Why I Fight


At CrossFit Kyalami, we have a giant chalkboard with a title “Why I Fight.” I found the metaphor interesting at first. Is training really a fight?

What is it that they say? It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog?

Well, dog, cat, lion, or rhino I would say this is true. While having high hopes is no guarantee of success, one thing I do know is that the only thing a defeatist attitude gets you is defeat.

I think a little bit of my fight left me for a bit after my cat died. That night, as I said, I couldn’t fall asleep. When I woke up four and a half hours later to go to weightlifting I wasn’t feeling much. If I hadn’t just missed the week before due to an alarm clock issue (smartphone decided to unplug itself, the battery died and I overslept), I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Why I Fight

Why I Fight

But go I did, and darned if Coach didn’t chirp me a bit for missing the previous week so it’s a good thing I did. Similar to waking up at a stupid hour like 3am to go catch a flight, when you do something crazy like wake up after four and a half hours of sleep in a state of emotional distress, your body kind of thinks you are kidding and plays along with it.

As a woman and athlete I tremendously respect once told me, you suck it up and do what you have to do. So I didn’t sleep enough? That’s my own issue. I’m at training, best to train as well as possible and not make excuses. There are always excuses. Work stress, or family stress, or this injury, or a cat that died. Whatever. Suck it up and train.

So we’ve been snatching, which I always tremendously enjoyed, and all the more so now that I’m learning how to do it properly. I have some fears in this life. One of them is falling on my head which is why my handstand walk is abominable. Another is high box jumps, ever since that last ankle sprain. Another one, recently, has been my shoulder giving out while doing muscle ups because …. Well, you can imagine. Yet another has always been getting under the bar in the snatch.

Warren and his 20RM

Warren and his 20RM

To be honest, it’s a bit counterintuitive to pull oneself into an overhead squat position under a barbell loaded with weight at the same time as you are throwing said weight over your head.

We work up to 43kg hang snatches, which is relatively heavy for me since my max full snatch is 50kgs. I can power snatch more than that, which means I can get more weight from the floor to above my eyeballs, so I’m not lacking in power. I’m just afraid.

This morning, Coach, in his wisdom, decides we’re going do an EMOM (this means Every Minute On the Minute). Eh, fine, I’ve just done a few at 43kgs and surely I can keep doing that with nearly a minute’s rest in between. I figure he’s going to have me do 10 minutes or so.

The camera can never quite capture the sunset

The camera can never quite capture the sunset

Coach: “I think we’ll do about 30 of these.”

Me: o_O

Coach: “What, how many have you done?”

Me: “Five!” (see here I thought I was halfway done ….)

He just shrugged and walked off.

Then about minute 12 he comes over and asks what’s the next heavier weight we can make this? Kyalami, bless its soul, is such a boys’ gym that our smallest weight plates are 2.5kgs each. So I said, with resignation because I knew what was coming next: 48.

“You don’t look too happy about that.”

When the weight gets close to what scares me, I don’t tend to like it on a good day. On this day? I really didn’t want to deal with it. But the flip side of being too numb to feel anything is that you’re also too numb to feel fear. So I added the weight, and snatch it another 12 or 13 times before he decided to call it a day at minute 25.

You know, sometimes you need someone else to tell you what you’re capable of, or tell you to suck it up.

Or stop being a baby.

Or that you have unresolved issues.

Unfortunately part of being an adult is that you sometimes have to figure that stuff out for yourself. Like my dumbbell snatch moment of a few years back when I realised all the feeling sorry for myself was not going to change what I had to do, and I started crying a little bit in the car with determination that for the sake of my teammates I would not fail. To this day, considering the other athletes that tried and failed at that dumbbell snatch, I am quite sure that the only thing that got me through it was my absolute refusal to consider the possibility of failure.

Well, that and adrenaline.

Speaking of; think these guys had a Working at Heights certificate?

Speaking of; think these guys had a Working at Heights certificate?

Practicing a week and a half later, I repeated the workout and this time my 43kg snatches were nearly perfect and the only reason I made some of the 48kg ones where I had sloppy or early pulls was my speed under the bar.

Coach was saying that sometimes your weaknesses can become your strengths. I remember Mona saying that a few years back, but as a proscriptive thing – attack them and make them your strengths.

It has been an interesting mid-February. From one telco to another, from one pitch to another, and it sometimes felt like from one battle to the next.

But you know, crazy as this sounds, lots of things are happening pretty much as I predicted. From small business coming through to much bigger possibilities, to a little bit of anti-climax that comes along with starting to understand and say what you want, and actually need to say. It’s as much a relief sometimes to disagree about something or even part ways as it is to understand that you’re on the same page with someone on about a topic you care about. A catharsis one the one hand; a path with an unknown destination on the other.

Hindsight really is 20-20 isn’t it? Foresight is harder. What will happen next? What will be the first CrossFit Open workout? Will things work out the way I’d like? To what degree is what I expect to happen what I want to happen, and to what degree is my expectation or wanting influencing the outcomes?

Still life at 44 Stanley; a little piece of Cape Town in Johannesburg

Still life at 44 Stanley; a little piece of Cape Town in Johannesburg

I keep finding my cat’s hairs everywhere. Interesting, that little vignette to bring you back to the harsh reality of a situation. It’s nice not having her scream and get underfoot when I’m cooking or walking down the path. But it’s so lonely without the presence she brought to the space. I feel that sometimes when I’m with someone I really care about and they leave. Or I leave. You just feel …. Empty.

Luckily, I had a trip to Cape Town planned for just after I had Ellie put to sleep. Being in my flat without her was terribly painful, so it was really good for me to get away. Seeing so many people I care about was the best, though. A picnic in a nature reserve was one of my highlights because the weather was so perfect, I could have slept in the shade under those trees.

Even being sand-blasted on Strand Beach was tolerable, considering. We don’t have things like that in Johannesburg. I first fell in love with those mountains in Stellenbosch in 2009 and no matter what I do, it’s still a fresh infatuation every time I see them. That area of the world really is special to me; from my 2009 memories of looking outside my Waldenhof flat in the pre-dawn morning rain, to my 2014 afternoons at The Thirsty Scarecrow with Riaan, to the old school charm that is West Workout, to Hes & Ryan’s apartment where I’ve spent so many hours over the years.

The beach :)

The beach 🙂

Also, all the memories yet to come!

Speaking of memories, I had a very postmodern experience when I was sitting in my car; one of those that really strikes you. I had just closed mail and was trying to click on Maps but accidentally clicked on Facebook (funny how that works…), and I see a post from one of my friends, Motheo Moleko, something about going out for Indian food in London (no I’m not at all jealous….). Then I turn on the radio and whose voice do I hear? Yeah, no, that will probably never get old.

The Cape Town trip was slightly marred by horrible traffic on the Thursday, causing me to miss qigong. There was the debacle known as the State of the Nation Address, or SONA. This is a much better acronym than SOTU, but Zuma is not the orator that Obama is.

I haven’t been much into drinking recently but I’ll admit I had to have a glass of wine or two when this show was on, after its much-delayed start. I can’t even do justice to describing what happened, so read this. All I can say is that I felt a very deep ill feeling in the deepest pit of my stomach.

How I feel sometimes

How I feel sometimes

Yes, I’m a citizen of another country. Yes, I could choose to leave here at any time. The lights go out regularly; the water occasionally goes out. I encounter government policymakers and regulators through my WAPA work, and they have a tough job but especially on the policy side, really good work emerges. But then we have a disruption to law and order in Parliament of a scale that makes international news?

My point: I feel ill because I’m worried. I’m worried because this is now my home, and I care about my home. That’s just part of me – when I do something, I do it, and not caring is not part of my DNA.

Here’s another thing. Life is terribly unfair. We see it every day in the people we cross by in the streets and refuse to give R2 to, and when huge contracts get passed to lousy businesses when we know we could do better.

Yeah, life isn’t always fair. But you can have two reactions to that – let it defeat you, or let it motivate you to make the world a better place. Most days, when I’m not exhausted, this isn’t even a hard choice. I try not to let others make their problems my problems, and I do generally see the world as a positive, wonderful place where anything can happen … and more good will happen than bad!

My life is not without its perks, too. Breakfast at the house of the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission with one of the directors of the FCC was pretty damn cool. I really wanted the chocolate raspberry muffins … but I wanted more to be able to train that evening without feeling ill.

It is starting to become apparent that my skills and connections may be more valuable than I had thought, but in a different way than I had thought. This might take some getting used to, but all growing pains and changing relationships do, now, don’t they?

A new view of Devil's Peak

A new view of Devil’s Peak

I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been tired since Ellie died. I’m happy to push and fight and struggle. But some days, the fire isn’t there. Just like not every day is the fire there at training but you slog it through.

Or ‘thug it out’ which is apparently making a comeback as a slang term. Only in Gangsters’ Paradise!

There is a pattern though. It is not random the days that I do and don’t have ‘fire’ at training. The days I do are the normal days; the days I don’t are either if I’ve been combining too much volume with too little sleep or too much stress. The central nervous system can only take so much.

So why do I fight? Because I’m in the game. And when I play at something, I play for keeps. This is not to say it’s all work and no play, because clearly not. You must have fun with the work you do, the training you do, and ideally the majority of your life.

Actually, it’s more fundamental than that. When I care, I care. And when I care, I fight.

We often talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees. My problem is often the opposite; not quite over-analysis but an excess of context. Just like in a long chipper it is sometimes not only best not to look too far ahead, but concentrating on the here, now, and the immediate future is actually the only option you have.

  • “I’m sorry can you please repeat that, because I think you just said ‘MWEB only has a cell phone number that you call for support?’” “Yes. That’s what I said.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “He has way too much logic for that company.” – Neelay
  • “Is Dante talking to himself?” “Yes he does.” – Ellie & Dante
  • “Well, now there’s being thrown under the bus and being thrown under the bus.” – Ellie
  • “This is not a one-day game.” – Raj
  • “This is our software map.” “It looks like the Eskom capacity planning diagram.” *glare* – Ellie & Raj
  • “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” – Ellie
  • “Did you hear the religious leaders are doing a cleansing of Parliament?” “Oh. That’s funny.” – Ellie & Neelay
  • “You know those forms you signed when you came in that said no firearms? They didn’t actually check.” – Ellie (#mytelecomslife)
  • “What the heck? How long can 20 seconds take?” – Ellie
  • “In theory, cloud is great. In practice, the cloud has to be a little bit closer to the edge.” – Ellie
  • “Rampaging llamas? Ok….” “It’s right up there with Carolina Panthers. What can I say?” – Ian & Ellie
  • “I’m just doing a bit of intelligence.” – Ian
  • “Tactical move, that.” “I know that. But it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to point out that I noticed!” – Ian & Ellie
  • “Even he’s laughing at his ridiculous statements.” – Candice
  • “Seriously? You can’t believe that?” “No. I can believe it. But it’s unbelievable.” – Candice & Ellie
  • “Oh, so you weren’t kidding when you said you wore orange for me?” – Ellie
  • “Do you look like that all the time?” “When I have a thought.” – Ellie & Enrico
  • “Wow! You’re a bad person to piss off.” “Who pissed me off? I’m just trying to make sure taxpayer funds are used appropriately.” – Donovan & Ellie
  • “Do you have to be right all the time?” “No.” “Do you have to be right all the time?” “Yes.” – Richard & Ellie
  • “The minute you start to dig a little deeper, it’s like polystyrene under a beautiful iced cake.” – Caryn
  • “We don’t launch on a Friday. But we do launch on a Thursday afternoon.” – Craig
  • “Just reinforcing my comment.” – Richard
  • “You analyse everything, don’t you?” – Wayne
  • “No fear when training, hey.” “No fear at all.” – Wayne & Ellie
  • “The coffee distracted you? Seriously?” – Ellie (boys and their statements)
  • “Time moves on, Ellie. And we must move on with it.” – Lynne
  • “I’m thinking about what to say.” “Wait. I’ve got it. F OFF!!” “I love you, Neelay.” – Ellie & Neelay
  • “I call them ‘Zorro emails.’” – Dawn
  • “It was brilliant. Even if you don’t understand it: your idea is brilliant.” – Athy (apparently my babbling made her figure out the solution to a problem she’d not known how to solve for 15 years!)
  • “I find it obnoxious when people reinvent the wheel and claim it’s novel.” – Ellie

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