Check out a little hype about the World Team Trials, scheduled for the weekend of September 13th in Sacramento: http://www.themat.com/section.php?section_id=3&page=showarticle&ArticleID=19475
Watch for mention of my pals Rick, Kahlil, Felicia, Darren, Brian, Shawn, Sanchez, all the reigning world champions from the US team I got to train with last year, and yours truly.
In other news, ouch. I’ve been back to training and CrossFitting regularly for a full week now, and that's the prevailing sensation, thought, and experience. My everything is achy and/or pulled. I gave myself a charley horse doing takedown drills, which added themselves to the bruised hip flexors I have from takedown drills the previous day. I have mat burn on my toe. I lost a lot of grip strength, so I had to do the pullups in Saturday’s CrossFit workout one at a time (normally I can at least start out doing 5-6 in a row), and then I could barely type, hold a pen, or even wash my hair. The calluses I had developed through months of pull-ups and handling barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells also softened somewhat while I was sick, so my palms opened up a little bit. I have twin gouges on my right thigh from rolling with my friend Frank. (Yes, Frank, as opposed to “Frances” or “Francesca.” Frank obviously needs a better manicurist—or pedicurist. As Johnny said, rolling with Frank is like rolling with a tiger, though Frank is probably a better attorney than most tigers. Probably. And most.) My form on pushups, kettlebell swings, jump squats, and double-unders has really deteriorated. Oh, and I’m back to 2 showers a day, up from .5 a day when I was really sick.
It’s back to life as usual, I guess. As you might imagine, I’m terrified I’m going to get sick again, so I’m fretting about rest days and trying to do less than I normally would, notwithstanding the litany of maladies above. I don’t know how well it’s working. The World Team Trials are in less than two weeks, and Johnny’s trying to give me and our friend Kahlil as much training and drilling time as possible. I want to be available for that. And I want to supplement with CrossFit because that helps give me confidence in addition to all the other tangible benefits it confers when I compete. (Not to mention that I am now as addicted/committed to it as I am to grappling.)
Add to that the fact that tomorrow I start teaching a writing course and a program evaluation course, and later in the week I’ll be starting a consulting project and an editing job, that I am still hustling on my book proposal, AND that Johnny and I leave for Virginia on Friday at 6am to do our seminar at Richmond BJJ, and you could argue that I’m pretty much on a collision course with disaster. I haven’t really decided yet what to do about it. Commit to at least one rest day this week, for one thing. Maybe cry in frustration for another. (Actually, I can already check that one off; during some of the takedown drills yesterday, I simply could not get my body to do what Johnny and Brian were trying to explain to me, though I understood it in my brain. So rather than lash out at them, which is what I felt like doing—not because they were doing anything wrong but because I was so frustrated with myself—I went into the bathroom and paced up and down like a caged animal until I managed to pull it together.) Another one is eat ice cream—balanced out with protein to keep me in the Zone, of course. “Sleep like the dead” is taking care of itself too.
I have to get a handle on why I keep competing. At this point, I’m really not sure.
Well, that’s not true, at all, actually. I compete for a lot of reasons, and I know what they are. Competing makes my jiu jitsu better. I do enjoy it on many levels, although I do complain about it and get exceedingly nervous beforehand. I like working with Johnny, the discipline of blocking out all other noises so I can concentrate on his voice, setting up moves and listening for his coaching so I can do them with more precision or even go for something completely different that I never would have considered in the heat of the moment if left to my own devices. Even better, I love being able to pull off a move in competition that Johnny has taught me and that I have drilled the crap out of beforehand, which happened at the gi Mundial back in June.
Competing contributes to my credibility as a grappler, especially since I have had some success with it recently, and the reality is that in general I need to work twice as hard to be considered half a credible as a man who trains. (That’s not bitterness talking, by the way; it’s simply awareness of a fact of my jiu jitsu life. And I have choices about how I can deal with it; I COULD be bitter, but I have just decided to take that fact into consideration in the way I approach all aspects of grappling. It seems to be working. I perceive that I am being taken increasingly seriously, as I spend more time in this arena, and I don’t carry around that bilious feeling that the world is out to get me. Win-win situation!)
I like the energy of competitions. I like getting fired up and letting out the competitive and aggressive side of me (it’s good to do it this way rather than some other ways I could imagine, because this way I get to go home afterward rather than to prison). I like celebrity-spotting and cheering on my friends. I like watching the black belt and advanced divisions, and I like watching the lower divisions with an eye toward working on my own coaching skills. (Been thinking about coaching a lot lately, and actually intended to write about it in this post. But as often happens, when I sat down to write, what I intended to write about was shoved out of the way by what it turns out I needed to write about. I’m weird.)
And I do want to interject here that I have felt really energized a lot this week in addition to feeling tired and achy. I’ve learned some cool new moves that I’ve been able relatively easily to incorporate, or at least to imagine I could incorporate, into my current game. I love the troubleshooting and problem-solving aspect of preparing for competition—based on what I know about my opponents and the rules of the tournament, what’s the game plan that’s most likely to help me prevail? I love my teammates and training partners, and I love the crapping on each other that we do to show our affection. I was so happy to see everyone at Petranek Fitness, and to get back into a routine there.
And most importantly, I love rolling and CrossFit. LOVE LOVE LOVE rolling and CrossFit. As my friend Chris Dietzel would say, I love them so much I want to marry them and have 10,000 of their babies. That hasn’t changed. But preparing for competing and competing itself take SO much out of my hide. I guess they always have, only a couple years ago they took their toll in how I felt about myself, and now it’s more a physical toll, as well as a time issue. Plus, competing can be freaking expensive.
The physical part is probably more than a little bit my responsibility. You may recall that I have a little athlete’s crush on Dara Torres, the now gold and silver medal-winning Olympic swimmer, because she is 41 and can hold her own in her chosen sport with people half her age. She also seems like an optimistic, happy person who takes responsibility for her own actions, which is something I strive to be and do every day. So obviously, at 38, and in a young person’s sport myself, I am inspired. Since I am inspired, you’d think I would try to emulate her, which is to say, that I would try to follow her kind of training regimen, which she herself has said is far less strenuous than the way she trained 20 years ago. She is kind to her body, and she trains smart, not hard, at the risk of making her sound like a Total Quality Management cliché.
But I am still conditioned to believe that the harder you train, the better it is for you, despite the fact that recent events have put the lie to that. (I wish I could post the picture from my phone camera of what my eyes looked like in the throes of the conjunctivitis; I resembled some kind of alien toad.) I am probably going to be working on freeing myself from that conditioning long after my competition career is over; fortunately, as with everything I learn on the mat and in the CrossFit gym, this lesson will apply in many other aspects of my life. I guess awareness is the first step, so I’ll commit to building on that. Lip service is a kind of service, right?
The other issue is time, and that is also within my control. But the solution to the time issue is more complicated because it has to do with my priorities, which I don’t always seem to have as good a handle on as I think I do. In my opinion, the reason I have had some success in competing recently is because I treat it like a full-time job. As I have mentioned in the past, rather than being the A student in grappling, I have historically perceived myself to be the hardworking, good-natured B/C student, the one whose work is serviceable but not brilliant. I have come to believe that I have to work really hard to acquire the technique, body awareness, and agility that seem to come more easily to other people. (Now that I think about it, this probably also fuels my wrongheaded notions about training hard versus training smart, which is particularly unfortunate because if it ever was true, it probably isn’t quite as true anymore, at least in grappling. CrossFit is another story.)
So when I prepare for a tournament, I feel like I am constantly training. I’m taking class to put in rolling time. I’m drilling outside of class to work on specific moves I want to be able to pull off in the heat of the competition moment. I’m conditioning at Petranek Fitness. I’m asking questions of Johnny about things that arise while I’m rolling: troubleshooting and anticipating possible courses of action if moves don’t go the way I want them to. I’m monitoring my diet and sleep (usually observing them, particularly sleep, taking a back seat to more pressing concerns). I’m taking notes and actually referring to them, and when I’m not on the mat or in the gym, I’m thinking about the things I do on the mat or in the gym. If I let it, which I do, preparing for a tournament can take up all of my available time, not to mention all of my mental, emotional, and physical energy.
This is not good for me. I know this. It leaves me tired and unbalanced and lacking perspective. It leaves me with no time or energy to do the other things I want to do, like, say, work on my book project, maintain my blog, read for pleasure, or even do my laundry or take a shower, to say nothing of making a living (remember competing doesn’t make me any money), having a social life, or even being able to string a coherent sentence together or retain consciousness (yesterday I went to the movies and fell asleep more than once. So I’m pretty sure Traitor is a great movie, but for me there are some gaps in the logic of the story line.) That’s why I say the solution to the competition dilemma is a complex one; it must account for my priorities, and some of those priorities compete with each other, no pun intended.
Thus, in order to do something about the imbalance, I have to think about what my priorities are and accept that not all of them will be met equally, given that there are only so many hours in the day and I only have so much energy. I will make time to think about that on a bigger picture scale after the World Team Trials are over. I know, I have said that before, probably most recently right before I got sick. I’m painfully aware of the potential for this to be just so much lip service, so just this past minute I made an appointment in my calendar for September 16, which is the Tuesday after the WGG tournament. All it says is “Priorities.” But it should be enough to jog my memory. And my commitment to doing things differently, which may turn out to include having somewhat different priorities. Maybe that’s why I’m reluctant to look at the bigger picture—if I change my priorities, I will be changing a LOT, in ways I don’t even understand right now. That’s scary. No matter how much I do that kind of stuff, it never gets any easier. Kind of like burpees. Living a mindful life is like burpees for the heart and soul. Friggin’ burpees.
Today I will figure out what day will be my rest day this week. That’s at least a step in the right direction.