Sad news befalls MPH this week: StuLu’s last workout with us will be this Thursday, July 15. We will save our farewell for then, but today, StuLu has some parting words for us—as only he can deliver.

Rest today.

From StuLu:

I am suffering right now. Melancholy. Memories. One of the best years of my life went so fast. Where were you all before? Why now? Why must I go?

I hate to offer questions in an opening paragraph, but I am processing so much these days as an attempt to come to terms. Life has a funny way of catching up with you, especially when you are 46 and have a 22-month-old toddler. I do try to live for the moment but these days every precious second becomes bright light to sensitive eyes. I am ticking. We are ticking. The gong is so loud. I actually enjoy watching a pot of water boil.

I confess this: that much will change for me soon. After 30 years of urban living, of which 20 were spent here in DC, I need to move on. I could bore you with the facts of DC housing in that there is little in the way of decently priced square footage in which to raise a child, but I won’t. Nor will I talk of Kinley having the chance to be a child and run barefoot in the grass. These things would be too obvious. Too cliché.

It comes down to this: selfishness has no place in fatherhood.

Or, it comes down to nothing more than we want to try something different. Within a context we can handle. The place that seemed right for us now is Annapolis. And so we go.

Funny, every time I reach the point of leaving a place it seems that there is always something that pulls me back. And always at the last second: that English girl I met at my going away party in Amsterdam who resulted in my having another going away party eight months later; the contortionist stripper that came on stage as I was about to leave a bar in Bangkok for a flight home; the flock of sheep I stumbled upon in New Zealand; or (thank god) the beautiful lady I married whom I met just 16 hours before I was going to sign a contract on a loft in Baltimore, and instead stayed here in DC. The list is long with far too many diversions. This time it’s different; I am responsible. Though I may be good at stalling, I am equally skilled at letting go. (Leave no trace!) I never burn bridges, but I do have a knack for nicely disappearing…just ask the sheep. While I might be turned around for a moment or two to hold myself back from what will be an eventual departure, when I do go I am an expert at just leaving—cutting ties.

I want it to be different this time, because MPH has become for me a home that I believe I will never be able to truly let go of. But, I need your help. Not to pull me back, but for everyone to embrace the greatness of what makes this place so special. I ask this of you so that as I roam the world I can still be proud to say that everything I learned about toughing it out, doing it right, pushing to the edge, and the sharing with friends those moments of joy when accomplishments are gained—the beautiful anguish of failure amidst “try”—will shine as my invisible tattoo of a time well served.

MPH will always be my home. A birthplace if you will. And I want to leave things in order.

The greatness of what John, Mel, and BK are doing here has drawn many new faces into the fray of our daily WOD. The 5:00 PM class I call home once had two or three people; it now has 10, 12, 14—even 15 at times. More importantly, there was a time when I once knew everyone’s name. Now I find myself struggling to know half of the people sharing with me the best hour of the day. This is not good. And we should perhaps take a moment once again to get to know each other, shake hands and say “Hi, I am StuLu…would you like to see my etchings?” Really though, to make sure that every single person we hang next to on Big Red has a name and a badge in our hearts. And, that we share with each our passions, fears and bra size.

John may scoff at Facebook. And, while there is a certain curmudgeon charm to his approach, I will argue that getting to share a snapshot of each of our lives through social media has done wonders for knowing you all a bit more outside the realm of sweat and fist-pumps. Through our connections, virtual or real, we breathe and we actually live many wonderful and diverse experiences that, in so many ways, MPH helps us to relish even further. Tamra got a firecracker in the face and was hit by a car on Memorial Day. Steve D. ate chicken feet. Mayra has a thing for Oscar Mayer weiners. Tod is a Trekkie. Awesome stuff! Give me more.

It’s time to connect again. A goodbye from one can be the embrace of many. I am Stuart Holbrook. Friend me.

The greatest gift we can ever give back to MPH—the assurance of its longevity—is what we give to each other. Friendship. Support. Occasional trash-talk. Sure, we will get great coaching regardless of this, but the ultimate success of MPH relies on our love for each other.

Now: Group Hug.

I will be doing my daily WOD at Crossfit Annapolis from here on in. While I am sure it will be fine, it will never be my home. I will take what I have learned at MPH and make gains there, but I will never forget where I came from. Finally, I will join a new community and surely embrace it with StuLu gusto, but I will occasionally come back here, defying the adage that “you can never go home,” to be with the people who have given me so much in this last year—the people who taught me that it’s okay to hold on to the past as a push to be even better in the now. Every rep, every second, every moment in which I WOD, I will carry you all with me. Even Meg.

I am not saying goodbye. But, I will say thank you to a few people who made this year so special:

Dave O. — You are my hero. Life has thrown you some curveballs…but you have taught me how to reach out with the bat and turn those tough pitches into infield hits that somehow lead to a winning run.

Steve D. — The most misunderstood man at MPH. I get you. And I love you. A tuba-playing, chicken-feet-eating, hunk-of-a-dude with a heart of gold. Some might say your enthusiasm is contagious, but I think it’s your honesty and dedication that is infectious. Every squat I do in the future will be deep for you!

Rob — You are the Mambo Jambo. I always said that if the world went to hell in a hand basket I would want a good shotgun, a new pair of boots, and Rob by my side. (What is a hand basket? Can hell actually fit inside?)

Dave R. — My original CrossFit coach at Vida who told me to stop coming to see him and go to MPH, saying, “it is where you belong.” My happiest moment was to WOD next to you a few months later…and being able to give you shit for how slow your wall-balls are.

Ralph — For loving and kissing me every day. Will you send me an XOXO every once in a while? Also, you will now be doing a solo on the lululemon fashion stage of MPH…BE the catwalk baby…and never look at the crowd.

Tod — The only thing that exceeds your form as a human being is your form in an overhead squat. I always heard your words of encouragement with every lift and every second we worked out together, even if it seemed as if I was ignoring you.

Erez — Thanks for kindling in me a love of show-tunes, which I had been closeting all these years.

Amy S. — My fellow hockey lover. I will always cherish our “secret spot” at the Verizon Center Center to chat between periods. But my greatest memory of you will be that day that MPH was closed and we met to do a WOD together on the sidewalk. Like street urchins thrown out to our own devices…we worked the pavement.

Sid — My other fellow hockey lover (Why are they all women? Easy: Because women know what it takes to be a warrior in sports. They see the ass for the spandex.) You are a lovely human being. And the nights we sat next to each other at Verizon Center with Rudy were some of my best memories of last season.

The Ladies of lululemon — For making my day a bit brighter, my pecs appear a bit bigger, and for introducing capri pants that are a fantastic compliment to my buttocks.

J2 — Gone, but not forgotten. I miss you both. Whenever I feel sorry for myself in moving to Annapolis, I will always think of you both in that it could be worse: I could have moved to Dallas.

Josh O. — Mysterious. Stoic. Always a gentleman. You are the quintessential “Ice Man.” And I was proud to occasionally be your “wing-man” as you shoulder-pressed mini-vans and cargo jets.

Neil — Who proved my theory once and for all that being good at math has nothing to do with success in life. And, given that I am leaving, I hereby anoint you “The Mayor of Church St.”

Jeff W. — For making me feel better about my “Fran” time. We may both be “over 10,” but I can at least find solace in the fact that I usually come in faster than you. Not for long though I fear…

Jeremy N. — Who shared with me one of the best Caps games ever, and taught me that beef jerky at 7:00 AM can be quite delicious.

Joe P. — I take it back…if the world goes to hell in a hand basket I think I want Joe by my side…tough, strong, and can row my whole family to Tahiti in under an hour while cooking a moist and flaky halibut with a light olive tapenade.

Meg — I will see you in Pittsburgh on January 1. No need to look for me in the stands—you will hear me. Further, I may be moving away, but rest assured that I will haunt you from wherever I am for the remainder of your hockey life. That is unless you come to your senses and denounce the “dark side” of the Pens.

BK — Thanks for the encouragement, the humility in your drive, and for inventing the fantastic “BK Burpee”—which I will continue to demonstrate around the world in your honor. Truth is in the marketing…and I’m thinking we can go infomercial with it. “Lose weight, build muscle, all in 30 days with the ‘BK Burpee’!”

Mel — Thanks for putting up with me. And if you are ever feeling frisky and long for an evening of fish oil and lululemon window shopping I hope that you will give me a call. Seriously, I hope that you appreciate just how good you are…and how sexy I am.

John — I am proud to call you a friend. Which is why I beg you to burn the camo.

Finally, for those who peer through the window wondering what we do, for those who think that the monthly fee is too high and wonder if they can afford it, or for the others who think the routine to tough, I give you this, a quote from my father…a Frenchman per se: “If I had but two francs in my pocket I would spend one on bread to feed my stomach (or on goat’s kidneys in the case of Steve D.) and one on white hyacinths to feed my soul.”

I love you all…

–StuLu — 3, 2, 1: Gone.

9 Responses

  1. Dear Stulu,

    This is indeed sad news. In fact I had been ruing recently that I hadn’t been seeing much of you recently and not getting to work out with you either.

    Now this.

    While MPH will go on, you are one of the pillars of the community. Your presence, spirit, prose, fire, and love will be sorely missed.

    I’m sure I speak for everyone that you can always count MPH as your home. As for me, you are a friend, and I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your adventures in Annapolis.

    All the best, and I’ll never forget that Caps game!


  2. Stuart,

    As tough as I think I am sometimes I have to admit that as I read today’s post my heart sank and my eyes filled with tears. You have been and will always be a hero in my book. You have been such an incredible gift to the family at MPH in so many ways. Jeremy said it, your presence, spirit, prose, fire and I will add love of LuluLemon is unmatched by anyone I have ever known. While I have not gotten to know you as deeply as some of the other MPHers and Church Street dwellers, there has always been a real connection between us. Maybe it is our, height, age, wacky hair or just that we see a lot of life experience in each others eyes, but whatever it is know you will be truly missed by me.

    Family first is my motto and so I admire what you are doing for your family even though it means parting with the MPH family. But know this, even though you are physically not WODing with us, your spirit will be. I hope you will continue to post on the MPH blog as you travel the world and experience other Crossfit gyms…so many great posts from you. I will keep in touch through FB and don’t be surprised if I come join you for a WOD at Annapolis Crossfit every once in awhile. This is not a good bye, but just a see ya later. Take care and keep showing the young-uns what the over 40 athletes are capable of. All my best.

    Dave O.

    P.S. Nice pecs!

  3. My favorite StuLu moment…

    StuLu and I meet for one of his regular 4pm training sessions. Actually, today is far from regular; today is StuLu’s birthday. In the interest of celebration, I had previously agreed to let StuLu select his birthday WOD. With gleeful smile – clearly indicating he had no idea what he was in for – StuLu demanded Linda.

    For time:
    10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of
    1.5x bodyweight deadlift
    bodyweight bench press
    .75x bodyweight clean

    This workout is no gift – it’s more like a death sentence.

    We scaled appropriately and StuLu was off and lifting. Midway through round seven, I was no longer concerned he would not finish the workout. I was worried he would not survive the workout. Nervously tapping his right foot as sweat soaked though his Lululemon shirt, I fetched him a garbage can in the event Mr. Pukie decided to show up.

    48 minutes after 3-2-1 go, StuLu finished his final clean. A tremendous effort that has yet to be duplicated across the street from MPH.

    Continue to wreak havoc in Annapolis, StuLu. You have quit a reputation to live up to.

    dave r

  4. Who was the tall guy with the spiky hair who, the first time I met him, out-Ralphed Ralph as he pushed me through a rigorous thruster complex, and picked up his bar when he was done and matched me thrust for thrust?
    Who was this guy who provided me more insights and laughs while he was on the road than anyone I come in contact with on a daily basis?
    Who is this guy who makes me think I actually ought to do something with that FB account I set up years ago to track down one of the children – in order to have a deeper appreciation for a community he activated?
    Who is this guy who became an anchor in all our hearts, regardless of whether we had the chance to work out with him or not?
    StuLu – a true kamikaze- divine wind – a game changer. You are and will be a phenomenal friend and father and moving to Annapolis will be beautiful for you and your family.
    I just wonder what the “StuLu” WOD – and what the dress code – will be on the 15th. Godspeed, StuLu. Your valedictory essay is among your very best – truly a gift that will keep on giving. I want to say, “say it ain’t so”, because I truly feel it, but I know you’ll be redolent of white hyacinths wherever you flit in your spandex capris.


  5. Friends, In between packing my LuLu Lemon outfits and my Martin Margiela wardrobe for the move I came here and saw all of this. I am in tears right now…really – I am. What beautiful people you all are!

    Also, it occurred to me that I left out a number of people to personally thank (and jest) in my haste to get this to John before it was too late. For that I am sorry. One more however:

    IvyF – You are my headmistress. Every time I fail at a heavy lift I always imagine that a voice will come over a loudspeaker saying “Stuart Holbrook, please report to Mrs. FInkenstadt’s office immediately.” Ivy, you are woman…and I hear you roar.

  6. Stulu,

    It makes my heart heavy to hear that you are leaving us. I did not get to work out with you as much as I would have liked but I enjoyed the times that we tackled workouts together. Your enthusiasm and way with words in the middle of a workout will be missed, not soon to be replaced. I hope that we can still count on seeing blog posts by you from time to time, and I know you will always have a place at MPH whenever you are able to visit. It has been a pleasure getting to know you both in and out of the gym. The caps games I attended with you were great, both for the hockey and the company. I know you will be a great addition to crossfit annapolis and I hope Annapolis provides all that you could want for your family.


  7. Dearest StuLu,
    You are such a wonderful person. We will truly miss your presence at MPH, but I hope I can offer a perspective for you and for the rest of us that “we can make the distance work.” Surely, your daily life will be lived in Annapolis, and ours will be here in DC, but it’s really not that far. My husband works there, and we get out there almost every weekend during the school year. It may very well be possible to plan on a WOD or two with Crossfit Annapolis. And, what a better way to spread the MPH love than reach out to do some sort of a regional event with CFA? Anything is possible. . .

    We love you and will see you ’round 🙂

    Mrs. Ivy Finkenstadt.

    P.S. thanks for the shout out. You may report to my office any time.

  8. Stulu: we are definitely going to miss you. Try to make it back as much as possible. The best part of the day is going to be a little worse without you.

    Hopefully, I’ll see you at the Caps games this winter!

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