With 14.1 in the books, a familiar name was at the top of the South Central Leaderboard: Paul Smith.
A former NFL player, Smith has been a fixture on the regionals scene since 2010. In 2012 and 2013, he came excruciatingly close to booking a trip to Carson, Calif., with two fourth-place finishes.
In 2014, Smith is going for broke. It will be his last year as an individual competitor.
While vacationing in Hawaii last week, Smith managed to complete nine rounds plus 18 double-unders of 14.1. His total of 423 reps put him atop the South Central Leaderboard and in 21st place worldwide.
“I remember this workout but not my score (from 2011),” Smith said. “I did it three times in 2011 and I remember getting progressively worse. I think my best score out of the three was somewhere between seven to eight rounds. This year, though, my strategy was simple. No matter what, go unbroken on the snatches and use double-unders as rest.”
Smith laughed realizing while a strategy can be effective, it’s not uncommon to dissolve mid-workout.
This year, his strategy paid off. Instead of trying the workout three times, one all-out effort was all it took to achieve a satisfying score.
“I was happy with the score so didn't want to try it again,” he said. “I was excited that my score was so high and even more excited that I improved from 2011. I figured that’s not bad for a 36-year-old man. I improved with age.”
While he was pleased with his performance last week, his plan is to stay humble and composed for the four weeks ahead: “This year, my goal is to stay on track with my training and try not to dwell too much on the Leaderboard. CrossFit is more fun that way!”
Even after years of competition, Smith is receptive and experimental when it comes to training methods. At the moment, he’s following programs designed by Rob McDonald and Westside Barbell’s Louis Simmons. He’s always ready to listen to “anyone who has been around longer than I have.”
One person who truly knows Smith’s unassuming side is his wife of 14 years, Maribel Smith. The pair met at a local YMCA while Smith was still playing collegiate football for the University of Texas at El Paso. A year later they were married. Today, the two co-own and operate Get Lifted CrossFit in El Paso, Texas. Maribel said she loves her husband’s work ethic and focus.
“On top of that, he is a good mentor and role model,” she added. “Not so much with his words because he can come across as cold and indifferent because of his shyness and dislike for bullshit, but with his actions. Our gym sees that and hopefully they thrive off of that.”
His gym thrived off Smith’s energy as the team is currently in first place in the South Central Region after 14.1.
With the 2014 season underway, Paul confirmed the rumor that this year would likely be his swan song for individual competition.
“This is probably my last year as an individual and then after that, I’ll either join our team who qualified for the Games in 2013, or possibly even start competing in powerlifting—another one of my passions,” he said.
Maribel throws her support behind Smith 100 percent as he makes one last go for a dream that has eluded him.
“My goal for him would be obviously to make it to the Games and do well there, but to also know that at the end of the day he did everything he could do and be happy with the outcome no matter what,” she said. “We are here to inspire people to be physically, mentally and spiritually better. It just so happens that CrossFit is our avenue to do that.”
*Editor's Note: At the time of publication, Smith had not yet recorded a score for Open Workout 14.2.