The biggest test yet: Battle of Britain 2017

Battle of Britain is renowned for attracting some of the UKs top athletes and 2017’s competition was no different. I had been waiting since the qualifiers in January for what was to be a fantastic day of three deceptively disgusting workouts. Luckily, Form Leeds had four athletes who had qualified for the finals and so I knew at least three other athletes on the day. Once I got there, the venue was full of familiar faces which always calms the nerves. I had managed to qualify in 25th position, but would I climb up the leaderboard on the day?

Since the CrossFit Games Open, I’ve been finding it hard to focus on training. Everything feels heavy, my muscles feel sore, and my body isn’t interested in working out anymore. This said I had ploughed on with training. I have completed two weeks of CrossFit testing and one week of hypotrophy since the Open and loved it. However, my overall fitness as a result of testing and strength training has suffered. I was nervous before competing about how my body would cope with the longer metcon style workout.

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Ready for battle

WORKOUT 1 (21st)

8 min AMPRAP
• 20 x Double Unders 
• 3 x Clean & Jerk (60/40)

Males start at 60kg and add 10kg per round.
Females start at 40kg and add 5kg per round.
If Males reach 120kg and Females reach 70kg, then they complete as many reps as possible at that weight until the 8 min cap.

Having played around with this workout before the competition, I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as it looks. The hardest part, you wouldn’t believe, was changing the plates. Battle of Britain used ALU Locking Olympic Bar Collars from Wolverson. These are by far the best clips I have ever used, but my god were they hard to get used to in the ten minutes warm up I had. They have a double locking mechanism so if the clip comes open from repetitive bar drops; then the clip doesn’t fall off – which happened to me at the Glacier Games. With their double lock, these, to begin with, made this workout additionally challenging. However, once I was used to them I whizzed the clips off and changed the plates.
This workout was a clean and jerk workout with the annoying double unders in between. I went unbroken on every set of double unders, which was pleasing for me. The clean and jerks remained touch and go until the 100kg bar and I opted for a power clean all the way through to save my legs for the leggy workouts which were to come next. I then started to drop the jerks from the top of the rep to save my grip and strength for the heavier bars. I moved through 100kg quickly and then onto the 110kg bar. From the 110kg bar, I started to split jerk to ensure I got the rep, as my push jerk max is only 120kg. I made sure that I only took around 15 seconds rest between reps on the 110kg bar and then moved through onto the 120kg bar. The power clean was now tough and was around 88% of my one rep max; under fatigue, this wasn’t easy. I managed to get two reps out with only 15 seconds rest between and then waited around 25 seconds before getting the third rep. The third rep felt like my best rep and so with 30 seconds remaining I thought that I may be able to get two more reps. I went almost immediately after the third rep to try and get a fourth and failed the jerk. I then had 15 seconds left to try and get the fourth rep and failed the clean. In hindsight, had I waited a little longer, I would most likely have got a fourth rep which would have put me into 13th place. Lesson learned and I know to stick to my plan in future workouts to ensure that every rep possible is achieved and none are rushed. I was a little disappointed with only three reps at 120kg, as there was one more in the tank for sure. However, it was only one year ago that I was at the Rainhill Trials struggling to AMRAP 100kg clean and jerks and so to now be able to do 120kg for reps shows good progression. Aside from my inability to use the clips I enjoyed this workout.

WORKOUT 2 (23rd)

Males wearing a 10kg weighted vest and females wearing a 7kg weighted vest.
3 rounds for time:
• 21 x Kettlebell swings (24/16kg)
• 15 x Burpee Box Jump Overs (24/20″) 
• 9 x C2B/Pull Up/T2B

This was one of the worst workouts I had ever had the pleasure of completing. I had a go at the burpee box jumps with a weighted vest before the competition and knew what was about to come… PAIN. The previous heats seemed to be struggling and so this only built up the nerves further. The kettlebell swings were easy, to begin with, but I managed to keep them all unbroken. The burpee box jumps however, were an entirely different story. The first set was acceptably hard, but then after that, they were miserable and the last set seemed to take forever. I decided to break the chest to bar pull-ups into two sets to try and save my grip for the kettle bell swings to ensure I could go unbroken. I then went unbroken on the pullups and toes to bar and was happy that I managed to achieve this after the burpee box jumps before them. I managed to get 7:50 on this workout and won my heat, but Jonny Landels in the previous heat had gone close to seven minutes, and so I knew this wasn’t a competitive time. I didn’t think sub seven minutes was possible, but four athletes in the final heat managed to do this to my amazement. It took me a good 20 minutes to come around after this workout, and I hadn’t felt this empty after a workout since a burpee workout in the Rainhill Trails six months earlier. Overall I was happy to just finish this workout in the time cap and win my heat as I was moving so slowly on my last set of burpee box jumps. This was different, as I had never used a weighted vest at a competition in the past and had neglected training in one previously. I will now ensure I get my Dynamic Aptitude weighted vest more often to stay familiar with the feeling of gaining 10kg.

WORKOUT 3 (37th)

10min AMRAP
Reps of 6-9-12-15-18-21……increasing by 3 reps each round.
• Deadlift (100/70kg) (Masters – 80/60kg)
• Assault Bike CAL
• Wall Balls (9/6kg)

I knew this one was going to be a struggle for me, but I thought it would be the deadlifts, not the Assault Bike. As you would expect through to the round of the 12 reps, it was plain sailing, and then it started to get tough. A huge mistake for me was not altering the Assault Bike seat before the workout. I was pretty lucky in that I could reach the pedals when I got to the bike, but it was one notch too high. This meant I was pedalling through my toes with more or less a straight leg and not through my heels with a slight bend to keep tension and the crank rotating at full speed. It was only on the set of 18 where I felt this workout. I went unbroken until this point, but then split the deadlifts into three sets of 6 as my back was fatigued. managed to keep the assault bike at or above 60 rpm, but this felt torturous. I couldn’t get any power through my legs as the pedals felt so far away and I was too breathless to stand up and drive at this point. I struggled, and the 18 calories seemed to take forever. I got off this with 30 seconds to go and got 12 wall balls. I no-repped my wall balls around five times, which was frustrating, but this was just through not concentrating and losing focus. Using the tiny targets on the rig was tough but good practice. I ended up finished a disappointing 37th in this workout which left me in 27th overall after the three workouts. The top 12 athletes advanced to the final. My training partner Lauren Stallwood made the female final and managed to bag a second place finish overall. This was after a shaky start in the clean and jerk and double under workout. I am over the moon for her finishing second in a top UK CrossFit competition. This proves that hard work and dedication does pay off and this is the first podium of many to come.

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Assault Bike hell

To conclude…

The venue was huge, and there was loads of room for spectator seats and a big vendor village. What was also a great admirable was the large space with a rig for the athlete warm-up area. It is the first time I have done this competition and had never been to the Futsal Arena in Birmingham. I couldn’t imagine how this venue would suit a CrossFit competition, but it did. There were loads of vendors and notably Kettlebell Kitchen were serving their scrumptious food alongside lots of other nutrition, supplement, clothing and recovery brands. Wolverson did a great job kitting out the competition floor and the warm up area so that we could practice with the clips. I was thankful for this, as who knows how slow I would be at changing those clips without practice.
What was a little frustrating about workout two is that the organisers said I could wear my Dynamic Aptitude weighted vest so I could avoid using a sweaty one. However, once it came to the workout I couldn’t. I had the head judge weigh the vest to ensure it was the same and had my vest on ready to start the workout. Craig Hill who owns Dynamic Aptitude approached me and asked me to wear one of the competition ones as the competition organisers had asked him to ask me to take it off. Why didn’t they just approach me themselves? I couldn’t afford to stay mad for long as the workout was about to start, so I put it to the back of my mind and with Craig’s help quickly ensured one the competition weighted vests was on correctly before starting the workout. I owe Craig a big thank you for helping me quickly swap the weighted vest due to a sudden change of heart from the organisers. They never apologised or spoke to me themselves all day aside from when I asked if I could wear my weighted vest. I am not that unapproachable am I? I found this disappointing.
The workouts were well programmed, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Although they were between eight and ten-minute time caps, they felt longer, due to the skill or difficulty involved.

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I gave it my all…

On another note the judges which I had were brilliant. Each judge counted each rep out loud (even the double unders!), and they were not afraid to no rep me. It’s always great to see a competition get great volunteers as judges. The floor team changing things around were also super speedy. However, as there were 14 heats and each workout was eight or ten minutes it took over two hours between workouts. The competition started at 9:00 and didn’t finish until around 19:00 because of this. This wasn’t great on a Sunday night, and no indication was given that the competition would run for this long. I had work the next day and didn’t get back to Leeds until 22:00.

And finally…

I would recommend this competition to anyone who thinks they’re ready to do battle with some of the best athletes in the UK. It was a great test, and I found out where I am in comparison to better athletes. It was well organised, and the venue was near perfect for the scale and size of the competition. The workouts didn’t look like much on paper, but certainly did test athlete’s strength, anaerobic capacity and metabolic conditioning and so were well rounded to test each athlete.

Final position 27th

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4 thoughts on “The biggest test yet: Battle of Britain 2017

  1. Anna Waldherr says:

    Every time I read your blog, Joe, I am astounded at what the human body can do. Really, the human spirit, since it’s your determination that pushes through. That’s an inspiration whatever the field of endeavor. Best Wishes, A.

    Liked by 1 person

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