I’ll start with the ugly lesson.
I never understood why there’s so much fighting in the NHL. It always made me laugh when I watched spontaneous on-ice brawls. I simply didn’t understand how a person’s instinct in the middle of a game was to latch out and punch someone else.
I do now.
I have an ugly confession to make. For some reason saying it out loud is an attempt to relieve myself from the guilt I feel.
At the Taranis Titan Challenge, I found myself feeling like I imagine an NHLer feels the moment he attacks another player physically.
On the third day of competition, tired, beat-down and ready to be done, emotions were running wild for me. Ahead of me was a short two-minute workout - similar to what I'd imagine an intense hockey shift would feel like on your lungs and legs - intensity was high and there was a lot on the line for me. I needed to beat one particular competitor to make it into the top three for the final workout.
I was pumped and possessed and thought I could do it.
45 deadlifts were no problem. Now it was time for the relatively light 45 back squats.
Four reps in I realized I had been no repped on the first four reps. My judge said I had to go a little deeper.
I don’t normally react to judges’ calls, for some reason the intensity of the moment set me into a tailspin of emotions.
Instead of staying calm and collected and making damn sure I slowed down a bit and squatted to the proper depth, I was overcome with anger.
And when you're that angry, it's almost impossible to focus on each squat. I stopped living in the moment and just doing my job and back squatting; instead, I became consumed with my judge's calls. And of course, it got worse. Another no rep, and another, and another - a total of 16 no repped back squats. It's amazing to think that I could have been so out of control emotionally that I basically forgot how to do a simple back squat!
But that isn’t the point. My judge was simply calling what she saw, and I took myself out of the competition by focusing on her, and directing my inner anger at her.
At the end of the workout, I swear I had to hold myself back from punching her in the face. I honestly didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust what I was capable of in that moment.
Luckily I had just enough self-control left to avoid an altercation.
The following week I met with my coach - Chris Schaalo - and he told me in his mild-mannered way essentially how it was such bad form of me to leave the competition floor as soon as my workout was over, failing to sign my scoresheet, and failing to cheer on the other ladies in that, our final workout of the competition. I'm pretty sure I was outside in my car driving away before the time cap expired on the workout.
I'm not proud of that moment, and I definitely learned a lesson. I never want to let myself get so wrapped up by a judge's calls again. I never want to let myself come that close to a full-on public meltdown again.
I had no idea I was even capable of those kinds of emotions. It's humbling.
THE GOOD and HOPEFUL
If you’ve never competed in CrossFit before, I promise usually the lessons you learn are good ones.
A friend of mine – Natalie Duronio – was also competing at the Titan Challenge with the CrossFit Vancouver team.
She is 22 years old and has been doing CrossFit since she was 18. In the past two years she has started to compete in the sport and is rapidly becoming a huge force to be reckoned with.
She didn’t necessarily think she was a force going into the Taranis Challenge, though. It was her first ever multi-day, higher volume competition experience.
She went into the weekend scared and doubting her abilities. “I really came to the realization of the limits and criticism that I impose upon myself and what I believe I’m capable of doing,” said the 22-year-old UBC Economics student.
“(Through the course of the weekend) I found myself thinking, ‘How could I ever be as strong, fast, well-rounded etc… as the top athletes. It’s so unrealistic to think I could compete at that level.’ And that’s obviously such an unhealthy frame of mind,” she added.
But there she was on Day 2 hitting up a sled pull against two-time individual CrossFit Games competitor Angie Hay. And somehow, despite her doubts, despite her negative self-talk, going head-to-head against the powerful Hay, Duronio found a moment of inner belief and managed to beat Hay.
She spent the rest of the weekend grinning and performing impressively well for her CrossFit Vancouver team, who ended up finishing a respectable fourth.
What she learned: “Given that I could feel such self-doubt even while I surprised myself with my capabilities, it was a good reminder of the type of mindset that it would take to get to the top – to not see my shortcomings as insurmountable,” she said.
And imagine what this lesson will do when Duronio applies it not just to CrossFit, but to life.
There are fun little lessons you learn - AND EARN - as well, from putting yourself through 10 workouts in three days.
One of Deanna Fester’s lessons from the Taranis Titan Challenge:
“I learned that you can never have too much chocolate or candy bars stashed for after the competition weekend.”