Lindsey Valenzuela went into the 2012 Southern California Regional competition knowing she would have to fight for a spot at the Games. Valenzuela competed in the CrossFit Games in 2011, but Southern California is home to some of the best female CrossFit athletes in the world. And this year, there were three names at the top of the Leaderboard who didn’t compete last year: Valerie Voboril, Andrea Ager, and Madelyn Curley.
Valenzuela knew she had her work cut out for her, but it was a goal she had been working toward all year.
A star volleyball player at California Lutheran University, Valenzuela switched to Olympic weightlifting after college. Valenzuela’s first weightlifting competition was in 2008, and she discovered CrossFit not long after that, in 2009. Valenzuela placed 13th at the South West Regional in 2009, after only doing CrossFit for a few months. She made it to the CrossFit Games in 2011 and placed 34th. Shortly after the CrossFit Games, Valenzuela competed in nationals for Olympic Weightlifting and finished second overall in the 75 kg class.
“After the 2011 Games I had to really sit down and evaluate what I wanted to do with my life as an athlete,” Valenzuela says. “My husband was just about to start an academy for law enforcement and I wanted to be around more to help him out with that. Other than being an athlete and a wife, I work at a local high school and middle school as one of the assistant strength and conditioning coaches. My job requires that I not only be there during normal school hours, but also a lot of after school hours working with my varsity teams.”
With all that in mind, Valenzuela wrote out what she needed to improve on and how she could accomplish her goals. “The main area that needed improvement was my gymnastics,” she says. “I decided to contact Dusty Hyland because I knew he could drastically improve my gymnastics skills. After about a week of working with him, we both decided that we made a great team and that his programming would make a huge difference in my preparation for the 2012 CrossFit season.”
In addition to her gymnastics skills, Valenzuela and Hyland worked on the tempo of her lifts and her endurance. After placing fifth in the 2012 CrossFit Games Open in her region, Valenzuela was headed to Regionals to find out if her training strategy would pay off.
A Battle for Fourth
Before Regionals, Valenzuela ran through each of the workouts, simulating as much as she could, the timing between each of the events. Despite this preparation, the first two events did not go as planned.
Valenzuela placed 10th in Event 1, Diane, finishing 20 seconds slower than she did in practice. She placed better in Event 2, taking third, but was 10 seconds slower than her practice time. “The Regionals taught me a very important lesson,” Valenzuela says. “I need to focus on myself during an event and not let what is going on around me get into my head. I had game plans going into the weekend and I did not stick to them.”
It was on Day 2, in Event 3, that Valenzuela pulled out ahead. In the final heat, all the women paced themselves during first few sprints, giving themselves time to recover for the physically taxing snatches. As Rebecca Voigt started to fail on the dumbbell snatches, Valenzuela made her move, winning the event with an astonishing world record time of 4:07. (Elizabeth Akinwale, who finished it in 4:06, broke the record in North Central the following weekend.)
By Event 5, the snatch ladder, there was a battle developing for fourth place. (The female fourth-place finisher in the SoCal region would win a spot at the Games if Kristan Clever, a past champion, qualified.) By the beginning of the last day, both Valenzuela and Andrea Ager had a good shot at fourth place, a spot both of them desperately wanted.
“It was a very tough weekend mentally and emotionally for both of us,” Valenzuela says. “It was always back and forth with points and placing. I think Andrea is one hell of an athlete and has a ton of heart. I knew going into Regionals that I was going to have to take advantage of my strength and win workouts three and five. During the other workouts, I knew if I placed within the top five I would have enough points to put myself in a position to qualify for the Games. After Day 1 not going exactly the way I wanted it to, I knew I had to really start focusing on believing in myself.”
The anticipation was palpable as the women started Event 5. The crowd was looking to see some big weight overhead. “The plan is to hit 185 pounds, I’m going to finish the ladder,” Valenzuela said before the event.
Valenzuela did not make it to 185 lb., but she lifted 175 lb, winning first place and setting a world record. (A record that was later broken by Sarah Hopping, who snatched 180 lb.) That left one workout, the grueling Event 6. Ager gave it her all and took second place. “Her endurance during the long workouts really helped her and it was evident during the last workout,” Valenzuela says of Ager.
Valenzuela took fifth place, which was enough for her to earn a fourth place and a ticket to the Games, edging out Ager by two points. (Watch her find out she qualified here.)
Small Goals, Big Dreams
Now that she’s qualified for the Games, Valenzuela is focusing exclusively on CrossFit.
“Last year it was tough preparing for both events,” Valenzuela says. “But I would not take back anything that I accomplished in both sports. My strength gains that I made last year in the sport of Olympic lifting have carried into CrossFit and have helped to give me the upper hand in many events. I feel for the first time I’m totally prepared for the tasks that may come my way at the Games. I know that the Games are going to be tough, but with my work ethic and my dedication to my training, I know I will accomplish my goals.”
Valenzuela is continuing to work with Hyland, as well as train with Valley CrossFit athletes Voigt and Clever. She has also been working out with Voboril, who took third at the SoCal Regional.
In addition to training, Valenzuela takes her nutrition seriously. “I have always eaten paleo and allowed myself one cheat day on the weekends,” she said. “Since Regionals, I have really dialed in my nutrition along with the help of Chef by Request, which is making my paleo way of life much easier with my hectic lifestyle.”
Just like all the Games competitors, Valenzuela is dreaming of a spot at the podium. To achieve her dream, she has broken it up into smaller goals. “Last year I didn’t finish two of the workouts, so my first goal is to finish every workout,” Valenzuela says. “My second goal is to move up in the rankings. And my third goal is to make it to the third day. These are three big goals, but I know if I believe in myself and my abilities I’m halfway to achieving them.”
More than anything, Valenzuela is looking forward to proving herself wrong. “I feel that sometimes I underestimate what I am capable of doing, and this year I am more than ready to prove myself wrong while competing with the top women around the world.”