DNF - Three letters that cause anxiety in every Crossfitter, who fear and avoid these letters at all cost. The reason the notorious "DNF" on the white board is shunned at all costs is because a of its meaning - Did Not Finish.
DNF is the proverbial scarlet "A" so innocently written in erasable marker - only to be wiped away within the next few hours, yet each and every DNF becomes etched in the minds of that failing Crossfitter - branded in their memory for weeks, months, and even years. Personally, I have two DNFs. They are seared into memory. I remember the WOD, the day, the round, the weather, the clothing I wore, and the specific exercise where these WODs ended prematurely. I also remember the trivial excuses why I quit - which seemed so very valid in the moment of failure.
Crossfit translates into real life. For example, Crossfitters expect the unexpected and prepare for the unknown. Crossfitters must be able to think and reason under stress, and quickly make wise decisions on the fly. Crossfitters must dig deep in the middle of any given suckfest, to finish what they started, and come out on the end better than the day before... All valuable experiences in real life.
I'm just now starting to realizing that I don't really shy away from group workout settings, I shy away from "toxic competition". What I mean by this is best illustrated by something Rory Mckernan stated during the 2011 Crossfit Games:
He stated that Crossfit is different from other sports because competitors cheer for each other. Athletes cheer on their stiffest competition. Crowds cheer for the guy in last-place as loud as the winner - Unlike a Red Sox / Yankees game where fans either cheer, or boo. You are a winner, or a loser.
In Crossfit, the only way you "lose" is if you don't finish, and don't push your own limits. For example, I have a goal to complete Fran in under 3:00. Although I shaved 12 seconds off my last Fran time, I didn't get under that 3:00 mark. But I didn't fail - because I pushed myself, and I finished the WOD. Express failure would be a DNF, personal failure would not be giving it everything I had.
During the 2011 UFC Expo, Katie Hogan and Kristen Clever were paired up as a team. Hogan was asked what was going through her mind during one of the events. She stated that she knew she had to do her best because she kept having the image of Clever tapping her foot - waiting to start - going through her head. That pushed her to do her best.
While these two athletes are "elites", if Hogan decided to sandbag the WOD, or quit, Clever would've only been able to cheer, encourage, yell, and hope. Yet the team's fate was in Hogan's hands, and if she quit, the team gets the DNF.
During every WOD, there comes a point where it hurts, it seems too hard, it's not what you expected, there is muscle fatigue, or you just don't think you can endure. But based on my experience, during those incredibly difficult moments - those times where it would be so easy to take the DNF - a quick breath, a change of pace, switching a grip, or gritting my teeth, and pushing through will get me to break through, to continue, and to be proud of my results. I learn what I'm made of - a quitter? A slacker? A sandbagger? Or a winner?
In Crossfit, and in life, we have a support system. People to coach, help, encourage, and (at times) carry us. Here, my win is your win, my victory is your victory. The improvements made may be credited to all, although many times, manifest in one. But the decision to accept defeat - to accept a DNF rests in the "one"
...And while the scarlet DNF belongs to the "one", the "many" bear the burden of the DNF - etched in their minds for weeks, months, and even years.