Chasing Challenges

I have been out with a knee injury for the past several months.

It has sucked pretty badly.

I saw all my friends training and competing in events. While I was happy and excited for them, I had sub-feelings of envy and frustration that I tried my best to shove when issuing congratulations or encouragement to people. It’s not their fault that I was sitting out and I didn’t want my feelings to color their experiences. I have had some of my experiences soured in the past by other people doing just that. I won’t be that person.

I’m super happy to announce that my Dr was not horrified at the thought of me returning to competition next month! So I have been cautiously training this past week – getting back into shape sucks. I’m up 8 lbs from my normal competition weight and my cardio sucks so badly that I can’t sit down after class because I know I might not get back up for hours.

I love it.

During the time off I have been planning out my approach to this next season and doing a lot of searching for my own motivation. I took it back to my day 1 roots and realized that my motivation has remained the same – I’m chasing the challenge. This is why I got into Jiu Jitsu. I was overweight and unhealthy – but was bored to tears just working out at the gym because there were no concrete hard goals. I remembered how much I enjoyed doing TaeKwonDo and Hapkido as a teen and decided to find something similar to push myself with.

It was pretty hard. And there are so many layers of difficulty! Once I could make it through class all the way without nearly passing out – I decided to try a competition. I won 1 out of 4 matches and got hooked. I made measurable progress and worked my way up to a silver in both the European Championships and the Pans. Just as I started to get comfortable and see an end goal come closer (gold at one of those events), an awesome thing happened!

I was promoted to my next belt rank and started all over at the bottom of the divisions – losing most of my first matches (badly) and scrambling for improvement once again. I went through the “blue belt blues” – trying to readjust my mentality to focus on long term improvement while dealing with the bubble pop of going from the “top white belt” to “bottom blue belt”. This is where I really started branching out to compete in different countries around the world in order to test myself in as many different ways as possible. With each test, I learned a little bit more about myself and became better.

Again, just as I reached the level of comfort, I was promoted once again to my current belt rank (purple). This time, however, I anticipated the bubble pop and did not let it get me down. It is just a period of mental adjustment to a new level of intensity and goals. The main difference I’ve noticed is that people take me a lot more seriously as a purple belt than as a white or blue belt.

So here I am in my purple belt phase. I wouldn’t be able to summarize it properly until it has past and I am looking back at it. But I’m going to enjoy it and milk the entire experience for as much as I can get out of it.

It’s all just practice for my black belt anyhow – so it’s okay to try things out and mess up. The failures aren’t as bad as I think they are, and the successes aren’t as glorious either. They are rungs on the ladder of improvement.

So now that I’m back into active training, my first order of business is to get my cardio back so that I can train effectively. I’m still at a high risk for re-injury so I am being very cautious who I train with and how. I also need to drop back down to competition weight, which shouldn’t be too hard now that I’m cleared to train again.

During the time off to heal, I focused on my mental game and also on building my own personal business. Now I have a strong foundation to work from and I can’t wait to see what I can do! I’ll be testing myself once more at the Master Worlds next month in Vegas – it’s going to be awesome!

Information Overload

Some days I find myself overwhelmed by the immense sea of knowledge that I have yet to master. I can be trying to perfect how to do a proper bridge and hip escape, and next thing I know someone releases a DVD series on something completely new to me and I start drowning in the information.

This is a good thing!

I’m so grateful for the information overload. Without it, I would get bored and wander off to find some other venture to invest myself in. The trick is to figure out how to keep myself focused so I don’t just fly apart at the seams.

This is where having a good coach becomes critical for me. He is outside of my own brain and is therefore able to see the patterns and guide me through the mess. It’s like having someone in a helicopter giving me directions through a corn maze. He can see where I am, where I need to be, and the quickest path from A to B.

Of course, I am responsible for making my own progress. So I read, I watch video, and go over scenarios in my mind. Just this week I made up two new moves that made me pause and go “huh!” in the middle of live rolling. They weren’t really new moves, they were just an extension of my existing knowledge.

Another thing that helps keep me honed is competing as often as possible. In competition, my opponent doesn’t know what my favorite moves are, and I don’t know what they have been working on at home either. So it’s a fresh slate to test myself at 100% and it lets me figure out what critical things I need to fix, what is working, and what I could improve on.

This past year I have begun teaching private lessons as well. I am forced to look at a problem from a different perspective and figure out how to lead another person to an answer. I love to see the “aha!” moment when something clicks – and to hear that people are using methods I taught them in their live rolls.

In Conclusion:

January will mark seven years since my first Jiu Jitsu class – the longest I have ever worked at anything. When it comes to training, I have good days, and bad days. At this point the good days outnumber the bad… but I still remember what it was like to have all bad days.  Those bad days were worth it to get to where I am now. I wasn’t so sure when I was getting the snot beat out of me in every single class, but looking back now, I know it was worth it.

The best part: there is still so much more to learn and I can only improve as I keep pushing myself every day. It would be easy to coast at this point – so I have to keep focused on improving a little bit every day. This means trying new things, and possibly messing up. Mistakes from trying are acceptable, but relaxing on my existing knowledge is not.

So Close!

The Countdown is ON!

At this time next week, I will be on my way to California for the IBJJF Pan Championship tournament! I’m right on track with my weight, have energy for days, and am really looking forward to closing out a division with my team mate, Katie! There will be a live stream available for all the matches, so when I get my details I will make sure to share them.

This will be my 6th time competing at the Pans. My goal is to compete in the adult divisions all the way through at least one year as a black belt. When I competed in Atlanta I had one of the girls react in shock to the fact I was in the adult division. I suppose 32 seems old to a 19/20ish year old!

 

Abu Dhabi

Today I got my plane ticket to the Abu Dhabi World Pro booked. This has been a Jiu Jitsu bucket list item for years – and I decided to just do it. Maximus Kimonos has been awesome enough to supply me with a white gi for use – along with some cool no gi stuff. Give them a look-see and mention my name to get a 10% discount. I can say the gi is super comfy and very light weight!

I’m not yet sure which of two possible days I would be competing at the World Pro. My flight gets me in too late for day before weigh ins the first day, but in time for the same morning weigh ins. Of course if I compete the second day I will be all good for the day before weigh ins. Lodging and my flight to NYC still need to be arranged, but one thing at a time!

My Inspiration – Ironman Issue

A lot of little girls grow up believing their Daddy is a superhero.

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One of the things I remember as a constant, is that Dad always ran. He would do several marathons (26.2 miles) a year, usually qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.

This past weekend, dad finished his second Ironman Triathlon in 105 degree weather. Not bad for a gray haired, 55 year old grandpa! I definitely get a good portion of my competitive drive from him! (creative writing skills come from Mom!)

Dad wrote up an article for his tri club newsletter about the whole experience, and I asked him if it would be all right to share here – so here it is! Enjoy and please share what/who inspires you!

And yes, my Dad is cooler than your Dad!


This is Craig’s 140.6 Race report for CDA.

For months I have been preparing and planning for this race. I thought I had a good plan until found out what the temp was going to be and had to do some major changes to my strategy. But I am happy how well I did and running in 105 heat I can truly say “I Am An IRONMAN”.

Prepping for the HEAT:

On Monday before the race I started the process of hydration by drinking Smart Water and downing a bag of pretzels each day. It may be in my head to use Smart Water but for past 4 years I have done this for Marathons and have not had issues with heat. I also popped a Salt tablet each day. On Saturday I switched to PowerBar Perform and two Salt tablets. Friday Jim and I went on 30 minute swim and then 20 minute run (in the morning). In the afternoon I went back to the Expo and at the Active Release Therapy tent one of the therapist worked on me. He spent around 40 minutes on me with focus on knee, hip, hamstring, and neck. Note: for 5 days I had bad headaches each day but after the ART session I have not had a headache for 6 days.

On Saturday I did a 10 minute ride to make sure Bike was ready and then checked in the bike around 9am. I then went to the ART tent again and was worked on for 30 minutes. I felt very relaxed and loose after this session. After a big breakfast I crashed in my Mom’s Motorhome for the day to prepare for the race. I tried to minimize time outside as even in the shade was very hot. In the afternoon Jim and I drove the bike course and this was good that we did this. We could see were the long grinder hills were. After good pasta dinner I was ready for the next day.

SWIM (2.4 Miles)
1:31:33
Age Group Place: 56

Was able to get a nice warm-up and then got into my starting position. At CDA use a rolling start and I was in the 1:20 to 1:30 group. This was nice as swimming around people the same speed. Felt good and focused on my stoke. Only crowded when going around the turns and got punched a few times. After 30 minutes my left goggle started leaking. The swim is two loops and you come out of the water. After 1st lap I was happy as in 43 minutes. I had a gel with me so was able to take this while running back into the water. But I also stopped to try and fix my goggles, but did not help. So for 2nd loop had to swim with one eye shut.

Coming out of the water was not happy about time but did bet my last IM time of 1:35:31

Transfer 1
6:08

After coming out of water went to grass were my wetsuit was stripped off. Then grabbed Bike bag before going into tent. Tried to go as fast as possible and resisted the urge stay long. Loaded my back pockets with food I exited the tent. I was greeted with two people that put handfuls of sunscreen all over me. Grabbed bike and had long jog to mount point. Now ready for battle.

BIKE (112 Miles)
6:26:06
AG place: 24

001To survive the day I knew had to hydrate and take in salt. Every 15 minutes I would take in Gatorade Endurance from my torpedo (I really like the torpedo). Coming into each water stop would suck my torpedo dry so would get as much as could. At the start of water transition would grab water to cool off head and then Gatorade for the torpedo. At the top of the hour would take a salt Stick and Powerbar Gel. At bottom of hour would take part of a cliff bar or protein bar. With 1.5 hours to go was taking a salt stick every 30 minutes. I felt doing well with my hydration as continued to sweet and able to pee throughout the bike ride.

The bike course is two loops of one short out and back one long out and back. The first out and back was around 15 miles through town and along the lake. The 2nd out and back starts with a climb and then a LONG LONG climb. Then some flats and a few up and downs before heading back.

The first loop I was doing well with power and cadence. On the climbs very strong and passing a lot of people. But on the second loop it got hot and on the first climb and downhill my neck got very tight and hard to stay in aero position. On the climbs I had to massage my neck so that I could be in the aero position for the downhills. With 18 to go at the water stop I decided to pore just a little water on my neck and put bottle in my back pocket. Then every 5 minutes pored some water on my neck. It was amazing by my neck started relaxing and able to stay in aero. WHY DID I NOT DO THIS BEFORE?

With 5 miles to go it was amazing with the number of people on the side of the road under shade trees. But I was doing well, as I did a smart race. With 1.5 miles to go I was cranking for the finish and pumped for the start of the run. At the start of this 1.5 I downed a salt stick and gel as thought was needed for the run.

Note: the last hour of the bike was like riding in an oven and could feel the heat coming off the pavement.

What would I do different on the Bike? My Hydration was perfect but I should have kept a water bottle in my back pocket. If I would have put water on my neck every 5 to 10 minutes I think would have cut 15 minutes off my time.

Transfer 2:
6:54

I was told that temp was currently 101

After dismounting my bike, the volunteers grabbed it, and then I stumbled a few steps to the stand were had two cups of water. Then a lady put an ice cold towel on my head and I called her my angel as it was what I needed. Just before the tent two people had big buckets of ice water that poured on my head. Inside the tent I put on my shoes and hat quickly. I then made a split decision that was the BEST decision I made all day. I knew that the key was to keep my head and neck cool so decided to keep the towel for my head in the run.

RUN: (26.2 Miles)
3:49:50
AR Place after run: 7
Temp: 105

I did not think the 105 was that bad as able to keep cool and my hydration was good.

I ran with the towel on my head under my hat. At every water station would do the following: Take my hat off and pore two (or more) cups of ice water, with ice, on head. Then drink half cup of Gatorade with full cup of water. Leaving would then put two or more cups of water on my head. Note: This is the first time in a Marathon (have run 46) that have taken Gatorade and I was doing every mile but I knew had to do this. Around 200 yards after water stop my stomach would not feel well with the Gatorade (every time) and I would put my finger in my mouth and then a BIG belch would come out and I was OK. Also had spectators with water hoses and I would hit every one of them; having them spray on my head and back of neck. My favorite station was were someone would grab my hat/towel and run ahead to a place where dipped in bucket of ice water and hand to me as I went by.

For nutrition, in addition to Gatorade was taking a gel and salt stick every 45 minutes. At 19 last salt stick and 21 last gel as I have found to do good on last 6 need gel around 21. One funny story is that at one point I went over to the side and just stopped. A lady was concerned that I stopped so fast and ran over to see if I was OK. I then told her “I am OK I am just peeing” she told me that was good and to enjoy the pee. Note: I was SO wet that I felt was OK to pee in shorts.

Because of the heat I decided that would run by feel and not by a select pace. But was surprised that my body decided to do around 8:20 pace and in some case faster. I also found that after .5 miles with no water I would start to slow down (to a 8:40 pace) but then after water stop would speed up, with same effort. I also made a big effort to hit as much shade as I could. A few places I would run off the bike path and run under the trees in the shade.

A little after 5 mi started a long uphill to mile 6 were greeted by lady with water hose to cool me down then little was further before turn around and head back. At around mile 13 started on the 2nd loop. I was feeling it a little but decided to keep to the same pace. At 19 mi started the long climb again and most people were walking but I was able to grind up at 10:30 pace with my goal of getting to the water hose at the top of the hill. After turning around was able to do sub 7:20 pace coming down the hill and at this point decided to focus on my cadence. At mile 23 was starting to get excited as so close and began to pick it up. At around mile 25.5 I ran through the water stop and the smiles came on my face and the celebration began. With 4 blocks to go you have a downhill through town and can see the finish. At this time my hands were in the air and it was amazing. The finish was a block long and I was clapping people’s hands on both sides as announcer stated “Craig Stoller from New Hampshire, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

After finishing I had a little concern as my jaw was sore so talked to medical. She told me that I was OK as I was just smiling too much.

In this Marathon was about the best I have felt the last 6 and this was my 47th Marathon.

What did I do correct? Towel on head under hat to keep cool, use a hat and not visor (as can hold more water and ice), Good nutrition on Bike, Good nutrition on Run, and GREAT volunteers.

What did I do incorrect? Nothing.

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Rolling with Kryptonite

IMG_0675.JPGEveryone has them. Those team mates or opponents who seem to be your anti-Jiu Jitsu. The ones whose strengths perfectly match the weak points in your game.

They are frustrating, annoying, and my favorite people to train with.

While I may feel like nothing is being accomplished, and everything I’m trying to do is being shut down, it’s helping me learn much more quickly than if I were just breezing through a roll!

Having my normal tricks being shut down forces me to think creatively, step outside my box, and broaden my horizons. It teaches me patience, and keeps me from getting too big of an ego (girls have ego too!)

It’s for sure a frustrating thing and I’m writing this after spending an hour rolling nonstop with one of my krypton it’s team mates. I caught myself getting frustrated several times for not being able to stop the same sweep several times in a row. It required me to pause for a moment, breathe, and figure out what I was doing to give up the sweep, and adjust accordingly. Oh, and then get swept in a different direction. Ha!

The fast track isn’t easy. It’s hard on your body and may threaten to crush your spirit. The question is, will you accept the grind? Will you take the heat? If you persevere and don’t give in to frustration you will come out strong and awesome.

Now I’m gonna go home and watch Netflix with a fresh batch of henna in my hair!

Sean Roberts Seminar

With Sean Roberts and Fiance, Elizabeth Ruiz

Yesterday we had an awesome seminar with Sean Roberts at our school. I wish more people had shown up, but they missed it and those of use that were there will be “giggling” the lazy bums to death!

Coach wasn’t able to be here, as he had a seminar to teach in Missouri friday night, and then cornered one of our guys, Ben Brewer, last night on v3Fights in Memphis (he won of course!) But we did have 3 of our other black belts attend, so yay for that!

Sean is on a cross country road trip teaching as he goes. Check out his facebook page to see if he will be near you! I highly recommend!

He surprised us by popping in Friday night to train, and I got a roll in. Love his open guard and half guard – someone for me to study further!

Circuit Training Motivation

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Well I had a great time this morning with my good friend known only as “The Circuit”. I look pretty beat in this picture, but this was actually my less exhausted take. I looked so dramatic in the other ones that they appeared fake!

I did 5 rounds of a 6 minute circuit with a 2 minute rest in between each. This circuit included burpees, prison walks, tire pushups, overhead weighted squats, etc. By the end, I managed to punch out just over 100 burpees!

Halfway through the 4th round, my quads started trying to give out on me. I’m definitely going to feel it in the morning. Shoot, I feel it now!

I’m really focusing on my conditioning for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Ams. Last year I got gassed in the finals, and lost by an advantage. I don’t want that to happen again! I want to go, knowing that I am in the best shape of my life and can trust in the techniques that I drill for hours a day. If that’s not good enough, at least I know I gave it the best that I have to give now. I have no qualms loosing to a superior opponent, but I refuse to lose because I didn’t prepare like I should have.

I found this amazing motivational cd on itunes by “Muscle Prodigy TV” entitled “It’s All On You” – I think it is going to be my new favorite thing to listen to in the mornings. Shoot, I even had it set as my alarm on my ipad! I highly recommend it – you can purchase it on iTunes for just under $10. Best money I’ve ever spent on a digital item before. I listened to it through my circuit, and it kept me pumped up and focused!

It’s a collection of inspirational speeches, with dramatic background music. That’s the kind of thing that gets me going – I’m curious what sort of music/soundtracks get you going! Please comment below!