One reason I haven’t posted here recently is we’ve been very wrapped up in some big things: Tony’s cancer treatment, planning our pearl anniversary … and one other big thing that I’m not talking abut yet. Anyway, plenty of training has been going on, but blogging about it has not.
We held our anniversary celebrations at CrossFit Connect. It began with a vow renewal, led by the Reverend Jennifer Sanders. Some parts of it we knew about, some came as a complete surprise to us. During the ceremony we went for a paddle on the beach while our guests built a structure out of giant Jenga bricks on which they had written messages for us. At one point I cried, and at another point Tony cried, which caught him out totally!
We dashed home to drop off our dog Rebus, who is quite old and only able to cope with limited amounts of excitement (I know how he feels on both counts!) and to change into our new anniversary T-shirts, then we came back to the box to WOD. Six teams of three took part in our anniversary WOD, the first part of which was a 1984 (the year we got married) row, with each team member rowing 300 metres at a stretch.
The second WOD – a 15 minute AMRAP, could have been designed to reveal my incapacities – 5 (the day we got married) GTOH were no problem, 10 (the month we got married) metres of broad jumps were actually not too bad, I could see how much progress I’ve made in just over two years, because I had to have a special broad jump lesson from coach Barney two years ago, just to understand how to attempt the movement, but 30 (the number of years we’ve been married) wall balls were absolute torment. Catching is one area that I haven’t improved in and it’s so mentally exhausting to try and work out how to throw and catch a medicine ball that I was wiped out by the end of that particular horror. What made it even nastier was that as one team member did the WOD, another got to rest but the third had to hold plank position!
What neither Tony nor I had been expecting until the WODs were written on the board was that we would have to take part in the final, whether we made the cut or not! In fact our team was in fourth place apparently (I didn’t have the energy to check the board) but on we went to the final WOD with the first two teams.
The last WOD was 10 thrusters and 30 kettle bell swings. The way we had to do it was one thruster each, while the other two team members held their bars racked in the front position, then ten Russian kettle bell swings each while the other two members held their kettle bells.
It was fun, we didn’t win and this morning I know what it feels like to do three WODs in a day but I have pre-doms apprehension for tomorrow – I’m pretty certain I’m going to ache in places I can’t foam roll!
Then we had an amazing barbecue, organised and cooked by coach/chef Barney. There was more paleo cake than I have ever seen in one place before and some amazing paleo bread, both of which were provided by guests.
One of the most interesting things about the day, for us, was watching our non-CrossFit friends and family having their first exposure to CrossFit – they seemed to get the idea of teamwork and commitment which we’d hoped would be conveyed by that part of the day.
During the ceremony, Reverend Jennifer had asked us to read out 12 words that she had identified during our planning meetings as being key to our relationship:
9. living life
For us, marriage, CrossFit, life in general … most of what we do is designed to help us focus on these twelve values. We couldn’t have had such an amazing day without the help of many, many people who gave their time, energy and talents to support us. So we’d like to thank:
CrossFit Connect owners David and Holly for allowing us to hold our day in the box – without that generosity we couldn’t have had such an amazing celebration
Reverend Jennifer Sanders for working so hard to craft a day that really made us happy, thoughtful and overwhelmed by turns
Mum for putting together my bouquet
Ronak for turning up early to help us set up and getting very wet feet going down to the beach to get our emergency sea water supply
Coaches David, Barney and Marta for being part of our day – designing WODs and in Marta’s case, being the third person in our team
Coach Barney for being an MC on the day and catering an amazing barbecue
Peta for being an MC on the day
Linc for designing our awesome T-shirt graphic and creating our cake avatars
Sandra for cake-making and being the world’s henchest flower girl
Oni for cake-making
Ian for the word boards
Michelle and Jason for taking photographs throughout the day – we haven’t seen any pictures yet but we know they’ll be awesome
All the CrossFitters who took part in our WODS – we were honoured to be working out with such a great bunch of people
All the judges who volunteered, or were roped in, on the day
Everybody who came along to participate or watch, especially those who brought kids and dogs – our invitation said ‘children and dogs preferred’ and we were delighted to have loads of both!
There were also people who couldn’t be with us on the day, but were very much in our thoughts: Bunny, Vannoy and Karen (aka George), far away geographically but close to our hearts, and Phil (Duracell) and Martin, both unable to be with us for medical reasons and both sorely missed.
It’s been a demanding and rewarding few months designing the anniversary celebration and it was a remarkable experience to live it. We consider ourselves fortunate beyond belief to have found each other, to have made it this far together, and to have discovered CrossFit!
Yesterday was my birthday and I didn’t have a birthday WOD. It was a deliberate choice, because Tony wouldn’t have been able to WOD with me, which he did last year and that felt a bit unkind to him. Mind you, he didn’t WOD with me the previous year … he was still being dubious about CrossFit then!
Anyway, instead of a WOD I had an AMBAP (as many breakfasts as possible) and I managed three – coffee and chocolates, sweet potato fritatta and then churros and chocolate sauce. Not bad going, if I say so myself.
The other reason I didn’t have a birthday WOD was I’d wodded three times in the last seven days and that’s my limit – more than that and I’m really pushing injury risk. Monday I went down to lift and do mobility and the WOD just looked like so much fun I did it anyway (am I the only person who’s response to burpees is ‘yes please’?), and Wednesday the box did Rankel.
I love deadlifts as well as burpees so I chose to work at my 70% of 1rm although I knew it would slow me down. That’s 50 kilos on the bar, which is actually my bodyweight, so it required good form. I chose a 12 kilo kettlebell as I knew I’d be struggling to keep technique on the deadlifts, I didn’t need to add any back strain that could cause me to round my shoulders.
There’s something quite disgusting about trying to run after heavy deadlifts, a horrible feeling of your lower body not cooperating with brain commands – I’ve heard other people comment on this and it makes me smile to myself because that’s what a lot of CrossFit feels like to me, impaired neural networks cause that feeling quite often, so it’s great to know that sometimes when I get it, other people are getting it too!
I got six rounds flat. Really happy with that result.
Tony starts training again next week, in time for our Pearl Anniversay WOD – that should be a lot of fun!
One of the things that can sometimes annoy me is the need to keep WOD secrecy until the end of the day. That’s just what we do, and I completely approve because it stops cherry picking (I’d never do a WOD with double unders in, from choice, for example) and that means functional fitness is integral to everybody’s training.
Sometimes it does frustrate me. Yesterday I ended up with full on WOD love – came home, drank bullet proof coffee in the garden with my LoveEnergy breakfast bar, realised I need a new CrossFit diary, which will be my third, and really wanted to blog about how euphoric I felt.
But I couldn’t, because it was only 11am. Last class is 8pm and until then I couldn’t WOD spill – so here it is:
Before the WOD I did my Lift It Up which was deadlifts:
I didn’t get a really clean third lift at 90%, felt my shoulders round out, and Coach David commented it had happened too, but I was glad to get it done.
12 minute AMRAP
I got 13 rounds and 5 wallballs.
I picked too light a weight for my cleans, at 15 kilos, but I felt so tired when I got to the box that I underestimated what I could actually lift – lesson learned.
And I loved it, every single minute of it!
Yesterday Tony got home at 4pm and I went straight out to lift. Unspoken agreement – I stay home until he gets home on treatment day, just in case he needs to be fetched, feels ill, needs extra care etc.
Everybody is at different stages in the Lift It Big programme, and I’m at the second phase which is 3 reps at 70%, 80% and 90% of 1RM (one rep max, for any non-lifters still reading). My lift of the day was strict press, possibly my second worst lift behind bench. I hate strict press.
The interim exercise between lifts is pistols. I cannot tell you how much I loathe pistols. Cross Pol Pot with a giant slug and that’s pistols, to me. If you have balance issues, pistols are evil.
I’m also doing (no, I’m not ‘doing’, I’m ‘attempting’, as I’ve missed two days out of eight so far) Ido Portal’s 30 day hang challenge – 7 minutes a day. I despise dead hangs – it’s just a way of feeling pain streeeetch out!
So I got it done, but it was meh. The only word for it is meh, or maybe the good old Pshaw! which Wodehouse’s characters used to express derision and disgust. Meh. Pshaw.
Went home, ate lavender ice cream. No it’s not paleo, but it’s great for cancer (seriously it is: lavender is immune system boosting, the other ingredients are free range and organic and when you’ve just had live TB vaccine pumped into your bladder it turns out you don’t always feel like eating substantial food, so home made ice cream is one of the things that Tony’s finding helpful) and that was the best part of the experience.
*I originally wrote ‘gnarly’ rather than noxious, which shows CrossFit has invaded my brain at the synaptic level, quite disturbing for a writer. I might end up with a whole novel in which everything is described simply gnarly, epic or awesome.**
**I note this blog has developed footnotes and footnotes to footnotes – jolly good! I may be channelling the wildcard talent that is Terry Pratchett – and I cannot think of anything I’d rather do.
Another long time since I blogged. More WODs happened. I did a scaled version of Arnie that sticks in my mind for being really rather nasty. However, one WOD was a real experience for me. CrossFit Connect had a throwdown followed by a barbecue on the Saturday – we went down for an hour in the morning and again for the final WOD, an inspiring thing to watch, and the barbecue, which was fun.
Perhaps based on the amount of hooch drunk the previous evening, box protocol was suspended and a notice was posted on the Facebook page saying that the Sunday morning WOD would be the first WOD you ever did when you joined the box! I stopped and had a good think about that. My first WOD was a simple bodyweight descending ladder that was brutal in revealing to me how unfit I was:
Skips – 100, 80, 60, 40, 20 – alternating with
Press-ups – 25, 20, 15, 10, 5.
I can’t remember much about that day, except the fear I felt walking into the box, and that fact that I had to run to the loo twice during the skips and I did press-ups on my knees. It took me 12 minutes and 44 seconds. And that was with the time for running to the toilet subtracted!
I knew, I really knew, I could take that time and smash it, even though I was still struggling with sleep and the stress of wondering how Tony’s cancer treatment was going to work out and it would mean an extra training session that week that I hadn’t planned for. But I decided I’d go and do it anyway. Most of the other people training that day went for named WODs, girls or heroes, but that didn’t bother me. I got the evidence of progress that I needed to remind me why I do this.
I’m so glad I went for it. Full chest to floor press-ups, no running to the toilet during the skips, and a time of 7 minutes and 17 seconds!
Yesterday Tony had his first BCG treatment. He was in and out (forgive the pun) in 17 minutes and went straight back to work. He was tired when he got home, which is one of the side-effects, and today he’s been really tired and prone to fall asleep without warning, but if that’s all the symptoms he develops we’ll be very happy! We’ve got a year of this to look forward to, which is not a happy prospect, but it’s great to have good local treatment that allows him to continue to work and next month he’s even hoping to get back to the box and start some light training.
Life is good.
The past few weeks have involved shed-loads of stuff – literally! Tony’s had his surgery, made a great recovery and then got an infection that has set him back a bit. One of my dearest friends got married – that was fun, although Tony’s deteriorating condition meant I had to leave the party early. I did some CrossFit, although actual wods are a bit of a blur, to be honest. We had help putting our shed up. The thing is, if you listened to what I said, the whole month would have been about Tony. I don’t know how many times I told story 1 (operation, larger than expected tumour, excellent recovery, home, catheterised, after 24 hours) or story 2 (plummeting health after removal of catheter, rocketing temperature, mental fog, inability to sleep, dehydration) but it started to feel like I was reciting it as soon as anybody came into my eyeline, like a Pavlovian dog hearing a bell ring. In amongst all that I managed to train twice a week. In fact I’d just finished a wod when Tony rang to say he’d come round from the anaesthetic, and the surgeon had told him it hadn’t been two small tumours but one large one and the operation had therefore been ‘more extensive’. I had a quiet cry on a 22” box and coach Marta came and gave me a hug and some encouragement. It was actually a great place, and a great moment, to receive difficult news, because I didn’t have any adrenaline to give to it, I had to just accept it as fact. But cancer does come to define you, whether you’re the person with it, or the person who’s relaying the information about the person with it. It’s great that people care, and it’s great to be able to talk about it, but I’m starting to feel like a professional cancer communicator. So on Sunday we had a shed-raising. Tony and I would usually do all the work in our garden ourselves, but he’s not really ready to take on major projects and we wanted to get the shed up before the end of the summer. A dozen lovely CrossFitters pitched up, along with other friends, to drink beer, eat barbecue and help us build stuff. The weather was hot, the company great and the shed was assembled in no time flat, so ‘team Connect’ moved onto the fences! I think our neighbours were amazed. We had two gorgeous women sitting on their roof, person-handling fence panels in place, while a stalwart chap essentially got the panels to bed down by doing chin-ups on them! Small (but exceedingly strong) children carried chunks of wood around (thank you Leo and Ada May) while other people just mucked in and fetched and carried and hammered and … basically proved we don’t use machines, we are machines. I served food and watched. We never doubted that CrossFit was a way of life, not just an exercise regime, but having so many people show up to help us really confirmed our understanding. If we are defined by what we do, we’re CrossFitters, even if – like Tony – we can’t currently train. If CrossFit is defined by who does it, then it’s much more than just functional fitness – it’s a way of creating communities that take action to support each other. On Sunday we were the grateful recipients of help. On Monday morning our box flooded. We got down there about 11am, when most of the hard work had been done, but we still mopped up a bit and moved stuff around, and I took some home-made ice-cream along. Today there will be no classes, which feels weird, because even if we’re not training, we tend to check and discuss the whiteboard at the end of the day. We were glad to be able to help a bit, and if it floods tomorrow, we’ll go down and move stuff again. The CrossFit games happened. I know who won, but the whole of the rest of it went straight past me – it just wasn’t significant in my life this year. But CrossFit itself is still vital to who we are and what we do, and I’m really glad about that. Thank you to all the amazing folk who helped build my beautiful shed – we really, truly, literally couldn’t have done it without you!
To train or not to train…. It turned out to be ‘not to train’. I’ve had another week off. I had a week off lifting (but not training) a couple of weeks ago and hoped I’d get to a substantially improved back squat one rep max this week. But on Sunday I developed a shooting pain in my right knee and the advice was to rest it. So I’m resting it. And bored.
Not so boring, but not much fun either, another trip to A&E on Tuesday. This time though, Tony got a different potential diagnosis: march haematuria. To whit: Causes of Haematuria
Haematuria is the result of bleeding somewhere in the urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that take the urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder, the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside world) and, in the male, the prostate.
There are many conditions that can cause haematuria, most of which are not life-threatening. However there are a number of serious causes of haematuria that need to be detected.
· Trauma. Traumatic injury to any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the urethral opening, can cause haematuria.
· Urinary tract infection. Haematuria can be caused by an infection in any part of the urinary tract, most commonly in the bladder (cystitis) or the kidney (pyelonephritis).
· Drugs. Haematuria can be caused by prescribed medications such as blood thinners (anticoagulants) including heparin, warfarin or aspirin-type medications and cyclophosphamide.
· Cancers of the kidney of bladder (or prostate in males).
· Stones or calculi. These can occur in the kidney, the bladder or the ureters.
· Glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis refers to a group of kidney diseases that have inflammation of the glomeruli, the filtering units of the kidneys. It can rarely be a complication of certain viral and bacterial infections. It can also occur in autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosis (lupus or SLE) and diabetes mellitus.
· Exercise. This is also called ‘march haematuria’, as seen in soldiers on extended marches. Very prolonged exercise in athletics, jogging, horseback riding and bicycle riding can cause haematuria, which is a non-serious condition.
· Bleeding disorders, including genetic disorders such as haemophilia, can result in haematuria.
· Inflammation/infection of the prostate can lead to haematuria.
Isn’t that all just peachy? But if you had to choose just one of those vile causes, you’d choose march haematuria and that’s what we’re hoping is the cause of Tony’s symptoms, not least because 48 hours or so before every episode he’s done both heavy(ish) squats and double-unders in the same training session.
I spent most of today at the allotment, teaching and then tending crops. As a result I came home with lots of soft fruit: tayberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries, and red and gold raspberries. We eat a huge amount of this fruit raw, but I decided as we had so much to make a compote. And when I’d made the compote I decided to sieve it, and then to make some compote custards with pistachio maple topping.
Gently cook a selection of summer fruits with 15 grams of honey for each 100 grams of fruit. No need to add water. Either cook until the fruit breaks down into a loose mass or cook for another five minutes and then sieve to get a thick puree or compote. The former is probably healthier but we eat enough raw fruit not to worry about getting sufficient roughage and trace elements. Once prepared, set aside to cool. Keeps for a week in a refrigerator, not that it’s ever been a problem in our house, we struggle to keep it more than 48 hours as we eat it on everything!
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios
This quantity of crumble tops four custards. Blend the ingredients together and set aside.
Two eggs per person
Teaspoon honey per four eggs
Beat the eggs together lightly with the honey. Pour into a pan over a low heat and cook until they just start to ‘turn’ and thicken, you don’t want to leave it a moment longer or you’ll have sweet scrambled eggs! Still good to eat, but not part of this recipe. As soon as it starts to thicken, pour into ramekins, then swirl some of the compote through the custard – don’t over fill as these custards rise (then collapse) during cooking. As you can see, judging how much is too much can be tricky! Drop a spoonful of the topping in the centre of each dish and cook for 15 minutes at 175 degrees. Allow to cool and enjoy!
Just finished week three of the four week back squat programme. As a ‘senior’ CrossFitter (can’t call myself a Master!) I took a week off after the first two weeks because four weeks of heavy lifting in a row tends to bring back RSI from decades of muscle overuse. So I just got a two rep of 60 kilos. My previous one rep was 55 kilos! The first rep was barely to depth but the second was better and I’m delighted.
I didn’t want to lift today. I woke up with a migraine, the dog was ill, I had a sudden deadline … loads of reasons not to get to the box and do the necessary work. I didn’t think I’d get the 60k because my head was pounding and my depth perception was off, but I made myself go down and try and the results exceeded my expectations – again.
The thing I’ve really taken away from CrossFit is not to listen to the voice in my head. It wasn’t the best lifting I’ve done, but it was adequate to the task and I got a better result than I’d dared to think possible. I don’t have to feel good about stuff to do stuff, and when I’ve done stuff, I often feel better than before I started. It’s a good lesson. I am going to crown myself a winner as a result. Actually it’s a crochet tiara I made for a little girl I know, but it’ll do for today.
Now I’m going to comfort the dog and meet the deadline!
About ten days ago my other half, Tony, came home from a heavy wod and said he felt out of sorts. Four hours later we were staring at a toilet bowl full of blood …
First thought, of course, rhabdo. Why? Because it’s part of the CrossFit landscape, because Tony often wods at RX level and because we’re that bit older than the average and more aware that we’re not immortal.
It wasn’t rhabdo. We don’t know what it is yet, but it’s not rhabdo. Whatever is causing this intermittent weirdness that leads to him urinating rivers of blood, CrossFit didn’t cause it. Since then it’s happened several times. We’ve spent a few hours in Accident and Emergency (along with bottles of water and bags of healthy food, because he’s ill, but we’re not stupid, and we know the wait will be long and the vending machines will be full of crap) and what we know is interesting:
1. He’s not anaemic
2. His blood pressure etc are fine
3. Our diet and exercise habits make doctors blink with surprise and admiration.
So he’s been training again (told to avoid ‘vigorous’ exercise he decided double-unders would be okay, I think I managed to convince him not to repeat that thought process!) and so have I. I’ve been up to London, leaving him home alone, and detoured to A&E on my way home for another prolonged pit stop with the charming and dedicated hospital staff there. I’ve been training again and managed to get 8x my previous 1 rep max in the back squat.
So what’s the point?
Without the structure CrossFit offers, we might be more dismayed and upset than we are. Tony is in the best shape of his life and so am I. Whatever’s coming, and we discovered today that he is classed as Code Three (life-threatening medical emergency), we’ve never been more ready to deal with it. But we’ve been able to scale and train at an appropriate level given that he is now ‘the man who pisses blood’ and I am ‘the woman who sleeps but lightly’. We’re still maintaining functional fitness.
Without the support CrossFit offers, we’d definitely be more frightened and alone than we are. The offers came in immediately – people volunteered to walk the dog, run errands, bring food etc. Coaches and CrossFitters alike have sent good wishes, rung us, messaged us, worked out alongside us, talked about their own health scares (mental and physical) and generally showed us that we’re right inside the circle. It’s been an amazing experience of what a community can deliver.
CrossFit taught us to adjust, then do our best. Scaling is a way of life if you’re fifty-something and you came to CrossFit late after a life that didn’t fit you to physical performance. Faced with this peculiar situation, we scaled our lives to suit. One thing we’ve decided is to totally change our plans around our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year. We weren’t going to mark it in any way, but we are now. In October we’re going to have the biggest, craziest, most laid-back Pearl Anniversary celebration ever … so watch this space!
What we’re hoping is that this will turn out to be nothing much. Some kind of burst blood vessel, a rip, a tear – just one of those things. What we know is that it might not be nothing. We’ve lived lives that tend to lead to prices being paid – we can’t shut our eyes to that, but we can maintain our current level of health, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, while we wait to find out what we’re dealing with.
We have a lot to celebrate – and CrossFit is going to help us do it.
All about Weald allotments
Under pressure from friends an account of my fight against lymphoma
Journey of Strength
Thoughts from a small woman trying to be tough in a big world
a sad attempt to be slightly less hopeless at cross fit
So you won't forget about me
Our life out in the open
Tips, hints and recipes for growing, storing and cooking your own food
journey since 1989...