Setting goals, doubt, and getting burned





I think this was the most fun beach workout yet! I got there late because I was busy putting on sunscreen and didn’t account for that in my puttering around the house before heading out. Oops. But I wasn’t tremendously late, and got there when we were still doing mobility drills.

The first part of the workout was flag sprints, where you lie on your stomach with your fists together and your chin on your fists, then when told to go you jump up, run about 30m and try and grab a plastic “flag” (hollow tube about 1 foot long). There is 1 fewer flag than number of people per heat, so one person gets knocked out. Now, I won these flag sprints and then went to photograph the finishing line for the men and in the process got some sweet photos. But, I nearly didn’t win because I had my opponent beat and then eased up before actually having the flag in my hand. Stupid, stupid mistake … you should never do that! Lesson learned.

The second part of the workout was a team workout in teams of 4 we had to do the following:
• 200m partner carry
• 100 situps
• 100 pushups
• 100 squats
• 200m partner carry
The trick, though, was that for the middle portion only two team members could be going at a time and the other two had to be running the 200m. I was teamed up with Chris, Ralf, and Robert and it was quite awesome because we were all actually pretty evenly matched and so no one was slowed down and we were all able to go pretty fast. I say pretty fast because we were by far the fastest team so without competition I would say we were probably going at about 90%. Well, the running was maybe 80% for me to save myself for the other exercises, and then the rest I did at maybe 90-95%. Good stuff though.

I spent the rest of the day just relaxing. We had a group lunch at Sandbar (of course) and I gave my coaches their Christmas gifts, and then about 5 of us headed down to the beach where I stayed until about 4:30pm. This was not the plan; the plan was to go to a concert in Franschhoek. But it was hot, and I didn’t really feel like it. So I didn’t do it. Actually, I didn’t do much all day; I tried to read and was told to put the book away and just relax. So I did. I also got some damn good advice, again. I did practice handstands, which was fun. Some random guy came by to film this and for some reason I a) let him and b) tried whatever sort of strange drink he was marketing even though it contained such ingredients as “foaming agent” (in the words of Ralf: “It sounds like engine cleaner!”). Well, I was in a strange mood.

Unfortunately I managed not to put sunscreen very thick on some parts of my back and wound up getting burned. I actually even got some burn in areas where I did have the SPF 100. Must respect that African sun; and I was very happy to be lying in the shade. Yes, lying, not laying. Apparently I shouldn’t write blog posts when I’m tired. Time to invest in an umbrella I think.

Then that evening I attended a very chill braai, complete with waffles, ice cream, and Vermont maple syrup. Nothing like four CrossFitters and their sugar; not long after we ate this we all crashed pretty hard and it was bed time!

Sunday was a work day. I went over to my boss’ house for breakfast at 9:30am and stayed until almost exactly 9:30pm. We weren’t working the entire time of course; this was as much about bonding as it was setting goals and change management, although we did make good progress on a couple of very important issues. Oh, and drinking a couple bottles of wine. Actually, I hoped we would write down more goals but it’s ok, because we can do this offline and then share them. In some ways this might actually be better. Part of the conversation that I had on Saturday was around setting goals; because I am for whatever reason reluctant to set goals. I am results-oriented, and to me a goal is just a waypoint on a way to something bigger. So now I have 1 pullup, that’s lovely but is just a step on the road to 2, 5, 10, 20, etc. But, I have decided that it’s time to write down my goals for several reasons:
1. Committing something to paper helps focus the mind on the goal, and makes it real, and therefore easier to attain.
2. Without recording what you are trying to do, you risk missing the forest for the trees. Writing this stuff down may help refine the outcomes I am trying to create in various aspects of my life.
Well, I thought there were more reasons than that. Anyway those are the important ones. So before I left the gym this morning (it is now Tuesday 21 December) I erased my goals that had been on the board for like 6 months (and one of which had been achieved for about 5!) and wrote up a bunch more. Actually there are others that I didn’t have room to write down. It was time.

Monday morning dawned bright and HOT. I think it may have gotten up to 38 degrees. At least, it did according to my car; holy hell. This day was all about admin in the form of getting myself checked out at Mediclinic for physical and radiology (the good news: I still don’t have tuberculosis!), but more fun were the workouts! Yes, this is what I did for fun on my last full day in Cape Town.

The first one involved picking up Chris, one of the guys who trains at our gym. Again, I was late, I texted to say I would be right there only to turn my car on and realize I needed gas and hadn’t brought my garage card, so I had to run back to my apartment to get it, sigh …., and driving out to Stellenbosch to do a track workout. Did I mention it was really hot? This time I did bring water, though, and it was actually quite windy for Stellenbosch. Not that this is an excuse for anything of course (file it all under “constantly varied”) but boy there is nothing quite like hitting a wall of wind with 150m to go when you’re already a bit tired! Or the water pit 80m from the end… mini-obstacle course perhaps? On this day I ran one 400m at about 90% in 1:15.6, which is pretty much the same time I ran last time I did a track workout at 100%. I probably have a sub-1:10 in me with proper weather and shoes, and actually I want to see if I can find a competition to enter. That will knock off about 3-4 seconds right there. 😉

After that I ran 2x300m. Chris pointed out to me that where I had started from the last time I did this workout was actually something like 30m short of 300m! So imagine my surprise when I ran my ‘real’ 300m in 54 seconds, which is 3 seconds faster than the call it 275m I had run a few weeks ago! The next one clocked in at 56.7, also slightly faster. Then I ran a 200m at 36 seconds which is basically the same pace I had been keeping for 300, so I was tired and stopped. About this workout I will say two things: 1. It’s nice to have someone else timing you (probably a bit more accurate, and also faster), and 2. This has got to be one of the best places to run on the planet. We also saw a pullup bar, so we could do benchmark workouts like Helen here (actually, Chris and one of our coaches are apparently going to do just that later this week, so I hope they have fun with that one!). Helen is 3 rounds of run 400m, 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pullups. Not easy.

We had a nice lunch at some hidden-away place in Stellenbosch (The Big Easy doesn’t do breakfast, apparently, or at least not on week days). This place was mainly notable for the fact that it was misting water to keep us cool: “Not very good for the toast” according to the guy who was probably the owner, but since we weren’t eating the toast anyway we were happy for it.

The second workout of the day was the 5:30 workout at CCF, which consisted of practicing handstand walk (I walked about 2 steps away from the wall then fell down …, and discovered that going sideways along the wall is in fact easier when you are doing it freestanding!), then in teams of 3 do as many rounds as possible in 22 minutes of row 500m, 10 steps walking lunge, 20 box jumps, and 10 steps walking lunge. Two team members rest while one is working. I really wished I’d gotten to a third round, but the first two were super fun and properly hard! I happened to set a new PR on the 500m row on my first round (1:48, my previous best was 1:49.2, and imagine how fast I could row if that was all I was doing!). Then, afterwards, just for fun I tried to do a chin-up (pullup with arms facing me). This is a very awkward position for my shoulders, but you have more strength this way so rather than trying to kip or anything I just pulled myself up. It was actually kind of a funny process because I pulled myself about a third of the way up, thought “huh,” pulled myself a little further up, repeated the process, etc. until finally I got my chin over the bar. So I guess what I’m trying to say is I made that about as difficult as I could have for myself.

So that evening I had invited some friends over for goodbye drinks. When I was making dinner and cleaning up I realized that I actually wasn’t much in the mood to be social so I was actually quite relieved when I got like 4 texts in a row from people bailing out at the last minute. But the crew who did show up were awesome, and some of my favourite people. I even got my first gift of the season, and gave out SIGG water bottles to some of the gym crew (Swiss, not Swedish!), and a housewarming gift for my friend Jo, who stayed chatting with me until 1am! That was not exactly what I had intended, but what was, was, and I had a great time.

The next morning also dawned quite hot, and I went for my last CCF workout of the year: Barbara. Actually, to be more specific ½ Barbara mainly because that’s what everyone else was doing, and also because my pullup technique is not great and 20 pullups in a row even with a band would have taken me a while, thereby defeating part of the point of the workout. So the version of Barbara that we did was 5 rounds of 10 pullups, 15 pushups, 20 situps, 25 squats, and then 2 minutes rest. The first round felt really easy, like I could do it all day. Second round, same thing (and was actually faster than the first because I was more warmed up). By the third round I got a little confused and lost some of my pullup technique so that slowed me down by about 10 seconds, then the fourth and fifth rounds were a little more challenging but still manageable. Lesson learned: next time either less rest or more reps. But still, it was good fun.

Yes, if you were counting this was my third workout in less than 24 hours! I am planning a repeat of this (well, actually even worse I suppose: 6:30pm, 8am, noon!) with Laa-Laa/Navy Mike when I get back in to Boston. I would not ordinarily train this close to such a taxing plane ride but he’s not in town that long and he’s my cult recruiter and I haven’t seen him in like 10 months. So, very excited!!

After the workout I showered and changed into my official travel uniform, spent about 10 minutes thinking up and writing down goals on the board, said my goodbyes, and headed to Camps Bay for one last omelette before heading home to do dishes, pack, etc. Oddly enough, it was only at Sandbar that I felt twinges of sadness; strange.

I had a little more admin to do on that last morning; a few calls to Joburg later I was good to go. I was leaving my car at the office in the parking garage for these few weeks, and met my boss there who took me to the airport. In our car ride we discussed rest, balance, risk taking, behavioural psychology, and creating virtuous cycles rather than vicious ones. Also, the definition of irony, and manifesting the outcome we need. I did my piece to manifest this with a couple texts while waiting for my plane to JNB. On the subject of risk: you may well get burned, but I do believe it’s by pushing yourself (and maybe others around you??) over the edge that great breakthroughs are made. And, you will never make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

The trip itself was relatively uneventful; I inhaled one and a half books and got a good amount of sleep in. There were people playing vuvuzelas in the Johannesburg airport which I found quite amusing. Security found it not quite as funny. I spent quite a bit of time on the plane ride from Johannesburg to Washington doing mobility work – I think probably 20 minutes or so total, maybe more. Well, on something like a 20-hour flight I probably should have done more but after the stop-off in Dakar the guy in the seat next to me left and no one filled it so for most of my sleep I was able to stretch out over two seats and that helped mobility quite a lot. When I got to Washington we had to stand in a huge long queue for immigration, and I was a little worried I would miss my flight and since I don’t have my American cell phone that might have made for some good times. Luckily, I had enough time not only to catch the flight but to do a Starbucks run. Now I have THAT out of my system.

OK this flight to Boston is now descending so it’s time to shut down (good timing). We will see what this trip brings.

• “They’ll make a plan. They’re Swedish.” – Peter (?? OK I found it funny)
• “If you are not living on the edge how are you going to see the view?” – overheard at a party
• “Just get your stuff sorted out. OK?” – Roland
• “It should have been a cow.” – Chris
• “It’s ok. This is a free country. Unlike Europe!” – random guard at O.R. Tambo, in response to being asked if fingernail clippers were ok to bring through security
• “When are you coming back?” – another random guard at O.R. Tambo
• “Mass? That’s probably about the only place colder than here.” – immigration officer at IAD
• “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?” – The Rabbit

“Does this sound like a cult leader to you?: ‘Nothing in this world must stop us from achieving our goal. Certainly not doubt.’”
“No, it sounds like words of a very wise man. Why do you ask?”
“Doubt.”

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