Without a doubt, this weekend was one of the most entertaining that I can remember at Crossfit Durham.

On Saturday Erin and I both took part in the Crossfit Durham Halloween themed Olympic Weightlifting competition. Each athlete gets three attempts to set a 1RM max snatch and three attempts to set a 1RM Clean and Jerk for the day. Given it took place on Halloween, costumes were encouraged.

Erin and I went as an old married couple with a twist…well, here. See for yourself.

Old married couple


This was GREAT FUN! Erin took home the trophy for best Women’s costume. I narrowly missed out to a visitor from another box. He came dressed as the Transformer Optimus Prime. As a stand alone costume, it was fine, but not terribly exceptional. However, he brought in a ringer. He brought his two-year old daughter dressed as the Transformer Bumblebee. In addition to her Bumblebee costume she was wearing sparkly pink shoes. There was simply no way for me to compete with that level as adorable.

Seeing as I served the same sort of ‘accessory’ role for Erin, I was certainly not in any position to cry foul. Erin is graciously referring to her trophy as ‘our trophy.’ Works for me. All in good fun. 😉

The lifting? Oh yeah, we did that too. My best snatch was in the vicinity of 145#. Not a PR by any stretch, but I can say with absolute confidence that this was the first (and I hope last) time that I snatched with a previously lit cigar stub in my mouth! So that’s an accomplishment. Additionally, there was no pain in my left shoulder, so cool!

I successfully hit a clean and jerk around 185# on my second lift. For my final lift I decided to be aggressive and attempted a PR of 212-ish pounds. We were working in kilos for the meet, so I’m a bit vague on the exact number. Doesn’t matter. I missed it. The only thing that made the miss notable is that I over pulled it. I fully expected to need to get very deep into a full drop/squat to catch it. However, I surprised myself yanking the bar just short of my chest. Mentally, I wasn’t prepared for that. I froze not knowing what to do with the bar up that high. By the time I tried to take action it was too late the bar was falling again. Ah well.

This competition was never about the weights for me. It was about spending the day among friends. Cheering Erin on in her first Olympic Lift competition. Given all of the health challenges I’ve faced since May, this event was just about being in the moment. I was very pleased with the day. That being said…I wasn’t quite done with the clean and jerk.

Sunday, November 1
Today during the strength segment I wanted to accomplish two things.

First, I wanted to experiment with the clean/hang clean combination that I will face in next Saturday’s Masters Competition. I don’t remember ever trying to go directly from a clean into a hang clean with out dropping the bar. I had no idea what weight I could safely move from the front rack position back down to position one without going to the floor first. I’m not certain this is an event requirement, but I’m practicing this way just in case. Turns out damn near anything that I can clean, I can return to my hips safely, reset and attempt a hang clean. This greatly expands the potential for Saturday’s competition. I had visions of being limited to something like a 155# clean because that would be the most I could safely drop to my hips. Not so. I’ll be much closer to my current 1RM. Speaking of 1RM’s….

My second goal was to try and complete the clean and jerk that eluded me yesterday. As I said on FB today, I successfully managed a crossfit pr, by cleaning and jerking 215#! I qualify it as a Crossfit PR because if I was in just about any functional fitness event it would have counted. Yesterday, or in any other Olympic style competition, it would not have counted as a good lift and here’s why. One, I caught the bar in a high power clean (which is not the issue) with my hands. My elbows were pointed straight down and I kind of walked up to the bar and then drove the elbows up guiding the bar into my shoulders and chest. The bar never went down and never touched the floor, so by Crossfit standards, good to go. But in Olympic lifting the transition to the shoulders and chest should be one fluid movement. This clearly was not. I would contend that the jerk was clean by any standard.

Coach Laurie and I talked about the lift afterward and she pointed out the issues and offered guidance on how to fix it. I made two more attempts with the goal of getting a ‘neat’ Olympic qualified PR and missed them both. The first attempt came after a brief discussion with a potential new member (more on that shortly). Basically, I was still chuckling about the conversation with the visitor and didn’t yet have my head in the lift.

The second miss, I got a decent clean and then missed the jerk! I MISSED the jerk. I NEVER miss the jerk. Truth be told, I took it for granted and just screwed up. I landed the split, but brought my back foot forward first. I have a tendency to land forward in my lifts anyway and when I shifted forward off the back foot, I lost the bar! Damnit. Still, I KNOW that lift is in me, so I’m not too upset. I got the PR. I was just trying to get a pretty one after that.

So, about that visitor…as a coach, I’ve had a few interactions with visitors that have been a bit odd. I’ve had people walk in off the street mid-METCON and get cranky with me because I wouldn’t stop everything to sell them a gym T-shirt. I’ve told them, “Look around. There are people with barbells over their heads. People jumping on boxes. People upside down doing handstand push ups against that wall. I WANT to sell you that t-shirt, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. Their safety comes first. You’re just going to have to wait until that clock runs down to zero in roughly six minutes.” But today was just a bit quirky.

A couple came in and I met them at the door. Coach Laurie was working with a couple other athletes and I needed a rest between lifts, so no problem. I love being an ambassador for the gym.

Well the woman, for whom English clearly was a second language said, “Hello. I would like to do the Crossfit.”

I said, “That’s great. Let me tell you a bit about what we do here. Have you ever tried Crossfit before?”


“OK, I continued. “Well we hold a free workout for first time visitors every Saturday at noon. In fact I coach it…” and I notice that her expression started to change. She was a bit disappointed.

I said, “Did you want to do THIS workout?”




Mind you, at this point we were close to half way into the one hour session and folks were preparing for a pretty complex all barbell partner WOD.

As diplomatically as possible I explained, “it would be really tricky to introduce you into the class that’s already in progress and unfortunately, it’s the last one for the day today. I teach the Saturday First Timer’s class. I’ll be here next weekend and if you can come I’ll talk to you all about Crossfit, this gym, I’ll teach you some of the basic exercises and then put you through a workout. If you’re REALLY determined to work out before then, take this paperwork, read it over and e-mail the gym owner and he may be able to help you out. If you do drop in mid-week BE SURE to tell the coach you’re a first time visitor.”

She seemed reasonably pleased with that and she and her friend went on their way. I chuckled to myself thinking about the METCON ahead and the thought of this being her first introduction to Crossfit:

Team Air Force
Partner WOD

20 Thruster ea 95# Male RX/65# Female RX
20 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls ea
20 Push Press ea
20 Overhead Squats ea
20 Front Squats each

One partner works at a time. Every minute on the minute, both partners must do 5 burpees, no one can touch the barbell until both partners complete all burpees.

That would have been a hell of an initiation, no?

Coach Laurie assigned the teams and she partnered me with Stacey, a friend from the 7:15 crew. We worked pretty well together. Completing all of the work in 13:36 RX, which was the final surprise/entertaining moment of the weekend.

I had made a big deal of telling Stacey that I’d seen the class before us and two male athletes that I respect tremendously and consider to be well ahead of me in terms of fitness, looked like they got absolutely punished doing the METCON RX. I had no intention of doing my work RX. I was scaling to 75#.

All through the METCON, I was whining to myself, “God, this barbell feels so heavy. Why does 75# feel so heavy?” Somewhere around the 8th minute I actually got angry listening to my mental whining and in my head I screamed at myself, “SHUT UP! It’s only 75 f’ing pounds! Stop whining and GO!”

Turned out, I had put 25# plates on my 45# bar and I had completed the WOD Rx at 95# and we STILL finished much faster than I expected to. Basically that means Stacey is one hell of a partner.