By Megan Parker and Jennifer Burns
There was a moment during the Superfit Richmond CrossFit competition when I locked eyes with my partner Bethany and said, “I will never ever do this insanity again,” as I flopped over the bar in an attempt to do a bar-over-burpee. I really felt confident that was true. I hated every minute of that entire day; I couldn’t breathe, I almost vomited – twice, and I couldn’t move for days after! So how did I find myself at a gym in Farmville competing again? I found another awesome partner, and I wanted a do over.
This summer Megan Parker messaged me, “Soooo what if I found a partner competition and you were my partner?” After a much too wordy response where I felt the need to give her a full history of my thoughts on and abilities in CrossFit, I gave a timid, “I’d love to. But don’t forget I’m old and weak.” She was to be the heavy lifter and I’d take care of any pull ups that were thrown at us. As it turns out there were no pull ups and in the end she handled the pushups in our last work out in such a way that I couldn’t believe she had the nerve to say, “I can’t do pushups.” I bet she can probably do pull ups too.
The main reason I was hesitant to agree to compete with her (besides feeling insecure and inadequate… did I mention how strong she is?) is that I haven’t really been doing much CrossFit lately. Right now I’m focusing on building the strength to eventually be able to compete in an “Rx” competition without injuring myself. I tend to overthink and get REALLY neurotic about stuff like this, so my current plan and training is working toward a pretty long term goal. I wasn’t sure about interrupting focus on the barbell class, but I also wasn’t sure I’d have the time to do many WODs on top of barbell. However, in the end, it has been a year since my last competition of any sort and I’ve missed having something like that in the short term to look forward to. I decided to go for it. When Megan messaged me about the Festivus Games, I knew it would be perfect. According to their registration recommendations we both fell pretty solid into the “intermediate” category (it is a novice and intermediate only competition), and on their own all of the work outs looked do-able.
The real question was going to be, “Can I do 5 or 6 workouts in the same day?” Did I ever attempt it prior to competition day? No. Did I begin to fall apart and long for a nap by 1 p.m.? Yes. However, the pressure of knowing my work output affected someone else’s score absolutely pushed me through some sticking points. Perhaps I should pretend every WOD I do is a partner WOD.
For the past two years, I have stuck to mostly barbell classes 4x per week with some CrossFit-like workouts during personal training with Matt. Since August I have switched to only CrossFit classes 4x per week with barbell-like work during personal training. I gained a lot of strength during the many rounds of barbell as seen in the numbers below:
- Back squat 5RM: 180# to 235#
- Front squat 5RM: 150# to 213#
- Snatch: 88# to 128#
- Clean and Jerk: 130# to 170#
Now that I felt more confident with the barbell portion of workouts, I wanted/needed to address my lack of gymnastic and cardio abilities. It has been a great transition! I have seen a lot of improvement in my benchmark workouts and general performance. The competition was a great way of seeing how far I’ve come and what I still have weakness on.
Anyway, I texted Jenn every single day for a week about what to pack, what our plan was, how we would recover, what I was nervous about, and any other thought that crossed my mind! The morning of the event we planned to get to the event two hours before the day started. We set up camp, started stretching, and basically freaked out.
Leading up to the event, I stuck with my regular MWF barbell class routine and tried to sprinkle in WOD classes, which ended up being Tuesdays with the occasional Wednesday after barbell. I’m pretty sure I rucked stairs on a few early Saturday mornings too. All of the workouts except the finals WOD for the competition were posted on their website, so I probably should have done those at least once each. Alas, I didn’t.
Fall can be pretty crazy at home so I was purposely trying NOT to be neurotic and treated this as a fun workout day with a friend. We also never trained together as our schedules didn’t link up easily. For the most part this was all ok except that I KNEW there would be a wall ball followed by snatches workout and I KNOW I am the worst at wall balls AND snatches. I practiced wall balls once I think, and during the competition, I nearly lost the lead we had gained.
Moral of the story: If I KNOW there is a glaring weakness that will be in the competition maybe I should work on that more than once. Thankfully Megan had been working hard in the WOD classes and she blew through her half of the wall balls and snatches like a pro. While I may not have been working “enough” on things that get my heart rate up, the results from a few months in barbell absolutely showed. Six months ago, I couldn’t have done half the 65 lb snatches that I did that day, and on the barbell complex WOD I hang-power cleaned and (with zero back strain) front squatted for 2 reps, 12 lbs more than the last 1 rep max front squat I painfully slowly squeaked out a year ago.
Event 1 and a floater WOD later, we both felt really good. Like, first place really good! We both put up big numbers on a clean complex and couldn’t have been happier. As we listened to the rules for the second WOD we both started to panic. We hadn’t really practiced or planned for a certain part of the WOD. We had about two minutes to figure it out, and after that it was just going to have to work. The entire WOD I kept thinking, “Don’t fail, Jenn!” I did more burpees unbroken than I ever have in any WOD at the gym.
After the second WOD, I realized that partner competitions are my thing. I will push myself way beyond the point of exhaustion, I become comfortable in the pain cave, I find strength I never knew I had, and I bang out more unbroken reps than I thought I could. After the third WOD I knew we made a great time; Jenn is an amazing partner who never stops moving! I would be bent over trying to keep my lungs in my chest and she would be banging out reps like it was nothing!
The last event was the “super-secret-finals WOD,” so we had no idea what it would end up being. Turns out it was all synchronized movements, two of which were variations that I hadn’t ever done in a workout (or at all for the American Style Kettlebell swings), so I was pretty awkward. It was also a 21-15-9 with a 6-minute time cap. I 100% forgot there was a time cap so on our round of 15 I took breaks trying not to completely smoke my grip strength for the 9’s, and poor Megan was bewildered wondering why I’m stopping when there’s 30 seconds on the clock. This was a moment of self-discovery: In “competition mode” I apparently go into my own little world seeing and hearing nothing around me. I pretty much never heard any announcements (like, “One minute remaining!”), or no reps (oh, wall balls) during our heats. Watching the other heats I realized announcements were in fact being made loud and clear, but somehow in the thick of it, I heard nothing. I am not sure how to work on that one, other than to be aware of it and therefore purpose to listen.
In the end, we squeaked out the win despite my newbie mistakes and I had a wonderful time spending the day working out with Megan. Double win.
I felt strong after the last WOD and was beyond happy with how our day went. The training in the gym, getting my nutrition in check, and my post-competition schedule helped with getting me back in the gym Monday. I cannot wait for the open!