Farm Strong

July 24, 2016

Andréa Maria Cecil

Individual athletes tackle new grunt-work implements, the Snail and the Plow.

Rogue’s Caity Matter Henniger likened it to a bale of hay.

But Sean Sweeney, who spent a lot of time on a farm growing up in Fallon, Nevada, said otherwise.

“Totally different,” countered the 24-year-old CrossFit Games rookie, answering questions in a straw cowboy hat he wore for the duration of the Climbing Snail event Saturday afternoon.

CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro unveiled the Snail on Tuesday evening as one of two new implements at this year’s Games. Athletes were not permitted to touch the Snail until four days later in an event that required them to roll it a total of 120 ft. across 3 rounds after a 500-meter run and ascents on a rope hanging roughly 5 feet above a crash mat.

The Snail is a beast, weighing 400 lb. for the women and 500 lb. for the men. And it’s partially filled with sand that shifts as it’s rolled so most of the weight continually sits at the bottom.

“Bales of hay that big, we use tractors,” clarified Sweeney of the Snail.

If it were 100-150 lb., then, yeah, it would have been just like a bale of hay, Sweeney said.

“Those we can lift all day long.”

The Snail, however, was different.

“It felt odd just because it never gains momentum,” Sweeney said.

Emily Abbott also spent many of her 27 years on a ranch in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“To be honest, I’ve never rolled a bale of hay. I’ve thrown a bale of hay and it was square,” said the three-time Games athlete.

And although the Snail was heavy, Abbott said it rolled “pretty well.”

“It was not like the Pig, where every single flip was using all my might,” she added, referencing the Soccer Chipper event at last year’s Games that required a 100-ft. flip of the newly introduced Pig that weighed 395 lb. for the women and 560 lb. for the men.

Abbott opted for a straight-arm technique on the Snail to save her arms for Sunday’s 280-foot handstand walk.

Seven-time Games athlete Christy Adkins took a different approach that she compared to the plank-to-pillar push-up taught at the CrossFit Football Trainer Course.

“I went right hand, right forearm, left hand, left forearm, head,” the 31-year-old said with a laugh.

Like many of her fellow competitors, Adkins’ torso was nearly horizontal as she dug the balls of her feet into the grass and made small, choppy steps while pushing the Snail.

Her strongman and CrossFit Football training paid off, she said.

“I pride myself on being able to move odd objects.”

Sweeney, meanwhile, was an advocate of pushing the Snail from a higher angle.

“More of a lever to push from,” he elaborated.

To Cole Sager, a three-time Games athlete, the Snail felt more like the padded sled reminiscent of his football days at the University of Washington.

During Climbing Snail, the 25-year-old first aggressively tackled the Snail during each of the 3 rounds, then went for the choppy but steady push.

“You can’t let momentum stop you,” Sager said. “You had to get it started.”

The other new implement this year is the Plow, which athletes are scheduled to pull 560 ft. across the soccer stadium field at the StubHub Center on Sunday. The Plow will be loaded at 190 lb. for the women and 235 lb. for the men.

Being that she’s the heaviest female Games competitor this year at 164 lb., Abbott said The Plow will be a good event for her.

“Mass moves mass. I have that on my side.”

Abbott continued: “That’s just literally grip it and rip it. The good thing is I’m good at that.”