Monday, March 28, 2016

"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our true potential." -Winston Churchill

Blogland, I'm happy to report that I finished the 2016 CrossFit Open this weekend, by surviving the last workout - 16.5. 

16.5 was announced on Thursday night, and I was glued to the live announcement. I felt really good coming off of 16.4 (ALL THE DEADLIFTS!) and was hoping for another WOD that I would be able to do as prescribed (Rx). What I got.... was not exactly what I wished for. 

16.5 was announced as:
(reps) 21-18-15-12-9-6-3


at 95# (m)/ 65# (f)

My immediate reaction was, "NOoooooooooooooooOOOOOoooo!!!" due to the extreme dislike I have of burpees. I do, in fact, recognize their training value, but literally, there is no single exercise that makes me want to die more, or faster, than burpees. I had a brief moment of triumph when I realized I could do it Rx (got my wish!) because I know I can do 65# thrusters... and realistically, why wouldn't you go RX, if there's no "scale" for the burpee? You're going to die either way, might as well get more "points" for going RX?

Then, I watched the pro athletes tackle it.... 8 minutes and change was the fastest time... which meant mine was going to be a grueling workout of 25 minutes, I guessed. Oh. Shit.

The feeling in my house after that was not one of calm readiness.... my track record with burpees sucks pretty bad, and I just envisioned myself flopping around on the floor through like 84 of them. I was not beaming with positivity. Further, my Inner Fat Kid had a freak out about how that was going to work on competition day.... I knew I'd take SOOOOOO much longer than everyone else, I just saw the scene in my head.... everyone else done, and waiting on stupid slow Aja to drag herself out of another burpee... Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it. 

I had a little strategy talk with Robyn and a pep talk from my long-time GT... and tried to get my head in the right space. What that turned into was approximately 36 hours of me arguing with myself in my head. Well, emotional side would freak out, rational side would try and outline the plan... and back and forth and back and forth. 

Friday afternoon arrived, and I was in a better headspace... or maybe just a "determined" one? Or a resigned one? Like, I'm going to do my best... and whatever happens, happens. 

Off to the gym I went. 

I got to judge and watch a couple of rounds of people tackling this ugly wod, and it was good (for my mental state) to see that EVERYONE was struggling hard with it. To varying levels of miserableness, but everyone seemed to be hugging the floor, starfishing or sitting like they had just died, after the workout. The end of the workout burpees for everyone were universally not pretty either. I knew mine were going to be.... rough.... but it was comforting to see even the fittest people dragging through those last sets. 

Then suddenly, it was my turn. 
3....2.....1.... GO. 

The initial round of Thrusters (and really, all subsequent rounds of thrusters...) were no problem. I broke it in half, just for good pacing, and I think I broke the 18, 15 and 12 up in half or sets of 5, too, just to pace. 
The burpees were another story. I tried so hard to keep an even pace.... but that looked like 1 burpee... 2 burpee... (maybe) 3 burpee... stand and huff and puff. Repeat. It was not good. Although, realistically people, I'm peeling 300# off the floor with every burpee. I bet if you put that kind of weight on a fit person, they'd look pretty rough doing them, too. 

It was a relief every time I got back to the Thrusters - they were my break, where I could kind of catch my breath (...said no one ever... except for me?).  65# thruster was more than manageable for me, so I was able to pace these nicely and breath -which was a pleasant change from BurpeeLand.
Somehow, those thrusters seemed to go by SO quickly though. It felt like all I was doing in this damn WOD was burpees. More burpees. Burpees again. 
Every time I'd hit the floor for a burpee, a refreshing cold breeze from the door would wash over my face and it was so incredibly tempting just to stay there, face down on the floor. But I had to keep getting up. Uuugh burpees. 
Over the bar!
By some miracle, I hit the single digits. 9 reps. 9 burpees sounds less bad too. Just keep going. 
At this point, the entire rest of my heat had finished. I had some staunch supporters around me, screaming encouragement. 

Denise (the queen of enthusiasm) at one point reminded me what my bracelet said - "Unbreakable."

Just what I needed to hear in the moment. My unbreakable bracelet is a Spartan Race bracelet that always reminds me I've done harder things.... like, 160 burpees, in sets of 30, admist 30 obstacles while hiking 14+ miles for the VT Spartan Beast a few years ago. If I can do that... I can surely keep moving until I finish these damn burpees.  
 On and on I went. All fears realized, I was the last one, everyone was waiting on. And yet... my CFW community was not exuding judgement, but just a lot of cheers, encouragement and support, that really helped me get through those last burpees. I wanted to stop and just lay there, SO badly... but how can you stop, when you have the support of all those people pouring in at you? 
"The Starfish"
I finished, with a whopping 30 min, 16 sec. Definitely not what I was hoping for, but I got it done, regardless. I didn't cry, I didn't die..... I DID starfish for like 5 minutes after, like a champ.... 

And with that... the 2016 CrossFit Open was over. 

What a ride. To recap:
16.1: Where we lunged, burpee'd and did some variety of pullups. 
16.2:  Toes to Bar, jump rope (uughh!) and Squat cleans
16.3: 7 minutes of power snatches and me throwing myself at the bar to get a Chest to Bar pull up. 
16.4: All the deadlifts!! (and some wall balls, rowing, and HSPU)
16.5: Thrusters and Burpees. 

So, I sweated (a lot.), I cried (a little), and I learned an immense amount. It was really cool to do the open with CFW and meet a lot of the members that I otherwise might not, as well as suffer together on things that we wondered if we could even survive. 

I also got to see that I did have some "value" as a crossfitter, even if it wasn't in burpees. LOL. Just because I can't burpee to save my life, I'm proud to say that I crushed every movement that came up with a barbell. 16.4 was a GREAT WOD for me.... where many other people struggled really hard. 

The lesson? The Open is there to test you. I learned quite a bit about what I was good at, what I definitely still needed to work on, and was able to put it in a much bigger perspective. I also learned quite a bit about my headspace coming into some of these events, and what I need to work on there.... Yeah, I cried in 16.3, for example.... but out of frustration because I couldn't. quite. get there. BUT... now I have a goal for next year - fix the Upper bod and get some "ups". 

The biggest lesson? In my head, I'm the failing fat kid who struggles every. single. time. with the workout, looking totally stupid in comparison to all the fit and fancy people who frequent my crossfit gym. 

The reality? Everyone struggles at CrossFit, in their own ways, to become better and stronger. We're all fighting the inner demons, and we all hate burpees. LOL. On a serious note though, despite being the biggest person at my gym and competing in the open, I never ONCE felt like I didn't belong - which was one of my fears... that I'd feel out of place. Apparently, my sacrifices of sweat to the gym mat god, were just as valuable as everyone else's. 

If you're wondering if you should do the open next year, you should. Even if you're last on the leaderboard (I'm NOT LAST!!! YESS!!! #Goalachieved), you're still ahead of everyone who was too afraid to try. 

Besides, I did it... what's your excuse?

(And with that, tomorrow I'm testing out my maxes in squat and deadlift with Robyn, so we can get ready for my powerlifting meet on Saturday! YES! )

UPDATE: Here's the leaderboard for CrossFit Waterbury... I'm not LAST!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"When you look in the mirror and see no change, and still keep faith, knowing that in time you will get there if you stay focused and on track, that's the different between those who succeed and those who fail."


It's been a busy couple of days and my body is definitely feeling each and every thing I've done! In some ways, it's kind of awesome to be stiff and sore, as you definitely know you did something.

Monday was personal training day with Robyn. Nothing like a tailored torture session to start your week! Apparently, with my recent struggles in The Open, my arms and upper body have hit Robyn's radar in a BIG way. Today was ALLLL about destroying my upper body.

After this weekend's leg-busting Open workout, I definitely needed some stretching/mobility (I was sooo stiff on Sunday that I even resorted to 30 min of easy yoga!). We did some usual stretching, and the moved to the Lacrosse Ball from Hell to get into my hamstrings and glutes. Although I totally get the benefits of lacrosse ball rolling/massaging, let me just say... OWWWW. Today, like 48 hours later, I feel like I have butt-bruises to prove I rolled my glutes - but no visible bruise to prove it! LOL

Then... we get to work. Bench Presses!
A traditional 5x5 at 113# - which is definitely a challenging weight for me to do that many sets of. However, I guess that is exactly why we're doing it! It still involves a barbell - even if I had to lift it with my arms! - so I was happy.

After that, onto the rough part - CARDIO ARMS. 10 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of:
12 jumping pull ups
10 air squats
8 push ups (on a box)

So, that seems super simple, right? Yeah, so after challenging bench presses, it was a a difficult mental challenge, being a couple of things I realllly am not a fan of.
Jumping pull ups were not so bad, air squats were totally no problem (and actually helped stretch out my stiff back from the weekend!), but MAN those push ups.

Push ups super suck for me. SUPER SUCK. T-Rex hates push ups! Admittedly, I hate them because I struggle so hard with them, this workout was no exception. Robyn tells me I actually got through them on a shorter box than I'd usually use (so.. progress!). Nonetheless, with these things, it's like every.single.rep is a fight. Thankfully, I was only doing 8 at a time.
There were definitely moments where my arms just failed and no push up was happening. I went down but couldn't push back up. One time I was half up and they just quit and I fell forward on my knees.... It was a messy bunch. Certainly not the cleanest "down and up" push ups I envision in my head. BUT... got it done.

I know I got it done, because today, moving my arms in any way hurts. My "push" muscles - like the tops of your pecs and delts? - are totally upset with me right now. I'm employing the ibuprofen and a lot of water strategy and crossing my fingers that tomorrow is better, not worse!

On to today and it was time to buck up, stop procrastinating and start my next round of squatting. My powerlifting comp (!!!!) is in just a couple of weeks, so it's no time to slack off.
I put my new 1RM numbers into the Hatch Squat calculator.... then I die a little bit. The new numbers looked SO BIG.

The Day 1 opening was 187# for 10 reps. Good lord. While I know I can lift that, doing reps there - to START - is definitely a daunting task. However, this squat program didn't fail me before, so I put my #faithinHatch and got to work.

I will confess that the last few days I did Hatch squats of the last round, I was working, but not dying and sweating. I certainly can not say that this was the case today! The first 10 wasn't so bad... but then I had some descending sets in between, working up to a set of 4 at 247#. (It bears noting that last round's 1RM was 253#.. soo... ).
After those back squats, there was only one more thing to do - front squats! Equally as challenging, I had 4 sets of 5 to go at some pretty decent weights.
Sweat was dripping off and I definitely found that I needed to take some more time in between sets than I usually would.
I got it done, but WHEW. Apparently, these are the weights I *should* be doing, since I was working at a more challenging level.

THEN, just because I'm a glutton for punishment and need some more challenges, Robyn gave me the task of row intervals.
Row intervals after squats are.... interesting.
My task was pretty simple:
6 x 250m, with 1 minute rest in between.
I'm pretty proud of how I did on that - it looks like I actually improved over the intervals. Partially, that may have been because I knew I was getting "done" so I didn't need to save anything for the next interval, but also because I was recovering pretty decently in my minute in between. Nice! I can safely say that a year ago I couldn't have stacked these workouts, let alone just do either one of them.

After surviving that, I definitely had some jelly legs! I was not quick to switch my shoes and get in my car. LOL

With that, I have had the massive temptation to EAT ALL THE THINGS. Heavy lifting days sometimes do that to me, but I'm really trying to be good. I hit all my macros perfectly today, so I'm trying not to go nuts and rummage around my kitchen.
That particular challenge is harder than anything I've done in the gym. Argh.

SO. Instead of eating everything in my kitchen, I've decided to write to you, BlogLand! (One good choice at a time!)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"The Question isn't 'can you?' It's 'will you?'"

Blogland, I admit... I (tried to) bend down to put pants on this morning, groaned like crazy and then seriously considered whether I *needed* pants today.

Since my house is a one-level ranch with a glass door that basically allows you to see the whole house if you come to the door, I did what a responsible adult would do in my situation - I quested for the Ibuprofen, then spent 30 min on the foam roller (in the privacy of my office), before revisiting the option of bending down to put on pants.

"What's the big deal about pants, today, Aja?" you say? Well... I did the CrossFit Open WOD 16.4 yesterday. Let me explain.

The prescribed (RX) WOD 16.4 was:

13-min. AMRAP:
55 deadlifts
55 wall-ball shots
55-calorie row
55 handstand push-ups
M 225 lb. / 20-lb. ball
F  155 lb. / 14-lb. ball
Scaled version was basically the same with a much lighter weight and hand-release push ups instead of HSPUs. 
So, when I read the workout for this week, I did a little happy dance. Last week's WOD was... less than fun for me, so I was REALLY really really (Really!) hoping for something I could do a little better at. Boom! This was it! Deadlifts are my jam, yo.
I watched the Elite athletes do the demo to get a sense of how long this workout was "supposed" to take. In the demo I watched, neither athlete finished the 55 HSPUs. So, I figured, it was unlikely I'd GET to the HSPUs in 13 min.... in which case.... I might be able to do it prescribed!! 
I took a moment to ponder that, realistically. I admit, that was a bit of a scary thought. When you're the fat kid in class, you sort of get used to the fact that you're always going to need to take the "regular" workout down a notch, or there's going to be something you couldn't do, etc. In this case, the deadlifts would be like 45% of my 1 rep max (which is relatively light), wall balls were at the weight I typically use in workouts and rowing is rowing, and something I'm not bad at. So... dare I do it? DARE I GO RX?!?!! EEEEEE!!! The HSPU's never really factored in to my decision making, because I was relatively sure I'd never even get to that point. Even if I did, there would be plenty of people that would get there, throw themselves at the wall for a while, and never get one anyway - I'd be in good company. Let's. Do. This.
With a renewed positive attitude, a little bit of nerves (RX, really?!), and a whole lot of excitement (who doesn't like picking things up and putting them down again!?), I hit the gym. I was feeling ready to rumble. Granted... 55 reps did seem like an awful lot of everything, but if I just kept moving, I should be good..... (famous last words?). 
(This is my pre-WOD, "I like Deadlifts!" face)
I made sure to stretch and do a decent warm up, as it was going to be a long fight of a workout. Certainly not one I wanted to go into "cold", as cold muscles and that many deadlifts would not be a great plan. In my "old age" I have finally learned that I am, in fact, not invincible, that injuries suck and that preventative measures are always the right answer. In retrospect, I wish I would've taken it one step further and worn my supportive knee sleeves for this many reps (deadlifts, plus wall balls, plus rowing.. that's a lot of knee action!), as they're feeling a bit tired today. 
So, bar loaded up to the RX weight of 155#, I chalked up my hands a bit, shook out my nerves and went to my happy place in my head. I could do this, I knew that, just had to keep my head in the game. About 30 seconds before I was about to start, one of my fellow CFW athletes came over to me and told me that he "love watching me deadlift" just because it always seemed featherweight to me. What a compliment! From there, my brain had funny images of Ronnie Coleman stepping up to his weights with his iconic "Yeahhhh buddy! LIGHTWEIGHT!" (If you're not familiar: Nothing like a good laugh to get you into the right frame of mind for some lifting!
3...2....1.... GO!
I pick things Up..... 
And so the grind began. Pick things up, put them down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 
...and I put them down...
I opened with a set of 10, as the deadlift was a comfortable weight for me, but decided to be smart (for the sake of my grip) and do sets of 5 after that. 5 reps, drop. 3 breaths. 5 reps, drop. 3 breaths. I got into a pretty good rhythm and was able to sustain it relatively easily for the whole 55 lifts.  I say "relatively" as 55 deadlifts just isn't "easy" for anyone - it's absolutely a mental game. Somewhere around 30, your brain is like... uhmmmm.... done now. But you have to override that and just keep moving. 
55 deadlifts down, and I was one of the first of my heat over to the wall balls - that means I'd made good time on the lifts, despite doing the heavier RX weight. Yes! I was off to a good start. 
My first 5-10 wall balls were REAL rough. You know what your legs do not want to do after doing a shit ton of deadlifts? They definitely do not want to squat down with any sort of precision. They also do not want to stand up "explosively" to launch a ball to a 9ft target. Nonetheless, after 10 or so really ugly, wobbly ones, my legs seem have recovered a bit and were ready to get in the game. 
However, my lungs decided that they were then on protest. Cardio is always a weakness for me, but god damn those wall balls really jack up your heart rate fast. Although, like with the deadlifts, I decided that a consistent rep scheme would help keep me on track. 5 was the plan. Throw 5, take a breather, throw 5, and just keep going until I was done. 
Wall Balls on Wobbly Legs...
25-30 wall balls in, I felt my self start to sink a bit. My "couple of breaths" between sets was starting to get a little too long. Thankfully, not only did I have Awesome Jane as my judge, I had Coach Robyn cheering me on as well - and doling out some tough love along the way. She apparently noticed the "Wall balls Suck and I can't breathe" face happening, and me slowing down, so she started counting down my "breathers".... 5 reps, then she would count down my 5 seconds of breath, then PICK UP THE BALL.  This helped, big time. I don't know about you, BlogLand, but I go near braindead during hard workouts, so if someone is yelling basic instructions to me, it's a lot easier to follow them than to think of anything else. So, down and up and pick up the ball and throw it, and repeat. 
Clawed my way to 40 lung-busting wall balls and was REALLY wanting to be done. Judge Jane announces I've got 10 left. In my WOD-haze, I think to myself, I really want to be done, and 10 wall balls is not going to kill me, or explode my lungs. Let's be done with this. 
Just like that, I finished out my wall balls in one solid set of 10, digging deep into my legs and lungs for the energy to push through them. 
There was no more satisfying moment than when that 14# ball hit the ground that last time. Ahh... DONE.
Well... done-ish. Now - still doing pretty good on time, despite being a little slower on WB's - onto the rower. 
It almost felt good to sit on the rower after all that, right up until I had to start working. I got a few good pulls in, and my body was like fuuuuuuckkkkk this (pardon my language). I was trying to keep it at a solid 900-1000 cal/hour pace, but there was a moment (I believe many would call this, Hitting the Wall..), where I had like nothing... dropped to like an 750-800cal/hour pace and wondered how I was going to finish this. 
Then, something kind of awesome happened. Judge Jane yelled at me that it was "just a MENTAL GAME". I'm not sure why, but that kind of clicked for me. I'd never died in a workout yet, even though I've felt like it. I've also gotten through a lot of crappier, longer things (Vermont Spartan Beast, I'm looking at you...). I just had to keep moving. 
Digging some energy out of my pinky toes, or wherever that last thread of it was stored, I got back into the rhythm of the row. I needed big powerful leg strokes to get the most calories out of it, but my legs felt particularly done. Thankfully, fellow awesome-CFW'er, Celia appeared over my shoulder and reminded me - LEGS!!! LEGSS!!! PUSH THROUGH YOUR HEELS!!!  Again, waaaay easier to follow directions than think for yourself at a time like this. 
Just something like 90 seconds to go, and I was back in a steady rhythm. Celia kept setting goals for me - Now let's get to 30 calories, GREAT! Let's get to 38!  - and kept pushing me further. I was soooooo close to finishing that 55 calories. 
The 30 second mark was called and I wasn't there yet. I didn't want to finish, thinking I could've done more, so I rallied with everything, and rowed as hard as I could for 20 more seconds. 
"The Starfish"
Time was called, and I'd officially clocked 39 calories... and then watched that damn rower flip over to 40, immediately after. D'oh!
After my little sprint to finish, I was allll done after this wod. I sort of stood-tumbled off the rower and into a great star-fish position, as I was 100% sure my legs were no good for standing up at that moment. 
But - I'm happy. There's always those moments you think of that, "If I'd just..." or "If I had not breathed so long there..." where you think you might've gone a little farther, but I'm totally happy with how this went. 
Proof, I did it RX!!
Not only did I go RX - which was an important milestone for me - it looks like I've ended up in the bottom of the Middle of the pack (45th-ish percentile) - of other people that went RX. That is a really great accomplishment for me. People that do RX are fit! and can do things like HSPU!... so, being the bottom of the middle of that pack is a great achievement. 
Also, I know I could not have done this workout a year ago. I am 100% certain of that. The deadlifts would've gotten done, but painfully slow, the wall balls would've killed me, and I may not have even made it to the rower. So, despite the fact I'm no where near where I want and need to be, I'm making some progress forward. 
It's a good day, BlogLand. 
... despite the fact that I can't bend over, squat down or really move in any way, today. :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you... "

Well, BlogLand, it has been a few days since The Incident, so it was time to get back into the gym and back to work.

Yesterday was a personal training session with Robyn - oddly, one of my favorite points of the week, despite the customized torture she puts me through. Torture is one thing, but CUSTOM torture, geared toward your weaknesses, to make it extra awesome, is a whole new ball game. This was one of those days....

In the wake of the 16.3 hell of just not having enough pull in my back/arms or enough jump in my legs to nail those Chest to Bar jumping pull ups, Robyn decided we have a new project.

Our training session, (after a warm up, of course!) opened with 4x10 ascending weight barbell rows. Lats, you can hide no longer.
I worked up to a 103# barbell row for 10 reps, which was definitely working my back in ways it was not used to. It's funny to reflect that 103# barbell wouldn't even be a warm-up for my legs, but it was most certainly causing me to break a sweat in this movement!

After that, Robyn decided to hone in on another pain point of mine - CARDIO.

Cardio is hard when you're heavier than you should be. End of story. It can get better, but it's never going to be "good".  Needless to say, I do not particularly enjoy it, but I recognize the benefits of getting better at it... so, on we go!

16 Min, as many rounds as possible:
:40 of Rowing (for calories)
50 Single under Jump ropes
:30 of Assault Bike (for calories)
1 Min Rest. 

So basically, you have 20 seconds of rest after rowing to complete that minute, you have whatever time on the minute you have when you finished jump rope, and 30 seconds after assault bike (which actually blends to be a total of 90 sec, with the minute of rest directly after).
The idea is to be consistent from round to round with the calories you're getting on the rower and the bike.

Doesn't seem TOO bad, right?

Well, I survived and mostly in one piece, but that Assault bike really sucks it out of you. Apparently, it gets harder, the harder you go - so it's not just in my head, when it feels like that!

Rowing is a strong area for me (go Legs!) so that was a good way to start... jump rope is decidedly not my favorite, but it's better than the bike.... BUT, if I could survive the bike, I could get a whole minute's rest (which was the shortest minute ever).

All things considered, I was a sweaty, starfish-ing mess after that, but got it done without too much issue (outside of a little whining about jump rope..).

For a little extra fun, we did tabata situps into planks...
So, 20 seconds of situps, DIRECTLY into 20 seconds of plank, with 20 seconds rest.
Like a MILLION times (I'm sure of it.)... or like, 4 minutes. Whatever.
There was much groaning, but again, I lived to tell the tale.

Today, my back was not really excited about me brushing my hair (do you know you use your lats for that?!), although, rolling out of bed was way better than expected (Yay, Abs!).

Given the amount of squatting and such I've been doing (works your core), plus the additional core-specific stuff, I've decided I must have an amazing set of Abs under that spare tire, somewhere!! We shall unveil them, someday...

Today was supposed to be Squat day, but I have this bad feeling like I'm coming down with the stomach bug my Mom had. uuuughh... pleeeaaassse no. Or if it's going to happen, let's get it out of the way quickly.

I'm supposed to go to Zumba tonight, for a little extra cardio in my life, but I'm leaving that one with a question mark as well.... stomach is TBD. Blehhh. Cue the crackers.

On that note, I'll leave you with this little gem, that I feel really encapsulates my thoughts:

Monday, March 14, 2016

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” ―J. Sidlow Baxter

Oh BlogLand, what a week.

This was definitely a tough one, for me. I've been feeling relatively positive about my performance in the first two Open workouts so far, generally feeling good about my decision to participate. It's been a great time with the CrossFit Waterbury community getting to know people, hanging out and going through the same struggles and commiserating over our inability to walk straight after 16.1.

That said, 16.3 was everything I feared would happen when I signed up to participate, and I had a difficult time keeping everything in a positive light.

The 16.3 WOD was pretty simple, yet devious.
For those super-human people that have arms that aren't decorative, it went like this:
As many rounds as possible in 7 min of,
10 Power Snatches (75/55)
3 bar muscle ups.

For those of us mere mortals, it was scaled to this:
7 min AMRAP of,
10 power snatches (45/35)
5 jumping chest to bar pull ups

So, from a strategic perspective, those snatches (floor to overhead movement with a barbell) are incredibly light, so the design is that you will keep plowing through rounds - spending the majority of time on your Jumping C2B pull ups or  - if you are extra awesome - your bar muscle ups.

As I watched the announcement of this workout, I wasn't too terrified. That was snatches with an empty bar (piece of cake!) and then I'd just need to concentrate on my jumping C2B pull ups. T-Rex hates pull ups, but I've done a fair amount of jumping pull ups in my day and know I can bang those out with some leg power. That said, I had a little bit of a question mark on jumping CHEST to bar pull ups, as that would mean you have to jump even higher, instead of just getting your chin over the bar. The new standard would be that you'd have to touch the bar below your collar bone. HMM.

All things considered, though, despite being a little leery, I showed up to the workout ready to work. There was a great energetic buzz in the room and I was ready to take on this beast.
During warm up and set up, trainer Robyn had me test out of a few, standing on a right-height box - as this is not typically a skill we practice. It went okay and I got through a couple with relative ease. Wasn't going to be a "fun" workout, but I was anticipating it would be doable.

I watched the first round of crazy athletes take on 16.3, with several people getting their very first muscle up. Several people did some solid C2B jumping pull ups, and overall, it seemed to be the workout that I was expecting.
Then it was my turn.

I had to shuffle boxes to stand on, as my original platform had been commandeered, but a box, with the addition of a 25# plate on top seemed to get me to the regulation height under the bar.

3...2....1.... We're off.

It was only going to be 7 minutes, I told myself - unlike that 20 min killer we started out with a few weeks ago. I can do anything for 7 minutes.

I picked up my empty barbell and ripped through my 10 power snatches in approximately 25 seconds (kid you not!), which was fast enough for me to be the first one in my heat to hit the pull up station. WOO. Off to a good start, I thought to myself.

.... Then it began...

With Amazing Jane as my friendly and supportive judge, I started my quest for a solid C2B jumping pull up. After a few attempts, I got one, and felt encouraged. It might take a while, but I could do this. Then, it seemed to slide faster downhill. I kept getting "no rep" as my chest missed touching the bar (to count as a complete rep), by - LITERALLY - a centimeter. Only, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to get any more ups from my legs, or pulls from my arms that would close that gap.

Continue repeatedly throwing myself at the bar from different angles, trying to get my damn chest to the damn bar. It is the only time in my life I briefly wished for bigger boobs, so maybe they'd stick out one more centimeter....
At some point in this flailing, Robyn joined my side, helping Amazing Jane count my attempts and try and interject a voice of calm reason, with my increasingly frustrated attempts. I can't thank those ladies enough for keeping the positivity flowing, as without them this could've been EVEN WORSE.

Magically, something happened on rep 4... I got it. Solidly.
I managed to do the exact same thing again, and hit another solid count for rep 5. YES.

After 4:45 seconds of the workout (which was 4:20 seconds of me throwing myself at the bar, just trying to get 5 reps of C2B), I ran back to the barbell to bang out another set of snatches. Maybe my ugly streak was over, a brief glimmer of hope said in the back of my mind....

Boom! 10 snatches knocked out in another 25 seconds or so. Somewhere around the 5:15 mark, I was back at the pull up station, for another crusade for reps.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Somewhere in that last 2 minutes, I managed to eek out 1 more good C2B, amidst a sea of "no rep" jumps.

Internally, it felt like I got 1 good rep, for every 5000 jumps up to the bar I did. I could see - all 5000 times - that I was missing by a fraction... yet, I just couldn't put all the pieces together to make it successful. But, during that 7 minutes, I was there to work.... and work I did. Attempt after attempt, I jumped up, trying to find the magic combination again (seriously, what did I do on the two really good reps, that was different?!!), to no avail. I was majorly frustrated, but aside from the occasional sputterings between breaths, I kept it under control and focused at the task at hand.

The clock hit 7 minutes and I dropped my hands off the pull up bar.
I had completed one full round (10 snatches, 5 C2B) and 11 reps (10 snatches, and one more C2B).

The anger and annoyance of being -thisclose- on the other 5 million reps, the confusion because I had eeked out a few during warm up, but couldn't do them in the WOD, the embarrassment of being the fat kid just jumping at the bar unsuccessfully for like 6.5 out of the 7 minutes, finally came to a head.

Cue the tears.

Seriously, not kidding. Big hot tears hit my cheeks as I stepped off my jumping box. Which, as I'm sure anyone who's been there can attest, decidedly doesn't help the feelings of frustration and embarrassment that generated them in the first place!

I took some deep breaths and wiped them back as best as I could, while the Day's MVP's - Robyn and Jane - wrapped me in positive thoughts, and a different perspective on the frustration I was feeling.

Robyn reminded me that Jumping C2B's were legitimately hard and not something we practice regularly, so not something I was going to be immediately good at. She reminded me that it wasn't just me - there were plenty of people who didn't get ANY good reps during their workouts. Further, she gave me the rational perspective I was lacking at that moment - this was the CrossFit Open. It was meant to test you to the limits of your skills to expose your strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, we'd found one of mine, and that was simply a direction for us to practice it more to be ready for next year. Not a failure, not a statement on my fitness, not anything except a fact that this was a movement I struggled with and should practice, end of story.

With a few more deep breaths and a cold towel to the face, after escaping to the bathroom to regroup, I was starting to come back to sanity.

Awesome Jane hung with me for a bit, while we watched the next wave of people tackle the event, radiating an incredibly positive vibe, reminding me that I gave it all I had - and THAT was the important part.

So, this was a first for me, BlogLand. I have never had a workout move me to tears before... but it was a good lesson learned. It was just so frustrating to be so close to the goal, but just not quite get it.. over... and over and over and over and over. It felt a whole lot like virtually banging my head against a wall, repeatedly, for 7 min.

On the positive side, although they were not legitimate jumping C2Bar pull ups, I did a metric shit ton of jumping pull ups, for 7 minutes.

It was a tough day in WODerbury, but I was really thankful for the gym-family I get to have. Despite my frustrating performance, I got high fives and congratulatory words from a bunch of people. In the midst of my little outburst, my friend and trainer had my back and took the time to talk to me, instead of just moving on to the next order of business. Other people commiserated how they had struggled with X, Y, or Z, and how sucky these WODS could be sometimes.

It was a little bit like getting a big sweaty hug from my gym community. LOL.

With a couple days to process and get over it all, I'm back at it tomorrow for a personal training session. Somehow, I have the distinct fear that Robyn is going to make it her new mission to whip my arms into shape. I already can't brush my hair, thinking about it.

The Lesson Learned here, BlogLand is simply that you're not going to be good at everything, and that's okay. You're going to come frustratingly close - and that's actually a GOOD thing. Being -thisclose- is a lot better than not really being able to do it at all (which might've been me a year ago) and missing by 6 inches, instead of a centimeter.

At the end of the day, I submitted my scores for the workout and I'm okay. Yes, it was not my most shining moment, but I'm convinced that if I sacrifice enough sweat (and I guess a few tears!) to the great Dave Castro, he will hear me and program at least ONE WOD that is a bunch of heavy barbells.

T-Rex LOVES heavy barbells. :-)

Monday, March 7, 2016

“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” – Alexander the Great

Another big weekend, BlogLand!

This weekend, it was time to tackle Open WOD 16.2! I felt okay going into it, all things continued, as I had A Plan.
My goal was to get into Round 3, although that seemed like it was going to be a huge fight, given the fact that knees to elbows was going to be a rough one for my grip and jump rope and I have a hate-hate relationship.
I'm THRILLED to report that not only did I get into round 3, I *almost* finished it!

Starting the WOD, the atmosphere in the gym was great. Something about The Open seems to really bring out the community feel, as everyone is fighting the same battle (It's Us. vs. Dave Castro!). Even better, my long-time Spahten friend and many-race battle buddy, was there visiting. We got our warm ups done, exchanged pep-talks and took our places under our pull up bars.

I was a little nervous, but having thought out a solid plan was really helping me be "okay" with what was about to go down. I admit, part of me was thinking that - worse case scenario - my WOD would only be 4 minutes! WOO!

3...2...1... GO.

I took off with sets of 5 knees raises and was able to consistently bang out all 25 that way, with just a couple seconds in between each set. Right on target!
On to the jump rope, I took a deep breath and feeling good still, I did my two sets - 30 and 20 - right on point. No tripping, no getting flustered. YES.
I picked up the bar for my first set of squat cleans and threw up that 55# bar like nothing (the fact that it was so light caught me off guard a bit! ha!). There are some times that having one skill set like lifting heavy things, comes in handy!
I kept a steady pace and one eye on the clock.
Put down the 15th squat clean and looked nervously at the clock - TIME TO SPARE!!!

Had to squash that mental celebration a bit, because I knew I'd need all the time I'd banked to keep going, as I started to get tired. Stick to The Plan!

Onto the second set of knees to elbows, and I managed another solid 5 sets of 5 reps to get those things done. It really helped to take a lesson from my Man, the rock climber... don't over grip! There's nothing that's going to burn out your forearms and grip faster than the infamous Death Grip. The Death Grip is often the result of nerves or overthinking... I was not going to fall victim to that! I kept just enough grip to keep me on that bar and made sure to utilize a little bit of the swing momentum ( I wouldn't call it a kip... it wasn't that graceful. LOL!) to help keep moving.
Onto that damn jump rope!
Definitely starting to huff and puff a bit, but still felt pretty good and strong. A deep breath and on to the jump rope. A little less graceful than the first round, but still manged to pull it out with two big sets. YES!!! Made it to the barbell!
Amazingly, it seemed I was outrunning the clock, noting that I finished the jump rope at the 10:24 mark. A whole minute and a half to bust out like 13 squat cleans!

Now, I will admit (Sorry Robyn!), the squat cleans turned a little more into power cleans and front squats. Weirdly, the fact that the weight was so light (for me) at only 75#,  actually made it harder, as I didn't NEED to get under the bar to clean it. Therefore, I was off and running, up and down!

Looking at the clock, I realized I had started to slow a bit (..can't... breathe... huff...puff...) and had lost some of the time I'd banked. Time to kick it into high gear.
BAM - kick out those touch and go squat cleans!
Putting down number 13, I look at my judge, who enthusiastically smiles and waves me on!

HOLY SHIT. (Yes. That was the actually thought process).


Okay Self, I thought, just keep it consistent!

Grabbing the bar in that third round definitely had a different flavor. I was out of breath and wasn't recovering as much as I needed to. This is where the decision was going to be made, and I wasn't ready to quit yet.

So, 3 knees to elbows in, I drop off the bar. Couldn't quite pull out 5. No problem - I'd planned for this. Now, we're at sets of 3. No problem.

I definitely lost some time here, doing sets of threes, but hoped I could make it up with consistency moving forward.

Back onto that damn jump rope. Definitely less grace on this round, but again (!!!) made it in 2 big sets..... to 49. (D'oh!!!) Lost a little more time busting out that one hop.

I was thrilled to be back at the bar, even though it had gotten reloaded to 95#.

.... but I was starting to fade a bit. It felt like my lungs were on fire, I couldn't breathe.... but I looked at the clock and realized I didn't have time to breathe.

Squat Cleans devolved a bit into muscle cleans and front squats - again, lost some time here, but was able to be consistent. With the clock catching up and the community cheering me on, I pushed to try and bang out those squat cleans, as I knew it was going to be close - I MIGHT be able to make it into Round 4.

Sadly, my cardio-(in)capabilities made the determination on this one, and the clock beat me at 12 minutes - with only 3 squat cleans to go.

AWWWW.... Man. SOOOOOO close. THREE left.

I would've loved to crack round 4, but it's okay. Honestly, I didn't think I'd make it as far as I did, so I'm calling this one a major victory.

On finishing, my grip was blown out and I was drenched in sweat and dying a little bit, so I think I left it all out there.

In retrospect, could I have made it through that third round? Yeah, maybe. There were a couple of places I think I could've saved a little time, or pushed a little harder and cracked into round 4. But, isn't there always? I'm really satisfied banking a score of 261 for this WOD. Amazingly - out of scaled women in the Northeast, this was a good enough score to put me smack in the middle of the field! YEAH! (NOT LAST! EEE!).

The hardest part of this whole WOD was actually the aftermath, for me.

I was feeling pretty awesome coming out of the WOD. I made a good showing and pulled out a score that many people would be happy with. .... Then I looked at the pictures.


It is super hard to feel good about what you've just done, when you see the pictures and they don't reflect the way you feel. I know I'm a big person right now, but I worked hard as hell and I really wanted to see the pictures that reflected that success.

Pictures came out and I got some action shots this time.... and while they're not as bad as the shots from the competition a few weeks ago, it's really disheartening to just continue to see the mismatch between how I feel and how I look. UGH.

BUT. *deep breath*

I'm working hard at refocusing on the accomplishment. Gotta keep your head in the game and keep taking steps - however small - forward.
Today, I focusing on the fact that I not only got out there and am competing in The Open, but I'm doing it as a (gulp) almost 300# women. If I can gasp and pant my way through this shit, anyone should be able to!

Now, we rest, foam roll and gear up for 16.3 to come. I'm happy that we've crossed jump rope off the list, no more burpees..... I'm thinking we're going to see a row in there sometime soon. I would REALLY, really like to see something like a heavy barbell ladder, or something I can really dive into. However, regardless of what is to come, I'm happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and have jumped in to The Open.

Friday, March 4, 2016

"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." - Tom Landry

So, Blogland.... The Open 16.2 WOD was announced last night.

Yes... I watched it live with equal parts fear and anticipation. After last week's long and grueling WOD, I was sooooooo hoping for something short and heavy - which would play a little more to my strengths.

What happened? Well, I got my wish about barbells.... but, you have to EARN your way to a barbell. Here's what 16.2 looks like (RX):

Beginning on a 4-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
  25 toes-to-bars
  50 double-unders
  15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb.
If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 toes-to-bars
  50 double-unders
  13 squat cleans, 185 / 115 lb.
If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 toes-to-bars
  50 double-unders
  11 squat cleans, 225 / 145 lb.
If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 toes-to-bars
  50 double-unders
  9 squat cleans, 275 / 175 lb.
If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 toes-to-bars
  50 double-unders
  7 squat cleans, 315 / 205 lb.
Stop at 20 minutes.
Well.... T2B and DU's are not in my range right now, so here's the scaled version, that I'll be attempting:
Beginning on a 4-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
  25 hanging knee raises
  50 single-unders
  15 squat cleans, 95 / 55 lb.
If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 hanging knee raises
  50 single-unders
  13 squat cleans, 115 / 75 lb.
If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 hanging knee raises
  50 single-unders
  11 squat cleans, 135 / 95 lb.
If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 hanging knee raises
  50 single-unders
  9 squat cleans, 155 / 115 lb.
If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
  25 hanging knee raises
  50 single-unders
  7 squat cleans, 185 / 135 lb.
Stop at 20 minutes.
Basically the same, I'll just be replacing T2B with hanging knee raises and double unders with single unders. I probably could've handled a few rounds of the prescribed squat cleans, but lucky for me, since I'm going scaled, I get some MUCH lighter weights. 
Time to devise a plan, as I always feel better going into situations like this if I have a game plan. If your brain knows what to do before hand - so you don't have to strategize on the fly, mid WOD - I find I get a better performance. 
So first, time to identify my strength here - obviously going to be the squat cleans (which can be done as a power clean + a front squat). I know I can clean the scaled weight for all of these rounds, and I know I can front squat much more than that... so, the squat cleans are definitely going to be my excel area. 
THAT said... I've got to do some steady to fast work before I can get to the barbell, which is going to be the tricky part. 
Hanging knee raises are EXHAUSTING for me. Not as much on the actual knee raise part (not saying that's "easy" though...!!), but more that my grip just fails completely. There's a lot of me to hang from a bar, and my grip just doesn't have the strength to hang there through 25 of these things. SO... how do I work around it? Well, in all the CrossFit tips videos, even for the RX athletes, they recommend saving your grip by breaking up the time hanging from the bar. So, my strategy will be to do 5 sets of 5, with a couple seconds of rest (shake out those hands!) in between. Realistically, I'm going to guess that the clock may catch me after 2 rounds (I'm hoping not!), so I think that sets of 5 is something I can sustain for a couple of rounds. 
Moving on to jump rope...... ugh. (WHY, Dave Castro, WHY?!?!!!). 
Jump rope and I have a really tumultuous relationship. I can actually jump rope, I swear. I can even do it for sets of 50 at a time - I know this, because I have done this. HOWEVER, as soon as my legs get a little tired, it all falls apart; I don't jump as high, I trip on the rope and otherwise generally look like a hot mess flinging a rope around. 
But... in terms of this workout, I think I might be okay. First round, I'll get to jump rope relatively fresh, so I should be able to get through them in one consistent set of 50 (that's the goal). BUT, if I need to stop and regroup, it's going to be 2 sets of 25 (we'll have to decide that one on the fly). The cleans are really light for me, and not a huge amounts, so I should still have a good set of legs (that will get a break while I struggle through knee raises) going into round two. Round two, I'm anticipating two sets of 25 for jump rope. Purposely breaking it up into two sets will allow me to stay focused and composed, rather than flustered and floppy if I start getting tired. 
Let's talk about goals... I feel like this looks deceptively "manageable". Like, I'm going to need to bank all the time I can during power cleans, if I'd like to keep making it through rounds. I'm relatively certain I can make it through Round 1 and into Round 2. I'm also feeling pretty confident that I can make it through Round 2 and into Round 3. My guess is Round 3 will be where my grip starts to fail and I get tired (roughly 8-10 min in), and the jump ropes start to get sloppy/trippy. 
Can I make it to round 4? Possibly I could finish all 5?! Possible - Yes. Not sure if that's going to happen, but I'm going to give it a solid go. Just need to focus on banking the "extra" time early on, so I can rest a little more as the rounds progress. 
BlogLand, send your good vibes this way - I'd like to make a little better score at this WOD than with 16.1 (uuughhh!!!!). 
The good/fun news is that I'll have an unexpected visitor for this WOD!  My long lost Spahten friend and battle buddy needs to do an away-WOD while she's up in my area, away from her home box. YAY! I couldn't have asked for a better cheering section, while I beat this WOD into submission. :-)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"The Myth that women shouldn't lift heavy is only perpetuated by women who fear hard work and men who fear strong women."

It was a big day today, Blogland!

The last few days have been pretty good - been getting in workouts, going for walks and trying to keep plugging along. I've been struggling a little bit with my nutrition and feeling frustrated.... BUT, today was definitely the pick me up that I needed!

After completing our full 12 week Hatch (the Squat program), it was time for a re-test.

My new Rehband knee sleeves came in yesterday, so I got to try those today. THAT was a new kind of awesome. To be clear, I don't *need* knee sleeves, but part of me thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a little extra protection given the heavy weights I've been hitting. I'm thinking of it more as injury prevention. However, they definitely were a pleasant surprise! I have achy knees in the winter, particularly when I'm carrying this much weight, due to some old compressed cartilage when I was younger. These sleeves kept my knees really warm during my lifting session, which made them feel SO much better. I may start wearing these on an off for recovery, as I've heard this can be helpful, too. Overall, they were an expensive purchase to get the ones I did, but I'm really happy with them. Who doesn't want a warm, supportive, hug for their knees when they're lifting??

Anyway, geared up and ready to go, Robyn and I started warming up and ramping up the weights. When testing for a one rep max, it's always a fine line between not being warmed up enough, and wearing out your legs doing too many reps.... I'll spare you the details, but I'm SUPER EXCITED to report that I successfully stood up (back squat) a new personal record of....
303 POUNDS!! EEE!! (... and I think maybe I could've gotten 313, had I known I would go that far..)
(video proof!)

AND.... rounded that out with another personal record of a 263# front squat.
Both of those were up 50 pounds from when I had tested each one of them, 12 weeks ago. WOO!
I think the lesson I've learned here is that when you just follow the plan and do the work, you get the results. Imagine that?

Although I haven't been super happy with what my body is doing lately (WHY will you not lose weiiighhttt?!!!?), I can say I'm pretty proud of these lifts. I've been doing them consistently and I'm making progress there.

In addition, I'm feeling pretty honored - I won the "Spirit Award" for my gym this week... basically, our gym is having it's own mini team comp of the people competing in The Open. Our teams earn points for wearing the team colors, for showing up at the scheduled times - and for having a great attitude. Apparently,  after having a really fun week meeting other gym members (for judging!) and just throwing myself at the WOD, despite it being decidedly not in my wheelhouse - I won the Spirit Award (and 3 pts for my team!).  I'm pretty excited. Not to bad for the Fat Kid in the box, just doing the work!

Now, after a really good week, I'm sitting at my comp, anxiously awaiting the live announcement of the 16.2 WOD...... Please Dave Castro.... Short and Heavy???