So as we wrap up our little look back on the past five weeks of this years CrossFit open we turn to one our long time members, Brendan, to share some of his thoughts & reflections on how it went for him this year.
Brendan is no stranger to the Open and all its ups & downs. He also has become a seasoned pro at judging folk during it too. You see the Open is not just about you. Well it is about you a little but you know what we mean. The Open whilst being the largest participatory sporting event in the world (over 300,000 entered worldwide this year!), is the first step in finding the Fittest Man, Woman, Team, Teens & Masters on earth. And it is also about EVERYBODY who signed up.
What that means is that it is a COMMUNITY event that lasts for five weeks and has a lasting effect for the 47 weeks after it. Yes it is there to “test” us on our own Fitness levels but it is a time for you to connect with all the other members in your Box. You get to cheer on your fellow CBDer just as they will cheer you on. Its camaraderie at its finest.
The results themselves are not really as important as the journey you end up taking over the five weeks. And the journey you now embark upon as we leave the competing to those very serous about competitive exercise. Your journey, OUR journey, is all about being a better you than you were yesterday. This transcends into life itself. It starts with the training and filters out into everything else after.
Lets take a look at Brendan’s journey from last year through to this and see what he thought. What he has learnt, and what it all meant to him.
B Maggs, over to you…….
Finding Failure: CrossFit Open 2016
by Brendan Maggs
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
I like judging athletes during the CrossFit Open. It’s not that I guess I have a thirst for authority; I can barely bring myself to enforce genre guidelines for the Saturday Barbell Playlists. No, I like it because, unlike the rest of CrossFit, the requirements for judging make it incredibly easy to exceed expectations.
When judging, all that HQ requires is for me to keep the athlete accountable and write semi-legibly. But in my mind, I can and should help them to focus on their form and work harder than they may choose to on their own:
“Keep hitting that depth.” “Stick to your game plan.” “I know it hurts; keep the pace.” “I know your muscles are screaming for mercy; keep going.” “I know your sweat is infused with tears; you got this.”
Ironically, “no-repping” someone is much harder than playing the cheerleader. To reject anything short of a full effort, every single rep, is beautifully pure and personally terrifying. It truly scares me to tell the athlete I’m counting for that their heavy Squat Clean was not quite deep enough, and required 99% of the effort of a good rep, is worth nothing on paper.
But aside from that, judging Open athletes and helping them through the workout is an easy task to crush.
Competing in the Open however is a different matter.
For those going scaled, there’s just nowhere to hide! The scaled workouts are designed to be simple movements that can be done at pace, and there’s nothing for it but to push hard and hurt like hell. By scaling, you sign yourself up for physical torment, and no matter how hard you work, there’s always a ceiling on the leaderboard. That is harsh.
For experienced CrossFitters who are not completely well rounded, the Open taunts us with malevolent relish, hanging movements over our heads and watching us thrash and wail for an ‘RX’ score.
Open WoD 16.1: “Here’s a movement we normally save for the Games athletes – Overhead Walking Lunges! Oh, and let’s throw in some chest-to-bar pull-ups too. Welcome to 2016, son!”
Open WoD 16.2: “Want to lift some heavy weights? Cool, first, do a horrible amount of Toes-To-Bar!”
Open WoD 16.3: “Here, have 10 Snatches at light weight to start with. Now you have an RX score you can spend 6 minutes trying to get a freaking Bar Muscle-Up!”
Open WoD 16.4: “Hey, don’t feel bad about the Muscle-Up. This week, you can try 55 Deadlifts at your 2-rep max!”
Open WoD 16.5: “Hey, remember that workout that made the CrossFit world cry two years ago? Well, guess what we chose to repeat this year?!”
Is the Open designed to tempt people to set unrealistic expectations? Almost certainly.
Is this cruel and painful? Absolutely!
Is it a bad thing? Not so fast.
Last year, the Open said to me, “So, you want to call yourself an “RX athlete”? Well, you’ll need to do a Ring Muscle-Up at the beginning of the workout if you want that title. You’ve never even tried one before, but try it now, for 14 humiliating minutes.”
So I tried. And I failed. And it sucked. And I tried to play down my disappointment in front of everyone. And I spent the summer before this year’s Open practising Muscle-Ups. When they appeared in 16.3, albeit in bar-form, I popped my body over the bar 15 times in seven minutes, each one feeling like a rising middle finger pointed in Dave Castro’s direction.
The following week I received a new message: “You can’t do a Handstand Push-Up. You know you can’t, so we’ll put it at the end of the workout. Now here are three movements that you’re good at; let’s see how fast you can go before you collapse in agony next to the wall that you can’t even kick up to!”
I finished the first three movements of 16.4 in 7:02, which is respectable, but I spent six minutes gasping for air next to the wall that beat me, thinking that without Handstand Push-Ups, I was an impostor among “RX athletes”, forced to go somewhere very dark to salvage a half-decent performance.
This is the first of two things about the Open for which I am truly grateful. I’ve found failure again. To me, it looks like Handstand Push-Ups. Maybe for you it looks like a heavy barbell, or an elusive Toes-To-Bar. Maybe you took it too seriously, and failed to enjoy what was essentially a month of hanging out with friends, drinking champagne, eating doughnuts and counting reps.
CrossFit is an exercise regimen, not the sole measure of our worth. But it is a microcosm of our lives. We can discover the edges of our capabilities if we are willing to find failure. And if we are willing to overcome it, we earn the right to fail better.
The second thing I’m grateful for is you, gentle reader. Here are some of the things that the CrossFit CBD community said at the end of 16.5, the last workout of this year’s Open:
“There was no way I could have done that workout a year ago.”
“I had a plan, and it paid off.”
“You can beat Castro’s time!”
“You crushed that, man.”
“I’m not scared of this workout anymore.”
“Down! Up! Come on! MORE ENERGY!!”
“Relax, it’s just a workout.”
Enduring pain and striving for anything worthwhile is often only possible by celebrating and supporting the people around you, and receiving that in return. And if you should find failure, and it is too much to bear, remember that your friends are there for you, and that they have champagne and doughnuts.
Thanks everybody. Bring on 2017!