Article by Stacy Brown
"Everything has changed so much since 2010, it's like night and day."
Every CrossFitter knows what it means to “embrace the suck.” For Gabe Subry, third place finisher at this year’s NorCal Regional, this idea is a central part of his training. He admits he’s neither the strongest nor the most highly skilled competitor, but he tries to make up for it by having the stamina to just keep going.
“If you have the mentality to stay in the pain zone as long as it takes, why not get there as fast as you can?” he says. “I’ll just keep pushing.”
He trains that mentality by doing things like treating 400-meter runs as 50-meter sprints. “The last half of the run is just grit,” he says. “You’re slowing down and your time is just horrible, but you put your body in that uncomfortable zone and you learn what it feels like.”
Subry got off to a rough start at Regionals this year with a 21st place finish in Event 1. But his determination to push through helped him achieve a third place finish in Event 2 and suddenly he was back at the top of the pack.
“You have a month or so to figure out which workouts you’ll excel at and which ones you’ll have to work on, and for Diane I thought, ‘I’m going to destroy this,’” he says. “But it didn’t work out that way. I had to hang on for dear life. And then Event 2 put me back in the running and got the momentum rolling.”
Subry says he loves long workouts, and Event 4 was right up his alley. “It was miserable, but fun and adrenaline-fueled,” he says. ”That combination of adrenaline and exhaustion is an almost unimaginable high.”
The other long workout of the Regional competition was Event 6, where Subry was impressive with his fighting spirit, even though he was almost assured third place and a trip to the Games. “You can’t really go into a WOD and half-ass it,” he explains. “Whether you’ve got first place sewn up or not you’ve got to go at full force.”
In many of the workouts, Subry gave credit to the other competitors for helping him raise his game. In Event 2, he was rep for rep with training partner Nick Lucchesi. Subry beat him on the final sprint. In Event 4, he stayed close to Blair Morrison, with Subry taking third place by going unbroken in the last set of shoulder-to-overheads. In Event 6, he went back and forth with both Morrison and Joey Warren.
With a lot of eyes on Jason Khalipa and Neal Maddox in the men’s events, Subry tried not to focus on what they were doing. He expected them to do well, but he did admit he didn’t expect them to finish in the top two in Event 1. “They just have a strong game,” he says.
This will be Subry’s third trip to the Games. After the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, he decided strength was his No. 1 priority, so he focused on very short, very heavy workouts. This paid off and he saw significant gains. Then he worked on leaning out, but maintaining the strength by doing more cardio workouts.
The last two years, Subry says he burned out between Regionals and the Games. He ate very strict paleo and took no rest time. Now, he relaxes with pizza and beer on Saturdays.
“On Monday, I feel strong, and powerful and refueled,” he says.
He is also now taking rest days every Thursday and Sunday. The strict regimen in the past made him tired by the time he got to the Games. “I was burned out and not excited to workout,” he recalls. “I just wanted to get it over with. That’s not the way to go into it. I’m excited now and I feel good.”
Subry’s goal for the Games is to do every workout as well as he can, but he would love to make it to the final event.
“I’ve never made it that far before, and it would mean a lot to me,” he says.
Learning how to deal with disappointment is an ongoing goal for Subry. The L-sit event at the 2011 Games was a setback when he was called out after eight seconds. It was very hard for him to get past the frustration of that performance, and he says he didn’t really recover from it throughout the rest of the competition. This year, he is adamant that it won’t happen again.
“Every year, as a competitor you learn what your capabilities are. I know what I can do and how my body can handle it,” he says. “You’re always figuring out how to tinker with your diet and your training. Everything has changed so much since 2010, it’s like night and day.”