Saturday, May 30, 2015

CrossFit at 31 Weeks and a Half Marathon

It's been since April 19th since my last update on my journey into CrossFit....so quite awhile and a lot can happen in that time span. Today, I'd like to simply gloss over a few things and give you an update after this morning's Medina Half Marathon. I'm not in much of a race report writing mood but I would like to report on it.

I looked back on my 5 1/2 month report on April 19th and my attitude was pretty good back then. No injury, more forward progress, and praise for those who helped get me to that point. In more recent days and weeks, I've stalled out a bit. While I haven't decreased the volume, I also haven't gotten any better. There are some things I know I'm awful at and when those things aren't getting any better...ever...it's discouraging. One of my biggest issues is my squat. The squat is so fundamental to so many things. For me, my back curves badly. My rear end should be sticking out then a nice curve upward. My curve is going the other way. It's a recipe for disaster and injury. This poor form is the anchor in so many things, especially in Olympic lifting. Add lots of lifting into high intensity workouts with garbage form and what result can realistically be expected? This constant struggle along with not knowing how to correct it and continue my upward trajectory has caused a lot of discouragement. I simply can't coach myself or teach myself. Then there is another issue that arose over the past 3 weeks. I'll just let the photo speak for itself:
Those 6 tears happened on ONE workout. It was a Hero WOD that included in it 120 pull-ups. Well not too long ago I shed the band and started doing pull-ups via kipping and nothing else. One thing I learned after this multiple tear is that I should be shaving down my callouses. I guess I should've just known that because no one ever told me. So when I did those pull-ups, the callouses got caught up on the bar and ripped the heck out of my hands. The shower that immediately followed this tear was NOT nice! Oh my my. Even worse, this happened about 10 days before Memorial Day, the day I was targeting the Murph Hero WOD that included 100 pull-ups...a long-standing goal of mine. So over the next week, I did everything I could to let my hands heal until a high-volume workout of pull-ups was introduced only a few days before Memorial Day. Foolish me again...I should've walked away but I didn't. I did it with my healing hands and a ton of athletic tape but it didn't matter. My right hand tore again in a 7th location just inside my right thumb. That workout was my first DNF..."did not finish." I couldn't even grab the bar it hurt so bad. I was fighting to finish it but was moving so slow that the whole gym had cleared out except for two other members. With 10 reps left, I quit. It simply wasn't worth the pain. Who'd notice anyhow? Everyone was gone...and Murph was 4 days away. I went home and Googled the heck out of this injury and how to fix my hands. I decided to not do Murph...my head was in a bad place.

In comes a great friend of mine about 90min to my east. Memorial Day weekend was knocking and another nationwide workout was sweeping boxes from coast to coast called 21 Guns. It was being driven by Team Red, White, Blue (Team RWB) and included running, box jumping, burpees, push-ups and pull-ups. I couldn't get it programmed or offered at my gym so I just figured I wouldn't be doing it...until that Saturday morning. My good CrossFit friend convinced me to figure out how to do it at home. I have no pull-up bar and my hands were trash so I replaced them with 20 second hand-stand holds...against my garage door! For the 24" box jumps, I used an 18" boulder at the end of my driveway. Everything else I could do. 21 Guns was a 21min AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of: 400m run, 21 box jumps, 21 push-ups, 15 burpees, 9 pull-ups. I got in 3 full rounds plus another run, a set of push-ups, and 20 "boulder" jumps. Done! That Sunday, my friend had about FORTY people show up for 21 Guns...FORTY! Ironically, she got the exact same number of reps as me...but she was actually doing pull-ups. Very thankful for the nudge and push from her when I needed it. She's a no-bull kinda girl...tough love...but a great friend that I can always count on, even when I never see her.

But what about Murph? The Murph Hero WOD is a 1mi run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and finally another 1mi run. I originally decided to can it...but in came the self-talk: "Am I too good or proud to scale it down and find a different way? Am I better to sit on the couch?" I decided to re-introduce the band and do strict pull-ups. No swinging around (kipping) at all. It may not be what I originally intended, but it would still honor LT Michael Murphy. I showed up on Monday morning, Memorial Day, and did it...all of it. I did the run then did 20 sets of 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, 15 squats 5 push-ups...then ran another mile. I finished in 48min, 19sec...my first Murph. I will most certainly go back and do Murph legit...unassisted pull-ups and with a 20lb vest. Today, my hands are healing up nicely and I have avoided anything that would tear them. I have, however, done a lot of bar work but have chalked them heavily to minimize the friction. I've also been using healing ointment to get them better faster and keep them moist to prevent cracking as they heal.

Throughout all of this, I decided to look outside the gym at a brand new location only 2 miles away. I took one day 8 days ago to stop in for a workout for free just to see how I liked it and how the coaching/programming worked. Being a totally new startup CrossFit affiliate, there are very few members and no classes are being held. Instead, the coach there is big on individual training and making it whatever it needs to be. He had me squat within a few minutes of walking in the door and immediately pointed out my curved back...a fundamental flaw of mine that has got to be corrected. Fundamentals first! We worked on that, bench pressed, did some arm curls and then he pulled out the sled...a device I had never used before. Basically, it's a metal sled with weights on top of it and it gets pushed over the asphalt. On one side, two high bars get pushed against and on the return trip, you have to get low to push on the lower bar....much MUCH harder! That workout included 6 sled pushes and lots of box jumps and burpees. My wife joined me for the fun as well. (she didn't "appreciate" the sweat-fest as much as I did!) I visited alone a few days ago for a second visit to help me decide if I wanted to make the switch to this new gym and after about 90min there, my rear-end got handed to me again! The sled came out and it was that along with knees-to-elbows and push-presses...4 rounds. Before we even got there, though, I found myself on the rower, doing lunges and a 10min EMOM of deadlifting off the boxes...another first. That curved back was a problem in dead lifts and the rower. I swear...it negatively impacts everything! The push-presses went well, though...just not very heavy but that's ok!
Once the day was a wrap, I had made up my mind. I was making the switch. The quality of one-on-one coaching is something I really appreciate and I know I need the help and he is unwilling to propel me forward until I'm ready. I'm excited about what the future holds when I get some things corrected...as is my new coach. I hope to shed off some of the stagnancy, frustration and poor form and have a blast at doing this along with seeing gains along the way...properly. So far, everyone I have met there has been super nice and with a hand outstretched to welcome me to the family. I'm sure I'll have bumps in the road but I'm encouraged by everything I've seen so far. The one downside in the switch is not seeing many of the new friends I've made over the last 6 months any longer. Thanks to social media, though, I'll stay in touch and hopefully meet up here and there. I've been blessed to meet some really awesome people!

So how about that half marathon?! Well, I ran the Medina Half Marathon this morning. It is an extremely well-executed race that supports some awesome non-profits. Last year, I killed it with a 1:38 finish and 7:33 pace. This morning, however, brought with it 80% humidity....yikes. It wasn't hot but wow, was it moist!!! I decided to run sans shirt (for the first race ever!) and see what happened. The first few miles were fast and on target from last year but within the first 5 miles, I realized that the humidity was going to trump any intentions I had of setting a course personal record. By mile 6, it turned into a slug-fest and I fought for a backup goal of getting in under 1hr, 50min. In the end, my shorts were completely soaked top to bottom but I finished in 1:49:19. That was good for 115 of 874 finishers, 83 of 346 men, 12th of 61 in my age group, and 40th of 176 men in the masters division. (good grief...I can't believe I'm in the masters division!!) Great race and I'm already signed up for 2016!

All-in-all...things are good. I'm excited for what lays ahead and I'm ready to work hard. No huge goals on the horizon...just to be the best I can be and stay injury-free. (oh geez....now I'm rhyming!) Well...there is one small goal. Our first CrossFit competition is the last Saturday of this month out at my friend's gym in PA. My wife and I are both really looking forward to it!

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