Phoenix from Ashes

Written by Coach Kurt “Kutty” Miller


“Holy shit Keith I’m in 4th place?!?!”

These are actual words I said to my coach and good friend Keith Bussom from CrossFit Apex.  I was in 4th place heading into the final at the Garden State Open in October 2011.


It was the first time I had ever broken the top 10 in a competition outside of my own box. The level of excitement was something I had not experienced up until that point.  I had been doing CrossFit for over 3 years and had never done well at competitions.  Just ask my wife about my very first one…it’s laughable to say the least.  I admit I was a pretty good athlete by nature, but I was NOT a great CrossFitter.

I had to work extra hard, much harder than others around me. But all my extra work, late hours in the gym, agonizing negative self talk, so many plate chucks across the gym and more F bombs then I care to admit, finally felt like it was paying off.  I didn’t win that competition or make the podium, but that day sparked something inside me and I knew my drive to be better at this competitive sport of fitness would be a relentless pursuit.


While I knew that day did not define me as a man, it has helped define me as a CrossFit athlete.  In the past I had been overly concerned with what everyone was doing that I didn’t focus on myself.  It broke me down, often.

 It was ME destroying ME. I worried about everything but what I was doing. Who’s beating me? Who’s lifting heavier?  Who’s got this skill?  Who’s got that skill?  Who’s who and why is it not ME?

Then, that one day in Jersey, the lightbulb finally clicked. I put my blinders on and thought about nothing, nobody, nada that day except ME and my tasks at hand.  I had finally learned how to compete in this sport.

Truthfully, the South Mountain CrossFit moto “Respect Is Earned” was created that day, even though SMCF wasn’t even a thought. I realized that I needed to respect and believe in myself before anyone else around me could.  I had to work for it.  I had to earn it.

Fast forward over 5 years later and no one would believe how bad I used to suck. All anyone sees is where I’m at now.  They don’t see the blood, sweat, tears, fights, and sacrifices I’ve made over the years.  In fact, all anyone sees from most other CrossFit competitors is a filtered façade on Instagram and Facebook highlighting all of the amazing PRs and triple training sessions they’ve accomplished while they are fueled by their favorite supplements and wearing their newest sponsors’ gear.

When you’re constantly surrounded by these perfectly painted pictures on social media, the lines of reality become blurred and it’s hard to keep your personal mindset in check.


 My challenge to all of you reading this is to embrace your struggle, learn from it, grow, and never settle. Put down your phones and stop taking selfies of yourself doing some really awesome stuff you are good at. Work your weaknesses until your hands are bleeding.  Push through a workout that you want to quit or didn’t want to do in the first place.  Every failure you encounter will only make you stronger.  If you never struggle, you’ll never be prepared when you fail, and the worst feeling in this sport is when a workout comes up that has one of your weaknesses in it.  It causes inner turmoil, anxiety, anger, frustration, and hits you hard, like scolding hot coffee (insert expletives.)

Don’t do things you are comfortable with.

Don’t expect anything you have not earned.

Challenge yourself.

Learn how to lose.

And from those ashes of failure and loss will grow a Phoenix that will never fade. “So how did it all end up pal?” – Keith “Well I made it into finals but ran into brick wall.” “What time does the gym open Monday afternoon because I got a lot of work to do.” – Kurt “Atta Boy!” – Keith