Image credit: Emma Gardner
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Emma Gardner has been doing CrossFit for nearly a decade. Having grown up in the Golden Age of CrossFit in New England, surrounded by Katrin Davidsdottir and the other elite Comptrain athletes who frequented the gym at the time, it’s no surprise that competition is ingrained in every bone of her body. Working out, focusing on her performance above all else, and living for the competition is second nature to the 20-year-old.
This season, he had his sights set on a second individual appearance in the semifinals. In 2022, she placed 22nd in the MACC and was almost not done. However, she also missed out on qualification this year in the individual quarterfinals, which left her in a funk that she just couldn’t shake.
- I wasn’t in a great place at the end of my season. I had that first week where I wasn’t myself at all, just sad, overwhelmed, stressed, confused and angry, Gardner said. I caught myself reanalyzing every aspect of my life.
Once she finally got out of bed, she sat down with her coaches to discuss what comes next. She knew she needed time away from the rigorous training she usually attends and she wanted to try something new. She was motivated to do something to challenge herself and finish the season strong while she still strayed from her mold.
She landed on a marathon.
Mostly on a whim, Gardner signed up for a local marathon near her with less than six weeks to prepare. She had run long distances of up to ten miles, but every long run she took to prepare was the longest she had ever run. Her training has been relatively relaxed, with only one day of running a week, but she says it has been extremely enlightening.
- I’m usually fine with Thursday and Sunday rest days, but somehow it worked, Gardner said. It’s been quite a challenge, every Thursday morning to say, okay, we’re going to ride more than we’ve ever raced before.
While her training has had its challenges (like blisters in new places and lugging pounds of Epsom salts into the bathtub) Gardner has made some big revelations.
First, he used intra-workout carbohydrates in the form of Gatorade powder and gel to keep you energized throughout your run. She says that while she never does three-hour workouts in her regular workout regimen, she is doing three-hour sessions and having those carbohydrate resources can be a lifesaver. Plus, she realized how stressful daily training can be and the importance of an off-season.
- It was nice for training to be less stressful this time of year. Tax and stress training takes on you, I realize it’s a lot more stressful than I thought.
Throughout the first half of her race, Gardner ran a steady 8:25-mile pace, but by mile 15 she realized she had no splits to go—she could experiment as she pleased. From here, she ran an eight-minute pace to mile 23, simply because she could. She says it reminded her of one of her first ever competitions, the Lowlands Throwdown, where she didn’t slow down, speed up or change her strategy based on the competitors around her. It was all based on what she could do.
- It was a hard thing to understand, to not overanalyze those kinds of things (like split times) but also not to convince yourself that it doesn’t matter or that you don’t care, Gardner said.
The rut Gardner fell into after the quarterfinals was gone after the marathon. While her CrossFit season didn’t end the way she imagined, she was fulfilling and showed her just how strong she is.
Gardner: I felt this power coming back to me, like, I can do hard stuff.
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