With the CrossFit Games Open upon us, the race is on to finely tune the past year’s training.
The South East’s Masters Men are no exception. With only the top 20 athletes per age group after the Open moving on to compete in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, there is no room for error. Here are some of the names from the South East to look for on the Leaderboard.
Masters Men 40-44 Division
Many have called the announcement of a new Masters division a game changer. No doubt these 20 spots will be strongly contested as this age group has some serious athletes with both Regional and Games experience. Joey Sandoval, Ken Gall and Rob Labor are three who will be in the running for those precious few spots that send a Masters athlete straight to the Games from the Open.
Joey Sandoval, 39 (40 in June), head coach at Real Fitness Naples, is a first-year Master with something to prove. Sandoval made it to the South East Regional in 2012, but was unable to compete due to an injury.
"I hadn't been doing much strength training and really didn't expect to make Regionals,” he says. “I started training with heavier loads too quickly and injured my back.”
Since then, Sandoval stuck to the regularly scheduled programming at Real Fitness until the announcement was made about the new Masters division.
"When I heard about the new division and that I could compete against my peers, I was motivated to ramp up my training,” Sandoval says.
Looking for a simple but effective strength cycle, he turned to Coach Mike Burgener’s strength program and daily workouts.
"It allowed me to feel like a member of the gym rather than a coach of the gym,” he says, noting that just like his members, he would write his name and time for his workouts on the whiteboard.
Sandoval has also been swimming once a week, running and biking, along with his daily workouts. He has also been focusing on his weaknesses, one of which is gymnastic movements due in part to his weighing 225 pounds.
"Not only do I feel like I'm training for the Open, but also for the Games,” he says.
Ken Gall, 40, of CrossFit Atlanta, comes to the new division with an impressive resume. Gall has been to Regionals four years running, twice as an individual and twice as a member of CrossFit Atlanta’s team. He also competed in the team competition with CrossFit Atlanta at the 2011 and 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
The announcement of the new Masters division has been motivating for Gall.
"It's been a few years since I have trained at a high level for competition, but with the new 40 to 44 Masters Division, I have turned the intensity back up,” he says.
Gall has focused more on being well-rounded and improving workout times on couplets and triplets, rather than single-rep efforts or mono-structural gymnastics. He says he has seen his biggest improvement in met-cons involving heavy loads and the squat snatch.
"Snatch is still a weakness of mine, but less so than a year ago,” Gall says.
Coming off a first-place finish in the Masters Division at Garage Games One, a popular South East competition, Gall appears ready to take on the Open.
Rob LaBar, 42, has a full plate. He is the owner of CrossFit Boynton Beach, as well as Amrap.com, an online retail site. Added to his already busy life is a new baby girl born in February. Despite all of this, he is in training to earn a spot to the CrossFit Games.
Last year’s Open experience resulted in LaBar focusing his training on multiple workouts and proficiency on the Olympic lifts.
"I've been doing more Oly work this year and have increased my max on snatch to 200 lb., and have a 265-lb. clean and jerk,” LaBar says. “Lately, I've been doing two to three WODs on my training days. One of them would be an 'Open-ish' type WOD. I've also been repeating some of the Open (Workouts) from 2011 and 2012. I've improved on all so far."
LaBar has also added high-rep, low to moderate weight workouts, such as 50-plus reps of one movement.
"I don't know that it changed too much when they announced the Masters bracket, but it did light a spark to keep me disciplined,” LaBar says. “There are times when I'm busy or just don't feel like training, but I know that my only chance to make it in this thing is to put the time in. Top 20 in the world may be a long shot, but I'll have fun with it and see what happens."
Masters Men 45-49 Division
Ron Ortiz, 47, of Hard Exercise Works, has another trip to California squarely in his sites. Coming off an 11th place finish in his division at last year’s Games, he has worked on getting stronger.
"I have definitely gotten stronger,” he says. “My snatch is up about 20 pounds since August. Clean and jerk up about the same."
Ortiz loves to travel to different gyms to workout and thinks the added competition helps his training.
"I travel around and work out with the likes of Noah Olson, Guido Trinidad, John Adams, Chase Daniels, Stephanie McCarthy, Chris Muscarella, Pam and Pierre Sorero,” he says. “I am really blessed."
Ortiz also says last year’s Open and Games helped him refocus on his goals.
"Any time you get your fanny handed to you, you better learn something from it,” he says.
Larry Green, 46, of CrossFit Embrace, is another athlete to watch. Coming off a top-100 finish after last year’s Open, Green dedicated himself to getting better.
"After the 2012 Open, I realized I needed to get back to the basics of strength training,” Green says. "Also, I dedicated more time to gymnastics movements like handstand push-ups and muscle-ups.”
Green draws training technique and programming from several different avenues. Rory Hamlin of Iron Forged CrossFit writes some of his programming and assists with online coaching. He relies on Scotty Cox, a powerlifting coach at BBS Fitness, and Jake Naumcheff, the Olympic coach at CrossFit Embrace, for his strength and lifting technique. His daily programming comes from Landon Brazell, the owner at CrossFit Embrace and former Games athlete.
"We've been together from the start of this thing,” Green says. “He's a great motivator and all around great coach. I wouldn't be where I am right now without him.”
"I expect the competition to be even tougher this year so everything I've done in the last year has been in preparation for the 2013 Open,” Green says. “I've incorporated the expertise of different people to suit my individual needs. It's been an interesting year of trial and error, but overall I'm a better athlete.”
Masters Men 50-54 Division
Brian "Brig" Edwards, 51, coming off a second-place finish at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, opts for a different route than most. Edwards trains at his home in his garage.
"Over the years I have slowly accumulated most of the equipment I need and improvise with the equipment I do not have,” he says.
Even after a great finish at the Games, Edwards knew there was work to be done, especially on his Olympic lifts.
"In the Open and the Games, I struggled on the Olympic lifts, so I have focused more training on these lifts, but because of some shoulder flexibility issues, my Olympic Lifts have not improved significantly,” he says. “I am more comfortable at the lower weights.”
Edwards has also been following Rudy Nielsen’s Outlaw Way programming since the end of last year’s Open. Although his training may be unconventional to some, Edwards is a top contender to return to the Games in 2013.
Dee Grimes, 50, of Brute Fitness CrossFit, is looking to make some noise in his division this year. Coming off a strong Open last year and moving to a new age bracket this year has him focused and working hard.
"This year I realized that I had to amp it up,” Grimes says. “Coming into a new age group afforded me my best chance."
Grimes, who is also a coach at Brute Fitness CrossFit, has been focusing on getting stronger.
"I've incorporated a lot more Olympic lifting and strength training,” he says. “My diet has really tightened up, as well. I realized I had the met-con, just needed to get stronger and a lot more proficient with my lifts. All my lifts have gone up from 20 to 40 pounds each. All my benchmark WODs have improved."
Grimes follows the general programming at Brute Fitness and is coached by Jonah Harris and Matt Blom. He also follows the barbell gymnastics programming from the Outlaw Way.
Masters Men 55-59 Division
Charles Sullivan, 58, of CrossFit Vero Beach, was a strong contender at the Games last summer, placing fifth in his division. Sullivan thinks his diverse training regimen has helped him reach goals in CrossFit, as well as many different athletic activities.
“Right now, I run and row a single scull in addition to CrossFit,” Sullivan says. “I also participated in the Beaches to Battleship Half Ironman last October in North Carolina. Finished in 5:26, which was a personal best, on minimum triathlon training. I was curious of how much carryover from CrossFit there would be, and the results confirmed that CrossFit is an excellent conditioning program.”
Primed for the Open, Sullivan hopes his well-rounded training will be the key to another trip to the Games.
“Although I can’t pinpoint a particular place I’ve made big gains, I do feel better overall with my conditioning and preparation.”
Masters Men 60-plus Division
Jim Lanier, 61, of CrossFit West Jacksonville, is using the same strategy that led him to a ninth-place finish in last year’s Open and a 13th-place finish at the Games.
"I felt like I did pretty well in last year's Open, so I didn't want to change very much,” Lanier says. “I had a couple of glaring weaknesses, however, that I think I have addressed for this year’s Open. The beautiful thing about CrossFit programming is that it helps you work on all areas so that you are well-rounded by the time the Open comes around."
For Lanier, a trip to the Games is simply the cherry on top.
"CrossFit has been the best fitness decision I've ever made,” he says. “My health and blood work are very good, and my physicians are pleased with my health. My gym friends have been incredibly supportive of me, and I love the fact that they are so positive and interested in the Open.”
Targeting weaknesses has led Lanier to several personal records since the first of the year. He is staying on course and seems to have a solid plan to make it back to California.