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.