After a few long, long months of hard training, work, sweat, and tears, WODSunset came last week. It’s rare for there to be an individual category in which I can compete in most Crossfit competitions, so when this one came up, I jumped on it. In our first competition, Gustavo and I were able to compete as a team, but neither of us had the opportunity to test our skills and rankings as individuals. Until last weekend, that is.

The event was all the way out in Niteroi, which is about a 25-minute drive from where we are in Tijuca. We got there early, like really early, as in, before-the-organizers-even-got-there early. I tend to get very anxious on competition day and my personal way of dealing with that is by giving myself as much time as possible ahead of the first workout. (I also happened to be programmed for the very first heat, which started at 7am.)

On the first day, there were three WODS, held in two separate heats.

My squat game is strong, so I was unconcerned about the first workout. I was able to finish in 6:25, or in 28th place on that workout as a whole. I was pretty surprised by how fast I went, even after losing a little bit of time trying to figure out where and who I was supposed to be facing on the single unders.

On the second and third workouts, I died. I started fast on the push-ups until my judge told me to start going 100% strict, a.k.a. put my entire body on the floor before extending up fully. It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that judging can be pretty inconsistent and not everyone was performing the same movement as me which, of course, took more time. I got within three repetitions of finishing but didn’t make the five-minute time cap.

On the last workout of the day, which took place exactly one minute after workout number two ended, I completely broke down. The rope was five meters high, instead of the usual three-and-a-half. I was completely taken off-guard by the height of the rope and the fact that there was nothing underneath it. Just some very intimidating and very hard concrete.

Normally I’m pretty good at rope climbs, but my technique isn’t perfect. I use my arms more than my legs, which means my biceps tire out very quickly and it’s not the most efficient way to perform the movement. Because of that, it took me five tries to complete the second round of rope climbs in that workout, which cut back on my timing significantly. I even had a moment where I stepped back from the rope and was just staring at it, like “I’m not in the gym right now. I can’t walk off, but I can’t just stand here for five more minutes.”

That night, I went home and crashed. It’s weird because it’s not like the workouts are very different from what we do on a daily basis in the gym, but the fact that they’re done outside, in the side, and with so much focus, it’s so much more tiring. A good example of how focused I get is that I never know what music is playing while I’m on the floor until I watch the video after. I just cannot hear it.

Fortunately, the next day started a little bit later and only had two workouts.

Olympic weightlifting is not my strongest, which tends to baffle some of my coaches and Gustavo in particular. When it comes to static strength, like deadlifts, I’m very strong in comparison to my size. With deadlifts, as an example, I can lift about twice my body weight. For cleans, which includes a deadlift at the beginning of the movement, I still haven’t reached my body weight, primarily due to technique and fear.

Going into the clean PR (personal record), I felt pretty confident, but I knew I wouldn’t stand out from the others. My coach walked me through what numbers I should try and had me start much higher than I was originally planning to go. After warming up outside, I opened with a 45kg/99lb clean and hang clean, then moved to 50kg/110lb and, finally, 55kg/121lb, which was a personal best. I tried 60kg/132lb but didn’t make it. I got the bar high enough but didn’t get underneath it into a squat fast enough. It’s good though because I know that I’m close to achieving it with more practice and I still hit a new high for myself.

The last WOD really took me by surprise. It certainly played to my strengths, but I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did. In my heat, I came in third at 8:58. Again, I, unfortunately, lost a little bit of time because my judge struggled with resetting the calories on my bike, but it happens. Throughout all three rounds, I was able to maintain the overhead squats without breaking up any of the repetitions and almost did the same on the toe raises. I think I had one single “no rep” on the whole workout, which was really exciting since overhead squats are a very technical movement. I didn’t start out as the fastest, but because of my consistency, I was able to catch up with a lot of folks.

Going into the competition, I was hoping to stay around the middle or slightly above in terms of ranking. I had dropped a bit after the second and third workouts on Saturday but regained my standing by the end. If I’m honest, I wanted to do better because I tend to be a perfectionist, even if I’m a beginner at something. Nevertheless, taking into account that I’ve only been doing Crossfit for a year and a half, and it’s only my second competition, that’s actually pretty great. Plus, there were a lot of areas where I’ve already improved since the last one, particularly in terms of cardio and, to give myself credit, Olympic weightlifting. The last time we had a PR in our competition, I only hit a 25kg snatch, which was incredibly conservative and light for me.

For fun, Gustavo and I decided to sign up for another competition in a few weeks, in which we’ll be able to compete as a pair. We’re not as focused on this competition as WODSunset since it’s really hard to maintain that level of training and focus for such an extended period of time. Nevertheless, we know that we need to keep working on our cardio and endurance, as well as rope climbs. Each competition is like an immersive experience in which all of your strengths and weaknesses have a spotlight shown on them. After this weekend, I have an even better idea of where I’ve improved and where exactly I still need to do the work.

As a side note, this is the second time I’ve competed in Brazil, meaning everything was in Portuguese. It’s difficult. Because I was by myself this time, there were questions I had or directions I misunderstood that I struggled to communicate. It was something that weighed on my mind before going into each of the workouts, i.e. “What if the judge says I did something wrong but I don’t understand how to fix it?” I’m really curious for the first time I compete back in the United States to see how much that differs and how much it affects my mental focus. What sucked is that the organizers didn’t allow the athletes to talk to the judges so that I could explain to repeat or talk louder when I made a mistake, which is something that makes the competition much more accessible to foreigners (and others who may have injuries, hearing issues, and so on).

After the Survive Challenge, I’m going to take a break for a little bit to focus more on Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. I also (finally!) need to get some credit hours in for my yoga teacher certification, so I’m hoping to take a class when I’m back home to keep that up-to-date and continue to improve my knowledge around movement, anatomy, and mobility, all of which will help with my Crossfit practice as well.

It’s all one big balance. The idea of Crossfit is to be proficient in everything, but an expert in none. (Well, an expert in cross-training proficiency, at least.) Too much focus in one area means a loss in another. It’s an interesting practice to not be too attached to any one number or expectation while I continue to hone my skills in a wider variety of areas. I might get that 60kg clean and a handstand walk, but not be able to squat quite as much. It’s okay, it’ll all build upon itself over time.

All photos by @monteiro.jpg


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