Archive for April, 2010

Partner in Crime

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I’m about 90% committed to trying to get onto American Ninja Warrior one way or another, meaning I’ll submit a video hoping for a guaranteed spot, but am probably willing to go to wait in line at the actual event even if I don’t have a guaranteed invite.

One thing that could definitely increase the chance that I’d actually compete is to have a partner in crime, so I approached my buddy Ron with whom I developed my original Ninja Warrior fascination, and with whom I go rock-climbing twice a week, to ask whether he was insane enough to join me in this dream. I stopped by his home for an “insanity check” and gave him the lowdown on the American Ninja Warrior application process and my plans to try and compete.

His response was mostly “good for you, let me know how it goes” until I spun the pitch to include him, and how much fun we’d have doing it together. Although Ron and I are pretty different from most outward angles, he’s a single aging hippie bachelor (sorry Ron) and I’m a married father-of-three, we find each other highly amusing and enjoy each other’s company. Ron is also like me in some important ways in respect to American Ninja Warrior, he’s a natural athlete who is rapidly approaching middle-age and the limitations that unfriendly phase of life dictates of possibilities, and is willing to try to fight that off with whatever means are at his disposal. So to hook him I spun the mutual American Ninja Warrior experience as a ton of fun and a “if-not-now, then-when?” type of quandary. And I also promised to drive the ship, meaning figuring out all the details of applying, filming, editing, etc., that it will take to do this thing. The initiative for all of this has to be mine, but Ron is happy to come along as a wise-cracking easy-going co-pilot. After just a few minutes of me spinning the experience he got swept away in my enthusiasm and pledged his fraternity in pursuing the American Ninja Warrior dream. So it looks like I have a partner in crime now! Maybe I’ll do this thing after all 😉

Reality Check – Weight

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I stepped on the scale and cringed when I saw it read 227.  That’s probably close to a hundred pounds more than Ninja Warrior Grand Champion Makoto Nagano, and probably 70 to 80 pounds more than the majority of the top competitors in the inaugural American Ninja Warrior from 2009.  Every additional pound I have is a pound I’ll have to haul around on this obstacle course that rewards relative strength.  So many things to hang on and drag yourself across.  227 lbs is a burden.  Not that I’m not pretty strong in relative terms even in that weight, I can crank out 15 to 20 full pullups in a set yanking that 227 pounds up, but I know I need to drop some weight to increase my chances.  I figure the fastest way to increase my strength and chances by at least 10% is to lose 10% of my body-weight.  I actually figure that it’s somewhat of a non-linear function there, and my stamina and relative strength will go up by more than 10% if I can drop 10% of my weight.  So 10% off my weight means dropping 23 pounds down to 204.  Can I do that in 3 months?  Probably not (that’s the spririt!), but I’m going to at least try.  I think dropping 20-25 pounds has to be one of the core steps of preparation that I will have to commit myself to.

Insanity Check – Wife

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

OK, since learning that the American Ninja Warrior 2 application and training process is basically upon me right now if I’m going to do it, no small part of me has been wondering if I am insane enough to try it.  So this morning I brought it up with my wife, who was well-aware of my Ninja Warrior fascination a couple of years ago (and is cool enough to even watch Ninja Warrior with me).  Nobody knows me better than she does, and her insight into me and this process is the best insanity check I could get.  So appropos of nothing this morning I told her what I’d found out, basically that they’ve JUST announced the specifics for American Ninja Warrior 2, being held in LA in mid to late July, and that they had JUST opened up the video submission process.  I told her that if I’m ever going to pursue Ninja Warrior glory, the time to start the bus is now.

My wife, God bless her, didn’t even blink…”You should do it” were the first words out of her mouth.  Fortunately I married a woman who, among her other wonderful attributes, supports me in my off-the-beaten-path pursuits in life.  She even encourages them.  She thought it would be great for me to get to try this, recognizing that the window of opportunity for me in athletic competition is rapidly closing, and she even felt it would set a great example for our three young boys by showing that daddy “puts himself out there” and tries brave things, extends himself.  With my wifely support of this insane endeavor, I think I might actually try this…

Do I Dare?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Do I dare try to make and compete in American Ninja Warrior as a middle-aged 39-year-old father of three? A few years ago a buddy of mine, Ron, and I sort of got into Ninja Warrior (called Sasuke in Japan), the insane obstacle course competition featured twice a year in Japan that the cable channel G4 plays all the time. For those that haven’t seen the show, the obstacle course is diabolical, laid out in 4 stages of increasing pain and insanity.  In 24 contests over the last dozen years only 3 competitors out of 2,300 have ever finished the course.

Like a lot of couch potatoes, my buddy Ron and I would comment about how we could probably get past a lot of the obstacles. We harbored dreams of going to Japan and competing in Ninja Warrior, and taking it by storm as a couple of middle-aged Americans. This dream even motivated us to start going to the rock climbing gym here in Santa Fe, because many of the Ninja Warrior obstacles are based on insane grip and arm strength, characteristics we thought rock-climbing would help further.  More than anything we felt that to even have a chance at competing we needed to develop an “iron kung fu grip.”

Fast forward a couple of years, and we’ve forgotten about the Ninja Warrior dream (although we’ve continued to rock-climb), that is until last fall when AMERICAN Ninja Warrior was held for the first time, a competition here in the US where the finalists would get flown over to Japan to compete on the legendary Ninja Warrior course (here’s a good short video about the American Ninja Warrior course and competition structure). Hundreds competed in this tournament held in LA, with only 30 completing the first stage and moving forward. A couple of more stages of punishing obstacle course madness, and the ten finalists were left standing. They went to Japan and largely flailed on the Japanese Ninja Warrior course, but that’s not really the point.  The point was that ten guys got to beat the American Ninja Warrior course, get to look like studs for a few hours of cable TV, and get an all-expense-paid trip to Japan to step onto the hallowed course of Mount Midoriyama and compete in the legendary Sasuke.  With only 3 competitors out of 2,300 pretenders completing the 4 stage Sasuke course over the last dozen years, clearly the honor is in the competition and leaving it all out on the course.

So  back to the fast forward part…American Ninja Warrior 1 was replayed on G4 last week and it began to stir the juices.  I looked up the specifics of competing in American Ninja Warrior 2 and saw that they had just released the info for American Ninja Warrior 2 (to be held in July in Los Angeles). What I found was that there are basically two ways to get into the competition: first, you can submit a video with your story and some footage of your Ninja Warrior-esque athletic accomplishments to earn a guaranteed invite, or, second, you can just show up to the competition and wait around in line for a couple of days hoping to get a shot. Nothing guaranteed. But if you are determined and submit a good video early in the submission window, and are even willing to go to the competition without a guaranteed invite, there’s a pretty good shot you’d get a chance to compete.

At 39 and with my opportunities for athletic competition rapidly dwindling, should I give it a shot? Sort of insane, given that at age 39 I’m a good 50% older than most of the competitors who tend to be in their mid 20s. Another significant disadvantage…I’m a big guy. Makoto Nagano, Grand Champion of Ninja Warrior and the last guy to finish the course, clocks in at about 5’2″ and 130 pounds. That’s pretty typical of the top Japanese competitors, and not too far away from what the top American Ninja Warrior competitors who tend to be taller but still only about a buck-fifty in weight with ridiculously low body-fat.  With many obstacles requiring you climbing, swinging, and launching yourself using only your upper body, there is a real premium in relative strength. Me? I’m 6’4″ and 225 pounds.  Hauling that much body around is going to be my principle challenge.

But should I try anyway? Dare to put myself out there for probable failure, and potentially looking ridiculous? I think I just might…butterflies in the stomach even thinking about it.  At 39 and a long way from my athletic peak, which by the way was pretty good (could 360 dunk), do I have enough left in the tank?  Do I still have a little Ninja Warrior inside me?