I asked Gretchen to share her experience with the gym and here’s what she wrote…
It hasn’t quite yet been a week since I’ve been back from California and my first trip to the CrossFit Games, so maybe it’s too soon for me to be able to accurately reflect on the experience but I’m going to try anyway.
I spent almost an entire week in California hanging out with and competing against the fittest people on the planet, to say that it was an absolutely amazing experience is an understatement. All the individual competitors spent two full days before the competition began at the Home Depot Center sitting in meetings, doing media prep, and taking swim tests. I admittedly was more than a little star-struck those first two days. All the people whose videos I had watched in awe online over the past two years were here in person, and not only was I hanging out and meeting all of them, I was now becoming one of them. It was then that the feelings of doubt started to creep in, and it was hard to stop questions like “What am I doing here?” and “Am I really good enough to hang with these people in competition?” from rising to the surface. Those feelings of doubt didn’t abate any when the first wod was announced and it included an open water swim and two miles of running in soft sand, not exactly strengths of mine.
Luckily for me I had an amazing group of people supporting me the entire time. With the arrival of Kyle, Brenton, Justin, and my family in California, I was quickly reminded that I did indeed deserve to be there and that I could hold my own against some of the best CrossFit athletes in the world. I also had a huge support network of people watching at home who were always there with a quick text or message of encouragement to remind me of the same thing. Once the competition began, there wasn’t any more room for doubts. You only get one chance at each wod, so you better make sure your head’s on straight, you put on your gameface, and you give it everything you’ve got.
The first wod on the beach on Friday morning was about as long and painful as it sounded. While I think most people were dreading the swim, for me it was the thought of running on the sand that made me cringe. I got through both the swim and the run, and though my placing wasn’t spectacular, it felt good to have one event under my belt. The rest of the day went fairly smoothly. The first skills test had two things I was really good at, L-Sits and handstand walks. Unfortunately, we found out I can’t throw a softball very far. The first day of competition ended with a wod of rope climbs and power cleans. I held my own and did ok but was able to take away some valuable lessons from that wod as I observed the different rope climb techniques other competitors used which seemed to be much more efficient than my own.
Saturday morning brought a wod of muscle-ups, deadlifts, GHD sit-ups, and sprints. There was hardly a break between that wod and the beginning of our second skills test which contained a max weighted pull up, a max snatch, and a farmer’s carry for distance. The difficult thing about this event was the short time span you had to work up to your max. With only 2 minutes on the clock, a missed lift could really hurt your score. I went in with a strategy to just jump right away to the big weights. That plan worked well for me and I finished 10th overall on that event. The last event of the evening was a mix of heavy front squats, stationary biking, and traversing a set of monkey bars. While I was really excited to try out the monkey bars, the squats and the biking had me a little bit worried. I managed to do the front squats unbroken, and ended the second day of the competition in 16th place.
Sunday morning brought a workout of double unders, overhead squats, handstand pushups, and a heavy sled push. I knew that after that workout the field would be cut and only the top twelve competitors would be moving on. And here’s where I have to be honest, looking at the numbers and the rankings and what I would have to do to move up into 12th place and make the final wod, I was pretty sure that my CrossFit Games would be ending after that morning wod. Turns out I was wrong. I went into that Sunday morning workout not with some sort of extra drive or will to work harder because I really wanted to move up in the rankings, rather I went into the wod the same way I approached the entire weekend, with the attitude that I wasn’t going to worry about what everyone else was doing or how fast everyone else was going, I was just going to stay focused on me and my plan and I was just going to have fun with it. And that’s what I did. I ended up finishing that wod in 8:09 a time which would be good enough for 4th place in that event and enough to move me up to 12th overall and make the final event. While I didn’t move up at all during the final event, to make it that far and to finish 12th in the world in my first CrossFit Games was incredible and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Since the Games have been over I’ve been flooded with messages and wishes of congratulations and support from so many people, and that really has meant so much to me to know that so many of you watched me and supported me the entire way. I would never have gotten to the Games in the first place without the help and support of so many different people. Two years ago when I started CrossFit I never thought that I would end up competing in it or be going to the Games. Heck, I never even thought I would join a box! However, once I got a taste of CrossFit competition back in 2010, making it to the Games became my focus. There are so many people that played such a huge role in allowing me to get there, and it would be impossible to name everyone here. But I owe a huge thank you to Kyle, Chris, and Landon for letting me wander in when they first started the gym and being there since the beginning to support what I wanted to accomplish all the while having more faith in my abilities than I sometimes did. I also have to give a shout out to Jeremy Gordon, from CrossFit Hampton Roads, who has been providing me with fantastic programming, coaching, and support since the end of the Open. And a big thank you to my mom, Allison, Alex, Justin, Brenton, and Kyle for traveling out to California with me to be there during the Games. I would have been lost without you guys, so thanks for helping me keep it together out there! And a quick thank you to Reebok for making my first experience at the Games a memorable and enjoyable one and for welcoming me with open arms. And finally to the entire CrossFit Charlottesville family, thank you for all the support that you have given me day in and day out for the last two years, for listening to my stories, and putting up with me in the gym every day. You guys are awesome!!