Preparation, trepidation, anticipation, frustration, determination, resignation, desperation, concentration and finally exhilaration. Those words more than most summed up my experience this past weekend at the Northwest Regional Qualifiers for the 2010 CF Games. I spent these past couple months since the Washington Sectionals back in February training harder than I ever have before. Not only just training myself but also coaching and training our affiliate team to help get them ready as quickly as possible for the unknown and unknowable. All of the effort paid off and honestly exceeded my expectations.
This past week has been exhausting. Trying to summon the energy to go to work, then come home and help run the box with Michelle, as well as be a dad has left little energy to sit down and try to put my thoughts on this past weekend into words. Monday was a slow day but one filled with a high that I am just starting to come down off of and put into perspective. How do I sum up the experience? I think Todd Widman’s t-shirt on Sunday said it best: “Do EPIC shit.”
Really that is what the Regionals was. People of all ages doing some pretty epic shit. As hard as Sectionals was, Regionals really was that much harder. Why? For one the level of athlete was just another notch higher (as hard as that was to imagine going into it). The other reason? Only 3 men and 3 women and 6 teams would advance to the Games so the pressure was higher. This competition was the next step in a race of people I would say are definitely at an elite level of fitness who are all chasing a crazy dream. That dream is being one of a select few that want to willingly go get crushed in front of tons of people for a couple days in brutal workouts that leave bodies littered all over the arena floor when its over. The best part? That before and after every single WOD those same competitors will high five, give tips, provide strategy, and wish the next person a heartfelt “good luck” knowing that it could very well mean they don’t qualify. That is epic shit.
First off, I want to mention our Affiliate Team known as Team Squatch. Our team finished 28th overall out of 38 teams after three events (a row/run relay; a team chipper of lateral burpees, pull-ups, overhead squats, fat bar deadlifts, and muscle-ups; and a men and women’s 2 person tandem clean and jerk). Michelle, Moe, Kim, Pat, Mark and Jeremy strategized, practiced and grinded it out over two days to a very respectable finish against some extremely seasoned teams. I felt total pride watching as Team Squatch bonded, cheered and completed each WOD with total class. No negativity. No controversy. No issues with form. No stressing out. Just quietly going about it with intensity, smiles and positive attitudes. It was a huge example for me and something that truly helped me tackle the individual competition.
What a competition. It was humbling to be surrounded by such an elite group of athletes with pretty impressive backgrounds, both men and women. Some were previous Games competitors, college athletes, semi-pro athletes, military special forces, endurance specialists, gymnasts or triathletes, and more. A few were pretty well known “CrossFit-lebrities” and a couple that are among the best of the best. Trying to shut that out and think about just finishing and not embarrassing myself was a small priority!
After a disastrous first WOD that I completely took for granted I was not only out of it I was pretty unhappy inside with how I performed. I had assumed I would do well in this WOD and that it would be “easy”. I forgot who programmed it. Having no issues with the heavy overhead squats (my favorite lift), I was once again reminded that CrossFit will find your weakness. Then it will shine a giant f*cking spotlight on it for over 8 minutes in front of a large crowd. That weakness? For me it would be double-unders and more importantly how crappy I am at them when fatigued and panicked. After a good start to my first round my rope slowly elongated rep after failed rep. I didn’t slow down enough to grab a back-up (which was two feet away). Why? That would be because my brain was literally disconnected from my body and in “flight” mode, my heart was in my throat, and my legs and arms were this year’s Burning Man festival. So after a painfully slow final round I knew I had a ton of ground to make up to finish (I was sitting in 59th) where I hoped to by the end of the weekend. By the way I am thinking of training double-unders to get better by doing them in the middle of I-90 barefoot on a bed of hot coals while dodging traffic.
Next up was the Fat Bar axle deadlift. This one was fun. Choose your weight (I chose 263#), go for max reps in 90 seconds with fingers opening each rep and just…don’t…stop. I had practiced this WOD earlier in the week and had an idea of what I could get. Adrenaline and some strategy advice from Jeremy and Michelle helped to exceed that. After 33 reps of lift and drop, it was over in a flash. The cheering of the SnoRidge section was entirely motivating and helped me to keep on moving. After a 20th place finish, I was now feeling a little better. Day 1 was over, the Affiliate events were going well, the final WOD’s were announced, the ice bath torture was over and it was time to relax and prepare for the Hell to come of Day 2.
Waking up a little sore and stiff, it was time to get ready for an event I really looked forward to. The 5 mile hill run. I had to do well in this event. I thought I would do fine with the hills and could average a faster pace. What the hell I was thinking I don’t know. That “hill” ended up feeling like a small mountain or the Bataan death march. 1 hard mile uphill, then a very fast 1 plus mile down to make up for time only to loop around and do it again. Then flat out speeding up the whole way back. The sprint to the finish for me was thrilling as so many were in full speed trying to make every second count. I finished the run 44th with dead legs and promptly got in line for more ice bath waterboarding torture.
From that point on it was resignation and desperation. I was sitting overall around 50th something place after three events and knew I was going to be in the first heat of “The Chipper of Doom”. This one scared me. I knew I could climb. Having a rope in our gym I was well aware of the combination of thrusters and rope climbs and how devastating it can be. I was not used to climbing to 20 feet however as normally it’s 15 feet. Putting those movements with rowing and kettlebells meant that grip fatigue and dead legs from the run and thrusters would be a huge factor. The time cap also added stress. My stomach felt like Space Mountain and I was worried about what to fuel myself with. I thought about how I would tackle it and break it up. I worried briefly about going out too fast and paying the price in round three. I thought “don’t be pulled into a race” by others in my heat who would row fast and just go. Michelle cautioned me repeatedly about my tendency to spazz on the rower and let it drain me before the real work started. All of that waiting for that first heat worked against my mind and I allowed myself to talk negatively. Right before the WOD was set to go and I was checking in, Pat grabbed my attention and gave me a quick and effective pep talk. He basically told me (in a much more enthusiastic fashion) to man up, do great, think great things, and stop convincing myself of a bad outcome. It was time to shit or get off the pot. That helped me concentrate and realize there was pretty much nothing left to worry about or hold myself back for.
Going over to my station I had no idea this WOD would turn into the set of the next “Gladiator”. I had an awesome judge who clearly spelled out the standards and then I settled in right in front of Michelle, the Team, the box and a ton of friends. Before I knew it I heard “3, 2, 1 Go” and opened my eyes. For the next 17 plus minutes I tried my best to methodically keep moving or taking productive rest periods either during transitions, changing weight or grabbing water. I wanted to break up the rest and manage my breathing to not stall on the rope. I wanted to climb fast and get off the rope. I wanted to keep pace with the guys around me that I could hear and see moving slightly ahead of me. What I really wanted was it to be over. After one round my body began screaming louder than normal inside. I wanted to stop and rest and curl up in the fetal position. This was truly “The Chipper of Doom”. It was harder than imagined both physically and mentally.
I could hear Kurtis on the loudspeaker providing progress of where the athletes around me were. I could hear our people and some judges yelling encouragement to just pick it up, climb, or keep moving. Then I could sense I was in either tied or near the lead. Before I knew it Aaron W. from CrossFit Basic was in my face pushing me, several friends who were judges were screaming at me, and the crowd behind me was counting each rep. Loudly. That experience was surreal. I could hear so many of you shouting and cheering with each completed set or climb. It was totally amazing and exhilarating. Once it was over I was in 1st place for my heat and literally done! Getting to watch the next several heats I realized how cool that WOD was as a spectator. For the next couple hours in heat after heat, there were amazingly fit men and women falling off ropes from seriously high spots, passing out, puking, and not being able to finish. I seriously was waiting to see Kurtis release tigers into the arena or for Russell Crowe to walk in with a sword. This WOD exposed weaknesses and chinks in people who have some very thick armor. By the time it was over I was 12th for the event. This helped me jump to a 32nd overall finish out of 65 men. Far better to say the least than what I expected coming into the weekend.
Michelle and I would like thank so many that I am bound to leave off someone so please don’t be mad if I do. First our team of Moe, Kim, Pat, Mark and Jeremy who competed together. To Jeremy for providing the RV aka the “Love Boat” to use as a base camp. To our friends and members who were outstanding volunteers: Lyndi, Eli, Rona, Rob, Sangeeta, Kelly, Eric, Shari, Cheryl, and Rich as well as all the other volunteers and judges and the Rainier CrossFit Crew. Thank you to our friends from lululemon who were in the stands cheering for and supporting us. Most of all thanks to everyone from our box who came out and cheered and represented this past weekend!
Overall the Regionals was one of the best experiences in my life. For me personally it was epic. Not just the workouts were epic; but the community, the camaraderie, and the fact that our very own gym trained for and participated in it. Being out there with my wife competing together and knowing that our daughter was watching was epic. The best part though was that many of the athletes out there were also friends. What better way is there to forge elite friendships than to be out there in the dirt together one miserable rep at a time? I think I’m looking forward to next year already.
Photos from Day 1:
Photos from Day 2: