I woke up Saturday morning feeling quite rested. I definitely would have preferred another hour or so of sleep. My body felt pretty good, though a few muscles groups were definitely a little sore still from the movements the days prior.
Saturday, Day 4 of the CrossFit Games started with an event that was very favourable for me. I tried to go into it with a lot of confidence knowing it was in my wheelhouse, however I had to strike a balance between confidence and realism as although there was probably a lot of pressure externally for me to repeat my success as it was similar to the Run Swim Run event last year a lot of things can change in a year with all the other athletes and myself. I reminded myself that the most important thing was to mentally keep pushing and just do my best and let the cards fall where they fell. I think this relaxed mindset really help me have a strong performance in this event without expending too much emotional and mental energy.
The event started with a 500 meter open swim. We were corralled in an open water start. I was grateful that they put us in lanes based on our overall seating. For me as I was in the top ten, I got to start in the front lane, which is immensely beneficial as I could start with the lead. I wanted to be the first to the paddle board so I wasn’t stuck in a mass of athletes and had the potential to get knocked over. I swam very hard for the first 200 or so meters until I was in the lead, and I tried to cruise and have quality technique for the remained of the 500 meters. I did a few more breast-stroke pulls than I usually would as I was trying to save my upper body pulling for the paddle board. I used to be a competitive swimmer. Breast-stroke was my favourite event, so it was not that much slower for me than freestyle. Breast-stroke also allows me to sight better in open water and I am able to use a very strong whip kick and less pulling of the arms than I would in freestyle. The freestyle stroke greatly mimics what I would have to perform on the paddleboard moments later.
I got out of the water knowing I was in first but not knowing by how much. The way the course was set up with the 500 meter swim there was no way to know how far someone was behind you unless you could hear them or if you decided to look back. I chose to never look back, and push on. The first time I saw my competitor was when I rounded the corner on the transition to the paddleboard and I could see a few of them getting out of the water. I knew this was not much of a lead and I would have to push very hard on the paddleboard if I didn’t want them to catch me. I jumped on the paddleboard and began going towards the buoy. This was only my second time on a prone paddleboard. The first time was a few days prior when we were allowed to try them out in the water. On that day I was very tipsy and fell over multiple times. I’d been in contact with a few people who have experience on that board and watched, and read, a lot of videos and articles on the internet regarding these boards and how to use them. I was only able to visualize a few of these techniques and do my best to implement them on the fly. In order to keep more balance on the board for the majority of the race, I either kept my knees in the water like a frog like position, or I kept my knees on the board, I put my toes in the water. This allowed for more balance, but obviously created more drag as I was pulling. I would try to put all points of contact on the board outside of my pulling hands, but when I did that the instability was too high and there was a greater risk of me falling off the board which would definitely cause me to lose any time I gained from the decreased drag.
After only maybe 100 meters into the one kilometer paddleboard, my lats and rear shoulders were absolutely on fire. I knew the Australian paddleboarders were likely not far behind me so I chose to push through the burn and take no rest to glide. It was not affecting my breathing rate or heart rate very much so I knew that I could perform the run effectively no matter how hard I went on the paddleboard. Pretty soon, the first Australian passed me, Dean Linder-Leighton, he was kneeling on the board and taking aggressive double arm strokes. Next was James Newbury, Khan Porter, and even the slightly experienced swimmer, Sean Sweeney. In the water, Sweeney was hootin’ and hollering like he always does; talking trash and laughing. I think he sent a few jokes my way. I was dead quiet as I thought “if he’s expecting any energy talking on this paddleboard I’ll certainly catch him on the run and have the last laugh”. Sure enough, the three Australians exited the water first, then Sweeney and myself shortly after. With a quick transition and a first fast few steps, Sean Sweeney and I were neck in neck within the first few meters. I chose to blow past him, quickly, hoping he wouldn’t try to keep up.
Next, I could tell Khan Porter’s was slowing, so I was able to catch him. As I passed him, I gave him a few words of encouragement, telling him to keep on kicking, running fast, and hold the lead he’d gain. I’d known Khan in Australian before. He’s a good dude.
Next, I was side by side with James Newbury. Him and I shared a coach in the past, considered a good friend. Dean Linder-Leighton was out in front and looked very strong in his stride and had a solid lead on us. I said to James, “let’s hold together for a while.” We did. It seemed clear that Dean Linder-Leighton was out of reach. We took turns looking back making sure no one was gaining on us. We mutually agreed we’d run side by side until we entered into the green finish line and would decide on a sprint to the finish. We would come second or third in the event. A similar agreement that I made with Vellner and Sager on the row.
I’ve been working on my sprinting a lot. I know James had as well. I was hoping I’d have enough of a kick to get him in the final run. If I didn’t, he deserved second place as he had a very strong event. The only other option was to try to push the pace earlier, but, it was a higher expenditure of energy needed for that which you could use later in the weekend and likely the same result in the final finish would occur. As I was jogging with Newbury holding our pace, I started to think of a few of my sprinting cues my sprinting coach in Kelowna, Brandt Fralick of Nitro Velocity Training, had given me so once I hit the grass, hopefully it would come instinctually. It was fun to have a good sprint to the finish, and maybe a few good photos as the fans cheered us on.
To no surprise, Mathew Fraser who had been working on his swimming was able to clench up another top five finish in that event as well.
We had a long break until our next event. All we knew is that it was called Chaos. We were told to bring everything we would need to compete for this unknown event. We were put in a warm up area, told to put our cell phones away, and could not use them for the next hour or two as we warmed up for a completely unknown event. Every 15 minutes or so we were given slightly more information, but all we knew is we would walk out onto the floor and begin exercises on an implement. The judge would tell us to stop once the reps we needed to complete were made, and we’d move onto the next implement where they’d tell us what to do. We had no idea of the time cap, or what the movement would be until we hit the next station. All men competed at the same time on the field. The name Chaos was very apt. We were told we could only wear grips on our hands. We were not allowed to wear knee sleeves or belts. We could not wear gloves.
We entered the field, and I was anticipating more of the fans might yell out to us some hints on the workout. I certainly did not hear any, and I don’t think any of the other men did, either. I know whenever events like these happen that are mysteries, a lot of fans think that it’s all a ruse and we know what was going on. Trust me, from what I could tell, every single athlete had no idea what was about to happen. All of us had a few horror stories of the confusion on the floor with our judges.
When we stepped onto the floor, I saw the SkiErg, the dumbbell, a rubber mat, a high box, and some sort of sled implement on the far side of the field. I assumed the boxes would be box jump overs as the Teams did that previously. I assumed the dumbbell would either be a dumbbell Snatch, dumbbell Thruster, or potentially an overhead Squat.
The SkiErg was self explanatory.
We started on the SkiErg and began skiing. I thought maybe we’d complete 20 calories, but we kept going for longer. I would look at Patrick Vellner’s and Mathew Fraser’s screen to ensure I was keeping a similar pace. An athlete got off when I was at about 27 calories down the field, Kahn Porter. I assumed I was skiing until 30. I sped up my pace and reached 30, but my judge did not tell me to move on. I continued to ski hard, until I reached 35, thinking to myself “damn, Kahn Porter must have skied incredibly fast.”
I reached the burpees and assumed the rep range would be about 35. I did not see the red tape above me until the judge had mentioned it, and then I had to burpee to touch that target. I did a few jumps before noticing it was low enough for me to stand on my tippy-toes and slap the red ribbon without even jumping. My judge seemed a little confused as I could almost hear her thinking “is that allowed?” However, she did count the reps. She did give me three no reps, for apparently not touching the ribbon on three different occasions, however, on every rep I certainly did with both hands. That’s the nature of competition, unfortunately.
I made a mental note to try to look when an athlete moved to the next implement to see what movement they were doing so I could mentally prepare for it after I finished the movement I was on. I could see Khan Porter move forward with the dumbbell and directly put it over his head, so I assumed it was Dumbbell Snatches. I finished my Burpees, I think for 30, moved onto the Dumbbell and she said Overhead Squats. I thought, “Oh, great. I didn’t warm up my shoulder flexibility enough for this.” The dumbbell was luckily light and only 50 lbs, however typically when I perform an Overhead Squat movement I like to warm up my shoulder positioning for at least five minutes which greatly improves my reps, speed, and efficiency. I could definitely feel my shoulder was a little tight as I struggled to do more than a set of 10 per arm. My judge also handed me out a few no reps for depth, which is very uncommon, and I could hear Mat Fraser getting no reps as well on this movement. This was something he talked about later that he was unsure of as his depth is usually very consistent. I definitely thought we’d only do 30 of these but they seemed to never end. I could see a few athletes moving ahead quite a bit sooner than me and started performing Pistols on a rubber mat. My heart sank as again, this is a movement I prefer to warm up thoroughly with ankle, knee, and hip opening drills. This helps with my efficiency on this movement. Being a taller athlete, I’ve never really liked Pistols but I have found ways to be successful in them. These overhead Squats, I was using my quads more than I had liked. When I got to the Pistols, my quads were very fatigued so my sets were quite slow, especially compared to Mat Fraser who was next to me, and Vellner who was to my left. However, I pushed through it the best I could knowing next would be Box Jump Overs which is a good movement for me. Once I got to the Box Jump Overs, I did my best to pick up my pace. The judge at this point said, “you now have to complete 25 Box Jump Overs and pull the Box Sled to the finish.” Earlier in the workout, I almost assumed we’d have to do two rounds of all these movements, again causing me to go at a slightly slower pace than I probably would if this workout was announced ahead of time.
On the Box Jump Overs I was able to keep pace rep for rep with Vellner even though he already had a few rep lead. I was able to do about four Box Jump Overs for every three that Fraser. Once we finished my 25th Box Jump Overs, we had to pull the box across the field. She said “pull it into the blue” or something of that nature. I assumed, like most sled events in the past, we would have to bring the actual sled implement into the blue grass. I learned later what she meant was “your feet have to cross into the blue while walking.” This is what many other athletes heard as well. It took me a little while to get the straps onto my shoulders as I thought that would be more efficient than keeping them in my hands. Once I got going, I found a bit of a rhythm. One strap slipped into my bicep and in order to keep the momentum I tried to keep pulling. This slight discomfort caused me to slow a little, and Mat Fraser made a very strong charge to my right. I did everything I could, but I couldn’t match his speed and he was out to the finish line. I finished incredibly frustrated.
Later I learned I finished tenth. I was more than a little bit disappointed in this finish. If that event was announced beforehand, I think that would be potentially an event win or at least top five. It’s hard to see those points slip away. The way I see it with the Games, there’s usually a handful of events you have an opportunity to get really high points in, and you need to capitalize on those. Then obviously some not as strong events and you need to mitigate damage. It’s very important in the events that are in your wheelhouse, that you cash in on those as you get into the higher placings. The points are that much more valuable.
I left the floor and talked to many other athletes. The feeling was the same across the board, even in the athletes that finished higher than me. Lots of no reps, lots of confusion, I guess the name for the workout was very apt, “CHAOS.” One athlete said his judge spoke very little English so there was a lot of poor communication throughout the workout, including not telling him how many Box Jump Overs to do, which I believe was to be given to every athlete.
It took me a little while to reset from this workout as it was sort of the talk of the area, all athletes sharing their stories. I had a bit of a nap, and was able to reset and just have some fun talking to the other competitors talking about things unrelated to CrossFit.
The next two events I knew would be a lot of fun but probably wouldn’t be home run finishes for me. They were two gymnastic couplets back to back. The first Power Snatches and Bar Muscle Ups, then a short rest, then lighter Power Snatches and Chest to Bar Pull Ups. I knew that I had to break up the workout more than most athletes but hoped that my fitness would carry me through to strong enough finishes to keep me in the top group of athletes once the day was over. Again, I haven’t been looking at the leaderboard. Once they line you up on the field, you can basically figure out what position you were in. I knew I was placed in third, which was good considering I was not very happy with how Chaos went.
The buzzer went for the final two events on Saturday night. I broke up the first set of Snatches once and the first set of Bar Muscle Ups twice and continued to break up the reps as needed with as short of breaks as possible.
To my left was Mathew Fraser, who I was able to keep relatively close with for the first half of the workout until his Bar Muscle Up sets became much larger than I could keep up with. To my right was Cole Sager, whos a good athlete in that type of workout for me to keep pace on. My Snatches are typically a little bit stronger than his, but his Bar Muscle Ups are typically a little better than mine. Unfortunately as well, he was able to keep up a pace that I was not. When I finished the first event of the evening, I slid into the finish mat and knew I had given it everything I had. I had broke up the reps a little more than I intended, but managed my fatigue very well. It was a lot of fun.
We briskly walked back to the starting mat again as what seemed like hundreds of Rogue volunteers entered the stadium to change the weights to the lighter barbell. Before we knew it, we were off again. I chose to break up the first few reps very quickly to save my grip for the end of the workout. I think this paid off, as Mathew Fraser and many athletes broke up the first 21 Snatches into bigger sets and later said they regretted it.
The Chest to Bars for me were very difficult as my grip and triceps were on fire. I knew there were not many of them so I just had to keep pushing to get back onto the bar and trust that I could use my hips on the Snatches and it would be a light reprieve from the grip needed to complete a Chest to Bar Pull Up. I could feel my pace was a lot more competitive in this than the previous one which gave me a little burst of energy knowing that if I was able to grip my way through, I could have a much stronger finish in this event. Keeping me overall a strong place going into the final day.
I did everything I could to hold onto the bar a few extra reps, every single time, and grab it a little quicker than I wanted to every time I put it down. On the final set of nine Pull Ups, I was hoping I might be good for a set of five but had to settle for three, then three sets of two very quickly. My ninth Chest to Bar, I was so tired and dizzy, I’m not entirely sure if my chest or my t-shirt hit the bar and I looked at my judge and he gave me the good signal and with lactic acid in my arms and legs I charged my way up to the finish mat and collapsed.
I was very happy again with this effort, knowing I could not have gone any faster.
As always in these types of events, it can be a little hard seeing athletes you work all year to ty to beat as they seemingly easily crush me in these types of events with high rep gymnastics. However, I have to remember that I can only control my own effort and hope it’s enough to put me in a place on the leaderboard where I belong. Having those types of finishes where I give it my all and my placing is maybe not as competitive overall as I would like definitely lights a fire in my stomach for the off-season to hopefully improve a few of these gymnastic movements even more, to squeeze out a few more points in similar events in the following years. We walked off the competition floor, most of us dumped out arms into some ice to reduce the swelling slightly and walked back to get our clothing and go rest for the final day of competition.
Thanks for reading guys, I’ll do my best to have a write up of the final day of competition.
Lots of love,