This past weekend I headed out to sunny Lodi, CA with most of Team Courage for a competition. While I was excited to get a throwdown in, I was mostly going there to get a good look at the Team and also be able to go over details with Mike Morales as he prepares for Regionals in a few weeks. I was coaching Mike, Justin, Andras, and Ryan, and helping/supporting Melissa, Dallas and Britney; it was an awesome group to be around! I have a lot to say about the day, so let's start with the basics and move along.
This was one of the most well-organized events I've ever been to. Everything was perfectly timed, the judges and volunteers were on point and energetic all day, the sponsors were filled to the brim and supplied a ton of support. There was great space for all competitors and spectators and there was a really good energy throughout the entire day. And that is saying a lot seeing how it was incredibly hot and there were easily around 200 people there in total. The workouts were pretty cool individually and supplied a good enough challenge all around, they were less of a test of general fitness, and more of a "who can survive the longest" type challenge. While I don't mind this sort of programming in the grand scheme of things, I really wish CrossFit gyms would take a little more time and effort focusing on TESTING athletes rather than coming up with "cool" workouts and kicking everyone's ass as much as possible. I don't mind getting incredibly sore after a tough competition, in fact, I think that should happen. What I do mind is overloading one aspect of the body (like 80+% front loaded, leg-dominated movements like this event and most that I've been to). In my opinion, if you overload one aspect of the body, you are clearly not testing the athletes and their general fitness, you are just beating up on them.
A point that should be made here is that we all received a comment from the organizers claiming that there was no prescribed/scaled devisions. So because of this we should expect to see NO high-skill movements in the first 3 workouts (examples given were muscles ups, pistols, and handstand push ups). Well, the third workout had both pistols AND handstand push ups. For the purposes of the event, seems kind of strange they would program movements after specifically saying they would not. Anyway...
400 m run w/ 15# plate
45 KB swings 53#
400 m run w/ 25$ plate
35 wall balls
400 m run w/ 35# plate
25 pull ups
400 m run w/ 45# plate
15 box jumps 30"
This was, well, brutal! Especially for an opening workout. My goal was to pace the runs easy and go for broke on the exercises. I thought I paced it really well, decidedly winning my heat. Unfortunately I must of been moving VERY slowly on my running because in the end I finished up in 23rd place overall with a time of 15:59. This crushed me, emotionally, physically, psychologically, everything. I felt like I was done after this and all I wanted to do was stop competing and just coach my athletes. But, I couldn't do that of course. Just had to fuel up, rest up, and get prepped for workout 2.
Bear Complex ladder (scored as: deadlift/clean/front squat/press/back squat/press - one point per movement for the first two bars, two points per for bar 4 and 5, I think four points per for bars6 and 7, five points (maybe?) for the 7th and 8th bars, and seven points per for the final bar. 9 bars in total starting at 95# and finishing at 245#)
The strategy was to accumulate reps/points through the bars leading up to the one that will be the biggest challenge for you. Don't waste reps as accumulating points was the goal. But pacing it so that you didn't burn yourself out. Dallas paced slow and was able to get 3 full complexes at 245, enough for the most at that bar. But he paced too much and accumulated too few points to finish 1st. I picked a good pace and never got over-tired. I got 2 full complexes at 245, plus a dealdift and with all the reps accumulated was able to pull off a 2nd place finish on that one. 23rd to 2nd. Dropped me to 10th overall.
4 min AMRAP of
10 overhead squats 115#
30 double unders
no rest to: 4 min AMRAP of:
4 pistol squats
8 front squats
4 handstand push ups
You're seeing the pattern of movements here, no? Anyway, the strategy here was to go balls to the wall for the first AMRAP as 1 round of the second one was only half the reps of 1 round of the first. The event was scored as total reps performed, so it was clear that getting as many double unders in there was the best way to score high. With whatever energy I had left I went ALL OUT. I just shut the brain off and kept moving as fast as my body would let me. This strategy seemed to do the trick as I was able to win this workout by something like 12 reps over the 2nd place finisher. All I needed was a good enough placement to get me into the top 8 to move to the final workout, and that performance got me to 5th place. Both good and bad I figured. Good because I was giving myself a shot at the podium. Bad because I was so beyond tired that I was very, very seriously considering dropping out for the purposes of staying somewhat healthy (something happened to my throat after that one and I couldn't swallow and was having trouble breathing).
Now this is where things got messy.
100 m stone carry 145#
25 m stone carry
20 axil bar hang clean and press 95#
20 m stone carry
10 x fill a wheelbarrow with 3 5# sandbags and dump it out
25 m stone carry
2 lengths sledge hammer "banger"
25 m stone carry
Somewhere in my brain I was excited for this, but my fatigue wasn't allowing it to come out in my normal energy towards workouts. I love stones, hammers, sandbags, all that, so I knew if I could actuality survive, maybe I'd have a shot at this one. We went in 3 heats of 3. The first heat went with Mike in it, and he was on a roll. He got through one length of the "banger" and was heading back when the 2nd place dude got to it. This guy proceeded to hit the banger once, then push it the entire rest of the way down its track. He then repeats this on the second length and ends up beating Mike by about 8 or so seconds. While there was no real standard set to this specific exercise, the entire female group went through it HITTING the thing like we all assumed you should. The guy who decided to push it, turns out he works for the company that MADE the damn things. Instead of being a stand-up guy and letting the event organizers know about this, he keeps it quiet and "cheats" his way to a good score. Controversy ensues. Now the event coordinator and judges gather around to figure out what to do for the remaining heats. They approach us in the second heat and lay out the standards: you are allowed to follow through on your strikes but NOT allowed to deliberately PUSH the banger down the track at all. They go over this multiple times with my heat, and the final heat.
I hit the workout with whatever I had left, and hit the banger exactly like they all very clearly and specifically TOLD us how to. The standard was set, I chose to follow that standard (maybe I'm the idiot here?). After I crumbled to the floor across the finish line, I was able to watch as the guy behind me CLEARLY and deliberately walked the banger down the track enough to finish both lengths in half the hits I took. Not cool. Not cool enough to make me go talk to the event coordinator (something I am generally not inclined to do as I know how mistakes can happen at events and generally just let things slide). There was a cordial back and forth between us and it ended with him sort of laying blame on HICFIT (the company that made the equipment). He acknowledged the mistake but seemed to miss the fact that even after they set a specific standard, people neglected to follow it and they did nothing about that. But it gets worse.
The final heat saw two athletes, from CrossFit Lodi (local affiliate to the event) literally WALK the banger down the track. To put this in perspective: I got each length in about 10 hits (that's about 20 hits total), and I would say I'm pretty good at that exercise with the baseball background and tons of sledge work over the years. These guys in the final heat got both lengths in 4-6 hits TOTAL! I was not a very happy camper. I ran to the event coordinator who was standing directly in from of these guys, literally cheering them on as they blatantly disregarded the rules and standards for the workout. I argued to no avail that this was completely ridiculous that this was happening. He agreed with me (?) yet did nothing. I suggested the obvious: make them return to the banger and do it correctly (like, exactly what any event does when someone performs something incorrectly). He said there was nothing he could do, and then in the same sentence said he'd take care of it and work it out (again, ?).
In the end, those two guys got 1st and 2nd in the event AND the competition. The guy who helped to make the equipment came in 4th behind me in the event. To be completely honest, I don't really care about my overall placement, I was happy that I got out of the damn day alive, and was even more happy to be able to see all my athletes and friends work their butts off. What I am not cool with is the obvious disregard for standards and following through. I don't care about missed reps here and there, people should expect that sort of thing nowadays in local throwdowns. But this is clearly a different situation. Literally doing workouts/movements WRONG is something I won't put up with. I know my protest doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but if these guys have any integrity at all, they will VERY STRONGLY reconsider how they approach this sort of thing in the future.
What it does for me is continue to enforce how I run events, how I compete and train, and how I coach my athletes to compete and train. I won't put up with anyone who knows something has been missed and doesn't speak up. I won't put up with people, coaches, and event staff who have no integrity, and either don't put forth a solid standard, or even worse, don't follow through and hold to the standards they put forth.
I hope that athletes, coaches and people looking to put on events in the future read this and take the time and effort to take their own training and such a little more seriously. I hope that other athletes don't get screwed because of this sort of thing. I hope that everyone involved at "Vindication In the Valley" can read this and take the criticism in stride and actually make a change so this sort of thing never happens again. It's unfortunate they didn't take it upon themselves to do ANYTHING about it at the time. And I hope the athletes who chose to throw integrity in the dump and take advantage of that situation either make some personal changes and/or never compete again for the sake of all us who take pride in doing things right.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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