Part 1 of 2
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 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 1 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 are 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.