A Battle with Murph, 2015

This past weekend I managed to repeat a cycle I hoped I had broken, but apparently have not.

Here’s the cycle:

  1. Agree to do a challenge of some variety – whether it’s a competition, a workout, or even a goal.
  2. Fail to accomplish the task.
  3. Feel guilty and become anti-social.

guilt1It’s not like I have done anything wrong. I didn’t break a vow or promise to my wife. I didn’t cheat on a test. I fell short physically and failed my own expectations. So why the guilt?

That’s a damn fine question. Logically I know that guilt is just wasted energy. And in this case it may not even be the right term – the actual behavior is probably closer to regret, but somehow it’s spun wildly out of control.

This weekend I participated in a well-known crossfit workout at my box – Murph. It honors the sacrifice made by Lt. Michael P. Murphy in Afghanistan that was later made into a movie – Lone Survivor – in 2013. Like all hero workouts, it boils down to pushing yourself hard to show respect for the sacrifices made by heroes in the military, police, fire, or wherever they may be. But this one gains special significance and has been adopted by crossfitters as “the” Memorial Day workout.


This is the third time I’ve attempted Murph since starting crossfit. The first time I was new to crossfit and did a very scaled version at the box. But this is the second year in a row I came up short (last year was at home), watching my wife, daughter, and friends complete it when I gave up. I plopped my butt in some sun and moped. Yay me. Very mature, eh?

I am not an athlete. Sure, I’ve been doing crossfit for more than two years now, but prior to that my most athletic endeavor was basketball when I was 12 and 13 in junior high. I was awful, on the “B” squad, and mainly was on the court to get in the way of the other team. My offensive skills counted for 2 points in one fantastic shot I will never forget. 2 points in two seasons. Total.

My father (who has always been athletic, playing football in college, then softball and basketball most of my childhood) worked with me on the little concrete basketball pad we built behind the garage. I don’t know how many free throws I shot – poorly. I never mastered the art of the layup. And I was never master of my own blocky, uncoordinated limbs.

In high school I took a weight lifting class and that was fun until I hyper-extended my jaw while doing a bench press. In college I took bowling (twice) and volleyball as my PE credits. And I played a little softball (poorly) on a team with my wife in Arizona many years later.

Crossfit has never been about the competition. I don’t really compete in anything. I’m more in it for having a good time and getting some physical activity out of it. And I have managed to do that for the most part.

Occasionally I push a bit. Since crossfit, I’ve done a Lurong challenge and even participated in the 2014 Crossfit Games at our box. Nothing major. It was more to add a bit more of a challenge to what was already a challenge for me as an uncoordinated, overweight geek who sits at a desk all day.

gears-head (Small)But what I have discovered was that those challenges seem to offer even more opportunities to get in my own way. It’s insidious. Sometimes it’s the clock. I’ll stare at it as time ticks off. Sometimes it’s my body rebelling through a lack of mobility or facing an old injury from a prior life. Sometimes it’s about the rep count.

So what does all this mean? Same as I said at the beginning – I’m not an athlete. I leave that to my wife and daughters, who all play soccer and do like to compete. And I don’t like pain. So convincing myself to keep moving some days is a challenge in and of itself.

With Murph this year, I think I set myself up for failure because I drew a line in the sand and it turned out to be the wrong damned line.

Let me explain.

Murph starts with a mile run, then you do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats before running another mile. It’s a serious challenge. I have never liked running. And all those zeroes psyches me out a bit.

Monday however I managed to put a number in my brain and then get completely flummoxed when I figured out that that number (10 – as in 10 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats) was only HALF the bloody reps I needed to complete. As we say in computer land, it was a logic error.

My wife (who completed it in a bit over an hour) pointed out that I was only almost halfway done when I was at round 8. And that took all the wind out of my sails. Not her fault. She was merely pointing out the obvious.

So when I got through 10 rounds and faced the bar again, I couldn’t do it. I could not convince myself to get back up and do another pull-up. Instead, I walked out and sat my ass down to enjoy a bit of sunshine, the breeze, and pondered my failure.

Even after the rest of our heat was done, I couldn’t bring myself back to face the people in the box. I pouted and camped out in the car until the rest of my family was ready to head out. Like I said before – very mature. Not.

Was I tired? Hell yes. Do I like running? Not ever. Did I have more energy in my tank to go back and keep chugging through the damn thing? Probably. But I gave up.

Now I need to figure out some way of dealing with this failure to finish that I’m suffering of late.

Anybody else deal with this kind of negative self talk, self-sabotage, and guilt? If so, how do you do it? I’m not an athlete. I don’t like pain. It’s not a motivator, it’s a demotivator.

Tomorrow I will drag my sorry butt back into the box and do a workout not because I feel like it, but because I feel like I have to redeem myself again. One of the guys at our box took a bunch of pictures as well and there’s one of me running – I don’t even want to claim it. Like that’s going to sweep it under the rug or something.

It’s the silliest thing in the world. The only person I failed was me. And I completed half of the workout – that means 1 mile run/walk, 50 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, and 150 air squats. And I think I was about 25 or 30 minutes into the time. So it wasn’t like I sat on my butt.

So why the guilt? Is it just me overthinking every damned thing?


2 thoughts on “A Battle with Murph, 2015”

  1. I’m no athlete either. You can browse back on my posts and you’ll see: I’m a mom, with my mom-pudge and I’m usually last at my Box for EVERY workout. I have competed in the Open twice now and also in a friendly in-house competition. Not because I really think I have a shot at winning, but because I know my biggest struggle is mental and getting out of my comfort zone. Crossfit is way out of my comfort zone. I’ve been at it for almost 2 years as well, and seldom do WODs Rx.
    In our in-house competition, there’s an event i DNF’d. That burned me so much more than any other workouts where I finished dead last. I now know that your mental self will want to quit way before your physical self. So now, I don’t look at workouts at physical challenges, but metal ones and I gear up for them. I strategize for them, how I will break them down and then try to stick to my plan. Crossfit is 80% mental, the rest is body. That’s how I’ve come to look at it. That and I never want to feel the burn of a DNF again.

    Maybe the geek in you (to use your own analogy) can see it as a mental challenge instead of a physical one and tackle it that way. Just a thought…

    1. @Val – That’s a great point. Strategy for these workouts has never been a big focus of mine, but perhaps it should be. Great food for thought. Thanks for chiming in and keep up the great work on your own crossfit journey!!

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