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I Am Mike Mahler

By Jack Reape

…As Jim Bouton recounts in “Ball Four,” when Ted Williams took batting practice, he would yell out, “My name is Ted f***ng Williams and I’m the greatest hitter in baseball.” – Bill Simmons

…According to Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” Ted Williams used to work himself into a frenzy during batting practice, shouting things like “here comes Jim Bunning, Jim F***ing Bunning and that little sh** slider of his … does he seriously think he can get me out with that sh**?” in between swings…

A few years ago, my good friend Rey and I were part of a best ball threesome on a hot and Windy Texas Golf Course. Rey had played the game his whole life and was a superb golfer. I had taken up the game in my early 30s because I had missed too many professional Opportunities lifting weights all the time and not playing Golf at job related outings. The same discipline and analytical approach that had served me well on the platform got me to the mid to high 80s in a few years. Still, I was not very confident in my driver, and under pressure that lack of confidence was magnified more than a semen sample analysis ordered by Bob Barr a few years ago. We had made the turn sitting in the middle of the pack of threesomes. We knew we had to make a move or risk certain public and cocktail-fueled humiliation. On the back 9 we faced a long par four with a big dogleg to the right. Smart play was to lay up at the dogleg and then go for the green. Our other partner tried that but hit it in the rough. Rey smiled at me, took out the driver, and walked up to the ball. He was going for it! “Hey Rey…”, I shouted, but he cut me off and smiled, “I am Tiger Woods”. Then he swung from the heels and cut the corner and drove the ball almost to the green, dropping it in the bunker greenside. He sauntered back and handed me my driver and said, “YOU, are Tiger Woods”. What the hell I thought, so I took the club and repeated to myself, I am Tiger Woods, I am Tiger Woods. Yes it helped that I can really slice a golf ball with the best of them, but I had a moment of no thoughts and complete comfort and focus and my body just swung hard on autopilot and drove the ball onto the green. Now could I do that over and over? Probably not, but for a long time my mind went back to that rolling course in God’s country, and remembered that lighting in a bottle feeling I caught that day. Pursuing that lightning made me read a lot of books on self-hypnosis, sports psychology, biofeedback, and lots of other psychobabble that I hate to admit I seriously pursued. Some of it was very interesting, and even a bit helpful, but it never delivered that formula to get the clear-minded clarity and body on autopilot that allowed me to hit that golf ball so perfectly that day. Eventually, deciding to make the step up to compete at Powerlifting at a higher level, and the events of 9/11 put my golf clubs in the corner of the garage, and my search for a clear minded auto piloted body was pushed aside for a time.

Over the next couple years after 9/11, I was fortunate enough to fly missions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other garden spots in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom . Many of these were routine but several were eye openers. I deployed for the last time 5 weeks after an appendectomy with complications, to the consternation of the surgeon. I lifted in the USAPL Nationals 5 weeks after a hamstring tear and hit three PRs. I don’t consider this special, because it was what I love to do and I considered no other options. However, the difference between flying, powerlifting, and Golf for me was I have to admit, on one hand I am a very confident, even cocky, even obnoxiously confident pilot and powerlifter. Teddy ballgame has nothing on me when it comes to self-talk when it comes to my passions, but my self-talk is internal. Powerlifting internal rants may be more colorful than night landings in the desert sand mental visualization, but negative thoughts are squeezed out by confidence, experience, and enjoyment of the moment. By rejecting and not even considering negative outcomes, the mental pallet is kept clear for savoring the moment and letting your abilities carry the day. For the last few years, doubt was just not something I dwelled on or even considered. It is a wonderful place to walk where, as Terry Todd once wrote, taking the platform with supreme confidence but a large feat to accomplish, “Walking in a place where there are no footsteps but yours”.

But all hot streaks come to an end. Early last summer I had to requalify for the last time in Aviation Water Survival. Think “Officer and Gentleman” crossed with “Fear Factor”. You don’t get to eat bugs but you do get to breathe a lot of water. This was fun in my 20s and at 195 pounds running a few times a week, and still easy in my early 30s at 210. The last few times though this has been harder than Chinese arithmetic, and at 43 and 230 pounds of 3-5 rep built muscle mass, I not only fatigue fast I sink fast too! I am not confident in this arena, and was particularly concerned with the main event, a blindfolded, spinning ride strapped in an open metal capsule to several feet under water, where when violent motion ceases and after changing your underwear, you get to find your way out of this deathtrap, swim to the top, lose your blackout goggles, then swim 75 yards in 25 pounds of flight gear, then tread water, then drown proof. Then you even get to manually inflate your life vest. Then, when Petty Officer de Sade observes you floating “effortlessly”, you can get out. The good part is you get to practice this underwater escape 5 times before the main event, along with other fun like underwater problem solving, parachute drag and release, and the low pressure altitude chamber. I didn’t get to enjoy the fun too much anticipating the main event. As I was waiting for the class to start, I was considering how I thought I had done this for the last time four years ago, when into the class walked my old friend Rey. We had not served together since before 9/11, but caught up quickly. I was humorously sharing my serious concerns, when Rey just smiled and said , “YOU are Tiger Woods!” I wasn’t sure what he was speaking about, then it dawned on me. I am a pretty good pilot, but no Chuck Yeager, and a pretty good powerlifter, but just barely breaking the top 15 in the USAPL. Yet I had no doubts when in those comfort zones. I may not have been in my comfort zone in that training pool, but I was going to act and think like it. Yes, I am older than the rest of the class and sink like a rock and am a 3-rep guy in a Triathlon world, but I am just going to talk myself through this and reject any doubts, then hit the autopilot. Then I just went and did it. When the doubts came I just repeated “I am Tiger F***in Woods”, and kept on going. I even had to REPEAT the final event as I had to be pulled against my will from the pool after some water ingestion. They offered to let me come back in a few weeks and try again. I told them no way and did it again right away. By this point I was on autopilot, clear minded and with that crazy every nerve on fire feeling, dripping in a place with just my sodden footsteps. And my certificate of completion, thanks to Rey and Tiger!

A few months later I decided to I needed to jack up my GPP training and address my problematic shoulders. Considering everything, I came to the conclusion for me that Kettlebell swings, cleans, and presses needed to be added to my lifting, sled dragging, truck pushing, and heavy landscaping. I had pressed a Kettlebell once at Wake Forest, and swung an old one I found in a closed down YMCA, but I wasn’t real sure about undertaking anything more. I did not plan on using an extensive array of Kettlebell lifts, had a lot of time constraints, and I have no plans on teaching Kettlebells, so I didn’t desire an extensive training course. Then I happened to re-read a few Mike Mahler articles. Since Tiger Woods and Mike Mahler have so much in Common, for example their names each have three syllables, I made the immediate connection. When the Kettlebells arrived I drug them out in the yard. I rejected the thoughts of braining myself or compound fracturing my tibia, fibia, or labia. I donned my son’s flame covered beanie, grabbed the Kettlebells, and yelled , “I am Mike Mahler!”

Never let your trepidation get in the way of your inspiration!

About The Author

Jack Reape is available for online program design services and consulting. For more information, email Jack at jackreape@hotmail.com

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