Walking around the Rimrock Ruckus yesterday I saw smiles. I heard laughter. I heard cheering. The smiles were broad, the laughter deep, and the cheering from the crowd and other spectators deafening. We saw friends from across Montana that we’ve met at races and other competitions. We had meals with friends and classmates who’d travelled across the Big Sky to come play in the sun. We cheered for the same acquaintances we’ve been cheering for for several years now, travelled North from Wyoming to enjoy a day in Billings.

I won’t lie, and Trish will mock me for this — I walked around the Rimrock Ruckus and saw a lot of beautiful people. Men and women, young and old, the beautiful people arrived en masse. Beauty is not a prerequisite for competition, but hard work is. Beauty is the happy reward for hard work. Aesthetics are an added bonus for their daily labors.

Perhaps more beautiful than a chiseled 6-pack, is the smile that sweeps across a competitor’s face when they do something in front of a crowd that they’ve never been able to do before. We videotape everything in modern society. At a concert, half the crowd are watching through their camera-phones. Social media is littered with footage of people achieving a personal best in the gym. But nothing screams, “personal record”, like the smile that consumes a competitor’s entire face when they are holding a weight overhead that has never been there before. THAT is a memory more indelible than any video, a beauty so striking that the body supporting the weight matters nill.

Some of the competitors were exactly who you think they would be. She’s a personal trainer, gym owner and was a college gymnast. He played college football. He was Army special forces. She was a college basketball player and actually makes some money doing Crossfit competitions. Yes, those people were there.

But they had challengers. From nurses and engineers. A woman from Butte had twins WEEKS ago and had a pretty great day. Surgical techs, dieticians, mothers, fathers, firemen. Busy adults with real lives showed for comaradery, T-shirts, sweat and beer.

With events occurring simultaneously in two locations, and both male and female friends competing across multiple divisions, I spent most of the day walking between Point A and Point B. Standing beside the sled push, I screamed for a team with a member Trish and I met during the Goruck several weeks ago. Then, I’d walk quickly indoors to watch Trish and the Box Junkies do the snatch ladder before turning around to watch friends and classmates from Butte do the sled push. I’m unsure of total steps through the day, but spectating required a lot of walking around. It was fun as hell.

I am proud of my wife, yes. She’s come a very long way since I first tricked her into moving from the treadmill to the Crossfit box at Rimrock and then Beartooth. But I saw so many people who have also made so much progress. Some started as couch potatoes or smokers. Some were very fit and very active already. Crossfit was a change in modality, not the original call to action. There are natural athletes who will excel at whatever they pursue, and they were certainly on display. But there were graduate students with jobs who also find time not only to exercise, but to be competitive in school, work and the gym.

I have the utmost of respect for every single person I saw compete yesterday. My hat is off for those who came to win, but I levy absolutely as much respect to the wives and fathers who worked till closing Friday and showed up to Enterprise Ave for a fun Saturday exercising with friends in the sun, drinking beer and collecting their T-shirts.

There are poems, sayings and stories about why we should strive, toil, compete and press forward. Life is a struggle; life is a long path beset at all sides by robbers, tigers, lions and bears. We walk this path with our shoulder to the wind and persevere in that which is our only option, forward. Onward. Upward. Press, push, and keep moving forward. The only way out is through.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and could speak to an athletic event, the book you’re writing, your college studies or raising your children. Teddy Roosevelt did both great and horrible things in his life, but he penned one of the most profound pieces of wisdom and direction for living a good life that I’ve ever seen. From a larger speech titled, “Citizenship in a Republic” one paragraph stands tall. A single paragraph, delivered by a president of the United States of America, during a speech in France, elevated so grandly that it required it’s own name and distinction within the larger elocution.

“The Man in the Arena” T. Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

There were several of us yesterday — myself very much included, walking from event to event, cheering friends, family and strangers striving in their pursuit of things great, challenging and new, while thinking, “could have, should have, would have”. Playing the critic. Gaming and speculating. ”They could have done that. I would have done this.” The armchair quarterback.

How ignoble.

It is the man in the arena who counts. They who chose to fight. They who chose to risk defeat at the opportunity to achieve greatness. It is a local Crossfit competition in Billings, MT. No olympians were on hand, no gold medals awarded. But the efforts were great, as were the individual rewards. Personal records. Risk. Stress. Smiles. Friendship and laughter.

It was a lot of fun to spectate, but I think it was probably more fun to DO. I think that may be the last time I watch from the sidelines contemplating hard work. Thank you to the competitors for the life lesson.


Your efforts are their own reward.