“All these people complain about getting older, each and every year, but every year that I do CrossFit, I honestly feel like I get younger—I feel younger, look younger, and I have never been this fit or strong in my life."
Fiftieth birthdays are typically associated with graying hair, AARP memberships and mid-life crises.
Chris Gaussiran turned 50 this past January with one thing on her mind: Joining the 50-54 Masters Division in the CrossFit Games Open.
“It’s honestly the one thing that made turning 50 a little bit brighter,” Gaussiran said.
In her third year competing in the Open, and fifth year doing CrossFit, Gaussiran is finally the “baby” in her division and finished the highest she has ever finished in the annual competition, claiming 235th place, right on the edge of moving on to the Masters Qualifier.
She said she’s felt stronger, particularly over the past five weeks, than ever before.
“All these people complain about getting older, each and every year, but every year that I do CrossFit, I honestly feel like I get younger—I feel younger, look younger, and I have never been this fit or strong in my life,” she said.
She proved this fact to herself with each progressive week during the Open.
“It was crazy,” Gaussiran recounted. “My ranking in the region actually sank closer to that 200 mark every week—from 561 on 14.1, to 377 on 14.2, to 268 and then 223. I still have a lot to work on, but this Open has definitely shown me how far I have come.”
Six years ago, Gaussiran never would have imagined her current circumstances—ranking among the top women masters in her age division in the world.
Gaussiran discovered CrossFit through a boot-camp class at CrossFit Central in Austin, Texas. At first, she was intimidated.
“I had never been athletic or really involved in sports,” she said. “I did band growing up!”
After her first workout, Gaussiran was on the ground afterward, completely gassed, thinking, “I don’t belong here.”
It took her a year-and-a-half plus a persuasive friend to convince her to give CrossFit a try. When she did, Gaussiran instantly took to the community and was quickly hooked. She joined a class that trained at noon and has been training with them ever since.
In her mid-40s, she began to find herself—and confidence—for the first time.
“I was going through a crisis in my life—a point in time I was having a tough time in my marriage, which subsequently ended, and I was stressed and unhappy,” she recalled, “and I just wanted to do something that made me feel stronger and better about myself and surround myself with people doing something positive.”
The CrossFit mindset soon took over the former “non-athlete’s” mind.
“There are still some days that I get up and can’t reconcile the person I see in the mirror, or on the gym floor,” she said. “And even now, putting my name with the word, ‘athlete’ in the same sentence is something I am getting used to, but never in my life have I had something like CrossFit that helped me face fears and conquer them like competing.”
Her coach, Michael Gregory, said Gaussiran has a kind of psychological duality, which seems to afflict a lot of CrossFit athletes. Often, athletes are highly goal-oriented and determined. On the flip side, however, they can also be hard on themselves and impatient with the process.
“Chris is the type of athlete that will not allow an obstacle to stand between her and her desires,” Gregory said. “Her toughest lesson has been learning to be patient with the process.”
Going into 14.5, Gaussiran had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Workout 14.4 put her in 223rd place. She knew it would take a monumental effort to crack the top 200.
In 2014, for the first time in Open history, the top 200 masters athletes in each division earn the right to take on another four workouts, to be completed from April 17-21. The top 20 finishers in each division qualify for the Games in Carson, Calif.
Gaussiran ended up doing 14.5 twice, logging a final score of 20:58.
“My second score on Monday was actually 30 seconds slower than my time I got on Friday, but I consider it a mental victory to have faced this one down twice,” she said. “(Open Workout) 14.5 is without a doubt, the hardest workout I’ve ever done—both mentally and physically. It will certainly make Fran seem less intimidating.”
In the end, her score wasn’t enough to propel her to the next stage but Gaussiran isn’t disappointed. Instead, she’s thrilled with a performance that saw her exceed expectations. What’s more, she is already looking forward to 2015.
“Honestly, I did not think I’d come into this Open thinking I’d be close enough to be fighting for a spot in the top 200, so I’m proud, if nothing else, of my effort and pumped and ready to break into that ranking next year,” she said.
“The training begins now.”