Finish two rounds of the 10 overhead squats and 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups in three minutes, and you are rewarded with more work.
If you want to beat Talayna Fortunato on 14.2, you’re going to have to dig deep.
Showing a calm determination and cool-headed strategy in the Miami heat, the 5-foot-7 Florida native outperformed Canada’s Camille Leblanc-Bazinet in the second workout of the 2014 CrossFit Games Open, an ascending ladder of overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups.
The workout is similar to 13.5, last year’s mix of thrusters and chest-to-bar pull-ups: Finish two rounds of the 10 overhead squats and 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups in three minutes, and you are rewarded with more work. Each round, the reps go up by two.
“Overhead squats don’t take too much out of you,” Fortunato said in the aftermath, “but too much time holding the (pull-up) bar blows out your forearms.
The question is: How hard are you willing to work for the chance to endure more pain?
“My hands were ripping,” Leblanc-Bazinet said.
Open announcements are like a single-event CrossFit Games but with a nightclub vibe. Held at Miami’s I AM CrossFit, the soundtrack for the event was provided by DJ Irie: a CrossFit athlete who spins for the Miami Heat. More than 750 people—many of whom who had been tailgating since 3 p.m.—energized the affiliate with deafening roars every time the athletes moved on to another round.
Unlike most fans at a sporting event, those watching knew they would have to suffer through the same combination of overhead squats and pull-ups.
“That’s why I’m not drinking,” said Jennell Hughes, who flew in from Tampa to watch the announcement. “I’m doing this tomorrow so I can drink beer the rest of the weekend. It fires me up a little, knowing I have to do this workout tomorrow.”
CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro said he chose this workout to spice things up.
“I wanted to make it more difficult,” Castro said, “to change up the Leaderboard.”
“This workout will create a huge separation between the people who are just very fit and the fittest,” CrossFit Games General Manager Justin Bergh said of 14.2. “The technique and efficiency that (Fortunato) and (Leblanc-Bazinet) have are what clearly make them some of the best on Earth. As different as they look on paper, they share the same strengths.”
Both are former gymnasts with incredible butterfly pull-ups (a record of 75 for Fortunato and 80 for Leblanc-Bazinet) and other bodyweight movements. Leblanc-Bazinet took second in the world on 13.5 last year, and Fortunato was seventh.
CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus coaches both Fortunato and Leblanc-Bazinet. He was on hand in Miami to offer coaching and support to both women. “We’re not preparing for this event,” he said. “We’re preparing for regionals.”
Martin said his main goal is to keep his athletes calm.
“This is fun,” Martin said. “I want to make sure they are mentally in a good place before the workout.”
Although Leblanc-Bazinet and Fortunato went head-to-head tonight, as Martin pointed out, the Open is not a one-on-one competition. It’s a worldwide test.
“I plan to stay loose,” Fortunato said before the event. “Try not to stress, that raises the cortisol levels.”
Not knowing what the workout is in advance makes it hard to prepare. “For strategy, I don’t know what I’m going to do—I’ll do my best,” Leblanc-Bazinet said before the announcement. “The other girl is not going to stop. You have to be willing to get in that dark place.”
Once Castro announced the workout, the athletes had just a few minutes to warm up before they faced each other and started in on the overhead squats.
The first round was physically easy for both women. They both finished in about 1:10, and had the rest of the three minutes to rest. What was not easy was the uncertainty. How long would this last?
Both athletes continued to go unbroken in the second three-minute round of 12 overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups.
Then Fortunato made a decision. In the second round of 14 chest-to-bar pull-ups, she dropped off the bar after eight pull-ups, glanced at the clock, then did six more. Leblanc-Bazinet moved ahead, but Fortunato didn’t waver. She had a plan, and she was sticking to it.
“You have to stay within your ability,” Fortunato said earlier in the day. “You have to stay within your game plan.”
Leblanc-Bazinet, who said before the event she was suffering from a cold, began to fall behind on the first set of 16 pull-ups. It was at this moment when Fortunato’s strategy of breaking up her pull-ups paid off. She just barely finished the two rounds of 18 overhead squats and pull-ups in three minutes, but Leblanc-Bazinet fell off the bar, looking at her ripped hands in pain.
Then it was just Fortunato alone on the floor, continuing to work. She completed 20 overhead squats and 20 chest-to-bar pull-ups before finally, mercifully, the last three minutes ran out.
After the event, Castro said he was surprised Fortunato made it through the round of 18. “I thought it would stop at 16,” he said. “It quickly becomes difficult.”
Asked if she had advice for the thousands of people who will be performing 14.2 in the next four days, Leblanc-Bazinet’s words were simple.
“Keep moving,” she said. “Don’t stop.”