March 26, 2014
Surreal Second
By Josh Bunch
"It's almost surreal. I'm just enjoying the ride and the success I've had so far," Frank Wray said. Wray holds second place overall in the 50-54 Division after four Open workouts.
"It's almost surreal. I'm just enjoying the ride and the success I've had so far," Frank Wray said. Wray holds second place overall in the 50-54 Division after four Open workouts.

"It's almost surreal. I'm just enjoying the ride and the success I've had so far," Frank Wray said.

Photos courtesy of Katie Kool.

One day after the release of Open Workout 14.1, Frank Wray posted 350 reps and took the lead in the Masters Men 50-54 Division.

With the final Open workout on deck, the Central East competitor is second worldwide, 11 points behind South East’s Brig Edwards.

“It’s almost surreal,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the ride and the success I’ve had so far.”

Wray, a 50-year-old former all-conference receiver from Hastings College in Nebraska, opened KW CrossFit in Woodlawn, Ohio, three weeks ago. He said the astonishment of the first Open workout still hasn’t left him.

“I surprised myself with 14.1,” he said. “There are some pretty amazing athletes in my division and it’s nice to know how you stack up next to the guys your age.”

The fast pace and weekly workout release, however, didn’t give Wray time to revel in victory.

Six days later, 14.2—a couplet of overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups—was released. Wray, admittedly weak at both movements, wasn’t exactly excited.

“I re-did every single one (of the Open workouts) last year,” he said about his last season competing in the 45-49 Division where he ended in 58th overall. “This year I wanted to be in a position where I didn’t have to do that. I’ve only repeated 14.2.”

With the goal of getting out of the 14s, Wray reluctantly did the couplet again. When his grip left him and he failed for a second time to make it to the fourth three-minute interval, he realized it wasn’t meant to be. The 137 reps he posted landed him in 32nd place in his division for 14.2—his worst Open finish of the season so far, but still good enough to hold on to seventh overall.

"I wanted to be in the top 20 by the end of the Open," he said.

Wray, who deadlifts 465 lb., was elated for the classic deadlift and box jump couplet prescribed for 14.3. A third-place finish with 146 reps vaulted him back atop the masters Leaderboard.

“I really like deadlifts, so that was great for me,” he said.

When 14.4 was released and the CrossFit world shivered at the medieval torture device called a rower, Wray phoned a friend.

“As soon as I saw it was for calories, I sent a message to Carla Bezold just to see what tips she had,” Wray said.

Bezold, a former collegiate rower for the University of Michigan, told him to save his grip by pulling as softly as you would play a piano. She said to put the effort in the front part of the row and push with your legs because it’s more efficient.

“In general, I think the same basic principles are a good foundation for any rower,” Bezold said. “On the drive, you need to engage your quads and glutes off the front end, stay tight through your core and hold good posture to connect that power to the handle, keep your grip light throughout and use your arms to finish the stroke. On the recovery, make sure your hands clear your knees before the knees bend, and try not to use your hamstrings to pull yourself up to the catch. Let the power of your drive generate the rhythm of your stroke.”

Wray did as he was told and pulled 10 calories every 30 seconds.

“Even with her strategy I didn’t know if I’d have any lungs,” he said.

After 10 sets of toes-to bars, the wall-ball shots “were active rest,” and he methodically did each clean one at a time.

At just under 11 minutes, Wray staggered to the rings.

“I did three muscle-ups initially,” he said.

After chalking and staring at the two wooden rings, he completed 11 muscle-ups within the 14-minute time cap.

“I was happy with doing 11 of them,” he said.

With a score of 191 reps on 14.4, he took second place in his division.

Wray gives much of the credit for his success to programmer Doug Chapman, a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff member and owner of CrossFit Ann Arbor and Hyperfit USA. Since 2012, Chapman has been programming all of Wray’s training, as well as inviting him to Michigan for coaching.

“The programming that Doug’s done has really prepared me well,” Wray said. “I don’t feel like there is anything I’m not prepared for.”

Pre-Chapman, Wray said he couldn’t get anything near 200 lb. over his head. Today he can jerk 225 lb., and his clean has gone from 195 lb. to 245 lb.

Wray said he appreciates Chapman’s lack of handholding when it comes to training.

“He’s not a ‘rah-rah’ type of guy. He says things at the right times, when you need them most,” he said.

Chapman typically programs five of seven days in a week, leaving Monday and Thursdays to rest. Beyond the heavy squat volume, followers bench press, strict press and work Olympic technique throughout the week. Two metabolic-conditioning workouts a day or more is common practice, as are yoke carries, sled pushes and gymnastic skill work.

Still, great programming or not, there’s no substitute for knowing yourself. Sometimes, you ignore the plan and listen to that little voice that says stop.

“My body has learned when enough is enough,” he said. “I may not do all the reps or the weight (prescribed), but I do the movements.”

Wray said thrusters don’t suit him, but he’s expecting them for 14.5. Whatever the final Open workout is, he’s only thinking of one thing.

“The goal is to make it to the Games and just be able to compete against the other guys that are killing it.”