Introducing the SETX Invitational & Open Championship

I signed up for The CrossFit Games Open with zero expectations. I just wanted to track my progress. And knowing competitions always make me better, I knew The Open would give me another reason to push myself.

With three WODs down and two to go, I have to say, I’m surprising myself. That being said, I’m not celebrating just yet. I can feel toes to bar or wall ball shots coming. But for now, I’ll enjoy my ranking…

In related news, the 8 CrossFit boxes in our area are hosting a competition on April 26th based on The Open rankings. It’s the first ever Southeast Texas (SETX) Invitational and Open Championship and it goes down at Ford Park in Beaumont, Texas.

The 1st ever SETX Invitational & Open takes place April 26, 2014.

The 1st ever SETX Invitational & Open takes place April 26, 2014.

For the “invitational” portion of the competition, the top 2 male and female competitors from each hosting CrossFit affiliate will receive a special invite to compete, and the remaining 28 spots will be filled by the highest ranking males and females after week 5 of the CrossFit Open competition.

Here are the latest female rankings and male rankings for the SETX Invitational & Open.

Those wishing to compete in the “open” portion are welcome to register after the 2014 CrossFit Games Open is completed on March 27th. There will be Standard, Masters and Team divisions available for both males and females.

Register online or learn more about becoming a sponsor/vendor on their website.

Two WODs of The CrossFit Open Down & I’m Not Done Yet

We’re officially two WODs into the 2014 CrossFit Open in preparation for the CrossFit Games to be held later this year.

When 14. 1 was released, some rejoiced. Others, not so much. I can remember thinking to myself, “Well, maybe I’ll get lucky & it’ll be a good day for me when it comes to double unders.” Truth be told, mine are hit or miss. Some days, I’m able to knock out 30+ unbroken. And some, I’m lucky to get two. Needless-to-say, I’m still working on those.

It’s probably safe to assume the vast majority of athletes who are new to CrossFit, had to be convinced to sign up for The Open to begin with. (I was one of those myself.) And, a pretty good amount of them are probably thinking to themselves right about now, “What a waste of my money.”

If this is you, STOP.

Take a step back and remember what CrossFit is about. It’s about you and your goals. It’s about always pushing yourself to that next level – whatever that may be for you. Is your goal to RX everything? Or is it to just become proficient at double unders? Whatever it is, rest assured The Open is helping you accomplish those goals, even if you can’t see that right now.

Did you manage to complete 14.1? Did your double unders improve? Did you at the very least work your butt off practicing them? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it was worth your $20. Period.

14.2 was announced last night. As usual, I attended 5:00 am this morning & gave it a shot. You know what? I only scored 37. But you know what else? That was 27 more than I expected. I can do pull-ups. For me, that’s a strong point. But, I’ve never done chest to bar pull-ups before today. Progress!

Before The Open, each time chest to bar was introduced into a WOD as RX, I would immediately count myself out, saying, “Well, I know I can’t do those. Guess I’m not RXing today.”

Wrong attitude.

Maybe you can’t RX chest to bar. Maybe you can’t RX standard kipping pull-ups. Does that mean you should stop working on them? Stop striving for progress? Hell no. It simply means you try. You push yourself.

My first CrossFit competition.

My first CrossFit competition.

The thing about The Open and CrossFit competitions in general is that it does push you. It breaks your mental barrier to allow your physical body to do far more than you ever thought possible.

I’m new to CrossFit, but I speak from experience. My first time to ever try max pull-ups was in a competition. I did 21 & placed 2nd in that particular WOD. I had no clue I had it in me to do that many pull-ups. Hell, my coach had to tell me one day to stop using a band because, I could do pull-ups. I, of course, quickly told him, “No I can’t.” After class, he made me try pull-ups unassisted and I did 5. Mentally, my mind was made up. Physically, my body said, “Look out girl, I got this.”

That’s what CrossFit is about. Breaking physical and mental barriers.

CrossFit is far more than physical limitations. It’s mental grit. Whether that’s having the dedication to get up at 4:30 am 5 days a week to have a WOD kick your butt, or one day becoming an elite athlete. We all have barriers. We all have goats. How you choose to obliterate those is up to you. Bottom line: CrossFit is Tough. You’re Tougher.

For me, I’m pushing through this thing. We’re two WODs down & I’m not ranking anywhere near where I want to be. All that tells me is I need to push harder and strategize differently. I plan to re-do 14.2. Maybe I’ll do better, maybe not. But one thing I do know – I can always use practice on overhead squats and chest to bar pull-ups.

15 Miles of Hell, Fire (& Ice) Included

This past December, Ryan and I took on the Spartan Beast for a second time. For those not familiar, it’s easily the toughest obstacle course race available in today’s over-saturated market of OCRs. Advertised as 12+ miles, you might think to yourself, “Well, at least it’s not a complete half-marathon.” Wrong.

This particular Spartan was longer than normal. With freezing temperatures & the very likely chance of participants coming down with pneumonia, Spartan race officials opted to nix the 130+ yard lake swim. In its place, was a trek around the lake perimeter – still in the freezing water, mind you – and extra miles on the course. (How nice of them.) It was roughly 15 miles of hell. Fire (& ice) included.

Spoiler! We survived.

Spoiler! We survived.

Spartan Beast Breakdown.

In a typical Spartan Beast you encounter sandbag carries, concrete block pulls, multiple 8-10 foot wall climbs & what they like to call “over, under, throughs” (more walls). You also have the pleasure of at least 2 rope climbs, several hundred feet of barbed wire crawls, monkey bars, a rope traverse, a wall traverse, concrete hauls & hoists, a spear throw (which, after 4 Spartans I’ve yet to conquer), a 100+ yard swim, tire flips, wooden post traverse (usually 2 versions of this baby), a whole lot of mud and even more running. Oh & let’s not forget carrying those 5 gallon buckets of pea gravel. The worst. And, as if once isn’t enough, sometimes they make you do it twice.

To top it off, there’s no opting out of a Spartan obstacle. Go around? Nope. How about doing 30 burpees instead. Oh, and this is if you fail too. It’s not like they say, “Oh, good try. You can be on your merry way now.” Negative. In Spartan, failure is not an option. (Which, I actually kind of like.) For those unfamiliar with burpees, watch this. Feel free to skip to the 2 minute mark.

So yea, that’s the gist of a Spartan Beast. Sounds rough, right? Rest assured, it’s worse….& I’m probably forgetting something.

Sandbag carry.

Sandbag carry.

Let There Be…..Snow (?!)

Our day started out at the hotel where we scarfed down our carb-loaded breakfast and bundled up as much as humanly possible. Well, as much as was logical considering the forthcoming mud and miles.

With our trusty Camelbak’s in tow and our bodies full of anticipation, we walked out of the hotel. Instant regret came over me. What did we get ourselves into?! It was about 25 degrees. Walking to the car, I noticed snow on the ground. SNOW. And we were supposed to happily run through miles of mud and water in this? I’ve done this before. The fire doesn’t usually come ’til the end. And I was already freezing. It was going to be a long day.

Snow on the ground outside our hotel. (Not a good sign.)

Snow on the ground outside our hotel. (Not a good sign.)

The Hills of Death & that Stupid Bucket Carry.

In our usual way, Ryan & I loaded ourselves up with all the appropriate pre-race supplements and charged headfirst into the smoke along with hundreds of other crazies willing to put themselves through hell. Four miles in, I was hurting. Bad. You see, the first few miles was pure running – up and down, up and down, up and down.

Holy. Hell.

My legs were on fire and my lungs were lacking serious oxygen. I began to wonder how I was ever going to finish. But we trudged along and I managed to get past the hills of death. Shortly after was the sandbag carry, followed immediately by the first pea gravel haul. Both back up and down the hills of death. (Of course.) I thought I might die. This was also about the point I realized my Garmin wasn’t tracking my progress. Apparently, I had managed to turn it off during an obstacle. I was so upset. I was going to die with zero proof of what had killed me.

Fortunately for me, Ryan hadn’t updated his insurance policy on me yet so he wasn’t willing to let me die that day. He pushed me along and told me all the things a good husband should. “You got this. Let’s just get to that next flat spot and we’ll rest.” We finally managed to finish that obstacle & for the first time in my life, I was thrilled to be running.

Ryan carrying his 5 gallon bucket of pea gravel.

Ryan carrying his 5 gallon bucket of pea gravel.

Not a Ninja. Almost a Pity Party.

We ran along the course. The first wooden post traverse I failed. This version was tree stumps of varying heights, unequal distances apart & placed somewhat lop-sided into the ground. I’ve come to the conclusion that only ninjas are able to do that obstacle. (For real.) Yay burpees! (Said no one ever.)

We went over, under and through a bunch of walls. Climbed a rope. Hoisted the largest block of concrete ever. Did some burpees. Ran some more. Went over more walls. Went under what felt like a million miles of barbed wire. The day was wearing on forever it seemed. My hips were killing me from all the running and my bones felt like they were grinding together. I was tired and began to feel defeated. And with that, came self pity. I was disappointed in myself that I had let something physical get the best of me mentally. You know that saying, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”? Well, that’s me. Usually. I’ve never had a problem with mental grit. Until then.

Just when I was genuinely considering sitting down & having a good cry, Ryan turned to me & pointed out a group of girls who had taken off in the heat before us. We had caught up with them! Instantly, I felt a sense of renewal come over me. I wasn’t done just yet.

We charged on.

My favorite obstacle, rope climbs!

My favorite obstacle, rope climbs!

Antarctica in Texas? Not Cool.

Each time I began to feel myself struggling, we would come to an obstacle I had conquered at a previous Spartan Race. We’d knock them out & keep moving, each time renewing my sense of badass-ness. And then came the water.

What. The. Hell.

Remember the snow? Yea, it was now keeping the lake water nice & freezing cold. Time to trek through it for a good 300 yards? No thanks. Wait, burpees? Ok, the Antarctic water trek doesn’t sound so bad…. Needles. That’s what it felt like. Piercing my feet with every step. You would think they would go numb at some point. Nope. I wasn’t that lucky. Regardless, we finally managed to get around the damn lake & back to running. Remember what I said earlier about never being so thrilled to be running? I lied. It was definitely after the ice bath.

“Just keep running. Just keep running.” This was my new favorite song.

Let there be Fire.

Usually towards the end of a Spartan, there’s another rope climb as well as a slanted wall climb. After miles of running & obstacles, tackling either of these is hard enough. But, Spartan Race organizers have a sick sense of humor. They like to make you go throw more mud and water before trying to climb either. Can you say slippery? But, if you can get your technique just right, you’ll survive.

Then came the fun part. FIRE! I had never been so happy to see fire in all my life. Fire! Fire! Fire! I was doing the happy dance. If my entire body would have caught on fire jumping over the flames, I can guarantee you, I would not have cared. We were done. We had survived. Again.

Conquering the Spartan fire together. (This was actually from the 2012 Beast.)

Conquering the Spartan fire together. (This was actually from the 2012 Beast.)

At this point you’re probably asking yourselves, “Why? Why would normal people put themselves through all that?” Good question. And, I have a good answer.

We’re not normal. AROO!

10 Things All CrossFitters Should Know

When it comes to forging elite fitness, I don’t quite measure up. (Yet.) But, I’ve been attending our local box religiously for about a year and a half. During that time, I’ve overcome plenty of obstacles and put in a lot of hours to achieve the level of fitness I currently possess.

Along the way, I’ve met all walks of life – both inside and outside the box. Those for and against CrossFit. My favorite haters are the ones who say, “Oh don’t do that CrossFit stuff. You’ll hurt yourself.” Do you have any idea how often I hurt myself simply walking through my house? No lie. I’ll be on a mom mission, likely putting away clean clothes & toys and then I’m like, “Oh hey wall. Where did you come from?!” Seriously.

The thing is, CrossFit can be for everyone. But in truth, it’s not for everyone. Sure, it’s scale-able. I’ve seen all ages, weights, heights and everything in between (pregos included) do CrossFit. I highly encourage any one who’s never done it to at least give it a try before casting their judgement. That being said, there are a few things you need to be prepared for. And, for all you adventurous people who are new to the CrossFit trenches, here are 10 Things All CrossFitters Should Know.

1) CrossFit is tough. You’re tougher.

Without a doubt, CrossFit is the hardest work out regimen I’ve ever done. It will break you down physically and mentally if you let it. There WILL be times when your mind says no more and somehow your body manages to go through the motions and finish the WOD. On the other hand, there will also be times your body says, I’ve had enough & your mind says, “I didn’t come all this way for nothing. We’re finishing this thing.” You will have good days, bad days and even some great days when you manage to hit that personal record you’ve been working for. That being said, learn to love every minute of it. Know that your bad days are getting you one step closer to your good days. And those, to your great days.

2) Slow & steady wins the race. 

Sure, there’s a clock. And, you can bet your last dollar we’re pushing through every rep with hopes of setting a new PR and being faster than our last FRAN time. We’re counting reps and knocking out thrusters or pull-ups as fast as we can. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. And I’m not talking tortoise & the hare slow guys (remember the clock?). I’m talking don’t forget to breathe because otherwise you might pass out slow. We’ve all been there. Struggling to get through that last set of 9 thrusters that seemed so easy 5 minutes ago before the WOD started and we were just practicing. There’s something about that clock that makes our brains stop working. For some reason, we tend to forget the important things – like breathing & technique. For me, it’s wall ball shots. In my mind, they’re the devil. But, like one of my coaches said, you have no control over how long it takes that ball to fall back down to you. So breathe damn it. Relax. Revel in that split second of air you will be longing for in .2 seconds. Get your mind right and remember your technique. And do it again, consistently, every time you pick up a wall ball, bar bell or kettle bell.

3) You make progress. 

Period. The cool thing about CrossFit is that one day you may suck at something & the next, the heavens open up, angels sing & BAM! you’re knocking out toes to bar like a boss…..or three at a time. Bottom line: go into with the mindset that while yes, it is hard, every time you step in the box you are making progress. Some days that progress is simply managing to finish the WOD. Some days it’s RX’ing the WOD or just a portion of it. Success and progress is different for everyone. Learn to be okay with that. Runners are good at running. Weight lifters are good at lifting weights. CrossFitters are good at both – and they all take practice. Novel, right? (Thanks to my coach for this piece of genius.)

Here's me finally doing toes to bar in a competition.

Here’s me finally doing toes to bar in a competition.

4) CrossFitters need accountability.

You’ve seen the daily Facebook check-ins. You’re probably guilty of them yourself. The “I’m at the box! Look at how awesome I am.” posts. (And let’s not forget those CrossFit terms we love to use that no one outside of the box can ever hope to understand.) Oh yes, we know what people think of us. And you know what? That’s okay. You see, those posts are just an accountability measuring tool. It’s our moment to say, “Hey, I managed to make it to the box today,” & give a little shout-out to our fellow CrossFitters who did the same. Notice I didn’t say RX’d or any other badass term. You could have managed to show up with your shorts on inside out and your shirt on backwards at 5am. (True story.) But hey, you were there and you did work. You’re one step closer to that progress we’ve been talking about. The flip side to our social check-ins is that others will totally call us out for not making it to the box. (But we secretly love this.) A) They’re keeping us accountable. B) They must have missed our smiling face, right? And finally, as CrossFitters, we obsess about reps, weights, time and every other measuring tool associated with CrossFit. If we happen to put it on Facebook, we might just remember what our time was on a particular WOD because we forgot to write it in our books. (It may not seem like it to “normal” people, but there is a method to our madness.)

5) CrossFit doesn’t cause injuries. People do. 

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing that CrossFit is bad for you and causes injuries. CrossFit is still a relatively new sport. It’s easy for people to raise flags when it comes to new things. And even easier for them to place blame on a particular sport instead of the athletes themselves. And truthfully, I could write an entire rant about people and their lack of accountability in today’s society. Instead, I’ll just say this: It’s your body. Take care of it. Let’s face it, no one is going to look out for you the way you can look out for you. If your body hurts, listen. If something doesn’t feel right, talk to a coach. There are movement standards for a reason. Learn them. Live them. Love them. Ultimately, it’s up to you to do the movements safely and correctly. With the abundance of CrossFit resources available online or from a coach at a local box, there’s really no excuse for you to be doing things wrong. That being said, rest assured that the only way you’re going to eventually get it right is practice. Don’t expect that because someone showed you the right way, you’re mind and body just accept that input and produce the right output. Be willing to put in the work to get it right – every time you step into the box.

6) It’s addictive. 

Okay, maybe someone did warn me of this. I just didn’t listen. I mean, how can punishment be addictive? But ask any of us, and we’ll all tell you the same. Nothing quite compares to that feeling when you finally hit that PR you’ve been working so hard for – be it double unders, RX’ing a named WOD or conquering your snatch. It’s what keeps us going back for more.

My first time doing clean and jerk in a competition.

My first time doing clean and jerk in a competition.

7) Technique is everything.

This ties into the whole CrossFit not causing injuries thing. When your coach is going over technique, listen. A good coach will break it down for you step by step. If you’re still not getting what you need, look online or ask around. It’s a close community. I can guarantee you’re going to find that one coach who’s passionate about you learning it right because he or she cares about your safety and success. The safety aspect aside, technique exists to make your life easier. Ask anyone that has ever done a clean incorrectly and then turned around and done it correctly. The weight feels lighter, right? There’s a reason! When it comes to technique, don’t forget that little jewel called breathing. Simple though it may be, this is a big one for me personally. With each movement, learn the proper time to breathe. For example, when doing squats, we’re taught to exhale on the way up. When it comes to technique, the bottom line is that small things are a big deal.

8) CrossFit is an evil mix of punishment and reward. 

You just killed the last three WODs and have proven yourself worthy of the top 5 teams? Good for you! As a reward, here’s more punishment. Check out this hellacious 4th finals WOD you have to do now. (Disclaimer: I haven’t made it to the top 5 teams of a competition – yet.) The thing is, CrossFitters get that punishment = reward. We don’t bust our asses at the box everyday with hopes of “maybe” making it onto the podium. We do it because we know that the only way to get to that reward is through punishment. Lots and lots of punishment.

I'm still working on conquering the peg wall, but I'm getting there.

I’m still working on conquering the peg wall, but I’m getting there.

9) CrossFitters aren’t vain. We’re excited. 

What may sound like bragging to someone else, is just excitement to us. Let’s face it, we never think we can do as much as we really can. So when we do, hell yes we are going to celebrate! We’ve been working for months on pull-ups or double unders and one day, we can magically do them? You can bet we’re going to shout it from the rooftops. Or when you lift 2-3 times your body weight because you’re a beast? Yep, if you don’t tell someone first, you can bet we’re going to do it for you. Because we’re proud of you dang it.

10) We’re family. 

I can’t think of any other sport where athletes are genuinely rooting for their competition to hit their goal. That max deadlift you’re working on pulling? We’re here with you every step of the way, cheering you on & ready to congratulate you when you lift it – even if it means you knocked us down a rank in the competition. Can you imagine if opposing football teams applauded when the other team caught the winning touchdown? Blasphemy! But that’s how the CrossFit family works. You’re struggling? We’re here and you got this.

My Spartan Journey: I Lived

My Spartan journey began in March of 2012 at The Gusher 5K. (You guys may remember Iram Leon who won The Gusher Marathon earlier this year & is also a recent Spartan finisher.) Having never run more than a mile in my life – if that – I signed up to run my first 5K at The Gusher since our office had a participating team. As it tends to do, life got in the way & I never prepared for the run. And, as luck would have it, a team member from our office ended up having to back out at the last minute leaving an open spot on the team. Genuinely thinking of backing out myself, I convinced my husband to join our team as a walker. Having had back surgery 3 months prior, I knew I was asking a lot of him, but I also knew it would be my “easy way out.” He would start the race running – that’s the stubborn man he is – but, I was convinced there was no way he would run the entire 5K. Which, of course, meant I’d “have” to walk the rest of it with him to show my support. *cough, cough*

Race day came and I was petrified. As we took off among the horde of people and my legs began to hurt almost instantly, it became clear there was no way I was finishing that race running. With only a ½ mile down, I looked over at my husband who was calmly running along and looked for some sign of him slowing down. Zero chance. (Must have been all those years in the Army paying off.) So, I continued to plod along trying to decide if I could somehow fake an injury. As we approached the 1 mile marker, I began to tell myself I just had to make it to the mile marker and then I could walk. (After all, that in itself was an accomplishment for me.) The mile marker came and went. My husband continued to run. Oh how I hated (and adored) that man. So we ran. And ran. And ran. As I crossed the finish line for my very first 5K, I felt like I had just run a marathon – mentally and physically. I was ecstatic! It was in that moment that a thought crossed my mind, “What if.” I hadn’t prepared and yet, I had finished my task. What if I had actually trained? What if I could really do this?

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

Fast forward 2 months and I found myself standing at the starting line of my first Spartan – the Sprint in Burnet, TX. Once again, I felt like I had made a very bad decision agreeing to endure such torture. The race started and I trudged along the course. My husband was with me every step of the way helping me over the walls, talking me through the running. I managed to only have to do burpees twice – the rope climb and the spear throw. Covered in mud from head to toe and completely exhausted, we crossed the finish line. As they placed a Spartan medal around my neck, I decided I could most definitely do this.

My husband and I agreed we wanted to go after the coveted Trifecta medal. We began to train and prepare by participating in as many races, bike rides and runs as we could. We even completed our first Tough Mudder and joined a local CrossFit box (shout-out to CrossFit Bridge City). We often joked that these races and training were our marriage counseling. (How true that turned out to be!)

We completed our 2nd Spartan – the Beast – in Glen Rose, TX that December. The day after returning home, I began to experience severe chest pain. Within a week, I found myself hospitalized and diagnosed with two pulmonary embolisms, commonly known as PEs – or blood clots in the lungs. The remedy? Blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months with the possibility of being on them permanently if they determined I had a blood clotting disorder.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

As I lay in my hospital bed, the doctor tried to reiterate how much of a “big deal” my situation was. (Not being familiar with PEs, I didn’t grasp why they were acting like I was dying.) All the doctors and nurses seemed to say was, “It’s a really big deal.” Finally, the doctor decided to shoot straight with me. With a sincere look of concern on his face, he said, “You had two chronic PEs. One in the right that was completely blocking the artery and the left almost completely blocking the artery. We’re lucky we caught it. That’s usually fatal.” Later that afternoon, they sent in the hospital chaplain to discuss my will. (Let me just say from experience that nothing quite brings your life into perspective like the words fatal and will.)

These people are crazy! I am SO not dying today – I found myself screaming inside. What about my children? My husband? What about everything I haven’t gotten to do yet? “Can I still do obstacle racing?” I asked. With a look of surprise on his face, the doctor replied, “Well, I wouldn’t go climbing through barbed wire or anything.” Uncontrollably, the tears flowed. The idea of waiting my entire life to finally discover I loved something only to have it ripped away was devastating. Maybe I was dying. My husband stayed by my side, reassuring me that we would get through this together. And, get through it we did.

With only a month off from CrossFit and adjusting to life on my trusty blood thinners, I returned to the local box and began to push harder than before. In the beginning, every time I struggled to breathe, I experienced anxiety. In time, I began to distinguish the difference between the PEs causing me problems and me just getting my butt kicked by the WOD. But, with overwhelming support from my fellow CrossFitters and my husband and with my children as inspiration, I began to set personal records. Every day I grew stronger and more fit. Every day I got one day closer to that 6 month mark of required blood thinners.

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

Some days, reality liked to slap me a little harder than others. Like the morning I received a text from my co-worker telling me her sister’s husband died from a PE and that I’m “the only person she knows who’s survived it.” Or when we got the call that my husband’s great uncle had passed away from a PE. No one knows why God does things the way He does, or what His plan is for us. All I know, is that it wasn’t my time to die. For the time being, I still get to wake up next my husband and kiss my children goodnight. And for that, I am very grateful.

What feels like a million vials of blood later, we still don’t have an answer. The doctors have a few leads, but nothing solid. For now, I’m free of Coumadin and clear to conquer what I set out to do over a year ago – get the Spartan Trifecta medal. My husband and I are signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Kiln, MS. I have no doubt that when I find myself standing at the starting line, I’ll experience fear and anxiety. But I also know one thing for certain. I will finish the race. I will add another Spartan medal to my collection. And one day very soon, that will be the Trifecta medal.

Until then…..AROO!