As most of you may know from seeing me in the gym the last several months, word of mouth around the gym, and/or blog posts…I just competed in the finals of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. I wanted to write this post to give you my perspective of the whole process and to take time to thank every one of you for your help along the way!
Last summer I joined Norcal SC and just one week in, Shawn convinced me it would be a good idea to compete in Level 10 CrossFit’s Summer Strength Challenge. I thought he was bit crazy and hesitated to commit, but I showed up that Saturday morning with butterflies in my stomach not knowing what to expect. I loved it! Not only was it fun, challenging and a way to get to know more people…I did surprising well! The Fall Strength Challenge came around and I was so excited. This time I knew more people, knew what to expect and was going to be working out all day along side our very own Natalie Taylor, Katie DeLuca, and Veronica Opazo (now Veronica Graves). Again this proved to be one of the most enjoyable days I have had. I remember during the 3rd workout of the day, Robb Wolf came up to me and said, “You should do The Games this year.” I was intrigued by his suggestion, and was all about it if it was going to be anything like what I was currently doing. I went home to research what exactly “The CrossFit Games” were and was surprised, but excited to train. So, after returning from Christmas vacation in CO, training began the first week of January.
Being a newbie at a competition like this, I was unsure how to approach my training. Talking with the trainers here at Norcal, those that had competed in the games in the past, and doing my own research, the first step was to figure out what my weakness were and to go after them. I had virtually no experience with Olympic Lifting, knew little about gymnastics and technical movements, but I had a gas tank that could go all day. So, the first couple month of my training focused on getting stronger and developing better form on the technical movements. I had a 3-days-on/1-day-off schedule for most of my training with 4 days a week being 2 or 3 workouts a day. Once the Open Competition (first round) came around in April, I started incorporating more serious metcons back into the programming. The mistake some people make when training for a serious event is peaking too early. If my goal was to make the games in July and I was peaking in April, I was going to have an issue. It was mentally hard as an athlete for me to compete when I was feeling “out of shape”, but listening to the other trainers and knowing the importance of periodization I knew this was the correct approach and that my lungs would come back sooner than later…and they did. For the months in between The Open and Regionals and then between Regionals and The Games I allowed some recovery time and then focused on working those elements that I knew still needed fine tuning while continuing to build my metabolic base and maintain (if not gain) the strength improvement I had achieved.
This year CrossFit approached the preliminary rounds a bit differently. They held The Open, where anyone and everyone who had $10 could participate. Every week for 6 weeks CrossFit posted the WOD on Tuesday and by Sunday it had to be completed either at an affiliate and “okayed” by a qualified judge, or it could be completed anywhere with a video submitted as proof. This was an amazing way to get more people to participate. I think the total number of athletes registered for the Open was somewhere around 25,000 people worldwide! Every Saturday I would drive over to Level 10 CrossFit in Oroville where Santos and Megan Reyes were kind enough to let me get my workout done at 9am. This was hard for me as most weeks it was me competing against the clock and myself. But, a huge thanks to Colin Switzer, Lani Bangay, and Marcus Brown for stepping in and being my chasers so I had someone at least moving with me. That helped tremendously! In order to make the next round, Regionals, you had to be top 60. I ended up finishing the Open 3rd in our region.
Regionals were held in San Jose, CA at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. WOW! It was amazing. Even though the weekend was filled with clouds, rain, and slop, the energy in that arena was electrifying. I was so lucky to have a huge support crew (aka: “Team LaBaw”) make it down to root me on all weekend. Without these people, it would have been a whole new ball game. Intimidated as all get out, I headed into that arena on Friday morning with my nerves going crazy and adrenaline flying so high I thought I could take on the world. That’s something as an athlete you have to get a hold of fast in competition or it will be detrimental. Nerves are great, if controlled! The workouts were brutal, my fellow competitors were phenomenal, and the sportsmanship was outstanding.
After a weekend of busting my butt, up and down in placing, and enjoying the heck out of the whole experience…I finished 2nd in the Norcal Region! Taking the top 3 places from our region, I made it to the finals at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA for the 2011 Reebok Crossfit Games! The hard work paid off!
There are no words to effectively describe what this weekend was like, but I will do my best. We were asked to show up on Tuesday (3 days early) for testing, media coverage, and briefing for the weekend. Most athletes had a crew with them, but for a day or so I was on my own. I’m not going to lie, it was incredibly intimating! I walked into the Marriott and immediately saw Mikko Salo, Matt Chan, Annie Thorisdotter…the big names! I was feeling like a small fish in a big sea…more like a minnow. I was directed to a table to check in and then shuffled to a huge room where the fairy tale begins. There was an assembly line set up where we first received our personalized Reebok bag with our name embroidered on it. The next stop we were given our numbered “uniforms” to be worn during competition (10 pair of shorts, 10 sports bras, 4 T-shirts, 3 tank tops). The fitting rooms were there for us to try on our clothes and if alterations needed to be done we returned those items to pick up on Thursday before competition. At this point I felt like a queen! We then were directed to another room where we received a bit more clothing, headbands, socks, and hats and then sized for CrossFit specific cross trainers and Olympic Lifting Shoes. I just kept thinking… “Are they kidding? Do we really get to keep all of this?” It felt like Christmas!
That night we had an athlete-only dinner where all individual men and women athletes had to stand up and introduce themselves in front of everyone. Public speaking is not my strong point, so I literally thought I was going to pee my pants when I had to do this, but I made it through. That may have been the hardest thing all weekend. LOL!
Wednesday we had a swim test (just to make sure none of us would drown if swimming was in one of the workouts), media coverage (interviews, photos, etc), and orientation of the Home Depot Center…WOW!! I mean WOW!!! This place is huge..it goes on and on and on. That night a dinner was held for all CrossFit Games participants and coaches (Masters Men and Women, Teams, and Individual Men and Women). I can tell you without a doubt, that was the fittest room I had ever been in. Everyone was healthy and strong! At this dinner they announced the first workout of the event…210m swim in the ocean, 1500m run in the soft sand, 50 chest to bar pull-ups, 100 hand-release push ups, 200 squats, 1500m run in the soft sand. OMG!!! When that was announced the entire room had a second of silence and then it was a bit of chaos. Here goes nothing…
Thursday we had a field trip to Santa Monica Pier where Event 1 was to be held to get a safety briefing on the ocean and the sand and test out the water. I’m not a swimmer and at that point I had never really actually swum in an ocean…so I didn’t know what to expect. The rest of the day was filled with media stuff and logistics for the rest of the weekend.
I won’t list here all the details of each event, but you can check them out and watch the archives at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games website. The athletic ability demonstrated all weekend was out of this world. With 10 workouts in 3 days, my body and those of the other athletes were tested beyond words. But the energy in the stands, the drive in our hearts, and the determination to do the best we could got us through one of the most grueling, exciting, challenging, and rewarding accomplishments of our lives.
I was unsure of what exactly the CrossFit Games were all about. Not until the last week, now that it is all said and done, did I realize exactly what I had accomplished. I set out in December to train for the competition of “The Fittest on Earth.” It sounded like fun to me! With athletic experience and a competitive drive, I had the first steppingstone to a sea of new experiences. My body has done more than I thought it could do. I am the strongest I have ever been. I am a better athlete than when I started. I am a better coach than when I started. It was an emotional roller coaster with every feeling you could imagine – excitement, disappointment, anxiety, loneliness, thankfulness, discouragement, and exhilaration. The list goes on and on…but mostly I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and the ability to have done what I’ve done.
I encourage each of you to step out of your comfort zone and do something you don’t think you can do. Our bodies are enabled by our minds…let your mind believe you can do it and you’ll be surprised at what your body can perform.
This has been quite the journey and most of you were a part of it some way or another. It may have been a “high-five” after a workout, a “congrats” after my return from regionals, a Facebook post wishing me good luck, or just the thoughtfulness of asking how training was going. For that I thank you all! We pride ourselves on our sense of community here are Norcal Strength and Conditioning and in the last few months since Regionals I have directly felt the love and support that we strive for here.
A HUGE thanks to Build.com, Fragoso Chiropractic, and Chico Community Acupuncture. Also, I wouldn’t have been able to have made it without Marcus Brown (my rock!), my family, Karina and Lani Bangay, Natalie and Colin Switzer, the trainers here at Norcal (Robb, Nicki, Shawn, Chrissy, Katie, Natalie, Matt, Betsy), Andy Deas, Chris and Melissa Friedland, Brent Holland, John and Sarah Fragoso, Julie Lemon, Shawn Crossley, Katie Phillips, Marcus Cardenas, Becka Robertson, Roz Jungwirth, Wade DesRosier, Beth Berry, Amy Piper, Santos and Megan Reyes, Kelly Starrett, and Carl Paoli.
Recover a bit, enjoy the remainder of my summer and then….
CrossFit Games 2012 here I come! Who’s coming with me??