"I think that is what athletes on a higher level need to figure out. What is their game and how does their game work?"
After winning the 2011 Australia Regional, Pat Barber took eighth place at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games.
The final moment of Barber’s best season to date was caught on film, and replayed countless times on ESPN. The bearded 26-year-old paced the first two parts of the final event, only to go full out at the end. Barber pulled the weighted sled over the line ahead of the rest of the men for the win.
Expectations have been high for Barber since 2011, but the move from New Zealand to Northern California and an unfortunate appendectomy shortly before the 2012 NorCal Regional have kept Barber from a return trip to Carson, Calif.
Last year, qualification for the CrossFit Games came down to a race between Barber and Marcus Filly in the final regional event. Filly entered the event with 52 points to Barber’s 53 points. Barber had to finish ahead of Filly by one placing on the final to tie. Four minutes and 35 seconds into the couplet of rope climbs and heavy squat cleans, Filly stepped onto the finish mat. Barber followed five seconds later.
“Granted, I wish things would have gone differently, but it is what it is. You can’t think back on this stuff and regret it,” Barber said.
Since last spring, Barber has turned his attention to 2014. He has been working on weaknesses, and not all of that time has been spent at the box.
“Recently, I’ve been working with a sports psychologist, and I have a much better mental grip on what is going on,” he said.
“If I’m thinking a ton during each workout, each movement, each rep, it’s hard,” he added. “If I’m thinking about the guy next to me, the clock, the future and what this means for my family, then I just get crushed. It’s terrible.”
Now, he lets the workout just be a workout. He focuses on the task and not the implications.
“I’m just thinking about the next rep,” he said. “I set a miniature goal in my head. For example, I’ll go for seven unbroken reps (on a given movement) in my head. I’ll just go for that goal. Even if I don’t get those seven, but I’ve given it everything I’ve got to get there, then I just reassess then and there. But I’m only thinking about those seven reps, I’m not thinking about anything else.”
The strategy worked on 14.1, in which he finished 401 reps for fourth place in NorCal.
“I set a goal for this workout to do two sets (of snatches and double-unders) unbroken, then nine and six (snatches) the whole way,” he said. “I felt really comfortable and really good throughout. Then when I got to the end, I still felt comfortable and was really able to push it. I think that was more my style.”
Training with fellow NorCal CrossFit athletes Jason Khalipa and Garret Fisher has let Barber see how he stacks up against the second- and fifth-ranked men at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
At 170 lb., Barber explains that he needs to adopt different strategies than Khalipa and Fisher who each weigh 210 lb.
“There is a certain level of physicality that I don’t have. I’m not 210 lb.; I am 170. I can physically and mentally hang onto the bar as long as they (Khalipa and Fisher) can for a set, but as it gets beyond that, I’m so drained that I’m unable to keep up with them and achieve the same reps,” Barber said.
To do well, Barber has to move in shorter, faster sets.
“I think that is what athletes on a higher level need to figure out. What is their game and how does their game work,” he said.
“(In 2011) in all of my events, I was pacing, pacing, pacing and then at the end, I would have an ability to really turn it on. I think that provided I am making sure my pacing is even with other athletes, and that I’m not falling behind, then I will be able to push towards the end,” he said. “That is really what my goal is right now.”
This week, Barber got into the 18s to finish 255 reps of 14.2.
Recovering from left shoulder troubles over the past months, the overhead squat and chest-to-bar pull-up couplet presented a challenge.
“I haven’t been able to do pull-ups for four months because of my shoulder. Normally, this would have been a really good workout for me, as (these are movements) I’m quite good at. But I was a little scared going into it, I wasn’t sure how my shoulder would hold together,” Barber said.
Although it wasn’t what he wanted, he accepted it and decided to focus on performing well in the next three workouts. He knows this will likely be his lowest placing during the Open, but he’s keeping his eye on regionals.
“I just have to remind myself what I am in control of. I am not in control of what everyone else is doing or exactly how my shoulder feels, but I can control the situation with everything I have, to not hurt myself. I can control whether I have a positive outlook or a negative outlook on this, so I am just trying to continue to focus on what I can actually control and let everything else lie as it falls,” he said.
The fourth-place finish on 14.1 and 46th-place finish on 14.2 put Barber in 17th overall (unofficial).
“I’ve been given a gift to perform physically,” Barber said. “I want to continue to represent that and be that person, that role model for my son and support my family through that.”
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