At the time, Jud Dean thought 2011 would be his final year trying to qualify for the CrossFit Games as an individual. He figured he would focus on his box and his team.
It’s easy to understand why. Dean was a mess heading into last year’s Open, battling a bum ankle, then a bad back, and then a nasty case of the flu.
“It was a nightmare of things going on, one after another,” says Dean, who owns CrossFit First State in Middletown, Del., along with his wife, Melissa.
Well, here’s something that could make Dean’s Mid Atlantic competitors lose sleep this time around. Despite a laundry list of ailments and setbacks, he crushed the 2011 Open, finishing 8th in the region and 42nd worldwide. He went on to place 7th at Regionals, missing the Games by four spots.
Forget “retirement.” His success made Dean hungrier than ever for 2012.
“I wanted to take one committed year and just focus solely on trying to make it to the Games.”
“I was right there, and it proved it to me that I have a chance at this,” he says. “I wanted to take one committed year and just focus solely on trying to make it to the Games.”
Dean, 30, says he was surprised at how well he did in 2011, given that he “got smashed” at the 2010 Regional. But he knew he could do better – if he got smarter.
He brought on CrossFit BWI’s Dale Ryan Thompson to help him devise a more organized, level-headed training schedule that attacked his weaknesses, while also building in mobility and rest days. He virtually erased his competitive calendar and hasn’t participated in a CrossFit event since driving away from the Regional site in Fairfax, Va., last spring.
With Melissa and assistant coach Steve Wardyga taking over most of the day-to-day operations at CrossFit First State, Dean has time to visit Thompson in Maryland once a month. He also drives 45 minutes once or twice a week to a pool for swimming workouts, which help to loosen up the torn labrums in both his shoulders.
He admits he’s not 100 percent healthy – he recently got seven stitches in his forehead after a minor run-in with a barbell during snatch practice – but he said he feels “10 times better,” than he did a year ago.
“I definitely over trained last year,” says Dean, a former collegiate football player at the Coast Guard Academy. “This year, the big changes have been in how I warm up and cool down, and I don’t train nearly to the volume that I did. I scaled everything back a lot just because of my recovery; I’m not 23 anymore. I can’t recover as fast as those guys who are doing like two, three WODs a day. I just kind of scaled back my volume, but I really focused on what I do. I do a lot more mobility, a lot more just taking care of myself, and we’ll see how that translates into my performance this year.”
He’s definitely a lot stronger. With help from strength coach Adam Maday, Dean brought his max deadlift up from 385 to right around 500 pounds, and saw significant gains in his back squat and clean & jerk.
Dean also packed about eight or nine pounds on his 5-foot-7-inch frame. He was 173 pounds at last year’s Mid Atlantic Regional, which to him was “too light.” He now weights in at about 182 pounds. He says he was inspired to tweak his nutrition after observing James Hobart and Austin Malleolo workout at CrossFit Apex in Telford, Pa., right around the start of last year’s Open.
“It was great to meet those guys and see how dedicated they are in terms of bringing their food with them and being really prepared for one thing after another,” he says. “I’ve definitely carried that into this year. My eating has gotten a lot better. I always have food with me, and I stopped going long periods of time without food. I always make sure I take a recovery shake, and I never did anything like that before.”
Dean turns 31 on July 13. Guess what he wants for his birthday?
“I would love the birthday present to be the Home Depot Center, but we’ll see how that works out,” he says. “I’m at the point where I feel like it’s not going to be a strength thing, where strength isn’t going to be a reason why I don’t make it [to the Games.] Now, it’s just a matter of, ‘Are you good enough?’ There’s always going to be somebody out there who’s better. So the thing is now, you go to Regionals and see.”
And while Dean built up a lot of confidence during the offseason through a lot of hard work and good rest, he knows he still has plenty to prove in the Open.
“It’s nerve-wracking, going in, and you know people are looking at you, wondering, ‘Was last year a fluke, or is he actually good?’” Dean says “You want to keep the naysayers quiet. That’s a lot of pressure, but you know what they say. When there’s pressure, some focus and others fold.” Dean's 2012 season has gotten off to a promising start. He finished 21st in the Mid Atlantic on 12.1, and 29th on 12.2. Combined, those performances left him in 3rd place in his region, ahead of last year's Games athletes Ben Smith and Nate Schrader.