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FORESTVILLE — I ring the doorbell at exactly 11 a.m.

No answer. I wait.

Then I wander down the steep, horseshoe-shaped driveway and notice an outbuilding I didn’t see on the drive up. I hear symphonic music coming from the two open doors. Approaching the larger of the open doors, I find Joe Stumpf, 60, hanging partially upside down from nylon straps affixed to the wall.

Stumpf raises his head, his face beet red, and smiles. “Ah, I forgot you were coming,” he says as the piece on the stereo finishes and there is great applause. He clicks the sound off with a remote control.

It’s almost like it was choreographed, which wouldn’t be out of the norm for Stumpf, a man who has seemingly left nothing to chance in his latest athletic pursuit.

Stumpf, who completed the civilian version of Navy SEAL Hell Week at 54 and has attempted to scale Mount Everest, is one of 20 men who qualified for the Masters 60+ category in the 2017 CrossFit Games in August. And make no mistake, Stumpf is training to win.

“I’m going to win, I’m there to win,” he said at the sweaty conclusion of a two-hour workout. “I feel more confident every day that I can do it. I want to crush their asses. I’m excited.”

He’s leaving nothing to chance in his quest.

A successful business coach with an emphasis on real estate, he put his business on something like autopilot for a year so he could focus almost entirely on training.

He moved from San Diego to a home on 3 acres in Forestville that he dubbed “Compassion Ranch” where he built a custom training gym, replete with a CrossFit-specific gymnastics apparatus, free weights and sauna. He also built a 575-square-foot yurt, which he described as a “great place to stretch.”

“I came here just for this reason, to isolate myself,” he said.

He brings in experienced workout partners and has hired David Cowan, founder of CrossFit Sebastopol, to guide his training. They work together five days a week, sometimes twice a day. They follow a workout prescription created by a man who has trained at least two recent world champs. A chiropractor visits at least twice a week. He even trains with a monk.

Stumpf follows a strict paleo diet — meat, vegetables, fruit and some nuts. No sugar, few carbohydrates.

“If you eat a lot of ice cream, it takes you three days to recover,” he said. “I’ve had some cheat days. I mean cheat: Popcorn at the theater.”

Thirty-two years sober, he doesn’t drink. He focuses on his sleep. He stretches for hours.

“He’s on point in that sense,” Cowan said. “He is a professional athlete. That is the mindset.”

A CrossFit devotee for nearly eight years, Stumpf missed the cut for the international games by one place in 2011, when he was 54. Now 60, Stumpf should be one of the youngest competitors in his age bracket — a huge advantage, and he knows it. If his effort fails this time, he’s not coming back.

“I’m going to do my very best,” he said. “But I’m one and done.”

Which begs the question: Why?

Why the “regular” life seemingly on hold, why the total dedication, why the near-monastic lifestyle devoted to winning? And why is Stumpf so focused on the physical? First the Navy SEAL Hell Week, then Everest, now this.

“It improves the quality of your thinking,” he said. “I’m 100 percent present to that, focused on the movement, nothing else.”

Physical exertion, he said, pushes him to learn “how to really master the mental game.” It gives him emotional and mental clarity, he said.

And Stumpf, who earned a master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica, brings others along for the ride.

He wrote a book about Hell Week — “Willing Warrior, Unleashing the Secret Power of Kokoro.”

He has a YouTube channel with videos that intermingle motivation with business practices, with titles like “How to Re-Invent Yourself,” “From Survival to Significance” and “How to Annihilate Your Fear and Get More Referrals.” He says about 60 of his clients from the real estate world will be at the competition in Madison, Wisconsin, to cheer him on.

A documentary crew was at Compassion Ranch last week. He’s funding a film about “what it takes to be the best in your world.”

It’ll be made up of vignettes of individual people, their habits, their character, their rituals.

“I’m the central figure, but it’s more,” he said.

He said his daughter, a comic and TV presenter, chides him: “Nobody likes a story about a rich man who gets richer.”

Stumpf said he sees her point, but still believes he has a story to tell.

“I use my life as a metaphor of what possibility is,” he said. “Hey, if I can do this, you can do that.”

But it’s unclear that Stumpf can do this.

The competition is built around mystery to some degree. Athletes don’t know what tasks they will be asked to perform until moments before they do them.

“There are 74 different types of movement in CrossFit, and they can combine them in any way they want,” he said.

“You have no idea what they are going to do, but they are very proficient at combining movements to create the greatest challenge — but also the most viewable,” he said.

Like tossing a medicine ball high against a wall, catching it and tossing it again — 10 times in a row, then moving to upside down sit-ups with a medicine ball on your gut, followed by running up a steep hill with that same ball on your shoulder.

Or laps in the pool, intermingled with full muscle-ups on a pull-up bar.

Or a 2.1-mile run, followed by flipping a 490-pound, 5-foot-long “Pig” end over end for 100 yards, then carrying a 100-pound log for 600 yards and wrapping up by pulling a 310-pound metal sled for 66 yards.

Stumpf and Cowan have created exercise routines they hope will prepare him for the unknown.

“You want to go dark,” Stumpf said. “You go to a dark place, it’s very painful, but you have to pass through that place of panic and find a new threshold. We do that every day.”

Cowan agreed.

“His mental game is very strong,” he said.

It will have to be.

“There are 8,000 people in his category in the world, then the top 200 get to go to the next level, then from there the top 20 get to go to the games,” Cowan said. “You are trying to be the fittest person in the world.”

CrossFit matches Stumpf’s ability to take pain but also his ability to master different movements, especially those under extreme weights.

“I’m good at this,” he said. “I’ll never be the best runner, I’ll never be the best swimmer, I’ll never be the best gymnast.”

“You just can’t suck at anything,” he said.

Stumpf is confident. It might be a survival mechanism after all he has invested, literally, in this venture.

“I’m going to win, not just to compete. It’s different. There is a fundamental difference.”

And what happens on Aug. 7, when the games are over and he comes back to his compound in Forestville with monkey bars and climbing ropes, free weights and a sauna?

He’s either not sure or he’s not saying. It won’t be another go at the CrossFit games, though.

“There is just so much more,” he said. “Climbing to dancing to martial arts. I’m not sure.”

“That is just my preference in life, not to be defined by any one thing,” he said.

But if past practice is anything to go by, and it usually is, Stumpf will go after his next thing with the same single-mindedness he has in his training for the CrossFit Games.

“Balance is overrated anyway,” he said. “To do anything that is important to you, you have to have a season out of balance, or two.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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