Monday, October 2, 2006

Not Without A Fight

I was at a party on Friday night watching drunken girls dance on furniture. After a feeble, half-hearted attempt at participation, I carted my sober self out of the room, my Solo cup of water in tow. I was too preoccupied to worry about the trivialities of booze and sex—FGB was less than 12 hours away.

I found myself sitting in an unoccupied bedroom, scrawling notes on a purple Post-It. “Row, WB, SDHP, BJ, PP. 1, 2, 3.” I was mapping out my Saturday afternoon assault on Fight Gone Bad, the five-round CrossFit man-maker that had crushed me repeatedly in the past. I set a lofty goal of a 300 point score.

It demanded planning.

After a few minutes of contemplation and some hasty calculations, I set the marks—20 calories on the row, 18 Wall Ball, 20 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls, 22 Box Jumps, and 20 Push Presses per round. If I could hack through all seventeen minutes of hallucinatory hell at this pace, I’d make my 300.

At some point, Sam and I left the party and made our way to my apartment. I undressed distractedly and crawled into bed, visions of the Concept II Rower stuck in my head like post-accident head trauma. The imaginary sound of the Erg lulled me to sleep.

On Saturday morning, I took Sam to the lab, crawling past hordes of Cops with the unenviable duty of directing Boston College Football traffic. At the edge of the BC campus, I dropped Sam off, swinging a wide u-turn and heading back toward the city.

I was fully caffeinated and over-stimulated, my veins coursing with premature adrenaline and three cups of home-brewed Starbucks sludge. I cranked the Slipknot hate-music to eleven, and swerved through the gathering Superfans. I imagined the seventy-five pound push press flying skyward, my hip extension violent enough to warrant a downward pull before the next rep, my box jumps lightning quick, my feet barely grazing the ground as I launch upward again and again.

The bright yellow shirts of the BC faithful barely registered.

I pulled up to the curb in front of my building, bolting out the door and up the stairs. I bounded into my living room, intent on—waiting. I spent a full hour in overstuffed purgatory, waiting for Sam to finish some rodent matchmaking in the bowels of an institutional BC lab. During my wait I read several chapters of the Darwin Awards, a book detailing the exploits of those who unwittingly take their own lives engaging in moronically dangerous pastimes.

It didn’t even cross my mind that I might win a Darwin that afternoon.

Sam and I pulled up to the Facility, rocking out to one of the unknown bands gracing the end tracks of the OzzFest Summer Sampler CD:

“…I will stone you, stone you, wrap my arms around you, I will stone you, stone you, my little Halo…”

The Facility was set-up to accommodate spectators, the FGB course condensed to half the floor space. EC and Neal were there finishing the last-minute details, but I wasn’t in the mood for conversation. I threw on Sammy’s headphones, continuing my odyssey of full-frontal thrash metal with “Back to School” by the Deftones. I strapped into the rower for some warm-up pulls, pushing hard through my heels at the rate of one calorie per pull. After a few hundred meters, I exited left, picking up the 20-pound Dynamax ball and chucking it to the ceiling.

A little sport-specific practice never hurts at a time like this. I made my way through FGB at half-speed, pushing just enough to get my heart moving. It was time to go. I wrote my target scores on a hastily torn piece of paper, and handed it to Sammy.

“You gotta yell at me, baby.”

Just after 1:00, I strapped into the rower, Jack and EC prepping for their attempts somewhere in the background. I set the PM to “Calories”, and grasped the handle with my already-sweaty hands. Then, the signal:


I made my twenty calories in under 45 seconds. I flew off the rower and stood behind the Dynamax balls, waiting for the “switch” call. In my excitement, I threw the first Wall Ball shot almost to the ceiling, grazing the underside of the building-spanning support beam. I bagged eighteen reps with plenty of time left to contemplate the waiting barbell.

I banged out twenty high pulls and moved to the box jump, rebounding rapidly off the floor. It took the full sixty seconds to make twenty-five jumps, and I scrambled to the push press right at the turn.

The final tally for Round One came to 109. Predictably, it got worse from there. The steamroller hit me during the Round Two box jumps, sending my score plummeting to 15 reps per minute. At the close of Round Two, I lay on the floor in a futile attempt to slow my hammering pulse, forcefully pushing the carbon dioxide out of my lower lungs. Sam stood over me:

“99 in that Round. You need 92 to make 300.”

At that moment my heart sank. My legs were numb and lifeless, and I couldn’t consume enough oxygen to stop the panic breaths. 92 seemed impossible.

I strapped into the rower for the last time, and pulled with everything I had. After ten strong pulls, my legs stopped, my hamstrings bathed in movement-arresting lactic acid. I pulled feebly through the remainder of the minute, coming up with only 15 calories. The Wall Ball was no easier, and I began to lapse in and out, my vision blurry and obscured by torrents of sweat. Sammy’s exhortations to push sounded tinny and distant, and my mind fell prey to the weakness of my body. I finished Round Three with only 73 points, nineteen repetitions shy of my goal.

Maybe I shouldn’t have ignored the dancing drunk girls.

I lay on the floor, my lungs scorched from a long-forgotten cigarette habit, my head swimming in an ethereal fog. I moved from the floor to the bay door to the sidewalk, alternately standing, sitting, and lying prone. I paid no attention to the spectators that had gathered, fleetingly hoping I hadn’t scared any of them off with my incessant yelling.

Then, too soon, it was Sammy’s turn. I stood by the rower, shirtless and doubled over, still panting as she strapped in. I marked her goals on the bottom of her score sheet, noting the huge discrepancy between our strategies. Instead of a twenty-calorie row, Sam was shooting for only ten, making up the difference with huge 25-rep thruster and push press efforts.

As we ticked through the Rounds, she flawlessly met and surpassed her goals, relentlessly closing in on 300. At the final push press, she needed 22 reps to make the cut. She cranked out ten, and dropped the bar to the floor. I stared at her, willing her to go on. With a steady gaze, she met my eyes:

“I’ve got it.”

She picked up the bar with less than thirty seconds to go, slamming out twelve reps to make three hundred. It was a tremendous effort. She collapsed to the floor smiling, and I quickly verified her score.

300 it was.

Along with sixteen other athletes, Sammy and I spent our Saturday in an exercise-induced stupor, enduring pain and fatigue in the name of cancer research. Including a matching grant from the Wade B. Thompson Foundation, CF Affiliates nationwide raised $212,544 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

The least we could do was leave it all on the gym floor.

Go faster!


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was up in Manchester, NH doing the same thing. 300 was the goal, fixated on it during the week leading up, fell shy by 8 and was crushed. But, still going to go at it again. You have a great site here, David

10/03/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Thanks, David!

I've been meaning to come up to Manch-Vegas to workout with you guys. It'll happen one of these days. Congrats on your affiliation, and your 292. Still a badass score by any stretch.

I'll get 300 at the Cert, or die trying...

10/03/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger CrossFit Cape Fear & Designs In Fitness said...

Congrats to Sammy on the 300 - you'll get yours this weekend. 8-)

So I get to do it again at cert????? CRAP!!! That'll be fun!

Got 251 having never done FGB before. Time to strategize for it!!!

See ya Friday!! Woohoo

10/03/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Did I let the cat out of the bag? Whoops ;)

See you on Friday, John! This is going to be awesome...

10/03/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Johanna said...

Awesome work guys!...wicked sorry I missed it.


10/03/2006 10:48:00 PM  

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