Pick it up, NANCY! 

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Before you begin reading this, I feel it necessary to state I have no intention of making it a habit to talk about CrossFit or fitness and nutrition or really anything specific every week.  It is part of my life however and I wanted to share about a great event and experience I recently had. 

With the mere mention of the word CrossFit, several of you might already be rolling your eyes.  Or perhaps you began laughing thinking back to several YouTube videos you may have watched depicting cross-fitters as moronic, or members of some strange cult your mother may have warned you about.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the “Is this water paleo?” video, that was a classic. 

Granted, CrossFit has taken on quite the subculture in America.  While is it depicted once a year on ESPN The Ocho, the majority of your knowledge has probably been brought on by most newcomers at the sport who are so excited in their new-found hobby that the CrossFit honeymoon phase ensues.  You know what I’m referring to, the guy who talks about nothing but CrossFit, the girl who claims, “It’s not a workout, it’s a lifestyle.”  The continuous posts of CrossFit Memes on a Facebook feed and the endless chats about strange words like AMRAP, EMOM and Tabata's.  I get it.  I was once like that, it phases out.  For most. 

I especially like the comments I get from friends, family or work.  Comment’s like; “You can’t eat that can you.” - Why yes, I can. Now please pass the donut. OR “Oh gosh, you’re a Cross-fitter aren’t you (insert eye-roll),”  - “Yes, I CrossFit, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.” Or my favorite, “I couldn’t do that.” - “Sure, you could, you just have to come.”  The list could go on and on about the misconceptions, attitudes and perceptions of what CrossFit is or isn’t.  Unfortunately, most people never move on from those ideas that were negatively put there by YouTube, a fitness guru or some ill-informed post of the ‘dangers of CrossFit.’  It’s kinda like someone saying, “Laurel (or any city) is the worst, there’s nothing there but garbage.”  Me responding, “Have you ever lived in laurel?” ‘Well, no.”  “Have you ever visited Laurel?”  “Well no, I just heard...” Exactly. 

Moving on, this past weekend I had the opportunity to compete at the Pensacola Beach brawl.  In the fall of 2012, I jumped in and had no idea what I was getting Into. I finished in the bottom tier and ate a massive piece of humble pie.  Strangely enough I enjoyed it.  Now, some 6 years later I entered the same competition again as an individual and finished 4th out of 41 contenders in my division.  I was/am stoked.  But it went beyond my minimal accomplishment. It made me really appreciate the event itself.  An event called, The Pensacola Beach Brawl. 

When you first arrive at the beach in Pensacola, you find the recognizable local symbols.  There’s the beach ball, the beautiful ocean and gorgeous pier.  Then you throw in this massive CrossFit competition, and you have a sea of people that have been preparing for months on end to get here and compete.  It’s really a sight.  Imagine The Grove at an Ole Miss game, but instead of beer and frat boys, you have FitAids and foam rollers and some random PVC pipes (for stretching).  Add a DJ putting on some awesome music and the energy instantly becomes contagious and electric.   

You have competitors and supporters from each affiliate or association fully garbed in matching attire with water bottles and protein powder at the ready.  Not to mention cell phones for epic action shots of your friends.  Looking around, you really get caught up in the event sometimes and forget it’s still a public beach.  I laughed way to hard when my wife brought up an interesting point, “I wonder what the people just coming to the beach are thinking about this.” When a fellow competitor replied, “I bet they’re thinking these are fittest gypsies they’ve ever seen.”  The affiliate names and team names are awesomely original.  Some team names get down right funny and clever with a few pushing the bar for appropriateness.  Some of my favorite team names from the weekend were; Team Time Cap, Sour Snatch Kids, Taco Bout Trouble and Chafing the dream (still laughing at that one). 

I contributed my success this year to a lot of practice of course, but mainly - focus. I had an old boss once tell me, “Priority and focus Russ, it all boils down to priority and focus.”  That has always stuck with me and when I committed to competing in this competition I did just that.  I started the first week of June working out more and getting extra programming from my coach Dawn Stoll who ramped up my cardio and had me on track to basically be the most competitive ‘me’ I could be.  Along with Brooke Peel and her Peel Plans program concerning nutrition, I was really dialed in better than I’ve ever been before competing both on a nutrition and in-shape standpoint.   

Which brings me to Nancy.  If you read the title of this blog, you most likely read it in the context as it sounds.  “Nancy” is sometimes used as a derogatory name for a guy (especially in the athletic world or having anything to do with masculinity).  For instance, pick it up,Nancy! Immediately resonates with a male being called weak by my fellow athletes who could not lift the bar either...they just weren't underneath it at the time. Sally is also a named used in this context.  For instance, when I hit a terrible shot in golf, my friend Chad is very quick to point out that “you’ve got it hit it Sally.”  You get the point. 

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Actual image of an awkward silence.

Nancy, however was my judge for my first event at this year’s beach brawl.  Me being me, I usually talk a lot when I get nervous as an outlet.  Nancy took the brunt of it.  What formed after that was a mixture of laughter, encouragement and awkward silences.  I guess these judges (who are volunteers btw) never get to talk to the athletes, or maybe the athlete never speaks to them that often, but I feel like I caught her off guard.  The Conversation went as follows, “Nancy, are you prepared to judge me? I like being judged in general so I’m looking forward to this.” All with a straight face.  Insert awkward silence.  

Nancy produced some nervous laughter, and then all was well with the world. I told her I might yell at her in the heat of the competition and that she shouldn’t take it personally if I did that.  She then informed me that she might yell at me in Pilipino.  I immediately liked Nancy.  The clock starts, and I begin and there was Nancy pushing me through, she yelled out my count because when your competing you sometimes lose all track of time and space and need help. Nancy was my help; the workout was done, and Nancy told me great job and I signed off on my score. I picked at her saying I felt like I was at least a min faster, but she held strong and didn’t fudge the numbers.  She told me I was a beast and I left the competition floor proud.  I was going to miss Nancy. 

The next workout, there she was.  I yelled walking up as if we were long lost friends, “Nancy! We meet again!”  She hugged me and told me what I had to do etc. The workout was done and Nancy continued to be a great judge.  To my surprise she didn’t take me up on offering her a free meal of Crab legs and a drink should she change my time by several seconds.  She held firm, but we were forming a bond.   My next workout was on a different part of the venue (the beach) and I asked Nancy if she would be over there and she said no. I was sad. Through the trials of a competition you get used to certain things, the heat you’re in, the lane you’re in, and in the case, I had gotten used to Nancy.  

I arrived at my next workout station on the beach. Let me point out that when you combine running in loose sand, dumbbell clean and jerks and biking for calories on a concept 2 bike all in one workout, you know going in it’s a grinder. If you don’t know what any of those things are, just know it stinks.  But Nancy was there, and I wasn’t expecting her to be, so I quickly grabbed her and said, “Come on Nancy, over here.”  She was my go-to.  By this time, she knew my name and reminding me that I’m a beast. She also challenged me to do a very fast time on this workout. The workout ensued, and it was brutal. It went down to seconds between me and the guy in the lead for the whole competition. He edged me out by a few seconds, but it was Nancy - and my fellow box supporters that were there to encourage me. I joked with Nancy again about my time not being right, but a high five and a side hug were enough. She still didn’t change my time for the better. Oh well. 

The last workout of the day was a test of strength where you had 8 mins to get the max weight you could lift on a couple of different movements.  I was surprised to find Nancy, yet again being a potential judge. At this point, we had clearly made an athlete/judge connection and even my supporters knew who she was.  I was kind of viewing her as a good luck charm.  To quote Michael Scott from The Office, “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious.” I called her over to where I was, and she continued to do what a great judge does. She kept up with my time for me and my weights.  I appreciated Nancy and felt lucky enough to have the same judge on every event. It was pretty cool.  

We had some playful banter back and forth throughout the day, like the one time I missed a lift attempt and yelled “come on, Nancy!” She didn’t get it I don’t think, which it made it even funnier for me at least.  Or the time on the beach when a family of five was walking across the ONE SECTION OF THE BEACH THAT WAS INTENDED FOR THE COMPETITION (I'm yelling because it was quite obvious this family did not care about the fittest Gypsy party on the beach that was taking place) right in the middle of where I was about to run.  While in the middle of the workout I yelled at Nancy, “look at these idiots!” and she replied, “don’t worry about them just go through them!” That made running in the sand not so bad. Or the time I wanted to drop the bar during the final part of a workout and she yelled at me to keep going. I did.  Nancy was great. 

Me and Nancy - Pensacola Beach Brawl 2018

Me and Nancy - Pensacola Beach Brawl 2018

The best moments of this event came when almost all individuals or a team were done, and everyone focuses on the last athlete or group pouring their heart out trying to finish before the time cap.  It’s in that moment that the whole community cheers for one athlete to finish.  For the majority of athletes competing and in almost every CrossFit facility across the world it’s about just that, finishing.  It’s a sense of accomplishing something some people never thought they would have.  It’s the idea of an entire group of people focusing on one common goal. The hope of getting on the podium.  The pride of representing your CrossFit affiliate, your gym, your family or yourself. To show your family and friends that there’s more to Debbie in accounting than numbers, more to dad than mowing the grass, or more to mom than making supper.  The beach brawl is a great example of what can be accomplished with a little priority and focus. 

Kudos to you Pensacola Beach Brawl, and Mako Athletics for putting on such a great event.  For athletes, spectators and the CrossFit community in general it brings out the best in everyone and reminds us of where we are and where we want to be.  So, tomorrow I’ll go back to working out as usual.  I’ll warm up and stretch like normal.  We will most likely have a period of weight lifting, where I'm quite certain someone (probably my wife) will yell out, “Pick up the bar Russell! COME ON.  Pick it up, NANCY!”  Then I'll be reminded of my judge, and push the weight up with a smile on my face.