Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On Strength

We all have our thoughts of what strength is and means.  In reality, it is many things. The most common definition, from Webster is, “the quality or state of being strong: capacity for exertion or endurance”.  In CrossFit, strength may be the physical type, the ability to lift heavy things.  It may also be the mental type, the ability to push through a particularly difficult WOD.  It may also be the emotional type, the ability to emotionally cope with another athlete beating you in a competition. I have felt these kinds strength.  I have lifted very heavy things, I have pushed through difficult WODS, and I have felt competitive loss.  Managing the emotions that come from these things requires strength. 

I have been praying each day for strength in body, mind and spirit.  But what exactly does this mean? It is similar, but also different from the strength required and developed through CrossFit.   It contains the mental and physical elements, to push through, to drive forward; to live each day to it’s fullest under my current circumstances, and to work on getting physically and mentally stronger each day.  It is the emotional element, however, that is slightly different.
Emotional strength is also the ability to be able to accept my mind and body for where they are right now.  It is to be forgiving to myself when I look a little soft in the mirror, when my clothes don’t fit the way they use to, when my brain training scores decline, when I stumble, when I can’t remember what I went into the kitchen for, or when I need to ask for help. It is also to be able to be satisfied with scaling my WODs, or getting my first DNF, or knowing that, in CrossFit I may never be where I was. 
Strength in spirit is being able to put my faith and trust in God, and through prayer and worship I will receive what I need, maybe not what I want, but what I need, in all other areas.
As I have been exploring strength, I have also discovered that strength is also having the ability to say no even though you really want to say yes or on the contrary, saying yes even though you really want to say no.  It is also being able to forgive, even if you will never forget. Forgiveness requires a great deal of strength.
Strength is the ability to do all of these things.  So each day I pray for strength in body mind and spirit, and each day I try to get stronger. 

In closing, I started to think further…  What would you add to this list? 
  • It is being able to go into the box knowing you cannot do the WOD and being content with scaling all elements of it.
  • The ability to order something that you really don’t want to have because you should not order anything else on the menu.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My 2013 CrossFit Open

I am not going to finish the 2013 CrossFit Open, at least, not in the way I hoped to.  I did not finish in 2011, and I won’t finish in 2013. But it is really about priorities, and my health is really more important. 

I completed 13.1, 13.2 and 13.3.  After these WODS I am ranked midway through the pack, a position I am happy with, as I have been through so much. Tonight, after the announcement for 13.4 is made, I will complete it.  Kitsap CrossFit, my home box, will be open just so I can complete the WOD before I have surgery on the Friday following the announcement. 

After surgery, I will be recovering, and not cleared to do much of anything.  I won’t be able to drive, lift more than 10#, and will be told not to do more than walk.  I will not be able to complete the remaining Open WODs. 

So I won’t finish competing in the Open, but I hope to be able to be there cheering you on, following your progress and watching each announcement to see what’s next.  And from that perspective, I will finish the Open.
I will finish the Open as a crossfitter.  I will support my community, as my community has supported me.  As a crossfitter, I will continue to drive forward, I will continue to persevere, I will be strong, and I will fight hard.  I am sure I will have moments of doubt and uncertainty, and it may not all be pretty.  But I will be faithful and I will finish the Open by being the one who cheers you on, so that you can do your best and, most of all, HAVE FUN!!!!! 

Tonight I will do my last Open WOD, 13.4.  And I will have FUN!!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Angry, But Thankful

Hate is a strong word, and a strong emotion.  It is not an emotion I am familiar with, meaning I have not experienced it first-hand.  I have seen it, as many have.  But I have not experienced it.  There are some things that I may dislike, or may strongly dislike.  But nothing that I hate.  If you know me, you know this to be true.

These days, I strongly dislike my body.  I don’t like the way it looks, I don’t like the way it feels, and I don’t like the way it makes me feel.  But I can’t hate it.  I cannot hate my body, as much as I dislike nearly everything about it right now.  I cannot hate my body, because it has not failed me.  With all that I have been through, my body has persevered. 

For more than a year now, I have been at war.  My body has been at war and I have been fighting for my life.  And I feel it.  My body and mind feel the ravishes of war, some days more than others.  But, I cannot hate my body, I cannot be angry, because my body has not let me down.  So, every day I pray that my body will recover from this war, and I will return to where I was physically, and emotionally.   

Grudges are founded in hatred.  I don’t hold grudges.  Every day I forgive my body, and I thank God for the journey I am on.  It is a different type of forgiveness.  So I forgive.  I forgive my body, and try to be understanding towards the war it has been through.  I try to remember that it has not let me down.   

But I have moments when I struggle.  And some days are easier than others.  I see and hear people complaining about their WODs, and how some things just were not good, how horrible they did, and I think…  But your body did not let you down, so be grateful.  It could be so much worse.  Don’t be angry, don't hate, you are alive.  Be thankful that you get to experience the WOD.  Hopefully, soon I will be able to experience it again.  But until then, I will not be angry, and i will not hate.  I am and will continue to be thankful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

368 Out of 725+ ... Cancer and Reflections on the CrossFit Open

As the 2012 Games begin, I am reflecting back on the Open qualifiers.  I have an interesting perspective on the CrossFit Open.  During the 2011 Open, specifically, right after the first WOD, and before the second WOD was announced, I was diagnosed and underwent surgery for a brain tumor that turned out to be cancerous.  I never finished the 2011 Open, and, in fact, I never did anything more than the first WOD.  

A year passes…  I was out of CrossFit for a couple of months.  I underwent radiation treatments, and am still undergoing chemotherapy.  The CrossFit Open is announced, and I toss my hat in and sign up.  Not with the expectations of being a contender for the Games – I have lost so much strength, stamina, endurance and more – but with the hope of just getting through the entire Open.  I just wanted to finish the event – something I was not able to do last year.

My athlete bio on the Games site really said it all…
    “It is what it is... I am blessed to be able to even sign up. But I don't have any unreal expectations as to how I might do. I just want to do the WODs, RX. And I'd like to make it past the second one. I did not fill in my numbers because the maxes and times that I have are not my current times or maxes. I don't know what my current ones are, or what I am capable of doing.”
And it started…

WOD 12.1
Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes of:
My initial thought on this one was, “Really??? Seven minutes of burpees?” I thought that so many people would end up with the same scores.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Seven minutes of burpees had a way of pushing people to do more than they ever thought they could do in seven minutes.  It taxed people in a way that was unexpected, and took the first cut, as previously unknowns surfaced on the Leaderboards.

So many people, doing so many burpees…  I bet Coach Burgener was cheering everyone on, all across the world, “YAY BURPEES!” 

For me, it was a relief.  I knew I could do seven minutes of burpees, and I also knew it wouldn’t be a lot.  I was on a chemotherapy regimen for this WOD.  I knew there would be at least one WOD I would be doing while taking my chemotherapy drugs.  Right out of the starting gate, 12.1 was it.

I hoped I could do 70 burpees.  I did 64.  That equated to less than 10 per minute.  But I was okay with that, because I finished the first WOD.  And I would not be on chemotherapy for another 3 weeks.  I was so happy to have finished, and was excited about 12.2.  I wanted to get further than I was able to last year.

WOD 12.2
WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old, Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:
    45 pound Snatch, 30 reps
    75 pound Snatch, 30 reps
    100 pound Snatch, 30 reps
    120 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible
This I knew would be challenging.  I had lost so much strength.  I knew I could snatch 45 pounds, and I could snatch 75 pounds.  I knew I used to be able to snatch 100 pounds, but was uncertain if I could do it now, and honestly did not think I could. 
The WOD had a time limit, 10 minutes.  This put a different spin on it.  Could I do 30 snatches at 45 pounds in 10 minutes?  Could I do an additional 30 at 75 pounds?  If I could get those 60 done, could I even get one at 100 pounds

As I performed the WOD, I was realizing that I was getting through the first 30.  It was time to add some weight and go to 75 pounds.  I put the weight on the bar and started snatching.  Getting through all 30, I realized that I would have time to attempt 100 pounds.  I loaded the bar, and failed once, twice, three times, and then the time ran out.

I did not underestimate my ability.  I knew that 100 pounds would be challenging for me at this point in my recovery.  I did underestimate the amount of time it took to load my own weights.  I probably could have found a handful of seconds by being more efficient at loading my weights.  But I still would not have been able to snatch the 100 pound weight.

I was happy with my result.  I kept things in perspective, something that is difficult for me to some days.  I thought it was good, for where I was in my recovery.  I finished the WOD, my first goal, and I also made it through 60 snatches.  I was already further than last year, and looking forward to the next week, when 12.3 would be revealed.

WOD 12.3
WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old, Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 18 minutes of:
    15 Box jumps, 20" box
    75 pound Push press, 12 reps
    9 Toes-to-bar
This one really troubled me.  About a month before this WOD, I was doing box jumps in a WOD and slipped on the box, smashing my knee cap into the edge of the box, and leaving me with a strong fear of jumping on boxes, something I had never experienced.  There were times when I was doing 30” box jumps in WODs.  But when this was announced, I was only jumping 12-16 inches.  20” in a WOD was terrifying.  What if I fell off again?  What if I hurt myself more than the previous time?

I couldn’t think of these things…  I just needed to jump 20”, at least 15 times.  I knew I could physically do it, but mentally I was terrified.  Cancer has a way of destroying confidence.  And chemo brain doesn’t help.  I was worried I would fail before I had even started.

The day I did the WOD, I decided to warm up with smaller boxes, and increasing height until I reached 20”.  I was able to do 8”, then 12”, then 16”, then 20”.  I was ready to tackle 12.3.

The timer started and I started my box jumps.  I surprised myself by finishing the first set of jumps.  Time to move on to the push presses, then the toes-to-bars.  One round done, time to start another, time to jump on the box.  Every time I went to jump my mind processed what I was doing.  I mentally set myself up, then physically.  I mentally eyed the target, then physically.  I visualized myself jump and land, then I jumped and landed on the box.  I probably mentally jumped twice as many box jumps as I physically did.

When the 10 minutes ended, I had completed 4 full rounds, and most of the 5th.  I had jumped on the box 75 times.  I was so happy that I was able to jump on the box and finish the WOD.

I had completed 3 of the 5 WODs, making it further through the Open than I had last year.  I was very happy about that, but it was also sad.  I was constantly reminded of where I could have been if I had not gotten sick.  I wanted to be a contender for the Games…  I did.  But realistically, I knew it was not possible.  There was no way.  Doing the WODs and participating in the Open was what I wanted to do, but so was doing better than I was doing.  I would just need to be happy with where I was…  Happy that I was at least able to perform the WODs.  I asked God for the strength to persevere, and to help me count my blessings, as there were so many.

WOD 12.4
WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old,  Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes of:
    150 Wall balls (14lbs to 9' target)
    90 Double-unders
    30 Muscle-ups
I just knew that muscle-ups would show up at some point in the open.  I also knew that if they did, I would not be able to do them.  I was not getting them consistently before, so I knew there was no chance now. 

I have also been struggling with my double-unders.  My timing has been off.  I can sometimes get 15-20 or so, but many times it is 3-5 at a time.  Again, a result of all that I have been through…  surgery, radiation, and chemo.

I felt defeated before even starting this WOD.  I tried to keep it in perspective.  But it was hard, knowing how much I would struggle with the double-unders, and that even if I made it to the muscle-ups, I wouldn’t be able to do one.

So the clock started and I started my wall balls.  I felt confident with the wall balls.  I just dreaded what was coming up.  All I could think about was that I would need as much time as possible to do the double-unders, so I have to really push the wall balls.  I knew I wouldn’t get any muscle-ups, but I wanted to get the double-unders.  I wanted it badly.

I finished the wall balls, and went on to the double-unders.  I would get a couple, then miss, then get a few, then miss.  I tried to just keep going.  But the more I missed, the more upset I got.  The more upset I got, the more I missed.  I tried to keep it in perspective, but my perspective was interrupted by the rope hitting my feet, legs and hands.

Time ran out on me, before I could finish the double-unders.  I only got 35.  I tried to keep it in perspective, but again, I felt so defeated. 

WOD 12.5
WOMEN - includes Masters Women up to 54 years old

Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes following the rep scheme below:
    65 pound Thruster, 3 reps
     3 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 6 reps
    6 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 9 reps
     9 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 12 reps
    12 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 15 reps
    15 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 18 reps
    18 Chest to bar Pull-ups
    65 pound Thruster, 21 reps
    21 Chest to bar Pull-ups...
    This is a timed workout. If you complete the round of 21, go on to 24. If you complete 24, go on to 27, etc.

This was the last WOD.  If I could finish this one, then I finished the Open.  My goal was to finish, and I was so close.  I had to do it, knowing full well that I would never make it to the 2012 Games, but remembering that my goal was to be able to finish the Open, and to do each WOD as prescribed.

I was excited to do it, excited to finish.  But I had just started a chemo regimen, so it was really going to be a tough one.  I was not feeling well, was not sleeping well, and just going to try to endure.

Thrusters and pull-ups…  It looks a lot like Fran, or perhaps Fran’s mean older sister.  Again, the clock started and so did I.  The first set of thrusters felt like they always do, except I only had to do 3, as opposed to the 21 prescribed in Fran.  3 felt like a vacation!  Then time for chest-to-bar pull-ups.  Again, a movement that required strength, something I had lost so much of.  I struggled getting my chest to the bar and was no-repped a couple of times during the WOD. I got the 3s done, 3 thrusters and 3 chest-to-bar pull-ups. On to the 6s.  Again I struggled on the chest-to-bar pull-ups.

7 minutes came up, and I struggled to get the last few reps in.  When all was said and done, I had completed the 3s, the 6s and the 9s, and started working on the 12s.  I did all 12 of the thrusters, and 4 of the pull-ups, almost finishing the round.

I got down on one knee and gave thanks to God, who made this possible.  I had finished the Open competition, 368 out of 725+ in my age group.  But it didn’t matter where I finished, only that I finished.  I had made my goal – I finished the Open.  And for that I am grateful.

As I look back on the Open on the day the Games begin, I think about the athletes and all they have endured.  I am so excited for them – their time has come.  Tomorrow I leave for Carson to watch in person, and to cheer them on.  If I could tell them one thing, it would be to have fun and enjoy the journey. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Of Birds and Butterflies

I have been thinking a lot about flying lately.  Not flying in an airplane, but just flying, like a bird, butterfly or other winged creature. A few months ago I bought a t-shirt with 3 butterflies on it.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, except it was different and cute.   Then, a few weeks after, I found a t-shirt with a bird on it, and a single word…  The word, “Fly”.  Again, I knew I needed this shirt, but not sure why.  Now it is all making more sense.  It is becoming clear. 

To me, the butterflies signify a metamorphosis.  A change…  The change I am going through, as I heal from my daily battle, and fight to restore my body, mind and soul.  I once was a butterfly, which was struck down.  As I heal, as I recover, and as I try to get stronger, I feel I am going through a metamorphosis, from a caterpillar back into that butterfly.  I pray to one day become that butterfly again.  A beautiful butterfly.  But the metamorphosis is difficult.  Some days are easier than others, and some moments are as well.  And some are just painful, and I need to endure.

The bird and “Fly” signifies flying above it all – all the horrible things I have had to endure, to a place where I can be free.  Free from fear, free from sadness, free from the chaos that has become my life, and just free.  With wings I could fly.  I would feel the wind under and through my wings, lifting me up to a place of where the sun shines brightly, there is a soothing breeze in the air, and there are no worldly cares. Soaring freely above all I have endured.  Again, some days are easier than others, and some moments are as well.  And some are just painful, and still, I endure.

Each WOD seems to be a challenge for me lately.  I am continually reminded of what I was able to do, and where I am now.  I use to finish at the top, and now I am always the last to finish.  I use to do everything prescribed, and now I need to scale many things.  It is not uncommon for me to hold back the tears in the middle of the WOD, or break down in tears after.  Every WOD is a reminder of what I was, and what I am hoping and praying to be.  And, some days it is easier to accept than others.  Then I think of the bird, and flying high.  I think about the caterpillar leaving me and becoming a butterfly.  And I endure.

I am not the only one who has thought of butterflies…  “So remember. Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over….she became a butterfly.” Sarah Grand wrote.  Sarah’s story is similar to mine.  Thank you, Sarah Grand.  You have given me inspiration. I wish I could have met you.

It’s time I became the butterfly.

More on Sarah (CrossFit Journal subscription needed).

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Year Ago Today

One year ago today the headaches became nearly unbearable. Advil helped, but I couldn’t keep eating it like candy. I was taken to the ER at the hospital. They saw me almost immediately. I told them what I was feeling and they told me I was going to get a CT scan.

A half hour later I had had my scan and the PA was telling me that there was something on it as I was being admitted, and that I would need surgery. I was so frightened. Today I am feeling it all over again.

I know I have come so far. It has been a year. I am a living miracle of love, science and God. I thank God every day for the path He has put me on, as difficult as it has been. It has changed my life in so many ways, and I believe the lives of others.

So today is difficult for me, and probably for others. If I see you today, know that I may cry. I am just so thankful to be able to share my life with you. It is a sad day, but also a joyous day. I am so blessed to have this day, and to have those of you who may read this. Thank you so much for loving me, praying for me, supporting me, and being a part of my journey.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Expectations

Before my diagnosis I felt unstoppable. My CrossFit workouts were getting better and better, and I was getting stronger and stronger. I felt so good, and I loved doing the workouts. I wasn’t overly confident about what I could do, but I knew I could do most things as prescribed in a decent time.

Lately I have been struggling. I don’t expect to be where I was before my diagnosis. I know that is not possible. I have been through so much, and my body has been, and still is, a battlefield. I lost weight and I lost muscle. I have been gaining weight, and slowly gaining muscle. I sometimes wonder if things move differently because of that. It would make sense, but I really don’t know. I am still going through treatments, and my body and mind are still fighting.

The other night I could not do a double-under. I struggled and struggled, and eventually got enough to finish the WOD. It was something I wasn’t prepared to deal with, and I broke down in tears as soon as I got home. Now, just the thought of doing them begins to worry me. Will I be able to? Will I struggle? Will people be watching me, wondering why I cannot do them?

I also find that what may have taken me 10 minutes to complete previously, may take me twice as long. I sometimes have to scale WODs, midway through the WOD. And for the first time since I started to do CrossFit, I have had a couple of WODs that I did not finish. I DNF’d.

I also get fatigued much faster. It is not uncommon for me to take a breather midway through a WOD. To just let my breath catch up to my body. Every WOD feels like “Fran”.

I am starting to really struggle with this loss. The loss of my abilities as they previously were. My family keeps telling me that I am being too hard on myself, that I have unreal expectations as to where I should be in my recovery. My counselor tells me the same. But it is hard for me to not be this way. I see other people doing workouts the way I should be able to do them – the way I use to be able to do them. And it is a constant reminder of where I was. Are my expectations too great?

In a way, I am going through a grieving process over the loss of who and what I was, from a CrossFit perspective. But in reality, deep down, I am the same person. My “who” has not changed. It is who I am, and who I will always be. It is my “what” that has changed. My physical capabilities have changed, and the “what” can be worked on. I said before that every day is a new opportunity for improvement, and attitude and perspective are important.

Now, I look at every WOD and wonder what I can do. Will I need to scale rounds, reps, weight? Will I even finish? Sometimes WODs come up that I know I cannot do. This is not the perspective I use to have. I use to look at every WOD as a challenge. I guess I need to change that attitude and perspective as well. Rather than the WODs reminding me of where I was, I need them to challenge me to try harder. To push myself a little harder.

I love CrossFit, and I love the community – my community. I know I need to be listening to my own advice right now. So I will do my best. And if you see me being too hard on myself, or maybe not really pushing myself, please remind me of where my perspective should be. And if I see you being too hard on yourself, or maybe not pushing yourself, I will give you perspective. We each have a different perspective on things, and it is important to remember that, especially when every WOD may be a struggle, and a reminder of the past.

I wrote the piece above a couple of weeks ago, and have been stewing on it. Since then, I have made it a goal to get better at double-unders. I practice them almost every time I go to CrossFit. Today, I did 30 unbroken. I screamed with excitement, and cried a little. I have also started to think about the “shoulds” in my life. These “shoulds” are perhaps “unrealistic expectations that I have in terms of where I should be in my recovery”. I need to box up the "shoulds" and set them on the curb.