About 48 hours ago, I was throwing an extra pair of socks, a bottle of Ibuprofen and some Larabars into my gym bag to head off to the Freeze Fest Team Challenge.
This was to be the culmination of sixteen weeks of training. A chance to see if all that hard work paid off. A chance to put it all on the line and fight like hell for a win.
After finding a parking space, checking in, and getting my sneakers on, it was already time for the athlete briefing.
The organizers went through all of the rules and standard movements required for the six events.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of questions from the horde and suddenly it was 7:45am and the challenge was about to start in fifteen minutes.
I quickly devoured 4 hard-boiled eggs and three strips of bacon and started warming up.
The amazing thing about the morning was that I surprisingly calm and relaxed. I have done Tough Mudders and half-marathons in the past and before each one I was noticeably antsy and nervous. I would generally not be pleasant to be around.
I think the difference this time was that there were few unknowns with Freeze Fest in terms of the events – no unannounced obstacles, no concerns about getting electrocuted, no anxiety about running for 2+ hours straight.
My teammate Alice and I had practiced all the lifts and movements involved and so I knew what lay ahead of us for the day.
We had a strategy worked out and I knew that Alice had trained as hard as possible to prepare. Of course there would be unknowns in terms of how we would perform, but I felt ready.
Event 1 – The Clean Ladder
The event was simple – 15 platforms, each with an increasing amount of weight on the bar that you and your partner had to clean and then hang-clean.
The problem was that my PR in the clean was 135 pounds and that was the weight at the second platform.
I was able to do the clean on my first attempt but failed at the hang-clean, which meant I had to start again.
On the second attempt, I got the clean, but was struggling to complete the hang-clean. I stuck with it and got the rep. Yet that simple victory was quickly over when I got to the 155 pound bar and could not get it up.
Thankfully, Alice was able to progress to the 5th platform and got a clean at 125 pounds. She wasn’t able to get the hang-clean but her successful clean earned us a much needed point.
The clean ladder was never going to be our strong suit, despite all the practice over the last few months as we both are more gifted towards cardio and endurance over strength.
It was a crushing start to the day as we knew that with such low weights we would be at the bottom of the pack.
Event 2 – Sandbag Run
With a 3-minute time cap, the sandbag run was going to be fast and furious.
Each of us had to run 50 yards, do 10 squats with a sandbag, run another 50 yards carrying the sandbag and then carry our partner 50 yards.
We had practiced a few times and had even attended the test run at the Union Depot and knew this would be a great event for us.
And it was until I picked up Alice, carrying her piggy-back style, and suddenly fell. I am not if it was that the marble floor was slippery or that I was off-balance, but we fell hard.
We could hear a gasp from the crowd, but we stood up and Alice jumped on my back and we trudged ahead.
Alice moved as fast as possible to make up for it and she carried me across the finish line, even though the women were not required to carry the men in our Scaled Division.
We finished in just over 2 minutes. The fall had cost us precious time and we again found ourselves at the bottom of the leader board.
Event 3 – Deadlifts
After the first two events, Team Holy Rollers was in last place. Weneeded a comeback. And we need to adjust our attitude.
Seeing the live results had taken the wind out of our sails, but we got our head back in the game.
Alice and I have a very clear strategy for the deadlifts in event 3. Our score would be the total amount of weight lifted in three minutes and we were turning it into a cardio workout.
Both of us loaded our bar to be 105 pounds and we moved fast.
She did 30, I did 30, she did 20, I did 20, she did 15, I did 15 and she finished with a last set of 10.
My coaches, Kayser and Joe, were in the crowd cheering us on and while Alice was going they told me to make sure to keep my neck down, which definitely helped my form.
Overall, we accumulated 140 reps, which equaled 14,700 pounds. We had never done that many in practice and were elated.
However, in retrospect, the strategy didn’t work. We should have been lifting as many reps but at a higher weight.
I believe we probably did more reps than most teams, but they scored higher thanks again to more strength.
Event 4 – Burpee Box Jumps
The event was three minutes for you and your partner alternating turns to accumulate as many burpee box jumps as possible.
Despite one of the organizers telling all the athletes during the morning’s briefing that step-ups were “bullshit”, they were allowed according to the rules for the scaled division. And Alice and I used it to our advantage.
We knew going in we could keep a better pace and rhythm by doing step-ups and ensure that we were fully extended at the top of the box to make sure each rep counted.
And it ended up that we had a lot of reps to count. We got 76 reps total and ended up coming in third place overall for the event among the Scaled Division.
Event 5 – Double-Unders
Alice and I started off strong with me stringing a set of 20 or so together and then her tagging in and keeping a steady pace.
It was my turn again and somehow, during this second set, my rope broke.
The handle came right off and slid across the floor. It was a quick tag to Alice to continue moving and accumulate reps.
When she exhausted her set, she handed me her rope but I couldn’t do much with it as it was too short for me.
Back to Alice to keep us moving. In the meantime, I looked around for a nearby solution. Where the hell was I going to get another rope!?!
Suddenly, I saw my friend Jake walking by and I screamed at him to give me his rope.
With less than minute left, Alice tagged me in and I was able to string another set of 20 or so. One or two turns each and our time was up.
Overall, we accumulated 134 reps. There was nothing we could about my broken rope. As so often in life, you don’t get a do over.
Event 6 – Fran + Running
This was it. The final event of the day for us, as we knew that unless some miracle happened there was no way to crack the top six to make it into the finals.
Regardless, we still wanted to finish strong and improve our ranking.
The event was 21 thrusters, 21, pull-ups and then a 200 meter run, this was followed by a round of 15 plus the run and then 9 plus the run.
We could split up the work anyway we wanted and again we had a clear strategy: 11-10-11-10, 8-7-8-7, and 9-9. In each round, Alice would go first.
This meant in the final round she would do all the thrusters and I would do all the pull-ups. We felt good and that attitude propelled us through the event.
Alice, as expected, killed all her thrusters and pull-ups. I, happily, was able to do the same, especially the pull-ups.
My friend Leo later commented, ” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such fast pull-ups. Ever.”
It is one of the best compliments I have ever received. Alice and I ran hard. Knowing that she had help do more than her share of the work throughout the day, what with the fall and the jump rope, I had to prove how much her commitment meant to me.
After turning the corner into the last stretch of our final run, I sprinted like hell.
Running past her to reach our platform. Not to beat her, but to show her that I was going to end this thing making sure I left it all out there on the floor.
She hit the platform, our time was called and we fell to the floor. We had completed the event in 5:43, which was middle of the pack, but we finished. We beat the clock.
A feat that 15 of the other teams were unable to do. We were exhausted but exuberant as we exited the arena.
Overall, the Freeze Fest Team Challenge was worth all my time and effort in the gym. Alice and I had our families there to support us, all decked out in matching Holy Rollers shirts.
We had our amazing fellow athletes from TwinTown CrossFit, who we trained so closely with, competing along side us in each and every event.
And we had our generous coaches and friends cheering us on from the crowd.
By the end of the competition, I felt great. Alice and I made a strong comeback, going from last place after the first two events to moving up 12 spots to finish 47th out of 59th place overall.
While we both would have liked to have done better, we faced a series of unfortunate mishaps. Plus, that damn clean ladder.
Yet the high highs from the day so far outweigh any of the lows and that’s what we’ll cherish most.
I might recall in anecdote how the handle of my rope flung across the tiled marble floor, but I think I will more quickly remember us finishing the last event and hugging each other, despite the overwhelming amount of sweat and chalk, knowing we had given it our all.
However, I can’t discount those low moments as that is where I learned the most about myself.
I believe it would have been very easy after falling during the sandbag run and having my jump rope break to accept defeat.
I could have mentally checked out for the rest of the challenge and just gone through the motions.
But I proved to myself that I am a resilient person, that I can display grace under fire, and that when I am knocked down, I quickly get back up again and keep going.
Thankfully in life, I haven’t had to prove this very often. Yet I feel stronger going into tomorrow taking the experience of this competition with me and knowing that I am not fragile. Rather, I am a lot tougher than I ever give myself credit.
And I need to start letting that toughness show itself everyday.