Member Spotlight: Vlada Davydova
Anyone who knows Vlada knows there’s pretty much nothing she can’t do. Whether she’s excelling at CrossFit, running Spartan Races, or crushing Olympic Weightlifting at national meets, Vlada has a love for being active that began when she was a young girl growing up in Kiev, Ukraine.
“I took community ballet dancing classes when I was 5, and beat all the boys in the yard in street bike racing at the age of 7. I spent my childhood weekends walking from store to store for hours and miles hand-in-hand with my dad, picking up little resistors, capacitors, and colorful diodes to build a new radio receiver or memory card. Every summer break in middle school, I was sent to my grandma for 3 months, together with my brother and cousin. Every morning we had to fill up a giant tank with water from the well to water fields of strawberries and potatoes in the evening. It was about 200 meters away, so farmer carries were practiced early.”
When her mom tried enrolling her in music lessons, it was not a great fit. “I grew up a tomboy and sitting in one spot practicing for hours was not my deal, so I secretly quit after 2 years until my teacher called after a month of no-showing. Oops.”
When she moved to California in 2005, things changed a bit. “It took a lot of time and effort to figure out this new life, culture, people, rules, and traditions. Fast-forward 4 years…I was standing in front of the mirror, wearing devil horns and red lipstick – getting ready for a Halloween party at work. And that’s when I really saw myself – a 200-lbs me. I hated it. It was quite an emotional morning. So that same evening I went and enrolled in Equinox and got a coach. He taught me all the proper movements, technique, mental and emotional strength.”
Vlada jumped back into athletics with enthusiasm. When a friend asked her to run a 10K with him, she thought, why not? Next she ran a half marathon, at a personal best time of 1 hour 54 mins, which she was not able to beat for the next 5 years.
Then came obstacle course racing.“ I came to the gym one day and my coach was telling me about a Tough Mudder that he signed up for. When I said ‘I’m going to sign up too!’ he said I may not be ready just yet. Well, tell me I can’t and I will die trying to prove you wrong! The next 5 years I was living for the weekends of racing – Tough Mudders, Spartan Races, Muddy Warriors, Gladiators, every possible 5K, Rock-N-Roll Marathon series, Ragnar relays, Hood-to-Coast relay – I did it all. I competed everywhere I could – from Whistler to Guadalajara, across the US, Hawaii, and a Spartan Cruise to the Bahamas. I finished over 50 spartan races, close to 100 road races, including a couple of GoRuck challenges (military-style body and mind beatdown). That ended when I was told to waterboard another girl as part of a challenge.”
2015 was my peak year – I finally earned a coin to qualify for Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe. Then I finished in top 10 female at the Worlds Toughest Mudder in Vegas – a grueling 24-hr 50-mile race in the desert. And I took podium (3rd female overall) in the Elite Spartan Ultra Beast in Canada, another 33-mile obstacle race up and down black diamonds at the sky resort.”
When Vlada finally decided to try CrossFit, it wasn’t without some reservation. “I’ve been hearing about CrossFit for some time but usually in a not-so-positive sense – “this is a cult”, “those CrossFitters, they won’t stop talking about CrossFit”, etc. – so I was avoiding it. Until I met a guy in Hawaii during a Spartan Race. He was a CrossFit coach and was doing it for many years. He was excitedly telling me about various boxes that he dropped in while traveling and how supportive and fun the community is. So I caved in. I was on-business in Old Town Alexandria, DC and I just decided to drop-in. I said that I’ve been CrossFitting for some time and googled the name of a box next to my house (Shhh…). I remember we were doing power cleans and back squats that day. I watched others clean and did the same. It was interesting, so I went to another box that week. I basically completed my “fundies” during WODs and I got addicted. Upon return from my trip I joined a CrossFit next to where I lived at the time.”
Her biggest challenge when she first started CrossFit wasn’t physical. It was fitting in. “That CrossFit by my home had all the wrong community. Even though I did well in workouts, I was progressing, I had a hard time coming to the gym where core-crew was a bit snobby and with attitude. It was also a small gym with a bunch of high school kids and a couple of adults – no partner for CrossFit competitions. Olympic lifting was an extra charge, and we were told that if you don’t pay for Oly coaching, you are not allowed to use the colorful plates.”
In the end, her biggest ‘win’ in CrossFit was to find the right community – the community she found here at CrossFit Dark Horse – where she is allowed to lift with colorful plates and, most importantly, to be herself. “I love people here and coaches. Friday night lights. Going to competitions and support during those things. Social outings. Friendships. Crazy workouts with Coach VP and Charlie on the weekends. When VP gets mad when he fails. That I can be me.”
Well, we’re glad you found us, Vlada. Thank you for being such a vibrant part of the Dark Horse family!
P.S. When she’s not in the gym, you can find Vlada playing with photography, jig-saw puzzles and paint-by-numbers, reading, trying new ice-creams, or spending time by the ocean. “It’s my happy place.”
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