August 11, 2017

Day 1 of the 2017 CrossFit Games

The day before the CrossFit Games 2017, my coach sent me this text

“For those about to rock….
Victory hides in the darkness…

Best wishes to you guys!”

I was unaware at the time how true those words would ring, but I am so thankful that my coach and gym warriors prepared me to go deep into the darkness and hang out for a bit during the months of two and three-a-days.

After an 18th place finish in the run, swim, run event I had quite a ways to go and had to endure time in the pain cave in order to claw my way up the leaderboard.

It began on June 26th when the swim was announced. Panicked, I knew I had five weeks to become a better swimmer. The anxiety doubled when I discovered I could not swim more than 35 meters without stopping and gasping for air. After a disastrous open water swim with gym friends who were seasoned swimmers, I realized that I was very wrong about being functionally fit. It was truly an eye-opening experience for me. Being able to swim is a lifesaving skill – one that we all need, and one that I realized I had to learn quickly.

My good friend and CrossFit buddy Natalie Adams swam with me during that first open water attempt. She recommended that I contact Tracy Hendershot, a triathlon coach who had quickly helped her conquer 1800 meters after just a few sessions. I contacted Tracy immediately and began swimming three to four times a week in addition to my grueling CrossFit training.

Turns out swimming drastically burns calories. In the water your body is burning calories to keep itself warm and I knew that swimming for an hour first thing in the morning would tax me more than the 20-minute assault bike I usually did. Mitch and Tracy were emphatic that I eat more as I already had little body fat to loose. I began tracking my weight closely and eating more. After dropping under my preferred weight of 130 pounds I began eating whatever I wanted (mainly healthy, complex carbohydrates to fuel me through).

On the first day of the 2017 CrossFit Games, I knew that if I touched the lifeguard’s kayak I would receive a DNF. I also knew that I had to run 1.5 miles, swim 500 meters and run 1.5 miles within a one-hour time cap – something I knew would be one of the hardest challenges I’ve personally faced. I had already tested the event out the Saturday before the games began, and it had taken me 58 minutes. So while I knew I could make the one-hour time cap, I knew I would have to truly push myself to make it count. I secretly began praying for thunderstorms so that they would cancel the first event.

We lined up at 12:30 P.M. and were ready to take off when we were told to turn around and head back in because a huge thunderstorm was heading our way. Instead of feeling relieved, I refused to let myself believe I was getting out of that swim. Sure enough, at 2:30 we were told to report to check in at 3:30, and we took off at 4:00 P.M.

Running is not my favorite. Look at me – I’m definitely a gymnast, but swimming is my least favorite. Finishing this event became a test of pure grit and courage. I endured many 50 to 60 plus athletes whizzing by me on the run. When I got to the water and discovered that the thunderstorm had blown the buoys out about 200 meters further! All I could really do was wade in and breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle, and side stroke…. some masters around me were clearly terrified and calling for help when they could no longer touch the lake bottom. My daughter was on shore anxiously asking her boyfriend if it was me every time a female masters athlete was pulled out from the water.

As I approached the first buoy I suddenly realized that if I were to begin drowning the lifeguards (all two of them!) would probably not even notice. So, I had two choices: turn around, swim back to shore and take a DNF, or swim as well and as fast as I could. I decided that swimming back to shore wouldn’t be that much shorter than finishing the event, so I chose my second option.


I would be lying if I said everything went great after that and I had no more moments of panic. That wasn’t the case. I ended up doing elementary backstroke (to keep my panic at bay) and sidestroke on my right side for most of the time as I chanted to myself “stroke and glide, stroke and glide”.

I finally made it to shore, slipped on my running shoes and ran as fast as I could that last mile and a half. I passed some of those 50 to 60 plus athletes and beat the one-hour time cap by 12 minutes. I placed 18th out of 20 but for me, this was a victory won in the darkness.

19 Comments on “Day 1 of the 2017 CrossFit Games

Donna McGow
August 12, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Wow! That is a true testimony to mental toughness. Thanks for sharing.

August 12, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Love you, mom! So proud of all your hard work & overcoming your fears ❤️

Monica Taino
August 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm

You are an inspiration! Following your story keeps me motivated! Thank you.

Shellie Edington
August 12, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Wonderful! We must encourage one another to be strong and to constantly strive to become the very best version of ourselves!

Shawnda Ruffner
August 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm

It was an absolute honor to watch you battle this year in the Crossfit Games. You are my hero! Thanks for being you ❤

Greg Jernigan
August 12, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Way to dig deep! Thanks for sharing your journal!

August 12, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Thanks for sharing Shellie and know that I had many of the same fears and I remember at one point on the way out to the first buoy I was scared and panicking and you were there telling me to stay calm and just breathe!! You helped me even in a moment when you too were trying to stay calm that my friend is beyond special😘💪🏻 Thank you so much for helping more than you know!

Shellie Edington
August 13, 2017 at 2:03 am

Hi Kerrie,

You did amazing girl! Such an honor to compete with you!

Have a wonderful rest of summer,

August 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for sharing your story! You are truly an inspiration!

Alicia Kastner
August 12, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Great post & congrats on overcoming your fear. Please keep the recaps coming!

Paula Nichols
August 12, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Thanks for sharing, such an inspiration!! Swimming is most def my least favorite

Joan Morte
August 12, 2017 at 9:01 pm

I’ve done a few tri’s but pool water is one thing and an open swim is altogether a different animal! So glad that you won over this beast!!! Congratulations!

Karen Arnold
August 13, 2017 at 2:25 am

Thank you for sharing this! It was such a joy to watch you compete and this testament of mental strength is so motivational!

August 13, 2017 at 2:46 am

Awe you are an amazing women so strong an admitting your fears that you fought through is a step at getting better proud of you so happy I met you and our children being together!! Thank you to a beautiful woman inside and out

Tracy OConnell
August 13, 2017 at 11:24 am

Hi Shelly! I was just reading this as I sit and eat my breakfast. First, you are very inspiring. I follow you through Instagram and love all your post. Second I competed in the 45-49 age group this year and want you to know we share a similar experience. I too was a gymnast and… swimming was forbidden. It would mess our hands up and make our Legs weak so our coaches would say.
It was my first time qualifying for the games and i never thought they would make Masters swim. I started swimming June 1st just in case. My first lesson I barely could make it 25 m without feeling Like I am as going to die. I thought nbd they won’t make us swim. Boy was I wrong. When they announced the swim I cried! I stressed and thought about it everyday! I swam everyday leading up to the games minus 4 days I just didn’t have it in me.

It literally sucked the life out of me. I lost weight too… ate everything in sight and still dropped from my 120 to 117.

I did finish the swim and placed 10th in that event but that’s only because I love running. I was the first one in the water for my age group but the swim took forever. I also heard people crying for help which made me anxious.

All I can say is I plan on swimming a lot this year and that it is nice to know I am not alone! Crossfit definitely uncovers ones weaknesses and in the end makes you stronger! Thanks so much for sharing your story!!

Shellie Edington
August 13, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Thanks Tracy for sharing your story also! Great job on the Run, Swim, Run! I hope that we can meet each other one day.

Joy Strand
August 14, 2017 at 12:54 am

Thanks for sharing! I am an aspiring 40+ masters athlete, and am facing some of the same feelings as the Granite Games approach with their version of the swim… ugh! It is reassuring I’m not alone!
Great job! A victory for you!!!

Craig Meyers
August 14, 2017 at 2:30 am

You faced your fears and danced with the demons! Thats is a champion.
That fear of the dark open water is oh so familiar lol.
Thanks for sharing that story!

Delvin Harshaw
August 16, 2017 at 3:05 am

Hi Ms Shellie,

I just wanted you to know, I read you story to Addison from your tumbling class as she was so impressed by your courage to continue.
She says you are a Super Hero and she misses you.


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