Where it began, sorta


Speed, training for a marathon

This started off as an email. It was suppossed to be short & sweet. A quick bio for a sponsorship. Yeah, I know, it’s weird, I’m a ‘sponsored athlete’. What makes it weirder is the fact that it’s by a PowerLifting/Strongman Gym.  An endurance athlete, looking to run a 100 mile race, sponsored by the Gorilla Pit. I guess that’s one of the great things about CrossFit; you learn to function in many modalities.  That pursuit of well rounded fitness puts us in contact with all different aspects of sports, and the wide variety of  personalities that populate them.

So get out there, learn something new, step out of the comfort zone for a minute.  Keep an openness to learning and it could lead to great things.

Ryan R Speed
Age 37
Height 67″
Weight 165 lbs

Personal Records:
Marathon 3:39:58;  Akron Marathon 2006
Double Marathon 10:09:00;  Run With Scissors 2008

Deadlift   340 lbs
Backsquat   245 lbs
PushPress   165 lbs

In 1992 at the age of 19 I vowed to run a marathon someday, on a whim, because “It would be cool”.  By late 2005 I still hadn’t completed that quest and knew I needed a goal for the upcoming year.  The Akron Marathon looked perfect, late summer race date left plenty of time to train.  Late summer/early fall meant a likelihood of nice weather. It was close, but far enough for there to be different scenery then I would be training in.  It looked perfect for my 1st marathon.   I registered and started educated myself on how to train for the task ahead.  My readings lead me to Dean Karnazes‘ “Ultramarathon Man“.  Now here laid tales of men completing 100 mile foot races, in a day!  I was hooked and once again made a vow to myself.  I would run a 100 mile race someday.  Why?  Because even though I had never even ran a 1/2 marathon I KNEW I could completed an ultra-marathon, I just had to prove it to myself.

My first marathon left me wrecked, unable to run for a month, but I was hooked on the long distance races.  The preparation, overcoming doubts, the emotion attached to achieving a goal.  So I became diligent in my planning and training, I still had to run that 100 miler.  Fortunately the subsequent long-slow-distance training (LSD), lead to overuse injuries, and long bouts of the inability to run any sort of ‘distance’.  I say fortunately because I didn’t let it deter me from my goal.  I KNEW I could do this, I just had to find a way.

I began scouring the internet, reading everything, everywhere, looking for a way.  A friend of mine mentioned CrossFit, but those guys were nuts and they weren’t interested in ultra distances.  Another friend of mine laughingly told me her husband had “joined a cult, but a good one”; it was  CrossFit CLE.  Then I happened to notice that an ultra runner’s  blog I follow had a CrossFit link.  I’ve learned to pay attention to ‘coincidences”, the universe tends to give us what we need.  So I started to check it out.

I quickly became enamored.  First, I found CrossFit Endurance.  They’re saying I don’t have to run 80-100 miles a week to train for ultras?  I can cut my training time almost in half, by switching my protocol, and here it is, laid out, for free!   High Intensity can lead to endurance?  “I can do high intensity” I thought to myself.  So I went into CrossFit CLE, and was hooked.  There I was laid out on the floor after a mere 10 minutes of Wall Balls & Box Jumps!  I had ran for 10+ hours, covering 52.4 miles, I thought I was in shape.  CrossFit quickly showed me otherwise.  I grew to remember an old USMC motto, “Get Comfortable With Uncomfortable”.

So I used CrossFit to train throughout 2009.  I learned about Burpees and Ring-dips.  Was introduced to the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch.  I learned how lifting heavy things could make me a better runner.  I ran two marathons in ’09.  Everything did not go smoothly, there were some bumps in the road, but I learned a lot about myself as a person and an athlete.  And I knew CrossFit was working, because I ran those 2 marathons within 6 weeks of one another, and I PR’d Annie two days after the first one.  So I was stronger, I just needed to get faster.

2010 shall prove to be the testing ground.  I plan on running  a 1/2 marathon, a 40 mile ultra, and that 100 mile goal is in sight.  I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.



Did you learn anything?  That was a common thread asked of me when I returned from my CF Lvl 1 cert.  Most already knew the WHERE & WHEN.  So I was asked the WHO (I met) & WHAT (we did).  But mainly I was asked what I LEARNED.

Which is a good question, because I learned a lot.  I learned to define fitness, and the parts of it that are a bit ambiguous. I was taught the key points of our (CrossFit’s) fundamental movements.  I gained better understanding of why we look at fitness through the three different models, and how the  10 physical skills we use to determine it are as important as the 3 metabolic pathways.  I learned about the basics of CrossFit’s programming methodology, and how to intelligently look at variance in your workouts.  I learned a lot.

But what did I LEARN?  That was the question floating in my head as I drove home.  What was the fundamental idea, and how does it translate into the real world life of a (not so) ordinary guy?

I think it is balance.

Balance; CrossFit, it’s definition of fitness, and everything that goes along with it requires balance.  Most long distance runners are well versed in cardio/respiratory endurance, stamina, and hopefully speed.  But they’re that way at a sacrifice to strength & power.  The strongman competitors in my gym can pick up 300+ lb Atlas stones, demonstrating some serious phosphagen  capacity.  But ask them to do Fight Gone Bad, with a time cap of 15 minutes worth of work & max load of 75 lbs.  They look bewildered and give grunts about ‘cardio comes from walking to the car’. It’s completely out of their realm of training, they would be gassed by the end of the first round.

The point being that in order to be fit as we define it, you have to remain balanced in all physical endeavors.  You need to practice ‘lifting heavy stuff’, as much as you need to run 400 meter sprints.  You need to work on Double-unders the same day you work on your Clean technique.  Constantly Varied, you have to continually work on all aspects of your fitness to reach your maximum potential.

So what about meeting your maximum potential as a human being?  What traits do we want to work on, what energy systems are involved?  What balance do we need to seek?  I know for me it’s a constant juggling act between family needs, personal goals, and career requirements.  As in fitness, different aspects overlap one another, but it’s a constant balancing act.  But that is what leads to excellence, and the pursuit of excellence is noble in and of itself.