For the first time in 11 years, the CrossFit Games are outside California. That means rain.
Individual athletes kicked off competition Thursday morning in wet conditions under cloudy skies for the Run Swim Run event that called for a 1.5-mile run, a 500-meter swim in Lake Monona and another 1.5-mile run.
The rest of the day’s forecast for Madison, Wisconsin, called for a 90 percent chance of precipitation with a high of 76 degrees. The last time it rained at the Games was in 2011 at the start of a max L-sit for time on the opening day of competition.
Ben Benson welcomed the change from the scorching Southern California sun.
“I would much rather deal with having rain … than getting beaten down by the sun,” said Benson, coach to his wife, Emily Bridgers. She finished 23rd in the first event.
Plus, it makes for a good test, he noted.
“They should have to deal with all the elements,” Benson said.
Training in Northern California meant Chyna Cho didn’t see much but temperate weather and sunny skies.
“No, rain did not come in play,” she said jokingly after finishing sixth in Run Swim Run.
She didn’t even pack a poncho.
“I definitely didn’t bring anything,” she said.
Nor did she change her training.
“I didn’t really think about that.”
Neither did Josh Bridges, who lives in San Diego.
“It’s not really gonna change much,” said Bridges, a five-time Games competitor. “Some will have dealt with it a little more recently, but that’s it.”
Ben Smith, who is competing at his ninth consecutive Games, opted for shoes that had more grip than his traditional Nanos and noted the rain could make for slippery conditions.
“For the bike, it’s gonna make a difference,” he said, referencing the Cyclocross event later in the morning.
For Cyclocross, individual athletes used a mountain bike to complete three laps on a windy, grassy outdoor course that included such obstacles as logs and a quick series of short wooden hurdles.
But by roughly 9 a.m., the rain had let up and the cycle course was undisturbed. The fastest finishers were Kristin Holte at 21:43 and Ricky Garard at 19:26.
Three and a half hours later, however, organizers announced a rain delay shortly after 12:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time, saying the remainder of Thursday’s competitive outdoor events were delayed until there was no more precipitation.
Scott Panchik, who lives in Ohio, is accustomed to the rain.
“You kind of have to handle whatever,” he said.
Panchik added with a smile: “At some point in the weekend, something will go wrong for everybody.”
Although the weather meant choppier waters during the Individuals’ Run Swim Run, it’s just part of the test to find the Fittest on Earth, noted Panchik, a six-time Games athlete.
“You just want to be prepared for anything,” he said.
And if you’re not, that’s a major mistake, Benson said.
“It’s just a variable,” he said of the rain, “and if you don’t train for it, it’s a hole in the programming.”
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