by Kathleen Strouse

There are some incredible athletes at Second Wind and it is exciting and inspiring to watch them do the Open workouts.  I, on the other hand, am a person of a certain age.  My knees are wearing out.  I am not destined for Open glory.  I do not like to struggle in front of people who run overnight relays for fun.

Steve had written a message on the board encouraging everyone who could squat to register for the Open.  I looked at that message for days before it occurred to me that “everyone” included me. I read about the Open on the CrossFit site, and – cocktail in hand – I registered.  My husband, Brian, said, “You did what”?!  And then he registered, too.  And when he went to work out in the morning, he recruited Allyn.

Allyn and Chris H. became my Open partners.  We did most of the workouts together, cheering each other on.  We discussed techniques and strategies after each workout and compared miseries.  (Okay, Chris didn’t seem too miserable.)

14.1 – AMRAP, Double Unders and 55# power snatches. I had tweaked my Achilles, so my DUs were more erratic than usual.  Score: 85.  Not great.  Somewhat embarrassing, in fact.  But I had never done that many 55# power snatches at once, so it was kind of a PR.  I actually thought about doing the workout again.

14.2 – AMRAP, OH Squats and Chest To Bar pull-ups.  Even though I was in a Masters division, the workouts were not scaled.  I had never done a 65-lb. OHS before, but I managed to do one on the second try.  (I’m pretty sure I did several more after that, but for some reason, Steve no-repped me.)  Score: 2.

Two!  I did two!  PR!  Wait, two? It’s not a great feeling to hit a PR and still be at the bottom of the leaderboard.  With an audience.  After 14.2, grandiosity gave way to realism, and my goal became simply to put up a score in every workout.  Something.  One rep.

14.3 – AMRAP, deadlift ladder with increasing weights and reps, with box jumps thrown in.  Steve said that if he were to program a dangerous WOD, it would look just like 14.3.  At least one box boycotted 14.3.  But, hey, don’t worry! You’ve got this!  First round: 10 deadlifts @ 95-lbs., 15 box jumps. Second round: 15 deadlifts @ 135-lbs. – more reps than I had ever done at that weight.  It took a while, but I did 15 DLs.  Allyn was cruising along.  Chris was operating in a parallel universe without gravity. I finished the next 15 box jumps with time to spare. Yay! 14.3 done! High five! Then, as Steve started to write down my score, I decided to try 155 lbs.  And…PR!  155!  Oh, dang, Allyn beat me.  Everybody beat me.

14.4 – Kitchen sink workout.  A 60-cal row, then 50 Toes To Bar, then…oh, who cares?  I am not a strong rower and I think I had done 3 legitimate TTB in my life before that.  That day, I managed to do 4 or 5 TTB in a row.  I was a machine!  Allyn and I were neck and neck for a while.  And then…whut?  I lost it.  She lost it.  We went one or two reps at a time after that.  I was not a machine.  Chris was a machine. Liz K. was a machine. But that was the first time I had done 18 TTB in one workout – so, PR?  Allyn beat me again. I still like her.

And then came 14.5.  I am not much of a crier, but when 14.5 was announced, I cried.  Thrusters and over-the-bar burpees, 21-18-15-12-9-6-3.  For time. One rep would not do it – you had to finish the entire workout to post a score. I had never even done a single 65 lb. thruster before and 14.5 had 84 of them.

I did the workout on Monday, the last day of the Open. Michelle judged and Gayle stayed to cheer me on.  I had researched rep schemes and planned my approach.  I had decided to break up the first round into 8-7-6, the second round 7-6-5, and so forth.  Hahahahaha!  That lasted 5 reps.  I went to 3 reps at a time, then 2, then 1.  One rep at a time.  For a long, damn time.  It was difficult, it was boring, and my knees and ankles were screeching. Brian came in while I was slogging through burpees and gave me a pep talk. Whenever I took a break, Michelle would tell funny stories while I walked around and muttered.  At some point, she got tired of all the whining and said, “Shut up and get back on the bar.”  (That did help. Thanks, Michelle. I’m sorry I told you guys to shut the f*** up.)

The fastest woman in my Masters division did 14.5 in 11:16.  It took me 46:03.  In my division, I ranked 76th of 78 women in the Mid-Atlantic region who did all five workouts. In that division worldwide, I was 930th of 952 women – not what I had hoped to achieve when I registered.

There are different ways to look at the leaderboard.  A Masters athlete named Gail Fagan finished in 952nd place. She did 10 DUs in 14.1, and a single rep each in 14.2, 14.3, and 14.4. (She rowed 1 calorie? Maybe she had the flu.) It took her 2 hours to finish 14.5.  She stuck it out for two hours.  Gail Fagan must be pretty tough.  In my division, only 952 women in the world did all five workouts, and Gail Fagan and I were among them.  Gail Fagan is my hero.  Along with that bionic woman who finished first.

For me, the Open was frustrating and exhilarating and everything in-between.  It was both thoroughly discouraging and an incredible ego boost.  It was a reminder that you’ve got to start where you are.

If I had not registered for the Open, I would not have attempted the Rx weights.  There is no way I would have finished 14.5.  The thrill I got from finishing was worth the 46 minutes and 3 seconds of misery.

I didn’t think I would be up for it again this year – until HQ posted the magic words:  scaled option!

I hope more people from Second Wind register this year, especially people who think they have no business in the Open. Maybe there is someone at Second Wind for whom completing one rep in one workout would be a PR.  That would be awesome.

The Open gives us regular folk a chance to compete – with our friends, our partners, ourselves.  Brian and I were tied through the first two workouts; neither of us was happy about that.  He scored higher than I did on 14.3 and 14.4.  Workout 14.5?  That was mine.  Allyn and Chris had better watch out.