"There wasn't a time cap on the (event), so we just kept going," Williams said.
At the end of the Easter weekend, Australian Dawn Gregson, finished the first-ever Masters Qualifier in the 29th position in the Masters Women 50-54 Division, narrowly missing out on a spot to the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.
The 50-year-old was eligible to compete in the qualifier after completing the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open in the 121st position worldwide.
Gregson, a trainer at Range of Motion CrossFit in Perth, Australia, went into this year’s CrossFit season full of confidence. With a background in dancing and acrobatics, and more than five years of CrossFit training, Gregson was hoping to advance past the Open, and was full of praise for the Masters Qualifier.
“I loved the idea of the Masters Qualifier,” she said. “With the explosion in the population of people doing CrossFit, it seemed a natural step.”
The timing of the qualifier, which clashed with the Easter holiday, meant both Gregson and her coach, Dan Williams, had to forego their traditional family weekend celebrations.
“The Easter long weekend holiday was basically a write off. It was all about Dawn and the qualifier,” Williams said. “We were both there every day in the morning getting her through it.”
When the events were released, Williams sat down with Gregson and went through a plan for the weekend and a strategy for each one.
“After working with Dawn for seven years, I know what she is capable of,” Williams said.
Event 1 played to Gregson’s strength as she currently holds the Masters state record for the clean and jerk at 56 kg.
“Dawn gets the best performance out of her lifting by starting light and increasing in small increments,” Williams said.
Gregson attempted Event 1 twice throughout the weekend, each time setting a new personal best. Her first attempt was on Friday, when she successfully cleaned 68.5 kg (151 lb.) On Monday, she bettered her score with a personal best lift of 70kg (156 lb.)
However, the volume of movements in Events 3 and 4, posed a potential problem for Gregson. But her coach had a simple plan.
“Avoid failure,” Williams said. “I couldn’t take Dawn to failure in any of the movements. When Dawn starts to fail, it takes too long for her to recover and it affects her confidence.”
As a result, the handstand push-ups in Event 3, and the pull-ups and wall-ball shots in Event 4 were all broken down into small sets with planned timed breaks.
“The breaks are there for her to re-chalk, gather herself and re-focus,” Williams said.
By following her plan, Gregson went on to record times of 28:07 for Event 3 and 17:34 for Event 4.
But it was Event 2—the snatch and muscle-up couplet named Amanda—that was the most challenging and daunting for Gregson.
Not only was the snatch weight the same as her personal best (65 lb.), but her muscle-ups are still a work in progress.
“I went into the Open with a couple of muscle-ups,” Gregson said.
“They are messy and not very good technically, but I had a couple,” she continued. “When I saw that the Event 2 had that many muscle-ups, I knew I was in for a long one.”
In the end, Gregson submitted what could be the world’s longest Amanda time of 50 hours, 21 minutes and 26 seconds. In between muscle-up attempts, she managed to complete all of Event 3.
“We started Event 2 at 2:25 p.m. on Easter Friday,” Gregson said. “I managed to get the first four muscle-ups in half an hour, and then I hit a wall.”
Gregson would spend the next four hours attempting muscle-up after muscle-up. Just after 7 p.m., she and her coach decided to stop. But rather than stopping the clock and scoring a DNF for the event, Williams consulted the Rulebook and found that there was nothing that stated that they couldn’t leave the clock running.
“We have three clocks in our box for backup in competitions. There wasn’t a time cap on the (event), so we just kept going,” Williams said.
Gregson cried on the drive home. After some reflection, she decided to keep at it.
“I told myself to suck it up, and try to get a score in,” she said. “I did not want to DNF (an event).”
With renewed determination, Gregson came in early Saturday morning and got another three muscle-ups. She would spend the rest of the day attempting the remainder of the reps with her coach by her side the entire time.
“Dan was just so patient,” Gregson said. “There were so many times that I wanted to give up and pack it in, but he just kept encouraging me to keep trying and not give up.”
Support for Gregson was evident throughout the effort, as members of her affiliate came and supported her right through the weekend.
“There were times that I felt so embarrassed that they were here,” Gregson said. “I would be standing under the rings doing nothing, and I would be thinking that these people were better off watching paint dry. Other times, I felt absolutely energized, and I am grateful for them being there.”
“I reckon that I had around 70 to 80 attempts to get those 21 muscle-ups,” she added.
On Sunday afternoon, Gregson was able to finish the second and third rounds of Amanda. In the process, Gregson created one the defining moments for her, her coach and her affiliate.
“I am so proud of Dawn,” Williams said. “Even though there were times that she wanted to give up, she didn’t.”
“I will definitely remember Amanda, all 50-and-a-half hours of her,” Gregson said.
Gregson was one of 32 women in her division to record a score for Amanda. By persevering through more than 50 hours of attempts, Gregson earned a 32nd-place finish on Event 2.
The mental and physical effort of the Masters Qualifier weekend left Gregson drained, and looking forward to what the masters competition would hold for her next season.
“I am broken and tired,” she said. “There were a lot of areas that were exposed for me, and the women at the top of the Leaderboard are great benchmarks.”
“Those girls deserve to be there, and prove that people our age aren’t done.”
Looking forward, Williams has high hopes for Gregson next year.
“The plan is to get her back here (at Range of Motion CrossFit), re-profile and test her, and then work out the plan for 2015,” he said.
“I will keep working on addressing her weaknesses and make her a much more rounded athlete.”