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…

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.

15.3–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):

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)

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?


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.

ReFLEXions on CrossFit Open WOD 15.1

See what I did there? I think I’m going to make this a regular thing.

The 2015 CrossFit Open is underway, everyone! For those of you who don’t participate in CrossFit, this is probably the start of the most annoying season of all. All of us CrossFit nerds are going to be geeking out on workouts, our favorite athletes, and of course the Regional and Games events. So, without further apologies, here’s a recap of how your favorite average CrossFitter did. (That would be me, you guys.)

15.1 (shorthand for “2015 Open” and “Workout #1”) turned out to be 15.1 + 15.1a (Addendum? Appendix? Add-on? Isn’t it really 15.1a and 15.1b? Whatever.).

15.1 was:
15 toes-to-bar
10 deadlifts @ 75# (women’s Rx weight)
5 snatches @ 75#

15.1a immediately followed 15.1 and was:
6 minutes to find a 1-rep maximum clean-and-jerk

The clock ran continuously up to 15:00.

After the workout was announced, I felt okay about it. I had already conceded that toes-to-bar (T2B) are not in my wheelhouse in my previous post, and when they showed up in this particular WOD, I knew that I could grind through, and I would just have to see how many I could complete.

I chose to do the WOD on Friday night during my gym’s “Friday Night Lights” block. It’s a block of time where we all come in to tackle the Open WOD in heats, as well as judge and count for each other. It’s a fun time, although it adds a bit of extra pressure since the spectator dynamic comes in; however, for someone who aspires to compete in local recreational competitions, the exposure is necessary.

The hours leading up to Friday Night Lights were fine, but as soon as I got to the gym, I felt butterflies. I had slightly injured my quad during 1RM jerks the previous week, and I hadn’t attempted a heavy jerk or really even an all-out workout since, so that was a nagging thought. There was also the uncertainty of how I would do. Would I fizzle out after one round of T2B? Would my grip be shot to the point where I could only clean a weight 15lbs. under my current best in the C&J? There was only one way to find out.

Now, I wouldn’t say it’s a tradition, but because the Open does incorporate some form of performance, I like to plan my outfits. Sometimes they’re silly, and sometimes they’re just for me to get my mind in the right place. For 15.1, I chose something simple, and went with all black: black top, black headband, blank capris, black socks. Changing into an all-black outfit and harkening back to my dancer days somewhat helped me calm down. One settled into my uniform of choice, I warmed up and watched several heats go, including my boyfriend’s heat. I got set up, ran through a few reps of each element, got my gear ready, and tried to breathe. My counter and judge happened to be my man, so that helped ease my mind, as well.

When it was my turn, I stepped up onto my platform of several 45lb. plates stacked on each other; I can’t reach our pull-up bars without a platform. The clock counted down, and I hopped up and grabbed onto the bars. I took a controlled swing back, and then brought both my feet to the bar. I did it again, and a few seconds later, I had my first set of 5 reps done. I popped off the bar to shake my forearms out, even though I was early into the workout. I know myself, and while I probably could have linked together just a few more reps, I also know that I fatigue very easily in T2B. My grip will go, and I’ll stop being able to link reps together. Then my core will go, and maintaining enough momentum to make contact with the bar becomes difficult. However, I was able to get through three sets of 5 to complete my first 15 T2B, and then it was barbell time.

Deadlifts and snatches were both manageable; it was the T2B that I didn’t look forward to each time, because I knew the quality would deteriorate each round. Sure enough, partway through round two, my rep schemes were changing, and my kipping patterns were changing. Barbell work remained the same throughout. By round three of the T2B, I was hanging on for single reps, but trying to group them in 5s, 3s, and 2s. I made it through and back to the barbell.

And then I started round four. That’s when my core started to give out. I swung, and my toes came up inches short. Several people encouraged me, telling me to get back up and get another rep, but with T2B, if I’m not rested enough, I will continue to miss, and there was no way I was going to have more no-reps than good reps in this round.

Time wound down, and I managed to get 9 reps into the fourth round. I was one rep shy of hitting triple digits, which I had wanted, but I also met my goal of making it through three complete rounds. But the WOD wasn’t over at 9 minutes; I still had to lift a heavy barbell.

Six minutes to build up to a 1RM isn’t a lot of time, and it takes strategy. In a situation with a workout preceding the lift, there’s even more strategy involved. How light should an athlete start? How long should they rest before even attempting a lift? Do you go really light just to put up a number at first, or do you jump right in to a heavy but manageable weight? In hindsight, I probably wasted energy by opening with 105lbs. but I wanted a number. I knew that several months earlier, I had failed multiple attempts on a 125lb. clean after a buy-in that included burpees and max reps of cleans at lighter weights. I didn’t want to open too heavy and fail immediately.

115lbs. went up just fine, so I loaded the bar to 125lbs. This was the moment of truth. Would I fail 125 like I had in the autumn? The answer was, “No.” In fact, a teammate would say that 125 looked incredibly solid. Since 125 went up, it was time to make another decision.

My established 1RM for the clean-and-jerk is 130lbs. I have also, on separate occasions, cleaned 140lbs. and jerked 140lbs. The question was whether I would continue with 10lb. jumps and attempt a 135lb. C&J, which would be a PR, or if I would attempt 130lbs. to match my PR and add 5lbs. to my score. I took a risk and chose 135.

Unfortunately, I didn’t complete the lift at 135lbs. I did clean the weight–power cleaned it, in fact. Once it was in the rack position, though, it felt heavier than ever. I had just done a 135lb. jerk from the blocks the previous week, and I didn’t remember it feeling like that at all. I tried shifting my hand placement, but popping the bar up and bringing it back down seemed to drive me further into the floor. I knew that if I kept standing there with the bar in my hands that it really would never happen, so I dipped, drove, and bailed.

Bummer. That was it. I had several more seconds to try it again, but that time, I couldn’t get myself under the bar in the clean. Time expired. I finished the lift 5lbs. shy of my 1RM, and 10-20lbs. under many of the ladies with whom I try to keep up in my gym.

However, I was thrilled. This time last year, I was struggling to hit 120lbs. in my C&J. A bodyweight C&J was still several months off. And this year, I’m aiming to improve my form and get up above bodyweight. I’ve now cleaned 135lbs. multiple times since August, and I’ve jerked 135 and 140 once each. I can do this; I have it in me. It will come in time.

In the end, I finished 15.1 with 99 reps and 15.1a with 125lbs. Not an earth-shattering score, but one I can feel proud about. In last year’s Open, I struggled to complete 33 T2B in 14.4 (not 14.2 like I mistakenly wrote last time); this year, I completed a total of 54 T2B. 125lbs. is short of my PR, which means I’m capable of lifting heavier than the leaderboard shows. That’s different than 2013, when 95lbs. was a nearly-impossible C&J (although I did it six times that time). While some people’s jumps and gains are bigger, they aren’t really my concern. What I’m interested in is improving myself and doing this to challenge myself to continue to get better and better. The Open gives me that yearly “check-in,” and the chance to recommit to something that truly has been lift-changing, regardless of whatever numbers I post. Let’s see what’s in store for next week.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is the jerk your scoreboard.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is to jerk your scoreboard.

(But I also do love lifting, and I want to keep doing this because, man, I love lifting.)

(Oh, and for the record, I used today as active recovery and all I did was bench press and strict press. It might be Open season, but it’s also the season to reFLEX. Or something. I’m done now.)

The Most Important CrossFit Open Post You Will Read

The Open is nigh, my friends. Are you ready?

Well, ready or not, doesn’t matter, because it’s happening.

Now that I have you here (oh, and this is the most important CrossFit Open post for me, but I was maybe exaggerating in the title), let me tell you that I’m not ready at all this year. This year is my third year participating in the CrossFit Open, and the second time I have officially signed up online. In 2013, I was still scaling for the majority of my WODs; in 2014, I had just started Rx’ing things more often. This year, I’m a solid intermediate, with many standard movements at Rx level; more technical and advanced moves like muscle-ups and 95# power snatches are not in my repertoire at this time. I have better endurance now and better proficiency, even though I am not a Firebreather by any means.

What can I expect this year?

Well, who knows. I’m no longer in the bracket where I will be likely celebrating my first [insert CrossFit move here], and I know I won’t be celebrating my first muscle-up because I’ve not worked on the technique much since tweaking my shoulder back in November. I won’t be qualifying for Regionals nor winning the state championship. That’s not counting myself out; it’s called “being real.” I will likely be fighting for one more rep each time the clock counts down; that much I know.

I also know are where my weaknesses and strengths lie. CrossFit is difficult for me in many regards, and I acknowledge my challenges and try to face them each day I’m in the gym. Knowing where I am physically and mentally is going to help me get through these next few weeks, as well as guide my training for the rest of the year, I’m sure.

Known Weaknesses

Double-unders: Double-unders are my goat. “Goat” isn’t even appropriate in this case. Double-unders are not just a move at which I am weak; they are seemingly strong enough to break my will. They are a nasty thing that frustrate me beyond belief. They have the ability to deflate me during an otherwise manageable WOD. Nothing makes me want to cry more than double-unders. What’s worse–it’s not even so much that I’m bad at them; it’s that my biomechanics make it painful to work on them for more than a few minutes each week. No practice means no progress. And it’s shin splints that keep me from getting after this goat.

Shin splints are a recurring injury for me. I never had them until cheerleading in my senior year of high school. At that time, ill-fitting shoes were the problem, along with the bouncy nature of high school cheer. They disappeared after proper taping, and they were rarely an issue, save for a few minor incidents later on involving brief stints with running. However, something about the way I take off and land while jumping rope aggravates my lower legs. I have posterior shin splints, and taping hasn’t seemed to resolve the issue too much. I feel like I need an expert opinion and hours of video analysis, and I also need desperately to fix my technique. It all snowballs together, and it’s routinely compounded by everyone else wanting to help me feel less frustrated. I know my positioning is off; I know my timing is off. But more than that, I know jumping too high or too many times will hurt me and render me useless for several days, and it seems almost more productive to just not try.

However, not trying will not be an option. To combat the issue in the short-term, it will take the following: KT tape, my rope and a backup rope, and iron will. Completing the inevitable double-under WOD will be a triumph; I must remind myself of that, and just get through it. Stress factor: 9.99/10.00

Strict press: The chances of strict press being in The Open are not high. This is still a known weakness, and I have been trying to strict press at least once a week to encourage those muscles to grow, grow, grow. Likelihood of strict press showing up, though, is low, so the actual move itself is not a problem; the associated muscles and their weaknesses, though, are a stressor. Stress factor: 3.00/10.00

Wall balls: Unlike strict press, wall balls have been a staple in The Open. Wall balls to a 9′ target are manageable; wall balls to the 10′ target are a bit more “out of reach” (har har har) because I’m an overwhelming 5’1″. My wall ball stamina has gotten much better in recent months, but if the number “100” or high appears in front of the phrase “wall balls,” it’s going to be a mental struggle.

Wall balls feel a bit like grade school punishment. The proximity to the wall, the repetition, the physical burn, the frustration of being just shy of the target–those are the elements that lead to the wall ball being a hard movement for me. Stress factor: 7.00/10.00

Known Strengths

First of all, I spend a lot of time talking about tackling weaknesses. I never spend time celebrating my strengths. Although I don’t feel like I am naturally gifted in the CrossFit and lifting world, there are things I bring to the table because of my natural traits and my limited athletic background.

Deadlifts: I love deadlifts. Deadlifts were something that my first coach spent lots of time on, and it paid off. I like deadlifts because they get really heavy really quickly, but most of the time, I can get through them. The technique just clicks with me. I haven’t been working on my hamstring strength as much in the last few months, so there is a bit of worry there, but I hope deads come up in The Open so I can again feel proficient during that WOD. Last year’s 14.3, which so many folks dreaded, was exactly what I had been begging the CrossFit gods for: box jumps and deadlifts!! I know high reps and heavy weights are still difficult and carry an element of danger to negotiate, so don’t get me wrong–I don’t feel cocky about deadlifts. Stress factor: 4.00/10.00

Burpees: “BURPEES?!” Yeah. It turns out that being really short and retaining flexibility from all those years of dance and cheer helps with this one. I don’t have very far to go when I have to get my entire body onto the floor and back up again. It is a problem when burpees show up near the end of an already taxing work-out, due to my endurance. However, I have been able to dig deeper into burpees than some end-of-WOD movements, so I know I can manage these, even if it feels terrible in the moment. Castro likes to come up with something really awful to pair with burpees (or just make it seven minutes of burpees), so I’m mostly concerned about endurance. Stress factor: 6.00/10.00

Ring dips: Not sure if these will show up because, like kettlebell swings in The Open, it might be hard to judge them. These are a hard move, and I can’t do more than five at a time (and even then, I can do that once before the sets break down into 3’s, 2’s, and 1’s), but I can do them, weirdly enough. If they come up, fantastic; I can probably get a few. If they don’t come up, which they probably won’t, even better. Stress factor: 1.00/10.00

Squats: Short legs come in handy again. So does all that time spent in dance class. I have a proficient squat, although at heavy loads I get just to or minimally below parallel sometimes (which I’m actively working on getting past–oopsies!). When you spend a good percentage of your life learning to plie, you learn to keep your chest up and knees tracking over your toes; while I was not the most amazing dancer, even that foundational knowledge plays a part. We’ve seen thrusters and overhead squats in recent years, so I expect something similar; again, endurance is a consideration for how well I’ll do, as is the required load. There are a lot of variables that go into what kind of squat we’ll see, so that uncertainty ups the anxiety. Stress factor: 5.00/10.00

Neutral Ground

There are plenty of other elements that we could see in The Open, and there are plenty of them that I don’t consider strengths nor major weaknesses of concern. Several of those things include chest-to-bar pull-ups, rowing, toes-to-bar, and snatches. These are all things at which I am getting better, but not up to competition standards. That’s okay.

Chest-to-bar pull-ups are inconsistent for me. Sometimes, I can get the height but not the required contact; other times, I can link three in a row. That’s fine; they will come with practice. They don’t give me shin splints.

Rowing is hard for me, given my size. When I was in college, I was actually approached by some girls on the crew team who said I should consider crew because I was the perfect size to be a coxswain. I can haul as fast as my little legs will go if needed, but most competition WODs are not won on the rower, especially not in my case.

Toes-to-bar are another move that are slowly coming along, now that I have the full range of motion. Some days I can link my first sets of reps together before my grip weakens and I switch to single reps. Other days, it’s steady singles. Toes-to-bar will be an element like they were during 14.2 when I was fighting for each additional rep. I accept that, and I will do what I can to string together a few in the first sets. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. I’ll analyze what happened after I get through the work-out to look for areas of improvement.

Snatches are technically demanding. It’s a hard Olympic lift. Depending on the weight we see for snatches in The Open, I might get one or I might get several. I might be able to power them up, or my “work in progress” technique might stop me in my tracks. We will see. However, this is a lift that I’ve been spending more time with, and it is a humbling lift, especially when it takes me so long to establish positioning and movement through those positions. It is what it is, when it comes to snatches in The Open.

The Open will be a time to test mental fortitude, foundations, lungs, and spirit. I’m anxious to see what we’ll be doing, and I’m anxious to see how I’ll feel and move through everything. It’s a wonderful yet taxing time of the year. I’m glad to be a part of it, to have the teammates and friends that I do, and to really be doing something that pushes me out of my comfort zone.

This is my time to shine, and by that I mean, prove to myself that I don’t just suck less than yesterday, but that I am better every day.

May the WODs be ever in your favor.

In Retrospect: The 2014 CrossFit Open

In the beginning, there was a girl who just didn’t want to feel lazy and squishy anymore.

Then, I signed up for CrossFit, made some gains, and played along in last year’s Open.

This year, I officially signed up for the Open. It was my first year signed up, and in the month leading up to the Open, I was able to Rx most of 2013’s WODs. Chest-to-bar pull-ups were still an issue for me*, but I at least had my chin-to-bar pull-ups; in March 2013, I could barely get any bend in my arms on the pull-up bar. I didn’t sign up expecting to be a competitor, but I signed up ready to challenge myself.


Of course, my luck was such that the opening WOD started (started!!) with double-unders. I’ve already complained about that, though, and 14.1 will go down as “not my best performance ever.”

14.2 consisted of overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups, with a scheme that gave the strongest athletes the chance to add more reps.

From 0:00-3:00
2 rounds of:
10 overhead squats
10 chest-to-bar pull-ups

From 3:00-6:00
2 rounds of:
12 overhead squats
12 chest-to-bar pull-ups

and so on, following the “+2” pattern until the rounds could not be completed.

Going into 14.2, I expected completely to finish the first 10 overhead squats (at 65lbs. for women). Before the workout started, a teammate suggested I change my pull-up grip to a chin-up grip just for the WOD. I didn’t have a lot of time to practice, so I essentially went in cold. Because of the chin-up grip, I was able to work through 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups–and because the grip was so foreign to me, I couldn’t quite kip them, and I ended up doing most of the pull-ups strict. I got through a total of 28 reps before my time was up. It wasn’t an impressive showing, but getting my first in-WOD chest-to-bars–regardless of the grip and execution–was a big accomplishment.

After the first two WODs, I hoped desperately for heavy deadlifts. I got my wish, as 14.3 was a deadlift/box jump combination.

In 8 minutes, the challenge was to work through as much of the following as possible:
deadlifts, 10 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
deadlifts, 15 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
deadlifts, 20 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
deadlifts, 25 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
deadlifts, 30 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
deadlifts, 35 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch

I completed 102 reps, culminating with 12 pulls at 185lbs. It was a fantastically challenging WOD for me, and it was a workout that needed to be approached with caution no matter who you were. Deadlifts, if done incorrectly, can be devastating to the back. However, I was trained under very watchful eyes, and I silently repeat the cues taught to me each time I set up.

14.4 was a beast, with 14 minutes to work through:
60-calorie row 
50 toes-to-bars
40 wall-ball shots, 20 lb. to 10-foot target
30 cleans, 135 lb.
20 muscle-ups

Surprisingly, I finished the row in just under four minutes, then immediately tanked on the toes-to-bar. Toes-to-bar as prescribed are difficult for me at this point in time, although I’ve consistently made progress since last year’s Open, when I hit my first few. 14.4 saw me complete the most toes-to-bar I ever have within a WOD, 33 toes-to-bar. Again, not an incredibly impressive number, but a number with which I could be happy.

The last WOD was the first “for time” even in the Open, even though these types of WODs are common in programming and practice. The entire CrossFit world had called the sinister duo of thrusters and burpees, and the format in which it came was grueling.

Thrusters (65lbs. for ladies)
Bar-facing burpees

Lucky me, I got sick right before 14.5 was announced; I was sick on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and the WOD announced on a Thursday evening. I pushed my attempt at 14.5 until that Sunday. I was still congested and low on energy, but I wanted to complete the workout and wrap up the Open. That Sunday morning, I warmed up, watched several other athletes work through 14.5, and then I took it on with one of our coaches as my judge, with an almost-empty gym as my setting.

I ended up finishing the workout in under 20 minutes, finishing at 19 minutes and 38 seconds. That time ended up being faster than the worldwide women’s average and only four seconds slower than the worldwide men’s average. After being sick and somewhat mentally beat-down by three of the previous WODs, I was very happy with that final score.

This year’s Open reaffirmed the goals I set earlier on. My biggest limiting factors at this moment are my shoulder strength and double-unders; this I know, and this I will continue to tackle. In the past year, I’ve dialed my nutrition in a bit more, although it isn’t incredibly strict and definitely not exact science. I’m utilizing lifting class and open gym times to work on select skills, which has helped me continually come back to my weaknesses, even if it’s just for a relatively short amount of time that I dedicate to a specific skill. It’s helped quite a bit, as seen by the fact that I can perform several unassisted ring dips now, whereas at the beginning of the year, I could do exactly zero.

I have a long way to where I want to be, and I can say that about many things in my current life. I am impatient, but I’m learning to savor little milestones more and more, because those tiny moments keep building to drastically change the landscape.


* And I am proud to announce that over Easter weekend, I strung together my first unbroken sets of chest-to-bar pull-ups, with overhand grip and everything. It was unexpected and so awesome to finally accomplish that goal! I’d been chasing after that one since my Basic test attempt in March 2013 at HEL, and of course, I had to share it with all of my friends, teammates, and coaches past and present. 🙂

A Wild Extrovert Appears!

CrossFit Games Open 14.4I’m sick today, and I’m about to go back to bed. However, I thought I’d just share a photo from last Thursday at CrossFit Bellevue, from the CrossFit Open 14.4 announcement. This is–in short–what happens when I go out in public and am in a fun high-energy environment. It’s not, “Oh hello, Dave Castro, I enjoy the work you’ve put into designing the workouts in this year’s open.”

No, instead it’s, “How’s your back? Great. We’re going to cradle now.”

Oh, the joys of being an extrovert and a woo. I can see why I’m “too intense” for many, but also why some of these antics are photo-bomb worthy.

What the CrossFit Open Games Taught Me

First of all, I didn’t register nor officially compete in the CrossFit Games. I probably should have registered, as I was present for each Open workout, and I could have added a few Rx’d reps to the team’s score, I suppose.

That’s all hindsight for now, however. Let’s recap what my first experience with the Open turned up.

1. We’re all humanThere are some crazy-strong people out there, y’all. But CrossFit HQ also had a crazy way of reminding everyone that everyone has room to improve. That was especially cool to a newbie like me. Even the fittest of the fit broke sweats, grimaced, collapsed to the ground at the end, etc. Even when those big numbers posted, there was a lot of humble acceptance of praise. And the other thing I noticed is that it gave people more to strive for. No matter what those goals are, this helped set new ones for me–and I know it helped others set goals for themselves. That’s pretty rad.

2. Butterflies still exist. I get really nervous about two things: 1. talking to a guy I find attractive; and 2. performance. I don’t think I walked into a single Open WOD without the same feeling I used to get right before a big competition dance number or cheer try-outs or the closing number at the end-of-the-year recital. Although I wasn’t running through a million eight-counts of rehearsed choreography, the principal was the same: I have trained for this moment, but there’s no way of knowing how it will go until it’s over. As I said during one particularly intimidating workout, as the timer counted down, “See you on the other side.”

It’s amazing just how much I’ve missed that rush. I’ve missed that chance to flip a switch and just be on, especially for the short workouts–just like the short numbers I was used to. You only have so much time to execute everything, and the world (or so it feels like) is watching.

Is there a better feeling? Maybe not for me.

3. There isn’t shame in trying. In fact, there’s respect to be found in trying. I was out of town a bit during the Open, and I actually had to attempt my first Open WOD at a Las Vegas box. I had luckily gone several days earlier, and I had at least one newly-friend who would cheer me on as I slogged through my first set of burpees. At the end of 13.1, even though I had loaded my bar wrong for the second set of snatches, I had PR’d multiple times. I had PR’d multiple times at a gym that wasn’t my regular haunt with multiple people telling me, “C’mon, girl! You GOT this!”

And so it went through the next Open WODs. There was at least one time when I got the very lowest score out of everyone who did the workout at my gym. There were, however, more times that I remember being able to put “Rx” next to my scores. There was even the night that I beat my PR from four days earlier–and put that weight up six times total.

All in all, I came away with a stronger sense of respect for myself. I came away with admiration for all of my teammates and all of my friends who train alongside me (and that includes those who train several hours away). I came away with the goal to compete next year–even if it means finishing 7908th out of, like, 8000 people in the region. I’m going to do it.

That attitude? Well, to sum it up: Coach K said it pretty well:

Yep. Pretty much. (You are welcome to come take me out for drinks, guys. Maybe a whole grilled trout, too.)

I leave you with this, from CrossFit 204:

[…]And that’s where everyone can learn from some of our athletes for whom 135 and 95 lb. were heavy loads indeed. We often cluster around to watch our top athletes put up huge scores as they seem to move the weight with ease, but this week I had the pleasure of judging some inspirational athletes who walked in wondering if 135 or 95 would go up even once. For them, each rep was a max effort at a weight well above a current PR.

Those athletes bent over to grip the bar and didn’t know if it would go up, and those 7 minutes weren’t spent worrying about 80 or 100 reps but rather 1 rep. Each of those athletes gave all he or she had to earn each rep. No multiples, no unbroken sets, no strategic rest, no targeting scores by leaderboard stalking. Just a final number amassed by a series of max efforts with nothing saved for later.

None of those athletes wanted to do the workout again. They spent everything they had, and when I told them their score, they were overjoyed because they knew it represented 100 percent effort. They knew they had earned that score.

(Out of the nine reps I earned on 13.4, six of them came from a 95lb. clean-and-jerk. Maybe someday that will move with ease, but now, I at least know I now have the fortitude to come in and give it 100%.)