Friday, 18 April 2014

JY's annual CrossFit Games Open reflections

On this slightly rainy stat holiday, when I can’t get my errands done anyway because everything is closed, I thought it would be a good time to do some annual post-CrossFit Games Open reflecting.

In 2011 I signed up for the open because JenBoss told me to. Both myself and the open were brand new to crossfit, and I had no idea what to expect except that I might not be able to do all of the required movements. I made it a personal challenge to try something scary and hard, and to set a goal that I might not actually achieve: to get one rep in each wod. I achieved that goal, and learned a lot about pushing yourself to do more than you thought you could (I wrote about it here). In 2012 I signed up to see how much I’d improved and ended up, once again, learning more about CrossFit and about myself (reflections here and here).  In 2013 I was stronger mentally and physically and signed up once again to test myself (and, of course, I did even MORE reflecting here, herehere, here, aaand here)

This year was different.

In a throwback to that first of all Opens, my goal was not to test how far I’d come, my goal, and my achievement, was participation. Eight months ago I didn’t know if I would be well enough to participate at all; I didn’t know what the year would hold for me in terms of treatments, surgeries, and recoveries. As it happened, I finished my chemo and radiation 1 week before the first WOD was released, and with surgery scheduled for April, I had just long enough to fit in the open. So this year, I signed up because I could, and this year, the Open taught me the most important lesson thus far.

Some context: WOD 14.4 destroyed me, mentally and emotionally (60 calorie row, 50 toes to bar, 40 wallball, 30 cleans, 20 muscle ups – 12 minute time cap). Up until this point, throughout my treatment, I had done a reasonable job of managing my expectations to reflect my situation. I have certainly had moments where I have been frustrated with my reduced capacity, but overall I have estimated well what I could reasonable expect myself to achieve.  14.1 actually went better than expected when I borrowed Ashley’s magical rope and suddenly got double unders back after not being able to practice them for 6 months. In 14.2 I hoped to be able to get through the first round of overhead squats and chest to bar in under the 3 minute time cap, and surprised myself by managing with 3 seconds to spare (reward: do another 3 minutes! Seriously considered no repping myself on the last pullup to avoid doing so...). Deadilft is my best lift by far and so I loved 14.3 (so much I did it again 4 days later just for fun!).

Then.  14.4 and those damned toes to bar. I thought I stood a reasonable chance of getting to the cleans. On a good day, I thought, I might even finish them. I set up to do the T2B on that same bar where I got my first rep in 2011, and felt far more optimistic than I ought. I rushed too hard through the row and struggled with the T2B from the start. By the end of 12 minutes, failing reps and cursing the whole way through (but bless you, Alli, for your encouraging spirit), I’d finished only 37 out of the 50 and was nowhere near the goal I had set.

I have NEVER in my life felt so utterly defeated. Even at my diagnosis, when Dr. M told me what was in store, I felt confident and ready to beat cancer (My response to him was “Fuck. Well, you’ve killed this before? Ok, let’s do it again then.”) But after I had so very miserably failed to meet my expectations on 14.4, the enormity of everything that has happened since September, and all that still has to happen before it’s over, hit me in the gut. I sat down on the floor of the gym and full on sobbed for five minutes – the so called “ugly cry”. There were people everywhere but I didn’t care. Those effing toes to bar had squeezed out so much emotion I felt I might burst if I didn’t let it out (sorry if that was awkward for everyone else :P)

I went home that night feeling like Cancer had somehow won, had somehow managed to break me down and steal that feeling of defiance that working out during treatment has given me. Then the boyfriend said something true: “It isn’t about the cancer, I don’t think. You just expect too much of yourself right now.”

He was, as usual, right. That most important lesson that this year’s Open taught me, is to truly understand the following: accepting limitations is not the same as admitting defeat. Know the difference, and recognize when the former is appropriate.

I have struggled with this all along, even before cancer; I think it’s something we all struggle with at some point. Am I giving up on this because it feels hard and I’m afraid of failing, or because it’s the smart thing to do for my body today?

I have learned, in the past, that you will never struggle to find excuses if you look for them. Before Cancer I made a conscious effort not to look for them, not to give myself excuses that might prevent me from giving my full effort, or from accepting responsibility for my failures (and have had varying success at this). Since Cancer, though, I have struggled to find the balance of not allowing Cancer to be an excuse to stop living, while still recognizing when my body needs me to take that excuse and rest.

14.4 taught me that the key to that balance is appropriate management of expectation. A few days later, I tried it again. This time, my goal was not to get a certain score score, but to finish the twelve minutes without wanting to cry afterward. This time, understanding not to expect so much of myself, I took a leisurely row and calmly chipped away at the T2B. This time, I finished them with 30 seconds to spare, and left feeling in control and accomplished.


CrossFit in general and the Open in particular almost always have something to teach me; I’ve learned to look for those lessons, and to pay attention.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Squat like Perry Hanlon

As two solid weeks of Olympics watching are drawing to a close, the CrossFit Games season is about to begin, and I’m in the competitive spirit. I’ve been a huge figure skating fan (stay with me here) since I was 5 years old and would brush my figure skating Barbie’s hair (yes, I had Barbies...) while dreaming of one day skating with Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko (it always bothered me that Barbie’s feet were angled for high heels and didn’t fit the skates properly, but that’s a gendered toys rant for another day).

As a figure skating fan, I’ve also go my underpants in a twist over fair play in judged sports, and it’s got me thinking about fair play in CrossFit. Granted, CrossFit standards of movement are a little less subjective than a “components score”, but it’s still down to the judge (and to ourselves) to enforce those standards.

To clarify, when I say standards of movement I’m talking about these sorts of things: squatting below parallel; full extension in hips and knees at the end of any clean/snatch/press; dead hang with your feet off the ground before you do a pullup, toes to bar, or MU; hitting the wall ball target; toes hitting the bar, and chin over the bar, etc.

I’ve attended many a class and many a competition and seen many a sub-standard movement; I'm certain I'm guilty of a few. To this, I could say: “they’re only cheating themselves”, but that would be a big fat lie.... something we say to make people who do things properly feel better when others around them do not. Big picture, it’s true, it’s you workout, not mine, and it does not affect me directly if you do not squat below parallel. In the end, we’re all just trying to be fitter. But if I’m being honest and frank, I care. I care as a coach that you are not getting your best workout, and I especially care as your peer because you are not just cheating yourself, you are cheating everyone around you as well.

You are cheating the person who is at the same level as you and wants to push themselves by chasing your (actual) score.  You are cheating the newer member who, not knowing better, will copy your movements.  You are cheating the people who see your score on the whiteboard and feel defeated that they can never accomplish what you’ve supposedly done.

But also, in my experience, you really are cheating yourself. Two years ago we had to do 150 wallball in one of the Open WODs. I was rudely awakened to the fact that what I had thought was good squat depth was actually barely passable. I thought if Joseph gave me one more no-rep I might “accidentally” drop the ball on his head. With misplaced irritation, I spent some time practicing to find that perfect “just below parallel” spot.

Then I watched Perry do her squats. When Perry squats, there’s never a question, it’s ass to grass every time and I thought, if Perry can squat ass to grass faster than I can squat to “just the right spot”, maybe I’m missing something here. So I vowed that day to start squatting like Perry Hanlon.

And yes, at first it slowed me down. But by the time that WOD was repeated 1 year later I was stronger, faster, and less easily gassed than the year before. And I did the whole darn thing without one single no-rep.

To some extent it’s the coaches (or judges) responsibility to correct your standards, especially for new members. But we can’t watch every rep of every WOD for every member, and we can’t make you listen to our advice (especially if you’ve gone temporarily WOD-deaf).

In the end, your movements are your responsibility.  If you don’t know the standard, ask.  Most are obvious: you can see if you hit the target or bar, you know if your feet are dangling off the ground, you can tell if you are standing up straight and if your elbows are locked. As for squat depth, stand next to a mirror, close your eyes, and squat to what you think will just barely count. Look in the mirror. Is your hip crease below the top of your knee? If not, squat lower. If so, squat lower anyway. You’ll get stronger.

Maybe you know the standards, but just don’t give a hoot about scores and racing and all that. You just want to come in, get your burn, have a good time, and carry on with your day. That’s cool, I dig it, not everyone needs to be competitive.  But if you really don’t care about scores or standards, consider not putting your score on the board at all.

And if you just care more about your score than your standards.....well, I hope that isn’t the case and if it is....shame.

I’m not saying I’ve never allowed a bad rep before. Just the other day, with this particular blog-post in mind, I confess to counting a couple of 10’ wallballs that did not touch the wall, let alone the target. I’ve also had many stern post-WOD conversations with myself for counting the occasional “close enough” toes to bar. Some days, it’s ok to decide that the RX just isn’t worth that extra swing.

I’m not asking you to be perfect, but I am asking for honest effort and honest self-assessment. Hold yourself to a higher standard than required Every Single Day while you train. It will only make you Stronger, Faster, and Fitter.



Thursday, 6 February 2014

Brachytherapy is how I would imagine an alien abduction to proceed....

I thought I would give a bit of a health update on this, the eve of my 30th birthday!

First, I was feeling well enough to compete at the UG series Winterfest last weekend at Blue Mountain in Collingwood! I filled in for someone from a different gym and even though I just met my teammates that morning, I had a super time; lovely people :) The UG folks were selling the stylin toques I am sporting below, and they donated their proceeds ($500!) to our Love the Snatch foundation!



Second, I'M ALMOST DONE TREATMENT!!

I finished chemotherapy sessions in November. I had my ovaries suspended in December with a minor laproscopic surgery (they live in pockets behind my ribs now, and seem to be running along nicely, merrily secreting hormones as they should!).

After Christmas I started external beam radiation treatment and had my last one today! They were short, 5 minute appointments where I didn't feel a thing (except static electricity) and didn't even have to change into a gown. I just had to move my pants out of the way so they could see the tattoos that they had put on me in preparation (the size of freckles) and line me up with a laser Cartesian plane to ensure that the beam went to the same place each time. I had that done every weekday for 5 weeks, which is a pain in the butt but not so bad. Actually the road rage from driving downtown hamilton and up the jollycut, and then spending up to 30 minutes finding a parking spot at the hospital was far worse than the treatment itself. 

HOSPITAL PARKING GARAGE TIPS: 
  • Driving 5km an hour in the parking garage will not make a spot appear out of nowhere. Get a move-on people.
  • If it says "lot full" at Juravinski it probably isn't; there is no parking attendant there to update the sign so once it's up, all the old folk are scared away to the other garage and as people start leaving, spots free up without the sign changing
  • Idle elsewhere, this is not the drop off roundabout
  • Park in between the freaking lines. Seriously.

Side effects were not terrible for this. At first I was going to treatments in the morning, going to work for the afternoon, and going to squat/lift at the gym 3 days per week afterward. By the last 2 weeks I started to feel really tired and skipped the gym for the second last week, and this week I've been coming home afterward to sleep all afternoon. Otherwise, I had to up my starch intake a bit (some potatoes, not wheat!) to counter the gut irritation and consequent loose bowels. Oh and I had to switch to softer TP because everything is sensitive, and get a cream for my sore butt which felt like when your nose is dry and cracking in the winter time....

I plan to write up my more detailed gym log but, in brief and in general: I found that during chemo I could still WOD in between treatments, at reduced weights of about 50% and for about 10 minutes max. My muscles were too weak to lift much. During radiation I found the opposite. I'm too tired to WOD, but two weeks after surgery (and one month after chemo ended) I started lifting again and my 5 rep maxes were at about 75% pre chemo numbers. Within a month of Rippetoe's starting strength, my squat went up 40lbs, and my oly lifts were only 10 lbs off my maxes. Next up: get as strong as possible in preparation for my surgery.

Brachytherapy

I'm going to talk a bit about what I've found to be the hardest part (physically) so far. If you are at all squeamish, fair warning...but I did not find a whole lot of accounts of this on the internet and went in very much unprepared so here goes....

If I'm being honest, chemotherapy and radiation were...a lot easier than I expected. Maybe I'm lucky, maybe I was healthier than the average joe to start, but either way, it really hasn't been so bad. I didn't feel really sick, and the sick feeling I did have was short-lived. I've been mostly able to carry on with my normally scheduled life around all the appointments, including eating regularly and working out, all with only some extra sleep (9-10 hours daily).

Brachytherapy, or internal radiation, however, is no fun, to put it mildly. Brachy means "short distance", so this is higher dose radiation given right up against the cervix, as opposed to the external beam that zaps my entire pelvis. How do you administer internal radiation to the cervix? You're probably imagining correctly. 

Here is a visual aid.


No, it is not a medieval torture device, it's what they shoved up my hooha on Wednesday. The ring goes against your cervix, the angled rod gets aimed at the uterus, and the spatula thinger is to get your rectum out of the way (the field of radiation is only 1.5 cm, it's really very effective).

From a poll of the ladies in my support group there seem to be a range of methodologies including one where you have to stay in a hospital room with that thing for 3 days (so you might not have the same experience as me!). At least I didn't have that one.  All told I was at the hospital for about 3 hours. I got a muscle relaxant and an IV for hydration and partial sedation. You are supposed to be awake but sedated, but I am not convinced I was given sufficient drugs, I felt entirely alert the whole time. They take you into a miniature operating room where you are surrounded by no less than 7 people: 2 doctors, 2 nurses, 2 residents doing some learning, and a physicist waving a wand around from time to time to check for stray radioactivity or something (this is what completes the illusion of an alien abduction indicated in my title).

They stuff everything in and give you a catheter, which feels great (lies), strap you up with some sort of weightlifting style belt to hold it all in place, wheel you down the hall to get a CT and make sure all is as it should be (and to aim the radiation to greatest effect), wheel you back down the hall, abandon you for 10-15 minutes (I'm guessing) while it does it's thing, come back and take it all back out, and then send you to recovery for a half hour. The best way I can describe it is an hour long pap with a bit of extra pain at the start and finish because that ring is not small. The whole time I had mad cramps, but it was the removal part that was the worst. I cried. Partly at the pain, and partly at being overwhelmed by how much my vagina has ceased to be a private place.

I have two more of these scheduled (I've done two already) and, frankly, I'd rather do another round of chemo, complete with losing my hair again. *le sigh*

But then I'm done! Except for a hysterectomy but that's later, and probably not until after the CrossFit Open, which will be my 4th year participating and I'd hate to miss it, so WOOT.


Monday, 16 December 2013

JY's Holiday Special

Yesterday, I discovered something wonderful: a trove of cheesy, made-for-TV holiday specials on Netflix, all boasting a variation on the same theme. I watched 3 while working on my Christmas crochet projects. It was a glorious way to spend a snowed-in Sunday.

The binge reminded me that while I do love Holiday Specials, they can sometimes be cringe-inducingly (and sometimes intolerably) cliche, smacking you in the face with the same messages over and over about (re)discovering the true spirit of the holiday, showing kindness, cherishing every moment, appreciating the people in your life and letting them know you do, being grateful for what you have, giving to those who have less, etc.  This is especially true, I've noticed, when a character has cancer.

Here's the thing though, these (predominantly) family channel movies may punch you in the gut with so many blatant lessons of morality that it makes your eyes roll, but that doesn't mean the messages are untrue, or unimportant. As someone who finds themselves living out one of those cliche cancer patient movies, I increasingly find myself having the very same "revelations" as the holiday special heroines.

There are three themes in particular that dominate my thoughts of late.

1. Smile more.

If you can't do anything about whatever is making you sad, thinking about how sad it is and how sad you are will just make you more sad => cycle of sadness :(. If, however, you can find a so-called silver lining, you'll feel less sad. And if you continue to find more, you get practice at finding silver linings, and then it gets easier to find them, and soon you don't have to look for them anymore they're just obvious and *presto changeo* => cycle of happiness => more smiling => more endorphins :D

My friend Shannon summarizes nicely: "While we go through bad times, eventually we'll go through good times once again. Statistically speaking, the good and bad cancel out to a net zero effect, but with the right attitude the positives can take precedence and we can start to see the negatives as building towards a positive result."  'zactly.

If you can do something about what's making you said, whatever are you waiting for?

1b. Do things that make other people smile. It will make you smile too. Don't buy your friend a gift basket for Christmas, spend time with them, and reserve time to do so in the future (see number 2). When we were kids my sister and I would make up little coupon booklets for our parents with IOUs for extra chores and breakfasts in bed. I would totally dig a coupon booklet for Christmas.

2. Pay attention.

Don't just go to the party or family dinner, BE there. Enjoy it, savour it, make moments to think of when you're having trouble with number 1. Good things are happening all around you. Don't miss out. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Word to John Lennon.

3. Trust the universe

This is not meant as a passive statement. I don't mean to suggest we should sit back and observe our lives with faith that everything will turn out peachy without any effort. Rubbish. Sometimes the universe hands you a pretty sweet deal, but usually after a lot of effort, and then you still have to notice it, accept it, and sometimes recognize that it isn't exactly in the format that you expected. So, trust the universe to present you with the opportunities that you have earned, but pay attention so as not to miss them, and maybe you'll have reason to smile more. See what I did there? :)

My current silver lining opportunity: our Love the Snatch campaign. It would not have happened without my diagnosis, and was certainly not a direction I expected to be pointing my efforts. But we have a vision and big dreams for where it could go, and I find myself feeling much  more excited, optimistic, and generally forward looking than I expected to be when they told me I had cancer.

Health Update

Speaking of cancer, a brief update on where I am right now. My chemo is done (woot!) and my MRI shows no visible tumor (double woot!). I had a successful surgery a little over a week ago to move my ovaries. They live up under my ribs now, hopefully out of the field of radiation, so that I will continue to have hormones in my life (tripple woot).

The surgery was relatively minor. I felt sore very sore for a couple of days and had trouble getting out of chairs and such, but was mostly able to manage on my own thanks to frequent Tabata planks. One of my abs felt strained, I suspect due to the inflation of my stomach so the doctor could see in there (he said I had a "lovely belly - very easy to work with...I don't expect to receive that sort of compliment ever again!). The worst part was actually the trapped C02 gas, which hangs out next to your diaphragm causing radiating shoulder pain. It's like normal gas, except you can't fart/burp it out because it's in a body cavity, not your stomach, and so you have to just walk around until it absorbs in your body. Meanwhile, it acts like the bubble in a level; every time I bent over or rolled to my other side it gurgled pver to the most upward facing pat of my body. Horrid. It's been 1.5 weeks and I did my first WOD with no more than 15 lbs, no jumping or situps, and slow controlled movements and nothing split open or seems otherwise worse for the effort.

Radiation starts at the end of December and will involve treatments 5x per week for 5 weeks with the aim of zapping any stray cells that might see fit to wander elsewhere and cause trouble.

I'm feeling generally back to normal energy-wise. I have lost strength, but not any weight (stay tuned for the body composition analysis to see if I lost any muscle). Looking forward to getting back to lifting now that I'm not being poisoned! See you around the gym!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Time for an Update!

I'm having trouble coming up with a way to adequately sum up how grateful I feel for the unbelievable outpouring of support I have received since my last post. My freezer is full of donated paleo meals, I've had people reach out to me that I don't even know, and I can't even count the number of people who have offered to give me a ride or keep me company.

Within hours of telling you all about my cancer, coach Jen had organized a fundraiser on my behalf to be held at our box, CrossFit Altitude in Burlington. The fundraiser was an enormous success; Justin and Chris concocted a math-themed workout for everyone to do (I beta tested it before my treatments started, it was awesome :), there were silent auction items, bracelets with "kicking cancer one snatch at a time", and custom designed (thanks Shawn!) and printed tshirts (thanks Carrie!).  There must have been a couple hundred people, many from other gyms, and they all donated far more money than felt worthy of accepting. I'm not normally speechless. I was then, and still am when I think about it.

It's been over a month now since my diagnosis, and I've had some time to reflect. Those reflections are summarized in the Nov/Dec issue of Sweat RX magazine, which you can order from their website or find at your local Chapters/Indigo, so I won't repeat them here. But suffice it to say that I found myself fortified and, in turn, inspired by the response of others to my original blog post. Thank you all.

The Fund, and Future Fundraising

I now have a comfortable buffer to counter any expenses that arise that are not covered by OHIP thanks to my incredible crossfit community. When I am better and am sure I don't need any more of it, I will be donating the remainder to a fund that I found created specifically to support research into this very rare cancer that no one is researching (small cell carcinoma of the cervix or SCCC). They have tried to do trials in the past, but they could only find 3 participants at one time and had to cancel it! The first project of this fund was an educational website for people with this cancer, and their families and doctors, compiling what is known. The next big project is to create a registry of past and present sufferers of this cancer to compile all of their treatment and outcome data. The creators of this fund also started a facebook support group, which has been a really wonderful place to meet and talk to other people facing the same things.

We are also currently working on having "Love the Snatch; fight cervical cancer" tshirts (featuring my silhoutte performing a snatch!) made up and printed to raise more funds. The first printing will be sold at CompWOD's Best of the Best competition on Nov 16. The shirts are great quality, the design looks great, and who doesn't love a good snatch joke, am I right?

How I've been doing

I thought it might be helpful to summarize how things have been going. You're still allowed to ask me in person, I don't mind :) I finished my second round of chemo last week and have one more to go before radiation and, honestly, it's hasn't been too bad. I get 3 days of IV chemo in a row, then 2.5 weeks off. In general, I sleep about 10 hours these days. Treatment week, I'm extra tired and just take short walks. I don't feel much like eating but I'm simultaneously starving because of the steroid. I mostly only feel like eating soup type meals, and crave a lot of bread and potatoes (I would kill for a saltine), but have been able to stick to the ketogenic diet (starving my cancer cells, woot!). I'm eating very normally except for treatment week, and haven't lost or gained any weight.

By one week after treatment I feel pretty normal again and am able to do short workouts. I've been keeping a log and will report on these eventually. I don't set an alarm anymore, I sleep as long as I need to, but I've been able to work part time in between treatments, which I'm glad for because a person can only watch so much TV! I've been able to go out for dinner, hang out with people, and otherwise live normally. I just sleep longer, take naps, and have an excuse to do so, which is probably the best perk of this whole ordeal!

The weirdest side effect has been some numbness in my hands and slow/weak muscle response, but that goes away after a week as well. Fingers crossed it will continue to do so in future rounds. My radiation will start mid-november and hopefully it will be just as painless.

How I found out

One of the first things people seem to ask me is how I found out. Since cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and can often be detected earlier than most, I don't mind sharing. In May I went for my regular annual physical, and the doctor did not see anything abnormal. I did not get a pap at this time, because paps are only every 3 years now and I had had a normal one the year before. In principle, I am very much against this change in policy, but my particular cancer tends not to show up in paps in the pre-cancerous "abnormal cell" stage like many others do, so it likely would not have made a difference in my case. In June/July I noticed bleeding outside of my cycle that seemed different. I went to the doctor again in August and asked for a pap and exam. She could see the tumor, and sent me to the gynocologist right away for a biopsy. The gynocologist took one, but was convinced it was just a fibroid given its rapid appearance; most cervical cancers grow much more slowly than my mutant variety (aren't I just the overachiever). Obviously she was incorrect, although I'm not in the least bit upset with her. I would rather have spent that week believing it was no big deal than all stressed about it waiting for results.

After about a week the labs came back and at my follow up appointment I was told they were cancerous, and that there was no chance of error. I was given an oncologist referral and told nothing else except that the cells had been sent out to be confirmed because they thought it might be some rare type. I remembered the words "small cell" and had an inkling that was not a good thing. Thank goodness I had the sense to avoid the google worm hole because the recurrence rates for this beast are not rosy. I feel extremely fortunate that someone recognized the rare cells right away so I avoided some of the experiences of other women with this cancer who were told it could be swiftly disposed of with a simple surgery, before it was discovered to be Sccc. The course of treatment is very different and much more aggressive than your typical case. I also am very fortunate to live in this area where my case was immediately forwarded to a doctor who has dealt with it several times before. With so little information available, most women with this cancer become guinea pigs. My doctor has been successful with his course of action, and seemed confident that he would be so again.

So here we are. Two rounds of chemo down and not too much to complain about so far!

The WOD

Here's the blog post for my fundraiser WOD. Thanks for all the warm and fuzzies guys :)
This wod is the Brain Child of Justin O'Quinn and Chris Lindley- the explanation behind it is as follows...
Jen really hates double unders but she conquers them regardless of how many are in a wod or how long it takes.  This determination will help in her battle.  There is no one like Jen when it comes to doing things with good form and never giving up.  I think her middle name is persistence.
The rep scheme is because Jen is a self proclaimed "math nerd" and PI is her favorite number- "3.14" . The variety of movements is to represent the hard work and effort that Jen puts into all of her skills and her attention to form on everything she does.  There is a total of 3 rounds, representing the 3 of Pi, and the 141 double unders represents the .141 (71 +70)/  When you do this wod today, remember to use good form like JY would and to count all your reps fairly- JY would never cheat a rep- so nor should you! 

JY-Pi: 3.14 "LOVE THE SNATCH- FIGHTING CERVICAL CANCER ONE SNATCH AT A TIME"
For TIME  The time cap is 26.19- this is how long Jen took to do it.  Weight on the bar is 135/85- if you are up for the challenge then scale UP!! 
71 double unders

Then 2 rounds of
3 power snatch
14 box jumps
3 full snatch
14 toes to bar
3 overhead squats
14 burpees

Then 1 round of
3 chest to bar pull ups
14 power cleans 85/135
3 hand stand push ups
14 full cleans
3 pistols per leg
14 jerks

Then  70 double unders


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

How CrossFit has prepared me to fight cancer (btw, I have cancer)

I haven’t posted in long while. My spare time has been filled with my new part-time jobs coaching at CFA, and writing for Sweat RX magazine (getting paid to write has unfortunately trumped writing up recipes for free on the interwebs :).  I am sad to say that it is not a tasty new dish that has me busting out my slightly rusty blog again; I decided to hijack my own recipe space to share en mass some recent news and subsequent reflections.

The News

On Sept 6 I found out that I have cervical cancer. I spent 10 very anxious days having no idea how bad it was or what was coming next and finally, yesterday, the results of some extra testing confirmed that it is a small cell neuro-endocrine tumor.  This is a particularly nasty sort that normally lives in the lungs, apparently, and has a tendency to spread. It is also very rare. My Doctor is apparently somewhat of a Bigwig, and he and his Biggerwig colleague have seen only a dozen cases in their 20 years. However, I’ve caught it fairly early, and Bigwig assures me he has killed much larger beasts of its kind.  I will kill it also. But it will come at the cost of several weeks of chemo (I start next week), then several weeks of radiation and probably major surgery, to make sure it doesn’t resurrect.

I don’t know if I will feel well enough to move, let along work out; some people are knocked on their asses, while others feel mostly fine, but I hope to visit CFA nevertheless as much as possible.

That’s the Readers Digest version. To those in my life, please don’t be shy about talking to me about it. I (probably) won’t burst into tears. Ladies especially, I’m very willing to talk about the details of discovery and diagnosis if you’re curious (men, don’t worry, I won’t start talking about the cervix here ;).

So onward to the philosophical part and the motivation for the title of this post.

The Ramblings

During those 10 days of waiting, and even today after learning the gory details, I find that I’ve actually surprised myself by not having a 24 hour meltdown. My cousin went through a similar ordeal ~5 years ago (also cervical cancer under the age of 30, coincidentally) and I distinctly remember thinking, “I don’t know how she’s so strong and positive, I would be a mess.” And when I first found out, I was a mess, for about 5 hours. But then, channeling my cousin, I gathered my composure and I went to my box to coach and to work out, because that’s what I’d planned to do, and I didn’t particularly feel like crying anymore.

It was a surreal experience, watching everyone around me carry on as though their world hadn’t just stopped spinning….because for them, it hadn’t. I have a new appreciation for this: you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Be kind, always.

I capped the very surreal day with a doozie of a WOD (100 burpees, interspersed with either 2 rope climbs or 5 deadlifts, every minute on the minute) that left me weeping (only half because of the rope climbs) in a heap on the floor.

I have had the occasional meltdown since then; last Sunday the frustration of 200 doubl-unders squeezed  the emotion right out of me and I found myself sobbing in the back lot during the rest period.  But these periods of stress and panic are far fewer than I had expected, which has lead me to conclude that CrossFit has made me far more capable of handling the Real Life unknown and unknowable than I ever imagined possible.

CrossFit, and especially competing in CrossFit, has trained me to accept what I can’t control. I don’t pick the daily WOD, I don’t influence who else shows up to compete, and I certainly can’t do much about their performance and eventual score. Fretting about what others are doing (or what has happened to other people with cancer) won’t help me to do better. Whining about a workout won’t change it, and no amount of moping is going to make my cancer disappear.  

As I sat in my car in the parking lot after the first news, having a good cry and wondering how I would deal with what was to come, something Brit said once, ages ago, came sharply to mind. “You know,” she said, “if I lost a leg or something, I’d just go win the Paralympics instead.” She may have been joking, but it struck me as inadvertently profound life advice. More recently, I interviewed Stouty, an adaptive athlete and fantastic crossfitter, who lost the use of both legs and actually DID go win at the Paralympics.

I am entirely in charge of my own actions and attitude. I can’t control what the treatment will do to my body, but I can do my best to prepare it with good food and sleep, and I can manage my stress by staying as positive as possible.

I am approaching this cancer as I would approach a heavy bar; determined, ready, and convinced that it will go overhead, because I trust that I have trained sufficiently. I know that my body is in the best shape it’s ever been in, and I trust that crossfit and paleo have made my body as strong as it possibly can be.

I feel physically prepared to win this battle, but I also feel mentally prepared. This last 10 days has proven to me that even though “Murph” and “Fran” make me feel anxious over the pain I know is coming, I also know, without a doubt, that I will finish them, one way or another, and that you all will be there cheering until the very last rep.


I refuse to let this disease dictate my every waking moment. I will not let it take the joy from things I love to do, and the people I love to be with.  CFA is my sanctuary; a place where I know that I can go and forget the world for an hour of shared pain and exhaustion, or find a hug if I need one. Thank you all for making CFA the place that has prepared me for this, and that I am confident will help me through it.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Resolving to Rewire for the New Year

I've never been much for New Year's Resolutions. My reasons are not unique; like many have written before me I feel they just set you up for disappointment. They are band-aids, not treatments, as are most of our supposed solutions to health problems and world problems alike.

I do think, however, that there is one conceptual resolution worth making that, if you are successful, will enable you to keep all of your more specific resolutions (perhaps without even trying): resolve to re-wire your brain.

Easier said than done, certainly, but also easier to train your brain once than to harass yourself each and every time you should work out but don't, eat the cookies, or choose the pasta instead of the chicken.

  1. Replace "should" with "would" or "could"
I stumbled across this suggestion in this blog post today.  The author suggests that we "shift from a condemning command to a hopeful possibility" to lighten up our lives and facilitate good choices. "I would like to go to the gym today" or "I could eat some more vegetables" rather than "I should do those things." When we say "should", then making the healthy choice seems like some sort of punishment, while not making the healthy choice causes guilt and self loathing. Remove the judgmental connotation and turn the healthy choice into something positive that you are doing for yourself rather than a punishment.

     2. Change your relationship with food

This is something I've written about before, and probably the biggest non-physical change that I have experienced since beginning CrossFit. In short, I started seeing food as fuel instead of the thing that was making me fat. Guilt, regret, and shame do nothing but make you unhappy. When I see food as necessary and beneficial fuel, it's easier to make good choices because I know how crummy my body will feel in the next day's workout (and all day, really)  if I don't.

     3. Practice good choices (and they'll get easier)

So I just went to find the link to a previous post where I discussed a thing I'd read about how you can re-wire your brain and change habits through repetition....Apparently I wrote a whole post about new year's resolutions last year entitled Practice Stuff You Suck At....which really should have been "Practice stuff at which you suck, I think, but nevermind). Anyway if you'd like some elaboration follow the link so I'm not any more redundant than I already have been!

Happy New Year!