July 01, 2008
I didn't want to sign up; I had to. When you work at something (CrossFitting) for close to two years with the diligence of an apprentice, it becomes more than a hobby. The only sensible way to determine your capabilities, then, is to test yourself against others. So, I clicked "Register" back in March, and then knew I was in for it, come what may.
I arrive at 7:30 and the gym is hopping. People are standing outside the warm-up room, hedging on whether to go in, while those inside simply are already getting down to business. By 7:45 the hallway is littered with athletes stretching and strategizing and trying to trade trepidation for confidence. At 7:55 host Jason Ackerman has us corralled and speaks, like a god, from high above us on the observation deck. He marks our fated order with a flourish of blue strips of paper. Some count their order in the heat, while others simply avoid eye contact, finally realizing that the time has come. With all the names read and heats listed, we file like so many doomed souls into the competition room.
The space throbs, much like our hearts as we cluster before our racks and size up one another. "My heart is beating out of my chest," someone finally offers, expressing what we are all feeling; the thrum of competition. The air is dense, laced with humidity and anxiety and the very athletic aura of "Let's do this!" So it begins.
Squats, damn low ones at that, lower than most of us ever get, are expected, and the red flag (ripped pink towel) goes flying. Merely parallel will not do. We consort and bounce numbers off one another. "At that depth, I'll need to go 250 not 275." "She's hardcore with that flag; I won't break 300." We adjust and go as low as we can and swallow some pride along the way.