Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday's Workout: Start, Stop, Start

Interesting morning. Before today, I've never stopped in the middle of a WOD to make frantic phone calls. It's not something I'd like to repeat ever again, but my experience at the box this morning reinforced my love for CrossFit and the CrossFit Palo Alto community.

The 5 a.m. class began as usual, though we had two (!) new members show up, bringing this morning's class size to an even dozen. Today also marked Mint (a.k.a. "The Marine")'s final workout with us. His time in the Bay Area's over, and he's moving on. When Mint started, XFitMama and I were the only other members of the 5 a.m. crew. For months, it was just the three of us (and Tim) cranking out WODs, listening to "angry white guy music" and cracking wise in the flower shop before dawn. Heaving kettlebells in class won't be the same without him.

More after the jump...

Strength Skill:
  • Heavy Thrusters (2 sets of 5, 3 sets of 3)
I was excited to work on thrusters again. We haven't practiced 'em as a strength skill since last September, and I'm hoping this additional work will pay off the next time we encounter a WOD like Super-Fran. Kyle and I paired up, and we slowly moved from 95 pounds on the barbell up to about 125 pounds. Today was about nailing our technique, so we didn't try to kill ourselves with excess weight -- but the final set was heavy enough that I had to struggle to maintain proper form.

Once our slo-mo thrusters were done, we put away our toys and got ready for today's quick-and-dirty WOD.


For time:
  • Run 400 meters
  • 21 pull-ups
  • 21 burpees
  • 15 pull-ups
  • 15 burpees
  • 9 pull-up
  • 9 burpees
  • Row 500 meters

The gym's a few ergs short of a dozen, so the class had to split up into two groups: One would start with the run and end with the row, and the other would start with the row and end with the run.

I was happy to start with the row -- not because I have any affinity for it (ha!), but because I knew I'd be too gassed by the end of the workout to pull with any kind of intensity.

I am, however, determined to improve my rowing technique, so as the WOD began, I decided to work on my breathing -- in sharply through my nose, with a forceful exhale. Happily, I found that focusing on my breathing took my mind off the torture of the actual rowing itself. By the time I thought to check the monitor, I was surprised to see that I was already over halfway to 500 meters, and still feeling fresh.

And that's when Tim walked over and said something to me. At first, I thought he was offering a coaching tip -- God knows I need pointers on rowing technique. It took a few seconds for his words to register in my WOD-drunk brain:

"I just got a message from M -- there's an emergency. You need to call her NOW."

Shit. My mom had just been released from the emergency room the night before (she spiked a fever, which is bad news for someone in the middle of chemotherapy), so I was fairly certain the emergency had something to do with her ailing health. I hopped off the erg, grabbed my cell phone, ran outside and placed a few panicked calls while the rest of the class kept chugging along. I don't know if it was my nerves or the adrenaline rush from rowing, but it took forever to get my fingers to cooperate and punch the right buttons on my phone.

It turns out that my mom -- no doubt exhausted from chemo, her fever, and a late night at the hospital -- had lost consciousness and sustained a nasty fall at home. She was still passed out cold when my dad found her. By the time M got a call from my dad, my mom had regained consciousness, but she was groggy and her speech was slurred. My dad, meanwhile, was too rattled to take decisive action. We urged him to get her to an emergency room immediately. We quickly settled on a plan: Both M (who was already on duty at the hospital) and I would meet my parents at the ER in 45 minutes -- the time it would take for my mom and dad to drive there from their home.

When I hung up the phone, I was a bundle of nervous energy. My head was pounding, and I wanted to climb the walls. There was nothing I could do for another 45 minutes to help -- other than take the five-minute drive from CrossFit Palo Alto to the hospital, where I could wear down the waiting room carpeting by pacing across it several hundred times while waiting for my parents to arrive.

So I decided to get back in the gym and finish the WOD. Was that an odd decision in light of what was going on? Should I have just grabbed my gym bag and rushed off to stake out a spot in the ER? In retrospect: Maybe. But it turns out my fight-or-flight response wouldn't let me sit still. I had excess energy that needed to be burned off.

As the rest of the class stretched out after completing the metcon, I strapped myself back into the erg and asked Tim to re-set the clock. I didn't focus on my breathing this time -- I just turned off my brain and pulled and pulled and pulled. As soon as I hit 500 meters, I hustled over to the bar and cranked out my pull-ups and burpees, with XFitMama, Mint, Kyle and others cheering me on. I've never appreciated it more.

Once the final burpee was done, I stumbled outside to complete my 400-meter run. Something didn't seem quite right, and it took a moment before I realized what was different: Dawn had broken. I was used to running in the dark. After the first hundred meters or so, I managed to get my legs underneath me, and then the afterburners kicked in. I hustled. I was in a rush to finish up and go see my mom.

Result: 9:41 as RXed.

It was a little weird doing a WOD by myself in a gym full of people, and I'm sure Maddie (who arrived at the box a minute after I started the workout) was a little puzzled by my late start. But in another sense, it felt oddly right. At that moment, I needed the workout. And I needed the words of encouragement from my friends and peers. I got both from my box, and I'm grateful and proud to be part of this community.

[Postscript: I'm writing this from my mom's room at the hospital, where I've been stinking up the joint in my gym clothes ever since leaving the box this morning. My mom's a little banged up, and the doctors are keeping her here overnight for observation, but overall, things are looking up. She appears to be back to her old self, and is on the mend. Whew!]