Last weekend I competed in what was my second Rainhill Trials and it didn’t disappoint! The first time I competed at Rainhill was in February 2016 and the two days presented completely different learning experiences.

February was my first real test against some incredible athletes. I didn’t know it at the time as I was still new to the CrossFit scene but I competed alongside some excellent athletes. For instance, former Regionals competitor Pete Howe (CrossFit Taunton) and 451 Open place finisher Jamie Emblow (Form, Leeds) were in the February competition. I managed to finish 10th after four workouts and secured a place in the final, which I was over the moon with after two disaster workouts involving pullups.

Rainhill Trials, February 2016

Rainhill Trials is one of the biggest and best organised CrossFit competitions you will see in the UK. Train’s Matt Foster is in charge of the event and each time I have been to compete or spectate it has been flawless. Securing a place is by ballot system; you enter the ballot and if you get drawn you are in the competition regardless of your ability.  There are four categories (Wood, Rastrick, Kennedy and Rocket) ranging from beginners, through to the more advanced who are regular competitive crossfitters. The movements and weights are scaled appropriately and I’d recommend this competition to anyone who is new to Crossfit or anyone that wants to see how good they are in comparison to some of the best athletes in the UK. This time around the competition was bigger than ever before with 60 athletes in each of the four categories. An increase in the competition floor space meant that 30 athletes could workout at the same time so there were only two heats in each category. In my opinion, this made the day much better, mainly because there was less waiting around for long periods of time between heats. On the other hand, that meant less time to recover and it made it harder for spectators to watch two athletes who had been placed in the same heat. Another change to to Rainhill Trails was the introduction of a new rule: no bars were to be dropped from above waist height. The judges were strict and consistent on this which would mean a no rep was given for the rep prior to the drop. This was hard to incorporate as I am so used to dropping the bar from above my head regularly. Maybe I need to incorporate this discipline into my training, as during longer workouts at better competitions this is expected.

The struggle was real in the February Rainhill Trials 2016

The autumn Rainhill Trials were filled with other CrossFit Leeds athletes which made it all the more fun. In Sunday’s competition there were five athletes from our gym. It’s always nice to be competing alongside people you know as I find this decreases the nerves. This is also a testament to our gym and shows that we have athletes that want to get out and compete to better themselves through experience. I qualified in 7th position and so the pressure was on to equal this position or better it. However, the line-up for the Rocket category was incredible. It had no fewer than eight Battle of the Beasts competitors and two or three regional level athletes. These included; Leigh Bevan (CrossFit SA-1), Jonny Landers (Train, Manchester), Sam Robinson (Train, Manchester) Danny Campbell (CrossFit Leeds) and Kev Jackson (Form, Leeds) to name a few. I knew from the offset that it was going to be a tough day at the office and I planned to attack the workouts that I knew I could move fast throughout. Learning from my previous two competitions this autumn I knew I had to weigh up failure and risk going fast in my stronger workouts.

Workout 1 (5th place)

I hate DT! Everyone else had started their burpees…

In an 8-minute window:

  • 3 rounds of DT (12 deadlifts, 9 hang power cleans, 6 shoulder to overhead @ 70kg)

In the time remaining AMRAP of:

  • 10 bar over burpees
  • 20 double unders

I knew some people in this competition would fly through the DT as there were some strong athletes. However, I concentrated on where I would be strong…on the burpees!  I think that Leigh Bevan completed the three rounds of DT in 2:09, whereas mine was closer to four minutes. I knew I could never catch Leigh with a 1:30+ head start but what I could do was catch the other ten or so athletes that got off the DT up to one minute before me.  My aim was to continue moving and that I did. I managed four rounds and seven double unders to finish in 5th place for that workout. The big guys, as you’d expect, got gassed and I gradually overtook some of them throughout the burpees and double unders. I surprised myself with my score as I only managed three rounds in training and thought my DT was too slow to do any damage.

Workout 2 (4th place)

Target your ‘rest’ movement in longer workouts

AMRAP 7 minutes:

  • 7 thrusters @ 50kg
  • 7 pullups
  • 7 box jumps @ 24 inch

I was dreading this workout but knew I could push for a good finish with the correct mindset. With only a one-hour break between workout 1 and workout 2, it was hard to get pumped for this one. I was super stiff in the warm up and no one was ready for what was about to come. As we watched the heat before us people looked like they were in pain. After the workout, people did not move after falling to the floor for a good 30 seconds. I was in lane 7 during the day as I qualified in 7th. This was good in one way but bad in another. I could pace myself off Jonny Landels in lane 6, but boy does he move fast!!! I nearly cost myself a high placing on this workout through trying to go alongside him on a workout he would eventually go onto win. I learnt a hell of a lot from this workout about my pacing and what my body can handle. The pull-ups and thrusters were small enough sets for me to go unbroken on all eight rounds and I chose to use the box jumps to give myself a rest and lower my heart rate. This proved to be a useful tactic and alongside my sister and girlfriend screaming at me, it was very effective.

Workout 3 & 4 (20th and 6th place)

These lunges weren’t pleasant

AMRAP 3 minutes:

  • 250m row
  • 15 front rack lunges @ 60kg
  • 10 power snatches @ 60kg
  • 20 toes to bar
  • 15 front rack lunges
  • 10 power snatch
  • 250m row

Rest 2 minutes…

AMRAP 7 minutes of the above workout

This combined workout gave me a mixed bag of results. Workout 3 gave me a 20th place finish. I had workout 4 in the back of my head and in hindsight I think I saved too much in the tank for this or maybe I didn’t warm up right? I was one of the last people off the rower, which is unlike me, and then I just couldn’t catch anyone up. Not being able to drop the bar to break up sets of lunges or single power cleans meant a complete change in tactics for most athletes. The first part of the workout favoured the stronger athletes which I could use as an excuse, but for me, I believe my mindset of knowing another part was to come resulted in such a low placing. Workout four was a different story. I attacked this workout. I pulled the same time on the rower as on the previous workout as planned and then completed bigger sets on the lunges and power snatches. Although I wasn’t in the top ten getting off the toes to bar, 2 fast sets of lunges and 3 sets of three power snatches meant that I very nearly made it back onto the rower, which was good enough for a 6th place finish. I don’t think I could have moved any faster on workout 3 and if I did would it have given me a lesser average over the two workouts. I suppose I’ll never know. I didn’t warm up enough at the workout weight ahead of workout 3, which is why the bar felt so heavy initially, and I moved so slowly.

 The Final (6th place)

Burpee box jump overs – attack on your strengths, but don’t rely on them

12-minute time cap:

  • 50 calorie row
  • 40 overhead squats @ 45kg
  • 30 pullups
  • 20 burpee box jumps
  • 10 deadlifts @ 140kg

15 athletes were invited to the final workout. There was a lot of talk before the final about how different athletes were going to attack the final; from unbroken overhead squats to unbroken pull-ups to unbroken deadlifts, I heard it all. No matter what I heard or saw from other athletes, I knew that I couldn’t and wasn’t prepared to do any singular movements unbroken as this would jeopardise the entire workout for me. I knew my body and decided to break the overhead squats into 4 sets, pull-ups into 3 sets and then catch everyone up on the burpees again. I didn’t warm up the deadlifts, as if I got to these I told myself that any reps were a bonus. In hindsight, I should have warmed up this movement and attacked these deadlifts. I was one of the first athletes off the row and onto the overhead squats. However, I soon fell behind due to athletes keeping their word, knowing their strengths and surprisingly going unbroken. By the time I got onto my burpees Sam Robinson was walking over to the deadlift bar and went unbroken on the ten 140kg deadlifts to seal himself a win. This could have been demoralising but instead it pushed me to move faster and before I knew it I was the 5th athlete onto the deadlifts, the burpees were a blur. I picked the bar up and the deadlifts didn’t seem all too heavy to say that I hadn’t warmed up (who am I trying to kid?!). I managed to do 2 sets of 3 and one set of 4 to seal a 6th place workout finish in the final to finish 7th overall in the competition.

I’ve thought of 9 things that I learned from competing at the 2016 Autumn Rainhill Trials:

  1. I want to compete here again
  2. Warm up ALL movements to the workout weight before competing
  3. Attack workouts based on strengths
  4. Take into account a split workout, but don’t overthink the short rest period
  5. My sister has one of the loudest voices at any competition and can drown out any speaker
  6. Competing alongside other people from your gym is more fun
  7. I’ve got a long way to go before I can fight for a podium place
  8. Don’t underestimate unknown athletes at any competition
  9. Hard work and training pays off.
Don’t row like a nut job on a 50 calorie row

Following on from my previous blog post, I’ve realised that the fear of failure is more prominent in an individual competition. Although there is only 1 person to blame, that person is doing 100% of the work and so more could go wrong through fatigue and inconsistencies. However, I managed to break down each workout based on my strengths and weaknesses, which lead to decreasing the risk of failure and resulting in success in most workouts. Now I will go back to the drawing board and try to address the 20th place finish in workout 3 to strive for a future podium place finish in my next Rainhill competition.

I was done after workout 4. Did I empty the tank too early?




  1. Just reading this took my breath away!! You have impossible stamina. But a trial like this must place enormous strain on your heart. Please, make sure you have appropriate medical supervision. I worry. It’s my hobby (LOL).


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