17.5 – Thrusters and Double unders?

Tonight the final workout of the 2017 CrossFit Games Open is announced. Thus far the workouts have been as grueling as expected. Dave Castro posted a clue to 17.5 earlier in the week.

17.5 clue

Social media was alive with guesses and predictions. Dead meat came up a few times. A knife thrust through under-cooked meat. A Ka-Bar knife. Thrusters, double unders, bar muscle up (again!). There are some movements that have been repeated every year since the start of the Open. Two of those have not been in any of the workouts yet – thrusters and double unders.

thruster

I have a tough history with both movements. In last month or two, I’ve become more comfortable with double unders but given how I’ve struggled I don’t take this comfort for granted. I still practice regularly and was happy to have them programmed in our WOD yesterday. I should manage if they do appear in 17.5. Thrusters have been my Kryptonite since I first started CrossFit. My form has certainly improved but I still find a 95lb weight rather heavy for the movement. The fear I have is that we’ll end up having 50lb dumbbell thrusters. I tried these earlier in the week and wasn’t able to complete even a single rep. Anyway, this had me scouring the interweb for some tips and tricks. I found this article on Boxlife Magazine’s website which had some good insight. If you’re uncertain about thrusters as well, have a look. There’s also a link to a demo video of Jason Khalipa doing thrusters. Hopefully these are useful.

I’m excited about tonight’s announcement. Castro may yet surprise us with a completely unexpected workout. Looking forward to the final one of this season. Good luck everyone.

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16.2: Can I try that one more time?

 

16.2 the first time around

 

16.2 has come and gone now. The deadline to submit your score was a 5PM PT last night. I’ve been reading various blog posts about the workout and I noticed similar themes in almost all of them. There were a number of crossfitters who were excited about it after the announcement on Thursday and there  were a fair number who felt that it was going to be a manageable one. Once they tried it, the other common theme that emerged was that there were a good few people who were surprised at how tough it was to get past round 1 and just as many who felt they could improve on their first attempt and were planning a second try.

The prescribed workout was as follows:

16.2 WOD

While the scaled one was:

Scaled WOD 16.2

On Friday morning I arrived at the I Will Crossfit box determined to do the Rx version and make it to the squat cleans in round 2. My one rep max up until that point was 155# so I would have to improve on that by 30# to even make one rep. But I figured I could give it a try. I felt that my toes-to-bar was in good shape and as you might’ve  seen in an earlier post, I had just managed to get double unders. I figured I would make it to round 2 within the 4 minutes and then give that my best go. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The toes-to-bar went a lot slower than I anticipated. My technique is good but my speed not so much. Then the double unders which I thought I had worked out. I couldn’t string together more than 2-3 unbroken. It took me way longer than I expected to finish the 50 reps. I had only about a minute and a half to finish 15 squat cleans at 90% of my one rep max. I completed 3 successfully before the time ran out. Wow. What a humbling experience. 4 minutes of workout and I was done. Another guy in the gym had been equally frustrated. We decided to take a break and then try again. He was going to go Rx but I thought I’d switch to scaled and see if that was better.

Hanging knee raises and single unders were easier but the squat cleans were still tough despite the lower starting weight. I managed to complete round 1 with some time left on the clock. This meant I had more than 4 minutes to finish round 2. Going into the knee raises I was already feeling  winded. I don’t know if I went out too quickly in round 2 or if the Rx attempt had taken more out of me than I realized or maybe the workout was just tougher than anticipated. When I reached the squat cleans at 115# I knew I could manage the weight but I wasn’t sure I could manage 13 reps. I couldn’t – the clock ran down at rep 10. Aargh!!! A big improvement in total reps over the Rx attempt but I had been hoping to reach round 3 at least. How difficult 16.2 was turning out to be.

At the team WOD on Saturday there were a few other people who’d had similarly frustrating experiences with 16.2. And they were all planning to give the workout another try on Monday. The seed was planted. In fact, the seed sprouted a fully fledged tree within minutes. I decided to join these crazy people who couldn’t get enough of the challenge. I was further inspired when I heard that one of the guys had finished the scaled version of the workout. All 430 reps!! In the allotted time. Impressive. I just wanted to get to round 3 and post a good score for the week. Third time lucky? I hoped so.

I was awake super early yesterday morning. I was nervous and excited about my final attempt at this workout. There were two other guys also giving it a last go at 5:30am. All of us were doing the scaled version. After our normal warm-up, we set up the bars and found our jump ropes and spots for the knee raises. All too soon, Coach Matt was saying 3-2-1-GO! I took off like a bat out of hell. I was so determined to get to round 3 I let all my plans for pacing go out the window. I managed the squat cleans a lot more comfortably this time. When I started the knee raises for round 2 I tried to keep a steady pace but sped up again on the single unders. I decided to try and do the 13 squat cleans in sets of 3. This worked out well. I finished round 2 with time to spare. Yay! On to round 3. Knee raises and single unders went well. The 135# squat cleans slowed me down. This was at 90% of my  rep max, remember? I used the same game plan – 3 reps at a time. To my amazement and excitement, I finished. On to round 4. This was unplanned territory. Throughout the workout the other two guys and I kept shouting encouragement to each other. We were side-by-side and I know that made a massive difference. The other people in the gym were equally enthusiastic with shouts of support while they were getting through the normal WOD. We have a great atmosphere of camaraderie.

Round 4. My knee raises and single unders were slowing down but I finished them with a few extra minutes left over. I had about 7 minutes to finish 9 reps at #155. My one rep max! I would have to go one at a time. It took everything I had but I cranked out 6 reps before I ran out of time.

I was elated. Three attempts later I had reached a total of 345 reps. Almost double my Friday score. I’v decided to embrace scaling. For my first Crossfit Games Open, the scaled division will give me a nice benchmark for future workouts and for next year. And it is damn challenging. As with 16.1  and 16.2, I eagerly and nervously await the announcement of 16.3 on Thursday.

How did 16.2 go for you? Any new PRs? What are your predictions for 16.3? Muscle ups maybe? Wall balls? Whatever Dave Castro has in store, it’s going to be a challenge.

Double under agony and ecstasy 

du rope 3

During our warm up this morning we caught a sneak peek at the WOD. The first set was going to be double unders and burpees. I’ve been working on my double unders and they’ve been improving. However, just last week I couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going and couldn’t string more than 2 reps together. I am pretty sure that the Open is going have a workout that includes double unders, so I was keen to give them another go.

First was the agony:

whipped arm

I covered my arm in whip marks in the first two rounds. I was doing one rep then hitting my arms. Then another then hitting my arms. I couldn’t even get the single under followed by double under rhythm going. All this agony also meant that the total time it took me to finish 30 reps was ridiculous. I was determined to do the workout as prescribed though.

Round 3. Let’s make this happen. I started out a bit slower. Worked on 2 singles followed by a double. That was working nicely. Around 15 reps, I tried to string together more than one double under. I made 5 in a row. Yay! Progress. I managed to finish the last 5 reps of the round with sets of 5. 

Round 4. After the burpees were done from round 3 I started the next round wanting to nail the double unders. I managed 2!!! Damn it!! Then something clicked. I started using slower hand movements. My timing for the jump was better. I did 20 unbroken! And unwhipped. 

Round 5 wasn’t as good but I strung together 7-8 reps at a time. But I was so excited. Finally. Double unders. I was ecstatic. 

So my keys were slower rotation and higher jumps. What are your keys and tips to double unders? What doesn’t work?   

Holiday Fitness

I recently spent two weeks on vacation in Cape Town, South Africa. It was my first visit home in a while and I had a ton of catching up to do. Family and friends I hadn’t seen in 5+ years. In addition, my folks were moving house and the main reason I was back was that my brother was getting married. So I was expecting a full schedule. My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t have time to train. I didn’t want to lose all the fitness and strength I’d worked so hard to gain.

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Bird’s eye view of Cape Town

In order to ensure that I stayed fit, I made some plans.

Ahead of the trip I contacted Cape Crossfit to inquire about drop-in classes. Thankfully they did have them and I signed up for a morning class two days after I arrived. The members of this box were extremely welcoming and the two WODs I participated in were great. I bought a T-shirt and wear it proudly to my local box.

My brother and I worked out together at his gym. We focused on pecs and ran on the treadmill.

I packed in my speed rope – I suck at double unders and thought I could practice while on holiday. On one of my quieter afternoons, I spent some time whipping myself on the arms and legs and cursing the world in general. I think I did get a bit better but it’s certainly not perfect yet. My sister’s dog, Ringo, must’ve thought I was crazy – he kept his distance throughout.

My running buddy, Craig, invited me to join him on some training runs with his club, Spartan Harriers. I enjoyed two runs with the club – the routes were nice and it was cool to train and catch up with one of my best friends. I wanted to run some routes I used to do when I was still living in Cape Town. Newlands Forest was an old favourite – amazing scenery and challenging hills.

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Views in Newlands Forest

Another favourite was a route through the Constantia suburbs which included a green belt stretch. I used to run with another good friend, Anton. The route was close to my sister’s place,  so it worked out well.

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Views in Constantia. Elephant’s Eye cave in the top left hand photo. I used to hike there with my wife.

When I was at university, I spent a lot of time on the squash court. I played competitively for a few years and the campus had two courts. Robbie Samuels is a legend on this campus when it comes to squash. He plays 4-5 times a week and has been doing so for more than 20 years. I joined Robbie for a session on the courts. It’d been a while but it was a fantastic workout and loads of fun. A trip down fitness memory lane.

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UCT Medical School squash courts

So all-in-all, I managed to continue training during my vacation. I feel I maintained my fitness and strength levels and came back home ready to move forward towards my goals. The keys for me were prioritizing my training and using the time as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family.