Any given Sunday

I was in a hurry when I wrote that last blog post. So much in a hurry that I completely forgot to mention the reason I named the post what I did, which is that when I start to look forward to my rest days is when I know I need more of them. So I am VERY excited for the off week coming up in preparation for next Saturday’s competition.
I also completely forgot to mention my happiest moment ever as a coach. I’m not actually a coach or a trainer or anything like that but if someone asks me a question or something I am always happy to help out where I can. Heck, one of the other non-coaches around taught me butterfly pullups in about 5 minutes flat (not that I can do more than 2-3 in a row, I keep losing my rhythm!), but anyway sometimes the best verbal cues can come where and/or when you least expect them.
It was Friday after class, and one of the girls was chalking up her hands, about to hang off the pullup bar. So I asked her what she was practicing and she said she thought she was close to getting her first kipping pullup. So I watched her, and showed her what she was doing vs what she should be doing, and gave her a couple verbal cues and damned if she didn’t get her first pullup on her VERY next attempt, and then the next one after that. I was just about as stoked as she was, actually, because what I said really resonated with her (all I did was repeat what Mel Ockerby told me a year and change ago, which similarly worked on me immediately after 6 damn months of frustration leading up to that moment!). Sometimes you just need to hear something said in a different way.
I was also having a laugh last week that there was some cult recruiting going on at work, and I wasn’t the one doing it. Still laughing over that.
But back to the more recent past. Sunday felt like about three weekends in one, probably because it had three very distinct parts (OMG I just had a Julius Caesar translation flashback…). It started extremely early in the morning when I woke up at 4:45 to get ready for the Trail Series race I was running out in Elgin, which is about an hour east. One of my friends was running a 26km course which had quite an early start to it, so a bunch of us were meeting to carpool at 5:30 in the morning.
When we arrived it was actually cold (!), so cold that after seeing Keith start his race the rest of us huddled back in the car until almost the start of our race. We unfortunately cut it a bit too close and I didn’t really warm up properly, but it wasn’t too terrible either. This race was 7.5kms long, and was at a wine farm called Oak Valley, and I had actually won this race last year, so I was vaguely familiar with the course and recalled that it was quite flat, and fast. Unfortunately this is not the sort of course that favours me as a CrossFitter over normal cross country runners, because I do relatively better at powering up hills and then recovering quickly, as was evidenced in this race: the woman who won the series raced out to the front way ahead of the rest of us, and I was actually in second place after the first 2kms (which were quite hilly).
That ended, when I was passed by four people in the mostly flat bike paths through the oak forests. But it was beautiful: soft dirt, shade, lovely smells of the forest. At this point I was feeling a bit concerned about my level of fitness; I was feeling pretty tired, and as I mentioned above was craving rest days and not going out and racing. But there I was, and in decent position so I kept plodding along and after a while the course got hillier again and I was able to overtake one of the people who had passed me. The other one I had in my sights, and she looked very beat-able.
The other day one of my co-workers was showing this video of Mike Tyson. He was saying before fights he was nervous but then he just transforms and when he enters the ring he’s unbeatable. A God. And he looks his opponent in the eyes, and eventually the opponent cracks and looks away for just a split second, and in that second they both know the game is already over. I had my mini Mike Tyson moment when we hit a BIG steep hill and this girl had stopped to walk about half way up and I just charged up the whole thing and more, and when I passed her I heard her say “Pshaw!” in amazement. So I knew I had beaten her mentally.
It was quite a lonely race after that point as there wasn’t anyone more than about 50m in front or 50m behind. Coming up to the last 1.5kms which were VERY flat I took the opportunity to practice my Pose running. In theory it is more energy-efficient always to run on your toes, like you do when you’re sprinting or running up a hill. In practice, this feels awkward and weird over longer distances (at least to me). But I thought what the hell, unless I mess up badly here I’m going to maintain my position (just out of the money, *sigh*, not that I really need more free athletic gear anyway though), so I decided to practice. For the first 200-300m it felt really awkward.
Then a strange thing happened. First, it started to feel easier. Then, it felt so much easier that moving back to heel strikes would have been harder. And at some point along this period, I started running faster. A LOT faster. Now, I wonder if I could keep that up over a longer distance, but it sure as hell was interesting. Something else to practice, I guess!
I did manage to beat my time on the course last year, by about 30 seconds. So I was happy overall. I can’t say that I deserved to win, the people who beat me were just better than I was on that course on that day. But I kept my head and didn’t panic when I started getting passed, and ran my own race, and most importantly I had fun. And no calf cramps this time, and I got to see how I responded to some high starch in the form of banana before & after the race. Finished 4th out of 70 women, and 20th overall, out of 143.
Not bad for someone who used to suck at cross country, huh? I was also feeling happy that the downhills didn’t scare me as much as they once did, although I would characterise myself as having a level of caution greater than when I was racing before the ankle sprain. Older and wiser I suppose (beats older and more frail!).
Some CrossFitters were also racing so after doing my mobility I chatted to them for a bit, and then when my ride was leaving had my hand forced to go introduce myself to a fellow athlete. But hey, all’s well that ends well (yes, peeps, I really am shy but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do).
Then we went to the Peregrine Farm Stall where there was nothing paleo for me to eat. But I decided to see how my body responded to coffee after a five week break. The answer? Not so well, the acid upset my stomach. So, now I know now to drink coffee next weekend.
Then we went to Strand Beach, took off most of our clothes, and jumped in the ocean! I had no idea but the water is significantly warmer out that side than it is in Cape Town. I guess False Bay is a bay, albeit a giant one!
Then we drove back to Cape Town and I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing steamed veggies for my trip to Joburg. Well, until heading out to meet some friends for a Lion’s Head hike.
Actually it was an abbreviated hike because it was something like 38 degrees (that’s about 100), and one of our crew started to feel ill about halfway up. So we headed back down and over to where Natalia stays to hang out by the pool. Yet another reason I’m glad I always keep an emergency bikini in the car.
Sadly I couldn’t stay long because I had to get home to bed early so I could wake up at 12:30am and drive up to Big Bay to watch the Super Bowl streaming over the internet.
Now, a little bit of history here for the readers of this blog (geez there are a lot of you, silent strange lurkers!) who aren’t members of Patriots Nation. This may seem boring but there is a method to my madness.
So, my team first started winning Super Bowls in 2001. That game was a classic David vs Goliath, the St Louis Rams were heavily favoured to win and the little scrappy Patriots led by 23-year-old quarterback Tom Brady wound up taking the game in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history (Tom Brady was a Cinderella story in his own right, having been the backup quarterback who wins the Super Bowl).
The Patriots won again in 2003 and 2004, then had two kind of so-so years, and then came 2007, in which the Patriots did something that had only ever been done once before in the so-called modern era of football, which was to have a perfect, undefeated regular season. The last team to do it was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
So in that 2007 Super Bowl, the Patriots met the New York Giants. It was eerily similar to the 2001 game in that a) the team that was heavily favoured appeared for all the world to underestimate their opponent and that is the one thing you must NEVER do, and b) the young, upstart quarterback (in this case Eli Manning) led a charge down the field in the final minutes of play to produce a classic upset. I can still remember that game: where I was, who I was with, how I felt. I don’t think I’d been so devastated by a sports game since the Flyers lost the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996 (and at that age I had crazy teenage hormones!). I was so upset that I actually lost a good deal of my passion for football, and I’m not sure I ever got it back in quite the same way (I’m a Myers-Briggs ‘J’. When I’m over something, I’m over it!).
This year was a rematch. Patriots vs Giants. It was an incredibly close game. Really, either team could have win and both teams played well. It wasn’t the sort of game that was lopsided and boring, or lopsided but the team that should have won managed not to. But, credit to the Giants because they played clean, and didn’t screw up. The Pats on the other hand, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with just sloppiness that 99 times out of 100 isn’t the case. A safety as the first play of the game? A penalty for 12 men on the field that nullified a Giants turnover that would have led to a sure touchdown? Two consecutive dropped catches by receivers in the final drive? Naw, the Pats could have won the game. On paper, and even in the moment, they probably should have won the game.
But that’s why they play games. On any given Sunday, either team can come up with the win. You just bloody well never know what’s going to happen in any competition, on any day. You can be as heavily favoured as you wish, but the opponent wants that win too, maybe even more than you do. And in that moment on the field, anything can happen, and luck and passion can trump any sort of sense.
And a last word. Fans, be humble. I like to think I have never rubbed it in when my team has beaten another team. I find it unnecessary and obnoxious. You can celebrate winning without rubbing the loser’s nose in the dirt. Same goes for athletes, the people whose asses you are kicking today might well be kicking yours in five years, or five months.
There was an article a few weeks back a friend posted to my wall: “Is God a Patriots fan?” When massive amounts of thunder, lightning, and rain woke me up at 7am I thought to myself God must be a Pats fan. He sure as hell sounds pissed.
Me? I’m already kind of over it.
  • “Duuuude. Why aren’t there good looking guys like that at our gym?” – Ellie (there are good looking guys at our gym, for the record….)
  • “No, really, I want to wrestle you sometime. I want to get beat by a girl.” “Oh my God. … What was your name again?” – Chris (apparently) & Ellie
  • “Do you also have a Vermont by Hermanus?” “No, we have a Vermont by New Hampshire.” – Carla & Ellie
  • “She’s human after all!” – Carla (I was vicariously enjoying the consumption of a hot cross bun)
  • “Oh my God! We’re lost in the Strand! Let me Tweet, in case we’re never found again!” – Keith
  • “These are the sort of people who are going to hell. It doesn’t matter how many times you go to church on Sunday.” – Keith
  • “Unfortunately for everyone involved, including me. Oh, wait, I guess I’m the only one involved.” – Ellie (yeah, I really do say stupid sh*t sometimes!)
  • “They’re totally checking us out!” “Well of course they are. Wouldn’t you?” “Yes!” – Natalia & Ellie
  • “You guys, I seriously can’t remember the last time I had a beer.” “I can. It was two hours ago.” “Do you want a beer?” – Ellie, Joe, and Jon Jon (I later remembered: it was after doing Fran at my CrossFit cert last August, ripping both my hands badly, and going out drinking in New Haven with the boys … beer dulls the pain)
  • “You spell triumph T-R-I-U-M-P-H?” – Joe 

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