Saturday, August 30, 2014

The 2014 CrossFit Games: Looking Back (Part5)

Saturday’s Events

Muscle Up Biathlon

While strategizing how I would break up the muscle ups, CJ asked how many I’ve done unbroken. Unfortunately, I hadn’t tested that in the last three years so I had no idea. I told him that and included the fact that I had done two sets of ten separated by sixty seconds rest a couple weeks prior to Games.  We agreed it was safe to assume that my max number was greater than ten but probably less than eighteen. The game plan devised was as follows:

Set of 18: 12+6
Set of 15: 9+6
Set of 12: 7+5

And… Plan B, the plan that happens when Plan A goes out the window, was initiated during my opening set of muscle ups. At rep six, I knew that hitting another six reps would put me close to failure, so I decided to stay conservative and break after my eighth rep. I realized that since my muscle up sets were going to each be broken into three subsets, my runs needed to be faster. So, I made sure to run a little faster each time. What actually happened was:

Set of 18: 8+6+4
Set of 15: 6+5+4
Set of 12: 5+4+3

I completed all muscle ups but time expired as I ran towards the finish line, tying for 9th in the event.

And now for some wise words…
Moral of the story is that your game plan doesn’t always work out the way you envisioned, but being able to know you ability and adapt to what is happening will allow you to still succeed.

Sprint Carry

This was the most fun of all the events of the 2014 CrossFit Games. It was quick and involved new, odd objects: the rubber logs and magic carpet sandbag.

Side note: The athletes called the sandbag a “magic carpet” since it had straps at each corner, resembling that of a magic carpet. As if we’d actually seen one before… Haha! We hoped we could ride it to the finish line, but unfortunately, it didn’t have that kind of magical power.

Going into this event, I knew that I needed to unleash hell on the carries, but not necessarily the sprints. I wanted to make sure that I had enough gas to complete the carry portion, especially since the weights increased each time. Lucky for me, after the 2013 Games, I purchased one of the logs and used it occasionally which allowed me to be comfortable carrying things and running with them. The log carry ate me alive last year! This time it was different. I ripped all three objects off the ground, probably not in the safest position, and ran like hell with them. I finished a surprising 6th place in the event and couldn’t have been happier with that!

Speed Clean Ladder

Up until this point, I had barely given any thought to my hip, but when Dave Castro viciously announced the speed SQUAT clean ladder, I knew I’d be in trouble. Following the announcement, the athletes watched Demo Team members Stacie Tovar and Jennifer Smith sprint through the five barbells in the blink of an eye. I think my jaw dropped to the floor. They went so fast!

Warming up for the event, I started with an empty bar. No pain. Then to 95lb. No pain. Then to 135lb. FUCK. No other word quite captures how bad that pain was like that one. CJ gave me a look of concern. My response to him was, “This is going to suck. I’m just going to have to deal with it.”

I hit my final warm up at 155lb and called it good. All I wanted to do was clear the ladder within the time cap. I knew it wouldn’t be fast, but I didn’t want to be the poor soul staring at the bar that I couldn’t pick up. I’ve been there before and didn’t want to relive those feelings.

As the go signal sounded, I hurried to the first bar (155lb.) and hit it. That weight hadn’t felt so heavy in a very long time. I let the bar fall and moved through the 160lb and 165lb bars in a kind of quick but controlled way. As I approached the 170lb. bar, I took a deep breath, set, and pulled. I caught the bar out front, which caused even more pain in my hip than catching it in the correct position. I fought to stand up but got it. Whew! I took my time going to the final bar. I had just given close to 100% effort on the last bar and needed a few seconds to recover. All the girls in my heat had finished and all eyes were on me. I can’t fail this now, I thought to myself. I took a huge breath, set, and pulled with all my might. I caught it out front again. Piercing pain radiated through my hip, but I refused to let the bar fall without standing up. My back was rounded and it was about as ugly as ugly gets, but I got it. I rushed to the finish podium under the time cap, getting high fives all around.

I was relieved to have cleared the opening ladder and didn’t dwell on the fact that I finished 37th in the event. I did the best I could and had to accept it. Reflecting back, it is a little bit discouraging to have made so much progress with my strength over the last year and not be able to show that with my performance here. I don’t know that I would have made it to round two with a healthy hip, but I do know that I could have gone faster. Ultimately, I played the hand I was dealt and I dealt with it.

Push Pull

Strict handstand pushups and sled pulls under the tennis stadium lights capped off Saturday’s events. Again, running down the steps, fist bumping all the cheering fans made me feel like a superstar. It will forever be one of my favorite Games memories.

I never had worked on pulling sleds with ropes and I was cut before the final event in the 2011 Games when they introduced the movement. Luckily, I got to watch the first women’s heat on the TVs in the athlete area to pick up on some strategy with the pull: sit on your butt, dig your feet in the sandbag, and pull like hell, using mostly your back. I got this.

Handstand pushups felt strong. I attribute that to all my upper body-only training I was limited to in my Games prep. I went unbroken in the first two sets and broke my final sets into manageable ones, not failing a single rep. The sled drag also went well with the exception of the brain fart I had not unclipping the rope off the first sled. After I came off the wall on my second set of handstand pushups, I turned and looked down my lane and discovered that mine was the only lane without a rope lying across the floor… Shit. I ran to unclip the rope and connect it to the new sled. Whoops! I didn’t forget it again.

This event was so much fun and I was pumped to not have too much trouble with any of the sled weights. I finished 7th in the event and found my family in the stands and waved in excitement. It was awesome!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The 2014 CrossFit Games: Looking Back (Part4)

Friday’s Events

Triple 3

I was excited for Triple 3 event because I knew that I would do well. Coming from a distance running background, I drooled over the three-mile portion. The really cool thing about this event was that the run mattered more than row or double-unders. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. I trailed it solo the week before Games and finished in 39:07. CJ and I agreed that I should go faster come game-time and I did, completing it in 37:39. Motivation and competition create marvelous incentives for me to perform better.

I rowed a comfortable 2:08.5 average 500m pace for the entire 3000m, allowing my double-unders to break as few times as possible. I was relatively fresh for the run and knew I had a lot of ground to make up. Passing competitors fueled more enthusiasm as I ran my little heart out. I was around 30th position starting the first mile and 9th after the first mile. I WISH I had gotten my first mile split! I thought I had hit the start button on my watch but as I peaked down at the first mile marker, all I saw was zeros. So, I hit start, for real, at the beginning of my second mile. After that lap, I looked down and saw 6:40. “Wow, I am cooking,” I proudly thought to myself. I tried to make a move on Janowitz by speeding past her and trying to create as big of a gap as possible but then she reciprocated and buried me. Turns out she has a track background too. Ha! Foucher was in my sights but my mind kept telling me that she was outside of striking distance. Oh, how the mind plays its tricks. Fortunately, a random fan in the crowd yelled at me and said she was only six seconds ahead of me. Now, my head said: Six seconds? I can make up six seconds over the course of a mile. So, I went for it. I caught and passed my fellow and much-respected Central East competitor. As I crossed the finish line, I hit the stop button with 13:40 displayed on my watch. My last two miles were at a 6:50 average. As a “has-been” runner, I will take it! I ended up finishing 5th overall and couldn’t have been happier with the effort. I also couldn’t help but be relieved in not finishing at the bottom. I don’t particularly like getting my ass kicked.

Sleds of Death 1 and 2 (A more appropriate event name, in my opinion)

Want to know the most painful event of the entire 2014 CrossFit Games? It was this one, without a doubt. That 95 pound sled was absolutely brutal to push for 60 yards, let alone, do it again minutes later. My mindset going into this event was to give that sled hell. This was one of the events where I literally slap myself in the face a few times to psych myself up. Heather Welsh knows what I am talking about. Ha!

Ahead of time, I fully accepted that it was going to burn like crazy but knew that I needed to keep my legs moving no matter what type of lactic, quad seizure (exaggeration) I was feeling. Though, I had no idea how bad that would truly feel until it happened. There was one point on Sled (of Death) 2 where I was pushing the sled from my knees. It was moving so I kept going with it for a little bit.

Any way. Any how. I was determined to get that piece of crap across the line.

Afterwards, I couldn’t stand. I wanted to “walk it off” so badly but I simply couldn’t get back on my feet because I was in so much pain. Luckily, it wasn’t hip pain at all. I finished 7th in both.

21-15-9 Complex

Friday night at the tennis stadium is one of the moments that I train for all year long. In fact, the energy and atmosphere give me chills as I type this. Running down the stairs, fist bumping all the fans, and performing under the lights on the biggest stage in CrossFit fires me up like nothing else.

The barbell and pullup bar complex proved to be a really difficult one for me. My bar muscle ups aren’t as efficient as they need to be and it was exposed in this event. The weight on the barbell wasn’t super heavy, but it certainly felt heavy given the sequence of movements. My deadlifts and cleans were fine, but the snatches were ugly. I performed them in singles and utilized the Kinney clean method (when power cleans get heavy, my catching position becomes atrocious) of catching with the widest stance possible. It makes CJ cringe every time. Whoops! It continues to be a work in progress.

At the last station, I knew that finishing inside the time cap was at stake. My right hand felt wetter than my left and in that moment and I remember thinking that was strange. It is kind of crazy the random thoughts that go through my head during the events. I was able to squeak across the finish mat with 15 seconds to spare and 26th place in the event. Gazing at my right hand, I discovered that it had ripped. I never felt the pain in my hand and I don’t recall feeling any hip pain either, for which I was extremely thankful.

Day two was in the books and things looked a little brighter in the Kinney camp.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The 2014 CrossFit Games: Looking Back (Part3)

...Painful or not, I made the promise to myself on Tuesday night (the night before the Games began) that I would not let my hip be an excuse for anything. Period.

The Beach.

So… swimming is not my favorite. I knew the beach event wasn’t going to be a strong one for me, especially considering that the waves were a lot rougher than I’ve ever experienced without a surfboard attached to my ankle. My mindset ahead of time was:

1. Survive the swims and stay relaxed
2. Get through the thrusters
3. Crush the burpees

Reaching land in the back of the pack after the first 500m swim, I realized that this was really really not going to be a great event. I honestly was surprised that I was that far behind so many competitors. I really suck at swimming apparently. And all this time I thought I had improved to “okay” swimming status. I ran to my kettlebells because I needed to make up all the time I could. I picked them up and went for my first squat…



My first thruster looked like it was the first thruster of my life, as I paused in between the squat and finished with the most awkward, strict press overhead. Only 99 more thrusters to go! Luckily, I started to find the slightest sign of rhythm with the movement. I think my embarrassment superseded my hip pain because I started to forget the pain and focus on not looking like a total idiot. Burpees still hurt to pop-up off the ground, although that is pretty tough to do in the sand anyway. On the spot, I discovered this fast step back, chest down, step up, and jump routine. It was great! I think I actually made up some ground with it. The 1000m swim around the pier felt like an eternity. Even past the break, the waves seemed to push me backwards even though I was attempting to swim forwards. On the way back towards the shore, I heard fans screaming very loudly. I just figured they were cheering for someone else around me, and then… boom! I got absolutely pummeled from behind by a wave. It felt massive; so let’s just call it that. I did a few forward rolls under water and popped up as fast as I could for air. Just what I needed… more insult to injury. I waddled to the burpee station and attacked them like I did before. Back to the thrusters I went, this time with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I was pissed. Pissed that I was in the back of the pack. Pissed that I swim so damn slow. Pissed that my thrusters felt so awkward. I did ten sets of five reps with as little rest as I could manage between sets. In a fit of rage, I aggressively crashed to the bottom of the squat and exploded up, using my hips for all they were worth. My shoulders were smoked and certainly needed the help. Into the water for the final swim I went. At least it was a short leg, I convinced myself. Around the buoy and back towards shore I swam. Maybe I was getting the hang of it. Boy, I couldn’t wait to cross the finish line. As I felt the sand under my feet, I heard the air horn sound.

DNF on the opening Games event. Wonderful. 

Silver lining: I was first place of the DNFers.

Gold lining: Full effort. Full victory.

Overhead Squat.

In the athlete warm-up area, I began my overhead squat prep. I quickly searched for a group of women who were warming up with something remotely less than my PR. There are a limited number of racks, so all the girls divide up, typically with other similarly-abled girls, and work together. I beeline it to the lightest bar I see… every time.

I cautiously began building my overhead squat while CJ kept a watchful eye on my movement. Lighter loads actually felt good. On my warm-up squat with 155lb, I felt that same sharp, stabbing pain in my hip. CJ noticed my pain face and my shifting to the other leg and told me to not take any more attempts until I step out on the tennis stadium surface. I immediately, but calmly, begged him to let me keep going. I anxiously needed to know what I was capable of. I needed to get closer to my 1RM of 200lb to see what weight I could confidently use as my opening lift. So, I hit 175lb and then 185lb. I was still feeling the knife in my hip but I made sure to not be compensating with the other leg. CJ instructed me to hit 190lb in the final warm-up lift in the tunnel and use that as a gauge of what to open with. I hit 190lb but it was really shaky. Given the sketchiness of that last warm-up rep, I decided that my attempts would be 190, 200, and 205lb.

The opening lift always has a lot of nerves associated with it. After successfully hitting 190lb, I could breathe a sigh of relief. I was on the board! I hit 200lb. as well, tying my PR. Then my inner competitor scanned the floor for anyone close to me in loading. Quickly passing over Akinwale, Goodman, Kittelberger, and the other women completing weights I’ve never dreamed of overhead squatting, I saw that Holcomb had 206lb loaded. I had planned to go 205lb but I felt like one more pound would be fine. I didn’t want to fall a single pound short. I had to go for it and I got it! No way! PR and 29th place in the event. Can’t complain…

Friday, August 15, 2014

The 2014 CrossFit Games: Looking Back (Part2)

...Actually, my first workout at Invictus crushed me. Not only did I get lapped by nearly everyone, CJ had to tell me to stop after round three (of a four round workout). This travesty only confirmed, in my head, that my fitness was not where I needed it to be. I freaked out on the inside and via text to Em. I really was going to get embarrassed at Games. I just knew it.

Luckily, we did plenty of workouts that week. Some I did relatively well with, some I got my ass kicked in… and that’s just how it goes. You win some. You lose some. I know that. In fact, I’ve learned that time and time again, but for some reason, I sporadically forget that important lesson.

Back to Memphis.

Home sweet home, ol’ Chickasaw was calling. I had about a week there before heading to Carson for the big show. My hip was still hurting and continued to limit me. At this point, I had come to grips with the fact that it was going to hurt at Games. There was no hope of healing, only pain minimization. I elected to get a cortisone shot as a last ditch effort to provide some, if any, relief. I desperately needed to be able to squat to full depth and lunge, as I hadn’t done so in five weeks. The Overhead Squat 1RM and Midline March events had been announced and I knew those wouldn’t be the only events testing the strength, range of motion, and capacity of my hips.

After the cortisone shot, I finalized my pre-Games prep before heading west. I stuck with upper body workouts, sled pushes, which thankfully didn’t hurt. I also received more treatment on the hip. As I packed for Carson, I had no idea if the shot worked, but there was nothing I could do about it anymore.

Games time.

On Monday, after Games check-in at the Manhattan Beach Marriot, I went to grab a light workout to loosen up and get some good circulation in. I was nervous because this was the moment where I would find out how much pain I was going to experience the next four days of competition. I warmed up very carefully yet thoroughly. My workout included rowing, handstand walks, chest-to-bar pullups, over-the-box burpees, ground-to-overhead, and wall ball shots. I strapped into the erg and began rowing. I felt my hip just slightly and wondered if I was just being paranoid about it. Some might call that denial. Handstand walks and pullups were fine, but those movements always had been, even when my hip was at its worse. Then the over-the-box burpees happened… as I popped off the ground, the all-too-familiar, sharp pain shot through my hip. I stopped for a moment, saddened and disappointed. It was now painfully evident that the pain was there to stay. In this instance, I decided that, while it was extremely upsetting, I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I’ve played injured before. I can do it again. So, I cautiously jumped on the box and walked off the other side for my next rep. I continued and eventually finished the workout, experiencing pain in the row, burpees, and wall ball shots. My hip was going to hurt. That was clear...