Games Reflections

The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games have come and gone, and it sure was a whirlwind week! Now that I’m finally back home in Virginia I have some time to sit down and reflect on everything that happened out in California; the good, the bad and the ugly.

First off, a huge thank you to every one who supported me all year long as I was training as well as throughout the weekend. Whether you were there in person or just let me know that you were following along online and rooting for me, I really appreciate the support and love knowing I have such a great group of people surrounding me and hoping for my success. A special thank you to my coach Jeremy Gordon of CrossFit Hampton Roads for all the work he does programming for me and coaching me, as well as Jeff Tincher (and Maggie, Adrienne, and Mason) for coming out to L.A. with me and coaching me and helping me through the entire weekend. I was so lucky to have a huge crew of people who came to watch me in person, and thank my parents, Brenton, Justin, Hillary and Danielle for being there to watch me compete. I loved having you all there. And of course a huge thank you to the awesome people at Reebok and at HQ for everything they did to put on such a massive and great event. It was crazy to see how much the Games have grown in only a year.

Needless to say, I was a little bit disappointed with my finish at the Games. I finished ranked lower than I did last year and had a lot of things not go as planned throughout the weekend. However, even though I was disappointed, a positive came out of it in the end, but before I get ahead of myself and jump right to the moral of the story I’ll give a short recap of my thoughts on a few of the events.

I, like pretty much every individual athlete, was shocked to find out that we would be starting our Games on Wednesday with a triathlon at Camp Pendleton. Long events have never been my strong suit and I had never run 7 miles before in my life let alone with a swim and a bike in front of it. To say I was worried is an understatement. In fact, I hate to admit it, but when I got back to my hotel room after hearing the Camp Pendleton announcement I called my boyfriend at 1am his time sobbing and when he didn’t answer right away proceeded to call another friend who was also asleep (sorry about that Ope). With the early release of the other events and seeing what they were I was very excited heading out to LA, but finding out about the new events on Wednesday took the wind out of my sails a bit. I wasn’t worried about the triathlon hurting my overall placement, but I was worried about my ability to finish it at all. I was pretty down the rest of the evening and part of Tuesday after finding out about the triathlon, but by Wednesday I had regained my confidence and felt like I would be able to finish. I got through it with no major issues, and while I did not do well by any means I was proud of myself for just finishing the event. And not gonna lie, it was pretty cool that they let us have the bikes afterwards :)

The next event at Camp Pendleton was the obstacle course. This was hands down the most fun event of the weekend. Unfortunately, the bracket system scoring led to me not making it out of my heat even though I had a time that was faster than many girls that won their respective heats. While sometimes luck is involved in sport it is nevertheless frustrating to go to an event which tells you “if you do more work faster you will win” and then have that actually not be the case, and have luck be a determiner of your ranking. While in concept I thought the bracket idea was really neat. It was frustrating and defeating the way it played out for me, and I had a hard time shaking off my disappointment from that event. I lost my heat by 1/20th of a second. I don’t want to sound like a Bitter Betty, but when events are being won or lost by 1/20th of a second (A speed faster than a human blink) it’s time for us as a sport to move in the direction of some sort of electronic timing system. Having individual judges per athlete using handheld stop watches to judge races that are that close just won’t cut it anymore. I think as a sport we have finally grown to the point where we are beyond that and are going to start needing timing that is more precise fairly soon. Despite my disappointment with how things ended up at the Obstacle Course, this was still my favorite event to participate it.

Back at the Home Depot Center, we started the more ‘traditional’ CrossFit style competition. It was here that I experienced what was undoubtedly my worst failure at a wod throughout my CrossFit career. The med ball clean-HSPU wod left me doing failed rep after failed rep after failed rep. Even today, I am still sitting here scratching my head, not sure what happened. HSPU’s are typically a strength of mine. Warm-ups went well. I was banging them out confidently, but 4 reps into the wod and I started failing. The worst part was, it didn’t feel like muscle fatigue. It just felt off. The kip didn’t feel right; the set-up didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I tried wiggling around the parallettes. I tried putting my head in a different spot on the plate. I tried adjusting the width of my feet at the bottom of my kip, but nothing seemed to work. I struggled the entire workout; stuck on the second round of HSPU’s. With about two minutes left in the workout, Lindsey Valenzuela came over to me to cheer me on. I remember looking at her and just saying “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” She told me to stay tight and squeeze my butt. I went for another rep and it shot up out of the hole as if I was completely fresh, no struggle at all. I tried again but couldn’t get another rep as time expired. I never got a chance to thank Lindsey for that, but those seemingly simple words and her being there helped me get one more rep.

I went on to finish the weekend in 26th place, a far cry from my 12th place finish last year, and not even good enough to make it to Sunday. But a weird thing happened. Somehow failing and not meeting my expectations made me more excited and more fired up. In 2011, I left the CrossFit Games feeling completely satisfied with how I did. I exceeded every expectation I had. Nothing could have gone better. I made it to the final workout and I finished in 12th place overall. I left happy, but I didn’t leave hungry. Throughout this whole year of training I never felt that I regained that hunger. Granted, I was going through a lot of really tough personal stuff for part of the year, but I was training all year with just this vague idea in my head that I wanted to get back to the Games and I wanted to “do well.” I don’t know if I even really believed I could go back and do better than 12th place.

But this year at the Games, everything didn’t go perfectly. I encountered struggle after struggle, events that didn’t favor me like I hoped, and screw ups on ones that did. At the end of the weekend I was left feeling unsatisfied, but I also found some clarity. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted. I realized that just getting to the Games wasn’t going to satisfy me. I don’t just want to be here; I want to win here. Now, I’m more motivated than ever. I want a place on that podium.  And oddly enough, failing at the Games is what made me actually believe I can do it.

I’ve struggled with confidence from time to time in my athletic career, and I’ve had times where I heavily relied on the opinions of others to build up my confidence. In fact I still struggle with this. As an example, as recently as right before regionals this year, I heard a rumor about how one of the people from my old box was telling the members there that “I wasn’t good enough to make the Games this year.” Regardless of whether it was even true or not, hearing that someone I once thought truly believed in my abilities didn’t have confidence in me anymore really hurt me. I cried when I heard this, and it even put some doubts in my head, where I wondered if maybe he was right, and maybe I wasn’t good enough. But this weekend, made me realize something that my sports psychologist, Sharon, has been telling me forever, that confidence and belief in yourself has to come from within. For me, failing at the Games and under-performing has left me hungry, and although I can’t quite explain why, it has also left me feeling more confident than ever before that I truly do have the ability to be near the top of the finishing order next year.

I failed, and the world didn’t end. It’s actually kind of liberating. I realized I have nothing to be afraid of. I realized that I can reach for the highest of goals and put myself out there and even if I fall short, it will be ok. It will hurt, but it will be ok. And most importantly I learned that I want more. I don’t want to just make the CrossFit Games. I want to excel at the Games. I didn’t realize how much doing well at the Games meant to me, until it didn’t happen. But now I know, and I’m itching to get started working towards bigger and better things in the 2013 season.


13 thoughts on “Games Reflections

  1. This was so beautifully written. I watched the games online and was rooting for you doing those HSPU! Just to see how difficult and challenging this years regionals were with the large growth and popularity of CrossFit, it still amazes me to see the level of talent at the Games – you being one of them. I hope you never stop believing in your abilities because you are definitely one of the fittest in the world to make it to the CrossFit Games!!! Push hard, lean forward and stay true to yourself~

  2. I loved reading this Gretchen. Your positive attitude is awesome. Can’t wait to watch you compete again next year!

  3. I loved reading this and it shows once again what a true athlete you are. Self reflection is so important for everyone – athlete or not. “Failure defeats losers, inspires winners!”

    Here’s looking at the CF Games 2013!!

    steph h

  4. Gretchen…
    I can’t tell you how much I relate to your story. From start to finish.
    And like you, I feel that the “failing” was liberating. I am totally embracing it as part of this whole journey and endeavor.
    I look forward to competing with you next year.
    All the best
    annie sakamoto

  5. Gretchen,
    I appreciate your honesty so much, just knowing your body did not do what you knew it could is unbelieveably hard. I can relate to this whole post, it happened at regionals this year for me. A few months later now after some serious “me work” getting back to a good mental state and a whole lotta life rearrangement, I feel better than ever, and I actually would not change the whole experience at all! It really has been a liberating experience…and it’s good to hear your embracing it and getting back to work!!

  6. This is inspiring… I started crossfit to “make up” for all the days I didn’t give 100% as a collegiate gymnast. I was 25, and the others were 18… I always had an excuse. Now at 45, those failures because of my own fear still haunt me, but also drive me to excel, grow, and earn some type of redemption. Go hard Gretchen! Thank you for sharing something that is hard to see in ourselves, and I will be cheering for you!!!

  7. I was rooting for you, watching that HSPU workout was brutal, but it was tough on everyone, even other top finishing gymnasts. I loved how before one of the events when the announcer announced you you did gymnast turn and wave, that was so darn cute.

  8. Love our spirit and will. True, you didn’t win this competition but you are a winner in so many other ways! Such an inspiration. I’ll be cheering you on in next years Games.

  9. This was great to read. I saw you with Jeff at the end of the Games and you were obviously disappointed. Keep your head up. You did an amazing job. The competition is brutal, as our the events. You are an inspiration.

  10. Pingback: Mon, Jul 30th | CrossFit Ireland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s