This time last year I didn’t know what Battle of the Beasts (BotB) was. This year I was looking forward to competing in one of the biggest and best CrossFit competitions in the UK. Having looked at last year’s competitors, I felt like Competition Director Carl Saville had stepped it up a gear this year as the level of athletes taking part was phenomenal. I noted that the podium winner’s prize money had increased, which could be the reason for this? The final two heats of the competition were littered with some of Europe’s top 30 male and female CrossFit Open athletes. Just to take part in the same competition as these athletes was a step in the right direction for me.
I was just happy to be competing in the final with 89 other male athletes that had managed to tackle three heavy qualifier workouts between July and August 2016. I managed to qualify in 84th place, but some drop outs meant I was placed in 77th. The qualifiers favoured the bigger and stronger athletes. However, this competition has taught me that at the higher level, the bigger and stronger athletes can also move fast as well as move heavy metal! BotB taught me that to take the next step and progress, I need to get stronger, but also maintain a decent level of cardiovascular capacity.
Let’s take a look at the WODs at BotB this year…
10km row = 48:01 (65th)
This was done pre-competition date at your affiliate box. You had to film this live on Facebook and tag #BeastsRow16 for them to find your score. Such a crazy concept, but it worked. Or at least it got everyone in the CrossFit community talking about the competition. Such a simple but great marketing idea from the team at BotB.
When this WOD was released, I had never rowed over 2km before, never mind 10! It was a massive shock to the system. I built up to 10km in the weeks following the announcement, but it still sucked. I developed and refined a 10km rowing stroke rate in training. However, this didn’t stop the row being boring. Who rows for 10km and enjoys it? Nobody that I know! My time could have been a little faster if I didn’t get bored and lose concentration, but I suppose that comes with experience in these longer workouts. For me, WOD 1 was a great test of something I had never done before.
40 calorie row, 30 thrusters (42.5kg), 20 chest to bar pull-ups = 3:52 (63rd)
This was the first event of the day in Colchester. After a minor Sat Nav mistake and driving 15 minutes in the wrong direction (school boy error) I made it in plenty of time to register and seek out some familiar faces.
As I qualified in 77th, I was in the first heat of 15 males. I hate being in the first heat, as you can’t learn from other people’s mistakes, but then again I was just happy to be competing in the same competition as most of these CrossFitters. From the outset, my plan was to break the thrusters into sets of 15 to save my grip and energy for the pullups, that I knew I would struggle with. In hindsight, I probably didn’t hit the row hard enough and at the time, I thought that it would affect my thrusters.
I got onto the pullups at 2:12… Sadly it took me 1:40 to do 20 CTB pullups. I had to break these down into 8, 5, 4 and 3. Just something else I need to work on. Naturally, I’m not that great at anything involving hanging with bodyweight from a bar, as my rugby background had me pushing objects rather than pulling.
Max hold L-sit in 3 minutes = 15 seconds (65th)
Just for the record, this was immediately after WOD 2’s 8-minute time cap. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’d be able to hold an L-sit for much longer than 20 seconds fresh. It was great how they set this up. The L-sit had to be done on the rings and they had positioned plates 2 inches below the rings, out in front. You had to keep your feet over the plate and if they touched the plates that was your attempt over. You could make as many attempts as you wanted within the 3-minute time cap and the longest L-sit was taken as your score. My hip flexors were so tight after the thrusters; I could feel them pulling my legs towards the ground. I didn’t think 15 seconds would get me 65/90, but it seems that the first part affected others more so than myself.
30 hang power clean thrusters (70kg)
For every break taken do 20 double unders, then the next break; 40, 60, 80, 100 etc = 3:21 (32nd)
This was my best event of the day; I surprised myself. In comparison to most athletes who had qualified for BotB I am pretty light at 85kg and so I thought that I would place low on this event. In the warm up this movement felt heavy and I was struggling to use my legs in the thruster when pressing the bar above my head. However, when the adrenaline kicked in this didn’t feel too bad, and it was my grip which gave away before the bar started to feel heavy. I did 16 reps and 20 double unders, 8 reps and 40 double unders, then completed the last 6 reps. I haven’t tripped on the first 20 double unders in any workout for a very long time, but I must have been fatigued because it took me 3 attempts to accumulate the 20 reps required to get back onto the bar. I knew I would have to break again, so didn’t try and go to failure again, as this would result in missed double unders. I stopped at 8 reps so that I could go unbroken on the 40 double unders and then the hang power thrusters with just about my grip intact.
Snatch complex (1 full snatch, 2 hang snatch, 3 overhead squats) = 82.5kg (44th)
Again I was surprised with my finish on this event. 82.5kg doesn’t sound like a lot, but it ended up being my second best workout of the competition. Having been doing CrossFit now since March 2015 (20 months), my snatch is still being refined and my pulling strength is still developing. With this, I thought that the weight which I went at would be a lot less than a lot of athletes at BotB. I almost didn’t get 82.5kg as it took me four attempts. I struggle with gripping the barbell for a long period in hook grip. It burns my forearms and my delicate office hands sometimes rip, so this is always in the back of my mind. For some reason, I just couldn’t hold on to the bar long enough to get back into the second hang snatch, through lack of grip or burned out forearms. In the end, I chalked my hands and had a word with myself. I got to the second hang snatch. Rested the bar in my hip crease for a good 5 seconds taking the tension off my forearms and went for it. I landed the snatch and then the overhead squats seemed comfortable.
E2MOM – 3-6-9 Toes to bar, 6, 12, 18 pistol squats.
Complete reps within 2 minutes to advance.
After 6 minutes max effort pistols in 2 minutes with 20kg dumbbell = 152 reps (44th)
I’m sure my quads are still recovering from this one. As we were lining up to go in it was explained that the rep scheme was the same number of toes to bar as pistols on EACH leg. A lot of athletes thought that it was the same scheme for the pistols on both legs combined, so 3TTB – 3 pistols, 6TTB-6 pistols. Maybe this was unclear, or maybe we weren’t listening to the briefing, but this took a lot of us by surprise and I quickly went from looking forward to this workout, to dreading it. For me, toes to bar are one of the movements I dread, as I said above, my gripping strength isn’t the best. Pistols are okay, but I had never done 36 in 2 minutes before. I found this workout physically and mentally tough, as you had to keep going although your legs were screaming for you to stop. I managed to get to the third round and get 8 pistols out of the 18s. By this point, I was getting a few no reps for not standing the pistols up entirely, and my technique was pretty much non-existent.Although this workout hurt it was a good one for me. I was a little disappointed not to get onto the max effort reps, but was happy to get as far as I did.
OVERALL POSITION = 65th
My thoughts on BotB
The competition was well run, but there was a lack of focus on the RX category. For such a high-profile competition you would expect to have just one competition running on the day. The breaks between workouts were either really short with one running immediately after the other or 2-3 hours +. In my opinion, the kids and scaled competition which was running on the same day should be held on another day, where they can be fully appreciated for their workouts. It didn’t feel like the scaled and kids competitions got much attention. The venue was also really busy, and it was hard to move around at times if you left the athletes area. Perfect for income, but not so good for athlete and customer satisfaction.
Maybe this is what all of the big competitions are like? This is my first one and maybe I’m comparing this too much with a smaller immaculately ran competition I’ve competed at like Rainhill Trials.
The release of the competition workouts was done via video on Carl Saville’s personal Facebook page. I can’t honestly think of reason from a marketing point of view why this is a good idea. They were not directing traffic to their Facebook page or a YouTube page, but a member of staff’s personal profile. The workouts were not written down on screen or in a post anywhere, and so you had to watch the video several times to get the gist of it. For me, this is the first thing I would change for BotB 2017. My main recommendation is to post the workout somewhere and have it on written down clearly after a video release. This and the remote location of the venue are my only real grumbles of the entire weekend. The venue, whilst being perfect for a competition space wise, was more or less in the middle of nowhere.
On the other hand, I am thankful to Carl, and the rest of his BotB team for putting on such a high scale well ran competition in the UK. This has allowed me to develop and experience what it’s like to throw down with elite CrossFitters. I learned so much in one day and can’t wait to attempt to qualify again next year.