It is Thursday afternoon and the first day of the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games is over. As Dave Castro promised, it was a very, very difficult day.
It started with 10 laps of a 1200 meter criterium bike race with all 40 men starting at once. Going into this event I was seated 16th after my time trial on Tuesday. The plan of my race was to stick with the main group of athletes in the first few laps, even if it meant expending a little extra energy. Often in these races, the top cyclists will try to break away early and maintain their lead. I wanted to ensure I was with that group, and once I was with that group, it would be easier to stay with them if I could draft behind some of the stronger cyclists.
This worked quite well, in fact, because I was able to start with the first 15 or so cyclists, I learned afterwards that after the first difficult corner, many athletes behind me were caught up in a bit of a crash. One of them was my fellow Canadian friend, Patrick Vellner, whose bike basically fell apart, and for the remaining nine laps he had to use a standard issued bicycle that didn’t fit him very well, at all.
Over the next few laps, positions changed, and I was mostly sitting in around 15th position. Ben Smith eventually caught up to our group of cyclists which were about six strong. Ahead of us, by maybe 30 meters was main group of athletes leading the pack also about six athletes in that group. It was on the seventh lap where Ben Smith yelled to our group and said “Guys! We got to catch that main pack!” We were all invigorated by this and started to make the charge to catch to the main pack of athletes.
It only took us a quarter of a lap and there were all of a sudden about 12 of us in the race for the top spots. As expected, I think in the last two laps, Adrian Mundwilder pulled ahead as he’s a very experienced cyclist. I think it was James Newbury that was able to keep pace with him for a second place finish. I made a kick in the final lap, and was able to pass a few athletes, but it wasn’t enough to pass the two Europeans, Aegidius and Gudmundsson. I think in hindsight the only thing I would have changed was to make a few positional changes in Lap 8 and 10 to bolster my ranking leading into the final lap push.
I haven’t been checking the leaderboard, but I think I finished around 9th place, which I was very happy with.
The race as a whole was a lot of fun. I was glad I wasn’t one of the athletes who took a spill. I would definitely consider doing a race like that again, but only if I had a little more experience under my belt taking tight corners fast.
We had about an hour break before the next event. I stretched out my legs so they would remain useful for the remainder of the day. I began warming up for Event 2 which was 30 Ring Muscle Up’s for time. I wasn’t very stressed about this event as there wasn’t much I could do other than execute my gameplan to the best of my abilities. My hope was to do 12 unbroken, rest, 10, rest, and the final 8. However, once I began my first set, I quickly realized that probably would not happen as my triceps felt fatigued early. I still did the 12 unbroken, easily, after that I ensured I kicked out of the dip as aggressively as possible with my legs so my triceps didn’t completely give out on me. After those first 12 reps, I believe did another 7 reps, leaving 11 more which I broke up into sets of 5, 3, and 3.
I was fortunate on that event to have 0 no reps as throughout the year I’ve been practicing keeping all my repetitions to a high standard. After the event, I heard many athletes complaining about receiving a few no reps which definitely impacted their score.
I finished with a time just under 2:30 which I was very happy with. Any workout that is a single domain, simple gymnastics test, is usually not a great workout for me. To finish in decent standing was a great sign that my training has been paying off.
We had a quick turnaround time before our next event which was the CrossFit Total: a quick succession of lifts to determine who is the strongest athlete in the field. We had three attempts at the Back Squat in a four minute window, moving directly into three attempts at the Strict Press in a four minute window, and again three attempts at a Deadlift in a four minute window for 12 minutes of competition.
Again, a brute strength max lift event like this is definitely not an ideal event for me. In fact, since I’ve started working with my coach, Raw Strength and Conditioning, these three lifts have been of a primary focus for the past three and a half years. I’ve always struggled in the Back Squat and the Deadlift due to not having much experience with leg strength training in my youth and we work a lot on the Strict Press to improve my Hand Stand Push Ups. I didn’t have much pressure on me for this event knowing I wouldn’t be close to winning it. I was excited to prove that all the last few years of hard work had hopefully paid off. I had a cheat-sheet with me with the list that I wanted to hit, depending on how I felt. I had a worst case scenario lifts, along with a likely set of lifts, and best case set of lifts. I used my best case scenario because in the warm up area, everything was feeling very strong.
On the Back Squat, I believe I hit 435 lbs, which was a PR by about 28 lbs. This has been a personal best waiting to happen for some time, but we haven’t pushed the one rep max load in this lift for a while, focusing more on improving the quality of my squat and the speed of reps in and around the mid-300 lbs range. The bar felt really great on the competition floor. Of the three lifts, I think I probably could have lifted a little more in the Back Squat, but was still very happy with the number I put up.
The four minute windows felt very rushed while I was on the floor. My unfamiliarity with loading the bar that heavy on a Squat and a Deadlift definitely became an issue as I struggled to figure out on the fly to figure out exactly what was loaded on the bar. I was fortunate to have a very good judge, who was vocal with me and helped me pick the plates needed to hit the weight I wanted to hit.
On the next station was the Strict Press, I opened at 190 lbs, then jumped to 200 lbs, and finished at 210 lbs, for a 6 lbs personal best. Again, I was very happy with this, and I don’t think I could have lifted more than 210 lbs.
In training, I always perform my Strict Presses with a very rigid upper body to help reinforce quality movement for Strict Hand Stand Push Ups. However, once I hit 210, my mid back definitely arched in order to complete the rep, and I would definitely do it again if I needed to.
When we were briefed on this event, there were a lot of questions about the movement standards of the Strict Press and what would be allowed. I definitely was not flirting within the potential no rep territory. Many other athletes were trying confer an advantage by trying to use some momentum from their lower body, although, I don’t think in most cases it worked.
By the time we got to the Deadlift bar, I was definitely very excited to lift but I think the two proceeding max lifts had taken a bit of a toll on my central nervous system.
I opened at, I believe, 485 lbs which moved well but was definitely heavy, and then I set a personal best at 505 lbs. The positioning of my back on this lift was not as strong as I would usually keep it in training, but the bar still moved with a decent amount of speed so I was able to continue the rep.
By the time I loaded the bar properly for my third attempt, I had a very small window of time to complete the rep within the four minutes. I did attempt to pick the bar up off the ground, but my hips, back and shoulders continued to rise as the bar did not budge. I left it at a personal best for 505 lbs, for a combined total of 1150 lbs in the CrossFit Total. I was very excited to finish the event with three official personal bests and walk off unscathed as I believe one of our competitors damaged his knee on the squat and was unable to continue this weekend.
Next, I went backstage and we had another hour and a half plus until we needed to be marshalled for the row event. A lot of the other athletes were very happy with the lifts they hit as well in the CrossFit Total. Fraser and Vellner both hit some PR’s, as did many of the other athletes. It was a fun event for everyone I think.
For the next hour or so, everyone started to get their goody bags together to prepare for the marathon on the rower. Everyone had something and some people had more than others to take with them on the competition floor. There were camel packs, lots of water bottles, snacks, towels, a variety of hand grips. A lot of people were using Vaseline on various parts of their body to ensure that no chaffing or blisters occurred during the nearly four hour event.
I brought with me a lot of things recommended by both my coach and nutritionist to help my performance. I had about 2.5L of fluid to take at regular intervals which included electrolytes along with lots of simple carbohydrate gels and snacks, a towel for my seat, I pre-Vaselined my armpits so on the rower strokes I wouldn’t chafe for the nearly half a million strokes we would be doing. Throughout the row I did also noticed that my one heel felt like it was starting to blister, so I would stop occasionally and try to put some Vaseline on my heel in between strokes. Also with me, I had a yellow sheet of paper with some rowing queues I wanted to keep in mind as the row went on. It had my strategy notes regarding the paces I intended to hold at each section of the race and it had the time markers at which I would take my fluids and snacks.
These served as mentally beneficial as well as physically because every five to ten minutes I would usually have something to look forward to whether that was a small drink of water, or something to chew on.
I was surprised at how little some of the athletes drank during the row. I’d be curious to see how that affects their recovery over the next few days.
And I say curious, but what I really mean is, I don’t think it’s going to help them very much. Lol.
The race started, or so we thought, but there was a slight malfunction in the system and so a few of the rower monitors were not counting the meters as we stroked. There was about a 30 minute delay, during which I was mainly gossiping with Mathew Fraser and Patrick Vellner about our other competitors. We also went over to the DJ to suggest he turn down the bass slightly as we didn’t want our ears to be ringing at the end of the event. DJ LuckyLou graciously accepted our request.
Once the row started, it was surprisingly not too difficult to stay engaged. I grew up swimming which can also be pretty boring, a monotonous sport, and it reminded me a lot of that. Every few minutes I’d find something else to focus on, whether that be a technical aspect of my stroke, or doing some calculations on how far ahead the next few competitors were to me, or even thinking about some of the events that they had planned for us next Friday. The one thing I always ensured was that I stayed on the pace I had set for myself, which was to start at 2:00 per 500 meters and gradually increase over the course of the race.
On the rowing screen we could see our current pace per stroke, but also our average per 500 meter pace. I set a promise to myself that as that averaged 500 meter pace quickened, ever so slightly, maybe every 10 minutes, that I would never allow it to get any slower.
Pretty early in the race after about the first 5 kilometers, or 20 minutes, I was sitting in or around 12th place, which was a comforting fact knowing I could easily keep that pace and based on the athletes listed behind me in the ranking it seemed that most of them would be incapable of catching me as well. So I held my pace until the halfway mark at which point I reassessed the field and decided to ensure to make a push for 5th place position, or better.
Every few minutes, every couple thousand meters, I’d try to pick off the athlete in front of me. Stroke by stroke, like a very slow, painful and boring Atari video game that you could see how meters ahead the next competitor was to you, and how many meters behind another competitor was to you. So, I’d transfix on that, until I’d pass them and ensure that they were unable to pass me again.
As the race wore along like this, it eventually got to a point where Cole Sager had done something similar as had Patrick Vellner. Sager was sitting in third position, I was in fourth, Vellner was in fifth, with about 80 meters between each athlete either way. There was approximately three kilometers left, or more.
Vellner was sitting beside me and I asked him something along the lines of “are you going to make a move on me?” and he said “no, I think I’m good where I am” and I said “good!”
He mentioned that Roy Gamboa was behind him by a few meters so he was going to keep an eye on him physically and his monitor to make sure he wasn’t making a push. Otherwise, he was content with a fifth place position.
I said that was fine with me, and we would hold the same pace we were holding which at that point was about 1:59 per 500 meter pace. Between us, I think there was some mutual respect that if Vellner tried to make an aggressive push, he knew (just like I knew) that I could likely match it and we could both wear ourselves out to likely stay in the same position, or potentially he could pass me for a few more points on the leaderboard. However, with that potential reward, there was a lot of risk, as over the course of the 2.5 hours our bodies were definitely starting to break down. I could feel my legs and arms cramping.
We continued at this pace for another five minutes or so. I wanted to see if Cole Sager would start to fade before I talked to him. But it appeared he was going to be capable of holding the pace that he held. He was a few rowers to the right of me, so I had to yell at him a few times to get his attention. Once I did, I told him I wasn’t coming for him and we just needed to hold 1:59 until the end. The look on his face was one of extreme gratitude, as I’m sure he was thinking in his mind “Is Brent going to make a push in these last two kilometers to overtake me for third?
As the race wore on, the first male athlete finished, then the second, then the cameraman turned their focus to Cole Sager, myself, and Vellner and started to rally up the crowd as they put it there was a close race for third. I smiled as I knew there was not, as we had already predetermined our placings in regard to self preservation for the rest of the weekend.
The event finished, I stood up to wave to the crowd, and proceeded to lay on the floor as both glute muscles were beginning to cramp severely. The rest of my body recovered quite well, however, the repetitive flexion and contraction of those muscles as well as sitting non-stop for 2.5+ hours definitely took its toll. After laying on the floor for a while, I was able to waddle myself out of the stadium and I got home to begin the process of recovering for the next day.
Thanks for reading my blog post. Tonight, there is an athlete opening ceremony, otherwise I have a free day to rest, relax and prepare for the upcoming real competition which starts Friday. I’m excited for the next three days of competition. Now that the event is underway, I’m very,very confident that I will have a very successful weekend that I can be proud of.
Thank you for writing these posts…it’s super interesting to hear your thought process behind your decisions! Well done!! We are cheering you on from Armstrong, BC!!!
Good luck Brent I’m.sire you’ll have an a amazing games and push for the No 1 spot!
Nice post! Is really awesome to see you inside vision of the competition floor! Keep pushing hard! Good luck from Barcelona
Nice post! Is really awesome to see your inside vision of the competition floor! Keep pushing hard! Good luck from Barcelona
Great recap and great job! Thanks for sharing your insights and good luck for the testing the weekend!
Great read mate, well done!
Good luck for the rest of the weekend. I can smell the podium!
Great recap and great job day 1! Good luck the rest of the weekend.
Thanks for the “behind the scenes” update. You looked so stiff walking off the marathon floor it must have been brutal. Good luck for tomorrow.
Thank you for all your thoughts.. I’m a big fan of yours.. Keep up the great work.. Looking forward to seeing you challenge for first place.. Good luck
Great read Brent! Good Luck for the rest of the weekend!
Such a good read. Please continue to be awesome! Cheering for you from the Pacific NW!
You are such an inspiration. Congratulations and keep up the good work. Best of luck for the rest of the competition.
Amazing to read this! Keep up the good work, you’re an inspiration!
I can’t belive that your wrote all that. Very nice, very lovley from you. A big fun, from Argentina! Keep waching and reading you!
Awesome first day Brent! Wish we were there to cheer you on with the rest of your family. Unfortunately we will have to do it from home. So proud of you! Best of luck with your remaining events.
Such a great read. Good luck.
Very lovley fron you all those words!
A big fun of you from Argentina. Tall as you, so you make me belive that I can. ?
Amazing you have the time and energy for the updates! They are awesome – thanks for sharing your experiences!
Hey Brent, after watching your documentary I’m totally cheering for you! Thanks for the great insights during such tough competitions. Stick to your great analytical tactics and lets climb that leaderboard. Best wishes from Germany
Appreciate your insights! Here’s to a great weekend!!!
The psychology of the marathon is as interesting as the physical challenge – thank you for writing this and GOOD LUCK!!
Really enjoying your blog, Brent! Watching from the sideline (or the comfort of your home), you cannot fully grasp what you are putting your body through this weekend, and how you are managing it. So this is very interesting to read. Keep up the good work and smash the rest of the weekend!
Very cool…Rest up!
Thanks you Brent, and good luck! We are cheering for you. This blog is a gift; one that I really look forward to!
That was an awesome read Brent, thanks! I believe you and Pat might indeed have a shot this year, hopefully. I’m pretty confident the only way Matt will lose however is if others step up and take event wins and fill in those top stops. Stay at the top of the pack champ! Going to love every second of this weekend.
Great Job! Thanks for sharing such a detailed insight into day one. All the best for the upcoming days!
This is pretty cool to get an insight on your plans in each event. Looking forward to reading this blog as the weekend goes on. All the best for the rest of the games. I think most of us Aussies will be cheering you on
Great job yesterday. Appreciate your insight and sharing it with us.
Thanks Brent, these posts are fascinating. I love hearing about the banter between you and everyone else. Looking forward to your thoughts on each day. Cheering you and Pat on from Ontario!
Such a good recap and I was pulling for you within the first few sentences of reading!! Way to go! Sounds like an awesome way to start the games!
Loved reading this behind the scenes article! I’m cheering for you!
Great job yesterday. Thanks for sharing your insight. Goot luck the rest of the weekend.
Loved reading this!!! Please keep em coming and push through! You got this Brent!!! Watching from Kiel, Germany (:
Really enjoy the inside scoop, thanks for taking the time to write this!
These are great! Thanks, Brent!
I’m on vacation in Vernon at my parents, so haven’t turned on the TV. Thanks to your posts, I get to stay connected and see what this experience is like for you.
Would love to hear how/what you all ate to recover from the row. Just really curious how much you had to eat to rebuild.
Hooray for completing the first ridiculous day! We’re cheering loudly for you from Ontario. Stay classy!
Great insight. Cant wait to read each day. Best of luck with the rest of the competition
Great post! I love learning more about what goes on behind the scenes and your thought process/game plan. Keep up the good work, we’re rooting for you!
This was so fun to read!! Thank you for sharing your day with us and I love the camaraderie and respect you guys have for each other! Love the row story with you, Pat and Cole!! Good luck the rest of the weekend – love watching you complete.
Really enjoy reading all of this. Let us know how you’re feeling post marathon row! How’s your recovery been?? Cheering you on!
Awesome summary and thanks for sharing, rooting for you man!
Stoked to see you are writing here. Thank you for sharing. Have a kick butt rest of the weekend! Go Brent!
Great to get some insight into a games competitor and how you say the day. I’d be really interested to hear what you did on the recovery day!
Great read! Thanks for taking the time. Good Luck!!
Way to go Brent. I don’t know how you do what you do, never minding doing your blog as well. We’re all behind you!!
Very interesting to know your thoughts during the action
Thank you Brent!
Thanks for the posts, I love the insight! Keep em coming and kick some ass! Cheering from Squamish BC
Thanks for sharing and being so candid!! We are heading there tomorrow, and we will be cheering you on!!
I’ve never read your recaps before, and I regret it! It’s so cool to see what goes into this. I hope you write about what you did for your recovery day, no doubt you have a great plan!
Great post! Keep up the solid work! Best of luck this weekend. Rooting for you!
Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed recap of all the events from your perspective. Really enjoyed reading them – and watching your documentary and epic performances too. Wish I could say I am willing you on from “San Diego, San Diego, San Diego… California” but I’m not – though I think that riff will stick in my head for years! Best of luck for the next three days – from a big fan in York, UK.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write this! Wishing you all the best in the upcoming events and as always, cheering hard for you Brent!
Thanks for doing this Brent. It comes across as very honest and as a spectator and fan of the sport I really appreciate the glimpse of competition through an athletes ( OK one of the best athletes) own words.
Awesome post! Love hearing the things we cant get from the television or the hosts, keep grinding Brent!
Great read! Smart moves on the row, preservation and agreement from fellow athletes! Love it! Onwards and upwards ??
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! Really appreciate you taking the time to write these. Cheering for you from SF!!
Even in competition, you take the time to keep us updated! This is very generous and you can see how much people appreciate it. Good luck with rest day recovery.
You’re a Hodag! That’s a Wisconsonian beast. The wiki page for “Hodag” is well worth reading. I related to your experience in the marathon row because I once did a 54 mile canoe race in Wisconsin called “The Hodag Challenge” and the feeling of chasing down and passing other canoes is really amazing. Rooting for you all the way!
Great read, thanks so much for sharing your experience and insight. Crush it this weekend!
A great read; attention to detail in both your training and your writing! All the very best this weekend. You’re making Canada proud!
Absolutely awesome to see an athlete of your calibre breakdown all aspects of the day. Really interesting to read your mindset and mentality and also very motivating to see just how competitive you need to be in all aspects. Much respect from Australia
Love the behind the scenes look at the Games. Good luck the rest of the weekend!
Love these posts Brent! I really respect the combination of seriousness, smarts, and good humor you bring to competition. It’s a big inspiration. Rooting for you from NYC!
Thank you from sharing your thoughts ! So interesting ! Can’t wait to see you crush the weekend !
Good job so far and good luck the rest of the weekend.
Always awesome to read your blogs!
You killed it yesterday and the best is yet to come! One event at a time! You got this ✌?
Great post – very interesting to read your thoughts during the day and throughout the events. Best of luck from Markham to you, Pat and the everyone repping us Canadians at the games! You make us all proud!
So well stated. Thank you for giving us your perspective. You are a class act!
Thanks a lot for sharing!! Cheers and good luck from Nicaragua! You’ll make really good calls as always.
Very insightful. Always look forward to Brent’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ since last two years. Good luck for the rest of the weekend.
You’re my inspiration! #tallguyproud
Go for it! And enjoy the weekend.
Thanks for this recap.
I admire the sportsmanship you describe between yourself and some of the other athletes. That’s cool. Super stoked you hit some PR’s and are feeling strong!
You are an incredible athlete, and I love watching you! Good luck this weekend!!!
Awesome update! Inspirational! Good luck on Friday and to the finish!
Best Games reporter in town is once again – The Professor!! Brilliantly written piece, Brent, could not get my eyes off it, so keep going :)) lots of love from little Lithuania!
Great job Prof both in the doing and the writing up! Revisit your maths on number of strokes. I think you’ve multiplied by 10 rather than divided by 10. 500,000 strokes = 5,000,000km
Good luck man! Bring it home for BC!
Such interesting notes.. you inspire us to be better. Keep up the good work. You’ve got everything you need to be number 1!!
The best of luck from Greece
Wow!! These insights are outstanding Brent. Not sure if you will be able to do one every night but please make sure we get a daily cap even if they are behind. The breakdown of how you did the row included some things I wouldn’t have known about or imagined how so this is absolutely necessary to hear. I have a new appreciation for that strategy and I did notice the climbing and was cheering for you. I too thought there would be a last ditch fight for third but totally understand. Smart athletes!!! Cool to hear about the Ben smith sound byte about catching up with the pack. In the Regionals you mentioned maybe a training book about your methodology when you ever retire. I think that is a great idea! Keep up the great work!
Fantastic read! Looking forward to watching you over the rest of the weekend. Good luck
That was fascinating and compelling to read! Thank you for taking the time to write this!!
Just one thing: You wrote ” every couple thousand kilometers”… 😉
Very interesting recap. Good look in the next events! Cheers from Russia!
Awsome insights brent,love it and good luck for the remainder of the weekend.
Brent! You are a remarkable athlete. I would also like to compliment you on your rowing technique. Perfectly executed. Sadly, rowing is where a number of crossfit athletes fall short – failing to make use of their bodies efficiently for maximum power. I hope the athletes struggling with their lower back today realize that the drive is all in the legs! (surely they would have known this by now?) as an ex competitive rower, I became the unofficial rowing coach on our box 😉 and it was always great to see the athletes times improve as their technique did. That aside. I would like to commend you on an outstanding performance and an eloquent portrayel of they day. Not only a phenomenal athlete, but a kind, tactical, thoughtful and fair athlete. Thank you for being a wonderful role model for aspiring crossfitters and athletes in general.
I enjoyed reading and watching you!! I can’t wait to read the next one!
Great work Brent on the blog and day one. God speed!
Bret! Great insight to your thought process
On day 1! I am a huge supporter of yourself and Pat. 2 intelligent athletes that don’t just run with their heads into a brick wall! I Learn a lot from both of you! All the best this weekend!
Awesome recap!!! Wishing you best of luck for the rest of the events!!! Cheering from ??
Great job! I’m routing for you! Enjoyed reading your blog! Keep us posted.
It’s so great to read your thought processes and a little about the other athletes and the training that goes on behind the scenes. You are someone inkways admire, as well as true likes of Sam briggs, and other grounded athletes who seem to acknowledge and respect everyone else around you as well as doing your best. It’s my an easy balance and you inspire me every day! Thanks for writing!
This is great. Makes the competition so much more interesting when we can hear these accounts from your perspective. Thanks for sharing!
This is great. Makes the competition so much more interesting when we can read these accounts from your perspective. Thanks for sharing!
Thanx for a look behind the scenes. And thank you for sharing how you strategically think before doinig a event. Hope you do Well!
I’m always rooting for you! You are number one, and such an inspiration.
Thanks for taking the time. Good luck and keep working hard!
Hi Brent. I am new fan (and would also love to learn about your business). I’ll be watching on-line tomorrow. All the best! Finish strong and I hope you achieve your goal!
Thanks for taking the time to write that up! You’re a legend and so are Vellner and Sager – I really admire the trust, respect and integrity you have for each other in the row.
Great read very intelligent approach to The Games
[…] hinted at how hard it is to recover from the marathon row in his blog post, where he wrote: “I was surprised at how little some of the athletes drank during the row. I’d […]
Great read. It was good to see from your perspective.