The Best Day of my Life

The 13 February began like most of my days. My alarm went off and I turned over in my bed and did my best to ignore it. I succeeded for about twenty minutes before I grabbed my laptop and began my morning internet routine. Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, student email, news stories. I got an odd surge of energy after checking my LinkedIn profile. I had updated it in the attempt to begin some hard core networking and I found that I was appearing in more searches and had added at least twenty contacts over the past week. It felt like a small success; the next step in finding a job or starting a PhD or whatever that next step was going to be. I decided right then and there that 13 February 2014 was going to be a great day.
I met Sophie and we walked down to the Science Site for our 10:00 lecture. As we rounded the Geography Building a giant yellow form met our gaze. It was a duck. A large, inflatable, yellow duck. We both began to pull our phones out to capture the absurdity of the moment when a girl dressed in a duck onesie approached us.
“Do you want your picture with the duck?” she asked cheerfully.
“Yes!” I replied.
She went on to explain that she was representing the Durham University Charity Kommittee (DUCK) and that it was DUCK week. They were running a bunch of events trying to raise money for local charities. A tall, dark haired student with a camera came over and handed us a whiteboard.
“You have to name the duck,” he said.
Sophie and I looked at each other.
“Caesar?” I suggested.
“Oh, yeah, that’s good,” Sophie said.

I wrote Caesar in big blue letters. (Okay, what I actually wrote was Ceasar. A friend pointed this out to me after I posted the picture on Facebook. I’m a great advertisement for Durham University, aren’t I?)
Anyway, Sophie and I each took a corner of the sign and grinned.

Observe the power of Photoshop to change history. (Thanks Jeremy)
It was starting out to be a pretty great day.
After our lecture I headed back to my room. I had been plagued by an essay for two weeks and I was determined to crank out another section that afternoon before heading to CrossFit. I sighed heavily as I opened the document. To be honest, half the battle is opening the document. I was unhappy with this assignment. It felt like an undergraduate essay. Identify and evaluate three contemporary issues affecting a museum type of your choice. I had chosen science museums since I have an oft spoken love of science. My problem wasn’t necessarily with the assignment but with the scope. I would much rather have focused on one issue, really sinking my teeth into it, and coming up with solutions and alternatives. With such a meagrely word count, it was difficult to go into any kind of true depth about any of the topics. Despite this, I forged ahead and by 3:00 I had written the next section and called it a job well done.
Both Sam and Claire couldn’t make it to CrossFit that night. I had ordered a taxi to take me to Belmont (an expensive luxury but I was in no way feeling a long walk in the freezing rain). The cab met me in front of Fisher and in fifteen minutes I was entering the box. It was a big day. It was the last day of my on ramp. Once I finished this session, I would be able to go to any box in the world and take a class. We were going to review all the movements we had done over the past two weeks and then complete our benchmark work out to see how much we had improved.
I’ll be honest, I was dreading the benchmark. It had been a really hard work out and I had struggled the entire time. Three rounds of a 200m run, 10 air squats, 10 sit ups, 10 press-ups, and then finish with another 200m run. It totalled out to 800m of running and 30 squats, sit ups, and press-ups. It was the press-ups more than anything. I’ve never had much upper body strength and the last few had been near impossible. I was worried I would be the only one who didn’t improve her time. As we finished up with our review, we headed over to the door to begin the benchmark. Well, it was now or never.
The first run went well. The cold, February night air stung my lungs but I wasn’t too far behind the others when I got back in the box and started my air squats. I felt a bit confused. They seemed so much easier this time. I was done with ten in no time and felt almost no soreness. The sit ups were okay but the entire time I was thinking of those press-ups. I rolled over onto my stomach and pushed the floor away from me. It was hard. Inside my head I began to feel the creep of disappointment. Here is where I will lose time, I thought. I struggled to push myself up for the tenth time and then I was out the door.
That’s one round, two more to go and then one more run. You’ve got this, I told myself. The second run was more difficult, but I was back in the box and cranking out air squats again. I realised then that the squats were my resting time. They still felt like nothing at all. I must be doing these wrong, I thought. I heard the coach’s voice from behind me calling over the music.
“Good squats, Jen!”
Okay, I must be doing them right. Why are they feeling so easy? Back on the floor for sit ups. They were feeling a bit more difficult now. Once again I dreaded rolling over for the press-ups. I finally got through them and ran out the door again.
Two rounds down. You only have one more to go! Though the longer the workout went on, the more tired and more difficult things seemed to get, I felt like I was doing it much faster than two weeks ago. I wasn’t so far behind the others in the group. Last time I was miles behind.
Back in the box for my last round of air squats. As I finished and began the sit ups, my hamstring tightened. Oh no! I thought. I tried to flex my foot to stretch the muscle as I continued through the work out. The press-ups were complete agony this time. I struggled out of the door. This was the last run. My hamstring was like a string on a violin that had been stretched too tightly. I decided to ignore it and push on to the end. As I headed back for my last 100m, I felt a burst of speed from my legs. I was through the door and panting like a dog in August.
I didn’t collapse on the floor. I walked over to grab my water and downed the whole bottle. I picked up everyone’s sit up mats and returned them against the wall and then we all headed over to the whiteboard. The coach all gave us high fives (it’s a CrossFit thing). Then came the reveal. I thought I did it faster than last time, but I had no idea by how much.
He put all of our old times up first. There I was “Jen 11.15.” Inside I groaned. I had taken the longest out of all of the on rampers and it had been a source of mild embarrassment for me. He put up the others’ new times first. Both had cut theirs by about 50 seconds which was awesome.
“Okay, Jen,” he said. I now knew how guests on Top Gear felt. I leaned forward a bit and waited for him to write my time on the board. “You did it in…” (seriously, it was like he was channelling Clarkson).
Then he wrote 8.27 on the board.
I stared.
There I am. 11.15 and two weeks later 8.27.

I hadn’t just beaten my benchmark. I had obliterated it. I had the most improved time of all the on rampers. I grinned from ear to ear. If I hadn’t been sold on CrossFit before then, I was now.
“I really thought you must have missed a round, but then when I counted back, I realised you had just smashed your time,” the coach said. I smiled and got another high five. I was flying higher than a kite in that moment.
I got a certificate for completing my on ramp and was so ready for classes to begin on Monday.
Back at Howlands, I grabbed a hot shower and settled in for a bit before I headed off to the pub quiz. I was in the midst of writing a quiz for the 27 February with my friend Jeremy and we had decided to attend all the quizzes beforehand to make sure no questions over lapped. I was still feeling amazing after my CrossFit triumph when I began my walk to the pub.
It was a team of four that night, Emily, Jeremy, his flatmate Sophie (not to be confused with Cornish Sophie), and me. If you’ve ever done a pub quiz you’ll realise that it’s better to have more on your team if possible and it’s better to have a variety of skills. As it turned out we had three archaeologists and an English lit student. The theme that night was Valentine’s Day/Anti-Valentine’s Day. As always it started off with a picture round. That night, all the people pictured were those who had been married and divorced multiple times, Liz Taylor, Cleopatra, Henry VIII, Britney Spears, you get the idea. Then the questions started. We were doing relatively well. I remembered in the news round that a Danish zoo had murdered a giraffe, Jeremy cleaned up on the sports round. We all struggled through the music round and soon it was halftime.
The beer round was an opportunity for us all to stretch our cynicism. We had to suggest ways that Valentine’s Day could be improved. We all contributed fantastic ideas such as only anatomically correct hearts should be used, cupids should cover themselves, and candy hearts should provide facts such as the second law of thermodynamics instead of insufferable love messages. Despite our brilliance, victory was not ours and another team was awarded a round of drinks.
At the halfway mark we were astonished to find ourselves in the lead. Then the pressure was on. We all stopped drinking and began to really concentrate. The history and literature rounds went to Jeremy and Sophie. We were stuck on one question. “Which British officer’s autobiography was entitled The Seven Pillars of Wisdom?” Finally I suggested Lawrence of Arabia. I knew he had written an autobiography. I had it back home and had never had a chance to read it, but I was sure it had a different title. Desperate, we put it down. The science and geography round didn’t give us too much trouble and then came the blow: a second music round. We all groaned.
“Here’s where we lose the lead,” I said.
“No, no, it could be alright,” Sophie said.
We all struggled, but thanks to Sophie we got some correct answers down. Finally it was time for the theme round. We scribbled answers and handed in the sheet and then waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally the correct answers were read out. We realised that we had nailed the first two rounds in the second half. I had triumphed with my suggestion of T.E. Lawrence and I felt like I had earned my keep on the team. Then the standings. We weren’t in last. We weren’t in third. We weren’t in second. WE HAD WON!
My winnings

Emily poured the coins onto our table and began to mete out our portions. Six pounds each. As I walked back to my flat with Jeremy and Sophie I realised that it had turned out to be an amazing day.
“This has been the best day of my life,” I joked, “I named a duck, smashed my CrossFit time, and we won the pub quiz.”

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