“Adversity causes some men to break; other to break records.” – William Arthur Ward
In my case, a little from column A, a little from column B. What I didn’t talk about in the last blog post was how absolutely petrified I was going into this competition. Yes, I can be a drama queen but I was damn worried. Why?
Well the third team event required one female athlete to be able to snatch a 70 pound (32kg) dumbbell, for a minimum of 5 reps on each arm, or else the team would be disqualified. A snatch means it must get from the ground to locked out overhead in one movement, without stopping anywhere or resting at the shoulders (i.e. you can’t clean & jerk it), and you must not use the other hand to assist. When I first read that, I thought ‘no problem.’ Then I actually found a 32kg dumbbell.
To add insult to injury, the Friday before the competition (exactly one week ahead of game time), I caught a bar badly on a hang power clean, which caused my spine to bend in a way it is NOT designed to go… essentially I gave myself whiplash to the lower back, but mainly on the left, exacerbating an injury from late last year. My acupuncturist said I was damn lucky I didn’t cause any damage to the spine but I spent Friday afternoon and all of Saturday at home laid up in bed petrified that I was going to be too injured to compete, and I knew if I didn’t compete there was no one else on the team who could snatch that dumbbell, and our competition would be over before it began.
By Monday, the rest had paid off and the back felt OK once I warmed up, so Tuesday I tried to snatch the 32kg dumbbell. The result – success on the right, and a whole lot of failures on the left. Even worse than that, I was having a hard time even holding the dumbbell overhead on the left.
So here I am, knowing I need to go out on a field and try and do something I’ve never done that I’m not even sure I can do, and on the one side I have everyone telling me they know I can do it, and of course I’m also getting the unintentional pressure from various comments implying that it would really suck to let the team and the gym down. Uh-huh. So I’ll admit I was feeling pretty damned sorry for myself, wishing Rika had gone team and I could do the workout with all the squats and pullups instead.
I kept wishing it was something I knew I could do – like tell me I NEED to go and run 1000m faster than the other women and damn it I’ll make that happen. But it’s like that line in the Counting Crows song: ‘I am not worried / cuz I’ve done this sort of thing before.’ Well, I hadn’t ever done this sort of thing before. Digging deep to out-race someone, which I’d done plenty of times in the past, is different than trying to do something you’re not sure you’re physically capable of.
You know how they say men think about sex like every 30 seconds? I can’t speak to that since I am not a male but I thought about very little else than that stupid 70lb dumbbell for about two weeks. But a strange thing happened. On Wednesday when I was driving to work something just snapped inside me and I realised that this wasn’t about me and my own little issues of only being in the spotlight when it was safe, and not wanting to have to walk into that gym for the next year hanging my head in shame (although the latter was a legitimate concern). I realised that the only worse position than mine was that of my teammates, who of course had as much skin in the game as I did but had no control over my success or failure. At that moment, something inside me snapped and I decided that under no circumstances was I going to let them down.
Didn’t hurt that literally the day before the comp started, my physio and my chiro separately found three issues with my shoulder that could cause stability and/or proprioception problems (the kicker being that my shoulder bone was slightly out of alignment with the shoulder socket). I was kind of hoping that was the case because obviously you will have a weaker side, but it made no sense that on one side I could press the thing from my ear to overhead and on the other I couldn’t even HOLD it overhead.
So, to make a long story really short: I managed my ten reps, and another two after that. One of the happiest moments of my life; and the home crowd was super cool – every time I made a rep everyone cheered, and every time one failed you could hear the whole crowd sigh with disappointment. I remember after my first rep on the left side my teammate yelling to me: “See! You CAN do it!” and after my second seeing Jobst in the middle of the field with one of the biggest grins I’ve ever seen on his face. I was the hero of the day for the next hour or so. My 11 minutes of fame.
But let’s get real here: I also got my ass handed to me by Ms Beatrix Snyman of Platinum CrossFit, who finished 30 snatches with her teammate Andre. On the flip side, two other ladies from the other two competing gyms did not manage to get 10 reps and their teams were eliminated. Now that just sucks, and it especially sucked for the one team that would have won the competition hands down had they not gotten beaten by a 70lb dumbbell. I can understand this pain acutely because I lived that fear for two weeks.
Team Platinum went on to beat us in the next three events, and handily, I might add. So while our dream of going to the CrossFit Games was smashed to smithereens, I absolutely can’t complain because they were a better team. Yeah, there were plenty of ‘coulda been shoulda been woulda beens’ to be had but in the end, it is what it is. My heart really wasn’t in event 6 and I didn’t warm up properly and so re-strained my back on my first muscle up kip, which resulted in me clawing my way over the rings then literally being unable to pull my knees to my chest to kip out of the dip. It was amusing in a way … ‘Why won’t my legs move?? Hmm maybe I can just push with my arms …. Nope shoulders not strong enough, crap, better come down.’ Great moment of ignominy, right up there with fumbling with the collar on the deadlift workout. It was all over after that, but I kept trying anyway. Wasn’t until after the workout actually that I figured out I’d thrown my back and could barely walk. Oops.
Moral of this story? I shouldn’t be a sore loser. It wound up giving me a sore back.
There’s a media site that recaps everything, including some video footage of my snatches, and me hanging out over the rings struggling to bring my knees to my chest. Yes, yes. Well at least everyone can stop asking about my snatch now that the competition is over, and the offseason can begin. In a way it’s good because as I said, competition is only part of why we do this, and time spent prepping for the CrossFit Games is time not spent on getting ready for next year. I’m so de-conditioned at this point, relatively speaking, it’s not even funny. So let the training begin. After my back heals properly this time (at the moment it feels like it has red hot needles sticking into it…..), and I get over the cold or flu I woke up with Sunday morning thank you very much.
But some things this weekend that will stick with me, in no particular order:
- Rika’s 21 muscle ups in event #6 qualifying her through to the CrossFit Games as an individual. Prior to Sunday she had only done two or three. Half of any sport is a mind game. This competition showed that this woman’s mental fortitude is right up there. Like me, she had to walk out there in front of everyone and try something she was reasonably confident she could do, but wasn’t quite sure. And she did it. Except that 21 muscle ups is arguably harder than 10 dumbbell snatches, because adrenaline and brute force won’t get you through that. Anyway hats off to her; far and away the standout performance of the weekend.
- The handstand pushups in event #1 decimated the women’s field, and what the HSPUs didn’t get, the hang cleans and dumbbell snatches did. After event #3, Rika was the only woman who didn’t DNF a workout.
- Our team’s JP Seini pulling a 75kg snatch in competition under time pressure, when he was struggling to snatch 70 in practice in the weeks leading up to the competition.
- The moment I realised it was over.
- Lynda from our team killing the handstand pushups in event #1, and pulling me through the partner deadlifts when my back was going. Watching her and Natalia in the squat/pullup/shoulder-to-overhead workout was bittersweet, because they did amazingly well but it was hard to watch our competition pulling ahead, and with it the chances of a win.
- Chris drinking water from his water bottle while doing pistols. Epic.
- Garth getting the fifth best Diane time despite doing handstand pushups on one fist due to a hand injury, and then getting past the 10 hang cleans (@102kgs, 225 pounds!).
- Norman plowing through everything with a ready smile on his face, and doing picture-perfect butterfly pullups with a ripped open hand. He let me nurse his hand again this time; last time this happened was his first experience with New Skin and I really thought he was going to punch me, or never speak to me again. What can I say, this time was just as … emotional? Funny.
- Watching Chris race David Levey (the eventual winner) on the dumbbell snatch workout, and win convincingly. Super cool!
- Hannes du Toit. In my book, the most improved competitor from last year. Seriously, he even looks taller. Holy crap.
Overall, a fun event. The catering was good, the free massage was great (and kind of necessary in my case!). The warmup area inside was cold … VERY cold, which made it hard to warm up. It was also lacking equipment … we had to go outside and beg for extra weights & clamps so that we could warm up with the starting weight on the snatch ladder, and there was no place to warm up for pullups or muscle ups ahead of those workouts. I don’t blame our organisers but honestly for a Regional event, they should have had proper warmup facilities for the athletes.
It’s strange. In a way, I kind of anticipated this outcome actually. I honestly don’t feel any worse about this than I do about the Patriots losing the Super Bowl. You hope for the win, but you lose, and you move on. I was happily fraternising with the enemy at the after party. I don’t know them that well, yet, but I really like some of the Platinum team members (and some of the girls on the other teams, too, for that matter). I might have fraternised more had I not been feeling so flu-ish, but probably not because I was still quite disappointed and like them or not it’s still hard to watch the victors celebrate their victory. Builds character maybe?
Well, you can’t win ‘em all. Joburg wins this round.
On the plus side, I did what I set out to do and broke through a couple mental barriers in the meantime. And I didn’t let my fans down (apparently I have fans … who knew?).
And hey, I still get to live in Cape Town. The city was breathtaking on Thursday night before the comp, and as you can see from the photos I think we win hands-down at the most scenic venue (thank heavens it didn’t rain though!). The Mother City is stunning in winter; it’s more green, the light does amazing things … things the camera can’t capture. I am in love.
I took Monday off to get my mind back in the game and to take Lauren (the token non-South African competitor in the Africa Regional – she’s U.S. military stationed in Tunisia) and her friend out wine tasting with Rika. Super fun day, despite the illness. There is more to life than CrossFit, of course, so from today I’m back at trying to make the world a better place.
- “It’s like something out of Rambo!” – Andrew
- “Now make this lift …. Or I’m going to make you overhead squat!” – Chris (I didn’t …. And he did….)
- “I don’t want to hear about how your back is sore.” – Andrew
- “I haven’t lied to you yet.” – Laa-Laa
- “That’s …. Kinda gross, Ellie.” – Amy (I was eating coconut oil with a spoon)
- “You know what you’re doing.” – Kelly
- “Boston’s hardcore!” – Matt
- “I knew you could do it.” – Chris (could never lifted anything!)
- “Um… good genes I guess?” – Ellie (ask a stupid question…)
- “Well, you can’t win everything! F*ck you!” – Clare
- “Seriously? Can I punch you in the face? ” – Ellie
- “Hats off to you, Ellie. F*cking hats off to you.” – Paul