Archive for April, 2013

Thank You Baltimore!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

At Starting Line Moments before ANW5 Run

Wow. Words are going to fail here describing how insanely fun this past weekend was competing in Baltimore for American Ninja Warrior 5. So surreal and immersive, and a roller-coaster ride of adrenaline and aspiration that was only tethered to the earth by the amazing camaraderie and humor of my ninja brothers and sisters who I was sharing the experience with. Unfortunately I can’t tell how I did, as we are all bound by confidentiality about results until the season airs this summer, but before I got totally swept away back into the tides of my “regular life” I wanted to pause and be thankful for being able to have such an amazing experience with some truly great people.

CASTING & PRODUCTION – I’ll begin by saying that it was an honor and a thrill to be invited to compete in American Ninja Warrior 5. Even though it is my fourth season competing I never take the opportunity for granted, and if anything feel increasingly lucky every year that I get to be a part of this great competition and community. So I want to be certain I give a huge THANK YOU to the American Ninja Warrior production and casting team that invited me to participate again this year, and did an absolutely amazing job both before and during the event managing the logistics and fragile dreams of a growing horde of applicants and competitors. Particular thanks goes to Sabrina Hybel, my main casting contact, who handled not only me but many others with a deft professional and personal touch. Also big thanks to Phil, Matt, Jeff, and Andrea are also due (forgive me for overlooking others who played important roles). Thank you guys!

NINJA BROTHERS & SISTERS – I’d be totally remiss and missing out on a big part of what makes the American Ninja Warrior experience special if I didn’t shout to the heavens “LOVE YOU GUYS!” to all my fellow ninja brothers and sisters. The amount of encouragement and support I’ve gotten from fellow contestants has been humbling, and I cherish their friendship. Although I love me some obstacle course running, the best thing of this experience has been the friends made and experiences shared with them. It’s funny, some of these people you know for a few seasons just from online boards and Facebook groups, and forget that you’ve never met in person, so it was awesome to finally meet in person great people like Luis Moco, Bradley “B-Nice” Smith, Tom Hutchman, Dan “GravityForged” Galiczynski, Travis Weinand, Noel Reyes, Mike Needham, Jesse “The Jet” Villareal, Adam Grossman, Tim Shieff, Brandon Willis, Gabriel Arnold, Seth Caskey, Michelle Warnky, Chris DiGangi, Chris Zurcher, Justin Conway, Beth Higginbotham, Sarah Williams, TJ Allcot, Mike Ciardi, Aric Lee, and many others to build those friendships (forgive me those I left out here!). It was also great to spend more time with existing buddies like Chris Wilczewski, Jamie Rahn, Mike Bernardo, Andrew Lowes, Andrew Karsen, Eric Sietsema, Nick Kostner, Brian Wilczewski, and others to further build those bonds. Your friendship and humor made the weekend incredible fun. I also want to specifically thank The Warrior Lab family (now The Movement Lab), and particularly the ring-leader Chris Wilczewski, for including me in their family and fun for this experience, hanging with you guys was “awesome sauce” (to quote Chris Z). A shoutout to the Lab “support crew” of Charles Kokolskyj, Rachel Carlton, Kaitlin Flip, and Kaitlin Faunce.

THE EXPERIENCE – Now this is a bit more amorphous than thanking casting & production, and my fellow ninjas, but I am deeply grateful for the broader experience of simply participating in something like American Ninja Warrior. This year was incredibly competitive to just get a spot to compete with a reduction in run slots being magnified by a huge spike in submissions from wannabe ninjas fueled by the NBC network exposure of two primetime series focusing on American Ninja Warrior 4 airing in the last 9 months. Even though I had competed in the 3 previous seasons, it was not a given at all that I would be invited back to compete. Many many very qualified committed ninjas who were veterans and even stars of previous seasons did not get invited back. I’m very grateful and humbled to have been invited back to ANW5. I’ve summed up what American Ninja Warrior means to me in other posts, so I won’t bore you with a broad treatment of that here, but I will say that I’ve been truly surprised by all the rewarding positive things I’ve gotten out of this experience of being a competitor. For a middle-aged dad with serious responsibilities as a father-of-three and a businessman, having something so fun, physical, and playful has added an amazing and fun dimension to my life experience, and has been an profound vehicle of lessons for my three young sons. Not only does it make them appreciate their dad more (not too many middle-aged dads play on the playgrounds with their kids like I do!), but they also learn key life lessons about trying your best, and hard ones like even when you try your best you sometimes fail. As my oldest son (7 years old) has observed, if you try really difficult obstacles sometimes you fall in the water. And even falling in the water in itself can be a valuable life experience. So…American Ninja Warrior…thank you for this great experience!

Re-reading this blog, I was right at the start. Words failed me. Even as long as this blog post is, there were many things left unsaid. One thing I do want to acknowledge is the hard luck of many folks who waited for days to try and get a walkon spot to run the course. Fate (and rain) conspired against you, and only 6 of you got to run when at least 20 expected to out of a line well over a hundred. Tough luck, and my heart goes out to you, but I admire your will to compete and what you were willing to do to go after your dreams. Even if you didn’t get to run this year, those attributes are priceless in life and will benefit you in great ways down the road, so don’t despair! Great things lie ahead.

Once More Unto the Breach

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.
Follow your spirit and upon this charge.”

Leave it to a little Billy Shakespeare to sum up complex emotions before a surreal competitive event. With me stepping up to the starting gate in about 48 hours to compete in my fourth season of American Ninja Warrior, and in what is expected to be a torrential rainstorm, I feel deeply reflective about this journey. Part of what is fueling this is my pragmatic realization that it could very well be my last crack at the course that I fell in love with as a fan of Ninja Warrior Japan (Sasuke!) many years ago – you never know if the TV show gets renewed or even if you get invited back if it does. Another interesting dynamic for me is that for this season many more people are aware of this facet of my personality and interests than ever before, I had done a pretty good job compartmentalizing this away from other areas of my life, but this season I feel really “out there” in terms of people noticing how I do. Initially I began to feel pressure from this reality, but I reminded myself that it is a situation of my own creation, and an opportunity I actively have sought out, so why complain about it, even just internally through the manifestation of stress around what others might expect of me?

My mindset in this last stretch before the competition is to feel profoundly grateful for the opportunity to compete, and for the chance to pursue an odd passion of mine to test myself against wacky obstacles and some truly amazing and diverse athletes. In the end, it is just me and the course in that moment, and the fans, expectations, and other competitors don’t really exist. It is a pure moment, a moment of joy and challenge, and one exclusively mine. One I have paid for with sweat, pain, and inspiration, and one I’m not going to let any external factor pollute my enjoyment of it, no matter how long it lasts. For me that is the mental challenge of this competition, to remember the purity of that attempt, and the initial reasons why I started on this path that placed me at that starting line in Baltimore, standing alone in the dead of the night and the driving rain with the course beckoning me onward.

Summer Schedule for American Ninja Warrior 5

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

NBC has announced the summer debut and schedule for American Ninja Warrior 5. The show is set to kick off on Monday July 1st with a special two-hour show from 8-10 pm ET. The next week American Ninja Warrior will settle into its regular time-slot for the summer on Monday nights from 8-9 pm ET. Unfortunately this summer it will not benefit from following NBC’s smash show America’s Got Talent.

The newly named Esquire Network (formerly G4) will also be airing American Ninja Warrior 5 this summer. Apparently it will follow the same structure as last season, meaning the opening round of a given region will air on Sunday night on Esquire, and then the finals for that region will air the next night on NBC. With only 4 regions this season, as opposed to 6 last year, I suppose this means they will have more episodes covering the national finals in Vegas (4 instead of 2) in order to achieve an 8 week summer season.

Long-time host and favorite Matt Iseman will be returning, and former NFL player and sports analyst Akbar Gbaja Biamila (NFL Network) will replace Jonny Moseley as c0-host alongside Matt Iseman. Two-time Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster Jenn Brown (ESPN) will serve as a co-host as well, providing on-the-spot commentary and competitor interviews, replacing Angela Sun.

American Ninja Warrior 5, Here I Come!

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Hallelujah! Just got my call from casting that I officially have an invite to compete in American Ninja Warrior 5! It goes down in 10 days in Baltimore, one of the four cities hosting the regional action this season. Already have my plane ticket, and will be flying in next Thursday for the competition Friday night at Rash Field in Baltimore right next to the Inner Harbor. Looking forward to seeing my fellow ninjas there, and am deeply honored and excited to have a chance to step to the line once again! I never take that opportunity for granted. Thank you to everybody for your support and friendship.

Waiting by the Phone for Baltimore

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

With the Venice Beach competition for the West Coast concluded this weekend, I’ll be anxiously waiting by the phone this week to see if I get a guaranteed invite to compete in Baltimore in less than two weeks from now. No competitor hoping to get a slot in Baltimore has been contacted yet, and we were clearly told that they would start contacting people this week after the Venice competition was done, although we don’t know if that means on Monday or on Friday, making the wait that much more agonizing. Through the grapevine (or as the American Ninja Warrior casting and production teams call us, “the knitting circle”), I’ve learned that there were 109 invites that competed in Venice out of over 2,000 video submissions that were entered. I’ve long known that as American Ninja Warrior gets successful, the odds of me getting to continue to compete would get longer as the applicant pool would grow substantially driven by the phenomenal network exposure given it by NBC.

I’m still praying that I get at least one more crack at it, and will be anxiously awaiting by the phone for my invite call this week. Having been born and raised in Maryland, and having been the oldest competitor to make the regional finals in the Midwest region in American Ninja Warrior 4 (the Midwest region will largely be competing in Baltimore), I’m REALLY hoping I get the honor to compete again this year and the privilege to stand among my fellow ninjas once more.

I know I am not along in the agony of my wait…I know thousands of other ninja hopefuls are waiting for their calls either this week for Baltimore, or in future weeks for Denver or Miami. Hit LIKE if you are waiting too!