Athletics, Motherhood and Other SuperFantastic Subjects


It Will Be an Adventure

I came home with a small rip on my wrist from doing muscle-ups. My son thinks any kind of bump, scrape or bruise deserves thorough acknowledgement (as he would of course want for his own injuries).   After inspection he remarked, “maybe you should stop doing CrossFit.” His comment made me think about my mother. My mother spent over thirty years working the night shift as a sorter machine operator at a bank. That means she stood on her feet all night, and with her hands she ran the machine and moved paper checks into various pockets of the machine. All night long. For thirty years. As a kid I remember her almost constantly, for years on end, having cuts and split skin on her hands and fingers. (That’s where I learned to use Bag Balm on my hands, which is a great trick, by the way). Meanwhile during the day she ALWAYS had a second job, yet somehow she managed to support all of my sister’s and my athletic pursuits. In 15 years she missed only one of my gymnastics meets. One. And that was because she was singing in my aunt’s wedding. She is what drove me to obtain a college degree and a Master’s degree, even though she had the advantage of neither.

I don’t mind for one second spending hours upon hours in the gym. I don’t mind physical discomforts. I spent my entire childhood watching a woman bust her ass to survive while her passions, other than raising her children, fell to the wayside. She was happy being a mother, but the world lost a wonderful artist and musician.  So no buddy, mommy’s not ever going to quit.




“Yes, Mother.  I can see you are flawed.  You have not hidden it.  That is your greatest gift to me.” – Alice Walker


The Way You Do Anything…

During week one of the CrossFit Games Open I had a little conversation with myself about movement quality. Maybe allowing for some degraded form on those 55lb power snatches was actually an indication of performing at higher intensity- in other words, should I be more willing to let my form break down?  It may sound a bit like heresy to even bring this up (given the controversy over last weeks workout and form).  If work capacity is force times distance over time, does it matter how the work gets done, provided you’ve met the movement standard?  If you find a little compromise in form makes you faster than your opponent, you win.  Good, right?  However, all my training is based on what I want to believe about the sport, which is that good form is an aid to increased work capacity.   This is why I love Rich Froning (besides his abs and adorable disposition), he let’s me believe what I want to believe.  Unequivocally the most successful athlete CrossFit has ever seen, and the way he completes his work makes a case for efficient movement.


Yet, I keep seeing exceptions to the rule (there always are some, aren’t there?), so I considered whether I’m too cautious in how I move and approach CrossFit.  Generally speaking, one of my biggest challenges in the sport is being willing to really take it there and find my true physical limits.   After three years of training I still have what might be a bit too much desire for self-preservation.  Maybe it’s life experience or having a long injury history pre-CrossFit.  Maybe I just want to make sure I can go home and pick up my too-big-for-being-picked-up kid.  Maybe it’s being groomed in a sport that directly rewards quality of movement (gymnastics).  Whatever the reason, I decided I like the quality approach.  Yes I want to win.  At the same time, we each have to draw our own line when it comes to differentiating between commitment and having an ‘at all costs’ mentality. It’s easy to come up with examples of people who achieve success by any means necessary, right or wrong.  What about the  Bernie Madoff’s and Lance Armstrong’s who are never caught and get to enjoy their unfairly attained victories/prosperity/fame?  Extreme examples to be sure, and I’m not trying to portray poor form as a moral failing, but on some level it matters how we choose to pursue our goals- not just whether or not we attain them.

Pursuit with excellence and integrity in mind becomes incredibly important in athletics because we’re putting our bodies on the line.  In the heat of competition it’s easy to take for granted that our health will always be there for us.  Personally, I want the students at Bulls College Prep, my son, or anyone else, to be able to watch me perform a workout and not have to explain to them why they shouldn’t move how I move. Vince Lombardi said, “practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.”  While I don’t subscribe to perfectionism, I do believe in striving for that standard every day in the gym.  Diligent practice.  From warm ups to conditioning to skill work,  what we do in training will be reflected when competition time comes- and more importantly, reflected in the impact on our bodies.

Muscle-Up Orphans

I saw this quote posted on social media awhile back:

“I don’t want to be the mom who is too busy to watch her kids because I am working on my muscle-ups.”

My gut reaction was to be quite irked by this.  My emotions read it as, “Oh, one of those moms?  The selfish ones who want to train?”  I know and like the person being quoted, she is an incredibly high level athlete (who has dedicated years to training and competition herself) and I’m sure she was simply referring to the choices that work best for her family.

Nevertheless, I put some thought why it bothered me.  On a base level it immediately tapped into that lurking, insidious mommy-guilt*.  It also had a really “mommy wars” feel to it, a concept I despise because of it’s assumption there’s one right or superior way to do things.  I’m sure I’m reading more into it than is there, but the image conjured in my mind was of a CrossFit version of the mythical welfare mother.  A bunch of unattended children running wild while their mother does muscle ups and takes selfies of her abs.

All the mothers I know (athlete or not) are in a constant daily battle to balance parenting, partnering, work, and other aspirations all while continuing to develop as people.  Whether that development comes via hobbies, fitness, study, or whatever avenue, it should be supported and embraced as part of being a whole person who is also a mother.  Parenting is like breathing to me, it doesn’t stop because of any other task or activity.  “Parent” really isn’t a title it’s a state of being.


I’m fortunate because through ongoing efforts and a commitment, what I do as a mother and training for the CrossFit Games has become pretty integrated.   It’s a normal part of our life.  If I were a surgeon, a student, a baker, or cleaned toilets for a living I wouldn’t suddenly become a less effective parent.  In fact, I think my choice to train and my life as mother are symbiotic.  My son helps my training and my training helps me be a better mother to him.

Right around the time I saw that quote I had just had one of the most awesome days ever at the gym with my son.  It was a snowy day in Chicago, so we might have otherwise been cooped up.  I actually didn’t feel much like training but my son wanted to go to the gym, so off we went.  Win/win, he gets to have a place to run and play and I get my workout in.  We put on Disney radio and went to it.  I did some sled drag intervals and he recorded my times for me and used a baseball bat and ball to play a sort of mini-golf between my legs and the sled as I pulled it.  He sat perched on a yoke having a snack and cheering me on through my muscle-ups.  Out of the blue he asked me, “Mommy, are you doing what you want to do or what you have to do?”  What better way to teach your kids about the process of working to achieve a goal than through example?  Frankly, his question was a huge benefit to me by starting a reflection on what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis and why.   This child keeps me grounded in what really matters and also inspires me to create the best life for us.  You know, like Oprah style “Live Your Best Life.”IMG_2958

The search for life balance as a parent, just like scales, is never static but a constant adjustment.  I look at other parents that I respect for reassurance that it can be done, but not how to do it because that’s unique to each family.


*Constant or easily triggered sense of unease based in the desire to always do what’s right for your children, and having infinite possibilities for what that is.  Fathers may also be afflicted.

Them Thighs Though

I just read a term that is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever encountered.  “Thigh-gap prejudice.”  It’s becoming abundantly clear to me that things are quickly spiraling out of control.  I’m sort of disappointed in myself for even acknowledging “thigh-gap” as an actual thing to be addressed.

Substantive thighs look nice.

Substantive thighs look nice.

Until recently, I’d never heard reference to this space between the legs, save once when I heard it referenced as part of a slur of sorts.  If you really care about this “issue” ( I don’t) that the interweb has done it’s best to blow up with stories like this and this, please feel free to check out the amazing work to be found here and here.  Full disclosure, I only skimmed those articles, but Jen Sinkler and Melissa Harris-Perry are pretty damn fantastic so I don’t have any doubts about providing those links.

Thighs can provide padding to protect bones from bars or barbells.

Thighs can provide padding to protect bones from bars or barbells.

I haven’t read those in detail because I’m preoccupied with thinking about how awesome it is to have big, full contact thighs, and the commonly accompanying big butt.  I’m using the term “big” loosely, because who’s to say what big is? At the top of my sport I would proudly put my measurements up against anyone, so I feel qualified to speak on the matter.

Yes, that is the size of a small human waist.  Challenge.

Yes, that is the size of a small human waist. Challenge.

Let’s just say juicy, full and beautiful.  As in, not emulating the appearance of people who are suffering from lack of nutrition.  Whether begotten by God’s grace or athletic training, I really don’t care. Just the other day I was sitting on the GHD and looked down in utter awe as my thighs took up almost the entire width of the machine.  I love to dominate my space like that.  Whoever sits next to me on a plane should know, I am comparing the size of our legs, and I’m usually winning.

Loved ones can also reap the benefits that your thighs provide.

Loved ones can also reap the benefits that your thighs provide.

Anyone who’s feeling external pressure to achieve space between their legs needs to be informed, there’s a large community of people out here who appreciate healthy thigh meat not only for it’s aesthetic appeal, but indisputable utility in athletics and life.  Stay strong and keep those thighs just the way they are…or maybe bigger.

Make your thighs earn their keep.  Put them to work containing your massive lower body.

Make your tights earn their keep. Put them to work containing your massive lower body.

October 2013

October was the craziest month ever.  Started with a competition in Minnesota, The Granite Games.  This event was incredibly well organized, the programming was top notch, volunteers and event staff were completely professional and the athletes were a blast to compete with.  I think I really needed an enjoyable and fun competitive experience to see how things could and should be.  This was it.  Thank you to John Swanson, Tyler Quinn and everyone else involved with this event.20131031-151950.jpg20131031-152013.jpg20131031-152039.jpg20131031-152027.jpg20131031-152100.jpg

The following week I was in Europe for a short visit.  If you’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic, you should.  Between the food and entertainment, the flight is like a mini vacation in itself.20131031-155342.jpgI saw the usual sites in London,

20131031-152200.jpg20131031-152229.jpgbut I think I was more excited to visit the world’s oldest and largest toy store, Hamleys, so I could get some souvenirs and tell my son all about it.20131031-152245.jpgThen off to Finland for an Outlaw seminar

1381359_10100229179900081_821697027_nand eat some reindeer.  I thought my son would be mortified when he heard about this meal, but he asked if I would bring him some to try.  Next time, buddy.20131031-152316.jpgAfter returning from Europe I had the distinct honor of running my own weightlifting and gymnastics seminar at CrossFit BRX in Miami, Florida.  So grateful to Shawn Ramirez and Billy Caldwell for making this happen, and for the fantastic and enthusiastic attendees!  20131031-152550.jpgWe also made lunch out into a fundraiser to support Mammograms in Action by doing unbroken “Karen”.  Serious burner.20131031-155205.jpg20131031-153124.jpgThe following week I was off to San Diego for a lovely couple days with my new sponsor Rx Smart Gear.20131031-153129.jpgDave Newman of Rx Smart Gear was kind enough to see me off to my next stop, 52 hours of awesome at SEALFIT.20131031-155719.jpg20131031-155755.jpg20131031-153105.jpgAll this wrapped around my precious time with my Sweet Baboo.20131031-155218.jpg20131031-153321.jpg20131031-153201.jpg20131031-152740.jpg20131031-152413.jpg20131031-152748.jpgLife is good.


Look Where There’s Inspiration

I just finished participating in SEALFIT Kokoro Camp, an “intense 50+ hour crucible training academy that mirrors the famous U.S. Navy SEAL BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) hellweek”.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for a year or so.  I had some kind of intuition that it was something that would be good for me, because honestly I went in without a really good sense of what the program entailed.  Similar to when I started CrossFit, I didn’t fully understand it, but was compelled to go.  Who wouldn’t want to forge an “unbeatable mind and spirit”?  When I saw this reading list I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

Within the first hour on the grinder, I won’t lie, I questioned what I had gotten myself into.  The volume of work we did, looking back at it, woud’ve been unfathomable to me if you’d told me what we were about to embark on.  I’m not going to give a play by play of what we did- I sort of feel like that’s reserved for those of us who were there and went through it.  Frankly I don’t remember all of it and for me that’s part of the point.  I have no idea how far we ran, how many push ups we did or how may times we lifted the log.  We just did what needed to be done.  This is a giant contrast to training I’ve done in the past where I have a tidy little log book to notate and record my work.  Logging work has its place, but there’s something about taking on each task and each moment individually with the simple requirement of 100% effort.  What I will say is, in the 52 hours we were there, the biggest “break” we had was doing a 2 hour amrap.20131030-092904.jpg

It’s a SEALFIT thing, you wouldn’t understand.

The Kokoro experience is one that I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe, and the more I think about it, I don’t think words can do justice to what this experience means to me.  There are a few things I can share though.  First off, going in I sort of had it in my head that I would see immediate changes in myself, my mindset, etc, like flipping a switch.  Those immediate changes are there- I just told a friend, “I feel like I can do anything!” (except walk right now, but that will come).  More important perhaps than the immediate changes, is this feeling that I’m on the precipice of my own rebirth.  It’s a beautiful feeling.

Second, this experience shed a whole new light on my ideas about fitness.  As I’ve developed into an athlete in “The Sport of Fitness” I’ve struggled a bit with my own ideals vs. my sport’s ideals and the feeling of training for somewhat of a moving or unknown target when it comes to my CrossFit Games goals.  Kokoro gave me a feeling of renewal as an athlete at life, so to speak.  On our second night at camp we were divided into teams of seven or eight to ruck up a mountain with our 20+ pound packs and weapons, complete a mission, then carry an injured group member back down the mountain on a stretcher.  This was an 8-9 hour round trip, I believe about 20 miles.  Yes, I’m serious, we went all night. We were walking up into pitch-blackness at times, and you could basically just see one step in front of you.  How symbolic.  It was an incredibly beautiful star filled night, one that I don’t believe I would’ve made it through without my team.  My stamina, or lack there of, was a problem.  My group had to pace off me on the way up, and on the way down carrying the stretcher I felt that I needed to break and rotate positions more than is desirable.  Basically, this was my first experience in a real life situation where I saw how lack of stamina or lack of strength, or lack of some other physical attribute is a liability not only to yourself, but to those who count on you.  I find this an incredible motivator to get better- not because someone might program something I’m bad at into a competition workout, but to get more awesome, purely because as long as I’m here I’m going to be the best I possibly can be.  It was also amazing to see how the body can perform physically demanding tasks with no sleep and less than optimal nutrition.

“We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”

The Kokoro instructors are true master’s at what they do.  Absolute masters.  They each have unbelievable lists of life accomplishments, which I think is a testament to the training and mentality they endorse.  I was blown away on day one, literally within an hour or two of starting, I had already been exposed and called out, and it only continued throughout the weekend.  But also within that first hour I was uplifted. As I stared at the ground and worked while being sprayed in the face with water, Coach told me, “look up, there’s no inspiration down there.”   Simple words, but it communicates what you think about yourself when you navigate your way through the world with eyes down on the ground.  That, among many, many other things, stuck with me and touched me in a way that felt very personal.20131030-092923.jpg

The SEALFIT instructors are unquestionably some BAMF, just look at their resumes.  Mark Divine’s military nickname was “Cyborg” for crying out loud.  I think he’s the closest thing to a Jedi Master that exists.  These guys were running and rucking all night long just like we were, and no offense, but these guys aren’t in their early twenties or anything.  It’s pretty amazing to think of the strength and stamina they have to lead these brutal camps over and over again, and touches the heart to recognize they do it to give each of us this priceless opportunity.

This program isn’t some kind of meat head beat down.   It is a beat down, but like a PhD version (do they give PhDs in ass-whooping?).  It felt like a higher order of training- very pure, grounded and broadly applicable.   No fuss, no lights, no crowd.  Certainly gritty, real and basic.  So many things these days feel like they’re more about hype than substance- more self promotion, less production.  “Fitsporation” in the form of picture after picture of abs.  There comes a point when that stuff just isn’t enough, and then you go to Kokoro.

Beyond the instructors, it was my fellow participants that made this program amazing.  Never in my life have I fallen down so many times and picked myself up again- but not one of those times did I get back up without a helping hand.  I helped others up.  Held their arm tighter when they were afraid.  Said thank you and was thanked.

Something else of value that came out of this experience is an increased appreciation for our military.  I noticed my emotional reaction to the idea of not having any phone or communication for a few days- and can only imagine what it’s like for families who are going to have inconsistent or no contact for months on end.  A couple days before I left for Kokoro I  talked to a girl at my gym and learned that she had a brother who died in Afghanistan. As a result,  the sacrifices our servicemen/women and their families make was very much on the forefront of my mind during camp.   I also spent many of those night hours especially, thinking of my grandfather William Farrell who served as a U.S. Marine.  Thinking of him gave me an abundant feeling of strength and courage. As my grandfather put it, “After you’ve been in combat, you settle down and things aren’t so wild.”  Kokoro has given me a completely new perspective on challenges, and what happens to you as a person when you rise to meet those challenges.  I couldn’t be more grateful.20131030-092848.jpg



Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.


“You Know How Everyone Has A Superpower?”

The last few weeks I’ve really enjoyed commiserating with other moms about their children’s return to the classroom.  I was more nervous this year than I’ve been for the last few.  For two years of preschool plus Kindergarten my son had the same, absolutely amazing teacher.  A woman with 30+ years of 3-6 year old Montessori teaching under her belt, and someone who provided a nurturing, enriching, safe and consistent environment for my son who was entering school during a difficult time.  The warmth and love that my son received at school everyday is something that I will always be grateful for.  In addition, the fact that this woman has taught three year olds for 30 years proves that without a doubt she is a saint.  Bless all the great teachers out there!

First day of school ever.

First day of school ever.

This year my son not only has a new teacher but a new school and everything that comes with that.  As usual, I have way more anxiety and nerves about the situation than he seems to. Despite being just 6 years old with cracked Lego building fingernails, an affinity for potty humor and a propensity to make everything in sight, including me, into a jungle gym; this kid already has me trumped when it comes to how he approaches many things in life.  As much schooling as I’ve had, life experiences I’ve been through, etc.…maybe it is true, “all I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”.  There are a number of qualities that I’ve observed in my son that I want to emulate.  I’m so proud of this child, and so grateful for the way he unknowingly makes me a better person everyday.  Here are a few of the countless ways he does this.

Stop and Smell the Roses

When my son was three I had the opportunity to take him to Disney World.  I was so excited to bring him there, but obviously it’s very expensive and we only had two days, which I was determined to make the most of.  “Making the most of it”, for me, meant we had to arrive early to beat the crowds, get on every ride, and see every attraction possible in our limited time.  Fortunately someone had their head on straight.  As soon as we got off the tram to the theme park and I started rushing us along, my son insisted we stop to look in a pond to find Nemo.  It was a wonderful and necessary check.  Stop.  Breathe.  Enjoy where you are and what you’re doing.


Hop Some Fences

The CrossFit Games was quite an experience this year (as if it’s not every year), but there were a couple of moments that I think (*hope*) will change me as a person.  One of those moments was the “Sprint Chipper” which required us to jump over a wall.  When it came to jumping that wall all I could think of was my son and the times he’s asked me to jump the fence with him at one of the playgrounds we go to.  While I’m happy to be the kind of mom who’s kid things they might jump a fence, I’ve always told him no, because usually I’m sore and my joints hurt from training.  That stinks.  I’m finding that overall, it’s not very satisfying constantly preserving myself for the next workout or next competition.  Sorry, but if I can jump over a wall because Dave Castro programs it, I can darn sure hop a fence or two to enjoy day to day adventures with my son.  This is just an example of how I feel a disciplined lifestyle skirts along the edge of missing out on life’s little joys.  My son makes me want figure out a way to be in the moment and live a little.

Sleep Like It’s Going Out of Style

This kid sleeps like it’s a profession and he’s a leader in the field.  I’ve struggled with my sleep for years, and I’ve thought to myself many times, “if I could just emulate him, I’d be golden.”  Uninterrupted sleep at night and naps?  Clearly he has something figured out that I don’t.

“I Want To Make Something”

My son has found his own means of relaxation and self-expression.  To some, it may seem overstated, but I bet there are other parents of Lego builders who will know exactly what I’m talking about.  When my son starts building he can go into a zone for hours on end. It appears to be nothing short of therapeutic.  This is what working out is for me, however there’s one aspect in which I need to take my son’s lead.  I’ve found that increasingly my workouts are focused on the desired outcome, not the process and not the enjoyment and release I get from it.  I even refer to it as “training” now, instead of “working out”.  For me, there’s a substantive difference in these words, “training” indicates preparation for some specific end result.  When I watch him build, it’s just for the joy of building.  I’ve seen him spend multiple hours building something amazing, excitedly show it to me, then (to my hidden horror) immediately dismantle it.  Presumably, for him it’s not about creating something to hold onto forever.  It’s about simply loving what you’re doing and that being enough.  Goal orientation, competition and wanting to produce has pushed me to new levels physically and mentally.  At times though, I feel less connected to what I’m doing on an internal level.  I’m thinking more and feeling less.  I want to get back to the cathartic experience that drew me into “training” in the first place.

Things to do at the gym. Michael Brian Photography

Things to do at the gym.
Michael Brian Photography

Roll With The Punches

When I divorced I secured a new place for my son and I.  I was terrified.  I felt that the apartment was symbolic of the beginning of our new life and the transition period would obviously be predictive of the rest of our lives.  Of course. I worked really hard to get things set up for him, but due to time and financial constraints he walked into a bunch of boxes and an air mattress to share with his mother.  And guess what?  He couldn’t have cared less.  He was amped because of his new toothbrush.  “You got me an Eeyore toothbrush!?”  He used the boxes to drive his cars over.  That’s when I knew this kid’s level of awesome already far exceeded anything I could achieve, but I’m going to keep trying.  Things aren’t ideal?  Be thankful for what you have and keep it moving!

“But I Want You To Tickle Me!”

Who doesn’t want to emulate kids when it comes to having fun?  Fun is literally the epicenter of life for them.  This kid loves to be tickled until he can’t breathe, play tricks on me, make up jokes. Each morning as we leave we race to see who can get outside first and when we come home he runs ahead so he can jump out and scare me.  Every day.  He’s probably the only person on Earth who can make me be silly, and I need to help him create more of that.

Don’t Concern Yourself with the Opinions of Others


“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

I’ve never realized how amazing mountains are. I’ve looked at their peaks from airplanes, marveled at stories of people climbing them, and was even somewhat traumatized by one after completing the 2012 CrossFit Games triathlon. This weekend I participated in the CrossFit Affiliate Summit in Big Sky Montana and for the first time I really felt the impact of being in the presence of a mountain. I was only in town for little more than 36 hours but somehow the experience came just at the right time, in the right environment, to make a profound impact.20130818-200017.jpg

Being in nature really seems to bring a sense of connectedness to something greater than yourself. Living in the middle of the city and dealing with the hustle and bustle, I feel like I lost that sense of connection. The beaches of Lake Michigan are nice, but in my opinion being near the ocean, and now I’ve found the mountains, is on another level. I was sort of spinning in my own little world and was blessed enough to have this day and a half to stop the spinning. Of course my return flight got me back home at 1:00am and I sat in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, but too late Chicago traffic, the mountains of Montana put a smile on my face even you can’t erase!

Being at this event really made me reflect on all the wonderful opportunities I have in my life, specifically as an athlete over the past year. As in prior years since becoming a CrossFit competitor in 2011, this sport has afforded me the opportunity to meet tons of amazing and interesting people- fellow competitors, coaches, CrossFit Headquarters staff, spectators, gym mates, etc. It really is a remarkable community we are part of. I also really enjoy connecting with people who aren’t directly involved in CrossFit, but who see what we do and appreciate it.

Outside of the significant support of family and friends, this past season was a phenomenal joy and opportunity for me largely because of the generosity of resources, and belief in me that was demonstrated by some specific people.

I want to acknowledge my gym owner, Derek Freiberg of CrossFit Construct, who welcomed me to his gym in 2011 and has done nothing but offer unconditional support, and assistance with my training. Derek has also been responsible for my supplementation regiment. Derek, along with all the folks at my gym, probably don’t realize what a huge role they play in me being competitive at the Games each year. I train alone a fair amount and just having that supportive person, or sharing the gym with a class and feeling their energy makes all the difference in the world to me. I love this gym!

When I’m not at Construct, I often train with my training partner Jessica Schulz at my second gym home CrossFit Rise. I would not have made it through the year without this woman, who doubles as my therapist, and also little Maddog who generously gives me my baby fix. There’s nothing better then having such a dedicated and driven training partner who’s also a mommy. If I can get some of her mental toughness in me then maybe I’ll be working with something.

2013 Regional, Deadlift/Box Jump, when Jess was inexplicably asked to go back and repeat a deadlift

2013 Regional, Deadlift/Box Jump, when Jess was inexplicably asked to go back and repeat a deadlift

2013 Regional, side by side lanes for most of the weekend

2013 Regional, side by side lanes for most of the weekend

My chiropractor, who’s much more than I ever thought a chiropractor could be, Dr. Sunil Pullukat. I had some physical things going on this year that I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have made it through the competition season without Sunil’s expertise and dedication.

This season saw the development of a new relationship when I became a member of Team MDUSA. What a blessing it’s been. I’ve written before about Muscle Driver and the amazing company that it is. The support and opportunity I’ve been afforded, not only as an athlete but as a professional, a person, and a mother, has been second to none. I’m so honored to be part of a hard working, creative, open minded, and inspiring group of people. I’m really excited for the growth and development the next year will hold, and thankful for the opportunities MDUSA has provided me.

My coach Rudy Nielsen has lived all the highs and lows of the past year and a half of training and competition along with me and I’m incredibly grateful for him. Every ounce of dedication and commitment I have for this sport is matched (or exceeded) by him. No one else could push me, motivate me or check my neuroses but you.20130818-200205.jpg

A heartfelt thank you to all of you for being such integral parts of this ongoing journey. I’m so excited to take on the next year and continue to grow what we’ve started.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” JFK

“My Mommy’s an Athlete”

I left this past weekend’s North Central Regional mostly feeling gratitude and motivation. Some really amazing things occurred, and being completely serious the biggest rewards did not come in the form of first place finishes or event records.

As far as the competition goes, it was an experience like no other. I could feel something was different in the week leading up to the competition. I’m so used to having (or coming up with) something to worry about that it felt strange to not be worrying. So Thursday night before things kicked off, to occupy my thoughts and get motivated I started watching Michael Jordan videos online. I stumbled upon his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech, where he talks about all the experiences in his life that added logs to his competitive fire, as he puts it. Little did I know this speech and thoughts of Jordan’s mentality would occupy my mind throughout the weekend.

After day one of competition I had won two of three workouts and found myself in third place, just a point or two out of fourth. Fourth place girls don’t go to the Games. The workout that jeopardized my postion was 30 burpee muscle ups for time, with a 7 minute cap. I’m not going to go into the details, but the minute that airhorn sounded ending the workout I knew I had underperformed. I was pissed. What’s important for me here, and what makes me feel like the things I’ve been doing over the last 10 months have been effective, is that not for one second did I feel down or defeated. Last year, even while winning events at the Games I would be in my own head beating myself up. I can be very hard on myself, and I think that’s ok if it’s applied in a productive, positive manner. Walking away from the event floor I felt nothing negative at all, I felt like I was being given the opportunity to be a fighter. I asked myself what would Jordan do if he was down, cut from a team, not selected for an honor? He would proceed forward with nothing but utter confidence and belief in his talent, his training and his abilities. Looking at the leaderboard felt like a sort of taunting. Think about it, by the end of day two, in five workouts I had earned four first place finishes, two top world times and a second best time in the world. Yet the leaderboard said I was a third place athlete. I wanted to stomp the hell out of that leaderboard. Finishing less than first was unacceptable because I knew what I was capable of. Though I won the overall event, I made my share of errors, had my share of failures, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those failures add fuel to the fire. I feel the entire event unfolded just as it needed to, to prepare me to move onto the next phase. I’m excited to spend the next few months with laser focus on my preparations. I couldn’t be more in love with my sport, and I hope to see more amazing programming at the Games that will push us to our limits. After two and a half years I’m finally coming into my own as a CrossFitter- no longer just a raw athlete, but as a specialist in this sport. Being good at this sport is an artform, and I want to make something beautiful.976601_10151598949865270_1175598923_o

The most amazing part of the weekend was all the people who played a role in it. I can’t say enough about the event organizers, judges, and team, as well as the incredible spectators. You all made this event a blast. I relied heavily on my sister’s positive energy and encouragement from long distance. My mother was able to come to town to be with me. This allowed my son to attend on Sunday, his first time seeing a CrossFit competition. It was wonderful and emotional for me to have him there. (He was overheard at school on Monday saying, “my mommy’s an athlete. She broke two records.” Ha!). I had the amazing support system of friends, my CrossFit Construct team and community, especially Derek Freiberg. Competing side by side (and sharing an air mattress) with my training parter Jessica Schulz was fantastic. I had the physical support of massage therapists Bobby Clark and Michael Harling, as well as my sponsor from Chicago Chiropractic & Sports Medicine, Dr. Sunil Pullukat. I’m so thrilled that Muscle Driver USA, a company/group of people who treat me like family, was in the house offering support, enthusiasm and documenting the weekend through photos and video. Thank you, I am so grateful and honored to be a part of Team MDUSA. Rudy Nielsen of The Outlaw Way, thank you for all the times you have believed in me more than I believe in myself. I’m finally catching up to you, let’s do the damn thing.976422_10151600475910270_416511675_o

‘Black Jesus’ Is Redundant

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”- Audre Lorde

I’m not sure whether this post is complete to my satisfaction, but if I don’t post it now it’s going to be relegated to the pile of never seen posts. I’ve chosen to discuss matters here that I feel are difficult to address and I’ve failed in attempting it in the past. By a few coincidences, I’ve had race on my mind this week. It started with a conversation early in the week with my son while riding in the car. A lot of parents can probably relate to the car ride heart to hearts with their kids. For the most part it wasn’t a remarkable conversation, mostly about the national origins of our family. Discussion of the race and nationality of our family and extended family is common place whether by design or in response to an off hand comment like the time he told me he wishes he were African because it’s warm there (“we are African kiddo, your grandfather is Yoruba”), or him wanting to have British ancestry like his friend at school (“you do buddy, your great-grandmother was born in England”). This conversation did get more in depth about skin color, and he wanted to know why he is black but his skin looks white. He has also asked me in the past how I am black but his grandmother is white. My child has quite a mixed ancestry including Nigerian, Black American, Irish, Native American, English, and possibly some others that I’m not aware of. At the same time, both of his parents identify as, and by American standards are black. He is black, but my son also is multi-generationally mixed. These are concepts with definitions that matter in the context of nasty US history, the one-drop rule, and a bunch of other stuff (or, “blah, blah, blah” as my son would tell me) that’s hard to explain to a six year old on a car ride to the zoo. Let’s be real, it’s hard to explain period! What I really started wondering about is if parents of monoracial children, who live in monoracial communities even discuss these things? I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who attempt a color-blind approach, claiming that children don’t see race, etc. Sure they do. And they live in a society profoundly impacted by it. It’s actually very interesting to converse with a child about these issues because often they are not assigning value or making a judgment, but rather making observations and connections.20130530-085125.jpg

It has been more recent that I hear things from my child that are more reflective of broader society, such as racial stereotypes. That occurred this week when my son got a bee in his bonnet about a new “The Lone Ranger” Lego set. I didn’t mind letting him get a Lego set, we love Legos- it was the specific set that gave me heartburn. “The Lone Ranger”? Of all things, why has this been revived? I will admit, I know little about “The Lone Ranger”, but the first thing that comes to mind is the ignorant portrayal of Tonto. Low and behold, when I searched the original show, I read that actor Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto disliked the way the character was depicted. I’d imagine acting roles were hard to come by at the time for a Native American, and I’m not so sure it’s any better now.

I had a decision to make. When my son was little, we made a concerted effort to protect him from certain things. Not just BPA in plastic, pesticides in food, or lead-laced dirt, but from something more insidious and potentially damaging to the psyche. I’m talking about toys/books/media and any other controllable images that would instill the stereotypes and negative values of dominant society, specifically around race. Anything that didn’t affirm who my son is, I didn’t want him around. I realized three years ago when he started school that I couldn’t control things as much, and as he’s gets older I can use the kind of exposure that I used to avoid (like the Lego set) as a teaching tool. So my son got the Legos. I believe that even a child who lives in a multiracial/cultural family, school and community can have their mind and ultimately their spirit permeated by race related misinformation if you don’t affirmatively work against that. I can only imagine what can go on in the minds of children who aren’t exposed to otherness.20130530-085041.jpg

What I feel I’m trying to combat is the systemic structures that have a powerful strangle hold on our ability to make progress in diminishing racial stereotypes. Obviously one nasty, cruddy person can inflict that kind of thing on another, but what is more striking and less clearly visible is the very thing we’re surrounded by everyday. The images propagated by mass media/social media matter. The third thing that happened this week that put race on my mind was being featured in an Ebony Magazine/ piece, “Women Up: Black Women Rising in Sports.” As the title states, it’s a brief profile of 10 black women who are rising in their respective sports. Anytime our sport gets coverage in a mainstream publication I think it’s exciting. Well, almost every time. An exception to that for me was last year when I stumbled across an article in one of the typical (non CrossFit specific) fitness magazines. The article was a list of top ten moments of the 2012 CrossFit Games, featuring both the women’s clean ladder and the Double Banger. I won both those events but the magazine featured other women for each. The Double Banger included a paragraph with my name as the “frontrunner” (uh, did anyone watch that?), yet the photograph was of another woman. Coincedence that they chose to feature white women’s photos for that piece? Perhaps. But when it happens in a publication that routinely under-represents women of color I tend to call that whitewashing. This magazine did feature a black woman in a more stereotypical role (you know blacks don’t swim, right?). I don’t want to disparage the accomplishments of any of the women who were featured in the piece, however I despise unearned privilege and I despise entities that refuse to portray the full spectrum. In my opinion they successfully distorted the already minimally visible presence of black women at the CrossFit Games. This is exactly why publications such as Ebony Magazine exist. To “offer positive images of blacks in a world of negative images.”

I believe there are people out there who feel the issues I’ve outlined here don’t exist or don’t really matter. In my opinion, such people are often sitting in a position of privilege. The privilege of not having to notice. The privilege of feeling that their children won’t be negatively impacted by such matters. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Whatever the case, these are the types of things that I’m tasked with steeling my child against. To educate him and to protect his intellect, his heart, and his spirit from these untruths that the world will tell.

“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.” Audre Lorde