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CrossFit, Heroes

Fearless in Philly

Subtitle: “A Weekend of Brains and Brawn.”

Sunrise in Philadelphia can’t hold a candle to those in Tucson, but it sure does have character. I. Love. Philly.

My uncle lives here in a great townhouse just south of Rittenhouse Square, so figuring out where to stay is hardly an issue, the hard part is just finding the excuse to get up to Philly. This weekend provided me with the perfect one: the AIA/APA annual meeting. 3 days of panels, colloquiums, roundtable discussions, posters, book sales, and receptions hosted by various institutions. And let’s not forget the slew of amazing people!

I won’t list all the papers I attended, but I would like to highlight a few of the ones that really struck a chord with me: “Some Roman Architectural Influences at Pompeii” (John Dobbins, UVA); “Lawrence Richardson, jr. and the Painters of the Pompeiian Fourth Style” (Eleanor Leach, Indiana U.); “Toward a Social Network Analysis fo Pompeian Wall Painting” (by a group from U. of Arkansas — truly a stellar presentation); “The Hairstyles of the Erechtheion’s Caryatids in Context” (Marice Rose, Fairfield U.); “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rethinking the Cilicia Mosaic from Antioch” (Tyler Jo Smith, UVA — and can I just say how inspiring it is to see scholars give excellently researched and delivered talks on a topic outside their normal field of study? Love it); “Little Big Lies: Forgeries of Ancient Gems” (Ken Lapatin, J. Paul Getty Museum); “Recent Excavations in the Athenian Agora” (John Camp, ASCSA); and finally I’ll end the highlight list with “The Kekropion and its Relation to the North Terrace Wall and to the Erechtheion” (John Caulk, an independant scholar who posed a very interesting theory about the Kekropion based on very careful interdisciplinary analyses of ancient texts and the physical remains).

***I did not, however, like it when phrases such as “scarcely feminine musculature of the arms” or “bulging feminine muscles” used to describe female figures painted on the walls of Pompeii are uttered with a tone of disbelief. Women can, in fact, have nicely sculpted arms.***

There were many other presentations I attended and posters I read that filled my days with academic fun (yes, fun). And there was scholarly fun, as well! This conference is also a great excuse to see old friends who are now all across the globe. I got to see former professors from my time at the University of Arizona, friends from my MA program, friends who dug with me in Orvieto, Murlo, and Rome, friends who studied with me at the American Academy in Rome (both the Summer Program in Archaeology and the Pottery Program), professors who led my summer programs at both the AAR and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, friends from my summer at the ASCSA and from my recent time there this past Fall as an Associate Member. So many people. So many wonderfully familiar faces. And I love seeing their recent achievements! Some of them were presenting, now have really good jobs in their field, and others were there to interview for faculty positions at prestigious institutions! We’re all growing up, aren’t we?

My brain is on stimulation overload right now. Sitting there listening to amazing and innovative papers on subjects ranging from Greek architecture to Roman iconography to excavations in Bulgaria have set the hamsters in my brain working double-time (Billy Blanks would be so proud). The wheels, they spin. My hand is cramped not from the note-taking I did, but all the “note to self”s I wrote regarding short- and long-term ideas and goals about my current research (dissertation), my extra-curricular academic interests (still love those wall-paintings and still find it hard to fight the itch to dig again), and ideas about future conferences and thinking about jobs (so many of my friends are PhDs now and interviewing to be a professor… I realize I’m not far behind).

And what trip would be complete without a visit to a local CrossFit box? Last time I was in Philly I checked out Crossfit Center City . Really cute box and I enjoyed my time there, but Philly’s a big place with lots to explore. So this time I headed South to Fearless Athletics/Crossfit South Philly. Nothing like heavy lifting and a pounding heartbeat after a day full of sitting and learning, right? The box was spacious, red, and when I walked in the squat racks at the back were occupied with people squatting big weights. Yesssss. 

The owner, Wil, was leading the class and greeted me. After I changed into workout attire the people arriving for the next class (my class) did what any good CrossFitter would do — they didn’t know me so they introduced themselves. Insta-friends! One of them even recognized me from past competitions that we both attended; he was also a trainer at this box and guided me through their Clean and Jerk warm-up before we had 17 minutes to max out our low-bar back squat. Well, that didn’t end up being enough time for a true ‘max effort’ (had to share a rack with 2 other people), but I still got a nice PR at 250# (113.5kg) with lots more in the tank! I was one of many PRs that day — so exciting to see people (even people I just met) get stronger! Guess it’s something in the cheesesteaks? (…actually I am sad to report I did not eat a single cheesesteak.) Then the conditioning part…. 2 rounds for reps of: 2 minutes wall-balls, 2 minutes push-press (75/55), and 2 minutes burpees (strict pushup at the bottom for the standard!), 1 minute rest. Whew — 104 reps for the first half, 99 for the second. That was rough!

Repping out the 55# push presses

And yet I came back the next morning for the “Advanced” workout, which started off with a single-arm kettlebell complex to warm-up, then “Clean and Jerk for virtuosity” (nice), and then a CrossFit Football workout named “Volkswagen”… because you’ll feel like there’s a VW sitting on your chest. 21-15-9 for time of body-weight bench press (ha) and pull-ups (chin OVER bar). If ever there was a workout to make me love pull-ups, this was it! Breezed through them without tearing my hands! I scaled the bench-press to 70% of my body-weight, and still at the end I was breaking them up into singles! 17:44… not the best time, but then I’m not the best at benching. 2 days later and my triceps and lats are still feeling it!

Great atmosphere, great coaches, great people, great attitudes, great energy. I’ll certainly visit this box again when next I find myself in this great town. And that won’t be too far off from now, because I love Philly. Philly itself is a harmony of old and new, a pedestrian-friendly city of character, always full of sights, sounds, smells, spectacles, and speckled with history.

The architecture is great. I love old cities because the contrast of old and new architecture is reflected everywhere you go. 

Let’s not forget row houses, shall we?

I have to admit I didn’t really like US history until I visited Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. I guess something about being in the middle of it where it all began really helps you appreciate it that much more. And yes, whenever I’m in Philly I feel like watching “National Treasure”. Don’t judge me.

Independence Hall

2nd Bank of the United States (Greek Revival much?)

In case you were wondering.

St. Paul's

Graffiti! If you never believed graffiti could be art then come walk the streets of Philadelphia and stare at the sides of the buildings. Many of them are covered top to bottom with incredibly colorful and fantastic paintings. Not just paintings, either… sometimes mosaics!

And no trip to this place would be complete with stopping in to Reading Terminal Market. Prepare yourselves for the mob of people and onslaught of culinary treats! Many of the stands in here are run by Amish folk, and the food they dish up is often the most popular — with good cause. It’s delicious! So is the fudge they make. And Raw milk is legal when sold by them, and yes I did get my pint of raw goat’s milk while there. I also got fed lots of free meat samples by a flirty chef at the Kosher deli stand. Mmmm free pastrami and brisket.

the hungry and curious masses at Reading Terminal Market


Because everyone loves Rocky


And now on a train to Charlottesville, VA!


About Elizabeth

PhD student in Classical Art & Archaeology at UVA with a focus on Greek heroes and iconography (yet forever awed by Roman 2nd and 4th style painting). Salsa and Argentine tango dancer extraordinaire. Weightlifter and Crossfitter the world over.


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