CrossFit After Chicago

Posted: October 16, 2011 in Experience, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

One of our own, Todd Shirley, ran the Chicago Marathon last weekend and approached me about writing an entry for the blog chronicling his experience.  I thought it was a great idea, especially for someone like me who feels a 2 mile run is pushing the limits of what I can handle.  Todd has really utilized CrossFit to improve his running endeavors.  Oh, and for you blog neophytes, please make sure you click “read the rest of this entry” after the second picture to read the full post.  Without further ado:

CrossFit After Chicago

By: Todd Shirley

Pre Race

While jogging two nights before the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I noticed something was different with my body. On each turn or incline, the muscle fibers in my legs were twitching. Every cell was letting me know it had not forgotten about the pain from each WOD over the last 7 months. It was as if electricity were running through my thighs and they were telling me they were ready to race.


Two years ago and a half years ago from this point, I was running the Pittsburg Marathon and my body was at a different place. Pittsburgh was about doing it all wrong. I followed a fitness plan that I found online and worked out by myself.  This work took me to my heaviest weight.  I lost muscle definition and at mile 11 I almost quit the race all together.  When I left the medical tent after I finished, it still felt like I had so much to give to the race. I hadn’t left it all on the field.

This time around, dramatic improvements were in the cards.  These improvements came from a lot of places but the unifying force has been  Crossfit717.

Pace. Pace.Pace.

I started Crossfit717 out of desperation. Laying bloated on the couch Easter Sunday 2011, I knew I needed a change in my training or I was headed down the same road as Pittsburgh.

After my first week of Crossfit, I had been humbled but I felt certain these high intensity work outs would translate to results in a 4 hour race.

I vaguely remember my first few AMRAP work outs. I do remember throwing some weights around and then sprinting. Although the clock winded down to 0 after some 10-15 minutes,  I would feel depleted and proud. After about a month, I saw my times improve on my long runs and my nagging pains reduced.  This positive change came because the nature of the work outs force pace even though they are short.  In marathons, smart pacers have less pain and better results.

On more than one long run in the woods, i remember counting down the miles (runs past 10 miles really test my mental focus) and finding it easier because I spent the last week counting down rounds in a RFT work out or minutes in an AMRAP. These two work out approaches taught me to find a cadence and rhythm. In hind sight, I am glad I stuck through these work outs and didn’t quit. If you find yourself struggling, remember that your hard work will help you somewhere a along the line as you pursue your goals.

With 50,000 registrants, a lot of touching went on

Gemeinschaftgefuhl– “Sense of Community”

Sean Ireland and others have commented on how we filter out positive and neutral experiences only to psych ourselves out.  Without careful consideration, it is easy to remain ignorant to how you’ve grown while at the box. Our sense of community (which Alfred Adler called “Gemeinschaftfefuhl”)**  is rich with encouragement.  This is a powerful dynamic that fights against unhelpful anxiety before a competition.  The morning of the race, I woke up excited to run. Normally, I’d feel slightly sick in my stomach.

Seeing each of us come in day after day (and I know many of us have histories of wasting gym memberships) centers me. I love to return from a hiatus to see someone doing pull ups with fewer bands or jumping on a taller box. It means they had a breakthrough while I was gone and there is no going back to baseline. It also reminds me that as frustrated as I get, I’ve made improvements too.

All of this helps me forget about the stresses of my work day and pushes me during the WOD. It also has helped me enjoy the process of training for a sporting event in a way I never have before.

If You Can’t Enjoy The Process, Don’t Do It

I “bonked” during the Chicago Marathon last weekend. Actually,  bonked, might be an understatement.  I was set to break 4 hours and just barely broke 5.  As part of an amazing weekend-raising $1,000 for charity, seeing friends and family, checking out Chicago for the first time- missing my goal was the fly in the ointment. If enjoying the race was contingent upon my time, I wouldn’t be in a very good place mentally for awhile.

I’ve found something valuable every time I’ve stepped in the box. There are times when I debate going to work out at all (it’s usually because of how nice a nap is at 5PM  or the fact that Comedy Central airs South Park in the afternoons).  I never regret going.  Looking back on this event after a week of reflection, I realize that this marathon has been my excuse to train.

Looking Ahead

I’m going to give it another go. I’m going to break 4 hours and it’ll taste pretty sweet. Even if I don’t, I’ll enjoy continuing sharing in the hard work we do at The Box.  Good luck to you all in whatever you are going after!!

My brother, who founded Uplifting Athletes, and I after the race

**if you know me, you know I’d have to sneak something related to counseling psychology in here!  Alfred Adler has done incredible work. Much of it relates to sports psychology.

  1. Spicy says:

    This is an awesome feature! I don’t know if you like this idea or not, but I think it’d be pretty cool to do a series of blogs like this by the mid-atlantic hopper athletes. I’d love to see everyone’s different perspectives as they train, compete, and the after thoughts. I doubt I’ll ever compete in a competition like this, so for those of us who won’t, it’d be a great “fly on the wall” experience.

    Sean, this whole blog is totally amazing. I love the interviews, diet/movement tips, and inspiration it provides. What a great idea!! 🙂 Thanks for donating so much of your time to post so often. I’ve learned so much already!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your marathon experience Todd. Great to hear how you’ve brought your CF training and experience over to running. I know you didn’t get your PR this time but it takes more guts and determination to finish strong on a bad day when you’ve seen that goal time fade away. Congrats on a great effort…you’ll get it next time! Karen P

    Sean…as always this blog rocks!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on finishing Chicago! The fact that you pushed through even when you knew your time goal was unattainable is true committment. I went to run Pittsburgh last year and had such a terrible experience, feeling sick and anxious, that by mile 7 I could barely breathe….so I dropped out. I was so down on myself then thinking it was the only marathon I’d ever run…but then I realized that was so stupid and about 2 weeks later ran Bob Potts. It wasn’t a stellar finish, but I finished. So, knowing that there’s always another race gives you the chance to train harder and push harder. Not too often do we get these second chances. Again, congrats and keep up the good work!


  4. Todd, I am so proud of you and your relentless pursuit of your personal goals. It was an awesome weekend and there is no question that you found something within yourself on this journey. Additionally, there are 30 million Americans fighting rare diseases who appreciate your fundraising and fortitude.Thanks for letting me be a part of this experience.

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