Behind the Scenes at Regionals 2014: Things that are Things.

I am definitely exhausted from an amazing weekend of emotions and physical activity, but I had to get all the below written out before it left my head.  I wanted to have the chance to tell you all the story of how this team happened and for those of you who aren’t able to tell from the Live Feed Archives, to give you an idea of what went down from my end. I also wanted to have the opportunity to acknowledge some very important people who made this entire effort possible.

It all started last year at the beginning of the CrossFit Open 2013 (see the below). Paul Buono (far left) was a friend of Danny’s who happened to be in town and wanted to complete WOD 2 of the Open with us. This was only the beginning of Paul’s journey through the Open of that year. Both he, Perrin, and Record would qualify for Regionals in 2013. And each of them walked on to the field of play injured.

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Paul moved into the city shortly after the end of the Open and trained at CFCC as much as he could during his time prepping for Regionals. This was great for Record because she finally had someone to pace her!  As you can see, this was also great for Record because Paul’s attitude towards training is just a little eccentric. As her Coach, I loved being able to offer her the ability to ease up a little mentally in the weeks prior to Regionals.  No matter how good you are, the training is stressful, takes as much time as a part-time job, and really, going it alone is never as fun as doing work together.

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At that time, Perrin had also started preparing for Regionals and was able to complete a few workouts during the Open with Record as well. This came in handy when they stepped on to the mat at Regionals literally side-by-side. It was also really challenging for Record to have a smaller athlete to compete with. Especially that year, every workout seemed to be swayed one way or another, either the lighter athlete would dominate or the larger – there was very little room in the middle.

rec and perrin

These are the three of them on the morning of the first day of Regionals 2013. Obviously they are all super-stoked that I am taking this picture. But I seriously couldn’t have been more proud to know all three of them at the time… or more fearful for each of them going into an entire Regionals weekend not at 100% capacity. That weekend was filled with surprises, some good, and some not so good. Perrin ended up PRing a workout that she couldn’t complete and placing a lot higher than she thought she would. Record PR’d pretty much every workout she did but was  heavily beat up by the end of the weekend. Paul came out of the weekend with what he knew was a torn labrum and STILL placed as one of the top athletes in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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In the end, all three of these amazing athletes ended their Regionals season with rather pyrrhic victories. As athletes, they each vowed to come back better next year but the road to get there was long, and daunting. For that to happen, I believe each of them had to experience a shift in perspective. I know for Record this meant working on her ability to be resilient in the middle of a workout – even when Plan A has given way to Plan B, and Plan C is anyone’s guess.  For Perrin, I know she had vowed to train and sometimes lose, because it is one of the ONLY ways for any athlete to ever improve. And for Paul, I knew he never wanted to miss a trip to the CrossFit Games because he didn’t do everything he could to remain healthy. For all of them, it meant working smarter before they could work harder, each of them had injuries that they HAD to address.

paul and rec

Spectators too can be inspired towards greater things every Regionals. Last year, Danny and Morgan vowed to return to Regionals in 2014 as competitors in any way they could. They immediately set to work making plans to create that possibility. They weren’t the only ones who were inspired either. At the time, I marveled at Record’s capacity to grow in skill and strength in such a short amount of time as we prepped for Regionals. I was moved to tears as I watched Perrin finish the deadlift workout – because I was overwhelmed with the amount of sheer will she left out on the floor. And although I had just met Paul, I was absolutely floored by his athletic ability and attention to detail during the entirety of the weekend.  The challenge for me as a Coach and Owner of CFCC was to support this level of greatness, and to spread it in our community.

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“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”  ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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It’s funny how if you keep your heart open the world will send what you need your way.  The picture above is from a short hike that Perrin and I took while we were out in Arizona for our Nutrition and Life Coaching certifications through OPT. Perrin and I had kept in touch after Regionals and I mentioned to her that I was really interested in doing some continuing ed through this particular certification program. While out in Arizona I basically asked Perrin if I could train with her to get a feel for what her workouts were like. As Paul battled coming back from shoulder surgery, I was trying to piece my own shoulder back together after a rough series of very tough summer competitions that left it very lame. We sprinted (I dry heaved), we air-dyned (I dry heaved), we back squatted and pulled together (I think I dry heaved during back squatting). I learned a lot.

So the very first THANK YOU has to go out to those therapists who made all of these athletes healthy again.  Special thanks definitely goes out to Doc Perry of Stop Chasing PainRachel Shanok of R.A.R.E. Physical Therapy, and our beloved Ave for all of the touching. Without this knowledge base, along with a whole host of other providers, I’m pretty sure we’d all be icing somewhere with our appendages half-attached.

When we got back from Arizona, I was able to include a lot of what I had learned in the programming at CFCC and in my own individualized programming for myself and for those I coach.  Perrin was gracious enough to offer me access to her own personalized programming which she gets from Jason Leydon (below) who is a Coach and Owner at CrossFit Milford, coaching and programming for many high-level athletes in the area, and a Coach who is slated to lead the new Philly Founders NPFL Team. Without this programming, I don’t think we’d be where we are today. Not only did I improve VASTLY (especially when Perrin started programming for me entirely), but I also learned a lot as a programmer which allowed me to help Record, Morgan, Ave AND all of the members of my Accelerate courses.  We owe Jason a lot for helping us from a distance, and providing us with two extremely solid athletes in Paul and Perrin.

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Whenever we could, Perrin, Record, Morgan, Ave, and I trained together. Often, this meant squeezing in sessions at odd times of the day or in completely awkward spaces because really, CFCC is just NOT in the suburbs. We ran the same 400m loop that you guys do, hauled airdynes out to the back alley, and just generally had fun putting in the work.

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Pretty soon, around the time that Perrin started officially coaching at CFCC the entire Coaching Staff was in on the action.  We did anything we could to make whatever we had throw at us work.  Including, but not limited to us piling the sleds and prowlers into a 15-passenger van to find a field way in South Philly to run through… only to get kicked off the court in the last minute of our metcon – urban athletes, indeed. We coordinated as well as we could even though admittedly, the very nature of each of our jobs is that we ALL have different training times because we are ALL covering varying coaching times. But we happily made it work!  This is the part where I just feel like reminding all of you that if you have a goal that matters to you, you will go out of your way to make it happen. If you have a goal that you’re not telling us about, I promise there’s a REALLY good chance that we can help AND that we want to!  Come talk to us!

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We were all better than we had been in a long time going into the Open of 2014 but there were also lots of tweaks here and there, lots of fears, and many things to get done over 5 extremely strenuous weeks. Personally, I felt fitter than I have felt in years going into the Open, and even then, I knew my training had only just begun. I didn’t perform anywhere near where I would have wanted to, but it was better than it had been in a long time and that alone, made me feel assurance and hope for all of our athletes. It was a great Open season and though it ended with Perrin taking a fall on the last attempt of the last workout, I was honestly grateful that nothing else had happened AND that we had qualified. So many of our athletes performed at a level that I could never have anticipated and I couldn’t have been prouder.

open

Throughout the Open we also heard updates on Chris’s Dad and were consistently inspired by the work ethic that Chris showed in the gym. Upon qualifying for Regionals, that work ethic only increased. It was only in the last week of preparation that Chris became sure that he was going to have to step away from the team in order to spend time with his father. We felt it only right to bring his passion to Regionals through the form of the t-shirts we made.  So I have to thank Chris, for reminding me of how deep CrossFit can run. Our gym is a family because sweat is sometimes stronger than blood. I hope I never forget that what CrossFit really means to me is not just becoming a fitter person, but a better one – even when life is so horribly, horribly unfair.

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Of course I cannot speak about this weekend without first speaking about all of you. We could not have been prepared for the overwhelming support that you all threw our way.  You made way for us to train during classes, you cheered us on, you patted us on the back when we were writhing in corners, and you reminded us of who we were representing on a daily basis. The picture below (even with Ave’s obviously psyched expression) was amazing to see on Sunday. YOU ALL were a critical part of making this weekend matter in a much bigger way. We all were grateful to be there, nervous for the tasks we had to complete, but honestly, each of you helped to put our work in perspective – I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see each and every one of you all weekend long, how proud of each of you I am, and how eager I am to hear what you were all thinking and feeling as you watched.  Between Bova opening up a gym to all of CFCC, to Nat taking some great pictures, to the Short Patrol going to all the trouble they did to make us an inspirational video that made us all cry, to the LBC lifters who dealt with my crazy in the weeks before Regionals… you all made this weekend so much fun, and so worth it.

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On Day 1, not everything went as planned, but I know I personally made it through this day in particular because Record was literally the voice of reason in my head.  When I thought “FAIL” she screamed “SUCCESS”.  I have a funny feeling that this might be because this was one of the BIGGEST things that we worked on in her own training this year. This also might REALLY be why she had completely lost her voice by Day 3… because I was definitely hearing her in my head from start to finish of every workout. I can’t say enough to thank her for giving me the opportunity to feel what it is like out there, but I know I can promise that I won’t forget it and I won’t allow her to regret it.

after

Day 2 we had a tough time with standards. But this is what you accept when you sign up for Regionals; things do not always go as planned and the best you can do is learn how to be better for next time and not lose your head out on the field. I have to thank Tim, for always making me laugh through my training and over this weekend. Oh, and for always appreciating my music choices and saying ‘yes’ to brunch. I have to thank Danny for believing I am capable of more than I know (and he’s usually right). I’ve spent the better part of this last year being able to do just one more rep because Danny thinks I can. Lastly, I have to thank all three of these men for providing CFCC with some serious stache credit. We got noticed all over the place for facial hair. #whatathletepass

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Day 3 was our best day of the weekend, we placed 13th in two workouts and 12th in the last one. We did this IN SPITE of the first workout of the day being our WORST in practice. I think all of that boils down to this moment right here. We huddled up, said a prayer for Chris’s family, and forgot ourselves.  We forgot our nerves, our failures, our fears, and we did what we were capable of. For those of you who are struggling with fear of failure in your day to day training, I can tell you – nothing will make that fear fly away more than a reason that matters. Finding your purpose is finding your footing – a big shout-out goes to Danny for making this happen.

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I’ve got to thank Paul (below, showcasing some serious friendship with Danny) and Perrin for providing programming, scheduling, leadership help, and what could be considered ACTUAL THERAPY during the entire course of this competitive season. It goes without saying but imma say it anyway, I couldn’t have done it without you. Each of you inspire me daily to be a better athlete and a better leader. I kind of feel like our last few months have been exactly like WOD 7 – you do some deadlifts and I’ll just hang on to this bar real tight while it slips from my finger tips, vice versa. Then rest. Then do it again. Then we’ll talk about it? Especially we’ll talk about our feelings. Then we’ll do it again. But I’ve loved training throughout all that hanging on.  And I’m giddy with looking ahead to see what the next year holds for all of us.

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We also have four wonderful affiliates to thank who played host to us so that Perrin (below) and the rest of us could practice handstand walking as far as we liked (and of course all of the other workouts). Micah, of CrossFit 215 – Lesha, of CrossFit Novem – Jesse and Erin, of CrossFit 1Force and finally, Brian of CrossFit Explode. You opened your doors to us like we were your own – please let us know if you ever need anything at all. A HUGE congrats goes out to CrossFit Explode as they embark on their trip to the CrossFit Games 2014.

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I also need to say a huge “THANK YOU” to our resident Donut, (Jordan Klein), our master of all shirted things, Meghan Ramos, and my teammate Morgan Voz. You ladies have kept my head above water during a whole lot of all the things – like more all the things than EVER. You have endured some crazy over-tired Coaches, smelly lunches, and insane scheduling and inboxing. Morgan, you have improved more in the last year than I could have anticipated – it has been a privilege to watch you grow and sit across from you on the crying couch. Though I have not always made it easy, thank you for being willing to engage with me enough to make your performance and our friendship stronger. In my book, you are all champions, for all the ways that you tirelessly support the rest of the staff – and definitely for the way you guard my door when I am working. I’m grateful for your personalities, for your hard work, and most of all for all the love.

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And though it is of course cliche to do so, I must say “thank you” to my Beyonce (fiancé), for making me food on late nights, for putting up with my constant iPhone access, for tolerating my early rising and late to-bedding, for covering the house and team registration, for glaring at that judge when he no-repped my last overhead squat (ha!), and for literally carrying me when I am too exhausted to move – because you can – I love you, and now I will go ahead and plan our wedding.

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Finally, I want to say something that I think you all should know: the road to Regionals was not paved with easy conversations, perfect training days, and high fives.  There was plenty of that but there were also difficult moments, injuries, NO GLUTEN, times when we wondered what we were giving up all our free time for. There is no feeling like winning for sure, and I will not deny that I wish some things could have gone differently on game day. That said, I am overflowing with gratitude for the chance to experience the highs and lows, for the opportunity to be out on the floor with those I coach, and for the gift of a reminder about why I love CrossFit. We are all athletes, all gladiators, all under-dogs, and capable of much more than we know in the gym, in our relationships, in our jobs, and in our hearts. It is our collective character that allows for us to reach the highest heights and recover from the lowest lows. We are not alone in our efforts, and we should not try to be. The greatest tasks are always achieved together.

chris'sfamily

“True independence of character empowers us to act rather than be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living. 

Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They’re not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality. 

Life is, by nature, highly interdependent. To try to achieve maximum effectiveness through independence is like trying to play tennis with a golf club – the tool is not suited to the reality. 

Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept. If I am physically interdependent, I am self-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working together can accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone. If I am emotionally interdependent, I derive a great sense of worth within myself, but I also recognize the need for love, for giving, and for receiving love from others. If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own. 

As an interdependent person, I have the opportunity to share myself deeply, meaningfully, with others, and I have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.”

-The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey

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