Urban Adventure Challenge

So my partner in crossfit crime asked our usual team (Victorious Secret) if we would be up for doing the Wooster Urban Adventure Challenge (WUAC). We both immediately said yes! 

When I visited the website, it said to expect 8-10 miles of waking, 12-15 miles of biking and other surprises. In talking to other box members who had completed the challenge before, we knew we were in for a good 4-5 hours of finding things around town, solving puzzles and swimming! 

I’m a total “plan as much as you can” type. So I started a notebook. I wrote down all the clues they provided, made a list of all the sponsors and their addresses etc and gathered my supplies: sunscreen, hydration backpack, first-aid kit etc. 

Mind you, I can’t run, I’m still on the “injured reserve” list at the box because this nagging lower leg thing refuses to go away. (Side note: the doc needs to hurry up and look at my MRI – I want to know!!) It was recommended that I withdraw. But I really wanted to and you didn’t have to run, walking was totally allowed. So my team members swore they would not let me run and so we set out!

We had to use clues to locate different business downtown, and at each stop we had to do something. The thing we had to do varied. Some stops we just had to take a picture of an object (an apron, a white rooster etc). Other stops required that we build something (a trophy). Most stops required something physical. One stop required that we use a dolly to move one team member to a cone and back (that was a funny one). Another stop had us holding a tire on a 2×4 while we walked “football style” through a set of various sized tires. 

Then we waked to an elementary school where we had to play four-square, look up information about a random state, climb the jungle gym (note- i have apparently completely forgotten how to play on one of those), and play hopscotch. Then off to a local park, to find a random animal on their jungle gym to take a picture, help a teammate navigate a small course while she was blindfolded, and do their small zip line. More proof that these “toys” were NOT designed for adult bodies. 

Then we walked over to the College of Wooster to play a word association game, hunt for our team number in their auditorium, and then off to the football field for a crossfit style workout: dips, step-ups, push-ups, tire flips, bear crawl, and run the stadium stairs carrying a 30# sandbag (walk the stairs…). 

At this point, I’m starting to get tired from all the waking and the sun is really beginning to get nasty. And … it’s barely 11am. 

Then we hike across campus to find some random trail, hike up the road to a puzzle, use our ninja skills (i.e. Google) to determine that a queenax is an adult jungle gym where we were expected to do upwards monkey bars… nope. Ain’t happening, but at least it was air conditioned and had bathrooms. Stay-Fit 24 is a nice little gym!

Time for more waking. Off to the middle school, stopping along the way for cornhole and croquet. (Note to all: our third teammate is DA BOMB at corn hole and I’m never playing against her). Puzzles and now carrying around a rubber duck! 

More walking to the local pool (now we’ve zig-zagged our way from the south end of town to the north). Water balloons, jumping off the high dive and paddle boarding. The water balloons required that we try to slingshot a balloon so that a team member could let it hit their butt! Turns out we were good at that part!! Even earned a 7-min time reduction here! We all had to jump off the high dive (very scary) and the water felt great. But my favorite part of the pool was paddle boarding a watermelon across the pool several times! I mean how silly is that?

A walk through the woods to the high school where we got to pretend we wed in a marching band and March the field carrying a sousaphone (I think we should have gotten bonus points for Keri who actually was in TBDBITL and did actual marching band stuff, including dipping the instrument to the ground a la Script Ohio). 

Finaly to another loca park to get the bikes. It’s now 1:30, we are so very hot, so very tired and our feet hurt. We were looking forward to a bike ride, until we deciphered the clues and learned the hill we needed to ride. 

I will remind you the website said 12-15 miles biking. Well … it was 12 miles to the last stop. That means 12 miles back…

One of the stops had us canoeing across a lake. The other made us do an adventure “ropes” style mini-course (note – never doing that again), before making us hike their 1.5 mile trail looking for more stamps. Ugh …. more waking. At this point, I’m very over this game. And I really really want to quit. But even if I did quit, I’d still have to bike back to town! 

We have just under 60 min left before the finish line closes. So we decided to bypass the last two checkpoints and bike to the finish line. We get there and are told we need to drop our bikes off and go to one last check point. Ugh … pretty sure the young volunteer giggled at my invented non-swear, swear words (he was a young volunteer remember?). Off we went, to a local pub. Beer pong, matching beers to their names and doing the coaster mazes. Ok… at least that isn’t hard. And then we had 5 minutes to get back to the finish. 

We made it. Eight hours and fifty-four minutes later we were done. They had some snacks and water and a party inside. 

Lots of food and drink, but I was too tired for any of that. I drank a beer, a glass of water and nibbled a few chips. That was all I could manage. 

Today, I’m a deep Ohio State red color, I’m so tired all I want to do is sleep, I’m STILL not hungry, and everything hurts. Yesterday I mentioned I wasn’t going to crossfit on Monday, but I see it’s bench pressing and deadlifting, 2 of my favorite things, so I will probably go anyhow. 

What did I learn from this? Several things. 1. My two partners are awesome, beasty ladies and I would not have wanted to do this with anyone else. 2. This was ssoooo hard to do!! The website said 4-5 hours, but we took nearly 9. I worked out for 9 hours in the sun. 3. I’m glad I did it, but I have no desire to do it again. 4. I need to learn a LOT more about competition eating because we did NOT plan that well. And 5. Three years of crossfit and I feel just as out of shape, uncoordinated, lacking in confidence as prior. This challenge proves just how non-athletic I really am. But I still did it. Sort of … 

Job well done ladies! I’m proud of you guys. 

The Struggle

Okay guys…if you’ve been reading this for any length of time (or even if you simply scan our titles), you are aware that we are two crossfit athletes scaling our way through crossfit and have been doing so for close to three years.

For me, here is a recap of all the moves I don’t currently have in my crossfit arsenal: double unders (these were close before my calf injury), toes-to-bar, pull-ups, chest to bar, muscle-ups, rope climbs, box jumps (I HAD these until the box tried to eat me), hand stand pushups, handstand walk, pistols, PROPER GHD situps. Here is a list of moves that I still struggle with and really need to work on mobility/cardio: Olympic lifts, burpees, the blasted Assault bike, running, over head squats, v-ups, wall-climbs. Here is a list of moves that I either really like, or feel at least proficient in doing: dead lift, bench press, back and front squats, push press, strict press, Ski-erg, wall ball and thrusters.

I’m sure there are others that we do semi-regularly that could go on these various lists. The point of this isn’t to highlight all the things I can’t do, but to move into how I end up feeling when the WODs include several moves that I really struggle with.

This week, we had a WOD that was 40 Toes-to Bar, 10 wall climbs, 20 T2B, 8 wall climbs, 10 T2B and 6 wall climbs. This was followed by accessory work (single arm bench press, banded triceps pull downs and flutter kicks). I KNEW going into this workout that it would be rough. I don’t have T2B and wall climbs rank up there as one of my least favorite movements. I feel as if I get far more exhausted than I should get doing them, and my inability to breathe doing them only makes that worse, I’m sure.  But when I saw the workout, I thought to myself, “Well, I will really try and hopefully come close to getting ONE, just ONE.”

Three tries in, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. My hands (even chalked and wrapped) were slipping off the bar, I stopped trusting myself to even hold myself up there. I tried knees to elbow. Nope. So knee raises it was. I tried doing several in a row and lacked the ability to even control my legs and ended up basically feeling as if I was just swinging my legs wildly, slipping off the bar. The sets of 20 and 10 were worse because I was fatigued. But I was SO FRUSTRATED with my inability even to control knee raises! This frustration grew worse and worse and worse. So much so that 10 minutes in, I was ready to walk out of the gym. This feeling of wanting to quit hadn’t happened in nearly 2 years and was contributing even more to my frustrations. I didn’t walk out. I finished (badly) the workout, slower than everyone else, but I finished.

This frustration led me to questioning the accessory work. I KNOW the bench press is a strength of mine, but I lowered the weights anyhow. I didn’t push myself. That only added to what I was feeling; crossfit is supposed to be about pushing yourself. I mean, I understand that some days you just aren’t on point and other days you are on fire. This isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m taking about the conscious decision to not do a harder weight, not because of injury, not because of working on form (I did that today with the snatches so I could concentrate on trying to keep good form and my breathing), but because I was angry, frustrated with myself and riding the mental struggle bus.

Later, I posted that I really wanted to walk out of the gym on Facebook. Another member posted that I worked through it and folks look up to me as an athlete. What I WANTED to say was “you all should look up to someone who can actually DO crossfit”. I didn’t because the coaches would see and I would get burpess for having a negative attitude. But it was very hard to me to see why someone, anyone, would look up to me, especially at that very moment in time.

I’ve spoken about this to one of the coaches. Apparently I embody the spirit of crossfit: keeping coming back, going in even if I know the WOD will stuck, going in even if I know I can’t do the moves, if I have to scale everything. Going in even with injuries, cheering, encouraging and  embracing the community that has developed in the gym. I know we are supposed to be practicing having more positive attitude (PMA), but I simply cannot be all PMA 24-7. I know that little things will get in the way; they always have; this is just me. I bet all of us get frustrated at things from time to time. It’s part of being human. For me, it’s definitely part of the struggle of lack of confidence.

I might have upset a coach or two for thinking of walking out. I might have upset an athlete or two for it as well. I probably upset a few for voicing the thoughts. But here’s the thing about me, you can knock me down; I can knock myself down, but I showed up the next day and actually felt good about the workout (even with injury modifications). So I might have WANTED to quit, but I didn’t. I overcame the mental issues.

Conclusion? Push through. Show up the next day and the next. Do what you can do, when you can do it. One bad workout can’t define you.

Non-Scale Victories

nonscale victories

This was posted to my box’s Boot Camp page on Facebook and it got me thinking, which has me writing!

I’m the first to admit, I will probably not be in any “before/after” transformation pictures since basically I am the same weight as the day I stepped into the box (my pants are 2 sizes smaller) and I don’t really think I look different in pictures I see. Don’t get me wrong, people have noticed that I look different and carry myself differently, so I know changes are happening, but when I see pictures of myself, I still see a fat, old lady, one who perhaps has no business being in a gym at all, much less a crossfit box.

{Now coaches, before you go and give me a billion burpees for sounding negative, please keep reading!!}

Are there moves I still don’t have down? Yep. There is a reason this blog is called Scaled to Perfection. My crossfit partner in crime and perpetual “in my head” sista (I swear we are one brain, separated by 20 years), have struggled with so many things for the years we have been doing crossfit. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know what they are, but if you are new, let me inform you of all the things I (well..perhaps we) still need to achieve, much less master: double unders, pull-ups, rope climbs, chest-to-bar, toes-to-bar, hand stand push ups, most things with the GHD, and box jumps (I had them, then the box tried to kill me so my brain refuses to let me do them again). My clean and jerk form, while improved, is a work in progress and  the snatch? Ugh… Ugly is a good word. Burpees about kill me and anything cardio is a long trip on the struggle bus.

This makes it sound like I can’t do anything at all, which isn’t true. The powerlifting moves are ones I love. I don’t mind thrusters, wall balls, the ski-erg, rowing, and kettlebells. I love all the accessory work we do! And I’m fairly certain that not one of the coaches would say that I give up, no matter how much I’m struggling, no matter how dead last I am and I will often go ahead an finish a workout, even if we’ve been time-capped, because…well…I’m not a quitter. That part has changed in me; I used to stop at the time cap, but I prefer to finish (if I won’t be in the way of the next class, or my taking a few more minutes means I won’t be late to work). I’m a firm believer in the crossfit attitude of cheering for everyone and that the last person to finish is just as, if not more, important than the first person. I LOVE to cheer on my fellow athletes when I get the chance. This is one of the things I love best about The Open. Except for your own heat, you get to watch and cheer everyone else, keeping them motivated if needed. I never thought that was a real thing, until it was happening to me and people really believed it.

Do you see a trend here? I do. If it has to do with brute strength, I’m all over that. If it requires grace and/or coordination, I struggle. I’m slowly getting better at all of these things and I have no shame in continuing to work on them, even as frustrating as it can be at times. I think back to high school and college sports and the positions I played: keeper in soccer, bench warmer in basketball, catcher in softball and shot-put in track. Those positions don’t really require coordination. You can just fling your body around without fear and that often gets the job done. The gymnastics move require something I’ve never really had the opportunity to train for, work on or even think about in my daily life. My parents didn’t send me to ballet or gymnastics (I would have told them no anyhow), so I never worked on those things and now I’m finding that I really need those things and old brains are apparently slower to learn than younger brains!

Back to non-scale victories! I’m a LOT stronger. I don’t give up easily (which can also have its downsides – hello calf muscle; I’m looking at you). My shirts are smaller; my pants are smaller. I can do the things the coach’s ask of me, especially scaled. I have enough confidence in my abilities that showing some of the newer athletes a move or two doesn’t worry me.

I’ve met so many wonderful people, many of whom have become dear friends. I participate in our #socialcommittee events as often as possible and have done some things that I never thought I would do, such as not 1, but 2 5k runs.

I’m fascinated by the programming and would love to know more about the inner workings of our head programmer’s mind when he puts the workouts together. And as I’ve been told to stay off this dang calf, all my workouts lately have been very modified and that has also been incredible to watch. It only increases my resolve to eventually save enough for my CF1, not because I want to change my life and start coaching, but because I want to know ALL THE THINGS, and the more data, knowledge, and information I have, the happier my brain is.

So as you progress through your journey, remember that there are many victories you will encounter along the way. Some will be more weight on the bar. Some may be getting a move that you didn’t have previously. Some may be taking time off your 500m row. Some may be as ‘simple’ as showing up every day, drinking the amount of water you know you need. You could drop clothing sizes; participate in a competition, partner with someone stronger/faster than you to push yourself; partner with someone slower/less strong than you to help them along. Relish all the little things because often the ‘I can’t’ permeates the day. Believe me, I know this from a LOT of personal experience over the years; I’m a pessimist at heart. But here and there, now and then, a glimmer of positivity shows up. And THAT is a non-scale victory I can get behind.

Post 17.2 Thoughts

It’s entirely possible that some folks from my box will see this and when they do, I will probably get a burpee penalty for the coming negative comments. I will start with the negative and end with the positive so you all don’t think that my crossfit world was shattered (though it came close).

In case you’ve forgotten, or didn’t know, the second workout of the 2017 CrossFit Open consisted of dumbbell lunges, toes to bar (scaled is knee raises), dumbbell cleans (2 rounds) and then 2 rounds of the same thing, replacing toes to bar with muscle ups (scaled is pull-ups).

Upon watching the announcement, I was pissed. CrossFit has always advertised that it is for anyone, scalable for all ages, abilities, mobilities and strengths. So the second workout includes a move that really isn’t scaled?! What in the actual heck-fire? A pull-up isn’t really scaled (see my pre-17.2 jitters rant).

So I basically knew going in that scaled was really my only option. I know I can move the Rx weight (If there is one thing I am, it’s strong). But I don’t (yet) have toes to bar and pull-ups remain firmly in the realm of mystery.

Just over 3 minutes in and I’m ready for pull-ups. Jump, kip and … nope. Repeat for nearly 9 minutes. At one point, one of the coaches pushed me over the bar telling me that I am oh so close and not to give up, keep fighting for it. But I can feel how hard she’s pushing. Those last 2 inches (or however far it really was) might as well be 3 miles. I tried a range of emotions to help here. I tried telling myself that I’m certainly strong enough, so just do it already. Nope. I tried getting pissed at the bar. Nope. I tried getting pissed at myself. Nope. I tried getting pissed at the coaches (not sure why….was simply running out of things to be pissed at). Nope. I tried pleading with my arms. Nope. At the 12 minute time cap (oh so thankful for time caps), I was exhausted, frustrated, mad, pissed, happy, annoyed, irritated, pleased … you name the emotion, I was feeling it. It was best summed up by the word confused. Especially since all these people were congratulating me on a job well done, but it really didn’t feel like a job well done at all. It felt like 9 minutes of failure. It felt like confirmation of my perennial joke that blue whales can’t do pull-ups.

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Here’s where I’m sure the coaches would say that I didn’t do it because I believed I wasn’t going to. It’s possible they are correct; but, it’s also possible that I’m still lacking something, some tiny piece that once that clicks will allow pull-ups. That piece could be strength in certain muscle groups; that piece could be a timing issue with the kip. Maybe if my hands were further apart, or closer together, or I did switch grip, or reverse grip…. or …. or …. or ….. Who knows?

Now, despite all the negativity you just read, it’s really not all bad. It certainly shows where I need to work. I can start with the strength piece, building accessory muscles, working on negatives. I can start to play with grip a bit and see if that makes a difference (I do have a pull-up bar and a banded assist at home). The coaches really want us doing strict pull-ups before we get down to business with the kipping portion, so I need to work on that. There are a metric ton of videos available for how to progress to a pull-up. Perhaps I just need to pick one and do some work after dinner. Would 5 minutes really be that hard to find in the evenings?

On the very plus side, the lunges and cleans were just shy of a piece of cake for me. I felt good moving through them; the weight seemed light and I felt I moved smoothly and efficiently. I’m not unhappy with my “tie-breaker” time. It can also be said, that I could have asked for a box and simply moved to jumping; that is what most of the athletes without pull-ups did. I would probably have gotten a better workout that way, but I WANTED a pull-up. I wasn’t going to give up on that. So I spent nearly 9 minutes trying, feeling my arms fatigue and still working toward it. I never gave up, even as a wave of confusing emotions washed through me.

I know that 17.1 took a piece of my soul and refused to give it back. I’m pretty sure I could have used it for 17.2!  Now for 17.3 can we please have moves I can do and do well?

No matter what moves are included, I will show up, I will work to the best of my ability and I will do what I can!

PS…the image was taken by one of our dear box members, Jen Proaño, who really managed to capture the range of emotions I was attempting to process!

17.2 Jitters

Dear crossfit, a pull-up, while obviously a scaled version of a muscle up, is not really a scaled move. I predict that many athletes will get a score of 78. That would be 2 rounds of 10 lunges, 16 knee raises, 8 cleans. Then a third round of 10 lunges and 5-8 minutes of wild leg swinging in an effort to get their first pull-up.

To be fair, there will be a lot of athletes who will not only get their first,  but follow that with others. So if the rationale here was to get those who are close to use the added adrenalin that comes with The Open to push themselves, then job well done, I guess. I did watch a couple of athletes at the reveal get their first muscle up, so why not have a bunch of folks getting their first pull-up? Push us outside our comfort zone.

But there will be a good group of folks (and I’m includeding myself here) for whom the pull-up is an elusive beast, akin to Sasquatch. Oft described, oft written about, occasionally “photographed”, but in reality, a myth.

Does this mean I’m going to spend my entire crossfit existence denying the existence of Sasquatch? No. I’m more than happy to get involved in the hunt; I want a picture too, damn it. But I’m so far from it right now. I seem to be missing the “pull-up” wiring in my brain, at least this is my fear.

One way around this would be to give us scaled athletes a couple of minutes to try and then give us a band. The reps won’t count toward the score, but we could get get a good workout in and it’s (slightly) less mentally defeating than 8 minutes of trying with limited progress. Seriously… earlier in the week, I needed the black AND the blue band for strict pull-ups, so I’m a billion light years from getting a real one. And a score of 78 really isn’t very thrilling. It’s mortifying….

My coach told me ages ago, that I wasn’t allowed to learn kipping pull-ups until I could do strict ones. I admit this has frustrated me over the past two years as I see a lot of athletes that don’t have strict doing kipping. But it didn’t take a lot of time on the internet to learn that kipping pull-ups, without the base strength for strict, could produce shoulder injuries. So I fully understand his logic.

Now, do I try, or do I just use the band …. sigh …. sometimes I dislike crossfit for the mental games it plays with me.

The Feelz…

Last week we had a 40 min EMOM. Min 1 was 1-length bear crawl. Min 2 was 20 pushups; min 3 was a shuttle run, min 4 was 30s of ME toes to bar and min 5 was 15 box jumps to a 20″ box.

Looking at this WOD on Wodify, I knew it was going to be a tough one. I’m still nursing a calf injury and toes to bar is more like me flailing my legs wildly getting them nowhere near to touching the bar all the while making my hands very sore. Box jumps are no better when the calf muscles are not happy, and running…well…it’s one of my least favorite things to do and injuries are simply not helping there, but I showed up and thought that I would at least do what I could. I do like bear crawl, so at least 8 of the rounds would be okay!

Before we started, our coach said that anyone who had toes to bar had to work on stringing them together, try not to do one and drop etc. Those that didn’t, really had to try to get those knees to their chest and those that were close should work toward their first one. This left a LOT of us spending 8 rounds really trying to get one, practicing our swinging and really working on getting our legs up as far as we could. Hey, I can do that! I can swing my legs around in a vain attempt to touch the bar. (Now…I firmly believe that my not-inconsiderable jelly rolls are not really helping this particular move).

I believe we were in our 5th round and one of the other coaches was prepping things for the Boot Camp class and happened to be watching. After trying really hard and not getting anywhere near the bar, she came up to me and said, “Oh you are so close!” This woman doesn’t have an insincere bone in her body and it would never occur to her to say something that wasn’t true. However, I can visually see how far my feet are from the bar and to my mind there is approximately a one foot distance between my toes and the bar, and that is probably being generous. So I shook my head and replied, “I’m really not all that close”, and moved on to the next movement (box jumps – of which I was getting 10 of the 15). I do my jumps and here comes the coach for our class. She stops me and says, “You are allowed to give yourself credit for what you CAN do”. I must have looked very downtrodden at this (or some other emotion that I cannot begin to process), because she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Seriously. It’s okay.”  I nearly burst into tears, but contained myself and moved on to my bear crawl and completed the workout to the best of my ability.

So this was last Thursday and I’ve been basically incapable of processing this 3 second transaction all weekend. All these people talk about Crossfit giving one confidence and I feel the opposite. It has shown me all the things that I cannot do. I’m not graceful, coordinated, fast, or agile. (I am strong as hell; if there are things I CAN do, it involves power). So it’s really tough for me to feel confident in anything because I’m regularly last in the class, scale a good portion of moves all the time, rarely Rx anything, and struggle with so many things. So how am I supposed to celebrate the things I can do when I cannot do so many things? How do I give myself credit for how far I’ve come, when it feels as if I’m STILL barely out of the starting gate?

To top this off, I spent this past Saturday at a local competition watching and taking pictures of a lot of our members competing, many of whom were competing for the first time. They were so nervous and I spend the day yelling, encouraging, telling them to get out of their heads and reminding them that although we all spend a good portion of our time hanging out with crossfitters, most of the world thinks we are nuts and they were there, putting themselves out there and pushing hard when most people were not doing that. At one point, one of the ladies was getting very frustrated with her movements and turned to her teammate and said, “I will try this” (referring to the weight on the bar for a squat snatch). I yelled to her a Yoda quote, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” And one of the coaches, who was also there as support starting poking me. I turned and she said, “When will you listen to your own advice? You are the most negative, positive person around.”

Needless to say, all of this has me very reflective and I’m still not 100% sure how to process all these things.

I will end by reminding myself that this is MY journey and at least I was able to back squat 260 pounds 3 times today, so there is that!

Embrace the Scaler

When a partner WOD is announced, I would say that I generally try to find someone that lifts about the same amount of weight I can or is at or around the same fitness level as I am.  I am here to say that this is crap and we should all reconsider how we choose partners (at least every once in awhile).

There are advantages for each side of the aisle:  An RX athlete may find the opportunity to focus on form and fundamentals when working with a Scaled athlete.  Working at a lighter weight or slightly slower pace allows the time and ability to focus on those minute movements that make all the difference during a WOD.  For a Scaled athlete, working with an RX athlete may provide the opportunity to work a little bit heavier than you normally would, maybe work a little faster with a little more motivation, and may also offer learning opportunities and tips to work towards achieving some movements.

So, I definitely recommend branching out.  Go outside of your comfort zone…be willing to push yourself but also be willing to slow down and take a moment to return to those essential fundamentals…you may not PR that day but that time to practice will pay off in the future.