Archive for the ‘Midwest Region’ Category

My Regional Run – The Voices in My Head

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Some of you may have tuned in and watched the Midwest regionals last night on G4.  For the first time in 3 seasons they aired my run and did a nice little background piece about this crazy-ass 40 year old who drives for days with his kids in tow just for a chance to get a walkon spot.  In the piece they showed some nice shots of my training, included a shout-out to this blog (surprisingly), and aired a couple of adorable shots of my cute little kids!

Having to go the walkon route, and not knowing I was going to actually get a shot to run until pretty soon before I was standing on the starting line, I was psyched just to get my crack at the course.  Ask any ninja what he or she most fundamentally wants, and it’s just the chance to try.  Of course, we all want to go far into the course, but the difference between the binary world of “getting to try” versus “not getting to try” is the biggest gulf in potential experiences.  So I was just thrilled to get a shot as a walkon and to be standing at that starting line.

Although it was edited to look like I ran late in the day, I was actually the 5th person to attempt the course that day.  You see, they usually have a handful of walkons try the course out first for any “bugs” or flaws in it before wasting the attempts of the guaranteed runners.  Two of the three runners right before me fell on the Quad Steps, and knowing that super-stud Levi Meeuwenberg had fallen on the Quad Steps in Venice I was more than a little nervous about sharing their fate.

These are my obstacle-by-obstacle notes of my opening round regional run, complete with a running commentary of the Voices in My Head that chattered at me while I was on the course:

QUAD STEPS – As I mentioned, I was more than a little concerned about the Quad Steps.  But when the buzzer sounded I coasted right through them using the cautious “triple step” technique.  I remember hitting the platform at the end and thinking “Thank God!  At least you didn’t fall on the first obstacle!  It’s all gravy from here.”

LOG GRIP – I wasn’t too concerned about the Log Grip.  I took my time and made certain I grabbed the divots that I had planned to use, and then just jumped and held on.  It’s important to get a grip where you still have some bend in your arms to absorb the shock of the drops.

BRIDGE OF BLADES – I wasn’t too concerned about this obstacle either.  When the blades are oriented as an X you can just scoot right down the center pretty briskly without any problems.  This is how the blades were set in American Ninja Warrior 3 (last year) and 4 (this year).  In American Ninja Warrior 2, the blades were set up as a + and many many good ninjas fell that day (I got past it, but fell on the next obstacle…the dreaded Spider Wall!).  But for American Ninja Warrior 4 this year I just scooted right down the middle without much hesitation.

JUMP-HANG – I was more than a little wary of the Jump Hang.  It gets a number of competitors to fall, and sometimes quite spectacularly.  Even top competitors will occasionally miss it.  But I feel pretty good on the mini-tramp and just cleared my mind, focused, and hammered that mini-tramp for a pretty good jump up to the 2nd highest strand of rope.  I got caught up a bit going over the top and I remember thinking “Are you going to get stuck here?  That would be embarrassing…” but I got over in a few seconds with a bit of ungainly thrashing.

CURTAIN SLIDE – I was quite worried about this obstacle.  It was new to the American Ninja Warrior competition and I think I was the second person in ANW history to ever try it out.  I figured the keys to the technique were getting a lot of momentum jumping off the platform onto the first curtain to get it to really slide, and then transition to the 2nd curtain, which was fixed (not sliding), with the very first swing.  I did exactly that and when I transitioned to the 2nd curtain I heard the crowd gasp and I thought “Am I about to fall here and I don’t even know it?” and then hiked my legs up and around the bottom of the curtain.  I made a quick transition to the 3rd curtain and then the platform after that.  Now that I have seen my run on TV, I know why the crowd gasped!  I was pretty close to touching the side of the obstacle with my feet as I was swinging around which would have disqualified me, and then after that I almost touched the water.  Yikes!  Definitely got a cue from the crowd noise there.

WARPED WALL – Prior to that day I had only practiced on a Warped Wall once in my life a couple of years ago.  It had been a smaller wall but I had gotten up it maybe 2 out of 3 tries, even when tired.  But this was a bigger wall, I was gassed from the previous 5 obstacles, and the springs in my legs that I used to use for high-jumping and dunking are a shadow of their former selves 😉  No excuses…I should have gotten up that wall, and I know I can get up that wall.  Just that day I missed.  Watching it on TV I realized that my first two attempts went badly because I was anticipating the curve of the wall before I got there…you can see me almost step up in an awkward step right as I get to the curve.  My final attempt was my closest, I actually got on fingertip over the top, but I was too out of gas by then.  So close, yet so far!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed that in my head.

Since I was the 5th runner of the day, I spent the whole day in the qualifier pit with 30 chairs for the 30 people who would advance to the regional finals.  I was SURE I would get bumped out at some point, but was just happy to have run and to have done as relatively well as I had.  Plus, it was super-fun to hang out all day in the qualifier pit with some other cool ninjas like David Gabel, Steven Volko, and Cade Halada among others.  Then, suddenly, the day was over, and I was sitting in the 29th seat, meaning I was going to advance.  I was only one seat from the “hot seat” as the guy about to be bumped, and I was already scripting my farewell speech in my head for the camera when they told us the day was done and we were the Midwest regional finalists!  Pretty dope!  Even doper…I was the oldest competitor to make it to the regional finals, which is some mad street cred among my middle-aged peer group 😉

Thanks to everybody for their support, and I hope you tune in for the regional finals and have a blast!

Mission Accomplished! Got to Run American Ninja Warrior 4!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Mission accomplished! After a few metaphorical obstacles getting an opportunity to participate, as enumerated in my recent posts, I got to attack literal obstacles yesterday as I competed in the Midwest region in American Ninja Warrior 4 in Dallas (I went to the University of Wisconsin and lived in Madison for a number of years…Go Badgers!). I was lunatic #1 lined up in the walkon queue when I arrived about 4:30 am and used a jedi mind trick to get past one of the security guards who had turned away a few earlier arrivals who wanted into the Cotton Bowl complex to line up themselves.

These are not the droids you are looking for.

In the end most walkons got to compete, but being the first guy in line no doubt increased my chances. A couple of the production folks seemed to expect me, almost certainly due to the efforts by many of my ninja brothers to help me out by mentioning my plight to folks they knew in casting and production, and just a short half hour after I finally realized that I was going to get a chance to actually compete I stood at the starting line as just the fifth guy to attack the course in Dallas. I could scarcely believe that it was happening as they counted down 5-4-3-2-1 to start my run!

I can’t share how I did…understandably production wants total secrecy to create more suspense for the show this summer (they did say that I could share that I in fact competed), but it was an honor as always to step onto the course and compete with (not against, with) so many amazing athletes and people. I had a blast seeing my fellow ninja brothers and sisters…I love running the course, but the camaraderie of the competitors is the most amazing element of the experience. Many people wished me luck in getting to compete, and that fortified my will to make it happen, but I wanted to extend heartfelt special thanks to certain people who worked hard to make it happen by spreading the word and talking to people on my behalf like Brian Corcoran, Arsenette, David Gabel, Chris Okruhlik, Thomas “Texas Ninja”, Jaret Salas, and Ryoga Vee (forgive me if I forgot anybody who took specific actions on my behalf…I still have love for you!). Thank you everybody for helping me make this happen, it was an emotional few days traveling to Dallas with my family not knowing if I would get a chance to compete, but the love and support of many readers, fans and fellow competitors made me more determined to make it happen and sweetened the feeling when I humbly stepped on the course to give it my best!

The Ninja Warrior World Re-Aligns

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

We’re all geeks for Ninja Warrior, right? If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here right now, reading some random blog from some random guy about his delusional middle-aged aspirations to become the first American Ninja Warrior. Well, for those of us who love Ninja Warrior, the earth has shook and the planetary rotation of the Ninja Warrior orb has been turned on its axis as the entire structure and premise of American Ninja Warrior has changed in the last few weeks. Most of us came to love Ninja Warrior by watching re-runs of Sasuke (incorrectly translated as “Ninja Warrior”) on G4 of the epic competitions in Japan to find the world’s best obstacle course runner. And, yes, it was to find the world’s best obstacle course runner, because although most of the competitors have been Japanese, the producers of the show have always tried to bring in the world’s best foreigners to compete, extending invitations to Olympic athletes in various disciplines to come and try their hands at the increasingly difficult course. They too, like many others, ran and failed at some point in the 4 stage course we learned to love named Mount Midoriyama. In recent years competitions like Sasuke Malaysia and American Ninja Warrior have sprouted up around the globe to become their own events to select the top competitors to get their shot running Sasuke on the hallowed grounds in Japan. For all Ninja Warrior aspirants around the world it was all about getting a shot somehow to run that course in Japan.

Now all that has changed (at least for we Americans). With the uncertainty of future competitions in Japan, and the relative success of American Ninja Warrior the last couple of years here in America, the NBC/Comcast entertainment conglomerate has secured the rights to produce American Ninja Warrior as a standalone network program here in the U.S. No longer is American Ninja Warrior a feeder competition for Ninja Warrior Japan, but it is (for the time-being at least) its own bad self standing on its own bad own. Meaning that instead of having 10 Americans going to compete in Japan at Sasuke against the legendary Japanese group of competitors, there will be 100 Americans that will arise out of 6 regional competitions to compete in a new mega-course they are building in Las Vegas. That’s right, Vegas baby. The owners/producers of Ninja Warrior Japan are consulting on the building of the course, which is good news for American Ninja Warrior competitors who have pointed out that in recent U.S.-based competitions the quality of some of the obstacles was lacking. Whether it will be an exact replica of Mt. Midoriyama is unclear, but I believe most expectations are that it will be very similar, and will certainly be composed of many of the iconic obstacles we all love and fear like the Salmon Ladder, the Warped Wall, and the Ultimate Cliffhanger.

So 6 regional competitions going down in 3 cities (LA, Dallas, Miami), each with reportedly 125 runners, will happen throughout March to pick the top 100 guys to compete in Las Vegas on this new course reportedly on April 21-22. I believe that there will be some coverage of these regional competitions on G4 before they (for certain) show the 100 person final in Las Vegas over several weeks on NBC this summer. This is supposedly NBC’s competitor for ABC’s very popular Wipeout (although the surest way to see an American Ninja Warrior competitor go apoplectic is to ask them if their competition is similar to Wipeout).

This is a major shift in the structure and identity of American Ninja Warrior. It now stands alone, and is no longer the cable network feeder program for Ninja Warrior Japan, but its own bad self (did I say that already?). Competitors and fans have mixed emotions about this, with much loyalty and love being reserved for the original Japanese competition. While I myself am saddened at what is an increasing likelihood that Ninja Warrior Japan will “go away” at some point, I’m glad that there is a strengthened competition here in America that could keep the spirit alive even as the Mother Ship goes into retirement.

Below are the locations of the regional competitions, the submission dates for the videos, and the estimated competition dates for those locations (they will confirm and narrow these dates soon).

LOS ANGELES (Northwest and Southwest Regions) – Video Submission by Feb. 14th, Competition Window is March 1-5

DALLAS (Midwest and South-Central Regions) – Video Submission by Feb. 27th, Competition Window is March 14-18

MIAMI (Northeast and Southeast Regions) – Video Submission by March 8th, Competition Window is March 27 – April 1