Is it bad that I can’t even write a coherent headline to describe Saturday’s in-house competition and holiday party at my box, Clear Lake CrossFit? It probably is.
I’ll start with the most difficult part: if you follow me on social media, you know that last Sunday, I learned that my dear friend Merrilee Aurora Hale passed away. Merrilee designed my logo one day when she was playing with one of her graphic design programs. She saved me from WordPress purgatory on more than one occasion. But most significantly, she was one of those rare people who made you feel like the most important person she had ever met. She understood me, and she understood art. Even if she didn’t particularly care for the art, she respected its influence. (One example: she and I disagreed on 90s hip-hop. I love it; she hated it. However, she was just as outraged as me when a Brooklyn landlord wanted to destroy a mural of Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) She was a fellow creative, a fellow freelancer, and a close friend.
Needless to say, losing Merrilee felt like a huge punch in the gut. She was 35, younger than me, and so incredibly talented. I’ve said that if we were 90s rappers, she would be Biggie, the real talent. I would be Puffy, just lucky to know her.
In-House Competition Complicated by Emotions
So that’s how I rolled into Saturday’s in-house competition. I had to miss Merrilee’s funeral due to the distance, and I have been struggling for answers about her passing. I feel like one of the House Bolton’s flayed men. Imagine feeling raw, sensitive, and like every external factor is just another bit of salt digging into your flesh.
I also knew that this competition would be difficult physically for me. One of the standards for the women’s scaled division (my division) was a 65 pound clean and jerk. My one-rep max is 80 pounds. When I actually arrived, I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be:
12 minutes ascending ladder:
- Hang cleans (65#)
- Burpees over the bar
- Wall balls (10#)
I knew about this WOD beforehand. Dionne was my judge for this WOD, and she was the best (despite me arguing with her). I needed someone to get up in my face and yell at me to pick up the bar, which she did. I got thrown off at one point, and she kept me on track. When the 12 minutes was up, I had completed 151 total reps. I also gave myself a nasty collarbone bruise.
I did the floater WOD second, once I had caught my breath and had some water and coffee protein. My friends Lora and Denise had come out to cheer for me, which helped me a lot. The floater WOD was:
2 minutes to complete:
- 10 cal assault bike
- 15 Dballs (60#)
- Max single unders
I honestly did not think I could heave a dball over my shoulder. Sixty pounds seemed like a lot. When I first saw the dball (Holly had just picked them up on Thursday), I swore it wasn’t going over my shoulder. I could barely pick up the thing. Yet somehow, during the floater WOD, I finished the assault bike in 43 seconds (probably some sort of personal best for me) and heaved the dball over my shoulder three times.
I knew the last WOD of the in-house competition would take me to a very dark place. It was:
- 30 deadlifts (65#)
- 20 shoulder to overheads (65#)
- 10 jumping pull-ups
(Is it bad that I wish scaled had actual pull-ups? Probably. That’s the only thing I could probably best most of my division in.) Anyhow. BJ judged me during this WOD. I powered through the deadlifts. But the shoulder to overheads torched me. Sixty-five pounds is a heavy load for me. Also, I tend to get anxious when I jerk anything heavier than 55 pounds. So I did most of those as push presses until Holly yelled at me to jerk it. Alternately, I felt like puking and like my innards were going to fall out. But I did finish the shoulder to overheads, blasted through the pull-ups, and even made it through 27 deadlifts before my five minutes were up. BJ is a quieter judge than Dionne, although he is very encouraging and helped me get through it. Granted, during the shoulder to overheads, I entered a deep, dark corner of my mind. I was, for lack of a better expression, mentally flayed.
It wasn’t enough to place, but for me, I had put in the hard work and done better than I anticipated. But I was still in the dark place, and I didn’t snap out of it for the party portion.
If you’re one of my close friends, you know what set me off. I’ll spare everyone else the details (and the internet is forever, so, yeah). Let’s just say that the combination of certain factors, including the grief that makes me feel like someone peeled off my skin and exposed me to the elements, mixed with the endorphin highs and lows of competing, left me a mess. I went to a very, very dark place during the WODs. I stayed there. No matter what I did: hugging my kids, high-fiving and fist-bumping my friends, I was still there. By the time the party ended, I had a full-on meltdown, thankfully the worst part contained in the bathroom. The meltdown made me rethink a lot, and I’m still processing it.
In-House Competition Lessons
No competition would be complete without some key takeaways. I write this more for myself than for anyone else, but if you get some good tips out of it, great! I learned a couple things during the in-house competition, so even though I left the box figuratively flayed, it means I’m making progress:
- Don’t argue with your judge. Your judge is the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. And most of the time she is right, and you are confused and clouded by your own anxiety. (Really, thanks, D. You were awesome, and I can’t thank you enough. I think you kept me out of the scary dark place when I got thrown off.)
- Be prepared for anything. And I do mean anything, not just dballs. If CrossFit teaches you anything, it’s prepare for the unknown and unknowable. I didn’t do that, hence the meltdown.
- Give it everything, but know that if the WODs don’t play to your strengths, you’ll struggle. I had been hoping for a “gimme” – a bodyweight WOD that I could crush. No such luck for me this time; all I had to do was focus on doing the best with what I’d been given. (But that’s life, right? Tryin’ to make a dollar out of 15 cents?)
- Enjoy your progress. Two years ago, my jerk max and clean max both sat at 60 pounds. I battled to move heavier loads. On Saturday, I threw around the 65-pound barbell like I never thought possible. So there’s that – I do pretty well for a 39-year-old, 5’1″, 105 pound female with a tiny frame and a bad back. If there was a Hobbit Division, I’d kill it.
TLDR? I pushed myself really hard, I went to a dark place, and the endorphins and other factors didn’t play nicely with my grief. But I came away proud of my progress and the work I did, and that’s what matters.
*Photos by Rob Salinas, @awesome_possom_photography.