If life is a proverbial boxing match, “the Captain” was the guy that cleaned up your wounds between the rounds and with his words had the ability to inspire enough determination from within that you would beg to face another round against a formidable opponent. It’s not often in life that one has the unique opportunity to cross paths with an individual that has the multifaceted ability to motivate and encourage, all the while, lead courageously by example and have a legendary dictionary of bookmark sayings. Adrian Cowens did all of that and much more. AC graced the halls of the Seattle Kettlebell Club for years and was the team captain of their gritty gang of Kettlebears. Though AC was a Kettlebear, he was wise enough to not observe barriers between individuals or teams, and he encouraged, befriended, and coached athletes from all walks of life. He was swift to give a compliment and had the experience to intrinsically understand the complexities of his art–kettlebell sport. On 3/10/20, AC left this world and a gaping hole in the hearts of the lives he touched.
Rewind the clock 20 years to a time in my life when every day started with my morning alarm waking me to the harmonious tune Heart of Gold by Neil Young. I didn’t sleep much in those days. I hung somewhere between the curtain of asleep and awake with the exhilaration of knowing I would be riding the warm coastal North Carolina mirrors at dawn. I first heard the song Heart of Gold on a dusty radio that sat in the corner of the surf shop where I worked. The sun would shine through the large windows and reflect on the newly shaped longboards and the smell of surf wax would hang in the air. The song’s haunting message became the theme for multiple chapters in my life. Cigar in hand, the song was appropriate for multiple contexts whether it be moments when a full moon lit up the ocean or a midnight drive through the Badlands of South Dakota. More importantly, the song resonates in the life and death of a champion like Adrian Cowens. Positivity colored his life, and he had the same resolute mindset during his tenacious fight with cancer.
“I wanna live, I wanna give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold. It’s these expressions, I never give. That keep me searching for a heart of gold…and I’m getting old.”
After AC’s passing, I spent a lot of time looking over photos, watching videos, and digging into the archives of past messages that had been exchanged over the years. An overarching theme was unmistakable. AC’s message was consistent in his daily life, in how he treated others, in his lifting, and in his worldview. His message stressed the importance of establishing the right mindset in every compartment of one’s life. The fortunate individuals that intimately knew AC had fondly christened his phrases “Adrianisms”. An Adrianism was usually strategically administered to a kettlebell lifter on the platform in practice or in a contest. Having had AC coach me many times on the platform (and help carry me off the platform), his words served as a beacon of light in moments when I was grasping for a second wind of mental toughness. AC simply had the ability to bring out the best in us.
- “Get your mind right”
- “You’ve gotta keep your mindset STRONG”
- “I know you looking-so how do I look”
- “Gotta grind it out”
- “Every single rep baby”
- “Let it GO”
- “You’re headed straight to the top”
- “I have seen what you are made of”
- “I’m right here with you”
When AC wasn’t mentoring his scout troop or riding his motorcycle, he was lifting kettlebells – a heart and soul girevik. AC had a steadfast bond with his kettlebell coach, Allison Moore, whom he endearingly nicknamed Mz. One Moore. When Mz. One Moore was watching, AC would lift those bells like a new wind-up toy on Christmas morning. Their bond was beautiful. For years, AC strived to earn his Candidate for Master of Sport rank which he attained in the summer of 2018. His greatest achievement, however, was his immeasurable capacity to love, encourage, and inspire others.
As I wipe the sweat from my brow, take a drink and a breath, and rise from my corner to take on the next round of life (which lately is the greatest opponent of all), I pause and am thankful to have known Adrian Cowens. The bell rings, I will courageously walk toward my opponent because that is what he would want me to do. Though my heart is broken, I will hold onto the words he used to tell me before I stepped on the platform… “I’m right here with you.”
“Lifting is a philosophy/lifestyle. It is a place that teaches me, and shows me, and brings that peace of mind for me. You either understand the Riddle of Steel or you don’t. The Steel has a way of showing us our true nature.”