"My goals this year are to maintain efficient technique throughout the competition ... to push beyond my physical and mental boundaries."
For many athletes, training for the Games involves increased strength work, focusing on skills, and eliminating weaknesses. Add moving across an ocean and you’ll see the lengths New Zealand’s Ruth Anderson Horrell has taken to improve her game this year.
Horrell generally spends her time as a veterinarian, sheep farmer and co-owner of CrossFit Invercargill. She has left the farm twice this year to train at DogTown CrossFit in Culver City, CA.
The 2011 Games competitor was introduced to CrossFit by Chris McSweeny of CrossFitt Kapiti. While McSweeney programmed and worked with Horrell long-distance, Horrell never had a day-to-day coach to look at her technique. Horrell felt this was slowing her progress. In February, she travelled to DogTown CrossFit to work with Dusty Hyland and improve her gymnastics ability. This also gave Horrell the opportunity to train with Lindsey Valenzuela.
“We really complemented each other,” she says. “We both needed to work on similar stuff. This was a really positive experience for me. It was the first time my day could be devoted to my training and recovery, and I made many wonderful friends, all of whom were willing to pitch in and help me if I ever had a problem with a movement or workout.”
After Horrell returned to New Zealand, she continued following Hyland’s programming. “He programmed a lot of stuff I would never program for myself and that was the beauty of it,” she says. “If something was bothering me I could send him a video or ask him a question. It worked really well.”
Horrell has also been working on her Olympic lifting skills with coach Jules Dempsey since October to focus on speed, position, form and strength. She traveled to Samoa in June for the Oceania and Commonwealth Olympic Weightlifting Competition. She returned to DogTown to train leading up to the Games. Horrell’s life is nothing short of busy.
“I have an extremely supportive network at home,” Horrell says of how she balances everything. “Maria Mackay, my business partner at CrossFit Invercargill, has been running all the classes, my husband has been running around like a headless chicken doing all the farm work and keeping his own fencing contracting business going, and my family has been really supportive of me traveling for my training and being in the best place for what I need.”
Horrell finished second this year at the Australia Regional. An amazing feat, but her goal was to finish first. She was in a good position to do that after the first four events, but the unexpected caught up with her.
“On Saturday night I started getting a head cold and feeling miserable (my husband had had it for three days and I didn’t manage to fight it off any longer). The third day is always going to rough in terms of where your body is at anyway, but for both events on Sunday I felt okay in the warm-up, but when I got out to compete I had no reserves,” she says. “I all of a sudden found the tank was empty. That really disappointed me having worked hard on my snatches and gymnastic skills. I came in well below what I was wanting to do on both events.“
Horrell experienced one of the most memorable moments from any Regional competition this season when a group of Kiwi athletes performed the Haka, a traditional Maori dance, in honor of her. “I realized they were honoring me. Suddenly not performing on the last day didn’t matter,” Horrell says. “I was stoked with what I had achieved and having the Haka just made me realize that they also appreciated the work I had done. I felt part of [the] team and I now know I’m not just out there competing for me and my friends and family that have supported me, but for all of the NZ CrossFit community.”
Preparing for the Games
Horrell has spent the last month at DogTown CrossFit training for the Games. She and Lindsey Valenzuela have stepped up the variety in their training. They’ve also been training outdoors to get acclimated to the heat they’ll surely face in Carson.
Although Horrell used to see the longer workouts as her strength, these days she’s prepared for anything. “Sometimes I surprise myself with the workouts I do well in," she says. "I tended to think the workouts had to be long for me to have a good shot, now I like the shorter stuff, too.”
“My goals this year are to maintain efficient technique throughout the competition. To push beyond my physical and mental boundaries, to believe in the training I have done and to remain relaxed and focused on the task,” she says. “At Regionals I felt very composed and relaxed because I knew I was prepared. I have the exact same feeling this week thanks to all the programming Dusty has put Lindsey and I through.”