On an overcast morning at Santa Monica Beach, the individual athletes prepared for a brutal series of movements that closely resembled Navy SEAL BUD/s training. In store were a 210-meter ocean swim, 1,500-m soft-sand run, 50 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 100 hand-release push-ups, and a second 1,500-meter run.
By 6:30 a.m., the Santa Monica Pier was lined with spectators, and the lights of the ferris wheel glimmered in the early morning light.
“It’s a good viewing area,” 2009 Games competitor Tamaryn Venter said while standing on the pier before the men’s heat began, “You can see the run and everything.”
Just below the pier, Rogue set up a pull-up rig and platforms for the push-ups. Two buoys floating offshore marked the swim course, and a long line of orange cones stretching down the beach demarcated the run.
Sam Briggs waited by the beach, looking out at the rig and the ocean beyond. “The big question,” Sam said, “is whether or not to wear shoes.”
Trash littered the shore, tempting athletes into giving up vital seconds to put on their shoes. “I’m not sure what I’ll do, I guess I’ll decide on the fly,” Briggs said.
Pat Barber said he was most worried about the run and the push-ups, but, he said, “You can’t really worry about anything. You’ve just got to go. Everyone is in the same boat.”
The men were first up. At just after 7 a.m., the men sprinted down the beach into the water. Matt Chan (4th in 2010) led the pack, but the rest weren’t far behind. They all successfully made it through the break and out into the deep water to pass the cones.
After most had moved on to the run, Rob Orlando walked slowly up to the beach and crouched down on the ground holding his head. Dave Castro knelt alongside him and talked. According to reports, Orlando had grabbed the safety paddleboard midway through the swim and was taken back to shore. “It was either sink or grab the board,” the Connecticut strongman said. The Games veteran is now out of the competition.
It was a rough morning for another top CrossFitter, Mikko Salo. After the swim, he appeared to be moving slowly and erratically. He was in the middle of the pack, lagging behind his rookie training partner Tuomas Vainio. After Salo finished, he started vomiting and received medical care. According to reports, Salo felt dizzy, disoriented, and almost blind throughout the event due to a burst eardrum. He sustained the injury while diving into the water.
“It’s a sad day for CrossFit,” Director of Media Tony Budding said.
Navy SEAL Josh Bridges led the competition from beginning to end, returning from the first run far ahead of the rest of the pack. Chris Spealler, Chris Hogan, and Zack Forrest were consistently behind Bridges but ahead of the others. Dan Bailey, although late out of the swim, caught up in the pull-ups and push-ups to be the 5th man to the squats. Bridges was already on the run.
Graham Holmberg tried to pass Noah Pester in a final sprint over the finish line but wasn’t able to close the gap. Elvar por Karlsson chased Holmberg and Pester, finishing closely behind.
Right before the women’s heat began, judge Adrian Bozman said the time cap had been changed from 55 to 65 minutes.
The women ran from the start line down to the beach, with Sam Briggs distancing herself slightly from the pack. Briggs reached the water first but was quickly joined by the rest of the competitors. A set of waves met the women at the shore, slowing their progress to the deeper water.
A large wave picked up all but the leaders; some women dove under while others went for a ride. Deb Cordner of Minnesota couldn’t get through the break and returned to shore with a lifeguard. Soon after, Helga Torfadottir, a handball player from CrossFit Sport in Reykjavik, Iceland, rode back to shore on a paddleboard.
Amanda Allen, a 40-year-old triathlete and Olympic canoeing hopeful from Australia, was the first out of the water. Before the event began, she said, “I’m really excited … though the swim is not nearly long enough.”
Annie Sakamoto was the second out of the water, followed by Michelle Letendre, Candice Howe, Becky Conzelman, Sam Briggs (19th in 2010), Julie Foucher (5th in 2010), and Ruth Anderson Horrell.
Carey Kepler coughed up water as she walked up the shore and started the run. After more than half of the competitors had cleared the swim, 2010 CrossFit Games champion Kristan Clever left the water.
Allen was the first back from the run and onto the rig for the 50 chest-to-bar pull-ups. Briggs, Foucher, Annie Sakamoto, Anderson Horrell, and Christy Phillips followed behind. Phillips had made up considerable time during the run, passing three women. The crowds were showing their support for original “Nasty Girl” Annie Sakamoto.
“She’s old school,” a spectator said.
Annie Thorisdottir was the 8th woman back from the run, coming in alongside former competitive runner Jenny Labaw, and Thorisdottir quickly cut through the reps with seamless butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups. Games vets Kristan Clever, Katie Hogan, and Lindsey Smith reached the pull-ups after more than half of the other competitors had come in.
Foucher took the lead after the chest-to-bar pull-ups, reaching the push-up platform first. Allen, Phillips, Sakamoto, Briggs, Anderson Horrell, and Thorisdottir joined her. Thorisdottir took several rests on the push-ups and received no reps for moving her hips. Briggs, who said that her plan was to “do sets of 10 and not go to fatigue” stood up and shook out her arms and shoulders.
The same set of women were the first to the 200 air squats, with Foucher still in the lead. Clever had just started the push-ups as Foucher started her squats. Becky Conzelman and Angie Pye joined the leaders and pushed through with extremely fast squats. Thorisdottir appeared to be suffering through the reps, pressing her hands onto her legs with each squat.
Foucher and Briggs left for the run just 10 seconds apart. Remarkably, Foucher was able to keep the world-class duathlete, Briggs, behind her through the second 1,500-meter run. Each maintained the same pace to finish at 10 seconds apart in first and second. Foucher ran it in 9:03, beating the best time by the men’s winner Josh Bridges.
“I would have liked to pass Julie,” Briggs said afterwards. She came into the event planning to set herself apart in the run and the swim.
Sakamoto came over the line smiling and waving to the crowd for 3rd. Amanda Allen crossed the line for fourth, as Jessica Pamanian continued through the squats and Smith started the line.
Pye and Anderson Horrell were neck and neck up to the finish line, but Ruth wasn’t able to pass her. Pye took 7th and Anderson-Horrell took 8th.
Jenny Davis, Clever, and Letendre came in together for 16th, 17th, and 18th place. As Letendre got to the finish line she collapsed to the ground and began to crawl.
Mona Pretorious of South Africa put on a valiant effort throughout the workout. The 2012 Olympics hopeful is only months into her CrossFit training and is still new.
As of press time, the individual athletes were at the track for the first skills test of the weekend.
See results here.