Two hungry athletes are hot on the tail of reigning North West Regional champ, Rory Zambard.
Emily Carothers of Tiger Mountain CrossFit in Issaquah, Washington, finished fourth in the region in this year’s Open, and 23rd at last year’s Games. Carleen Lessard of CrossFit X-Factor in Portland, Oregon, finished second in the region in the 2014 Open and is aiming for her first trip to the Games.
With regionals looming, we spoke with Carothers and Lessard about their strategies.
Do you know Rory Zambard well?
Lessard: I’ve actually trained with Rory a good amount this last year. Training with her was awesome. She’s an amazing coach and she pushes me to do better. But at the same time, I’m trying to top her. When the competition starts, game on!
You competed against Rory in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. Have you trained this year hoping to catch her?
Carothers: I don’t view this as I’m chasing a certain person. I think if you look at it like that, you’re doomed.
Carothers: Let’s imagine I’m following Rory on Facebook and she posts that she did a 195-lb. thruster. I mean, that’s awesome. But there’s a lot more elements than just, she can do this much. Furthermore, she doesn’t see what’s going on with me. She doesn’t see how many muscle-ups I just did.
Lessard: I agree. I don’t train to chase any leader. I train to be the best I can be. If I’m out there having fun, putting it all on the line, things fall into place. If not, things fall out of whack.
Carothers: It’s about chasing the podium and not the person.
Do you chat with the other competitors before a competition?
Carothers: Yes, I really like to interact before the events.
Lessard: I like to chat now, but at regionals last year, I didn’t very much because I didn’t know the top athletes very well. I wish I had interacted. But I think my nerves got the best of me.
How do you formulate strategies for competition?
Carothers: I take a look at a workout and break it down into segments. But the real strategy is just don’t stop moving! I might want to break it down into sets of five or something, but when it comes down to it, I just gotta keep moving.
Lessard: Usually with the help of my coach. And I’ll get some mobility advice from my physical therapist. And of course, we’ll watch to see how the previous heats are going.
What were your weaknesses last year?
Carothers: I think my biggest weakness was overall strength. Deadlift was, for whatever reason, a weakness. I just needed to get stronger. One of my coaches has an Olympic lifting background. So I’ve worked hard on getting stronger.
Lessard: My weaknesses are pulling movements like pull-ups, chest-to-bar (pull-ups), Olympic lifts. In training, I’ve been doing pull movements two or three times a week. I’m hitting PRs on my Olympic lifts. I’m still not where I want them to be, but until I’m an Oly lifter, that’s gonna be a struggle.
What are your strengths?
Carothers: I was a competitive gymnast in college, so anything gymnastics, like handstand walking or muscle-ups. Heavy barbells in a workout might slow me down. But I can make up time on the gymnastics stuff.
Lessard: My strengths are in traditional CrossFit workouts, moderate to heavy weight, where I’m going to have to move through different exercises, and where I can pace.
How are you feeling about the upcoming regional?
Carothers: I’m excited and nervous. I love to compete, I love being in front of a crowd. This year there’s a little more pressure. At the Games last year, I skated in and no one knew who I was. But this year is a little different. I have higher expectations and I’ve made expectations for myself. I’ve allowed myself to invest more of my heart and my emotions.
Lessard: I went to the OC Throwdown in January. That competition set my stage for regionals. They took the top 30 women who qualified, some of the top CrossFit athletes—Lindsey Valenzuela, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Sam Briggs. To compete alongside these top athletes was a learning experience. And it helped me to realize that I belong right next them.