I get teased a lot about wearing Spandex tights and shirts to the gym. The running gag is that it is my superhero costume. Well I figured out what superhero I must be. Back in the 70’s my little boy used to wake us up on Saturday mornings to watch Underdog. I think in recent months, my claim to fame is being an underdog.
If I were younger and had more upward potential, I admit this role would frustrate me. However at this stage in my life, every time I show up is progress. What I lack in strength, I have had to learn to compensate for in patience and perseverance. This is monumental for me, as I have never thought of these as characteristics that I have possessed.
I am writing this the day after my first individual CrossFit Competition. I struggled through three out of four WODs. They were at, or exceeding my personal bests, so I went out on a limb when I signed up to compete. My motivation was to force my head to take my body to another level. It was to break me out of fear and complacency.
The workouts were just released a week before the event, so there was a lot of time to fret and not a lot of time to practice. In fact, I practiced last Saturday and I couldn’t pull it off with the weights listed for the Men’s Scaled event. I figured I would go down in flames. I was concerned that I would totally trash any possibility of success by negative thoughts regarding my strength and ability.
Saturday I showed up early at CrossFit Union in Sudbury and an odd thing happened. I relaxed. I had a calmness about me that was eerily strange. I knew I was walking into an arena where I faced the potential of total humiliation or personal injury, but I was OK with that. I cannot begin to describe it. I did a minimum amount of warming up. I performed a few stretches with a pipe, I swung a couple kettlebells, I did a few deadlifts and I did a couple cleans, all at the competition’s scaled weights.
I ate at 5:00 a.m. and had my well-buttered bulletproof coffee. From that time on, throughout the competition I survived on small portions of sweet potatoes, banana, almond butter, coconut water and a lot of water. My stomach was calm. My body seemed satiated and energized.
I watched the Scaled Women’s event to get a mental picture of the movements and the rhythm of the WOD, and to determine my best strategy to compensate for my weaknesses. This may sound strange, but I looked for the athlete who was struggling the most, to observe how she was dealing with issues of confidence, strength, mobility, and the clock. Since I knew my box assignment, I observed my judge to determine her style.
I was in the second heat of the Men’s Scaled Division. WOD 1 went according to plan. I jumped rope for a minute, misstepping a couple times since I never jumped in Oly shoes. Then moved onto Hang Clean, TnG Clean and Jerk. I started 20 pounds heavier than I had originally planned, at 95#, my second lift at 105# and I maxed out at 115# before the five minutes ended.
Then I moved onto the Floater WOD, which was a sandbag lift, kneel, and stand twice followed by 4 burpees onto a 45# plate for 90 seconds. This was actually an excellent warmup for WOD 2 for those of us who were fortunate enough to do it in this sequence.
WOD 2 was difficult for me. It was a Squat Clean, followed by two Front Rack Lunges, then three Lateral Bar Burpees. It was a five minute AMRAP. I was No Repped for missing squats. I failed on Lunges as my knees protested and my elbows dropped forcing me to crash with the weight. But I finished the WOD, with a weight 20 pounds heavier than I was able to do a week ago.
By the time WOD 3 came around, the crowd knew I would finish every movement last, and I would struggle to get through the workout. WOD 3 had a ten minute cap and most athletes finished between four and six minutes, which meant that once again, I was the last man standing. This is a strange phenomenon in CrossFit. The “loser” of every event now becomes the center of attention. There is now no other athlete competing for eyeballs and everyone looks at the lone athlete struggling to lift every barbell off the ground.
The simple fact is that of the four movements in WOD 4 (kettlebell swings, deadlifts, box jumps and thrusters), everyone was finished before I even began box jumps. My weakest move of the entire day was thrusters. Last weekend I was failing terribly with 75 pound trusters. The requirement was 95 pounds, and it was after all the other movements had ground the athletes to a pulp.
By the time I approached the bar for my first thruster, every one in the gym was circled around me yelling and encouraging me. Strangely, I was aware of this, but I couldn’t see it. My entire being was focused on one thing, getting on the bar, cleaning it, squatting and thrusting it overhead. In the “distance” I heard yelling, a roar, blurry faces, yet the only words I distinctly heard were from Lucy, my judge.
When I would struggle to catch my breath and shake off fatigue, Lucy would coach me to get back on the bar. She’d remind me to break parallel in my squat and to lock out at the top. If I crashed she told me to just get back to work, don’t dwell on the failure, just get back in the game. She kept me informed about the clock.
At the end of the day, I ran out of time, with three reps to go. But I was thrilled I had performed movements at weights I couldn’t do a week before the event. And I was confident enough to do it in front of a couple hundred people, many who were strangers when I walked in the door, but who introduced themselves to me and were friends at the day’s end.
I consistently finished in last place in all four WODs, but for this experience, I consider my first competition was a success.