Bearcats partying like it’s 1995

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Burlingame finished the regular season with a 20-2 record, reaching a state tournament for the first time since 1995. The Bearcats hadn’t won 20 games in a season since 1995-96.

The last time Burlingame’s boys basketball team played in a state tournament, Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was a top-10 hit, “Seinfeld” was No. 2 in the TV ratings (behind “E.R.”) and “Seven” was a revelation on the big screen.

Twenty-two years. It’s been a long drought for the Bearcats, whose last appearance at state was in 1995. The players on the current team were several years away from being born, virtually nobody had any clue what the Internet was, and Hootie and the Blowfish was the most popular band on the planet.

Burlingame hadn’t been to a state tournament since 1950 before that season, so advancing to the Class 2A tournament in Manhattan was special. I remember it well because I was a freshman at Kansas State.

While most of the town drove the 70 miles from Burlingame to the Little Apple, my roommate Steve, also a BHS alumnus, and father walked from Marlatt Hall to Bramlage Coliseum. We arrived early enough to catch most of the opening game that day, which pitted No. 1 seed Frankfort against No. 8 seed Inman, both traditional state powers.

That game was memorable for several reasons. For starters, Inman pulled off a stunning upset, rolling past the Wildcats 78-65. The most memorable thing about that game was an athletic guard named Greg Friesen, who willed his team to the win with 37 points. Time and time again, Friesen slashed through Frankfort’s defense for short jumpers and layups.

Frankfort had a great player of its own, an all-state guard who scored 28 points on an array of floaters, long jumpers and drives to the basket. I remember watching that senior walk off the court with his head down, his high school career over much sooner than he expected.

Little did I know that I’d meet that Frankfort player in, of all places, Centre, at the end of the 2007 season. An assistant coach introduced him to me after Burlingame’s 70-65 loss to White City in a regional semifinal game. I remember talking to him about that 1995 game. All these years later, he still hasn’t watched tape of that loss to Inman.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m talking about Creighton Winters, the longtime coach who took over the program in 2005, battled through the occasional lean year and has put together perhaps the best team in school history in 2016-17.

For the longest time in Burlingame, the biggest problem was that a coach wouldn’t stick around. It’s impossible to build a program when you don’t have consistency.

About the time Winters started at BHS, the youth programs in Burlingame finally had traction. A few years later, a group of boys began playing basketball together. By the time they got to junior high, they simply didn’t lose. By the time they got to high school, Burlingame was ready to build a program. A few years later, those boys were ranked among the top five teams in Class 1A-Division I.

Going into the final weeks of the season, Burlingame appeared to be the favorite to win a tough sub-state in Olpe. The Bearcats were hot after losing in the Lyon County League tournament, using a close loss to Lebo to fuel a dominant second half of the season.

Then, of course, came a devastating injury when their starting point guard suffered a torn ACL in the final game of the regular season. I’d seen the look on Winters’ face after the game before, back in 1995 in Manhattan.

Many, including myself, felt the injury was going to cost Burlingame its first state tournament bid in decades. Fortunately, we were wrong. The Bearcats, a tough, gritty group, put on an impressive display of teamwork in sub-state, crushing a dangerous Southern Coffey County team and smothering a Lebo team with 10 seniors to end the long drought.

The community finally got a taste of success during the past two football seasons with trips to the Eight-Man I semifinals. Now, it gets another bite in the form of a three-hour drive to Hays for a state tournament.

Burlingame has ended a number of droughts in the last few years, including trips to the state semifinals in football, league titles in football and basketball, and a trip to a state basketball tournament. It’s about time another one comes to an end: winning a game at state, something the Bearcats have never done.

The last time Burlingame played in a state tournament, it played a Berean Academy team that had virtually no tradition. In the 22 years since, the Warriors have been to several state tournaments and won a championship in 2010. Let’s hope this year kick-starts a similar run for the Bearcats.

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Webb: Ventura will always throw fire

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World Series - San Francisco Giants v Kansas City Royals - Game Two

Yordano Ventura will always be remembered for “Let’s throw fire.”

“Let’s throw fire.”

Those three words became Yordano Ventura’s calling card during a career and life that was far too short, yet long on promise. I still can’t believe he’s dead at 25 years old, a shooting star who often burned so brightly but was gone in the blink of an eye.

As I woke Sunday morning and grabbed my phone, I couldn’t believe what I was reading: “Reports: Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura dead at age 25.” Perhaps I didn’t believe it at first. Maybe I was in shock.

When it became apparent that it wasn’t just a rumor, I didn’t throw fire. I threw water, as in a stream of tears, sobbing for a good 15 minutes. Yordano Ventura, the sometimes-frustrating, always-entertaining, firestorm of a pitcher is gone.

The lasting memory of Ventura will be the dominating performance in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series. With the season on the line, the 23-year-old throttled San Francisco to force a Game 7. He threw seven shutout innings, capping a World Series in which he pitched 12 1/3 innings, allowed two runs and had a 1.46 ERA. Without the heroics of Madison Bumgarner, he likely would have been the MVP as a rookie.

After an impressive rookie season (14-10, 3.20 ERA), the expectations exploded. Ventura didn’t handle it well the next two seasons, often struggling. He was about to be demoted in 2015 before Jason Vargas’ injury forced the Royals to bring him back before he reached Omaha.

He also started slowly last season before heating up during the summer months.

But the promise was always there. As a Royals fan, you didn’t miss a Ventura start. There always was a chance he’d dazzle, torching hitters with a triple-digit fastball and embarrassing them with a knee-buckling curve.

One of the last starts of his life was one of the most electrifying. On a hot day in late September, “Ace” mowed down the White Sox in the only nine-inning complete game of his career. Ventura often couldn’t find the strike zone, but on this day, he threw 72 strikes in 106 pitches. It was the kind of performance we hoped he’d deliver consistently.

Ventura also will be remembered for being temperamental. He wasn’t liked across baseball, drawing the ire of opponents after plunking them with 95-mph heaters, staring down hitters and igniting a couple of brawls.

As frustrating as he was, however, he was one of us, Forever Royal.

I’ll remember the exaggerated leg kick after blowing away a hitter. I’ll remember him staring down Troy Tulowitzki after freezing him with a filthy curve in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS. I’ll remember that he spent the day after the heartbreak of losing Game 7 of the 2014 World Series playing softball with children. I’ll remember that electric smile.

Above all, I’ll remember “Let’s throw fire.”

Webb: Missouri needs to move on from good guy/bad hire

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Missouri’s loss to Eastern Illinois was the latest in a string of embarrassing losses under third-year coach Kim Anderson, who has lost 49 games in two-and-a-half seasons.

“I feel bad for Kim Anderson. I really want this to work for him. I want him to win big at Missouri.”

That or some variation of if has been posted on Twitter, Facebook and message boards across the Internet. If you’re a Missouri fan, you want Anderson succeed.

It’s not happening.

If back-to-back 20-loss seasons weren’t enough to prove that, Saturday’s embarrassing home loss to another directional school, Eastern Illinois, should be plenty of evidence.

Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Anderson is 24-49. Twenty-four and forty-nine. He’s winning less than one-third of his games, and he’s doing it in front of some of the smallest crowds in school history.

Anderson inherited a mess. Former director Mike Alden lit the atomic bomb by meddling with a successful coach (Mike Anderson) and hiring a career con man (Frank Haith). The latter nuked the program in just three years, leaving behind a slew of NCAA infractions and a depleted roster.

Alden ended up settling for Anderson, a True Son, national champion at the University of Central Missouri and a great man. Unfortunately, despite those enviable qualities, it was the worst hire Alden could have made.

It was obvious early on that Anderson was in over his head. In his first game, he lost to UMKC 69-61 at home. In less than three years, Anderson has lost to several mid-majors, including two this season in North Carolina Central and Eastern Illinois. Against power conference opponents, he is 6-44. Six and forty-four.

After two miserable seasons in which he went a combined 19-44, Anderson finally did what he should have in his first season with a complete overhaul, resulting in a roster that consists of 11 freshmen and sophomores.

With one of the youngest teams in the country, growing pains were and are expected. But Missouri should not lose to MEAC and Ohio Valley Conference teams at home. That points to a lack of talent and a lack of coaching said talent.

Anderson can no longer say he isn’t coaching his players. This roster is his. It’s also one of the reasons he needs to be replaced. If he can’t recruit high-major talent, he shouldn’t be coaching in a major conference.

At the very least, after two years, the program should show signs of progress. The most depressing thing about Missouri basketball is that the players are regressing. Whatever confidence they had after pushing national power Xavier a month ago is long gone.

Anderson came to Missouri needing a backhoe to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, he brought a spoon.

Webb: Because they’re winners, Bearcats will learn from loss

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Burlingame finished the 2016 season at 11-1 and in the state semifinals for the second straight year. The Bearcats should be a state title contender next season.

There are few redeeming qualities about a loss. It stings. It makes you angry. It makes you sad. It can be devastating, especially when it ends your season and you have a four-hour bus ride home to think about it.

I can only imagine how Burlingame’s football team felt Friday night in Osborne as virtually nothing went right in the final game of a season in which virtually everything went right.

It reminded me of arguably Burlingame’s best team in the two decades leading up to this current group’s wildly successful run that has included back-to-back Lyon County League and district championships and trips to the Eight-Man I semifinals.

In 1991, the Bearcats had a team that many believed could make a deep run in the playoffs. Six games into the season, much of that hope had faded during a 2-4 start (keep in mind that the LCL was brutal in the early 1990s, featuring traditional powers Olpe, Waverly and Lebo).

By the time October rolled around, few had Burlingame getting through a district that included a good Alma-Wabaunsee team. The Bearcats rolled past Marais des Cygnes Valley and Lyndon to reach the .500 mark and set up a showdown in Alma for a trip to the playoffs.

That game, in late October, is one of the most memorable at Burlingame, partly because it was played during a snowstorm. My memories of that game include giant space heaters on the sideline, one of our assistant coaches (I’m talking about you, John Lujano) pacing the sideline in a short-sleeve shirt in sub-zero temperatures and a field on which only the yard lines were cleared.

Time and time again, a player broke into the clear, only to slip and fall on several inches of ice inside the yard lines. On one of the few times a player didn’t slip, Brandon Masters found just enough traction to burst up the middle and into the end zone in double overtime to clinch a playoff bid.

The weather was so awful that week that our opening-round game was postponed until a week later on a Saturday night. Awaiting Burlingame in the first round: Big, bad Waverly, a team that hammered the Bearcats during the regular season.

Memories of that game also are vivid. The coaching staff made a great decision, moving a bullish, powerful lineman to fullback to counter Waverly’s physical defense. Time and time again, said fullback barreled into linebackers, who bounced off him like pinballs.

Burlingame dominated the game, marching up and down the field with ease. Unfortunately, turnovers and penalties squelched many of those drives. Burlingame had the ball inside the 5 in the closing minute, only to be flagged for three straight holding calls. I also remember that a long field goal as time expired in regulation looked true until curving wide left by a foot.

What I remember the most is how we lost. On fourth-and-goal from the 1 in overtime, Masters bounced off left tackle and dove for the end zone. As the team stats geek, I was watching on the goal line. There is no doubt in my mind he scored. In fact, his upper body, with the ball, was in the end zone. The officials ruled he did not score. Waverly scored two plays later, gutting the team and town.

That was the first time I’d seen many of my classmates cry. Some of the toughest kids I knew were devastated. In many ways, it felt like it set the tone for the next two decades of football.

There aren’t many comparisons between the 1991 and 2016 Bearcats. The former scrapped its way into the playoffs and wasn’t considered a state championship contender. The latter rolled through the regular season like an F5 tornado, cutting a swath through a schedule loaded with playoff teams.

What the teams do have in common is that they brought the community together. Both of these runs, first in the early 1990s and now in the mid-2010s, came after long droughts. Friday Night Lights are no longer dim in Burlingame, they’re illuminating.

The 2016 team had loftier goals than getting back to the state semifinals. They expected to win the school’s first championship since 1972. They fell short, and that’s something they’re going to remember.

Almost all of these kids are back next season, and they’ll learn from this loss, because they’re winners.

 

 

 

Webb: So, So, Soria, Royals

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Some folks say Joakim Soria has been unlucky all season. Coughing up the go-ahead run 11 times in 60 appearances is a trend, not bad luck.

Baseball is a team sport. Blaming one player typically is short-sighted. In 2016, there’s been plenty of blame to go around for the Kansas City Royals. The offense is among the worst in baseball. The starting rotation has been mediocre to awful much of the season. The Royals just have not been good enough in clutch situations.

BUT, no player has hurt his team more than Joakim Soria. Yes, Alex Gordon has been terrible in the first year of a big contract extension. And, yes, Chris Young and Kris Medlen have done virtually nothing. But Soria has been atrocious.

After another meltdown on Sunday in yet another crushing loss, Soria has given up the go-head run 13 times this season. THIRTEEN. The “Mexicutioner” has been just that to his team, allowing the go-ahead run in more than 20 percent of his 60 appearances.

Of those 13 games, the Royals have lost 11. ELEVEN. If they win five of those games, Kansas City would be tied for the second wild-card and contending with Cleveland in the Central.

General Manager Dayton Moore has done a wonderful job in Kansas City. He’s taken a perennial loser to a world championship and perennial contention. But to say his offseason, including signing Soria, Gordon and Young, has been awful would be an understatement.

The Royals are not going to cut Soria loose. He’s still owed nearly $20 million and signed through 2018. My guess is Moore brings in another reliever next season (Greg Holland, please) as insurance for Soria and releases him early in 2018 if his performance holds steady, as I expect (Soria’s been average to bad for a while now).

A quick breakdown of Soria’s one-man assault on Kansas City’s season:

April 8: Royals 4, Twins 3 | 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER | 1-0

After entering the game in the eighth, Soria serves up a one-out homer to Byung Ho Park. The Royals rally in the bottom of the inning on Salvador’s Perez RBI triple and Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly.

APRIL 17: Athletics 3, Royals 2 | 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER | 1-1

Soria enters a tie game in the eighth, giving up a leadoff triple to Billy Burns and a sacrifice fly to Josh Reddick.

MAY 10: Yankees 10, Royals 7 | 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER | 1-2

Moments after Lorenzo Cain’s third homer of the game pulls Kansas City even, Soria falls apart after Ben Gamel reaches on an error by Alcides Escobar. Brett Gardner follows with a go-ahead double, Starlin Castro is hit by a pitch, and Brian McCann rips a two-run double.

JUNE 2: Indians 5, Royals 4 | 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R | 1-3

The Royals take a 4-3 lead to the ninth, but Carlos Santana singles to start the inning, scores on Francisco Lindor’s one-out triple, and Mike Napoli wins it with a sac fly.

JUNE 22: Mets 4, Royals 3 | 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R | 1-4

In a 3-3 game in the sixth, Soria coughs up a home run to some guy named Matt Reynolds. Not Mark Reynolds. Matt Reynolds.

JUNE 29: Royals 3, Cardinals 2 | 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R | 2-4

After the pitching staff shut down St. Louis for nine innings, Soria surrenders a leadoff homer to Stephen Piscotty to tie it in the 10th. The Royals eventually win 3-2 in 12.

JULY 15: Tigers 4, Royals 2 | 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R | 2-5

The only game on this list in which Soria wasn’t charged for the deciding run. After Luke Hochevar gives up a homer to tie the score at 2 and the next two baserunners reach, Soria walks Cameron Maybin and somehow strikes out Miguel Cabrera. But he fails to glove a comebacker by Victor Martinez, allowing two runs to score.

JULY 17: Tigers 4, Royals 2 | 0 IP, 2 H, 2 R | 2-6

In a 2-2 game in the ninth, Soria gives up a leadoff single to Tyler Collins and a long home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

AUG. 5: Rays 3, Royals 2 | 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R | 2-7

Soria blows a 2-0 lead quickly in the eighth, as Logan Forsythe singles and Kevin Kiermaier walks. One out later, Brad Miller launches a three-run homer.

AUG. 30: Yankees 5, Royals 4 | 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R | 2-8

Tied 4-4 in the 10th, Soria gives up back-to-back singles to McCann and Chase Headley before recording consecutive strikeouts. Despite getting ahead 0-2, he walks Gardner, then falls down on a grounder back to the mound, allowing the winning run to score.

SEPT. 3: Tigers 6, Royals 5 | 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R | 2-9

Kansas City leads 5-4 in the eighth when Cabrera singles to start the inning and scores on a home run by Justin Upton with two outs.

Not exactly pretty. Four times in these 11 games, the Royals have led when Soria entered. They’ve lost each of those. Win those games, and they’re tied with Baltimore for the final playoff spot.

SEPT. 7: Twins 6, Royals 5 | 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2R | 2-10

Kansas City leads 4-3 in the seventh when Soria gives up a leadoff single to Brian Dozier, who steals second with one out. Miguel Sano doubles to tie the game, and Eduardo Escobar singles off Matt Strahm with two outs for the go-ahead run, which is charged to Soria.

SEPT. 13: Athletics 5, Royals 4 | 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R | 2-11

The Royals lead 3-2 in the eighth when, for some reason, Yost summons Soria with runners on first and second and two outs. Because that’s what garbage do, Soria coughs up a two-run double to Yonder Alonso and an RBI single to Marcus Simien.

Webb: Words of wisdom for my son on his first job

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Life and work lessons from my father in 2013 during one of his biggest shows, where Rory found time to have fun while helping my dad run his booth in St. Charles, Missouri. Dad actually paid him, too. He did not pay his son. Work ethic runs in the family. I often envy my father for running his own business for 40 years.

A year into a job search, my son was frustrated. At one point after a promising interview didn’t result in work, he was exasperated: “Am I ever going to get a job?”

For those who don’t know Rory, he is autistic. Many things are a struggle. He thinks differently than most of us do, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. In fact, he has an admirable work ethic and gets more done around the house than any of us.

After graduating high school in 2014, Rory worked for his grandfather for several months, helping him remodel the in-laws’ home, among many other tasks. When he came home a year ago, he was eager to begin a career in Kansas City.

We did the best we could to help. My wife and mother-in-law took him job-hunting. He did exhaustive searches online. He even had a job coach. Nothing panned out.

Finally, more than a year into looking, a friend of the wife tipped us off on a gig that looked like a perfect fit at Waldo Pizza. On the night before the interview, Rory and I went over questions, and I ironed a pair of pants and shirt so he’d look the part. I’ve never enjoyed ironing clothes until that moment.

A few days after the interview, Rory told us that he had an email from the manager at Waldo. My wife opened it to discover that he was on the work schedule! He started on Monday and has thoroughly enjoyed his first two days of work. Most importantly, he’s proud and happy. That’s all you can ask for as a parent.

When he graduated, I wrote a blog to Rory offering him advice on being a man. Now that he’s secured a job, who better to offer advice about work than somebody who worked at six newspapers in 10 years and has had nine jobs in 17? (To be fair, most of those jobs were promotions, and I’ve never been fired or laid off).

Work hard: This will be easy for you. You already do it. Remember that you will never be successful without hard work.

Don’t work too hard: This is an easy mistake to make. There are times I look back on my career, especially in newspapers, and realize I did not take time to enjoy life. Work isn’t everything.

Learn as much as you can: This probably won’t be your last job. Take in as much as you can to prepare you for your next job. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Know that you can’t please everybody: Regardless of how hard you try, someone is going to be unhappy. Don’t take it personally. Be courteous, kind and respectful. Remember that your job is to serve your customers.

The customer usually is right: At some point, your patience will be tested. Keep your cool, smile and say “thank you.”

Always say “thank you”: “Thank you” is the most important phrase in any workplace, not only to customers, but also co-workers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: This will not be easy. You’re going to find that little things will gnaw at you, but don’t let them consume you. Focus on the positive.

Don’t be the suck-up: Every workplace has at least one. Be respectful, but don’t compromise your integrity. Rely on your work ethic and performance. That should always be good enough.

Build your network: More now than ever, it’s who you know. Build relationships with your co-workers. Those connections will lead to another job someday.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind: Honesty in the workplace isn’t guaranteed, but you can control your truth. Speak up if you have something to say. Be courteous and thoughtful in your delivery, and you’ll be respected for it.

Don’t worry too much about money: Said best by a journalist, right? Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Do not keep a job that you’re miserable in just for the money. Take less money if you’re going to be happy. That said, don’t take a job that leads to living in a van down by the river.

One last thing: I am proud of you, son.

 

 

Webb: Last run was last straw for my body

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By the time I’d shaved more than six minutes off my personal best in a 5K, I was hopelessly addicted to running. Now, I haven’t jogged in 100 days.

I still get a little melancholy when I see people jogging. It’s a reminder that I haven’t worked out in three months and that I’ve been battling Epstein-Barr Virus since mid-April. To put it in perspective, I didn’t go more than three days without exercising from the summer of 2011 through April 2016, nearly five years.

Only twice in those five years did I go more than three or four days without running, both

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Shin splints prevented me from running for three weeks. I still worked out twice a day.

due to injury. In 2012, I ran into shin splints. More specifically, I didn’t stop running when I felt a burning sensation in my shins. I could barely walk the next day and didn’t run for nearly three weeks (I fed my exercise addition on the elliptical machine and on free weights).

Last summer, I went a few weeks without running after my only fall since the fitness makeover began in 2010. That fall, due to running in a construction zone at night, produced an ankle sprain and a quarter-sized gash on my knee cap. I survived the running drought with a heavy dose (sometimes twice a day) of weight lifting.

I’ve written about the impact my exercise addiction had on my health, from providing me with an excuse (an extremely poor one) for a bad diet full of soda, cheese and junk food, to feeding a virus that was hiding and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

That opportunity came a few weeks after a glaring warning signal from my body in the form of three days of a sore throat, extreme fatigue and throbbing headache. As soon as I felt mildly better, I went back to working out (with the clearance of a nurse practitioner).

I did back off a routine that included working out twice a day for two to three hours, exercising only once a day for a week. Within two weeks of that warning sign, I was back to old habits, eating poorly and working out far too much. It didn’t matter that I still felt sluggish.

My body finally raised the white flag on the weekend of April 30. On that morning, my stepson and I drove to Coyote Canyon in Topeka to attend a fundraiser for my nephew’s baseball team. I gorged on a breakfast buffet loaded with dairy and meat, figuring I would run later on to “work it off.”

After several hours of researching the Brenda Keller murder case for a graduate school project at the library, the breakfast bonanza still hadn’t settled. I felt terrible when we got home and slept for several hours.

True to form, I woke up early in the evening, put on my running gear and told my wife I was going to run. She said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I know you’re going to do it anyway.”

She was right on both counts. I felt terrible as the run began, struggling to breathe as fatigue gripped my body. I turned toward a stretch of hills thinking I should just stop and call it a day. As always, I pressed on, gutting out several hills until I hit the two-mile mark and stopped to walk for about a quarter mile.

“I’m going to pay for this” kept running through my mind. My stomach hurt. My head was

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Thumbs-up to working out smartly.

throbbing. My throat was soar. My breathing was shallow. My resolve, however, was not. I started running again, obsessed with hitting four miles (a relatively short run compared to most during the past few years).

After managing to finish, I downed a large glass of cold water, went upstairs and lay on the floor for 30 minutes. All I could think was, “I’m going to pay for this.”

I didn’t feel well the next day. I was tired. I also didn’t like what the scale said after Saturday’s breakfast barrage. That meant one thing: I had to work out. Instead of running, I lifted for more than an hour, finishing, as always, drenched in sweat and even more tired than the previous night.

Those were my last hardcore workouts. I tried to run the next morning, but my body wouldn’t have it. It’d had enough. I spent a few minutes on the elliptical and walked for about a week before a competent doctor confirmed that I had EBV.

Tomorrow marks 100 days since the last time I ran. I haven’t lifted a weight in 99 days. But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Listen to your body … and to your doctor when he tells you it isn’t healthy to work out 15 hours a week.