How CrossFit is My New Track Team


Barb at crossfit. Barb and Emily Monaco. Barb in high school, @Boston University
Me as a CrossFit athlete, snatching and posing with Emily Monaco. Me as a Track athlete, breaking 5 in the mile in high school and winning an 800M race for Boston University.

I completed my 11th CrossFit Open on Friday March 3rd. This worldwide competition takes place once a year and it the first step for CrossFit Games competitors to secure their spots. I well remember my first one in 2013 at White Mountain CrossFit. I was just 18 months into this life changing sport and was extremely excited. At that time, I was still reeling over my job loss and living an extremely chaotic life.

The competition helped me focus.

Some of the movements were too hard for me. Those efforts ended rather quickly. The chipper workouts, however; gave me my place to shine. In those last years leading up to Molly’s death I was a Master’s regional qualifier in the 45-49 and 50-54 age divisions. I had dreams back then of making the actual CrossFit Games Finals.

 Then Molly died.

As I write this, I realize I have done more CrossFit Open’s without her here than with her. These time passage measurements are hard on me. Little by little she gets smaller and smaller as I continue along the pathway of life. It is this very reality that keeps me going. She is never coming back, so rather than wallow I will swim. It took me just over three years to really get a handle on working out again.

It hurt too much.

Not physically, it hurt my heart to pour myself into training and competing. I went through the motions.  What kept me going to the gym and eventually pulled me out of that dark place was not just the workouts, but the community. CrossFit has always reminded me of being on a team. The classes are community oriented and everyone is encouraged to push themselves to the best of their ability.

CrossFit is a lot like Track&Field to me.

I remember my first season of track. It was 1979 and I was 15 years old. Before I ran those races that showed me that I was fast, I felt connected to everyone on that team. There are lots of different events in the sport of track & field that cater to vastly different skills, strengths, and body types. There is running, jumping and throwing. Those throwers are huge and would have a tough time racing a 5K. The distance runners could not pole vault or triple jump and those jumpers are not throwers. A team picture of a track team has every type of athlete.

I belonged.

CrossFit classes are the same, everyone belongs and a group photo of any class would a variety of people. We are all there. Young, old, fast, slow, skinny, pudgy, athletic, and not so athletic. Our backgrounds in sports can play a big role in how and where we succeed in the gym. In my darkest moments in those years following Molly’s death this was the one place I felt totally accepted for where I was at that time.

CrossFit is so much more than weightlifting, gymnastics, and endurance.

The CrossFit open gives every gym the opportunity to engage every athlete the chance to put themselves and their current level of fitness on the line. Not every member chooses to compete, but the workout of the day once a week for three weeks in February/March will be the open workout. We all do it. I have done it at White Mountain CrossFit, CrossFit Iron Born and Battle CrossFit over the years.

I added CrossFit Amesbury to the mix this year.

Week One I did my age group workout on Friday night at Battle. I am now coaching there and wanted to meet the members as a fellow athlete before I started coaching. A long-ish workout with lots of different movements, I was in my element and finished well in my heat. On Saturday morning I traveled to Amesbury and went head-to-head in front of roughly 30 gym members with Coach Emmy. I did the version for her age group this time around. We finished just 3 calories apart, with me eking out the victory.

I placed 25th in the world in that one, out of 1,900 women.

Week Two I returned to Battle and once again performed well. I went to Amesbury Saturday morning but was a coach and a workout judge for Coach B and Coach Chris. Although this one was another long-ish workout I was incredibly sore and did not perform as well. Burpees are a slow movement for me. The one rep max thruster is not in my bag of high-level tricks!

I placed 32nd in the world in that one.

Week three I went to Amesbury. A workout with a higher skill level, (wall walks, jump roping and snatches) I was sure I would not complete the movements in the allotted 12 minutes. I was wrong. Braden Monaco was my judge and his (and Emmy’s) daughter Maeve counted my reps for me. Emmy was there cheering everyone on. It was CrossFit at its finest. I finished all the movements with 4 seconds to spare.

I placed 27th in the world in that one and 31st in the world combining all of the events.

I am essentially back to “pre-Molly dying Barb” in the gym. This is a hard place for me to be. It is hard to type these words. How can I ever be ok and say that I still love Molly. I should miss her and hurt forever. And I do. I can also be happy sometimes and do well in things. My ache for her loss does not mean I cannot make it to the CrossFit games. It means when I DO make it there, I can wear her name on my shirt and share her with the world.

Next year, I compete RX. I compete with the best. I channel my strengths and return to the light. I re-claim my place as the best in my events. In every track team I competed on I was always the best in at least one event. Typically, the mile, or the 800m, sometimes the 3000m. I was always chosen for a relay spot. It feels good to be surrounded not only by the other “best in their event” teammates but those who are on the team for reasons other than competing.

It is not lost on me that CrossFit is, to me, much like a track team.

There is a place for all of us.

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