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The Benefits of Defeat

In October of 2012 I noticed dozens of my area CrossFit friends posting photos from an event down in Charleston. The event was outdoors with tons of competitors and looked challenging but also fun, in a twisted way.  I was still in my first year of CrossFit and knew I wasn't anywhere close to being able to compete with the people I saw in the photos and videos, so I set a goal to be able to compete in the 2013 event.

Fast forward to last weekend, and I was in Charleston ready to compete in the 2013 Integrity's Revenge event, held at the Riverdogs' minor league baseball stadium (cool venue to be sure).  The WODs were released one at a time in the weeks and days leading up to the event, so each of us had time to both prepare and/or freak out if there was a skill in which we were currently deficient (more on this later).

After a lot of internal debate, I decided against entering Men's Scaled division and decided to jump into Men's Rx.  I made no disguises about the fact I knew I was in over my head against some of the better CrossFit competition in the area, but figured since I don't have to scale down WODs during my training, it would be equivalent to "sandbagging" to enter a competition and sneak down into the Scaled division.  For perspective, I've never been in a competition with more than one or two Regionals-level competitors.  This event had probably ten or more.

My goal for the weekend was pretty simple but still somewhat intimidating -- don't finish in last.  There were 72 men competing in the Individual Rx division, and all I wanted to accomplish was 71st by any means necessary.

The first event took place with competitors standing on top of the dugouts and featured four rounds of 30 double unders + 15 heavy DB thrusters at 45lbs each, with a 6min time cap. 

I felt decently good about this WOD, since I'm not too bothered by heavy thrusters or double unders, plus it was the first event right out of the gate so in-theory I would be somewhat fresh.  

Once I got into the second round of thrusters, that was the last time I would ever use the word "fresh" to describe how I felt during the weekend.  It was a good WOD and tested most of the field since quite a few of us did not finish under the time cap.  Even the best of the heats barely cleared the time limit and we were all spent.  This one took a lot out of our shoulders which would be a key factor heading into the next event.


The next event (titled "WOD 2.5") was about two hours later which was another meant to severely tax the shoulders.  An 8min AMRAP of 15 Overhead Squats (115#) + 15 Toes-to-Bar, then 12/12, then 9/9.  Once finished with the round of nine, we had to complete 18 ring muscle ups in the remaining time allotted.  

Since I had only made my first successful muscle ups within the past two weeks, I was realistic about my chances.  I hoped to get at-least one, but knew that trying to pull this off on tired shoulders would be difficult.  I ended up improving on my time from a testing session during the previous week (from 7:47 to 6:20) but failed three times on the muscle up rings as time elapsed.  This would be a foreshadowing of things to come later.


Saturday morning I was pretty beaten up, but not in as bad of shape as I anticipated thanks in large part to a new carbohydrate supplement I picked up before the weekend -- Vitargo.  This supplement (works for both pre and post workout) clears the stomach and loads into the muscles at a much faster rate than things like Gatorade, and it was a huge benefit to me with such high volume over a two day period.

Saturday morning we hung around the stadium and cheered on fellow boxmates from CrossFit Dilworth and other friends competing in team divisions, then dealt with "WOD 3" which was my favorite of the weekend.  We had five minutes to set a 3 rep maximum of front squats, from the ground.  Squat cleaning the weight was allowable.  

Once the five minutes elapsed, a one minute clock started immediately where we had to score max effort power cleans at 155 lbs.  We had to change and replace all weights ourselves.

I felt hopeful about this event during the week since while I am no all star, Olympic Lifting is one of my stronger areas in CrossFit so far and this WOD would hide my prime weakness (metabolic conditioning).  My heat was due around 2pm and by that time I was beginning to feel fatigued after my morning coffee wore off.  Strategy is key in a competition like this, and due to the time limit plus having to change our own plates, athletes need to have a strong idea of which weights they will attempt with confidence. My initial plan was to nail 205#, then 225#, and hopefully complete 245#, which is ten pounds off of my PR. During warmups I felt solid on 185# but failed twice on 225#, which got into my head badly.  I had very little confidence as we left the athletes area and marched into our lines to meet our judges and get ready for 3, 2, 1, Go.

I remembered my coach's earlier suggestion to "just go for it", so even though I had failed repeatedly in warmups, I put 225# right on the bar for my first attempt and nailed it.  I failed on 245# after that but took a quick walk around the bar and gave it another shot. I nailed the clean and first front squat...but on the second squat my decision to wear a sleeveless tank backfired because the bar slipped off my sweaty shoulder. My left hand grip was fine but I held the bar on my right side like a baby and somehow the judge gave me credit for showing control at the top on the third and final attempt.  No more tank tops during competitions. I finished 18 reps in one minute on the max effort power cleans, which wasn't a great score (the elites were in the 20-25 range) but definitely in the range of being respectable.

The final event ("WOD 4") had been staring me in the face for over a week.  8min AMRAP of 7 burpee box jumps + 12 Wall Balls + 1 rope climb.  We don't currently have a rope at our gym, so my boxmates and I who competed in the event don't have the same amount practice as other competitors did. Saturday morning, during some of my down time I found a man (clearly a CrossFit veteran) and his teenage son doing a brief workout on their own and asked him for pointers in climbing the rope.  I explained that I was competing in two hours and had only learned about rope climb strategy three days ago.  The man was extremely helpful and encouraging, teaching me to get up the 15 foot rope one solid time which definitely went a long way in helping my confidence with WOD 4 looming.

The event run of show fell a bit behind schedule so after WOD 3 (squats/cleans) there was an effort to move things along quickly.  I was sitting in the athletes village finishing my shake when I heard the emcee call out athletes for "Heat One in WOD 4".  Since I was in Heat Two...that meant I needed to throw my crap back on and sprint across the field and up the stairs to go check in and have a fight with these rope climbs.

Things did not go well.

After the first set of 7 burpee box jumps, my strategy of taking everything slow and conserving energy didn't matter. I was out of gas. I was like your iPhone when the battery meter turns from green to red. I made it through the wall balls (a regular nemesis) fairly easily then got to the rope.  At this point, much of the event became a blur.  I remember failing a few times (even with gloves) to hold my grip, but eventually made it up the rope thanks to teaching tips from the man I met, plus my judge who was an incredibly supportive guy during my failures.  

After reaching the top of the rope and descending, I remember feeling completely empty. I was spent and out of gas. I walked (read: stumbled) back over to the burpee box jumps and worked through both those and the wall balls.  

Coming back to the rope a second time was a long miserable walk, and I proceeded to fail more times than I can remember.  My arms were completely out of gas. My grip strength was non-existent.  

I've been doing CrossFit for a year and a half and have never been in a workout before when my mind kept telling my body to do something that it refused to do. I could feel the other competitors in my heat moving up and down the rope climbs without problems on both sides of me, while I kept failing and failing, then grabbing my shorts bent over gasping for air.  In reality it was probably two or three minutes of clock time passing, but it felt like an eternity until the clock hit zero.  

It was a bad failure and the lowest moment I've had in CrossFit since I first started doing this.

One of the unique things about "failure" in this sport is that it presents you with two choices, two paths. In one sense, CrossFit mirrors life, because failure and defeat present us with a fork in the road.

We always have the option to accept our defeat, and let that failure be part of what defines us moving forward. In the course of accepting that defeat, there is comfort in the litany of excuses nearby, ready to be grabbed and claimed.  I could talk about being much older than most of the competitors in my division that weekend.  I could point to the fact that my work travels were abnormally high leading up to the event which kept me from training with anything close to the consistency necessary to compete well. I could point to our gym not having a rope installed and use that as a crutch to excuse my poor performance.  

I always like to say that there is a difference between a reason and an excuse.  A reason is the cause that leads to an eventual effect or happening.  An excuse is meant to eliminate blame and responsibility. Reasons will always be present to hold us back from achievements.  Excuses are the things you latch onto when taking the easy way out after a failure or a defeat.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The second path involves facing up to those reasons, then pushing them aside and continuing to get better.  Despite the debacle in the final WOD, it was still both a fun and productive weekend in Charleston.  I know where my deficiencies lie.  I know what steps need to be taken to work on them.  Once in a while it's good to have a low moment like this, because it teaches you a lot about yourself.  Both who you are and who you desire to become.  This doesn't have to apply to CrossFit, it carries over into any walk of life.  A bad test score, a failed relationship, losing out on a job or a promotion or sales account, defeats happen.  Failures are inevitable when you challenge yourself.  

Minutes after WOD 4, I sat alone in a corner away from the crowd and had a fairly depressing pity party. Light-headed and dripping sweat into puddles on the concrete, I felt like never seeing (let alone trying to climb) a rope again in my life.  A little while later, a friend pointed out that Rich Froning had his rope climb failure in the finals of the CrossFit Games (2010) with everything on the line.  If he could endure something like that, then I could endure this.  I laughed off his comparison at first, but then it started to make sense.  One reason why Rich is such a great ambassador for our sport (read his book, it's good...) is because he was introduced to us by first being humbled.  Then he came back from his failure and choked out his weakness the following year.  Something we can all learn from.

Defeat can have benefits.  Once it shoves you to the floor, standing over you laughing and pointing, the question becomes how will you deal with it?

Which of the two paths will you ultimately take?

As for me...I have to get back on the rope.


 *Note - I made my goal, I did not finish last in the Men's Rx division.  68th place out of 72 overall. (fist pump)



First Year of CrossFit - Lessons Learned

I'm late on this topic by a couple months, but this past May I celebrated my one-year anniversary after starting CrossFit. 


To some, that is the same thing as saying "I’ve joined the cult!", but one overlooked aspect of being in the cult, is that you have no problem with other people accusing you of being “in the cult”. In-fact, this brings a sense of pride.


One year of regularly practicing any sport or form of exercise will produce quite a few key learnings, some positive, some negative, but almost all being useful in some way. Over the past 12 plus months there have been PRs, ripped hands, nervousness before competitions, fun during and after competitions, dieting mistakes, explorations in new equipment/apparel, and everything in-between.


I've learned a lot in the first year of CrossFit (the main thing being that I love it and have finally found my "thing"). Here are a few of the other main high points and helpful lessons:


1 - Some days are just not your day.


I think one of the reasons so many of us get swept up in CrossFit is the fact that there are both highs and lows. There are some days when you set PRs and feel on top of the world. You stand up on a Dead Lift, pulling more weight off the ground than any other day in your life. You feel like Superman (or Wonder Woman).


Just the same, there are some days when you feel like you are running in quicksand. You feel like on every burpee, there is a large bear standing on your back with both feet ground and he won’t get off. You feel like no matter what, your chin just won’t get up over that bar for one last pull up. Your feet are three sizes too big and trip the rope on your double unders EVERY single time. You want to throw the rope on the ground and stomp on it like Wylie Coyote. 


Some days, the programming seems like it was written just to fit your individual strengths and talents. Other days, it feels like your coach is trying to punish you by personally writing your goats up on the whiteboard and compiling them into one hateful AMRAP. 


You'll have great days, and less-than-great days, just learn to ride out the waves over the course of the weeks or months. Eventually you'll level out if you stick with it (and work on your weaknesses).



2 - After a while, it's OK to cherry pick.


First, before coaches everywhere punch a hole in their computer screen at this next topic - let me explain. Someone who is new to CrossFit needs to only focus on two things - showing up consistently and giving max effort.  


Eventually however, your weaknesses will become apparent. At that point, you will need to (with the help of your coaches) pinpoint which aspects of your toolbox need greater attention. Some folks are weaker in-terms of overall physical strength. Most of us could use sharpening in our Olympic lifting disciplines. Others (like me) need work on our cardio gas tank to increase work capacity against the clock. Maybe you're extremely well-rounded but just can't quite nail your first muscle up. 


No matter what it is, once you begin to get serious about yourself as a CrossFit athlete, you will need to approach your training calendar each week/month with a specific focus to ensure that your weaker points are being attacked towards improvement.


Put your pride aside, be honest about your weaknesses - then ask your coaching staff to help formulate an attack plan that will turn that weakness into a strength.



3 - Diet Matters.


Perhaps the most obvious thing I'll write, but the way you fuel your body matters. You may not need to convert completely into a Paleo lifestyle, or Zone Diet, but your food should be viewed as fuel for both performance and recovery. Pure overall calories, in the form of junk food or fast food isn't sufficient and both your WODs AND recovery will suffer. It may be over-stated but I’ll state it again – NASCAR drivers or Formula-One racers don’t put garbage into their gas tanks.  We need to view our bodies the same way. 


While not a mandatory, it's a sound idea to investigate a recovery protein to replenish after a brutal WOD or lifting session as well. (Personally I rotate between Progenex and SFH)



4 - Calming down is better than pumping up.


Most football players try to get as amped up and hyped as possible before a game. One thing I've learned in a year of CrossFit is that getting too pumped up can actually hurt your performance. CrossFit requires an athlete to maintain both mental and physical control during a WOD. You can't be so jacked up that your mental focus goes out the window, and you lose sight of your strategy while navigating through a chipper WOD, or forget your technique cues with the barbell. 


Jason Khalipa once mentioned listening to reggae music before competitions to help himself mellow out. The first few weeks of trying CrossFit, I went into workouts jacked up like a football player, but the more time went on, I learned from the experts (as well as personal experience) that it pays far more dividends to keep a calm approach before and during a WOD. 


Trying intentionally keep calm will also help regulate oxygen consumption (well, at-least to a degree) and keep yourself relatively mellow instead of artificially elevating heart rate and pulse, since the workload in the WOD will likely do that for you anyways.



5 - Know when to take a break


As with any intense pursuit in life, there can come a time when you've pressed a little too hard and the psychological cost starts to weigh on you. Burnout can happen with anything, even our passions and hobbies. The large majority of us took up CrossFit because we love it. Hardly anyone was forced into this. It's important to keep balance and avoid hitting the point where you become both physically and mentally exhausted. 


Former Games competitor Azadeh Boroumand actually experienced this and stepped back from competing in 2013 to give both her body and mind a chance to recover. 2012 runner-up Julie Foucher decided months in-advance that she would focus on medical school and not pursue the Games this year. Both ladies showed that they understand the concept of balance, and that at the end of the day CrossFit is supposed to be fun. 


We do this because we love it. Sometimes you may need to take a few days (or a week) off from the box completely - and you'll come back refreshed inside and out, and ready to crush your WODs again. Plus, odds are that the people in your box have missed you as well and will be eager to have you back.



6 - Injuries can happen, be as safe as possible.


As with any intense form of training, injuries can and will happen. Hamstrings get tweaked, back muscles tighten up, shoulders feel a little too loose, ankles get rolled, bad things happen. The key is to control what you can, and avoid the injuries that were within your own doing. I've dropped a kettlebell on my foot during a WOD by letting the fatigue cause me to forget the simplest of safety points. I've tweaked a neck doing kipping pullups without warming properly, then made it worse by trying to do HSPU days later before I was completely healed. (Yes, both injuries help define “stupidity”.)


Listen to your body. If something feels off one day, don't be too proud to scale a WOD appropriately. Do your mobility work a couple times each week. Learn how to warm-up and cool-down properly and figure out which parts of your anatomy warm up faster or slower than the rest. Injuries happen to anyone who trains intensely and consistently, regardless of the sport or exercise discipline. Be sure to control the parts that are within your control.



7 - Equipment Matters


While it may not be necessary to go out and shop for the latest in Reebok CrossFit apparel (though sometimes it feels nice to blow your money on a cool pair of WOD shorts) – there are certain pieces of equipment that truly do matter.  Wrist straps/wraps can definitely help your stability in movements like handstand pushups, shoulder-to-overhead presses, front squats, etc.  

Knee sleeves are also helpful in any heavy or high-volume squat programming (I cannot imagine my life without them).


While I have not personally invested in a pair yet, the majority of those with a pair of Olympic Lifting shoes say that the difference in ankle flexion and heel stability is noticeable and extremely helpful.  

It can also be helpful to purchase your own speed rope to practice double unders when you’re away from the gym, or to toss in your suitcase for vacations or work trips.

Invest in quality equipment, in the long run it will be worth it, both from a performance and safety perspective.



One year ago this month I was in Carson, California at the Home Depot Center (now the Stub Hub Center) watching the Friday track triplet at the Reebok CrossFit Games.  Three of my best friends convinced me to take a later flight home from a business trip in L.A. to hang out with them and use one of their spare tickets.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I’ve attended four NCAA Final Fours, college football bowl games, NFL games, NBA games and even the Olympics – but nothing compares to the feeling of being at the Reebok CrossFit Games LIVE and in-person.  

One year later, and one year into my CrossFit venture I’ve learned a great deal – some good lessons and some pretty difficult ones. Whether you’re a recreational CrossFitter, or if you’re Rich Froning or Samantha Briggs, I think most would agree that in this sport we are all learning new things every day.  We learn things both about CrossFit as a competitive sport, and about ourselves overall. And that’s one of the main reasons why we do this.


What's Your Motivation?

I'm closing in on my first month after starting CrossFit, and as many of my friends (both "real" and Facebook) can tell I am officially hooked. Last Summer, watching the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games on ESPN, I was floored at the feats of strength, endurance, and competitive drive the participants showed. ESPN rebroadcast the 2011 Games this weekend, to coincide with the Regional Qualifying rounds which are currently  underway. 

Watching the Reebok CrossFit Games takes on a whole new meaning to me now that I actually am a CrossFitter. I can identify with the competitors in a whole new way. Their sweat and struggle "makes sense" to me now that I can sympathize with countless burpees, t-shirt and shorts covered in powder from grip chalk, blistered hands from kipping pullups, and the trademark post-WOD celebration pose.

Watching athletes like Rich Froning and Annie Thorsdottir (and the others which are too many to list) compete motivates me in a way that I haven't felt since college.

But despite the opening, this is actually NOT a post about CrossFit. 

This is about finding your motivation.

Are you motivated by an unflattering photo of yourself and want to lose weight? Keep that picture close by as a reminder of why you want to make a change.  Or you can spin it positive and post a few inspiring photos on the fridge or bathroom mirror. (Or try searching #Fitspo on Twitter or Tumblr)

Are you motivated by the countless runners and joggers hitting the sidewalks and roads now that the weather is warm?

Are you motivated by all the Before & After testimonials of former chubby people now flaunting their six packs seen on infomercials for "P90X" and Insanity?


Are you motivated by a family member or close friend who has a health scare or ominous report from their last visit with the Physician?


Are you motivated by the yoga instructor you always bump into that seems so fit, healthy, calm, and upbeat no matter what?

Are you motivated by the occasional television coverage of Ironman Triathlons or the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games?

Don't let seeing those brilliant and dedicated athletes cause you to feel discouraged because you're "not on their level".  I could easily feel the same way watching  the world class CrossFit competitors, because I'm not on their level, or anywhere close. Instead it still motivates me to get out and continue to work to be the best I can be, because I know that the current version is no where close.

Can you honestly look in the mirror, or ask yourself in a quiet moment alone if you are the best version of yourself that you can be? 

If the answer is no, make a decision to make a change, starting today. There is no such thing as it being too late to start the process of improving your fitness, nutrition, and health.

What is your motivation?


Why Do You Train So Hard?

"Why do you train so hard?"
I get this question a lot - as I'm sure many of you do as well.  I'm asked why I watch what I eat so closely.  I'm asked why I'll sprint on the treadmill like there's a dog behind me.  I'm asked why I'll set my alarm for 4:30am to squeeze in a good workout before heading to the office.  I'm asked why a sane person would enter a half-marathon in the dead of winter.
I have many reasons for why I train so hard, for why the work part of "working out" is actually a labor of love.  But for this project, I wanted to share a lot more than just my own reasons for why I do this.  I wanted to show that the average person you see training like a mad man or a crazy woman isn't so different after all.  They are regular people.

I train so hard because...
"...I believe being physically fit carries into confidence, focus, and clarity in every aspect of life. It also sets a person apart from the sendentary masses."

Andrew, 31
Specialty: Tricep Push Downs

"I train so hard because mom told me to "never settle!" Also, as a former athlete I know nothing but to give 120% at everything I do. Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best!"

Gordon, 25
Marketing & Social Media Manager
Specialty: Soccer, Weight Training, Nutrition, HIIT, Plyometrics


"I train so hard in order to reach my God-given athletic potential and hopefully inspire others along the way!"

Kelly, age 27
personal trainer and triathlon and running coach
specialty: triathlon, running, tennis.
"I train so hard so my mind is clear from stress from all the challenges I face from a hectic but rewarding job. I also like to challenge myself to do better in all aspects of my life, including fitness."
Sharon, 43
PR/Media Manager
Specialty: Long-distance running
"I train so hard for those who cannot. My older brother was born with cerebral palsy and is very limited in his physical activity. I grew up observing his desire to participate and every day I am reminded not to take my ability to be active for granted. Every race I run is for him.
Bethany, 23
Specialty: running, half-marathons, spinning, cross training, P90X.
"I train so hard due to my personal belief that health is the most important investment in the world."

Philip, 27
Director of Information and Technology
Specialty: Running (8k, 10k, half/full marathons), weight training, cycling, swimming, tennis, racquetball, hiking, snowboarding, soccer, life coach.
"I train so hard because it lifts my spirits and makes me a happier person all around.
I like setting goals and challenging myself; there's a great feeling of accomplishment in meeting or exceeding a goal!"

Mary Dare, 34
Group Fitness Instructor/Mother of three
Specialty: long distance running and boot camp classes. Aspiring tri-athlete
"I train so hard because I want to live a long and healthy life with my family. I also want to set a solid example for my children, friends and others who struggle with their weight."
Jonathan, 34
Sports Marketing
Specialty: Interval, Spin/Cycling, Running, Basketball
*Note - Jonathan has lost 60 pounds since the end of 2009 with a goal of losing 80 more.


"I train so hard because it has become a part of who I am. Pushing myself on a daily basis to accomplish task’s that I once was nowhere close to completing, generates such a sense of self achievement that it drives me to continue my progression. My hard training has helped me drop from a totally out of shape 296 lbs to a fit 215 lbs in just 6 months. It has also helped me maintain this 215 lbs for over a year now and drop my once 12 minute mile to a personal best 5:29 mile. This kind of progression is what drives me to train so hard on a daily basis..."

Brendan, 29
Specialty: YMCA classes & Crossfit
"I train so hard because it's the ONLY way i can shed body fat, stay lean... and really stay positive about life in general! Fitness people are usually the MOST positive group of people!!"
Jmiah Williamson, Type 1 Diabetic for 22 years
2nd Place Winner of Model Universe 2007 and 2008
3rd Place Winner of Model America 2007
"I train so hard because I like to be as strong as I can possibly be. I run, but I don't run for time, just run as fast as my body says I can, but then run faster. I lift, but it's not based on how much I lift. I lift as much as I can, then lift more. I do plyo's and cycle and when my body says "it's over", I say "it ain't over until I say it's over." I guess to me training hard is a mind game. How strong am I mentally? That's what I like to explore."
Desiree, 42
Personal Trainer and Fitness/Sweatcamp Instructor at Frye Gym
Specialty: Running, Power/Endurance lifting, hiking, and motivator
"I train so hard because it is my desire to honor God by striving for growth in the 3 areas of my being: Spirit, Soul & Body. I also feel like being the best person I can be in these 3 areas may allow me the opportunity to encourage & inspire others to do the same."

Jill, 38
Wife, Mom & Homeschool teacher of 2 beautiful kids
Specialty: Athletic Conditioning, HIIT, weight training, yoga, plyo, Surfing (where there's waves!)
"I train because I love a challenge and enjoy working towards a goal. I train with Ward because it makes me feel nostalgic about my college field hockey days!  Can't wait for the Cooper River Bridge Run this year!"

Caroline, 28
Account Executive - Marketing/Advertising
Specialty: Running, Mountain Biking, Field Hockey, beginner Triathlete
"I try so hard so I can stay sharp...I think when you are fit, you feel better about yourself and thus produce better work.  Plus I like to give myself goals when it comes to working out - I don't stop until I achieve those goals."
Dixon, 27
Specialty: Half-marathon
"I train so hard because proving someone wrong is the greatest feeling ever.  I was once told I would never be good enough for one certain college (will remain nameless to protect the innocent), well my whole college career I never lost to an athlete from there!  All in all I have been told I was always too fat or too slow to be a top-level athlete.  Once I got out of my own way and started training with an open mind, I achieved success unlike before." 
Director of Sales
Specialty:  Former all-american (Javelin), 2008 Olympic Trials Qualifier, beginner Triathlete
"I train so hard because.....my body CALLS me to do so.  I believe pushing myself to the limit is the only way to honor God for the gift."
Theresa, 25
Graduate Student
Specialty:  Group Fitness/Mud Runs

For me - I train so hard because it is one of the few aspects of my life that is within my control.  I cannot control the weather,  I cannot control the economy.  I cannot control my family members, or my job, or my favorite sports teams.  MOST of life is largely out of my control and in the capable Hands of the Good Lord.  However one of the few things I can control, is how well I take care of my body.  I get one body, one single chance to take care of it for better or worse.
I also agree with a few of the above contributors.  There's something special about pushing your body (and mind) to places you previously thought were not possible.  The sense of accomplishment in achieving a feat (whether it's a half-marathon, fitness class, mountain bike excursion, or weight loss goal) that previously left you intimidated.
There are a littany of reasons why people train so hard. One person's reason is specific to him or her, and I invite you to find your own.  However the overall point is that those of us who seem fanatical about this part of life, aren't that much different than anyone else.