Frustration and 18.3

For those who don’t CrossFit, or for CrossFitters who have had their head in the ground, 18.3 (the 3rd workout of the 2018 CrossFit Open) looked like this:

100 Double Unders
20 Overhead squats @ 115lbs
100 Double Unders
12 Ring Muscleups
100 Double Unders
20 Dumbell snatches @ 50lbs
100 Double Unders
12 Bar Muscleups

2x – time cap 14 minutes

For most people, this workout represented an opportunity to get their first muscleup, or to string them together for the first time. When the workout was announced, I saw it as an opportunity to get my first bar muscleup. I’ve gotten ring muscleups, and was looking forward to a workout that included them.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of frustration I experienced, the exposure of a glaring weakness, and the inability to get through a workout no matter how much I willed myself through it.

The first time I did this workout, I struggled through the overhead squats. I struggled, but I worked my ass off, and I got through them and into the next 100 double unders before I hit the time cap. No muscleups. That was Friday, and scores aren’t due until Monday at 5pm PDT, which meant I had the weekend to do my run workouts, let my shoulders rest, and re-attempt on Monday to submit a new score. So, on Monday, I decided I would take another shot at 18.3 and work to get to those muscleups.

What I got instead on Monday was 90 seconds of double unders, and 12 and a half minutes of failed overhead squat after failed overhead squat.

I tried wraps, I tried racking the bar on my back to get a better set up, I tried taking deep breaths, nothing I did seemed to work. I could get the bar overhead for a few seconds, maybe enough to get a half-squat, and it would come crashing down on top of my noodle-arms. My arms and shoulders simply didn’t have the strength and coordination to keep the bar overhead long enough to squat.

If it had been back squats, no problem. If it had been front squats, no problem. Hell, just about any kind of squat other than overhead, I would have had zero problem getting through the first round. But it was overhead squats, and I can’t hold 115 lbs. over my head long enough to squat 20 times.

I dropped the bar countless times. I wanted to punch the floor, the wall, the rig. I wanted to scream, I wanted to yell. At times I even wanted to cry, to sit down defeated, and declare that I had had enough. That I was no match for the workout, and to save myself the energy of trying fruitlessly for another 5 minutes to get one more overhead squat that just wasn’t going to happen.

Here’s the thing: I knew, and everyone else in the box knew, that I wasn’t going to get through the overhead squats. Once we crossed a certain point, it was painfully evident that it just wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t have the strength to complete them, plain and simple.

But, there are two victories to celebrate in this failure:

  1. I. Did. Not. Quit. Not until I was at risk of injuring myself did I drop the bar and decide not to pick it back up. I didn’t want to be trapped under the bar with a concussion because I didn’t have the good sense to stop. This happened with about 30 seconds to go, my arms wouldn’t lock out, were shaking, and could not stabilize, so I decided to live to get on to 18.4.
  2. 115 lbs. is a lot of weight (for me)! A year ago, I couldn’t get 95 lbs. over my head. I tried, and tried, and tried, but couldn’t get it overhead. Not only did I get 115 lbs. overhead, I did get through 20 squats once, and I got through about 14 the second time! I don’t know what my overhead squat one rep max is, but I know it’s at least 115 lbs., and that is a significant improvement.

These victories are a good part of what The Open is about, small victories, being better than last year, improving yourself. So in that way, I celebrate these victories. But to a certain extent, they ring hollow.

Am I happy? No. I’m pretty pissed off about this workout and my inability to complete it. That’s part of why I’m posting it here. I plan on redoing this workout in the future, and crushing the overhead squats. I have never been this frustrated or upset with a workout, and the way I deal with these feelings is by working to crush what initiated them. So whether it’s 6 months from now, 9 months from now, a year from now, I will crush this workout.

In the meantime, The Open continues, Castro continues to dole out punishment. I continue working toward the Carmel Marathon (March 31), and consider training goals for Ironman Florida in November. Crush your workouts, nail your goals, and have fun, but don’t forget the way it feels when you fail, and use it to fuel your forward motion.

Best of luck to others in The Open! Later on…