"Mama, when are you coming home?"

I can’t believe that another CrossFit Games has come and gone. SO much has transpired over the last week, I’m really on sensory overload. I debated writing this now (on the plane home) because there’s still so much raw emotion, but perhaps against better judgment, here goes. First off, I’m not pleased with my final overall standing. It was a weekend of ups and downs, and many weaknesses were exposed. It’s a very hard reality to face when you have trained hard and committed all of yourself to reaching a goal only to fall short. I believe it takes guts to set high goals and take the risks in an effort to reach them. I have to admit I’ve asked myself at times, “what if you commit everything to your goals and you don’t succeed? Then what?” Right now I’m figuring out the ‘then what?’ Turns out it’s not as bad as I thought. The bottom line for me is that in every moment this weekend I did everything I could, and frankly I feel blessed that I was basically healthy and had the opportunity to give it a shot. I felt that the programming didn’t play to my strengths at all, and given that, improving 6 spots from last year’s 13th place is huge for me. It wasn’t the programming I would have loved to see, and I think the balance of what was tested could have been altered somewhat. I did love the many, many scored events that made it possible to shake out who is the best. How well each person’s skill set lines up with the programming is somewhat luck of the draw, as we all have our weaknesses, some more than others. In the end, though, my wheelhouse is too small, and I believe that on a certain level I just need to CrossFit more. I know I worked very hard the last six or seven months with Rudy, but plain and simple I haven’t paid my dues in the sport. Every girl who finished above me has significantly more time put in. I’m more than ready to keep working and I’m really excited that this year’s Games provided me some insights on where I stand among the best in the world. I have established myself as a serious threat on any workout requiring power and explosiveness. My gymnastics has come a long way, but with movements like the deep deficit parallette handstand push-ups the ante has been uppped. I need to continue to become more comfortable with endurance events, and my conditioning overall will be a huge focus this year as will precision in my movements. I won’t get into the details of the events that left me somewhat embarrassed about my performance, but I know I have a lot of work to do and I certainly have a lot of new motivation.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was running the clean ladder, finishing with a 235lbs lift plus five deadlifts. Come to think of it, running a ladder of lifts is really my preferred type of running. After kicking off with the triathlon, the track triplet and the sprint I was certainly ready for what would turn out to be the only heavy barbell work of the weekend. Anyone who has followed me at all knows that this type of event is like home to me and lifting heavy is what we do every day. (At one point during our long run I started fantasizing about being back at the gym, music on, and lifting weights.) The crowd was phenomenal during the clean event. It was such fun moment, and I love that all the competitors remained out on the stadium floor to watch the completion of the event. My Outlaw girls Candace Hamilton Hester and Alicia Gomes may have actually been more excited than I was that I completed enough deadlifts to surpass Lindsay Valenzuela (who also ran the ladder) for the first place finish. Lindsey Smith gave me a congratulatory hug and comment that along with the excitement of the crowd just brought out a flood of emotions. Those kind of moments are what makes the Games for me.

Clean Ladder Highlights

The interactions with everyone at the Games were fantastic. I got to meet and chat with CrossFitters from all over the world both at the venue, and at the CrossFit Tours After Party. I was so honored to meet a young CrossFitter named Kate Foster, a cancer survivor and fundraiser for CrossFit for Hope. I felt such respect and fellowship with all the athletes. There is a good deal of diversity in the field with respect to occupation, background, etc., but we have all made a common commitment to excel in our sport and I respect the work and dedication of every athlete who was out there this weekend. There’s always a special place in my heart for the mothers in the field. Angie Pye, Annie Sakamoto, Lindsey Smith, Becky Conzelman, Cheryl Brost, Heather Welsh, Val Vorboril- I may be missing some, but these are all ladies I admire so much and really enjoyed the conversations about kids and balancing the demands of family and training. It’s a constant effort to achieve balance, which, along with my actual training goals will be a huge focus for me this coming year. One of the toughest parts of the 2012 Games for me, and something I don’t remember struggling with as much last year, was missing my son immensely over the course of the week being away. I found myself choked up many times missing that little guy a whole bunch.

With all that pent up emotion what is the perfect event? Give me a sledge hammer and ask me to pound some stuff. Double Banger, baby! Double Banger Women’s Final Heat

Big props to the 2012 podium finishers: Rich Froning Jr., Matt Chan, Kyle Kasperbauer (Yes, a parent on the podium!), Annie Thorisdotter, Julie Foucher, and my very own training partner Talayna Fortunato. I’m also very proud of the strong North Central Women’s representation, as Stacie Tovar and Deborah Cordner Carson (Spirit of the Games winner), and myself all finished in the top 13 worldwide.

I don’t have the necessary words to adequately thank all the loved ones and supporters who have encouraged me, gone through the ups and downs and continued to show enthusiasm for this pursuit. My family has sacrificed, my friends have believed in me and many people have stood by me this year. Pretty amazing. I’m so appreciative of CrossFit HQ, Reebok, the many other Games sponsors and the volunteers, staff, and fans who made the 2012 Games such an incredible experience. Finally, my coach who has been just as passionate about my improvement this year as I am. I came to him 7 months ago because I wanted to win. He actually told me I might be a multi-year project, which I disregarded and pushed for this year. I’ve never been patient. At any rate, I’m excited to see where we can go with more than half a year of training together, and I’m honored to work with a coach who is contributing so much to our sport.

After a humbling and enriching competition I’m ready for reflection, rest, enjoying summer days with my son, watching the Olympics, and planning for next year (for some reason my coach wouldn’t discuss programming with me on Sunday after the final workout. Shrug). I have some really exciting things coming up, I can’t wait to share with everyone as things unfold!

Author: Elisabeth Akinwale

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  • You did a great job, and even more impressed by your comments in this blog post in regards to your outlook for next year. Look forward to seeing more of you in next years games. Congrats on your improvements this year!

    Andre (shout out from houston)

  • You were amazing this weekend and no way should you feel embarrassed about any of your performances. When you were struggling in some WODs, all I could think of how much better you’ve gotten in your weak areas. You’re coming in at the second half of the pack but still holding your own against the best in the world at the things you suck at most! That’s crazy. And of course destroying them at the things you’re good at.

    It was awesome seeing you on the TV again!

    • Thanks JJ, I definitely feel those improvements, you’re very observant. I think every year we’re going to see knew and increasingly difficult movements and combinations. Getting stronger and more well rounded will make competing that much more fun.

  • Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Although I’m not anywhere close to being the badass that you are, I know what it feels like to set expectations for myself and then fall short. It is a hard pill to swallow. But I have also come to realize that we often times are extremely hard on ourselves and when all is said and done, we are not as bad as we think we are. Elisabeth, you might feel a little dissappointed right now, but you have no clue how much of an inspiration you are to many women (young and old), and single mothers all over the Crossfitting world. To watch you leave everything you had on the floor at each workout, to push yourself on workouts that played to your weaknesses, to best Annie T on 2 wods, to finish 6th place IN THE WORLD! it.was.simply.amazing! Now wallow for a little bit, lick your wounds for a little while, and the get up and be the champion that I know you are. That I will see you on the podium of The Crossfit Games is more than a possibility, more than a sure bet! The only place to go from here is UP!

    Ok, I’ll stop being emo now 🙂

    • Thanks Funke, you’ve always been a great supporter and I really appreciate your honest words. I can see you know what I’m talking about 😉 I do believe that things happen they way they do for a reason, and I learned alot at the 2012 Games. All the better to prepare for 2013!

  • I’m relatively new to Crossfit (2 months), and well its been a challenge. I want to scream when I lift my heels in a squat, I’m lucky if I can string 3 double unders together on a good day, and pull ups give me nightmares. But I stay with it. Because I love it even when it doesn’t love me back.

    I read and watched your post from December 2011, and it honestly felt good to see that I’m not the only one that struggles. The 6th fittest woman in the world has a bad day in the gym too. So don’t effin quit, and man up. You’ve come so far, from sitting on the couch with a tub of ice cream and the Golden Girls, to owning the Clean Ladder at the Crossfit Games! Who DOES THAT?!?! The 6th fittest woman in the world that’s who.. and I’m proud to say she inspires the hell out of me. Great job, Ms. Akinwale.. hats off to you.

  • Thank you for sharing this story. It is great to hear that you are making a decision to continue to pursue your goals after coming up short. Awesome dedication. And congratulations on the 106 kg clean.

    • Thanks Doogie! Yes, it didn’t take long to decide, but I do think it’s important for me to recognize that the Games pursuit is a choice, and priviledge, and an intentional decision should be made.

  • My friend. I am so proud of you and everything you have done. You continue to inspire, and yes, I did get teary watching you kill the clean ladder. You are a true hero, someone with a huge talent and an even bigger heart, with the ability to inspire, support, and lift all of us up (literally and figuratively). I look forward to you having a bit more time so I can see you and your baby soon! In addition, next year at the games, I am volunteering now to go with and watch Asa so you don’t feel any holes and can focus on the task at hand! Now go eat some twinkies. :=)

    • Hi Anj! I would love to get together. There’s a long year of training ahead we should get some wods or some lifts in. Thank you for volunteering, I will certainly be looking for ways to keep things balanced this year and hopefully at the 2013 Games.

  • I loved watching you pound the shit out of that metal block with the sledgehammer. It was awesome to behold.

    — Brian Moore

  • Hey Elisabeth, girl you rocked out there this weekend! Like many have mentioned you were very inspiring this weekend. Seeing the power and emotion displayed by you was truly a gift to see and I thank you for that. Enjoy your family and friends this summer! You totally deserve it!

  • Elisabeth – You truly are an amazing inspiration to so many of us. It was awesome watching you this past weekend. You have amazing strength, willpower, smarts, integrity, and beauty. Asa must be bursting with pride for you – and I can’t think of a better role model for a son (I may borrow some of your parenting techniques). Can’t wait to watch you continue your journey this year.

  • EA, as many have stated, you truly are an inspiration. I was honored to be able to watch you in person at the Games, rockin’ my Akinwale 2.0 Outlaw shirt (and having my pic taken with you) My voice is still hoarse from screaming for you. No doubt you will dominate next year. Look forward to seeing you kickin’ ass and takin’ names.

    • Thanks Dionne, I’m glad we got a chance to take a picture and thanks for buying a shirt and cheering me on! I’m so looking forward to having this year to get better and prep for a strong Games in 2013.

  • Elisabeth, your performance this weekend was so so inspirational to our household. The double banger had us all screaming for you. My husband cheered so loud when you won that our dog ran into another room. I just cried. Know there’s a black family in Harlem who have your back and are waiting and plotting for your crowning at the 2013 games at the “fittest woman on earth.” In the meantime, you keep hustlin’ and we’ll work on our double-unders.

  • You were fantastic. And you will be better each year, you WILL podium. But your athleticism, work ethic, and general smarts is not why I read this blog or why I cheered so loudly this weekend- you’re a great mom first, and you don’t seem to take yourself or CF culture too seriously. And that is refreshing and inspiring… Rock on.

  • I am truly inspired by you and your dedication. I love Crossfit but until now I haven’t taken it seriously enough. Following you on twitter and Facebook has made me realize that I have to take control. Thank you so much. You are awesome!!!

    • Hi Glenda, thanks for your comment- you can take CF where ever you want to depending on what you want out of it. Don’t limit yourself. If you put in the work you will see the progress. Best wishes to you!

  • I found your blog through Crossfit but am following your blog because of your writing. You are able to express your thoughts and emotions so well. Please continue to keep writing and you know what, you should start thinking about writing a book. All the best for the next competition, can’t wait to see you kill it!

  • This post was so good to read!

    You put the vulnerability (and fears) of every athlete out there so eloquently: “I believe it takes guts to set high goals and take the risks in an effort to reach them. I have to admit I’ve asked myself at times, “what if you commit everything to your goals and you don’t succeed? Then what?””
    Thank you for sharing your immediate on-the-plane home reaction to what was such an intense weekend and thank you for the reminder to take risks and be brave by betting on ourselves.

  • Beautiful post! You should be so proud! Enjoy your summer w/ your son and some hard-earned R&R time. Good luck to you!!! You are so inspirational !!

  • amazing performance! Being a Mom is a full time job. Finding time to train must be tough.Your improvement over last year in inspirational!!! Can’t wait to see what happens in 2013!!

  • Elisabeth — It was so exciting watching you perform incredible feats. My husband and I where rooting for you all the way. You are an incredible athelete and an inspiration to many who will never come close to achieving what you have and will going forward.

  • EA – is was awesome to watch you compete an suffer and triumph. Your raw strength is awe inspiring. Looking forward to seeing what Rudy molds you into next year. Congrats.


  • Elisabeth, you are a class act. My team competed this year (CDR Redlands) and Rudy helped us along the way too – we LOVED following your progress and we rooted for you all weekend. You are a class act and all of us were inspired by you. I can’t wait to watch you next year.

  • Oh how you rocked that clean ladder – and then whipped out 5 deadlifts on the end! I had to do the math; lady, that was 106.something kgs! My 1RM deadlift is 107.5 and I have not got a hope in h*ll of cleaning that! Thank you (again) for sharing your thoughts. I need to venture again into setting those high goals for myself, b/c as I started missing one after the other over the years the bitterness got too much and I gave up setting them. My DH and DD aren’t home yet, but I’m so hoping they have an EA tee for me 🙂 Enjoy that man in your life for a bit (I’m meaning the one who probably doesn’t have stinky feet yet; have no idea if there is another!), then onwards to 2013. I shall continue to follow…

  • It was such an honor to watch you and cheer for you out there. As a mother and a woman who loves the strength aspect just as much I feel so drawn to you as a spectator rooting for an athlete. I could just feel the adrenaline and excitement through you on the clean ladder. I told my buddy with me “She’s going to kill this shit. I just know it.” And you did and I was so hype. I started following and training the Outlaw program about a month or so and it has been so damn mentally defeating but seeing you and reading about your achievements not only gives me a load of hope but it keeps me engaged completely. You did awesome!

  • Great job! I was sitting next to your sister during the Clean Ladder and she was so pumped up, excited and very proud of you!

  • You are such an inspiration! I was one of the fortunate people who got to witness your amazing strength this past weekend. And truly one of my highlights was standing next to you at the after party and getting a picture with you! You are so strong and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us!!

  • Your performance in the clean ladder was brilliant – it practically brought me to tears. First place, middle, or last, all of us spectators have tremendous respect for all of you. You did an incredible job, and I cannot wait to see how you perform next year, if that’s what you’re shooting for.

    Much love! xo

  • The ‘now what?’ when you fail even after giving it everything is something I’ve struggled with time and time again. You have no idea how comforting it is to see that such an elite athlete such as yourself can feel the same way. I think the rundown has been that we have to look at how much we have actually achieved-it’s hard to do this when emotions are raw and hurt, but I think that’s what your point has been. I can say this to myself with more confidence knowing that there many people out there that must accept it too. Thanks!

  • You were amazing! The fulfillment is in the striving and and you killed it. I’ve often wondered what happens once a person wins the CrossFit Games? What is their new goal? Winning again? I imagine it’s like summiting a mountain. Bittersweet.

  • There is nothing like experience to teach you things! Being a mother and the 7th fittest woman is so amazing and inspiring to those who follow Crossfit.

  • I tuned in solely to watch you and I was NOT disappointed. Your running of the clean ladder was incredible and I was inspired to try my hand at some banging after seeing you on the double banger. You are the epitome of feminine strength for me and being a mom is the cherry on top (I have a 7 year old son who I take to the box with me.) I really appreciate your reflection and honesty.

    LOVE that your coach would not talk programming with you on Sunday 🙂 (rock on, Outlaw)

    All the best to you EA. Your inspiration reaches far and wide (I train in Cape Town, South Africa.)

  • You’ve only been with Rudy 7 months??? Now that we’re at our new location (Crossfit Adrenaline), we’ve been following Outlaw since April…I’m loving it and yes, I don’t want to wait the months/years for the “real results” when really, any improvement whether it’s a PR, a technique that finally “clicks”, a faster time, it’s all a process and those are the “real results!!!” I have those feelings too about what if I try my hardest and it’s not enough??? It’s tough to see where we came from, how far we’ve come, and the potential for what’s ahead because once a goal is set, anything short of that specific goal isn’t enough when really, there’s tons to prove it was enough if we take a look around.

    As a Mom and Crossfitter who isn’t sure where she fits in this grand scheme of fitness, you are an inspiration and incredible athlete I wish I could’ve seen compete first hand no matter the placing!!!

  • Awesome job at the Games, Elizabeth! I’ve only been doing CrossFit about six months, beginning my journey after wandering into the gym where your fellow Games competitor Jenn Jones coaches. I was glued to my computer monitor all weekend watching the live stream. You were incredible, as was my coach Jenn and the rest of the Games athletes. Your performance was truly inspiring. Thank you!

  • You did an amazing job at the games. You are truly an inspiration. I am new to Crossfit and you have provided me with the extra motivation I needed. As a wife and mother of 3 it is so easy to forget about yourself and focus on your family. Keep doing what you are doing. We are cheering you on!!!!

  • Really great writing, I battle with putting in the work and falling short a lot wondering what it would be like to work so hard and not achieve the end goal. Your words shined light on the fact that the journey is as or even mote important than the destination. So glad you decided to share.

  • you did good, i have been following your progress since last year. your one of my favorite athletes on the girls side. keep up the hard work. by the way your smile is beautiful

  • I can not wait to see what you accomplish this year. Totally rooting for you and a well-deserved position on the podium.

  • Amazing work at the games and love this post. I have only just recently started competing myself in Crossfit (although a lot lower level than yourself :), I was 1st going into the final round then 21,15,9 of squat snatches/pull ups came up :s this only showed me my weaknesses and I moved down to third. You are so inspiring to me! Thanks for the honest and heartfelt post.

  • It was amazing watching all the athletes compete this past weekend. But most of all I loved seeing the mothers. As a mother of two young boys I fought my butt off to not give in to all the weight gain and chance my health. I’m new to CrossFit and absolutely love it. Thank you for being an inspiration to mothers. Good luck with your training.

  • Elisabeth,

    I had a front row seat last year at the HDC when I saw you on the “Killer Kage” and I knew then you were going to be a force to be reckoned with as long as everything stayed healthy and in balance. This year I was right up front watching the Clean Ladder and I knew you would go from start to finish without fail. As I expected, you did just that plus rip off what…5 deadlifts? I’ll just echo what your fans are saying and that it was great watching you work. You did you family, friends, coach, box and fans proud.

    That was a very tough set of tests that was put together and as you stated, some weaknesses were revealed. That just means you know where to work for next year. It also means having to take yourself out of your comfort zone to do it. But as a competitive athlete, this is nothing new to you. I’m certain that everyone who read your post and watched you will agree that even though tough competitors are their own worst critics, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed. Not in the least. You came on the national scene last year (I think) and were a threat then. This year, you moved up 6 spots. Next year, you are going to be down right dangerous!! The strength component you definitely have down. Between you and your coach, you’ll get the other stuff dialed in. Of this I have no doubt.

    But beyond what happened before us at the HDC, one should consider what happens on the periphery. Anyone that was recently exposed to CrossFit who saw a mother out there getting it done, surely considers you an inspiration. Young girls and women who maybe realized their primary sports dream may not be in their reach will look at you and realize this is another way to stay competitive and might find they are better at this than the other thing they were doing.

    So recover, take some time off and we’ll look forward to seeing you next year.

  • They’re home! They’re home!!! You signed a shirt for me… THANK YOU 🙂 Elisabeth, I think you’re awesome. What a lucky guy that son of yours is. One day, our paths shall cross. Thank you again.

  • Elizabeh, I cannot adequately express how impressed and blown away I am with both your performance and effort at The Games and also your post. It is incredibly eloquent and full of wise introspection and heart. I imagine that everything you said rings true for most of the athletes, and I commend you for intelligently and courageously laying it out there.

  • You inspire me sister! I often remind my self that it’s not so much the destination that is so great, but the journey. Enjoy your summer with your little one. Remember that you my friend, are setting an amazing example for him to live by. Great meeting you at the games, hope to see you sooner than later;)

  • EA, it has been amazing to watch your progress over the past year! your highlights on the outlaw blog, performances at regionals and at the games has been nothing short of outstanding!! please know that while you may be slightly dissatisfied with the outcome, your fans are not! thank you for being brave enough to pursue your goal so wholeheartedly and share the journey with everyone!! you inspire your fans and fellow cf’ers alike to search for the 2.0 in all of us!!

  • You are huge inspiration and role model to follow. I enjoyed your determination and fight through every WOD. I was rooting for you to be up on the podium. Over the past few months my training partner and I have been following Outlaw programming and I try to channel my “inner Akinwale”! Can’t wait to see what your progress over the next year!

  • I must say that being this is only my second season getting familiar with this sport, I really love the desire, competitiveness and sense of pride. On the more personal side of the sport, I’m very happy to have met you through the sport and how proud I am of YOU!!! You did an awesome job and to go from 13 to 6th place in a year is tremendous!! Expect nothing less than Top 3, yet keep your eye on the prize, 1st!!! I know you’re an awesome mother too! Great job my sista! 🙂

  • Fantastic work, I was pulling for you all weekend, and will be again next year. You looked like the only woman who had ever used a sledge hammer before. I can only hope my daughter grows up as beautiful and strong as you 🙂

  • I saw you destroy the dumbbell snatch workout then I watched you in the snatch ladder. I became an instant fan. You did great at the games. But I was moved to comment because the honest look at yourself that you shared. I do that too. So I just wanted to a second and recognize that. Good luck in training this year.

  • Well done!!! I am absolutely inspired by your performances! You are by far one of my favorite athletes!!! I started CrossFit about 6 months ago and I am hooked! I told my husband, my goal is to drop in at your gym just to meet you one day!!! Thank you for your talent and wonderful blogs. You don’t know how many people you inspire to kick butt in their box!!!!

    Can’t wait til next year!
    Houston TX

  • You are my favorite female athlete at the games. YOU got yourself there. YOU improved your ranking. YOU did great! And you are HOT! HOT! HOT! (winks) What’s not to be proud of! You go girl!!!

  • I just recently got tuned in to CrossFit and you are the main reason. Your commitment,strength and perseverance have been a joy to watch and has inspired me to get fit. Last,and certainty not the least, YOU ARE ONE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WITH A HEAVENLY BODY! Keep striving to attain your ultimate satisfaction! God Bless!