Crossfit New England Sectionals: Play-by-Play

cross CrossFit crossfit NE sectionals ridiculous things I do to myself

Going into this workout, I was fairly sure I'd finish, but I wasn't sure how well I would do. I am great at running, but 115lbs is a lot of weight for me to snatch. On the other hand, I have very good technique on the Olympic lifts (for those who don't know, a snatch is a lift in which you take the weight from the ground to overhead in one motion, as opposed to the clean and jerk, in which you get it to your shoulder, then hike it up). I had been practicing 115lb snatches all week, but had never done 30 of them and was a little intimidated by the competition.

Once the workout started, we were off on our run. I consciously held back, hoping to save myself for the lifts, which would be especially hard for me. I was still one of the first people in the gym, but I quickly slowed. While there were guys simply picking up the bars, I had to set up carefully for every one, and execute with decent technique to clear the lifts. I eventually switched to a split snatch variation, which was easier to do but doesn't allow for as high weights (not an issue today). All I could do was churn through the lifts, one at a time. It was all I could do to stay together, and when the weight was down, I would stumble around, nearly tripping over another bar. I was one of the last people out for the final run, and my legs felt like jelly. I took me the first 400m to recover, and then I came back, sprinting my way in and overtaking two people. I placed around 70th.

Workout 2:

As soon as I saw this workout, I knew I would do well. Light and fast, and long, is my forte, but I didn't know whether that was just in my own gym or in the general population. I'd had all afternoon to rest up from the morning workout, and was ready to give it my all. And give it my all, I did.

My mom had arrived to cheer me on, and everyone at my gym was rooting for me. I knew I could do this, but the standards for the box jump were slightly different than I was used to, and every time I'd practiced, I'd hurt myself (I started the day with two bad scrapes on my shin from practicing the night before). I told myself I'd take it slow, instead of my usual rebounding. I met my judge and we chatted about this being my first competition, and then the clock started, along with the screaming cheers.

To my surprise, the box jumps fell into place perfectly. I met their standards, and was able to rebound every time, finishing my first set in one shot. Visibly impressed, my judge ushered me over to the pullup bar. I was currently in the lead with another guy who was one of the overall best at the competition. Pullups are also my forte. First set I broke into 10, 5, and 5, as planned, holding myself back to avoid flaming out. To the wallball. By now, my judge was going wild, screaming at me to keep moving, saying I was killing the workout. Wallballs were no problem.

Back to the box jumps. The even organizer came over to talk to my judge. I thought I was doing something wrong and hesitated, but they didn't say anything so I kept going. It was starting to hurt now, and my focus narrowed to my own workout so I lost track of the other leader. Nice clean rebounds then over to pullups. I was starting to fade, and my pullups came apart. I didn't get to my predetermined number the first round, and had to come off the bar. Desperately gasping for air, I heard my gym cheering me on and my judge saying something about crushing the WOD. Just keep moving. Somehow I finished, then did my wallballs, dragging myself through. People were screaming at me, the organizer kept coming over to yell at me to keep moving, there was even a camera. I took all these as good signs.

Last round: hell on earth. Somewhere in there I remember feeling a deep despair leaning on my box. I seriously thought I'd rather die than put myself through all this pain anymore. Shut off my brain and jump. I remember not being aware of much, just committing myself to each jump and letting my calves flex and bounce me back up with no conscious input from my brain. I was just along for the ride. The pullups were the same way; swinging back and forth, I closed my eyes and let the roar of the crowd engulf my mind. My existence was pullups - the rhythmic kipping and swining and coming down - and the screams of my gym. At some point I opened my eyes, ready to give up, and caught my mom's eyes. I've never seen her so determined in my life, and she nodded to me, and I kept going. I later found out I'd caused an internal bruise from hitting the bar with my chest so hard. Finally I finished, no idea where I was placing, and jogged to the wallball. Don't think, just start, just start moving, which is what I did. My judge, the organizer, other judges, the cameraman, all were in my face every time I stopped to breathe (which only happened once this round), telling me to finish. My last round was my best, and when I finished, I collapsed, curled myself into the wall, and took a minute. But I refused to lie defeated, so I got up and sat on my box. I'd won my heat and placed 7th overall for that event, moving me up to the 20's overall.

Day 2:

Event 3:

After a good night's rest, I was ready for more (crazy I know). I actually nearly missed the first event, so when I arrived, I had to rush through my warmup and just jump in.

I had done this at 165lbs, but I knew I'd need to do better to maintain the benefit from yesterday's workout. Really, this was just a grinder. Nothing to do but to do it as fast as you can. It wasn't so high-intensity that there was much mental toughness involved, but my last clean at 175lbs I nearly missed. I caught it low on my right side, so I had to hold it up with my arm instead of resting it on my shoulder as it should be. I should have dropped the bar, but I refused to give up. With legs shot from 6 previous lifts, my upper body tilting precariously to the right and my elbow bearing all the weight of the misplaced bar, I fought it up and locked out, and the judge cleared it. I moved down to 29th.

Event 4:

Just making it to this round was an honor. I had only made it because I could tear through a bodyweight workout, but this one was long and fast (which I'm good at) and heavy (which I'm getting better at). My coach Andy did amazingly well, finishing first in his heat, so I really wanted to impress him.

I had lifted atlas stones before, since I competed in a strongman competition in January. I was good at OH squats, but deadlifts at that weight were just going to be crushing. First round went okay. I got through it, doing all the OH squats in one set (it's bad to drop the bar because then you have to get it up again), and my deadlifts in three sets of 5 as planned. Sometimes breaking things up like that is the only way to make it work, and sticking to your numbers can be the difference between finishing and failing. The second round was the same, only slower. The third round, everything fell apart. I dropped the OH squat after a single rep, and again in the middle. My deadlifts were a mess, and my burpees were really pitiful. Despair washed over me, and I again had that internal conversation about preferring to be dead (it was more a gut feeling than a thought actually).

On the fourth run, Nick from my gym reminded me to breathe, and that saved me. I got back in and hiked the bar up for the OH squats and started into them. Kevin has told me to try getting them all in one set, but the last two rounds had been broken up. I got to 10 somehow and Andy told me to rest. Kevin was screaming to keep going, and my dad was yelling "Warrior Spirit!" And it worked. All the things I write about here on taking on challenges and sacrificing myself held my arms up and I ripped out the last 5. Everyone was cheering, elated at my newfound focus. The deadlifts were next, and I got my three sets of 5. Every time I'd put the bar down to rest, everyone from my gym would scream at me to pick it up and keep going. My mind wasn't going to provide any motivation, so I let their commands control my body. Kevin yelled go, and I went.

And then came the burpees. Oh the burpees. I own burpees. I will never be laid low by mere burpees. I used to go 100 burpees before breakfast in the summer. I think I could handle 15. I literally roared as I dropped into them, whipping them out so fast that the other judges looked over in amazement (according to my coaches. I wasn't lucid). When I finished, I collapsed, but quickly rolled up to my feet. I was greeted with cheers and hugs from my gym. They were proud of me, and that made it all worth it.

I finished with a respectable time, though more distinguished for the effort I'd put into it than anything else. Overall, I finished 32nd, just outside of qualifying for the next level of competition. I was really happy with that.

The Aftermath

It's been two weeks. I am still recovering. Obviously I pushed myself really hard, and I think to an extent it was that overkill that let me compensate for being slightly weaker than the bigger guys, but which also meant that I would be out of commission for a while. I was amazed at the feeling of solidarity we all shared as we cheered for one another, how invested we were in each other's performance. The crowds were deafening, and we all felt a lot of pride in our gym members. I think there is a lot of 'little engine that could' mentality at CFStamford, and we certainly beat ourselves up (Tom with a nearly torn Achilles, Kevin with bloody hands). We may not have won it, but we certainly got some attention with our drive and determination.

And now I know what it feels like to be on the edge of collapse but to push yourself further for an ideal, even if that ideal is one so shallow as competing in a fitness challenge. But I had vacuumed our gym for two months to earn my way here, on the faith of Andy and Kristie. So really, it wasn't just for me that I worked so hard. It was for CrossFit Stamford, and the family I found there last October. More than anything, I wanted all the other gyms to recognize them, to see them for the great coaches that they are, and the best way I had to do so was to make myself an example of what their coaching had accomplished.