IN WOD WE TRUST the class clown of the gym, yells, decked out in batman apparel: socks, a “Keep calm and call Batman” shirt and a yellow beanie hat to match. Tim, one of the gym owners, gives a nod as he stretches out his right hamstring, touching his hand to his bright green Reebok sneakers, one of his six multicolored “work” shoes. Eamon and Tim stand next to each other, the little and big Irish men. Eamon is 5’7” (and a half), 33 years old, 160 pounds with dark hair and blue eyes. Tim is the baby at 23 but towering at 6’2”. The two are brothers — not the biological kind. Kate sits on the floor, a grey CrossFit beanie pulled down far on her head with her blonde, long hair tucked up in it. “So remember when you trusted me to do workouts by myself? I was doing mobility, and I hit myself in the head with an unloaded barbell.” “When we say ‘head through’ we mean after the bar is overhead,” Tim says. Eamon bursts into laughter. They are each other’s best audience. “I can see the bump through your hat! All the testosterone in this room is coming from Kate’s forehead.” CrossFit is the opposite of Fight Club, the first rule being to only talk about CrossFit. The Spotify playlist “This is going to hurt,” angrier than any music I have listened to before, blasts through ’90s desktop speakers. With that, shirts are off. “The gauntlet has been thrown,” Eamon jokes. It is 10:30 a.m. and today’s workout of the day (WOD) is 14.4, the fourth week of the CrossFit Open competition. The strongest and most agile will make it to the CrossFit Regional Games; others will use this as a competition against last year’s self. Yeah, but tomorrow’s self is going to hate you when you can’t walk in the morning.
The energy in the gym is still filled with intense competition, eyes peering to see how quickly their classmates move, how heavy they can lift and how many toes to bars they can complete. A half hour earlier, she was sprawled on her anatomy books, her face resting on a cross-section of a human leg. Her bed is made; her light is on. Four to five hours of sleep is usual for Rachel Kern, a junior physical therapy major at Ithaca College and the Crossfit athlete of the month. She is bubbly and awake for her “me” time. CrossFit was the only thing that got her through a “dark” summer; it’s the one time during the day she thinks of nothing else, only the WOD, only the toes to bars. Those 50 fucking toes to bars that feel like a punch in the stomach. 14.4 Complete as many rounds as possible in 14 minutes: 60-calorie row 50 toes-to-bars 40 wall-ball shots 30 cleans 20 muscle-ups Is it possible to get through more than one round without puking?
Two minutes in. Please don’t let them puke.
Blood rushes to Tim’s face, spreading to a ruddy complexion. His eyes are focused as a bead of sweat forms at his temple. “Tim always has something to prove.” This year especially, he feels a pit of fire in his stomach; it burns in every muscle that flexes in the traps of his back, with each row of his erg. “You are DNF for the weekend.” Did not finish. It plays on repeat in his head. “I fucked up as big as I could have fucked up this weekend.”