Beers with Craig Weber – A man, his dog, big mountains, and bigger perspective!
This was an interview between Pete Beuth and Craig Weber at a local microbrewery in Littleton, Colorado. Enjoy!
Craig is a humble member and devotee of Manic Training. Intent on enjoying the outdoors and his personal time, he can always be found with his loyal companion Levi (Golden Retriever) in tow. While life can be complicated, adventurous, stressful, productive, and frustrating, when it comes to time outdoors with man’s best friend, it can only be happy and satisfying.
So Craig, we know you best as the guy who is always out running, hiking, etc with his faithful Golden Retriever. Can you tell us a bit more about your athletic background and how you got to where you are now?
Ha! Athletic background? For starters, I was really small growing up. Like 120 lbs as a senior in high school small. I played multiple sports, but was never really good at any of them. Wrestling? Wasn’t good. Baseball? Wasn’t good.
As I got into college and then grad school I got more into individual sports such as climbing, skiing and hiking on my own, and kinda adopted a Buddhist outlook – “Pain is inevitable, suffering is voluntary.” I got into distance running around 1983/1984. My first marathon I ran under 3 hours. I ran a 36 minute 10K at one point. I was pretty fast in my early 20’s.
After school I moved to California and became more of a beach bum slob. Lot’s of parties. Was going to the gym just to try to “bulk up” because I was on the beach. More of a pure vanity thing.
Things began to change in 1988 when I married the love of my life, Deborah. We’ll be married 31 years this year. We had our first child, a son, Taylor, in 1989. That same year, my mother died of cancer @ age 52. That left a hole and caused me a lot of introspection. We left Los Angeles and moved to Colorado in 1993. Much of the next few years went by living the “suburban life” with 2 more children, daughters, Morgan and Reagan.
Things changed drastically in 1999….
Before we get into these drastic changes, we want to ask you “What brought you into Manic Training? What keeps you coming here? And what would you tell other folks your age who are looking at their fitness options?”
Before my beginning at Manic, my fitness and workouts weren’t focused… I ran quite a bit, lifted a few weights, but never did anything worthwhile or truly productive to help my fitness as I aged. I thought all I do is run a bit, bike a little, but don’t do anything full body. I went to 24 Hr Fitness for a while. How pathetic! I never did anything worthwhile. I’d find a machine, say “that looks fun”. Do it a little, then move along. Nothing was ever done with a purpose.
It was at that point that I found Manic Training while searching Google under “HIIT gyms”. It seemed great, in that it was halfway between work and home. My first workout was EYE-OPENING. Luckily, I had discovered early in life that I had one possible advantage over my peer group in that while I’ve never been great at any one thing or sport, I’m pretty good at being uncomfortable for long stretches of time, and I don’t mind getting wiped out or exhausted. It simplifies life in those moments. From a workout standpoint, Manic training was right up my alley. It’s your own experience, but in a group setting. Meeting Pete sealed the deal.
So, now that we see how and why you got into Manic Training and why you immediately thrived here, can you tell us more about the big change in your life that happened in 1999? It seems to lead right up to your start at Manic Training very well…
In 1999, one of my buddies, living in Anchorage Alaska called me and asked if I wanted to go climb Denali. Wait what?, I mean sure! This got me laser-focused on getting fit with only 1 year to train. I trained on Long’s Peak, joined the climbing club in Estes Park, at the Colorado Mountain School. I learned to ice climb, learned mountaineering skills. Not to mention, I began running my ass off again. There were three of us making the attempt, and as the novice, I was afraid of holding the group back, so I was training hard, and staying focused so that I wouldn’t be the “weak link” of the group. In May 2000 I managed to summit along with one other in our group, and from that point I made it imperative to keep fit. There were several other adventures and climbs mainly in South America, but in 2004 I stopped with the extreme stuff to spend more time with my 3 kids, as my wife was increasingly concerned about what would happen if I were involved in a major incident.
As you are aware, I’m always on an adventure with my dog, Levi. But what you don’t know is that before him, I had another awesome 4-legged companion named Kody. We did a lot of climbing together. He was an Aussie Shep – Golden Retriever mix. We’d go on a huge hike up a 14er, and he’d come down off the scree slopes with his paws all ripped up, and go jump into the stream to relieve the pain. He had kind of a Buddhism mentality too (pain is inevitable, suffering is voluntary). He was awesome, and I was devastated when he passed. I wasn’t sure I could ever have a dog again, and running and climbing wasn’t the same. During the time that Kody was around, I’d also dabbled in a few other hobbies including paragliding, got my pilot’s license, kayaking, road biking, sprint triathlons, etc.
So, after all that you had done and that you went through with Kody, what made you get another dog, and how did it end up being the awesome Levi that we all know so well?
Believe it or not, my wife Deborah and daughter Morgan were at a mall, and they saw a litter of puppies in the window of a pet store. They determined that they “had” to save one from that place, and that I “had” to have one. They came home with the Levi. I wasn’t so sure, but we all know how that turned out. He’s become my best friend. I started enjoying trail runs again.
A couple years later I had decided “I’m going to do an Ultra”, and so I signed up for a “beginner” 50 mile race at Chatfield Reservoir. It was 4 laps, 12.5 miles each lap. After about 36 miles I started questioning my sanity! After the Ultra I tapered my training down and began casual trail running with Levi. It was also that that point that my athletic and adventure focus began to shift once again…
So at this point, you are in your early 50s, and you’ve recently gotten your second dog, Levi, who is still with us today…what is the big shift that you are referencing?
Throughout my life I’ve felt privileged to have the means to view living from “different perspectives” whether that be from a paraglider looking down on the earth, or from behind a scuba mask deep down in the water, from the top of a mountain on a mountaineering expedition, or freezing, or terrified, or any other of the interesting adventures that I was fortunate enough to try. I work in an office, a wholly unimpressive existence when compared to the “edgy perspectives” that I valued so much. Ultimately, however, I began to consider that I was being “selfish” by chasing all of these individual pursuits and adventures. Throughout all of this I’ve been forever grateful to my wife, Debbie and kids for putting up with me.
Now, with Levi as my new adventure companion, and my age speeding towards 60, I’ve mellowed a lot with respect to high maintenance adventuring. We started running together in 2011. We do weekly 10-12 mile runs all winter together, and much shorter in the summer due to the heat. We like Kite Lake, outside of Alma, where we can summit four 14ers in a day- Lincoln, Democrat, Cameron and Bross. The miles of terrain we’ve covered together is awesome!
Levi likes everything I like, but he has a few “quirks”. For example, he HATES riding in cars, he can’t walk across a bridge (he’ll find a way around), and he’s very wary of stairs. We share such a cool bond. In 9 years, we’ve probably averaged close to 500 miles per year. Often times, I let him decide which way to turn when we come to a split in the trails.
Three years ago, Levi blew his ACL while running through a snowbank. I took him in, and in dogs its called the CCL (Canine Cruciate Ligament), and it was completely torn. So, he had what is called a TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Operation), which is where they cut off part of his tibia bone, reposition it, and screw it back together with steel pins, to reduce the stress on his ligaments and knee in general.
I was sitting in the vet’s office in tears, wondering if I’d hurt him forever, and if he’d ever be able to run again. It ended up being about a 6-month recovery for him. Luckily, he recovered well and we’ve since been able to resume our trail runs and hikes.
All of that brings us to today, with Craig, a member at Manic Training, and Levi, his trusty companion who often hangs out outside the gym, watching us while we all work. (Especially watching Craig while he works).
Like I said, “I think (tell myself) I manage being uncomfortable, and embrace pain” better than some. But every Manic morning I still feel anxiety, as I often arrive early to see what’s going on in the gym before my class. I drive by slowly, peering in, and my anxiety kicks up a couple notches. But I always go in. I’m introverted and not much of socializer, not good at small talk, but I enjoy the atmosphere and people that are at Manic (we’re too exhausted for talking!). I like everyone in the classes, and constant encouragement from friends I’ve made like Rachel Short and Jesse Adamy. They’re always good for at least one high five, mid-workout, no matter how uncomfortable they both are. I love the people at Manic Training! You and Scott are fantastic trainers with great wit and humor. This gym is unique and special because it’s owner (you) is heavily vested in the success of the business and the clients. Its class based…individually driven, but motivational by working out with others. It’s not just a “workout of the day” where you come in and do it on your own. There are others, right there with you, in the moment, making it worth it. It’s much more stimulating.
With all that being said, the true uniqueness lies in the fact that we do the workouts inside, but take part in so many outdoor events and that, to me, is super cool.
Craig, is it true that you have a new tradition over the last two years that you intend to continue?
Yes, my birthday is in January. Two years ago, after watching the “penalties” inflicted on birthday members, I decided that rather than having the coaches at Manic dream up a painful something “extra” at the end of a workout, I was going to start a different custom. So instead, I come in and do the 5am workout, and then hang around and repeat the same workout at 605am with the rest of my friends. That’s my present to myself – “Pain is inevitable, suffering is voluntary.” It’s been a valuable outlook throughout my life and definitely applies to Manic.
A closing note, things I think:
*Pain is inevitable, suffering is voluntary.”
“Be nice to people. I don’t care how smart you are if you aren’t nice.”
My email signature: “Craig – start out slow & taper off – Weber”
Craig, thanks for taking your time to tell us all about your fascinating past and path into and through the doors at Manic Training. We look forward to many more adventures with you and Levi in the days, months, and years to come.