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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Darcy Tackles the 2018 CrossFit Open

Let me start by saying I am an endurance guy. I have done bunch of Ironman's, a few Ultra-marathon's; I just love the endurance side of things.  With that said I am not the strongest, not even close to being so, as compared to the other athletes in our box at CrossFit WHL.  I have been working out with Bobby Tran and the WHL crew since late 2014, shortly after we started selling our Infinit Strength Blends there. After dropping off product to their gym, I was intrigued and felt like it would really help with my limiters - strength and flexibility. It has helped with both. I hadn't been consistently going to the box for 6 months; lots of traveling and biking, it was gnawing at me every time I would leave work, I felt guilty.  You see in late 2016 CrossFit WHL moved right next door to Infinit - hard to hide!  Part of setting up a great 2018, I reached out to a few friends and got them to commit to joining me daily at 5:00 pm.  Right now we are 3X a week, moving to 5 days a week soon.  It has been great being back routinely.

I wasn't sure I was ready to sign up for the CrossFit Open this year, but decided to do it and face the music.  Of course as a 50 year old athlete and one that hasn't developed all the gymnastics moves and strength (YET), I needed to sign up for the Scaled division. For those outside the CrossFit world, the Open consists of 5 weeks, each week on Thursday night the workouts get announced - the RX version of the workouts and also the scaled versions.  Anxious moments, what will the workout be?  They are always tough, but will they expose my limiters or not.  You have from Thursday to Monday at 8 pm to complete the workout. The workouts are judged by one of the certified coaches and your score is entered on the CrossFit Leaderboard.  Here is how my open went; tough, humbling and rewarding.  My goal was to finish in the top half (a stretch would be top third) of the 32,000 athletes from around the world that signed up for the scaled version of the open.

Open Week 1

Workout 18.1: 20 min AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of 8 knees to chest, 10 Hang Clean and Jerks (35 lb dumbbell) and 14 Calories on the Rower.

I was happy to see this workout.  I am decent at knees to chest, the 35 dumbbell would be heavy - but I should be able to keep moving through each set of 10 and I am a good rower.  Since I do my long rides Saturday mornings I chose to do the workout each week on Friday after work.

So I jump right in - Justin gets me all set up, gym is quiet with only about 10 people there and I am doing the workout alone, which is fine.  The hanging knee raises were quick and doable, the real meat of the workout for me was taking the 35lb dumbbell from my side up to my shoulder and then pressing over my head.  My first set was rough - didn't quite have the technique optimized, but it would get better.  The row - I managed to average 1350 cal/hr which is a good pace without gassing myself.  So now just keep cycling through these 3 movements for 20 minutes.  I vividly remember looking at the clock and realizing I was only 5 minutes in and thought to myself "this is going to hurt."

The 8 knees to chest remained uneventful, other then tearing my skin on one of my fingers ~ this movement requires a lot of gripping.  The dumbbell work is where I really needed to focus and force myself to keep moving - if you get the technique wrong, you tend to muscle it up and waste too much energy.  The row was the row - every time I sat down, I was in my happy place (endurance junkie, remember?).  I finished with a total of 345 reps - and gave it all I had!  I was 3420th out of 32000 athletes so I was pretty happy!

Open Week 2

Workout 18.2: Broken into 2 components with a combined 12 minute time cap.

Workout 18.2a: 35 lb dumbbell squats and bar-facing burpees, ascending ladder 1-2-3-4.....10 as quickly as possible.

Workout 18.2b: Max clean in the time you have remaining from the start of 18a and the 12 min mark.

This workout was met with mixed emotions - decent at cycling through squats and burpees, but my strength and technique on the hang cleans is going to hurt me.

So another Friday and I take on the workout.  This time got to do the workout with Matt - a fellow Workhorse.  So you hop into it.. 1 squat, 1 burpee, 2 squats, 2 burpees....5 squats, 5 burpees....this is feeling all right.  Then round 7 comes, and it hits you! I have a fused wrist and my grip strength on the dumbbells was failing which forced me to break up the sets of 8, 9 and 10 and lose precious time.  Finish the round of 10 at 9:37.  Now I have a couple of minutes to do my max clean - I surprised myself with 122lb - a personal best for me at the time, but I know I can do better!  So the next day was at the In-House Open workout when the majority of the CrossFit WHL crew complete their sessions - we were actually sampling our Cold Brew.  Watching 60 or so athletes I was able to observe some of the different techniques on the squats - a bunch of folks had the weight of the dumbbell supported on the shoulder - when I saw this I was happy but sour as I knew I would have to repeat the workout (once was enough!). During my first attempt, I held the dumbbells in front of my chest - more taxing on the grip and your arms in general.

I completed my second attempt Monday morning - without grip strength being an issue I was able to go unbroken through all of the squats. My time for 18a improved to 7:15, placing me at 3150 overall - thrilled!  But now the ying and yang - my improved clean of 127 placed me at 20280 overall, better than originally, but not where I want to be - I know now I have to pay a little more attention to the Olympic Lifts.

Open Week 3:

Workout 18.3: 2 rounds for time of 100 single under skips, 20 reps of 45 lb overhead squats, 100 skips, 12 pull-ups, 100 skips, 20 alternating 35 lb dumbbell snatches, 12 pull-ups, with a 14 minute time cap.

Oh crap!  I have never done a pull up without a band.  I had done a few chin-ups, palms facing in, but never unassisted chin over bar pull-ups.  The rest of the movements were fine - man I was in trouble.

As expected I get through the 100 skips, 20 overhead squats and then a 100 more skips fine.  Now to the bar - I have never done one and now I have a set of 12.  To my surprise I can do one.  I rested and did another, and repeated that.  I got through the round of 12 - crazy.  Got the skips, snatches done and then back to the bar - ! was able to get another 3 in before the 14 minutes were up.  Both humbling yet exciting to know that I can do a pull-up! That's what the open is about - pushing yourself to do things you wouldn't otherwise try.

The Open really lets you know what your limiters are - ironically while I am completing my pull-ups, Coach Johnny is working with two athletes on gymnastic movements. They are focusing on optimizing their kip (swinging your body to assist with the "pull" movement a fluidity) - would have been a smart idea to learn that movement!  I knew that 455 reps would not place me well on that leaderboard, but I was crazy excited that I completed 15 pull-ups.  I placed 21,243.  Overall I was just about 10,500th out of the 32,000 - hanging on to top third.

Open Week 4:

Workout 18.4: 21 deadlifts (135 lb), 21 hand release push-ups, 15 deadlifts (135 lb), 15 hand release
push-ups, 9 deadlifts (135 lb), 9 hand release push-ups, 21 deadlifts (185 lb), 50 ft bear crawl, 15 deadlifts (185 lb), 50 ft bear crawl, 9 deadlifts (185 lb), 50 ft bear crawl.  9 min time cap.

Well again this is scary!  My personal best a bit ago when I was consistent in the box was245 lb deadlift - I am long way from that. In the last few weeks we had been cycling through deadlifts at 135 lb, so I knew I was ok with them, but the 185 would be a big jump.

At the start of the workout again on Friday night - I asked Coach Justin: "What have others done, how have they approached the sets - as far as breaking them up?"  He encouraged me to break things up with the 135's as the step up in weight under fatigue is tough. I did just that. I broke the first set up into two, the second the same and completed the 9 unbroken.  Ok first section done - then reality hits - I get over the bar at 185 and lift it - a lot different, only 50 extra pounds, but man it felt so much different. I believe I was breaking things up in 5-6 for the round of 21, did the bear crawl which was ok, but I am gassed!  Get over the bar for my round of 15 at a little over 7 min into the workout. I get 3-4 reps done and then break. I try to get right back down to the bar   but I feel the raw juice I drank an hour ago creeping up so I have to pause.  I manage to get done the 15 at 8:30 but now the bear crawl - I have to finish those - I need the reps!  I finish in a heap right at the 9 min mark.  Again I gave this everything I had and I learned more about what limits me.  Finished with a 146 reps, which placed me 10840th worldwide on in the scaled division, still hanging on for top third.

Open Week 5

Workout 18.5: Complete as many reps as possible in 7 min.  3 barbell thrusters (65 lb) - 3 jumping chin over bar pull-ups, 6 & 6, 9&9, 12&12.....up by 3 each time.

A relief that it was jumping chin over bar pull-ups; thrusters are a tough movement for me.  But overall it is an engine type of event.

Did the workout with Matt - he went first and was steady throughout - he kept moving the whole time, broke the sets of thrusters up after the round of 9.  He finished with an impressive 105 and I thought I would be right there with him after watching.  So I am off - whoa thrusters - after one Justin tells me to widen stance, that helps.  3 done and on to the jumping chin over bars, those as expected are just endurance - think the scaled athletes got a big break!  Cycle through the sixes and then to the nine - get them out, but you can really feel how this is creeping up on you.  Can't recall exact timing, but thought I had loads of time and am going to get far...yeah right.  On the 12's and 15's I have to break-up quite a bit, was gruelling.  I did get back to the bar for the round of 18 - managed to get the bar overhead 14 times - finished at 104 and was happy about my result.  Most happy with the way I felt and kept moving, gave it all I had; again I hope this was enough to keep me in the top third.  Wasn't about to repeat this one!

Tuesday was the first I looked at the leaderboard and I saw that I was 9381th for the workout, which put me at 8728th overall - will finish in top third.

Overall experience?  This was the first time that I signed up and competed.  When I signed up I wondered did I just spend $20 for no reason.  There was great value in signing up.  Each workout really mattered, seeing my name amongst the other athletes around the world and then thinking, what if I..... Knowing my results were going up and affected my overall placing was the reason I repeated 18.2 - I saw there was a better technique that could be used and had to try.  If I wasn't signed up I probably wouldn't have done 18.3, it has pull ups, I can't do those. However, in the heat of it I found out that I could a few, getting to 15 during the workout.  The Open really lets you know what your barriers or limiters are, and it already has me doing the weightlifting sessions, not just opting for the strength and metcons.

I can't say that I will ever compete in the Rx divisions, but being able to complete in the Scaled class was a blast - certainly appeals to my competitive nature, if top third this year, what can I do next year with continued work on weaknesses?

If you haven't checked out CrossFit - there will be a box near where you reside - check them out.  I go because I am an endurance junkie, the 3 - 5 times a weeks helps my strength, core-strength and my flexibility - these all make me stronger cyclist.  If you join and are at a CrossFit gym - sign up - worth every penny for me.

Suggested fuel for Crossfit/Strength athletes: Infinit X-CiteInfinit RescueInfinit Raw