"This year was different. Qualifying for the Games was a priority and a very important part of my life."
In many ways, 2013 was an easier year for Kelly Graham. She worked hard. She earned a trip to the CrossFit Games. But there wasn’t any pressure.
“I worked as hard as I could to earn that 20th placing,” Graham said, “but in my mind if I didn’t make it to the Games in 2013, I would just try again next year.”
2014 was tougher. She’d been to the big show and wanted to go back.
“This year, it was different,” she said. “Qualifying for the Games was a priority and a very important part of my life. Had you asked me in September what my goal would be for the 2014 Open, it would have been top five.”
In October 2013, Graham was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
The squat program Graham pursued with intent after the Games to build her lower body strength went to the wayside. Rowing, skipping, jumping, running, lifting heavy and burpees were off limits.
“I needed to find a way to continue to train. Seated sled pulls, presses from a seated position, and gymnastics work made up the majority of my time at the gym,” she said. “Swimming became part of my training routine.”
By the time February came around, Graham had been avoiding deadlifts and box jumps for six months. Her goal was to get through each Open workout, and remain in the top 20 in her division.
“When I saw the heavy deadlift and box jump combo—two things I have had to avoid all season—I knew I would be in for a rough go,” Graham said.
“I have some wonderful therapists who have helped me get to the point where I can get through the workouts now, so foot pain was not the main issue, it was the lack of training in these areas that became evident,” Graham said.
Despite her trepidation, Graham did well in the Open, placing 11th in the 50-54 Division. She earned two second-place finishes in 14.2 and 14.4 with scores of 137 and 184, respectively.
On 14.3, she worked for 133 reps, for 73rd place.
“I was very happy with this placing, knowing that it would count toward a portion of my overall ranking,” she said.
Luckily, Graham said she feels the majority of the events in the Masters Qualifier suited her training over the last six months.
“Other than the max clean, the events all had a strong element of gymnastics,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Though she trained with two national-level weightlifters weekly over the winter, she was still cautious lifting heavy weight. She was untested. But she surprised herself on the clean.
“I hadn’t done a max lift since October,” Graham admitted. “I actually lifted a personal best on the Thursday night—167 lb.—good enough for eighth place.”
She completed Amanda, a personal favorite, in 10:47, earning her the seventh-best score.
“Seeing Amanda appear in the Masters Qualifier was a bit like Christmas for me,” she said. “I knew I could do that many muscle-ups and the light weight on the snatches would not highlight my lack of lower body training.”
Without the practice on her double-unders, Graham worried the triplet of rowing, handstand push-ups and the double-unders would be her weakest event. She was right, but her score was still good enough for 21st place.
After taking a rest day on Sunday, Graham turned to the pull-ups/wall-ball shots event on Monday, finishing in 12:20 and taking 12th place.
“The wall balls just about killed me,” she said, “but my trainer, Joanne Jeffrey, knows what I need to hear and how to break down workouts so I can push through the discomfort and keep my head focused on the end result when my body is telling me to stop.”
Despite the challenges Graham has faced in her training, she’s continuing to move forward and accept new ones. Graham is looking forward to participating at the Canada East Regional with the team from Huronia CrossFit.
“I am going to continue to find ways to keep my feet progressing in the right direction,” she said. “Swimming will remain a weekly event and I would love to see it appear at the Games this year in the masters division. Perhaps being forced in the pool to train will be a blessing in disguise.”
Despite the challenges, Graham remains committed to her journey as a masters athlete.
“CrossFit has changed my life and continues to provide incredible opportunities,” she said. “How many other sports honor their masters-aged athletes this way? I feel completely blessed to be a part of CrossFit and to be heading to the CrossFit Games.”