This week's episode with CrossFit Games regional qualifier and survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Marco Dapkey has been broken up into two parts. Episode 74 is part 2 of 2 so if you missed part 1 go back and read/listen to Episode 73 before continuing. There you will learn about Marco’s cancer diagnosis, which caused him to miss his highly anticipated senior season of high school football. We also talked about the treatment process of his cancer and the struggles of watching his team succeed without him. To end the episode, Marco took us through his attempted comeback to football only to receive yet another sign, that football might not be in his cards. This is obviously where this episode begins. In part 2 Marco talks about CrossFit’s role in his transition to life after football and what it has taken to finally qualify for regionals (an incredible feat). Marco credits his more balanced schedule for his success in the 2017 CrossFit Open (explained in previous post) as opposed to previous years where training took precedent over most things. Contrary to popular belief amongst most athletes and myself, more is not always better.
In part 1 of my interview with Marco, we left off where Marco had just broken his foot and came to the decision that football might not be meant to be. Marco said that after coming to this decision that both he and his mother felt a sense of relief (this sounds familiar, episode 72). This decision also meant that he needed to have a difficult conversation with the coaches at West Chester University (WCU), but Marco reiterated that nothing could be harder than not playing in his senior football season in high school. Marco had an overwhelming sense that he was meant to do something different and bigger.
Side note: During this portion of the interview we discuss Marco's bout with second impact syndrome. Fortunately, Marco's injury didn't require surgery like mine or Brett Wycinski's. Marco had gotten blindsided while covering a punt after an suffering an undiagnosed concussion a couple weeks earlier. He ended up being in ICU for a week and was forced to miss the rest of the season.
At the moment, CrossFit has become that different and bigger thing God had in store for Marco. During our conversation, Marco tells us how he first got into CrossFit. After the spring semester that Marco injured his foot, he ended up going back the Neshaminy High School to help out with the strength program and was exposed to a CrossFit gym and some of their non traditional and intense workouts. Intrigued by the atmosphere and the novelty of the CrossFit movements, Marco searched for the closest CrossFit gym to WCU and found CrossFit West Chester. As a reminder, Marco was still receiving chemo treatments once a month at this time.
After working with his high school's strength staff, Marco returned to WCU in the summer to help out with the football team's training camp as a video coordinator. Since he was staying in the dorms and waking up early everyday anyway, he decided to ride his bike to CrossFit West Chester (about a 15 minute ride) to the take the 6 am class. He was immediately hooked and it didn't take long before he started looking into signing up for some local competitions. This thought led to a series of Regional appearances with the CrossFit West Chester competition team. While competing at regionals Marco always took note of what the individual competitors were doing and took what he learned back to his training when he got home. Each year Marco got closer and closer to qualifying as an individual for the CrossFit Regionals. Last year in 2016 he missed qualifying by one spot, but you might be surprised to find out what change he made in his schedule to finally qualify in 2017. Only the top 20 Men & Woman from the Mid Atlantic region advance to Regionals after completing the Open workouts (view video in Episode 73 is this sounds like a foreign language).
After missing 20 man cut-off for regionals by one spot in 2016, Marco felt like he might have been a little too focused on CrossFit. Marco decided to redirect his focus back on finishing school and has recently completed an internship with the strength staff at Villanova football. He also started started following the Misfit Athletics training program. At one point during the interview, we talked about how he stays healthy with all the training volume he does. He credits his health to trying his hardest not to over do it and implementing non-traditional CrossFit movements to his repertoire. Specifically, he has adopted many of the training methods from Mark Boyle's strength and conditioning program (from the Boston area). Mark's program utilizes unilateral movements in different planes of motion. During this part of our conversation, Marco stresses the importance of finding balance in life because it can be toxic to constantly be on the go.
Like Marco, I found CrossFit back in 2012 when one of my buddies who I worked with on the Rutgers football team introduced me to a workout. I was immediately hooked and it was the first thing that made me feel alive after being told I could never play football again. I highly recommend athletes transitioning to a life after sports try CrossFit, not just for the endorphin high, but for the camaraderie as well. I fell in love with the sport at District CrossFit in Washington DC, where it was cooler to move well and have great joint mobility than it was to lift heavy shit and look "tough." Now that I think about it, the further removed I got from the gym, the more I started getting hurt... I need balance. Everyone needs balance.