Cam Birtwell’s Reflection on the Games!

CrossFit Victoria BC - Coach Turts deadlift
Coach Turts representing!

The dry lump in my throat grew as the minutes counted down to the start of my heat in WOD 1. I had already seen four heats go before me, witnessing many successes and equally as many failures. Our Crossfit zone team had fared well, and having seen them tackle the wod strongly gave me confidence. I said to myself in my head that I would complete the wod, and that all I had to do was get to the double unders. I swished some water around in my mouth to try and get rid of the dryness, then stepped out into the competition area.

WOD 1 scared me though. Out of everything I saw on the WOD sheet Friday night, one exercise stuck out – overhead squats. My goat. My huuuuge goat. And not only that, but heavy… 135 pounds, a weight I had never even attempted before, let alone in the pressure and fatigue of a workout. My left shoulder is gimpy and unstable, which combined with a lack of flexibility makes a successful overhead squat at any weight a difficult task. I had also injured my left hand about 7 days prior, making holding anything overhead quite painful.

Nervous energy abounded in my body, released only by pacing and bouncing and pumping out a few burpees. Never go into a WOD cold, shock the body a bit before, get the heart pumping. I knew that the emotional stimulus of the competitive environment would push my performance. I had the rowdy support of 8-10 Zoners who crowded near the tape just a metre away. I was going to finish the wod, no matter what.

Round 1 – solid. Power snatch, fine, overhead squats, easier than I thought with fresh shoulders and amped nerves. Squat cleans smooth, touch-and-go reps just like I planned. Fifty double unders, done so many times in my Crossfit warm-up, did’t desert me. Round 2 – breathing hard, shoulders already tired. Overhead squats all of a sudden were shaky, necessitating a few repeats of dropped reps. If the bar starts to go with that weight, I can’t bring it back with my bad shoulder. Made it through, cheers and encouragement from Zoners spurring me on. Cleans then double unders, split 25 and 25.

Round 3 – breathing harder, sounds around me blurring as I focus all of my energy on completing the workout. Snatch goes up, bar is wobbly. Overhead squats become a battle of attrition as I knock out one, drop the bar, clean it up, press over my head, re-set. Zoners yelling keeps me in the fight, keeps me focused on the task with my shoulder just barely able to support the weight. I hit the bottom of my last rep, wavering but hear a chant of “up, up, up!” The voices lighten the bar, pulling me up to finish.

Cleans, one at a time, focus, don’t miss, just needed to get to double unders, thinking of fifty straight to finish. I relax my face, hop a few prep jumps, then into it, numbers spinning through my head as I focus on the sound and rhythm of the rope. 10,20,30,40 pass by in my mind, each ten bringing with it more strain and pressure to maintain technique. I catch a foot at what I thought was 49. Did one rep and thought I was finished – only to realize I had 9 to go. I fought frustration, battled the remaining reps, falling into a sweaty heap as my friends cheered.

My time was 8:27, good enough for 4th place in the workout, much to my surprise. It turned out that several people had trouble with double unders, and some were not able to complete the workout.

My legs were still burning as I high-fived and laughed and smiled with the Zone crew. I am fairly strong mentally but the support of everyone there was what brought me through that first workout. We shared stories of overheads and double unders gone wrong, compared notes on finishing times, talked strategy about the next WOD.Two hours passed in an instant as I kept my body moving to flush lactic acid and keep my joints supple. I watched Sean in an epic battle with another competitor and Deanna take the WOD full on with intensity and commitment. Krista made the run look easy, and Mehul kept a steady pace throughout. Lani was strong and brought excellent rhythm to her box jumps and burpees. Another successful workout for the Zone crew.

I was looking forward to the run and the whole second WOD. I had been working on my running for quite a few months, driving my efficiency and aerobic power up with intervals, hill repeats, and tempos. Our programming at the Zone is more metcon based than a lot of gyms and I felt that this would be a great advantage to me in the workout. I talked with Sean. I talked with Donald. These guys know running. Sean gave me good advice, emphasizing that I needed to run my own race, and not get caught up in the adrenaline of the start and go out too hard. Donald helped me work out a pacing strategy that would keep me fairly fresh coming into the calisthenic portion of the workout. Both pieces of advice paid off.

3-2-1 Go! We’re off, about 7 of us, down the road towards the track. Three guys out front, I bring up the rear, reigning in my competitive spirit. The pace feels too easy as I circle the track, I’m worried but calm. One lap down, 1:37 pace, right on target. People ahead start to feel it and I pass one then another. The slowing paces and heavy breathing of my competitors gives me energy and pulls me along at my easy pace. No lactic acid touches my legs, this is all aerobic. Lactic comes later.

Into the raucous environment of the gym, right over to box jumps, 15 in a row. Finish with slower rebounds then off to burpees. I had made up my mind to pace these so that I had energy for the wallball. Five quick then fifteen slow then five quick and five slow. My motto on burpees is “they all count” so they weren’t pretty but they added up. Up on my feet, the grey 20lb ball looking fat and heavy and content on the ground.

I hear a voice, I voice I know and one that has been spurring me on from the start. It’s Donald. I can’t remember his exact words but it was something profound like “pick up the ball Cam!” I didn’t want to. Good thing Donald is a persuasive chap. I pick up the ball, the 6″ high target at 10′ looks like 6mm at 20. I knew I had to make my reps count.

Squat. Push. Flick. It’s that last fine correction on the ball that sends it correctly to its target. Rhythm is good and continuity is better as they minimize the number of times the ball is on the ground. You don’t want the ball on the ground. When it lands and sits it connects a with a negative mental Velcro that tells you it’s heavy. Missed four overall, done, catching the guy in front… over to GHD situps.
It’s a good thing I was warm. Me trying to do a GHD when cold is like trying to bend a dry thick piece of wood. It’s a long way down to the ground and I hadn’t adjusted the machine correctly. I couldn’t fire my legs properly and all of my prodigious upper body mass (J) was counting against me. I’m sure my face was the picture of serenity as I whipped my body up and down…

Thirty comes slowly. Legs on fire, abs aflame, lungs burning. Zoners in a tight bunch, urging me on. I was on my effort longboard and they were the wave I rode to the shore. A 10% increase in my performance that I attribute directly to them. WOD 2 finishes, I lie spent on the GHD. High fives, smiles, back slaps and congratulations await me when I raise my head. I feel happy to the heart of my soul. Fourth overall, disappointed that I didn’t catch the guy ahead, but sitting in a good spot for the third and final workout.

Two hours pass even faster than before. I didn’t stop moving except to eat some food and change into my final wod gear. I witnessed another series of amazing Zone athlete performances, our best yet. We zipped all over the place, nailing chest to bars, pushups, ring dips, and deadlifts. With that WOD, Crossfit Zone solidified our spot as a serious group of athletes. I was proud of everyone out there as they gave it their absolute best even after the drain and strain of the two prior workouts.

WOD 3, another test, but one I was looking forward to. I felt I had a chance to win this one… I mean who could do muscle ups better than me? Confidence was my weapon, reality my foe. Turns out two guys can muscle up better, and they absolutely killed it. I don’t deadlift much but knew I could handle 275, the goal being 12-9-6 all unbroken. Muscle-ups with full extension and turnout are a tough and angry beast but I had a plan.

I grasp the deadlift bar in alternate grip, right hand underhand, left hand over. This is my strong place, where I pulled up 420 in 2008 before I hurt my back. Smooth off the floor, I go touch-and-go, finding a rhythm, keeping constant tension on my body and using the elasticity of my muscles to ease up successive reps. I notice one competitor dropping every rep from the top. He must be strong, it is much harder to overcome the inertia of a static bar on the ground. I remember being impressed.

Twelve in a row, feeling good, first onto muscle ups. Six, slow and deliberate. The tension through my whole body drives up my heart rate and breathing quickly. The next six are broken up as I focus on hip drive, a fast transition, and not missing any lockouts. The guy beside me is destroying his reps with powerful pulls that get him well over the rings. I remember being impressed.

Deadlifts again, grip tired, breathing heavy. Alternate grip brings me to my strong place as I will the bar up on the first one. Four reps. One rep. Four more in a row, I hear the Zoners cheer. If they only knew how crappy my grip felt. The tape on the rings starts to rip my skin below my wrist. It stings and sharpens my awareness and resolve. The reps are hard and heavy. I can only make them by getting my hips up to the height of the rings then levering over. My competitor seems hardly to be slowing down. I remember being VERY impressed. I comment to him “you’re a f****ing beast!” I think he heard me, maybe he smiled a little as he hurled himself up above the rings again.

Last deadlifts. I need your energy, you give it to me and I thank you. Ten percent more from the Zoners and the bar goes up, six times so that I don’t have to pick it up again. Muscle ups come way too soon but for the last time. Chalk up my forearms, grip is a bit slippy on those stupid metal rings. One at a time, I know I’m going slow but it takes too much out of me to miss. Four, five, six, hold the last one for kicks. I’m done, cheers, happiness, relief. Two more competitors remain in the workout, the 15 minute time limit begins to loom. I applaud their efforts, I get drawn up into their challenge as they battle for reps one at a time. Time is up, it’s over, except for the last heat.

I miss the last one. High fives and hugs and pats on the back take precedence as I try to show our community my appreciation for them. It’s hard to tell them how much they mean to me but I hope that they know. My body is tired but my mind is alert, hopped up on the endorphins. More hugs, more congratulations, I’m proud for each and every one of our athletes and so incredibly thankful to all of our family who came and supported us.

The challenge is over but there were many lessons learned. I’ll be putting these in writing so that I can share some of my ideas for programming that we’ll be trying out in the coming months. Competition is the test of methods and we came out looking pretty good. There are areas for improvement though and rest assured Dee and I are going to address those with purpose and planning. We continue to evolve and move forward as a gym and a community. The horizon and the “X” remain the same even as our route to get there shifts. Stay with us team, we are definitely going places and you will love the view.

~ Turts

Today’s Workout:

Buy In –Choose a benchmark run

WOD – “Baseline”

It is that time again to test your Baseline and see how much you have improved!

For time:

  • 500 Meter Row
  • 40 Squats
  • 30 Ab-mat Situps
  • 20 Pushups
  • 10 Pullups

While you are waiting to do your baseline, take the time to work on your GOATS!

Cash Out – Choose a max lift from your Success Journal to do

_ _ _ _

100 Day Burpee Challenge:

Burpees today: 11

Buy-in: 66

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