CrossFit Open 2011 Workout 1

15:11 Sun 20 Mar 2011
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This year’s equivalent to Sectionals is a very different approach to the problem of qualification for Regionals. The whole Games structure is still three-tiered, with a qualifying stage for Regionals which is the qualifying stage for the actual CrossFit Games event. But whereas last year Sectionals were events themselves, taking place over two days, this year we have the CrossFit Open, taking place over six (now actually seven) weeks without any central location. Competitors can either compete at registered affiliates or video themselves doing the workouts.

I’m sad about the loss of the community aspect of Sectionals; since it’s an open event, a significant chunk of the local CrossFit community would turn up, and the community aspect of it was one of its draws. With the new format, that’s not really a factor at all. It also feels very different for it not to be an excursion, but instead an amped-up workout at your usual spot.

Nevertheless, I can see the reason to move to a decentralized format, partly because of past difficulties in event organization and partly because of the sheer mass of competitors, currently at over 20,000 worldwide and more than 850 in my region of Northern California alone (and that figure of 850 is only the athletes who have entered results so far, not those who have registered). If growth continues as this rate, the decentralized approach is probably the only feasible one.

So, for several weeks, we’ll do one workout per week. We can try it as many times as we want, and our best result is the one that counts. The workout is announced on Tuesday evening and we have until the following Sunday evening to do it and submit our result. The reason this isn’t quite as smooth as it could have been, and the reason why the competition is now seven weeks instead of six, is that the games.crossfit.com site went down shortly before they were supposed to announce the first workout. Without getting into how bad that is, the fact that it took them six-and-a-half-hours after that to reach the obvious conclusion that they should release the workout info by other channels (e.g. crossfit.com or their Facebook page, or mass emailing, etc.) was inexcusable. It’s a small snippet of information, and the fact that they didn’t just replace the entire site with a static page with the workout info on it until they got things working again was also inexcusable. In any case, they got it out late, people who had already made plans based around running it on Tuesday complained (reasonably enough), and then they decided to give everyone an extra week to do it—which extends the overall competition by a week.

This is the workout, at the weight for my gender/age category: as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of 30 double unders & 15 power snatches at 75 pounds.

When I saw that on Tuesday night, I was fairly happy. I’m pretty good at double unders, and thought that power snatches at that weight wouldn’t be that tough. But the workout is tougher than it looks, mainly because the power snatches, even at just 75 pounds, become heavy very fast. In my first attempt at it I tried to go too fast early, and was surprised by how much just the first round took out of me, and finished with five rounds and one double under (226 reps total).

Yesterday, my gym took our more serious shot at it, and at the time the extension hadn’t been announced so I thought it was my last shot. I told myself to go slow and steady, and to try to not rest, and to go all out in the final minutes.

Slow and steady worked well. Through the first three rounds I didn’t let go of the bar during the sets of power snatches. I also managed to keep them reasonably smooth, and to come up off the ground slowly, forcing the main work to happen with the hip extension once the bar is above the knees. I was calm during the double unders, using them as my time to breathe. But in the fourth round, I let go of the bar in the middle of a set, and I starting taking longer breaks between the sets. I pushed through some of this quite well (or at least that’s how it seemed internally), but not enough of it.

It’s a very interesting experience, partly because there’s almost no point at which it would be impossible, or even all that difficult, for me to do a single 75-pound power snatch (or a double under). It’s not like a heavier weight, where there’s doubt about being able to lift it, and it’s not like a pullup (or even a pushup), where it’s entirely possible for my muscles to be worn out to the point where I just can’t do one. So, at any given point, I knew I could do one. Getting myself to do them, however, became increasingly difficult.

At least until the last 30 seconds, when I pushed through that and did 30 double unders and 3 power snatches in that time.

My total for the second attempt was five rounds, the double unders, and three power snatches (258 reps total), a clear improvement, but not quite the extra round I’d set my sights on.

I’m fascinated that my expectations for my performance in this workout were unrealistically high from the start—and have remained so even after I’ve done it twice. Particularly since I’m already good at double unders, which I think are the less physically limiting of the two movements and so the easier to improve. My double unders are not going to improve much, if at all, when I do this workout again. Any improvement has to come from the power snatches, and I’m not sure, given how hard I tried and given the improbability of a relevant strength increase in the next week, why I think that I’ll manage such an improvement. Yet I do. I stubbornly believe that I “should” be able—in my current physical condition—to get six rounds, and I’ll try hard again to hit that next week.

I haven’t registered my result yet, but right now 258 reps would rank me at tied for 210th out of 555 in Northern California, or in the top 38%, which is good for my target of top 50% given that later workouts are likely to be much less kind to me than this one.

In our gym, the standout result was from David Bui, with seven rounds plus the double unders plus four snatches (349 reps total), which currently has him at 21st in NorCal. After him were Zac Hunter with 266 and Keith Milutinovic with 265 (both just under six rounds), followed by my 258. For the women, we had two with results that put them in the top 100 in NorCal (out of 315), but both are publicity-shy so I won’t name them here.

As always, I’m impressed by the determination and ability of the CrossFit KMSF athletes—good work by all of you who did it! Also as always, thanks to our awesome coaches for getting us to this point!

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