But I am Too Big to be a Good Athlete (and other stuff we should stop saying)

Hi, I’m Kevin, or Bubbles as more people know me.  What is your excuse for not achieving the results you want?  Mine has been my body weight.  I’m a Clydesdale (runner weighing over 200lbs) competing in a sport that doesn’t give a **** how much you weigh, only about your age.

A little about my athletic background:  Although I wasn’t in a military family, I moved like I was in one.  I switched schools every 2 years or less from kindergarten until high school.  I grew up in a lower income household with 2 brothers and we all fell victim to poor food choices loaded with lots of saturated fats and loads of refined sugars.  If you’re reading this, I’m sure you know the basis about eating healthy so I’ll spare the advice, but you know what happens when your norm is fast food and soda more often than not.  As a fat kid who wants to play sports you get to play all the fat kid positions (the ones where the coach can hide you on the field to lessen your negative impact on the team).  As I grew up being bigger than everyone else I learned to lift weights to get stronger so when I was facing the other team’s fat kid I had an advantage and was actually able to help the team.  (ball carrier)

My high school sports were football, wrestling and lacrosse.  All of which have the “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” mentality to get better.  Sure you can improve agility and skills to be better, but ultimately get bigger, stronger, and increase your speed and you will be a force to be reckoned with. I was already tall (6’2”) and heavy (over 200lbs) it was just a matter of converting that fat mass to muscle mass.  As I learned about proper sports nutrition and how to lift I got bigger (actually just more muscular), faster, and stronger.  That paid great dividends in all 3 of my sports.  Senior year I played various positions and contributed greatly to a 7-1 record (unofficially).  During wrestling season I cut weight and competed in the 189lb weigh class earning All-County Honors in my first varsity season.

Lacrosse season didn’t play out the same, but I developed my skills, which led me to walk on the following fall to my D3 college team and start every game for 4 years.  In college I also took on rugby, which my size and skill set were perfect for.  In my last year of eligibility I wrestled again, this time as the 285lber.  I had a decent .500 season after a 4 year hiatus.

Post college I took on Semi Pro football and earned perennial All-Star league honors including Def MVP.  Everything I did up to that point in my life was geared toward being bigger, faster, and stronger for barbaric sports where knocking down my opponent was to my advantage… (tackler)

During my Semi-pro football career I discovered CrossFit and OCR.  Both of which aided my football skill set as I got stronger and faster.  I ultimately left football because I kept getting injured, due to all the contact wearing on my body.  That was when OCR went from being something I did for fun to being my prime sport.  I started running elite with the intention to do as well as I could and get better each race.  Aside from my senior year of high school during wrestling season my body weight has averaged 225lb. I haven’t even seen 200 since that season.

I know that’s a lot about me, but I feel you need to know where I came from to appreciate what’s possible.  My initial “competitive” OCR season I competed in elite waves with the goal to finish in the top 50% or top 100 finishers.  That was my benchmark for success.  I ran all distances to see where I placed best.  To this day I’m all over the map with which distance is my best.  What I know is that I’ve specialized my training in Beast or longer distances over the last 2 years, but still put up great numbers in Stadiums.  Last fall I earned my first Spartan podium at the Dallas Ultra Beast and then came back the next day and took 6th in the Sprint.

My career is in the fitness industry and between my personal experience, that of my clients, and those of all my “friends” in the OCR community there is not one excuse that I except out of anyone including myself.  My excuse for not doing as well in OCR as I want is that I’m usually 50-75lbs heavier than most of my competition.  It’s a rare day that I lose to anyone that even weighs 200lbs.  Gone are the days I compare myself to the other “Clydesdales”.  I’m competing to win the race against whoever shows up.  If I get beat by a 150lb Hobie Call is it because he is lighter than me? The old me would say that’s the only reason.  I’ve learned over the last few years that Hobie beats me along with anyone else, Atkins, Woodsy, Racz, Moat, Killian, Kempson, (keep rolling the names) for the same reason Hunter beats me.  They have worked harder and are currently better than me because of their training, and not solely because they are lighter.  Before changing my mindset I was going into each race with a losing mindset.  I was defeated before starting the race.  I’d write myself off solely because of a number on scale, which was a huge copout.  Bottom line is that I wasn’t training hard enough or smart enough.

Back to the excuses… we all have our own excuse: I’m too fat, too small, too tall, too short, don’t have enough running experience, too weak, not enough time, my family/job/money/blah blah blah… We all have our reasons for underperforming.  As humans we naturally want to take responsibility off our own shoulders and place it onto someone else’s.  The truth is – that is a losing mindset.  One of my mentors used to hammer this into my head: “how you do anything is how you do everything.”  I always remember that.

I was at Johns Hopkins with the lacrosse team I was training last spring and Dave Pietramala addressed our team and gave the same exact message.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  DP is one of the most respected D1 lacrosse coaches in NCAA history and has more championship rings than I can count, and he was telling my guys what my mentor years earlier had hammered into my head.  He related his message to college athletes, but you can easily translate it to your situation no matter what it is.

Ultimately, how can you expect to be successful in anything you do if you don’t commit yourself to everything you do 100%?  You can’t train for your sport because “you don’t have time”, but you keep telling me and everyone how important it is to improve at OCR.  Are you going to tell your kids that you can’t help them with their homework because “you just don’t have time”? Just the thought of that hurts doesn’t it?  And I don’t even have kids.

It’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you are choosing that training for OCR, or in this case time with your kids, is simply not a priority.  That’s deep, I know.  Everything can’t be a priority.  For me my success in OCR has been at the top of my priority list for a few years.  I’ve been willing to give up anything and everything to get to where I want to be.  Body weight is NOT my excuse any longer.  I’ve adjusted everything there is to adjust in order to improve on race day.

Some of this will sound silly to you, but it was a huge priority whether I wanted to admit it or not at the time I chose to forgo it in order to improve.  I left multiple jobs because the schedule didn’t allow me to train or compete.  Money isn’t everything, yeah you need it, but no one job is so important that you give up your dreams to stay there.  I’ve dropped countless relationships with people who were holding me back or just not moving me in the right direction.  We all have certain people around us that just bring us down.  Be selfish and drop them! Why are you going to keep letting them share their misery with you?  I’m not saying everyone I don’t see as much anymore was like that.  Some just were heading in their direction and I was heading in mine and we just didn’t help each other anymore.  Many of the people I no longer talk to are great people and I wish them the best.  When I see them or we talk I’m genuinely excited to chat and catch up a bit, and I’m rooting for them to find success with their priorities, I just choose to not prioritize the same amount of time I used to for them.

Alcohol played an enormous role in my life for many years, and now I choose to abstain.  There are times I choose to go out to a bar with people who are drinking and I can keep my priorities in mind and abstain.  I’ve found quite a few people in OCR that have replaced their addiction to alcohol with a healthier addiction to training and competing in OCR.  There’s plenty of alcohol opportunities in OCR, I mean they give you a freaking beer at the finish line!! I’m not saying that everyone who drinks is a bad person.  I grew up in an alcoholic household and know firsthand what can happen.  I’ve been fortunate to have far more mild consequences of my own drinking to this point in my life.  Alcohol is not going to lead me to my #1 priority of winning OCRs.

I’ve also swallowed my pride in thinking I can program all my own training to get me to where I want to be.  I gave up CrossFit as it isn’t aligned close enough with what I need to improve on in order to further my OCR results.  I had a very successful year training with OCR Beast under Shane Leighton in 2017.  I learned a ton working with him about aerobic base building, running form, and efficiency.  This year I got the opportunity to train with trainer of the OCR Stars, Rich Diaz and Human Running Performance.  Rich runs running clinics across the country and I highly recommend investing in yourself and attending one to improve your skills and learn about yourself.

Get a freaking Mantra that pushes you toward your goal, not a whining mantra reinforcing some self-deprecating thought you have about yourself.  

No matter your excuse, there’s someone out there who’s already overcome what you think you can’t.  Just look around, there are countless inspirations EVERY single race.  People like Ilene Boyar who isn’t supposed to be able to do anything without breaking a bone does Beasts and Ultra Marathons!!! Operation Enduring Warrior has countless wounded warriors completing courses with missing limbs.  I could make a list a mile long.  We all have our own “Impossible” go after yours without selling yourself short and you’ll surprise yourself when you complete it, then what? Find a new impossible.

Although I do believe #ClydesdalesLivesMatter and we should be recognized in our own class somehow, I’m done complaining about it and focused on what I can control, my own training, nutrition, recovery, and everything else I can learn from those around me to get better and step up my game this year to be greater than I’ve ever been before.

by LegendBorne Ambassador Kevin Gregory
@BubblestheClowne