White Belt Journey

My journey began officially on April 1, 2016. I put on my white belt and started with the evening class that week taught by coach Sup that day (who would later take me under his wing and mold me for a stellar 2017 competition season). I hesitated to even start the warmup, but my wife push kicked me onto the mat and I was paired up with this behemoth of a man whom I would find out later is a gentle and kind soul (Jerod Huber). I had to switch partners after not being able to lift him during guard breaking drills. That was my first class at halo. Fast forwarding through my white belt journey, my first grappling tournament at Grapplers X 4 months later. I was slotted against a giant, in my eyes, Drew Milczarek, who is a seasoned mma fighter dominating me our only two bouts first by points then second by submission (keylock). Fast forward from there I get to witness my professor receive his black belt and I get to see many of my teammates receive stripes and then one day came, October 31, I received my first stripes along with my brothers, Dennis and Josh G, with Ryan K and Rod Lucas receiving their blue belt stripes. It was a bittersweet day because we tragically lost Rod shortly after. I would compete every month in 2017 and getting on the podium in each, January – All Americas (Bronze), February – Grapple Bowl (Gold), March – Pan Ams (Silver) coached by Professor Angel for over 3 hours, April – American Cup (Bronze). I took May off bowing out of the Worlds to heal up and help my teammates prepare when my professor surprises me today with the blue belt promotion. I was a little disoriented when I received it being under Val’s side mount, knee on belly, and north-south for 20+ minutes. It was truly a glorious moment I want to give all glory to God and I’m glad my daughters were there too to witness it along with my teammates who help me along this journey. I’m truly honored and blessed to train under professors Angel (Halo) and Speedy, and professor Tinguinha. Blue belt for me is another chapter in this journey and I will continue to put in the work, dedication, and consistency necessary to continue to grow and build upon my experience thus far. Thank you to my family, my teammates, my brothers and sisters who have bled, sweat, and worked on the mats with me. This belt is a symbol of all of your energy and time you gave to me as my training partners and I’m truly grateful.

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Weary Traveler

That “welcome home!” feeling I got after arriving back from our east coast trip to Toronto and Buffalo early this morning, was like something out of Wizard of Oz . Running on 5 hours of sleep, I decided to get up and get back into the routine training at Halo BJJ this morning. Arriving after class had ended, I was fortunate to see a foursome of Jiu Jiuteiros still rolling. Wanting to join in on some “flow” rolls, I grabbed my newly-minted blue belt training partner and continued to flow roll for the next 20-30 minutes. This roll is the first in one week and marks the first time I have not at all rolled for more than 3-4 days since my nogi tournament in January. My body feels rested. Thanks to my relatives, I ate handsomely for 5 straight days. Now to train for my first blue belt tournament the la open international in June.

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Goals part 2.

This is a continuation from my previous entry “Goals.” However, instead of triathlon the topic today is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). I began the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) under the tutelage of now black belt “Halo” Angel Lopez in April 2016. He received his black belt shortly after with his journey being unique, nonetheless, finishing in less than 6 years which is rare and unheard of as an average person will not achieve a black belt🥋 . For the past two years, I have been encouraged to begin this sport by my brother Sean who is now a 4-stripe blue belt. Life and busy schedules as well as fatherhood and taking care of two little ones has made it now a reality as I have reached 9 months. My progression is slow and steady as I’ve become more consistent since acquiring a minivan, YEAH, BABY! We have lived in Fresno for just short of a year and with no regret have already seen tremendous success and potential in making this decision with Gods guidance. We have become more involved in our children’s lives, our spiritual lives, and our community. Jiu Jitsu has brought a new challenge to me. It allows me to venture into unknown waters. If you have read my previous entries you will see how I have confronted my fears and set goals to accomplish more than I can imagine. I believe there is an inherent void in many people’s lives that is filled when we strive to grow as human beings. My father taught me it is a daily struggle. A daily goal. A daily walk with God. Jiu Jitsu has given me that opportunity to daily face my fear with a physical and mental grapple with another person. My experience grappling with people unleashes my brains potential by placing obstacles in front of it with the goal of getting over, under or around it within a 5 minute “roll.”

My first 6 months training in this sport as a white belt can be described with one word: SURVIVAl. A common illustration for Jiu jitsu is swimming with sharks and you are the food. The fear is not only of drowning but of fighting a shark and surviving. The emphasis is to defend. I have no prior knowledge in grappling such as wrestling or sambo so I have a clean slate in this regard. Once I’ve learned to survive then the next progression which I have started is learning to attack. Some say the best defense is a great offense. It’s true. It really is. Believe me. Being aggressive and “being first” is my primary goals in BJJ. Guard attacks and guard passes can open an arsenal that is hidden from an untrained eye. By being aggressive and taking the initiative while not waiting for your opponent I have found more success in my rolls. The more I study this sport and learn from my professor and coaches I start to “see without seeing.” I’ve rolled with tremendous athletes who perform at their peak when “seeing without seeing” in other words they roll with their eyes closed. Can you imagine swimming in the ocean with sharks and feeling confident enough to have your eyes closed? That’s what they do. It must have to do with spatial orientation (an understanding of where your opponent is) and proprioception (an understanding where you are). The beauty of this sport especially during an “epic” roll I have with my training partners is to see this in play: the push-pull, ebb and flow of two people moving in concert. My next goal is to win a single match at the no-gi All Americas SJJIF tournament this weekend. I will post in the near future the health benefits of practicing BJJ and some examples of practitioners who have sustained long and healthy high-quality of life.

 

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Greetings fellow amateur triathletes and up-and-comers addicted to exercise endorphins!

I am currently writing you far from my home state of Florida on the eve of my first out of state triathlon, 3rd of the race series HITS endurance / HITStriseries of the year (5th overall) accompanied by my wife and cousin in the great Lone Star State.

In less than 24 hours, we three will be enduring the Marble Falls triathlon in what plans to be an epic race. You see, for us Floridians, we pretty much live at or below sea level with the only “hills” bridges (e.g. Skyway bridge) or landfills, both untrainable. So we resort to our bike trainers training in the “big chain” at high intensity intervals. Fortunately, our legs will be tested in what is known as the “hill country” in Mid-Texas. I don’t know what to expect, but my gut anticipates a true challenge.

With two years in the bank, I’ve acclimated to the sport with over a half-dozen
SPRINT distance races only until recently moving up to the (Oly) Olympic pace at Ocala. I knew going into it that race each aspect would be tough: both swimming and biking further than I ever have as well as running a fair distance.

Training for the Ocala race revealed holes in my game, especially in nutrition. One day I started with a 800m swim immediately followed by a 25 mile bike and all of a sudden in the middle of the bike leg, the epitome of “hitting the wall,” I stopped pedaling. I’ve read in theory how much glycogen we have stored and apparently I’ve exhausted any I had left. No energy left and no nutrition packed with me, I headed home with a new strategy. Eat after the swim! At Ocala, I secured a ziplock bag as my makeshift bento box for some dates and figs, which proved to be the right mix of energy helping me complete my first Olympic distance triathlon.

Here’s to finishing my second OLYMPIC!!! I’ll keep you posted.

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Oly, Oly, Oxen Free!

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Race Week

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It’s that time again. Race week. Triathlon mode set. My first Olympic distance race is on the shores, hills, and beaches of Lake Weir this Sunday. The last time I was here was at my first triathlon experience (2 years ago). It was a mere “open” distance (100m/3mi/1mi) but it felt like it lasted forever. At the inaugural event for the HITS triathlon series, with Ocala being one of the first races, we were given a briefing on the introductory distance by Mark Wilson, the race director, and what he hoped the “open” would soon achieve, which was increase participation and interest in the ever-growing triathlon sport. No longer a niche sport for the super intense, wild, daring ironmen and women of yesterday, the sport of triathlon is becoming more mainstream and accessible to anyone who wants to challenge, improve, and enjoy themselves. The “open” consisted of many first-timers or age-groupers like me, a few veterans but many young boys and girls whose aspirations to follow their mom and dad’s footsteps found them exerting their hearts out with each stride. For me, I was out there conquering my fears, nearly drowning during the swim (inhaling water twice), learning to bike as an adult with this bike my first one I’ve ever owned, with running being my strength. However, I probably started out the worst I ever could but realized with three different sports it can be three different experiences in one race. It was in this sequence my experience was found to be: weakest (swim), funnest (bike), and rewarding (run).

At the finish line, that’s when I knew I was hooked. This sport will be one of my primary focuses for years to come. It will be something that will help me grow as a person, be a better husband and father, as well enjoy life.

Since this race, I have done over a half dozen sprint distance races all over Florida, meeting great people along the way, and sparking my own interest in this sport to go a little bit further than the “open” distance.

This is the weekend where I push further, put myself in danger again in Lake Weir, but with a few battle scars teaching me how to live and train each day. Survive the swim, enjoy the bike and finish [the run] strong. The swim represents the obstacles and stressors that seem to bring us down: stay afloat. The bike leg represents to me the blessings that make life enjoyable where you move forward and quickly, without much effort. The run leg is the time to be joined together with those who share your ideals and finish strong together. I hope to read your story someday. Feel free to message me or contact me via twitter. @pacmanwellness

My goal:
Swim 40min
Bike 80 min
Run 50 min
T1&T2 10 min
Overall ❤ hrs

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Goals

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For all you hockey fans, you know what a goal is, but in this context, I want to share a different type of goal. The picture above reflects a simple goal of writing down my desired result and afterwards, my actual result. I wrote the goal down at 4:58pm last Friday on my desk at work. I left it on my desk knowing I would return on Monday to face that piece of paper: accountability. Before I tell you how I felt when I walked into my office Monday morning, I should preface this with some background. When my father was alive, he emphasized many life-lessons to me he understood to be very practical for everyday life. Two things he made clear to me was: 1) worship every day (meditation/prayer/or just plain be still in silence). 2) write down your goal(s).

If he was alive, he would ask if I wrote out my goal for the sprint triathlon race in Naples last week. [ACCOUNTABILITY]. Of course I would because I knew he would be checking on me. He passed away nearly 1 year ago. He was alive for my race last year in Naples. Although he did not attend, he called me after the race to ask how I did. At that time my goal was to break 1:30. When we checked the race sheets, my time was 1:29. He was ecstatic and it gave him a boost of life spring to his fading body, dying less than a month after from the complications of pancreatic cancer.

Fast forward to today, it is exactly one week since I wrote out my goal on my desk and left to compete against myself in that race. I crossed the finish line 2 seconds after the 1:22 mark. Not at all disappointed, I had one of the biggest smiles on my face in a long while. I walked into my office and wrote out the actual results breaking down Swim, Transitions and Bike/Run legs. I put my father’s mantra to the test. A simple stroke of the pen on some cheap stationary is enough to drive a human body to focus on what to achieve. What may seem impossible became possible. Jesus once said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

I believe my father unlocked one of the laws of the universe in helping me understand that today, I can achieve what I believe in my mind, through faith, by simply writing out my goals.

Experiment with this. Today, I want you to write out 3 things you want to accomplish. No more, no less. If this works, I want you to do it again the next day. My challenge to you is to do this for the next 30 days until it becomes a part of you, a habit instilled in your behavior, in your thinking, and in your mental focus. It may just change your life!!!

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HITS Triathlon Series

Tomorrow is the first race of this fine series and first race for the start of my 3rd triathlon season as an amateur age grouper. To preface, this sport has encompassed my life since it was a mere topic of conversation with my brother in February of 2011. A month later I was motivated to sign up to race an “open” distance in open water with HITS Triathlon Series in Ocala. It was the inaugural season for their race series as well, with our small group of eager first-timers representing the undeniable demand for multi-sport. The race director, Mark Wilson, with experience in several ironman races, did his best to settle our nerves, but also envisioned us one day bringing triathlon from a niche to a much broader/mainstream collective from simply the “open” intro distance.

With plenty of prayer, I treaded water until hearing the sound of the gun. About my fourth stroke, I swallowed a liter of water and my heart rate skyrocketed. The rest of the race I had trouble lowering my heart rate even after sitting in T1 (Transition between swim/bike) for a few minutes. And so, I suffered until the last 200 metres of the race (the run portion). At that moment, I saw a man not even 10 years my senior in slow motion. I urged him to get going on as we were near the end. Reluctantly, he started to jog again and then nearing the last 100 metres or so, he sprinted with me to the finish line. I backed off so he could complete the race before me as he was ahead of me anyway and I felt was the right thing to do.

The first-timers and I quickly sat down on the chairs recovering from an exhilarating adrenaline spike, but relieved it was over. Soon after, Mark Wilson started reading off names of awards given to those 1st in their age category and 1st overall. I knew since I let that man finish before me, it was unlikely that I won anything, but to my surprise they called my name (the catch: I was the only one in my age group there that day). I’ll take it! Had I quit in the lake when I swallowed that water and couldn’t regain my form, I would have never had the opportunity to meet that man near the finish and help him finish or win the award. God’s providence, I guess.

Lesson: this is something that has changed my life. Triathlon embodies what I believe, what I know, and what I want. That is, I believe/know/want a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle. I want to learn how to master 3 sports. I want to expand my belief and mental focus to a higher level. I know it will take time, dedication, commitment, patience, but most importantly, a cheerful happy heart.

Fast forward to today, I ask myself why do I engage in triathlon? The past three years participating in this sport has helped me reflect on the impact it can make on people I meet on a daily basis. From my patients, to my colleagues, from my family to my friends, knowing that we can do all things through (higher power insert name here), whether God, Jesus, Allah, or whomever you believe in, we can achieve great things. We can do things most do not believe is possible. We can stretch our brains out to fulfill closer to its potential. And finally, we can focus our mental faculties on positive and empowering things. Will you accept the challenge? Will you TRI? If you already have, will you TRI HARDER, LONGER, or FASTER?

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