Welcome To 2017

2016 was an epic year. My best. 

2017 is about impact for me. Using my momentum to make waves 🌊


Although 27th Renaissance was neglected  (again) I was more creative than ever and consistent in my writing elsewhere

This year I have big plans for this blog and my life. 

Things I’ve got in store for my website here:

  • Design overhaul–freshening things up. 
  • A summary of my Renaissance pursuits from My Renaissance Defined: what progress have I made since compiling that list? 
  • A portfolio of graphic design, writing and video work. 
  • A consistent summary of my creations in other locations 
  • Experiments and challenges in health, fitness and life. 
  • Book reports and reviews. Major Year of reading ahead!
  • Travel posts–have some vagabonding in the works
  • Links to my most recommended supplements, fitness tools, books, mentors and inspirations. 
  • A summary of my 2016 learning and takeaways 
  • Even more! 

I greatly appreciate everyone who’s been following the journey thus far, and I can promise a more exciting and well documented year here on my blog in 2017

Image credit @garyvee

How To Unleash Your Soul (With Guidance From Tony Robbins)

The Massive Crowd Photo Credit: Not Known (let me know)

The Massive Crowd
Photo Credit: Not Known (let me know)

 

I was there. I was in Dallas when the fire started—the fire that won’t go out. I attended Unleash The Power Within, Anthony Robbins entry level event. And I was unleashed. I’ve definitely been unplugged from the matrix for many years now, but the process of mastery is never ending. Realizing my full potential will require a lifetime commitment and I enthusiastically accept that demand.

Fire At The Gates Photo Credit: Lina Marie Acosta

Fire At The Gates
Photo Credit: Lina Marie Acosta

Before I begin I must preface this. Throughout this piece, if there is a sentence or phrase in bold/italics is a direct takeaway from the seminar. Anything that is bold is an outstanding piece of information, and anything that is bold, and italicized is a gemstone of wisdom that I hope you take and enrich your life to the utmost with. All of the phrases that fall into the categories above are not my own, I don’t own the copyrights to them. I didn’t explicitly dissect and reproduce the whole seminars curriculum, just extracted things from my notes and memories—some things may be slightly misquoted or not exact verbatim.  If there is anything that violates any precedent or infringes let me know and I’ll revise the piece.

WHY?

Why did I decide to go? I decided because I’m evolving. Because I refuse to allow myself to get caught up in a life that I didn’t consciously design. Because I need every opportunity to grow. Because I want to contribute beyond myself and learn the best ways to make that happen. Did I answer your question? Hope so. There’s another underlying reason—I was pulled.

I want to tell you everything that happened that fateful weekend and how it has been a catalyst for several areas of my life that I’m committed to improving. I want to tell you all this for a few reasons: firstly, to provide value to YOU—the reader—I want you to take something out of this article that is inspirational and actionable. Secondly, to review the copious notes and memories that are stored in my notebooks and brain—re-living and re-integrating the teachings and wisdom that I was exposed to. Lastly, I want to share all of this to truly express a truth—we have 100% responsibility for our experience of life. 

I am sharing the experience in 4 parts: What happened before the event leading up to it, what happened at the event, what’s been happening after, and the most valuable takeaways. If you’re only interested in the takeaways scroll to the bottom I don’t blame you. But, there are insights sprinkled throughout the before, during and after parts that are just as important. Let’s begin.

BEFORE THE EVENT

I committed to attending Unleash the Power Within and seeing Anthony Robbins over two months before it was scheduled to take place. I made it a MUST to go there and learn. I leveraged my resources and took action to make it happen. Once I was registered there was a homework assignment in the form of getting a program from Tony and completing it. Unlike in school, I actually did my homework and enjoyed it. I took a course called ‘Creating Lasting Change’ and it was very relevant and deep with acuity. I told a few people that I’d be going to this event—most of them didn’t “get it”. But, then again most people misunderstand me. In the days leading up to the even,t I began to use Tony’s Hour of Power and Priming morning rituals to start my day in a peak state (sooooo much peak state coming up). This was good. I actually love doing this ritual in the morning. In 2015 I spent a few months consistently practicing but fell out of the habit (much to my detriment). I think one of the most important things I did before the event was this: I created an R.P.M. Plan. See I try to study Tony’s work the way Tony himself would study it—intensely focused and taking action on it. What’s an R.P.M. Plan? It’s a method Anthony Robbins teaches to bring intent and focus to how we use our time. It stands for Results, Purpose, Massive Action Plan. What do you want? Why do you want it? And How are you going to get there? (what’s your  M.A.P. ?) Here are a few links to resources on this methodology (PDF, WEBSITE). I did this process before attending to get clear on what I wanted, why I wanted it and how I was going to make it happen.

Take Massive Action Photo Credit: Brenda Sisson

Take Massive Action
Photo Credit: Brenda Sisson

In summary, before the event, I prepared and became intentional. Attending an event of this magnitude should be approached with a reverence. You’re investing time into it that you can never get back (the money you can get back) so why not plan and prepare to be fully committed?

DURING THE EVENT (How to Get the Most Out of a Seminar)

I was there to play. I was all in. During Unleash the Power Within I was there to learn as much as possible, and immerse myself in Anthony Robbins material in a fun and social environment. I was there to create breakthroughs. I gave everything I had at the event: laughing, dancing, clapping, screaming, crying, shaking my ass, and just going “full out” as the culture calls it. By the fourth day, my voice had completely gone. Couldn’t make a peep. But, that ended up being a fun exercise in non-verbal communitcation and listening. I gave my entire being to an active involvement and providing the necessary effort in each moment. In order to make that happen, I consciously decided to not utilize my phone as much as possible—which is more feasible than you think. I left only sending a handful of text messages, posting once on Instagram and posting one to two daily updates on Snapchat. I knew that being there wouldn’t be nearly as valuable if I was on my phone constantly distracted. I actually put my phone on airplane mode during the event, and I’m grateful I chose to be that way. There were lots of people I noticed doing otherwise, but that’s their choice and path I shouldn’t judge. But, a teaching we learned there is whatever you learn is linked to the emotional state in which you learned it. So knowing that; being happy, enthusiastic and free of distractions was my prerogative. Thousands seemed to be on the same page.

At events of this scale (7000+ participants), there is an energy in the air. A vibe that is strong and pronounced. I met some amazing people, and proximity is power. I definitely got some great contacts and networked, but I truly became most focused on the overall experience and learning the most I could rather than handing out business cards wilily-nilly. During this seminar, I was constantly taking notes and absorbing everything I possibly could. Sitting for 50h during a weekend could be monotonous, so the organizers and Tony continually had the audience change our physiology and enter into a peak state. I loved this! The repetition of this procedure let us embed it deeply in our nervous system and we created movement patterns to trigger this and a state of absolute certainty. I’m so grateful to have this tool in my arsenal for my future endeavors.

So what does that exactly mean? Basically several times a day we would celebrate like we just won the SuperBowl. Cheering, screaming, dancing, emoting, and allowing a full blast unleashing of our inner soul. I remember thinking that this is so awesome—how many people practice celebrating like this or ever even know how it feels? They settle for seeing it on TV, seeing others celebrate a championship or major achievement. They don’t have it in their own nervous system—they can’t summon it at will. Of all the skills we learned, I think this is one of the most powerful and potentially overlooked. Learning how to celebrate at maximum intensity and what that feels like. It feels incredible. I now understand how it will feel, and what I will do at the crowning moments in my life. Also, how I can bring added power to the small victories too. Who cares what other people think? I’m doing it as often as possible.

 

Unleashed!  Photo Credit: Trinh Tran-Shiozaki

Unleashed!
Photo Credit: Trinh Tran-Shiozaki

After our first day, entering peak state many times, we were faced with overcoming and releasing our biggest fear—then walking over hot coals to show that we can conquer anything. My biggest fear was rejection. I participated with my full focus towards the activities to overcome it, and I honestly know now I no longer am controlled by that fear. It has been released and no longer perpetuates my mind. If it were to rise up at any future moment I would face it and own it—no doubt in my mind. After that, we entered peak state again and walked across fire! To be totally truthful I wasn’t scared beforehand, or during—I was ready for any pain that may have occurred. Fortunately, none did, and I along with thousands of others rose up to the challenge and defeated hesitancy and fright.

The next day there was some extremely negative news coverage that was circulating on the internet. I got multiple text messages and emails asking if I was burned and maimed. Laughable really. In actuality, less than 1% got minor burns, but the media chose to blow it way out of proportion and spread fear. (Heres a nice piece from Inc,and Huffington Post on what really happened)

Later in the program Tony was in the audience and noticed a young lady sitting there. Her name was Annie, she was 6 years old. He asked her “did you walk on fire?”

“Yes.” She said.

“Did you burn your feet off and die?” he asked.

“No.” She said shaking her head adorably.

That memory really stands out in my mind. So many memories do. It’s hard to even properly write how this experience has shaped my life and everything I’ve learned, but I’ll keep trying.

Another major thing we did at Unleash the Power Within was to take on 3 limiting beliefs we held, destroy them and replace them with 3 new empowering beliefs. I literally felt my brain rewire and I can’t even say the old beliefs anymore—let alone write them down. But I would love to share some of my new beliefs. My old bullshit beliefs were in 3 categories: financial, relationship, and ethical. My old bullshit belief in finance was replaced with this empowering gem—money is a skill that I am learning and mastering. That’s what plays in my head now not the bullshit. It’s awesome. I literally have something short circuit in my brain if I even try to think or say the old beliefs. I just go to the new ones now. It’s amazing.

Can this happen to anybody that attends? I think only if you really give your best effort and focus to the exercise. If you’re in your head saying “what is this crap?” then that question is not going to provide you with the right frame of mind or answer. But if you visualize and truly block out everything but the task at hand then yes I believe that a willing student can learn to do this. I understood how this process worked intellectually, but to see it and feel it work was something else entirely. Taking notes boosts information retention to 40-50% (from 10% if just passively listening), but interacting with energy can boost retention to 80-90%. What that means is that interacting with energy during this process of transformation is why it retained for me—whereas passively listening would have 70% less efficacy for another person.

We did so much more than I can even write about but to wrap up this section of what happened DURING THE EVENT, I’ll give a few more summations. We studied Business Mastery with Mike Melio and learned the 7 Forces of Business Mastery. This was amazing and so valuable to where I am in life right now. Studying this material as I’m starting my own business is beyond advantageous. We had the pleasure of Joseph McClendon III guiding us through many hours of ass shaking, and truth telling. He also instructed us on the day where we focused on health and wellbeing—a tremendous day and experience.

There is much more I could espouse on but it’s not only what you learn, it’s what you DO with what you learn that matters. So let’s talk about what happened and is happening still after the event.

AFTER THE EVENT (Putting it Into Practice)

When it’s not working, that’s when you know it’s working. Change your state, use the teachings. Some people go through everything and then just go back to living their “normal lives”. I simply can’t do that. I’m sure I could, but I won’t. When I got home from the seminar I took massive action. I quit two jobs the next day. Burn the boats: take the island. I understood that remaining in the same situation is not going to lead me to my intended destination or produce the result that I’m committed to. So why wait? I have contingencies in place and a small runway to work off of. Do I want my dreams or not? Simple to say the yes, harder to embody the yes. I’m not about what’s easy anymore though. Unless it’s the ease that comes from the repetition of a skill until it’s honed and automatic. That kind of ease I can dig. Just wanting “things to be easier” is not me. So I’m the perfect student for the material that was taught at Unleash the Power Within. I am going to use it. I am going to keep studying it. I am going to realize my ultimate vision of my full potential. Learning is creating a relationship between the known and the unknown. I love learning. I truly do. So with that as my attitude, I cannot ever completely fail. For in failure I will find instruction and allow my love of learning to distil truth out of tribulation. After this event, I knew that if I didn’t keep my commitment to growth and learning in order to facilitate contribution at the highest level—I could regress. I learned that conditioning and training never end on the path to mastery. Certainty is created by YOU, not your environment. As said by Anthony Robbins.

Up Close and Personal Photo Credit: Lina Maria Acosta

Up Close and Personal
Photo Credit: Lina Maria Acosta

 

I came up with this metaphor to illustrate what life is like after the event for any participant. Tony is like Amazon—a way to get anything delivered—but YOU must make use of it. That treadmill, or kettlebell, or yoga mat gathering dust does work. It’s not Amazon’s fault that after it was delivered you didn’t use it. It’s not Tony’s fault that he taught you something and you didn’t apply it repeatedly until it became a habit. We all need to utilize what’s around us, and what we know–not just understand it.

I’m putting in the work after the event to make sure that I got the most out of the investment. I will schedule review time, and continue the learning. You wouldn’t work out for a weekend and say “Well, I’m fit for life. Glad that’s done”. No. That’s not how it works. After the event is the most important. Every day is the most important. What can I do today to embody the man I strive to become? That’s a question I ask myself now.

I took so much away from Unleash the Power Within. Taking it away is great. Keeping it with me is greater.

TAKEAWAYS AND HIGH-VALUE INSIGHTS

If I bored you with my previous sections I apologize. My skills as a writer are under development and perhaps I could have been more concise. With that in mind, I’ll practice that here. As follows are some of the most vital teachings and takeaways from my experience at Unleash the Power Within.

  • Complexity is the enemy of execution.
  • You can only build on success, you can’t build on failure. 
  • Our culture reinforces blame of others.
  • Words have a biochemical effect on the body 
  • Who you spend time with is who you become.
  • Information is potential power—execution trumps information every time. 
  • Stress is a code word for FEAR.
  • We are suffering so much because we are overlooking the gifts around us.
  • Trade expectation for appreciation and our whole life changes in an instant.
  • The Past does not equal the future. Biography does not equal destiny. 
  • The culture wants you to be one thing—to keep you simple. (my blog and beliefs/values are the antithesis of this)
  • People will give up goals and dreams to meet their needs.
  • A Strategy is a system of producing a consistent result.
  • Faith is freedom.
  • A belief is a feeling of certainty about what something means.
  • CHANGE YOUR STATE! (PHYSIOLOGY)
  • There is a way beyond the way you’ve been programmed and that’s to program YOURSELF. 
  • People who succeed long term live on pull not push.
  • Only 3 things hold you back in business: 
    • Failure to anticipate
    • Lack of follow through
    • Your own psychology and mindset
  • You can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time.
  • Leaders are READERS: Minimum 30 minutes a day. (A book, not a fluff piece, social media or magazine or list-acle.)

There is a lot more I could write about the experience and countless more takeaways and insights I could share. In place of that I would say look up Anthony Robbins and listen to some of his free stuff on YouTube or get his latest podcast to let the man illustrate his teachings himself. He’s the master I’m the apprentice. I can’t currently convey his work as well as he can, but I hope I was able to at least pique your interest.

Between my writings and this taste of some of the best takeaways I gleaned, I hope I gave you some insights into what it’s like to go to Unleash the Power Within, how it has affected me, and how to make the most out of it if you did go to that or any other seminar.

If you read the whole post I’m super grateful for your time, and if you liked it please leave a comment, and if it sucked also do that. I want to get better and welcome all feedback.

First Post of 2016

Wow. So even with ample time, I still let 2015 go by with hardly the proper attention this blog deserves. I’m grateful if you’re reading this and want to share some of my vision for this blog’s future as well as my own.

Since this is the first post of 2016 I just want to briefly touch on 2015 and what was an amazing year of self-discovery and adventure. I will be writing a dedicated post with the highlights and lowlights of last year, but for now, let me keep it concise.

2015 I left the “full time” workforce and waded into the ever growing freelance economy. Pretty soon I wasn’t just wading in I was drowning in an endless sea of opportunities, and my own personal struggles. With a buffet of chances and choices, the actual process of deciding becomes very important. I can’t make everybody happy, and capitalize on every opportunity while still having quality as a primary emphasis. There are people out there that can definitely manage more projects, execute more ideas, and balance a life better than I can do at present. Yet, I am learning and will eventually grow my creative work capacity. 2015 taught me that I have some conditioned behaviors and changing things that are very ingrained has a high difficulty factor. Nothing is impossible, but the effort level put into changing these kinds of behaviors is very high versus accepting and adjusting to get around or through the road blocks. Use what you’ve got rather than starting construction on a new thoroughfare. I recently wrote about this on Medium and had the realization that I benefit from a physical location to show up to do my work, that is separate from my home. This is true at least in my current situation, possibly having a larger house with a dedicated office I could indeed “show up” and get to work the way I’ve conditioned myself to from years of working in restaurants and events. So I emphasize my newly found awareness of this because this was one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the last year. The second great lesson or teaching 2015 had for me was a greater understanding of the power of choice. The more choices that face an individual, the less likely that each choice will be a rational and well-made decision. Understanding what kind of decisions you make under decision fatigue, and how to adjust or avoid this autopilot if it’s not in your best interest. This is an ongoing evolution in my mindset and behavior adjustments, not a master by any means yet but I do put focus and attention into better and fewer choices. What else did 2015 mean for me? I took lots of chances, and had many go well, but many also fail to materialize or be executed. My third takeaway is that I’m on the right path, and those failures were a necessary part of my growth as a man and a professional. I’m still here breathing, healthy, strong and ready to move forward so reflecting but not dwelling on failure is a facet of my mindset I’m developing. I pushed myself hard at certain points throughout the year, but the push wasn’t sustained. Pace. The same as doing an Obstacle Course Race can’t push the pace to a frenzy if you can’t recover from a frenzied pace. Better to give a constant 80% push dipping down to 70-75% to recover than pushing at 98% but dropping down to >60% to recover. A steady pace in my creative projects, fitness, and professional/personal development is what I’m aiming for in the coming year(s). That (s) shows a maturity in my thought process—I’m okay with not everything happening this year, or next year. I learned in 2015 what a year really feels like on my terms. How much time I really made the most of and how much I’ve wasted. Going forward, I’m glad to think of things unfolding over several years as opposed to wanting instant gratification and results without enough emphasis on PROCESS and PERSEVERANCE.

That essentially gives a brief snap into 2015, here are some of my key takeaways:

  1. I can’t make everybody happy, and capitalize on every opportunity while still having quality as a primary emphasis.
  2. The more choices that face an individual, the less likely that each choice will be a rational and well-made decision.
  3. I learned in 2015 what a year really feels like on my terms. How much time I really made the most of and how much I’ve wasted.

A touch on the past and now a look to the future. I’m chasing my dreams, period. It’s not all sunshine and light refracting through water droplets (rainbows) though. There is plenty of pain mixed with the pleasure. Most of the pain is self-caused through my interpretation of events meanings. That’s a hard one to accept, but I find a lot of truth in that statement. Looking towards 2016, 2017, 2018 and beyond, I am happy with the vision I’m creating. I’ve looked at my major goals and desires in life and have done my best to create a large enough vision to enable great progress and eventual completion of the most important goals. Deepening self-awareness as I move forward is a commitment I’m making. Sharing that development is another commitment I’m making and that’s what this blog is ultimately for. A record of my becoming on the path that I’ve decided on. I am pledging right now to make the records more frequent, insightful and valuable to others. I will be posting 1-2 blog posts a week minimum for the rest of this year and likely beyond. They will likely take many formats and vary from deeply personal, to relevant and useful tactics, techniques and information for others. I don’t’ want to flood this blog with a bunch of crap, so 1-2 quality posts a week is my goal. I’m also creating on Medium and YouTube  more and more often. My Instagram and Twitter are also part of the record. That’s why I show the Twitter and Instagram feed for readers right here on my blog, because not everything that I do in life is captured and instantly translated into a thoughtful blog post yet, but my tweets and Instagram are great insights into the actual flow of my life—what I’m learning, feeling, and working on. My focus for 27th Renaissance the blog is to create, share and develop useful, truthful and evergreen content on my journey.

My future for creative projects is bright, and I’m building a framework, schedule and deadlines into my everyday life. 2016 will be a year of imposing deadlines and eliminating what stands between me and those deadlines.

Thank you for reading, and as always feel free to reach out or comment and share your thoughts on what I’ve written.

Look forward to many more posts and an authentic look at me, Brendan McCaughey.IMG_1193

200 Mile Relay Race in South Texas…Why Not?

Suddenly I’m thrust into an unexpected challenge. A friend of mine contacted me on Tuesday, informing me that a teammate for the Texas Independence Relay had dropped out, would I care to take their place? I said yes with little hesitation, even though I’m arguably “out of shape” presently. I chose to accept because I need this. It is well within my capabilities, and the only thing separating me from rising to the challenge is utilizing my time now for proper preparation, and adopting a positive mind-set that accepts the challenge and believes I can accomplish it. This will be a good spark to ignite my training for the May/June Spartan Races I plan on doing.

 

This is also a really cool race: historic, and requiring strategy and advanced planning. The race goes from Gonzales, Texas to Houston.

Road Tripping To South Texas this weekend

Road Tripping To South Texas this weekend

Fortunately the team I’m a part of has everything worked out, all I have to do is prepare myself, my equipment/supplies, and show up to run. All totaled I’ll be doing 3 legs, spaced out pretty generously…totaling 16.65 miles. That will be a  new personal record for most miles in 24h, but there is a substantial break between my first and second legs. I plan on foam rolling after all my legs, with some good stretching and I should be good to go. Nutrition and hydration are also key. I plan on starting hydrating extra today (2 days out), and even more so the day before the race. I’m learning that hydration is a pre-preparation priority, and that hydration during a competition should be never from a depleted state–starting saturated with water from the prior 24h seems to have a very beneficial effect, and I find myself less thirsty, and performing better. For some performance hacks, I’ll be consuming pickle juice, coconut water, and various supplements. I plan on using: Shroom Tech Sport by Onnit Labs, it’s a great energy supplement that actually uses your bodies natural ATP production system rather than being an external energy boost, Beet Elite–a natural Nitric Oxide boosting supplement made from real beets, lastly to take before sleep ZMA–a mineral based mix of Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6–helps the body during intense training to recover (click the link to find out more about ZMA).

 

In last-minute preparation I’ve been wearing my Training Mask, often even when sedentary

Wearing this mask as much as I can stand to get my lungs working even when "resting".

Wearing this mask as much as I can stand to get my lungs working even when “resting”.

. Warming up my lungs a few days out and working my diaphragm to hopefully enable me to get more oxygen during the race. Other than that, just made my final packing and shopping lists. A deep stretching and yoga session tonight will be the last step to prepare adequately for the short time frame I’ve had.

 

Follow along on Twitter, and Instagram @multitude27 to see Behind the Scenes.

 

 

My first Spartan Race…the Texas Beast 2013: Part 1

Time has certainly flew by since I last posted about my pre race preparation, fears, and excitement leading up to the 2013 Texas Spartan Beast. I never got around to publishing a follow-up, or any posts whatsoever until last week, due to my new job and the demands required of me (another post on this to come).

All that aside I want to share what it was like that fateful day—December 15th, 2013.

I had my Up band in a plastic bag in my camelbak tracking my steps...might not be 100% accurate, but closer than nothing.

I had my Up band in a plastic bag in my camelbak tracking my steps…might not be 100% accurate, but closer than nothing.

What was it like?
My first Spartan Race really blew me away. These races are large-scale undertakings, and nearly a festival atmosphere. Music, food, merchandise, and ongoing fitness challenges throughout the main event area, along with a great view of the finish line and last few challenges. You see the apprehension and nerves on competitors about to embark onto the course, and you see the look of exhilaration, satisfaction, and exhaustion on those who have already finished. Arrive and pick up your race package…with the warning YOU MAY DIE in loud bold print. The contents includes bib/number, tracking and timing bracelet, headband, and other pertinent race day documents/items. I’ll never forget lining up at the start line and seeing those surrounding me with the mix or excitement and trepidation. A master of ceremonies ignites the crowd with a Spartan speech enticing “Sons and Daughters of Sparta” (racers) with glory. A loud response of “AROO!” is given in reply. A remote control aircraft with GoPro camera captures the action for promotional and social media purposes. The MC then pops the tops on a couple of smoke grenades and throws them directly in what will be the first few steps of a 15.5 mile journey. The signal is then given that the race has begun and the first obstacle is the obstructed vision from the grenades. Once out of the starting gates the strong runners and those who chose to be at the front quickly separate themselves from the pack of average racers. I was advised (and thankfully so) to maintain my own pace, and not get caught up in the foot race aspect of this event. It will be a long day and my energy reserves will be needed for the last miles. I am keeping a decent pace, fueled by adrenaline and the substantial nutrition packed fuel I’ve ingested. Others pass me, I pass others as we enter the first real obstacle. Balancing on small tree trunk sized logs and jumping between them. My shoes are already pretty muddy, and the poor fellow in front of me looks to have the same problem. He makes an awkward attempt to leap from one log to the next and slips out sideways…impacting his ribs on the log as he plummets. Wow, I think to myself…too early in the game to hurt myself like that. Once I’m up on there and noticing traction problems myself I’m quick to jump down and voluntarily take the 30 burpee penalty and not potentially end my race 3/4 of a mile in. Running after those first burpees was tough, but I soon regained my steady pace. The next few miles were some of the toughest in the race when it came to running…about 5 miles of hill climbs and descents over treacherous terrain. To me the hardest obstacle of the day, and what really killed me was at the end of the hill section. The Bucket Brigade: fill a 5 gallon bucket to the top with around 75 lbs of gravel, then ascend a steep muddy hill, and descend another route. I messed up on this, and due to the non honest nature of another racer ended up having to repeat it (30 burpee penalty not an option). At the top of the hill it was common practice to put the buckets down and catch ones breath before the downhill portion. I witnessed some people with less than allowable levels of gravel grabbing dirt and sticks and anything they could find to add to their buckets to reach the permissible level. At the time I thought little of this, due to being quite tired, and aiming to recover. My bucket was then grabbed by one such racer, and I was left with a less than full bucket. I didn’t notice until the bottom when I had to repeat due to a level of gravel that wasn’t acceptable. I was totally pissed off because I knew mine was full when I started. (Pro Tip: Sit on your bucket to avoid this) Repeating this obstacle probably took me 25- 35 minutes and drained plenty of my energy. All I could do was to push onwards. However, the hill section also held one of the coolest obstacles of the day…the memory challenge. Based on the racers bib number they must look up a code on a large board, and then memorize it for later recital. I saw other racers bust out the pen and paper to help them, but I chose a different approach. I would recite the code sequentially the steps I took and my breathing. I ran nearly the next 8 miles expecting to have to recite it, and eventually gave up, annoyed by constantly repeating this code in my head. I figured it would be a few miles after the board, maximum…but it was around 10 miles later. Many miles and obstacles later I came across and open area where people were doing burpees for what looked like no reason. No monkey bars, no gravel buckets, nothing that gave an indication as I approached. “What’s the password?” No way. Really!? I just tried to stop reciting it about 3 miles ago and now I’m prompted to remember. Somehow I remember it and pay no penalty. Great! I did well on most obstacles…failing only 2 entering the home stretch—the first obstacle of the log jumps, and then I failed the rope traverse (next time I’m letting my arms recover after the Hercules Hoist). Another bucket brigade of a less dramatic incline was included in the last few miles and that was a tough one! I ran through a creek bed with water in it and was wondering how much longer this was going on for when suddenly I popped out and could see the finish line…but some of the toughest obstacles remained between me and my medal. The traverse wall, and climbing a rope from a submerged in water starting point. I failed both, the traverse wall—30 burpees!(I just had bad technique as I’d later learn). I also had bad technique on the rope climb and was forced to dyno for a higher knot but failed to grip the rope, so I plummeted into the muddy waters below. Disoriented and exhausted I emerged to do another 30 burpees doubling my previous total in the last 500 feet to the finish. I was dragging and suffering at this point. Then something happened. I heard a faint voice of encouragement from the crowd: “Do it for Canada!” I suddenly spun around to see my friend and race mate standing in the crowd watching me. A few things all flowed through my head “how long has he been waiting for me?” “he certainly must have had an easier time then me.” “How long have I been out here on the course?” but overall the encouragement powered me through the last half of the burpees and then it was on to the finish. Pretty simple obstacles of the slippery wall and the fire jump stood between me and the end of a hard day. As I was climbing the slippery wall a volunteer offered his hand to help me overcome the obstacle…I refused, determined to use my gumption to get to the finish or pay the penalty. I drew up the last of my reserves and beat the wall, jumped the fire and sprinted the rest of the distance to the finish line.

Determined to finish!

Determined to finish!

5 hours flat was my time.

My results

My results

My friend placed 6th overall in the open category beating me by 2 hours with a time of 3 hours flat. A medal and a banana were pressed in my hand as I crossed, and I couldn’t help, but think of the branding Spartan Race has used—“You’ll know at the finish line.” That is the most apt description of how I felt. I definitely knew. I realized I had much more capabilities than previously known, and I also knew that this wouldn’t be the last time I finished a spartan race. And it hasn’t been…

Cheat Day Brunch

Sunday brunch. Cheat day. What can two great friends, and good cooks create? Can healthy foods taste so good they feel like they belong in the wallowing gluttony of a cheat meal? That’s what I wanted to find out.

“Everyone binges eventually on a diet, and it’s better to schedule it ahead of time to limit the damage.”—Tim Ferriss

“Your nutritionist might call it a strategic overfeed ‘cause they like to act all fancy, but colloquially, this is known as a cheat day.” —Romanello/Bornstein

cheatdaybrunchkara2

The table we dined at

This post is about decadence, and indulgence; a morning of structured cheating on my dietary program. But, I’ve also got a healthy recipe included. Yes, I aim to moderate and include healthy foods, even on cheat day. Recently I’ve begun eating in a more structured way, (intermittent fasting, eliminating certain foods, overall balance) and the inclusion of a cheat day is something I’m augmenting my diet with. The more structured and healthier I eat, the more I find myself able to resist overindulgence (a vice I’m slowly conquering), even when it’s allowed and condoned.

I chose to align the day that I can eat anything with my passion for food and cooking. I invited a fellow cook over to partake in a Sunday brunch. There’s something special about working with someone like minded in the kitchen. Not just like minded in a sense of ideas (although many align), but likeminded in attitude of professionalism, knowledge, improvement, and dedication to the craft. There’s only a handful of people like this that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or working with in my career, so I thoroughly enjoy each and every opportunity to do so.

No menu was structured in advance. Other then knowing we’d be cooking bacon, it was basically a clean slate. Dishes were to be made using what I had on hand and a small purchase of some seasonal fruit, and eggs the night before. Bacon. What else? I’ve got fruit, I’ll make a parfait. How about a salad? Let’s do pancakes!? Given a choice between pancakes and waffles, I’d go waffles all the way, and so that’s what we did. Not your average waffles mind you, these were jam packed with nutrition and probably one of the healthiest waffle batters out there. Although it was cheat day and I could basically  have my way with food, I still don’t like or feel the need to blatantly aim for un-nutritious food.

Health Waffles:

Batter recipe as follows, this is also a good pancake batter. (Dietary restrictions could easily be adapted, some shown in parentheses):

Makes approximately 16 waffles (4”x4”)

Ingredients: (A side note: best when baking to have ingredients at room temperature to help the mixing process, so all of the milk, eggs, etc was at room temp)

1.5 Cups Buttermilk

1.5 Cups Whole Milk

4 Whole Large Eggs

4 TBSP Clarified Butter, Melted (could be coconut oil)

1.5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour

1.5 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 TBSP Sugar (or Agave Nectar)

2 TBSP Baking Powder

4 TBSP Ground Flax Seed

4 TBSP Flaked Quinoa

1 TBSP Wheat Germ

2 TBSP Lemon Zest

Dash of Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

Procedure:

1. Measure and organize all ingredients.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl

3. Make batter by gradually adding eggs, dairy and remaining liquid ingredients and whisking/stirring until the mixture is uniform and no clumps remain.

4. Allow batter to rest for at least 30 minutes(we did this partly by accident, but attribute this to helping with the nice finished texture), room temperature is fine, but if longer then 30 minutes refrigerate.

5. Heat waffle iron, and cook waffles in batches. Holding in a low oven (around 190°F) until enough have been cooked to serve all guests. Batter can be kept for an additional day under refrigeration (or made ahead of time).

IMG_1322

Waffles with two syrups…left is the peach…right is the cherry.

To accompany the waffles we made two syrups. A white peach, bacon, maple syrup—with a little butter. And a fresh cherry syrup. Recipes for those are available upon request. We made copious amounts of applewood and maple smoked bacon. I added a sunny side up egg, for protein and even more of a brunch-ey feel. We also created a salad; baby kale, swiss chard, avocado, peccorino cheese, and a shallot vinaigrette. Lastly, I crafted a parfait. Bananas, pluots, some cherries from the syrup, organic vanilla yogurt, fresh mint, and home made granola (molasses, oats, chia seeds, flax, quinoa, dried cherries, Turkish apricots).

Baconfait

When I added bacon to my parfait

Board

This was part of the mise en place (post on this to come) for my parfait… notice the coffee…key.

Part way through the meal I decided to add bacon to my parfait (see photo) and it was awesome, I also added bacon to the salad and it was equally awesome. Bacon is awesome. Cheat day is awesome. Even when it’s on the healthier side.

This is more than likely going to happen again… anything you’d like to see me cook?

Love to hear what you think, and suggestions in the comments.

Health and Fitness Right Now

When it comes to health and fitness, I’m not “an expert”, yet. However, I’ve been studying it and increasingly dedicated to it for the last 6 years. I have learned an immense amount, but there is always more to learn. Plus, science, technology, and information sharing have all increased available knowledge, and progressed health and fitness to new realms. I’m skeptical about training just one way, I believe in a balanced approach, and that’s what I’m working towards.  Gradually improving what I eat, how I train, and what I study/believe. I want to share resources, workouts, diet tips, and progress in this category of the blog, also make myself available to answer any questions. I’m working on becoming a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) this year so if you’ve got questions I’d be happy to help.

This is a passion that’s borderline obsessive. Not as obsessive as some people, but it’s still been something I’ve been very focused on, and progressively more so. I invest money, time, and substantial effort. Results have been steady, but finally breakthroughs are here. (6/19/13), I set 2 personal records for lifting. Dead Lift over 200lbs. (205×6)x2. And, Bench press over 200lbs 225–4x. Both of these have been on my fitness goals since LAST YEAR. So I’m pretty happy that I’ve been able to cross them off. Evernote Snapshot 20130619 234635 That’s one thing I love about having clearly defined goals in places you’ll see them; sometimes it may seem like nothing’s happening but the more you see that and think about it the more likely you are to take action. The thing is that I’ve probably been strong enough for quite some time now, but just never tried. That being said those are relatively light weights in the fitness world, but nonetheless for my 170lb frame, mark a decent strength benchmark, and a place to keep improving from. My body fat percentage is surely dropping and overall body aesthetics are improving.

I always record my workouts, so I can see progress and learn from mistakes, and for personal accountability. Evernote Snapshot 20130619 204932

(I recommend pen and paper, but digital is an option)

This was today’s workout with notes: (weight/reps unless otherwise indicated)

This workout is a variation on a total body day from a self designed program I’ve been developing over the last several years. The more I learn the more I adapt this and add/remove exercises.

Warm up:

Bike 10 minutes: stationary bike on a moderately challenging setting.

Stretch: upper/lower body, compound movements, and total body stretches

Warm up circuit: Complete 3 circuits

(no rest between exercises)

15 lateral raise with resistance band

15 incline situps with 10lb medicine ball (alternate twisting each set)

15 box jumps 1.5 feet

Main Lifts: (maximum 1.5 minute rest between lifts)

Seated Machine Row: 60/20, 90/10, 120/8, 90/10, 45/15

Bench Press: 135/8, 225/4*, 135/8

Dead Lift: 135/8, 205/6*, 205/6, 135/8

Hammer Curl: 40/12, 45/10, 50/8, 45/10, 35/12

Leg Press: 180/15, 225/FAIL (65)

Myotatic Crunch: 12 reps

Chinups: 7 (legs at 90 degrees), 6 (reversed grip), 4 (2 finger).

*Indicates personal best & goal accomplished.

In my next fitness post I’ll be sharing some of the resources that have taught me the most in the past, as well as the one’s I’m learning from now.

Thanks for reading, and keep training. Ask me any questions in regards to this post or health and fitness in general, and I’ll share what I know or find an answer.

Brendan