Lift heavy or heavier?

Finally I can check one thing off my imaginary bucket list – a CrossFit Competition. Last Saturday I went in with no expectations or goals aside from “don’t die” and “don’t fuck your shit up” (a staple phrase at our gym). 

As an in-house competition, it was all members of the gym so for the most part we all knew each other. One of the members works for an organization which helps families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with so many different services. Our donation to compete, along with tons of raffles went directly to the organization. I think nearly double the amount was raised from last year — it was a great showing. 

The event was organized with 6 heats — the coaches, RX men, RX women, scaled men, and 2 of scaled women.  We all completed three workouts. The fourth was not announced til the top 4 in each division were determined, as that would be to find the top 3 in each group. Spoiler alert: I didn’t even come close to competing in the final workout (no surprise there!) Each person competing has a judge watching their movements, and depending on the workout, helping load the barbell. 

First workout? Six minutes to find a 2 rep max hang clean with front squat. 

The thing with lifting for me is that until now, I haven’t lifted consistently to know what my max for anything is. So I usually start low and just kind of go up 10 pounds; sometimes I get a little gold star in the app showing my PR. Sometimes I don’t. 

PR – right before the squat
I started my six minutes at 55 pounds and told my judge (who’s also a coach, and my massage therapist) I’d go up 10ish pounds each try and my max was once at 80lbs for a clean and jerk — last year. I worked my way up to 80 and had two minutes left. We loaded up 90 and I couldn’t shrug the bar up, I knew I was fatigued and at the max I could lift. We decided to wait for :45 left on the clock to give one more go. I managed to clean it up once, knew I had another rep to go and I could likely nail out two squats in the time.  I can’t complain about a PR in the middle of a complex, and for two reps! 

Wall balls
I had about 45 minutes before the second workout, which J came to watch. They got progressively suckier too, by the way. Second workout was for time: 40 calories on the rower, 40 dumbbell snatches (10lbs for my scales division), and 40 wall balls (10lbs).  I love rowing and did fairly well, the snatches were pretty easy at 10lbs when I’m used to 25lbs in class, but those wall balls? Fuck, man. My quads were on FIRE. I was excited to finish well, but sad to realize I wasn’t hitting the mark on the wall so while I finished ahead of people, I technically scaled the scaled and was last. I was frustrated but after watching the video, it wasn’t likely I would’ve hit the mark 40 times even knowing that. And who wants to do more work than necessary knowing the next workout is coming and you’re not even going to finish in the top four? (Not me.)

Final workout? I was thankful to have a time cap on it — as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes: 400m run buy in followed by 10 thrusters at 55 lbs and 10 burpees box jumps (step ups for the scaled people). This one terrified me. I can run. I can do burpees. I can do box jumps. Thrusters at 55lbs? 10 of them? Repeated? Uh, not so much. 

So I ran. Being one of the runners at the gym, it’s like the only thing I really excel at and can finish ahead with ease. Then I got back inside for my thrusters and it suuuucked. Thrusters, if you’re not familiar involve a squat into a shoulder press, back into a squat, repeat. When you’re out of breath from even a slower 400m (probably ran it at 8:00/mile pace) to jump into a weightlifting maneuver that doesn’t allow you to catch your breath is hard. It’s harder when the weight is heavier than you normally lift for this many reps. But I did it. The limiting factor in my rounds/reps was my strength at that movement. I did 2 rounds and a few reps, so two full sets of both thrusters and burpees box step ups, plus a few more thrusters. 

Then, I ate food and died. I finished second to last, so there’s that. Ultimately, the biggest achievement for me was that I signed up for this. I did it. While I’d come to class and was never ashamed at lifting sometimes half of what my female peers lift, I never felt ready to just do a competition. Also, the whole training for races kind of put a damper on that. While CrossFit has been a great tool to keep me healthy while running, you can’t be good at both. You can supplement one with the other, but it’s not feasible to continually give 100% to both. 

Oddly enough, how I felt after last weekend was very similar to how I felt after Chicago. Sore as fuck, but proud as fuck… And yes, hungry for more. 

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Rehabbing and New Goals

In the past six weeks or so, I’ve been focused on rehabbing a little nagging “injury” and setting some new goals for myself that aren’t about running. HELL YES FOR NEW GOALS. 

First, let’s talk about my dumb hip. My hips have always been weak areas #typicalrunnerprobs. My left side has always been the dumber side but this time, it’s my right. After a workout at the gym in the middle of May, I felt a little off. I did box jumps rather than step ups for the first time ever and I’m going to blame that. While training for races, I’ve always opted to do step ups instead of jumps because I’m already stressing my body enough with running.  But I had already started to switch my focus off running and figured now was a good time to challenge myself.  Well, I’m paying for it. 

My last 5k — with Lifting Bae (Heather)
Since that time, I’ve been dealing with a slight pain on the outside of my hip if my walks or runs go beyond 2 miles. If I stop and rest (as in lay on the couch) it goes away. And it literally only hurts during those two activities. I tried the chiropractor for a month thinking things were out of alignment and I did get better, but once I took two weeks off and ran a 5k, the pain was pretty high up there on the “How much does this suck?” scale. 

I just met with my physical therapist yesterday and have some unilateral exercises to do because of the uneven tightness in my quads and hamstrings.  It seems to be I may have some low back issues going on that aren’t specifically an “injury”, but are signs to back off and recover before getting an actual injury. So here I am resting a couple more weeks before I run again and seeing what happens. I’m relieved that I’m in a running hiatus right now because I am totally NOT bummed that I can’t run (and totally happy nothing else irritates it!)

Onto the more exciting thing — new goals!

It’s always been a goal of mine to be able to do a pull up, even since I went to my first CrossFit class 4 years ago. As I haven’t been attending classes regularly, nor have I actually practiced the movement, I haven’t achieved that. But this summer? I’m going to get it. 

I already got my goal a couple months ago of being able to deadlift my body weight, which was a low key goal of mine. I know, I know, so many people can double & triple their body weight but I’ve always been a runner, so this is a big goal for me. Next up? I want to squat and also clean my body weight. I’m only about 30 pounds off it on my front squat, so pretty sure I can nearly back squat it today if I tried.  Right now it’s not in the programming as we’re focusing on front squats and shoulder presses to get ready for Fran.

Also, further goals — my first competition! It’s next Saturday! It’s an in house competition, so it’s not anything too crazy but still a little scary.  I think I now understand how new runners feel at races when they feel “slow” in comparison to the field. I get the “I don’t want to be last!” mentality and just like I tell anyone in that scenario how nobody will care or notice or think differently if you are last… I’m trying to tell myself that as well. 
It feels good to push myself out of my comfort zone and I’m enjoying all the little gold stars I’m getting next to my name at the gym now. It’s funny — I wouldn’t be able to run for a couple days after going to the gym because … ouch. But now that I’m going 3-4 times a week, I could easily come home and go for a run because my muscles don’t feel as dead as they once did. Maybe all along I could balance both running and CrossFit, I just needed to get my body used to this first? Hmmm……

Recap: Flatliner Series

After canceling my marathon plans, I signed up for a series of 3 mile races at a local park which were taking place every Wednesday night. I just wanted to do something fun. Something that I didn’t have to train to be good at. Essentially, something completely different than I’ve done, well, ever since my post-high school return to running. I needed to get myself comfortable with being uncomfortable and this was the best way I could see to achieve that. 

The series completed this past Wednesday and for its inaugural year, I’m totally happy/surprised at how well it was run. It was low key, no frills, and everyone that showed up was friendly. I think the race was $45 for four races or $15 to sign up the day of each race. For Buffalo races, that’s prettt cheap. 

The fun part was that it was the same 3 mile course each week, so you got to know it well. For me, a little too well. At the finish, you tore off your bib end and handed it to somebody collecting the order for the stats. Like I said — no frills, no chip time. Finish came with a bottle of water handed to you and an informal invitation to a local bar after (Regretfully, I didn’t take part in those because I’m a grandma and I like to be in bed by 9pm on a Wednesday!) 


Week 1 – 23:30

I had no idea what I could run a 5k in, let alone a three mile race through the hills of Chestnut Ridge. Honestly, the runs around my house are lucky to have 100ft gain over 10 miles, so almost 300 feet of gain (and loss) over 3 is rough

I went out without any strategy. I found myself in the first female spot for about a mile, so it obviously wasn’t the most stacked race. It was upper 50s with the lightest breeze so weather felt perfect. I remember trying to stay light on my feet during the down hills and using my power on the uphills. I definitely passed some people on the uphills but they always caught me on the way down. 

The girl who finished first had passed me after the first mile and I tried hard to hang with her but she was just a hair too fast. I ended up finishing second female and while running that fast sucked, I was elated that I pushed myself harder than I have recently and knocked out sub 8 minute miles on that course. 

Pushing to the finish in race 2

Week 2 – 23:11

Going into this race, I had no idea if I could keep pace with what I did the week prior. It was in the 40s and cold AF. I also noticed some of the speedy women (sub 19 for a 5k) locally had shown up. I was a little disappointed because I was looking forward to finishing high overall — it’s not often I have a chance at age group awards! 

So I watched the fast girls take lead and tried to focus on my own race. This guy was pacing a girl who looked a little younger, he spent the entire race talking to her, describing the course and how to approach each hill. They were slightly ahead of me and I tried to hang on for as long as I could because his advice was so good. He wasn’t out of breath either, so it was all calm. If I could put him in my pocket for every race, I would. 

I fell out of hearing range with about .75 to go, but had heard enough to use it to my advantage. The girl who beat me the week before was still beating me and I was trying hard to play catch up. It didn’t happen. I was elated to finish with a faster time, all of which I took off in the final mile. 

Week 3 – 24:26

My calves were sore for this race so I wore compression socks. I hoped I wouldn’t run into the issues I had while wearing them on the treadmill, but guess what? I did. My legs cramped up pretty fast and stayed sluggish and tired.  The weather was crappy too, low 60s but a steady rain. 

A couple fast people showed up this week but not as many as the week prior.  In fact, probably half as many people showed up. I saw the girl who finished ahead of me twice walking, as I passed I tried to say something motivational but truth was, I was dying. She said she had a bad cramp. As I started to suck wind from chatting while running up the final hill, a giant bug flew directly into my uvula. It wasn’t that bad at first until I could still feel it back there, which triggered my gag reflex and I had to pull to the side for about ten seconds to either vomit or calm myself. I ended up calming down but after that brief stop halfway up the hill, it was hard to get going again. 

The hill that killed me.

Week 4 – 24:34

I felt good! Despite running a half marathon four days before this race, I felt calm, cool and collected. My calves were recovered, I was hydrated, and it was the final week — I wanted sub 23 here. 

HA. 

So, it was also 80° and sunny. The first extraordinarly warm day we’ve had in the middle of spring, when my body has yet to adjust to anything. I was sweating before I started. 

My first mile was by far the fastest of the series for me (7:26) and then I powered hard up one hill because duh, there was a camera there. I tried to keep pace on the downhill by letting myself go a little more than I normally would; my feet were hitting the pavement hard. Balls to the wall, I told myself. But then my calves and quads were on fire and mentally I just didn’t want to push through. I slowed to a jog and thought about how I’ve been doing this for fun, I’m having fun, and whatever.  The gap between myself with the front group and the people behind me must have been rather large because it took a solid :10 of walking (I know, I know) on two separate occassions before a couple people passed me. 

I was passed by the girl who has finished just in front of me in every race in the last 400m or so. I tried to catch her (plus there were people on my tail, I could hear!) but I didn’t. Between the heat and my apparently dead legs from Saturday, it wasn’t the ideal conditions for me. 

The series was based on your best 3 times and I finished 2nd (by only about :20!) in the 20-29 age group. Had I not walked in the final race, there’s a chance I would have had the first place… but that wasn’t why I signed up for the race anyways. I wanted to have fun and I did. 

There’s a few more series races coming up this summer I intend to compete in. This will be by far, my most active year of running in my life. Racing yourself into shape isn’t really the best thing to do, but for me, it’s what I need mentally. Considering I’m not going to be doing much speed work outside races, I’m not super concerned about an injury possibility. The next series is a bunch of mile races between this upcoming Saturday and September (7 or 8 races), and a weekly Tuesday trail series (I know! Me? Trail?) at the same park in August for 3.2 miles each week. 

Basically, I’m planning to spend a fuckton on races that aren’t goals because… why not?