The Value in Knowing Your Breaking Point

Originally posted in September, 2016:

This past weekend was Battle at the Rock, hosted by CrossFit Castle Rock in Colorado. It was my 12th competition of the year, and the second time I have competed in back-to-back weekends.

The previous weekend I felt great at the CrossFit Frontier Master’s Championship. I missed the podium by a total of like 5 seconds and two points. I left disappointed but never felt like I didn’t perform well on any given workout. My competition schedule has been busy, but I’ve never felt a crash or like I’ve hit a wall. I’ve focused on recovery and tapered my training around the events.

That all changed this weekend in Castle Rock. It was a perfect storm of a bad weekend. I quit my nearly can-a-day Skoal habit on Thursday – so the insomnia and nicotine withdrawals left me feeling really irritable and not recovered. I barely slept the night before – and then had to hit the road at 5:30am for Colorado.

Event 1 torched me.  An ascending weight deadlift/box jump over couplet, that finished with bar-facing burpees. I thought I would do fairly well on this one but by the time I hit the burpees, my heart-rate was redlined and I struggled to barely finish in the bottom half of my division.

The rowing-sandbag throw – sprint floater was next, and another disappointing finish. I dropped the bag on the final sprint and ended up about 20 seconds behind most of the field.

The first round of kettlebell swings felt fine. By the time I got to the second round, I just didn't want it anymore. Photo Credit: Amie Jindra - Dynamic Range Photography.

The first round of kettlebell swings felt fine. By the time I got to the second round, I just didn't want it anymore. Photo Credit: Amie Jindra - Dynamic Range Photography.

The workout that scared me the most was event 2. An 800m hill run to start the workout, then kettlebell swings, thrusters and pull-ups. This is where I hit a wall. Physically and mentally. I’ve never felt the way I felt halfway through this workout. It wasn’t that the workout itself was that bad – I just didn’t want it. It was a strange feeling, but I just lost my motivation to compete, my motivation and desire to finish as strong as possible. The physical wall was there – but it was the mental fatigue – competing what seems like every weekend – the constant stress and adrenaline, week in, week out – caught up to me.  It came as no surprise that for the first time in my competitive career – I got time-capped in an event. I had 12 kettlebell swings left and the buzzer sounded. I was embarrassed – humiliated. I wasn’t the only person who got capped, not by a long shot. I was embarrassed because I knew I got capped because I just didn’t want it.

The final event of the day shaped up nicely for me to end on a high note. A 3:00 AMRAP of “Grace” (30 clean and jerks 135#) + Max Double-Unders. “Grace” is my jam. I have had a sub 2:00 Grace time for years. I know exactly how to pace this workout if I want a 2:00 finish, 1:45 finish etc.

The best score in my division before I went was like 42 double-unders. No problem. I was going to pace it at 2:00 and hit like 50 dubs and go grab a beer. After my third rep, my clip came loose and my weight started sliding away. I fixed it and had to pick up the pace. Unfortunately the clip was broken – it kept happening. Like 5 times I had to stop and tighten the weight and clip. I ended up finishing at 28 clean and jerks at 3:00. I was irate. It was the perfect frustrating end to a shitty day. Even when I got my mind right – I still couldn’t finish on a high note.

It was a long drive back to Wyoming. I put the weekend behind me and started focusing on taking care of my body and trying to allow both my mind and body to recover. The 307 Throwdown, my 13th competition of the year, is October 8-9.

The adrenal, CNS and overall fatigue certainly manifested itself this past weekend. I set out this year to learn what I could from competing as much as possible. No competition is without lessons. Learning how far you can push your mind – how much mental stress you can put yourself through before you give, is a valuable piece of information to have.

Like anything in life – people can say “I never give up” or “I’m mentally strong.” Saying shit is easy – but what do you really know? We all have a breaking point – and while admitting I hit mine is tough –at least I know where my mine is. I know how far I can go, how deep into the black I can take myself without breaking. The person who just talks about it, doesn’t know. This is why it so important to do, not just say.

You can eschew the benefits of competing all you want. It’s not for everyone. It’s reserved for those who are willing to swim into the dark abyss – the deepest recesses of the mind and body – where the only known is that you will encounter challenges and deal with adversities that you cannot possibly imagine – and you will grow because of it. As a person, as an athlete.

-SW