Pulling yourself up can be humbling

  • By Bruce Overstreet
  • Monday, March 17, 2014 3:09pm
  • Life

Ryan Swobody came over to me and said exactly what I needed to hear after my crushing failure to do the second of the five competitions in the CrossFit Open.

“This CrossFit Open is humbling.” That’s all he needed to say.

The presence and reassurance of the 44th fittest man (out of over 160,000 worldwide) in last year’s CrossFit Games was just what I needed to bounce back after suffering a frustrating struggle to muscle “just one more than one” chest-to-bar pull-up before the three-minute time limit ran out. Ryan’s acknowledgement of my deep desire to get one more chest-to-bar pull-up — one more than just one — before time ran out couldn’t have come at a better time.

Heck, I was a mess at having failed so miserably. I admit that I was frustrated. I was angry. And I was humbled. I had tears welling up in my eyes over the amount of emotions that flooded through me at that moment. Probably not something a 52-year-old man should admit to when he is hanging out in a gym with almost as much testosterone as a jar of BALCO’s “The Cream.” But this had been an abysmal failure. This was one of those moments that becomes embedded in the psyche and haunts you for longer than people realize.

This one almost brought me to tears. Until Ryan Swobody gave me a little reassurance.

I had come into the CrossFit Marysville gym this past Saturday morning thinking positive. The workout that about 200,000 people were doing worldwide called for some overhead squats followed by the dreaded chest-to-bar pull-ups. Now, for those who have followed my lack of progress in becoming a master of the pull-up, you will recall that I have been stuck on the number six much too long when it comes to doing simple, regular pull-ups. This competition called for the chest-to-bar version, touching not just the chin, but the chest, which is significantly more difficult.

But this is the CrossFit Open; time to turn one’s game up a couple of degrees.

One of the individuals who is turning up the heat in her game in the Open is the pregnant woman you may remember I was keeping pace with a month ago in the WorkOut of the Day — the one I admired for her moxie as she cranked out repeated rounds of pull-ups back in early February. Stephanie Swobody, Ryan’s wife, is now seven months pregnant, but that isn’t stopping her from competing in the annual CrossFit Open.

Granted, she said she felt “heavy” Saturday as she warmed up on the pull-up bar. But who wouldn’t when carrying a child that is only a couple months away from being delivered?

That didn’t stop Stephanie from doing six times as many pull-ups as me in this second of five weekly competitions. Along with lifting and squatting 65 pounds over her head ten times, Stephanie had enough strength to lift two bodies — hers and her baby’s — up to the point where her chest touched the bar six times.

The reward for her dogged determination is that Stephanie and her baby are currently in 2,071st and — shall we say 2,071.5th — place out of 3,442 women competitors in the Northwest region. I, on the other hand, am in 4,162nd place out of 4,281 overall male competitors in the Northwest region.

Those gosh darn pull-ups were my undoing. Of course, this workout is designed to be a real challenge.

Doug Lee, 51, knows how much of a challenge this Open is. He has done the competition before, so he knows that to succeed requires some good training and a healthy body. After suffering through a long, tough stretch of having his shoulder rendered effectively worthless when any strain was applied on it, he is back. He also had high hopes for this round of the competition, but as I judged his progress, I felt his pain. These chest-to-bar pull-ups are real killers. Doug did manage five more than me, but it was obvious that he expected more out of himself.

The bi-product of a sustained, serious injury is often frustration at not being able to attain one’s previous level of success. Doug Lee was philosophical about his temporary physical state, which is a great lesson for me, the neophyte. But it still was frustrating for him.

As Ryan Swobody said, the Open is humbling.

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