observations about CrossFit Games 2017

By SOLO

It’s been just over a week since the wrap up of CrossFit Games 2017.
Thirteen workouts in four days.

Few observations about this year’s event:

A change of climate.

CF Games moved from California to Madison. Although athletes spent a good chunk of mornings shivering, cooler is better for high intensity exercise outdoors. Remember that dumbass Murph workout in 2015, when multiple athletes were hospitalized with heat stroke?

Of course, cooler temperatures meant that some athletes started cramping up during and after the swim portion of the run-swim-run event. Still… I’d take cramping over a heat stroke any day.

One rep max of a snatch.

After the shitshow of the Open, where two dozen male athletes torn their pecs in a high rep ring dip workout, I was very happy to see lighter weights in higher rep workouts, and 1RM snatch as a separate event – instead of being tacked onto the end of a high intensity couplet.

Cyclocross.

Labelled as the most “out of the box” event of the competition, cyclocross event included three laps of one and a half mile track on mountain bikes.

There was a beautifully shot demo video of a good looking mountain biker rip through the course that was released beforehand.

The actual event did not look anything like that. In fact, it was a bit painful to watch a number of athletes (many of whom probably have never been on a mountain bike) fly over the handle wheels and land on the back of their head. Ouch.

Obstacle course.

One of the workouts this year was an obstacle course(ish). Nine obstacles, cap time of two minutes for men, and three minutes for women. Understandably, every single obstacle racer was curious.

Some folks suggested that O-Course event appearing in the CF Games was somehow further proof that OCR is becoming a legitimate sport. AND! Obstacles!!! What took them so long?!

Umm… nothing. CrossFit Games had an obstacle course event wayyyyyy back in 2012. Dare I say the obstacle course the athletes had to face in 2012 was way more aggressive, fast, and… interesting. [Reebok and Spartan Race signed a partnership agreement a year later, and instead of OCR becoming MORE prevalent in the Games, it disappeared completely for the next five years.]

As for this somehow being proof of OCR’s legitimacy… I am not so sure.This is one fringe sport incorporating another fringe sport. That’s like meta fringe. 🙂

O-courses have been incorporated into the military training for many years, so you could just as easily argue that this indicates CrossFit’s closer affiliation with the armed forces. Meh.

Both arguments do seem fairly far fetched. At that rate, we could discuss the impact of political climate on presence or absence of certain workouts. Next year, the athletes will be required to build a wall. For time.

With seemingly unlimited resources and sadistic imagination, it’s hard to understand why the 2017 obstacle course was so ho-hum boring. Heck, I would love to see these folks get across a technical rig, not just scale a couple of walls.

The rope swing obstacle did prove to be the most challenging obstacle for athletes, with at least one male athlete time capped, as he struggled to get across. Most grabbed the rope way too low, and sweeping the ground with their feet.

No one, but a couple of athletes, chose to flip over the top of the cargo net to save time, as Paul Tremblay does in the demo. It’s a fairly straightforward approach that allows one to save few seconds on the over-the-top transition, however, it does imply some practice, and simply knowledge of the obstacle.

Being familiar with certain obstacles and techniques would come in handy few more times during the course, like knowing (and having the confidence) to skip the logs on the log hop, instead of trying to hit every single one.

All athletes got to practice on the obstacle course beforehand. Not sure how I feel about this. It definitely ups the athleticism factor, and turns down the luck factor, but a big part of obstacle racing IS figuring out the best approach to any given obstacle quickly on the spot, as you approach it, without having that privilege of prior practice.

Oh, and as a little reminder, perhaps, not to rely too much on previous practice, and stay sharp, the last rope ladder was fixed to the floor in the preview video, during the practice runs, AND for the Ro vs. Boz smackdown, however, it was hanging loose during the actual competition, making it way more difficult to climb up.

Specialist vs. Generalist debate

There is a huge difference between being able to do something, and being able to do something well. The latter takes many years of practice, and, why you will never see CrossFit athletes do very well on an event like Cyclocross, unless they have specific biking background (e.g. triathlon, mountain biking).

So, I find it entertaining when the peanut gallery starts throwing out names – “Oh, such and such would kill this!”. Yes. If “such and such” specializes in “this”, he/she probably would. And, if there was a golf WOD, Tiger Woods would destroy the field also.

It would be strange if specialists did not beat generalists in their area of … well, specialty.

Notably, CF may be more applicable to your average Joe/Jane – after all, most normal regular non-beast mode humans would benefit way more from being able to do a SHITLOAD of stuff a little bit, than doing ONE SHIT really well. You want to talk “translating into real life”? Then any average grandma would benefit more from CF than specialized tennis instruction. She can now lift grocery bags without throwing out her back, she can run after a toddler, and maybe even get that kitten out of a tree.

As for statements along the lines of “if only I focused on X for a year or two, I’d kick Rich Froning’s ass” – those are simply disrespectful. That’s like saying: “Pffft… I am an ok writer, but if I wrote a bit more… just gimme couple of years, and I’d outwrite Stephen King and Shakespeare put together”. No, you would not. You arrogant prick.

For any CF athlete, being able to do ANYTHING athletics wise – is necessary, but not sufficient. You should be able to run, swim, climb, bike, hang upside down and weave baskets (just in case). The goal is to be able to do ANYTHING proficiently enough, so any given event does not cost you the entire Games. If you cannot swim, then come run-swim-run event, you are shit out of luck. If you are a former triathlete, congrats – this may be the one event where you destroy the competition. For most competitors, the occasional one-off fringe sport they are exceptionally good at is not going to be enough. You have to be able to do everything “well enough”, and then be exceptional at what the 80% of the competition actually is – heavy Olympic lifting, lighter Olympic lifting, bodyweight exercises, and gymnastic movements.

Few more memorable moments.

** Stacie Tovar retires by dramatically placing her shoes onto a podium, and sobbing as she walks out.
** Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, the Canadian favorite, drops out due to shoulder injury.
** Robert Caslin makes headlines, when he pulls out of the first event to help a drowning fellow competitor.
** Rich Froning does not see the first spot on podium for the first time, as his team takes second.

Conclusion:

On one hand, the CF Games is gaining a very unfortunate reputation of simply throwing random shit at athletes, while keeping the events entertaining for the audience. On the other hand, the athletes do need to become increasingly more versatile, as the events now can include swimming, running, biking, obstacle course, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, strongman, and whatever else strikes Dave Castro’s fancy.

The next few weeks is as close as any CF athlete will get to an off-season, only to start ramping up strength in the fall, and then getting ready for CrossFit Open 2018.

Hugs,
SOLO

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Posted August 14, 2017

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