“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” by Theodore Roosevelt
I instantly connected to this quote because it so completely describes how I felt about withdrawing from SoCal Regionals. I was faced with a decision, a consequence to my actions, but it was not clear right away that I even had a choice in what the outcome would be.
When I was preparing the week before the event, I felt good. I felt confident with all of the workouts, and was getting anxious to train, as I was tapering along with all the other athletes and downing my volume. All I could think of when Jackie was approaching was that I couldn’t wait to hit intensity again. I couldn’t wait to jump on a rower and hear my hard breathing, and let the mind games take me into the depths of competition. All I could think of was the unbroken thrusters and finishing hard with a big set of pullups. I was thinking about all the workouts, but dramatically focusing on the first one.
During the athlete meeting, Ronnie Teasdale asked Adrian Bozman the question that was on most of our minds. He asked if an athlete missed 3 reps at their opening weight, would they be out of the competition. Bozman said that there was no minimum work requirement for event 2. Ronnie was basically asking… should we dare to be great? Should we be confident going heavier, or should we be more safe… would it DQ us if we missed? As athletes it’s the hardest thing to even let ourselves admit there is a, ‘what if we miss’…. doubt in our mind. Adrian told us there was no minimal work requirement. I let out a sigh of relief hearing that I wouldn’t be out if I the worst case scenario happened. If you’re in the CrossFit community, you know plain and simple, what Boz says goes! He is a highly respected Level 1 and Prep Course HQ trainer and has been a prime example of a strict but respected judge in the all levels of CrossFit Games competition. I’m sure it made a lot of athletes rethink their starting weight, even though we always knew we were going for a 3-rep max in OHS.
Warming up for Jackie getting ready to kick off our long weekend, I kept thinking of how much FUN this part was. Nothing I do in training can compare to going head-to-head with the top female athletes in SoCal. It is a different feeling getting ready for the top female heat, where we’ll all be using the same weight, doing the same exact workout, and truly going head to head, no excuses. As we were all getting focused, we warmed up before they called us into the corrals. As the 3…2..1 struck us into the intensity, the workout was over before we knew it, and I had tied for 5th place.
I had decided the instant the workouts were announced that I would start at 175 lbs for the Over-Head Squat. The weight options were 85, 125, 155, and 175 and it seemed obvious to me that if I wanted to be competitive, I would have to put all my training together to prove I was ‘at that level’, like I knew I was. Ironically enough, it’s my favorite lift, and was the best thing that possibly could have come out of the hopper for me. I had hit 175 x3 almost a year before that, and had done it and 185 consistently throughout the year. I was actually more worried about the power clean, tricky ‘bar over head magic act’, and the jerk, no worries about the actual three reps.
After hitting 175 with ease during warmup, I was happy going on stage. I didn’t do one burpee muscle up, as I was so focused on the lift and knew that part would come together as one of my strong points when I needed it to.
When in the 7 minutes, I cleaned with ease, and got the weight up with confidence. I steadied the weight, and had a fast first rep. The second rep caused me to step forward, with my toes on the edge of the platform. As I went to the third rep my elbows and shoulders were shaking, and I dropped the weight at the bottom of the squat onto the sign with my name and weight. Great.
Listening to all the announcer talk about the other girls in my heat hit their lifts and add weight, I started to get mad at myself.
I waited … not long enough, and tried again. I got 2 reps easier than the first time, and made the last rep super slow, and lost it again on my way up. On the fourth minute, I tried it again, and as my shoulders were fatiguing it brought my chest down and the weight forward, and after making one solid rep, I dropped it back to my shoulders, afraid of having to power clean 90% of my max clean for a 4th time in 7 minutes. Rested with it on my back for 30 seconds, as I could see my family in the crowd, scared and covering their faces. With 20 seconds left, I missed the jerk. I immediately put my burpee shoes on and took off my belt. My judge rushed me over to the burpee-muscle up event as I had about a minute left to reset my brain.
I can only describe those two minutes as confusion. Questions of why it happened, and why I couldn’t squat what I usually do easily, and how the other girls got over 200 lbs and I was out of the rankings. I couldn’t decide if I was, ‘done for good’, or if there was still a chance, or if I could make it back to still be a contender and make it to the Games. All I knew was that this was my chance to prove that I could get out of my head. This was maybe the last chance I had to prove that I belonged out here, and I could turn myself around. On pace with the rest of the girls, to save time, I jumped into every single muscle up without kipping. I needed to stay ahead, and I thought I could finish in the seven minute cut-off. I got all the way through 29 muscle ups, and I was in the middle of my last rep when the time ran out. Only two girls finished in the cutoff, and I came in third place overall. The only thing I cared about was that whether I was disqualified or not, I couldn’t make a come-back. I was scared to death I had lost my chance to qualify for the Games, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get to compete the next day.
Soaking wet with pure exhaustion I sat in a tent with my coach and we talked about all my options. The score board was changing rapidly with a DNF next to my name, and a 6th overall still, and then 11th place, with no DNF, back and forth. I was shocked when he told me I probably wouldn’t be able to compete, and I was crushed. We started talking about next year, and what I needed to focus on, and lessons I’d learned through all of this. Later on in the night we were told I wasn’t DNF’d and that me, and 5 other competitors at the SoCal Regionals would all get to compete the next day!
I couldn’t believe it, and we all thought of it as somewhat of a miracle. I thought, ok this is what I’m supposed to do, they want us all to be able to go on because of this morning’s athlete briefing. My parents, brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles that flew in from Colorado were celebrating and went out to dinner, thinking there must be a reason why we were allowed to continue. As I fell asleep last night I prayed for understanding on what was actually fair. Not just in our region, but in every region, all over the world. That’s when I started recognizing that I was faced with a choice. A decision that would define me as an athlete, but even more as a person.
Read The RX Review’s story – Andrea Ager’s Decision to WD From the SoCal Regional