March 28, 2018

What the 2018 CrossFit Open taught me

So my girls have started going to CrossFit Mentality with me. They are both super funny and fun to hang with so I love it and watching them as they learn and grow is a real joy. I’ve been CrossFitting since 2011 and sometimes I forget how far I have come so watching them learn brings it full circle for me. Also as kids so often do, they help teach me things...

We were leaving the gym recently and Megan, my youngest, has been overly confused in trying to figure out which of the twins are which. She can’t seem to wrap her mind around which one is Saxon and which one is Spencer. As we were driving home she was asking me how I can tell them apart so easily and I said “Here’s how you figure it out. Wait until they do a workout together and the one that finishes first is Saxon.” We both laughed and I asked her if that joke was too mean for this blog. As only a kid can do she said, “Daddy. Spencer made Regionals. It would be mean if he weren’t great.” She was right. He is an amazing CrossFitter but it occurred to me right then that your impression of greatness is relative to your own ability. As your ability grows, that bar continues to rise.

I’ve been at this for a while and have participated in several CrossFit Opens. I’m not gonna lie. This year really wore on me. I enjoyed very little of this Open. I actually performed well overall and finished in the top 10% of my age group worldwide and I was better prepared physically than I have even been. I even hit a couple of PR’s. You would think that would be enough to make me excited about how it all went but it wasn’t. I found myself in at least 3 of the 5 weeks borderline depressed over my results. 

Looking back on it, the trouble started in week three. Dave Castro decided to destroy everyones calves with a million double-unders as well as throw in some gymnastics movements. I was excited when this WOD was announced because I had finally learned how to do a ring muscle-up and was going to get to test it in the Open. Once the WOD started I got thru the first two movements with no issues. It was all going well until I got to the rings and hit my first one. I looked over at my coach/judge Christin Panchik with a proud look on my face as I heard her say “No Rep!” Now I’m not proud of this but I totally dropped a F-bomb. Not directed at Christin but it definitely landed in her general direction. Apparently you have to lock out at the top of the movement. Who knew? Christin knew thats who. I thought I had locked it out and in my defense, I’m not sure how she saw it because I was seven feet in the air and Christin is like 2 feet tall. She is like a Polly Pocket. A fit little no-repping Polly Pocket. In any event, she was right and the rest of the WOD was basically muscle-up and cursing practice for me. I got 5 in a span of about 9 minutes. It was truly humbling. Now here is where the expectation vs the rising bar piece comes in. Prior to coming to Mentality in August I had NEVER achieved a ring muscle-up. I actually had written it off as something I would never be able to do. How is it in a span of 8 months I have gone from doing something I didn’t think possible, to being depressed and annoyed that I can’t do it better? I didn’t understand it initially either...

Week five helped me understand what I was missing. Two things happened that week that reminded me what the CrossFit Open is really about. I decided that since it was the last week I would go to “Friday Night Lights”. Basically everyone comes out to do the WOD together with crazy loud music and lots of cheering. I wanted to wrap up my very frustrating Open with friends. This year the final workout was a repeat of a workout from 2012 which at the time would have been my first Open. I remembered doing that workout vividly because I did it with two buddies that absolutely destroyed me and I remember feeling like I would die right there on the gym floor. This workout is all Thrusters and Chest to Bar pull-ups which is about as much fun of a combination as nut punches and eye jabs. I knew going into this it would hurt but I had a previous benchmark that I needed to test against and wanted to do that in front of people. I’ll save you the drama here but a much older 2018 JFW crushed a much younger 2012 JFW’s score by over 30 reps. I was pretty pleased with that and hung out for a while to watch the others. As I was there the Fit Class was all doing the workout together as well. For those of you that don’t have “Fit Classes” at your gym, think of it as purposefully scaled CrossFit. As I was watching them I noticed that they were all suffering with the same intensity as I just had, getting cheered just like everyone else, and high-fiving completion just like everyone else. It occurred to me that I was in that same place six to seven years ago and somehow as I have improved, have lost that sense of joy that comes from doing someone really hard relative to your ability. As I cheered the Fit Class I felt ashamed that I had become so caught up in the competition factor and had raised the expectation bar so high for myself that I was failing to see the amazing things happening around me and to me. I knew right then I needed to make a change in how I approach CrossFit. 

As sh*tty as this Open felt overall, I feel like this is the lesson it taught me. Find joy in your progress. Find joy in your journey. Don’t define your greatness by comparing yourself to others. Define it by seeing how far you’ve come and how far you want to go. Measure that progress and continually test it but celebrate the result regardless of what it is and learn from it.

“The greatest teacher failure is.” ~ Yoda

PS. I’d also like to point out that Spencer beat Saxon in 18.5 so Meg is gonna have to find another way to tell them apart...

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