Coach Brandon on the 2014 Colorado Open
I have competed in and completed the Colorado Open for four years now. I have been blessed with opportunities to compete in state championships for Middle School wrestling and High School football, so tough competition is not new to me, but I have never faced competition as fierce as what the Colorado Open produces every year. The shear across-the-board athleticism that is present is a little awe-inspiring. The first year I competed I was a pup at 19. I had only done CrossFit for a few months before getting talked into signing up for the Open. I thought I was hot stuff walking into Front Range CrossFit for the first time, but after a 55th place finish and barely being able to leave the gym under the power of my two much destroyed legs, I was humbled, but more importantly, HOOKED.
The next year I came more prepared than the last, climbing the ranks slightly to a 35th place finish. The year after that, after a year or so of honing my skills I made another climb to a 22nd place finish.
When competitions are battled this intensely, you grow a very deep appreciation for the “little things”. When a no rep can cost you numerous points in the leader board, literally every moment counts, and the tiniest mistake can set you back in your rank significantly. Especially when 20 plus athletes all complete the same workout within ten seconds of each other, which is not just something that happens occasionally, but is the case in nearly every workout performed. This was the first year I got through the Open without a no-rep. Any workout is totally different when someone is standing feet away watching your every move making sure the standards are met. This does not mean my performance was perfect. On three of the five workouts I completed I stuck to my game plan, executed well, and placed high enough to be content. The other two were, well, less than perfect.
My mistakes in the 2014 Open: The first workout of the second day consisted of three stations Overhead squats, Medicine ball sit ups, and double unders. My first mistakes happened before I even started the workout. Knowing my heat time was 9:45 am for the first WOD I allowed myself to sleep in, and showed up in time to basically get all my junk out of the car, consume my pre-workout supplements, and warm up. Almost every athlete will watch at least a few bits and pieces of the athletes performing the workout in the heats before them. To kind of get a feel of how fast the workout is being done and little tricks and strategies other athletes employ to help them get an edge on the competition. This was the only workout of the competition I did not watch any of the earlier heats go. This particular workout was performed outside, and if I would have watched the earlier heats I would have realized that the 3, 2, 1 GO! call that came from the speaker system in the gym was not only starting the heat for the workout that was going on inside the gym, but outside as well. So there I stood, with my thumb up my butt and no chalk on my hands, watching my fellow competitors’ race off to the squat rack to complete the first set of Overhead squats, leaving me in the dust. Despite the slow start I managed to not lose a lot of time here, but that’s where my second mistake took place. After twenty Overhead squats we were to grab the abmat and medicine ball and run to the mat or “second station” about 25 meters from the squat rack. Had I seen the heats before me I would have seen athletes using a different method of sit-up. They were doing something that resembled a rocking motion, which was a lot faster per rep, and still met the standards the judges were looking for. I was in the dark on this one, so my sit ups took a good 10-15 seconds longer than everyone else in my heat. After completing the 40 weighted sit ups we were to carry our equipment back to the squat rack, grab our jump ropes and sprint to the third station which was about 50 meters away and perform double unders. In a frenzy to catch up to the pack I grabbed one end of my rope and took off, only to have it ripped from my hands as I began to run. The other end of the rope wrapped around the squat rack, and now I had to back track and untangle the sucker before I could continue. These tiny mistakes added up and I was clearly the last place athlete in my heat. Fortunately for me, everyone else smoked it, and my time was still good enough for 11th place overall.
My other mistakes happened on the final workout. An evil “Grace” with a 500 Meter Row between the first and second group of ten clean and jerks, and between the second and third sets. My first mistake occurred when I failed to loosen the foot straps on the rower. After my first set of ten Clean and Jerks were completed I made my way to the rower only to find that my feet wouldn’t fit into the pedals, and I had to waste precious seconds to loosen them enough to allow my feet to fit. It also didn’t help that my first set of ten clean and jerks were actually a set of twelve, thanks to my judge’s incompetent counting abilities, but that is out of my control and I need not fret over the things that happen that are out of my control. On the second set of ten clean and jerks, which in my game plan were supposed to be all touch and go reps, I lost my mental fortitude and DROPPED THE BAR. Those heaving breaths I took were painful, but more painful was the fact that I knew in that moment I was letting myself down. Going into the final workout I was ranked sixth, and knew that the spots between 4th and 14th place were all separated by only a few points, and my performance on this workout was crucial to where I would end up on the leader board. My worst placing workout of the weekend, 31st, set me back to finishing the competition in 12th overall. Had those foot straps been ready and I had finished ten seconds faster… BOOM, top ten… That’s how easy it is to screw up big in a competition at that level.
The key here, with the whole hindsight thing, is whether it is for this particular competition or just life in general, using the things you learn the hard way to make yourself better. I’d be lying if I said I’m not kicking myself right now. Rather than beating myself up over it, I will use it as motivation to train harder and get better over the next year so I can taste that Colorado Open podium. God knows, I will never forget to loosen those rower straps again.
High Point: My best moment of the Colorado Open happened after I destroyed my heat in the rope climb Atlas stone workout. It was 4-3-2-1 rope climbs and stone to shoulders with a 115 pound atlas stone. Watching the heats leading up to mine I saw many people struggle to finish the rope climbs, and also noticed every athlete was dropping the stone for every rep. I can climb a rope, and I’m pretty good at it, so I wasn’t worried about that part of the WOD at all. How would I get an edge on my competition for this workout? As I warmed up I practiced a technique nobody else was using for the stones, touch and go, without dropping the stone and waiting for it to settle before resetting and hoisting it to my shoulder again. I would lower my whole body with the stone and use the bounce it got from the rubber stall mats to help lift it again, shaving seconds off every single rep. I completed the workout in 2:31, over 30 seconds faster than anyone else had so far. Unfortunately, there was still one heat set to go after mine, and having seen my technique you can bet every single one of them used it. Only two people in the next heat were able to beat my time, one athlete by a measly 3 seconds, and the other by a good 20 seconds. Lucky for him he was 6’5” and would already be halfway up the rope if he was sitting down. A third place finish demolishes every other place I’ve gotten in any other Colorado Open workout, so I was quite happy and proud of my performance on that workout.
When all was said and done I achieved my goal of placing in the top 20 at this competition, despite letting a top ten finish slip from my grasp, I am happy, satisfied, and ready to put in another year of hard work to keep chasing my goals as an athlete and become the best that I can be.