Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday's Workout

Unlike this year, I watched last year’s CrossFit Games from my couch. I’d just started CrossFitting the month before, and I found the online streaming video coverage mesmerizing. All the competitors were amazing, but one athlete in particular, Chris Spealler, made my jaw drop. Spealler and I have one thing in common: We both weigh140 pounds. But he’s also an extraordinarily strong and skilled firebreather, which makes him pretty much the opposite of me.

Of all the crazy-challenging programming at last year’s Games -- ring handstand push-ups, anyone? -- the one that lodged itself in my head was Event 3:

As many rounds as possible in 7 minutes of:
  • 7 deadlifts (315lbs / 205lbs)

  • 20-meter run
14 pistols
21 double-unders

  • 20-meter run
To me, the competition looked absolutely brutal -- and not just because I was baffled at how anyone could crank out pistols and double-unders with such ease. Here's the thing: Spealler deadlifted more than double his bodyweight, and he did it 42 TIMES in 7 minutes. And the winners of the event, Austin Malleolo and Rich Froning, almost managed to complete 6 full rounds of this workout.

When I saw this WOD, I knew it was just a matter of time before it appeared on the whiteboard at CrossFit Palo Alto. And one year later, it did.

More after the jump...

Tim did, however, change it up ever-so-slightly. He did away with the 20-meter runs, and rather than making this an AMRAP, Tim instructed us to complete 7 rounds. He also implemented a cut-off time of 25 minutes. “This should be doable,” I thought. After all, the 2010 Games athletes -- if they'd kept going past 7 minutes -- would have wrapped up all seven rounds in less than 10 minutes. Besides, none of us in the 5 a.m. class were going to deadlift anywhere near the RXed weight.

Initially, I loaded up a 225-pound barbell based on my last deadlift-heavy WOD from a few weeks back. But after some needling from Tim (“you did that last time!”), I threw on another 20 pounds. Two hundred and forty five pounds doesn’t sound like much relative to the RXed 315, but I was pretty sure cranking out 49 reps at this weight was gonna be a kick in the nuts.

The first round of the WOD was deceptively easy. I got through the deadlifts without pausing, and the pistols were fairly smooth and fast too (though I did most of ‘em on my stronger right leg). Even the double-unders gave me no trouble; I ripped out all 21 in a row.

But then the second round began, and I started to feel the weight of the bar. The heavy kettlebell swings we did during Monday’s workout had stiffened by hamstrings and lower back, and the high-rep deadlifts were now testing their already-strained limits. In the middle of my second set of deadlifts, I thought I felt a muscle spasm in my back and winced, but when I straightened up, I felt fine -- so I stepped back to the bar.

Throughout the workout, the pistols and double-unders came easy -- but the deadlifts didn't. By the fourth round, I was taking breaks between each lift, kneading out my tight hammies and muttering obscenities to (at?) myself.

I quickly realized there was no way I'd manage to finish all seven rounds in ten minutes; in fact, I'd be lucky just to finish everything before the expiration of the 25 minutes. With two minutes remaining on the clock, I had yet to begin my seventh and final round. To get in under the cut-off time, I had to hustle.

So I did. I quickened the pace of my deadlifts, though not by much; I was already starting to see stars as I pushed myself to heave the bar and plates off the floor. I was a sweat-drenched mess, having run out of dry spots on my shirt with which to soak up my perspiration. (I’d forgotten to bring one of my trusty sweat-wicking beanies, so my bodily fluids were just cascading off me and puddling around my feet. Yes, it was gross.)

Luckily, the last round of pistols and double-unders flew by.

Result: 24:43 (using a 245-pound barbell). I know: I'm clearly no Spealler. But I came in under 25 minutes (albeit just barely), and for that, I’m damned proud. A year ago, I couldn’t do a single pistol or double-under, and I certainly couldn’t deadlift 245 pounds. A lot can happen in a year -- so with any luck, twelve months from now (or whenever I encounter this workout again), I’ll manage to cut a chunk off of today’s time.

[Image: 2010 CrossFit Games]