Hannah Caldas concedes that some people might think she’s stupid.
Two weeks ago, the 34-year-old 2012 Olympic hopeful broke a rib practicing the Regional Day 2 dumbbell snatch and sprint workout. The weight came down away from her body. Instead of dropping it, she held it all the way down. Caldas felt the pain immediately.
“I knew it wasn’t OK,” she says.
The next day she called her friend and coach, Cliff Davidson, in San Antonio.
“I knew she was going to go because she’s been hurt in the past and it’s never stopped her,” he says of Caldas, who in 2008 was diagnosed with a benign pituitary adenoma brain tumor.
Thus, Davidson imparted words of advice: “Once you’re uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, you’ll be unstoppable.”
And so Caldas decided to compete at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games South West Regional.
“I had the option not to come,” she says. “But I decided to come kind of against my doctor’s orders. He agreed, in the end, but said, ‘Proceed with caution, with a lot of caution.’”
The 100-yard freestyle swimmer made it all the way to the final event of the third day, finishing 16th.
“The experience was important for me because I’m an athlete and I’ve been an athlete since I was 8 years old,” Caldas says while leaving the on-site medical team tent at the Regional, wrapped in plastic with a bag of ice just under her right shoulder blade.
“I like to follow through.”
The injury was most evident during the Regional’s opening event: Diane.
Caldas struggled to get past the first set of handstand push-ups.
On Day 3’s final event, the muscle-ups plagued her, but she still made it to the last round of them.
“I was in a lot of pain. I had to close my eyes,” says the Portugal native of the final workout. “A lot of it is you try to channel that energy, God knows from where.”
Caldas says she’s glad she competed in the Regional as it gave her invaluable experience for future CrossFit competitions.
“Being here helped me a lot for what I hope to do next year,” says Caldas.
She started CrossFit roughly six months ago. Next year, Caldas says, she will be at a completely different level and not injured.
She hopes to begin her swimming training in about two weeks.
Caldas credits Davidson, for getting her through three days of grueling competition. He programs Caldas’ workouts from Texas; she trains during open gym time at Urban Warfit CrossFit in Scottsdale, Ariz., five days a week with one active rest day and one full rest day.
“I think she did amazing. I was really impressed,” says Davidson on Sunday evening. “She’s got an all-or-nothing attitude, which makes it really easy to help her because she’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
Davidson recently finished eight years in a special operations unit in the Army and has worked on mentally coaching Caldas.
“I told her, ‘Your body’s going to fail, you’re going to get tired, you’re not going to be able to get off the ground. But if you let your mind fail, you’ll never know how far you can push your body,’” he recounts.
That, according to Caldas, is what got her in the top 20.
In a text message she received from Davidson earlier on Day 3, he said, “this is where the mental part kicks in.”