It was a pleasant surprise to be one of the featured competitors in last week’s “Best of 2012 American Ninja Warrior” episode where they focused on the Midwest region. The TV guide episode description had actually been incorrect, so I thought it was going to be the Northeast region and not mine, so I didn’t have any advance notice to tell friends and family, but it was pretty cool to be featured all the same. They showed my full opening round run, and then a short section of my regional finals run, as well as a general background piece that focused on having to walkon last year to compete, me being a middle-aged dad with three cool boys who love Ninja Warrior, and my super-fan status (they even mentioned this blog!). I wanted to repost my blog below that I wrote after my Regional Finals run that summed up that attempt, as well as my general thoughts from competing last year. Hope you enjoy!
Originally Posted June 23, 2012
First off, let me say a huge THANK YOU to all my friends, family, and ninja brethren for the love and support they have given me this season. I’m truly humbled by it, and deeply appreciate it. I particularly want to thank so many of my fellow competitors for their encouragement this year as I struggled to get a spot to compete, for their efforts behind the scenes to try and wrangle production to give me a spot, and for their friendship before, during and after the experience. You guys are awesome, and I feel much ninja love for you all!
As for my run in the Midwest regional finals, this statement sums it up: ”Different day, but the song remained the same.” My run in the Midwest regional finals was almost the mirror image of my run in the opening round of the regionals. In an earlier blog entry focusing on my opening regional round run, I went through each obstacle I encountered in the opening round of the regionals and described my thoughts and experience on each. It serves as pretty much the same script for my regional final run. Below are the summary thoughts of my run that night, the few ways that it was different, and the many ways it was the same.
One thing that interests people about everybody’s experience in the Midwest regional finals is that it basically didn’t start until about 2 am. My run happened about 2:30 am. Since I had finished 29th in the regionals, I was the 2nd runner of the regional finals (the top 30 in the regional finals run in reverse order of finish). So we sat around for hours and hours, and then suddenly they were running the regional finals, and I was on deck as the second runner. Very similar to my run in the opening round of the regionals where I was the 5th of about 150 runners that day. Not complaining at all, just stating.
My experience with the first three obstalces – Quad Steps, Log Grip, and Bridge of Blades – was exactly the same of the previous round. No problems, cruised right through, maybe a couple of seconds faster.
The fourth obstacle was the Jump Hang, and unlike the previous round I hesitated quite a bit before jumping on the mini-tramp. I actually took a step forward, stopped, and stepped back to reload. But when I finally jumped I hit it hard and flew up to the 2nd highest horizontal strand of the net again. Unlike the regionals where I got hung up a bit going over the top, I popped right over this time quite quickly saving a few seconds and some energy.
The fifth obstacle, the infamous Curtain Slider, was the obstacle where I had probably the most different experience in the regional finals from the regionals. Unlike the regionals where I almost failed in the transition from the first curtain to the second one by flapping my legs around threatening to hit the side and the water, I made a very smooth fast transition, twisting the opposite way with my body due to the swing of the curtain, and made a quick smooth transition to the third curtain and to the platform.
So finishing the Curtain Slider I stood at about 57 seconds, a good 7 seconds faster than the 1:04 it took me to get there in the regionals, mostly from time saved in the Jump Hang and the Curtain Slider I believe.
I was feeling pretty good and went at the Warped Wall right away without much of a pause, and came THIS CLOSE (imagine me holding two fingers two inches apart) from getting it on that first run. I thought I had it. But I didn’t. LOL. The second run was fairly close, but I fell backwards pretty hard when I missed and slammed my knee pretty good on the fall. I hardly noticed it at the time due to the adrenaline, but I had a nasty deep bruise there for over a month afterwards. The third attempt I honestly don’t remember much…I should have just taken my sweet time reloading energy for the attempt, but I remember thinking that I shouldn’t make the audience wait too long before I made my last attempt. And I missed.
I was pretty despondent to fail at the Warped Wall in the regional finals because I knew my effort wasn’t going to hold up to advance to the national finals in Vegas. I felt like if I could have gotten up that Warped Wall I would have advanced to Vegas, I’m pretty good at the Salmon Ladder and the Salmon Ladder in competition was not as hard as some of the other ones I’ve done before, and completing it would have locked in a spot to advance. Failing where I failed landed me I think 20th in the field with only the top 15 advancing to the national finals.
But I can’t complain…I got my fair shot and was allowed to compete, which was not certain when I arrived at 4 am in the morning the day of the Midwest regionals to try and get a walkon spot, and in the end all I can really ask for is the opportunity to step to the line and give it my best. That I did, and I ended up being the oldest competitor to advance to the Midwest regional finals, which was pretty cool, and I got to try my hand at the course twice between the regionals and regional finals, which is also pretty awesome. Plus, they showed my run and did a nice little feature piece on me on G4 for the regionals and again on NBC for the regional finals, so that was cool, and my little boys were thrilled to see me and (mostly) themselves on TV.
As for whether I will be back to compete next season…of course I will! Every year I get asked the same question, and my answer is always the same: Why would I ever quit? This shit is awesome! Seriously, they will have to kick my withered old carcass off that course and tell me to never come back in order for me to give up. I will be back next season, if they’ll have me, with some good Warped Wall practice under my belt, and will throw down the best I can on that course and see where the chips fall. Thank you again for all your encouragement, this season was a special journey for me.