It has been a week since I returned from the Granite Games, and I’ve processed so many thoughts and feelings about my experience, I’m not quite sure where to start. So here’s a little background on how it came to be that I spent last weekend competing alongside thousands of athletes, in St Cloud, MN…
Rewind to early July: over the course of 2 weeks, my partners and I completed 6 workouts that made up an online qualifier for the Granite Games, one of the largest Crossfit competitions next to the Crossfit Games. Our placing for those workouts (10th out of 50 teams), earned us an invitation to the main event, held Sept 8-10 in Saint Cloud, MN. Initially I was surprised and satisfied just to qualify. However, upon discussion and reflection with my teammates, we decided we’d step up to the challenge and accept the invitation.
Many people ask me what I do to prepare for competitions, and the simple answer is, keep doing what I’m doing: training. The only thing we knew for sure about the workouts was that we would each need to complete a 400 meter swim. As such, the only thing I did specifically for this event was to brush up on my swimming. Although I have swum in competition (triathlon) before, it had been a good 15 years, so needless to say, there was some work to do there. For the experienced swimmer, 400m is a sprint, but I had such a mental hurdle about getting back in the pool, it took 4-6 swim sessions to feel like 400m was doable. And even then, I had lingering concerns about the water temperature (would it be super cold?) and the nerves of swimming in a lake with 89 other people.
As the competition drew near, reality set in that we were really going and more concerns cropped up: that we’d be competing next to some of the best athletes in the country in our age group (35+), and we’d be doing it all two thousand miles away from home! Yikes! Fortunately, the weekend before the event, the details of the workouts were released, giving us the opportunity to test out each event. Whenever it is possible, and will not cause undue stress, I always test competition workouts. On the one hand, knowing what movements and transitions feel like in advance, allows me to make more informed decisions about pacing on the day of the competition. But more importantly, trying out the workouts allows me to eliminate the anxiety around the ‘unknown.’ I only had few days to test the workouts, so I choose to focus on the ones that looked like they’d be the most challenging and left the others alone.
Between the testing I had done in advance, and knowing myself and my own strengths and weaknesses, I knew which workouts would be the biggest challenges for me and which would allow me to showcase my fitness. There were 3 workouts that made me really, really nervous and coincidentally, they all fell on the same day – Saturday. The first was the swim (relatively speaking I had the least experience with this movement). The next was a sprint involving a couplet of gymnastic pulling plus lifting a heavy, odd object a dozen times (in practice I had strained my shoulder working with the odd object and I was scared it would happen again). And the last one was another sprint involving multiple sets of heavy front squats – another movement that is not a strength for me.
I did my best to calm myself, reminding myself that by earning our spot, we were by definition, qualified to compete. The other technique I used to manage the anxiety was to focus only on the stresses that were within my control. When I thought more about that, I realized one of my stresses was around ‘finishing last’ or ‘not doing well competitively.’ The corrective thought process I used was this: first of all, consider the consequence, what if you finish last? What is the worst that will happen? People will laugh? People will think I am not a good athlete? Neither of those would likely happen, but even if they did, so what. But more to the point, I have zero control over other people’s performance. I could be up against 80+ Olympic swimmers or 80+ people who have never swum a day in their life. The only thing I can control is my own performance, so that is the only effort I will focus on. I promise myself before every event, that I will race MY race, and not worry about anyone else’s.
The good news is, in all three of those events, positive thinking helped propel great performances. In the case of the swim, I felt good (not too cold) and was able to hold my own (and excel) in a large group of swimmers. On the other events the weights felt completely manageable and I focused on quality movement to ensure I kept my body safe and healthy. We ended up finishing all events, feeling strong. That alone was a HUGE win in my book! And, as it turned out, 2 of the 3 workouts that were of biggest ‘concern’ to me, ended up being our best finishes, competitively! The feeling on Saturday night, having successfully completed those events, is indescribable. I felt as if I had just won the whole competition, despite the fact that there was still another whole day ahead of me… More on that coming soon!