by Sam Radetsky & Stacy Brown
One of the biggest stories in the Northern California region as the CrossFit Games season approaches is the return of Patrick “Manimal” Barber. Barber is one of the more storied CrossFit athletes. Having started CrossFit under current CrossFit Director of Media Tony Budding while still in high school, Barber was competing in his first Games in 2008 at the age of 21. He was part of the historic final heat at the Ranch in Aromas that saw Jason Khalipa go from nowhere to the top of the podium.
After a two-year stint living in New Zealand, Barber is back home in Santa Cruz, Calif., and working with his competitor from that final heat four years ago, Jason Khalipa. In “an opportunity too good to pass up,” Barber, with fiancée Taz Venter, came aboard as the head coach when Khalipa opened a new CrossFit affiliate in San Jose in early January. Occupying an old racquetball club and globo gym, NorCal CrossFit is a huge space with, “the potential to be a really great space for CrossFit.” Excitedly talking about some of the possibilities of the new space, Barber says, “I think a 400-meter indoor track would be doable.”
Barber knows he is returning to one of the toughest regions in the CrossFit world. Home to a staggering number of high level competitors all vying for three prized places at the Home Depot Center, NorCal has only gotten tougher in Barber’s absence. Even though Barber is a three-time Games competitor, he knows he can’t look past Regionals.
His plan is to, “hit the Open hard.” All the same, he doesn’t think being in the Northern California region will hurt him. “My chances in this region are as good as they are in any region. I will say the density of amazing athletes is very high here, but that can really be said about everywhere now.”
In fact, he is looking forward to both training with and competing against “impressive specimens” like Khalipa and Neil Maddox when the time comes.
In preparation for the Games season, Barber is returning to the formula that put him in the 2011 Games, namely Venter’s programming. Barber says his main concern right now is running the new NorCal CrossFit affiliate; he doesn’t have time to train three times a day like some of his competitors. Thus, Venter’s programming will need to be very focused.
Barber has an extensive sporting background, but his biggest weakness is longer workouts. Barber admits he, “dreads the pain of longer time frames.” Venter’s answer has been to have him run more. “Lots of running,” Barber says with a sigh, “mixed in with longer WODs.”
Looking back on last year’s Games, Barber calls 2011 a “mixed-up year” with a lot of variety in the events; at which some he did well (rope climb and softball throw) and others he didn’t (swim/run, jug carry), and he’s looking forward to more of the same this year. More than anything, what he would really love to see is an obstacle course such as Sasuke Ninja course.
As an experienced Games competitor, Barber has some advice for those who will be competing for the first time. He recommends pushing hard, but not burning out. “It’s a long season,” he says, “and it would be a bummer to burn out midway through.”
It is also imperative to train for anything, because even though he thinks the Open will consist of fairly standard movements, “nothing is off limits for the Games.”
Welcome back to NorCal, Pat.