Masters athletes, Ron Ortiz, 48, and Tom Bourdon, 56, are veterans in their respective age divisions at the CrossFit Games. Ortiz competed at the Games in 2011, 2012 and 2013, finishing in third, 11th and first, respectively. Bourdon competed in his first Games last year where he finished 12th.
This year, the men will be making a return trip to California after finishing within the top 20 athletes in the world after the completion of the Masters Qualifier. Ortiz finished eighth in the 45-49 Division, while Bourdon finished 14th in the 55-59 Division.
Unlike years past, however, both men had a secret weapon fighting alongside them throughout the Open and the Qualifier: their wives.
After years of cheering their husbands on from the sidelines, Shari Ortiz, 50, and Vicki Bourdon, 54, signed up for their first Open competition. Both rookie competitors finished within the top 200 women in their divisions and advanced with their husbands into the inaugural Qualifier.
“Ron really encouraged me this past year to compete for me, so I finally did it—signed up just for fun,” Shari said. “If anything, I thought it would be a good way to encourage others to do it, as well, regardless of my performance.”
Both Shari and Ron entered the Open still rehabbing from shoulder injuries they endured earlier this year. Shari had not lifted any weight overhead heavier than 65 lb. prior to the Open.
“No snatches, overhead squats, or any movements on the pull-up rig,” she said.
Shari had no idea she would finish the Open 55th among the Masters Women 50-54 Division. She went on to finish the Masters Qualifier 45th in the world in spite of her injury.
“Ron and I both experimented with different techniques and strategized to optimize each and every workout since our shoulders were not feeling 100 percent,” Shari explained. “The last Open workout was very hard for me to handle the volume. My shoulder just did not have the endurance I needed to do well. I also could not do muscle-ups in Amanda during the Qualifier, and the 100s (event) was the first time I had done any volume of pull-up work in a row in a long time.”
“I did not really have a goal in mind during the Open except just to experience it, so I was pleasantly surprised and a little bit shocked I even finished within the top 200,” she continued. “I can’t wait to do it next year, uninjured. I am going to come back stronger.”
If anything, Shari said it was a bonding experience with her husband of 20-plus years.
“We’ve always shared a love for fitness since we met, so it was great to be able to participate with Ron in competition this year and know what he was going through,” she said. “We did some of the workouts together and also judged each other on some of them.”
Ron said having his wife participate with him this year made the 2014 Open and Qualifier particularly meaningful.
“I loved getting to judge her and strategize with her throughout the Open and final four workouts. I am also thankful just how supportive she is of me,” Ron said. “She understands when I call her if workouts run longer than expected after work, or I get to come home to a hot meal and a reassurance of what I am trying to achieve.”
Shari admitted she is Ron’s No. 1 fan.
“Although I was competing, too, I couldn’t help but still get more stressed out over the Leaderboard for Ron than I did myself,” she said. “He had a title to defend. He works so hard every year, and I hope I can become half the athlete he is in the future.”
Vicki Bourdon speaks of her husband, Tom, in a similar way. When they first started dating more than 35 years ago in college, she took notice of his love for fitness and began to develop a newfound confidence in her own capabilities.
“Tom has been athletic his entire life,” Vicki said. “I was a tomboy growing up, but never played competitive sports in school, and when I entered college, health and fitness were not exactly a priority. After we started dating though, I began to take more of an interest in fitness.”
“I particularly remember a very cold night in February when we went to the track because I wanted to start running,” she recounted. “I thought my lungs were exploding, and I had only run a half mile. Tom was nothing but supportive and encouraging though. Without that encouragement I may have not gone back for my second half mile the next day.”
The same story may as well apply to Vicki’s decision to sign up for this year’s Open, as Tom gently nudged her to take the leap.
“I love being active together and being part of the Open this year was a chance to do that again,” Vicki said.
Before the Open and leading into the Qualifier, Tom worked one-on-one with Vicki to improve weaknesses, such as toes-to-bars, handstand push-ups and chest-to-bar pull-ups.
“He really did help me,” she said. “And not only that, but we each were there to cheer each other on through each workout, which made all the difference in my experience.”
Tom joked that he prefers to cheer, rather than coach, his bride.
“We definitely don’t coach each other,” Tom said. “That would test 32 years of marriage. We made sure we did the majority of the workouts at different times so we could cheer each other on.”
The couple completed all Open workouts and Qualifier events separately, except for Event 4 of the Qualifier—pull-ups and wall-ball shots.
“We finished off the last workout together with everything we had,” Tom said. “At one point during the workout, she actually slipped off the pull-up bar to the floor. I was on my pull-ups and saw her get back up from an unplanned ‘back burpee pull-up’ and resume her pull-ups. Her immediate determination inspired me. That’s what CrossFit is all about.”
While Vicki fell short of advancing to the Games with a final placement of 23rd in her division, she said it’s OK.
“I love CrossFit for what it is and the feeling of success I get from just completing the workouts,” she said, “so I will continue to do it whether I have to modify, or slow down, it doesn't matter.”
As for Tom, he looks forward to another return to the Games this summer.
“At the masters level, you’re enjoying the friendship and common goals of fitness and a happy, healthy life with other masters athletes,” he said. “The atmosphere is very supportive. Most of us, at this point, are not defined by achievements in CrossFit, but instead with many other things like family and grandchildren that are meaningful. Fitness simply gives us the chance to enjoy these things.”