In Love and in Numbers

I’m starting to read this article that was shared with me via the all-campus email. It’s about love in the age of data, but there’s more to it, including the history of love and how we in the West have made love our unofficial religion and purpose.

And isn’t it so?

Does it feel like this blog was/is a testament to all the failed attempts at love I had in nearly three decades of existence? (For the most part, yes, plus a lot of learning and education in the formal sense.) Thankfully, what I learned from my mistakes (and frankly, the mistakes of others at my own expense) changed my trajectory and what I valued, and I luckily found myself in a partnership that feels unlike anything I ever experienced previously and also feels like exactly what I was searching for.

Anyhoo, read on for Love in the Age of Big Data, and enjoy your Friday.

If you’re looking for more recent musings, hop on over to my “less heavy on the emotional baggage, and way heavier on the weight plates” blog at The Average Athlete.

On This Day: Love and Loving

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states of the USA.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy. I am thrilled to know that all my friends can choose whether or not they want to marry. I didn’t find out about the ruling until a coworker told me; I was listening to Spotify on the ride in to work today. As the news continues to sink in, I am more and more moved.

I understand that I have friends from many walks of life, including walks of life that do not account for same-sex relationships as valid nor moral. They are struggling with what they define as their truth today, I am certain, and I hope that their hearts turn to love instead of hate. As one who is a free-spirited and progressive Catholic, I will pray for you.

Furthermore, I have many friends who come from walks of life in which they have not been allowed to live to their fullest. Today marks a step in the right direction, but we’re not done yet. Discrimination reaches further than legality of marriage, and we have a long road ahead of us in terms of making this world an equitable place for everyone. This goes for race, creed, orientation, gender identity, SES, etc. There’s a very long list, and it overwhelms me when I think about how I am just one very small player in this complicated world. However, we should celebrate the decision today. A conscious celebration is very much in order and overdue.

I also think about the parallels to the historic Loving v. Virginia decision. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws, declaring that mixed-race marriages were legal. It seems so long ago, and in my lived truth, mixed-race relationships seem so normal.

But Loving v. Virginia wasn’t actually that long ago.

In fact, the ruling was only ten years before my parents got married.

One of the most well-known arguments against mixed-race marriage–at least, most well-known to me, who had to draw on it for a debate course back in the mid-2000s–came from the judge presiding over the original case. One NPR article summarizes that “Judge Leon Bazile wrote: ‘Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. … The fact that He separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.‘”

Does that sound familiar?

What also sounds familiar, though, were the arguments in favor. The argument was made in the case that “The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional” (via NPR, 2007).

I think about these things, and sometimes, I find myself at a loss for words. The profoundness of the situation is not lost on me. This was recent history, and it changed the world.

When change happens, sometimes it is gradual, and sometimes it is sweeping. Today was sweeping, but not without precedent and not without gradually shifting attitudes. I hope that 40+ years from now, we can reflect back–as I often do on Loving v. Virginia–on the long-term impact and understand what we’ve done and what still needs to be done.

I leave you with this beautiful passage from the ruling today, with the hope that you do your part to spread light and joy in the world. Go in peace.

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Indeed, it is.

It is so ordered.

Actually, You Aren’t Enough

Someone had to say it, and say it well. I’ve been trying to live in the moment, trying to celebrate each little step forward, and to think critically about what I truly want and hope for myself in this life. Nothing is 100% certain, that’s for sure, and nothing will come without failure. But failure doesn’t come without trying, and that’s the important part right now.

Sinclair Ceasar

You Are Enough.

Those three words frustrate me. I don’t always believe in them. For some of us, the goal of perfection has been a burden for quite some time. Some of us jokingly say things like I’m just a perfectionist or I just like to do it right the first time. Okay. I actually say those things all the time. But, when I fail, I kick myself and sulk. I restart the self-loathing process:

Step 1: Doubt my skills.

Step 2: Envy others who do what I do – seemingly better.

Step 3: Repeat.

you-are-enough

Thanks to Twitter, I find myself scrolling through update after update from others who are killing the SA game. Heck, maybe some feel the same way when they peruse my statuses. My self-worth gets tied up into everything I haven’t done, and into every year of experience I don’t have in my field. I end up…

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And That Was It: 15.5 and the Close of the 2015 CrossFit Open

I’ve had some time to recover since the Open concluded on March 30th. Well, it concluded for me on March 27th because I had plans that weekend. I’m so glad this year’s Open is done.

15.5 was…

27-21-15-9
Row for Calories
Thrusters (95/65lb.)

Thrusters! Yay! (Kind of.) Rowing! Eh.

Nothing in 15.5 surprised me when it was announced. It was a for-time work-out, meaning I had to get through every single rep to earn a score. It had two movements which work the same muscle groups, which I knew would burn quite quickly. And so, I knew this would be a mental grind, and the longer I could hold onto the bar, the sooner it would all be done.

Last year’s 14.5 was very similar: 21-18-15-12-9-6 of thrusters and bar-facing burpees. Those were moves that weren’t technically too demanding, but moves that would nonetheless sap your energy levels and get you inside your own head. Last year, I unfortunately got sick right before the announcement of 14.5, and I delayed my attempt at the last WOD until I felt better. However, I was still stuffy and low-energy, so while it was my best showing in the 2014 Open, it was not a good time.

This year, I at least stayed healthy enough not to endure an Open WOD with a cold. Mentally, knowing that I was 100% healthy helped quite a bit.

Again, the for-time WOD resulted in my best placement overall and in the Region. While I am by far an average CrossFit athlete, I was able to tap into my slight advantage in the thruster, which is my shortness, working hard enough to at least displace my disadvantage in rowing, which is also my shortness.

15.5 concluded in just under 13 minutes for me, at 12 minutes and 58 seconds. Both my boyfriend and my coach were urging me to pick up the barbell as the clock approached 13 minutes, and I willed my light-headed self to power clean the bar, squat it, and push it back overhead as I stood up time and time again. Why I didn’t utilize a full clean into the thruster at this weight (65lbs.) is beyond me, and I wonder if I could have held on for longer sets. But I remember a competition where I “no-repped” my last thruster and finished nearly 20 seconds slower because of the missed attempt, so I’m confident that the way I broke up my sets was necessary. I broke up sets before failure, but I pushed myself in a way I only do in competition settings. I was able to quiet the pleading voice in my head that was urging me to wait three more seconds in-between everything. A different voice told it to shut up, because we’re getting this over with now. 

Well, it worked fine enough. End result? I was proud of my effort in 15.5; it felt like it made up for my disappointments in 15.2 and 15.3. It felt like I took control of the WOD, even while knowing it was going to be unpleasant. It felt like I had done my work throughout the year.

It felt like I was a legit athlete in the space I frequent. 

It also felt a bit like I was dying. I spent a good while rolling around on the ground, complaining about the burning sensation in my glutes. That was to be expected.

After I finally peeled myself off the ground, I rummaged around in my belongings for the giant maple bar I had taken with me from work. I wasted little time consuming about half of the doughnut, but not before I could get my commemorative photo taken. (Thanks, John.)

Another roller coaster ride of emotions and sweat in the books. I reveled in the conclusion of the Open, and then, a few days later, registered for my next competition.

It never really ends.

15.4: Upside-down and inside-out

A little late, given that the Open is now done. However, I’ll keep with the “tradition” and recap things individually. I started this just a few days after 15.4, so excuse my tardiness.

Before 15.4 was announced, I predicted handstand push-ups (HSPU) would be in the WOD. Given this year’s inclusion of several more demanding technical moves, I thought HSPU would be a given.

I was right.

15.4 was only an 8-minute AMRAP, but it comprised of HSPU and heavy cleans. It opened with HSPU, which meant for the second week in a row, the Open WOD began with a move I had never successfully completed at the Rx level.

Everyone knows I have a lifting bias; I understand the power lifts easily enough, and compared to the other things required in CrossFit, lifts are more natural. Granted, the Oly lifts are very technical, and much of what I’ve done in them up to now has been with some questionable form. Most people should also know that I tend to suffer from self-inflicted analysis paralysis, meaning that my perfectionism rears its head and I stunt my progress by getting bogged down in the details. Case in point, I’m currently stalled out in my Oly lifts at about 25lbs. under my maximum lifts while I work through eliminating an early arm pull. Meaning I can currently clean about 105lbs. with good form and have failed all but two or three attempts at 115lbs., which in the past few months was beginning to look like a routine weight. (A week after 15.4, I attempted lifts at 115, 120, and 125lbs., and I hit them all–the video showed, though, that I pull early, don’t extend fully, jump backwards, and all-around lose my form at those heavy percentages.)

Sigh. Anyway. 15.4 called for 125lb. cleans, which meant I was probably looking at an embarrassingly out-of-character struggle with the barbell.

Luckily(?), I never made it to 15.4’s barbell task at-hand. Instead, I managed to successfully complete an 8-minute crash-course in kipping HSPU. Inversions aren’t really my thing, as in, I have little idea as to how I’m oriented when inverted. So, slow and steady–as much as possible–in 8 minutes was the key. Thanks to the encouragement of my judge/boyfriend, I was able to finally lower myself all the way. Stuck upside down, there were only two options: fall over, or press myself back up against the wall. I could tell a strict HSPU wasn’t going to happen, so the only way up was with a kip.

I had watched a few 15.4 strategy videos, and one of them had some great tips on how to kip the HSPU. However, I couldn’t exactly invert myself and follow along while watching, so I tried to remember everything I watched. Most of my attempts were mistimed, and finally, there was one rep where everything came together, and I found myself at a point where I knew I could lock out and finish the rep.

“One.”

That was all I would end up getting that night. I spent a few more minutes flopping around as my teammates seemed to magically absorb all the techniques and tricks of the HSPU, moving off the wall, onto that heavy barbell that likely would have eluded me anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I was stoked to finally get my first Rx HSPU. But part of me was disappointed that I hadn’t taken the plunge into full range of motion earlier on. What was really stopping me? Fear? A stunted idea of progress in the move? Was I blaming perceived lack of strength when really it was fear of dropping down too fast?

Honestly, these are things that I wonder about a lot of the technical challenges now facing me. I don’t want to get fixated too much on one detail and stall myself out, and at the same time, I don’t want to bypass foundations in order get that heavier weight, to get that Rx motion, to get that faster time.

In other words, I need to find my balance again. It’s time to get a little more uncomfortable, and yet it’s also time to trust myself.

What am I waiting for?

15.3–or, “Everyone’s Allowed to Have a Bad Day.”

There are several foundations to fitness that I try to follow. Those are:

  • leave your ego at the door
  • leave your baggage/bad attitude outside of the gym
  • listen to your body

These are pretty simple things. (Or as one of my friends has kindly reminded me, “No doyyyyy.”) So, why then, is it so hard for me to actually do these things some days? Is it the pursuit of “better every day” and the reality that my progress is often slower than others’? Is it a lingering habit of perfectionism and the frustration of not getting every detail correct? Is it imposter syndrome and wondering if I really belong in this nutty fitness world?

It’s probably all those things and more, and it seems that every year, there’s at least one Open WOD that feels like it’s a personal attack on my weakest points–physically and mentally. Well, that was 15.3 this time.

Here’s what was announced:

15.3 (Rx):
AMRAP14

7 muscle-ups
50 wall balls (14lbs. to 9′)
100 double-unders

Um, slight problem with this: I didn’t have muscle-ups, and I certainly didn’t have muscle-ups after hurting my shoulder back in November while practicing muscle-up drills. First blow received. I thought, “At least there’s a Scaled division this year.”

15.3 (Scaled)
AMRAP14

50 wall balls (10lbs. to 9′)
200 single-unders

What? No triplet? No chance to test my double-unders which I had worked on all year?

Nope.

For my shortcomings on the muscle-up, I was relegated to just wall balls and jump rope. That was the second blow. What ensued over the weekend felt like one gut punch after another.

Friday night, I drilled muscle-up technique. A few short videos revealed lack of hip extension.

Saturday, I slept in and missed the gym, although the rest of the day was pleasantly calm. (For the record, children’s productions of The Wizard of Oz are hilariously adorable.)

Sunday, I again drilled muscle-up technique, and started to incorporate hip extension. Sadly, I was still much too low to execute any successful turn-overs, and each try just landed me in a silly pull-up position. I didn’t get as far as I wanted, although I have to admit that in two days of practice after months of staying away from the muscle-up, I did make some progress.

After playing on the rings for a while, it was time to deal with the workout for real and attempt it Scaled. I usually only work with 14lb. wall balls and double-unders now, and I felt that I had made progress in both of those arenas over the last year. However, 15.3 was not so kind to me, and it felt more like it deconstructed my perceived gains, and placed me squarely back at “START.”

My first set of 10lb. wall balls were, by my standards, pretty good. A set of 25, followed by 10-10-5, and I was able to move off the wall and grab my rope. And that’s when everything fell apart. Not because I can’t jump rope, but because my hair kept getting in the way of my rope. Really. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I had maybe gotten through 75 or so single-unders. I had tried multiple hair ties, a different rope, and even letting my hair all the way down, and I just couldn’t navigate around my own self. Frustrated, I tossed my rope the ground, sat on a box, and declared that I was done. It was the worst feeling.

It felt like I had undone months of learning in just five minutes. It felt like, “Why am I even trying?” It felt like I was being shown that I would never move out of the intermediate realm. And I hooked into those negative feedback loops over the remainder of those 14 minutes, sitting on that box, nearly in tears.

But I wasn’t going to take “DNF” and 100 reps or so as my score, so I begrudgingly tied my hair back with two secure hair-ties into a low bun, reconfigured my gear, and tested out several of the grumpiest and most deflated single-unders I’ve ever come across.

While I was able to get through my second attempt without any issues physically, I let my mind get the better of me. My wall balls were not nearly as strong out of the gate, and my second set of single-unders in the WOD took forever–not because of technical issues, but because I was tired, sucking air and trying to keep my composure.

I put up 578 reps in the Scaled version of 15.3 that day, and I wouldn’t have a chance (nor the heart) to attempt it again. Naturally, I beat myself up over it, wondering why I hadn’t fixed my hair before the first attempt or berating myself for my ineptitude with a jump rope. “Why can’t you just be BETTER?” I seemed to think all day, and I moped and wallowed over a workout.

In the grand scheme of it all, one workout doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t define me as a person or even an athlete. It’s easy to write that, but it’s harder to believe that when I know jump rope and wall balls are two things that have historically been problematic.

In the grand scheme of it all, maybe one workout does matter, though. Maybe it matters that while I felt my worst, I wasn’t going to let my worst self quit all the way. Sure, my worst self won a little bit by negatively affecting my performance, but my better self didn’t take “no” for an answer.

And I guess that’s small victory for just your average athlete, which is good enough for now.

15.2 in Hindsight

I’m going to make this short. Here’s how 15.2 went for me:

1. This was the only Open WOD I have ever attempted twice in order to improve my score. Why? Because this year, in my first attempt, I scored a 28, which was the same exact score as when it came to us as 14.2 last year. (15.2 was a repeated Open WOD.)

2. I did improve my score on Sunday by changing my chest-to-bar pull-up grip to mixed-grip. (It turns out that I cannot link together reps efficiently with the “easier” chin-up grip. I never practice C2B with any other grip other than overhand, so changing things on the fly for 14.2/15.2 has not really worked out for me.)

3. I improved my score by 5 reps.

4. I hate you, 15.2.

5. Guess I should probably do chest-to-bar pull-ups more often than, like, four times in a calendar year.

Optimism is drawing in Round 2 on the scoreboard.

Optimism is drawing in Round 2 on the scoreboard.

The end.