Murph's Law

July 22, 2016

Mike Warkentin

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, but the courageous will not waver.

Murph is a special test.

Named for Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2005, Murph is a gritty tribute to the Medal of Honor recipient. The Hero workout has shown up at the Games twice: once with the gymnastics completed in chipper style, and this year with the pull-ups, push-ups and squats partitioned into 5 rounds of 20, 40 and 60, respectively. Athletes wore body armor in 2015 and would do the same this year, but the 2016 run route was altered to send the athletes over the hill at the north end of the stadium.

For Annie Thorisdottir and Kara Webb, the event was a chance to literally have another run at a challenge that cost them dearly in 2015.

Thorisdottir struggled badly with overheating during Murph last year and was ultimately forced to withdraw from the competition several events later. Webb finished 13th in Murph but doesn’t remember crossing the finish line. She was later carted off and treated for heatstroke, and she said she operated at about 50 percent capacity for the rest of the weekend, somehow managing to finish fifth overall.

With the sun not high enough to hit the grass in the soccer stadium at 7 a.m., women were given a small respite as they repped in the shade.

Eleven of 2015’s top 13 Murph finishers were back on the Zeus rig, including winner Sam Briggs. As expected, Briggs took the early lead, with Anna Tunnicliffe second. Squatting rhythmically like a piston, Briggs held steady but was overtaken in Round 3 by Carleen Mathews and Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir.

Mathews bounced her squats and used an aggressive arm swing to generate some momentum out of the bottom, while Davidsdottir’s movement was calmer and more deliberate.

The two held attention for most of the event, but former gymnast Kari Pearce came from behind to take the lead on the last set of squats.

She left the field first but knew the defending champ was on her heels.

“That’s why I had to keep looking back,” said Pearce, who, due to the location of the Jumbotron, was later denied the NFL-esque opportunity to watch herself outsprint Davidsdottir into the end zone at the South end of the stadium.

“I knew if I could maintain the lead coming down the stairs, it would be a footrace,” she said.

It was indeed a footrace, but only until Davidsdottir shut the engine down when she realized Pearce was out of reach and no one was close behind her.

Carleen Mathews took third, and Briggs cruised in fourth to take the overall lead.

For Webb, her eighth-place finish was “empowering.”

“Just taking my own vest off,” she said with pride as she unbuckled. Last year, she said, the medical staff had to remove her vest and carry her off. This year, they gave her high fives.

Webb knew she wouldn’t win the event, but she was thrilled to complete it and improve over last year, offering an example to every CrossFitter who has ever been disappointed with the number on the whiteboard.

“There’s a lot of small wins if you’re willing to look for them,” Webb said with a smile.

For Thorisdottir, things didn’t go according to plan, and she said she was “irritated” after five or six athletes passed her in the second run. She had been hoping to take advantage of her muscular endurance but said the partitioned Murph didn’t allow her to do so. She “blew up in the second run” and took 24th.

Like Webb, the two-time Games champ found comfort in improving over last year.

“During the air squats, I got flashbacks, and it’s not the best feeling to have in the middle of a workout,” she said.

On the men’s side, it was perhaps fitting that retired Navy SEAL Josh Bridges won a workout that honored a fallen brother.

“I definitely thought about it because it was in honor of a Navy SEAL,” said Bridges, who did not know Murphy.

Bridges was not able to make up much ground on overall leader Mat Fraser, who finished second and has now opened a sizeable lead of 78 points. Bridges, however, has pulled into second overall, and Brent Fikowski slipped to third by taking 28th in Friday’s first event.

Noah Ohlsen was third in Murph.

Next up for the individuals: Squat Clean Pyramid. The athletes know they’ll have at least one more event today, but they don’t know what it is.

For complete results, visit the CrossFit Games Leaderboard.

U.S. viewers can watch the Individual Competition on ESPN networks. All events will be streamed online to WatchESPN, and two hours of competition will be broadcast on ESPN (4–6 p.m. PT, Friday, July 22).

International viewers can watch everything on YouTube.