Saturday, May 30, 2009

The pressure is off

Seeing the final qualifier workout come up today for the last chance qualifiers gave me a nice feeling of "I'm glad it's not me." I actually am looking forward to tackling this workout again, but first I need to practice the oly lifting technique I learned at Greg Everett's seminar a few weeks back. I want that technique so engrained that some approximation of it remains my default mode of liting, even when I'm so far gassed that I can't count reps (like last Sunday).

So today, rather than trying to start rebuilding the metcon that I lost over the last couple of months, I decided nothing would be better than spending some serious time working on my snatch. I invited John Barney over, both to share what I learned and in hopes that the act of teaching would reinforce some of the lessons for myself. (I had planned to do this immediately after Greg's seminar, but my schedule screwed this idea up until I'd had time to forget much of what I had learned.) The drills, positions, and movement patterns, actually came back pretty quickly and the bar was moving well, even though I never loaded it up heavy.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shoulder mobility drills
Air squats
Lunges & sampson/psoas stretch
Boz OHS drill

Skill work
Burgener warmup elements, 15# - many times through
OHSs and snatch balance sequence, several times through at 15 & 45#
tall snatch 45x3
3-position hang snatch, 45x3x2

Snatch 75x3, 95x1x2, 125x1x2

Good speed on that last rep, but I wasn't feeling the heavy stuff today, so I moved on.

This workout has been sitting on my to-do list, ever since Byers posted it at CrossFit 603 - and not just because I'm a math geek or because BW-normalized squat workouts are in my wheelhouse and I just wanted to feel good about the first metcon in my new program. I think it's an interesting approach to build scaling explicitly into a WOD. It was also high time I had a good core-stability workout, since in my limited prep for the Qualifiers, I was mostly focusing on strength and power-endurance work.

OHS for a total of 20xBW - choose your weight

I did 74# x 47 @ BW 173


A similar CF603 WOD, 40xBW C&J made it's way into the Rocky Mountain Qualifiers (at the Qualifiers, it was done with fixed volumes of 7000#/5000#). For the Qualifiers, this sort of choose-your-weight workout is especially interesting, because to do well, you need to know your personal power curve (those weights at which you can most efficiently move weight with a movement). By choosing the optimal weight, you maximize your power output and thus the intensity of your workout (in the strict CrossFit definition of Intensity = Power).

This was rough. With the OHS, the focus is on core (and shoulder) stability, so maximizing the power output doesn't have the same cachet. I think I ended up picking a weight that maximized my speed on the workout, and the effort left me with a nice post-WOD headache. My right shoulder was starting to take a walk around the joint capsule on those last couple of reps. I was definitely at my limit finishing this workout in a single set, but next time I'll try it at 95# and maybe heavier again after that to see how well I can keep the overall intensity going when the intensity of each rep goes up. I expect it will be an entirely different workout that way.

Ring work
1:00 in a mature support
MU progressions
1 MU
4 STC to hollow hang & quit

My post-WOD headache came back with a vengeance when I was inverted, and I called it a day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The perfect storm

It's hard to imagine worse prep for the qualifiers. Sometimes it felt like I was maintaining a decent level of conditioning with the workouts I was able to squeeze in around work, but the dramatic drop-off in workouts in May, while I fought to meet my May 22 deadline at work, led to a humbling performance at the Qualifiers. I suffer no illusion that I would have climbed up the leaderboards significantly. Those were some brutally hard workouts, but it would have been nice to go in at my best and see what I could do. Still, I learned a ton about my training, but more to the point, the entire weekend was an amazing experience. Did I mention that I got crushed out there?

I was super nervous when I arrived Saturday morning. I watched the women complete the thruster-burpee workout and was suprpised to see almost none of them trying to jerk the weight, despite a number of them struggling with the 95# thrusters. I went to the warmup area and practiced my thruster-jerk and was happy with how natural it felt and how comfortable the Rx'd 135# weight felt. As I said on Saturday, it felt pretty damn heavy after a while.

I was in the men's first heat, so while I had a chance to say hello to a couple of familiar faces, I hadn't caught up with half the people I knew there. It was therefore a pleasant surpise to hear folks cheering for me from the sidelines. It's funny how this sort of support works. In a pure metcon, like the row, I'd hear somebody yell, "Dig deep, Patrick. It's gonna hurt, but you can do it," and I'd dig deep and soldier on; but when I heard a coach shout "Get on the bar, Patrick," I could squat clean it fine, but if my shoulder muscles weren't ready to lock it out, all the encouragement in the world wouldn't help - at least not in terms of objective performance. It definitely helped me push through the pain and put aside the frustration of yet another failed rep. The funny part about this is that aside from the judges whose athletes didn't show who in front of me cheering me on and Sean Manseau ("Dammit" owner of Pioneer Valley CF), whose voice I recognized and focused on for cues, I had no idea who was cheering me on until I collapsed on my back in the shade by the edge of the cordoned-off workout area and looked up and saw Samantha Aurelio waving and the rest of the CF Tribe tribe standing there cheering me on. It was very cool to have such a supportive crew of virtual friends materialize to offer support when most needed.

After recovering from the pain, I spent the rest of that first workout cheering on people I knew - most often yelling as they stared at the ground before hitting their next burpee, "Rest on the bar," or "Lie down and stand up." I didn't need to shout this to Joe Celso, who upon finishing his last thruster would dump the bar, turn 90 degrees and just drop into his first burpee. His 7 rounds + 5 thrusters and 5 burpees won his heat. Particularly impressive was how he dug down for the last two thrusters as time was running down, after having been doing singles for several rounds, because he knew that if he dumped the bar, he'd never get in any burpees. That one double rep was good for 6 reps on his final score. It was also neat to watch a verteran of two CF Games, Dale Saran (CFHQ and formerly of CF Veritas in RI), pace himself - checking his watch after every round and patiently waiting to start-in again. Needless to say, he put up some solid numbers over the weekend.

The row was intense. It turned the competition on it's head. Some folks who were beasts of the barbells were humbled by those C2 contraptions. It was only 7 minute or so, but it was an every-placing counts format. With times clustering together as they inevitably did on such a simple workout, a loss of a second on the clock could mean a loss of five places in the standings. As a result, everybody had to dig for all they had. The format with the judges holding up color-coded cards as their athlete passed the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, and 1750m mark made the event a spectator favorite. Plus, because there was no heavy equipment flying about, everybody was able to crowd in and really make the competition rock.

I already described my experience in the row. I gave it everything, as the post-workout picture on yesterday's post will attest. (Thanks for catching me at my best, Samantha.) Maybe it's a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but after she mercilessly coached me through row, Erin Davidson is one of my favorite CF Trainers.
Inspired by her contribution to my suffering, I lent the same support to a few folks I'd met in my CF travels, usually emphasizing the long stroke when the suffering really kicked in during the 3rd 500, and positively screaming a stroke countdown for the last 200m. (It was quite odd being so enthusiastically thanked for screaming in someone's ear, but that's the kind of energy required to finish an erg test strong.) My voice is almost as thrashed as my quads, back, traps, and triceps right now.

After the row, there was a barbecue, which created a stunning contrast to the noise of competition. I walked into the Court Club lounge where maybe 50 folks had gone to eat and stay out of the rain (which thankfully lasted for all of 5 minutes), and people were so intent on stuffing their faces that you could have heard a pin drop. There was a live band that played off and on through the rowing workout and barbecue, which made for a fun atmosphere, although when they busted out Eye of the Tiger for the third or fourth time, I decided that the band didn't quite get CrossFitters. I'm just glad they didn't play Superstition when I was on the rowers, or I might have shimmied my ass right off the slider. Talk about messing with a sensible stroke rate.

Sunday's workout was the bomb. It blew up the competition and was an obvious test of work capacity. Heavy cleans and C2B is a lethal combination. I had thought they'd go better with running than KB swings, but as it was, it was brutal enough and I was thankful not to have to shuffle about the parking lot between trips to the barbell and pullup bar. For the first six heats, hardly any of the men finished, and I'm pretty sure that only 6 women finished at all. As a result, one woman jumped from 23rd overall to qualifying for Aromas. No worries about an inappropriately difficult workout, however. There's little question that the women who finished this workout were the fittest of the lot. The demands were incredibly high, but the workout was composed of fundamental CrossFit skills and those who got through this brutality will represent the Northeast well.

The men's heats started to get really exciting with three heats to go. In fact, by then, enough folks were finishing that it actually looked like a race, rather than a contest of survival, and that's when I knew the organizers had developed a winning workout. In Jason "Rhabdo" Kapan's heat, we witnessed another amazing display of pacing. Just about everybody hit the pullup bars at the same time in the round of 10, but Jason was still working his cleans patiently - clean, dump, set, clean, dump, reset. By the round of 8, he was in the lead - his beautifully efficient butterfly kip gaining him tons of time. However, even he couldn't maintain a butterfly kip throughout the workout, and he wasn't exactly enthusiastically running to get to the pullup bars at the end. (Of the ~180 competitors, only Lauren Erwin from CF Milford, who won this workout for the women and finished 2nd overall, managed to keep running from station to station at the end. The rest of us would move extra slow to whatever exercise it was that we most dreaded.) Jason set the time to beat, being the first to go under 12 minutes for this workout, and he was appropriately fired-up afterwards. His Guerilla Fitness crew was staying at my hotel and said that he was extremely but quietly disappointed in having what was for him a bad day Saturday. His comment after the workout was that he realized before going out there that all the pressure was off. He could just walk in there and do his workout, and he put in an awesome performance. (I think it was the third best time overall in the end.)

The finals of this event were insane. Judges were given cards to hold up as their athlete got to the rounds of 7, 5, 3, 2, and 1. As before, the fastest out of the gate in the rounds of 10 and 9 didn't take the day for either the women or the men.

As an aside, that first round was of the workout was crazy. They had constructed this pullup bar contraption, which when laden with 16 competitors agressively kipping at the same time, shook like crazy. There were a couple reps where my chest didn't hit the bar, not because I hadn't pulled high enough or hard enough, but because the bar I was pulling on had moved a couple of inches during my kip. My judge either had mercy on me or I came close enough that my shirt made contact. (He wasn't so merciful when I truly missed a rep.) I actually sped up my second round, so I could get on the pullup bars at a less popular time relative to the folks on my end of the contraption. (That strategy may have backfired a little.)

Sorry, back to the finals. The women's heat was neck-and-neck all the way among the top three overall finishers. By the time they were at the round of 7, Heather Keenan (CF New England) was in the lead, then Stacy Kroon (CF Boston) passed her, then Lauren came on in the later rounds. They all finished within ~30 seconds of one another and the emotion of the moment as they all completed the workout was truly inspiring. They were the top three going into the finals, and they each knew that their finish would send them to the Games.

The men's heat was harder to follow - only becase there were so many more guys who kept going strong into the middle rounds. Of the 15 in the final heat, only one didn't finish. The rest of them handled the weight and the C2Bs most capably. It was obvious that the earlier workouts had already selected an elite crew. As the round of 3 came around, it was clear that it was a race between James Hobart (CF Boston) and Brad Posnanski (displaced, I assume, from CF Invictus). They were within seconds of one another, but James's light weight on the pullups was the difference. His form never wavered on the cleans, so he was able to keep pace moving the heavy bar and stay just ahead of Brad. Brad, incidentally, is a complete beast. I watched him during the first workout, and he was doing strict burpees with a proper pushup, and still put up better than 9 rounds. He was tied for 1st going into the last round and ended up tied for points with James Hobart, who won on the tiebreaker, which was based on the final workout time. I was also thoroughly impressed with Dave Lipsom (CF Gotham), who came into the final workout in 1st place but was clearly suffering on the c2B pullups as the workout wore on. He fought through, however, finishing after most men in the final heat but finishing well enough to earn himself 4th place overall and a trip to Aromas.

The intensity these athletes mustered both in the arena and out-of-view doing their training was amazing. The effort put out by all the competitors, from those who tossed a 155# barbell around like it was a plaything to the woman who didn't have a kip and grinded-out deadhang C2B pullups in the final workout - literally spending minutes in isometric contraction trying to finish the last few inches of each rep, was truly inspiring. I made a bunch of new friends, connected with old ones, and have about a dozen affiliates that I now absolutely must visit. As poorly as my training ended up going leading into the event, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The truth hurts

A brutal Sunday workout. Going into my heat, only one guy had finished the WOD (Joe Celso - CF Rochester) and he was 12th overall going in and had to get his workout in early to attend a friend's wedding. (As an aside, Joe is a great trainer and his place is well worth a visit should you find yourself wondering what to do with your free time in Rochester.)

I went in pacing myself to finish the WOD within the 15-minute time-limit and things were going well. The C2B pullups were flowing (which doesn't always happen) and the cleans were heavy, but manageable. However, I started gassing late in the 8th round. I didn't slow down too much. I'm pretty sure I was leading my heat when I was in the 7th round, but I couldn't hold my pace. That itself wasn't so bad, but as I tired, my form went to shit on the cleans. I started muscling them and catching them with my ass tucked under, rather than dropping down into a deeper squat. My legs were still toasted from yesterday, and I didn't trust them to lift the weight or catch it. (BTW, my 20-minute foam-rolling session this morning was every bit the equal of the workouts for depth of pain.) Before long, my back was smoked, and in the round of 5 (which I reached with 2.5 minutes left), I just started failing miserably on the cleans. I must have pulled 9, but only 4 of them were good. I was cooked through.

I knew that my training wasn't up-to-snuff. I just didn't expect to be let down so suddenly and harshly - being simply unable to move the bar sufficiently to keep trudging on. I wasn't so suprised by it yesterday, since I've always been weak overhead, but today's Epic Failure blindsided me (in the way it happened - it was no secret that I haven't been training properly lately).

It's a truism. You can't expect to bring it all on game-day, if you don't bring it every day in practice, and I sure as hell haven't practiced much lately. Looking back on my log, I worked out only 4 days in May leading up to the Qualifiers and in all have had more off-days than on-days in 2009. Training was decent in January and especially in early February, averaging 2 days on for 1 day off (a schedule that was probably close to ideal when I was managing the CFSB volume). Work changed that. At least it the final presentation was the day before the Qualifiers - ideal timing to use my Qualifiers experience as motivation for my training.

I'm quite excited about starting up again - not because I've seen my weaknesses and need to attack them. I knew my goats (metcons greater than 10 minutes and overhead lifting, for example) but simply stopped training enought to tame them. I'm excited because now I can train for Nothing in Particular. I can focus on the fun stuff - oly lifting; gymnastics; backyard tire-flipping, object-throwing, crawling, jumping, rsled-dragging craziness; and even some LSD on the mountain bike or the hiking trails around here.

I swear I'll write-up the qualifiers properly tomorrow.


Oh yeah, the workout.


    155# power clean
    C2B pullups
    1.5-pood KB swings
Completed rounds of 10 through 6 and got 4 out of 5 cleans within 15 minute time limit.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The moment of truth

I may not have trained the hardest this past month, but I came to the Qualifiers fresh. Being in the first men's heat, I got a quick reintroduction to what CrossFit is all about.

12 minutes of:
    5 Thrusters, 135#
    10 Burpees
I don't know if it was not being ready for this or the combination of burpees and thrusters, but I only manged 5 rounds. I must have missed a half-dozen reps - not fouls, simply being unable to lock it out, starting in the third round. Every rep was a push jerk, and every pull was a squat clean. I was as efficient as I knew how to be and kept moving on the burpees, in no small part because I was so well rested after standing around staring at the bar for so long. I thought for sure I'd be DFL in my heat. I simply could not get those thrusters going. Most heats were won in 8 to 9 rounds. Top score was 10 plus a thruster, better than twice my output (unless you count those last three almost thrusters).

After the expectation the first ugly workout, having the row, a comfortably known workout (if not a strength) was actually a relief. After screaming some friends through the thruster-burpee workout, I settled down and took a 5-minute nap, which really helped me reset.

The atmosphere of this workout was amazing. The rowers all had coxswain/coaches urging them on, and the judge's job was simply to hold up a color-coded card when each rower got to 1500k, 1000, 500, and 250m to go. Jason Ackerman was running around with a microphone calling out the leaders distance in even finer detail. The spectators kept creeping closer and closer, shouting encouragement, and despite the open-air arena, it felt like a crowded stadium.

After watching Melissa Mulligan, whom I met at my cert, win the first heat with her boyfriend cheering her on, I decided maybe it would be best if I found a coxswain of my own. I recruited Erin Davidson of CF Tribe & Center City, who had just finished telling me about this rowing class they've been going to down there. She got me on the rower quickly, glad to see my form had improved since I posted a video to the Digital Coaching forum on the Message Boards. She also had me try the strategy that they'd been working, start hard for 10 pulls, settle in, and go hard (long, fast pulls) every 500m for 10 pulls. I figured, what the hell, it sounds better thought out than setting a pace and seeing what I had in the tank at the end.

First, I have to say that Erin is an awesome coach. It was obvious from the Message Boards that she knows her shit, but she also had the sharp eyes and toughness to not let me get away with a single short pull or loss of form by letting my chest cave and back soften. The hard (fast, long) pull worked like a charm after the first 500m, but the one at 1000m cost me pace afterwards. It wasn't until after the hard pull at 1500, where the end was in sight that I was able to get my pace back properly, and then I bombed the last 200m. I was really glad to be able to dig down and crank the pace for those last 20 pulls. Despite the morning thrusters and burpees, I managed a good time. (I thought it was a PR, but apparently I was in pretty good shape in February and pulled an even better post-workout time.)

2000K Row 7:25.5

Much more to talk about. It's a spectacular experience, but it's time to crash. Tomorrow:


    155# power clean
    C2B pullups
    1.5-pood KB swings
The kicker: there's a 15-minute cap. If I finish that puppy, I'll be beside-myself thrilled.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Overtraining and under-recovery, Part 4 - A little physiology

This post will be the last and was by far the hardest of the series. I starting it in late March, after missing a full week of training because I'd been working too hard. I had the kids to myself for a long weekend, worked until late in the evening several days, and spent 3 days out-of-town. I had my travel kit of adjustable dumbbells, rings, and a jump rope, but the thought of squeezing a 30-minute workout in around my work commitments never quite gained traction. As I watched my carefully planned programming fall to pieces, I kept berating myself for falling off the fitness wagon, but the two times I came close to motivating myself to get in a workout, I realized that I was severely under-recovered, short on both sleep and good food. Whether my decisions that resulted in me missing an entire week of training were the right choices in each case, I don't know. However, I decided at the time that getting enough rest was more important to my fitness than getting in a workout.

I previously discussed
the difference between overtraining and underrecovery, but physiologically they are often identical phenomena. Training produces an adrenal response, where our bodies enter flight-or-fight mode in response to the release of hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol (hydrocortisone), and norpinephrine. In the short term, this has lots of helpful effects, like increased alertness, improved glucose and fat metabolism, reduced inflammatory response and pain sensitivity, even improved memory. In stress situations, our bodies respond hormonally to boost our metabolism to enable us to adapt to the stressor. This response is similar whether we're dealing with mental stress from moving, loss of a job, or our wedding or with a physical stress, like a 10K run, short-intense workout, or an olympic lifting meet. The stress response is good. It improves performance in the face of the stressor. However, when the stress levels remain elevated, the body's response to the stress changes. We can't remain in a heightened metabolic state all the time. The effects of overtaining and chronic stress begin to appear: fatigue, increased inflammation, lowered metabolism, and a weakened immune system. (Note how these effects are the opposite of those produced by adrenal homones in the short-term. It's almost like a low-level adrenal fatigue, or more likely a reduced sensitivity to the hormones (because elevated cortisol and ephinephrine levels are associated with overtraining). I'm also craving carbs more than usual - probably because my body gets used to the elevated glucose levels that correspond to states of stress.

As I balance training and my insane project at work, I've been hyperconscious of the potential for being underrecovered from one or the other. I simply can't afford a few days off to illness, and I have no desire to injure myself in advance of the Qualifiers. When I got his project I knew the two events, this project and Qualifiers would be adding stress to my life in parallel. There's a beautiful symmetry to them - the final presentation for my project is the day before the Qualifiers. (For my next trick, I will attempt to avoid a letdown after these two events.)

In coping with this fine conjunction of events, I'm pretty sure I'm erring on the side of undertraining. I've dialed back the intensity, not in the gym so much as the way in which I drive myself to workout. If I feel fatigued, I don't push it. Instead, I make an effort to eat well and plenty and get my sleep. To date, my performance hasn't suffered much. I may not be peaking for the Games, but I won't be a mess either (at least not until halfway through the first workout).


I've been skipping out on the posting of workouts lately. I haven't been working out much, but I figure time spent doing that is better than typing away at the computer. (Remember, I started this post in March.) It two Saturday's ago that I ran a 5K. I got a mediocre time.

May 2, 2009

Run 5K - 25:12

The noteworthy thing in this was how messed up my legs felt during and afterwards. Since I have colitis, my immune system can get me jacked up when under stress. Aside from the ordinary symptoms of blood loss, I can get an awful athritic response. This run was one of those days. I pushed through OK, but my left knee hurt like hell afterwards. Some of it was IT-band related, so foam rolling helped. I'll just have to hope we don't hit a long run at the Qualifiers. I'm no good at them anyways.


May 6, 2009

10 C2B pullups
10 ring dips
Burgener warmup and snatch skill transfer exercises
Shoulder triplet
Boz OHS drill

Skill work
3 position: hang snatch-OHS couplet 45x3
Snatch 75x3x2, 95x3, 115x1x2

Snatching Fran - Mid-Atlantic Qualifier WOD

    95# (squat) snatch
    C2B pullups

Didn't push this, as my shoulder was unhappy during warmup, but it felt better as I went along and I sped this up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.


May 9 & 10, 2009

Attended Greg Everett's Olympic seminar. This will get it's own detailed write-up, because it's more deserving than anything else I've thrown up here. Saturday we worked the snatch, and Sunday we worked the clean & jerk. Set PRs in the snatch and clean, but was too spent to try to set a jerk PR.

Heavy stuff
Snatch 165#
Clean 225#
Clean & Jerk 185#


May 13, 2009

25 DB swings, 35#
10 C2B pullups
10 ring dips
Hip mobility drills
Deadlift up to 250#

3 rounds:
    10 Deadlift, 250#
    15 C2B pullups
    30 squats