The CrossFit Open – A Gamut of Emotions

I started doing CrossFit in 2006 at Gold’s Globo Gym on an old dilapidated basketball court, where we had to improvise movements with the equipment available.  Eventually the managers of this franchise made us relocate and so over the years I followed George Dobbins, the founder of CrossFit Dover, to numerous boxes throughout the city, moving several times to accommodate the increase in members.

In 2007, after many small, local competitions had occurred across the country, a guy named Dave Castro introduced the sport of fitness to thousands of others by hosting the inaugural CrossFit Games at the site of his ranch home in Aromas, California.  It was such a hit that CF Headquarters decided to host qualifying competitions to determine who could earn the right to compete at the top level.  In 2010 they implemented a more localized competition called Sectionals, which I attended at CrossFit King of Prussia.  Approximately 40 athletes in both male and female categories (no exceptions for age or scaling) competed for the top 20 spots to move on to the next step: Regionals.

I had just learned how to do kipping pull ups, so when they announced that the wod had weighted pull ups with a vest, the anxiety kicked in.  I managed to do them (one by one) and this became what is still today the hardest workout I’ve ever done.  I ended up coming in 23rd place (out of 45 women) and only the top 20 were invited to Regionals.  However, a few days later I received an email stating that several women declined their invitation to Regionals, and that the invite was being extended to ME!  I excitedly accepted and made the eight hour road trip to Ohio.

The first Regional workout had muscle ups, but only a few women could actually do them.  Headquarters made a game time decision to allow athletes to do chest-to-bar pull ups instead (at higher rep count).  This is something you would never see at a competition in 2018.  Today if you can’t perform a movement as prescribed, then you can modify it and enter as a scaled athlete.  This has given so many more people the opportunity to compete.

The fourth wod that day was one I will never forget: a long chipper with very heavy dumb bell push presses.  As I was lined up next to Julie Foucher and Christy Phillips (now popular CrossFit Games athletes), the nerves ate away at my stomach.  They passed me with blazing speed and I was left there to struggle with those damn dumbbells.  Jud Dean was on the sidelines a few feet away from me and I remember the calm manner in which he coached me through those ten physically and mentally demanding reps. I did it and all of the girls who had finished were there cheering me on. This is one of the things I love most about the sport: the last person done gets the most cheers! I DNF’d (did not finish) the workout, but someone told me that it was much better than a DNS (did not start).

In 2011 CrossFit became so big that they started hosting Sectionals (now called The Open) in an online format.  During this year CrossFit Dover qualified for Regionals and I was asked to compete with this 6 person team. I was very fortunate to have gotten involved in this sport long before so many other hundreds of thousands of athletes did.  I was just in the right place at the right time.

Since then The Open has grown to over 400,000 athletes from all over the world, all of whom have had different experiences.  I asked some of my CrossFit comrades to describe their most memorable moments from The Open….or to define what The Open means to them.  While a few stated that this online competition is just a big money making scam by CF Headquarters or that it brings them too much anxiety, most of the people I talked to had nothing but positive things to say.  Here are some of their quotes:

  • “I look forward to getting Castro’s Clues every week.” Anonymous
  • “I love the camaraderie that occurs at this time of year in our box.” George Dobbins
  • “I love seeing the increased number of people signing up every year.”  Michael Scharmach
  • “7:00 of  BURPEES was my very first Open Wod.  I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Michael Scharmach
  • “Got my first muscle up!” Leslie Pleasanton
  • “I think the best part of The Open is that it forces people to get a little uncomfortable, and be vulnerable, and grow from it.” Jeri Sheats
  • Watching Holly come back to do Open wods after her injury.” Leslie Pleasanton
  • “I love watching people come together and doing things for the first time.” Anonymous
  • “Having teams compete with themes each week has made this year’s open so much more fun.” #iCUOTE   Jeff Peet
  • P”R-ing my Squat Snatch in 2017 after many failed attempts and time expiring on the clock was one of the things I will remember most.” Jason Langley
  • “I love The Open because it takes me out of my comfort zone…some of the hardest times I have ever pushed myself.  Workout 14.5 (thrusters & burpees) took me 47 minutes, where most people finished between 13-18 minutes.  I had to have 3 judges because it took so long.  I was crying  on the floor in the middle of the wod and swore I was quitting CrossFit.  But everyone was there cheering me on…and that’swhy I love The Open.” Big Ticket
  • “I was doing 14.4 and Ali Peet was judging me. I am chipping away at all of the movements and everyone is cheering me on, including Ali, but I can feel myself slowing down and feeling exhausted.  For some reason I get flustered because I am not doing as well as I had hoped and I snapped…and yelled at her (in the middle of the workout).  That moment forever changed me because I felt terrible and never wanted to disrespect someone like that again.  I was so embarrassed and humiliated.  It really helped me see the meaning of CrossFit and the great community that it can build.  Ali was just cheering me on, believing in me and I reacted poorly. ” Trace De Leon
  • “The best moment for me was to watch my wife do The Open while she was pregnant with our daughter Charlotte.  She made no excuses, treated every workout like she would any other day, and pushed her own boundaries.” Jeri Sheats
  • “When I was young my dad never came to any of my athletic endeavors.  But during one of The Open wods he decided to come watch me re-do one of the workouts.  I remember he was watching and a little worried when he saw me rolling around on the floor after.  But, that became one of the most memorable moments for me.” George Dobbins
  • “Getting to experience my first Open with Holly Briel…it was like our Friday night date for 5 straight weeks to compete against each other, PR together, root each other on, and just share the experience together.  It was my favorite Open yet!” Jason Langley

For ME….The Open has run the gamut of emotions.  I am always anxious about the movement(s), wondering if it is a strength or a weakness.  But in retrospect I am always glad I did it.  For the 2018 Open I am simply focused on one thing: the fact that I am physically CAPABLE of competing, when for so long I could not.

After 18.2 Coach George Dobbins addressed his box with this statement and it hit home for me: “Find the positive in each one of The Open wods and stop asking what you could’ve done or should’ve done differently. It is all a growing process and a single workout is not the end all be all; it is simply part of the process.  It does not define who you are as an athlete. And if this doesn’t resonate with you and you are still telling yourself that you fell short of your expectations, then I ask you to reflect on this: Are you putting the necessary steps in to hone in on your diet? Are you putting in extra time at the gym to work on skills? If the answer is no…then do you really deserve to be disappointed?”

This hit home for me as I watched the Live Announcement for 18.3 last night and saw that Ring Muscle Ups come before Bar Muscle Ups. Last year at this time I had just gotten my first Bar Muscle Up, and now after practicing over and over and over I am finally able to string them together.  However, I won’t be able to show that my hard work is paying off because the workout requires that you complete 12 Ring Muscle Ups before you can even go to the bar.  At this point, I cannot do this movement.  So, I will admit that there was a little disappointment.  While I HAVE been practicing this skill with numerous drills, perhaps I have not made it a priority.  Here’s to hoping that 2018 will be the year to finally get the elusive Muscle Up!

What does The Open mean to YOU?