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.

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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:
95-lb.
deadlifts, 10 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
135-lb.
deadlifts, 15 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
155-lb.
deadlifts, 20 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
185-lb.
deadlifts, 25 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
205-lb.
deadlifts, 30 reps
15 box jumps, 20-inch
225-lb.
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.

21-18-15-12-9-6-3
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. 🙂

Steel Yourself

Wall balls.

Double-unders.

Strict press.

It’s taken a little awhile to figure it out, to really shake things out, but those three things are my absolute most-hated CrossFit elements.

Strict press is upsetting because it’s a lift where I should be able to lift more above my head, given my other shoulder-to-overhead motions, but my raw upper-body strength is lagging. It’s so sad, holding a measly 75# just below my chin, body shaking, knowing full well I’ve put forty more pounds over my head in other movements. But take the legs away, and all I’m left with are these “pretty arms”–my arms which are showing more and more definition, but which haven’t convinced me they do more than look pretty. I haven’t strict pressed much lately, either, so whenever it does come around, it feels like I haven’t improved. Need more days in the gym where I run through a quick 3×10 or spend part of an open gym session on strength. Maybe some fractional plates, too, would help. Either way, ugh. Strict press.

Double-unders (i.e., passing a jump rope under yourself twice during one jump) are–as Coach K always said–all neurological. I haven’t quite cracked the code on these. I can skip between alternating single-unders and double-unders fairly easily, but as soon as I try to link doubles together, my form falls apart, I rush my jumps, and then I crack myself with my own rope. (Tonight, it caught on my shoe and hit me in the lip. Not a great thing when you’ve got a slick speed rope from Momentum.) I try to practice these for a few minutes every time I step in the gym, but IT’S NOT ENOUGH. I almost cried watching a bunch of newbies bust out their unbroken double-unders the other night while I kept catching the rope and whipping myself and failing over and over and over AND OVER. Jump higher! Wrists looser! Arms forward more! I make one adjustment and screw something else up, I swear. Oh double-unders! Why do you foresake me?! The day I get double-unders, I will post about it on every, single, no-good social media outlet out there.

But no matter how much I hate double-unders because of my uncoordination and my mental blocks, there is one element that remains my most hated:

Wall balls.

For the uninitiated, wall balls are a move where an athlete squats and then tosses a big medicine ball at a target, catches the ball and transitions into a squat, and then throws the ball at the target again. Over and over. Men usually utilize a 20lb. ball, and women usually utilize a 14lb. ball. The target often remains 10′ for both genders’ standards, although women sometimes are prescribed to shoot at a 9′ target in a given WOD. At HEL, part of the Basic skill test was 25 unbroken wall ball shots at a 10′ target with the appropriate weight. I never passed that part (along with pull-ups, but pull-ups are pull-ups, so whatever; they get a free pass today). The two times I attempted the skill, I was no-repped by maybe the second or third rep. Why? Well, a couple of things. For one, my system is imbalanced. My legs are fairly powerful, but my upper body (core and arms) are lagging behind, so even with the energy transfer, I’m still working way harder than I should to get the ball launched.

Oh, and of course, I’m 5’1″, well below average height for my sex. To make up for my systematic imbalance and my height, I have to jump the wall ball shots nearly every time. As you can imagine, though, those weighted jumping squats burn out the legs rather quickly. I don’t have really great endurance through the burning suck yet, so I usually have to rest. Ergo, 25 unbroken shots is a lot to ask. 25 unbroken shots at 10′ target feels impossible. I’ve never wanted to kick tall people in the shins more than when I’m stationed next to a 6-foot-infinite giant during wall balls.

I did 13.3 (the third workout in 2013’s CrossFit Open) on Monday. 13.3 is an AMRAP12 consisting of 150 wall ball shots (and for women in this WOD, it’s a 9′ target), 90 double-unders (RUDE), and 30 muscle-ups. Oh, fantastic! Two of my most hated moves and one more element that I cannot do at all. Period. Google “CrossFit Muscle Up” if you must know. Last year, I completed only 86 wall balls. This year, at the 12-minute mark, I had completed 126 wall ball shots, and continued until I hit 150, since 150 wall ball shots is a benchmark WOD in and of itself (called “Karen”). It “only” took 14:59.

That time means it took nearly twice as long for me to complete, if you’re comparing my score to other people who are about my skill level in other elements. Wall balls are not just physically taxing because of my imbalance and my height, but they break me down mentally. Mental fortitude falls apart for me during wall balls (and, as it turns out, double-unders and V-ups). Even with a 9′ target, one foot shorter than I normally aim for, every shot felt like the world of CrossFit and that stupid medicine ball were laughing at me, taunting me. One, two, three, drop the ball, walk away from the wall, and try not to think about how many reps are left: that was my strategy for Monday night. Pretty awful when you’re looking at such a large number to begin with. It feels as if no matter how perfect my form, no matter how heavy I can squat and how heavy I can press, that ball will barely reach that target. And it will barely reach that target now even with a big ol’ jump out of the squat.

They feel, in one word, impossible.

These things all feel impossible.

So that’s why these are my new priorities. These are my greatest weaknesses, and currently, I’m letting them get to me. I’m letting them take away the joy I’m feeling from PRing my back squat, getting rope climbs down consistently, feeling more comfortable in the elements of the snatch, etc. etc. and so forth and so on. I’ve done so much in the past year and a half! And these three things will not be what keeps me from progressing. I can’t let them.

If I can break through these walls*… well, I don’t know what will happen if I can do it. There’s only one way to find out, right?

My new CrossFit motto.

My new CrossFit motto.

* like a wrecking ball!

A Woman Can Change Her Mind

Well, I did it again. I’ve found myself in yet another quarter-life/existential crisis. I think it has something to do with working at UW, and suddenly feeling like my professional-prep Master’s degree wasn’t as lofty as I could have achieved, and it has to do a bit with still trying to break the habit of jumping ahead of myself several years, and probably some other underlying aspects, including an insatiable love for learning and the inability to sit still for a second.

That’s all fine, though. I’ll work through this. It’ll just take some real talk with myself, and maybe some hiding in my room, mapping out my interests and strengths and identifying some goals and stuff.

In the same vein, I’ve been thinking about revising my 30 Before 30 again. I created my 30 Before 30 list when I was 24. It’s funny how quickly these things, my priorities, my interests, seem to change. I seem to do this every two years. That’s fine. I don’t know if a lot of this is doable financially, but whatever. Goals and dreams and goals and dreams, and I’m not going to get hunted down by the blogosphere if I don’t finish everything.

Alright. Here are the newest revisions. (With 30 approaching in less than two years, my prediction is that a number of revisions will occur more rapidly. And probably extending the list into a “30 before 40.”)

1. Visit E in Spain Done!
2. Visit the Italian town my ancestors are from (Monastero di Lanzo)
3. Visit Australia and New Zealand
4. Visit Kauai, Hawai’i
5. Learn to swim
6. Learn to ride a bike
7. Learn to make great cocktails on my own
8. Learn Spanish and Tagalog – Alright, well, I’ve signed up for Duolingo, and have been getting a few short lessons in each day. It’s better than nothing. I even tested out of a few initial skills; seems like I still remember some Spanish.
9. Meet my cousins and family in the Philippines
10. Earn a master’s degree in student affairs administration – Done!
11. Have one more Wenatchee summer – Done
12. Revised: Take another trip down the Oregon Coast
13. Get my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate – This one’s scary for several reasons: 1. I don’t have $1k to spend on a certificate; 2. I’m still not that great at CrossFit; 3. It might also mean pursuing my interest in coaching other newbies. (And thus, complimenting my academic side with my “want to run around in workout clothes all day” side.)
14. Hike the Enchantments
15. Hike part of the Pacific Crest trail (WA portion)
16. Revised: Go to Iceland
17. Make blogging a priority – In-progress; and lumping in a revised point #13: blog about CrossFit, having great (and maybe transformative) conversations with others, travel (including great food and drink in great Northwest cities). Basically, blog about the important things in life that contribute to physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.
18. Get a piece of poetry or a research article published/present at a conference – Presentation: complete!
19. Write a book and get it published – This has been in-progress for a long time, I guess.
20. Perform improv or stand-up
21. Be an extra in a movie
22. Get professional-quality headshots/model shots just for fun
23. Try out for a semi-pro/professional dance/cheer team – Done, to an extent.
24. Meet Neil Patrick Harris – Okay, probably not realistic…
25. Revised: Get fit, and have my body reflect it  – In-progress…
26. Save for a sweet city condo
27. Go to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales
28. Read more books
29. Take the train moreDone; I think after my last Christmas train experience, I’m good on American trains…
30. Have the BEST 30th birthday celebration w/ my closest friends somewhere far away

Still leaving my 31st bullet on here, though…

31. Meet someone amazing and give the relationship 100%.

These are all personal things, yeah? Yeah. They are. And maybe they seem scarier and more daunting than professional goals because there’s not as much structure in these things. My professional career is, in all actuality, pretty easy to grasp; I am having some trouble articulating what I want my future job to look like and in what functional area it should be, but it’s straight-forward: do a good job in my current role, seek out development, gain the skills, refine the interests, and take next steps when necessary. Boom.

I need the fire under myself to get me moving on other things, though. I don’t work well without some kind of guidance, which is why I’m finally meeting some personal goals through CrossFit and now Duolingo. There are milestones to reach, and there are mechanisms to keep me accountable. If I can find that kind of structure for the points above, especially the travel goals, I can put a lot more in-reach.

I’ve got some thinking to do for the rest of the week. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do (when don’t I, though?).

What’s keeping you going?

Little Victories

The holiday season and my lack of self-control both did some damage on my abs and waistline. I’m a fair bit fluffier, I’ll admit, but I know what to do to get back on track. I’ve still been going to the gym quite a bit, and I intend to pick it up a bit more in the coming weeks. I have another competition coming up, so it’s time to carve out time for four to five sessions a week, with a lot of deliberate skill work outside of class time. I’m going to have to push myself further than I previously have as I carve out new goals and milestones.

Speaking of milestones, I hit a very small one yesterday during a drop-in at the hometown CrossFit gym. Guess who can do frog stands now. That would be me. Having the balance to do these is a step in the right direction for me, the young woman who can’t quite get inverted not balanced in many cases. I even tested the stands outside the gym, at my mom’s home, and it’s confirmed–the skill I didn’t have several months ago is now a part of my skill set.

Small victories like this keep me going. PRs by five pounds, not feeling like death after a run, doing full push-ups, learning to climb a rope–these are all small victories. There are still many things on which to work, skills which require more strength, more coordination, more discipline and dedication. I’m a stickler for a good foundation, and while it will take me awhile to get up-to-speed in many regards, I know the long-term results will be not just better but also more rewarding; the effort I put in will be recognized–primarily by me–in the process.

That’s my philosophy in many aspects beyond CrossFit, too. I’m naturally a learner, so I play to that strength by gathering information and testing it out and building upon it to get to the next level. Hands-on work and drills are my method, but that’s not the only way to achieve goals. What it takes is getting in-tune with your own strengths, and also understanding your limitations in order to move past them–or even work with them.

As the new year approaches, don’t just make resolutions. Set your goals, then develop a strategy. Dig deeper.

I’ll be there right along with you.

Clarification

That last post wasn’t about anyone in particular. It was a PSA geared towards prospective suitors, as I occasionally place on this site. Most of them will never read it, but it’s published and out there. They can refer back to it like a Code of Conduct. And I can cite it! In APA format, nonetheless.

Furthermore, it’s just really hard to be positive and trusting after a series of bad situations and even worse excuses. I mean, seriously, Guy-Who-Was-Dating-Four-Other-People-The-Whole-Time? That really screwed up the whole “trust” thing, if you ask me.

Anyway.

It’s Wednesday. It means it’s time to recap Adventures in CrossFit with Ardith Laverne!

Let’s see. Got my butt kicked Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. Perfect.

Thursday, we deadlifted and this happened:

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Those scores basically state the load we all used during the first AMRAP, which was a 10-minute AMRAP with 3 deadlifts and 5 handstand push-ups. HSPU went fine; I tried banded HSPU for the first time and did fine, although I tried the lighter weight band at one point and tumbled out forward.

The second AMRAP was also an AMRAP10, with five deadlifts at a lower weight than the first AMRAP and then as many double-unders you can get. I was aiming to load my bar somewhere between 125-130lbs. Well, as we went through that workout, I couldn’t understand why 130lbs. felt so heavy and why I was falling behind so quickly. Coach K walked over about halfway to watch my form, and as I struggled through a rep, he said something along the lines of, “Great! What’s that… 140lbs.? Nice. Looking good at 140.” To which I said, “140?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” With the structure of the workout, I only had time to toss the two 2.5lb. plates I had stuck on the end of the bar, dropping the load to 135lbs. After busting out way too many reps at the way wrong weight, 135 seemed pretty terrible, too.

But. I lived. And I got a funny white board result afterwards. So that’s okay.

Saturday was an away WOD at CrossFit425. Partner WOD, fun times, and sunshine. Plus a lot of skills work afterwards. Even taught a friend how to do cheer jumps to counts. 😉

Monday, rack jerks, front squats, and hang clean & jerks. Matched my 95lb. personal best.

Tuesday, deadlifts. Matched my two-rep max, 195lbs. with another two reps. Attempted 200lbs. but was only able to move the bar about an inch. Time to work.

I’ve also been participating in another nutrition challenge with some folks at the gym. It’s more strict than the last one, and the second phase added in some Zone components. Now, not only do I have to think about what I’m eating, I have to do much more math. As we can see from the above example, math really isn’t my strongest point in everyday life. Oh well. Just two more weeks.

Hum… let’s see. This next week is going to feel super-long. I’m stressed out from multiple angles, but the good news is, my teammate does hair and I just got my layers trimmed up, and I must say, it looks great.

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The Return

Hello, fair Oregon. You might recognize me. You might think my face looks familiar. It should.

It’s 2012, and I am committing to becoming the best version of myself yet. Last year was the toughest in a long downhill series, although it was packed with many remarkable and amazing moments. I’m perfectly aware that I could shrug off the weight of the past year’s (or years’, really) events without the clock striking midnight on January 1st. However, I believe in stories, and the switch of the calendars to 2012 was the symbolic gesture I needed.

I rang in the new year with several friends in downtown Seattle. We laughed and took pictures and shared bottles of champagne throughout the night. I kept several other friends in my thoughts, sending periodic texts to remind them that I wished them a happy new year–my way of saying, “Wish you were here.” Again, as recent trips to the “big city” have proven, I felt complete and incredibly alive.

Is there a way to transfer that into my every day life, though? Is there a way to stand tall while I wait to find out where I’ll end up in June?

I have made no resolutions, just commitments to improve my personal well-being. I started working out again, diving into Booty Barre one day and walking around Green Lake the next. I’m being much more conscious of what and how much I’m eating, and I’m hoping to cook for myself even more. That particular goal has been one for the past four years or so, and I believe that I’ve made definite progress. To set the right tone, I volunteered to cook chicken adobo for my friends on New Year’s Eve. It was a solid testament to the fact that I can cook, and that it doesn’t have to be a burden. I’m creative enough, and I enjoy my food enough that cooking should be an adventure of sorts. (This coming week should really be a challenge, as I’m going meat-free and primarily doing it without recipes. I envision a lot of odd sandwiches and grilled vegetables and beans.)

Other aspects I’m hoping to work on: making job searching a routine, connecting with out-of-town friends more often, attending more sporting events, dancing more, reading just-for-fun even more, budgeting, and generally being awesome.

In other words, I’m going to evolve myself. I’m going to continue working on goals I’ve set in the past, and I’m going to work on not letting things slide.

With that… my theme for 2012: Unstoppable.

 

Just one word this time around, but one word that reflects the fact that I continually grow and learn. I have met great challenges, and I am still here. I will become better than I am now.

I will be unstoppable.

Rear View Mirror

Coming into the CSSA program, I was nervous about my assistantship. I was hired as an academic partner in-residence (read: the liaison between the residence hall and the University Honors College). The job description was fairly extensive; I was to wear many different hats.

My problem(s)? I had little experience putting on events on my own. I had moved out of the residence halls at Western Washington University after a year and not really participated in residence life. I was a liberal arts student not entirely confident in my ability to relate to studious, primarily science-based Honors students. More than that, most of my interactions with my RAs and RDs at my undergraduate institution had been because I was breaking rules (hi, Mom). And to top it off, I was stepping into a position that was not brand-new; I had shoes to fill.

Well, Tuesday evening my hall staff had its last meeting of the year. It was a night of appreciation and reflection. What I learned was truly inspiring.

We did a round of both written and verbal affirmations for each member on the staff. When it was my turn to sit and listen to what others had to say, I was able to find out what they thought of me and the job I had done.

I am reminded of a quote that I first came across in a communication course: “I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.” Over the past year, I’ve struggled with wondering if I was doing a sufficient job or doing things “right” compared to graduate assistants that previously held my position. I’ve been very insecure in that, to be quite honest. I thought that what I was doing was being held up to a certain standard and that I was most likely failing, especially since I was stepping in after a veteran assistant–one who had wrapped up her second year.

But what I learned was that I’ve been wrong. I learned that my goal of creating community was approached and possibly reached in many different capacities. I heard that I’ve created a welcoming atmosphere, that students see me as a welcoming representative of the Honors College, someone they can approach and talk to. This is exactly what I had talked about in my graduate entrance interviews–I wanted to create that sense of welcoming, of open doors, of no intimidation.

I learned that I’ve put a new spin on several aspects of the job. I heard that I have good ideas for programs, drawing on both creative and unconventional thinking. I was also told that I am an inspiration to be more balanced. Dragon (he asked that be his alias) said he appreciated my ability to remind others that we’re all working on important projects, no matter how different they may look. I heard that I’m a role model in terms of pursuing academics.

What I heard is that I am meeting my goals and expectations. What I heard is that in light of insecurities and anxiousness, I have stepped into my emerging professional role with my personality and outlook and am shaping it into something that impacts people around me.

I did not know what to expect before coming into this role, but what I have found out is this:

…This is why I do what I do.