Team CCF Wolfpack's CrossFit Games 2018 - Coach's Recap18 August 2018
How do we stack up against the best in the world..?
When we knew that we had qualified for the CrossFit Games, the solution-needing questions started piling up in my mind.
"How are we going to get the athletes there financially?", "How are we going to prepare them?", "Will we be able to compete well at that level now already..?".
Well to put it all shortly: we are firstly so grateful to all that helped us raise enough funds to get the athletes to Madison and also give them a good accommodation to be able to compete fresh, and secondly we clearly prepared them well and proved that we are indeed a force to be reckoned with in the future!
When we realised that we had won the Meridian Regionals I sat the athletes down to ask what their goals for this years Games was. "To have fun and to see how good we are." was the general reply, and I added my own goal "To prove that we belong".
We can't have aspirations to compete with those at the very top (yet) when we have just qualified for the biggest stage the first time, but we can definitely have a goal of proving that our training system in combination with the hardest workers we can find is developing athletes of the highest level. And I think we did just that..
Day 1 - Wednesday.
We knew that the two announced Day 1 workouts would be tough for us, and when we then found out that we were seeded in the Top Heat with the likes of Rich Froning's CrossFit Mayhem, Sam Dancer and his Invictus X team, Spencer Hendel & Austin Malleolo's Reebok CrossFit One, and more, I think our athletes panicked a bit - but then again, who wouldn't?
We had a pretty bad first event with a 37th in the Bike Erg/Deadlift workout where our synchro team work was.. out of synch (haha), but then we kind of did what we were hoping for in the Synchro Muscle Up and heavy Back Squat, Push Press workout where we finished 26th.
We were then sitting in 35th after the first day, but luckily for us there was a programmed rest day on the Thursday where we went to the Obstacle Course to test it out and then had the honour of representing South Africa in the Opening Ceremony - and this also allowed me to get the athletes mind off Day 1 which then helped us come back super strong for the rest of the weekend!
Day 2 - Friday.
We were looking forward to Day 2 with much more anticipation, we knew we would stack up well when we got to test our "real life"-application in the Obstacle Course. I had taken the athletes to do a training session with arguably the best OCR-athlete in the country, Trevor Lagerway from FitStrong, and with our athletes amazing capacity to move their own body and figure out tasks on the fly in combination with his little technique tricks we definitely felt comfortable that we'd do great in any event with such obstacles.
Obstacle Course Event: In the event it self we were now in the first heat (bottom ranked heats) and we started out fairly slowly with the carries and rope climbs but then overtook a few teams on the first run and then more than half of the field in the Obstacle Course. We entered the arena as second team and the team ahead of us stayed ahead all the way until it was time for the ladies to carry the Heavy Yoke the 50m to the finish line. Their athlete broke, while Vicks told me that she told her self "I'm not putting this thing down at any cost!" before she picked it up and passed the other team to give us our first Heat Win!
We finished the event in 11th and the climb had started..
1RM Snatch Event: This is an event where we historically aren't as strong as the biggest teams so our expectations were pretty low. I told the athletes to ride the high from the Obstacle Course event and also that we KNEW we were stronger than ever before from 3/4 athletes PB'ing their Snatch the week before the Games - "Attack, gamble a little and try to hit a PB" was the instructions and they executed it like bosses:
All athletes hit within 98% of their 1RM, and even though Vicks once again stole the show with her 2kg PB (67kg), I was super amped to see ALL athletes at least going for a PB attempt and we ended up 25th in the event!
Ah you know, just Vicks busy PB'ing her Snatch at the CrossFit Games...
Synchro HSPU, Synchro GHD, Worm Squats: Our first event in the famous Madison Coliseum!
We were amped when this event got released because it was 5 rounds and a lot of synchro, which was a very design similar to the event we crushed at the Regionals. We knew that we needed to pace ourselves as I had watched the first heat (we were now in the second heat) and saw them crash and burn from going unbroken on the extra range of motin Hand Stand Push Ups..
We started out slow (9-10th in the heat after round one) but our strategy paid off and we climbed to 3rd in the heat and a total 21st in the event which allowed us to climb to a total of 25th place on the leaderboard after Day 2 - The Wolfpack was definitely the biggest climbing team at this point in the competition, and Day 3 wouldn't be any less interesting!
Day 3 - Saturday.
If Day 2 had a good start, Day 3 was even better. We knew that our outdoor endurance fitness was world class so when they announced the Lake event we couldn't be more excited!
500m Team Swim, 1000m Team Paddle, 2000m Team Run: We knew that Vicks (previous Triathlete) and Richie (Lifesaver) would crush this event in their sleep, but behind the scenes both Matty and Nicole were very anxious. "I've never done a 500m swim outdoors before", "there's so many people in the water" (20 teams at once), and so on kept on coming out. I told them to simply rely on their world class fitness and understand that in ALL teams there was at least one person that was less fit in the water than them. We stopped at a pharmacy on the way to the event to get some vaseline (old Triathlete trick from Vicks) and we had a certain strategy going into the swim to do it as a TEAM rather than individuals.
In the end of the swim Nicole came out of the water last, but not far behind the other teams and we entered the paddle event in 5th. We kept that spot throughout the paddle event, where not much happened between teams, but then when the other teams faffed around in the transition to the run we simply overtook two teams and came out 3rd on the run.
We knew that we were great runners already and with the addition of the rope that the team had to hold between them we kept our pace. Nicole is not a bad runner, but the other ones are AMAZING runners so to see her fight her way through the 2km basically being halfway dragged along the end of the rope proved how mentally strong she could really be and that allowed the team to take a 3rd(!) place in the entire event which ended up being our highest finish this year!
Team work makes Dream work, and these guys showed that big time in this event!
Hand Stand Bob + Bob Sprint: After highs comes lows. We knew that the Handstand Obstacle would be tough on us. Vicks have improved A LOT from not being able to be in a handstand at all to now even getting a few steps up onto the ramp but we expected a last place finish in the event and I'm super proud of how the team kept their spirit up because in the Bob Sprint they pushed for dear life and even though the had to push the big sled the hole 50m to the starting line (where other teams had it set there from the hand stand event) just 1-2 minutes before this they ended up 13th in the Big Bob Sprint and bounced us right back up in a positive mindset again!
Team Bi-Couplet (Snatches and CTB Pull Ups / Bar Muscle Ups): This was an event I was super excited about when it got announced because I know that our athletes are some of the best out there when it comes to bar gymnastics! To be honest maybe I got a bit too excited because I feel that this is one event where I might have been given them the wrong strategy: "Go for it and aim for unbroken".. Now in the end I don't think it mattered too much as basically ALL teams broke down in this event and I think that all of us were maybe underestimating the fatigue from previous events.
The team still showed that they got massive capacity in this event and when Richie finished the Bar Muscle Ups in the end he rolled over the finish line at a time that was 18th total in the field - not too shabby in an event I feel I overshot the strategy for these beasts.
After this we were sitting in a super cool 20th spot with only 1 day of competition left!
Day 4 - Sunday, the Final.
Going in to Day 4 we weren't really sure how many events were left, but we did know that the first event of the day should be a pretty good event for us as there was more running in it. We also wasn't sure if there would be a cut for the Final WOD so our goal was to try to stay in the Top 20 in case there would be.
5 Rounds For Time: 300m Run, 15m Big Bob Hand over Hand Pull:
We had a strategy of once again not going out too fast and trust our capacity and pacing to pull us up the leaderboard. The Bob turned out to be pretty heavy but we got through the rounds without any major issues and our run kept us pushing for the top spots in the heat (this time around the heat with teams ranked 11-20th) and the athletes told me afterwards that a big goal for them was to beat the starstruck Reebok CrossFit One who was in the same heat - which they did!
Now the "funny" part about this is that we ended up 18th in the event and beat many teams that were ahead of us, BUT the two teams that were behind us on the leaderboard crushed it and ended up passing us leaving us to sit in 21st spot after this only 2-3p out of top 20...
We were nervous that it would mean the end to an epic weekend, but in the end we found out that ALL teams would be invited to do the unannounced Final and the athletes got called to a briefing with the man himself just minutes before they started: The Dave Castro briefed the teams in his infamous fashion in the warm up area just next to the field they had to enter!
The event was Worm Lunges, Worm Thrusters, and Worm Synchro Burpees - pretty much our worst nightmare since a very similar event at Regionals was our worst event then, but...
The Final, Worm Lunges, 36-24-12 Worm Thrusters/Synchro Burpees, Worm Lunges:
Like said we had a near death experience with this type of WOD at Regionals and when they announced the WOD I was super frustrated that I couldn't be there and try to keep the Team calm - turned out I didn't need to.
The guys sorted out their own strategy and even though they struggled with the burpees in the middle they did an amazing job and pushed through to a 23rd spot in the event - which then lifted us back to that 20th spot and we had beaten half the field at our first ever real CrossFit Games appearance!
"Proud Coach" much..?
As a coach you honestly have fairly little to do with the athletes performance on a week like this, you can only hope that the preparation you've taken them through over the last weeks, months, and years will shine through and these guys proved that all the hard work they've put in really paid off!
Now one could go in and dissect all the performances made over these days, but I rather look forward instead. These guys pulled off an amazing feat and to say that I'm proud of how they managed to do so as a TEAM is an understatement, and I want to build on that..
We have an amazing community at CCF that not only comes in to make themselves fitter and better each day, but they also support the "top athletes" we are breeding to allow them to compete at the highest level, and with that backing I have no doubt that we will get back to the Games in the future.
We also have an amazing small, but incredibly hard working group of athletes that are willing to push themselves to their limits on any given day to reach the very top. The breadth we have in the big Team is epic and our goal for the future is to continue to develop our "CCF Competition" program to an absolute World Class one that will hopefully send not only a highly competitive team to the Games, but possibly even a few individuals as well!
2018 was an incredible year where we won the Fittest in Cape Town, both Male Individual (Coach Alan) and Team, won the Meridian Regionals while Coach Al finished 9th & Coach Justin 13th in the Individual competition, and then we got to top it all off with a 20th spot at the CrossFit Games - I reckon 2019 can be an even better year if we all work together so my biggest goal for the coming season is to continue to develop an environment that is impossible to beat when it comes to building a TEAM.
PS. If you are interested in joining the "Winningest CrossFit Team in South Africa 2018", give me a shout.
But, don't be surprised if the demands are higher than you might think - when it comes to reaching the highest level we accept no excuses..