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.