The CF Open has come and gone and its conclusion is nothing more than a little bittersweet. This is going to be a tough article to write – and I apologize in advance – there are so many memories, some good some bad, that jump to the front of my mind when I think back over the past 5 weeks. I’m really not even sure where to begin. So don’t be surprised when my train of thought jumps from topic to topic with seemingly no connection, the Open is kind of whirlwind and my post will reflect that.
What better place to start than with the highlights of the Open – and believe me there were a lot. From some ladies picking up weight they’ve never done before, to Steve’s muscle up at the buzzer, Team Brower’s weekly tips, locker room 7, D.Free finally figuring out how to jump over a rope and Zully hitting split jerk after split jerk like a boss. And the atmosphere! I can’t say enough about that! It didn’t matter if it was at 6am or the last class of the day, every class was electric. A constant mixture of genuine excitement and anticipation sprinkled with the ever-present feeling of fear and anxiety. People did things they never thought they’d be capable of doing, and being a part of CF for as long as I have it still gives me chills and motivates and inspires me to keep working harder than ever.
I could dedicate an entire post just to the highlights over the last 5 weeks – there are too many to choose from. But for me, three things stood out above the rest:
1. Andy’s 135lb snatch PR during 13.1.
What a way to kick off the Open. This was actually the first class – the 12pm Friday class – that I saw perform this workout. Because of how the workout was structured, for most our athletes, the workout ended after 100 reps – then the big boy weight came out. But not for Andy. For those of you who don’t know Andy, he’s a member of the 6am clique and just a massive dude – kinda like a bear standing on its hind legs.But then you get to know Andy, and you realize he’s not a grizzly bear or a black bear, he’s more like the Charmin Soft bear.
When game day finally arrived, Andy asked me prior to heading downstairs if he would be able to snatch 135# and without hesitation I said “no” – great coaching on my part. But the bottomline is there is a fine line between attempting something you’ve never done before but have the capacity to do it, and trying some well out of your league and running the risk of injury. And as a coach, I take your safety as my responsibility and usually tend to side with caution over a high-risk high-reward scenario. But Andy broke the mold, and in the process created THE defining moment of this year’s Open.
Burpees are not a big man’s friend. Moving through the 75lb snatches wasn’t an issue, but the 70 burpees that preceded the 135lb snatches were. That’s a lot of man to get up and down off the floor! So by the time Andy stepped up – or should I say crawled up – to the 135lb bar there wasn’t much time left on the clock. At that point Andy was the only one working, as everyone had given way to the heavier weight. So all eyes were on the big fella – and he did not disappoint. He stepped up to the weight, breathing heavy, gripped the bar and ripped it off the floor and over his head like he’d done it 100 times before and let out a roar that was definitely more grizzly bear than Charmin.
From Andy himself: “Thank you CrossFit Maxability and thank you to all of my team mates for inspiring me every day. Thank you to Jonathan M. Abenaim for dragging me to CrossFit Maxability. In that moment I felt like an athlete again. Something I haven’t felt in a very long time. What a gift!” – isn’t that what CF and the Open is all about?
2. Robyn and Jerlyn’s First Muscle Ups
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to write this post! And I’m sure as long as it’s felt for me, it’s felt even longer for both of them. I really can’t put into words how happy I am for both of them, and the fact that so many other members were there to share in the moment made it even more special.
A lot of people, especially our newer members, probably take for granted how difficult a muscle up really is for most, not to mention all the behind the scenes Jer and Robyn had to put in. The countless attempts and repetitive skill work, the bruised wrists and calloused hands. All culminated when they finally got above the rings – and even better they did within 5 minutes of each other!
I was in the middle of teaching my on ramp class, but I remember peaking over, seeing Robyn on the rings and thinking ‘holy shit she’s gonna do it’ – her kip looked too smooth for it not to happen. It looked like she had done it a million times before. She even managed to squeak out 3 reps after being fatigued during 13.4!
Jer’s kip isn’t quite as natural or free flowing as Robyn’s, but due to her freakish strength was able to make up the difference. Unfortunately, coming off a shoulder injury coupled with suffering through a cold/flu – aka gluten hangover – that week, Jer wasn’t able to get a muscle up during 13.4. Jer needs a little more juice (muscle) to get above the rings, so being pre-fatigued by all the wallballs and doubles really cost her. Whereas Robyn, who doesn’t rely on her overall strength as much as her technique, being in that pre-fatigued state didn’t effect her as much – which should really be lesson to all of you meatheads out there: efficiency always wins!
I’m pretty confident for Robyn the holiday party ranks a close second behind this.
And not to be outdone…
For me personally, the Open was a major disappointment. I set a lofty goal this year and I let it be known from day one – something I encourage everyone to do, that way you can be held accountable. My goal was to make Regionals – I failed.
With that being said, the absolute last thing I’m looking for is any type of sympathy. I don’t feel sorry for myself in the slightest – if anything I feel even more motivated than before. The Open did what it was designed to do: expose weaknesses. I got exposed.
The problem is, going back to last year’s Open, I had already identified the same problems I ran into this year – moderately loaded cleans or snatches. They crush me! If I were to compare myself to Kim and Coach, my PR’s in both lifts are nearly identical to Kim and even higher than Coach, yet load the bar up with 135lbs and move it for reps and they’ll both blow me out of the water. They seem to take more out of me compared to Tim and Kim.
I guess I just assumed that over the course of last year’s training they would have improved to the appropriate level – that’s not saying that they haven’t improved, trust me they have, just that I would’ve closed the gap between myself and Kim and the rest of the field. (see: classic assumption mistake). 13.1 and all the baggage that went along with it ended my Open before it even started. And mentally, that was the hardest part of this year’s Open.
After week 1, and a 575th finish in the region, my goal of making Regionals had all but been snuffed out. And if I said it wasn’t hard to stay motivated the rest of the four weeks, I’d be lying. It definitely was a challenge. But I owed it to the community, to the people who look up to us, and more importantly myself to go out there and leave it all on the floor every time.
I will conquer the cleans and snatches that will inevitably show up in next year’s Open.
But more than that, my mindset on a day-to-day basis needs to change. Believe me, I’m not saying that I don’t go to the gym and work my ass off or that I’m just going through the motions. But I need that killer mentality. That “I’m either going to pick this barbell up right now or throw up trying” sort of mentality. I need to attack every workout on the daily like it’s the Open – check that: like it’s week 5 of the Open and there’s a regional spot on the line.
That mentality is the true difference between the people who make Regionals and those who fall just short.
Even with everything I just said, there definitely were some big (positive) takeaways from the Open – mainly 13.2. Workout number 2 represented my best finish in any single Open workout. I finished 31st in the Region and 331st in the world for that wod – beating some of my CF heroes in the process. It was a pretty eye opening experience when you see your name ahead of people like Spealler and Chan on the leaderboard. In general, the gap between the elite and myself CFers of the world seems to be closing, which is always encouraging. I remember during last year’s Open not even being in the same stratosphere as the top dogs in the game. It’s just reassurance that, in the end, I’m moving in the right direction.
As far as cheating is concerned, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the uglier side of the Open. From Josh Golden to Danielle Sidell, a lot of controversy has surrounded this year Open to the point where I think HQ may have to step in next year and rethink their structure/philosophy (mandatory video submissions for the top 48?). Hopefully Regionals will be an eye-opening experience for CrossFit HQ.
The interesting (funny?) part about these two highly publicized athletes is that they’re both incredible athletes with unreal engines – their movement standards were the issue, not their work capacity. Danielle Sidell recorded 420 reps on 13.2 but was disqualified for jumping off the box rather than standing, fully extending the hips and showing control on top of the box which was clearly outlined in the movement standards for the WOD. Regardless, that is an absolutely jaw-dropping performance! If that standard had been allowed for box jumps (even though it hasn’t been allowed in years), she would’ve undoubtedly posted one of the top scores in the world. No one is doubting what caliber of athlete she is, and to be honest the real concern doesn’t lie in athletes like her.
The issue lies in those fringe athletes. The athletes that remain just on the cusp of making Regionals who might be willing to bend the rules or alter their score if that ensures them a spot at Regionals. Look at it this way: Mike Kim made Regionals this year (more on that in a bit don’t worry). Over the course of the 5 weeks has amassed a total of 1,009 reps. The 49th finisher and first person to miss the cut, Mike Ruggari, finished with 1,031 reps. Weird. Even though Ruggari ended up beating Kim in 3 out of the 5 WODs and amassing 22 more total reps than Kim, he still found himself looking at Kim from the outside in. The difference? Kim finished with 8 more reps (muscle ups) than Ruggari on 13.3 which gave Kim a 57th place finish and Ruggari a 230th.
Eight reps! That’s the difference.
That’s why cheating can be so detrimental to the sport. The margins beating making Regionals and falling just short is razor thin. And as the sport continues to build momentum and more and more people sign up for the Open, the difference between success and failure is going to get even smaller. A couple reps here and there is all the difference. As cliché as it may be, the saying holds true: every rep counts.
Save The Best For Last
Like I hinted at earlier – Mike Kim is going to Regionals!! I can’t state it emphatically enough. Unless you’ve been around the sport for a number of years, it’s hard to truly comprehend what he accomplished. It takes an extraordinary level of performance over a 5 week long period to even get a whiff of making it to Regionals. Making it to Regionals isn’t some sort of “right of passage.” It doesn’t follow that “oh I’ve been doing CF for x amount of years, so I should be close to making Regionals.” It doesn’t work like that. There are beasts – local heroes – that will never step onto the floor at Regionals. It takes something special – a different type of commitment and effort – to really get over that hump.
Kim’s biggest strength doesn’t lie in his engine or his efficiency in movement or some overwhelming level of strength, his greatest attribute is his confidence. Kim possesses an unbridled – borderline naive – level of confidence. If I told Kim there is no way he’s able to bench 315lbs, he’d tell me to load up the bar. Even though I know there’s no shot in hell he’s even lifting that bar out of the rack, that’s his level of confidence going into any workout. It’s that type of mindset that keeps you going, that makes you pick up the bar before you’re even close to recovered in the most grueling workouts. It’s what separates the good CFers from the great, and is by far his biggest strength.
The outpour of support and congratulations from, not only our community, but from surrounding boxes has been great as well. As it stands right now, we should have a ton of people from our box making the pilgrimage to Boston to support Kim out there. We may not have the biggest cheering section at Regionals, but I know we’ll have the loudest.
For everyone else, 2014 starts today.