Team “Beauties and Z Beast”

A couple weeks before Regionals I registered for a team competition in Malaysia with Grech, one member of the reining champ team from the previous year, and the head coach from my gym, Trever.  Given that Grech’s team won last year, we didn’t have to participate in qualifiers and went straight to the X45 Championship in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

There’s only a couple flights to Kota Kinabalu, so I boarded quite possibly the fittest plane I’ve ever been on.  Over 25 CrossFitters from Manila were on the plane.  With 11 other people from my gym, we crammed into a large van and headed to our condo.  I’ve never seen more protein shakers in one place in my life.

Day one had three events. It we started off with a win on the first event, leading the pack by over 20 repetitions.  Then we headed into a strength event, which we expected to come in second or third.  It began a little rocky, missing our first couple attempts at our lifts, then we gained momentum.  We all hit our goal weight and with one minute to go, Trever and I decided to go for a new max.  Trever added 6kg and hit his weight, then I hit mine.  We won the event by 2kg.  The final event for the day was, quite possibly, the most difficult of the weekend.  I had to do partner deadlifts and partner burpees.  The deadlifts were great, we were totally in sync, my partner for the burppes went HAM and I did all that I could to keep up.  We wound up winning the event by 8 seconds, and I was DONE.

We didn’t think we would win events 2 and 3, but after we had, we were determined to take a clean sweep for the weekend.  We ate a good meal, headed home, and tried to get a good nights sleep.  Which was harder than it sounded, I was sick and the streets were very noisy outside.

I woke up somewhat rested and got ready for the second day of competition.  Event 4 was longer, but very fun.  We won by 2:59 and beat our time in practice by over a full minute.  The final event was a fast one.  The second place team started full speed ahead, taking an early lead.  I was the second person to go on our team, I kept myself calm and collected and was able to take back the lead and Trever took it all the way home, finishing 0:59 head of the next team.  We won every single event in the competition, goal achieved.

Winning a team competition is a little more fun than individual.  You have people to celebrate the win with, to cheer you on right next to you, and to save you when you get tired.  That is, as long as your team works well together.  Thankfully, ours did.  We all had positive energy the entire competition and trusted each other.  It was a very memorable weekend.

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Asia Champs

Two weeks after going off the grid with Niqui, I hopped on a plane to Korea for Asia Championships.  Unfortunately, the event was in Bucheon, so I didn’t get to see too much of Seoul.  Before the competition started, we were issued some swag and head shots were taken.

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So angry.

The first event was a chipper, a long workout that you “chip” away:

2k run

25 thrusters at 40 kg

50 toes to bar

75 wall balls (14lbs to 10ft target)

200 double unders.

 To say I started on a high note would be an understatement, I was the only female competitor to finish the event within the time cap of 24 minutes.  It gave me confidence for the rest of the competition.

Yuko, known as a beast in South East (Asia), and I were head to head the entire competition. At the end of Day 1, I was maybe 15 points ahead of her.  At the end of Day 2, it was closer to 10.  Day 3, I was ready to fight for that win.  We went head to head on a rope climb and snatch workout the morning of the third day.  I sprinted to the finish to secure a win for the event.  That win meant that in the final event she could beat me by 4 places and I would still take home the gold.

I wound up beating her in the final workout, because I got lucky.  She was over a minute and a half ahead of me, but the last movement was 7 freestanding, unbroken, handstand pushups.  She fell on the 6th and had to start over.  I caught up and hit 7 on the first try to take the win.  Either way, I would have won gold, so for sanity she didn’t lose because of that handstand push up. There weren’t enough people between the two of us to make up the points.

If you’re interested in watching videos of the events, there are some facebook live videos on the Asia Champs Facebook, though they might make you a bit dizzy.  Otherwise, you’ll just have to take my word that we raced to the finish line once or twice.  Now, onto the next competition.

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Sealing the Deal for Event 1

All photo credit goes to WOD Chaser.

Niqui Visits Part 2: Off The Grid

Niqui and I dropped Em off at the airport then looked for a van to El Nido.  After much delay/negotiation/arguments we finally headed off in a packed van.  We picked up random people along the way and dropped them off in fields, so that was interesting.  We finally arrived in El Nido town around dinner time and grabbed a quick bite then looked for a trike to our resort Duli Beach.

As we set off the sun began to set, pretty soon it was pitch black and out of nowhere the road dropped off without warning for construction.  We headed down a dirt road with no street lights.  About 45 minutes later we began a slow trek up a steep incline before the trike began moving backwards, down the hill.  Without hesitation, I jumped out, then Niqui got out and the trike driver went back down the hill…with our suitcases.  I knew he was just going back down to get speed, but there was a part of me that wondered if he would just drive off.  Thankfully, he didn’t.  A few minutes later we arrived at a walking path, the trike driver apologized incessantly for not being able to drive farther, but he would likely break is trike in the dark.

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Fun times on a trike…in daylight this time.

 

I tried calling our resort, but I had no signal except to show me where we were on google maps – which I was sure to load before we arrived.  So, either we walk in the dark, or we get back on the trike and look for a room in town.  I had already notified the resort we were on our way when we left – we decided to walk.  Thank god for flashlights on cell phones.  Off we went through the dark in the middle of nowhere Philippines.  We arrived at the beach and were “greeted” by barking dogs and a couple asking if we had lodging.  “Yes, Duli Beach Resort.” They pointed towards the only lights we could see for miles.  Dragging our suitcases through the sand, we made the last of the 1km trek to the resort where we received a warm welcome from the owners and a beer.

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Our bungalow on the beach.

We fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the ocean.  We were the only guests for the first two nights at our private beach resort.  It was exactly what I had been searching for in all of my trips.  I wanted to get away from the crowds and vendors constantly trying to sell me something, and boy did I.  We swam in the warm ocean, ran on the empty beach, read books in peace, and played cards while it rained.  It was the perfect get away.

On our third day, we did a private island hopping tour.  After the failure that was the Underground River Tour, we figured a private one would best.  There were three people working the boat and two of us.  They took us to the lagoons when all the other tours were leaving and set us up with a huge lunch on a small, private beach.  An amazing way to see the lagoons without the crowds of tourists.

Niqui was such a trooper on this crazy trip through the back country of the Philippines.  I don’t know many women who would walk through the dark with me in search of a peaceful paradise, but she did.  I won’t lie and say neither of us were scared, but the crazy trip on the dirt road was 100% worth it. I was hesitant to even post the name of the resort where we stayed because, honestly, I want to keep it a secret.  They run on 100% solar power, they’re completely off the grid, the owners are welcoming and friendly, they help to save the baby turtles when they hatch, and they hire locals.  I hope to go back.

 

Niqui Visits Part 1: Puerto Princesa

I had two more visitors, and at the perfect time.  I needed a week off relaxing on the beach, only a local competition coming up, it was the perfect time to press reset.  Emily and Niqui landed in Manila and shortly thereafter, we headed to Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  Emily is about to start medschool, Niqui had just finished second year of medschool, and I like saving money, so we booked a budget AirBnB.

We walked to a dodgy little beach near the hut and enjoyed a day soaking up the sun and hanging out in the bathwater ocean.  After grabbing a tasty dinner we headed to bed early, we had a 7am start for the Underground River Tour.   We knew the hut was in the country, that there was no A/C and that we would hear some roosters.  We were not aware that there would be literally no breeze and that the house was located, not near a couple roosters, but next to a chicken/rooster farm.  There were over 25 roosters crowing at 4am.

We were picked up promptly at 7am, a miracle!  It was on time.  We then proceeded to drive around for 2 hours picking up other tourists – 2 hours.  Finally, the bus was full and we were going to see the Underground River!  Then we overheard the tour guide say it was another two hours to the river.  Excuse me?  I thought the Underground River was IN Puerto Princesa.  At this point we felt fairly committed though, so we decided to stick out out.

An hour into the ride we pulled off at Ugong Rock where we were instructed to watch the educational video…aka a promotional video for Ugong Rock.  Apparently, for another fee we could climb through a cave and go ziplining.  What?  I was told I would be going to the Underground River, can I please go there?  No.  We were held captive, pay fee or sit around.  Out of pure stubbornness we refused.  The guide said it would only take the other people 20 minutes and we would be off.  I found that hard to believe.  45 minutes later we decided it was time to purchase a beer.  Then another, and another.  After 45 more minutes the rest of the tour finally got back.  We got a beer for the road, it could be a while.

Finally, we arrived at the Underground River.  We put on our hardhats and set out for the tour.  I almost got shit on by 3,000,000 bats, nodded out a few times on the boat, and could hardly see a thing.  Then it was over.  We were back on the van and I was arguing with the driver about the order in which we would be dropped off – Niqui, Emily, and I would not be last. A failure/waste of day, thankfully we did a good job of keeping ourselves entertained throughout the entire ordeal.

Exhausted, we decided to head back to the hut and get some sleep, after all, we’d be up at 4am anyway.  A group of girls staying in the hut next to ours disagreed, they thought it was a good time to poorly sing karaoke, shrieking at the top of their lungs.  They would regret this decision when the roosters begin singing at 4am.

Sure enough, we were up and ready to go by 5am, we decided to make a day of it and head to a beach.  The iconic Honda Bay required a boat, so we headed to the best hotel in the town just in time for an overpriced, but delicious, buffet breakfast.  We saw on the map that there was a sandbar, so we walked over.  We were greeted by a long, plastic floating dock.  Might as well walk it.  We sat out on the end of the dock looking out at the water for nearly an hour.  To say I was in good company would be an understatement.  These ladies took a shitty situation and turned it into gold, time and time again.  We finished off the morning with a delicious cocktail before sending Emily on her 5-week long journey around Southeast Asia.

All smiles at the end of the dock.

 

Catching Up: Australia, Singapore, and Under Armour

I’ve been MIA, but not because things have not happened.

After Regionals, Mark and I took a few days to travel around Australia.  We headed up to Port Stephens where we spent a couple days kayaking around, eating good food, and relaxing.

 

Before heading over to the Blue Mountains, we stopped by Oakvale Farm and Fauna to feed some kangaroos.

We arrived at cute little AirBnB cottage in the mountains where I felt cold for the first time since my visit to the states.  We hiked the national trail the next day to see some waterfalls.  Then we popped into a CrossFit gym for a quick session of deadlifts and kettlebell swings.  One of the coaches was search and rescue and gave us a fantastic hiking itinerary for the next day.

The final day of hiking was long, but beautiful.  We looked out on valleys, hiked down, down, down into the valley, walked through a gum tree forest, walked along a creek, then hiked back up to the top.  What a perfect end to a fantastic trip.

Full day of hiking thanks to a search and rescue CrossFitter

The next weekend I had a trip to Singapore for the Under Armour South East Asia Test of Will.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for another competition, but I had won the free trip during the qualifiers in Manila, so I figured I would go see Singapore.  Then I got sick, so I was both mentally and physically unprepared, I was even on antibiotics.  I landed in Singapore, went to the athletes briefing, dinner with all the UA Athletes and Brand Athletes and quickly headed to bed hoping to feel better in the morning.  I didn’t.

The day was a struggle, antibiotics, advil, and athletics – not a great combo.  I managed to pull out a win though.  I won a bunch of goodies along with a 12 month contract with Under Armour and a feature in a magazine.  So, say hello to the newest Under Armour South East Asia Brand Athlete! Since the win, I’ve had a lot of firsts: First Glamour Photoshoot, ok first real photoshoot ever, first TV inverview (CNN Philippines Sports Desk), and first press conference.  Crazy couple weeks!  Oh, also, apparently I’m a filipina.

Regionals 2016 Recap

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to compete in the CrossFit Games Pacific Regional in Wollongong, Australia. When I landed in Australia, reality that I was a regional athlete still hadn’t set in.  I walked into a room full of women who made my muscles look minuscule. I found my seat and looked around the room, I saw some of the most famous CrossFitters in the world Tia-Claire Toomey, and arriving a little late, Kara Webb. Did I deserve to be here? Sure, I had finished 8th in Asia, but Asia is a less competitive region. Was I going to make a fool of myself on the floor? The thoughts were hushed away when the head judge grabbed a microphone and congratulated us on qualifying to regionals, then he began reviewing standards for the events that would take place on day 1.

On day 1, I arrived in the athletes area to a room  filled mostly with Aussies reconnecting, massive bean bags, recovery boots, physical therapists, and TVs live streaming regionals. I set my bag in the corner and laid down on a bean bag.  Thankfully, the athletes were very friendly and a couple girls came over to introduce themselves to me.  Just my luck too, they were in the same heat as me.

While warming up for event 1 I hit 125lbs squat snatch easy, my 1RM just a few months before, 135lbs easy, perfect, 145lbs, not a single miss. I looked over and saw Kara Webb warming up at 165lbs like it was cake weight, nerves began to set in. My heat was called, I was about to walk out on the floor with the women everyone came to see.  The head judge came over and made sure we were all in place, gave us a little talk about standards, had us roll down our knee sleeves, as I thought to myself, what do you think I have in there, a knife to stab another competitor? Apparently knee wraps are not allowed though, so that was the real reason for this.  He gave us each a fist bump, wished us luck, told us to go have some fun, and sent us on our way. I jogged out, cold from standing around, and tried to get my blood flowing. I overheard my name on the speakers. This is real, I’m here. I looked up, why did I do that? The stadium was filled. I was on the floor with a few thousand people watching me try to hit a snatch at my 93%. Would I even get one? Would I be disqualified for not meeting the minimum work requirement on my very first event?

I stood on the start mat, heart beating out of my chest from nerves, “1 minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Athletes ready. Beep.”  The 135lbs cake weight from the back warm up area felt like 300lbs as I began the deadlift portion of the lift.  I caught it and stood up, my judge gave what I thought was the good rep signal. I picked up the bar again, “no rep” it had dropped behind me. Everything felt off.  The bar was brand new, so the knurling began to easily rip my hands. I looked down at the bar, there was blood on it.  Is that from me? I looked at my hands, nope.  Gross.  I tried again, barely caught the bar and unsteadily stood it up, “no rep.” My toe had touched the boundary line. I looked at my judge and said, “I have one rep right?” She responded, “Yes.” Whew, I wasn’t disqualified.  2 minutes and the event was over for me. I walked back to the starting mat and looked around, almost every athlete was there with me, I felt better.

I relaxed in the athletes area and watched Kara Webb take the win for event 1. Just as quickly as event 1 had ended, event 2 was about to start.  This time, I grabbed a sweatshirt and sweat pants to wear in the corral. I was excited for this event, strict muscle ups, strict handstand push ups, and heavy as fuck one arm kettlebell snatches (53lbs). No one seemed to know, nor care that I had placed 36th out of 40 on the previous event, I realized it didn’t matter. The audience was there in amazement, no matter what we did. I was not nervous when I walked out this time. “1 minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Athletes ready. Beep.” I was finally myself, I was calm and collected.  I finished in the top half of all athletes. Yes, I did deserve to be there.  My coach texted me, way to bounce back in the second event, now onto day 2.

I woke up ready to attack day 2. I was in heat 1 this time, but I was one of the highest seeds in the heat. I was already not in last place. Goal achieved. We all warmed up, headed to the corrals, rolled down our knee sleeves to check for kniv…wraps, a fist bump from the head judge, and jogged out to the floor. The familiar voice from the previous day came one, “1 minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Athletes ready. Beep.”

I picked up the 14lbs medicine ball and began my wall balls, hitting the 10ft target. 16reps, 10 reps. 15 reps, 11 reps. I could feel my arms getting a little tired. When I got to the last wall ball station I could feel my shoulders getting sore, my judge kept encouraging me.  I heard on the loud speaker that I was in second place. Another woman had finished her wall balls when the announcer said, “Zoe has 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, done with her wall balls, but Kat is on the pull up bar.” I walked to the pull up bar and looked up, why didn’t we get a riser? I was so out of breath it took all of my might to get to the bar, I didn’t want to do that again.  Kat had dropped off the bar.  I began doing pull ups. I hit 20 when I heard the announcer say to the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, Zoe Pond-McPherson is not coming off the bar!” The crowed erupted in cheers,  “She is now in first place for heat 1!”

I walked off the floor in pain, back tight, legs tired, and happy, I had just won a heat at regionals.  The minimum work requirement for this event was all 104 wall balls and 1 pull up within the 6 minute time cap. I looked at the standings, six women in my heat didn’t get a pull up, they were all out for the remainder of the competition.

With only three of us left in my heat, the event organizers had to decide what to do, would they bump people up in heats or send three of us out there alone? 5 minutes before our scheduled heat, we were informed that they weren’t able to adjust the chip timers to accommodate changing heats and lanes in such a short time.  Kat, Evelina, and I all wished each other luck and laughed it off, at the very least our families would see a lot of us on camera. The head judge apologized, gave us the fist bump, and told us to go have some fun.

This event was a huge challenge for me, the minimum work requirement was a 400m run, 40GHD sit ups, and 1 deadlift at 275lbs, 5lbs lighter than the heaviest weight I’ve ever deadlifted. Evelina and I clearly had the same game plan, pace our run and sit ups, then mentally prepared ourselves for 275lbs. Meanwhile, Kat was already done with her 7 deadlifts and onto the next round. The crowd cheered us on for each lift and cheered even louder when we managed to get all 7 deadlifts and head back to the run.  Kat was starting her third round when Evelina and I got to the bar again for deadlifts. I hit one, Evelina hit one, Kat finished her third round, completing the event.  Evelina hit another deadlift.  I hit 2.  A row of judges high fived us and told us we were fucking badass. I ran to an ice bath. Onto day 3.

Everything hurt, I had a hard time falling asleep. I walked in a little later the next morning.  Warmed up, got into the corrals, jogged out, “1 minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Athletes ready. Beep.” I hopped onto the devil’s tricycle and pedaled at a nice easy pace before jogging down the floor and to start my handstand walk, breaking it up more than usual in anticipation of the next part – heavy overhead squats. I began performing the slowest overhead squats of my life. My back hurt, my shoulders trembled, I had to drop it after two reps.  Nothing to do but rest. I tried again, no rep. I dropped it in frustration. Finally, I stood up the 10th and final rep, the people in the stands cheered me on, but I couldn’t keep my shoulders tight enough and it fell behind me.  No rep.

I sat in an ice bath for 15 minutes with the last two remaining women from Asia region before heading out for the last event.  Cheers to behind the last ones left and making it through the weekend.  We packed up our bags and begrudgingly warmed up for the final workout. It was all smiles and laughs in the corrals though. None of us had a shot at being in the top 5 and going to the games, we were all in pain, but happy to have come this far. The head judge came by and congratulated us on a weekend well done, our last fist bump, our last good luck, and the last “1 minute. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Athletes ready. Beep.”

I got through my 21 thrusters and hopped onto the rope. I touched the banner, slid down and dropped. No rep. What?! One hand was not fully under the black line on the descent.  Rookie mistake that will never happen again. I got 2 climbs and my forearms began to struggle. In that moment I learned how to kip a legless rope climb. I finished the third (but really forth) ascent, hit my 15 thrusters, and walked back to the rope. One rep. I jumped back up and got so close to the top, hanging there, I was unable to kip high enough to touch the banner, energy wasted. I never did get that last rep.  It wasn’t the finish I had hoped for, but I had, in fact, finished.  We walked off the floor and all the judges had lined up in the hallway, they were cheering for us as we walked through for the last time.

I won’t be on the Crossfit Games update show, my picture won’t be on their Facebook or Instagram, and no one will talk about my finish this year, but I will always know that I moved from 38th place to 27the place. I finished what I set out to do this year, get through the weekend.  This was, after all, my second Rx competition and my first 3 day event.  I will get stronger this year, I will train harder, I will be more dedicated, and I hope that next year I will be able to walk back out on the regionals floor.

One Year Away From DC

One year ago I enjoyed my last day in DC.  I had already packed out of my house and was loving life at the Fairmont Hotel in the West End. I woke up on that last day, probably a little hungover from the night before, and met a friend at Baked and Wired in Georgetown for breakfast.  We walked over to the Key Bridge Boat House and took out paddle boards to the middle of the river to watch the DC flyover.  After the flyover ended, we headed to lunch on the waterfront, I met my aunt for dinner that night, and  I finished off the evening at Sauf Haus to say bye to friends. 

Today I find myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia. I woke up, took my puppies out, and grabbed an uber to the airport.  I was lucky enough to win a free trip the Singapore for the Under Armour “Test of Will.” We had our briefing yesterday and the three others joining to compete in the test of will emphasized what a big deal it is for me to compete at Regionals, so the rep from Under Armour met me at the airport with a bag filled to the top of Under Armour Swag!

Two very different days, so what has else changed in the past year?

House

DC: 1 bedroom + office English basement apartment with patio and yard

Manila: 2 bedroom townhouse apartment

Neighborhood

DC: Up and coming neighborhood.  Walking distance to public transportation, restaurants, bars, and an awesome coffee shop. 

Manila: Secure compound in somewhat dodgy neighborhood. Walking distance to…a 7-11?

Commute 

DC:  5.5miles to American University – 35 minutes by bike up the biggest hill in DC ugh

Manila: 2.2 miles to Primal Ape CrossFit – 45-90 minutes by car

Social Life

DC: Trivia and/or happy hour during the week, out at bars or house parties on weekends

Manila: Social life revolves around gym and my workout schedule, very minimal drinking

Gym

DC: 1 hour CrossFit Class 4-5 times a week

Manila: I don’t even want to know

Household Chores

DC: Dishes daily, work together to do full clean every week or so, laundry almost daily

Manila: None, I’m a complete slob and live in a house cleaner than DC, thanks to a helper 

Vacations

DC: One major trip per year, small trips for long weekends

Manila: Busuanga, Bohol, DC, Thailand, Boracay, Baguio, and Australia, with Singapore, El Nido, Korea, Malaysia, and DC on the horizon

Free Shit

DC: No one is giving me jack shit for free, except maybe some beer and Jameson at Sauf Haus

Manila: Trip to Singapore and a bag of athletic gear from Under Armour

Under Armour Airport Delivery for Regionals


Let’s see what changes the next year brings.