The Crucible of Competition

The following is a guest post from Michael Deem, a fellow athlete from my CrossFit gym who also recent;y competed in the Freeze Fest Team Challenge.

Michael was a rower for all four years of high school, attempted rowing in college, and quickly got distracted.

After more than four years of neglecting fitness, he’s relearning what it means to be an athlete.

For any regular reader of Man Meets Goat (or anyone who has stumbled upon on and been blown away by one of my guest posts—anyone?), you will know that I have competed before.

I became familiar with athletic competition in high school as a rower, but I never got comfortable with it.

Michael and his teammate Katelynn at Freeze Fest.

I still distinctly remember and can feel the slow, uneasy curdles of nausea rolling through my stomach when I imagine myself lining up next to five other boats for a 1,500 meter sprint.

I didn’t know how much they had trained or where their pain thresholds were, but I knew mine.

And I knew we were about to find out definitively whose was higher and who was more willing to push theirs.

I am thrilled to report that the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the Freeze Fest Team Challenge and the individual events felt nothing like this.

Sure, I got a few butterflies in the warm-up area at the thought of walking out in front of the crowd to attempt a clean PR or to show my friends their first kipping pull-ups, but they immediately flew away when my partner and I took the platforms as the well-worn paths from countless hours of metabolic and strength training lit up in my brain.

My first take away from my first Crossfit competition is complete trust in the programming at my gym: Everything was manageable but challenging because the programming taught me how to challenge myself; and to be confident in my abilities.

With that new-found confidence, I recognize the need to push myself even harder in training, the need to go even further out of my comfort zone if I want to be even more competitive, if I want to push my athleticism even further.

Perhaps the biggest difference between partaking in and spectating at any athletic competition is your visibility to the correlation between work done in training and capacity for performance on the big day.

I need to constantly remind myself of that correlation as I train for my next competition (with Jeremy) in June.

I am particularly excited for this competition because it is an individual competition: just me and my ability – my willingness and preparedness to lay it all on the line.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have a partner for my first athletic competition in over five years.

I am sure the nerves and nausea would have returned in full force had I been on the platforms alone. (Actually, I’m not even sure I would have signed up.) But now I am ready to enter the crucible of competition alone to see what I am made of alone.

Our head coach actually “never encourage[s] athletes in the gym to compete.” Not because he does not want them to, but because he wants them to work tirelessly at their fitness for themselves. Not for the gym, or a coach, or a trophy, or a team.

Not to beat another contender or arch rival. For themselves. However, he is elated when one of his athletes decides to compete because that athlete will invariably train harder. “The competition people work under pressure,” and you need pressure to make diamonds.

I am not doing Crossfit to compete. Rather, I will continue competing to discover why I am doing Crossfit.

If it was just to get and stay in shape, or just to make new friends in a new city, I could coast through class. I wouldn’t need to push myself. I wouldn’t hunger for the burn deep in my legs and lungs.

But I do. Perhaps I am just the kind of guy who needs to keep working towards something, like a shark, always moving forward or he dies.

The fire is still alive and I must quench it.

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