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The Belle of Bayside 2014

November 29, 2014

I retired from roller derby at the end of 2012. I was coming off the best year of my career and after 7 years of being involved in the sport, it was time. I do still miss it, or aspects of it, at least, but I was lucky enough to have already discovered something else to fill any potential holes left by leaving derby behind.

That something else was CrossFit.

OK, I KNOW, lots of people are like, “Ew, Crossfit, it’s so bad for you, it’s a cult, blah blah blah” but you know what? I don’t care. I like it. If you don’t, fine. I don’t care what you do to work out, if it works for you. I do what works for me. This guy does a better job than I could of articulating my feelings about other people’s feelings about CrossFit, so just go read what he has to say and imagine that I’m saying the same thing. There are a lot of people who have similar thoughts about roller derby, so I suppose I’m used to it already (except nobody ever tells me, “Aren’t you too small to do CrossFit?”).

So, yes, CrossFit. I started in January of 2012 at CrossFitNYC and fell in love pretty much instantly. I started as a way to supplement my derby training, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that my skill level at derby increased as I increased my concurrent involvement in CrossFit. It was tough to do 3-5 derby practices and 2-3 CrossFit WODs a week at the same time, but I managed for 10 months until my last derby bout in November 2012. It was also really nice to make friends outside of derby, which is notorious for isolating people from their friends and family. Having my CrossFit friends really cushioned the blow when I left derby and decided to concentrate on CrossFit as my main fitness involvement.

Since November 2012 I’ve gone to three or four, and sometimes five, WODs per week. In April 2013 I did the Civilian Military Combine for the first time, and, disappointed in my inability to run between obstacles because I wasn’t conditioned enough, I took up running the next week. Supplementing my CrossFit training with a weekly run of three to seven miles (and a few of 10+), I competed in a few 5Ks and then a couple of 5-milers and 10Ks, and finally did my first half-marathon in May of 2014 (the Brooklyn Half, finishing in 1:51, well beneath my goal of 2:05). At the same time, I’d been logging my workouts and able to track my progress over time, and it was nice to see gains in skills such as the amount of weight I could lift and progressing from pullups with a thick black band to being able to do them without any band at all. CrossFit appeals to the quant nerd in me because it’s extremely easy to quantify your progress in terms of time and poundage.

Eventually I got involved enough to go earn my CrossFit Level 1 certification, and toyed with the idea of becoming a coach. I still like this idea, but more about that another time. Still, the one thing I adamantly did NOT want to do was compete. I did the CrossFit Open in 2013, skipping a couple of the WODs because they were physically impossible for me (I didn’t have a 95# clean at the time and wasn’t even close to getting one–that has since changed), and I did all five Open WODs in 2014 and performed respectably well but definitely not to the point of moving further to regionals. I’m realistic–competing at the regional or national level will likely never happen for me. I’m pretty small and it is physically impossible for me to move the amount of weight needed to compete at that level, no matter how hard I train. Also, I’m 35, turning 36 in two weeks and I’d be competing against lots of women who are 10-15 years my junior. Maybe I’ll be able to do Masters when that time comes, assuming I’m still CrossFitting.

Anyway, competing was not a thing for me. My friend Saphia had expressed some interest in it, and she convinced me to go to an informational meeting about trying out for the CFNYC competition team, and I went mainly for moral support. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I couldn’t do it, it was that I really didn’t want to. I had already been through this with derby. What started as a fun hobby eventually ended up taking over way too much of my life, and more often than not toward the end it was an obligation or chore instead of something I did because I enjoyed it. I didn’t want that to happen with CrossFit. One of the main appeals of CrossFit for me was that I could pop in, socialize, get a good workout in an hour, leave, and have no further obligation to it at all. Competing would create an obligation, with minimum numbers of WODs per week, longer WODs overall, and I was very reluctant to even begin going down that road lest all the fun get sucked out of my CrossFitting experience.

I had articulated this to Saphia, so I can understand why she was slightly hesitant to ask me if I wanted to be her partner for an upcoming women-only competition, the Belle of Bayside. It was a partner competition, and she really wanted to do it, and was looking for a teammate. I hemmed and hawed at first but figured, it was one time, sure, why not, and we signed up.

Comp day came much more quickly than I’d anticipated. Two weeks ago we joined 47 other teams in Long Island City at 9 in the morning to get this thing done. Three WODs, four if you were in the top eight teams. We knew some of the other women we were competing against, given that many of the teams were also from CFNYC, so the goal was modest–just finish and don’t come in last (not that there’s anything wrong with last–last still finishes ahead of those who didn’t try at all).

The first WOD was a complex of 1 clean, 2 front squats, and 1 jerk. Four minutes to warm up, five minutes to find your heaviest weight, score was the total combined weight of both teammates. Saphia lifts more than I do, so I was just going to get in and get my sets, she’d use the same weight to warm up to her heavy set, and the goal was to get her to go as heavy as possible. I was aiming for 93 pounds, 15 below my 1 rep max for this sort of thing, but it was something I knew I could nail.

I hit 93# with no problem in the warmup. So a minute into the WOD, I attempted 108#, my max, and got it. It wasn’t the prettiest split jerk around, but the judge took it, and so we changed the weights around for Saphia to go heavier. Except we got confused with the weights and I’m pretty sure she did a rep at 118# and then one at 113#, as we only had a limited assortment of weights and we miscounted when we switched some plates around. Oh well, we still did better than anticipated, both of us. I regret not attempting 113#.

Second WOD was an 8 minute long AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 9 burpees over the bar, 6 hang power cleans at 65#, and 3 thrusters at 65#. This was after a 100 double under buy-in that both teammates could work on one at a time. Then the 9-6-3 was alternating partners. Saphia and I had a plan for this that we had practiced the week before. She started the double unders and then when she failed, I took over. Lather, rinse, repeat. I had a little bit of a hard time getting going, which happens sometimes, but overall, Saphia killed the DUs, and we managed to start the AMRAP at about 90 seconds in. We were in the third heat, and had already seen several teams who were severely limited by the time it took them to do the double unders. So I felt pretty good about that. We managed to get in 6 full rounds (3 each). Not bad!

The third WOD was a chipper. Two rounds for time, 10 minute time cap of:  75 Russian kettlebell swings (16kg), 50 weighted step ups on a 20″ box with the aforementioned 16kg kettlebell, and 25 deadlifts at 155#. We’d also practiced some of this the week before and knew that the deadlifts were a little bit of a struggle for me (I’m good for 5 at a time at that weight, but Saphia was able to bang out 10-15 with no problem–how does that work, given that we both have the same 1-rep max of 253#? Methinks that someone can actually do a lot more than a 253# deadlift…). I had done well with the stepups in practice so I was prepared to handle the majority of those. And we both rock at kettlebell swings.

We’d seen a lot of teams before us not finish this WOD with the time cap, so the goal was just to get to the second set of kettlebell swings. The first set we banged right through, 15 or 20 at a time before switching off. Then I set to work on the stepups, and did 20 before handing it off to Saphia, and working through that relatively quickly. Surprisingly, those stepups were much harder than anticipated. My shoulder ached from holding the kettlebell and my legs felt wobbly. The deadlifts weren’t too bad, I did 5, Saphia did 10, I did 5 more and she did 5 more. We had enough time for more kettlebell swings and still had a little over a minute for stepups. I started out and got to 8 before I stood up on top of the box and saw black spots swimming before my eyes. I staggered off the box and handed Saphia the kettlebell, apologizing for not doing more. She got in 10 or 15 before handing me the kettlebell again and I powered through a few more pretty slowly before hitting 28 total and time running out. I felt really lightheaded and was scared I might actually pass out, so I sprawled on the floor to try to catch my breath and stay conscious. I think we were both pretty glad that that was the last WOD of the day for us.

As expected, we did not place top eight and we were more than happy to be spectators for the rest of the competition. Later on in the day, after we all went home, the results were posted online and we saw we’d placed 39 out of 46 (two teams did not finish). I was really proud of us! It was the first comp for both of us and we had a great time.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely. I had a lot of fun, and this was right around the appropriate level of skill and fun for someone at our level of CrossFit ability. I learned a few things: competing with a teammate is awesome, competing is only as serious as you make it, and it’s great fun to be a part of a community where you can compete and support each other at the same time.

You can see how we did here (team Fire And WODder). I have to admit I’m a little disappointed at the lack of creative team names, but that’s the former derbygirl in me talking. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), CrossFit seems to be a much less punny endeavor.

Has this now become a CrossFit blog instead of a (sorta kinda, very rarely updated) derby blog now? Hm…maybe.

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