I was so looking forward to this competition. I didn’t have any illusions that I was going to win it, but I wanted to go, do well, finish in the top 10 or the top 5 if I was lucky.
I was just SMSing with Lorinda earlier in the week: ‘No bullshit, no excuses – just have fun.’
And it’s one thing if you go out and don’t perform well. That would have been an ego knock, as there are a lot of other strong girls out there and my gymnastics are not the best, in a gymnastics-heavy competition. But it’s tremendously disappointing to train all year for something and then have your body fail you.
So the first event was Jackie: 1000m row, 50 thrusters with a 20kg bar, and 30 pullups. I was in the first heat because I was a very low qualifier thanks to my 1 rep in Open WOD3. I won my heat by quite a while and wound up finishing 9th overall in this event but was only 10 seconds slower than the 6th place finisher, so there’s a good chance I would have done better if I’d had some competition in my heat. I also made a rookie mistake in not stretching out my forearms ahead of time and had some issues gripping the bar on the pullups, but I was overall very happy. Workout went according to the game plan, and I had FUN! I was smiling the entire time.
I wasn’t smiling when it turned out there was no food. The breakfast was gone, and it was 11am so too early for lunch and my next event was at like 1:30 so I didn’t want to be eating at noon. Oh, or the not having any water. That made me a bit cranky. Last year we had amazing catering; they never ran out of snacks, and there was plenty of water, so I didn’t think to bring my own supplies. Another rookie mistake. But it was around this time that I started feeling like I’d eaten something that disagreed with me, and I figured the next event wasn’t a cardio event anyway so it was fine not to eat that much.
When I was warming up for the next event, a 7 minute ladder of overhead squats then 7 minutes of burpee muscle ups, I just felt weak. In this event, the minimum work requirement was three overhead squats at your opening weight, and three burpee muscle ups. I was planning to open at 56kgs (125 pounds) because I knew that opening at the starting weight would not put up a competitive score, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
Then I was standing under the rings and thinking to myself ‘huh, a muscle up seems like a whole lot of effort right now.’ Ha. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that overhead squats or muscle ups are a strength of mine. My muscle ups on a good day aren’t great because I’m still struggling with patience on my kip, so I land too low. But still.
So what happened? I went out to the floor, started at the safe opening weight and worked my way up to 50kgs for two. Then I got to the rings, completed two muscle ups …. And no more. My third one I was over the rings just fine and failed to achieve lockout; my shoulders were tired and I just couldn’t get all the way there. Props to my judge, Brad, for legitimately calling that a no rep because it was close but definitely wasn’t there. Brad is an excellent judge, I must say.
They let everyone who DNF’d on an event to continue in the competition even though our scores didn’t count towards the official rankings, which was great. To be honest I considered withdrawing a couple of times, but I figured I was there and I might as well go out there and try to have fun. Also, I feel like in a way it would have been poor sportsmanship to pull out in a huff after getting knocked out. Plus, I wanted to see how I would have done had I gotten that third muscle up … or at least, that was the idea.
After it was over, I was actually just in shock. Like disbelief. I mean, I’ve done three strict muscle ups in under 7 minutes before (granted, not with overhead squats beforehand). But still! I couldn’t actually grasp what had happened. Then, I started to feel exhausted and a bad headache came on. When I was eating dinner with Beatrix & David I started to feel a bit nauseous.
Yeah. Turns out I had food poisoning. Or a stomach bug; who knows?
The first workout of Saturday was the dreaded 100s workout: 100 wall balls, 100 chest-to-bar pullups, 100 one-legged squats, and 100 dumbbell snatches, with a 25-minute time cap. This time, I stretched out my forearms ahead of time so gripping the bar was not an issue. I could feel that I was not quite myself in the wall balls, which took me 8:20 (it should have taken me about 6 minutes even at a moderate pace). Then the chest-to-bars … I was actually quite happy with this. Pullups have never been a great strength of mine and I was always doing chest-to-bar with a pronated grip (chinup grip), because I had issues actually getting my chest to touch the bar with the supinated grip. However, pronated is a much weaker position because a) it takes the grip more and b) it’s more of bicep move than a lat move, so you’re using smaller muscle groups and are weaker.
Thanks to a tip from Ms Lorinda, I was playing around in the warmup and figured out how to do chest-to-bars with a supinated grip. Then I went out into competition and did 89 reps that way, having just learned how to do it a half hour before. That was a small victory. Still, the pullups took me almost to the time cap, so I only had time for 12 pistols in the minute or so left on the clock. Pistols are a funny thing, I start off slow then once I get my balance I speed up, especially because 100 walls balls & 100 chest-to-bar pullups is a bit tiring. I did my last 6 or so in about 20 seconds; wish I’d been through the wall balls just a bit faster!
Once I stopped moving, all hell broke lose. First, I’d ripped my palm on about pullup 80 (the rip was so bad it scared off one of the most hardcore boys in the sport, who came to see me in the medical tent). Second, I didn’t notice the altitude until I stopped moving … then I was gasping for air like an asthmatic and actually had to sit for a few minutes before going to the medical tent, despite blood gushing from my hand. All this time I thought the food poisoning was mild, but I went to that tent and they started to dress my hand, and after about 10 minutes I had to excuse myself to run into the bathroom.
It’s kind of a ‘thing’ in CrossFit to work out so hard that you throw up. It’s called ‘meeting Pukie’ and in some circles is a badge of honour, although I find that a bit silly. Kind of like thinking a hand rip is hardcore. Now my body doesn’t really work that way; I can be flopping about like a fish unable to walk but I won’t throw up. I think the combination of the altitude, food poisoning, and mild shock finally did me in. I probably won’t meet Pukie again.
After that, I was just flat. The rest of the workouts in the weekend I had no energy. I suppose the fact that I had almost no solid food since I started throwing up on Friday didn’t help. There was a couplet of 93kg deadlifts & 60cm box jumps with an 8 minute time cap and I didn’t even come close to finishing. I would have guessed I’d take about 6 minutes to do that workout normally. And then the chipper with 50 handstand pushups where I didn’t even finish the handstand pushups (I did manage to do about 10 kipping ones which is a plus for me because normally I can’t kip to save my life!).
Or, my personal favourite … the workout I was looking forward to the most out of everything, with 4 rounds of 2 rope climbs & 4 61kg squat cleans. I was so weak & dehydrated that my forearms cramped and I couldn’t climb the rope for my fourth ascent. I actually fell off the damn thing at one point. I was so looking forward to this because Chris had just taught us how to climb with our legs and not our arms to save our grip, and I was looking forward to doing well in this event.
That was actually what pushed me over the emotional edge, and I got some unwanted but quite memorable free counselling from an ex-special forces SAPS officer. He must have seen some things in his time, and you know, it is just a hobby, and arguably a silly one at that. Competitive exercise.
Yeah, competing with food poisoning is not the smartest thing, but my body was too weak to let me really hurt myself. I’m glad I did it. The competition experience was fun and I will say one thing; I did give every workout everything I had (ok not the deadlift one because I would have hurt myself and I knew it). But the utter frustration of not having your body do what it is usually able to do, and at the one event all year that you train for was terrible. There are almost no words to describe it.
I’m certainly not the only one who suffered. I whined more than most, which I’m not proud of, but in my defense it was actually embarrassing for me to go out there and perform so poorly in front of all those people. Humbling, too. In a way it made me feel better about my muscle up failure, but it’s just excuses at the end of the day. Now, I have a legitimate demon I’m chasing. It was so painful to watch the final heat of top women and think that I should be in that heat. Next year, I will be.
Steiny always gets on my case for being negative after all my workouts. It’s not so much negativity as critical self-analysis: here is what I learned. You know what? Most people probably couldn’t do three rope climbs and 4 61kg squat cleans after not having eaten for two days. But hell. It’s not about anyone else, actually, it is about me, and one big reason I compete is because it pushes me to levels that I struggle to achieve in training. My one big aim was not to leave the floor at Regionals feeling like I could have given more; aka not having wussed out mentally. At least that didn’t happen. Usually the mind fails the body. This time, the body failed the mind and it was somewhere between infuriating and sad. So, I gave it my all even if my all on this weekend wasn’t very good. Of that, I am proud.
There is also a bond that forms between two athletes who legitimately feel each others’ pain. Competitions are funny; if you’re doing well someone can be injured or deathly ill and you could care less. Not that you don’t care; just your focus is elsewhere. When you’re down & out, or just not doing as well as you wish you would, you tune more into the others around you.
There was this one moment I am never going to forget, just one athlete to another. There’s some things that words just cannot explain, some feelings that can only be expressed with the eyes.
And the general support was great. The head judge even made a point of telling me that he thought it was great that I was competing at all, which was actually quite sweet of him to say, and he wasn’t the only one. Yeah, well, something like this and you see who your friends are.
So, enough navel-gazing. The entire event was very well put together. The judging and showmanship was first rate, at least in my experience. The catering was lousy and there was the issue with not getting to warm up properly for the last event because they never posted the heat times, then changed them, then changed them back … but all in all it was great. I can’t wait for next year!
Some highlights from the weekend (in no particular order … well except for the first one):
- Ryan proposing to Hes on the floor after the final team event … and she said yes (of course!!))
- Arthur cleaning his PR for 4 reps in the team event
- Steiny doing Jackie in what would have been the fifth fastest time among individual females
- Beatrix beating Sam Briggs’ time in the deadlift/box jump workout (3:33!! Beastess!!)
- Celestie Englebrecht bursting onto the scene (and winning abs of the competition, hands down!)
- Nicole Seymour proving that she’s a damn good CrossFitter
- Seconds before ‘Go’ on the final event, Richard Smith spontaneously running over to his brother Jason and giving him a hug
- … and speaking of the Smith brothers, Richard (aka Ricky Bobby) competing despite a torn knee ligament & finishing seventh, and Jason’s blink-and-you-miss-it rope climb ascents & third place overall finish. I love those boys because they are nice, talented, honest, and real. Talk about family values.
- ….and speaking of them, AGAIN, Jason’s son had his first steps at the competition, and I accidentally witnessed this
- Team CF Platinum winning a decisive victory for the second year running
- Hannes du Toit quietly showing a massive year over year improvement
- Coach Carla’s decisive victory on event 6 that helped propel her to the win
- Ivan Kruger finishing event 6 (the only person to do so)
- Richard Smith doing about 40m walking lunges in a row, to make it over the centre line before the time expired
- Team CCF’s third place finish (they also DNF’d on the muscle ups but finished third place in both the official & unofficial standings)
- Neil Scholtz’s consistency & technique bringing him to a second-place finish
- Speaking of consistency … David Levey, deservedly winning for the second straight year
- Hearing ‘Power’ by Jeremy Loops on the radio just as I arrived at the venue for Day 3
The weather was also great. Gorgeous, sunny days. Joburg has such nice winter weather (it’s late fall/early winter I’d say). Cold, VERY cold, when the sun is down, crisp mornings & evenings, and days that are actually quite warm.
I was asked the other day how I felt about the event being held in Johannesburg. Actually, I’m kind of happy about it. I like it up here, and it is less travel for the majority of the athletes. And the altitude? Honestly, you only notice it when you stop moving. Like the advice I got the other day: just don’t stop moving!
I can’t say I particularly cared for the venue, though. The lighting was terrible, and it was not in a pleasant part of town. There’s Rosebank … and then there’s downtown. Joburg is sort of like the Detroit of South Africa, where it used to have a thriving downtown, but then urban decay has hit. I was driving to the venue to register on Thursday and I felt like I just passed Eight Mile Road. Then I was mostly interested in getting the heck out of dodge before it got dark. One of the other girls apparently had someone smash her car window while stopped at a traffic light. Not fun.
But most of Joburg is not like that. At some point over the last few days I was almost at the point where I was thinking I might move here after Skyrove, whenever that is, then I realised the utter foolishness of making such plans. I know better by now. The best laid plans of mice & men, right?
Then again, I also know better than to compete with food poisoning.
So now I go back to my main mission: trying to do cool things with Wi-Fi!
- “Well he looks really nice.” “He is nice.… Oh.” – Steiny & Ellie
- “We’re meeting in The Future.” – Levon
- “The animals are winning.” – Levon
- “They sent a delegation.” – Christopher
- “Oh yeah, you were doing overhead squats.” – Jason (dinner table conversation at the Smith house, apparently)
- “My money’s on you.” – Brad
- “I didn’t eat that much today. I had half a chicken.” – Beatrix
- “We have to do 100.” “100??” – Ellie & Elan
- “My hands! I can’t grip the bar!” “I feel like puking.” – Estevan & Ellie
- “I know exactly how you feel.” “I know you do.” – Ricky & Ellie
- “What the hell is a one-legged kip?” “I can’t even kip with two legs!” – Andrew & Ellie
- “Well, you do look better than you did yesterday.” – Sergio (I’m guessing I must have looked like hell the day before!)
- “Go puke somewhere else, Ellie!” – head medic
- “I enjoyed watching you compete.” – Chuck
- “We can’t dictate fate.” – policeman
- “That is SO sweet, it’s actually almost too much.” – Ellie
- “He’s like a monkey!” – Michelle
- “Ouch!! Is that good for it?” “Yes.” “Then do it again.” – me & my medic
- “He can squat clean 100 kilos sixteen times but he can’t stand up.” – Wade
- “I saw you were on your knees, so I knew it couldn’t be good.” – Wade
- “I really feel for you.” – Ellie
- “You know what you’re capable of. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” – one of my very sweet fans