"(14.5) was probably the hardest workout I've ever done in my life and I'm so, so happy I finished it," Ayoub said.
For Jade Morgan and Leonie Ayoub, the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open was the quintessential journey of tears and triumph.
Close friends and inseparable training partners, the pair went into this year’s online competition as complete novices, having only started CrossFit in November of 2013.
Morgan said her sister had been trying to get her to try CrossFit for years, but she resisted because she felt that it was for “higher-level” athletes.
"Little did I know, you can start from wherever,” Morgan said. “I was doing boot camps and just little fitness stuff and I got bored of it. I needed something else and (my sister) finally went, 'Just try it, come on!' But I didn't want to go on my own so I said to Leonie, ‘We should go and give it a go.’ So we came and I loved it."
It wasn’t long before Ayoub was hooked, too.
"It was so different to what I'd been doing at the normal gym. It was kind of like a breath of fresh air actually,” she said. “Everyone knew what they were doing, it was very professional—just the set up and the way everyone was.”
"I thought, ‘This could be pretty cool,’ even though I had no idea what I was doing. For the first month, it was very uncoordinated, but then it just started slowly falling into place," Ayoub added.
Morgan said she tried to lay low when people started talking about the Open. She was sure she wasn't yet ready for the challenge until her coach, Drew Griffith, and other CrossFit Broadbeach members convinced her the Open was for everyone.
"Drew said it will be a good benchmark for next year,” Morgan said. “Just see what you can do and give it a go.”
“I text Leonie straight after and said, 'Drew said to sign up for the Open,' and I thought, ‘Let's do it, give it a go.’ So we signed up and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in for," she added.
"It was completely not what I expected,” Ayoub admitted. “I remember the lead up to 14.1 I thought, 'Oh my God, what am I getting myself into?’ I thought, 'OK, well I'm going to try, see if I can do it on the day … and if not, that's it and it's OK.’"
Week after week, the pair was challenged to lift weights and perform movements they'd never been able to do before—every weight lifted was a personal best or higher.
"I'd never been able to do double-unders before and I got them on that day ... I don't know if it was the pressure or the adrenaline, but it pushed me so much that I got a whole new movement," Ayoub said.
"I'm so happy I did it because now look at what I can do that I couldn't do before,” she continued. “I never thought I could ever do 30-kg overhead squats—it's unbelievable. I haven't ever (done) more than 20 kg and even though I could only do (the overhead squats) and I couldn't do any of the chest-to-bars, I didn't care. I was so proud just to have got that first bit done."
Morgan said one of the toughest workouts was 14.4—the chipper with a row, toes-to-bars, wall-ball shots, cleans and muscle-ups. She learned how to perform toes-to-bars in the days leading up to her first attempt, and was astounded to complete 47 of them during the workout. She decided to re-do it with the view to completing all 50 reps.
"I thought, ‘This time, I'm going to not fluff about. I'm just going to do it,’ and I was so keen to just get it done," Morgan said. "I got off the toes-to-bars and I still had about four minutes left so I got onto the (wall-ball shots) and I'm not very good … (but) I'd been practicing before just in case."
"I think I got four no-reps, and I got to 34 (wall-ball shots),” Morgan added. “I don't know where that came from. I just went for it, so it's amazing to see just the difference in my toes-to-bars from just two days.”
Despite the incredible achievements, Morgan said she felt ill when 14.5 was announced. The idea of completing the descending ladder of burpees and thrusters without the safety net of a time cap was daunting.
"I text Leonie straight away going, 'Oh my God, we're going to be going forever. This is never going to end.' But I really wanted to do it 'cause I didn't want the last one to be one that I couldn't finish or couldn't do and submit a score for," Morgan said.
"In the 15s … my head just took over and I thought, ‘I can't do it.’ I stopped and just cried,” Morgan recounted. “I couldn't control it. The emotions just took over 'cause I wanted to finish it so bad.”
"Everyone just came around me like ants,” she continued. “Thank God for everyone else because I would not have been able to do it ... they're going, 'Come on! You're crying but it's fine, you know you've got this ... just take a moment.’ At the end, I finally got to my last burpee and just dropped and I think I cried again. I was so pleased that I did it, mentally as well as physically. It was the hardest thing I've ever done but the best thing for me, as well."
Ayoub is also adamant that it was the support of the CrossFit community and other friends that got her through each week, particularly 14.5.
"You keep pushing and look at every one standing around—it was phenomenal,” Ayoub said. “Even the last three (burpees), everyone was just standing there cheering. It was fantastic.”
"That was probably the hardest workout I've ever done in my life and I'm so, so happy I finished it,” she continued. “That's all I wanted. I wanted to be able to say I completed every workout to what I could. I didn't have to stop or give up in any of them."
Morgan finished 14.5 in 42:15 and Ayoub finished in 45:33.
Both said the best thing to come out of their Open experience is the confidence they are now taking into their everyday training. Morgan said her attitude has shifted from being worried about what she might not be able to do, to being prepared to try and see what happens.
"It was the best self-confidence booster ever, and now I'm not so scared going into something thinking, 'Oh, I've got to do Rx.' I can try and do it like I just did it for the past five weeks,” Ayoub said.
“It has done more than what I thought it could do for me,” she added. “It was amazing. Such a good experience and I'd tell anyone who joins CrossFit to do it.”
After finishing 3,500th and 3,353rd, respectively, in the Australia Region, Morgan and Ayoub are already looking forward to the 2015 Open.
"I figure if I can do it and I've only been training CrossFit for three months, imagine if I keep working on the techniques and that for another year, how much better and more confident I'm going to be going into it," Ayoub said. "I'm going to know what to expect and I know what the pressure is going to be like … I can't wait. It will be awesome to do it again."