WheelWOD qualifier #1: We’re gonna do #2

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The WheelWOD qualifier is underway, and I, along with 15 other adaptive athletes, will be competing in 3 designed workout challenges this week to decide who gets to attend the championship round. I have to humbly admit that, even though I only need to finish in the middle of the pack to advance, my chances are low given that I still struggle with some of the basic movements. That said, after my attempt at WOD #2 went, shall we say, unevenly, my coach Conan reminded me that what matters is being in the gym is just doing the work, which makes me wonder if he were recalling this famous quote from the Bull Moose:

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After polling my fellow Impavidus Gym athletes, I decided to attempt WOD #2 first, which if you recall is:

a) 10 minutes to find hanging clean 1 rep max

rest 2 minutes

b) 7 min AMRAP

  • 10 Clean & Jerk from floor @ 65lbs
  • 10 Wall Balls 14lbs @ 8 feet

The rationale they offered, and I agree with it, is to get the hardest one out of the way first and then build some momentum and finish strong. Clearly this workout features two things that I don’t do well – a) Olympic lifting movements, and b) throwing medicine balls high in the air. In fact, My 16.4 workout was drastically curtailed because I couldn’t meet the wall ball standard at all.

Part A

With 10 minutes to play with, I wanted to get a few successful lifts in before I worked up to my 1 rep max. And here’s the truth – I’ve only been working on the clean movement for about 9 months, so up to this point I would struggle to get 65 lbs more than twice in a row. But with the coaching and support of Coaches Seth & Doug, I was able to hit my 1 rep max at 80 lbs. Barely.

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As I’ve often written, the clean movement is an incredibly difficult challenge because I don’t have any dip drive or hip extension, which is where you generate most of your power. If you can’t get a good vertical pull on the bar, it really just feels like a negative curl, which means that you’re using much smaller muscles, as compared to the chain of muscles involving the lats, deltoids, traps, and triceps.

I spent the last few minutes of the set attempting 85 lbs. I didn’t quite get there, but I’ve read that it’s good to document your failures as well as your successes, so here it is:

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I wish I could have gotten that 85 lbs, but at the end of the day, I bested my previous PR in the clean by 15 lbs. That’s not a bad day. But wait, there’s more!

Part B

For the 7 minute AMRAP, I was once again going to have to do 10 clean + jerk from the floor, which I first encountered in the Open, followed by the wall ball. I wanted to try and do both movements out of my every day chair and not my sport chair because the seating gives me a little more hip control, which helped me in Part A. Also, it gives me a little more of a height advantage on the wall balls, where I can use every inch I can get.

That said, I realized there is something to be said about not thinking things all the way through. And physics.

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Yep, didn’t see that one coming!

After completing the wall ball section, I moved through 4 more C&J until the 17 minute mark. I wanted to get through that movement at least twice, but didn’t quite make it.

What’s that, you say? I can’t add? Well, you’re right.

10 minutes for 1 rep max + 2 minutes of rest + 7 minute AMRAP = 19 total minutes.

After taking an extended rest period where I thought I was done but was not actually done, we got back on the barbell and finished out the C&J with enough time to get a few more wall ball attempts in.

Despite the mishaps, I was generally satisfied with the workout because of the challenge of the movements. And then, as we were winding down, Coach Doug said to me those dreaded words:

“You should maybe think about re-doing that one”

Which is funny because Doug is an elite CrossFit Masters athlete, one of the best in the world, and he has strong feelings about  re-doing an official workout. His main argument – don’t let your ego get the best of you! However, in this case, he might be right, given that I lost precious seconds with my C&J Fosbury Flop and then forgetting how to add to 19. Doug’s argument is compelling, and if I have enough time this week, I may give it another go. Unfortunately these workouts are not just about the workout, but the entire set-up and recruiting people to help out, and I still have 2 more qualifiers to go.

At the very least, I still increased my C&J PR by 15 lbs.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me out for WOD #2: Doug, Seth, Conan, and Monica were all instrumental in getting it done. On to the next one!

WheelWOD qualifiers: which workout first?

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The WheelWOD Open 2016 is finished and we’re now on to the championship qualifiers. And guess what, I qualified to compete in this next round! (Ignore the fact that, to qualify,  I only had to pay the entry fee). Similar to the CrossFit Masters qualifiers, the WheelWOD qualifier consists of 3 different workouts, all released at once, and we get one week to complete each of them.

According to the rules, the top 9 men will advance to the championship round, which will be held in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada.

Each of the three workouts will be challenging in different ways, and my first order of business is which order I should do them. Suggestions are most welcome!

Workout #1

Adapted Fran

  • 21-15-9
  • Time cap: 10 minutes
  • Seated Shoulder Press 75/35
  • Full Hang Pull up

Well hello, Fran!  This classic CrossFit WOD is in every competitor’s back pocket, and the movements are easily adaptable for a wheelchair athlete. In fact, I’ve done it several times over the years and am comfortable with both the pull-ups as well as the press. No problem, right?

Competition is a different animal. It is different because there is a higher scrutiny and a higher demand for difficult movements. Fran takes on a new visage for me because, while I can do a seated shoulder press at 75lbs, the standard requires me to be able to pick it up off the floor. Since I’ve always taken the weight off the rig, and my clean weight caps out around 65lbs, I’m more than a little concerned that I won’t even be able to get the weight into position to press it.

How will I get that weight up to my shoulders? Should I curl it? Oh my, I can already hear my coaches snickering…

Workout #2

a) 10 minutes to find hanging clean 1 rep max

rest 2 minutes

b) 7 min AMRAP

  • 10 Clean & Jerk from floor @ 65lbs
  • 10 Wall Balls 14lbs @ 8 feet

This workout combines two of my “room for lots of improvement” movements that I’ve learned during the Open. The pulling motion of the clean is and always will be problematic for me, but at the very least, I know I can get to about 65lbs in the 1 rep max. But then to have to do it 10 times per round for part b? Oh boy.

But that’s not even the most demoralizing part. During the Open in 16.4, my score was essentially capped because I couldn’t throw the 14lb wall ball high enough at 9 feet. WheelWOD gives me a little bit of a break in the qualifier, setting the target above 8 feet, but I am still unsure as to how consistently I can hit the lower target.

Workout #3

17 minute Chipper

  • 200 Battle Ropes
  • 100 1 arm alternating dumbbell snatch 25lbs
  • 50 Push ups
  • 25m Crawl
  • 5 Ring muscle-ups

And lastly, we’ve got a lovely chipper to work through. In workout 16.2, the battle ropes were my undoing in the ladder workout. With only makeshift climbing ropes tied together, I was completely gassed by the time the opening round concluded.

This time around, I did what any sensible CrossFitter would do when faced with such a recurring predicament – I bought my own battle rope. While I’m sure it will help me only in a marginal sense, I at least know that I should be able to get through the first section without too much harm done and get to the next five movements with plenty of time. The snatch will take some time, but 25lbs isn’t overwhelming, even at that volume.

The next two movements are basic body movements that I have practice in, but I have learned my lesson; nothing to be taken for granted. Get through these quickly, and I set myself up for the CrossFit dividing line – the ring muscle-up.

Can I do five of them within a few minutes? It really comes down to what day it is. Some days yes, other days, my body won’t cooperate. Perhaps this one will be on a good day.

But the first challenge is obvious – in what order do  I do the workouts???

CrossFit Open 2016 adaptive 16.5: feeling good, pay no attention to the red line

shoulder press

The final workout of the 2016 CrossFit Open is over, and as many of you know, it was a grueling repeat of a past workout (14.5). Many of my fellow athletes at Impavidus Gym were around the first time the Open combined thrusters & burpees together, and much to our delight they smashed their previous performances. As for me however, it was my first exposure to such a workout, as well as the WheelWOD adaptation. To recall, the Rx edition of 16.5 is:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time

  • thrusters (95/65lbs)
  • bar-facing-burpees

The adaptation that WheelWOD came up with cuts no corners:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time

  • strict shoulder press (75/45lbs)
  • Push-up box-over (8 inch platform); to explain, a push-up, a hand walk over a platform, and then back into a push-up

After seeing this workout adaptation, I don’t want to say that I wasn’t too worried, but…I wasn’t too worried. I knew that for the first time in the 2016 Games I could do both movements reasonably well. I can press 75lbs without difficulty, as it is often programmed into our WOD’s at Impavidus. I am also relatively agile moving my body through space, even though I had never done this specific movement (but certainly ask me about the obstacle courses my old coaches at CrossFit Nassau used to create for me sometime!). It was simply going to be a matter of constant movement.

I always game plan the workout the Friday morning that it is announced, and spent a few minutes with Impavidus owner and head Coach Conan about how to do it well in preparation for my workout on Sunday, which coincidentally was Easter Sunday. His primary piece of advice?

You’re strong enough to do this workout, but it’s a lot of reps. You have to stay away from the REDLINE.

What pray tell is the redline? It is easiest understood in car engines. The redline refers to “the maximum engine speed at which an internal combustion engine or traction motor and its components are designed to operate without causing damage to the components themselves or other parts of the engine.”

In fitnesss-speak, it is your optimal output before your muscles start to fail. Essentially, Conan’s words of advice to me were to stay far, far away from that zone early on, even if you know you can do more reps, because if you don’t, your engine is going to break down, and once it is broken, you can’t fix it during the workout.

Right, got it, coach! Let’s do this.

Round 1: 21 reps of strict press, 21 reps of push-up over box.

21 reps up! 21 reps down! Unbroken! I’m going to finish this workout in like 8 minutes!

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Then my body hit the floor for the push-ups, and I felt something I wasn’t expecting. Instability in my shoulders. My shoulder and chest platform serve as the core that everything else is built upon. They were wobbling on me. In round 1.

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When I finished with the 21 floor reps and went back to the bar, I knew I had made a mistake.

I didn’t heed the redline. And more importantly, I had never taken the time in my workout preparations to even learn where my redline was. I was barely 4 minutes into the workout and all of my momentum, not to mention confidence, was gone. The 18 presses became a struggle, breaking them up first into thirds and then into doubles. The plate platform that I was supposed to be hopping across like a pommel horse was suddenly a life raft that I just wanted to hug and not let go.

The last, most discouraging element to what happens when you breach the redline is that the problems don’t really manifest themselves until the very end. My personal time after the 12 repetition round was a respectable 12 minutes – that is, I had completed 66 of the 84 total reps in 12 minutes. Nearly 80% of the workout was DONE! And yet, because I had driven my tachometer into the red so quickly, the final 18 reps were excruciatingly slow, especially the shoulder press. In fact, when I got to the final two rounds, I was overcome; I started repeatedly failing on my shoulder press reps, unable to even get singles. In the end, the rounds that should have been the quickest took the longest, with the final 3 reps taking over 2 minutes alone.

When all was said and done, I debriefed with my Coach, and the first thing he told me was, “You didn’t stay away from the redline, did you?” No, I didn’t.

But then he said, “As a coach, I would have told you to drop that weight in the 1st round. But since I was your judge in the event, I had to let you go without any coaching, and whatever happens, happens.”

I considered this statement and then realized that in the long run, my coach had done me a favor. Had he told me to drop the weight early on, I would have simply placed my workout in his hands, never really thinking about what it means to manage your energy when you’re in the grinder. But instead, he let me make the mistake, and I felt the repercussions…oh, how I felt them/still feeling them…and when I immediately realized what I had done, I knew I would never make that mistake again. I would learn to respect the redline.

If you think this was a sad moment for me though, you are mistaken.

Here is what I ultimately took away from my 16.5 workout on Easter Sunday.

“The minute you feel like you’re the only one going through it … you’re losing.” —Austin Malleolo

The CrossFit Open is many things, but one thing that is easy to forget is that they are designed to exist within community. To be sure some athletes, either by choice or situation, must go at it alone. But for the vast majority, the goal is to share in the experience and the suffering.

What this 16.5 workout communicated to me loud and clear was that my coach, the owner of the gym, was willing to come out on Easter Sunday and help me set up, video record, and judge my workout. And not just him – his entire family! They were all there to help and encourage and just be around each other. Powerful community.

The second message received is from my other coach and friend Jason Kitchens, who willingly did the Rx workout along side of me. He is able-bodied and had already done 16.5 for his own records, but was still willing to get in the chair (and out of the chair) and go through the movements along with me. He’s a phenomenal athlete, so it is no small thing for my own confidence to go through this 15-20 minute workout and see him struggling with the movements the same way I was. And in my final lesson, I could see Jason knew where his redline was, where I had not. He finished ahead of me in large part because he knew how to manage his energy better than I did.

In the end, despite my struggles, 16.5 was my best workout of the Open. I finished 6th the WheelWOD workout of 16.5, my highest score throughout the 5 weeks.

I’ll have more thoughts in a final Open post-mortem, but for now, today, I can rest knowing that I finished the WheelWOD CrossFit Open in the Rx division.

ParaWOD’s 16.1 adaptation is in the books

You completed 16.1 this past weekend, right? So did lots of seated adaptive athletes, per the outstanding website WheelWOD. If you are a wheelchair athlete (“wheelie,” per the Chef) and you aren’t familiar with WheelWOD, then it is time to get acclimated. After the official CrossFit Games Open competition workout is announced, Chris “Stouty” Stoutenburg adapts the workout to seated athletes. You may be too late to sign up for the 2016 competition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the workouts that he programs.

As we all know, the official 16.1 was thus:

20 minute AMRAP

  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge (5 reps)
  • 8 burpees (8 reps)
  • 25-ft. overhead walking lunge (5 reps)
  • 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups (8 reps)

Total reps per round: 26

To adapt this workout, Stouty programmed the following:

Rx

  • 25-ft 1 Arm locked out over head wheel (25/15lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 chair to floor transfers (8 reps)
  • 25-ft 1 Arm locked out over head wheel (25/15lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 full hang pull-ups (8 reps)

Scaled

  • 15ft plate drag (45/35lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 Med ball slams (20/10lb) (8 reps)
  • 15ft plate drag (45/35lb plate) (1 rep)
  • 8 seated pull-ups (8 reps)

Total reps per round: 18

To get an idea of the nature of the body movements, as well as how they would be judged, refer to WheelWOD’s 16.1 post here.

To add to the overall experience, my friend Coach Jason decided to get in a wheelchair and attempt the scaled workout along side me. Share in the suffering! It’s the best!

How did I do? 

I attempted the workout Rx and finished the 20 minute workout with 76 total repetitions. Two of the movements – the chair to floor transfer and the plate holds – I had never really attempted before. I do have a chair get-up incorporated into my own workout adaptation, but it always involves an elevated platform like a stool or a box to get the height I need to transfer. But straight from the floor? Never. This would be difficult.

Also, when I first started my CrossFit life, my Kiwi coach had me practice holding a kettlebell straight up (i.e. inverted, with the handle facing down toward the floor) while he pushed me around the room trying to knock me off balance. That’s the closest I ever got to this plate hold movement, but having to push myself in a straight line, that was new.

Because of the requirements on the plate hold, I knew that I would have to use my basketball chair, the only thing that would roll straight and easily and allow me to push both wheels with the same hand.

I practiced both of these movements for about 10 minutes, and I was fortunate to even get that amount of practice time, as our gym was a frenzy of activity during the opening weekend of the 2016 Open. Using my sport chair, I was confident I could do both, but knew I wouldn’t be fast doing either. As far as the strict pull-ups, I wasn’t concerned, as that is a staple of my gym’s routine programming.

As it turned out however, the biggest challenge was not in the workout, but in providing video evidence that I did it successfully. WheelWOD’s standards require that the entire workout be done in a single video shot with all movements and clock visible at all times. With the space required for this workout, combined with the sheer floor space that my gym at CrossFit Impavidus possesses, the video shots were anything but basic. And in the end, my lack of preparation in this regard ended up costing me on the leaderboard, as the judges did not have the clarity they needed to evaluate effectively. As a result, my poor video planning cost me a 15% penalty, which lowered my score to a 63.

Here are my movements:

1. Plate hold

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(clip sped up slightly to see full distance)

2. Chair to floor transfer

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3. Strict pull-up

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As frustrating as it was to get penalized and not receive an official score that I thought was commensurate with my effort, there were plenty of lessons learned, not the least of which is that planning and preparation are important when it comes to providing video evidence.

Aside from that, the workout was still a winner for me. I challenged myself, completed two new movements in the process, and got to do a 20 minute workout with Coach Jason.

Thanks to Impavidus Gym for helping me out. I’ll do better on 16.2. Can’t wait!