February 28, 2014
Masters Plan for the Open
By Whit Wyatt and Leah Lutz

Veterans and rookies share their plans for 2014.

Photos courtesy of Whitney Wyatt

The masters division has grown tremendously since its inception in 2010, and so has the caliber of the competitors.

With the start of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games season, a few masters shared their thoughts on what it will take to compete this year.

Craig Howard has several years of competition experience, having been to the Games in Carson, Calif., in 2011, just missing the cut in 2012 and winning the Masters Men 50-54 Division in 2013.

“I just didn’t stay good enough (in 2012),” Howard said. “Every year it gets harder and harder as the young guys come in and my recovery time gets longer. I had some holes in the last Games. I got caught a couple of times, mostly in gymnastics. I’m really trying to target my goats.”

This year, he has a specific plan to fit the demands of the different stages of the Games season.

“My coach, Jeremy Jones, has me hit a (metabolic conditioning) peak for the Open. After that, we go straight into a strength phase—but I’m strong enough, I don’t need to get any stronger—then we come back to a peak for the Games,” Howard said.

Now that the Open is underway his training will focus completely on those workouts since a high finish in the Open is a must.

“I’m not a repeat guy,” he said. “I’ll do the workouts one time and this gives me a realistic expectation of my performance ability at the Games. But I can’t do worse than 35th in any one workout. If I fall below that, I will redo a workout, but my goal is the top 20 on every workout.”

Another veteran, Troy Miller, has been involved in the CrossFit Games since 2008 when he competed alongside Jason Khalipa and Josh Everett at the Ranch in Aromas, Calif.  In those days, individual competition was the only option. At 45 years old, he took 149th out of 196 competitors.  

That lit his competitive fire and for the next two years he focused on training to set up his return to the Games in 2011, where he finished 17th in the 45-49 Division. Missing the 2012 competition due to shoulder surgery, he couldn’t resist the lure of the Open. Jumping the gun on his doctor’s advice, he actually did some of the Open workouts one-handed. It is no surprise he returned to the Games in 2013, and finished fifth in the 50-54 division.

“(In 2011), I pretty much had no coaching … the problem was overtraining,” Miller said. “I came into the Games completely beat down and ended up 17th. I now limit my (workouts) to three or so per week … doing doubles that include a lot of on-the-minute work. I feel a lot fresher typically and continue to PR most things.”

With a clear plan for each step of this Games season, he’s managing his volume and he’s ready for Open Workout 14.1.

He said he will game each workout as it comes; some he’ll do once, others he’ll repeat.

“I usually will redo some of them,” he admitted. “If by Sunday, I see that I’m 20th or something like that and feel that I could have done things faster (or) better, I’ll definitely redo it. Also, if I feel there was a better strategy that I should have used—pace, technique, whatever—then I will redo it regardless of the Leaderboard. Finding the best strategy is big, way more so than most people believe.”

Competition demands a cool head and strategy, but it also breeds nervousness.

Yvonne Howard has competed in the last two CrossFit Games (14th in 2013 and 10th in 2012 in the Women 50-54 Division), but still immerses herself in casual competitions to work on her pre-competition nerves.

“I notice the older I get, the more nervous I get,” she said. “So I do (local competitions) to get over it. I never used to get nervous, but I think I worry more about getting older, and how I will perform in competition.”

While nerves are expected, Howard trains to keep those in check for the Open. She and her husband regularly videotape their workouts. Their gym, Diablo CrossFit, has a masters class where the athletes complete the workouts in heats, judging each other in every class.

During the Open, Howard will complete each workout one time because she’s “never repeated a workout and improved.” While she may be nervous, she has enough experience to know she needs to give that workout her all, and then she needs to recover for the next week. Like others, she knows her balance between work and rest is crucial.

With the addition of the Masters Qualifer, Howard is training and resting in preparation for the increased volume. Nerves don’t dampen her enthusiasm for this addition.

“I’m really happy with the qualifier,” she said. “This allows (masters) to show what we can do with high volume in a short period of time.”

E.A. Morgan is almost Zen about the competition. He knows his CrossFit Games season is going to start and end with the Open. While other competitors fret about moving to the next stage, he’s focused on enjoying the one stage where everyone is welcome.

This will be Morgan’s first Open, and he has competed only once in his life at a recent competition, finishing dead last.

“But that’s OK,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what CrossFit is all about. You take your weaknesses and make them your strengths.”

With the increase to three stages of masters competition, veterans and newbies alike are plotting new paths to success, but some things will always remain the same.

“My strategy in the Open is the same as ever,” Miller said. “No matter what, I’m always going to give it my all and only be satisfied if I feel that my best effort was posted.”

That’s the thing about the Open: Whether you’re a seasoned Games competitor, or a first year novice still learning the movements, you are only asked to do your best.