Eleventh. That little word hit us all in the gut like a 300lb Atlas Stone. After day two of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit South East Regional Competition, my team and I found out that we were just three points away from making it into the top ten and advancing to the third day of competition. I was standing at the bathroom sink rinsing the last of my recovery drink out of my water bottle when I heard the announcement over the loud speaker. I exhaled a four-letter word and walked out of the bathroom with my head down, avoiding eye contact with mirror on the way out.
I walked back into the Jacksonville Equestrian Center and watched the Female Individual Competition unfold on the impressive Rogued-out stage in front of me. The same stage that I had the honor of competing on less than an hour ago. I watched Elite Female CrossFitters bang out pull-ups, kettlebell swings, double-unders, and overhead squats. They were fighting for day three just like my team and I had. I watched them move. I compared myself to them. How many consecutive pull-ups can Cheryl Nasso do? How many breaths did Shana Alverson take before picking up her kettlebell? Do they look tired? Are their hands ripped? What are they thinking?
Just then one of my teammates, Kelly, came up the steps and sat down next to me.
“Do you still feel shitty?” I asked.
This is about as sentimental as a conversation about competition is going to get amongst CrossFit Women (at least in my experience). I mean, we’re not exactly painting each other’s fingernails at a slumber party here. Kelly’s response was as simple and direct as my question:
“Not about anything in particular. I just wish we were better.”
And that was all that needed to be said. We turned back to the competition stage and continued to watch the women we aspired to be like. The better women. We were definitely not thinking about our own missed reps or an inability to string more chest-to-bar pull-ups together. We were done commiserating about what had happened in the recent past and were already strategizing how we could become better athletes for the future. We may have been knocked out of the competition, but we have not been knocked out of the game. Far from it.
I am very proud of my team. But I’m not going to pretend that I am satisfied with eleventh place. I’m not going to sit here and list all of the reasons why eleventh place is so awesome. I know we are better. At least I know that the future version of our team is better. We can be proud but we cannot be content. And isn’t that the exact feeling that will drive us to victory?
I’m pretty sure I will mutter many more four-letter words under my breath (and probably at the top of my lungs too) as I continue to train and compete. I will likely succeed as often as I fail and feel inspired as often as I feel discouraged. But I’m going to make a promise to myself. The next time someone tells me that I don’t make the cut, the next time I am figuratively or literally 11th place, I am not going to walk past a mirror with my head down. I promise to meet my present self eye to eye and remind her that this is just a stop along the way. My journey does not end here and I am not defined by this moment. Whether it is categorized as a success or failure, this experience will be used as a catalyst for growth.