May 14, 2014
Mind Game
By Emily Beers

"It took the last ounce of energy I had ... in the heat of that moment, I found a way to convince myself to believe in small miracles. To believe in myself. I’m sure glad I did."


I remember the pain.

Standing on the podium wearing a shirt that said “Proven” hurt like a bitch.

Because I wasn't really proven. Sure, I was top three and proud to be on the podium, but coming third in Canada West meant, "Congratulations, you almost got there."

The flurry of activity after my third-place finish at the 2012 Canada West Regional was a tease: The two other female qualifiers and I were ushered to drug testing, fitted for Reebok gear, handed a Proven shirt and interviewed about how we felt. 

I got to be a part of the excitement, got a taste of what it would be like to become a Games athlete, only to return home and try to shift my focus to the 2013 season. My dream—one I’d had since 2009—would have to wait for another year. Maybe two.

Two years later, I’m a different athlete. I finally decided to hire a full-time coach—Chris Schaalo—who programmed and coached me all year. Without Chris, I never would have come close this year.

But equally important was my headspace.

It’s almost comical to look back at my mental preparation when I began competing. In 2010, the first event of my regional competition was a 6-km run. Being the pathetic runner I am, my goal was immature at best: "I'll just try to stick with the leaders as long as possible," I announced. Needless to say, my plan didn't pan out.

Emotionally, I wasn't ready to compete at the Games in 2010. And I wasn’t ready in 2012.

This year, I finally felt ready. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally capable of keeping the faith for three days through the tumultuous ups and downs that always occur during a competition.

That was the single biggest difference this year: I finally believed in myself on Day 3.

I’m not sure if other elite CrossFit athletes battle this, but the single biggest challenge of a CrossFit competition for me is not letting the downs get to me. What typically has happened in the past is by the third day, I’m so exhausted emotionally that I lose the will to continue, the will to fight. And for me, when that moment arrives, it’s much easier to stop believing in myself.

But this year was different. When doubt crept in, I clenched my fists and fought back with all the will power I had. Although the competition was being decided on the floor, there was a fiercer battle going on in my head.

“Going to the Games isn’t that important,” my doubting self said. “You enjoy being there with the media team, so maybe that’s your role.”

“Fuck off,” was my response. “I want to be there, competing this year.”

“If you’re there as a writer, there’s always that good coffee with the heavy cream in the media room …” doubt said.

“You want this,” I replied. “You do. Believe that it can still happen. Think about how Ashleigh Moe came back from behind last year and found a way to qualify.”

“You’ll get your ass kicked even if you do get there. Coming third is still something to be proud of. Cheer up, soldier …”

And on and on.

Fighting that battle was by far the hardest part of my weekend. Much harder than those 50 ring dips. Much harder than those overhead squats.

And then came Event 7.

I entered the final event in fourth place—seven points behind second. My chances were slim, and I knew it would take a small miracle at this point.

Everything in my being wanted to settle at that moment, to pat myself on the back for a solid effort that would probably land me just shy of my goal. Again.

That was the hardest moment all weekend.

I stood on the starting mat and fought my inner demon, who was putting together a convincing argument, already consoling me, telling me it wasn’t going to happen this year.

It took the last ounce of energy I had to fight it. And somehow, in the heat of that moment, I found a way to convince myself to believe in small miracles. To believe in myself.

I’m sure glad I did.