Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday's Workout: Aloha, Lumberjacks

It may seem crazy that M and I got up before the crack of dawn -- WHILE ON VACATION -- to get ready for the 6 a.m. class at Kauai CrossFit this morning. But hey: 6 a.m. in Hawaii is 9 a.m. in California, so we actually got to sleep in. Besides, how could we possibly pass up a chance to WOD in paradise?

Open since last October, Kauai CrossFit is the only affiliate on the island. Owned and run by Jerome Hromiak, a recent transplant from the Bay Area, the gym has physical features resembling that of San Francisco CrossFit (which makes sense when you consider that Jerome was introduced to CrossFit by Kelly Starrett). Members exercise under a large waterproof tent and a wooden pull-up structure that offers some extra protection from the rain -- but otherwise wide-open to the sea breeze and sunshine. It's perfect, given the jaw-dropping tropical setting.

We showed up a few minutes before 6 a.m. to sign some waivers and learn a bit more about the gym and its programming. Since February, Kauai CrossFit has followed the workouts posted on, though the WODs aren't necessarily done concurrently with the Main Site. And, of course, Main Site WODs tend to lean towards long metcon beat-downs -- something we do at CrossFit Palo Alto only one-quarter of the time. "People here like the 30 to 60 minute metcons," Jerome said. Holy hell.

And just to drive home the point, he warned us (with a smile!): "We have a really hard one planned for today."

But first, he led the eight early birds in the 6 a.m. class through a directed warm-up, and then three rounds of:
  • 150-meter run
  • 10 walking lunges
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 knees-to-elbows
  • 10 Good Mornings
The box's running path, by the way, runs along the shoreline. It's distractingly beautiful.

Then, it was super-long chipper time.


"The Lumberjack 20"
  • 20 deadlifts (275lbs/185lbs)
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 kettlebell swings (70lbs / 53lbs)
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 overhead squats (115lbs / 75lbs)
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 burpees
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 box jumps (24" / 20″)
  • Run 400 meters
  • 20 dumbbell squat cleans (45lbs / 30 lbs each)
  • Run 400 meters

The Lumberjack 20 is a "Hero WOD" named for those who were wounded in the Fort Hood shooting in November of 2009. Four of those killed and eleven of the wounded were members of Lumberjack CrossFit in the 20th Engineer Battalion. Sad, sad stuff.

But honestly, I knew nothing of the context when the WOD began. I just knew I wanted to survive the damned thing. Even at six in the morning, the air was moist and warm. Rain had soaked everything around us, and as I loaded my barbell with plates, I started getting worried.

And in fact, it took a while to get through this one -- not because it was technically challenging (aside from the overhead squats), but because there was a ton of stuff to complete, and a lot of running, too. I had little-to-no difficulty with the deadlifts (though I scaled the weight down to 225 pounds), kettlebell swings, burpees or chest-to-bar pull-ups, and the first few 400-meter runs felt good. (Probably because I was so dazzled by the view from the running path.) The overhead squats were a killer, but at least they came fairly early in the WOD. I was proud of myself for snatching the barbell overhead, even though I'd scaled the weight down to 95 pounds.

It wasn't until the last two rounds that I really hit the wall. Box jumps at 24 inches are typically one of my favorites because I can whip through them quickly. Today, though, I was slow as molasses -- and even took a tumble off the rain-slicked surface. The dumbbell squat cleans seemed impossibly heavy.  And my ragged running looked more like stumbling -- though whenever I felt tired, I just stared out at the blue of the Pacific and imagined I was stretching out on a beach towel instead of hustling back to the box to lift more heavy stuff.

Result: 30:12. Seemed like a lot longer, but I had it better than M, who -- because she didn't have her contacts in -- didn't see that the WOD kept going after the burpees. I'm sure she silently mouthed some expletives before powering through the rest of the workout.

The folks we met this morning were pretty kick-ass. They're clearly used to regularly grinding out long metcons, and all of them tackled the Lumberjack 20 with an unbelievably cheery, can-do attitude. For the first three rounds, I did my best to keep up with the leader of the pack. While we ran, she shared with me that she's currently recovering from knee surgery -- but by the end of the WOD, she'd lapped me. In fact, the thing that impressed me most was everyone's running prowess; even after over a hundred reps of fairly heavy lifts, these folks could still hustle like jackrabbits.

During the WOD, Jerome calmly walked around, helping us strip our bars to transition from deadlifts to overhead squats, and helping folks with squat clean technique. Even with all the clanking bumper plates and grunting CrossFitters around him, Jerome maintained a friendly, low-key approach that's perfectly matched to the environment.

As M and I gobbled down our post-workout purple sweet potatoes, we agreed that a good butt-kicking was the perfect way to start a morning on Kauai. To be frank, though, I don't think I could handle a bunch of Hero WODs three times a week on an ongoing basis. I think my head would explode and the cortisol would erupt like a volcano from the top of my neck-stump and slowly ooze down the front of my shirt, mixing with the briny sweat and blood. I can't help but have mad respect for the members of Kauai CrossFit, who throw down like this regularly.