Last week my box had us redo a workout from the 2019 Crossfit Open, a 200-foot lunge with an overhead 50 pound dumbbell hold, 50 step-ups onto a 24-inch box (again holding the dumbbell), 50 strict handstand pushups, and a 200-foot handstand walk. The given time limit was ten minutes and only the elite athletes could hope to complete it all. For the rest of us, it was a matter of discovering how far we could make it before time expired.
In 2019, I worked all the way through and up to 18 handstand pushups, which wasn’t bad for a guy my age. I know I could not do that now, for three main reasons. First, I don’t train as seriously as I did back then. Next, I lost ground during COVID lockdown that I’m only now regaining. Finally, each year I lose a little more of my VO2 max and stamina. Trying to match a four year benchmark? Forget it. 2019 Wade was closer to 40 than 50 and these days the opposite is true.
Fortunately, my coach changed the time cap on last week’s workout to 15 minutes so I figured I could at least match my 2019 self. I was wrong. For starters, I barely finished the step-ups at the old 10 minute time cap, but that was okay. I wasn’t working up against my redline like last time. With an extra five minutes I could keep my heart rate down and be in a better place for the handstand pushups. When I kicked onto the wall and pushed the first one out, I thought I was one smart cookie. 18 handstand pushups in five minutes? That’s only 1 every 15 seconds.
One, two, rest. Three, four, rest. Five… uh oh. …siiiiix? Turns out my shoulders were having none of it. When the timer chimed, I had only reached 13. Number 14’s attempt felt like my head was nailed to the floor and someone had just shut my shoulder muscles completely off.
It’s still a good score. It’s still better than what some of the younger pups can do, but it’s the first time I’ve seen my benchmark score fall so precipitously. It made me wonder if the gods got it wrong with Sisyphus. It seems to me keeping a boulder from rolling downhill and crushing you is so much harder than pushing one up.
This week has been about what I’ve lost, however. I’m in the middle of a project that has me re-reading the Badlands series and I’m struck by how much I’ve grown as a writer since the early days, and dare I say it? 2019. The story weaving has grown more complex, the technical nuts and bolts of the language are tighter, and a small story seed branched out and grew in a delightful direction. I know at some future point my mental faculties will begin declining, but I still have a few years of improvement ahead of me. In that respect, I’m still pushing uphill.
So at least I have that to look forward to.