Friday, March 27, 2015

The Sweet Spot

I have a CrossFit competition this weekend. And I desperately want to get it over with. And I desperately don't want to do it. And I have all these crazy mixed up feeling about this whole stupid competitive Crossfit thing and this whole general direction of my life. (Well, that escalated quickly.)

So, I'll just confess it. I'm pretty positive I'm in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Randomly, feelings of panic arise when I start thinking about... well... pretty much about life in general. (Before you start thinking I'm completely crazy. I'm not. Crazy couldn't formulate such clear thoughts. And now I'm wondering... are these clear thoughts? Ok. Breathing. Calming breaths.) This crazy is all mostly brought on my thoughts of this weekend's competition... so, I'll get back to that...

Spring 2014- 1st Rx Competition
This weekend marks ONE YEAR since I entered my first Rx competition. (Rx is the more advanced level of CrossFit-- heavier weights, more complex exercises.) And in some ways, I've come really far. And in other ways, I've still got really far to go. For example, I'm trying not to panic over the weekend's competition. And I'm desperately trying not to think about thrusters and rowing.

I was sitting in chapel today, as I do every Friday (as a teacher in a Christian school). This Friday's chapel happened to be an Easter themed chapel. As I sat watching a dramatic reenactment of the hours leading up to the crucifixion and clips from the movie The Passion of the Christ, I was suddenly flooded with memories of another Friday, another day where I was out-of-my-mind nervous about an upcoming event.

Spring 2011- 1st Spartan Race
My first Spartan Race was four years ago. I didn't know what to expect-- other than it was going to be the most difficult physical challenge that I had ever faced (other than child birth). Like this weekend, it was also Palm Sunday weekend. And to stay calm and focused, I turned to my faith-- the only thing completely true and solid and guaranteed in my life. (Seems like an oxymoron? That's why it's called faith.) I meditated on Scriptures like the following:

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. Psalm 18:32

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Psalm 62:7

I felt peace then. I drew confidence from my faith. Because when the unknown that I face is placed against the Known who has proved Himself faithful to me, everything is ok. My faith is what really matters. My family. I will go and compete. I will enjoy the competition.

The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Perfect Snack!

So... you're trying to eat healthier and clean up your diet. One of the biggest challenges seems to be snacking. I mean, there seems to be no limit to the amount of pre-packaged snack food items available. And for those of us defecting from a junk food junkie diet, choosing a healthy snack can be daunting. I advise to steer completely away from the pre-packaged, highly processed foods. Yes, even the ones labeled "healthy," "organic," and "sugar free." It's still pretty much junk.

Don't avoid snacks! 

We're looking for filling foods that provide nutrients and energy to fuel our brains and workouts. The best option is to eat whole foods. Ideally, the snack will have a good blend of protein, healthy fat and complex carbs. My favorite, most portable snack-- almonds! This great info-graphic explains why:

The only downside? Those little buggers can be quite addicting! I always portion out individual servings because I love them so much I tend to just keep popping them in my mouth. 

AND, if you've never tried it, you really need to swap out your peanut butter for almond butter. Peanuts have recently come under fire because they can carry aflatoxins-- followers of the paleo and primal diets swear off peanuts. I personally have made the switch from peanut butter to almond butter because almond butter just tastes better and has a higher protein content. Plus, I've begun making my own almond butter, which is fairly easy to do. And then I have control of the ingredients.

Not quite sure what you could possibly do with almond butter? Check out these recipes via the Huffington Post. Yum. Again, the only problem... I'm highly addicted to almond butter. Seriously. Give me a jar of almond butter and a spoon, and I'm in heaven. 

Check this out: has every kind of almond imaginable. (I'm serious... coffee and cream almonds?! Are you kidding me?!)

Disclaimer: I was contacted by and invited to share the infographic and a blog post. But truly, I am in love with almonds!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

15.4 or "No Rep City"

CrossFit Open 2015. Week 4.

The Workout...

HSPU = hand stand push ups
"No Rep" = the exercise wasn't performed according to standards and can't be counted

I scored 11. Now, even if you don't CrossFit, you can look at the above workout... shoot, you can think about any workout and be greatly underwhelmed at my score. I did 11 reps.

And I'm satisfied with that score. I can't say I'm happy. But I'm satisfied. This time last year, I couldn't do handstand push ups. At all. So to do 8 in one workout with pretty strict standards... I'll take it.

The Back Story...

After months of working, back in June I successfully completely my first kipping HSPU. That means instead of only using my shoulders to muscle myself off the ground, I had figured out how to use power from my hips to drive my body up. Much easier!

At some point in the following months, I tweaked something in my neck and irritated it again a few months later. Then in December I began seeing a chiropractor and decided it was probably best that I not rest the full weight of my body on my head while practicing HSPU. You know, something about slamming full body weight onto the top of one's head is probably not great for the spine and neck.

I haven't done a kipping HSPU since December. Imagine my thrill when they were announced in this week's workout.

The workout announcement came Thursday. On Friday, I practiced my HSPU for Sunday's workout. I struggled. I panicked. I struggled even more. I did one. Then was so gassed, I couldn't get another one. Somewhere around 50 attempts total, and I had done 1. Yikes.

My Workout...
I knew I was going to need some extra moral support to be successful at this workout, so I went to CrossFit CVI for some coaching and judging from Edwin Morales. He spent an hour working with me last week during the muscle up fiasco, and seems just as determined to see me get my first muscle up as I am.

I warmed up, set up my station and waited for "GO." I promptly was "no repped" on 3 consecutive HSPUs. Ok. False start.

On "GO," it seemed to take an eternity for me to get the first 3 reps to move on to my cleans. As a matter of fact, after multiple "no reps," I thought I might be entering a score of 1. The cleans felt heavier than normal. But I wasn't anxious to get back to the HSPU. For every good rep, I got at least 1 "no rep" and often multiple "no reps."

I'm not mad or upset about the "no reps." I know that I did my best. I just clearly haven't included enough HSPU in my training. My biggest problem is pushing myself up and out away from the wall. These are definitely getting added to my "To Conquer" list. Again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

BattleFrog Orlando 3/15/15 Race Review and...

For me this was not at all my usual race, and in that theme, I don’t at all feel like doing a typical race report. But maybe that’s just because I’m sitting here, still in my post race stupor.  I really will start with a recap, I guess, just in case someone came here to read the recap and not my random post-race babbling.

Race Review—Battle Frog 15k, Orlando, March 15, 2015
First, let me say: “I LOVED THIS RACE!”

Obstacles—BattleFrog has some of the most unique and challenging obstacles I’ve seen in an OCR. And for someone who’s scared of heights, some of the most terrifying obstacles. (By “terrifying” I mean, multiple obstacles had me climbing, literally, way outside my comfort zone. I don’t mean that I felt my life was truly in danger.)

Distance—5k OCRs seem to be over too quickly. And they are great for sprinters (which I’m not). The 15k was great. It allowed for some obstacles that suit my strengths—the heavy water/gas can carry and the long heavy wreck bag carry.

"Compound Expo" Area—There was a large stage with a sound system, physical challenge competitions throughout the day, several vendors, bag check, showers, changing tents, and plenty of porta-potties.

The Orlando Event was also the site of the BattleFrog College Championships-- a tournament where colleges competed against each other in a 400 meter, obstacle-heavy course. The event will be featured on ESPN this summer. Obstacle Racing Media-- a great source for all things OCR related-- was onsite to consult with ESPN on the race. 
Chatted with Matt B. Davis of Obstacle Racing Media before the race.
But Change is Coming...
Literally, I was one of the last people to run the Battle Frog 15k. Since I ran this race, just last Sunday, BattleFrog has announced that they will no long offer the 5k and 15k options. They are altering the distance to a one size fits most 8k. After running the 15k, I will say, I think I’m a little disappointed. However, I can see why.

Pros to the 15k
Really, this distance set BattleFrog apart from the others. Tough Mudder comes in at 10-12 miles. Spartan offers the Sprint (5k+), Stadium Sprint, Super (8 miles+), the Beast (half marathon-ish distance) and the Ultra Beast (marathon-ish distance).

Bigger distance, bigger challenge. (Duh.) Lots of races offer the 5k course—there’s a plethora of smaller start-ups and charity races out there offering this distance.  Many of us are looking for a more challenging option.

Cons to the 15k
Bigger distance, too big of a challenge. I ran on Sunday in the last heat of the day. I was one of 4 women and maybe 12 people total in my heat. Maybe the 15k is too much for some? And not worth the cost of 2 separate courses?

Speaking of my small heat on Sunday, I was a little surprised as I was driving in. Running the last heat of the day, at 11:30, I expected it would be pretty packed. Not so much. I had no trouble parking, no line to register/check-in. No porta-potty lines, no bag check line. No music from the large stage set up. It felt a little lonely for a "Compound Expo" area.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Typically there’s quite a larger crowd on the Saturday of two-day events. But I’ve heard so much hype about BattleFrog, that the ghost town feel was unexpected. But this is probably why BattleFrog also announced that they will no longer be offering two days of racing. Most likely, financially, it’s much better to produce one quality day of racing than 2 days, one of which isn’t really in high demand, anyway.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do…
I did nearly everything wrong going into this event. Basically, I broke all my typical “how to have a successful race” rules.

Train!—Along with strength training, you should be running to prepare for obstacle course races. I always advise you to follow a running plan that will have you running at least the length of the distance of your race, i.e. if you’re running a Spartan Super, follow a half marathon training plan. I registered for this race 6 days before the event. My longest run in the last 3 months? 4 miles. (A 15k is 9.3 miles, which is around the total distance I’ve been running each week.)

Taper—Ease off training, especially in the last 3 days before a longer race. Lighten the weights and back down the mileage. I’m in the middle of the CrossFit Open; there was no taking a rest day before the race.

No Carb Loading—I always advise to eat some healthy carbs the night before a race, but no more than you would typically eat. The night before BattleFrog? I chowed down on chocolate covered peanuts. (And they weren’t even DARK CHOCOLATE covered!)

Nutrition and Hydration-- Be sure you've drunk plenty of water in the days leading up to the race. If you're racing in a warmer climate and are unsure of the amount of water offered on the course, carry your own. I was unsure of how my body would respond to 2-3 hours of physical activity in the heat of the day, so I took my larger Camelback (a 3 L-- complete overkill, but I needed the zipper pouches to pack extra nutrition). I ate a packet of Justin's Honey Peanut Butter and a sample size Cinnamon Bun Lara Bar and had no issues with cramping or bonking.

Run Your Race—I had ripped a callus open on the palm of my hand the day before, so I knew grip would be an issue on the obstacles. (Note- New Skin helps, but not so much on the palm of your hand in a race where you'll be wet and muddy and gripping often.) I also knew the distance would be rough if I wasn’t careful. I paced myself, didn’t try to “win,” and carefully tackled all the obstacles-- and I did them all successfully. I was also able to enjoy the course, talk to fellow racers, thank the volunteers, AND I still finished 3rd in my age group for the day and 9th among females. My official finish time is 2:14:44. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

15.3 or "Reality Check"

(15.3 is a workout in the CrossFit Open-- a worldwide online competition. 5 weeks, 5 workouts. 15= 2015. .3 = third week of competition.)

I've made it no secret that my goal has been to advance to the next level of competition. For me as a masters athlete this year, that means that I would have to score in the top 200 in my age group in the world.

After week 1, I was sitting at 725. After week 2, I was at 695. A far cry from the top 200, but I improved from week 1 to 2.

Then Thursday night's dream-crushing announcement of 15.3:

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 14 minutes of:
7 muscle-ups
50 wall-ball shots
100 double-unders

Men use 20-lb. ball to 10 feet, Women use 14-lb. ball to 9 feet

A workout that begins with muscle ups. Don't be fooled-- the video makes it look easy.

I cannot do a muscle up. And if I cannot do one, I cannot advance in competition.
My goal, dream of advancing to the next level of competition-- that thing I've been working so hard on every day for the past year is done. Over. But until the clock runs out and the time for submitting scores is over, the dream is still alive.

I went into CrossFit Ambush on Saturday morning, warmed up and prepared a station to do my workout. I stood under the rings. I practiced with all my might for 14 minutes. Attempting to get my first muscle up and keep the dream alive. I rubbed a blister on my palm. I ripped the blister open. I fought for 14 minutes. And time ran out. And in that moment, I was crushed. That visualized first successful muscle up, shouts of joy and celebration did not happen.

In that moment, the frustration was bigger than me. I took a walk, let myself feel the full extent of my failure. Mourned the loss of this year's goal. Considered running away. Hated Dave Castro. Hated CrossFit. Planned to completely give up CrossFit... then I walked back into the box, put away my things and headed to the car, still feeling a little lost.

A little dramatic? This is just a competition. How realistic was it for me to advance, anyway? Not very. And in the back of my mind, I knew that (I'm an expert at knowing what I can't do-- I'm a pessimist.) But until that moment, I was still holding onto the goal. 15.3 is a reality check. There is no pretending I'm better than I really am.

I needed a big dose of perspective. And I've had to force myself to sit back and examine the past year and all that I have accomplished and just how far I've come. I can't let one thing that I cannot do be more important than all that I can do. The muscle up is one movement. Failure at it does not indicate failure as an athlete.

It just really sucks.

But I'm headed back to try one more time. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

15.2: Chest to Bar Pull Ups are Evil

Following week 1 of the Open (read about 15.1), I was feeling a bit less confident in my abilities as a CrossFitter. Not necessarily because of my performance per say, but because of my ranking on the leaderboard.

Ah, yes... the LEADERBOARD. That wonderful and fearful place where you can see how you stack up against your friends and complete strangers in your box, your region and the world. Fists raised in celebration as you see you've out competed so-and-so. And then head droops as you see you've been best my hundreds thousands (tens of thousands?) of others.

For months I've openly talked about my goal (dream?) to qualify for the next level of competition... as a masters athlete, that means I would have to place in the top 200 in the world in my age group. TWO HUNDRED. Sounds like a lot of people. Until I see my placement on the leaderboard. After 15.1 and 15.1a, I was ranked at 722. That's a long way from top 200. But considering there are approximately 10,500 women in the 40-44 year old division, I guess 722 isn't too bad.

Workout 15.2
Every 3 minutes for as long as possible complete:
From 0:00-3:00
   2 rounds of:
   10 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
   10 chest-to-bar pull-ups
From 3:00-6:00
   2 rounds of:
   12 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
   12 chest-to-bar pull-ups
From 6:00-9:00
   2 rounds of:
   14 overhead squats (95 / 65 lb.)
   14 chest-to-bar pull-ups
Etc., following same pattern until you fail to complete both rounds
15.2 is actually the same workout as 14.2. Interesting. I immediately felt relief on hearing this. My fear has been that 14.5 (a torturous combo of burpees and thrusters) would be repeated. Last year, I performed 79 reps. That seemed really low, especially when I walked into the CrossFit box and began chatting with the coaches. One said she hit the 130s last year-- went into the 14s last year and was hoping to make it to the 16s this year. Say what?! 
This is the first time I've done an Open WOD as part of a class. We warmed up. Then warmed up some more. Then worked progressions (I mostly abstained-- not wanting to wear my grip out on practicing the kip). Then waited for everyone to get set up and a judge. FORTY-FIVE excruciating minutes later, I was standing watching the 3-2-1 countdown. 
First of all. I need to practice chest-to-bar pull ups more. AND I need to practice kipping more. (Neither of those 2 facts is new info to me. It's just been lower on the "To Practice" list.) I was so worried about getting my chest to hit the bar that my kipping was even uglier than usual. Ok, you really can't even call what I was doing a kip. I chipped away. One. rep. at. a. time. The brutality of the "no rep" fueled better reps. And when I had done all that I could do in the time allowed, I had worked out for a grand total of SIX MINUTES. Seriously!? I was pissed. SIX MINUTES isn't even a workout. Seriously. 
At least I beat last year's score. Barely.
15.2 score: 81 reps.
For now.
I will re-do this one.
And I will better my score. (I'm not even SORE!) 

15.1 and 15.1a: The 2015 Crossfit Open Begins

It's Open season. CrossFit Open season, that is.

5 weeks.
1 workout (WOD) per week.
Scores entered, validated and tabulated into a giant leaderboard.

I've been waiting a year for this. It's been the focus of my training. No room for "I don't feel like working out." Every single day this Open has been on my mind. Obsess much?

Well, I tend to be lazy. A real slacker. I need that proverbial carrot to keep my training focused and my progress moving forward. For the last year, advancing to the next level (regionals) in the CrossFit Open as a masters athlete has been my carrot. And it's worked. I've trained harder than ever. Begun visiting a chiropractor. Completely shifted the way I eat. Slept more and sacrificed more. And now, here it is. Open season.

Here I go again. Doubting. Did I do enough? Am I strong enough? Fast enough? Mentally tough enough? Am I enough?

I'm out of time. It's test time.

The workouts are announced each Thursday night at 8 pm Eastern on The CrossFit Games website, followed immediately by two of the best athletes going head to head. I'm not sure what to compare it to... maybe the home opener of your favorite team, 5 weeks in a row. Or the playoffs. But the real excitement comes with the thrill of watching two top athletes perform the workout that you will be tackling in a few hours or days.

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 9 minutes of:
15 toes-to-bar
10 deadlifts (115 lbs. men/ 75 lbs. women)
5 snatches (115 lbs. men/ 75 lbs. women)

1-rep-max clean and jerk. 6 minute time cap

I was excited about this. I'm used to longer workouts and doing heavy lifts when I'm a little fatigued. My only concern-- toes to bar. Thankfully, we've recently been working on a 4 week progression for hand stand walks, which has included lots of core work, including toes-to-bar. I was also concerned about my grip, but not too worried.

I completed the workout on Saturday. I had just spent 3 days on a retreat with teenagers, during which I climbed a nearly 60 foot rock wall-- that was quite the forearm and grip workout, but I didn't feel sore.

My score:
15.1: 127 reps
15.1a: 145 lbs.

I didn't like my placing. I felt I could get a few more reps on 15.1. However, 145 lbs. was a new 1 RM for me. I wasn't sure that sore and fatigued forearms could successfully repeat 145 lbs. I'm not sure if it was the fatigue or the doubt that resulted in my score--

The re-do:
15.1: 137 reps
15.1a: 135 lbs.

No, I wasn't allowed to mix and match scores. After watching the leaderboard, I noted that the heavier clean and jerk weight would result in a higher ranking. So, I stuck with the original score. Wasted effort on the second try? Not really. I learned that doing a met-con a second time will result in increased reps. It's a mental boost, really, that will carry me into the upcoming weeks.

Read about 15.2.