Fittest in Cape Town

Let me just begin by saying that I am already sore, although not much in my legs yet. My upper back is probably the worst. I was so sore that I decided this morning that yoga might not be the best idea … tomorrow is going to be quite interesting. Sorry for so many photos, there are so many more that are just excellent but not enough room to post them all!

So the first event of the day was outside at a sports field. We all arrived in plenty of time to stretch, warm up, and relax a bit and work off the nerves. When the location for the first event was posted on Facebook, one of the guys from the gym commented that there must be running involved, so I said no, we would probably be doing double-unders on a grassy slope, per Chris’ request (before the first event of the Throwdown series he was saying it would be even more crossfit to do it on a grassy slope). Little did I know that we would be skipping rope on grass! Single skips, happily, I did one double-under and that was about it! When we arrived we could see the equipment but didn’t know the exact workout.

Turns out it was as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes of 50 skips, 10m walking lunge with a weight overhead (11kgs for men, 4.5kgs for women), 15 kettlebell swings (24kg & 16kg), 10m walking lunge, and 100m sprint (more like fast run). This was much more painful than it sounded, and I came in second to Kate, who is quite new to our gym but quite a little dynamo! She is very strong already, and she’s only going to get better if she keeps at it (of course), but this is very good because we have a lot of strong men at our gym but not so many very strong women so with one or two more we could be very competitive as a gym.

Anyway, after that event we moved to the gym for event #2 (we had probably about 90-120 minutes between each event). This was the one event that was announced ahead of time, and your score was a combo of your 5 rep max deadlift, plus your three best sets of pullups, within 7 minutes. You can’t take weight off the bar and you must start with an empty bar, so loading the bar takes about 30 seconds right there. Chris was absolutely right … the deadlifts kill your lats for the pullups, and the pullups kill your lats for the deadlifts! Since you couldn’t take weight off the bar, I did a safety set at 96kgs and then my first set of pullups (5, the last 2 my chin wasn’t over the bar). Then I stupidly put too much weight on the bar, and missed the last lift by about 1 second (you had to complete your set of 5 lifts within 45 seconds). That was quite frustrating. Also my form was really bad … my shoulders were not in the right position at all. So I wound up placing second in this event with a total score of 107. Janie is an absolute beast, she can’t do pullups so she just did deadlifts and pumped out 119 (that’s 262 pounds for the Americans in the audience). The lift I missed didn’t matter anyway because it wouldn’t have gotten me into first place, so I wasn’t too upset in the final result, just mad at myself for not executing well.

This event was actually really interesting because it had a big impact on the results: Janie went from last place to tied for third after this event, and I took the lead by 3 points because Kate finished last at this event. On the men’s side, similarly, Grant was 11th after the first event but won this event. It was also the only pure strength event, and definitely some people are better at that than others but that’s what makes CrossFit so interesting: it’s really about who is best all-around.

The third event was an all-out sprint, for men 375m row, 50 wall balls, and 375m row, for the women 250m row, 30 wall balls, 250m row. Now on this event I fell apart a little bit. The wall balls were new, and also lighter than I am used to, but can’t complain about that because everyone had the same equipment. And one of my contacts popped out after 14, so I had to carefully take it off my cheek and put it down where it would be safe. But I was very upset with myself, I wasn’t going anywhere near as hard as I could have been, and should have been. As a result, I wound up coming in third, and saw my lead cut to one point, with Kate I think only two points behind. Not only that, but the woman who won this event, Kathryn, was in second place and due to how the tie-breakers work if we tied on the last event she would have won the competition because I didn’t have any first place finishes.

So obviously I wasn’t very happy with this situation, but much more upset at my own poor performance. All we knew at this point was that the last event would involve thrusters and burpees. Burpees are a particular strength of mine, and I’m stronger than the average and was pretty confident in my endurance heading into the last event. But I was chatting with Neil, who was leading on the men’s side, and yeah, pretty much just said I had to win, that was the only way to make it safe. Must be interesting for these guys from other gyms to come in and check what we have for athletes competing. Unsurprisingly, Neil was also asking about Rika who was unable to compete today because she was traveling for work (she is our resident Olympic athlete and is a rowing coach).

So we were wondering what the last event would look like. Someone said 21-15-9, someone else said tabata. You should have seen the nervous crowd when the last workout was finally announced. They called it “Last Man Standing” and it was death by burpees and thrusters. The death by concept is that in the first minute you do 1 rep, in the second minute 2, third minute 3, etc. until you can’t do the number you are supposed to do in that minute. It can be done with all sorts of exercises, but in this particular case you must do the appropriate number of burpees and jump over the bar (no clapping overhead), then thrusters (which is front squat followed by pressing the bar overhead). For the men the bar was 29kgs, and for the women an empty bar (15kgs). I would actually have preferred a heavier bar because that would suit my relative strengths more but on the plus side jumping over a bar that’s right on the ground is a lot easier!

The real fun with this sort of a workout is that in the first few minutes it’s easy, and you’re sitting there waiting for the clock. Then in the later rounds obviously you are racing the clock. I think for this reason minutes like 5-7 are the easiest because you are moving relatively slowly and still have about 20 seconds to rest. Then it gets hectic. In the ninth minute I finished with about 8 seconds to go, and in the 10th minute I finished with maybe 3 seconds to go. In my position at the end I could see all of my competitors, and since I knew I had to win it was actually quite easy mentally, and I was saving myself all I could in the early rounds, and even the ninth round felt relatively easy. Turns out I was the only one to finish the 10th round so I knew I had won the event and I actually paused for a second or two thinking that I didn’t actually need to continue in order to win so why waste the energy but it was the last event of the day (had it not been I definitely would have stopped!) and everyone was yelling at me to keep going, so I did.

It’s funny, too, this reminded me a bit of one race I won in high school. I was the anchor on the 4x400m relay team and we were racing against I think Milton Academy but anyway their anchor had just beaten me in the flat 400m, and she was probably about a second or two faster than I was and I got the baton maybe 2 steps ahead of her, so by math she should have been able to win the race. But she was stupid, she tried to pass me on the second curve, and you never pass on the curve, so I started running to the outside a little bit, forcing her to run an even longer distance (tactics, baby), and then in the last 100m I just wasn’t going to let her beat me, not with the entire school watching. This race was the very last one in the track meet and all the other games had finished so there was quite a large crowd watching and cheering. So this was similar, in a way, in that this was probably the most exciting event of the day to watch, and everyone was watching, and then in my last minute cheering me on. Now when you are so focused on going as hard as you can you get a bit of tunnel vision and although I was looking right at these people and hearing them yelling I can’t actually remember any one person’s face or voice. I don’t even remember who came over to congratulate me after, except for Neil, because I remember what I told him: “I did what I had to do.”

Very cool also to cheer on the men in their final heat, although theirs was in a way less exciting than ours because pretty much everyone made it to the final minute (it was the 11th minute for them, too, if I recall correctly), but no one could finish it so the results were based on how far into the round they got.

The full set of results can be found here, if you are curious. I have to say that the event itself was incredibly well organized and ran incredibly smoothly, and all the judges were a pleasure to work with (even when they were telling me my reps didn’t count! ;-)). No news here, but also as a community it’s really great, yes it’s competitive but we also are all very encouraging and supportive of each other. I forget if it was Neil or Julian but one of them was asking me if I was going to compete in the Regionals this year and I said probably, and he said something along the lines of “well, you should.” Not sure how the format will work this year but I know I wouldn’t be anything near competitive as an individual in the Games in California, but if our gym were to put together a team that is something I would rather do. But hey, we’ll see what happens. One thing at a time.

After the competition I had a wonderful massage from lovely Meggie, then a shower (both felt amazing), then some pinotage and t-bone steaks that Jobst kindly braaied for us. Man was that tasty. Jo had organised a gathering at a bar down at the Waterfront, so I headed down there after dinner. If I was smarter, I probably would have ordered a dessert like Ralf because from today I’m back on the paleo bandwagon again … cream cappuccinos will just have to wait. But that was a lot of fun just to chill after the competition, and the boys from Joburg came to join us which was also cool because for some reason I went pretty much the whole day without talking to Julian too much and turns out that was a shame because he’s very cool. This poor dude came in second to Neil by one point, AND as you can see from the picture, he tied with Neil on event #2. So a bit of the refrain was “Just one more pullup!” But, now he knows he’s capable of beating Neil and so that is an important thing mentally going into the next competition. It will be cool to see all of these guys again in a few months.

On a totally unrelated note, after about 9 months I have finally figured out that I can view stats on this blog, and boy it has some interesting readers: other than the obvious places, it has quite a few consistent pageviews from Germany, China, Sweden, Singapore, and the UAE (although that last one might actually be Iran, and suffering from the old AOL problem where ISP location and user location are not one and the same). Some of the more curious keyword searches that led to my blog:
• roger ballen antwoord (this is presumably from when I saw Yo-Landi Vi$$er)
• +muslim +revert (???)
• bruised tailbone crossfit (my personal favourite!)

Off to a braai soon and then back to get some work done!

• “Just don’t ask me to move.” – Julian

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