Since 2012, I have enjoyed the spectacle of the Reebok CrossFit® Games more and more each year. Both as a spectator and a coach, the events themselves have become more grandiose, the athletes are much more capable and the design and layout of the events have consistently improved.
From a coaching standpoint, the Open, Regionals and Games are what my planning revolves around for many of my clients. Almost all of our clientele compete in the Open every year, some compete at Regionals and a select few make it to the Games. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to coach many different individual competitors at the Games in Carson each July, including Masters from nearly all divisions, those competing on their respective team and a few individual competitors.
I have attended the CrossFit® Games seven times (09,10,12,13,14,15,16). In 2009 and 2010, I was lucky enough to be an Individual Athlete, competing alongside the best in the sport at the time. From 2012 to present, I have attended the event mainly as a Coach to my athletes and, to a large extent, as a fan of the sport. 2011 was the only year I did not attend. Truth be told, 2011 was the only year I remember not actually loving CrossFit®. I was at a crossroad. I was well aware that I was no longer able to compete for a qualifying position at Regionals to make it to the Games. I was also transitioning from being a competitor, to accepting my role as a Coach. Now, being a Coach is my life. I cherish my current role. And, I would not have it any other way. I still compete in the sport, mostly at a local level, which is great fun.
Volunteering as a judge is admirable. Especially when you only really get noticed for doing a bad job. A great judge won’t be noticed by the spectator. There really is no love for the judge during a fitness competition. It is not a glamorous position, unless of course you are this guyand you have shirts printed about you. With that said, the impact of having poor judging at the level of your local competition is pretty negligible. You may get a gluten free beer bottle thrown at you, but nothing to write home about. However, when poor judging is on display at the highest level of the sport, at the Games, it is not the same thing. In many instances, a few no reps here and there for people could be the difference between being on the podium and not being on the podium (3rd and 4th – which is also a difference of $10,000 USD).
Having an individual train all year for this event only to have some bad calls is unfortunate. It is part of all sport and attempts are made by HQ to ensure it is minimized as much as possible, but it still exists. The events that seemed to have the most judging inconsistency were Murph, Double DT and The Separator. Not coincidentally, these events also placed the greatest demand on the judges. Compare these events to ones like the 7k trail run, the Deadlift, the 500m Ocean Swim, the Suicide Sprint, the Handstand Walk, the Plow Pull, etc. Those events have basically no need for judging in comparison and, therefore, generally have very little issue.
During “Murph“, some individuals were getting away with not opening the hips at the top of the squats. With this strategy, you will perform the reps MUCH faster than your fellow competitors. Even from half way up in the stands the difference in movement is obvious. This is not a difficult thing to spot. The athlete in question will be taller during their rest period by a noticeable amount when compared to the “top” of their air squat. The athlete is not opening the hips at the top. The main problem with this is that your cycle time per rep is VERY fast, which gives you a considerable advantage over your competitors.
During “Double DT“, the only real issue seemed to be with some individuals doing the “rapid” hang power cleans. This style has the athlete quickly dropping the bar to the thighs, very little forward torso inclination, then a rapid thigh contact and bringing the bar back to the shoulders. Many people were being called for not fully extending their elbows at the bottom of the reps, while others in the lane next to them were getting away with the exact same movement. I remember Sara Sigmundsdottir got a no rep for this exact thing in round 9 (I believe) while she was trying to keep up with the eventual event winner, Katrin Davidsdottir. The hang power cleans were a very important part of the event. If you got a few no reps on those, it could be costly, which it was for Sara.
During “The Separator“, there was a HUGE difference in movement standard among the male competitors. Go here, here, and here to see some of the different standards of movement. None of this is the athlete’s fault or issue. If you were them, and the judge never said anything, you would continue working in the way you had been and trying to find the most efficient technique. I don’t believe this is the judges issue either, the standard of movement is both understandable and completely grey. This is no different than what we saw at the 2016 Regionals with the Strict Ring Muscle-ups in the second event on Friday evening, “Regional Nate”. In that event, the standard was very different, depending on your judge. The question then becomes, should those movements, ones that are so subjective at times, be included into professional competition? Advancement of the sport is important, but so is providing a consistent competition experience for all involved.
THE SCORING SYSTEM LOWEST POINTS WIN SYSTEM
2009 AND 2010 GAMES SCORING AND REGIONALS SCORING SYSTEM FOR 2011, 2012, 2013 AND 2014
OLD HIGHEST POINTS WIN SYSTEM
2011, 2012, 2013 AND 2014 GAMES SCORING
NEW HIGHEST POINTS WIN SYSTEM
2015 AND 2016 GAMES SCORING
One thing about the lowest points wins system is that is rewards well rounded athletes to a greater extent than the current system. The current system also rewards being well rounded, but not to the same degree. The current system really rewards the ability to finish 1st, but mainly in the top 5. One thing to note is that at Regionals in 2015 and 2016 they continue to employ the 2011–2014 Games scoring system, which seems inconsistent.
An example of how the scoring system effects placing can be evidenced from this year’s top 6 Men’s and Women’s finishers. If you apply the lowest points scoring system to the finishers you will notice a few things. The current scoring system and points will be in normal font, the lowest points wins scoring system will be in bold font.
UNKNOWN AND UNKNOWABLE… EVEN FOR SPECTATORS
As I was making my way to Redondo Beach for the Swim event I was talking with some Aussies in the parking lot. They were not very pleased that it had taken so long to announce the location and time of the Swim event. They were also a bit chapped that the Wednesday events were not open to spectators due to their location. As a spectator, I would agree. I was not happy that the Wednesday events were off-limits to spectators and coaches.
For the Athletes it is part of the sport, which is fine. For people that fly half way around the world, it sucks. It would be much better to simply tell the paying spectators ahead of time that “you won’t be able to attend the Wednesday events for the Individuals”. Friends of mine wanted to fly into LA on Tuesday for this expressed purpose, to see the Wednesday events. Last year, she arrived on Thursday and regretted that she did not fly down on the Tuesday so she could see her friend compete on Wednesday in the Pier Paddle event on Hermosa Beach and the Sandbag event in the Tennis Stadium. These are just some of the little things that could be done to ensure the spectators continue to pay to support the event.
Other than this issue, I thought everything else was pretty damn good. Each year the experience is very good – every event and heat runs like clockwork. They have a LOT of individuals and moving parts to organize and it is done seamlessly. As a coach, I would like to be able to go into the tent with my athletes to discuss strategy and de-brief on the previous events, but it is not a big deal. It is great that the athletes have a great place to hang out, not to mention the fantastic warm-up area. They make the athletes a priority in the planning, which is fantastic. Compared to last year, there was more emphasis placed on the athletes knowing how to cool their body temperature and recover from events and there was also more access to the necessary things in order to accomplish this important part of competition.
Early in the week, Dave Castro announced that this would be the most challenging Games to date, both mentally and physically. I am not sure I agree with that 100%. The main reason being “Murph“. In 2015, the Murph event changed the Games from my perspective. People were MESSED up from that event, like, big time. Event though, on paper, the 2016 Games had the most events and probably the largest total work volume to date, I still feel that the 2015 Games were tougher both mentally and physically simply due to the placement of the Murph event being mid-day on Friday. As a spectator, and coach, that event was kind of a turning point for many athletes in 2015.
As the number of Games events increases, the amount of cyclical modality involvement needs to increase (i.e. Running, Rowing, Biking, Swimming, SkiErg, etc.). The increase in volume should not continue to come mainly in the form of movements that cause a much more muscular break down (i.e. thrusters, pull-ups, deadlifting, etc.). To understand what I mean, what do you feel like the next day if you rowed 20 minutes as hard as possible vs. you did a 20 minute AMRAP of Thrusters @ 95lbs/65lbs? This is not a realistic event (I hope), but I am just using it so you understand what I mean. By following this arrangement in program design the total volume of the Games could actually increase from its current level with relatively little risk to an athlete’s health.
SHORT DISCUSSION ON VALIDATION
If the testing involved in the Games continues to grow in both volume and number of tests does that mean that the testing is improving? Should that not be a goal of the Games programming? That goal being, to become more and more efficient in assessing whom is fitter than whom. This has improved over the years, but it can still get better.
Every year, without fail, the program design of the Games is always placed under a microscope by the community. Every year, without fail, there are critics that think the design was absolutely horrific. Every year, without fail, the athletes and HQ defend the program design stating how amazing it was and thanking them for such great events. I don’t think validation of the programming by the athletes themselves adds any credibility. The main reason for this is that the athletes that are competing against one another will do whatever is required to achieve their goal. That’s why they’re at the elite level of this sport – they don’t make excuses like the rest of us.
I also don’t believe it to be a very good practice when the organizers/supporters spend so much of their time defending their position and stating reasons why others are wrong and they are right. If you are constantly having to defend what you believe in the face of much criticism from various points then it may be wise to reevaluate the process in which the final product of the program layout occurs. Unless of course you believe that those criticism do not have any merit.
Just because an event itself is damn near impossible does not make it the best test of fitness. If the focus of the program design for the Games is on rewarding sustainability then the design will not always reward capability. Everyone must be aware that making tests that cause the athletes to suffer and endure is very, very easy. To me, the magic of a great program design is in its ability to select and separate individuals without having to excessively leverage their well-being in order to realize this.
NOTABLE OMISSIONS FROM PROGRAMMING
The longest event for Mat Fraser in the 2016 Games lasted 35 minutes. The longest event in the 2016 Games for Katrin Davidsdottir lasted 38 minutes. This is not even close to a long event for the Games. In 2012, there was Pendleton 1 and 2, which lasted 2 hours and 6 minutes for Rich Froning and 2 hours and 18 minutes for Annie Thorrisdottir. There has to be a long event coming soon. The last time there was an event over an hour for every competitor was in 2013 for the Row 1 (2,000m) and Row 2 (Half Marathon).
2016 was the first time since 2008 Games that there was no “Snatch” prescribed. 2016 was the first time since 2008 since Ring Muscle-ups have not been included. Ring Muscle-ups were “kind of” included into “The Separator” but not really as they were not a scored movement. 2016 was the first time since 2011 Bar Muscle-ups were also not included. Like 2015, 2016 did not feature any specific single leg movements, such as lunges or pistols. Although, the hills involved in the Ranch Trail Run could be considered into this. If you have ever had to climb a steep hill, it is basically a lot of really fast step-ups.
Going into the 2016 season many of my friends and clients ask me who I thought would win the Games in 2016. For the Men’s side, I consistently said Mat Fraser 1st and then Ben Smith 2nd. I couldn’t see anyone beating those two. However, I could never pick a 3rd male. This makes sense, because I can’t imagine many people picking Patrick Vellner. As a Canadian, I was super happy to see him and Brent Fikowski finish 3rd and 4th respectively the year. They each had a fantastic rookie year. I hope they match or surpass their performances in 2017.
Mat’s performance this year was unbeatable – very “Froning-esque”. He was unstoppable. For a guy to win the 7k Trail Run, finish 2nd in the Suicide Sprint and then finish high on the Clean Ladder speaks to the breadth of his ability. From Friday to Sunday, he looked like he wanted to win every event. If he is healthy going into 2017, he is going to win again.
At first, the Women’s side seemed like a very wide open competition. To me, the Women’s competition this year was WAY more exciting than the Men’s. There was many more potential winners going into the Games this year and there was way more of a race leading into the end of the competition. However, when asked, I consistently said that Sara Sigmundsdottir would win, followed by Tia-Claire Toomey in second and either Katrin Davidsdottir, Kara Webb or Annie Thorrisdottir in 3rd. To me, Katrin performed perfectly over the week. She had many clutch performances and had a little bit of luck, which is needed if you want to win a tight race. Tia is lacking in a few basic areas, but has the potential to be the complete package in 2017 and to win it all.
I was very surprised that Sara did not win this year. Sara did not look like Katrin did. Even in the seats I could see the Katrin wanted to win. Sara appeared a bit more tentative. From what you can see from her training, she is a machine. The things she does in training are incredible and maybe unmatchable by any other women in CrossFit®, but she makes little mistakes on the competition floor that cost her dearly. Like Tia, Sara has it in her to be a champion in 2017. The race between these 3 women in 2017 is going to be fantastic to watch.
EVENT 1 – RANCH TRAIL RUN
Watching the 2016 Games footage of this event brought back all those memories and feelings. However, this year the route looked a lot more challenging/dangerous compared to what we experienced. I am not sure if you can compare the times from 2009 to 2016, but they are somewhat similar.
Running is the most foundational aspect of fitness. To me, if you can’t run, you cannot be fit. That is a biased statement, but running/moving on your feet is foundational to basically every sport that you love. The intensity and distances may vary, but the modality does not. With running, you can assess capacity in all energy systems. From the various times/distances, you can also assess movement, mobility, speed, power, endurance, etc. Running is beautiful and I am glad that they utilize it in the Games programming every year in several events. Each year at the Games, the programming definitely tests running and places a high value on being a competent runner in all distances.
Running on a track is one thing, running through terrain that you do not know, with 79 other competitors is a totally different thing. Simply put, it is MUCH harder and way less comfortable. Add the heat of the California sun and the dusty nature of the route and you have a very challenging event, both mentally and physically.
The most impressive performance for me in this event was Mat Fraser. I knew he was a good runner for these distances based on his 2014 and 2015 performances. However, for him to beat out Josh Bridges was incredible. Brent Fikowski finished 3rd on this event and that guy can run. For Fraser to beat him by over 2 minutes is beyond impressive. I can imagine that Fikowsi’s larger frame made it hard to keep up with Fraser and Bridges.
EVENT 2 – RANCH DEADLIFT LADDER
Here are some of the individuals that competed in both the 2009 and 2016 Games. This is an incredible feat by these people. This sport has changed and evolved so much since then, to be able to keep pace with that advancement over the years is incredible.
A 1 rep max Deadlift is a fantastic test. There is no where to hide. As well, being able to cycle the moderately heavy loads at Regionals for 3 rounds (405lbs and 275lbs respectively) does NOT translate into having a great 1 rep max deadlift. Honestly, I would have expected the 2016 male field of competitors to have done better on this event compared to the 2009 field. However, back in 2009, training the deadlift on a regular basis was considered normal for everyone. Back then, training the snatch and clean and jerk on a regular basis was not. Times have changed.
Back in 2009, for the Men, 1st place on the max Snatch event on the second day of competition was 240lbs. If they did that event in 2016, last place would be more than 240lbs. For the Women, 1st was 145lbs. That would also be last place in 2016. As you can see, on average, the max deadlift amongst Games Athletes (from 2009 to 2016) has not progressed to the same degree that Snatching and Clean and Jerking has.
The most impressive performance for me in this event was both Brooke Wells and Sam Dancer as they put up some ridiculous numbers (415lbs and 615lbs respectively) and no one was really close to them (20 and 30lbs behind respectively. Of note, the eventual champions, Katrin and Mat, each had BY FAR their worst finishes on this event. CrossFit® is a sport that rewards knee flexion power/strength more than hinging power/strength (think Snatch/Clean and Jerk vs. Deadlifting). Although, Tia-Claire Toomey finished 3rd on the Deadlift ladder and finished 2nd overall. Maybe she would be considered an outlier? Last year’s champion for the Men, Ben Smith, also had one of his lowest finishes here. Alex Vigneault finished 6th on the 7k Run and 2nd on the Deadlift. That is well rounded.
EVENT 3 – RANCH MINI CHIPPER
This year’s “Mini Chipper” was slow, and uneventful. I was not at the Ranch to watch the event, so it is hard to get an accurate feeling of how the event played out. However, from the footage HQ posted to YouTube of the last men’s heat from the day it was not exactly exciting. This footage also showed some of the earlier heats, which from a viewers standpoint, did not show much hustle up that hill at the end of the event. I figured they would all be gutting it out as soon as they got off the GHD, but that was not the case for many.
Lastly, I do not like GHD Sit-ups as a modality to be included in testing. Adding a med ball component does not make this situation any better, it makes it much worse. All in all, this event was pretty lack lustre.
The most impressive performance for me was by Brent Fikowski as he won the event for the Men, and he attacked the hill run portion, which is what gave him the win.
EVENT 4 – OCEAN SWIM
I did like the fact they really tested swimming and only swimming. Even though there was a running component with entering and exiting the ocean, this was still mainly a test of swimming. However, ocean swimming is a LOT different than swimming in a lap pool. I found this out the hard way when I went to Hermosa Beach on the Monday before the Games to do some swimming with my athlete. My first entry to the ocean was terrible as I got drilled by a wave and swallowed a lot of salt water.
This was the first time at the Games that there has been a swimming only scored event. In 2011, the swim was combined in a variation of Murph. In 2012, the swim was followed by biking, which was then followed by a run. In 2013, the swim was in a pool and was combined with bar muscle-ups. In 2014, the swim was combined with thrusters and burpees. In 2015, the swim was combined with a paddle board and a chin rash.
I still feel that other modalities can and should be included ahead of swimming when searching for the Fittest on Earth. Swimming is definitely something that can be included in that process, but other modalities – like an actually long event (this year’s longest event was Murph, with a time cap of 50 minutes) – involved carrying of some sort, scaling hills/climbing of some sort, etc. I know that logistics fits into this, I am just telling you my point of view. Also, swimming in the ocean is not exactly “inclusive” for many athletes, especially ones living in my area (Calgary, Alberta). However, those wishing to excel at the Games level should come to expect that they will need to be comfortable with swimming in the Ocean. Not to mention, the swimming events always look great.
EVENT 5 – MURPH
The layout of the event this year made the event faster too. Performing 5 rounds of 20 Pull-ups/40 Push-ups/60 Air Squats is faster than performing 100 Pull-ups/200 Push-ups/300 Air Squats. The top time for the Women was about 2:30 min faster than 2015. The top time for the Men was about 4 minutes faster than 2015. As well, if you look through those that did Murph in 2015 and 2016, you will see that many individuals were noticeably faster than in 2015.
Regardless of how things changed from 2015, this event is gruelling. The sheer number of full range of motion muscular contractions in the span of 35-45 minutes for most competitors is astounding. This is the type of event where only those who train for CrossFit® will be good at it. The 7k trail run, there are lots of people (i.e. non-CrossFitters) that can beat Games Athletes at that event. The Deadlift, there are also lots of people that would beat them on that too. There are probably a lot of people who can do both better than they can. However, there is probably no one outside of those on that field on Friday morning that can do the 7k Run, the Deadlift, and the Murph to that level. That is a huge separator for Games Athletes. They are able to work with a very high cardiac output in a very high muscular endurance environment (i.e. Double DTis also like this). There is nobody better at this type of performance than Games Athletes. This is where you can see people walk into your gym that are both very strong (i.e. great Deadlift) and very good runners (i.e. fast 7k trail run) that will absolutely meltdown in an event like Murph. They simply have not developed the ability to endure (i.e. get oxygen into the area, get blood moving in and out, deliver/remove the necessities, etc.).
One thing that was apparent during the Murph was how much of an advantage you had by being short. If you are a good runner too, then you probably finished really high (i.e. Josh Bridges, Mat Fraser). If you are a good runner, but were born with the deformity of being taller than 5’6″, you probably struggled (i.e. Brent Fikowski). Also of note is how much variation there is on movement standards. Many people were placing their hands and feet what could be considered excessively wide in an effort to shorten the range of motion on the push-ups and squats. In the Regionals this year, and many years before, there was a standard hand width in which you had to place your hands for Handstand Push-ups (34″ max hand width). I feel there should be some effort made to standardize this for push-ups and air squats too. Otherwise, this happens…go here and watch for 20 seconds and you will see the difference between what could be considered normal width for squats and push-ups, then you can see what could be considered excessive. With that said, those movement standards are completely within the rules, so there is nothing wrong with it.
The most impressive performances on the Men’s side was by Alex Vigneault. He is one of the taller athletes in the field and he put up a very impressive 13th overall on this event. For the Women, I have to go with Kara Webb. She did so much better on this event compared to 2015, both in terms of performance and in her ability to manage it. I can imagine she was proud of her effort and the redemption she obtained.
Side note – The Men’s times, on average, were faster than the Women’s times mainly due to the Running portion and the Push-ups.
EVENT 6 – CLEAN PYRAMID
One characteristic that is very important to success in this event, and many events that require moderate/heavy load squatting, is the actual speed of contraction the athletes are capable of. Compare how fast someone like Mat Fraser can squat 66-90% of his max Front Squat to someone like Brent Fikowski with the same relative %’s. Compare how fast Kara Webb can squat 66-90% of her max Front Squat to someone like Annie Thorrisdottir or Samantha Briggs with the same relative %’s. Squatting strength is important, but speed within that strength also plays a role.
This is another type of event that no one can beat Games Athletes on. Their ability to recover between sub maximal efforts of lifting is unparalleled. The driver for this ability is the aerobic system. Training, movement efficiency, squatting strength, and squatting speed also play a large role in performing great on this event. Easy examples of this is Josh Bridges and Mat Fraser. The main difference between the two is squatting strength and squatting speed. Hence, Mat finished 2nd and Josh finished 24th. Out of curiosity, I would like to see an Olympic Weightlifting Champion in a comparable weight category attempt to beat Kara Webb’s time.
The ability to recover between events is especially important here, especially after Murph. Nutrition throughout the year and during the Games week is critical in this process, but what is most important in this process is the athlete’s training and fitness. You can’t eat your way to handling an event like Murph without actually putting in the work. This could be a much longer discussion of the value of proper aerobic training in this sport, but suffice to say that with proper training and development the athlete will be able to handle more training volume, this will allow them to train more, which will provide them with the ability to recover during certain aspects of the event (i.e. between each rep on the cleans), between events and throughout the entire Games week.
The most impressive performance for me was Kara Webb on the Women’s side, partly because I picked her to win, but partly because she was incredible. Lastly, the reason I selected her was because she made her final rep at 215lbs look light as hell.
EVENT 7 – DOUBLE DT
There were many different strategies and many different movement variations too. The main thing to see from the winner of events like this is pacing, consistency and composure. They start the event at a pace they know they can maintain, or can come pretty close to maintaining. Their reps look the same from round to round, until basically the end if they try to push it. Their breaks per round are the same each time, with a similar rest time for each break. And, if they get a bit behind in the early rounds, they don’t really worry too much and do something stupid like “try to catch up”. They allow the event to come to them, so to speak.
The fastest Women’s time for this event was 9:25. The fastest Men’s time for this event was 11:37. A time of 11:37 would have given you 13th place on the Women’s side. Again, part of this difference in time between the Men and Women is simply height, which means a different range of motion per repetition. But, a large part is that Women are generally better at this type of work, when the loading is arranged comparatively.
If you look through the event footage you will see a very common thing amongst several competitors…rounded back deadlifting. Amongst these particular Games Athletes, you can see this occur at basically any weight. Look back to the Regionals this year at the heavy Deadlift posture of these same individuals used in the Running/GHD Sit-up/Deadlift event.
Having a rounded back during repetitive hinging does not slow you down in the event, for many, it probably is faster that way. However, what it can lead to over time is you having to sit in seats watching as you have been sidelined from injury. You have to think of these types of back issues (likely disc related) as not being an acute issue, meaning that it likely was not the time you actually got hurt that was the problem. It was all the poor hinging movements and dysfunction that came before the event. You could wear 3 weightlifting belts if you want, it is not going to matter. This is a training and neurological issue that needs to be addressed in the most appropriate way for the individual.
In 2015, Mat Fraser finished 2nd on Heavy DT. In 2016, he finished 2nd on Double DT. In 2015, Katrin Davidsdottir finished 2nd on Heavy DT. In 2016, she finished 1st. There are a lot of the same names in the top 10 in both 2015 and 2016 on the DT variation events.
The most impressive performance to me was by Samuel Kwant. To beat Mat Fraser in an event like this is incredible. I was most surprised with Tia-Claire Toomey’s performance on this event. She finished 22nd. She moves well, she is good at lifting heavy barbells, but apparently she was not that good with high rep, low load bars. In 2015, she finished 31st on the Heavy DT.
EVENT 8 – CLIMBING SNAIL
The adaptability component in this event came in a few ways. In the smallest manner, it was in the way the athlete had to run around the berm. In previous years, the athletes would run clockwise around the berm. This year, they ran counter clockwise. Nothing too important, just something to consider. The next serving of adaptability came from the rope climbs. The ropes were very short compared to normal which made the athletes have to do a combo of legless rope climbing and then rope climbing using your legs. Trying to get your legs set on a rope that is flipping around on you is quite the challenge, one in which many athletes were challenged by. The main course of adaptability came with the introduction of the Snail. This thing looked tough!
The beauty of the Games is that they have the resources to include incredible pieces of equipment like this. Pieces of equipment that more often than not, no one has ever used before. The first time the athletes made it to the Snail was quite interesting. You were able to see them trying to figure out what to do with it, and working to find the most efficient way to move the huge cylinder. I don’t know what the Snail was filled with, but it was probably this.
Generally, any event that provides the opportunity for the spectators to easily see who is in the lead based simply on who is in front of who are generally the most exciting events. This event accomplished that. When you have to look to the scoreboard to see who is in the lead, the excitement kind of dwindles. Over the years, the organizers have made the Games events themselves more entertaining while also generally adhering to trying to focus on the task at hand. That being, finding the fittest person.
EVENT 9 – THE SEPARATOR
The best aspect of this event was that the organizers designed it differently for the Men and the Women. If it had not been adjusted, the event would have been a complete fail for the Women’s side. I remember back in 2013 when the Friday night event for the individuals was “Legless”. It was the first time Legless Rope Climbs had been in the Games. The design was the same for the Men and the Women. The result, only 2 out of 39 Women finished under the time cap, while 33 Men finished under the time cap. It was a very boring event to watch, and also did not differentiate amongst the women very well, kind of the like the Pegboard event from last year when 25 Women finished tied for 13th position (achieved 0 pegboard ascents). The need to have a different design for the Men and the Women on events like this is because Men have greater relative upper body strength than Women. This difference is most obvious in strict-ish gymnastic movements (i.e. Strict HSPU, Strict Ring Dips, Push-ups, Legless Rope Climbs, etc.).
All I was thinking during this event was “what the hell is with all the squatting?” As if there wasn’t enough squatting at various loads already (i.e. Wall Balls in Ranch Mini Chipper, Air Squats in Murph, Clean Ladder). The layout of the squatting (Back Squat – Front Squat – Overhead Squat) made me think that the entire point was to have the athletes perform the Overhead Squats when there arms and legs were crushed. The loading on the Back Squatting and Front Squatting was not particularly heavy for these athletes, but the accumulation of everything going into the Overhead Squats would add a real challenge to those 21 reps. The last time there was a Back Squat in competition was at the 2012 Regionals and the event also went Back Squat, then Front Squat, then Overhead Squat…using MUCH lower loads.
The most impressive part of this event was seeing 17 women finish the event under the time cap. Many also came very close to finishing the event. Overall, this was a very impressive performance on the Women’s side.
EVENT 10 – 100%
The DBall Clean is a really simple movement at the loads used. Simple, but not easy. Some athletes performed a deadlift with the ball, re-gripped it, then rolled it over the shoulder. Some athletes just ripped it off the floor and over the shoulder, which is the faster strategy if you can keep moving. The larger athlete would have an advantage on this movement simply based on the size of the body moving the ball.
Thankfully only 1 athlete was seriously injured during the box jump overs. Unfortunately, Alethea Boon injured her achilles tendon during the box jump overs. This movement has been beaten to death for its potential dangers. The number of individuals who end up with a partial or complete achilles tear every year continues to grow. I am well aware that basically every sport has some inherent injury risk. That is not a problem. If there is no injury risk in the sport, then the sport is likely pretty boring. And, compared to some sports, the injury risk in CrossFit® is REALLY low. However, to me that does not mean that you should not try to make things better. Especially when a simple adjustment can make all the difference. For example, if you make the standard that you have to jump all the way over the box each rep, then you will likely remove any chance of athletes rebounding because each rep likely requires a walk-in or lead up to make the rep. Bottom line, if options are available to reduce the risk of injury to the athletes, it should at least be considered.
The biggest issue with having the rebounding movement featured at the level of the Games is that it likely means more individuals will place it into their year round training. In case you have not noticed, the training will be dictated by the testing imposed. Meaning, if rebounding box jumps just stop being programmed into either the Open, Regionals or Games then you will see less people doing them in preparation for competition. Also, of course none of the Games Athletes are being forced to rebound, they could just step down off the box to be safe. For these athletes competing, stepping down is not an option, unless you want to finish last. The goal is to achieve the fastest time.
Brent Fikowski had the most outstanding performance and also had an outstanding celebration where he likely kicked a fan in the front row. Brent used the grip it and rip it technique with the DBall and used it very well. I remember hearing the announcers say that they couldn’t believe that a guy like Brent had won the sprint event. The reason Brent won the sprint event is because it wasn’t a sprint event, it was an endurance event.
EVENT 11 – HANDSTAND WALK
Handstand walking is definitely a challenging skill to master and these athletes definitely make it look a lot easier than it actually is. And, handstand walking on grass is not the same as on rubber flooring. Handstand walking on the grass, especially when there are divots on the field, is hard. Lastly, I can appreciate why handstand walking is included in the Regionals and Games every year. It is definitely a skill that the average gym go’er would look at and think, “these people are nuts”.
Placing this event 1st in the sequence of these 3 events was a smart decision. Event 11 is the most technical and skillful. Event 12 is all about speed and power. Event 13 is just a grind. This was the best order for the events to appear to allow for the best performances by the athletes. If the events went in the opposite direction, it would not have been as great.
Once again, there are a lot of different techniques being used in this event. Some athletes have a very tight and upright body position with most of the movement happening at the shoulders. Other athletes have a very extended body posture with no leg movement. Then other athletes have a very extended body posture with lots of leg movement. I would assume most gymnastics coaches would suggest the tight/upright body posture for many reasons. However, these athletes need to do what is going to give them the best score at the time.
The most impressive performance on this event was Katrin Davidsdottir. Not only because she had the fastest time, for Men and Women, but she just looked like she was going to win that event, no matter what. I think she was the only Women to perform the event unbroken as well. Not only was it unbroken, but she also hit a lane marker, managed to stay upright, then proceeded up to continue. If you watch this video you will see it and if you look closely to the middle of the frame you can see Annie Thorrisdottir walking into Karie Pierce’s lane, then walking sideways and backwards into her own lane, then continuing on. Wow!
EVENT 12 – SUICIDE SPRINT
Mat Fraser provided the most impressive performance on this event with his 2nd place finish. This guy won the 7k trail run, Josh Bridges finished 2nd on that event. Josh finished 34th on this event. Mat finished 2nd. That dude can run.
EVENT 13 – THE PLOW
Even though this was the 3rd event in a back to back to back sequence, the previous events did not seem to negatively effect this event too much. You would have to ask the individual athletes themselves to get an accurate representation of how much fatigue had been accumulated by this event, but knowing how well these athlete can recover I would doubt they were very fatigued by the time this event rolled around.
Like the Handstand Walk event, Katrin acted as if she was going to win this event. She took off from the rest of her heat and never let up. Although, Briggs almost caught up to her at the end. Katrin’s intensity and willingness to suffer was astounding. She wanted it more than anyone else.
EVENT 14 – ROPE CHIPPER
The double under and rope pull portions were definitely the most important portions of the event. If you were not good at those portions, you would have finished poorly on this event. It seemed as though the larger athletes had an advantage on an event like this. Larger athletes are better suited for modalities like the SkiErg, Rower, AirBike and Sled Pulls.
Normally for these level of athletes, 50/40 double unders at a time are pretty insignificant. However, with the addition of the heavy rope with heavy handles, those numbers were right on the money. Too many reps per round of double unders and you ruin the event. Too few reps of double unders and you don’t allow for separation amongst those that can and can’t skip proficiently.
The best part of this event was watching the battle between the Top 3 Women: Katrin, Tia and Sara. Tia beat the other two women to the rope pull by about 20 seconds. Katrin and Sara ended up beating Tia by about 15 seconds on the event. Tia was 35 seconds slower than the other two on the rope pull portion alone. Tia is the smallest of the three Women by 15-20lbs (based on what is listed on the Games site). That was a huge turning point for Tia, if she could have held on for the win in this event she most assuredly would have won the Games this year.
EVENT 15 – REDEMPTION
Overall, this was not a great event to end 2016 Games. However, this year did have a better ending that last year. Personally, I think the 2015 Games had the least entertaining ending of any previous years. It was not exciting for a large majority of it, especially on the women’s side of the competition. I much prefer the ending in 2014 that saw a fast rope climb and overhead squat event followed by a double Grace finish followed by Froning flying off on a bald eagle and into the record books with “Legend” status. It was the type of event that if you wanted to finish first, you could go after it. With this event, you had to do the opposite, make sure you don’t screw up.
This event resembled the “Separator” event in that the one gymnastic component dictated most of the event. If you are really great at the pegboard, but suck at thrusters with the slightly heavier weight, you would do just fine…hell, you could even win the event. If you suck at the pegboard,but can thruster more weight than this guy, you are screwed.
In 2016, the athletes performed much better on the pegboard compared to 2015, especially the Women. In 2015, 25 of 37 Women did not achieve 1 successful pegboard ascent. In 2016, 2 of 39 Women did not achieve 1 successful pegboard ascent. The pegboard component is there to make you fail. If you try to complete the reps too fast, you will fail. This is similar to the legless rope climbs, if you try to push it and you fail a rep in an event, you are pretty much screwed. The pegboard is an even more extreme version of this. One thing to mention with the pegboard design is that I think they should remove the middle column of holes. This would standardize the movement.
As you can see here, Katrin was able to make her way up the board by barely bending her arms. She used this strategy frequently in the event. Lucky for her, that middle column of holes were there. Pulling strength must be a weakness for Katrin. I would assume this based on her struggle with this modality and her 24th place finish on the Legless Rope Climb and Thruster final event from Regionals (unless she got a no rep on one of those Rope Climbs).
Now onto the 2017 Games season! I for one I am very much looking forward to it, both as a Coach and a competitor.
What follows is a commentary and an opinion based article mainly regarding the 2015 Reebok CrossFit® Games, Individual Competition. What is written and covered in this article is not meant to be offensive to any of the athletes that are mentioned or any of the organizers involved. I truly love attending the event every year and I leave wanting to go back again the following year. If you have never attended the Games in person and are a fan of the sport, you really need to do yourself a favor and go watch them live. What occurs in Carson each year is a spectacle in both the testing the athletes must endure and the grandiose environment in which it is performed. You will have a new appreciation of how outstanding the performances are by these athletes after having seen it firsthand.
- when tickets to the Games were released there were people complaining about the cost. I can't remember what the exact cost was in 2012, 2013 or 2014, but for the amount I paid for my 2015 ticket I believe I got well more than my money's worth. If you do make the trek to Carson for the entire week, you get six days of nonstop fitness for what works out to about $50 USD per day. People that complain about this clearly have not been to many other sporting events at a professional level.
- regardless of how many top names competed in the team events they are still boring and I'm not interested. Rich Froning is a machine, even in team events. It was really different not having him compete as an individual this year.
- it is much more enjoyable and exciting to watch the Teen Divisions and Masters Divisions compete than it is to watch the Teams.
- there were noticeably less people at the tennis stadium on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday individual events. I am not sure why this was the case, I can only assume that less tickets were sold. I wonder how much of that is due to the fact that Rich Froning is no longer competing as an individual?
- having the Masters and Teams compete in the soccer stadium was a very good idea. It was much more enjoyable as a spectator and I can only imagine was more enjoyable as a competitor as well.
- having the masters and teens finals in the tennis stadium was also nice gesture. For many of them, that may have been one of their best sporting moments.
- there are a lot of master's competitors stronger than me.
- Bulletproof Coffee is not really that good. I much prefer to make my own coffee and if I am going to ruin it with cream, then I will add organic heavy cream that I can buy at the local store.
- why did Emily Abbott not win the “Most Improved” award? Not taking anything away from Margaux Alvarez who by all accounts is the nicest human on earth, but Emily finished 1st place BEHIND her in 2014 and finished 1 place AHEAD of her in 2015. I am no mathematician, but that doesn’t add up.
- 8 out of the 13 events involved a significant aspect of pressing with the arms whether that be for endurance (i.e. Murph) or intensity (i.e. Clean and Jerk, 1 RM).
- 10 out of the 13 events involved a significant aspect of pulling the arms whether that be for endurance (i.e. Swim/Paddle) or intensity (i.e. Legless Rope Climb/Peg Board).
- 6 out of the 13 events involved a significant aspect of squatting whether that be for endurance (i.e. Murph) or intensity (i.e. Snatch Speed Ladder).
- 3 out of the 13 events involved carrying an external load of some kind.
- 8 out of the 13 events did not involve a barbell.
- 8 out of the 13 events involved what I would consider odd or non-common modalities.
- 3 out of the 13 events were at or below 30 seconds for the top athletes.
- 2 of the 13 events were longer than 20 minutes for the most athletes.
- I would guess none of the events hurt (not injury hurt, just this sucks really bad hurt) the athletes as much as the Sled Sprint event did last year. None of the events this year really fit into that disgusting time frame of 30 to 120 seconds with the correct modalities.
A little history:
- the overall volume of the games this year did not seem that much different than previous years, unlike some would have you believe. People are very easy to forget what happened in 2009 back at The Ranch. I remember quite vividly because I was part of that. There were five events on the Saturday, which was day 1. I don't think anybody expected there to be that much work. Main reason, look at what the 2007 and 2008 Games presented as the testing. Day 1 of the 2009 Games began with a torturous 7K trail run and concluded with three rounds of wall balls and snatching. I remember getting out of my car at the end of the day when we had got back to the house we were staying at, I I took one step and actually fell down. Nowadays, this amount of work in one day would not be quite as bad but back then that was pretty much as extreme as you get. I remember walking out for the final event on Sunday, which was at the time a long chipper. I don't remember the exact start time of the event, but it had to be around 1 o’clock...it was hot as shit and we were standing on black rubber matting to boot. I survived the weekend unscathed, but my brother James was not quite so lucky. That was the first time I had seen what likely was a minor case of rhabdo.
- 2010 had what maybe considered one of the most dangerous events in the history of the games. The rope climb and Burpee over the wall event to finish the games. That was the infamous Rich Froning rope climb fail, during which I believe he fractured a bone in his foot. I could be wrong. Back then there were no crash mats for athletes to come down on and Rich took what looked like a 20 foot fall/crash. Rope climbing was also not considered a common movement back then as it had not made an appearance at the Games at that time. This was also the year I had first-hand experience of what heat exhaustion does to you. I don't know how I avoided it in 2009, it may have been because I was so damn excited to be there. In 2010 I was not quite as lucky, during the Pyramid Helen event my body basically just began to give up. I remember struggling to do sets of five kettle bell swings with a 24 kg weight. 2010 was also the first year the games moved to a three-day format.
- 2011 brought swimming into the games. That was the first year a version of Murph was done. Except, in 2011 that event took place earlier in the day on the beach. 2011 was also 3 full days of competition. It was also a LARGE increase in total work volume from the 2010 Games.
- 2012 brought the Camp Pendleton event. If you look back, you will easily see that that was the longest event in the history of the Games. Spanning well over two hours for many people. Ending when it was very, very hot outside. That year I had an athlete competing at the Games and saw first hand how devastated many of the athletes were, even after the Thursday rest day. 2012 also had a grueling mid-day event with the rope climb and sled push event that happened at the track. Again, it was very hot outside and just generally a tough environment to be in. 2012 was the first year the Games moved to a four day format, with day one beginning on Wednesday. The finale in 2012 was Power Clean Elizabeth, short rest then Isabel, Short rest then Fran. Needless to say, the 2012 Games has a LARGE increase in work volume compared to 2011.
- 2013 had the 2,000m Row into Half Marathon Row, which some people people consider the most gruelling Games event of all time. I actually shed a tear every time I think about having to do those events, ouch. 2013 also had two other grueling events with the Burden Run and the Naughty Nancy. I still remember watching the heat of Froning, Khalipa and Bridges go head-to-head on the Naughty Nancy event in which I believe each of them went unbroken, completing all four rounds of 25 overhead squats at 145 pounds. Combine the 25 overhead squats with running up the stairs and over the berm for a total of about 600-700m each round you quickly realize the impressiveness of the performance you are witnessing. I remember thinking to myself, I'm really happy I'm sitting in the seats and not actually doing this.
- 2014 had the Triple 3 event on Friday morning which was a very long event ending for most athletes when it was very hot outside. The final event in 2014 was the double grace. Which by that point of the weekend was just plain mean.
- the point I am trying to make with this brief history is that people know what they're getting into. Or, at least they should know. With that said I believe you should always err on the side of caution when it comes to your most valuable asset, the athletes.
Short Discussion on Validation:
- every year, without fail, the program design of the Games is always placed under a microscope.
- every year, without fail, there are critics that think the design was absolutely horrific.
- every year, without fail, the athletes and HQ defend the program design stating how amazing it was.
- I don't think validation of the programming by the athletes themselves adds any credibility. The main reason for this is that the athletes are competing against one another will do whatever is required to achieve their goal. That's why they're at the elite level of this sport, they don't make excuses like the rest of us.
- I also don't believe it to be a very good practice when the organizers/supporters spend so much of their time defending their position and stating reasons why others are wrong and they are right. If you are constantly having to defend what you believe in the face of much criticism from various points then it may be wise to reevaluate the process in which the final product of the program layout occurs.
- just because an event itself is damn near impossible does not make it the best test of fitness.
- if the focus of the program design is on rewarding sustainability then the design will not always reward capability.
- everyone must be aware that making tests that cause the athletes to suffer and endure is very, very easy. To me, the magic of a great program design is in its ability to select and separate individuals without having to excessively leverage their well-being in order to realize this.
For a complete run down on what the actual event were, go here.
Wednesday, July 22th
Event 1 - Pier Paddle
Duration - 45-60 minutes for most
Energy System Tested - Aerobic Power
Winning Characteristics - swimming proficiency, arm pulling endurance, breathing/relaxation in the water
- how much different would the overall standings have been if they had only done the first swim and completely left out the paddling aspect?
- I'm sure for many of the athletes the second swim would pose quite a challenge given that their arms would have gone through potentially 3000 repetitions during the paddling portion of the event. This was a very simple way of rewarding the most efficient summers.
- swimming as a modality produces a relatively low heart rate (unless you are scared to death of sharks like Joe Scali) and generally lower cardiac output when compared with other modalities such as biking, rowing or running at maximum efforts. This is due to the nature of the movement and positioning of the body. When you keep that position and lay on the paddle board but also remove the use of your legs the cardiac output and in general aerobic capacity aspect becomes quite diminished and it becomes an event determined by pulling endurance with the arms and navigating your paddle board.
- this was a great event to start the games with as it was quite an epic scene. I for one was running up and down the pier following my athlete’s progress on the swim portions. I remember watching Lindsay Valenzuela pass Alex Parker in the last hundred meters of the swim to finish the event.
- I am not a fan of having swimming being the chosen modality for an endurance event unless it is incorporated with multiple other movements. I generally feel there are many other modalities that are better suited to test endurance and more applicable to human capacity than swimming is (i.e. long distance running or carrying, biking, hiking, etc.). However, I can see the value in being able to be a proficient swimmer and how it would be beneficial in arguing for this being a test of the fittest on earth.
Event 2 - Sandbag 2015
Duration - 8-10 minutes for the top athletes
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Recovery + Aerobic Power
Winning Characteristics - height/arm length, strategy, grip strength/endurance, single leg endurance
- much better than 2010. Everything about this event was better than 2010. The weight of the sand bags and the design of the wheelbarrow was much more applicable to today's athletes.
- the reason this event was a good one for testing is that it is just straight work. It's unfortunate that the height of the wall played a factor in athletic success in the event as your strategy had to change based on your height.
- there was a tonne of necessary grip strength and grip insurance at numerous different angles of lifting during this event. Grip strength and grip endurance it is likely one of the least talked about physical characteristics. However, those who possess it know its value.
- Using the red bag to signify the last bag of the event was also a great idea as the audience was able to see the progression of who was close to finishing.
- going up the stairs while carrying those bags did not look easy. I can only imagine the amount of upper body, core and leg endurance being imposed on the athlete.
- athletes that we're on the end lanes had an advantage as they had the stairs to themselves and did not have to share space. Although, I'm sure they were told that they're not allowed to use both sets of stairs but it did allow them more room from maneuvering up and down the stairs.
- I have a feeling that the sumo dead lift high pull lobbyists will be using this event to validate their arguments in the future for the functionality of that ridiculous movement.
Friday, July 24th
Event 3 - Murph
Duration - 38-45 minutes for the top times
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Recovery + Aerobic Power
Winning Characteristics - pacing, postural endurance, upper body pushing/pulling relative stamina, squatting stamina
- the first time I ever did this was back in 2008. I did it with a 20lbs vest. I did not do the pull-ups, push-ups and squats as 100, 200, 300. I did them as 20 rounds of 5, 10, 15. The way I did it is much faster and less grueling, but it hurts more because there's less resting and more continuous working.
- clearly the pull-up bars we're hot enough to cook food. Based on the amount of blisters and tape on people's hands following that event you could imagine that the pull-ups we're probably anything but pleasant. The pull-up bars need to be covered to ensure that they don't get so hot the athletes cannot safely use them. Many people have already pointed this out and previous years have shown this as well. If the athlete rips their hands severely this will negatively impact basically everything they do.
- the pull-up and push-up portions we're the most determinant of placing. Yet again, upper body relative strength/endurance is the determining factor. Although, there was a large difference in the speed of reps once the athletes got to the squatting portion. It was quite interesting to watch athletes like Samantha Briggs just pound out the squats with a consistent rhythm and body position. It was also quite interesting to watch Camille perform 300 squats with what looked like close to 300 different techniques.
- the slight variance of having to wear a vest to perform pull-ups, push-ups and squats is a great little twist.
- however, having to wear that vest clearly added to the level of heat and sweating by the athletes. Even though previous years have had events that were also long and held in very hot weather they did not have the athletes wearing body armor.
- I have no issue with the Murph event itself. I just think the event should've been placed earlier in the day to at least try to mitigate some of the unfortunate events that occurred. However, due to the size and scale of the games I am not sure how flexible the schedule can actually be.
Event 4 - Speed Snatch Ladder
Duration - 30 seconds in the 1st wave to over a minute by the end
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Potential + ATP-CP Recovery
Winning Characteristics - fast set-up, contractile speed, precision
- in case you haven't been following the open, regionals or games for the past five years let me help you. Rarely, and I mean rarely, is a snatch or clean and jerk performed in a similar setting as would be expected in a weightlifting meet. Every year that a snatch or clean jerk is performed at the games for a max effort of some kind it is typically in concert with it unknown scenario. The last when I can think of where it was a max lift without much else involved was in 2009 when we were to establish a one rep max snatch. However, back then not many of us really knew what we were doing.
- in 2012 there was a clean ladder, however this was after a grueling event earlier in the day of sled pushing and rope climbs.
- in 2013 there was a clean and jerk ladder, however this was after the Naughty Nancy event which included 100 overhead squats at 145/95 pounds for those that finished.
- in 2014 there was a clean speed ladder, however this was a new layout for individuals and was taken place on the Saturday night.
- in 2015 there is the snatch speed ladder, however this was done after Murph.
- in 2015 there was also a clean and jerk max, however there were only two attempts allowed and this was also on the Saturday evening of competition.
- one of the things that continues to occur in fitness competition is that your technique and process for lifting has to be adjustable to the scenario. Refining and mastering the set up for max effort snatch and clean and jerk attempts is paramount. However, being unable to adjust will ultimately cause you to fail. The different set-up positions and timings need to be practiced.
- one of the most obvious things to see with speed ladders like in 2014 and again this year is that the speed of muscular contraction of athletes varies substantially at high loads. Samantha Briggs would be considered someone with the slow contraction speed. If you compare her to Brooke Ence, you will see two totally different people. Obviously, the fact that Brooke is stronger than Samantha makes her look faster at the same weight. But, Brooke has the ability to lift max effort attempts faster then Samantha can lift her max efforts (google: contractile speed and muscle fibre type).
Event 5 - Heavy DT
Duration - 12 minute time cap for most
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Recovery + Aerobic Power
Winning Characteristics - pacing, movement efficiency, overhead competency
- Nick Urankar finished 2nd on the CJ 1 RM, but finished 29th on the Heavy DT
- EZ Muhammad finished 7th on the CJ 1 RM, but finished 31st on the Heavy DT
- Rob Forte finished 32nd on the CJ 1 RM, but finished 4th on the Heavy DT
- Ben Smith finished 2nd on the CJ 1 RM and also finished 1st on the Heavy DT
- Brooke Ence finished 1st on the CJ 1 RM, but finished 18th on the Heavy DT
- Annie Thorisdottir finished 28th on the CJ 1 RM, but finished 4th on the Heavy DT
- Katrin Davidsdottir finished 10th on the CJ 1 RM and also finished 2nd on the Heavy DT
- the main thing to take away from these results is that strength will not predict work capacity in events like this, even if the event involves a relatively high load barbell movement for multiple reps. Of course, being strong helps you move the bar with greater ease, assuming your technique is efficient. However, that aerobic system is the back bone that runs these performances. Unless you are fit in this way, you have no chance of finishing high on an event like this.
- the women's weight should have been 135lbs if the men's weight was 205lbs. 145lbs on the bar for women was slightly too heavy.
- why was the audience, both at home and at the event, allowed to have a say? Obviously, this creates more interest for some. Does it create more validation for the Games to be considered the best test of fitness? Changing the loading on this event and the overall work volume (i.e. Heavy DT vs. double DT) WILL cause a difference in the standings and the overall subsequent performance of the athletes on Saturday/Sunday. You would likely see athletes like Sam Briggs and Jacob Heppner finish high on the double DT option, when compared to their finishes on the Heavy DT.
- I would assume that if the regular length barbell were used in this event you would see faster times for everyone. Mainly because the cycling of the hang power cleans and shoulder to overhead would be easier.
- bending posture/stamina is poor amongst main competitors, teams, masters and teens included. The 205lbs on the deadlift for the men, 145lbs for the women is not a challenging load for few reps. For multiple reps, obviously things change. When it’s for time, things change. When several thousand people are cheering for you to go faster, obviously things change. But, those other factors didn’t seem to change aspects of other events (i.e. technique on the Snatch Speed Ladder). I am not entirely sure why this is occurring at the highest level of the sport.
- 16/39 Women finished within the time cap
- 19/40 Men finished within the time cap
Event’s 6 and 7 - Sprint Course 1 and 2
Duration - about 20 seconds
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Potential
Winning Characteristics - agility, speed, athleticism, timing
- IMO, the simplest of events are the most exciting. From many accounts, this was the most exciting event to watch.
- I really liked the combination of the zig-zag + a decent distance for sprinting + 3 hurdles. To then run it in reverse was a great touch. Added an additional element of adaptability.
- However, due to the additional components involved in the event, it was not really a fatigue repeatability design as the athletes were “learning” as they went through on the first one (event 6). What I mean by it wasn’t a true fatigue repeatability design is that some athletes (60% of Women, 47% of Men), because of their learning, were able to go faster on the 2nd run than the 1st. Which, in a true design, that % should be closer to 0% (i.e. 30 sec max cals on AirBike/30 sec rest/30 sec max cals on AirBike). However, the 2nd sprint was indeed in reverse, not an exact replica.
- ALL of the top 7 women overall finishers went faster on the 2nd run when compared to the 1st. Adaptability and physiology!
- 3 out of the top 7 men overall finisher went faster on the 2nd run when compared to the 1st. I would assume that there were less men able to go faster on the 2nd run due to a general notion that on average males have slower Creatine Phosphate recovery (read - short term maximal power recovery) than women, as seen in my testing results.
- the hurdles were NOT a test of jumping, they were more of a test to see who couldn’t maneuver them in an efficient manner. I remember watching Stacie Tovar on the start line and picking her to win her heat. Turns out she couldn’t time the jump over the hurdle correctly, which lost her a lot of time. The ability to manoeuvre the hurdles AND maintain your stride was paramount. From watching Anna Tunnicliffe, she landed on her right leg each time she jumped the hurdles (if memory serves me correct).
- this was not about who was the fastest or most powerful, IMO, as there were too many slow/enduring athletes that finished really high. The reason they would have finished his is that they are proficient runners (i.e. Anna Tunnicliffe, Kristin Holte, Alex Parker, the men’s side is less obvious).
Event 8 - Soccer Chipper
Duration - 4:30 mins at the fastest to 12 min cap
Energy System - ATP-CP Potential + ATP-CP Recovery
Winning Characteristics - hip extension speed, grip strength/stamina, upper body pulling relative strength
- 27 out of 38 men (71%) completed the event under the time cap. Men have greater upper body relative pulling strength compared to women.
- 7 out of 38 women (18%) completed the event under the time cap. The Women's pig was too heavy for it’s size.
- this event was boring. Slow and uneventful (unless your name is Ben Smith).
- the 50ft unbroken HS walk is always challenging. I think the 250ft HS Walk for time at the Regionals should have had a larger requirement for minimum distance, which was 10ft. 10ft is a lot different than 50ft. I could slog my way though 250ft with 10ft increments, no chance I could manage 5 x 50ft unbroken. Just an observation.
- there was quite a huge difference between people that could move that pig and those that could barely get a few done. Some people, especially Spencer Hendel, really made that pig flip look easy.
- the addition of a fat rope for 2 of the legless rope climbs seemed redundant to me.
- once you fail a legless rope climb, it’s all over - see Matt Fraser. I felt so bad for him. I knew once he failed once that he probably wasn’t going to finish the event. This being based on personal experience failing that movement and observational experience year after year watching athletes fail that movement and knowing the required recovery time on that event. What comes to mind seeing a top athlete get humbled by legless rope climbs was back in 2013 when Camille failed repeatedly on the Thruster/Legless Rope Climb event. She continued to fail, even on a 45 seconds rest. Once you fail that movement, you need a LONG recovery time. In a competition like the Games, an extra 30 seconds rest must seem like an eternity.
Event 9 - Clean and Jerk, 1 RM
Duration - few seconds
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Potential
Winning Characteristics - strength, power, speed, efficiency, strategy
- if the Clean and Jerk was placed on Wednesday, it would have been a much more exciting event as the loads being lifted would be MUCH higher on average, for obvious reasons. Placing the Clean and Jerk at this point in the weekend makes for a very different experience, as does the rule of only 2 attempts.
- HQ does a good job, or at least I think they do, of making people realize that they had better get good at weightlifting in various scenario’s. They do this every year. Yes, there will be some kind of max effort weightlifting, but it will not be served to you in the typical scenario. For example, Dmitry Klokov’s max Clean and Jerk is 242kg’s, but HQ wants to know what his max Clean and Jerk is with a mild to severe case of Rhabdo.
- for the top athletes, they are still going to hit near or above the 1RM’s, regardless of what they have been put through. Rich hit a 365lbs Clean and Jerk as part of the Team competition. Ben Smith said that his Clean and Jerk of 347lbs was close to his best. Davidsdottir has a listed Clean and Jerk max of 98kg/216lbs, who knows if that is up to date. But, she did hit a 217lbs Clean and Jerk during this event. Bottom line, you HAVE to be able to recovery between events and over the entire weekend if you want to be able to compete at the highest level. Possessing this ability requires the athlete the eat enough of the right food, get enough quality sleep, progress to a point where they can safely handle a large volume of quality training and develop their network of blood/mitochondria/02 delivery - a.k.a. aerobic system. However, you don’t always need to test certain things to know certain things…based on the other available test/data, you could confidently assume who would be best a this type of an event (i.e. max Clean and Jerk when you are beat to a pulp), even if you did the event in a fresh/non-fatigued setting (which would make for a better fan experience and a safer event overall).
- having 2 attempts really makes for some tension on the 1st attempt. The flow of the event was great. Allowing only 1 athlete lift at a time gives the audience the ability to focus and also allows the athlete the opportunity to be in the spotlight, something they have worked very hard for. I believe this was introduced to the Games in 2014 with the OHS. This was a great addition.
- you don't need to train in this scenario to be good at this scenario…meaning, it still makes the most sense to train to improve your Clean and Jerk in a non-fatigued scenario instead of trying to improve it in a fatigued state.
Event 10 - Triangle Couplet <— what does this even mean?
Duration - 4-6 minutes for the top athletes
Energy System Tested - depends
Winning Characteristics - grip/hand health, pressing/pulling strength of arms, squatting speed
- this was a very predictive event for the male athletes. ALL of the overall finishing top 10 males finished in the top 10 on this event. That sounds weird, but it is true. The spread of times for the top 10 males was 4:43 to 5:39.
- However, the top 10 women in this event was not predictive of overall placing. The spread of times for the top 10 women was 4:47 to 6:53.
- The reason for the faster male times is simple (like you would see in Murph and the Soccer Chipper), upper body relative strength/stamina.
- Camille finished 1st in the Bar Muscle-up event from 2014 (21-15-9 Complex) and also finished 1st in this event.
- I thought this event was going to be much more exciting, but, it wasn’t. I really like the design of it and the weight selection.
- energy system utilization for this event would greatly depend on your ability/time. For the males/females finishing in the bottom 5 of this event they will be taking lots of breaks/rest/fractions during the event (mainly during the bar muscle-up portion). Some people took 2x (or more) as long to finish this event as the top competitors…this is not a slight on them, this just means that the ATP required to produce their performance would be derived, to a much greater extent, from Creatine Phosphate.
Event 11 - Midline Madness
Duration - 12-14 minutes for the top athletes
Energy System Tested - Aerobic Power
Winning Characteristics - Pacing, Running
- I really liked this event.
- mainly, this was a running event. If you run well, you did well. If you can't run, you didn't. The yoke did not effect things too much, but it did add an extra unwanted pounding on the legs.
- I witnesses athletes wearing WEIGHTLIFTING BELTS for this event. Why would you have to wear a belt for an event like this. The yoke was not nearly heavy enough for these athletes to require this. Maybe it is entirely a mental thing? The real answer is that these individuals need to train accordingly to fix this issue. Not to mention how much time is wasted by adjusting the belt prior to and after the yoke carry. Breathing is the most important part of this event, why wear something that negatively effects that?
- Because the yokes were not too heavy, they were basically just glorified lane markers, which did make for awesome viewing for the spectators.
- I told my one athlete, Alex Parker, to "go for glory" on this event. Running is her strength. However, she went a bit too hard on the inclines/declines of running the berm and stairs. She was on pace to win her heat after 3 rounds, then her legs EXPLODED. Oh well, at least she went for it. Like I said, pacing is critical!
- This is a gruelling event. Having to push the pace on the stairs and up the inclines is challenging. There are many times in events like this that make the athletes just want to walk for a few steps. This event would have worked out to basically just be 12-14 minutes of pure pain.
- Sam Briggs would have finished in 8th position on the Men's side of the competition with her time. Wow!
- Sam Briggs and Jacob Heppner won this event. Sam Briggs finish 34th on Sprint Course 1 and 31st on Sprint Course 2. Jacob Heppner finish 31st on Sprint Course 1 and 34th Sprint Course 2.
Event 12 - Pedal To The Metal 1
Duration - 6 min Cap for most
Energy System Tested - ATP-CP Potential/Recovery for most
Winning Characteristics - do you own a pegboard? have you ever used a pegboard? Upper Body pulling strength, adaptability.
- Men have greater upper body relative strength than women, which accounts for the following results.
- 12 of 36 Men did not achieve 1 successful Pegboard Ascent.
- 19 of 36 Men did not make it past the Pegboard Ascents.
- 6 Men finished the event.
- 25 of 37 Women did not achieve 1 successful Pegboard Ascent.
- 34 of 37 Women did not make it past the Pegboard Ascents.
- 0 Women finished the event.
- This event was an absolute snooze fest. Without a doubt, the least entertaining event to appear in the CrossFit® Games finals. However, the race between Mat and Ben was a good one. The crowd got really into that part.
- the pegboard is not actually that hard to do if you have the chance to practice on it. However, if you have never used it before, it is hard to get used to that movement within 6 minutes. You have to learn how to use your legs, how to shift you body weight while holding the peg, etc. When I first tried a pegboard, I thought it was impossible. But, 5 minutes later, it did not seem that hard anymore.
- the rower and the airbike were used is a very poor manner in this event. They were just there.
- the single arm db squat snatch is quite the challenging movement, encompassing many critical components from requisite shoulder mobility, mobility through all portions of the squat, rotational stability, etc.
Event 13 - Pedal To The Metal 2
Duration - 6 min Cap for most
Energy System Tested - Aerobic Power + ATP-CP Recovery
Winning Characteristics - Upper Body Relative Pushing Strength, Kipping Proficiency, Grip Strength, Deadlift Strength
- Men have greater upper body relative strength than women, which accounts for the following results.
- 20/36 Men finished this event.
- 10/37 Women finished this event.
- this event was more exciting than Pedal To The Metal 1, simply due to the fact that more athletes made it past the 1st gymnastic component of the event.
- one thing that bothered me from this event was that if you did not complete even 1 successful pegboard ascent, you finished 13th, why not last place? Tia-Claire Toomey completed 1 successful pegboard ascent, which gave her 6th in the event. Tia finished in 2nd place overall. Not saying that Katrin did not deserve it, but if you don't successfully complete even 1 portion of the event, should you not automatically finish last?
- Katrin Davidsdorttir made a smart decision and basically just stopped trying to attempt the Pegboard with about 3 minutes remaining in Event 12. Giving her 5 minutes of total rest before beginning the of Event 13. Going into this event, she was 17 points behind Sigmundsdottir.
- In both the Men's and the Women's final it was basically a winner take all between the top 2 athletes (Mat vs. Ben and Sara vs. Katrin).
- The HSPU portion decided the winner. For the women, Katrin finished her 12 HSPU about 3 minutes faster than Sara. For the men, Ben finished his HSPU about a 1:15-1:30 min faster than Mat. In a short event like this, overcoming that deficit is impossible.
- before this event began I had flash backs of sitting in the Tennis Stadium watching Jason Khalipa completely blow-up on paralette handstand push-ups from the 2012 Games event of deficit handstand push-ups and med ball carries. He started his 7th and final HSPU at 5:25. He failed the final HSPU 7 times. It took him about 2:30 min to finish the last HSPU. It was hardcore back then, your head had to touch steel at the bottom of the HSPU's! When Mat failed his last HSPU on this event it was like reliving that Khalipa moment. Mat failed his 12th and final HSPU 3 times, costing his 50 seconds, and ultimately, the title of "Fittest Man on Earth". Sara also failed numerous reps, costing her the title of "Fittest Women on Earth”.