I wrote in my last blog post about how much stuff was going on at The Annex, like the Battle of the Boroughs (the BoB)and the Bone Frog Challenge. I took part in both, more as an entrant than a contestant because I had absolutely no intention to do anything other than go hard in both events: I wanted to take part, not compete.

So that’s what I did, in both. And I had a lot of fun. I also took a physical beating in both, and as a result, came to accept a few facts that had been nipping around the edges of my psyche but which I wasn’t coming to terms with. I present them below, in no particular order.

A 52-year-old athlete is fundamentally different than a 25-year-old athlete. The first workout at the BoB was 3 rounds for time of the following: hold a kettle bell in the chalice position and step up onto a 30-inch box 10 times; do 10 over-the-box burpees; run 300 meters. Simply put, this was the hardest CrossFit WOD I’d ever experienced. Yes, I was beaten down from a hard training week, but this thing was all legs, and I had none that day. I had to sprint (such as it was) the final 100 meters to sneak in under the 12-minute time cap. That means I averaged about 4 minutes per round. As I stood recovering, doubled over, I watched the open round of the men’s division. Our own Tim, who won the WOD and the day, did his first round in an astounding 1:56. He bounded over the box like Tigger, on legs seemingly made of springs. I don’t like to use age as an excuse—if Tim and I were both 25, he’d still kick my ass—but my days of bounding over the box, if they ever existed, are long gone. It doesn’t mean I won’t try my hardest, but 30 years age difference is significant. Best not to compare myself to the younger athletes, but to do my best and appreciate their skill and work ethic.

Form is everything. Before the second WOD, a clean ladder, Jon Paone told me some of the other masters athletes had noted that I had a good one rep max for a clean and could do well in the ladder. I agreed. I’d reached a 185-pound 1RM by carefully working on my technique, and figured I could get a new 1RM that day. Only, in the heat of the day, I completely forgot what I was doing. I focused on strength, on lifting the weight rather than moving myself under the bar, like I’d done 100 times since July 4th. Total brain fade. It was only when I watched Judy crush her weight thanks to great form that I remembered what I was supposed to do. Duh. And back to the drawing board.

This stuff is hard. As I lay on the couch after the BoB, too tired to even finish a beer, I felt the dull ache of the day’s efforts spread all over. What’s wrong with me? I thought. Did I do something wrong? I know I should have eaten better, but the format of the day, with three WODs spread from 10:30 to 2:30, makes eating difficult. Did I not train properly? Am I too old for this stuff? The list of questions ran on. But the only answer is this: CrossFit is hard and we need to adapt. A single workout can leave you gassed for the rest of the day; three in one day can be crippling. Again: Duh. Plan accordingly. Give yourself time to rest and recover. Use foam rollers. Drink lots of water. Sleep. Eat properly. Repeat.

This stuff is way more fun with a group. Last year, I wanted to run a 9-mile obstacle course race on the grounds of Englishtown Raceway, but I couldn’t find anybody to do it with me. So I went alone. It was a workout, and a challenge, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. This year, seven of us from CrossFit Annex signed up for the Bone Frog Challenge, another 9-miler on the course at Englishtown. Running and working as a group, we covered the course, and surmounted the 36 obstacles, in 2 hours 40 minutes. It was a workout, and a challenge, and a blast. It was way, way better to do this with a group, if for no other reason than to get a boost over the walls but also to have someone to commiserate and laugh with as you’re wading through a bog of mud or swimming through freezing water. I can’t wait for the next one.