Thoughts on the 2016 Open

So today marks 9 years since I did my first CrossFit workout, “Cindy” in a hotel gym in town. There was a time, maybe about 5 to 6 years in, when I could smugly say I was an OG CrossFitter as it was becoming mainstream. Now, I’m just embarrassed I’m not a lot better 😛 😛 I’ve no great reflections on my journey, but I do have a whole bunch of thoughts on this year’s Open that I never got around to publishing. And now that the dust has settled, let’s review the 2016 Open. (If you want to brush up on my thoughts on the 2015 Open, click here!)

I still feel like this after CrossFit. I just don't lie down anymore.

I still feel like this after CrossFit. I just don’t lie down anymore.

Initial thoughts – By far the best put together open ever. Each workout was a true test of fitness. Gone are the days when we could say it was a workout for the gymnasts, or the meatheads, or the cardio bunnies. Every one tests all aspects, which I think shows how the sport is evolving.

If the open was in danger of growing stale, and I don’t think it was, this year mixed it up again with the curveballs. We really couldn’t predict what was going to happen. Which again brought back the initial excitement of the “old days” when you’d no idea what would be posted on “dotcom”.

“We won’t see Bar Muscle Ups,” I smugly predicted. “The way things go in CrossFit is they start out as a Games level skill, then Regionals, then The Open.” I boldly stated thinking I’d successfully cracked Castro’s code. Oh, how wrong I was. This had held true for rope climbs. They were a Games “final” skill, then a Friday Night Lights skill, then legless rope climbs became the games skill, then legless became a Regional levels skills. (I’ll predict now that we don’t see Rope Climbs in The Open, as different affiliates have different ceiling heights, but really that could change!)

Wonder when we'll see an Assault Bike wod?

Wonder when we’ll see an Assault Bike wod?

Would I ever have predicted Walking Overhead Lunges? Hells no. Despite lunging being prominent in the 2013 season, where Front Rack Lunges appeared in the final of Regionals and Overhead Lunges appeared in the final of The Games. In hindsight, it’s obvious. Everything is obvious in hindsight. Would this rule out overhead squats? Not necessarily. But it might make Handstand Walks a possibility.. Now that we have a measurement for travelling distance, why the hell not!? They’ve been in the Games since 2011, that’s 5 years warning you’ve had to get your gymnastic shit together.

Could we see a movement repeated in The Open? Who knows. <-- (I'm leaving this comment in here out of order as I initially wrote my thoughts up before 16.5 was released as I didn't want it to taint my opinions.) Over the last few Regionals and Games, Castro and Glassman have done an exceptional job of ensuring the leaderboard gets shaken up each and every workout. But now, the tests are perfectly balanced in and of themselves! What was the key point in 16.1? Was it the lunges, the burpees, or the chest to bar pull ups? I'd argue that it was none really. It was how they came together (phrasing!) Ditto for 16.2. Sure, there were a lot of toes to bar, and there were double unders, and then heavy squat cleans too. Beautiful. Horrible, but beautiful. How's that core bro? How's that core with a high heart rate? How about blood flushing all over the shop as you transition from one movement to the next? Oh yeah, best not waste any time with that 4 minute cap!

One could argue that there was a bottleneck in 16.3 and 16.4. For those that had bar muscle ups, both sections of that workout sucked. Sure, you could probably muscle out another 34Kg snatch if you had to, but for most CrossFitters playing the sport a while, a bar muscle up just required a bit more focus and bracing again. But was it high skill or petal to the metal? Well, both really!

16.4 was beautiful in it’s simple brutality. You had to be so balanced across your fitness. Strong? Cool, do 55 fucking things. Good engine? Alright, get through some deadlifts first. Awesome gymnastics? Hey, we’ve got this buy in before that. As Doug Chapman so eloquently put it, something for everyone to give out about this time. On a personal level, the best warm I found was a 2 hour drive to Galway. The best cool down was a 2 hour drive back. The tour was a lot easier before I’d an affiliate to take care off, when I could just hang out in someone else’s gym for as long as I wanted afterwards! Special shout out to 8020, UnLaois’d, D12, and Galway for hosting me!

For the record, this photo was taken on his descent, not a no rep!

For the record, this photo was taken on his descent, not a no rep!

Time to talk about 16.4, cheating, and bro reps.

I’m gonna side with Bridges on this one, not least of which because I once accidentally kicked over his trophy in The Games and owe him one. Bridges has won SEVEN Open workouts throughout his career. A feat I believe unequalled by anyone else. He was also being judged by CJ Martin, a coach who’s gotten more athletes and teams to The Games than anyone else. The video is on a fisheye lens, which changes how things are perceived. Plus, he submitted his score on Friday for approval, giving HQ time to yea or nae it. You know HQ? The team that arbitrates our sport? I’ll let them make the call.

leave-josh-bridges-alone

Was this because he’s friends with HQ? With the sheer volume of participation in The Games, you could literally tell an athlete the entire season and still have by and large the same athletes come out on top.

I wrote the above two paragraphs before seeing HQ’s reversal on Mr. Bridges winning score. On one hand in sport we accept that judges are human and we’ve to accept their call. There’s reps that were suspect of mine that got called good/bad during the open, as there are for everyone else. I’ll also say it takes guts for an organisation to come out and admit publicly they were in error, and reverse their decision. I don’t believe that Bridges was cheating, nor was CJ. Cheating to me implies an intent to deceive and really here what we have is an error.

Bridges doesn’t seem too upset about it either.

Now, do I think there’s cheating in other areas? Fuck Yes!

I’m not talking about inexperienced judging. There’s been judging errors made by me, and every single one of the judges in my affiliate. A marginal no rep call here or there. Some go your way, some don’t. I’ve been called no reps on the tour that I thought were good, and had reps that on another day weren’t good called ok. It balances out and it’s the sport. You play the ref.

I’m talking about blatant chasing. I’ve seen scores that are 100% fabricated and approved. It can be hard to believe you’re a better CrossFitter than X, and see them beat you on the leaderboard. It can be harder to know you’re a better CrossFitter than someone else and see them post a dubious, if not blatantly bullshit score. I understand though that there’s a lot that comes to the surface when faced with a judge and a clipboard, and such a public and permanent record of how good or bad you are can cause us to do funny things. Sometimes they feel justifiable too. “If everyone else is cheating it’s okay then.”

I don’t have a solution. I guess we’ll have to accept that cheating is a part of sport.

Now back to more positive thoughts! There’s a beauty in all of this, in that it will make us all fitter. You think there’s a single Regionals or Games Level athlete now that can’t climb a pegboard after last year’s final? You think there’s anyone out there now who looks forward to The Open that isn’t just gunning for chest to bars but full on bar muscle ups!? How cool is that!? We’ve raised the expectations of what’s possible for all of us now. Sure, I mightn’t ever clean 315lbs/142Kg for reps, but knowing that’s the standard now will make 225lbs/102Kg not feel as “heavy”.

For the record, I was wrong in my prediction that pistols would come up. Damn! I can also see now that the Open season is closed why there was no Part A workouts like the 1RM C&J or the predicted muscle ups/handstand walk. The Part A was a single modality, and skewed the leaderboard towards someone who was super proficient in one area but may be lacking in others. Since all the workouts are balanced tests now, it doesn’t seem to make sense to put in a biased test like that. Of course, now that I’ve written it, it means that it could happen again in the next few Opens!

So 16.5 was an anti climax? Are you fucking kidding me?

I remember thinking so when 15.5 came out, bit simple isn’t it? But then it gave us a “pure” CrossFit test that was an amazing challenge, one I’d argue was more mental than physical. It also gave us the best documentary on CrossFit ever

16.5 wasn’t technically challenging, “just” thrusters and burpees. But what did it give us? Think about how the 2016 Open would have ended if it was a Handstand Walk or Freestanding HSPU, or weighted strict one armed muscle up. For most, it would have ended with a lot of failures and standing around. This would be our last, and probably strongest memory of The Open.

This way, it ends with an achievement. Yes, 14.5/16.5 was an achievement. Castro and Glassman know that for affiliate owners, The Open is a blessing and a challenge. You’re faced with the stress of programming around it, running each even with judges and score sheets and heat lists, trying to accomodate everyone from the gung ho athlete who wants to beast it, to the shier member who wants to compete but doesn’t think they’re up to the challenge, to the brand new client who just has an hour free on Saturday. Plus you’re competing yourself and that brings it’s own stresses and strains.

16.5 brought the loudest cheers and greatest sense of accomplishment when completed than any other workout. Yes, it’s hellish, but the pride of facing that, and being cheered on and supported by your entire gym, and come out the other side, is what it’s all about.

For those that had done it before, we got a chance to talk about 2 years ago and where we were. For those new to it, we got to face this Himalayan challenge that we weren’t sure we could hide away from. There was no time cap, you had to finish it. And somewhere in the 18s or 15s, the finish line seemed impossibly far away. That was the point. That there’s no where to go. We can shy away from the pain and continue to suffer, or we can push into the pain and get through it.

A lesson for life there perhaps?

Roll on 2017, but not too quickly. Let’s enjoy the off season first!

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