CrossFit Games 2014: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

I have proven for the third time that I am one of the twenty fittest men in the world. I’ll be damned. I’ll take that.

I ended up placing sixteenth overall at the 2014 CrossFit Masters Games, age group 50-54. In 2011, I was sixteenth. In 2013, fifteenth. This year, sixteenth. One might be tempted to be disappointed by a perpetual low-end finish, but for me it’s been quite the opposite. More on that later in this post.

There is so much to debrief on from this year’s games, I will need to keep this to a “Good, Bad, Ugly” bullet point approach. Let’s begin!

The Good: My Fellow Competitors

These guys were stronger, faster, and tougher than any field against which I have competed. The three who made the podium – Will Powell, Brig Edwards, and Joey Lochner – deserved every bit of that victory. Will is quiet and humble, a gentle giant of calm beastfulness. Brig, who had a rough first day, fought back to second place like a champ. And Joey was 100% consistency, aside from being one of the nicest guys in the show. I am excited for and proud of those guys and my hat is off to them.

But more than that, every single guy in my division straddled the line between focus on competition and big-picture perspective. We all knew we were there to not only compete, but to savor the moment and enjoy. Everyone was simply fantastic. We pulled for each other, celebrated each other’s victories, and pulled each other through the pain. Awesome competing with you gentlemen!

The Good: The Organization

Once again our friends in the athlete ready area were masterful. Maressa Fernandez was in charge of making sure the athletes were checked in, lined up, and ready to rock – and she was fantastic. Head judge Dave Eubanks was professional, fun, funny, and on-point all at the same time. There were also dozens of others in the athlete area making things work, from volunteers, to judges, to staff. All really excellent.

The Good: The Final Workout

For once, I was geeked by a CrossFit Games workout. A single round of 100-yard sprint, 4 burpee muscle ups, and 5 snatches. It was very un-CrossFit in its construction (almost Grid-like, no?), which made it compelling and fun. An all-out sprint. I was happy with tenth on this one and it took every bit of gutting it out to get that.

The Good: The Fuel

Natural almond butter with carob chips sprinkled on top? Hard-boiled eggs and plenty of bananas? WIN. 

The Bad: 100 Pull Ups in Scorching Heat

We’ve all done a hundred pull ups before, but nothing prepared the medical team for over a hundred pairs of destroyed hands. We overwhelmed the medics with the need for hand repair.

Every inch of my skin that was not covered with tape tore during the pull ups. Places where I have never ever torn. The tips of my fingers? Seriously? Put your hands on a hot stove, folks, and the skin will burn. Put your hands on a black surface cooking in the hot sun and you will burn yourself.

There is really no excuse for hundreds, yes hundreds, of masters athletes making a beeline for the medic tent for shredded hands. I can see a tear here or there, but this was consistent, almost to a person, shredding.

In the future, I recommend erecting some sort of canopy that shades the rig from the sun. The crowd will still have a great view, but the rig can be protected from the sun and the athletes can work out in less brutal conditions.

The Bad: The Port-a-Johns

Pro-tip: Masters-aged people pee five times more than you younger folks. To haul in state-of-the-art port-a-johns with flushable toilets, sinks, and mirrors, only to have them all out of service by 11:00am makes little sense. The first day, 90% of them had “out of order” signs on the door. You can either triple the number or service them all mid-day.

A personal note to the athlete who was sitting on the toilet with his shorts around his ankles. For the love of all humanity, man, lock the door!

The Ugly: “We have water, but we’re not allowed to sell it.”

I heard this from a food vendor. Apparently, due to some exclusive vendor agreement with either Dasani or the beer vendors in general, only a single vendor, one guy, was permitted to sell water. With hundreds, maybe a thousand or more, spectators walking around in California scorch and half a dozen trucks in vendor village, only one guy was selling water.

This is unconscionable. Is this a StubHub Center thing? Did the Games people agree to it? Was this an exclusive agreement between the Games and the vendors? Whatever it was, it’s a dangerous and egregious policy.

Limiting water sales to a single dude standing all by himself under a tent has the potential to go very wrong. Case in point: his ice supply melted on one of the days and the water bottles were all just floating in lukewarm swill. What happens when the water runs out and there is no one to bring in supplies? You remember Katrina, right? Or Woodstock ’99? Crowds will riot. The one thing that should be ubiquitous is water.

Final Thoughts

Two final thoughts; First, the most gratifying part of my week was the sheer number of people who went out of their way to tell me they appreciate my writing. I can’t possibly count the number of people who made it a point to say that – some total strangers stopping me because they recognized my name on the uniform, others people who I knew. It is extremely rewarding when I hear from people who appreciate what I write. I often do, via messages, emails, and so on, but to have dozens of people say so in person made for a perfect week.

Lastly, as I stated at the outset – was I disappointed in yet another bottom five finish? Quite the contrary. You always question whether you really belong there. Meaning, all these guys are amazing athletes, so what on earth am I doing there?

But after two fifth place finishes and two tenth place finishes in individual workouts, there was no doubt in my mind I belonged there. And, yes, for the third time I am in the bottom five. But I prefer to look at it this way:

I have proven for the third time that I am one of the twenty fittest men in the world. I’ll be damned. One of the twenty fittest men in the world. I’ll take that.

There is nothing left to prove. Time to move on to new adventures.

Photo 1 courtesy of Brig Edwards.