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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Initial Games Thoughts

I needed a couple days to decompress from binge-watching this year's Games, but I've been able to do some preliminary analysis and put a few thoughts together.  I'll follow up in the next week or two with some more in-depth coverage of this year's Games and the season as a whole.

  • Let me start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year's Games.  This is the first year since 2011 that I haven't made the trip to Carson, and while it would have been fun to be there in person again, I thought the live coverage was great overall.  Yes, there were some hiccups for us swapping between ESPN3 and the TV feed, causing us to miss out on some early heats that weren't shown on TV, but overall I had no trouble watching as much as I wanted.  The announcing has improved leaps and bounds since 2011, and thankfully they treat it as a real sport rather than an excuse to try to sell people on CrossFit (for the most part).   That said, I could have done without the constant hyping of the "Assault" bike that's just a fancy version of the AirDyne that's been around since I was born.
  • The final event, particularly for the men, was without a doubt the most thrilling in Games history.  I'll hold my comments on the pegboard climb for later, but the sheer fact that both champions were NOT in first place heading into the final event made for some top notch drama.  After Pedal to the Metal 1, I had a buddy text me asking to do a post comparing Froning in his prime to present-day Mat Fraser (assuming Fraser would proceed with another event win and hang on), but within minutes, Fraser had fallen into second place.  And the women's final was just as exciting (excluding the pegboard, I know), with Davidsdottir going unbroken on the deadlifts and farmer's walks LIKE A BOSS.  It was really tremendous.
  • On the whole, I thought the programming made for some fun events to watch.  I'll get into the safety concerns momentarily, but personally, as someone not doing the events, these were really solid for the viewers.  The Soccer Chipper was one of my favorites, and I also thought the Midline Madness (not a great name, in my opinion) was particularly intriguing.  And then Pedal to the Metal 2 was also pretty great, although those deadlifts looked awfully sketchy (maybe that's just the way I think after a couple back injuries).
  • Ben Smith would have won easily using the classic one-point-per-place scoring system (86.5-to-109.5 assuming the points were cut in half for the two sprint events).  Not saying I like that system better (I don't), but it does lend more credibility to Smith's victory.  He deserved it.  The women's top 3 also would not have changed.
  • OK, now for the pegboard.  Everyone has a different opinion here, but my opinion is that at least one element of this should have been changed.   You just cannot have one of the two final events, on national TV, where the majority of the athletes in the final heat (including the eventual champion) cannot complete a single rep.  That just can't happen.  Either: a) have this event earlier in the competition when people were fresher and it wasn't in prime time; b) allow athletes to drop from the top to make it easier to complete a rep; c) put the pegboard at the END of the workout; or d) announce it ahead of time so athletes could practice.  I mean, any of those would have been preferable to what took place on the women's side, right?
  • There have been many people who have criticized the programming of this year's Games for being too dangerous for the athletes (here's a great one).  I've been around this sport long enough to know that no matter what, there will be criticism of the programming.  It does not matter what comes out, there will be pissed-off people.  So I'm cautious to overreact here.  But we should at least take notice when you have former champions like Annie Thorisdottir dropping out due to exhaustion.
  • I wasn't in Carson, and I certainly wasn't competing, so I can't really speak to how the events felt.  But, I can say that looking at the programming as an outsider, I think there wasn't anything exceptional about this year.  By my estimates, the total time competing was around 163 minutes, which is less than 2012 and 2012 (both above 200) but more than last year (about 130).  Things were pretty heavy but not outrageous by Games standards (0.80 LBEL, lower than last year but above the Open-era average of 0.67).  This is fourth year of the past five that there has been a long event early on Friday.  And the weather, at least compared to where I've always lived, was not terrible (high was 85 Friday according to AccuWeather).  I think the big key was simply the Murph event:
    • This event was a much higher-rep workout than the long events of the past, meaning more likelihood for things like Rhabdo.
    • They held the event in the heat of the day, rather than the morning like in the past.  Things are so much more reasonable earlier on, when the Triple-3 was held last year.
    • The weight vest added an extra layer of heat, and obviously, athletes aren't allowed to strip that layer off.
  • Despite the fact that I'm generally not being too critical of the programming, I wish that at least once in my lifetime, CrossFit HQ will show just a touch of humility and compassion, and perhaps consider admitting when they might be wrong (GASP!).  When you see stuff like this Facebook post from Russell Berger, it just makes any level-headed person want to puke.  Insulting your own athletes?  Really?  Do we need to just hand the CrossFit enemies more ammunition?
  • The final thing I'll say, and I've said it for years, is that if we want the Games to be a slug-fest with ultra-long events, then we need to send the athletes who are most capable of doing well.  I'm not surprised that many Games athletes struggled with Murph, considering they don't need to perform well on that type of event to make it to the Games.  Sure, there is a relatively long chipper at the Regionals every year, but nothing like a 45-minute swim/paddle or a 600-rep workout in the heat of the day.  Yes, some of these athletes can handle those events quite well, but many cannot.  So either don't test those elements at the Games, or test them earlier on in the qualifying process.
Well I've already gotten pretty long here, so that will be it for now.  Don't worry, more to come in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

P.S. I did read the whole interview with Emily Abbott that has been so often quoted (a cached version is here), and honestly it's not nearly as bad as some of the quotes that have been cherry-picked out of it.  Take a read and let me know what you think.  I am disappointed it was taken down from the site, though.


  1. Many of us have done Murph when it's hotter. Sure it would have been better in the morning. Not sure why they didn't want to split things up between teams and individuals. If Annie needed 2.5 L of fluids that sounds like piss poor preparation to me, but who knows. Not nearly enough of them had water with them during all of the reps. They had plenty of time in between sets for quick drinks. I was there and it was hot, but I was also surrounded by thousands of people. We WOD in much higher temps here in Michigan.

    The events were great to watch. As a fan I'd prefer to see more quick events because they are so much more exciting. Murph was interesting to watch, but not exciting at all except for a few sprint finishes. Midline Madness was an odd event since the yoke carry didn't seem to bother anyone.

    I've been reading many articles over the last few days and it seems like a ton of people are over reacting. I haven't seen much (in any?) complaining from the athletes.

    1. I don't follow a whole lot of athletes on social media, so I'm not sure of what they're all saying now, but I did see that at least a few have said this years Murph was the hardest workout they've ever done. That surprised me, but I have to take them at their word and assume that something made this event particularly brutal. I've done Murph at 95 degrees, but at least the reps were in the shade of our gym. Doing it all in the sun has to be tough.

      Tyminski also sounded a little disgruntled about the volume in his interview after the final event. I agree some people are overreacting, but I think that for whatever reason, this years event was pretty brutal. I'm with you, more short events is more entertaining anyway (though I think the run-yoke event was a good one on TV, maybe not as much in person.)

    2. It definitely sounds like everything being outside was a game changer. The couple times I've done Murph all of the non running work was done inside (not in AC but at least not in the sun). I bet the pullup bars were blazing hot too. I remember one time the South West regional (mostly Texas at the time) was done outside around San Antonio and all the athletes hands got scorched because the rig and bars and kettlebells were left out in the sun all day.

      HQ will have to find a better way to protect their athletes while still pushing them to the limits. It's something the biggest sport in our country is struggling with as well. How do we make football as exciting and appealing to the fans as possible while still protecting the athletes?

  2. I honestly don't know what to think about a lot of it. I'm by no means a Crossfit expert. I've been doing it for four years, and at least in terms of Beyond The Whiteboard, I am pretty much the definition of average. But I'm also 40, so maybe I have a bit of perspective. Here goes:

    1. The business side of Crossfit is obviously trying to still figure out the balance between the Open/Regionals/Games. They also have the additional pull of the influence of ESPN on the Games. We like to talk like CF Inc. as the great David to a thousand Goliaths, but they ain't NEVER dealt with a goliath like ESPN. They get the major sports to kowtow to their whims. So we know that there were going to be issues with streaming/rights/etc. Other sports struggle with getting their events on live and uninterrupted. CF is going to have the same issues.
    2. I don't think that the Games should become GRID. I think some of the GRID movements/events are insane bordering on flat-out dangerous. That said, so is American football. They're professionals. They have contracts, and they're getting paid. I can't feel sorry for them. Games athletes, in theory, are not. Also, boxes all over the country will program, verbatim, the Games events. They shouldn't, but they do. Because of this, I think that the Games has some responsibility to program in a certain way.
    3. Should Murph have been programmed? Sure. Can you control the weather? No. It was hot, but not dangerous. The athletes are adults. They can decide how hard to go out, whether to stop for water or not, etc. Some made the wrong choice. It was bloody hot in MO the day I did Murph. It might have helped if they would have been able to "partition as needed", but I get that that would have been difficult to follow as a spectator.
    4. The pegboard. Yeah. I understand what they were going for...the "unknown and unknowable" part. But I also understand the difficulty. How do you introduce a new movement to test the best athletes in the world...without asking the best athletes in the world, who you CAN'T ask because they're actually trying to be in the competition? So, they went to the one thing that's worked before: Dave Castro. You saw Castro do the pegboard (I think it's on YT), and I bet he was shocked when the athletes couldn't do it. In hindsight, it should have been at the end because of the difficulty.

    1. Without getting into everything, I totally agree I don't want the Games to become GRID. I think it needs to remain broad in its reach. But I think it doesn't necessarily have to be a beatdown every year. Sure, go long in an event or two, but the majority of the events can be under 12 minutes for the top athletes. The point is to find the fittest, which to me doesn't really have to be the same as the athletes who can endure the most volume in a short span.

      I also find some of the longer events, such as the swimming events, to be kind of boring. I'm not saying we shouldn't test swimming, but how about going short on the swim every now and again?

  3. "Tyminski also sounded a little disgruntled about the volume in his interview after the final event" <-- do you have a link to this?

    1. Doesn't look like HQ has put the videos on YouTube (at least they are unavailable in the US), but it was after heat 1 or 2 of the final events. He did well or maybe won the second part of the workout, and he was interviewed after. I don't remember it being really inflammatory, but I remember thinking he sounded kind of pissed (something like "I don't know, this seems like a lot of volume to me"). Just what I recall.

      Anyone else recall?

    2. I found it again on espn3. It was like I remembered. He said something like "after yesterday I was just trying to survive" and then said something about how the volume really seemed like a lot to him.

  4. As for the pegboard, I think my feeling was like many others. I'd have liked that test earlier in the weekend and it would have been better if the athletes were given at least a little bit of practice on it. On the final day, in the final event though, it was a buzz kill. Leave the final event as something classic Crossfit so we can see the best be at their best. The final events from 2012-2014 were all, at least in my opinion, great tests for the athletes but also really exciting to watch. I think if you replace the pegboard with just about anything else and it's an another awesome event.

    Also, first year since when with no ring muscle ups??? Looking back at the events overall, this seems like a less techincal Games programming that previous years. A grand total of 31 bar muscle ups, 12 hand stand pushups, no C2B or double unders. But it seems like there was more "grunt" type work with the sand bag event, pig flip and yoke (although that event was more about the running). Last year for example though there were 45 ring muscle ups, 12 bar muscle ups, 34 hand stand pushups, 15 C2B and 300 double unders.