Today’s topic is the WSTB — the Work Sample Test Battery — the standard physical agility test that anyone and everyone must pass in order to graduate from the public safety training program in which I’m currently enrolled. A non-pass/fail benchmark version was administered last Saturday to show each of us in the class where we each were at individually. Not coincidentally it’s the same exact test I took 17 months ago when applying to the institution.

The WSTB is comprised of five events, each one timed:

  • 99-Yard Obstacle Course
  • 6-Foot Solid Fence Climb (finished with 25-yard run)
  • 6-Foot Chain Link Fence Climb (finished with 25-yard run)
  • Body Drag (165-pound dummy dragged 32 feet)
  • 500-Yard Run

Readers of this blog with exceptional memories might remember that I wrote about my “triumph” at getting over the solid fence after I took that first test back in August 2011. The rest of you can refresh yourself with that post here, if you wish.

We were given our results from Saturday’s test last night and because I’m a comparison geek and very proud of the across-the-board improvements I’ve made between the two administrations of the WSTB separated by almost 1.5 years, I thought I’d lay down my results side by side:

 Event  August 26, 2011  January 26, 2013
 99-Yard Obstacle Course  19.4 seconds (179 points)  18.3 seconds (193 points)
 Solid Fence Climb  13.6 seconds (87 points)  7.3 seconds (177 points)
 Chain Link Fence Climb  8.2 seconds (75 points)  7.7 seconds (80 points)
 Body Drag  5.2 seconds (55 points)  4.5 seconds (57 points)
 500-Yard Run  129 seconds (25 points)  103 seconds (33 points)

Points are awarded based on an individual’s finishing time in each event, with those points obtained from the obstacle course and the two fence climbs comprising the largest percentage. Minimum passing score is 384 points, and if you happen to be blessed with super human speed and strength, you can actually get all those points from the obstacle course and the solid fence climb. For the rest of us mere mortals, the chain link fence and body drag and 500-yard run are needed to fill in the shortfall.

On August 26, 2011, I rumbled and bumbled (rather humbled) across the finish line with a total of 421 points. On January 26, 2013, I comparatively cruised to a score of 540. Though the differences in times are minimal in several cases, I’m hugely pleased to have shaved a full second off the obstacle course and 26 seconds in the run. But clearly the greatest gain both in time and points came from the success I had in getting over the solid fence.

But we’re just getting started. This initial test was basically a status update. We do it all over with a mid-term in March and then a final in April (and “final” is the operative word: pass and continue on, fail and be dismissed entirely from the program). Rather than rest on what I was able to achieve this past weekend, you can bet in the time between now and then I’ll be taking opportunities that will allow me to increase my individual and overall scores.

Did I forget to mention…?

Yeah: I’ve become  un porteur des lunettes — a spectacles bearer… a wearer of the eyeglasses. Not just any of the variety of shades I’m usually found in whenever I’m outside (or the over-the-counter readers when I’m trying to make out the fine print on something around the house), but actually prescription lenssesses.

Had my first eye exam in about a decade and a half earlier this month, and the results came back — no surprise — that my vision was no longer perfect, and thus the optometrist recommended I join the ranks of the glasses-wearing public. I labored over the choice of frames, and then anguished over choosing the ridiculously expensive Oakley offering picture above.

But you know what? I like ’em. And since the last pair of custom regular sunglasses I had made at Lenscrafters lasted me 13 years, with fingers crossed against any worsening of my vision, these should last me about as long. And that makes the sticker shock a little more endurable when spread out over a decade-plus.

On September 21, I wrote about how it was waaaaay too soon for me to be stepping onto the scale and having it read 200.6. The previous day I’d dropped to a new low at that point of 203 pounds and it was just completely anomalous for me to follow-up the very next weigh-in with another such big drop.

As such I violated my rule of weighing myself one-time-and-one-time-only each day and recording the result whether it was fantastic, depressing or indifferent, and I stepped on the scale again immediately, wherein the numbers read 204.4 — a far more realistic measurement.

I might not have re-weighed that day if it had read 201-something, but because the 200 mark is almost as monumental a milestone as my ultimate diet goal of 190, I wanted the achievement to be legit and inline chronologically with my roughly pound-a-week loss program, not the result of a fluke or the scale’s failing battery.

That’s why, almost four weeks after that September surprise, when I stepped on the scale this morning I just flat out accepted it and figuratively high-fived myself when it read:


Honestly, I can’t pinpoint when I was last 200 pounds. All I remember is that I was sub-200 throughout high school so  it was probably nineteen hundred hellyeah and eighty three-ish for those of you-ish keeping score at home.

As to anyone looking for a more visual quantification, behold below my torso in a relic I’ve never ever before been able to comfortably wear for the 22 years, 6 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days I’ve owned it — a memento from my participation in the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon that took place on April 1, 1990, in Griffith Park. I kid you not, even on the day of the event my extra-large frame (augmented by an even more extra-large spare tire) was too wide for this slim-fit tee:


I have one simple rule regarding my daily diet routine. When I step on the scale each morning I do it one time and one time only and take the numbers it gives back to me. Step on. Read. Step off. If the scale says I’ve gained five pounds since I weighed myself yesterday? Then I gained five pounds since I weighed myself yesterday. No double-checking.

I broke that simple rule this morning. Not because the news was so bad. But because the news was good. WAY too good.

Yesterday I weighed in at 203 pounds — a new low and completely legit.

Today, I figured I’d rebound up about a pound or so into the 204 zone, but when I stepped on the scale it very quickly showed me something that filled me both with glee and doubt:


One part of my mind did joyful backflips as I went wide-eyed at such a surprise descent to so ginormous a milestone: Two-hundred-point-six!

But the rational part of my consciousness shook its side of my head vehemently and told me that can’t be right. That I must’ve stepped on precisely during a microcosmic and momentary flux in the earth’s gravitational pull.

I hesitated for a moment, both sides battling. And stepped on again. This time, the scale said:


Which is what I expected in the first place. I wasn’t at all disappointed with the new number. I was bummed that I broke my rule. It’s happened in the past, going both ways.  Over the course of the 30 pounds I’ve lost since March, I’ve had sudden inexplicable swings of upwards or downwards of three or four pounds, and I haven’t blinked. As I continue on my way down to my goal of 190 by the end of the year they’re destined to happen again.

But there’s something about the sacred 200 mark that I just wasn’t ready to embrace and accept. It was like a gift that came too early or wasn’t yet deserved. I want it to be legit rather than a fluke. Sure, I’ll get there in a couple/three weeks, but without the help of any gravitational anomalies.

All my life I have been pull-up challenged… barely able to get my chin up over the bar more than two times (and that’s with a bit of a jump up to the first one, and not going down all the way before the second). Now, I’m in an educational program that includes a strong emphasis on upper body strength and I’ve no choice but confront the phobia I have for that exercise and get myself fit enough to crank a few out.

Given my admission at being a lifelong pull-up failure, the first five you see me do in the doorway in this video below may seem like a miracle, but sharp eyes will be able to spot my secret weapon (certainly it’s more visible in the slower second five): a heavy-duty resistance band I purchased online (here at

It’s without a doubt a total game changer. Up until its arrival I’d been trying to increase the strength in my arms shoulders, back and chest primarily with push-ups, TRX Suspension Strap exercises, and by getting my chin over the bar and doing static hangs for 15-20 seconds. This giant rubber band, choked around the bar and looped under my knee, literally turns my 205 pound body into about 140 pounds, allowing me to repetitively do the full range of a pull-up motion and actually work the muscles involved.

Right now, 10 is pretty much my limit, but I’m doing 10 to 15 sets a day, basically every time I pass by the doorway. Before long I’ll be getting stronger doing 15, then 20, then 25… then who knows: maybe 3 or 4  or 5 on my own without the band. That’s literally something of which I NEVER thought I was capable. But now it’s literally within my reach.

The scale this morning read 204.2. Subtract that from the weight of 234.8 from which I started this downward journey on March 1 and the result is I crossed over the milestone of 30 pounds lost.

In terms of my overall goal, I’ve changed things up a bit and gone with a longer view. These past few months my aim has been to lose four to five pounds a month, but since that’s what I’ve proven to be averaging across this past half-year, rather than continue to go for short yardage, I instead went deep down field with my next deadline. My aim now is to reach 190 pounds by January 1, 2013.

New Year’s resolutions don’t get any better than achieving them on day one.

PS. To celebrate, I bought a pair of 36-inch-waist pants yesterday. After 25-plus years of never buying anything less than 38s (at best… 44s at my heaviest point), that was REALLY nice.

Me in 2000 as a 270-pound stand in for Bob's Big BoyBack in January 2006 when I was sitting very uncomfortably at 263 pounds, I signed up for a free account on and began monitoring and controlling the calories I put in and put out (by way of visual reference, the picture at right was taken in 2000 when I was closer to 270 at the time).

Six months later I stood on a scale that read 208 having removed 55 pounds.

It was inconceivable that I’d gotten down to a weight I hadn’t been at since my early 20s. But in hindsight what was more unbelievable was that I stopped so short of my then-original goal to lose 10 more get below 200 pounds for the first time since high school.

I shouldn’t say unbelievable because I know why I stopped. Getting down those last pounds to 208 had been arduous and frustrating. Losing the first 45 had been a relative breeze, but I’d hit the wall at 220, and losing that last 10 was real mental and physical work. Plus, I was rightfully proud of myself for getting to where I did — and I felt damn good about it.

What’s another 10 pounds, I rationalized.

Not much, really. Unless you start going back in the wrong direction, which I did, to about 215. I maintained that for well over a year but by 2008 I was back up in my 220s and eating a LOT of junk. The only thing that kept the rise in check was the 6,000 miles of bike commuting I was doing annually up until the middle of 2010, when I opted to start working from home. At that point, the biking literally evaporated and the weight really started to add up. In a couple months I was up into the mid-230s, and I briefly marshaled the resolve to diet my way back down to 220. By October 2010 I was there, but so was that wall again.

And back up I went. I was two-hundredfucking-forty when I struggled through the Rio Hondo physical agility test a year ago. Seven months later when I stepped on the scale at 234.8 on March 1, with the academy set to announce its start date on any day, I grabbed the reins and took control again. This time I didn’t even think about the wall. I welcomed the wall. I dared the wall to beat me.

Last week I hit 208. This morning the scale showed me 205. To counter the picture I led this post with, here I am July 10 at about 210:

This time, I’m not stopping until I get to 194 — the significance of which has to do simply with that number being about three-quarters of a pound below what the intractable Body Mass Index chart indicates as a “unhealthy” weight for anyone 6’2″ tall. I’m healthy now, but all my adult life I’ve winced at being categorized by the BMI as “obese.” Certainly at 263 or in that picture I was physically. At 208, statistically.

I won’t be anymore. Not physically. Not numerically.

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