And that's how gambling addicts are made.

DISCLAIMER: The following text may be considered offensive or triggering to any and all clowns, Dreyer’s ice cream, my mother, all three of my grandmothers, Paris Hilton, Native Americans, the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, and biker gangs.

At four years old, I got cast in a commercial for Circus Circus, a local casino in my hometown that inexplicably combines the circus and gambling.

It’s basically just a ploy to get kids to become lifelong gambling addicts. Their parents, who are no doubt gamblers themselves, take their kids to Circus Circus for some wholesome family fun. Little Jimmy takes his sticky $10 bills and runs off to throw rings on bottlenecks and shoot Indians with a BB gun (Tumblr social justice warriors didn’t exist when Circus Circus opened, so they weren’t around to point out the blatant racism of children’s carnival games.) Meanwhile, mom and dad run off to throw dice on the craps table and flush a college education down the slots.

Then one day, little Jimmy wants to play grown up games, and that’s how gambling addicts are made.

So obviously, the casino desperately needed some four year olds to promote this quality family time. They chose me, because clearly they could see in my little eyes that I would one day love video blackjack.

That kid knows when to double down. 

That kid knows when to double down. 

Tangent: I had a GameBoy as a kid, and my mom would only let me play Tetris, because that was the only game that she considered educational enough. Something about solving puzzles. Well, the joke was on her because not long after I got my GameBoy with Tetris, my mom and dad both started stealing my GameBoy so they could play Tetris. They’d compete to see who could get to 100,000 points the fastest and get the little rocket to go off.

Of course, this meant that I no longer had a GameBoy. The solution was not to cut off this Tetris addiction, but to instead buy two more GameBoys so all three of us could have one. So, my father and I went to the toy store, and we came home with two more Tetris Original cartridges, Tetris Blast, Tetris 2, Tetris Plus, and Caesar’s Palace. Caesar’s Palace is exactly what you think it is...a virtual casino. Mom rationalized that Caesar’s Palace taught me life skills like strategy, odds, and math, so it was deemed educational. Also, eight year old me was already pretty great at blackjack.

Tangent on a tangent, because I’m pretty sure you are wondering how exactly an eight year old got good at blackjack. My grandmother taught me to play. Well, not my grandmother, but my mother’s first husband’s mother. My paternal grandmother, my mother’s second husband’s mother, lived in Seattle, and the only form of communication she could master was lengthy, handwritten letters, so we only communicated as often as one can write lengthy handwritten letters, which is approximately once every six months. My mother’s mother lived down the street from us, but she hated me, so we also communicated once every six months. I didn’t take it too personally. That woman hated everyone.

Back to the important matter, which is why an eight year old was taught to play blackjack while she was getting babysat by a grandmother she wasn’t related to. Auntie Ellie — I called her “Auntie” because none of the lineage made sense and she was the only grandma who cared to watch me — was a blackjack dealer at Harold’s Club in Reno for over 30 years. She was a 4’8” baller. She dealt for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and was regularly courted by Barron Hilton. I hold Auntie Ellie personally responsible for the existence of Paris Hilton, because if she had just married the man then Paris wouldn’t exist. But if she had married Mr. Hilton, I suppose I wouldn’t have been sitting in her double wide trailer, learning blackjack, just so I could swindle Jimmy on the playground.

Auntie Elie with candy pasties. No wonder Barron was enamored. 

Auntie Elie with candy pasties. No wonder Barron was enamored. 

Anyway, though the people at Circus Circus did not know they had a future elementary school gambling ringleader on their hands, they did think I was cute. They rounded up myself and a few other kids, and we were told that we were going to eat lots of delicious ice cream sundaes in front of the circus game/slot machine monstrosity. They put us in place, got the cameras all set up, and from behind the curtains, a clown brought out the most beautiful ice cream sundaes I’d ever seen. They were in those stemmed, old fashioned sundae glasses with multiple scoops of ice cream piled high. The chocolate sauce was pooled in the crevices between the glass and the bright white ice cream, and each one had a swirl of whipped cream and a perfect red cherry.

With the cameras rolling, the clown placed these works of art down in front of us and told us to dive in. A small group of thrilled four year olds grabbed our comically large spoons and went in for the...FAKE ICE CREAM SUNDAES. Fake! All of them! TV magic at the expense of an innocent child’s dream.

Not only that, and Jimmy and the other unprofessional child actors could not get their four year old shit together, so they kept screwing up the shot, which meant we had to be subject to fake ice cream over and over and over again for hours and hours. What sort of heathens convince a bunch of kids that they’re getting ice cream for breakfast, then bring them fake ice cream sundaes, and then make them experience the trauma repeatedly? Clowns. Clowns and business people who think carnival casinos are a good idea.

We did eventually get real ice cream, but it was like one scoop of melted Dreyer’s in a styrofoam cup. Also, the commercial never even aired, probably because Jimmy kept screwing up.

I asked my mother to confirm this story, because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t write a full blog post about fake ice cream only to have her read it and tell me, “Honey, it wasn’t fake. It was real, you ate four sundaes and puked all over your bed.”

She confirmed that I was remembering that part of the story correctly, but she told me another part of the story that I’d entirely forgotten. This is what she told me, verbatim:

So, the idea was that all of you four year olds were a motorcycle gang rolling into Circus Circus. Of course, the point was that Circus Circus has that big area for kids, with clowns and circus acts and carnival games. You were all on "Big Wheels" and we spent a lot of time at a local cemetery (because it has hills and dirt) filming you guys motoring in a group.  Then the filming moved inside the casino. I still have your vest. I can take a picture of it if you want. I know exactly where it is.
I'm having flashbacks about acid wash clothing. Also, that clown is exceptionally creepy. 

I'm having flashbacks about acid wash clothing. Also, that clown is exceptionally creepy. 

I thought I'd peaked on the day that JWOWW tweeted about my boozy cupcakes, but it turns out that I really peaked on the day I joined a biker gang, trespassed on a cemetery, relieved an ice cream trauma, and was forced to wear a matching denim vest and skirt. Thousands of dollars of therapy was born on this day. Thank God my mom still has the vest, just in case my therapist and I need to work on some sort of immersion therapy.

My original intention for this post was to tell you about how weird my day was today, because today’s weirdness involved a barefoot monk, losing my credit card, a gecko, something called a “Mantis Prawn,” and getting abandoned in the middle of a rice paddy. I really thought that would be sufficient but instead, you got this. This blog is just like when someone brings you fake ice cream or steals your GameBoy. It’s full of disappointment, but if you stick around, there might be some off brand ice cream or a gambling addiction in your future.







 

You've seen a few great boobs in your life.

DISCLAIMER: The following text may be considered offensive or triggering to any and all babies, the VCR Cafe, 1000 random Facebook acquaintances, tiny cats, and boobs in general. 

Approximately 36 hours after I first invited 1202 people to my sparkly new public Facebook page, exactly 202 of you have clicked the little Like button. 

I have no idea why you are doing this to me. This is terrible. 

I mean, I get that I specifically asked you to "like" my page and that getting you to pay attention to me is essentially the entire point of my shameless self promotion (buy my book! Seriously, go buy it.), but you liking my page now means that I actually have to say something that matters to you. Worse, it means that I have to entertain you. Even worse than worse, you'll never be able to see all the jazz hands that happen when I'm thinking about how to entertain you. I'm wasting all of my jazz hands on 202 people who will never see them in action. Like I said, this is terrible. 

The reality is you're 202 people with 202 different standards, opinions, and ways of life. Every time I tell you a story, or go on a little rant, or share something personal, that's 202 opportunities for ideas to be interpreted as I intended...or interpreted incorrectly. It's 202 opportunities for me to ask myself, "Do they understand what I'm trying to say? Do they understand me? Where are the 1000 other people? I'm trying to be fucking entertaining over here. Jerks."  

You're all lovely, fully-grown humans, but I'd really prefer it all if all 202 of you were three month old babies. I'd just casually starve you for a few hours and then throw a boob at your face. Everyone would be entertained and satisfied for at least twenty minutes, and no one would complain. 

But you're not three month old babies. You have standards. You've seen a few great boobs in your life. If I threw a boob at your face, the collective would probably just sigh and say, "eh, I've seen better." Although, if you forced me to interact with a three month old baby, my reaction would also be, "eh, I've seen better." Please never force me to interact with a three month old baby. 

Since my baby metaphor was derailed by my own dislike of underdeveloped adults, I'm going to pretend that all 202 of you (and one day, all 2.2 million of you) are tiny cats, because tiny cats LOVE my boobs. No creature has ever been so comfortable and entertained with a borderline B cup. This is the real reason why you go full digital nomad, so you can work with kittens in your boobs from a cafe in Malaysia. Fuck three bedroom houses and no lines at Trader Joes. South East Asian cats in boobs is the real American Dream. 

I tried to get out of New York City, but now I'm stuck in Asian New York City

Fuck you, Squarespace. 

I wrote an entire piece that actually encompassed what I'm feeling and between Squarespace and Kuala Lumpur Internet, the entire thing got deleted which pisses me off more than the information in the post itself. 

I'm going to attempt to re-write it in the Squarespace blog editor. Some might call that stupid, but I call it another fuck you to Squarespace. You think you can delete my thoughts, Squarespace? Well you can't, BECAUSE THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE THOUGHTS. The entire problem with my life is that THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE THOUGHTS. The only solution so far as been to medicate the brain out of myself, but we tried that for 15 years and I ended up in a near catatonic life state that resembled something along the lines of a test rat ramming its head into its cage in between bouts of cocaine water. Wake up, go to the bottle of cocaine water, push a button, get cocaine, run on a wheel until your heart almost gives out but not entirely (unfortunately), begrudgingly interact with the Seamless delivery guy, have a breakdown, go to sleep. Wake up and find the cocaine water. 

I may be mixing my metaphors. Also, logic just kicked in. I am now no longer writing this in the Squarespace CMS, but just one more time...fuck you Squarespace for not having a god damned AUTO SAVE FUNCTION in 2016. 

If Malaysia can have fireworks why can't Squarespace have AutoSave? The technology can't be that complicated.

If Malaysia can have fireworks why can't Squarespace have AutoSave? The technology can't be that complicated.

Back to the matter at hand, which is recovering the post about this Remote Year situation I am in. I've been here less than one week, and in that time I have come to just one conclusion: 

I no longer give a shit about presenting this experience wrapped up in a romantic, digital nomad bow. 

For four days, I've attempted to do Remote Year like I'm supposed to do Remote Year. I worked remotely at the communal workspace. I took pretty pictures of weird, foreign things. I gathered with new friends to eat and drink every night. I traveled to two CrossFit gyms, both of which were nearly an hour away, just to try to keep some sense of normalcy and because it's theoretically my job. I set up a blog (this blog...fuck you Squarespace) and wrote a post about the shock and awe of waking up in a new culture, the excitement of meeting 75 new strangers, and the grand adventure we're about to embark on. 

That post hasn't been published (of course that one was saved), because in just 96 hours I've discovered the problem with everything I just mentioned: 

  • I can't get shit done in communal workspaces. 
  • Posting decent pictures of things that don't really mean anything to me...ultimately means nothing to me. 
  • I don't like the way I feel when I drink every night. 
  • I generally prefer eating alone, or with one or two other people. 
  • I loathe having to travel more than 10 minutes to work out. 
  • I'm not in shock or awe about waking up in a new culture. I've done this before. 
  • I regularly interact with 75 of the same people on a daily basis in New York City. A few I love, a few I hate, but most just fall somewhere in the middle...which is exactly what will happen here. (There are already a few here I know I will love, and the percentage of those people will probably be higher than in regular life, because you don't get to this place without having some major life philosophies in common.)
  • A grand adventure...yes, I will concede to that.  
Fine, I did take a pretty cool picture of the KL Tower as seen through the trees. 

Fine, I did take a pretty cool picture of the KL Tower as seen through the trees. 

These are all things I knew about myself before I showed up on Sunday, but all of these things are major aspects of the Remote Year program. It's natural to convince yourself that you can adapt to all of these things that should either be a positive, or will be trumped by the fact that you're living in exotic places around the world. 

Except I'm not living in an exotic place. I'm still stuck in New York City. 

Kuala Lumpur is literally Asian New York City, and because I've spent the past six months desperately trying to get out of fucking New York City, all of this has put me in the same bullshit energy space. All I did was relocate to a place that triggers the identical emotional scenarios. Everything is the same — skyscrapers, unending noise from construction, honking, traffic, and sirens. Reckless street crossings, massive amounts of people, billboards, trash, beggars, unending opportunities to eat and drink. Even my toxic relationship came with me. There is one person here who looks and acts so much like a person who has effectively defined my New York City experience. I travelled 9,389 miles to get away from this relationship and the ghost of this relationship is still here. 

(To be clear, this relationship is not and never has been romantic. I haven't even talked to this person in weeks, and haven't truly communicated with this person in years. For the sake of all those involved, I won't be divulging names, genders, or specific specifics about the situation. From now on, I'll refer to the person as The Barnacle and to the impostor as Ghost Barnacle.) 

Barnacles permanently attach themselves to hard structures, often to the detriment of the structure itself. 

Barnacles permanently attach themselves to hard structures, often to the detriment of the structure itself. 

Furthermore, every single interaction with a new person thus far basically devolves into: 

What do you do? Why are you here? What are you passionate about? Are you going to the Maldives this weekend? We're going to the Maldives this weekend. We're going to to Malacca next weekend, and the Bantu caves tomorrow. Later tonight we're going to a cocktail bar hidden behind a battered women's shelter, but right now we're going to a very specific Chinese-Malay-Indian fusion restaurant that apparently has the best curry you've ever had. Some local we met at 2am told us we had to go there. There's a Slack channel for it called #curiouscurryseekers.

It's like walking into a day care with 75 boundery-less toddlers, I'm the only one with a shiny new toy and everyone wants to talk about it. BACK OFF. You can all play with the toy, one at a time, over an extended period of time. 

All of this does not mean that I am not grateful, respectful of the other 74 people's personal journeys, or aware of the rare position I am in. It just means that it only took four days for me to realize that my situation is likely not going to resemble the usual Remote Year situation, and I am already exhausted from trying to present it as such. 

A small few here have witnessed my frustration surrounding this whole experience so far, and all have attributed it to Big Life Change Syndrome. What they don't (yet) realize, that everything is exactly the same...and that's the problem. The only difference is that in this New York City, I can't find a fresh vegetable...and right now I'd really love a $16 salad.  

The Changover

I've heard there is a particular kind of beer in Thailand that has a special sort of reputation. Apparently that stuff isn’t particularly well regulated by the government, so one can could have a 6% ABV and the next can has 10%. Your state of mind is a gamble every time, which I imagine isn’t too different from the boggled state of mind I’ve been in the past few months, weeks, days, and hours.  The Thai call it a Changover. 

I've been in a constant state of Changover since about the middle of February, when I found out I was accepted into a program called Remote Year that would send me around the world for a year — Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Argentina. 

Every decision required to get to the point I am right now, which is hanging out in the China Eastern Business Class Lounge of the SFO Airport (that's what years of collecting air miles gets you, folks), has come with a massive, throbbing Changover. 

Navigating the co-op board of a snooty NYC apartment so you can sublet out your apartment even though the building doesn't allow subletters? Five thousand dollar, 40 pages of paperwork Changover. 

Leaving the business you started even it took on a life of its own and went in a direction you never expected? Five year long, still ongoing Changover. 

Finding a job that would allow me to work abroad and have this experience? Part time Changover. 

Leaving your little 12 year old rescue terrier in the hands of the 85 year old woman who became your surrogate grandmother? Heartbreaking. There's not enough Chang to numb that one.

Withdrawing off 15 years of prescription medication because filling prescriptions abroad is a bitch (and 15 years is just way too long?) Therapy-fueled Changover.  

Listening to crying children in the fucking fancy lounge? Give me more Chang with a side of those anxiety meds I'm not supposed to be taking. 

Saying goodbye to 8 years of NYC friendships? Actual hangover Changover. 

Oh, and somewhere in there I participated in something massively stressful that will be nationally televised, much to the amusement of my friends and family. (More on that when I can actually say more on that.) 

Siem Photography, aka Me, took this photo. Don't seal it. Ok, thanks. 

Siem Photography, aka Me, took this photo. Don't seal it. Ok, thanks. 

Anyway, as I sit here in this lounge wondering why I can't create a child-free colony on some uninhabited island, I'm relieved that my Changovers have finally lead to this point. I have no idea what this year will be like, but I decided to go on this trip because there were only two options: stay in New York or leave New York. Staying in New York was not an option. My life there had reached a tipping point where my physical health was measurably declining due to all of the stressors outlined above. 

I imagine this year will be full of Changovers, though hopefully more in the literal sense than the metaphorical. Regardless, I'm happy to have closed the New York chapter of my life. Like a high school boyfriend, it was good while it lasted, but thank god I thought that one through before I committed to it long term. 

So, it’s time to commence a year’s worth of Changovers and Changunders. Up and down, around I go. See you on the other side. 

A Spork In the Road: Falling In, Out, and Back In Like with CrossFit

Originally written on June 28, 2016 for BarBend.com.

After three and a half years of CrossFit, I’ve come to a spork in my training.

Yes, a spork. Not a fork.

A “fork in the road” implies that there are three or more clear paths. As it relates to training, you ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of training? To get stronger? To compete at a high level? To lose weight?” Once you decide which road to go down, you make the changes and get on with it. This is the point when you decide to commit to new programming, switch gyms, or get on a squat cycle. Or maybe it’s when you decide to step back all together and try something else for a while, like yoga or trapeze or um...a globo gym.

Sporks have no clear path. There are fork-like options, but you’re not prepared to make a change or fully jump into something new because you have no idea what you actually want. Mostly, you’re just swirling around in this vessel, half in, half out. Occasionally you’re on fire like the good ‘ole days, but most days you’re midway through a WOD asking yourself, “Why am I doing this? Why do I keep doing this?”  

And then you burpee again and again and again. Not because you want to or because it’s helping you reach a goal, but because you’re there, suck in the well of that spork.

Much like the seven year relationship itch, I find that after about three or so years, many everyday athletes find themselves stuck in their own fitness spork. They spend the first year figuring it all out and enjoying weekly PRs. The second year gets spent competing in local competitions and seeing improvements on movements that were too advanced for year one. By the third year, it’s about putting two years of hard work together, because now that they’re stringing muscle ups together and cycling heavy weight, workouts are a whole new experience.

And then, one day, they’ve reached their peak. At least, they’ve reached the pinnacle of where they’re able to get given the amount of time they spend training. Everything stalls. The workouts start to seem the same, numbers don’t move, times don’t go down. It’s not a true plateau, because a plateau implies that things will perk up if you just push through it or train more. As an athlete who works out for an hour after work, training more isn’t an option. The spork has arrived.

Now what?

A year after competing at 2015 Regionals, this is where I’m at. I’m back to being a regular ‘ol gym member who takes regular classes and doesn’t insist on staying for an extra hour to do accessory work.

My first year, CrossFit provided me with everything I was missing: a goal to work for, an hour a day that gave me a break from my own mind, friends. The second year, I realized I could be competitive and worked my ass off to make a Regionals team. The third year, in the weeks after Regionals, I was enjoying the fruits of my labor by training with whoever was around and doing whatever they were doing. It was fun because I could actually do all the movements and keep up with them. It was stupid because I wasn’t following a program or being coached. I got injured.  

I took eight months off of CrossFit and spent a significant portion of that time irrationally mad at or jealous of those who were able to be in the gym. Occasionally I’d come in for a strict movement WOD or some bodybuilding style workouts, but generally, I rested and spent a lot of time in physical therapy. I tried to get back to my ballet roots, did some yoga, and took a lot of long walks, but mostly I was pissed that this thing that brought me so much joy could also bring me so much anger and frustration.

I forced myself to get used to the idea that I may never be able to do CrossFit ever again. At best, I figured I’d be able to get back into regular classes here and there, but I’d never be competitive. I’d reached my goal of competing at Regionals, and I needed to get to a point where that was enough.

It was enough. It is enough.

My second workout back was 16.1, and even though I knew going into it that my score wouldn’t be great, it wasn’t until halfway through the workout that I realized something bigger had shifted: I no longer cared. I was happy to be able to physically do the workout, but beyond that, all of the spark I once had was gone.

At the time, I figured that internal need to move faster would return once I got my lungs back. Five months later, my lungs were back but that drive never returned. I’d gone full spork, so much so that what was once the hour long break for my brain is now the time when I feel most vulnerable. Every emotion regarding my current life situations comes flooding through just because I can’t cycle 125lb clean and jerks anymore.

And then I judge myself for being so whiny. Suck it up, brain.

I know that I’m not the only one who has experienced this shift. I’ve had conversations with athletes of all levels, from those you’ve heard of to regular people who go into the box before or after work. This phenomenon isn’t limited to CrossFitters either. I’ve heard these same words come out of the mouths of marathon runners, triathletes, Olympic lifters, and die hard spinners. We all say the same thing: something has changed, but I can’t put my finger on it and I don’t know what to do about it. The most interesting part about these conversations, though, is that none of these people have actually quit. We all keep at it because it’s part of who we are.

Right about now, someone out there is all set to write some passive aggressive comment about how there are bigger problems in the world and stop complaining and blah blah barf. Obviously this is not a worldwide crisis, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. No one commits to something for years and then doesn’t wonder what it means when things change.  

Which brings me back to the spork in the road. At this point, CrossFit has been around long enough that a good majority of people are out of the honeymoon phase. Most are actively trying to figure out how functional fitness fits into their life as a whole, without having it define their entire life. Perhaps this means learning to work within your limitations. Maybe your 40 year old shoulders can’t handle muscle-ups anymore, so you’ve accepted that it’s strict pull-ups from now on out. Or maybe it means letting go of the day to day competition, and understanding that every day in the gym allows you to live a better life outside of the gym.

For me, I realized that CrossFit gives me an opportunity explore something I’ve always wanted to do: teach. With that one decision to (finally) invest time and money into my Level 1, I’ve noticed that my excitement and motivation has started to come back. There’s little chance that I will ever be as strong or fast as I once was, but as it turns out, that’s really not the point.

Fitness is a long-term relationship that adapts over time. We’re all eventually going to age out of our current mindset and abilities. So, grab your spork and explore it, embrace it, learn to understand it. No change comes without loss, but nothing great ever came from something that stayed the same.

Getting to Interview Awesome Human & CrossFit Phenom Chandler Smith

Sometimes, my jobs allow me to hang out with and get to know very cool people. I've eaten dinner with great chefs and talked shop with photographers who know way more than I ever will. Spending time with athletes in my fitness jobs, however, is particularly unique because in order to get to know them, I first must work out with them. 

Throwing down in the gym creates an instant bond and fast tracks the "getting to know you" part of the conversation. There's no point in trying to cover up your insecurities after you've just dry heaved in front of your interviewer or finished five minutes behind the athlete you're interviewing. An athlete's true self comes out in a puddle of sweat on the floor, and it tells me more about who they are than the usual questions of "where did you grow up?" and "who has been the most influential person in your athletic career?"

When I found out I was going to get to work out with and interview Chandler Smith, I was thrilled. The kid was a magnet on the Atlantic Regionals floor, so I couldn't wait to get to know him better (after working out, of course.) 

Enjoy the original article, originally written for BarBend.com!

--

The Biggest Heart in CrossFit Belongs to Chandler Smith

Just a few weeks ago, Chandler Smith came out of nowhere and made a splash at the CrossFit Atlantic Regionals. At the end of Day 2, Smith found himself in Games qualifying position. After a devastating Event 6, we all knew it wasn’t going to happen for him....this year.

Though he didn’t qualify for the 2016 CrossFit Games, the 22 year old West Point graduate won over a host of new fans, along with around 15,000 new Instagram followers. Smith’s charisma and genuine attitude are already making him one of the athletes to root for in the next year.

Currently a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army's Armor branch, Smith’s long term fitness focus has always been qualifying for the 2022 CrossFit Games. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Chandler in the days after his Regionals experience. I set out to figure out what the big deal was about 2022, and to figure out why he’s just so gosh darn likable.

Turns out, Atlantic Regional commentator Chase Ingram said it best, “The kid is raw. He’s all heart. He’s all guts. There’s a bright future for Chandler Smith.”

Hey Chandler! Thanks so much for talking with me even though it's the Memorial Day holiday. You're a newfound celebrity, so you have to take interviews.

I get to take interviews! I get to.

It’s been a little over 10 days since your Regionals whirlwind ended. Have you come down from that experience? How was your life changed?

I'm still moving around for the Army, and I'm just now getting back to everyone who reached out. It's been cool to see the worldwide impact that CrossFit has, because now I have fans from all over the world. It's cool to see how excited they are and how passionate they are. I'm connected to more passionate people than I ever thought possible. I'm already working to make sure next year has a happier ending, you know?

You’ve said that your goal was to make it to the CrossFit Games by 2022. Why 2022?

I watched the Games for the first time in 2013 and figured a decade was enough time to become great at something.

What are you going to do if you reach your Games goal before 2022? What happens if you reach it in 2017 or 2018?

That's the weird part, because I still don't see myself as being ready. If I do [qualify for the Games before 2022], then that's good, but what comes after that? I was a double major in American Politics and Spanish, with the intent to ultimately become a politician in an urban area and make fitness knowledge easily available, or at least give people affordable access to it. I guess I'd work at trying to make that happen sooner or later, but fitness wise, I don't know what my plan would be after going to the Games.

I never thought winning the Games would be possible. I think I'll get to the Games eventually, but if winning is an option, maybe I'd try to reach for that.

We know you were a wrestler at West Point. When did CrossFit come into the picture?

February 22, 2015. I was the captain of the wrestling team, and on that day we beat the Navy for the first time in like 17 years or something. It was huge! As soon as I'd finished up with that, I said “it's time to get good at CrossFit.” I’d had a torn ligament in my thumb, so when the thumb healed up I started going to competitions and started to train for Games 2022.

You were profiled in an article in 2014 that was specifically focused on you and your wrestling career, and one of the questions was “Who is your favorite athlete?” You answered with “Dan Tyminski,” which was amusing because it was supposed to be about wrestling.

Yeah! The article that CrossFit HQ did for me talked about how I was the biggest fan, and it’s true. It's my favorite sport. It wasn't the NFL, it was one hundred percent CrossFit — even though I didn't have the chance to do it very much at the time.

Once I switched over [from wrestling], I started gobbling up information and started to get to know myself better as an athlete.

What is your current training situation? Do you have a coach or a particular gym?

No, m’am. Because of my army obligations, my schedule is really unpredictable. I pretty much just program for myself off of feel, based on time and equipment availability. I can only train at a CrossFit box when I can get down to Philly on a weekend, so there are things I don't get a chance to do very often. I don't row. I don't do wall balls....

Wait, if you're weren't training at a box with the right equipment during the week, how did you make this work? What were you actually doing on a day to day basis that translated to CrossFit so well?

In college, most mornings I got up and we would run, or do some sort of army PT similar to some hero workouts. Most mornings I'd do something like that, and then lift during the day — just regular lifting. I'd try to get in a WOD if there was equipment or if I had the time, and then in the evenings I'd wrestle.

You’re telling me that leading leading up to Regionals, you were still only working out at a CrossFit box on the weekends?

Friday, Saturday, Sundays, and Monday mornings.

That's insane.

It's definitely not ideal for CrossFit, but I'll take it as a compliment.

Click here to read the rest of the article here!

What It’s Like to Compete at Regionals When You’re Not a CrossFit Superstar

Originally written for and posted on BarBend.com

You’ve never heard of me. My name never made it into a Regionals Recap, and my photo never graced HQ’s news feed. On the street, I don’t turn heads with my physique like my contemporaries (in name only), Brooke Ence and Brooke Wells. But, I’ve been to Regionals, and the whole to-do made me feel very fit and very fancy.

Last year, I was the only rookie on a team that placed 15th at the East Regionals. I warmed up right next to the silver winning team at the 2015 Games, CrossFit Milford, and brushed elbows in the training hall with Mat Fraser and Michele Letendre. Har har.

Of course, they get all the fanfare and media coverage because, you know, they’re better. But in my brief moments of fitness célébrité, and by that I mean the three seconds between when Dave Castro gave me a fist pump and complimented my awesome shirt, I had it all. I was damn proud not only to have trained to get to Regionals, but to have made it to the last day.

That feeling was squashed about five minutes later during Event 6 when my muscle ups were no-repped more times than they were yes-repped. At that point, I was ready to punch Dave in the face.

So goes the ups and downs of Regionals weekends.

As we enter into the 2016 Regionals season, hundreds of people you’ve never heard of will take to the floor and experience something that very few CrossFit athletes ever get to experience. It is awesome (even if Castro doesn’t like your shirt), but it’s also a completely bi-polar experience — in ways you’d never expect based on what you see on the live stream.

For example…

...there’s a lot of waiting around.

During the Behind the Scenes of the CrossFit Games documentary, we see the athletes waiting in their little corrals like cattle. The same thing happens at Regionals as well, but what I didn’t realize until I got there was that you’re waiting in those corrals for the majority of the previous heat. For longer workouts, that could be up to 20 minutes of keeping warm, resisting the urge to throw up, and convincing yourself that you don’t have to pee (again), all while stuffed shoulder to shoulder with your sweaty teammates.

Every morning, there’s also a required Q&A for athletes that goes over workout standards. These meetings are 100% necessary, of course, but like the Q&A brief before the SAT exams, this overview somehow lasts a half hour longer than needed. There’s always that one guy with a dumb series of questions:

Bro: “So it’s chest to bar right? What if we just touch the collar bone?”

Head Judge: “It’s a chest to bar. Your chest has to touch the bar.”

Bro: “Right, but what if it’s just my upper chest, like my lower neck?”

Head Judge: “If your range of motion prohibits you from...”

Bro (interrupting): “Nah, I mean hypothetically, what if my lower neck touches?”

Head Judge: “It’s a chest to bar. Your chest has to touch the bar.”

...but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

There never ended up being much time between Bro Question orientation and the first heat. Even with an hour in between the brief and the first heat, by the time you get your stuff, get bodywork, and wait in line for equipment in the training hall, you end up with twenty minutes or so to actually warm up.

The training hall also turns into a mini CrossFit Reunion, so unless you and your buddy from another box are catching up on the only two Assault Bikes available, your twenty minute warm-up quickly turns into fifteen minutes of chatting and five minutes of snatching.

...you’ve never known true fitness shame until you’ve seen the replay broadcast around the world.

The TrueForm Runner is a machine that I can only assume was originally used as a government torture device, and then somehow Castro got a hold of it which ultimately lead to Event 3 carnage.

Event 3 was also the only time when I got significant camera time. What a thrill.

I knew that camera guy was there, so I held back the expletives. But inside, oh, I was regretting every decision that led me to that point. Nightly bottles of wine and take out pizza is always a good idea, Brooke. Think of all the new clothes you could wear if only your shoulders fit through the armholes, Brooke. You could have just gone for a leisurely .4 mile jog in the park, for free, Brooke.

In the broadcast, you’ll notice perky, blonde Christina and the bearded ghost-milk creature Jay Adams behind me, likely talking about why I was still “running.” Then the camera pans out to the best running form of all time. I call it the “wounded gazelle.”

...when things aren’t going well, being by yourself on the floor is incredibly lonely...

After the “run” in Event 3, I had to tackle 40 wallballs. This part of the workout was really the only time during the weekend where my teammates were not nearby and were also waiting for me to finish before the next person could go. I could see them yelling and gesturing from 50 feet away, but I couldn’t hear them.

I’m short, so I hate wall balls on a good day, but throw in a TrueForm experience and an unusually high target (10’ vs 9’) and it’s pretty much my nightmare. I remember staring at the ball and feeling abandoned, like the kind of abandonment when your mom forgets to pick you up at school. I was letting down my teammates, letting down the people who traveled to watch us, and letting that you can’t do this voice in my head actually win.

These thoughts likely lasted for only a few seconds, but as one of my clearest memories of the weekend, it may as well have been twenty minutes.

In that moment, physically getting passed by other teams validated the insecurities I’d had about not belonging. I wish I could say I snapped myself out of it to finish the workout, but that’s not what happened. My judge picked up on my mental state and started encouraging me in the same way a teacher comes out to sit with the forgotten kid.

And of course, the aftermath was captured for all to see. Look at that happy face.

...but there’s always a chance to turn things around.

Going into the weekend, everyone knows if they have a shot at the podium. Our only shot was if the top 5 teams all contracted the same strain of norovirus. If it weren't for a debacle during Event 1 where we asked the Head Judge to get involved, we probably could have cracked the top 10. But, after coming in nearly last on Event 3, it just didn’t matter. Let's be honest, anything below 5th place really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. 

At that point, it’s all about little victories and having fun...hence the shirts. We all hit our snatch numbers on Event 4 and PR’d our Event 5 handstand walk time which bumped us up quite few places on the leaderboard.

...there’s surprisingly little space for athletes...

Even in a big arena, the actual warm up and athlete area is relatively small. When we showed up on Day 1, we triumphantly parked our stuff right by the trash cans because it was the only 5’ x 5’ spot open. At least we didn’t have to fight for that prime spot everyday.

...but there’s plenty of athlete support.

The staff, therapists, and medical team were outstanding. Despite a few hundred athletes, I never waited for body work or medical, and the care they provided was top of the line. This was particularly important because all of the equipment on the floor was brand new, which meant that I had seven successful opportunities to rip open a body part bleed all over the grippy pull-up bars and gnarly knurled barbells.

…you never get to see the official photos.

All of those amazing photos on HQ’s Facebook? There’s thousands more floating around don’t make the cut. For those of us who aren’t CrossFit darlings and don’t already have a million pictures of us exercising, it’s sad to know that there were special moments caught on film that we’ll never get to see. (The few pics from this article were thanks to my friend and colleague, Lisa Hafener.)

After Event 2, I believe, myself and my two teammates all ran across the finish line and collapsed from adrenaline-filled exhaustion. Breathing too hard to form words, we joined hands as we shook out our legs. Shaun Cleary ran over and snapped a few photos of our team, capturing one of my favorite moments from the entire weekend.

Of course, that photo never made it to the highlight album, so it exists only in my muddled, fuzzy, post WOD mind.

But who knows, maybe we all had double chins and looked like we were dying of dysentery. During Regional’s weekend, anything is possible.