A year ago to the day as I completed Crossfit Durham’s Foundations Course to a become a full-time gym member, I took part in a workout called “FRAN.” When done as prescribed, Fran consists of two exercises barbell thrusters done with a 95# bar and pull ups. For the unfamillar, the thruster is a combination exercise. Stand with the barbell racked on your chest. Execute a front squat so that the crease of the hip drops below your knees, then stand up in an explosive motion and press the bar overhead and lockout your arms at the top of the lift to due a complete repetition. The exercises are done in alternating sets of 21, 15, and 9 repetitions.

August 11, 2011, I scaled the first round of thrusters at 65#. For the second and third rounds, I stripped 10# off the bar and did the next two sets at 55#. I used a combination of three different elastic bands, each looped in a half hitch over the bar and then with my foot placed in them like a stirrup to assist me through the pull ups. It took just short of 9 minutes to get through the WOD.

Like most folks, I’m pretty sure my first thought upon completing the WOD was, “What the f*** was I thinking?!”

Today, I did the WOD as prescribed in 13:45! That is by NO means a “competitive” Fran time. The best of the best will do this workout in under 3 minutes! So make no mistake, I have a solid understanding of what that score means in the big picture. I know it took almost 5 full minutes longer than it did a year, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with having done the workout as prescribed, far outweighs the time differential for me. It just continues to amaze me at what a year it has been.

Now…you could walk away from this post right now and you’ve got the core of the fact on the day. If you however, you want the additional gory details and the full backstory, please read on…and on…

OK… you were warned…

I’ve been wanting to try this benchmark WOD for months. Knowing my anniversary as a full time member at CFD was approaching, I got it in my head that somewhere in August, I was going to do Fran.

I messaged the gym owner a few weeks back, explained the situation about my pending anniversary and asked simply if Fran would be on the WOD schedule anywhere in August. I simply wanted to know if it would come around or if I’d have to make special arrangements to get into the gym during open gym hours when folks are able to work independently.

Dave was gracious enough to share that Aug 11 is actually CFD’s anniversary as well. The first WOD performed at CFD 4 years ago was Fran and he was planning on conducting that WOD today. Beautiful coincidences happen for a reason.

With the exception of Death By Ball Slams, I have never looked forward to a WOD like I did today. The anticipation of the last few weeks has been wild.

I’ve been wondering, could I do it Rx? Would I need to scale again? How much? Tuesday’s WOD gave me a big shot of confidence. And I alluded to this then. Knowing Fran was on the schedule today was why it was so important to me Tuesday to figure out that there were 50 unassisted pullups in my arms. When I got through that portion of that WOD that day, I made up my mind then and there that I would do FRAN Rx today.

As Fran was the only item on the agenda for the day, Coach Ryan lead the crew through an extensive and much appreciated foam rolling agenda. I’ve discovered that I’m ignoring my lats when I foam roll. A mistake I intend to rectify going forward. God, foam rolling is the very defintion of “hurts so good.”

He also lead us through the squats and presses that comprise the thrusters as well as some guidance on kipping for the pull ups. I don’t get to train under Ryan’s guidance often. I can tell I would benefit greatly, if I could. Gotta look for more opportunities like today.

Then it was go time.

There were two goals: 1) Do the WOD Rx. 2) Ignore the clock! Somewhere not too deep down I was hoping to have an EPIC day where I’d do the WOD Rx AND beat my old time. I knew that was a pipe dream though. So to prevent myself from either pushing to failure too early and to avoid frustrating myself with the unnecessary aspect of time, I avoided the clock at all costs.

I set my bar up and put my back to the clock. I selected a pull up bar with my back to the clock and consciously turned away from the clock any time I was in motion. It may sound silly, but it really worked for me. I didn’t feel pressured to try and pick up the pace and do too much to chase that additional goal.

I set my bar up with 95#, but gave myself a cushion. Rather than use 25# plates on a 45# bar, I used a combination of 15# and 10# plates. I just wasn’t 100% confident about how things were going to go. I was giving myself an out, if things got too heavy. Craig noticed as I was setting up and reassured me, “you’re not going to need that. You’ll be all right.” While I appreciated his confidence, I was still wondering.

I tried hard to divide all rounds into subsets divided by three, so 3 sets of 7 reps of each exercise for thrusters and pull ups in the first round. Then 3×5 for the round of 15, 3×3 for the round of 9. On paper it’s a good strategy. To my surprise, I was able to hold to it pretty well for the thrusters too.

Pull ups got loose. I realized right from the first set, that the round of 21 was going to be 4 sets of 5 reps, and a loose one. The round of 15 turned into some thing closer to the 5 sets of 3 reps and the round of 9 was something like 2 sets of 3, and 3 singles. I tried very hard from 7 to get the last two reps as a pair but couldn’t!You know what? I DON’T CARE!

Know why? Because I actually got through the entire WOD as prescribed!  5 full
minutes slower than last time and I’m still celebrating.

Everyone in the box, Ryan, Meghan, Bonnie, Craig, Michelle, and Brian were fantastically supportive. They all understood what I was trying to accomplish and they all stood by me and helped pull me through. Whether it was Ryan reminding me to stay back on my heels during the thrusters or everyone that offered a word of encouragement to keep looking forward. Thanks, one and all. It continues to amaze me what a fantastic and supportive community Crossfit Durham is. Everyone there gives so much to each other to continue to propel each other forward. It was a treat to share that workout with everyone today.

I was totally impressed that my friend Craig also did the WOD rx and while I don’t know his time, I know he beat me by a handy margin. Well done, Craig!