When I began Crossfit late this summer, it had been well over 15 months since I had done anything other than a spontaneous run now and then and one very long, slow, painful 50K in March. Just to clarify – I am an endurance trail runner who also stays home with three kids, and it is considered normal to attempt crazy stupid things like a 50K with no training and a 6 month old in the name of adventure, or getting a few hours to yourself, or whatever motivates us moms– but believe me, I know what we must look like to outsiders. Basically, completing a 50K once you have been a long distance runner for years does not mean you are in shape – it means you are stubborn and are good at enduring pain. I need to run that far because, at least for me, it is the only way I know how to achieve a state of grace, to get calm, and that makes me a better person to be around.
The 50K was my gift to myself for getting through another summer pregnancy and also a not-so-gentle reminder that I can’t hide forever behind my kids and my slothfulness – sooner or later, I knew I had to pony up and see where the bottom was. I simply signed up, showed up and started forward momentum until I finished. It was a painful experience for everyone, including my husband who had to juggle all the kids while I spent half the day proving to myself that I was, as I suspected, absolutely more out of shape than I feared. In fact, I was only a handful of minutes faster than I had been when I had plodded the same 50K the year before – 4 months pregnant.
The 50K became a faint memory as spring turned to summer and I continued to find myself unable to know where to start with so little time and so many other parts of my life needing my undivided attention. My Dad was struggling with brain cancer. We were flying back East and trying to be on both coasts at once. We were five people in 900 square feet. We moved houses, became landlords, and school got out. It would not be an exaggeration to say that by the time I walked into Crossfit with my whole family in tow this summer, I was hoping for a miracle. Neither of us had exercised in months, and we felt awful. My husband and I both needed to take better care of ourselves so we could take care of others – and we knew once we met Jake and Dan and Winter, that Stomping Grounds was the place for us.
Could we let our baby crawl around on the weights while we did a workout? Sure! Could our kids swing on the ropes and change all the settings on the rowers while we warmed up? Sure! Could we be late for every single class, forget to sign up, do our core at home so one of us could rush back for the next class and borrow $5 when (I) ran our car out of gas? Yes, they still believed in us, and pushed us, and welcomed us back for our one class a week that we managed to get to if the stars (and babysitting) aligned. I still could not manage to find any time to run, but if I could get to Crossfit, I knew that an amazing gift would be waiting for me – a challenge, comraderie, and a sense of accomplishment even if I had to ask for the 20th time for one of them to show me backsquats. I couldn’t remember any power lift from class to class but each time someone would go out of their way to get me on track and help me out.
My Dad lost his battle to cancer on August 26th, and I was overwhelmed with sadness – but relief that he was not suffering anymore. After returning to California, I knew the time had come for me to find a running journey to help me think about love and loss and move forward the best way I could. So one month ago, I finally got the courage up to put my name back in the hat for the Western States 100 miler, a trail race that runs from Squaw Valley to Auburn next June. For the past 5 years, the years I had the courage to try the lottery, my name wasn’t drawn, and the other years I didn’t have the courage or fitness. To get in the lottery I need to run a 50 miler with a qualifying time by Nov 13. To do that I had to run a trail marathon that weekend to see where I was at fitness wise. I was worried that with absolutely no training by way of running that I would be setting myself up for an injury or worse, a waste of money for a long, slow effort. But I signed up and showed up to the Rock ‘N River trail marathon before sunrise and off we went.
Much to everyone’s surprise, one mile straight downhill into the race the entire field turned and surged back up the hill in total chaos. No one knew which way the course went in the dark – people ran in every direction looking for the right way. By the time we ran back up hill and set off on the right course, we tacked on some bonus miles but it was good for a laugh. To my surprise, the extra hill miles felt easy. Nothing about the race felt hard – in fact I felt faster as the hours went by, chatting with fellow runner friends and aid station folks like old times. Although I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could, I wasn’t backing down from a hard effort, and I tried to focus on finishing well without being a total dork and sprinting past people as the end came into sight. I was truly surprised when they handed me a big plaque and medal for 2nd female, 3rd place overall – what a crack up! Us distance runners love swag, and we don’t often get it, so I was pretty impressed with my big cheesy prize. And in an amazing coincidence, the spectator I sat down next to when I finished turned out to be 1) from the same part of Massachusetts as my Dad 2) an English teacher just like him and 3) a parent of a student from my Dad’s school – she even knew many of my Dad’s best friends. What a great way to finish my first trail race back after a year and a half!
But the most impressive result of the race was the proof that Crossfit – even though I did it once or twice a week -had the same benefit as a tailored, 3 to 5 month running training plan logging anywhere from 35 to 50 miles a week. Not only was the effort of racing 29 miles similar to efforts from years past when I was well trained, but I had almost no recovery time from the race, which has never happened before. I was able to run later that day and the next day with no soreness, which I can only imagine is because Crossfit involves the major muscle groups in such high intensity tests almost every workout. I have of course considered that maybe I never need to go back to logging those kind of miles again in order to feel good competing…but until they do Crossfit in the mountains or include a 40 mile trail run as part of the WOD, you’ll probably find me on the trails for at least some of the next 12 months if I am lucky enough to be picked for Western States! We can’t thank Jake, Dan, Winter, and all our friends at Crossfit enough for what you have added to our lives (Travis, of course, will have to write his own story about why he loves Crossfit, which will be much more entertaining than mine!)
Katie’s Unfinished Crossfit Story
Where do I even start? I weighed around 230 pounds after I had my daughter and I was miserable with myself. I never wanted to do anything or go anywhere. I knew it was time for me to make a change in my life! I knew the only way for this to happen was to workout and to make some serious changes in my lifestyle. I went to my sister (Winter) and I told her, “I really want you to help me! I need to start working out and I need you and Jake to push me and make me do it!” If you don’t know Winter and Jake, let me tell you, never ask them to push you and to make you do it, unless you really mean it, cause apparently they really take that kind of stuff to heart! If you have ever watched biggest loser, let’s just say that they should be training on that show.
When I first started Crossfit, it was VERY modified. I couldn’t even do knee push-ups. I did Winter’s “ground kissers”(all fours going towards the ground like you are going to kiss it). I didn’t know what it meant to really push myself. Winter and Jake had a way of making me push myself without being drill sergeants. They said that it was important for me to know what my body could do, not what my brain thought it could do. There were times when I would go on and on to Winter about how I couldn’t breath. She would get me talking and before I realized what was going on, she would let me know, that if I had all of that to say, I could breath just fine and I needed to keep going. They always knew when to call my bluff. They told me luckily the workouts in Crossfit are short, so its going to be uncomfortable, its going to be hard to breath, Its going to be hard work, but it will be worth it, and there will be no part of me that regrets learning what I am capable of, having a better body image and a better self image. They were right! There is no part of me that regrets any part of the journey that has brought me to where I am now.
In the last 6 months, I have lost over 50lbs and I’m still going, but more than that, I know what I am capable of. I have achieved all of the goals (including all regular push-ups in my workouts) that I had set for myself at the beginning and now I have a whole new list of goals. My outlook on life is better and I am all around a better person. I am more confident than I have ever been. When I first started, all I wanted to do was lose weight, now all I want to do is be stronger, faster, and better and I know that my body will follow suit like it has so far. I recently competed in the Barbells for Boobs charity event at Crossfit West Sac. This was my first Crossfit event of any kind and it meant so much to me that Jake came with me to cheer me on. He did it with me and video taped my workout. I am now so excited for the next event !
Crossfit is a lifestyle for me, not just a fitness program. Stompin Ground is about being a part of something much bigger than yourself. It’s about being around people who don’t judge you, but want to help you! If I want to get better they are right there with me wanting it for me, if I want to be able to lift 10 more pounds they want me to try for 20, if I lack the confidence to go harder or longer they remind me of what I have done so I know not to doubt myself. I encourage anyone with a story that sounds like mine to come check out Stompin Ground. Crossfit can look intimidating with all of the hard bodies and insane workouts, but they can change it to suit anyone(even a ground kisser like me), and then you slowly end up being one of the people doing the insane workouts! Its awesome and I am definitely addicted. If you come in to check out Stompin Ground, you will probably see me there!
A very special thanks to Winter and Jake for always believing in me and for always pushing me just a little bit further than I thought I could go, I look forward to hating you during a workout and singing your praises when it is all said and done and I plan on hating and loving you both for many years to come….now look out Crossfit world here I come!