performance metrics

Because I have a relatively long commute (45-60 minutes), I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks. It’s great because I’ve been able to “read” so many more books than I ever could before.  Currently I’m listening to “Moneyball”.  I’m not overly interested in baseball, although I enjoy a game and a beer on a cool summer evening, but I like listening to non-fiction books and I’ve already listened to most of what the library has to offer.  So far it’s pretty interesting.  Although I’m still pretty much at the beginning of the book, my current takeaway is that Billy Beane’s perspective on sabermetrics stemmed from his own experiences as a baseball player who was born with all the talent in the world but who never really reached his potential on the field.  I can’t say I relate to having that kind of natural talent, but I did find myself relating to some of the frustrations he experienced that eventually led him to quit playing.  A “mental skills coach” for the Oakland A’s named Harvey Dorfman said this about Billy:

“He believes in his talent.  What he doesn’t believe in is himself.  He sees himself exclusively in his statistics. If his stats are bad, he has zero self-worth.”

This kind of thinking has plagued me my whole life.  I have always lacked self-confidence, and I’ve always had a hard time believing in myself without some sort of external proof that I succeeded.  For example, no matter how many years I’ve been playing field hockey, how many goals I score or tackles I make, I have always been self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t play varsity field hockey in college.  This was a choice I made because I wanted to go to UNC, but I wasn’t good enough to play for their team (they are perennial national championship contenders).  And yet, I constantly feel inferior to other women I play with just because they played for their college teams.  It wasn’t until I made the Maccabi USA field hockey team that I really felt myself relax about it.  It was almost as though someone had finally said to me, “Don’t worry Rachel, you are good at field hockey.”  But I am anxious about how I’ll feel when I go to Israel and all the girls on the team are/were/will be collegiate players (one of whom even plays for UNC…so jealous).  I really hope though that this experience will be a turning point for me to gain some confidence about my playing ability.

I think that this need for external validation is also what drives me to obsess about my performance in CrossFit, and why I’m so damn competitive.  The fact that CrossFit is a performance based fitness program is one of the reasons I fell in love with it.  It wasn’t just another hamster wheel, it was working out with a purpose.  You could almost, sorta win at working out.  Seriously, it was like CrossFit was made for me.  But as I’ve improved and reached a point where I can no longer rely just on natural ability, I’ve started to become frustrated with my limitations.  Every day I think of another thing I need to improve on because if I don’t improve, I can’t be the best and if I’m not the best, how will I know I am any good?  It’s easy for some people to say that you should just give it your all and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but that doesn’t come so naturally to me.  I need a benchmark on which to base my success.  CrossFit provides that and it’s both the beauty and the curse of it for me.  Every workout is measured and we even have benchmark workouts that everyone does and can be used to compare yourself to people around the world.  But it also means that you can always say, “I could have gotten a few more reps” or “I could have gone just a little bit faster”.  Finding peace with those extra reps or lost seconds is a challenge for me, and it’s an even tougher challenge when I’m face to face with a real life competitor who was able to edge me out (or worse, blow me away).  I don’t want to think that I could have tried harder.  But it’s hard for me to accept that I tried as hard as I could when I see someone else who achieved something more. 

Look, I wish that I could be proud of myself for just getting out there and trying, regardless of the outcome.  But at the same time, I like being competitive and I like pushing myself to be the best.  Maybe it’s not always healthy and maybe it can keep me from truly enjoying some things, but I do think that overall my life is better because I have never and will never be satisfied by settling for second best.  I may never achieve the things I set out to accomplish, but I wouldn’t be able to stand up tall if I didn’t say I tried.

Open WOD 13.4

I’m on the plane back from New Orleans now and I was trying to figure out whether I should blog about my evening out with Olivia, the out of control probation focus groups I had to suffer through or the ridiculous court cases I witnessed, but I’m too tired to get into that and mostly there’s just one thing on my mind: this week’s CrossFit Open workout.

The workout, which was announced yesterday, is a 7 minute ladder of clean & jerks and toes to bar. I felt pretty confident going into this workout.  Medium-heavy clean and jerks are probably my best movement and I’ve gotten a lot better at toes to bar since I learned how to kip them.  I tried the workout tonight and finished with 83 reps, which is pretty good although not stellar.  My goal was to at least get to the toes to bar in the round of 15, and I succeeded in that goal, but I still think I could have done better.  I ended up getting too tired to kip the toes to bar later in the workout and that cost me big time. The last round of C&J and T2B took way too long.  Even though I reached my goal of making it past the 15 C&Js, I’m really disappointed in myself because I wasn’t able to get the top female score at my gym (yet).  I missed it by 2 reps and I almost had those two reps!  Once I didn’t get my toes quite to the bar so I got “no-repped” and my last rep just missed the buzzer. It pisses me off so much to have been so close to that top score and yet still falling short (even though the current top score will probably change).  I know that I have another opportunity but I am still mad at myself.  Once again, pretty good isn’t good enough for me.  So I’ll try it again on Saturday and see if I can get another 10 reps, which I think would end up being a really good score.  But again, if it’s not the best score in the gym, I don’t think I’ll be satisfied. I just want to be #1 for once during these 5 weeks!

Trying a blog

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging.  This has primarily come from the fact that I’ve been obsessing about certain things a lot lately and I think my husband has pretty much reached his tolerance for listening to me go on and on about the same stuff over and over again. It’s tough for me to start a blog though because, first of all, it seems so self indulgent. I mean, sure it’s probably therapeutic to write down my thoughts and feelings when I’m frustrated or confused about something, but why do I need to share that over the internet?  I’m still not sure I do but maybe someone who thinks like me will find this blog and find my comments helpful, or provide me with some helpful comments. So I’m going to give it a try.

The other reason I’m wary to start a blog is because I’m a perfectionist and I worry that I won’t be able to write something interesting enough or I won’t pick the right layout or I won’t keep up with posting. I obsess over stupid crap like this, and it keeps me from actually trying, which is why I’ve picked the title, Chasing Perfect, for this blog. I always feel like I’m chasing perfection. Whether it’s something trivial like the fact that I bite my nails or something big like worrying if I’m a good enough friend or wife, I can’t stand the thought that I might have a flaw.  Not only that, but I never feel satisfied with myself unless I’m the absolute best, even if I am still able to excel.

This leads me to my current obsession: the CrossFit Open.  I’m definitely not alone in my obsessiveness about this annual event where CrossFitters around the world (140,000 people signed up this year) compete in 5 workouts to earn the right to compete at Regionals and ultimately the Games, or just see how you stack up against others in your region or the world.  Among my Facebook friends alone I know that people from my gym spend way too much time staring at the leaderboard as it changes every Thursday-Sunday each week  and spend Monday-Wednesday anxiously awaiting the announcement of the workout for the week.  I don’t have any illustions that I will make regionals. Only the top 48 people make it out of almost 3,000 that have submitted scores for all 3 workouts thus far. However, I do want to do really well, and how I define “really well” has a lot to do with how I compare myself to the other women I know. Currently I have the 3rd highest ranking out of all the women at my gym and last weekend I finished among the top 8% in the region. I should be pleased with this.  But I’m not because the distance between me and the top two women in the rankings is much larger than I want it to be, and I can’t help but feel like I could have – or should have – done better on the 3 workouts so far.

The first workout was a relative success in that I knew I would have a really hard time with the 100lb snatches that would mean all the difference in the rankings, but I was able to get 3 of them and I was happy with that. However, it also indicated how little I have improved on this lift over the past year. I know that the snatch is one of my weakest movements, and I’ve had a year to try to get better but I was only able to do one more snatch at 100lbs than I did last year during a very similar workout.  To me, that’s unacceptable. And I know that I can do better because 100lbs is nothing for me when we’re talking about going from shoulder to overhead. I can get that overhead without even using my legs.  But the snatch is all about technique, and mine sucks.  Probably the only reason I even got 3 of them was because I’m strong enough to just muscle it up.  But if I’m doing it right I shouldn’t have to do that and I should be able to get a lot more.

Disappointed with my score on the 2nd CrossFit Open workout this year

Disappointed with my score on the 2nd CrossFit Open workout this year

When the second workout was announced, I was so excited.  It was 3 of my strongest movements: shoulder to overhead, deadlifts, and box jumps.  And it was only 10 minutes long.  I completely underestimated this workout.  I didn’t think about the fact that the box jumps were literally half the workout, and box jumps will take a lot out of you.  Furthermore, I didn’t think about the fact that a 10 minute workout meant NO room for error. Rest for one second and it’ll cost you dozens of spots on the leaderboard.  I tried it twice and failed to reach 300 reps each time, primarily because I couldn’t keep up with the box jumps.  I was incredibly disappointed with my performance, mostly because I thought this was totally in my wheelhouse.  I do wonder if I could do better if I tried it again.  The first time I did it, I think there was something wrong with me because I felt really sick afterwards and that never happens to me.  I tried it again the next day and didn’t feel nearly as bad, but I was probably not in tip top form because I hadn’t even given myself 24 hours of rest.  However, I know how hard those box jumps are and how fast I’d have to go to improve my score as much as I’d like to, and I have doubts that I could actually do it.

This last workout was just ok.  I’m happy because it was the ideal way for my absolute weakest movement to show up: double unders. I am so bad at double unders and it’s one of the most frustrating things about CrossFit for me.  No matter how much I practice them, I can’t seem to gain consistency.  I’m a lot better than I used to be but I never know if I’ll be able to string together 10 at a time or struggle to get two in a row.  The way this workout was set up helped me because I had plenty of time to finish the double unders and knew I would still get the same score as a lot of other women because we’d all be stuck in the same spot if we couldn’t do a muscle up.  Unfortunately, the new split time tie breaker hurt me a little since it took me longer to finish the doubles but really I have to be relieved that this was the way the double unders showed up in the Open.  My main disappointment in this workout is again that it shows how little I have progressed in the past year.  I’m pretty strong and there’s really no reason why I don’t have a muscle up yet, except for the fact that I haven’t spent enough time working on it.  But I will say that I’m coming out of this workout more motivated than disappointed.  I will get a muscle-up by next year’s Open.  In fact, I hope to be able to get multiple muscle ups by then.

For the last two workouts, I would like to do better than I’ve done so far.  Ideally, I’d like to have at least one workout where I finish with the top score at my gym, but knowing how crazy good the CrossFit DoneRight women are, I’m not sure that’s possible.  However, in some ways I’ve already moved on and I’ve been primarily thinking about how I will go about making sure I’ve made more significant improvements by next year’s Open.  I know I need to work some of my specific weaknesses but I also think I need to spend more time focusing on heavy lifting in general, instead of doing a lot of metcons, which is what I prefer.

A 215# back squat is not good enough

A 215# back squat is not good enough

The problem is, I don’t know how to work that into my schedule.  The regular programming at CFDR does incorporate heavy lifting every so often but even if we do it once a week, realistically that means I’m only working each lift once a month and that’s not going to be enough.  Also, my work schedule is so crazy that I can’t be sure I’m able to get to the gym on heavy lifting days.  Getting to the gym early before class doesn’t work very well because, thanks to my commute, the earliest I can get there is about 6:30pm and there’s rarely any room or extra equipment available during that time because the 6pm class is too crowded.  Basically my options are to skip the classes and do my own programming  by following something like the Outlaw Way, or to try to get to the gym twice a day a few days a week.  The problem with that is that I split dog walking duties with my husband and I’m not sure how I could walk Mackey and get to the gym in the morning while still making it to the office at a reasonable time.  Probably I’m going to try to do a combo of classes and special programming.  Hopefully that will help.

By next year, my goals are to increase my CrossFit Total score by 90lbs to reach 700.  I also want to be able to do muscle ups for reps, and finish in the top 100 in the region during the Open. This is ambitious but I think I’m up to the challenge – if I can figure out a way to do this and all the other things that are important to me in life.  But that’s for another blog post.