2013 CF Games Review

(This is a pretty special picture. It was of me at the 2009 CF Games, during the final event on Sunday, the Chipper. Also of note is that this picture was taken at the exact time DJ Wickham was placed in the window that my arms and plate created. And, you can see all the folks from Calgary at the fence cheering us on. Pretty cool. Great memories from that weekend)

Disclaimer: Everything that follows is merely my opinion (Michael FitzGerald). It is not meant to be disrespectful to anyone mentioned. It is meant to serve as an educational piece. If you disagree with me on any points or would like some further explanation, please post your disagreement/request to the comment section below. I would like to hear from you and will do my best to give a good response (provided your criticism/request has merit and is not a personal attack). 

I attended the CF Games in the month of July 2013. For those unaware, they were held in Carson, California, USA. Few major differences this year than last year from the spectator's standpoint. First, the soccer stadium in the StubHub Center is an even better venue than the tennis stadium. It seats about 3x as many people which makes for a great atmosphere. Plus, it was much easier to just sit back and enjoy the competition in comfort (i.e. less sun exposure for this white Canadian). I wonder how long it will be before they end up using the entire soccer stadium and having the athlete area in a totally different place? Second, the vendor village was massive and had tonnes of awesome stops along the way. Lastly, having the Master's competition take place on the days before the Individual and Team competition was excellent. I was there for the Master's competition as well, coaching 3 of my clients (side note - I am pretty sure there were more spectators at the Master's competition this year than there were total fans at the 2010 Games). Overall, this year's Games were the best yet.

Master's stand-out performance:
- Amanda Allen (40-44 year old Female Master's) - she dominated! Watching her complete the first Master's event of the weekend (Nancy - 5 rds: 400m Run/15 OHS @ 65lb for females) was awesome. She came out of the gates FAST and hung on for the win. I believe her goal is to make it as an individual from the Australian Regional in 2014. That would be impressive.

Preliminary Analysis of Individual competition:
- the endurance event from 2013 (the row event) was no where near the same as the endurance event from 2012 (triathlon). This is easily observable from both the modailty selected and the results. Easy examples, Lindsey Valenzuela finished 21st on the Pendelton 2 last year and 5th on the Row 2 this year. Jason Khalipa finished 31st on the Pendelton 2 last year and 1st on the Row 2 this year. Both Lindsey and Jason placed higher overall at the 2013 Games when compared to the 2012 Games. Now, is this simply beacuse they improved overall, of course, but how much did this modality selection in the endurance event determine their "fitness"?
- there were some major placing differences from 2012 to 2013, here are some I took most note of (this is not meant to be a knock against any of the athletes, just an observation):
*Matt Chan - 2nd in 2012 to 21st in 2013
*Kyle Kasperbauer - 3rd in 2012 to 20th in 2013
*Daniel Tyminski - 14th in 2012 to 34th in 2013
*Camille Leblanc- Bazinet - 6th in 2012 to 16th in 2013
*Michelle Letendre - 24th in 2012 to 13th in 2013
What is meant to be gained here is that year to year there is a lot of mixing up going on amongst finishers. No doubt much of this can be attributed to the fact that people improve, people are injured, new people make it each year, yada, yada, yada. BUT, more importantly, how much of the change can be attributed to modality/testing selection alone?

Individual Event Anaylsis
Event 1
The Pool
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power
Characteristics: efficiency/skill with swimming, upper body stamina/endurance, control of breathing under stress
- I don't like swimming for fitness testing. But, I can understand why they implement it from their perspective. My reason for not liking it mostly stems from the fact that most everything we do as humans involves land. VERY few sports involve swimming (yes, I know even fewer sports involve barbells) and swimming is not nearly as accessible as most other modailities. To me it is too specific of a skill to be included in testing, as is handstand walks. But, that is just my opinion. If you use the arguement of "being ready for anything" or to be prepared for "life" then I would argue that rock climbing and mountaineering should be included too, along with some other potentially relevant tests.
- I was waiting for a pool event to be included with some other movement. I saw this coming, you just never know when.
- I was happy to see that they prohibited multiple bar muscle-ups. Very simply, wet hands + swinging on a steel bar = nothing good. This was good for safety.
- I asked a previous US nationally ranked swimmer if swimming should be included at the Games for fitness testing? Their reply was a resounding, "no".

Event 2 and 3
Row 21,097 m with a 2,000m check point.
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power for the 2k, Aerobic Endurance-ish for the 21,097m.
Characteristics: strategy on 2k, focus, will to suffer, postural stamina and grip stamina.
- Great test! I especially liked the 2,000m checkpoint as it made for some good strategy. If you went too hard on the row (i.e. above your aerobic capacity and dug into some oxygen indepenent glycolysis towards the end of the 2,000m distance) then this could have played havoc on your final 19,097m of rowing. But, I am sure if this did occur then these level of athletes would have been able to shake it off within a few minutes at most.
- based on the scores from the Men I am sure many of them went out slower than their potential for the 2,000m as the times were not especially fast.
- Jason Khalipa crushed these events. 6:21 is a really fast 2,000m row. 1:18:02 is a really fast 21,097m row.
- Sam Briggs crushed it too. 7:17 on the 2,000m row and 1:27:47 on the 21,097m row.
- Aja Barto is a mountain of a man. How he managed to finish 37th (Row 1) and 33rd (Row 2) on these events is beyond me. At his size, with no weight adjustment, he should have won both row events. I know his "make-up" is not the same as Jason's with regards to fiber type and "essence", but this just doesn't make sense. This is the type of event a big man like him should be going for and getting as many points as possible. But, as always, there will be more to the story (i.e. injury, strategy, etc.).
- Obviously weight and height play into this. Lucky us, Concept 2 has a weight adjustment calculator which allows you play with these scores. Here are some interesting points from the 21,097m Row:
Josh Bridges (5'5", 165lbs) - actual time = 1:22:18, adjusted time = 1:13:44
Jason Khalipa (5'9", 210lbs) - actual time = 1:18:02, adjusted time = 1:13:49
Rich Froning (5'9", 195lbs) - actual time = 1:20:14, adjusted time = 1:14:37
Dan Bailey (5'7", 180lbs) - actual time = 1:27:58 , adjusted time = 1:20:24
Aja Barto (6'5", 220lbs) - actual time = 1:24:47, adjusted time = 1:23:02.
*As you can see, this would change the scoring for the men. Josh Bridges would have finished ahead of Khalipa and Froning on that 21,097 m event. This would have made a massive difference for Josh in terms of placing by the end of the weekend. Also an important point to notice is that the smaller Josh Bridges finished ahead of Dan Bailey (and Aja Barto), even without weight adjustment. These 2 individuals are interesting to compare as they are somehat the same size but are VERY different "engines". Analyzing these individual differences is not "overy-complicated" or "useless". It is VERY important and relevant. 

Samantha Briggs (5"6", 132lbs) - actual time = 1:27:47, adjusted time = 1:14:52
Lindsey Valenzuela (5"6, 154lbs) - actual time = 1:30:04, adjusted time = 1:19:31
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (5'2", 130lbs) - actual time = 1:39:31, adjusted time = 1:24:35
*The weight adjustement only strengthens Samantha Brigg's performance here. Regardless of the individual "engines", it is pretty easy to see that height has a lot to do with performance on the rower. Both of the Canada East girls did not fair well on this event (Camille and Michelle Letendre). The difference in engines is evident in the lighter Briggs (enduring/stamina) beating the heavier Valenzuela (powerful/explosive) on a long distance rowing event. 

Event 4
Burden Run
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power/ATP-CP Battery
Characteristics: effieicncy and ease of flipping pig, speed of recovery b/t bouts
- what was the point in placing the 2.1 mile Run first? I could see if the 2.1 mile run was a checkpoint for points or if what followed was equally fast/consistent like the run. The following portions of the event were much more determining of a factor than the run. Just because running is included in an event does not mean it is being tested. 2 examples of the importance of the non running portions of this event are Jason Khalipa and Josh Bridges. If memory serves me correct Garret Fisher was first to the pig, and Josh Bridges was close behind. I don't know exactly when Jason Khalipa made it to the Pig, but it was not ahead of Josh or Garret. Josh fell behind at this point and Jason pushed into the lead, an impressive performance in itself. But, running was not a determining factor in this event. Flipping the pig and pulling the sled across the finish line were the most important aspects. When things like this occur I think a question should be asked...what if the event was only the pig flip, log carry and sled pull and no run included? Do you think we would get the same results? Each aspect of an event needs to be important or useful in prediciting fitness, assuming that is the point of the whole weekend. If it isn't, why is that aspect included in that event?
- that pig is cool! I want one. I think the pig load should have weighed less so it would have been easier/more aerobic and kept the event moving fast. This would also have made the run more important.
- as mentioned in the "Energy System Tested" portion above this could mainly be aerobic power for some people or mainly ATP-CP battery for some (which by the way is aerobically powered). Either way, if you have to take longer breaks b/t efforts on the pig flips and sled pulls it would be more "battery" based as in you are forced to wait a long time until that ATP-CP system recharges to an appropriate amount. If your breaks are really short then you are not being forced to wait for that recharge as you are moving in a sustainable/aerobic fashion and therefore it is less of a ATP-CP demanding/limiting event for you. 
- as a spectator, this was a cool event to watch. When the athletes first entered the stadium you could feel the energy raise tremendously.
- There was a little bit of rain on the grass during the sled pull portion which did make for some slipping.

Event 5
Zig Zag Sprint
Energy System Tested: ATP-CP Potential
Characteristics: Speed and agility
- this was a great event. I like the agility component with the pilons and the full acceleration across the finish line. 
- sprinting is basic/primal, but revealing. 
- generally those who finished well in the Zig Zag sprint did not do well overall.
- those who did well in the Zig Zag event did not do well in the "Naughty Nancy". These two events are near opposites in the type of person it rewards. And it showed. Ben Smith was the only male to finish in the top 10 in both events. Michelle Kinney was the only female to finish in the top 10 in both events.
- Samantha Briggs finished 25th overall in this event, Rich Froning finished 18th overall. This should be interesting to Coaches, as those who are most naturally "powerful" and "fast" are less likely to win the CF Games (Although, Marcus Hendren could be the guy to prove me wrong...he or Garret Fisher are my dark horses for 2014/2015). True power and speed are not rewarded in "the sport of fitness", strength, muscular endurance and aerobic capacity are. Train accordingly.
- i think if you are going to have a true "sprinting" event in the Games, then you should tell people about it. People need to prepare for this. Sprinting is not the same as other modalities. If you are not use to it and are not prepared for sprinting in cleats, then you can very easily tear your hamstring. I think this may have happend to one person. What is the harm in telling people sprinting will be involved?

Event 6
Energy System Tested: ATP-CP Battery (upper body specific)
Characteristics: Speed
- why were thrusters included in this event? They were not important.
- 72% of male competitors completed the event under the time cap.
- 5% of female competitors complete the event under the time cap.
- I will ask again...why are the male and female events the same? Females have less upper body strength relative to their mass when compared to males. Don't believe me? I don't care. "Numbers don't lie, check the scoreboard".
- This is a great example of an upper body "ATP-CP Battery" pulling tester. 
- Before the event started I was predicting their would be some serious failing going on. This is simply due to the fact that I do legless rope climbs on a regular basis. Once you fail a legless rope climb there is almost no coming back. The bicep/lat combo is a high fatigue group of muscles so once they reach muscular fatigue (i.e. failing a rep) the rest requred to perform the rope climb is going to be significant. One of the best/worst examples of this happening was to Camille Leblanc Bazinet. I think she failed her 4th rope climb 4-5 times. Once she failed on her first attempt at the 4th rope climb she needed to rest an additional 30 seconds in order to make the 15ft height. Unfortunately, this happened over and over. You can't "will" yourself to make it, you have to work within the lines of fatigue/recovery. Training can help this in 2 manners, 1) improve recovery time of ATP-CP system and 2) teach the individual what the appropriate "feeling" has to be to know when they are recovered enough to proceed. I am sure Camille did this in her training, she was just the example that came to mind.
- this event would have bee more exciting if the other movement was equally as slow and challenging as the rope climb, maybe 205lb thrusters for men, and 125lb for women? Obviously a much smaller rep range on the thrusters would be needed at this weight. But, at least the thrusters would have meant something.

Event 7
Naughty Nancy
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power
Characteristics: Upper body muscular endurance, breathing/relaxation under tension/load, stamina, pace
- I liked this event a lot. It was simple and effective. I thought the OHS load was a bit too high for both males and females, but there were tonnes of unbroken sets of 25 OHS by many different people. So, the weight wasn't too heavy for everyone. And, I am pretty sure the top 3 men and the top 3 women in this event did each round unbroken on the OHS. 
- Watching the event was also great. The running on the berm idea was perfect. It provided a great challenge to the competitor to keep moving their feet if they wanted to do well (side note - uphill running with tired quads is about as fun as running head first into a wall).
- I suck at OHS. Damn! This event would have destroyed me.
- The competitor had to keep a good pace each round if they were going to finish under the time cap. Also, going too fast on round 1 could put you out of it as the insuing fatigue could be too much to recover from. You had to find YOUR pace and roll with it. 
- why put 100 OHS @ 140lbs/95lbs into an event 2-3 hours before a max clean and jerk event? The only thing you will accomplish is having individuals perform worse on the Clean and Jerk event. For those reading this piece, testing like this may not get anyone hurt...but training like this will. Train smart.

Event 8
Clean and Jerk Ladder
Energy System Tested: ATP-CP potential
Characteristics: strength, power, speed, agility and focus
- where else in the world are you going to be able to witness 20,000+ spectators watching and cheering for clean and jerks? Olympics, maybe? The atmosphere was unreal for this event. Most spectators knew exactly what was going on and when a BIG weight was being attempted. Watching the females lift was as exciting, if not more, than the men. Amanda Goodman threw down!
- I like how they have began to use self selected start weights on these ladder's. This will alleviate a lot of issues of individuals having to attempt too many weights before they reach their max. But, why not allow individuals to self select weights and loading schemes? If you want to see true potential, then this is how it should be done.
- Main critique is why do this event mere hours after the Naughty Nancy event? Is the idea to see who can lift the most with fatigued legs/shoulders or is the idea to see who can lift the most? Is your true potential more important to fitness OR is your potential while fatigued more important?

Event 9
Energy System Tested: Aerobic Power (especially for the fastest individuals)
Characteristics: chin-up efficiency and grip/chin-up stamina
- this workout may have been appropriate in 2007, but not now. The competitors are better now, we get it. One thing that was really funny was when they announced this event and went through the jumbotron video description and managed to not mention my brothers name once...hmmm? Not really sure why you would, he only won the Games that year.
- why 125 chin-ups? What does this tell you about someone that you hadn't already tested for? High rep kipping chin-ups is the most over used and over rated modailities as far as fitness testing is concerned.
- the rogue rigs were pretty damn cool.
- again, the row and the push jerk were not overly important. Could this event have been done as 125 chin-ups alone? Obviously getting a slight edge on the row is important, but most people won't try to push the 1k Row pace like they would during the "Jackie" event at Regionals.

Event 10
Sprint Chipper
Energy System Tested: not sure...could have predominantly been ATP-CP battery for those that really struggled with the weight of the power snatch, could have been more aerobic for the top competitors that did everything unbroken through the power snatches. A few people could have gotten pretty lactic during this too if the load of the snatch/intensity overall really made them push hard to finish.
Characteristic: Speed of movement
- nice to see a short event thrown in there.
- GH Sit-ups should not be included in fitness testing.
- the wall traverse aspect of the burpee made for some adaptation needs for the athletes to figure out the fastest strategy/technique.
- fun to watch.

Event 11
The Cinco 1 
Energy System Tested: ATP-CP Battery
Characteristics: lower body strength, balance, flexibility and coordination
- really fun to watch, especially when Rich Froning passed Ben Smith to take the win.
- not a good fitness test. It's all over the place.
- I get the idea that the top competitors should be able to do this event based on their (CF) definition, but I think displaying the ability to run a sub 6 min mile (7 min for females) is more relevant to fitness than the ability to do handstand walks, or the ability to perform a 9ft ish (7ft ish for females) broad jump instead of doing pistols with a KB. Both of the aformentioned tests were not included. I don't doubt that many of the competitors can complete these tests, but they are not exactly difficult standards either.
- if you wanted to see who can deadlift the most why not do it as a single event? If you wanted to ensure only those that can deadlift 405lbs easily make it to the Games, put it in the Regionals.
- comparing Dan Bailey and Josh Bridges is also quite interesting in this event too. What was quite evident is that Josh is not a strong/powerful as Dan. This is simply due to Josh's nature. He is a monster of a competitor for endurance/muscular endurance dominant events (Pool, Row 2, Legless, Naughty Nancy, 2007 and Cinco 2). While Dan excels in basically the opposite events when compared to Josh. Do yourself a favour and look through the leaderboard at the variation in placings for Dan (8th place overall) vs. Josh (7th place overall). You will be hard pressed to find individuals as similar in size (I know Josh is smaller) and so very different in abilities.

Event 12
The Cinco 2
Energy System Tested: ATP-CP Battery
Characteristics: upper body strength/stamina
- again, really fun to watch. Again, watching Rich Froning overtake Josh Bridges and go on to win was great to see. Not to mention how easy he makes it all look, impressive.
- a better event than Cinco 1.
- as I mentioned in my "Long Overdue Regional Review" I am always surprised at how impressive competitors are at some things, but not as at others. And, lunging is definitely one of those things that the CF world could use some work on. But, kind of hard to say after all the leg work in the prior events and the fatigued arms from the MU's and HSPU's.
- Not surprisingly the men did better on this event then the women. The amount of upper body strength/stamina required for the Ring MU's and HSPU's favours the men.
- only 17% of men finished Cinco 2, but 90% of men made it through the MU/HSPU portion under the time cap.
- only 7% of women finished Cinco 2 and only 43% of women made it through the MU/HSPU portion under the time cap.
- 70% of men tied for 7th place on the event. 70%. That is WAY too many people receiving the same score, when they probably didn't actually tie if you went to video review.

FYI - I am already looking forward to making the trip to Carson for the 2014 CF Games.