Prepared: Talayna Fortunato

April 15, 2012

Shelby Levy

"After I came in 4th at the Regionals and then went to the Games and saw the performances for my own eyes, it's felt like 'V for Vendetta' ever since. I knew I had the ability to do those things and I've been training smarter and harder with an actual goal this time."

Talayna Fortunato entered the 2012 CrossFit Games Open favored to be at the top of the South East Women’s Leaderboard. After the five-week competition, that is exactly where she ended up, finishing 2nd in the region and 17th worldwide.

But what most do not know about Fortunato, 31, is that the day before she was scheduled to do Open Workout 12.1, she was in a boating accident that left her with several injuries, including a fractured rib and sprained elbow. “We were on the Gulf when we caught some air off of a wave and came down on the next wave awkward,” she recalls. “It tilted the boat to its side quite a bit. My face hit the water and the two guys beside me landed on me, crunching me over the edge of the boat on my left side.”

She describes the death grip she had on the handrail and the subsequent pain in her elbow from the hyperextension. “I also got kneed or elbowed or hipped, not sure which, in my IT band, and it was painful for a few weeks to bend my right knee fully,” she says.

She fractured a rib and had some white flashes in her left periphery vision, which she’s thankful are lessening. “Thank goodness there was no retinal damage, which is what I was initially afraid of,” she says.

Fortunato wondered how she would be able to complete a burpee since it was painful to straighten her arm, bend her knee and use her midsection. Nevertheless, she completed 118 burpees in 12.1, which was good enough for 29th place in the South East. She took two days off to rest, and after being told she wouldn’t do further damage by working out, she got back in the gym gradually adding weight and movements.

“Each day after that, I did a little more and more,” she says. “Honestly, if the toe-to-bar had been 12.2, I'm not sure I could have done it.”

Her recovery was reflected in the Leaderboard as she went on to finish in 6th, 5th, 4th, and finally 1st in the South East for the rest of the Open Workouts. Her performance on 12.5 landed her a 2nd-place finish in the Region. “I couldn’t be more pleased with how I did,” she says. “I think I definitely could have done better had I been healthy, but I’m glad I came out of it able to train 100 percent again before Regionals.”

Fortunato is no stranger to competition having been a former high school and Division I collegiate gymnast. After her last gymnastics meet her senior year in college, she competed in the heptathlon and pole vault “for fun” and was named the most valuable student-athlete at Southern Utah University.

A friend who suggested she try out the new CrossFit gym in town – Real Fitness Naples, in October 2009. “I went in, and the first workout I did was Angie with a band for the pull-ups in like 11-something. I strained both biceps, and my arms swelled up all fat for a week, but I was hooked,” she says. “I went back and did lower body the rest of the week.”

Fortunato says her life as an athlete has given her a high pain tolerance, great body awareness and the ability to “delay gratification and keep working,” which she has found to help her in CrossFit. “I don’t get frustrated and quit trying when I can’t do a new skill the first time I try, like I see some people do with muscle-ups. I will break it down into parts, drill the transition and keep working until I get it.”

With her day job as a physical therapist, Fortunato typically works out just once a day doing a few lifts and one met-con. She takes one to two rest days a week, with one of them being an active rest day with swimming or foam rolling acrobatics. She does not follow a strict diet, but tries to keep it clean, though she says Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits are a “fantastic PR food.”

Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw CrossFit does all of her programming. After just missing qualifying for last year’s Games, Fortunato has remained focused on her goal of making it to California. “After I came in 4th at the Regionals and then went to the Games and saw the performances for my own eyes, it's felt like ‘V for Vendetta’ ever since. I knew I had the ability to do those things and I've been training smarter and harder with an actual goal this time.”

She says that last year’s Regional taught her the importance of pacing. “Three days is a long competition to go all out 100 percent on every WOD,” she explains. “If you can conserve any energy by not redlining every WOD, you will have a stronger finish the third day,” she advises. “When there’s a 25-minute cap, that means you shouldn’t go out like it’s Fran.”          

Fortunato credits CrossFit for her not suffering more serious injuries in the boating accident and for being able to recover so quickly. She believes the strength she’s gained from CrossFit prevented her from breaking her arm and gave her the core strength to withstand the impact to her midsection. She also says putting herself through multiple workouts and multi-day competitions helped in recovery.

As Fortunato wrote on her blog, “So thank you CrossFit for preparing me for not only the unknown and unknowable WOD, but also for life’s unpredictable mishaps. I’m not only stronger physically and mentally than I was 2 and 1/2 years ago, but I’m also damn sure harder to kill!”

Clean and jerk: 200 pounds
Power clean: 200 pounds
Jerk: 225 pounds
Back Squat: 270 pounds
Snatch: 170 pounds
Overhead Squat: 205 pounds
Fran: 2:26
Helen: 7:39
Mary: 18 rounds
Amanda: 6:06
Jackie: 6:46