A day at the box

It’s just after noon on Sunday at Ketchikan CrossFit.
Bo Meredith yells at Jeff Williams from the rower.
“C’mon man, fast singles.”
Jeff lifts the 135-pound combination of bar and plates, lowers to a squat, then stands upright. One. Fourteen more squat cleans and he can get back to the pull up bar where he’ll lift his feet to hand level 25 times. It’s a movement that makes the wrists tired, the forearms tired, the core tired and the lungs pump oxygen out at a rate faster than they seem to take it in. Then he moves to jump rope for 50 double unders. He repeats the combination of 25 toes to bar, 50 double unders and 15 squat cleans (increasing weight but fewer reps on the squat cleans) with a four-minute time cap. The fitter you are, the more rounds you can make it, which means you’re rewarded with punishment.
It’s the second week of the CrossFit Games Open and hundreds of thousands of crossfitters around the world are competing against themselves, knowing that only the elite will get invited to regionals after the five qualifying workouts. From there it’s on to the actual games, but that’s television for the vast majority.
Bo qualified for regionals in 2013 and yesterday he dominated the workout, totaling 344 reps.
I didn’t. My ability to do double unders is laughable and slowed my progression. It’s a real shot to the self-esteem that I struggle doing something third graders do for fun at recess. Apparently it’s one of those things — once you get it, they’re easy, but until you do, the’re awful.
Kevin Manabat, Ketchikan CrossFit’s owner, is going next. He posted 259 reps on Friday. While he warms up, Bo’s checking the scores of the competition on social media. Ian Johnson-Beitman came to support Kevin and wore jeans to the gym on purpose.
“I don’t want to get convinced to work out.”
It’s not that Ian doesn’t like working out, it’s that he knows he needs a break. He’s redoing the workout tomorrow.
It’s easy to be quietly ordinary at the gym. At a CrossFit “box,” daily scores go on the dry-erase board. The funny thing is, no one cares, because everyone knows everyone’s context and level is different.
Bo admitted to me after I struggled yesterday that it took him almost a year to master double unders. I’ve been going for over a year so any day now, right Bo?
Kevin’s a few minutes from starting.
“I keep telling myself, just suffer, suffer, suffer in those middle rounds, you know what I’m saying? Suffer now and look like a champion later, who said that?”
It was Muhammad Ali, and it was “Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Close enough.
Kevin’s one of the fittest in Alaska, but there are thousands who are bigger, faster and stronger. But that’s not really the point.
“The competition aspect is there in anything,” he says. “The competition with myself is always there. If [I think] I’m tired, it’s too heavy, every time I silence those words, that reflects how I live my life. I think it goes for everybody. If you can silence those words in your head, that’s what makes your life better.”
Kevin gets a good sweat before starting. He wants to increase his heart rate so he doesn’t hit a wall when he goes from resting to working.
The clock starts.
It’s not like a man in fast-forward. It’s just a man who doesn’t stop.
Finished with toes to bar, he breezes through the double unders. I’m jealous. He moves to the platform and grabs the bar. Bo and Ian encourage him.
“Let’s go, steady. Fast singles.”
“Looking good man. Looking strong.”
Kevin completes another round and is back on the squat cleans.
“Don’t step back from the bar.”
“Atta boy.”
“Don’t you step back from that bar, go.”
Beads of sweat drop between his feet as he reaches down for the bar. He finishes 11 squat cleans of 185 pounds.
He’s back to toes to bar.
“C’mon Kevin, this is where the workout is.”
I almost laugh. Kevin has already doubled my effort.
“C’mon, five more.”
Back on the jump rope. Two misses then more consecutive than I’ve done in my life.
He pulls on 225 pounds, it spits him out the back. He tries again, but drops the weight. Not worth an injury. He sits on a stack of 45-pound plates.
“Not in me today….I don’t have any legs.”
He gets three, maybe four words per breath.
“You know what….limited me there…I couldn’t pick up…from here to here…” he points to his quads and motions to his hip.
“That was max effort right there.”
He’ll keep his Friday score.
Matt Hagen congratulates him. Ian, Kevin and Bo have strategies, and worry about splits. Matt and I want to be able to do double unders.
“Hey, great job man,” Matt says as he leaves. Kevin has enough breath to respond.
“Thanks for coming out and watching me fail miserably.”
After a couple no-big-deal dry heaves outside, Kevin comes back in and sits on the rower. He and Ian discuss strategy for Ian’s second attempt. Ian knows he’s not on Kevin or Bo’s level.
“I’m not worried about the [round of] 225 [pound squat cleans]. I just want to get there.”
“There” is the point, wherever “there” is.

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