By Jon Kissick
Friday, September 13
Friday the 13th, a week of biblical flooding in Denver, a perfect time to get 204 supremely fit athlete’s together for a weekend of mayhem? Why not? The 2013 Open started off with a first. A first time, out-of-the-gym-event - the Pro rucksack hike. Curious to see how the ruck was going and fueled by rumors of a Pistono sighting, I headed south on the trail about an hour after the pack had left the gym.
On the CrossFit continuum from your local neighborhood throw down & BBQ all the way to the final Sunday in Carson, we all know and respect that a FRCF event, and specifically the Open, is the closest thing to a Regionals level contest in the country. As such I wasn’t surprised that less than a ½ mile from the gym I saw the first event staff. Betsy Tauer and Ben Maus were camped out just below the only major traffic intersection of the trail. They were there as the final check point for returning hikers and to make sure all athletes followed the prescribed course back to the gym.
Interesting enough though, this was a pass/fail event for the Pro athletes. All 27 would hike the 10 mile trial with 40 or 60 lbs in their ruck. All of them had to make it to the 5 mile turn around with Skip, but then they could pace themselves back to the gym. Just making sure to finish before the 6pm WOD. As a past academic I can attest to the confusion of introducing pass/fail grading to a population that has only known the unforgiving grade of the clock. I think this is the first P/F event programed into a major event like the Open. Another tribute to the inventiveness of FRCF programing.
Heading down the trail from Betsy & Ben, I rode for a while before seeing the first athlete. As someone who has spent more than a few days humping around the mountains of the Pacific NW and British Columbia, I have a moleskin earned understanding of the concept of my foot in a shoe under bodyweight, and the reality of my foot in a shoe under my weight plus another good percentage of my bodyweight on my back. The whole equation can get ugly when you add covering multiple miles over varied terrain. So I was curious about what I would see.
I was shocked. I have been around the CF community for a few years. But I didn’t recognize Michelle Kinney from Tennessee and I also didn’t expect to see a CrossFitter moving that fast under load and smiling. She didn’t look like some Olympic Lifting gym rat working under load, but more like some large game cat that had a clear intuition that a week’s worth of dinners was just over the next rise. She was flying. Insist on helicopter coverage for next year. I rode for a while before even passing the next two competitors. I rode for another while before seeing not another competitor but Mike Pistono cranking up the trail to catch the leaders.
Mike, FRCF OG from Year One, filled me in that Skip had taken everybody out at a 4 mile per hour pace to the 5 mile turn around and then let them go. Skip was going to be taking his time on the way back and everyone just had to beat him.
I continued on down the trial passing the rest of the field and I did see some CrossFitters moving smoothly under load and others that looked like Olympic Lifters laboring uncomfortably. To that point I will argue with anyone in the CF training hierarchy that general physical preparedness is a great goal or ideal but it is a myth. By definition there is specificity to all training.
To that point and the question if this sport will ever make it to the Olympics, and the Pendleton Tri, Open water swims, Log carries and other such nonsense, there has to be boundaries if you want to call it a sport. Otherwise call it what it is, play.
Riding on toward the end of the field I came to the anchor group, Colleen Maher, Amy Backel and a few other friends, just chatting away, heckling the golfers and being a general public nuisance. They informed me that Skip was just behind them down the trail. I rode on and apparently took a wrong fork because I saw no more CrossFitters. On doubling back I eventually came upon a middle aged gentleman walking ahead on the trail with a definite hitch in his giddy up. As I pulled up I realize that middle aged dude was my coach. Turns out a semi-blistering pace under 60 lbs and a few rocks in his shoes was a bit even for someone with a long history of sport specific training. I rode with Skip until we came out of the Evans Street underpass.
Looking further up the tree lined trail it appeared, and soon turn out to be, a 1954 Olive Green US Army Issue Willy Jeep rolling down the trail towards us with the windshield down. The jeep was driven by another FRCF OG, Eric Herbst. Skip gladly poached a military grade ride back to base. As they drove ahead I couldn’t help but think that there are many places on this blue marble, but only one like Front Range CrossFit.
Saturday, September 14
After you have gone to, written about and participated in a few FRCF Events there’s not much left to say. The athletes are in superb condition, the event is well run, the judging is consistent and first rate, the scoring is accurately and quickly updated. So what more needs to be said? Saturday was another day in the life of FRCF events. Everything ran well, despite challenges from the weather. There was some questionable OHS technique in some of the rounds Saturday morning. But all and all lots of quality performances from consistently fit athletes. The same held true for the afternoon Open workout of dead lifts, cleans and snatches.
The Pros barely lost a stride with the T2B / C2B / Bar Muscle Up complex in the morning and absolutely destroyed the Clean and Jerk section of the afternoon workout. For me the most fun aspect of the first day was the Rowing floater workout. If you didn’t manage to catch the last two heats on Saturday, when the FRCF women tackled the rowing workout, it was inspiring.
Louisa Berky, Madeline Berky, Shaina Jordan and Erica Drennen all have fluid, graceful and balanced technique built to the exacting demands of rowing on the water. Colleen Maher, Jasmine Dever, Amy Backel and Kristen Olson have efficient technique but don’t display the telltale scars of thousands of miles on the water. Regardless, both groups turn the erg with savage power. It was quite a site. Concept II publishes altitude adjustment factors because the rowing machine is slower in thinner air. These floater times were very respectable for good college rowers, but if you take any seconds or partial seconds away for altitude they start to look silly.
Sunday, September 15th
Sunday started with another ‘modified’ CrossFit workout. Really? Wooden walls? What gyms have wooden walls to climb? In Sparta or in preparation for the Ancient Games did they use wooden walls to train? I don’t think so. Apparently some of the more educated contestants who shall remain nameless (Erica Drennen) choose to attempt a ’68 Mexico City Games style protest by working at running through the wall instead of over. Rope climbing however, is an integral and standard part of CrossFit. Friends who remark to me about what a weird cohort CrossFitters are, often point to how many and how easily CrossFit women do pull ups as a benchmark of our oddness. I think that point was further driven home when you saw how efficiently and tirelessly CrossFitters can rope climb.
The afternoon soon dispensed with the gimmickry and got down to old school CrossFit. Lifting weights, lifting body weight and muscle ups. Straight up CrossFit, with no chaser. These types of workouts, any of ‘the girls’, or any hero workout can be done with the equipment found in any box in the world. That’s where the sport of CrossFit is truly a sport. That is where our athletes are trained to shine and they do. The amazingly high level of performance in the Open Chipper and the speed and power of the Pro’s in the final muscle up / squat snatch workout were remarkable. With athletes like Chris Hoppe, Natalie McClain, Michelle Kinney, Thaddeus Eshelman, etcetera it is so apparent that this is not your average neighborhood throw down. This was the Sixth Colorado Open and the level of functional fitness was world class.
But how can you finish a write up for the Open without acknowledging our other outliers? If we define fitness as (Force x Distance)/Time across multiple modalities, then we have to acknowledge that lifetime fitness is the integration of that function from 1 to X, with X being your final tally of years on the rock. As such if we over consume resources in one decade and thus dimension the area under our fitness curve later in life, then are we truly being fit? Given that reality, as a community I feel we have to constantly acknowledge our other outliers. In that vein props to those that have been rocking the whiteboard for eight and a half decades! Shout out to FRCF’s own Jim Neely, who normally can be seen working out in the 6 PM workout, but this weekend spent his time in the athlete recovery tent, helping to assist in the running of the event.
Thanks for another great Open. Thanks to all the volunteers that run the heats, judge the heats, constantly re-set up the competition space, maintain an accurate and current leader board, maintain a safe and organized warm up space and generally make this event one of a kind.
See you next year.