Tara and I signed up for ‘The Glacier Games: The Thaw’ competition what seemed like forever ago. We knew it was going to be in the middle of the CrossFit Games Open, but after the last Glacier Games competition, I was convinced it would be worth it. We qualified for this competition in second place, so what happened at the event?
I loved that the qualifier was one long workout. It was the first time I had seen this format in a qualifier and although moving for one hour was tough, it meant that myself and Tara could get the qualifiers done in one session. This is better for us as we now train at different boxes. The qualifier contained lots of rowing, a one rep max squat clean, jerk and bench press, a barbell complex and muscle ups. Tara and I did well in the row, power output and barbell complex, but as expected struggled on the muscle ups. Tara smashed it and pulled me through the barbell complex, but as my muscle ups aren’t a strength and Tara being only able to get one this particular element let us down a little. However, we did enough to qualify in tied second position and so were hopeful going into the competition.
As ever with the Glacier Games the workouts were not pre-released. This not only builds up excitement but puts all 80 teams on a level playing field. I like the idea of not knowing the workouts; then no one can practice and become great at just those workouts. We arrived at the competition in good spirit and were confident after the qualifiers, but the first thing we noticed was there was no rig. Whaaaaatttttt?! We had done ring muscle ups in the qualifiers, and so I thought there would be at least pull ups in the workouts! I was wrong. This was not such a bad thing for us, as neither of us are great at hanging from bars, but it takes a major element of CrossFit out of the competition.
Workout 1 (9th)
- 20 calorie Ski Erg
- 30 double-unders
- 20 calorie Assault Bike
We decided early on to split this workout with me doing 12 calories, and Tara doing 8 calories and who ever lands on the double-unders do them all. However, I started on the ski erg, and we planned for me to do 20 calories to get us off to a fast start and then start our calorie split from there. Our plan worked, and we advanced through the workout emptying the tank at each station. Naturally, this suited the bigger stronger athlete and with myself only being 5ft 9” and Tara also being a bit of a midget we did well to keep a fast pace. My legs were super pumped after this one. We won the top heat, but this was only good enough for a 9th place finish. After only placing 9th and winning the top heat we knew there were some strong teams in previous heats.
Workout 2 (14th)
- 4 minutes to establish a 1RM Snatch
- 4 minutes to establish a 1RM Clean and Jerk
This workout was 40 minutes after emptying the tank on workout one. It was hard to keep focused and warm up to a heavy lift so quickly after a short, sharp and anaerobic workout. One member of the mixed team had to snatch, and one had to clean and jerk. We added our totals up of what we thought we might be able to achieve and figured that with Tara snatching and myself doing the clean and jerk, this would produce the best results. I felt good in the warm-up area and worked up to 120kg (92% of my 1RM 130kg) and planned to open up at 125kg. Tara worked up to 45kg snatch in the warm up area but didn’t feel as confident going into this workout. Tara was up first and moved through 40kg 45kg, and then 50kg but got stuck at 52.5kg with two and a half minutes remaining. She’s snatched way more than this in the past, but her body just wouldn’t drop under the bar. On three occasions she snatch deadlifted the bar and had a mental block. After three and a half minutes we stripped the bar and got out the men’s bar and loaded on 125kg. I had the fact that I needed to pull something out of the bag in this workout, as other ladies around us were snatching 65kg. I went in at 125kg as planned and was spat out in the catch. At this point, I thought our competition was over and that I wouldn’t even get 125kg. I went again and was more aggressive and fought for the clean, then also fought hard with a press out jerk. Thankfully it was CrossFit, and that is a rep. I then hit a good 130kg (=PB), and it felt lighter and faster than the 125kg. I then went for a PB at 135kg, which also felt good. The clean was hard, but the jerk flew up, much to my delight. I was buzzing to get this, especially in the middle of the Open when my body, just generally, felt so fatigued. We had a total of 185kg, which was good enough for 14th place. It was clear that these workouts were starting to favour the bigger heavier athletes (which we weren’t). We soon realised that we were going to finish nowhere near our second place qualifying position. All we could hope for now was a heavy barbell complex.
Workout 3a (12th)
Light DT @60/35kg
- 12 deadlifts
- 9 hang power cleans
- 6 push jerk
Female 2minute AMRAP / Male 2-minute AMRAP / Female 2minute AMRAP / Male 2-minute AMRAP
We got our wish of a barbell complex, but for us to perform well against the rest of the field, it wasn’t heavy enough! Any female can move a 35kg barbell, whereas Tara can move the actual DT weight of 50kg like a boss. This took away our secret weapon of Tara’s barbell cycling, as a lot of the other women could also cycle as fast with a lower weight. Each of us did 2x two-minute stints of DT before moving straight on to workout 3b. In Tara’s first round she did three rounds, and nine hang power cleans and set an incredible standard to follow. I only managed exactly three rounds, and my forearms were throbbing. Tara then was up again and again went well into the third round, before my final round. I went through the first round unbroken and then on the second round rested mid hang cleans. I then picked up the bar to continue, but my plate fell off the bar and rolled down the workout floor. It was almost like something you see in a comedy sketch! I chased the plate and got it back on. To realise the clip was a metal collar with a screw fastening mechanism – like that of an assault bike seat. I had never used one of these clips before and so fastening it was a new experience. I finally managed to get back into the workout to finish the second round and get a few deadlifts into the third round. I was so frustrated with myself for not selecting a barbell with better clips. I had never even thought to do that before now and will ensure I get the spring or easy lock weightlifting clips in future.
Workout 3b (28th)
(started as soon as 3a finished)
- 4minute maximum distance row
We knew that this was going to be damage control for us with short limbs. Naturally, neither of us are great rowers. Tara started the row as I finished my last DT AMRAP. We decided to do one-minute intervals with quick changes. Tara started off well pulling a 1:45 – 1:50 pace and got us off to a great start. I then got on and pulled 1:35 – 1:40 pace. Tara then returned to the rower and pulled hard again before my last minute where I pulled as hard as I could for the last minute. We ended up with 1,127 meters which I was happy with and I thought would be a top score as we both sold our souls to that rower. However, this was not the case. Like previous workouts, the bigger stronger athletes dominated workout 3a and 3b. We only managed 28th position and maybe swapping over three times cost us dearly, and we should have just rowed 2 minutes each? By this point, we knew that any hope of placing well was out of the question and whatever the last workout was we were going to enjoy it.
Workout 4 (40th)
- 1.5-mile trail run
A poorer workout could not have been programmed for Tara and me. Everyone had figured out from the clues published on social media that there was going to be a trail run and so we were prepared. We just refused to believe it until we were told. They raised the excitement levels by announcing the workout and route in a separate room away from spectators. No distance was given, but local athletes reckoned the route was around 1.5 miles. Thankfully the sun was shining, and it was a great day for running. But this didn’t help. As you’d expect, the smaller athletes, who had had their day hindered by all the workouts which favoured the heavier athletes, were excited for this one. There is no running in the Open, and so I hadn’t run over 200 meters since a Christmas Eve 5km park run. The women started the trail run and had to complete the course before tagging the men to go. We both struggled on the Strength In Depth Spartan Race and so knew that this was going to be tough. Tara set off at a good pace around the track before heading out of Gateshead International Stadium. As the girls started returning there was a great atmosphere amongst male athletes cheering the ladies in and laughing at their male teammates who had to try and maintain a top position who clearly weren’t runners. This was one of the highlights of the competition and showed true northern spirit. Before I knew it, Tara came in at around 25th place, which was an amazing result. I just wish I could have maintained this position for us. I set off with the best intentions, but before I knew it guys started to pass me. In my defence, the course was muddy and hilly, and I even managed to pass seven people. However, around 15 guys managed to pass me which put me back into 40th place coming back into the stadium to finish. Some guys walked up the giant hill, and I passed them, but then once at the top, they opened up their longer legs and sprinted past me to finish ahead. This was annoying. We finished 40/80 which I was relieved about, but I wish I hadn’t let Tara down. Running doesn’t often appear at CrossFit competitions and so rarely appears in any CrossFit programming, so unless you have a running background, you’ll likely find it more difficult. Plus, let’s face it, no one likes running.
As ever the atmosphere was fantastic at The Glacier Games. I think it’s because the competition is filled with friendly North Eastern CrossFitters. Again the competition attracted a few notable top 50 UK CrossFitters, and so there was a good standard of competition. The organisers must have read my previous blog post and made massive improvements to small but important aspects of the competition. There was a scoreboard, and the café was well stocked due to there been no food or drinks vendors again.
One thing I found disappointing was the lack of a rig at the competition. What is a CrossFit competition without a rig? There was a rig at the December same-sex pairs competition so why not here? There were even muscle ups in the qualifiers and so a few people were disappointed that this didn’t feature. There were no gymnastics movements, which neutralised the skill sets of a lot of the more skilled and lighter CrossFitters. The programming (besides the run) was more suited to bigger and stronger athletes. Maybe if Tara and I were 100kg/70kg, I wouldn’t find this a problem, however, having done the December Glacier Games Ice Age Competition, I know that they have previously programmed more advanced movements.
We received our goody bag on the way in, which contained a programme, a t-shirt each and 2x battle oat bars. This is one great thing about the Glacier Games – free food! The programme is also really helpful so that you don’t need to keep checking a poster, billboard or your phone to see when your heat is scheduled. Anyone who does CrossFit loves a free t-shirt and will know that tri-blend t-shirts are the soft ones you hope given to you at competitions. In December the Iron Elite Apparel t-shirt was tri-blend, and I still wear this today, but this time they were cotton. Cotton t-shirts are heavier and less durable to workout in, so this again was also a little disappointing to receive as you can’t wear this in the gym.
Aside from the programming, the event as ever was well organised, and the guys who run it were fantastic hosts. These guys are the main the reason this competition sells out, and athletes return time after time. They bring the energy and raise the atmosphere. Unlike last time, teams received a name card which was a nice touch. I would do the competition again and hope for more gymnastics based movements, as it is a good venue and attracts a good level of competition.
Team UGD 💪
Overall position – 18th
Images – WODTOGRAPHY / SHENTONCREATIVE