I went yesterday. The 16 part of Sweet 16 was not rounds, so there is that to be thankful for. What it was instead, was a variation of all five the CrossFit Open Games WODs from 2016. That meant there was lots of everything.

I’m very hesitant to pick a partner. I usually wait for everyone to be paired up and the dimwit that didn’t pick anyone fast enough gets stuck with me. Yesterday, that turned out to be Eli. He is 24. He was a high school and college competitive swimmer. He’s awesome with an aerobic engine like you wouldn’t believe. He was stuck with me, the oldest person there with heart rate issues and her own cardiologist. What a match.

He told me to just do what I could and he would do the rest. Still, I was hoping to be able to do better. I got through Opens 16.1 through 16.4 sorta, kinda carrying my own weight. Not really, but not horribly lopsided. And then came 16.5 and I was lost. I was tired and spent and old and feeble and we had been working for a very long time. The task at hand was 32 heavy deadlifts, 32 wall balls, 32 calorie row, 16 HSPU with a hand release push-up as a sub.

I was able to get my half of the deadlifts. Eli did 16 wall balls, I did five and couldn’t move. My heart rate was 172 and climbing. He did the other 11 and then said he would do the entire row, which was really smart. He probably got two calories for every three pulls where I need three pulls for one calorie. I managed 12 push-ups and then, because I didn’t really know what I was talking about, I couldn’t go on. I thought we had to do that last round again (since most of the sections were to be done twice) and the thought of more heavy deadlifts just left me drained. Eli finished for us and we were done in 30.10. We didn’t have to do it twice and I usually push through at the end, knowing it is the end and what the hell, just get done.

And then I was awake most of the night castigating myself for not pulling my weight. Intellectually I know I’m not a 24 year old male in good physical condition. I got 40 years on this guy and I’m a wreck. He can and does outstrip every WOD I do. Keeping up was never really an option. And yet, I only did five wall balls.

And the spiral began. Instead of noting that I did five back to back WODs, as a partner, without knowing what was coming, bravely showed up, gave it my best shot, worked my ass off, and survived – I kept telling myself I only did five wall balls.

I have no idea how to talk kindly to myself. I only know how to point out all my flaws.

I don’t remember who the lady was who stood in the center of the contestants and said mean things, culminating in, “You are the weakest link” just before kicking them off the show. But that phrase is inside my head, over and over and over.

How do I tell myself that I’m doing amazingly awesome and my deadlifts today looked good? How do I tell myself when it is a day of chest to bar, HSPU, and pistols that I’ve improved when I can do none of those moves? I scaled/subbed each one and did crap anyway even though I knew I was going to the gym without a license to carry, unable to kick my ass up to the wall, and without even a pull-up let alone a chest to bar.

Today, just because I wanted to try, I did put three mats on the floor and did a head stand – kicking my fat ass up there without any help – and attempted to push myself up from there. I didn’t make it, but I did get inverted, so there is that.

I showed up yesterday and worked to capacity. I showed up again today and worked hard and even though I was exhausted, I put in my best effort.

I need to talk nicer to me. I don’t know how, because all I see is what’s not there and I’m unable to appreciate what is.

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I have no idea what the real numbers are, but I’m going to guess that most of the world does not participate in CrossFit. I’m going to also guess that the percentage of old women around the world is even lower than simply the percentage for all people around the world. This is not a usual pursuit for old women.

I also know I’m not the only old woman who does this stuff. The CrossFit Games has a whole slew of women from my age group. I know because lately we’ve been revisiting WODs from the Opens of years past. And there were many, many women brave enough to participate and post scores for the entire world to see.

I am not that brave.

I am still brave enough to show up. I’ve been showing up for over four years now. Just today, we were talking about CrossFit memberships and the perseverance of the members. When I showed up on that hot August Saturday to try a class, I couldn’t even finish. I cried the first time I was there. Ryan said it was all scalable and as long as I showed up, they would work with me.

There were several people there that day, all doing better than I did. I’m the only one still there, still getting by as best as I can. Still showing up. I should be really proud of that. I didn’t quit. Not any of the times I’ve felt like just quitting. I always found an excuse to try again even in the face of abject failure and complete disappointment.

I began in the valley, far below sea level. I began to inch my way higher and higher. I’ve worked hard to push myself past obstacles which seemed totally insurmountable. Instead, I overcame them.

Not a single one of my one rep maxes is over the top impressive, generally speaking. They are all so much more than I had ever imagined possible for this old fart. I dreamed the impossible dream of some day finally being able to deadlift my body weight. Hell, I’m past that by almost 20%. I’m overachieving.

This week we did the workout from the 2015 Open. The last time I did 15.4 I got 40 reps. Not really two years later, but almost, I did it again. This time, doing it exactly as I did back then, I got 60 reps. I improved by 50% over the course of two years. That was freaking awesome and I’m thrilled and elated and I was ready to jump for joy except my heart rate was too high and I had to just sit and box breathe.

And yet, I’m still afraid to say anything too positive about my progress. I’ve reached the foothills. That’s all. I’ve climbed out of the valley and gotten farther than I dreamed possible. But up there, right in front of me, is still an entire mountain to be climbed and I don’t even have any hiking boots.

If I say with any conviction that I’m awesome, someone will point out that I’m just in the foothills and haven’t really done anything worthy of that tag. I’m certain they will. I even know who will be the person to say it. Me. I tell myself this all the time. I don’t know why because I certainly wouldn’t say it to anyone else. But, there I am, talking smack to myself.

I am terrified of success because it might not look like success to anyone else. But who the hell am I trying to impress? I’m the only person who needs to be happy with me. Anyone else happy with me is a bonus. I have to learn to like what I have accomplished. Especially considering how much that is.

Today’s WOD wasn’t nearly as impressive as Tuesday’s was. It wasn’t anything I could compare to an earlier time. It was one of those slog it out things and I scaled it appropriately to allow myself and my heart to get through it. I did. I was awesome. (Right?)

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So does chocolate. How many calories did 37 burpees burn? 

The stories I tell myself aren’t helping. I am my own worst critic and I am hypercritical. I’m a perfectionist. I want and expect the best and only the best. I can remember my father wanting to know why a 98% came back on a test. What did I miss? He, too, was a perfectionist. Life is difficult for those who expect perfection because, you see, it doesn’t really exist except in Plato’s cave.

I went to my introductory free CrossFit class and was unable to do one single solitary thing. I couldn’t even finish the class. With tears in my eyes, I asked if this was even possible for me and Ryan said that CrossFit was all scalable and I could do it if I tried.

I tried. I cried. I cried more than I thought I would, but I kept trying. Eventually, I could do some of the warm-up. Took a while to get that far. But you have to start where you are, another dictum of CrossFit.

It is all scalable.

I know this. I know that I can always modify the move, drop the weight, change the rep scheme. It is ALL scalable. There are even a variety of scaling options for every damn thing. It is truly all scalable just so geriatric jocks like me can participate.

It is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it, regardless of what the “it” is. But life is just one damn thing after another and so it is hard. Working out is hard. Being so out of shape you get winded climbing half a flight of stairs is hard. Choose your hard. I choose to work out. And then I tell myself stupid stories.

My stories almost always have the word “should” in there somewhere. I’ve been at this for over three years, so I SHOULD be able to do this or that. I should be able to move this weight by now. I should be like Eli, a 23 year old male who has been a competitive swimmer and is awesome shape. I should have conquered my wonky heart rate issues long ago. I should RX stuff.

That’s the part that’s killing me. I should RX stuff. I have no idea why I think this. I know there were women at the CrossFit Games this year that were my age and able to do freakishly awesome things. One old lady did a thruster with my deadlift weight. What is wrong with me?

Well, I’m not a professional jock, for one thing. I have no idea what that awesome lady’s history was but I know for certain that she isn’t me. I have no idea what sacrifices she made in order to get to that point, how many hours she worked at lifting, how she spent her entire adult life. I only know that she is awesome and I cannot match her work. She was the top old lady in the games and so I’m not supposed to be able to match her. No one else is Rich Froning, either.

Each time I scale anything, I tell myself the story of failure. My friends not from the gym think I’m a bit crazy for doing this. They think my deadlift weight is a ridiculous amount for an old lady to lift. I look at it as only slightly more than another old lady’s thruster weight. Why do I do this to myself? I have no idea. I want more. I work hard. I should be better.

But better than what? I am better than when I started. I can squat ass to grass without folding over or anything. I don’t need a PVC pipe to be able to lunge down the mat. I don’t use the kid med ball for wall balls. I can manage pull-ups with a band and even chest bar with bands. Every single lift has weights on my weight. My heart rate is still high, but only because I’m doing so much more than I used to be able to even dream of. And I’m still not happy. I’m still looking at scaling as failure.

The story I tell myself is stupid. I’m not trying to be a professional athlete. I’m not hoping to get to the Games. I’m just being awesome three times a week. I go, I modify, I conquer, I work hard. I need to congratulate myself for this. Yes, there are people who do more, achieve more, work harder and longer, and are awesome. But I don’t know if they know how to save lives and conquer disease, take a computer apart and put it back together, or even if they can write a cogent sentence. I am capable of many things.

I don’t ever want to climb a rope. I’m pretty sure HSPUs are not ever going to happen for me since my fear of even getting up on the wall is extreme. But I can do much more than I could three years ago. And I have muscles instead of flab. And I’m at the box three times a week, working hard at my scaled WODs. I need to learn a different story. Scaling is the goal, not the fail point. Making this possible isn’t failure. Working hard is hard work.

Katrin Davidsdottir is safe, at least from me. It’s okay. There can only be one of her and she has that job. I just need to be me, the most awesome scaling geriatric jock in this room.

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