"I took a breath and kept going," Demko said.
What is it like to experience the CrossFit Games Open for the first time, after less than a year of doing CrossFit? This ongoing series follows 45-year-old Brenton Demko of San Diego, Calif.—who was inactive for almost four years before starting CrossFit this summer—as he completes each workout of the 2014 Open.
Brenton Demko is spending the last few weeks of the CrossFit Games Open in Boston, Mass.—many miles from his home gym in San Diego, Calif.
Working out in a different gym has not only helped Demko stay in shape while away from home, he said it’s also helped him gain a deeper understanding of the CrossFit community.
“I’ve been going to the 12:30 p.m. class (at Rugged CrossFit),” Demko said, “and the regulars have accepted me.”
He’s been invited to their social gatherings and welcomed as a part of the gym. He said the community at Rugged CrossFit is just as welcoming and inclusive as his home gym, CrossFit 858.
The CrossFit experience in Boston does have one major difference from San Diego: the weather.
“One of the workouts this week had a 400-m run,” Demko said. “Having to go outside when it’s 33 degrees outside—that’s a change from my San Diego workout.”
Still, Demko has maintained his routine while out of town, going to Rugged CrossFit several times a week. The workout on March 19, the Wednesday before 14.4 was announced, included toes-to-bars. On the day before 14.3 was announced, Rugged CrossFit programmed heavy deadlifts and box jumps—and then found out that 14.3 consisted of heavy deadlifts and box jumps.
Demko said everyone was joking that 14.4 was definitely going to include toes-to-bars.
They were right. Demko watched the 14.4 announcement in his hotel room, battling a slow Internet connection. He couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, but he did see Josh Bridges and Scott Panchik doing toes-to-bars.
“(Toes-to-bars) are a new thing for me,” Demko said. “I’ve been doing them for about three months. They aren’t very fluid, but I don’t have any big anxiety (about them) like with double-unders and chest-to-bar pull-ups.”
Once he read through the entire workout, Demko’s primary goal was to get through all 50 toes-to-bars.
“I’m really confident with wall balls,” he said. “I’m good at those.”
He thought if he made it to the wall-ball shots, there might be a chance he could get to the 30 cleans.
Just like with 14.3, Demko showed up at Rugged CrossFit in the morning.
“There were about four people registered for the Open (in my heat),” he said, “and they were running two heats.”
The workout started off well for Demko—the 6-foot tall athlete was the first one off of the rower.
“I got good at rowing during my knee rehab,” he said.
Then it was on to the 50 toes-to-bars.
“I started off doing them five at a time, then three at a time. Then I did singles for the bulk of it,” he said.
Demko’s judge for the workout was Robert Stephenson, the owner of Rugged CrossFit.
“He was extraordinarily supportive,” Demko said, but he made it clear that Stephenson also upheld the movement standards.
“I got five or six no-reps,” Demko said, “that’s killer for the energy level.”
He was facing the clock while doing the toes-to-bars, and he began worry he wouldn’t have enough time to do the wall-ball shots.
“In those last 10 toes-to-bars I was uber-focused,” Demko said. “I had a rhythm, and they seemed to go better.”
As soon as he finished his last toes-to-bars, he hopped off the bar, grabbed the medicine ball and did 25 unbroken wall-ball shots.
“I took a breath and kept going,” he said.
Demko finished the 40 wall-ball shots with about five seconds left on the clock. He turned to walk to his barbell, and suddenly the effort caught up with him, and Demko dropped to one knee, breathing heavily.
The timer hit 14 minutes, and he was done with a score of 150—well beyond what he thought he could accomplish.
Right after Demko finished his workout, he watched a woman take on 14.4. She got stuck on the toes-to-bars, accumulating multiple no-reps. Demko cheered her on as she finished up with about 29 toes-to-bars in all.
“I gave her a high-five afterward, and then I found out that was the first time she had done toes-to-bars in a workout,” he said. “She got a double high-five!”
There is one workout left in the 2014 Open, and Demko is cautiously optimistic about what it might bring.
When asked if there’s anything he particularly doesn’t want to see in 14.5, Demko said now that double-unders and chest-to-bar pull-ups are out of the way, he can’t really think of anything.
“I’m fairly good at thrusters,” he said.
He'll find out Thursday night what will be the final challenge of this year’s Open.