Epic Fail

biomechanics CrossFit epic fail exercise failure fitness Inspirational willpower

I crouched to launch the bar and exploded up, sending it over my head...but not hard enough. I hadn't pushed enough, nor had I dropped low enough, to give my arms space to lock out, and they were far too tired to push the bar on their own power. In CrossFit, overhead presses don't count unless your arms are locked out over your head. As if in slow motion, I remember being aware of my arms being bent under the load of the bar. I couldn't even try to grind it up. Immediately the bar fell, crashing right onto my knee and sending me falling backwards as the timer ran out. I had failed to achieve 7 rounds because of a mere inch of travel.

As I lay on the rubber mats, drenched in sweat, holding my injured knee, I felt defeated. I had pushed myself to the absolute limits of strength and endurance and had somehow managed to maintain my technique and form, and I failed the very last rep. How could I let myself do that? How could I fail right there? I was devastated. And to think that the difference between ecstatic victory and humiliating defeat was one meager inch only made me more upset. I felt my throat tighten, not from the respiratory burn that comes with such intense exertion, but from tears of disappointment.

To make it worse, the coaches had thought I completed the rep, because I had been going so quickly. I had to explicitly tell them not to count that last rep, which made the defeat even more pointed. The only thing that would make the humiliation worse, I felt, was everyone mistakenly thinking I had succeeded.

Rising from the Ashes

Despite my abject misery, I never actually came to tears, nor did I really get too upset. One guy mentioned that if I'd gotten that extra inch, I wouldn't have dropped the bar on my knee, and that did get a rise out of me, but largely, I felt oddly mellow about the whole thing. I had undoubtedly done my best. Actually, I had pushed myself far beyond what was reasonable or even safe. I'm surprised it took until the last rep for me to drop the bar. And what would pouting accomplish? All I could do was accept what had happened and train to do better next time. I just couldn't wallow in self-pity, even if I wanted to (which I did...).

Considering how hard I was working, the fact that I failed on the very last rep and injured myself, seems more romantic gesture of grand failure than anything else. Rushing to finish as the clock ticked to zero, I guess my body was just spent at the end, and I didn't have time to catch my breath or refocus. Could I have held it together and finished? Maybe. Perhaps if I hadn't missed one rep earlier in the workout, I would have had that extra second to reset. Or I could have underestimated how heavy the bar was, or overestimated my strength and not put enough effort in. Maybe I just relaxed too soon, like the sprinter who lets up before the finish instead of plowing through and then slowing down.

But if ever there were a real and true limit to my performance, I found it. It was just doubly epic that the limit happened to be at the very end, and was accompanied by injury. There is nothing to do but to accept my limitation and try again, maybe this time more aware of what I'm facing.

Still, that 6.96 keeps flashing in my mind. The bend in my arms, the weight over my head, and the crashing down are already burned into my memory. Did I quit on some level, maybe neglected to use one micro-muscle out of laziness or fatigue? Did some insidious part of me actually want to come up short? Or did I really and truly fail, driving my body to its physical limitations where there was simply no more ATP to fire the fibers? Where do I draw the line? These are the questions that will always haunt all Warriors who take on incredible tasks and don't accomplish them. Maybe we could have tried harder, or maybe we couldn't have. How will we ever know? The past is gone.


Image source: Bah Humbug on Flickr

Feel free to share your own stories of grand attempts and epic fails. Or comment heartily on mine. I don't need pats on the back though; I bounced back pretty quick :).