March 2017


I like to win. I don’t know if that makes me a bad sport or not, but it is the truth. Winning is better than losing. I like to win.

So how does one define winning? I belong to a writers’ forum and we have a thread entitled “the last person to post here wins” and I have won it probably at least a thousand times. And then I lose the win and someone else holds the title and we banter back and forth and each takes our turn on the podium, waving the blue/red ribbon and holding our trophy. Until the next person strips it all away.

That’s a fun place to win and I love the wit and abilities of many of those who play the game with me. But in reality, I’m talking about something a bit more substantial. How do we win life?

There is a saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins” and that seems to be how the Western or First World looks at success and/or winning. But I believe it is in error.

Kim Jong-un seems like an entirely unhappy and paranoid idiot. He seems to not only own a country and their military machine, but had taken to nuking the Pacific Ocean with pent up rage for years now. He doesn’t seem to be a winner to me, just a sad little man who would like to be praised, loved, accepted. He is not any of those things, even under pain of death.

Maybe winning isn’t in possessions but in moments. And we each have access to so many moments. They are zipping past us all the time and all we need do is pluck one and win.

Maybe it is the moment you open your eyes in the morning and realize you are alive in an amazing world. Or maybe it is when the coffee is done brewing and includes the first sip.

Maybe winning is noticing a butterfly, perfect rose, or sunset. These moments are often cited as something special not because they are rare, but because we so often fail to notice them. Life is full of abundance. The wonder of nature, the mystery of the universe, the creativity of mankind.

We live in such a world, filled with so many precious things, we forget to take notice. When was the last time you were thankful for cool, refreshing water? We walk into the kitchen and grab a clean glass, go to the sink, turn the tap, and voila – fresh water. This isn’t true everywhere. This basic need is a problem in many parts of the world. Some people are literally dying for clean water.

Maybe winning is meeting life head on. Taking chances and either getting a hit or a miss, but learning in the process and going forward to either try again or having learned it isn’t something you need to experience ever again. This would be like meeting an alligator. I am willing to never do that again, but since I did and survived, there is a frission of thrill involved in the thought.

Maybe winning isn’t getting the scholarship, the award, coming in first. Maybe it is stopping along the way to help those less fortunate. Maybe it is being rich enough to be able to give of your time or talents to help others. Maybe, just maybe, winning is simply making the world a better place and leaving behind a trail of kindness.

As my mother used to say, over and over again, “Be nice” and that may have been the best advice I’ve ever been given. I believe that is truly how to win.

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I’m over it. I managed all five WODs as Dave unfairly wrote them and I’m done. Blissfully done. I achieved a new PR – I did the CrossFit Open. And I’m not the suckiest person in the world dumb enough to sign up for this crap.

Thank you, Scott, for pushing me to sign up. Just so you know, tattling on me to my son wouldn’t have mattered. He would have told you I had to choose this torture for myself. He can’t or won’t or simply doesn’t pressure people into doing what they don’t want to do. I had to pick this for myself. And your faith in me and my abilities made it possible. Craig has to tell me I’m good. I’m his mother. He loves me. But other people don’t have to tell me I’m enough. Thank you for lying to me.

Thank you CrossFit Summerville for letting me play. I’ve watched this from the sidelines for years, fretful and fearful and totally sure this was beyond my capabilities to even attempt such nonsense. But of late, with the extra weekend partner WODs, I’ve felt more accepted in my inelegance and ineptitude and permitted to play with the real athletes no matter how much of a drag I am to my partner. And yes, that is just me talking inside my head. No one, and I mean not any one ever, has said any of that out loud to me. But it did help make it possible to sign up. Thanks.

Thank you, Kim. You have listened to me, dried my tears, calmed my fears, and let me return to try again and again and again. I don’t know how you have managed to remain so patient all these years. I don’t know why you have done so, either. But I appreciate all the hard work you have done on my behalf. You don’t let the crazy take over and destroy me. Thanks.

Thank you, Ryan and Betsy, for telling me it is okay to suck in a public place. Not that you actually used those words, but that’s what I was asking for and you gave me permission to do so. Both of you calmed me enough to do what I knew was going to my Waterloo, my worst WOD, my downfall, in a group setting. Both of you told me I wouldn’t be chastised, castigated, belittled, or demeaned if I showed up and took for damn ever to do what real athletes could do far more quickly. Turns out, the real athletes also took for damn ever to do this. I had no idea. I figured it was just me. I always think it is just me. But you two made sure I was given the chance. Thanks.

Thank you, Pete, for telling me to just rest. No one has ever told me that in four and a half years. I’ve been told to get back up, keep moving, don’t stop, you got this, just keep going, move, move, move. I’ve never been given the permission or the advice to just rest until I can really have something to move with. I’ve always felt like I was letting myself and everyone else down by box breathing and trying to get my heart rate low enough to bang out a few more reps. I was willing to just quit instead of fighting to keep going. And I would have if you hadn’t said to just wait until I could move again. There was plenty of time and I could finish if I would just let myself really recover first. I could and I did. Thanks for good advice, permission, and being so kind.

Thank you, Brittany, for being the other voice in my ear. I could – eventually – get back up and keep moving and finish and not quit and get this version of hell over with. I have no idea why anyone ever has faith in my ability to do this shit. We’ve been partners in a WOD and you physically know exactly how much I can’t do. And yet, you were willing to help me as I struggled with doubt and fear. Thanks.

I’ve survived this with a lot of help from a lot of people. There have been many more unnamed people who have encouraged me not just in the last five weeks, but over the years. I’ve read numerous blogs about other people’s success and failures and doubts and exhilaration. These have given me hope of a more lasting kind. There are people out there whose names I know and others who are just their blog titles and yet, amazingly kind people who have given me encouragement from afar. Thanks.

Thank you, Dick, for being supportive in this and in any cockamamie thing I decide to try. You have never, in 44 years, told me ‘no’ – except when I wanted to go to Sweden and you wanted to go on a Caribbean cruise. But you were right, you did win the trip. Other than that one little thing, you have always supported any dream and tried to talk me out of any fear. This is just one very small example. I love you. Thanks.

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I know ‘a lot’ is two words. I wish everyone did. 

I’m living in fear and trepidation. I struggled with 72 thrusters, didn’t even do the damn 84 thrusters, and now I have to do 90 thrusters. I know. It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I understand that the fittest people on earth have absolutely nothing in common with me. I understand that the fittest people on earth can do amazing things. I understand that hard work goes into their workouts as well. However, I’m going to be working a lot harder than these young, fit women. I won’t accomplish as much, but it will be harder work. Why? Because it will take me about four times as long to do only half as much.

I have no idea what to do about my heart rate. I’ve been told to try interval running by some great coaches. Apparently two intervals isn’t enough to do anything good for heart rate, but that’s as many intervals as I can manage before I just have to walk and walk and walk and my running is slower than my walking.

As far as I can tell, jumping rope is essentially running in place while trying to trip yourself. So I have to run ten times today. Did you notice up above that I can’t really do that?

I should be able to get into round three before good old Katrin and Sara were finished with the whole shebang. At least that is my goal. And I hope to manage the thrusters unbroken for at least two rounds, but that might be too much. I hate pushing weight over my head when my heart rate is over 170. I’m technically supposed to quit working when my heart rate is mid-160s but the cardiologist also said “keep doing what you’re doing” and that included not stopping that soon.

I was awake most of Thursday/Friday night/morning but managed to sleep pretty well last night, so at least I’m not completely wiped out and tired as hell. That should help my muscles, but it won’t matter to my heart (technically a muscle but it refuses to behave well and play nicely with others).

I’m supposed to be part of the larger community and yet I feel like an interloper. I feel disconnected from the people who actually manage this stuff with a bit of panache or at least, without having enough time to have pizzas delivered while they sit and pant like lizards on hot rocks. I’m fairly certain that no one actually does order the pizza, but they would have time to eat the whole thing, too, so no telling.

I’ve worked my way into a tizzy. I knew it was going to be thrusters and double unders because they appear year after year and double unders are one of those limiting movements that separate the men from the boys. And thrusters seem to be Dave Castro’s favorite beat you over the head with uncountable numbers of reps movement. Next year, will we top 100? These seem to be escalating with wild abandon.

Anyway, I’m going to go in today. There should be a smaller group of us working out because many of our members are off doing the Palmetto 200 – a 200 mile relay race across the state of South Carolina. Amazingly enough, I’m not part of that. Probably because, as listed above, I can’t run.

So at least I will be delaying fewer people as I sit and box breathe and sit and pant and mostly sit through this WOD. I will get it done. It won’t be pretty. I will be proud of my accomplishment and then totally embarrassed by it because it isn’t really much of an accomplishment when I do half the work in quadruple the time.

But it is all I have so that’s all I can do. I’m not sure resignation is the best way to get things done. But it seems better than just crying, which is my other option.

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I live in suburban Charleston, South Carolina. I live in a development with an annoying HOA telling me what I can and cannot do at all times. It’s supposed to be a civilized place. There are houses built close to more houses. All this is situated around a 27-hole golf course. Since it was partly protected lands or something, there are a lot of trees and wetlands preserved.

Last week, and I don’t remember which day but it might have been Saturday, I was driving to the box. As I was winding my way through the curved streets built to make me drive slower (doesn’t really work, but it does limit my vision around curves) I had to almost stop the car in order to not hit what must have been a wild turkey crossing the road. Like the chicken before it, it did not give a reason. It was remarkably large. Hitting it would probably have dented the car and deployed the airbags.

But I blinked a couple times and watched the massive bird run into the trees on the other side of the road. (Addendum: I also stop to miss squirrels and they wouldn’t dent my car or anything, I just don’t like running over animals. I did run over a snake here a few years ago and even though I don’t think they are cute or anything, it did make me feel bad.)

Saturday, I did CrossFit Open 17.4 and that meant that Sunday, my legs hurt. Not so bad I couldn’t move, but I could tell I worked out the day before.

I spent the morning writing history essays which meant that I spent the morning sitting in my chair at my desk. This did not in any way, shape, or form help my legs.

We had winter last week with temperatures falling below freezing, something that happens in January and isn’t supposed to here in March. It was cold, especially for a Yankee Southern belle. But winter gave way to spring and Sunday was beautiful. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining. The wind was still a bit chilly, but I opted to get out of my chair and even more importantly to this story, out of the house.

There are three ways to walk around the block here. None of them are blocks, but they make a circular route. There is the small block which takes between ten and twelve minutes to navigate. There is the big block which is a 5k walk give or take a hundred meters or so. And then there is the medium block which takes around a half hour to complete.

I really didn’t know how far I was going to walk when I left the house, but as I continued on my way, I opted for the middle path, not too short and not too long. It felt just right. I walk at a fairly brisk pace, back straight, head high, talking to myself and solving my version of the world’s problems. I will notice something spectacular on my path at times, but I’m mostly oblivious and just letting my mind wander as my feet move me forward.

And so it was. I was being fairly oblivious to my surroundings. I was nearly home. The pool area is up the street from my house, about 250 meters from my yard. There is a sloping driveway down into the parking lot with the pool (now locked up) and the playground (available year round) and soccer fields. There are a lot of landscaping things around the edge of the Recreation Center and then some wetlands abutting that.

I was still there in the landscaped area when I caught movement off to my right. I looked and there, about 2-3 feet away from me was another of these damn woodland creatures. Except here, the woodlands are wetlands and the creatures include alligators. This teenager was about 5-6 feet long and resting among the shrubbery. He/she/it noticed me coming and had moved his/her/its head to get a better look. I, now aware of it, was seeing far more gator than I had ever hoped for. I had never been this close to one of them. I would be willing to wait forever to be this close again.

Here we were, two 5.5 feet tall/long beings both frightened half to death with the presence of the other. The gator stood up, I backed up. I inched toward the street, but there was a car coming. I had to choose between a car with hopefully an alert driver, and a beast that had grown into a possible serial killer in front of my eyes. I chose the street and yet, I had to get past the gator to get to my house.

I watched the gator as I inched around. The gator began to turn as I began to squirm. Finally, the killer gator turned back towards the trees/wetlands/Recreation Center and I got past the point where he/she/it had been lazily sunning. I think my heart rate was at about 25 wall balls pace.

I looked and the car had stopped to make sure I was okay. I don’t know if the driver or a passenger had seen the alligator or if I was just behaving so strangely, but I was okay, except for the adrenaline rush, the flushed feeling, the racing heart.

I hurried past my brush with death and remembered when Becky and I met the dog on one of our walks. We had frightened ourselves into a near panic before we got away from Cujo and were around the corner before we noticed the dog had been wagging its tail, happy to see us.

I’m pretty sure this gator was just as frightened by me as I was by the gator. This did not stop me from warning a man walking with his dog (and a tennis ball) toward the park. He needed to know there was a gator there and although the dog was big, the gator might not be as afraid of the dog as it was of me.

I know there are lots of deer here, as well. And so for my trifecta of wildlife encounters within my neighborhood, I’m hoping for a herbivore.

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I wanted to whine some more. Betsy wouldn’t let me whine. I would tattle on her, but that would be more whining and she won’t let me whine.

Yes, it is unfair. Life isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that even as an old fart I can move well enough to actually be a CrossFitter and lift heavy weights, at least heavier than a lot of Little Old Ladies. It’s not fair that I’m relatively healthy and with all my buttons still working. I still have all my buttons, right? I think I do, but that might not be the best test.

So, I got through week Four and now I have to wait for week Five. This has to be double unders and thrusters because they are both left for us to do. That pretty much sucks because of my whole heart rate thing and I might be tempted to whine again, but I’m thinking Betsy wouldn’t like that.

What have I learned so far:

  1. Dave Castro is an asshole. He doesn’t care about old people in general and old women in particular.
  2. Doesn’t matter. I did it anyway. Even when old men got the break I wanted and I didn’t, well, I did it anyway cuz I’m just that good. Or cranky. Something.
  3. Thank you, Scott. This wasn’t my choice. I have never done this before. Your faith in me and my ability to not be the suckiest old fart in the world means so much to me. It pushed me over the edge and made me sign up. And even though you really couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t be last; I’m not last.
  4. I’m more comfortable with the other athletes. They seem more comfortable around me. I still get the charity case syndrome creeping up from time to time, but I’m in there trying my hardest and having fun with the big kids.
  5. It’s not supposed to be easy. CrossFit is hard. Not everyone can do it and certainly not the way Asshole Dave writes it down. I get to scale appropriately during the rest of the year and because of that, I was able to at least get on the board each week – so far. Because of years of hard work, I got the snatches and the deadlifts and even the wall balls no matter how long it took. So there.
  6. It is supposed to be fun. It has been. Even with all the whining. Even with all the scared out of my mind jitters. Even with low scores. I have gone into the arena and done my best. I cannot compete with the younger folks in my gym, but because I’ve been posting to a worldwide scoreboard, I’m not last there. I have amazed myself. I always think of myself as unworthy of CrossFit because I’m always sucky because I’m always the oldest crappiest athlete at my box. And here, it’s just because I’m the oldest, not because I’m crappy.

I truly believe, even with all the difficulty of actually getting that damn line in the database, I’ve gotten my money’s worth. One more week to go. I’m sure there is going to be double unders and thrusters. I sure as hell hope Dave knows to scale that to single unders for old farts.

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Last year, I got all the deadlifts and some of the wall balls. This year, I might get a few more wall balls and maybe make it to the row. That’s pretty cool. I will work within my limitations and try to have as much fun while doing this as I can muster.

I’m also going to try to explain to the youngsters in their 40s about how to recover while you are dying between reps. You see, you only exchange air at the alveoli level, so shallow breathing doesn’t really do that much good. AND you must empty the lungs of retained carbon dioxide before you suck in a nice lung full of fresh air.

Your lungs are similar to trees. There is the trunk, then the branches, and finally the little delicate leaves. In your lungs, these are the alveoli and that is where you need to get rid of icky air and replace it with nice fresh, oxygenated air.

The way to recover quickly isn’t a secret. Blow out retained air. More. Empty your lungs, really. More exhale. And only then does it do any good to take in a nice full breath and hold it for a couple seconds while your blood pumps past and can pick up some new oxygen. Then blow out again, hard. Really empty your lungs and hold that empty state for a couple seconds and only then take a second really deep breath. Hold that, exhale forcefully. Breathe normal. Then you are ready to go again and will manage more reps in your refreshed state.

This is the only way I can effectively get my own heart rate to drop. It is called box breathing and it is useful to lower heart rate, get fresh air in, and to alleviate stress. All positives when pushing through your 40th deadlift. All necessary by the time you are trying for a 55 calorie row. This isn’t just an old fart talking, this is an unregistered nurse talking.

Now for the cranky person who talks. I keep waiting for equality or fairness and it keeps being just out of reach. Once again, Dave Castro seems confused by the CrossFit mantra of “it’s all scalable” and believes that old women are such masterful beings, we don’t need any help.

If I was a decent old woman athlete, Dave would realize it would be terribly unfair to make me, over aged 55, move the same weight as a 19 year old. That’s just crazy talk. Of course, someone over 55 should have a lower weight. And so RX women 55+ have a break in the weight of their deadlifts. If you were a crappy athlete, like I am, you wouldn’t be given this same break. As a crappy athlete, Dave thinks it is reasonable to have a 19 year old and a 64 year old moving the same weight. Why?

If I were a man, Dave would worry about scalability for me. As a young RX athlete, I would be expected to toss a 20# med ball to a ten foot line. And as a scaled young man and as an RX old man, I would have the task of throwing that same weight ball to a lower height, just nine feet. And if I were an old unfit man, I could throw a lighter ball to the lower height and use a 14# ball to a nine foot mark.

But I’m a woman. If I were a young, fit woman, I would have to throw a 14# ball to nine feet. If I was an old fit woman, a young unfit woman, or an old unfit woman – we would all be throwing a 10# med ball to nine foot height. If Dave could figure out how to lower the demand for old men, why couldn’t he figure out how to lower it even still more to give me a nod to being older? Dave, here’s a hint. Ten pounds to eight feet.

So this week, I’m getting screwed in two different ways. It’s not unexpected. This is three out of four weeks where as an old unfit woman, I’ve not been given the same scaling crap as old fit people or young unfit people or even old unfit men. I’m apparently just too difficult to figure out for poor Dave, the blithering idiot.

He was tasked with writing five workouts. He apparently was overtaxed and copied word for word from last year. And even with that much less work, scaling his own job miraculously, he was unable to figure out how to make things equitable. I’m not even a Level 1 person and I can figure this crap out better. Dave should give me a call and I will gladly help him and make this possible for everyone, which is their claim.

Sure it’s possible. And I’m good enough to do this. But really, I keep hoping against hope for fairness.

I did twenty reps of each move today, just for practice. So I know I can do this. Now, to just stop whining about it.

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Sometimes I forget how much I have accomplished. It seems to just be part of who I am today. It’s like it just magically appeared and so, of course, that’s what it is now. But that’s not really how life works.

The sleepless nights of motherhood are replaced by the next phase and watching your “kids” turn into parents themselves. The fears and worries seem so long ago and of course, they are just part of parenting and who doesn’t have this stuff to deal with? So, it just seems like one day carries into the next and we inch our way through life.

We don’t remember when we could neither walk nor talk but there was a time when we could do neither. And we fearlessly worked to get around the coffee table and then, bravely, let go only to plop down on the ground. But that didn’t stop us. We let go and fell down until we could let go, take a step or two, and then fall down. And we did that until we could walk around the room and then we ran and now we move without giving it a second thought. But each and every one of us had to learn this skill. And we failed miserably many times before we mastered it.

Learning to talk wasn’t any easier. Even now, in adulthood, at least if Facebook is any indication, there are people who struggle with the language. They have no idea what the words really are or how to spell them. And proofreading seems unimportant even when working hard to make a cute little saying emblazoned across some adorable picture. Just slap it together seems to be the way. But for those of us who worry about such things, we had to learn spelling and grammar and vocabulary and proper usage. And it took many failings before we got it right.

Years ago, I finally got a deadlift of 42# up off the ground. I was beaming in the picture and so proud of all my hard work. Then I immediately set off on new goals. I’ve improved that number by a bit now. And I am pleased and I have a newer, higher goal already in mind.

Today’s skill was 3 x 5 at 90% of one rep max strict press. That meant my weight was 47#. A strict press is the lightest lift we do. There is no extra help. Your skinny little arms have to press the weight from shoulders to locked out overhead. No boost with your legs or hips allowed. Just power that sucker up there. So it is the lightest lift we do.

Deadlifts are the heaviest lifts we do. All you have to do is pull it up off the ground until you are standing straight up. No moving it higher than that required. And so, it is heavy.

And my two numbers were 42# for a deadlift and 47# for repeated strict press. To be fair, I only managed four,  four, and three today. But years ago, I managed one deadlift at 42# and was thrilled. Like the adult walking around, I tend to forget how much work it took to get to the skills I have at my command today. I forget to be proud of the things I can do.

I’m pretty sure this is universal. For those of us who have been walking around for decades and decades, we don’t usually stop to think about how hard it was to master this skill when we were one. We simply walk, unless we run or skip or hop or any other form of moving around. For those who have had this skill stripped from them and had to relearn, there is an appreciation for walking that those of us who simply walk around do not have.

We are mindful of our new abilities, our new achievements. But life is so glorious, we probably need to take the time to appreciate the whole shebang.

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