It’s hard to believe that another CrossFit Games season has come and gone. The longer I’ve been competing the longer it seems to take me to process my thoughts and emotions after a big event. Every year not only does the level of competition at the Games rise, but I also gain a better understanding and appreciation for how much the organizers, staff, volunteers, and even fans at the CrossFit Games have stepped up their game as well. Such a large scale event would never even be possible without the hard work of the countless volunteers, staff members, and judges who give up their time to allow us athletes to compete, and every athlete on that competition floor is grateful for it. The fans this year were more involved than ever. This was the first time I was acutely aware of things like people cheering my name during the run on the Triple 3s, or the roar of the crowd encouraging me to try to make my last clean during the Sprint Clean Ladder. That in and of itself was an awesome thing to experience, and I truly appreciate every single person who was out there rooting for me.
Each of my 4 Games appearances have been unique in its own way. I’ve entered each one as a different athlete with different goals and expectations. Looking back to my 2013 Games experience, I recognized that I didn’t have as much fun or felt like I appreciated the opportunity to be out on that floor competing as much as in 2011 and 2012. I let my perception of the quality of the workouts as a “good” test of fitness affect my attitude towards the workout and also affect my performance. I remember thinking things like “This is stupid why are we rowing again?” or “Another event has a lot of running, but we already did that. I don’t want to do more” as the weekend wore on. I created this perception that the workouts were unfair as a scapegoat for the fact that I was performing poorly on them relative to the other competitors. As you might expect, that negatively affected not only my performance, but also my overall enjoyment of my 2013 Games experience.
When I qualified for the 2014 Games I made myself a promise that I would not let what happened in 2013 happen again. The middle of a competition is not the time to evaluate whether you “like” a workout or not, or whether you personally think it’s a “good” or “bad” test of fitness. The middle of a competition is a time to put your head down and do the work. If you are going to agree to play the game then you have to also be willing to accept the nature of the game. In the case of the CrossFit Games, that means accepting that not every workout is going to be in your wheelhouse, you will probably have to do things you don’t really want to do or enjoy doing, and that until the competition is completely over you don’t have a full picture of what is being tested so it’s impossible to judge the weekend’s events as you go. Plus, just because a workout might not be a good workout for you personally, doesn’t mean it’s a bad test of fitness. Sometimes ego makes this a hard thing to admit to ourselves.
So going into the 2014 Games I promised myself that I would not respond negatively to the announcement of any workout and that I would not place any sort of value judgment on the nature of a workout. I would just do the work to the best of my ability, and I would make an effort to also absorb and enjoy the awesome experience and opportunity that is competing at the CrossFit Games while staying in a positive frame of mind the entire time.
And I have to admit I did a pretty good job on those goals, but I had two moments of weakness during the weekend where I started getting very down on myself. The first came in the tunnel waiting to march out for the OHS workout on Wednesday night. All I could think about as we waited to walk out was the clean and jerk ladder in 2013 and how I had failed to match my PR on that event; the first time I had ever underperformed on a strength event in competition. I tried desperately to shake those negative thoughts in my head but just couldn’t seem to do it. Yet when I walked out onto that floor Wednesday night, loaded my bar and hit my first OHS something clicked. Suddenly, it was fun again. The format of the OHS ladder was really neat and just being back in that tennis stadium competing was electrifying. I went on to PR my OHS by 7# and left with an entirely different attitude.
My second moment of mental struggle came after the HSPU-sled pull workout. I was upset over the workout for multiple reasons, but mostly because I thought my handstand push ups should have been faster than they were compared to other people. I felt I went as fast as I could, but I allowed my perception of where I thought I should be compared to others to bring me down. I had a hard time shaking my disappointment after this workout, and come Sunday morning I was still upset. I was at the hotel packing up the car to head to the arena for the final day of competition when a little girl and her dad came up to me. “Gretchen, I know you are really busy but can she take a picture with you?” her dad said to me. “The only reason we went to breakfast at the hotel today was because we were hoping you would be there.” This just melted my heart and of course we took a picture. I think they thought I was doing them a favor, but really it was the other way around. Having that family come up to me was the thing that helped push me out of my funk, feel positive again, and focus on the last day of competition. At the end of the day it isn’t about the numbers on the scoreboard, it’s about trying your hardest, appreciating the opportunities you have, cherishing the people you meet along the journey, and hopefully being a role model for the next generation.
Do I wish my name was higher up on that scoreboard? Sure. But I competed to the best of my ability, and I can look back on my 2014 Games experience and say I had an incredible time filled with more highs than there were lows.
I owe a huge thank you to all the people who support me not just on gameday, but day in and day out throughout the year. So a special shout out to all my sponsors and supporters: Reebok, Fuel for Fire, CustomFit Meals, Goat Tape, AtLarge Nutrition, and Normatec Recovery for providing me with the clothing, gear, food, and recovery tools I need throughout the season. I was very fortunate to have my coach Jeremy Gordon of CrossFit Hampton Roads with me at the Games, as well as my endurance coach Chris Hinshaw, and my weightlifting coach, Cara Heads Slaughter! Getting to the CrossFit Games as an individual is not an individual effort, and I am lucky that I have such a fantastic group of coaches guiding and shaping me as an athlete. And of course my family, friends, coaches, and everyone at CrossFit Reston who give me endless support and encouragement on my journey! Thank you all!!!
Onward and upward to 2015!!