"Even though I qualified as an individual, I was never interested in competing alone. Half of the fun is being part of a team, something bigger than myself," Bennion says.
Prior to the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, Tommy Hackenbruck decided he wanted to compete on a team.
He had a solid run in the individual competition. Hackenbruck took second place in the 2009 CrossFit Games, ninth in 2010 and 23rd in 2012.
After thoroughly testing his own fitness, the Ute CrossFit affiliate owner wanted to see what he could do with a team of self-sufficient athletes--the type that could make a solid run in the individual competition. With between himself and 2011 CrossFit Games individual competitor, Taylor Richards-Lindsay, he had a third of the bases covered.
Next, he had to reach out to the talented but lesser known athletes in his box.
He spent some time in front of a whiteboard and created a list of minimum standards that would be essential to winning the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. This list soon became a tool to help the firebreathers at Ute CrossFit identify goats and shore up weaknesses.
Putting the Team Together
Five of the six members of Hack's Pack Ute CrossFit – Michael Cazayoux, Tommy Hackenbruck, Erin Bennion, Mary Lampas and Taylor Richards-Lindsay – qualified to compete as individuals, but chose go team. Adrian Conway, the sixth member, was injured for two of the workouts, but completed all the workouts and was well enough to compete at Regionals.
“Before I started CrossFit, I was involved in triathlons. In 2010, I won the Sedona marathon and competed in the St. George Ironman (finishing with a time of 12:14),” Bennion says. “After such a long time spent training alone in endurance events, I was ready for a change … so, even though I qualified as an individual, I was never interested in competing alone. Half of the fun is being part of a team, something bigger than myself. Surrounding myself with great athletes is a great way to motivate myself to do better.”
Cazayoux similarly never contemplated competing as an individual. “I grew up playing team sports, (football, baseball and basketball), and I prefer them. I would like to be the best individual in the world, but for now I am getting better consistently and it is much more fun with a team,” he says. “The people on the team are another reason. I have tremendous respect and admiration for all my teammates. They are all incredible athletes, but they also inspire me to be a better coach, friend and person in general.”
When it came time to get ready for Regionals, the team, led by three-time individual competitor, Hackenbruck, preferred not to practice the workouts in their entirety.
“We practiced the movements to see who was fastest to select who would be in each workout and we tried out a few different ways to do the human rack,” Hackenbruck says. “We are very fortunate. Every member of our team is very powerful. For example, where most teams had one woman who could do the 70-pound dumbbell snatch, all the women on our team could do the snatch and that gave us a lot of flexibility when choosing who would participate in which workout.”
At the 2012 South West Regional, Hack’s Pack did a great job of adjusting or abandoning original plans in an effort to have a stronger finish.
“When we got to Regionals we made a few mistakes. We got quite a few no-reps on the last workout, especially because we didn’t understand the standards fully; like having to face a certain way during the deadlifts,” Hackenbruck says. “With the crowd being so loud we missed a few things. That’s when you have to abandon the planned rep schemes and adapt. I think that will help us a lot more at the [Games] when the teams won’t have the chance to practice the workouts ahead of time. But we need to communicate better with the judges to understand more clearly the expectations.”
With so many schedules to coordinate, the team is lucky to get three or four hours to work together per week. The time they do get together has to really count.
Hackenbruck has chosen to not program for the team himself. “When I program for myself, I tend to second-guess my choices, but when someone else programs I focus on intensity and how to get the work done.”
Everyone is working on weaknesses with a heavy focus on Olympic lifting.
“You can always improve technique in the Olympic lifts. Plus, we are exposing ourselves to as much random stuff as possible,” Hackenbruck says. “We are swimming in open water and trying to think up weird things that might be included in the Games.