Monday, March 26, 2012

Fear and Loathing on the Road to Regionals

Whew! Brace yo-self, FOO! Time to take a deep breath and digest what has been a crazy and awesome kickoff to the 2012 CrossFit Games season. I've gotta start by saying how amazing it's been to see over 80 of CrossFit Springfield's members participate in this year's CrossFit Games Open! Huge congrats to everyone that took the plunge. There is truly no better way to test yourself both physically and mentally for five LONG weeks than by competing in the Open. Whether things went your way or not from a performance standpoint, this simple fact remains true: In the sport of CrossFit, you've gotta be able to quickly turn the page after each event in order to keep on pressing towards the finish line. Lingering on what should or could have been only keeps you in a funk - which ultimately sinks your battleship.

As a team, CrossFit Springfield finished 7th overall in the North Central Region and 37th in the world (out of 1,774 participating teams!). Four of CFS's male athletes and two of our female athletes made the top 60 cut and are qualified to compete at the Regional level this May in Chicago, Ill. And for the second straight year, CFS's very own coach Cindi Little has qualified to compete in the Masters division at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games in LA this summer!

Ok, here's my best attempt to breakdown the 2012 CrossFit Games Open as I experienced it...

The first week of the Open I felt as though I had to drag myself to the starting block. The CrossFit TNT sponsored "Battle for the Cup" challenge and CFS couples competition took their toll not to mention the Mhire family had all passed around a fairly nasty sinus/chest cold. I gave absolute everything I had on the workout, getting 118 reps, but I failed to reach the 124ish rep mark which seemed to be the breaking point for the top shelf scores for WOD 1. It's kind of funny, though. After competing in CrossFit for a few years now I've fully grasped the concept of being "down but not out". Having said this, other peoples expectations and confidence in your abilities are quite often much higher than what you realize. So many people kept coming up to me saying things like, "Hey, what happened on 12.1? I saw you only got 118 on the first workout and are ranked like 174th right now." if I should just close up shop, hang up my weightlifting shoes and freakin' awesome brightly colored stretchy board shorts, and drop out of the Open competition right on the spot. I knew, however, that regardless of where I was after week one consistency would be paramount to my success and that the pendulum would swing back in my favor.

And boy did it swing BIG-TIME in week 2. I think WOD 12.2 was hands down the most brilliant event of this year's Open. At first glance, one would presume that just because an athlete has a high 1RM snatch they'd be able to dominate. In the words of the great coach Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!" This workout was not only about strength- it was also very much about strategy, pace, and your overall work capacity. I went slow and steady throughout the 30 reps at 135lb in an effort to conserve my mojo for the 165lb snatches. I ended up hitting 20 reps at 165 for a total of 80 for 12.2. Just like that, I jumped up from 174th to 61st in the region. ONWARD.

When I first saw 12.3 I think I let out an audible "GULP." High volume box jumps aren't really a strength for me. That being said, they're not necessarily a weakness either. They're just kind of "blahhhhh" if you know what I mean. I knew I could "make my money" and go unbroken on the push presses and toes to bar - so that's what I did. I got into my 11th round, finishing with 373 reps. By no means did I crush it but the important thing was that I didn't bomb it either. After 3 events, I moved just inside the top 60 arriving at 58th place. Cue Jay-Z: "On to the next one..."

By process of elimination I really did have a feeling that 12.4 would include either wallballs or muscle ups (there's that, and the fact that a little bird named Jake Woolfenden tipped me off based on his insider info - true story - you'd think HQ would be able to keep these things more on the DL...but no). Magically, we were blessed with both, and 90 double unders to boot. In the past I have struggled with doing DUs while fatigued. Not this time. I paced the workout perfectly, breaking the wallballs into sets of 50, 30, 20, 20, 15, and 15. When I got to the double unders I felt like I still had tons of air. It took two sets (50 and 40) and, boom, there I was with just under 4 minutes to grind through as many muscle ups as possible. I never did any multiple reps (wanted to avoid the eccentric loading of my triceps and lats - this was a very smart move BTW)...just singles with 2-3 seconds in between reps for 4 minutes. Final score was 265 reps which placed me 12th in the region for 12.4 and jumped me from 58th to 41st place overall. Big mental victory and boost of confidence going into the final Open WOD. 7 minutes of burpees are now a distant memory. Cue "Battle Hymn of The Republic"...

I was standing in the kitchen at 7pm last Wednesday when event 12.5 was posted. This time instead of "GULP" I let out a huge "HOORAY!" I love thrusters. And thrusting. Dirty, I know, but just ask Jenny- true story. I also love me some chest to bar pull ups. The marriage of the two create nothing short of wedded WOD bliss. My goal was simple: Beat my score from 2011 (136). I paced it well, took only a few short breaks, and ended up getting 141 reps, 15 thrusters into the round of 21. It felt good to go out with a bang and also to be able to PR on the WOD...aaaand also to eat an entire pepperoni pizza that same night. My 12.5 performance placed me 11th in the region and moved me from 41st to my final overall ranking of 32nd. I set out to qualify and make the top 60 in the North Central and with a little luck, mental fortitude, and God's good grace I accomplished the mission.

I'm so very thankful on many levels. First off, I'm thankful to have a wife who is as patient and supportive as Jenny is and has always been. Five weeks is indeed a long time to totally immerse yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically to a competitive endeavor. It ends up being a sacrifice for you and those closest to you. That's the way it has to be. In order to be successful in CrossFit and at many things in life, you almost have to constantly tip-toe and blur the line between obsession and dedication.

Secondly, I've always been thankful for the incredible support system that is CrossFit Springfield and our local CrossFit community in SW Missouri, but this year during the Open my eyes were truly opened to just how critical it is to place yourself in tough situations from a competition standpoint. Iron truly does sharpen iron and this was evident to me each week as I worked tirelessly chasing the scores of athletes like Andy, David, Brian, Ryan, Jared (CrossFit 417), Jordan, Rodney (CrossFit SOMO) and many, many other competitors from CFS. Getting beat down is the very best way I know to learn what it takes to win. Thank you guys for kicking my tail :)

I've got to mention this one more thing before I end: I absolutely LOVE the North Central Region. Period. I love our region. I don't know exactly what it is. Maybe it's the whole Midwest charm thing. Whatever it is, I somehow found it so comforting each week to see all of the all-too-familiar names floating around the leaderboard. Some, I know well...others just barely...others not at all. But with everyone I competed with and against from our region in this year's Open I feel I share a bond. Cheesy? Maybe. Or maybe it's just the appropriate respect due to those who forged through til the end; win, lose or draw; top 60 or not, and gave it their absolute best to better themselves and their fellow competitors. At it's core, CrossFit is all about true grit. As Raoul Duke in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas would say, "And we are chock full of THAT, man!"


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