WZA ’18: Shaking The Scaries
Dr. Katie Harper, DPT
“This is supposed to be FUN, CrossFit is FUN.” I grumbled through clenched teeth, fighting back the tears as I drove my triple bandaged hand into the bark of a tree. By the time I had approached the final workout of Wodapalooza weekend, I had ripped nearly all of the skin off of the bottom of my left hand and foot. At the time, punishment by bark seemed like a sensible desensitization strategy before going onto the floor for a heavy clean and jerk complex.
Our names were called, and it was time to line up. As I looked around, I tried to gauge if anybody was feeling as exhausted as I was. Some were wearing long faces, others seemed as fresh as they looked on day one. I was currently in 12th place of 45 athletes and although I had a relatively good attitude about how the weekend panned out, I was desperately wishing that I could go back to Friday morning where my body felt fresh and the weekend was full of potential.
*insert whimsical flashback noise*
The initial thrill of standing at the starting line for event one was irreplaceable. It was 5:30am, my division was assigned to lead the pack, there were about 150 athletes behind us and no sunlight in sight. No pressure. At the count of “3… 2… 1…” -we were off on our 7k run, with a 50 lb sandbag mile carry sandwiched smack dab in the middle. I wouldn’t call myself an “avid runner”, but I knew my programming had prepared me well for this one and I was ready to hit the trail hard. Time to dig in and make it hurt.
*insert slightly less whimsical flashforward noise*
Three days, 9 workouts, a handful of proud moments, embarrassing mistakes, laughing matters, sweat, tears and tacos later, I had officially finished off the weekend in 15th place of 45. Here are my biggest takeaways from the weekend:
Coming Up With A Proper Food Plan
My biggest hurdle for this competition was figuring out how to fuel and recover properly for a three-day competition. I came out pretty strong on day one, but the truth is, I ran out of gas. I was in 6th place up until event 6 of 9 on Saturday. By the time I got to the second workout of day 2, my energy levels were shot. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that I needed to meal prep for the weekend. My body has been used to a relatively strict diet for the past two months, so it’s not surprising that it decided to protest when I dropped everything come game day. This was a frustrating mistake to reflect on, but definitely an easy fix!
Shaking Out The Scaries: I Can’t Hide In My Favorite Power Rack Forever
There are a lot of novel lessons that I have learned in competition that I could never experience in the comfort of my own gym. For one, equipment gets funky and if I only trained in the same environment, I could only progress so far as a competitor. As much as I’d like to try and overnight ship my favorite “super steel deluxe axle bar, perfectly coated with essential performance enhancing oils”, my equipment isn’t coming with me for game day. So leading up to the event, it may be a good idea for me to get adapted to different bars, rigs, ropes, rings, and maybe even drop in at a different gym.
Just when I think I own a skill, I don’t. Although I have become more efficient with muscle-ups, the straps at Bayside were twice the length of the ones I’m used to, and with the wind blowing, my muscle ups felt more like bungee jumping for reps. It was terrifying, but sort of awesome. Also, heavy sleds coupled with kipping pull-ups are a nasty recipe, especially by day three. My beautiful butterfly kip transitioned quickly into floppy-fish-out-of-water kips and even more quickly into “what are thoooooseeee!!!” You can only laugh at yourself sometimes. But yeah… that happened.
Adjusting to the environment in a competition can be tough. There were a lot of personal expectations that I had leading up to competition day, so when the time comes and I actually had to perform, I 100% went through that “Oh sh*t” moment. Not to mention, adjusting to the initial shock of the WODrave can be a lot at first. Walking onto a stage in front of a crowd of people with loud music and neon lights can be an instant heart rate spiker. I’m not about that rave life, so I had to learn to take a deep breath, put on my earmuffs, get the work done and lift like nobody was watching.
Don’t Waste Your Time Herp Derpin Around Out There! Ask Questions
There were a lot of logistical errors made on my part that caused me to waste good deal of time mid workout. There was occasional miscommunication, rule adjustments and last minute changes where I would waste time conversing with my judge instead of exercising. I lost a lot of points in the swim workout because of that which could have been solved if I had asked questions in advance.
It’s very easy to get boiled in oil at your judge in the heat of the moment, but if you take the time to communicate and respect the person who is overseeing your lane, the workout is more likely to run smoothly.
You Cannot Control Everything, Ever
A group of athletes and I got lost on the 7k trail, adding an extra mile or so to our total distance. By the time I realized my mistake, my pace was shot and I was way more exhausted than I should have been. I knew that I had to keep running no matter what. It was a bummer, but it got sorted out and I ended up doing really well!
Case in point, things are going to get weird sometimes. Whether it’s a barbell that’s too thick, a rig that’s too tall, or equipment that breaks down, it’s a waste to fixate on things the that are out of your control. Make the most of your situation, handle it as it comes and give it your all.
Your body will do what it wants and if it doesn’t want to lift, it won’t. I went in with the intention to speed through my final lifting complexm but by day three, I knew it wasn’t happening. I came in 35th place out of 45 in the event. I failed rep for rep in front of 150 people, but I had an absolute BLAST doing it. I knew it was a rare opportunity to be on a big stage, so I figured I might as well ham it up while I have an audience!
Be sure to have FUN. This is an opportunity to connect and make friends. From a psychological perspective, there were a lot of times where I needed to take a step back and be easier on myself. The stress level alone from this competition caused some pretty crazy physical effects. My chest felt heavy, I was having trouble breathing at night, my heart often felt like it was going to jump out of my chest in a not-okay sort of way, and I had a few involuntary crying sessions that came out of nowhere (I wasn’t even sad, there were tears literally falling out of my face, weirdest thing ever).
I found I was able to manage it best by taking a step back to focus on perspective. I have a healthy body that is capable of doing amazing things. I have an incredible support group who is here to see me and loves me no matter how I do. I’m qualified to be here and I’m in Miami in January- this is supposed to be FUN. In the moments that I did allow myself to relax, I was able to hang with my CrossFit South Brooklyn crew around town, catch up with old friends and meet some really awesome people both in and outside of my division.
When it was all said and done, I finished off in 15th place of 45 athletes and I couldn’t be happier with my performance. Aside from some mini one-and-done local events, this was my big first individual competition. I knew it would be a valuable learning experience because I was put in the position to fail and have nobody else to analyze except for myself. The women in my division were incredibly strong and talented. I’m glad it ended that way because if I was the best, I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it (other than eternal glory, a sick medal, and a podium pic for the instagram of course).
I didn’t PR this weekend or produce any sort of phenomenal performance on my end, but I was very impressed with my ability to maintain mental clarity throughout the entire weekend. Despite a lot of mistakes, I was able to keep my cool, think under pressure, adjust in the moment, focus on the task, and maintain intensity. I never could have done this as a competitor 5 years ago and I feel that I have come a long way with experience. I can’t say that I was close to getting on the podium this year, but I feel like if I iron out the kinks, I could be some day. More experience, confidence and time!