So I almost hit Ron Ortiz with a bean bag…
The final day of camp came with some trepidation as it was time for the competition. It also came with a tinge of melancholy as things were coming to close and it would soon be time for the goodbye party.
It was a great week but there was so much more to learn and to drill and to improve. As an echo of what so many of my fellow campers said, “If only there was more time.”
So despite all the mixed feelings, I got a solid breakfast courtesy of Paleo Nick and his awesome crew.
I then headed to the gym for some yoga / stretching and warmed-up on the rower in anticipation of the start of the competition.
The field was packed with much better, stronger faster athletes but I was here to take part in all aspects of camp. In this case, participating was just as important as winning.
I did not get on this journey to shy away from the challenge, but to embrace it. As with any competition, I tried to focus on my own efforts and just get into the right head space to do my best.
EVENT 1 – MAX EFFORT JERK
Chad and Jodi Vaughn taught us all so much about the jerk and proper technique. Their big takeaway was simply the focus; and for this lift it was all about a stronger dip and throwing the head back.
I knew what I had to do and what the lift should look like, but I definitely needed more reps to practice.
When my heat went and we had eight minutes to find our max effort jerk, mine turned out to be more of an aggressive push press. I hit 165#, which was a PR for me in the push press but understandably not a proper jerk.
This was more evident at 175#, which I failed and every witnessed my elbows bent just holding the bar overhead for what felt like an eternity and unable to get my arms locked out.
Understandably, Jason Laydon who was in charge laughed when I lightly asked him after my attempt, “That wasn’t a jerk, was it?”
He gave a big smile and said, “No.” Add the jerk to my list of homework assignments.
EVENT 2 – FOAM PIT SWIM
Since we were at a gymnastics camp, the coaches decided we should take advantage of our surroundings and had the foam pit as the center of the event.
Basically, we had to “swim” across and back as quick as possible.
Trying to climb through the foam cubes was embarrassingly stupid, but fun – especially when you were just watching others.
I was the second group to go and did not understand what the proper strategy was to get across the foam and thus had a pretty pitiful performance as seen in the video above.
The pit engulfed me, I lost my headband that I had put on for comical effect somewhere in the mix, and was absolutely exhausted after just 70 seconds of work.
It’s not an event that needs repeating anytime soon.
EVENT 3 – 12-MINUTE AMRAP
The final event was a triplet of hang squat cleans, toes-to-bar and box jumps. In the scaled division the weight was 95# for men. The rep scheme was 3-3-3-6-6-6-9-9-9 and so on until the clock ran out.
I was frustrated with the foam pit swim and the max effort jerk and decided that it was time to muster up all my energy and drive to attack this WOD.
At the advice of Chad, I wore my weightlifting shoes to help me get into the bottom of my squat better. It definitely helped. It was a little bit louder wearing them every time I did a box jump, but they worked well overall.
However, the multiple reps of squat cleans was tough. By the time I got to the 9s, I had to break them up. In the last 30 seconds, I was glad I pushed myself to get that second wind that made me rev up the engine to finish strong.
I was happy enough with my performance having completed the 3s, 6s, 9s and 12s and getting 10 more hang squat cleans before the clock rang.
But, truth be told, afterwards I was fried and had to go chill out on my own for a bit at my cabin. I’ve become a more competitive person over the past year and am still learning how to handle the emotions and stress of it all.
It was a long week at camp and I worked more than I ever have in the gym, both mentally and physically, and so I needed to just have a chance to step away for a bit, catch my breath and reenergize so that I could enjoy the remaining hours at camp.
SLO-MO VIDEO ANALYSIS
After a nice hot shower and some mental rest, I was back and ready to finish the camp on a good note. I had signed up along with a few other campers for a slow motion video analysis with Dave Durante of my handstand.
He had me get into a handstand hold for a few seconds and then we watched it back on a screen with the group. (Check out the behind the scenes footage.) Dave talked through what was good and what needed work.
Specifically, he recommended I need to point my toes and tighten my legs to make sure they are not inactive. Further, he said my gaze needs to move to looking straight down at the floor so that my head is in a better neutral position, which will help me maintain a longer hold.
To work on all this, he advised that I make handstands a daily exercise, whether it be just a few wall walks or practicing free standing holds.
Whatever the exercise, I need to be in a handstand position daily – not once a week like I have been doing – if it really is a goal of mine to perfect my handstand.
After the video analysis, it was time for a Power Monkey Luau. Paleo Nick had roasted a pig overnight and was now serving up 140 pounds of meat along with giant baked sweet potatoes and other treats to us hungry campers.
After filling our bellies, we had a bean bag tournament and beers. Everyone was in great spirits and some had even “dressed up” a bit, ditching the workout clothes for the night. The evening ran long and evolved into a brilliant late-night dance party where lots of laughter prevailed.
I surprised the group with my dance moves and was happy to just be celebrating with them all. That good note I wanted to finish on turned out to be a great one.
The thread that tied the whole week together was the same that I find at my local gym and many other CrossFit boxes across the country – the strong sense of community.
We had inside jokes and great conversations that moved beyond the topics of favorite WODs or preferred protein shakes.
And it came from the top down as Dave, Chad and all the other coaches went out of their way to give extra time to us all during open gym and to eat and play with us the whole week.
There was a true sense of camaraderie by the end and, especially among my group that I rotated with throughout the week, a wonderful sense of friendship.
At the airport waiting for our flights home, we talked about a strong desire to return next fall to show the improvement we had made thanks to everything we had learned.
But more importantly, to just be back in each other’s company for a fun active week even if it was in the middle of nowhere Tennessee.
We didn’t need a Las Vegas casino or a sunny beach in Mexico – just a bar, some plates and a pair of rings.