So Long, San Francisco!

It’s been a year since my family and I moved from our downtown SF apartment to our “forever home” in the East Bay. I had started this post last year but never published it because, well, we moved and I was totally swamped with moving-related activities. The past few moves we’ve added a child each time, and it’s amazing how exponentially harder it is to move with the addition of each small human. I normally like to move, but after this last one, I’m happy to stay camped out for a while! Anyway, here is a little tribute to our happy little cosmopolitan nest perched on the 31st floor that we enjoyed for 2 1/2 years.

That time is finally upon us. After months of searching and weeks of planning, we are moving out of our little SF apartment to our new home in the East Bay. We’ve had quite the adventures over the past couple of years.

2012 11 25 Moving Day 4
Moving day view from the living room, 11/25/2012

We came to SF from Sonoma County because I found a job downtown mere blocks from our apartment. It was a dream to have a commute I could walk.

2013 02 25 Emily Office View.JPG

Then I took another job on the peninsula where I could bike commute to the commuter train. Still pretty awesome.


Our little Squishy-man celebrated three birthdays in our apartment, growing from a baby to a toddler to a preschooler in a blink.

And let’s not forget that Miss Buttercup made her debut. Followed by Olive’s introduction to the family.

2014 12 31 Mercedes NYE Outfit 1

2015 05 22 Olive 1

And we said goodbye to our furry friend, Duke. I still miss you, buddy.

2013 11 14 Duke's Last Pic

We had tons of fun in SF events that were in our own backyard.

And had our fair share of good times with our city crew! Plus that New Years Eve 2013 party we hosted on the roof was epic. Just sayin’.

It was also fun to watch Squish become a “city kid.” He had a very different experience than Hulk and I did, growing up in the suburban midwest! That kid will never have a fear of heights, that’s for sure.

And then there was the pool. I’ll miss the pool.


And now it’s time to pack it in, and say our goodbyes. It’s been an incredible stop in the proverbial journey of life, but now it’s time for a new chapter. And I do not care that I am mixing metaphors.

2015 05 23 Packing

Farewell, San Francisco! We’ve had a wonderful time. And you’ll only be a BART ride away for future adventures and shenanigans!

2015 05 23 Last SF Sunset 7

Spring Fling Recap Event #3 – But Did You Die?

Time for the third and final post about my first CrossFit competition recap, the Spring Fling!

In case you missed it, here are recaps for Event #1 and Event #2.

Are you exhausted yet? I hope not, because Event #3 was a good ol’ chipper!

Event #3: a good ol’ chipper – Complete the following sequence for time. Time cap of 16 minutes:

  • 100 DB presses (25lb)
  • 50 box jumps (20″)
  • 50 kettlebell lunges (35lb)
  • 50 kettlebell swings (35 lb)
  • 50 goblet squats (35 lb)

Scoring is by time completed, or how many movements were completed before the time cutoff.

16 minutes? Bha ha ha ha! That’s cute, they thought I could finish in 16 minutes! I assumed I would be lucky to make it to the swings. And I was right.

After taking a bit of a car nap and eating some food, I was ready to kill the third event and get it all over with. I was super pumped by the first couple of women’s heats. Given how long I had to wait until my heat started I was worried about losing mental interest and my warm-up, so I kept moving around and trying to cheer for the other athletes as they slogged through the workout. I figured the key was just to pace it, and keep steady and keep moving. Which as it turns out, is my jam. I love chippers.

Doing the math, I figured to finish within the time cut I had to complete each exercise within 3-4 minutes. No way. I mean, maybe I could crank out the swings in that time, but box jumps? We’ll just have to go in and do our best there. I started my heat, and the push presses were laughable. It was hard to only use one arm, it took me a few reps to figure out the balance! And my right was clearly stronger than my left. At first I tried to keep my splits even, do 10 presses on the right, then switch and do 10 on the left, but my left was taking so much longer! I eventually did the last 20 reps all on my right in the interest of time.

After the 100th push press, I immediately dropped the dumbbell and started with the box jumps. After watching the other heats, I figured I would do better if I just stepped up on the box instead of jumping up, which was legal. When you’re tired it takes just as long to step up as to jump and recover, and since I’m only 5′ tall a 20″ box is a significant height, like, almost the length of my whole leg. I was able to cruise at a pretty steady pace, switching legs as needed and never needing to break it up. Towards the end I was putting my hands on my knees to help myself up, but I never needed to stop. Nailed it.

After the box jumps were the weighted lunges. Lunges are hard. They’ve always been a bit of a menace to me. And lunges with a 35lb kettlebell just suck. I would much rather lunge with a barbell, because at least it’s not awkward to carry. I sort of cradled the kettlebell to my chest with one arm and held it in place with the other while I lunged away. I ended up breaking out in groups of 8’s and 4’s as my quads slowly died on me. And holding the kettlebell to my chest was causing my lower back some problems that ended up doing me in. In hindsight, I should have balanced the kettlebell on my shoulder, or held it to my side, swapping sides. But I chalk this up to the “you don’t know what you don’t know” category of competing for the first time. I cranked them out best I could and moved on to the swings.

The swings are where I died. My lower back was cramping so bad, I couldn’t even get the thrust to move the kettlebell. I just sort of collapsed on all fours after 10 reps, unable to continue. I was super frustrated. I had done so well, and now this! I would scrabble up, do a couple more reps until I thought my back would break, and collapse down again. I twisted and stretched and it did nothing. I would try to land a couple more swings, then curse and throw the weight down again. At one point with just a couple minutes left until the time cutoff, my gym owner saw me and asked my judge if I was done. I shook my head; I’m not done, I just can’t move! She offered a modification to the swing, to bend my elbows and use more arm to muscle up the kettlebell, rather than keeping my arms straight. That actually worked really well, using my arms more than my back to support, and I was able to finish with a final score of 40 swings.

I didn’t make it to the goblet squats, but with my back thoroughly cramping I can’t imagine that would have been super spectacular. Still, I wish there wasn’t a time cap so I could have had the opportunity to know where I would have finished. I’m guessing I needed another 3-4 minutes to crank out the rest of the swings and the squats. I probably could have finished in under 20. But with my final score I ended up 17th in Event #3.

After the last of the heats were completed, we had beer. And awarded the winners. I came in 15th overall out of 27 participants, which is about how I did throughout my academic career, so nothing to complain about there (I always said C’s get degrees!).

The best part was, when I went home, I was home alone. The kids were visiting their grandparents, and Hulk had flown out to Austin, TX that morning on a business trip. This was, like, the ultimate luxury. So I cooked up a Home Chef meal (pork chops with butternut squash-apple mash, yay protein and carbs!), took an ice bath (eek!) followed by a really long epsom salt soak, and binged-watched the last season of Downton Abbey with Olive. It was a good day.

It’s so weird, at the time I was sort of beating myself up about my scores. Then as I’m walking through the day again, it’s like I sort of realized what a badass I am, that I did everything I could and there are very few regrets, performance-wise. And I am so looking forward to the next competition, whenever that will be. The CrossFit competition kool-aid has been drunk by the gallon over here.

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my recap, in all of its self-induglent, CrossFitty glory.

Go make it a great weekend!

Spring Fling Recap Event #2 – Quick and “Easy”

Here is Part 2 of my unintended 3-part series recapping my first CrossFit competition, the Spring Fling!

Last post I left the bar with a decent score for Event #1. Now it was time to gear up for Event #2:

Event #2: a quickie – in 4:00 complete the following movements.

  • 500m row
  • as many burpees as possible until time is called, jumping on a 15kg plate

Scoring is in 2 parts: 1) rowing time and 2) quantity of burpees completed

That’s right. Just rowing and burpees for four minutes. Piece of cake, right?

I had a good half hour until my heat was up for Event #2, so I took the opportunity to eat a banana, and re-listen to the Harder to Kill Radio podcast episode #53, which I just heard the week before when Shane Farmer was a guest and talked about the three biggest tips to improve your rowing technique. Since Event #2 was half about the rowing, I was hoping to see if I could score a better time with Shane’s suggestions.

The heats blazed through since they were so quick, and soon it was my turn. I tried to guesstimate my score based on how I usually perform in workouts. On a good day I could probably finish a 500m row in 2:20, but it was more likely I would finish in 2:30 since my legs were still shaking from Event #1. For burpees, my best as-many-burpees-as-you-can-in-a-minute time was 16 (and a half!) so I thought in 90 seconds I could probably crank out 20. Maybe. Factoring in for fatigue.

The 3-2-1 go sounded, and I grabbed the rower handles and pushed hard with my legs. I focused on the tips from the podcast: rowing is 60% leg work, 30% body work, and 10% arm work, so 1) make sure you think about pushing instead of pulling: push with your legs out, and think about pushing with your arms back out on the return; 2) really use the return to recover, relax the body and take it easy; and 3) don’t push with just the balls of your feet; the push should come from the middle of the foot, so you engage more of the big leg muscles.

My row was 2:04. I couldn’t believe it. Just one massive push from being sub-2:00. Thank you, Shane Farmer!

Elated by my awesome personal best row time, I was now thinking, “shoot, now I have an extra 25 seconds of burpees!” My legs were so shot from the rowing, but I threw myself down on the floor and slogged them out as fast as possible. I stumbled once jumping on the plate, so that was probably a no-rep, but I kept grinding away. I was just in the middle of my 20th burpee when they called time, so I ended with a score of 19. Argh, so close to my guesstimate of 20!

So I ended with an official score of 2:04 and 19, which was 12th overall for the row and 15th for the burpees.

Then I went and ate an Epic bar and canned sweet potatoes, then napped in my car for a bit, since it was over an hour until the third event and I was kinda feeling a bit tired.

Rest up, it’s almost time for Event #3 recap coming out this evening!

Spring Fling Recap Event #1 – Results

Helloooo! So, I totally procrastinated on writing up my CFSL Spring Fling results. To be honest, I sort of went into it with too many expectations and while I finished right where I should have, I felt a little disappointed. But it was still a great day, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

It was my first “real” CF competition, other than the Open which I don’t know if that really counts. I’m not sure how the format compares to other competitions, but ours was run with three events: a strength event, a quick one, and a long chipper.

Event #1: Compound lift – athlete must complete all moves without letting go of the bar, or letting the bar touch the floor (deadlifts of course must touch the floor, but for no longer than a count of three).

  • 5 deadlifts
  • 1 power clean
  • 3 front squats
  • 2 shoulder-to-overhead
  • 1 thruster

Scoring is the highest weight amount used in a successful attempt. Athlete has 10 minutes to perform the sequence and get the highest score.

Event #2: a quickie – in 4:00 complete the following movements.

  • 500m row
  • as many burpees as possible until time is called

Scoring is in 2 parts: 1) rowing time and 2) quantity of burpees completed

Event #3: a good ol’ chipper – Complete the following sequence for time. Time cap of 16 minutes:

  • 100 DB presses (25lb)
  • 50 box jumps (20″)
  • 50 kettlebell lunges (35lb)
  • 50 kettlebell swings (35 lb)
  • 50 goblet squats (35 lb)

Scoring is by time completed, or how many movements were completed before the time cutoff.

I was super nervous going into it as evidenced by my post the night before. I really wanted to do well, but I was totally inexperienced as to what that means. Now I know … it means to not psych yourself out right before the event!

Once I got to the gym and started warming up with everyone else I felt better. My “competition” was the normal group of folks I train with every class, along with several members from other gyms in the area, so there was a lot of camaraderie and fun, excited energy floating around. My first task was to figure out what weight to start with on the compound sequence. I knew my max strict press is 37kg, so I should be able to do a bit more than that. I had no idea what my thruster would be, which ended up being the limiting factor since it’s right at the end and is usually one of the weaker of the lifts. So I warmed up with the bar and worked up until I couldn’t clean 45kg, and stopped there.

I was in Heat 4 for the competition, the last women’s heat, so I had a lot of opportunity to watch the other women’s performances and see what others were doing. Which is both good and bad. On the one hand, it helps your own nerves to cheer on your friends. On the other hand, damn some of those girls are strong.

When it was my time to take a spot on the floor, I was happy to find my judge was one of the regular coaches I work with that I felt knew me pretty well. She asked what my starting weight would be, and I figured I’d try 43kg. I could definitely do 40kg, but I failed at 45kg, so I thought we’d see from there. As they started time she told me, “This is a long 10 minutes, so take your time.” I started loading my bar, trying my best to be calm but was really shaking with nerves.

43kg did not happen. I was great until the thruster, and I just couldn’t get it past my chin and lock it out. I tried I think three attempts at 43kg before I finally pulled a kg off the bar so I could make sure to get a score. I was able to finish at 42kg to lock in a score, then I tried for 43kg again a few times before they called for time. I figured, as long as I get a score the worst case would be I got in a good conditioning workout, and if I managed to squeeze out a 43kg, mission accomplished! But it didn’t happen, and I came in 14th for Event 1 with a score of 42 kg.

I had major mixed emotions handing my score in. On one hand, I was proud that I made a lift. It was a really fun complex that suited my strengths. Dude, 42kg = 92 lbs! That’s pretty darn good. On the other hand, a weird part of my brain wishes I could have lifted 45kg, or even 46kg. Because that’s 100lbs, and I like round numbers. And it would have been cool to really blow away my expectations. But for only doing CrossFit for five months, I think I should be pretty happy with where I am now.

That’s it for now. To be continued with Event #2 and the super awesome fun burpee AMRAP!

Dealing with the Mental Stuff

I’m not even sure where to start today. I guess this blog has quickly turned into my CrossFit training blog. I am totally okay with that. In fact, I’m going to work on a Progress and PR page so I can track my stats. Because what good is doing something if you can’t measure and compare it to death? Even competitive yoga is a thing. Americans have that tendency.

I still need to report back on the Spring Fling Competition from a couple weeks ago; it was fun, but sort of a reality check that I wasn’t expecting, but should have. After the competition, I became sort of discouraged. There were a lot of factors. One, I’ve been watching Regionals intensely, and I perhaps shouldn’t compare myself to Kara Webb or Rebecca Voigt just yet. Two, I’m still feeling all banged up and I can’t run without intense hamstring pain. Three, although I had quite respectable scores for a beginning CrossFit athlete, I can’t help but wish I somehow magically performed better. I seriously did everything I could in my power to perform at my best, and can’t say I would change anything. Normally I would be happy with what I got, but, I guess it sort of bummed me out to land exactly where I expected to, rather than walking in and blowing expectations out of the water.

And then Friday’s workout happened. Even though I was still feeling super banged up and sore, I went anyway because the workout looked soooooo good:

Conditioning round for time:

  • 10 strict presses
  • 15 overhead squats
  • 20 push presses
  • 25 front squats
  • 30 push jerks
  • 35 back squats

Super fun, right? Rx was 37kg. I showed up at the noon class about 20 minutes late because I got tied up in a meeting that ran over. I didn’t really get a warm-up in, so after some quick mobility I jumped into the weighted lunges that were the strength portion, squeaked out my 5×10 reps, then loaded up for the WOD. There were a ton of people in the class, and since I got there late all of the women’s bars were gone. My options were a men’s bar or a junior bar, and since there were OHSs in the WOD I decided to go for the junior since it would afford a better grip, and I could always put more weight on the bar.

“Could” is the key word. I didn’t. I only loaded it to 20kg and did the WOD from there. I grabbed more plates, but I decided not to use them. My OHS sucks, and I really didn’t feel like my shoulders were ready to go by the time the WOD was. At least, that’s my excuse. In truth, I was tired, sore, and a bit mentally worn out. I didn’t want to fight myself to push. And my lack of fight scared me. How am I supposed to be competitive if I have off days?

What made my pity-party even more deep was I worked next to the girl that won the women’s division Sunday. She Rx’ed it, and we finished in nearly the same time. Literally throwing down twice the weight I was. And when it was done she chatted with me and said, “I thought you were going to put more weight on.” Not in a bad way, just a conversational, curious way. I felt the shame train just plow me over. Good lord, I am such a joke. Who did I think I am? I’m not good enough to compete, to be an athlete.

I was in a funk all weekend. Finally, while bottling the latest home brew, Hulk probed at what was troubling me and I spilled. I didn’t want to talk about it because I felt like I was just being a big baby, and I should just recognize that it was all in my head and get over it. But I also knew better, and as Brene Brown says in “Daring Greatly,” the best way to confront shame is to share it. So I told him how I want to compete but I’m still a beginner, and I don’t feel “good enough,” whatever that means. I shared how lousy I felt after the WOD on Friday, knowing I should have done more but didn’t. I worried if I was training enough or too much, what should I be doing and not doing, how do I keep my “aging” body performing when I have so many issues that now require attention (gone are the days where I could stay up until 2am drinking then show up at the start line for an 8am bike race the next morning; now I need a solid warm-up or my hamstrings hate me).

Hulk, being an ex-professional cyclist, is my best resource for sports training and performance advice. He might not know CrossFit specifically, but he gets it. “Actually, I am proud of you,” he told me. “You took it easy because you didn’t get a warm-up in and you were already feeling sore. A lot of athletes push through that, and that’s when injuries happen. It’s good that you know your body that well.” Also, while I’m not exactly a pro, he said I do have a sense of what I’m supposed to be doing and what my body needs to perform. “Just get out of your own way,” he reassured me. “You’re doing fine.”

He went on to say that newer sports medicine studies (I can’t reference which ones) are indicating more of a “less is more” approach to training. Where instead of overloading at 100% max session after session, you don’t train more than, like 80% of max, then when you compete you go all out. This allows the body to properly recover and rebuild, so you’re not too depleted to tax it during the competition. I think the research was done on swimming, but it’s interesting to explore more.

So I took Hulk’s advice and took some time off from the gym until I fell rested, both mentally and physically. I’ve been taking Olive on a lot of walks at the park, and trying to remember to do my PT exercises. My heart is totally ready to go back, but my legs feel very tight. I’m going to try and get a massage done at the most fantastic therapeutic massage place in SF and see if that helps. I’m also going to find a chiropractor and get some body work done. It’s time I start taking care of myself physically for all of the demand I’m putting myself through, and we’ll see how that goes.

And it’s time to start another Whole30. Because, ugh, why not. That, and inflammation.

So a minor bump in the road for the mental life of an aspiring athlete. I’m sure this is the first of many to come.

And I owe a competition report for the Spring Fling! It was pretty awesome.

That’s it for now, go make it a great day!


Pre-comp Jitters

Tomorrow morning I participate in my first “real” CrossFit competition, the Spring Fling (assuming the Open doesn’t count).

I am experiencing an uncharacteristically large amount of pre-competition jitters. So instead of going to bed I’m going to stay up and write a blog post about everything I’m worried about and how I don’t really need to be worried about it.

Worry #1: I will wet my pants or poop in front of everyone

Okay, this is not something I am really worried about. It was supposed to be a spark of humor to get an otherwise heavy discussion going. But now that it’s out there, do I really need to be worried about this? Uh oh. Now it’s on the list. But now I remember that I’ve done this already while in labor, so I don’t care anymore. Whew, moving on …

Worry #2: I don’t know how to Athlete

Back when I was cycling, I knew how to rest, how to fuel, and how to recover for bike races. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do for a CrossFit competition. I went to class on Friday because the WOD sounded super fun, and now I’m sore and wondering if that was a bad idea? But there were other people there that were doing lifts and stuff, should I have been practicing clean and jerks? How do I know what weight to start with when I don’t know my max effort yet? Should I bring food? What kind of food? What do I do if I’m halfway through the workout and my hamstring is about to snap and I want to quit to avoid injury? Is this something I should do, or should I “push through” in a competition setting?

At my first bike race, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. But I did have Hulk there, telling me when to warm up and for how long, when to eat a bar, and what to do after the race so my legs didn’t crap out on me. And even then I was still learning how to race and compete. This is no different. It’s my first competition, and this is my opportunity on learning as much as I can about how not to go into a CrossFit competition. I will do my best with what I know now, and I’ll learn the rest tomorrow. And the first lesson I have discovered is maybe I should have talked to one of my coaches about the questions about preparation and fueling, oh, I don’t know, maybe a little bit before the night before the competition? Lesson learned.

Worry #2: I will come in last place and suck so horribly I embarrass my self and no one takes me seriously

You guys, I am not very good. I am not very strong, I have rather less than stellar cardiovascular capacity, and I will probably not make the 16 min time cutoff for the chipper in Workout #3. I maybe will make it through the box jumps, and that’s a big maybe. Maybe. I am afraid of going out there, totally plastering myself only to come in last and have everyone look at me like, “What the hell is she doing here? Maybe she should go back to baking muffins or something.”

Okay first of all, do you know how many races and triathlons I came in dead last? A lot. Like, I lost count of how many. Did I care? Okay, yeah, a little bit, but I knew I lost fair and square, so it really wasn’t a big deal. Other women were fitter than me and put more time and effort into training, good for them and they clearly bested me. I’m out there to have fun and see what I can do. I’ve only been doing CrossFit for five months, so just competing is an accomplishment in itself. Everyone starts from somewhere.

And if anyone questions what the hell I am doing here and suggests I go back to baking, well, I might suck at CrossFit but they suck as a human being. And I have a big smile and an even bigger middle finger for them …

Worry # 4: I can’t do numbered lists after my bedtime because I get the numbers wrong

If I can’t do a numbered list, how am I supposed to count my reps?

Worry #5: I go too big or too hard and injure myself

My hamstrings have really been bothering me this week. I noticed it a couple weeks ago, and I know it’s due to me sitting too much and not activating all of my legs enough. I started doing the PT exercises I was prescribed a while ago when I was going in to physical therapy for my hamstring issues, but I haven’t been consistent enough for it to make a difference yet. During the WOD Friday I was in a lot of pain, just hoping I could finish. I did all of my PT and stretches this weekend, and I’m hoping it’s enough to get me through Sunday. But if not, I’ll start to really suffer during the chipper, with all of the hip action from the kettlebell work. I’m worried about getting injured and being out for weeks all because of one workout I was too stubborn to throw in the towel when things got dangerous.

All I can do with this one is listen to my body and be honest. If I really think things are bad, I need to stop. I know I’ll get support from my coaches for quitting before things get worse. On the flip side, I need to not use the fear as an excuse for pushing it if I can do it. If things are hard just because, duh, this is hard, then I need to get over it and do the work. Be as prepared and informed as I can be, and use the best judgement I can in the moment.

Okay, I’m done ranting. Thanks for listening, and go make it a great day!