I am standing in front of a rower and a makeshift wall, wearing a shirt emblazoned with my initials. My tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth and the coconut water I had for breakfast is threatening to make an exit, but I don’t know where from. That terrifies me. If I puke, pee, or crap on the rower, my team won’t be stoked.
“Why the fuck do I do this?” I think,”Why the fuck?” It’s not like there’s money on the line, or any kind of material reward. Fear and dread are coursing through my body in in a sickening rush.
In front of me stand my 3 teammates: Rainman, Mighty Mouse, and Big Deal. They are pacing silently too, as visibly nervous as I am, as we await the “3,2,1, GO!” Competing teams in matching t-shirts flick their legs around me, giant muscles are flexed, shoulders make cracking noises. I ponder an exit, wonder if I will have friends or a husband left if I simply bolt for the open door that leads into the rain and race into a Fresh Slice, devour a pizza.
Big Deal tugs at his shirt, pulls it over his head. Nakedness in Crossfit is a strange but mandatory phenomenon. I pull for my own shirt. My preference for upper body nakedness during workouts actually aligns with sensitivity of a belly button hernia that I developed the day my son was born. No one really needs to know this detail. Upper body nakedness is accepted here, along with failure and fear. The only thing that’s not accepted is a lack of trying at all.
I try to take a deep breath but the air gets stuck on my tongue. I feel like I have swallowed a jar of peanut butter and a bucket of white flour.
There are a smattering of cheerleaders in the stands, and I think they are cheering, but my mind is a big, blazing fire of nothingness. I’m cheering on Matt, Corey’s BFF, and then I’m yelling at the dimunutive, dangerously potent Mighty Mouse, and then it’s Big Deal’s back muscles on the rower, and none of them can move on to handstand pushups until I’m done my own row.
The first 200 meters feels OK, as it usually does at the gym, but at about 300 meters in, my heart starts failing. I see stars and taste bloody pennies and then I contemplate a big swirling blank and I briefly have a metaphysical moment where I think : I do this because thinking about nothing is good and therapeutic. Right? And then I immediately cut myself off: I do this because I am a fucking nutcase. Our judge raises his hand, signaling the fact that I have less than 100 meters left.
I fall of the rower , done my 750 meters in a blaze of ungracefulness and then Rainman positions himself against the makeshift wall, busting out a mad amount of handstand pushups. I stand and watch, knowing I only have to do one eccentric movement, because I can’t heave my 159 pound body up with my hands. No one should be able to do that. And yet. Everyone around me is lined up against their own walls, demonstrating the impossible. Little teeny Mighty Mouse fires off 8 handstand pushups in a row like she is possessed.
Big Deal shows why he’s very important with a stellar handstand showing and then it’s my turn to do my feeble eccentric effort.
“Good!” the judge says. He has facial hair and kind eyes and I want to rub his head and make him some cupcakes, he’s so nice.
We’re back on the rower, Rainman and Mighty Mouse and the Big Deal and then me. That second 750 meter row feels like head spikes, penalty, tears and victory rolled up into one sweet,heaving mess. I contemplate, around 500 meters, the pros and the sweetness of just stopping, of claiming defeat and weakness and I wonder what it would be like to have my teammates hate me for disqualifying all of them with my Quit. Would it be worth the humiliation to give up? I want to say yes, a resounding yes, but our judge is encouraging me, keep going, you got this, and I want to thank his Mom for birthing him even more than I want to puke. My heart is flaming and my guts are sitting somewhere outside my eyeballs and, then. I am done. My second 750 meters complete.
I tumble off the rower, heaving in pain. Things are hazy, but I realize suddenly that we’ve finished first in our heat. The media people are coming over to me with a microphone and a big-ass camera.
They ask me something about how I felt during the row and I can’t answer because my gums are stuck with crazy glue to the inside of my lips. I mutter something unintelligible, about how I’d rather be encased in a body stocking in a Kentucky ditch rather than ever have to get on a rower again, and then I look up for my husband in the stands. I see him, and the crowd, and the people who have poured their guts on the floor for this. For the sole purpose of giving it their all.
My butt is broken. My ears are shattered. I want to cry but my tear ducts have been sucked into my soul. My teammates are heaving on the floor, and milling, in various states of disarray.
I feel a surge on unexplicable bliss. I’m ready for Workout 2. Bring it.
I don’t exactly know why this weekend was one of the highlights of my time on this planet. Though I realize there are more pressing issues in this world than who can thrust the most amount of weight over his head, there is something profound and soul-defining about displaying your raw, physical vulnerability to a group of people who understand the pain of it all, and are willing to lose their voiceboxes to encourage you along the way. I can’t describe the cameraderie of this weekend’s CrossFit Games, other than to say that it is life changing.
I watched in the stands as a tiny girl deadlifted more than twice her bodyweight, spurred by the cries of an encouraging crowd. I watched as Corey gave his soul to a round of 100 overhead squats. I screamed as expectations were shattered and women replaced cattiness with hugs and encouragement. I heard stories about volunteers who stayed up all night to get everything perfectly ready, and I watched dozens of people, judges, athletes and organizers, laying everything they had on the line, expecting nothing in return. I teared up about 500 times.
I am not a Koolaid drinker, I’m certainly not a blind follower, but CrossFit has something special going on here. I can’t adequately explain it.
Two of the members of the winning team for the weekend, CrossFit Taranis. Their gym is like a giant, muscle-abundant family, the kind that you’d have over for Thanksgiving dinner with no worry about what Aunt Mabel might say over dessert.
Angie Pye, y’all, This woman has 2 kids and a mega watt attitude and she finished first overall this weekend. Watch for her at the worldwide CrossFit Games this summer in LA. My money is on her.
A plethora of buff, determined women, racing.
Everytime Corey got on the floor to do a workout. my heart leapt out beside him and puked up pride. I was so fiercely in awe of him, all weekend long. He finished 30th in Western Canada, and first in gumption and heart.
Big Deal, 13 and Rainman, moved around the stadium to encourage Corey to chalk up, keep going, remain focused. This was yet another thing that made me teary.
2nd workout. Deadlifts at 185 pounds, times ten zillion, and then a whackload of high box jumps. I wanted to cry. The only thing that got me through these was this:
Members of our own gyn who had made the hour long drive to cheer, volunteer, and offer friendship.
And finally, this:
My fellow Lithiuanian teammate and Team Captain extraordinaire who encouraged me persistently and patiently to participate in the Games in the first place. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, even though that’s what I said, about 25 times before I finally said yes. Rainman, I owe you huge for that. Again.
Community, you guys. Encouragement and power via the people who believe in you, those who know you can keep on going when you are certain you cannot.
We forget this as we get older, the necessity to cheer each other on, to dig deep and believe in our own raw power and in the abilities of those we surround ourselves with. People, encouragement, and camaraderie are the deciding factors between doubt and hope, and failure and defeat in everything we do. This is what the weekend taught me.
It was an important, pivotal lesson.
I can’t wait to get on that rower again next year. I hope you might join me.
WRITTEN BY OUR OWN KD on the FLEX FWD BLOG. (Click to see original post)