Me Versus “Sally”

19:42 Mon 09 May 2011
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“Sally” isn’t one of the official CrossFit workouts, meaning that it wasn’t created by CrossFit HQ and posted on crossfit.com. My gym got it from CrossFit One World, who apparently got it from CrossFit Hardcore. It’s very similar to “Nancy”, which is an official workout. “Sally” is five rounds of a 400-meter run and 15 hang power snatches at 95/65 pounds, and as soon as I saw it last night I knew I’d be doing it rather than today’s CrossFit Football workout.

The hang power snatch—starting with the bar at about mid-thigh and bringing it above the head in one (hopefully) smooth movement—is my second-favorite lift. My favorite is the hang power clean: starting with the bar at about mid-thigh and bringing it to the rack position (resting at the shoulders, essentially) in one movement. I’ve always liked the hang power lifts; perhaps because they’re less complex mechanically, perhaps because they’ve really helped me with better muscle recruitment by preventing me from using my quads to get the bar off the ground. In any case, I like them, and they’re good lifts for me—I perform above my level against other athletes in my gym with them.

So when they came up in a WOD, I was eager to go at it.

When Kat posted the workout, she included a video of one of the CrossFit Hardcore trainers, Omar “Bionic” Torres, doing it. His time was 17:30, and I didn’t think I could beat that. My running and overall cardio is a little weak right now, and I doubted I’d get through the runs fast enough to challenge that time. What I did think I could do, though, was get through all of the hang power snatches unbroken. Five sets of 15. Why not?

I did plenty of shoulder pass-throughs with the dowel, and then a couple of hang power snatches with the bar, and then tried some at 75 pounds. They felt easy enough to string together. Then I tried some at 95 pounds, and it didn’t seem too hard to do three in a row… but I got the feeling that I wouldn’t know how feasible 15 in a row would be until I tried it.

I was set on that goal, however. Straight through each time, no putting the bar down. If a hang power snatch at 95 pounds is easy—which is it—then there’s no reason to break them up. And while this workout looks similar to, and harder than, the 2011.1 CrossFit Open workout, I also thought going into it that I’d be less likely to gas out during the lifts. Partly because I would rest more during the runs than was possible during double unders, and partly because the hang power snatch is in some ways easier than the power snatch.

The hang lifts are generally regarded as more difficult, because you don’t get the benefit of using your legs to drive the weight off the ground. On the other hand, you’re doing less work, because you’re not moving the bar the same distance. For doing high reps at relatively light weights, I think that makes a difference, and it makes more of a difference not having to bend over to go to the ground—it’s easier to keep breathing properly.

I took the first run reasonably easy, but was still one of the first to get to the bar. I took my time setting up, and then started my set of 15.

I use the numbers to keep myself going psychologically. In a set of 15, the first key is to get to five, because it’s easy to break it up into three sets of five. I got to five without difficulty, and would through all five sets. After that the next key is eight, because that’s more than halfway there. After eight, the key is 10, because that’s just two more reps and because that only leaves five. Once at 10, the next key is 12, because that just leaves three, and three is of course as easy as one-two-three. Then I’m at 15 and can drop the bar. Which I did, and went out for the second round.

The second round was easier, perhaps because I was more warmed up to the movement. I got to eight reps rapidly, and the remaining seven were never in doubt. My running had definitely slowed, though. I didn’t let anybody overtake me, but I would always have a significant lead because I was finishing the hang power snatches well ahead of the others.

The third round of reps was easy at first. I again got to eight reps quite quickly, banging them out one after another, but after eight reps needed a break and came really close to dropping the bar. I just felt myself letting it go without really thinking about it, because I “needed a rest”, and only just remembered in time that I was determined not to do that. I managed to keep hold of it, and got to 10, and then 12, reps, and forced myself through the last three. While getting through those, however, I realized that I was leaving the bar at the top for too long, and resting there before bringing it down. Bringing the bar down isn’t easy, and so I was taking a moment to prepare myself mentally each time, but that’s hardly a restful position, and I was taxing my arms by doing that. My arms were already tired at that point, and I resolved not to “rest” in that position anymore.

Three rounds done, more than halfway there. I was pretty sure I could get all the sets unbroken, but thought that the fourth round was really the key. I thought that if I got through that, stubbornness and the knowledge that the workout would be done after the final set would see me through the last 15 in a row. With that in mind, I pushed hard at the start of the fourth set, but after five I definitely felt tired. My lower arms started to feel disconcertingly jelly-like. I was muscling the bar up from imperfect catch positions too often. I was feeling gassed out around rep eleven, and by rep fourteen felt like I was spent. But I finished it out with good form, getting under the bar and catching it locked out and standing, and when I did that it felt easy.

One last run, again taken at not too fast a pace, and then back for the last set. I was sure I’d get it now, as it was clearly possible for me and I was completely determined. I gave myself a moment to get set, and then started into the last 15. I knew my arms were really tired now, and so tried to get through this set as fast as possible, banging out the first eight quickly. After that I started having trouble bringing the weight down, and a couple of times, not entirely on purpose, I moved my hands a little closer together to make that easier. I couldn’t rest in the hang position, because that was taxing my grip too much, but I couldn’t just keep hitting the reps. I got to 10, and then 12, though. That just left three. These weren’t as easy as one-two-three, unlike every other round. But I got to 14, and knew that I had enough energy to do the last one with proper form, and that doing it with proper form would be easier on the arms and, overall, just wouldn’t be too tough. Dip, drive, shrug—and then, with the bar about level with my shoulder, my right hand slipped off it. Down and sideways it crashes as I perform a rather ungainly bailout from the lift, luckily not injuring me—I’ve never had to bail like that before, with one hand unexpectedly no longer on the bar. The bar was on its first bounce when I shouted “fuck you!” at it, still not really believing that I’d missed the last rep.

I dragged it back from the wall, set up, got into the hang position, did the lift, and called time. 20:19, not that bad[*], although I think it’d have been under 20:00 if I’d made that last rep. But time hadn’t been my main focus—the whole point was to get through all 75 unbroken, and I missed that goal by the slimmest of margins.

So, “Sally” wins. I’m not sure how often that workout comes around, but I hope to do it again, and next time out get all five sets unbroken.

[*] For comparison, the best time in my gym was David Bui’s 13:34.

4 Responses to “Me Versus “Sally””

  1. Zac Says:

    chalk up next time. running makes you sweat.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Yeah, this is the one time I can remember regretting not using some chalk. I’m not used to worrying about grip on the bar and it just didn’t occur to me.

  3. Drew Says:

    The name “Sally” was never used for the name of the WOD but the WOD itself was created by CF HQ and posted at CrossFit.com in 2005, 2006, 2008. 2009. Great job on the time.

  4. Tadhg Says:

    Drew: thanks, and thanks for the info.

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