March 15, 2012
Mastering the Open at Verve
By Tiffany Skidmore

"I love seeing people accomplish things that they didn't know they could do," Duwve says.

Mary Dyk

Jim Duwve

Matt and Cherie Chan’s box, CrossFit Verve in Denver, Colo., can’t get enough of the Open. More than 96 members signed up to compete, and it’s not just the youngins. Mary Dyk (59), Keith Rains (56), Joannie Braden (58) and Jim Duwve (51) have decided to join the sport.

Mary Dyk

Just a couple years ago, Mary Dyk wasn’t an athlete. She suffered from a heart attack in 2010 and endured several knee surgeries that left her with regular knee pain. Since starting CrossFit, she has dropped 15 pounds and says her knees don’t hurt her.

“I think it’s really exciting to see so many athletes around the world getting healthy and strong,” Dyk says. “I wouldn’t have believed it 15 months ago that I could be doing what I am doing now.”

So far, Mary has been able to do every Open Workout as RX’d (48 burpees, 64 snatches, and 6 toes-to-bar under 4 rounds in 12.3).

Keith Rains

After 15 years behind a desk, Keith Rains decided that as a retiree he would reclaim his fitness. He had seen two friends get healthy and strong after a year of CrossFit, and two years ago, Rains decided to try it himself by joining CrossFit Verve.

This year, after the goading of his coach Matt Chan, Rains signed up for the Open. To Rains, it’s not just a competition, but also a radical change of course from what he’d expected to be doing at 56.

“It’s the most radical thing to be competitive in my fitness,” Rains says. 

“I have no illusions of winning, but just seeing my name on the Leaderboard makes me feel connected to all other CrossFitters. There are a lot of us on the last pages that work our asses off to do what we do … just like the guys at the top. Intensity is intensity.”

Joannie Braden

Jane Fonda and yoga made up Braden’s fitness background before CrossFit. Now, at 58, the 2012 Open is her first competition.

“CrossFit is always a challenge,” Joannie says. “Every time I go in there, I’m scared. I wonder if I’ll be able to do the WOD and if I’m ready, but I take a deep breath and get in that door and every single time, I actually get it done.”

Even though the workouts strike fear into Braden, she does manage to get them done—and done well. She managed 71 burpees, 33 snatches, and more than 4 rounds on 12.3.

Jim Duwve

Last summer, Jim Duwve competed against the fittest 50 to 54-year-old athletes in the world at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games Masters Competition in Carson, Calif. Now, he’s holding strong with 7th place in the Masters Men 50-54 Division in the 2012 Open. If he can stay in the top 20 through 12.4 and 12.5, he’ll return to the finals.

At 51, Duwve believes he’s in the best shape of his life. His blood work helps prove it – since starting CrossFit, his blood work is now better than it was when he was younger.

Yet he’s not in it just for himself. His favorite part of the Open? Watching others compete.

“I love seeing people accomplish things that they didn’t know they could do,” Duwve says. “You have an amazing body that can and will do things you can’t believe. CrossFit gives you a platform of support and training not available elsewhere that will nurture that small part of you that believes you can be a different being.”

Duwve is excited to see how the next few weeks play out. 

“As we progress through more WODs, we get to see the athletes that are skilled in all aspects of CrossFit rise to the top,” Dwuve says. “That’s what makes this such a great sport.

“The most wonderful thing about competing isn’t winning, it’s hearing all those people screaming for you to do your best.”