It started with the New Hampshire Compulsion. I’ve spent the past few years chewing over this challenge like a dog gnaws on a bone.
Given enough time, sometimes the dog finishes the bone.
The New Hampshire Compulsion was a long bet I made with my buddy Todd. We had ten years to finish in the top 10% in the Crossfit Open (for me) or complete a lifetime 50 marathons (for him). The Crossfit Open rolls around once per year and consists of 5 or 6 workouts. Everybody submits their scores online and there’s a global leaderboard so you can see where you stand. I’m in the 45-49 year-old age bracket. Five years ago there were 1,600 people doing the competition at this age. This year there were over 13,000 men in this age group.
2017.1: The year started with ups and downs. The first try was disappointing, and exhausting. The worst part was burpee box jumps–throw yourself on your chest then stand up and jump over a 24″ tall box. These favor lightweight, explodey types, which I’m not. I didn’t finish the first time, finished but miscounted my reps the second time. The third try was finally solid, and valid. I was very happy to do great on third try. Improved from 79th percentile to almost 94th.
2017.2 Every year there is a workout that includes muscle ups. This movement also favors lightweight, explodey types. Fortunately, this workout was structured so you could do considerable work before getting to my sticky wicket. For the first time ever (EVER!), I successfully made muscle ups in practice, but they never showed up in my two tries at this. All the practice and failures left me with bruised ribs that didn’t go away until the final week.
2017.3 This was a complex, technical movement (squat snatches) that I’ve never felt good at. But it played to literal strengths. I got through the first two parts of the workout with one second to spare, putting me in the 94th percentile. Zach and I then put in lots of practice to try again. The second try started great but then I became stuck in glue.
2017.4 A long grind of a workout that I only tried once. Slow on the row but disciplined on the HSPU. When they went away they were gone. Final results put me at 94th percentile.
2017.5 Finally, right in my wheelhouse! This last workout relies on strength and persistence. All the characteristics of a turtle. I did a little better than 98th percentile on this.
Here are a few things I learned in this 4 year journey.
The power of a rising tide: Experience and practice matters. Todd has seen a similar change in his portion of the compulsion. What once was a big challenge (running a marathon, finishing in the top 90%) becomes routine. What makes it routine isn’t always fitness but experience. Your legs know the right pace; everything you’ve done you’ve done 5000x before. It’s a help.
You’re defined by your weaknesses: In the open, one big fail can eliminate you. I almost eliminated one of them this year but still got a little lucky that the workout gave me movements before my waterloo so my score ended up decently strong.
Going new places is fun: I did two things (squat snatches and bar muscle ups) this year that I’ve never accomplished or mastered before. Both of them are immensely satisfying when you get them right and neither are as hard as they look. They’re like a golf swing; 11 things have to happen in just the right order in a quarter second and the result can be enjoyable.
So, where to next?
Who knows, I’m just going to enjoy the celebratory videos for now.