Competing in the CrossFit Games was the hardest thing I have ever done (with all due respect to climbing Mt. Everest, and the emotional challenges which followed in its aftermath). Now that I have regained practical use of my hands and arms, I could write a book about my experiences during the last two years, culminating in those three days last week.
And over the course of several posts (to come), I will recount some of them here. But for now, a status report:
The day after (Friday), I slept until 2:00 PM. When I finally woke up, I was spatially disoriented (most noticeable when walking down the flight of stairs in my house—I clung to the railing—and driving), and I felt challenged to recall familiar words and names. My balance was off; my right ear ached inexplicably, and radiated shooting pain down the right side of my neck (an issue which persists, but seems to be diminishing). I had a big-time headache for four days. I broke out in hives on my lower back, upper arms, and neck. People have postulated heat stroke, PTSD, central nervous system breakdown, adrenal failure. I don’t know, and no symptoms have been so acute that I have been motivated to see a doctor. Besides, the “cure” for all of those conditions, as far as I know, is time and rest. So my instincts tell me to maintain the eating and sleeping routines I have practiced for the last 18 months, to stay home and putter, to coddle myself a little, and to reflect.
Everything hurt, a lot at first. The 80 deadlifts in “The Sandwich” (Event 6) on Thursday morning took a toll on my lower back muscles, and triggered a sympathetic reaction in my lower and upper body. The webs between my thumb and index fingers were ripped open, which happened during the 40 push presses before the deadlifts, and was exacerbated by subsequent events and shaking hands with so many people after the finals. But the pain has ebbed, hands healed, and today I woke up feeling nearly myself again.
To Greg Glassman for his genius “invention,” the sport of CrossFit, and to Dave Castro for bringing authentic functional fitness into focus by organizing the CrossFit Games. And to the many volunteers who made this colossal production possible.
For the chance to meet and compete with some truly badass women: Rosalie Glenn, Bernadette Elliott, Mary Schwing (who respectively took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place), and the 16 other competitors in my division. Congratulations to you all.
For my coaches: Maddy Curley, Logan Gelbrach, Chris Hinshaw, Dusty Hyland, James McCoy, and Sean Waxman.
To my medical and nutritional consultants: Dr. Chris Renna and Chris Talley.
For my training partner, Games Coach, and friend Jessica Suver. We were together 5-6 days a week for the last three months, from morning until night, during which time we shared in many successes and breakthroughs, not to mention many laughs. She opened up her heart and mind to me during times when we were stuck in traffic between workouts, and we connected over our many other shared interests, including English Literature, our pets, fashion. The bonds we formed are sure to be the biggest and most enduring prize of this whole project.
My home gym: Paradiso CrossFit Venice, and the community of supportive, encouraging, enlightening, and inspiring members, too numerous to count, but you know who you are.
Two special friends in the gym: Matthew Walrath and Patrick Madaj, for all they did to support me through the Open and the Qualifiers rounds.
My participation in the CrossFit Games was the result of many months of hard work and sacrifices. It was my goal to qualify for the CrossFit Games and coming in fourth place in my rookie year was a bonus. Once I qualified, it became my goal to place in the top five in every event. Four out of seven isn’t bad; I missed the podium by two points out of a possible 700.
Weaknesses: knowing how to compete, barbell cycling, consistently linked pull ups—both chin over bar and chest over bar.
My big dream move: one elegant muscle up. Stay tuned to learn my progress toward achieving it.
Strengths: endurance—always has been and always will be.
What I know now: to be good at CrossFit, like anything where nothing less than excellence is the goal, you need to push yourself to uncomfortable places when you train. I cannot honestly say that I did that as often as I could have. This was due in part to the fact that I was busy learning essential skills that I did not possess just two years ago, like pull ups, weightlifting, and inversion work. But, in some measure, it was because I figured I could pull it out in competition (see “endurance” above) and didn’t need to go to that hurting place often in training.
The Games are more than just another workout. Take the last event, “Amanda,” which I did not finish in the allotted time. It consists of two moves, ring dips and #65 squat snatches, alternating in diminishing numbers over three rounds for a total of 9 dips and 21 snatches. In training, I do these numbers, if not more, at least twice a week. In the final round of competition, however, I could not link two dips, and that barbell felt like it weighed twice that. It is one thing to perform them in your old familiar gym with no one watching and quite another to be on center court with a judge at your side, and an announcer calling out your name (if you are ahead) or the names of others (if you are not) to a noisy crowd in a vast stadium.
Regrets: that the competitors did not have more time to meet and converse with other athletes. Not only the 19 other women in my division, but any one of the 340 other world class athletes who competed in the CrossFit Games this year. I will make it a point to reach out to some of them in the coming months and, if they allow it, will share some of their stories here (including other members of the 2015 Fourth Fittest Club, Samantha Briggs and Dan Bailey).
Immediate Plans: I am going camping this weekend. Nothing strenuous—just an hour outside of Los Angeles to a small lake with a group of friends and acquaintances. Looking forward to reconnecting with them and to making new friends after many months of abstention from a social life and communion with nature.