MF’s social media manager Christopher Hunt will be tackling a new CrossFit Open workout each week in hopes of making the cut and gaining coveted entry into the Games. Stay tuned for videos and blog posts chronicling his experiences with the torturous WODs and find out if he has what it takes to go all the way.
When I arrived at the box to tackle CrossFit Open WOD 13.1 last week, I learned that competition would be broken into two heats and competitors would need to pair off. Before my partner Adam and I heard the fateful words “three, two, one, GO!” we exchanged a similar look and he blurted out what we were both thinking.
“So, I don’t really want to go first,” he said.
“Yeah, neither do I,” I replied.
So we settled our dilemma the fairest way that two adult men could resolve any dispute: We played rock-paper-scissors. He won, and I could feel the lunch that was sitting in my stomach get heavier.
Then my first-timer nerves started to kick in. I struggle with whether to label myself a bona fide CrossFitter. I started CrossFit at Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave in New York City about six months ago. I’ve got the calluses, knee and shin scars, and all the perpetual soreness to prove it. But this is my first Open and my first attempt at a CrossFit competition. I felt that in my stomach, too.
I wanted to watch Adam go first because, honestly, I wanted to see what I was in for. I wanted to see how bad it was going to hurt. I knew that it would hurt. Every WOD does. But that's what I signed up for.
I found CrossFit because I was in search of a new challenge. At 31 years old, I wanted to put my body—and my will—to the test the way I had as a runner in college. I remember the first time I saw the CrossFit Games on TV and murmuring to myself, “I’ve got to try that.” When I learned that RCF 5th Ave was opening in NYC last August—it was the only CrossFit box I knew of at the time—I decided it was time and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
In September 2012, just three months after I had torn multiple ligaments in my right ankle playing basketball, I signed up for CrossFit. At that point I had only been walking on my own for a month; I couldn’t run; I had trouble squatting beyond parallel, and I wasn’t afraid to jump, but I was afraid to land.
Fortunately, the first lesson I learned in CrossFit is that everything can be modified. CrossFit made me feel like an athlete again. It put me on a team again. And whether I knew it or not, it was helping me rehab my damaged ankle.
And now it was scaring the crap out of me. CrossFit Open WOD 13.1 was announced last Wednesday evening and I cracked open my laptop at 11:30 PM to see what I had missed. But I shouldn’t have looked. A 17-minute METCON filled with burpees and snatches seemed like torture. It sounded even worse when I learned that the WOD was practically a merger of the first two WODs from last year’s Open. But I didn’t have time to think about that now. The trainers had just yelled, “Work!” so I was already banging my chest on the ground for my first round of 40 burpees.
My strategy was simple: Just don’t stop moving. Burpees would be about rhythm—all I told myself was that I was going to keep dropping, continue getting up, and not rushing it. I had plenty of time. I got through that first round unbroken and finished in just over two minutes.
I broke up the first round of 75-pound snatches into 15 reps, then 10, then 5. Another 30 burpees later, I was feeling pretty good.
That's when I failed my opening attempt at a 135-pound power snatch. I took two steps back. I laughed. It would not be the end of my workout. It couldn't be. All the nerves were gone by then. I didn’t hear the music blaring. I didn’t see anyone fighting through this WOD beside me. I didn’t hear any more cheers. All I was focused on was the bar and I told myself that weight had to go up.
I tried again. Got it. I dropped the weight after each rep. Every time I picked it up I focused more on form, getting underneath the bar instead of muscling it over my head. Before I knew it, I had completed 20 reps, built more confidence than I had when I started, and convinced myself that I could squeeze in at least two reps at 165 pounds—if I could just get there. I completed all 30 reps at 135 pounds, but I only had 49 seconds left.
As I headed into the final countdown a shot of adrenaline hit me. I blitzed the next round of burpees, finishing 16 out of 20. Overall, I scored 146 reps. My score was better than I expected, but I had also convinced myself I could have done more. I really wanted to make a go at 165 pounds. (My one-rep max is 180).
That’s what makes CrossFit so addicting. It makes you want more and it makes you expect more from yourself. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less terrified of week two’s WOD. And this time we’re drawing straws.