Robert’s Ramblings: Masters of the Midway
Yesterday was my very first individual competition. I had signed up for it several weeks ago. It was a competition specifically for “Masters” athletes, defined as 35 and up. I had turned 35 this year, thus making me eligible to sign up. I was in the 35-39 mens scaled division.
My other box-mate who signed up, unfortunately had a losing battle with a flight of stairs several days ago and withdrew from the competition. So it was just me. Now I’m not one to sign up for competitions. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 4-5 years, and have never done anything like this, and now this changed from doing this competition with other people to doing it by myself. Just me. Well, I was wrong about that, it wasn’t just me. (I’ll get to that later, for now I’ll chronicle the day).
I arrived at the event at about 7:20. I had gotten my haircut just before that (as I wouldn’t have any time that day to get my haircut and I needed it done Saturday), and although I didn’t need to be there to register until closer to 8AM, I wanted to get a parking spot, and I was up early anyways. They should have had the heats starting early. Since it was a master’s competition, all the competitors had probably been up for several hours already; they could have probably had the heats start earlier since all us old people are up early anyways. I had a cooler full of food and drink to help keep me going during the day (Thanks David for the advice on what to bring). However, I feel I brought my whole refrigerator as I wanted to have options on what to eat just in case I had wanted something in particular. I forgot my protein bars at home (thanks to Anthony for bringing some later), but had turkey (for a sandwich), bananas, peanut butter, FitAids, protein drinks, and fruit.
I brought my gear bag, my clothes bag (to change shirts throughout the day after workouts, or for a wardrobe change if I wanted another look throughout the day), and a camping chair, and found a spot reasonably out of the way. I butted the back of my chair next to another master’s competitor, who said “sure” when I asked if we could have our chairs back to back. So I found my home base for the day. A little while later they went through the workouts and went over the movement standards. I found out that the squat clean & jerks would allow a thruster from the squat position. In other words, I didn’t have to stand up and rack the bar before doing the jerk. That changed my strategy a bit, as it can save some time thrusting it up from the squat position.
I saw that there were two other competitors in my division. At this competition, they split up the age groups how The CrossFit Games splits things up, so there was 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, and 55+ (no scaled for 55+). So between men/women, Rx/scaled, that makes for 18 divisions. Some divisions are light in numbers (like mine), but I think it’s fun to have it split up, and plus that means there are lots of winners, and you’re all within your level. And with only three of us in our division, I guess that means I make the finals regardless (and the podium).
The first WoD was a 5 min AMRAP of squat clean & jerk. My strategy going into this one was to get about 6 per minute. I had practiced this a couple weeks ago and had gotten just under 30. So I reasonably expected I could get to 30. Of all the workouts, this was probably going to be my weakest event, so I just wanted to do better. I met my judge, and did a couple reps for him to see and make sure that they were acceptable to him (They were; thank you to our Coaches for teaching us impeccable form). I got in my lane and saw who else I was competing against for the first time as they were in the two lanes before me. The workout started, and I cranked out about 10 reps in the first minute. This is good, as I built up some time. By minute 2, I had about 18 reps. From then on, I stopped keeping track of the reps in each minute. I ended at 34 reps. Pretty solid, better than I had wanted, so I was happy regardless what happened (Thanks fro Jen N for coming to watch that workout and for the support). It seemed like forever, and then they finally posted the scores. The other guys posted 37 reps, and 30 reps. I was in second place. Ok, not too bad. Like I said, I wanted 30 reps, and I did that, so goal achieved. And for being my weakest event, I just wanted to hold my own.
Workout two was 10, 9, 8… each of deadlifts (155#) and jumping pull-ups. I was disappointed that it wasn’t regular pull-ups, as I’m reasonably proficient at them, but oh well. In practice, I was at 4:07, so I was hoping to get under 4:00. For this workout, a whole crowd from the box came to watch (Thanks Anthony, Jonathon, Cat, Alvin, David, Jen N, Jen B, Shaun, and Tom for cheering me on). For this, I just had to make sure my transitions were good, I extended my arms on the bottom of the jumping pull-up, and did my deadlifts solidly (and unbroken). We started the workout and I saw that I was behind at least one, and maybe both other competitors in my division. Crap, I thought to myself, I need to pick this up, so I started going a bit faster. I wanted to get through the longer sets as soon as possible. When I got to the bar again, it seemed that the guys in my heat were off the bar already. Oh no! I thought to myself, I need to go even faster. So I did. This proceeded to happen for the rest of the workout. I finally got to my round of one, and did one deadlift, and one jumping pull-up. I was done. I look to the side, and both competitors were still going. I was ahead actually through a good chunk of the workout. On top of that, my time was sub-three minutes! So on a personal level, I wanted to get under 4:00, and did that, and won the workout to boot.
In between these workouts, I felt like a cow grazing all day. I was either drinking Pedialyte, eating bars, bananas, or the plethora of other food I brought. It really helped keep me fueled for the day though.
So, they posted the scores/standings after two workouts, and I was tied with one guy for first. The third workout was coming up. Single-unders and a 500m row. The workout was EMOM for five minutes – 8 burpees and SU for remainder of minute (score being single under). After that, rest for one minute, and then do a 500m row for time. This workout was my jam. I’m good at single-unders and rowing. I just had to get through the burpees; not sure how it was going to go, compared to the other competitors. The workout started, and I was able to see that I was getting to the rope before the others. I also noted that my SU were much quicker than the others, so I had my advantage. We kept going through the other minutes, and I started banking more and more time/reps. This put me in a comfortable spot. Even though I messed up more than during the practice workouts I did, I felt I had a decent lead. So for the 5th minute, I didn’t go all out, I just went at a reasonable pace. During the minute rest, I got on the rower and the judge set the rower to count down from 500m. We started rowing; I could hear cheering from folks who came to watch and my judge (as he was right behind me). I started at a sub 1:35 pace for the first couple hundred meters, I slowed up to 1:36-1:37 for the middle section. My judge was giving encouragement to speed it up again, and for the last 100m, I gave my all, got back to sub 1:35 pace, and ended my 500m at 1:34.5. The other competitors were still going, so I had taken both parts of workout 3.
I was going outside to my car after the workout at one point and there was a guy talking to someone else and I overheard him saying that I had the fastest single-unders he had ever seen. I yelled back thanks to him. Later on, inside, another guy came over to tell me the same thing.
So, this means I was in first going into the final workout. I wasn’t sure how they were going to score the final workout, so even though I was in the lead, I still wanted to do well. After standing around with Shaun and Jen B for what seemed like forever, and getting freaked out when the organizers started writing the workout on the board, I saw what the workout was for scaled in my division so I wasn’t as freaked out then:
For time (12 min cap):
20 hand release push-ups
40 overhead lunges with single 35# kettlebell
50 box overs (stepping up/down allowed)
The analytical mind in me starts to think. Ok, I can do the push-ups no problem. Same with the sit-ups. The OH lunges with the weight is going to be the bottleneck. I decided I could do 8 sets of 5 reps. Cat and Bodi arrived (Thanks for coming Bodi) and in consultation with them, it was suggested to see if I could do 10 reps before resting. So, it would be a game time decision. The box overs would be find, using what I dub the “Tori” method (saw her doing a certain method at a competition of going up and pivoting on the way down, which seemed efficient). I met my new judge for this workout, and demonstrated my box-overs. She asked the main judge, who said how I did it was fine. I also demonstrated the other movements to the judge and they were acceptable. For the box-overs, I didn’t have to stand up and extend the whole way, I just needed to have both feet on the box, and both feet off the box on either side.
We started, and after the push-ups, all three of us were pretty even, I may had been a hair ahead. After the sit-ups, I think I was a bit further ahead, so I wasn’t too comfortable. We started the OH lunges, and they felt pretty good. My judge encouraged me a bit, and several times told me to lockout (my reps were still good, but looking out my arms helps a lot, so thanks to her). I also remember her practically screaming the reps into my face during the sit-ups, which was fine by me. Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was that I was prepared (crazy, i know, right?), but the OH lunges felt good, and I was able to do them in sets of 10. I wasn’t sure how I was doing compared to the others, but a part of me felt I was going quicker. Finally, it was time for the box-overs. I started on those and saw that I was ahead of the others, and started cranking those out. I felt like I had a good pace on those, and I just had to finish them and I would be done. I got to 25, took a second break, and started back on them, wanting to finish strong. I got to 50, and I was done! First in the workout (and therefore overall for the day)! I did what I had set out to do. I did better than my expectations (which is what I was mainly focusing on), and that was good enough for first (which is the let the cards fall where they’re going to fall part; icing on top of everything).
After the workouts, I was feeling pretty good, and they had the award ceremony and I was able to stand on top of the podium! Yay!
At the beginning of this post, I had said that since the other person from the box had to drop out, that it was just me competing. Well, you may have seen throughout this post the many references to those who came by and encourage me and cheer me on (I think I got everyone, if not, thank you too!). So you see, it wasn’t just me. The community at our box is such that even when there was a lone competitor at a competition, they still came out to support en masse (in addition to all the kind words online). When I moved here 4.5 years ago, our box has been the main place that I have met people in the area, and quite frankly, my main social interaction outside of work around the town. So for me, it’s been more than just a place to workout, it’s been a community, and yesterday really demonstrated that.
Thank you to everyone who showed up yesterday, thank you to those who left posts on facebook, thank you to those at the box who regularly encourage and help me, and thank you to those who were there in spirit. While I may not do competitions very often, it is something you might want to consider doing. Go in with the right mindset, and see where you end up, you may surprise yourself. I know I sure did.
Side note: After a competition, it is completely legal to each whatever you want to eat. I’m so excited to eat pizza. And when I say “pizza”, I mean “a pizza”. And when I say “a pizza”, I mean “a whole pizza”. And when I say “a whole pizza”, I mean “a whole pizza and bread sticks”…