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!