After the London Throwdown competition ended, my mind was buzzing with the different moments, every person I had met, every thrilling heat and I tried to burn each detail into memory. It felt like the day after Christmas and I just wanted to go back in time and replay it in slow motion. My entire trip had been planned around the competition and now I had several days in London with absolutely nothing I had to do… ‘ok…. What now?’
I went home the night of the competition with one of my clients who I met in person for the first time at the event. She lives in Qatar and I program online for her. She and her husband made the trip to London to watch their first CrossFit competition. It lit a fire under her, as she saw all her favorite movements in high speed with super heavy weight, eyeing the girls and understanding what would be expected of her when she was ready for her first competition. That night I learned so much about people that really travel. I thought that I had travelled a lot because in college we drove to a lot of different places in vans for meets. That was until I chatted with this couple who had lived in multiple states in the US, Africa, Dubai, throughout the Middle East, and all through Europe. I’m so used to basing my life off of who I know and where I’m comfortable, they were a team and just based it off where they wanted to live and explore.
I stayed up almost that whole night, only getting a few hours of sleep and not being able to shrug off the excitement, . My body was totally exhausted and needed to recover. It wasn’t until that night that I realized exactly how hard the time change was on me, I still hadn’t gotten used to it! Even though I was exhausted, I was getting restless; I couldn’t stay out of the gym. I met Siv at In2 CrossFit, we took class together, which was a fun partner WOD, and I PRd my 5 rep max back squat. I felt like a million bucks even after 10 events, no sleep and having walked probably four miles that day! It reminded me of how me and Katrin kept saying England was a “PR” country.
After going to a few parks, I started my first day of true exploring. I took the underground or ‘tube’ and tried to follow my tourist maps. I quickly realized what a dork I looked like in my California state hat. I even had a Hollywood keychain that said Andrea on it. A guy called me by name in the tube and it totally freaked me out. He said, ‘you look like an Andrea.’ Nice try, I was an easy target. I walked to Buckingham Palace and learned the history of the surrounding buildings. I wandered into a changing of the Guards ceremony where they had on tall hats with chin straps and tassles on top, big fancy red and gold outfits, and were marching around with long sharp swords. I entertained myself by making a video of the guards and one of them told me I was not allowed to stand in the archway, and even shook his sword at me, as if he was going to use it!
A few of the athletes from the competition invited me to come train throughout the week. Finding my way around the tubes and popping up in random parts of London to find secret hole in the wall gyms was such a typical CrossFit hunt. The biggest giveaway was seeing someone super fit sprinting by around a corner, or big tires parked in an alleyway, or someone walking around doing pvc pipe pass throughs outside with nanos on. I take for granted how familiar those community signs are, until I’m desperately looking for them in an area half lost!
I really liked Reebok CrossFit Thames. I met one of Europe’s new athletes on the scene, Nick Rouse, who was a great training partner that invited me to come get demolished by a workout his coach had written for him. He was the winner of the London Throwdown and he trained like it. We had lots to talk about when it came to business and clients and schedules, working in corporate and CrossFit gyms, and of course… training . Spitting out workouts, and jotting down notes from each other, we kept saying, “oh that’s a good one, hold on let me grab a pen…. ok ya let me know what you get on that one….” He reminded me of my training friends back home; a light-hearted fun side mixed with an intense competitive nature.
I was introduced to Jami Tikkanen after the workout and I didn’t realize who he was right away because of everyone’s thick accents. I didn’t make the connection until later the reason why he was asking us what we thought of the workout was not casual conversation, but instead a review on his programming and how the workout’s work to rest ratio was for us. Nick reminded me after he left that he was ‘the’ Jami, the main coach behind Team Europe in the Innaugural USA vs. Europe Invitational. He’d been working with and coaching Mikko Salo (Worlds Fittest man ’09, 5th ’10), and is still helping Annie Thorisdottir to continue her back to back rein (2nd Fittest Woman ’10, and Fittest Woman ’11 and ’12) in the CrossFit Games. Seeing as he has tons of athletes in Europe, including Katrin, my new friend from the weekend, that follow his programming, it was fun taking part in it for a few days! I will look back on this week and think of how ‘abnormal’ it actually was, and realize in ten years, (oh I can’t imagine what the workouts will be then….?) I was able to casually meet some of our sports beginning master minds. I’ll watch as they continue to make history with their athletes’ “general physical preparedness,” and respectfully watch them grow as the sport gets wider, heavier, and more skillful each year.
Several of my last days were spent touring around with a girl named Regina from Colorado. We had mutual friends and she messaged me on Facebook offering to take me around. She would text me directions and call to make sure I wasn’t lost, and the offer to meet me whenever I was seeing sights on my own. One night me and Siv took a nighttime adventure and actually went inside the Parliament building, where Big Ben (tall clock building, mascot of London) rang and we got to listen to the debates and walk around inside. Afterwards we spent time at Westminster Abbey, a beautiful church made in 1066, with about as much history as you can fit into one building. From famous marriages of royalty, to tombs and sculptures, it was truly beautiful at night to see. We watched a ‘football’ (white and black ball) game at a pub with her friends and flat-mates, and watched the entire bar get as crazy as if it were the Super Bowl.
The days started going by really fast, even though I was awake for long days as I continued to get almost no sleep because of the time difference. When I would try go to fall asleep it was like 11am in California, and I just wasn’t tired yet! I heard that it takes as many days as hours to get used to the time change. 8 hours… 8 days, oh good, the day I left I’d be caught up: figures! I spent a lot of time on solo adventures seeing the sites and shopping for my family. How could I stay out of all the cheezy London souvenir shops- what am I a robot? I always ended up dropping in on a CrossFit, or going on run intervals where I could hit two birds with one stone. How could I pass up seeing everything old and historic and beautiful and getting my run on?
On my last morning I tried to fit in as many things in as possible. Left the house at 7am, went shopping with the girls, and right after Regina had set up a morning adventure “Duck Tour”, where we rode around on these big ridiculous yellow buses getting a tour of England! I took about a million pictures, especially as our bus literally drove into the Thames river, and turned into a boat with a propeller! We saw the back of Parliament and the London Eye from the river, and found out they were originally used in Germany in wars so they could carry equipment without having to dock and unload between ports. It was actually really scary, but a total surprise and very exciting!
To my surprise, Regina sat on the tube with me for almost an hour getting back to the airport. I couldn’t believe the way people had taken time out of their weeks to spend time with and help me get around. Getting out of work early, insisting on inconveniencing themselves to make sure I wasn’t bored, and most of all, to have fun with a ‘new friend’!
This trip I really had to learn to trust. To truly feel like I knew people and trusted they had the best intentions, and were reaching out simply because they would enjoy taking part in an adventure. In the future, I will be very careful to pass on this kindness to travelers as sometimes we view them as interrupting our busy lives. It is obvious to me that God was with me through the entire trip, and without the faith in his guidance I never would have been as confident. This trip was divine from the very first feeling I had that pushed me toward the belonging feeling I recieved, being drawn to the event. It carried through during the online qualifiers, committing to a ticket, traveling, making it to the podium against all odds, and making good friends along the way. He sends us gentle little taps on the shoulder, and it helped remind me that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes we need a little ‘interrupting’ to take us away from our career focuses or our financial commitments, or our current relationships to remind us to take relax… step away… and take a break!
Most things worthwhile will never come easy.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine