January 11, 2012
The Rookie: Dan Bailey
By CrossFit
Dan Bailey might be the only athlete who has never gone to the Games before and who has been favored to win by many.
Dan Bailey might be the only athlete who has never gone to the Games before and who has been favored to win by many.

Dan Bailey might be the only athlete who has never gone to the Games before and who has been favored to win by many. This rookie reflects on the Regional competition, how he prepared for it, his thoughts on being a Games newbie, and what motivates him.

How did the Regional go for you? Obviously you won and qualified, but did you hit the numbers you wanted?

Regionals couldn’t have gone much better. The only workout I was disappointed with was “Amanda.” I was shooting for a low 4-minute, or sub 4-minute time on that event, and ended up in the fives. I decided to false grip my muscle ups, which gave me much more strength in my pull, but took away from the kip and taxed my arms enough to fail several muscle ups, which I rarely do. 

The 100s workout was also a struggle for me. My dad taped that event and I think I ended up doing near 114 kettlebell swings and close to 110 overhead squats. It showed me I still have some technical things to work on in those movements.”

Did you do any of the Regional workouts ahead of time? How did your times compare?

I only tested two of the events all the way through – the deadlift/box jump and the 100s. My first shot at the deadlift was around 3:45 and the 100s was 19:00. I knew I was doing these workouts within a hard block of training, so I expected my times to come down for the Regional, but was surprised at how far it came down for the deadlift and box jumps to 3:04. 

Having the track and field background definitely helped for the first event. I have tons of repeats at 1,000, 800, 600, and 400 meters. A 3-minute 1,000 (meter run) is not that taxing for me and knowing that pace, I stuck with it, confident I could knock out the 30 handstand push ups unbroken. I had tested this out once without finishing on the rower and came in at around 3:55 to 4 minutes. 

At the (Regional), I got to the rower in about 3:45 I think, but my major flaw came in not setting the rower up prior to the event being started. When I hopped on, the foot settings were for what appeared to be a size 13 shoe, and the dampener was up to 8 or 9. I fumbled around with these while trying to get my first few pulls in, and really didn’t start rowing until about 4:05 or later. I was looking for a 7:16 for that event, so came up just shy at 7:26. 

I didn’t do the final event prior to the Regional. All I did was make sure I could meet the standards for all of the movements.

This is your first trip to the CrossFit Games. Do you think that fact will have any impact on your performance?

I don’t know how or if it will impact my performance. I feel like those who have been before do have a little advantage from the experience they have gained being a Games competitor. The people who have pre-qualified also have had the advantage of building all of their training for this one weekend, with much less risk of injury or overtraining, but I am sure much of that depends on the person. 

I know I am excited, nervous, focused, and have prepared as well as I can to compete at the best of my ability.

Do you think your collegiate track experience prepares you well for the pressure of the Games?

Absolutely. My whole life, I have been competing as an individual in track and field. Aside from the relays, much of the team aspect of running occurs in the weeks prior to competition. Having a core dedicated group of runners is essential for developing and having the support to go through some of the grueling workouts, but when it’s game time, it’s just you and the track, nothing else. And that situation demands some pressure and, often, fear.

The main thing I have learned over the years of performing in these situations is that it’s perfectly normal, and I should be expecting to feel pressure and fear, but it’s the response to those feelings that matters most. I approach CrossFit much the same way I have approached track. I know how to get myself prepared prior to an event, while staying mentally focused on the task at hand. In the end, I try to only let my effort dictate my attitude towards the results, not necesarily my place finish.

Have you changed any of your training in view of your performance in the Open and the Regional?

I have tried to turn up the intensity and volume even more on certain days of training, but have stayed true to some of the core principles I planned out back in the fall with how I wanted to approach getting ready for the Regional. 

One of the biggest things I have needed to watch is balancing rest with the large training load. I have been beating my body pretty hard since the Open and I knew I would have to do that to even have a shot at making it to the Games in a region as competitive as Central East. It’s scary to think of how many great performances there were across the board without having two of the best CrossFit athlete – Graham (Holmberg) and Rich (Froning Jr.) – even competing. 

Mainly I have focused on more overhead lifts, including the squat snatch, overhead squat and jerk. I have also mixed in different elements into these movements, including dumbbells and kettlebells in an attempt to be prepared for the unknowable.   

You recently trained with Graham Holmberg, the Fittest Man on Earth. Is that something you do often? What’s it like when you two get together to train?

I’ve trained off and on with Graham since November or December. When I would have the chance to take a weekend and come down from Uniontown and train with him and others at Rogue in Columbus, I would. Now that I am living in Columbus, we have the opportunity to meet more frequently, despite different training schedules. When we train together, at least for me, the intensity always goes up a few notches, and the ego gets checked at the door. There is no bad blood there, but we are both very competitive and I am sure he wants to bury me into the ground in a workout as bad as I do him on some days … but that’s kind of the point. 

Where is there a better place to simulate a Games atmosphere and get the most out of yourself than training with one of the best? Graham is also a guy I don’t mind losing to. That may not seem like it makes much sense, but after a workout is over, regardless of who comes out on top, we sit and discuss aspects of the workout and try to figure out where each of us could improve, or we just talk about how bad it hurt. 

Outside of being an amazing athlete, he is a great person, as well. Both he and Brandon (Couden) have helped me a lot this year with several aspects of CrossFit and I try to do the same when I have the opportunity.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

I am in no way ashamed of my faith in Jesus Christ.

I am not afraid to win and I am not afraid of losing. 

I also have two of the greatest parents in the world. They have supported me in every way, in all my life’s pursuits and have put up with a lot since I really started training for CrossFit. I will not ever be able to repay them for all they have done, and all of the opportunities they have brought me. They are a big part of what I am thankful for and what helps drive me to doing my  best in all situations.