Me Against Myself: The CrossFit Games Open 2017

With more CrossFit boxes opening in 2016/17 I knew it would be difficult to climb up the leaderboard in the CrossFit Games Open 2017. Not only does this mean more people, but also more full-time athletes have a crack at trying to secure a spot Regionals and ultimately the Games. For some people, CrossFit is now a full-time job. However, all I was focusing on was beating 2016’s final European placing of 624. If I beat some other local athletes that would be a bonus, but my focus was on improving my overall placing in Europe.

2016

Last year I went into my first Open with little preparation and enjoyed every minute of it. I didn’t know who was who and what was a good score in any workout until submitting my score on a Monday evening. I enjoyed the Open at CrossFit Leeds, as it was competitive, but fun. One thing I didn’t do was plan each workout and think about my approach, which is something I wanted to take into the 2017 Crossfit Games Open.

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Preparation

I moved to Form Leeds in January 2017 to train in a more competitive environment and get that extra coaching that I required. It was the right decision. I now have a regular training partner in the super fit Lauren Stallwoood. We both played rugby league, and so have similar approaches to most things. We just get it done. We push each other every day, and so I could only improve. I joined other ex-CrossFit Leeds competitive members at Form who train at slightly different times, but we workout together wherever possible. Everyone has their strengths, and so no athlete at Form excels in every workout, but every athlete is willing to help you out on movements or techniques if you ask. I now follow MooFIt programming by Mike Catris, which was a huge shock to the system. The volume is insane for someone who only trains once a day. I found that training twice a day affected me too much at work and so I had to give it up to put my job first, as that’s what pays the bills.
After following MooFit for twelve weeks my body was feeling sore, but I was still posting relatively good workout scores/times which was a good sign running up into the Open. One mistake I made was competing in a partner competition two weeks before the Open and blowing up my lower back through bad competition movement. However, I put this to the back of my mind and was ready to smash the first workout. I planned to do each workout on Friday afternoon and then Monday afternoon again if required. I would do the workouts at the same time as I train, so my body would be ready to move.

17.1 – The Back Breaker

  • 10 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 20 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 30 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 40 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs
  • 50 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs

Male = 25kg Female = 15kg

Still feeling a little bit worse for wear from the partner competition two weeks previous I was nervous for this one. I had every right to be. I went into this one head-to-head with Lauren and knew this one would favour her as the dumbbell was super light for her. I knew that this was a snatch workout. As expected she flew off, and I tried to keep up on the snatches, but there was no hope. I went through up until the 40 snatches with no problems. I was moving over the burpee box jumps, and my back was holding out. On the 40 snatches, I started to feel my lower back but still managed to go unbroken. Then when doing the fourth set of burpee box jumps, I felt my back was getting super tight when extending. I went into the 50 snatches on 9:48 and they took me over 3 minutes. I did 20 snatches and then stopped. I started to split the snatches into 5s with a long rest. My back was in bits, but I pushed on and finished in 13:54. I then attempted to go again on Monday, but I did not finish and pulled out with my back. I knew this was a bad score, but didn’t think it was as bad as 1,151 position in Europe. This was a bad start if I wanted to push on and beat my previous overall score of 624.

17.2 – Hanging Around

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes.
2 rounds of:

  • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
  • 16 toes-to-bars
  • 8 power cleans

Then, 2 rounds of:

  • 50-ft. weighted walking lunge
  • 16 bar muscle-ups
  • 8 power cleans

Etc., alternating between toes-to-bars and bar muscle-ups every 2 rounds.
Men = 25kg / Women = 15kg

I had good and bad thoughts about this workout. I knew I would be fast through the lunges, but was dreading the bar muscle ups. My weaknesses lie on hanging pulling movements including bar muscle ups. This one surprised a lot of people. It was super gassy. My aim was to get to the bar muscle ups as fast as possible as I would need the extra time to do these. Lauren and I were neck and neck going into the third round having completed the first two rounds inside three minutes. We moved quickly through the lunges and attacked the bar muscle ups. Thankfully these weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be and what stopped me going for bigger sets was my lack of breath. I was breathing heavy, and so completed sets of two or three the whole way through. This proved effective, and I got back on to the fifth round after the third and fourth rounds at around 10 minutes. I then completed the fifth round at 11:29, and it took me a whole 31 seconds to do 25ft of lunges. Lauren was right behind me and managed 20ft of lunges in the sixth round. She pushed me the whole way. Unfortunately, I had ripped in my last set of bar muscle ups, and so I knew that going again was a no go. My total reps was 175, which was good enough for 477th place in Europe. This was a better finish, but surely with two horrendous workouts, the next one had to be right up my street, right?

17.3 – All the snatches

Before 8:00, complete:

3 rounds of:

  • 6 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 6 squat snatches, 42kg

Then, 3 rounds of:

  • 7 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 5 squat snatches, 61kg

*Prior to 12:00, complete 3 rounds of:

  • 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 4 squat snatches, 83kg

*Prior to 16:00, complete 3 rounds of:

  • 9 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 3 squat snatches, 1032g

*Prior to 20:00, complete 3 rounds of:

  • 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 2 squat snatches, 111kg

Prior to 24:00, complete 3 rounds of:

  • 11 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • 1 squat snatch 120kg

*If all reps are completed, time cap extends by 4 minutes.

I was wrong about getting what I perceive to be a good workout. Snatches are not a strength, as it takes the time to develop the technique and skills required to get efficient and effective snatches. I have only been doing CrossFit for two years and so haven’t grasped the technique to be able to move efficiently through the snatch positions. All excuses aside I was nervous for this one, but the previous workout I knew I had to move fast up until a weak movement – the 102kg snatch. This would give me the time to try and get one rep. 102.5kg is my current one rep max and so to get this after 45 reps would be a great achievement. On my first attempt I just made it before the 12-minute time cap and gave myself around 3:40 to do the snatches after the nine chest to bar pullups, which I was breaking into three sets by this point. I attempted to snatch 102kg 5 times and failed each one, as I didn’t have the strength to pull the snatch high enough. I knew I had to go again, as the difference between getting one rep at 102kg and not would be huge. In fact, over 500 places could separate you from 118 – 117 reps in Europe. I went again on Monday feeling positive and knowing I couldn’t finish again. My final European Open standing depended on this workout. I went faster through the first three snatch bars and finished around 50 seconds quicker than before giving me well over 4 minutes to attack the 102kg bar to try and get a rep. The first three attempts felt better than the first time around, and I was getting under the bar. On the fourth attempt, I managed to get under the bar and stand up 102kg. I was ecstatic. All of those snatches on the MooFit programme had paid off. Admitantly it wasn’t a great rep, but it was still a rep. Shortly after getting the first I almost got a second but got spat out halfway up the squat. I wasn’t too fussed as I had got one rep at this and managed to place me 704th in Europe. This was much higher than I anticipated on such a weak workout for myself. It put me in a better position going into 17.4, and I was looking forward to something I could move through.

17.4 – The repeat

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 13 minutes of:

  • 55 deadlifts, 102kg
  • 55 wall-ball shots 9kg. ball to 10-ft. target
  • 55-calorie row
  • 55 handstand push-ups

In 2016 this was by far my best Open workout, and I placed 202 in Europe in it. This was a good reason to look forward to it even if those 55 deadlifts were in the back of my head. I managed to complete one full round plus 22 deadlifts in 2016 and was hoping to improve this score. I knew that this was a one and done for me. My back wasn’t feeling 100% still from 17.1, but I was ready to give this one my best shot.
My plan was to go 15, 13, 11, 9, 7 reps to get the deadlifts done and then 30 then 25 reps for the wall balls, keep the row around 1300 and then break handstand pushups just before failure based on how I felt.
Like most workouts in the Open, this one didn’t go to plan. The deadlifts were down to sets of 5 by the end, and I was struggling to get them finished, but completed the reps in around 2:30 and then I did go 30 and 25 on the wall balls. This was tricky, but I stuck with it, and all the wall ball practice paid off. The row felt worse than I can remember in 2016, especially the first 30 seconds. I kept the row above 1300 cal/hr, but this took a lot out of my already exhausted back. I got off the row and went straight into the handstand push ups. I did a set of 20 and then realised this might have been a mistake. I then did a set of 15, before having to cut back to 9, then 6, then 3 and finally finished the final two reps. I was gassed. I finished the first round in 10:05 and then proceeded to try and get more deadlift reps.
At first, the bar didn’t seem too heavy, and I managed to get out five reps, but then it went downhill fast from here on in. My back was blown, and my grip had gone for some reason. I found it difficult to pick the bar up. In the end, I managed to scrape 32 reps in the remaining time for a 216th place finish in Europe. I was pretty happy with adding ten reps to last years total but wanted more.

17.5 – Keep moving

  • 10 rounds for time of:
  • 9 thrusters, 43kg
  • 35 double-unders

This one on paper looks like a nice workout, but it wasn’t. On the weekend that this Open workout was released I had another partner competition on Saturday and so elected to do this one once on Monday. Unfortunately for me and everyone else competing that weekend, the programming was leggy and not good preparation for 17.5.
I went into this one on Monday pretty confident, as I had seen similar level athletes posting some good times and most people were recommending just to keep moving and battle through the pain.
The first three or four rounds of this workout were a nice warm-up, and I enjoyed going through these, but from the fifth round onwards things started to get tough. My rope and the 43kg barbell felt heavy. I began to look forward to getting back onto the thrusters; the double unders became so hard. My shoulder fatigue and pain soon blocked out my quad DOMS, and they became harder than ever before. On the eighth round, I had to break 35 double unders into two sets, and the managed to do the same the ninth round. The tenth round, however, was the hardest. It was the last movement in the last Open workout of 2017, and I just couldn’t complete 35 double unders. It took me five sets to do 35. My shoulders were so gassed. I managed to finish it in 8:43, which was good enough for 304th in Europe. I was happy enough with that one, but wouldn’t be planning a competition during the Open again.

And finally…

I have gained substantial ground from my 4450th worldwide, 624th Europe and 140th in the UK in 2016 and am happy. My overall position in the CrossFit Games Open 2017 was 2098 worldwide, 364 in Europe and 54th in the UK.

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This year was all about increasing my ranking in Europe and the UK to try and establish myself as a higher level CrossFitter. I have improved all aspects of my CrossFit arsenal in the offseason, and so this was not a huge surprise. But I was nervous. More people are now competing in the CrossFit Games Open, and Europe is the biggest region by far meaning more competition against higher level athletes. In a way, I will always be playing catch up with all the elite CrossFitters, as I only started in 2015. But for now, I am enjoying the journey and getting better as an athlete and healthier as a person along the way.

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Onwards and upwards

 

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