If you have been following my journey for a bit, whether for exercise, nutrition, or any other reason – you know that I am now a Crossfit Regional Champion. You may also know that this took me quite a few years, quite a few states, and quite a few failures before it was able to be accomplished. I was unable to do this alone. In mid November, I found my way to Spring, Texas to join a hard-working, no-nonsense group of individuals at Crossfit Overtake, who have grown into some of my best friends. On Sunday, as we all huddled together, heads touching, arms interlocked, we cried together, like babies, on the finish mat of the final event. The overwhelming feeling of knowing we had dominated the weekend, won, and were headed to the Crossfit Games was unreal. I was about as thankful for seven people as I ever had been in my life.
To say this means a lot to me is an understatement. That may all seem really cliche. However, almost no one knows where I was mentally a year ago. After regionals in 2015 (I competed in the Atlantic region as an individual), I pretty much wanted nothing to do with competitive exercise. I was tired of training alone daily. Most days I just walked through the motions, hating training, being constantly miserable that I felt trapped in a sport that I no longer loved. I knew something needed to change as more days than not I found myself leaving a training session unfinished – in tears. This was not how it was suppose to be. I have always loved sports, competing, and fitness in general. But, I have always loved team sports. The camaraderie, the accountability, the “its not just about you” basis of all team sports is what keeps me motivated, hungry, and inspired daily. I talked about this a bit only with some of my closest friends – Marco Coppola being one of them. His flat out response was “Well, move to Texas as soon as possible.”. We didn’t speak about the Games initially, but we both knew the possibility if I made the move. With the support of many people in my life – I was able to do it 3 months later. Crossfit Overtake was my new home.
Training here was very, very different from what I was use to. I was training with Marco and Alex daily, and things no longer revolved around only me and my training. It was a bit of an awakening at first, however I grew to love it really quick. It made “practice” and “the grind” fun again. On the weekends, the whole team would train together, and Saturdays easily became my favorite training day (in the past they had been my least favorite!) Everyday wasn’t easy. In the past 7 months I have caught an attitude, been upset, frustrated, anxious, concerned, and every other form of crazy female athlete expression – however I knew I had a team with me. A team that was relying on me to do what I do and contribute my gifts to our ultimate goal when the time came. I started to realize there was very little time for anything that wasn’t working toward our goal. Training became enjoyable and exciting again. As the days passed in Texas I became more and more comfortable with our system and the way we, #TeamDensity, do things. By February, I couldn’t even remember training any other way and I was having the time of my life for the first time ever in Crossfit. I found where I belonged. I found seven people and a system who made me love what I was doing again.
When I think back to this story and how I ended up on top of the podium at Crossfit Regionals, it is truly amazing. Sometimes you really do need to take a leap of faith, trust the right people, get uncomfortable, buy into a system every single day, work hard, and be dedicated to one goal. Every time I look down at my medal (which I had plenty of time to do because I wore it for about two days straight), I see the girl who a year ago wanted out from competition. I see the big move. I see all the help and support and love I got from my parents. I see the hard work and constant effort from all of us. I see all the trust and belief I have in my coach and my team. I see the seven people who have been by my side the last 7 months. The seven amazing people who have grinded, suffered, worked, sweat, laughed, and cried (even at the expense of 100 burpees) by my side day in and day out. In case you aren’t familiar with them yet, allow me to introduce my teammates.
Alexis (Alex) Burgan
Alex is our sparkplug. She is Marco’s niece, has been with #TeamDensity since its inception, and knows CrossFit no other way. Although only 21, she is a veteran to Team CF, making her third appearance at regionals this year. You know EXACTLY what you will get from her in each workout, and that factor of consistency is invaluable on a team. Alex recovered from a knee injury last year that still leaves her in pain, swollen, and uncomfortable more days than not. However, this is never used as an excuse, hindrance, or explanation as to why something went wrong. I train with Alex daily, as we have similar schedules. I have never had a consistent female training partner before like this and I am so thankful for her everyday. We race hard in training, and it is often a constant back and forth thing because we both have very opposite strengths and weaknesses. On days I get lazy, or don’t give full effort, Alex hands me my a**. Because of this, those days have started to happen less and less. Alex brought back my love for the daily grind, she put the fun back in the sport even on the most grueling days, and she doesn’t let me get complacent. She is young, she is our energy, she is our sparkplug. You are going to want to keep an eye on her.
Lindsey is our wild card. She came to the gym around the same time I did, totally coincidental. I remember getting the text from Marco that said “I found our third girl”. In true Marco fashion, he was very nonchalant about it, and continued “She has a better pull than you already. What are you going to do when she out snatches you?” I knew what he was getting at and I loved it. Someone else was going to be around that wasn’t going to allow Alex or I to become complacent. Besides that comment, Marco never explained to me how good Lindsey actually was, or that she had been at regionals the year before with another team. Lindsey is our oldest team member at 30 years old, and we call her Granny because of it (that and the fact that she has been battling a back injury for months now). With those extra years comes some pretty cool athletic achievements. She played softball (shortstop and centerfield) at the University of Tennessee from 2004-2007, making the NCAA tournament 4x, and the World Series 3x times, then going on to be part of the USA Softball program. She has a team sport mindset and understands knowing your role and doing your job. Lindsey is a well balanced athlete that I have learned a lot from. She has strengths where Alex and I lack and she is ready to smash her role in each workout. The best thing about Lindsey is she is a winner, I learned that regional weekend. She wants to win, and is willing to do what she is asked of (even if that means death by syncho burpees with Marco) in order to win. She is our wild card, you’re never really sure where she will pop up in a workout to do some serious damage.
Dalin is our alternate. Although she didn’t step foot on the floor last weekend, she is very much a huge part of our girls side and just as much of a contributor to our success as anyone. She has been through all of our daily training, team meetings, long days, and everything else we have been through. Dalin is the type of person you love having around. She is always smiling, a constant sense of light-hearted humor, and the person that always seems to make everyone feel important and valued. She may not be as strong as Lindsay, Alex, or I, but her heart is about as big as it could get and she fights and claws everyday in training. She is scrappy, competitive, and wants to be the best she can be. Seeing that is inspiring and pushes me as a teammate. There has been multiple situations where I was struggling in a workout during training, or feeling bad for myself, only to look over and see Dalin with this incredible look of determination on her face as she was attacking the workout head on. In those moments, I am so thankful for her. She reminds me and the rest of us, that hard work and confidence is going to take you places simple athleticism or strength isn’t able to. Although she never ended up on a finish mat with us, Dalin is just as much a part of this win as the rest of us.
Ashton is our scrapper. He will fill whatever void is in front of us. He doesn’t have a direct speciality, however we can throw him into any movement that pops up and have him grind for us. With no glaring weaknesses, he is an extremely valuable factor in the equation. Ashton suffered an unfortunate injury in the first week of the open, and since then has dedicated so much time to rehabbing it back in order to be on the floor for us this past weekend. Off the floor, Ashton brings that same role of scrapper to the table, filling whatever role is needed. He can be the voice of reason, or the voice of “get over yourself”, depending on the situation. He is going to die before he stops working for his squad, so he expects the same from everyone else. It is easy to step up to the plate and do your job when you have a teammate like that. Ashton is a personality, a comic relief, and a walking documentation (rarely seen without a selfie stick) of #TeamDensity. If there are reps that need to be done, he is going to go to work for us (even if Marco talks smack the whole time) without a question. He is scrappy, he is hard working, he is a great teammate.
Blake is our secret weapon. This is pretty funny to me because Blake has been around the sport, and competing in the sport longer than any of us. He is by far our best crossfitter. At first glance, he doesn’t look like much. Relatively normal stature of an athlete, about 5’10”, 185, a dude that you would look at and say “okay, that guy is fit”. Until you see Blake move… and NEVER stop… you don’t understand how “fit” he actually is. His movements are nearly flawless, and he makes even the most disgusting workouts look effortless. He stays calm, poised, and controlled, and never appears to be stressed while exercising. This is pretty much his day to day demeanor as well, which brings great balance to the squad. The dedication to our common goal that comes from this guy is so real. With a grueling full time desk job, Blake often doesn’t get to the gym to start his training until 8:30pm or later, doing ALL of our daily programming after working 10+ hour workdays. I laugh when people tell me they’re not a competitive crossfitter because they have a “real job”. I know Blake, so your excuses are invalid. I was paired with him for two workouts during regional weekend. Having him by my side made me incredibly calm and confident and it made me want to move perfect in each rep, like he always does. That’s what he does for us, he makes the rest of us better by not wavering from pace, form, or control. You are going to have to have a great workout to beat Blake head to head – he raises the bar for all of us. Our secret weapon, the silent killer, the kind of movement that makes you go “wait, who is that?”. You won’t see him coming until you’ve already lost.
Marco is our captain. You may know him as the first loser (2nd place to Mr. Froning) of the most recent Crossfit Liftoff. I have been on the Miami Surge with him for the past two seasons, as well as shared a coach and training system (Outlaw) with him from ’12-’15. When I decided to buy into this, I knew I had to be all in and put my trust in him. He promised me nothing would be easy, but reaching the ultimate goal would make everything worth it. I have never had someone in my life stick to their word more truly. In all honesty, it’s Marco’s way or the highway. There are really no votes, group coaching, or “don’t hurt someone’s feelings” actions or words with him. This isn’t always an easy concept to grasp (especially for a spicy NY kid like me) but, he makes it easier to deal with because of the passion and dedication that pours out of him. We understand Marco is relentless in everything he does – including building a team and a training system that would allow us to show up at the South Regional, under the radar, and dominate the weekend – so we trust him. On the floor, it is no secret that he is one of the best weightlifters in the sport and one of the strongest guys out there. Of course having this among us is a huge advantage, however the bigger advantage comes from that fact that for a big kid, he refuses to have weaknesses that big kids usually do. He doesn’t accept mediocrity from himself, or from any of us. “Trying is just being okay with failing.” He leads by example. He talks (A LOT, no, like a lot), but he sure as anything WALKS as well.
Bradly was our alternate this year. Like Dalin, he was an alternate only because the rule of Crossfit is that only 3 of each gender can be on the floor. In the first week of the open, our men’s side suffered a pretty significant injury that left Ashton out of commission. We didn’t know when the injury was going to heal and knew our next male in line needed to step up and be ready to go if called. Brad went through all of our training with us, showed up every day, worked as hard as the rest of us, and never once complained about “being the 4th”. When we knew who our three guys were going to be at regionals, nothing changed from his work ethic and dedication – the mark of a great teammate. To be a great teammate, you need to be a great person. Just so you understand the type of person Brad is – his employer was willing to help out his trip to regionals so much by offering a donation as well as an awesome van that we all made the trip in! In order for someone to do something that generous for you, they clearly know the quality of human you are. At regional weekend, Bradly served as our coach. He was “in charge” of us. He kept our credentials together, made sure we were warmed up on time, kept an eye out for standard changes, and filled us in on specifics happening out on the floor in prior heats. Whenever any of us needed something, or had a question, Brad was there. Little things like that contribute greatly to success. It does not go unnoticed.
In the past few days since our win, people have been congratulating me left and right. After they say how proud and excited they are for me and the team, they often say something along the lines of “I didn’t expect that!” or “I didn’t know you guys were that good!”, or “Wow! Your team came out of nowhere”. I have just been smiling and nodding in response, politely agreeing with them. However, I don’t agree. I expected that. I knew we were that good. We didn’t come out of nowhere. We came right out of Spring, Texas and stepped out on the floor in Dallas and did EXACTLY what we do daily in every lifting session, strength superset, and conditioning piece we perform. We kept our mouths shut, we put our heads down, we worked, we executed, we stayed focused, we wanted it. I apologize that we surprised everyone who was unfamiliar with us, but I know we caught your attention now. Winning creates all sorts of hype. THE HYPE IS REAL. We are not done.
Carson in July.