April 4, 2012
A Speed Bump on the Road to the Open
By Jeremy Brown

This year’s Open competition was a year-and-a-half in the making for me. I missed the 2011 Open and I wasn’t about to miss this year’s competition. 

In October 2010, I injured my back while working out. After two months, I finally received a diagnosis – I had a herniated disc in the lumbar region. Since two months passed and I still felt pain when getting in or out of a car, sometimes even while sitting down, I was told my best bet was a micro discectomy. I went into surgery on Dec. 21, 2010. 

For the next three weeks, I was forbidden from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk.  Considering that just a few months earlier I had a 400-pound deadlift and a front squat approaching 300 pounds, it was a humbling experience. While taking out the trash or going grocery shopping are not activities I take pleasure from, not being able to do them on my own was incredibly frustrating.

After three weeks, I was allowed to hop into the pool and swim 250 meters. At that point, I had not worked out in three months and was so happy to be exercising even if it was a distance that would have counted as only part of a warm-up to a competitive swimmer. 

Two months of physical therapy followed. During that time, I watched my friends compete in the very first Open. My experience of the Open that year was to cheer my friends on, haunt the Leaderboard, watch the Open Updates on the Games website, and wonder what it would have been like had I been able to compete. Even removed from the action, I could feel the excitement and increased energy that permeated CrossFit Reston during the Open. 

During the next several months, things improved tremendously. I went from being beaten in workouts by a woman who was eight months pregnant in late April, to being competitive with the rest of the box. I was learning movements that eluded me pre-injury. In August I joined the Reston Masters Swim Team and after a couple weeks was able to work out a schedule so CrossFit and swimming didn’t leave me worn out all the time.

In October, I competed in my first swim meet since 1996 and managed to come within a second-and-a-half of a Masters Nationals qualifying time for the 100-yard freestyle. I was feeling confident and began to think about the 2012 Open. 

Then the weekend of Thanksgiving, during Sunday’s swim practice, I locked up my sacroiliac joint (the SI joint). For those who swim, or who have bad backs, let me give you a piece of advice – a 1,000 meter kick with fins on a descending interval is hard on your lower back and hip joints, or at least that is what I gathered from my orthopedist and the pain in my lower back and left leg.

Physical therapy and a couple of cortisone shots were prescribed to speed up the recovery. The Open was fast approaching and I was getting antsy. By the time February came around, I was driving my physical therapist nuts asking for permission to go back to the gym. I think I may have ended every session with the question, “Can I go back to workouts yet?”

Eventually, I was given permission to start back at swim practice, but the permission to return to CrossFit was not granted. 

Finally, one day before the first Open Workout, I was given permission by both the physical therapist and orthopedist to return. My first workout back was seven minutes of as many burpees as possible.

Welcome back, Jeremy, here are some burpees. Did you really miss this? Yes, yes I did. Now, if you’ll pardon me for a moment there is a disreputable looking clown that is demanding my attention. 

I was incredibly happy to be back even after looking at my results for the workout. If you’re truly curious you can look them up, but I don’t think anyone is going to lose sleep worrying that I’m going to knock them out of the top 2,000 in the Mid Atlantic Region. Not only was I ecstatic to be back at CrossFit Reston, but to be participating in the Open.

In 2011 I sat on the sidelines during the Open, but this year I was an active participant and I couldn’t be happier.