Closing down on the Open
The final workout of the Crossfit Games Open was over for me on Monday. As I threw the jump rope down and I caught my breath and checked the clock, I was both excited and just a little bit sad that the Crossfit Open had come to a close.
To be honest, I hadn't expected to really try to compete. I had joined on a whim since the other coaches from Exitium/EAE were doing it and I wanted to join in with the spirit and inclusiveness of the Open. I mean, there's massive FOMO if you're not participating when everyone else is!
I joined the scaled division because this was my first attempt at the Open and I knew that I wasn't strong enough or nearly as technical as I needed to be to compete in the RX division. I truly had no idea what this would entail but I was really excited to try!
Helloooo 17.1. The first workout! Here we go! I watched the announcement online and grimaced. In the weeks prior, I had been focusing on hammering down some programming with my workout partner-in-crime, Cassie. We had been doing nothing but burpee box jumps for weeks! (It's like they know or something, right??) And boom, here they are. Dammit.
I was also immediately glad that I was in the scaled division. In all our workouts prior, I had been using heavier weights, trying to keep up with Cassie when possible, so this weight seemed so light! (Probably said no one ever, but just for this once, I was excited!)
Here's the thing about the Open. It's meant to challenge you. Each of the five workouts is aimed at a specific goal - intensity, volume, weight, endurance. You name it; it was there! But I'm an endurance athlete at heart...I love the grind. 17.1 was the perfect combination of endurance and strength for me. Looking back, it was my strongest workout (HELLO 17th overall!) and it really set the precedent for my efforts going forward.
I can't begin to describe how incredibly addicting the feeling of doing well competitively is. I was in, I was actually doing pretty good (bear with me, this was the first workout!). LET'S DO THIS! I FEEL AMAZING AND I'M GOING TO BE SO GOOD AT THIS!
I woke up the next morning more sore than I have ever been in my entire life.
17.2 brought it all back down home for me. Scaled has traditionally been a division that takes out some of the more technical and complex movements of Crossfit and makes them attainable for all. But, as the years go on and the athletes get more skilled, the workouts get harder, the moves get more difficult, and the intensity ratchets up. Enter pull-ups. 17.2 took out the traditional scaled jumping pull-up and replaced it with full on, chin-over-bar, Dave-Castro-is-an-asshole-and-wants-to-ruin-your-day, pull-ups. And it wasn't a little bit either, it was 16 per round. It was a number that, at the time, seemed ridiculous, absurd, and completely demoralizing. Basically, a big middle finger to those of us in the scaled division that couldn't butterfly a beautiful unbroken set of pull-ups (yet).
17.2 was the only workout of the entire Open that I did twice and probably one of the most mentally challenging and difficult workouts for me in the entire series. It took one of my biggest weaknesses (mostly grip strength, but also an uncoordinated flailing kip) and shoved it in my face. And there's not much more that I hate than someone showing me what I'm bad at. Then laughing. And asking me to do another round. Oh, and then do it again.
The first time that I went through the workout I basically threw a big hissy fit. I just had a bad day, I had a bad strategy (redo switch-grip hangs for the win!), and when I got to pull-ups and couldn't do them as efficiently as I wanted, I basically gave up (Sorry Tony for yelling at you!). At first, I thought that I was probably safe because most of the other females in the scaled division would get to the pull-ups and get just as stuck as I did. Pah! It's inevitable that there would be big-fish-in-the-little-pond, and of course there were. I barely cleared 100 reps and was insanely annoyed with myself.
Looking back, it's really all a huge mental game. I knew that I had the strength to get through it, but it was about finding that ability within myself. Basically, I needed to stay calm and not be a huge weenie. No one likes a weenie.
I did the original attempt on Friday and gave myself the weekend to work on drills and hit it again on Monday. This time I'm happy to say I stayed calm, broke down the pull-ups into manageable sets, and worked through it. It still wasn't pretty - I can string 3 good pull-ups together before I need a kip reset, but I finished the first pull-up round almost 4 minutes faster than I had the first time! It meant that I had more time to cruise through the reps and knock them out. I got a full 2 rounds farther on the second attempt and was sufficiently pleased with my effort. The Leaderboard, however, not as pleased with me because I ended up placing pretty far down in the standings (#141). But, meh, I was still stoked to be doing as well as I was in the Open, all things considered.
One thing that I learned this year in the Open is to always expect for it to get much, much worse. Sometimes I'd like to think that Castro looks down from a pedestal and said, "How can I just rock their world today?" The workout for 17.3 was about as close to giving up (or throwing up) that I came in the entire Open.
Just like in the years past, this year's Open featured a ladder - each round finished gave you more time on the clock, but each round got heavier, nastier, more soul-crushing. This year's ladder was a squat snatch ladder (or power snatch into overhead squat, for the scaled division). Now that everyone took a second to giggle at the word snatch, we can move on. Are we good? Okay. Cool.
I have one perfectly formed, useful, and powerful shoulder. My left one? Meh, not so much. No, I've never injured it. No, my parents never beat me. And as far as I know, I only fell down the stairs once. (Just kidding!) Regardless, my left shoulder has never been quite as mobile as my right and that has been the most ridiculously annoying part of my Crossfit career. For me, putting any sort of weight overhead requires an out-of-body inhuman amount of concentration.
I basically figured that was the end of my Open "career". There was no way that I was going to be able to consistently put up any sort of high volume or heavy weight on this shoulder. It didn't work that way. Nature wasn't going to change for the sake of me.
I'd been doing Olympic Lifting relatively consistently for the past month and I had been working on my shoulder stability with Sean (who is amazing, just saying!), but from a point of either a behind-the-neck strict press or dropping underneath the bar and working on my stability in the overhead squat. Put together with the amount of time I had been putting in working with Cassie on our own programming, I knew it was time to work more on my fear of the snatch than my strength.
I hit a PR of 75# in the days leading up to the Open workout for 17.3. I was ecstatic! I mean, seriously, this was the same person that couldn't balance a 15# training bar above her head just several weeks prior! I also knew that I was going to get capped out for time by the ladder (105# was not gonna happen, let's be honest here), but I was really hoping to hit one rep of the 95# round before the time cap.
I can't even begin to explain to you how incredibly intense and powerful the energy was at EAE the day that I did 17.3. I had been judging the Open workouts each weekend and loved the energy, but it was a completely different experience when the entire gym was shouting your name. I had a short strategy going into the workout - don't screw up the light weight because I was being overeager, but also get through it as fast as I possibly could (rub your head, pat your belly! Remember this!). Jumping pull-ups were quick and easy to get through; sometimes, I was done with the pull-ups before they had subbed the weight out on my bar.
I blasted through the early ladder rounds and hit 75#. Let's go - this was PR level and I was hitting multiples! I had banked a ton of time on the clock to give myself time to set up and make the reps count. Boom! At this point, more people were coming around to watch -- a lot of RX people were getting capped by the heavy weight.
95# on the bar. Let's go. Big pull. Elbows high and outside. Bar close to your body. Active shoulders. Set and squat. Crushed it. Hit another. As I ran over to the jumping pull-ups, every one starts shouting. I'm ecstatic and the energy and power is insane. I AM CRUSHING THIS WORKOUT.
But there was a problem. There had been an accident and 85# was put on the bar. Still a PR, but I had to go back and redo the reps I thought I had cleared. By this point, I was tired. I felt like garbage and my arms were killing me. Deep breath. Going through the points of the snatch that Sean had taught. Big pullllll...... drop underneath. I dropped underneath all right. The energy was insane. I can see people shouting and cheering and clapping. I think at one point I hear Tony shout "oh damn!" That's cool, I'm fucking awesome. But that's about it. I got underneath the bar but for the life of me I couldn't hold it up, so I just set the damn thing down on my head. (Spoiler: no one was hurt in the making of this snatch story)
Ugh, frustrated and tired, I tried again and again. I saw Jorge shouting at me, Justin telling me to pull bigger. I was trying so hard! I can honestly say that I was impressed with myself that day. I think, that had it not been for the insane atmosphere that had been created around me, I wouldn't have been able to push and try as hard as I did. Even though I didn't hit 95# that day, I know 100% that I have the power and ability in myself to do it. I definitely don't fault anyone for the weight mistake because, hey, I hit a new PR # that day and I wouldn't have done it without that! I also realized how much I really like Olympic lifting in that moment and how much I want to work on improving my form and technique in the coming year leading into the next Open. It was one of the most ridiculously hard workouts that I have done in a long time, but absolutely, one of my favorites. And I couldn't have done it without the help of my gym!
17.4 was a return to everything that I was good at. It was the return of endurance and I was stoked to have a chipper to sink my teeth into. Deadlift? I got it. Wall balls? All day, yo. Row? You BET! Push-ups? Sure! Suck it, Dave!
I smashed it. My strategy of breaking up the 55 deadlifts into sets of 11 worked beautifully, the 55 wall balls into sets of 20/20/15, effortless. I was most concerned about the calorie row, which I had budgeted 5 minutes for, and was pleasantly surprised to see myself off the rower in 4:xx. The push-ups were, surprisingly, the most challenging of the entire set because I didn't realize how exhausted my forearms would be. I tried to break the push-ups into mini sets of 10 and 5 and work through the pain and finish the round for the tiebreaker. I was back into the deadlifts before I realized it and I was hammering out as many as I possibly could in the final minute. My forearms were on fire; I could barely hold on to the bar, but there's a level of animal survivalism that comes over you when you're competing. I was so close! Hit the tiebreaker, get through 55 more! IT'S ALMOST OVER! I didn't hit 55, but I did hit a noble 44, for 99 total deadlifts in the time cap. I placed 17th, so another performance to rival that of 17.1.
I can't begin to describe the amount of pride I had after 17.4. When I finished, I definitely considered vomiting. It was the closest to going into a dark anaerobic place that I had come yet in the Open, but I knew I had put out a seriously solid effort. Seeing that effort reaffirmed on the Leaderboard is something special, too. I felt like I was back in it, after two mediocre workouts prior.
The last workout of the Open was going to be a difficult one for me and I had known that going in. It conflicted with the first race of the Rogue Trail Series and I had to make a decision as to which was more important. There are no finals to the scaled division, but I also didn't want to miss the final workout. I made the decision to wait until the last possible moment on Monday to do 17.5, an insanely heavy leg & calf-burning combo of jump rope and thrusters.
It was a tough decision for me - sore legs for the race or sore legs for the workout. But, transitioning from my Crossfit self into my trail runner self was inevitable as the seasons changed, so I was comfortable with my decision.
(For those of you following the blog, the race recap from The Maze is in the post prior.)
Postponing 17.5 until after the race was absolutely the right decision. My legs were tired for the race and the tightness I felt in my calves at the onset of the race would have been amplified. I had also told myself that I wasn't going to look at the scores that had been submitted for the final workout before I did it myself. Who needs that kind of pressure in their life?
The workout went about as well as I imagined that it would, even though I was tired. The thrusters got heavy into the later rounds, my rope wasn't as clean as I wanted to be, and I got a nasty tear on my left thumb (Boo! Hiss!). I had set myself a goal to go under 10:00 after watching everyone finish their workouts on Saturday and I was happy to say I hit that goal! Even on tired legs! Boom! I was pretty happy with it. It was a higher intensity effort than I was used to, coming off a race, and I still managed to make it through. I considered it a win. It was, however, on the Leaderboard, one of the worst rounds I'd had and definitely set me back in the standings. Looking back, I think I could have easily went into the low 8s had I had fresh legs. But, it was a solid effort and that's what counts.
Looking back now through the Open (if you're still with me and concerned about what I actually thought!), I'm so happy that I did it. I finished as 54th female in the South Central Region (Texas, Mississippi, & Lousiana) and the 41st female in Texas. Boom. Not bad for your rookie year!
Competing in the Open really made me cognizant of what my weaknesses are and what I can do in the upcoming year. I definitely realized how much I enjoy the heavy stuff and I'm looking forward to a year full of PRs. I also learned that I have an even more incredible ability to find the suffer point and let it burn! No matter how bad it got, how out of breath, how much I hated the workout, I kept pushing through. I think that's the point at which true competitors are born. I'm truly excited about finding out more about myself this year and working to be both a better athlete and coach.
Until next time!