Chuck Wong hanging around in Mill Valley
Some thoughts about The Open from the Dr.
“I forgot to submit my score!”
Those are the words that came out of my mouth at 1:12am Saturday, as I hit TJ on the belly next to me in bed.
“It’s not Sunday yet,” he reminded me.
And then I was up for hours, all sorts of things muddling around in my little head.
Just before that moment I was deep into a bizarre dream about a special hiking bra for women with breast implants post-mastectomy. In my dream, I was chatting with Brad Ludden, founder of First Descents, an organization I highlight in my book. Brad and his crew lead outdoor adventure trips for young adults with cancer, and a large part of the mission is creating community for this group. In my dream, I was consulting with Brad about the utility of this new bra design—comfort, efficiency for mountaineering, aesthetic. We were trying to figure out how to make the best bra possible for this very worthy purpose.
And that worthy conversation, albeit in a dream, was rudely interrupted by the part of my unconscious mind that was lingering over the CrossFit Open. Such a great metaphor for the conscious experience I’ve had over the past few weeks with the Open.
Mostly, I love the Open. It’s a great opportunity for communities to come together and cheer on their members, regardless of ability level or competitive desires. It’s a time for people to get out of their comfort zones and reach personal bests or at least cry while trying. It’s a chance for competitors to see how they stack up week after week, and to test themselves and their training against CrossFitters from around the world. It gives some structure to training and allows for goal direction for many CrossFitters—which is something I know has huge benefits for many of our athletes.
In addition to some of the obvious challenges that something like the Open entails, there were some especially hard parts for me and TJ. Managing the logistics of the competition for a gym with four locations and four teams is no easy task. TJ and I have been working through all sorts of complications since the Games last July, and we’ve always known there’d be no way to please everyone. We were constantly keeping apprised of the rules of CrossFit HQ, which evolved over time and drove our decisions.
TJ has not had a day off since the Open started back on Feb 22nd. He has literally spent every Thursday, Fri, Saturday, and Sunday rotating gyms, cheering on competitors, validating performances, and making sure each team upheld the highest of standards for these workouts. Our kids have been dragged to far too many “competitions,” as we’ve come to call them, since every time I did my workouts, TJ had to be present. I would have liked to have been able to cheer on more of our athletes (I find I’m far better at that than competing, myself), but it just wasn’t possible given parenting duties and kid activities. I’ve talked with some trusted friends who also have large CrossFit communities, and I take comfort in knowing that the juggle of the Open is not unique to us, though since we are blessed with multiple locations and eager athletes, the job was definitely bigger at TJ’s than elsewhere. It’s a great problem to have and a fortunate challenge to face, and with each year we will attempt to further refine the process, always knowing we will never please everyone but will try to please as many as possible.
But by far the hardest part of the Open for me was participating and trying to help our Mill Valley team during a time when my priority outside of my family was launching my first book. I knew going into the Open that I wouldn’t be getting after it with 100% of myself, and I also knew that my amazing teammates would perform well enough that our chances for qualifying for Regionals would not be threatened by my less-than-optimal approach. Still, performing those workouts week in and week at some percentage of my most focused CrossFit self was extremely difficult. I know many of you can relate to posting a score when you want to scream to the world that it wasn’t your best day or you were sick or you had a bad day at work or you hurt your back the day before.
Doing 150 wallballs three days before my book launch event was pure torture for me. I have never done 150 wallballs in one sitting. I am traumatized by wallballs and in fact, Kelly Starrett, physical therapist and mobility guru, told me two years ago that the best thing for me and my broken thoracic area would be to never, ever do another wallball in my life. I asked him for a Dr. note before that second-to-last Open workout, but no go. So there I was, in wallball hell, at a time when I was thinking about my welcome speech and how much food I’d need and what gifts to give my panel members and how to be sure nobody in the audience left feeling anything but inspired and appreciated for coming.
Am I better for having done those wallballs? I don’t know. I’m sure there’s some part of me that can check off the “I did 150 wallballs so what’s the big deal about wallballs,” box, but that box is shadowed by the “yeah, but they were only to a nine-foot target” asterisk in my little mind. I definitely overcame one fear during the Open—the fear of having lice in our home for the first time. That happened during week two I think. 24 hours lost to laundry, nit-picking, and writing big, fat checks to the nice woman whose job it was to tell me how many eggs, babies, and grown lice bugs, our girls and I each had sucking blood from our respective scalps. So now that I’ve been there to lice hell, I’m not so afraid of it any more. Not because it wasn’t absolutely horrible, but because we’ve survived it once, so I know we can do the same if/when it comes again.
And then there was my book event, planned for the final Tuesday of the Open. Yes, that’s right, way back when my publisher asked me what day I wanted my book to be released—it had to be a Tuesday, because that’s the day books are released—I thought long and hard and decided the night before the final workout of the Open was announced would be a good time to release into the world a book about the power of community, especially highlighting its force in the CrossFit world. What better time to harness the energy and excitement around community than when CrossFitters worldwide would be united in one shared experience? It turned out that my plan was great for exactly those reasons. But I hadn’t anticipated the battle for my attention and energy that the planning, work, and psychological focus on my event would wage against my Open self. Some people who are less high-strung than I might have handled the process far more gracefully, accepting that we all have full plates and can’t do everything as optimally as we’d like. But for reasons I may never understand, it bothered me that I wasn’t performing with the kind of intention and focus that I would have liked accompanying me each week in the Open. I was stressed and exhausted—maybe more from worrying about it all than from actually doing it!
At 3:00am the morning of my book launch, our nine-year-old came into our bed, vomiting from one of those stomach bugs that inhabits kids as quickly as bees sting them—without notice or fanfare. A few deep breaths into holding her hair while she vomited into the toilet, and I resigned myself as I and parents worldwide have so many times before, to accepting that the day ahead was out of my control and that all I could do was hope for the best. It didn’t help that my left eye was swollen almost shut from having fed the guinea pigs their hay the night before, or that I had to walk down staircases backwards because of those freaking wallballs. What mattered in that moment was that our daughter needed help, and her stomach bug could give two hoots what I had going on that night.
It turned out that what I had going on that night was an amazing expression of the power of community and the kindness of people who care about each other. As I mentioned in my opening remarks that night, my biggest fear was that I would be looking out at ten of my closest friends, my parents, and TJ smiling proudly at me and the panel members, some of whom had traveled from the East coast to be with us. Instead, I looked out at 300 people. 300 of you and your friend and relatives who made the effort in support of me, my book, TJ’s Gym, our community, and the goodness among all of the connections within it. For a couple of hours, I didn’t think about the Open or competing or caring about how strong or fit I was or how the Open was going for our athletes or which of our teams would qualify. I didn’t think about how we were going to manage the ballet rehearsal drop-offs and the play practice and soccer games with TJ needing to go from Mill Valley, to Corte Madera, to San Rafael, to Novato. I was so focused and happily overwhelmed by the great group of people who are part of our lives because of this endeavor, that none of that mattered.
If I tried to thank people publicly in this forum now, I would surely leave out somebody important. I am hoping to email as many of you as possible who made it to the Mill Valley Community Center last Tuesday night and jammed the parking lots and made for standing-room-only event in the Cascade Room. Suffice it to say for now that the showing of support meant the world to me and TJ, and we continue to feel blessed and lucky to have been a driving force behind the creation of this amazing and powerful community.
So for those of you who competed in the Open, congratulations to you! For those of you who cheered on fellow athletes, thank you! You are as much a part of their performances as they are. And if you are caught up in the rankings, wishing you’d done one more rep or maybe thirty, worried about what this means for you moving forward or what’s the point of it all…the good news is that life is bigger than a few workouts. Even if your standing as a CrossFitter is important to you, that perspective is equally sound. What we can all take away is that putting yourself out there in any endeavor—be it a competition, a race, writing a book, being a parent, being a friend, doing good work, whatever—requires coming to terms with the battles within—the parts of yourself that want or need to focus on something else at a time when your focus is needed on that endeavor.
Really all of life’s choices and commitments can be seen as battles between parts of ourselves. The part that wants to get fitter and the part that wants to relax on the couch eating bon bons. The part that wants to be well-read and the part that wants to watch Jersey Shore. The part that wants to be an attentive parent and the part that wants a massage. The part that wants to be a great runner and the part that wants to be a great photographer. The part that wants to take on the Open and the part that wants to promote a book….Perhaps it’s not a matter of figuring out which part will win next time you take on something. Perhaps it’s more a matter of coming to terms with the fact that we are complicated beings, and it’s unlikely that 100% of ourselves will ever be applied to one effort. And that’s ok.
Tabata Intervals (20 on:10 off x 8 each)
A. Med ball clean (20/14)
B. Row (calories)
C. Push Press (75/55)
D. SDHP (75/55)
Score = Total reps for each
Out of Town WOD
Tabata Intervals (20 on:10 off x 8 each)
A. Squat , rest 2min
B. Jump Rope, rest 2min
C. Push Ups
Score = Total reps for each