February 28, 2012
The Casual Competitor's Take on Week 1
By Aaron Carr
Aaron Carr talks burpees.
Aaron Carr talks burpees.

Five minutes is what makes it hard and exhausting. Seven minutes is what makes it CrossFit.


Burpees … burpees … BURPEES!

Sure, it’s a stroke of beautiful simplicity, but did it really have to be pure burpees? I appreciate the inclusiveness of selecting an exercise that much of the world can complete, but at the same time can tax the elite athlete at high doses. When done correctly, it is an artistic dance of agility as the athlete can go from lying flat to the ground to leaping to touch an object overhead.  

With some reluctance, I practiced the movement Wednesday night right after the posting and even experimented with a couple ideas. I tried going all out for a minute and seeing how fast I could recover.  I tried keeping a consistent pace and seeing roughly how many would be completed in a couple minutes and extrapolate that out to the whole seven-minute insanity. Five minutes is what makes it hard and exhausting. Seven minutes is what makes it CrossFit.

Not wanting the Open to completely dominate my programming (my participation in the Games is just for fun after all), I did non-burpee workouts on Wednesday and Thursday and prepared psychologically for the Saturday adventure of participation in the workout.  

One of the greatest things about the Games is getting to be reacquainted with the competitive atmosphere of yesteryear. For some of us more “seasoned” (who am I kidding, “older”) athletes, we have been removed from serious competition for perhaps as much as half of our lives.  At the beginning of the Games I get to feel that excitement and the jitters that come along just before the big event.  Parenthetically, have you ever noticed that the closer you get to a competition, the smaller your bladder gets – or is it just me?

Day of Preparation

I try to get plenty of sleep the night before and wake up to a good healthy breakfast of eggs and an apple. The rest of the morning is spent trying to take my mind off the appointment I have at noon, but casting all efforts aside, I watch videos and “Leaderboard” for an hour before taking my boys to gymnastics class (a helpful distraction).  

Then the hour has come and I change clothes and meet up with my neighbor who has joined me in the quest.  We drive and chat, trying to take our minds off the challenge to come, but knowing that the peak to summit is getting closer and closer by the minute.

We arrive at CrossFit Full Strength and go through stretches and warm-ups to prepare ourselves and give the best chance for success. We observe the briefing on the requirements and steel ourselves for the beginning of the competition.  

Gayle Shalloo is in the first heat, and watching her efforts makes it almost look easy, as she blasts through 127 reps. Her very impressive display placed her at first in the South West region at the time of this writing. She smiles and jokes around after she is done.  

She heard the call of one minute left and started to drive with all the energy she had remaining.  When she felt she was out of time, they called out 30 seconds and she thought, “that is the longest 30 seconds of my life.” It was an impressive performance to watch.

My neighbor and compatriot in this endeavor is Ammon Woods. He is in the second heat and blasts through the burpees at a blistering speed.  I am very impressed as he zooms through the 27 in the first minute. Astounding!

My Turn

Finally my chance has come and the, “3, 2, 1 . . . go” seems to jump out before I am even ready for it.  I have planned to approach this like a mile run:  find my pace and stick with it through the whole time frame and then sprint at the end. I keep pace for the first couple minutes and this almost feels simple. I have my goal and I am chipping away at it.  

Right about the end of the second minute it starts to hit me. This is hard. This is really hard. I try to shut off my brain and pay attention only to the cadence. I break it down into four motions: down, back, forward, jump. Simplify and press forward. More than a few times I have to pause to catch control and not fall backwards as I overcome vertigo.  I am not sure how much or if I have been breathing. The call comes out for 2 minutes left. I try to pick up the pace and it feels like moving through molasses. Tupac Enrique, my judge, kindly calls out my reps and it sounds like he is talking in slow motion.

I hear the announcement of one minute to go and I try to pull out the inner beast of competition and leave it all on the table. Unfortunately the “roar” of the internal beast comes out more like a “meow” and I stumble through the last couple reps. I fall to the ground with not even a semblance of grace, and wheeze as those around me express encouragement and congratulations, which is part of the camaraderie of the CrossFit community that I would have received whether I had 15 reps or 115. The community appreciates the effort someone takes to push themselves to the edge because they have done so themselves.

My friend jokes and laughs saying, “You are so pale your lips are green.” Fortunately, Ammon takes a picture to share with posterity.

My score at the end of the day is 90 reps. I’ll take it.

Hopefully the next few workouts will let me soar and perform a little better. But even if every workout left leaves me collapsed on the floor, the adventure has begun. Game on.


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