Brawl by the Bay

March 28, 2014

Andréa Maria Cecil

The two words that changed everything: For time.

The two words that changed everything: For time.

They knew. They all knew.

On March 26, five former CrossFit Games champions correctly guessed that two of CrossFit’s most viscerally loathed movements would be paired in the final workout of the Open. But it would be more than 24 hours before Dave Castro gave them such confirmation when he uttered “thrusters” and “burpees.”

What they didn’t foresee, however, was a CrossFit Games Open first comprising two short words every CrossFit athlete knows intimately: For time.

“You will do 168 reps or you will quit in the process of trying,” said Castro, CrossFit Games Director, before a crowed of 4,000 at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, Calif.

“14.5 is for time.”

And the crowd erupted.

The Before

Graham Holmberg, the 2010 Games champion, had a lot of guesses as to what 14.5 could be. But one couplet rose to top of mind.

“I feel like we’re gonna see burpees,” he said on the morning of March 26. “I’d be shocked if we didn’t see burpees. And thrusters.”

Shortly afterward, unaware of Holmberg’s hypothesis, 2013 Games winner Sam Briggs said the answer was “obvious:” thrusters and burpees.

“But I think he’s going to throw in some evil twist,” Briggs added of Castro.

What could that be?

“I would not even want to attempt to dive into Castro’s mind,” said the native of England with a sideways smile. “I might come out a changed person.”

Three-time Games champ, Rich Froning, was given the same pop quiz.

“I’m sure they’ll be some thrusters and some burpees,” he said on the same morning. “Those are two things we haven’t seen. And both things suck.”

Annie Thorisdottir, who took 2013 off to care for an injury after winning the Games the two previous years, took her guess as well.

“I’m afraid it’s gonna be heavy thrusters and a lot of burpees,” she said.

She was 50 percent accurate.

Thorisdottir added she wasn’t a fan of AMRAPs.

Finally, 2008 Games champ Jason Khalipa took a stab at 14.5.

“An ascending ladder of burpees and thrusters,” he guessed. “The weight keeps going up.”

The After

Once the workout began, the wives of the three male champions sat in the balcony inside the pavilion, observing the agony from above.

Holmberg’s wife, Savanna, tended to the couple’s infant son and shouted when emcee Travis Bagent introduced her husband. She was intensely focused on her significant other, visibly counting his reps beneath her breath.

But for all her good karma, it was the reigning champs who stole the workout to few spectators’ surprise.

Briggs was the first to the round of 18, 15 and 12 thrusters. But during the 12 burpees, Froning caught up to her and ended up reaching the final round first.

He finished at 8:26, while Briggs ended at 8:31.

Thorisdottir was the last left working, recording a time of 11:05. Meanwhile, Holmberg finished at 10:20 and Khalipa at 9:05.

Afterward, Briggs—who has said she’s not a strategic person and prefers to do workouts with little notice—said her thoughts were simple after hearing the 14.5 scheme.

“Go as fast as you can,” she said, “and try to stay ahead.”

Making the workout one that is task-oriented was “a nice element,” Briggs added.

With the thruster weight being “doable,” it’ll take most athletes 20 to 30 minutes to complete 14.5, she said.

“But they can do the workout.”

For his part, Froning said when he heard Castro say “for time,” it was “not a pleasant thing to learn.”

His strategy?

“Don’t get beat—that’s all I thought,” he said several minutes after finishing the workout.

“Go as hard as you can. Try not to crash.”

Although Briggs isn’t competition for him within the construct of the Games, Froning said she gave him a run for his money.

“She was haulin’,” he said with a smile.

Still, the lingering question remained: Why, for the first time, program an Open workout to be task-oriented?

“It was time,” Castro explained. “You can’t be saved by the clock.”

He continued: “The work’s fixed, the time is not. You gotta get the work done.”