July 7, 2012
North East Masters: Women
By Keka Schermerhorn

There will be 11 women representing Masters from the North East at this year's Games.

The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open was heavy and technically demanding. For Masters athletes, a top-20 performance in their division was the only thing standing between them and a trip to this year’s Games.

Here is a look at how the 11 female athletes who qualified for the Games are preparing.

Cindy Briggs

Cindy Briggs is a former member of the U.S. Rowing National Team and Games veteran. She is training on her own for the Games. Briggs is competing in the 45-49 division after placing 15th in the same division last year.

Her schedule — three on, one off, two on, one off — consists of as many doubles as possible in an effort to anticipate the workload she will encounter in Carson. While working to maintain her strength, Briggs’ main focus has been to work on longer met-cons and emphasize efficiency and form across the board. On double days, the second workout will often consist of skill work and is generally less intense.

“I would never reveal that ... it would inevitably come up in a workout,” she says about movements she dreads.

Marlene Garceau

For Marlene Garceau, CrossFit is a family affair. She and her sister-in-law, Marie Garceau, joined North Haven CrossFit when the affiliate opened in April 2011. She will compete in the 60-plus division.

Co-owners Kurt Garceau and Warren Garceau are responsible for her programming. They also happen to be her nephews.

“I have so much on which to focus,” Marlene says. “This week, for instance, I am working on strength and endurance. I am also concentrating on pull-ups and double-unders. Testing my limits has been a valuable learning experience on so many levels. Physically, mentally and competitively.”

Marlene trains five or six times per week, with at least four of those days consisting of doubles. Her son, Marston, is a coach at North Haven CrossFit and provides her with constant guidance and support.

“No matter the result of the competition, I am stronger in so many ways that I have never anticipated,” she says. “CrossFit has been transformational for me. I am anticipating an exhilarating, fun, new experience at the Games.”

Meryl Joseph

Meryl Joseph tied for second place in the 60-plus division at last year’s Games. This year, she is headed back to Carson, Calif., ready to put what she has learned over the past year to the test.

Joseph has been training six days a week, with four or five of those days being doubles. She does the regularly programmed workouts at CrossFit Great Barrington and follows the Westside Barbell conjugate system, which calls for maxing out lifts four times a week. Joseph trains with her coach, Leslie Bissailon, who is co-owner of CrossFit Great Barrington.

Her training is broad. Her goal is to increase endurance, better her skills and become more efficient in Olympic lifting.

“The generosity of spirit at CFGB is extraordinary. For the second year in a row, there have been fundraisers to finance my trip to the Games,” Joseph says. “Mike (Bissailon) and Leslie have taken me under their wing, sharing incredible insights and encouraging wisdom as we take this 2012 Games training journey together.”

Page Lockhart

Inspired by the hard work of the members of CrossFit Bridgewater, Page Lockhart decided to give competition a go. She qualified ninth in the 50-54 division.

Lockhart trains with Affiliate Cup-winning team members Jason Caldas and Sonia Cormier. Lockhart knows she is fortunate to have their talent and experience from which to draw. She trains five days a week with at least two of those days being doubles in hopes of simulating Games conditions.

“I’m pretty diligent about taking care of myself,” Lockhart says. “I eat paleo, try to drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. I’m just excited about going to the Games and giving it my best.”

Amy Mandelbaum

About a year ago, Amy Mandelbaum decided she wanted to compete at the Games as a Masters athlete. She is ranked first in the 45-49 division.

Mandelbaum trains five days a week and has high hopes of winning her division. She does mainly doubles with a weekly triple. On days off, she works on mobility or swimming.

“I've decided that there is nothing to dread,” Mandelbaum says. “If something comes up that I am not a master at, then I will put my faith in my training and go at it 100 percent. The idea is to go, have fun and win. In my mind, thinking negatively about any movement, WOD or lift is detrimental to the experience and the end game.”

Mandelbaum follows Ben Kelly’s programming, and is concentrating on refining her existing skills. Kelly is founder and head coach of BK Athletics and CrossFit Performance.

“At this point, if it's not in my tool kit, it's not going to magically appear,” she says. “So now is the time to refine and focus on consistent performance for me.”

Annie Michel

Annie Michel qualified for the Games at CrossFit 321, but has since relocated across the country to Portland as a coach for the newly opened CrossFit Beacon. She is competing in the 55-59 division.

“There was a little lag time in my training as we were all focusing on getting the box going,” Michel says. “I wouldn't trade that time at all. I love coaching and seeing people connect with CrossFit. But now I just got back to doing what I had done that led to my qualifying for the Games.”

She trains five days a week, with one of those being a double. She writes the programming at CrossFit Beacon and often will workout with one of the classes. She also does additional skill work in an effort to keep her body accustomed to as many movements as possible.

“I’m not dreading anything,” Michel says. “I am anticipating, however, that the California heat will add a challenging element to the experience.”

Lisa Mikkelsen

Lisa Mikkelsen is not a fan of the spotlight, but she is also no stranger to it.

For the past two years, she has competed at the Games on the CrossFit New England Team. She was essential in helping the team win the 2011 Affiliate Cup. Mikkelsen qualified in second place in the Masters 45-49 division.

In the middle of a busy season at work, Mikkelsen tries to work out five days a week. She trained with the CFNE team, which followed affiliate co-owner Ben Bergeron’s programming, up until the Regional. Since then, most of her workouts have been on the road or at home.

“Having not been injured much in my life, I've learned this season how not being healthy can really mess with the mental side of competition,” Mikkelsen says. “In some ways I've been dreading competing. I don't want to miss this wonderful opportunity but also regret that I'm not feeling as prepared as I would like.”

Elaine Polito

For construction worker Elaine Polito, functional fitness is a way of life.

“For me, a 10-hour shift at work could mean shoveling gravel, jackhammering bridge walls with a 65-pound jackhammer or unloading a pallet of 90-pound bags of cement, one bag at a time to a truck that’s 100 meters downhill from me,” Polito says. “I try to hit it hard on the weekends, but if I just laid out 200 bales of hay before paving a highway, no, I’m not going to work out that day.”

Polito’s main focus ahead of the Games is sleep and recovery. Working on the night shift and training for her third trip to the Games can be disadvantageous if rest is not taken seriously. Her plan is to smile, have fun and walk into every workout as if it were her last. She will be competing in the 50-54 division.

Karen Rackliffe

Karen Rackliffe is feeling the pressure. She is headed back to the Games for the second time in two years.

“I was so naive last year,” Rackliffe says. “And I had the time of my life at the Games. I feel I should be able to perform much better after another year of CrossFit training, but also realize I am a year older and the athlete mix has changed.”

Rackliffe will compete in the 60+ division. She trains five days a week to prepare. She does the scheduled programming at her box, CrossFit 033, and incorporates work on weaknesses, Oly technique and skills. She also runs once a week, mixing tempo runs and hill sprints.

“My biggest fear is a DNF,” Rackliffe says. “The Games are fast approaching and I feel I'm running out of time to become better, faster and stronger.”

Anne Sargent

Anne Sargent is ready for her first trip to the Games. The long-distance runner and CrossFit athlete will compete in the 45-49 division.

Sargent trains six days per week and has broken up elements into strengths and weaknesses. She also sources her workouts online, taking advantage of several resources.

“What a great community we have at CrossFit that those in the know are so willing to share their information with those eager to improve,” Sargent says. “(I seek help from) the online competitor programming that Ben Bergeron and CJ Martin have been generously providing for all to use, my trainers at CrossFit Relentless and past Games competitors, such as my dear friend Kim Malz, who knows what it's like being at the Games and how to get there.”

Sargent mostly trains on her own and is looking to approach each event one rep at a time.

“I'm going to give every WOD my best and try and focus on executing with purpose and resolve,” Sargent says. “That's what gotten me this far.”

Barbara Sessa

Barbara Sessa, the physical education teacher, triathlon team member and self-described “lifelong athlete,” is going back to the Games. She is competing in the in the 45-49 division for the second year in a row.

Her training consists of triathlon training with her team for endurance, and CrossFit Outlaw’s programming for strength and skills. She trains six days a week, with three to five of those being doubles. She is diligent with her rest days and every three weeks she will take two consecutive days of complete rest.

“I am really looking forward to being part of something that is truly changing the fitness world,” Sessa says. “The Masters competition is getting harder every year and I just hope to be able to keep up.”