Talent wins workouts, teamwork wins competitions

I love competing in a pairs format, but this was the first time doing it with a female partner. Tara Watkins and I combined for the first time since throwing down together as part of a Strength in Depth qualifier workout and the main competition as part of a larger team. We are similar level athletes who want to push each other to get better results, and so we fit together nicely as a pair. What I lack in leg strength Tara more than makes up and what she may lack in shoulder strength I try my best to make up. We’re both pretty rounded athletes, but neither of us are great at hanging from a bar for a sustained period of time. We are yet to truly test each other’s strengths and weaknesses as a team, but this was a good place to start. This was my first competition at my new home Form Leeds, and I was fired up to throwdown there.

First heat nightmare

As I’ve mentioned in previous competition blog posts, being in the first heat is a nightmare. Everyone sees your mistakes, works out how to improve on your movements and then beats your time or reps. However, this time it wasn’t as bad as previously. The first heat was almost like a final heat, as it had some awesome teams in it. This said, teams which followed still had times, weights and reps to beat and could work out ways with which to beat them. Two teams in our heat pushed us in each workout and included CrossFit celebrity Richard Hill and all round top CrossFitter Nick Froning. This helped us out massively as our competition heats were always heavy, fast and furious, but it would have been better to have competed alongside other top teams in a later heat.

WOD 1 – 20th

For time 27-21-15-9:

  • Partner Deadlifts @150kg
  • Synchronised burpees

Working our way through workout 1
The death of my back as I once knew it. Why didn’t we figure these partner deadlifts out properly in the warm up? Only after we had finished did people point out from my pictures how they should have been done. We decided to go all out from the start and got into a two rep lead going into the first 27 burpees. This didn’t last for long, as my back was fried. The extension at the top and bottom of the bar over synchro burpees didn’t help. I managed to plod on through the set of 21s, but then the problems started on the set of 15s. I went down to single deadlifts. My back felt so tight, as I had a wide grip and was taking the full bar load from mid-thigh up to lockout. As Tara had a narrow grip, this meant she was at lockout when I was at mid-thigh and had to shrug from that point on so I could finish the rep. I felt bad as I didn’t want to do serious damage to my back as I could feel it straining, but also didn’t want to let her down. Naturally being the gentleman, I went for more of the bar than Tara with a wider grip, to make the weight of her side a little bit less. The weights were on unevenly on purpose, but I still felt the need to make up for this for some reason. This was a mistake. We tried several different grips in the warm-up, but none felt solid. Now I know that a narrower grip by myself and a wider one for Tara would have made the bar even. At least we now know for the future. In the end, I decided to go one rep at a time through the 9s, and this saved my back loads ahead of the CrossFit Games Open starting  23 February. However, this meant we didn’t finish the workout which resulted in a 20th place finish. For me, it was about the bigger picture and living to workout another day. But I was disappointed and knew I had some making up to do in the next workout.

WOD 2A – 4th

In 4 minutes:

  • Row for distance
  • Partner holds 50kg barbell overhead

This was a make or break workout for us. We are both decent rowers for short spells and have quick transitions, so it came down to the 50kg overhead hold. We decided that I would row first, as I have a better rowing pace and that we would start with one minute holds each to attack the rower. I managed to hold a 1:30 pace for the first minute, which must have got us off to a good start. We then dropped to 40 second holds of the bar and sustained this for the rest of the workout with me holding on for the last part. This worked out well as we scored 1312 meters. We didn’t know whether this was enough to reedeem ourselves as we were in the first heat.

Trying to make up for a poor performance in workout 1
-3 minutes rest –

WOD 2B – 7th

In 4 minutes:

  • Air Dyne Bike for Calories
  • Partner holds 2x 24kg kettlebells

The three minutes transition between 2A and 2B seemed to go fast. Why is this always the case? We gave 2A a good go and were going to attack 2B with the same energy. This wasn’t our wheelhouse as we both have small levers. I started on the bike to get us off to a good start, but as we had the seat at Tara’s booty level, it was hard to gain constant momentum as when seated I was putting the load through my quads with the seat so low. However, we cracked on and did our best. The kettlebell holds got so grippy! By the end, I think we were doing 15-20s second turnarounds. Now I think about it I should have stayed on the bike for longer and Tara rest for 2 seconds and pick the kettlebells back up – as even after 30 seconds I was sustaining a higher RPM than Tara was. It’s little bits like this which you learn from other people from going in a later heat. We managed 97 calories which was good enough for a seventh-place finish.

Holding onto that bar on workout 2A

WOD 3 – 3rd & 4th

4 mins:

  • Female – 3 rep max unbroken Bear Complex

4 mins:

  • Male – 3 rep max unbroken Bear Complex

Bear complex = power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, push press

We were quietly confident about this workout, even though we were one of the lightest pairings at the competition. The difficulty for me in this one I thought would be the touch and go power cleans.

Tara was up first and did an easy 55kg and then whipped out what looked like a fairly easy 60kg. This was enough to take third place overall. For most of the ladies, it was all about that push press, but this wasn’t an issue for Tara and 100% neither were the squats on those powerful legs. Like planned Tara finished her two attempts with 30 seconds to spare so that we could strip her barbell and get ready to be able to load mine at 4 minutes.

Workout 3 struggle
I went with a safety weight at 85kg, which was against every bit of advice the experienced Rich Hill gave me in the warm up area. He had previously always gone with a safety weight at competitions and always got it but then on some occasions failed his main weight he wanted as the body had fatigued in the first safety attempt. He advised to get rid of the safety weight as you could have another attempt at that weight if you miss, plus you’re never happy with a safety weight anyway. I totally agreed with him as I have always done this. Plus, if you miss what you want due to fatigue of a safety lift it feels like not getting anything as you’re never happy with it. I wanted 90kg and true to Rich’s advice I missed this on the last push press of the third set of the bear complex by jerking the barbell. The rules were unforgiving, and that would have meant if I wanted 90kg I would have had to start the full complex again. I didn’t have time or energy to try it again, and it felt easy until that jerk mistake. If I take one thing from this competition, it will be to go with a no safety weight rule in future and to believe in my abilities. As you’d expect Rich went on to win the event, opened up on the weight he wanted (100kg) and got it the first time. You live, and you learn. Thank you for the advice Rich.

WOD 4 – 7th

In 9 minutes:

2 rep ladder increments (2/4/6/8/10etc)

  • Russian Kettlebell Swings (32/24kg)
  • Toes to bar
  • Plate ground to overhead (20/15kg)

We knew we had to give it our all on this workout which wasn’t great for us. The toes to bar was a weak movement for the both of us so we weren’t looking forward to the bigger sets as breaking these would cost us time. So we went as fast as possible up to this point. Again we were against some fast people in our first heat, and this helped a lot. When it’s the last workout, everyone brings their A-game and give it their all as it could be their last workout of the day. We managed to keep up with most of the teams in our heat, but teams that followed were stronger and pushed harder forcing us down into 7th place. As we expected it was breaking our toes to bar which cost us, but we both did our best to bust out fast reps on the kettlebell swings and the plate GTOHs. Tara’s plate GTOH were rapid and allowed us to gain time on other teams initially. We had a game plan up to 10 reps and then we would just swap into the workout when we no longer could go at full throttle on a movement. This proved very effective. In some teams, the males did all the toes to bar, and they then split the other movements. I was lucky enough to have a strong female who could do numerous reps of toes to bar which worked against our weaknesses better.

Wonder women

The Final – 4th

Winner takes all format (5 seconds per point delay start)

2 rounds:

  • Male – 20 cal assault bike
  • Female – 10 kettlebell snatches (16kg)
  • 1 rope climb each

2 rounds:

  • Male – 10 chest to bar
  • Female – 50 double unders
  • 1 rope climb each

2 rounds:

  • Male – 30 wall balls
  • Female – 10 box facing burpee box jump overs
  • 1 rope climb each

2 rounds:

  • Male – 10 GHD situps
  • Female – 20 calorie row
  • 1 rope climb each
  • 10x combined 170kg clean and jerks (5 each)

Then back again in reverse order

This workout was too long to remember.

All I remember is a 30-minute time cap and every piece of equipment in the gym used.

Anyone could win this workout as we were set off on staggered starts based on 5 seconds for every point we were behind first place. Gan Tits with Stef Lig (like at Glacier Games) had dominated this competition all day. They had only accumulated 18 points in 6 scoring events in comparison to our 45 points. Second place had 40 points and third 41 points meaning they were only 25 and 20 seconds ahead of us in the start.

GHD sit ups in the final
We didn’t have a game plan but to try and catch third or second and take a podium spot. We set off great, I peddled hard, and Tara smashed through the snatches. I went unbroken on the chest to bar pull ups and surprised myself, and Tara whipped through the double-unders. Before we knew it, we were neck and neck with the teams who started the final in second and third place. Tara loves a burpee, and so this is where we caught up. I went unbroken on the wall balls and then managed to get onto the GHD before the team who started in third place. We were in front of third place and where we wanted to be, but this didn’t last. By the time I had finished my GHDs Tara was running back to the rower after the rope climb and struggled to pull hard. I knew she was in trouble and feeling this final workout at this point. She is usually a strong rower and was well and truly in the pain cave.

After thinking about it, the ladies had it far worst in the first round of this the final. Before I knew it the guys in the other teams battling for a podium place had started their second round of GHDs and were back in the lead. For us now it was about staying in fourth place. The team in fifth had started 55 seconds behind us, and we knew they shouldn’t be able to catch us, but it was a possibility. I went onto the clean and jerks having more rest, but we had to do five each in the order of a male and then a female lift. The combined weight had to be 170kg, and we went with 55kg and 105kg. These wouldn’t have been a problem for us fresh, but after all of the volume we took our time and ensured we got each rep. After these ten reps, we then had to make our way back to the workout doing the alternative movement and not forgetting those rope climbs. This time it was my turn to do the rowing and burpees. For all of the teams in the final, the rope climbs got slower, and everyone was feeling this one. It was harsh in the way it finished for the ladies having to blast out 3x 20 calories on the assault bike to finish. By this point, Tara wasn’t moving at her usual speedy pace on the assault bike, and it’s fair to say that this was the deepest I had ever seen her within the pain cave. We didn’t end up finishing the workout in 30 minutes, but we had remained in fourth place and were happy with our performance. Loads to learn and work on for next time.

These clean and jerks hurt

To conclude

I had a great time competing with Tara for the first of what I hope is many competitions. We now understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses a lot more which can only strengthen our performance in the future. After the event we reviewed and worked out why our worst two performances (WOD 1 and the final) happened. Workout one for me was so intense because of the weight I pulled through my back with a wide partner deadlift grip. If I had gone narrower, this would have evened the barbell out, and I wouldn’t have had to pull the 150kg bar higher on my own. The final proved tough on Tara due to her not eating enough throughout the day. She gave it her all and emptied the tank. This isn’t taking anything away from her as she smashed the final. However, she thinks that had she eaten more and had more energy this could maybe have put us on the podium, but who knows?

Why partner workouts are the best = rest 🙂
All in all, it was a well-run competition at my new home Form Leeds. Stu, Andre and the rest of the team don’t half know how to run a smooth event with challenging workouts. All the problems at competitions I had blogged about before just didn’t happen. Scores were updated instantly, toilets were kept clean, there was free accessible water, plenty os space for spectators and the wait between workouts didn’t seem like forever. I felt proud to tell people that that Form was my gym and look forward to taking part in many more competitions there. I recommend this competition to any pairs looking for a challenge in a scaled or RX division.

We have now competed together and have a better understanding of each others strengths and weaknesses and I can’t wait to compete with Tara again.

Look out for us at Glacier Games – The Thaw in March 2017.

Photo credit – Awsome People.


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