype sprinting legs. The essential design of those legs are now the world standard in sports prosthetics.

These are Aimee's cheetah-inspired running legs

After a profile in Life magazine showcased her in the starting blocks at Atlanta, Aimee soon landed a 10-page feature in the inaugural issue of Sports Illustrated for Women, which led to her accepting numerous invitations to speak at international design conferences. This introduction to a discourse relating to aesthetic principles fueled her interest in issues relating to body image, and how fashion advertising impacted societal notions of femininity and beauty.

In 1999, Aimee made her runway debut in London at the invitation of celebrated fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. This changed her view of her legs into body sculpture, because she wore dark brown wooden legs with carvings of grapes and magnolias. Of course the audience thought she was wearing boots.

Aimee now has at least 12 different prosthetic legs, some simulating “normal” caucasian legs and others made of clear polyurethane used for bowling balls that she calls her glass legs. One is like jellyfish tentacles, another like dirt, a third like a cheetah’s, with spots and paws. These different legs can result in five different heights, from 5’8″ to 6’1,” which led to one friend saying that it was unfair she could grow tall so easily and look so elegant. No wonder Aimee declares that she is not disabled and has capitalized on her differences. Amazing, inspiring, revolutionary…

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Paralyzed Woman Finishes Marathon 16 days After Start

Another inspirational achievement by a woman who can’t use her lower body, but finished a marathon anyway. I know there are lots of people who overcome their apparent limitations and the predictions of realistic doctors. But their endurance and determination deserve so much admiration. And if they can put in so much effort, overcome so much pain or soreness, then why can’t we do it also.

32-year-old Claire Lomas used a robotic walking suit to complete the London Marathon, 16 days after the event began. Hundreds of onlookers cheered a tearful Claire Lomas on May 8th as she crossed the finish line on The Mall in central London, The Sun reported.

Claire Lomas crosses the finish line of the London Marathon—5/8/2012

Lomas, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2007 horse-riding accident, walked the 26.2-mile course using crutches and a £43,000 ($69,500) suit that uses motion sensors to help her move her legs. When Lomas shifts her balance, the ReWalk machine moves her joints forward, allowing her to take a step, the BBC reported.

Lomas, of Eye Kettleby, England, averaged more than 1.5 miles per day since the marathon began on April 22, following the official route. She stayed at a hotel at night and was driven to the spot where she stopped the day before, according to the BBC. Her husband, Dan Spicer, accompanied her the whole way, and her parents and 1-year-old daughter also were with her for parts of the walk. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inspirational Runner And A Magic Moment

Here is an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy whose achievements—to keep running and to push though his physical pain—inspire his friends to cheer him on during a class field day. And now he inspires us to cheer and work harder ourselves…because if he can do it… Excerpts below by Barbara Rodrguez:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—When John Blaine realized 11-year-old Matt Woodrum was struggling through his 400-meter race at school in central Ohio, the physical education teacher felt compelled to walk over and check on the boy. “Matt, you’re not going to stop, are you?” he encouragingly asked Woodrum, who has cerebral palsy. “No way,” said the panting, yet determined, fifth-grader.

Almost spontaneously, dozens of Woodrum’s classmates converged alongside him, running and cheering on Woodrum as he completed his second and final lap under the hot sun. The race on May 16, captured on video by Woodrum’s mother, Anne Curran, is now capturing the attention of strangers on the Internet, many who call the boy and his classmates an inspiration to be more compassionate toward each other.

Woodrum said he had a few moments where he struggled. “I knew I would finish it,” he said, “but there were a couple of parts of the race where I really felt like giving up.”

It was his fourth race of the day, and one he didn’t have to run. Only a handful of students opted to give it a try, and Curran said her son doesn’t exclude himself from anything, playing football and baseball with friends and his two brothers. “He pushes through everything. He pushes through the pain, and he pushes through however long it may take to complete a task,” she said. “He wants to go big or go home.”

“The kids will tell you that Matt never gives up on anything that he sets out to do,” Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 2—Frisbee Pioneer Ken Westerfield’s Competitive Achievements

Ken in a calmer moment—1977

I’ve posted earlier a number of stories, pictures and videos about the flying disc and some of the first expert players who also promoted the sport. Now here is the final part of another story sent to me by Audra Gonsalves, the wife of one of those pioneers, Ken Westerfield. It’s amazing how much of a difference just a few people can make in changing our culture and bringing the pleasures of a sport to millions of people. I posted Part 1 yesterday.

Competitive Years 1974-78

Frisbee (Disc) tournaments were beginning to attract excellent disc competitors from everywhere. What was once a top selling pastime with a toy from Wham-O was becoming a serious competitive sport. In 1975, at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, Westerfield set the MTA (maximum time aloft) world record with a sidearm throw of 15 seconds, using a Super Pro Model Frisbee, crushing the old record of 11 seconds. Also in 1975 Westerfield invented a freestyle move called body rolls, (rolling the disc across out stretched arms and chest, or back), then introduced the move at a national tournament in Rochester, NY called the AFDO, (American Flying Disc Open). The hottest move of the day was called the Canadian Mind Blower: Westerfield would roll the Frisbee across outstretched arms and chest, to outstretched arms across the back (front to back roll). Today body rolls are an integral part of every freestyle routine.

Ken made Frisbee history—1977

In 1976, Wham-O sponsored the North American Series (NAS) Frisbee Championships across the US and Canada, to qualify players for the world championships held annually at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Winning numerous freestyle and individual events, Westerfield was voted, Best Men’s Player 1970-1975 Decade Awards

At a North American Series (NAS) Frisbee tournament in Dallas Texas, Westerfield became a member of the “400 club” with a prelim distance sidearm throw, and won the event with a throw of 378 feet, using a 119-gram World Class Model Frisbee. Only two competitors have officially ever thrown over 400 feet in competition with a 119-gram Frisbee (Lightweight disc by today’s standard).

1978, in Boulder, Colorado, while doing a distance throwing demonstration at a North American Series (NAS) Event, Westerfield threw a sidearm 119-gram World Class Model Frisbee, 552 feet, shattering the official world distance record of 412 feet.

This is how Kevin (Skippy) Givens, five time World Freestyle Champion, remembers it:

“Someone paced off the distance to a building at 500 feet. Dave Johnson (former distance world record holder) and others we’re trying to hit it. Finally Dave hits the building and the crowd goes wild. Ken Westerfield was sitting and watching. After Dave hit the building the crowd started to yell for Ken to throw. At first Ken was dismissive, not interested. Finally Ken stood up, went to the line, sized up the task then let it fly. It landed in the parking lot past the building on his first throw with no warm up. The crowd went crazy. It was the most incredible throw I’d ever seen”.

Tournament officials marked and measured the throw at 552 feet. Since the introduction of heavy weight, sharp edge disc, the world record is now over 800 feet. However Westerfield still holds the record for the sidearm throw. Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 1—Ken Westerfield’s Pioneering Contributions To Frisbee Sports

Ken was one of the best—1977

I’ve posted earlier a number of stories, pictures and videos about the flying disc and some of the first expert players who also promoted the sport. Now here is another story sent to me by Audra Gonsalves, the wife of one of those pioneers, Ken Westerfield. It’s amazing how much of a difference just a few people can make in changing our culture and bringing the pleasures of a sport to millions of people.

In fact I just learned that nearly 300 million Frisbees have been sold since their introduction, and according to Mattel, which now owns the manufacturing rights, 90% of Americans have played with this flying toy at one time or another. And Frisbee is just one brand of many flying discs!

The frisbee’s origins actually go back to a bakery called the Frisbie Pie Company of New Haven, Connecticut, established by William Russell Frisbie after the Civil War. The bakery stayed in operation until 1958, and during this period, the tossing of the company’s pie tins, first by company drivers and later by Ivy League college students (some say it was cookie tin lids), led to frisbie becoming a well known term describing flying disc play in the Northeast…Now here is Audra’s intro and Ken’s story in two parts:

I wrote this story with Ken’s referencing help. With the advancement and popularity of disc sports, Ken thought it important to make an accurate account of his history.

From the early Frisbee days in New York, Ken knew everyone from the time of Gerry Lynas, Kerry, Krae and his father Ken, Peter Bloeme, Mark Danna, Jeff Felberbaum, Mountain, and many more. Ken played in Washington Square, Sheeps Meadow and at the Band Shell, back in the late 70’s while visiting with Krae and his father.

Ken retired in the mid 80’s, but is just starting to re-connect with some of the old players at west coast tournaments. He and I have been together for 15 years and now live in Bisbee AZ, where he restores old motorcycles and builds engines for muscle cars…

Ken Westerfield (born 1947) and childhood friend Jim Kenner began playing Frisbee in High School, impressing the other students with a variety of controlled throws and trick catches. Graduating in 1965 from Franklin High School (Livonia, Michigan), and leaning towards the counterculture, they spent their days on the beach and at music festivals honing their skills. One day in 1969, spotting a little ad in a local alternative newspaper, they took their Frisbees and a VW Bug and went to a concert near Bethel, NY, called Woodstock, which later became the music event of the century. While at the concert, they would throw the Frisbee over the crowd. Westerfield later stated “it was an interesting crowd to play for.”

Early Years in Canada

In 1970 Westerfield and Kenner moved to Toronto, setting up their disc playing headquarters in Queen’s Park (Toronto). Playing Frisbee freestyle and Object Disc Golf, became a daily event at the park. In 1971 with a hundred dollars each, they started hitch hiking across Canada, stopping to do Frisbee street performance at popular annual events: the Klondike Days in Edmonton, Calgary Stampede in Alberta and in Vancouver’s historic Gastown area in front of a railroad car-turned-restaurant, oddly enough called Frisby’s. One night, while performing at Frisby’s, they decided they would try to collect money like street musicians. It was a success, and they embarked on a new career.

Returning to Toronto they lived in Rochdale College while performing nightly in the Yonge Street Mall. Night after night, thousands of tourists and Torontonians would enjoy nightly displays of their Frisbee expertise. Wanting to advance their professional legitimacy, they approached Irwin Toy, the distributor of Frisbee’s in Canada, and proposed their show to promote the Frisbee. Their first professional performance was a Basketball half-time show at Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto. The students loved it; Westerfield and Kenner were paid twenty dollars each for the show, but more importantly they had proven that their show would be beneficial to help promote the Frisbee. In 1972 they were retained by Irwin Toy to perform at Special Community and Sporting Events across Canada, making Westerfield and Kenner full-time Professional Frisbee Players. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russ St. Hilaire Describes Tough Mudder Challenges—Part 2 of 2

Russ St. Hilaire has completed three Tough Mudder challenges in one year

Russ wrote yesterday about why he was attracted to this obstacle course. Think you are ready for it?

So let me give you a brief description of the fun. Lets start with taking your Tough Mudder pledge (look it up at www.toughmudder.com ). Then out the gate and run up a long hill. Down the other side and across a river. Up a full ski slope on a mountain—with the snow makers turned on—keeping you nice and soaked. Jump into an ice bath four feet deep and swim under a wall and out the other side. Run down the mountain—run up the mountain. Hang upside down from a rope and cross a large pond. Climb up the mountain again. Crawl under barbed wire in the mud. Climb through sewer pipes down into a pond. Cross some water under more barbed wire and go back up the hill in another sewer pipe. Run through the woods. Use a rope to climb a tower and then jump out of the tower into a freezing lake. Swim out. Go up the mountain half way—grab a 30-40 lb log and finish going up the mountain. Run down through fields of mud. Splash into a pool of water and mud and slosh through it while electric fence wires zap you on your back. Get out and run. Crawl through a zigzag of underground tunnels. Run through the woods and down a river with logs and barbed wire across it. Run back up the mountain while people with large water cannons try to blast your legs from under you. Run through a gauntlet of burning hay bails and inhale rancid smoke while tripping in the mud. Cross a huge jumble of giant logs and then run a hillside of tires, stepping in and out of each one. Run down a hill and try to run up a half pipe and pull yourself over the top. And finish the day with running through a tunnel of electric fence wires, while climbing over hay bails and through the mud—being shocked the whole way.

Here is Russ conquering one of the course obstacles in the video above. You can see and hear that it is a team effort. And you can imagine the effort and strain it takes to reach the other side.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun! And I probably left out some obstacles. And what do you get for your suffering—a terry-cloth headband with the words Tough Mudder on it and a beer and a T-shirt. But those three small things are treasured items! So treasured that people wear those orange headbands to work! They are prized items, because finishers are in an elite crowd that have proved to themselves and others that they ARE Tough Enough to finish a challenge like that. So tough that I have seen people crawl through the finish line with injured knees, or carried through the finish line with broken legs. I have literally seen plenty of blood, sweat, and tears on that course. But when you are done—other challenges in your life seem small and easily surmountable.

This is why I do the Tough Mudder. It may have started out as just a challenge and a way to prove to myself that being 50 wasn’t going to stop me. But it turned into something much more.

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Russ St. Hilaire Is One Tough Mudder—Part 1 of 2

Russ St. Hilaire enjoys another Tough Mudder obstacle

I wrote earlier about the Tough Mudder obstacle courses that have attracted 500,000 people in just two years to these incredibly demanding physical challenges now at 28 different locations. Russ St. Hilaire has done three of them in just the last year. He also teaches kobukai jujitsu at his dojo in East Hartford, Ct., which you can learn about at his web site.

The Tough Mudder—what can I say? The name says it all. It is very muddy and it is very tough! 10-12 miles of dirt and cold and water and mud and suffering. It would be just as easy to do a 10-mile road race and only suffer a little sweat and tired feet. But no—I had to go find the toughest race on the planet. Why, you may ask? Well I think everyone has their own reasons for wanting to torture themselves for 3-4 hours, but I had some of my own specific reasons.

A little background first. I have been practicing and teaching one of the most physically demanding martial arts in the world: Jujitsu, for over 30 years. In that amount of time I have achieved a 7th degree black belt, and have accumulated numerous hematomas, injured elbows, a neck injury, and a knee injury resulting in surgery. So you see—maybe there is something a little “off” in my head already.

But it was natural for me to want this physical challenge. My own parents brought it on. They took me hiking and rock climbing and camping, since I was a little kid. I grew up feeling like hiking the White Mountains was natural. Swimming in freezing cold mountain rivers was just something we did and enjoyed. Later in life, I took on swimming as a sport in high school and did very well, going to several state championships. After that I took up weight lifting and fitness as a hobby, as well as the martial arts. After receiving my black belt, I joined the Army. Why? Because I wanted the challenge. I loved the long ruck marches. I loved the obstacle courses. I loved rappelling out of a helicopter. I wasn’t a big runner, but I could hold my own.

Now decades later, I still train and teach Jujitsu three or four times a week. I still lift weights. I still run. I still camp and hike the mountains. But I wanted more of a challenge.

So there I was a couple years ago—49 years old, doing all of these physical activities. Physically fighting with men 10 and 20 years younger than me in Jujitsu several times a week. Taking my whole dojo on crazy runs up hills, through the woods, across rail yards, in the snow—and I felt good! I still felt good! I wanted more.

Just by luck someone told be about a 5k Mud Run put on by Merrill. I gave it a try, having no idea what to expect. It had a dozen obstacles and some mud and runs through the woods. I had a blast—but it was way too easy. Then my girlfriend’s son Sean told me about a race he just heard formed called the Tough Mudder. I researched it and found out just how crazy it was supposed to be—and immediately signed up. That was a year and three Tough Mudders ago! I found the type of physical and mental challenge I was looking for. Plus it combined teamwork and camaraderie. It attracted military and fitness folks, and it gave money to the Wounded Warrior Project. It was—well—perfect!

Here is Russ and his buddies walking and falling in the mud. You really get a sense of how gritty and sloppy this particular obstacle is. Ready to do it yourself?

One of the key things that attracted me was that with each successive race, I began to see more and more people 50+ years of age taking on the challenge. They, like me, had kept very active over their lifetime and still craved the physical challenge. Many of them were smoking the young guns on the course. That really sparks something in me. It shows me that age is just a thing. It happens. But it doesn’t have to happen the way we are taught growing up. You don’t have to become frail and feeble and doddering. You can be active and an athlete well into your oldest senior years! (Part 2 posts tomorrow)

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Creative Wedding March Down The Aisle

It’s a stretch to call this surprising dance performance an athletic achievement, even though it involves handstand walking and a somersault, but it’s so creative and makes me smile every time I watch and listen to it. Enjoy the premier and then the redo five weeks later on the TODAY SHOW. With so much stress and sadness in the world, this really is a joyful and uplifting celebration of life and new beginnings. Time magazine ranked the original video at number fifteen on its list of the fifty greatest YouTube videos.

Most couples wait until the after-vows reception, before breaking out into ecstatic dancing on their wedding day. But Kevin Heinz and Jill Peterson figured, why wait to unleash their unbridled joy?

The 28-year-olds floored their wedding guests on June 20, 2009, by having their whole bridal party—including seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers—boogie down the aisle in a choreographed dance more at home in a Broadway musical than in a somber church.

Groomsmen split into sides as Heinz did a somersault in front of the wowed crowd—and the gown-clad Peterson quickly followed, shaking her hips to Chris Brown’s “Forever,” while pumping her bridal bouquet into the air during the ceremony in St. Paul, Minn.

Of course, some things are too good to keep to yourself. And when Kevin posted the wedding dance routine on YouTube, it quickly became a viral hit—some four million people right away and as of May, 2012, almost 75 million people have shared in the couple’s novel way of showing their matrimonial joy.

Heinz and Peterson (shes keeping her maiden name) appeared live on TODAY Friday, July 24, 2009, to tell their story of how their artistic self-expression on the biggest day of their lives captured America’s imagination and made them Internet stars.

After watching the video, TODAY’s Matt Lauer told the couple,” If that was a ceremony, I don’t know how you survived the honeymoon!” He then asked the couple who came up with the idea.

“It was mine,” Jill told Lauer. “I danced growing up and was a dancer through college and loved dance as a way to express yourself and share joy. So it was something I always thought about doing.” It didn’t take her fun-loving husband Kevin long to agree to the idea, saying the decision to dance was the first thing we really decided about the wedding that he wanted to do.

They then broke the news to the parents that their wedding processional wasn’t going to take on the more reserved joy of a typical wedding. Jill admitted that her mom was maybe a little nervous, and Kevin said his parents were definitely apprehensive, but didn’t try to talk the two crazy kids out of their plan. They swore them to secrecy so other wedding guests wouldn’t know what they were up to.

Next up was a dance rehearsal for the wedding party. Anyone seeing the YouTube video might think the whole party was composed of dance professionals—the bridesmaids alone, with their waving-hands routine at the altar, are worth the price of admission. But Jill said it was actually more seat-of-the-tux than the final result would indicate.

“People were sort of making it up as they went, people just got really into it and went for it. We just gave them a general layout.”

The wedding party rehearsed the dance for just 90 minutes. While guests were clearly overjoyed at getting a floor show even before the champagne flowed at the reception, Kevin and Jill are adamant they weren’t seeking a quick kiss of fame by posting their dancing high jinks on YouTube. Like many other viral video sensations, it was originally intended for friends and family.

“I put it up because her dad had been really harassing me to get it out to some of his other family members, and it exploded,” Kevin said.

JK Wedding Party—6/20/2009

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Natsumi Hayashi Floats And Levitates For Fun

200-300 attempts to get the perfect shot sounds like a very tiring effort

Natsumi Hayashi posts photographic self-portraits on her blog, Yowayowa Camera Woman Diary. I love them, and definitely regard them as an athletic challenge and achievement. She does 200-300 jumps to get one winner that she uploads and displays in print shows.

“I must be aware of the shapes of my arms and legs and make slight adjustments in every jump,” she said.

New York Times writer, Kerri Macdonald, says, “the more complicated—in some cases, dangerous—the pose appears, the less inclined a viewer will be to anticipate a landing. Ms. Hayashi holds her head high, averting her eyes from her landing point. She releases her muscles. She points the soles of her feet to the sky.

floating down for a drink

And she readies herself for a fall, knowing that it’s important to maintain the pose in the air.”

“I cannot easily suggest my style to everyone,” said Ms. Hayashi, who, like an athlete, uses therapy to learn to control her body. (Still, she did fall—and land on her jaw—once.)

You can read the whole article here and see many more of the levitation photos. Ready to start jumping yourself???

Natsumi likes defying gravity inside the picture

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Filly Meunier’s Childhood Secret To Good Tennis

Tennis Sisters—Filly Meunier (rt) with 2010 French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone—8/2011

Before I posted my words two days ago about subbing surprises, I showed it to one of my opponents, Filly Meunier. Her reaction was another surprise: “I had no idea you were so frustrated. You didn’t show it one bit.”

When I told her how startled I was that my weaker partner was giving me advice on how to improve my game, she said, “I have learned that the less you say, the better. Encourage your partner to work as a team. But if you don’t have anything positive to say, you say nothing.”

When I asked Filly how she had developed such a strong game, here is what she wrote.

ah ! , you flatter me ! such a nice compliment. thank you.

I don’t have many secrets to my game, and in my opinion, it would be beneficial if I did. There is a lot of technique/strategy I don’t use (and don’t know) and have not taken the time to learn or practice. Maybe one day.

I’ve played tennis since I was a young girl, for the most part only once or twice per week. On days I’d find no one to hit with, I would hit against a cement wall at a private school near my home. Could that be my secret? I believe that could improve one’s eye, hand coordination and ball contact. Since then, I have continued to play the game , mostly just for fun (very few lessons) and on average, only twice per week.

For the past two years (and for the first time ever) I have enjoyed playing in the ladies Dogwood League at the New Milford Tennis and Swim Club, something new for me. Competition/League tennis is really fun. I take it more seriously and strive to do well for my “team.” It’s a totally different ball game when you are working towards a trophy and working to advance your “team’s standing,” in addition to winning your own match. It’s a lot of pressure (talk about butterflies!), but I enjoy the challenge. In the past two seasons, we have taken home the “Silver” and continue to work towards the “Gold.” I am proud to say that in last year’s final (of the four courts that played), my partner and I won our match 6 -4, 6-3. Unfortunately, our other three courts lost their matches (though one of them came very close to a win at 6-2, 2-6, 5-7). Nonetheless, it was loads of fun having a shot at the Title!

I did read Brad Gilbert’s “Winning Ugly” last summer and enjoyed it. I would recommend it, if you haven’t.

I hope to get to play with you soon again Ira. It was a pleasure to have you join us last week. You played very smart, very tough, had some impressive “gets” along with some very nice points. Keep up your good play and always remember to keep having fun. In the event I find something interesting to add to your site (which I thoroughly enjoy), I’ll be sure to send it along.

The photo (above) was taken last year at the New Haven Open. I thought you might get a kick out of it. I was sitting at a court watching a match and suddenly heard Francesca Schiavone’s famous “grunt” (“ahh..hee”). With total excitement I scurried around and found her two courts over (practicing with her coaches). I waited patiently, and as she walked off the court I approached her to say hello. She was very personable and friendly, so I had a few words with her and then asked for a photo. She has been a favorite of mine and I was so elated to have met her. It was fun.

Schiavone is currently ranked #11 in the world.

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