There were numerous different directions I could have gone with this follow-up post; anywhere from the never ending shopping, to sharing a house with 16 other people, to the shenanigans that took place throughout the lengthy weekend, but I am choosing to stick with the CrossFit Games experience itself. After all, this sport is the reason behind this blog post and is what bonds so many of us together.
To pick up where I left off, with a few physical and mental bumps and bruises, we were all now in the safety of the soccer stadium with tennis stadium tickets in hand. We were free to roam about Vendor Village and shop, purchase something to eat or just hang out and watch the teams and individuals compete for the title of “World’s Fittest Athlete.” It would prove to be an extremely long, exceptionally scorching, three days. Given that seating in the soccer stadium was up for grabs, we easily could have chosen to sit in the shade, provided that we didn’t want to be able to see anything up close and personal. I did not travel all this way to sit and look at a big screen across the field. I could have done that at home. No, my objective was to be so close that I could see every outline of muscle, on every bicep, of every athlete. I wanted to feel like a part of the action and cheer so wildly that I was bound to end up on television. Besides, what kind of fan would I be if I were sitting in the shadows while the athletes were roasting in the sun? The answer is an intelligent one, but that is beside the point.
*Hover over pictures for commentary
There were so many events, both team and individual, that caught my eye, but none that stood out more than “Murph.” To bring non-CrossFitters up to speed, Murph is a WOD (Workout Of The Day) that consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another 1-mile run, all while wearing a weighted vest; 20 lbs. for men and 14 lbs. for women. This WOD stood out for me because, as someone who has participated in it once before, I know how grueling it can be. Factor in some circumstances that I did not have to worry about, and it just made me realize how truly special these athletes are.
With that being said, let’s do a little comparison between the athletes and myself (because why WOULDN’T we make that comparison?) I completed Murph this past Memorial Day in 66 minutes and 23 seconds. That’s over an hour of what I deemed to be nothing short of voluntary torture! I chose to attend the class with a 6am start time because why the hell would I, in my right mind, want to run in the middle of the day in ARIZONA? I opted not to wear a 14 lb. vest because I felt that my 22 lb. midsection more than made up for it. I completed my pull-ups, push-ups and squats in air conditioning and it’s only fair to note that my pull-ups were scaled down to the jumping version as I had not mastered any other way at this point. I ran the second mile approximately 40 minutes later and felt like I had every menopausal woman from the south side of Phoenix on my back. It was blistering hot, my hair product had melted and was dripping into my eyes so I couldn’t see shit, and I had my underwear wedged so far up my ass I was spitting it back out my mouth. I vaguely remember the end of the run, turning the corner to enter the gym, and immediately after looking up at the clock, my legs instantly gave way. I collapsed and couldn’t stand up for a good five minutes. It took me about 4 days to recover.
Now let’s take a quick peek at the winner of the women’s Murph event, Samantha Briggs, and the men’s winner, Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson. Samantha finished in just over 39 minutes and Björgvin finished in 38 minutes and 36 seconds. Their entire event took place in the glaring hot sun, their only option was to wear the weighted vest, they had to complete actual pull-ups, and they not only finished first in their respective divisions, but they then had to rehydrate and recover in time to complete another event mere hours later. To say I felt inadequate is a severe understatement.
I am not making the comparison between them and myself just to show our very slight differences. I am really doing it to show how badass these athletes are to their very core. Every single one of them is astonishing to witness and it was quite humbling to say the least. Factor in some concerns that many of us as spectators had, and it became even more amazing.
I read an article by Dr. Adam Schulte, who volunteered as a sports medicine physician on the EMS/Medical team for the CrossFit Games, which stated that their staff recorded infrared surface temperature readings in the range of 120 -150 degrees in the soccer and tennis stadiums. I honestly don’t know how these athletes endured in these conditions.
I understand that they are the best of the best, and, in order to be crowned the “Fittest on Earth”, they need to prove it no matter what event/workout they are asked to perform. I comprehend it; I truly do. I also know that it is the responsibility of each individual competitor to determine whether or not they can continue. They alone are the authority on their own health and when to determine that their body has had enough. I do, however, also feel that CrossFit Headquarters could have done more to protect these athletes.
Despite these hellish temps, I did not witness one instance in which the pull-up rig was shielded from the direct sunlight. I would imagine that would feel like putting your hands in a fire pit, pulling out a hot poker, and using that as a substitute for an actual bar. Athletes were shredding the skin from their palms to complete rawness and were bleeding all over themselves. (How they competed later in events that consisted of rope climbs and handstand walks, is beyond my comprehension.) Other competitors passed out from heat exhaustion and were carted off on stretchers. It was very disheartening to observe, and proved to be the lone damper on the Games.
I don’t need to be crowned the “Fittest On Anything” to attest to the blistering heat. I burnt the bottom of my lip to the point of swelling just from cheering, for Christ sake! There came a point in time where, had it not been for my vibrant colors, I would have been interrogated by the FBI because I looked like an ISSIS member! Don’t believe me? Check out the photo below. The struggle to stay pale and hydrated was real! By the time I got to the tennis stadium, I had to stand near my seat for a good 15 minutes while my bag did all the sitting in an effort to avoid 3rd degree burns. Granted, this was a nice vacation from sitting on my ass all day, but can you imagine competing in this brutal inferno?
Since I am clearly the powerhouse behind such decisions, I’d request to CrossFit HQ that events, such as Murph, start earlier in the morning while there is still some shade to be had. I’d also recommend that a tarp be thrown over the pull-up bars to keep them covered until it’s time for the event to start. I appreciate the fact that every single one of these individuals appears to be super human, but the fact remains, they are not. In my opinion, a little help goes a long way.
The Main Event
Tennis stadium seating was incredible! The mad dash for tickets was beyond worth it and I would watch Chris fall a second time if it meant the same seating for next year (true friendship right there.) The atmosphere was amazing and we were seated so close that you could actually see the facial expressions and beads of sweat pouring off the athletes’ faces. Depending on who you were and how loud you shouted (not mentioning any names), the competitors could actually hear you and give a wave (or a “SHUT THE EFF UP” look) in your direction.
It was fascinating to witness Annie perform up close and personal but, alas, Thor never showed his face. I did, however, have the opportunity to witness other “daughters” in action and each one was more badass then the next. Iceland has some pretty hardcore athletes! There was Sara Sigmundsdottir, and, spoiler alert, the “2015 Fittest Woman on Earth”, Katrin Davidsdottir. It took some time but I finally caught onto the theme.
Let me remind you, in case you've forgotten. In Iceland, female’s last names are a combination of their father’s first name and “dottir” (“daughter”). This is similar for a male; father’s first name coupled with “son”. I was so proud of myself for learning this, that, when I found myself seated a row behind Sigmundsdottir’s family; I joined in with the chant for Sara. The only caution: there was a heavy accent which I could not mimic so mine came out as “Some One’s Daugh Ter….Some One’s Daugh Ter….Some One’s Daugh Ter” and so on and so forth.
When I wasn’t chanting in an Icelandic accent, I found myself so in awe of all these inspirational athletes that I began daydreaming of what it would be like to be out there as one of them. I could hear my name being called as if it were over a loudspeaker and not only in my head. “From Cave Creek, Arizona, Tiffany Billsdottir in lane 3….” That immediately sounded like crap, and, even with the legal name Willamsdottir, I wasn’t inspired. I reversed imaginary course and heard “From Podunk Town, Arizona, Tiffany Leblue –Vazinet…” which, for those who are in the know, is a take on my favorite athlete, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet.
It was at this point that the reasons behind my not being a professional CrossFitter became very apparent. It has nothing to do with my obsession with donuts and a 2-day on/5-day off workout schedule, and everything to do with a shitty name. My fate was written in the stars on the day of my birth. Thanks, Pop.
Why I Love CrossFit!
I know I spend much of my time blogging about how dreadful of an athlete I am and how CrossFit kicks me in the face on a daily basis, and, while a good majority of that is true, it needs to be said that I absolutely LOVE this sport and the community that makes it so special. Being an eyewitness at the Games just drove this point even deeper into my core. Aside from being virtually on top of my favorite athletes in the tennis stadium, my favorite part of the Games, hands down, wasn’t just watching these amazing people compete, but, at the same time, truly wanting their competition to succeed. It gives me chills just thinking about it again.
For instance, my girl Camille had a rough day that first Friday of competition. She finished towards the bottom of the heap in Murph and, in the “Snatch Speed Ladder”, an event that she was expected to dominate (in my mind anyway), she was “no-rep'd” about 3-4 times which ended up moving her in the wrong direction on the leader board. Unfortunately, she never seemed to bounce back all the way.
There she was, crying at the finish, and yet surrounded by her competition all doing their best to console her. This didn’t just happen with Camille, however. This was across the board, including the team events. It did not matter who completed their event first; they didn’t leave the stadium until each competitor was done. They didn’t just stand there and golf clap either. They ran over, gathered around the struggling athlete, and enthusiastically cheered them on.
I compare it to my 2007 marathon experience. Every time I wanted to walk or just give up, I would round a corner and there was always a crowd of people who held that belief in me that I momentarily lost in myself. This was no different and, as a fan, was even cooler because you got to share in that excitement. Half of these athletes I had never heard of but I screamed at the top of my lungs in hopes that any bit of encouragement would help.
With CrossFit one’s limits are tested and comfort zones are non-existent. Just when you feel like you want to cry, give-up and go home, never to return again, someone comes along and encourages you. They see your potential and your greatness and they find a way to pull it out of you. Being last, more often than not, receives the loudest cheers and comes with the knowledge that, some day, if you buy into the hype of your own awesomeness that everything keeps espousing, you will have an opportunity to afford someone else to witness their greatness through your eyes.
At about this time last year I was watching the Reebok CrossFit Games from my couch and had absolutely no clue what I was observing. I had given up on yet another gym membership, this one at a Muay Thai club. Call me crazy, but I was not appreciating getting kicked in the head by Rhonda Rousey wannabes. As I was flipping through the stations, I happened upon some very fine, very fit, ladies doing handstand push-ups on ESPN. As a fan of beautiful women, naturally I presented my girlfriend, Pam, with a reasonable explanation as to why we should not, under any circumstances, change the channel.
I did not understand the concept of CrossFit, and, truth be told, I wasn’t interested in learning. My focus at that time was on two things exclusively.
1. Sexy females wearing booty shorts.
2. Annie (Thor’s Daughter)
While I am not proud, I must admit that what drew me to the sport was no different than what captures the attention of every lesbian, and straight teenage, middle-aged, and old-aged man. A splendid ass and 6-pack abs. These ladies were ripped and gorgeous and I simply could not stop noticing every squat, lunge, lift, and rope climb.
Then there was Annie. She was a force of nature and the broadcaster seemed fixated on referring to her as “Thor’s Daughter.” I remember getting enraged on her behalf and my inner women’s right’s activist began questioning “Why is Thor so important? Was he a founder of the sport? Can’t he just let his daughter have her moment?” I thought for sure that ESPN would at least pan the camera to Thor so I could witness the hype, but that moment never occurred. Why, you ask? Because “Thor’s Daughter” was actually Annie Thorisdottir (pronounced, Thors-Dot-Er). It was her LAST NAME! (My vodka-induced confession to this humdinger was made to some of my fellow athletes two weekends ago, after I grasped that there were even more “daughters” out there.)
On August 6, 2014, one month after my La-Z-Boy introduction to this extreme sport, I waltzed into WildFire CrossFit, fainted in the deep end of the Kool-aide pool, and have yet to recover. As a matter of fact, I plummeted so deep into this “cult” that I purchased tickets to attend this years Games.
There were seventeen of us who committed to making the trek out to Carson, California and the buildup surrounding it was the real deal! A few friends and I spent countless late nights text messaging and tagging each other in Instagram posts every time one of our favorite female athletes added a new, enticing photo of themselves wearing just a sports bra. I was scouring the Reebok and Rouge websites for new tank tops, t-shirts, boy shorts and headbands. Work took a backseat to ESPN-3, which was live-streaming the Games across the Internet, and my sweet “Pam-Cakes” was doing her best to encourage conversation about anything unrelated to this damn sport. One night she went so far as to ask me about baking. I don’t know what a muffin tin looks like let alone how to use one! “Sorry my love, but unless you’re about to either hand me a cookie, or show me an unseen photo of Brooke Ence eating a cupcake, this conversation doesn’t stand a chance.” I was in the proverbial zone.
The morning of the road trip had finally arrived and I was out the door at 4am to pick up my CrossFit friend, and fellow junkie, Bri. We were delusional in our thinking that we absolutely NEEDED to get to Carson right away for the start of Friday mornings activities. With the I-10 being partially closed due to a bridge collapse at the Arizona border, we absolutely had to be on our way as soon as the first cup of coffee hit our systems. Siri now estimated a five-hour drive as closer to eight hours. We were cutting it close.
We were making impressive time until we arrived at the detour. That was the point when, if given a choice to do over, I would have encouraged my dear friend to use the bathroom at an earlier rest stop and I would have looked closer at the gas gauge. There we were, cruising along with the top down, the wind whipping through our hair, belting out songs and majestic dance moves to Sirius Radio’s “80s on 8”, when I noticed that my gas tank registered at under a 1/4 and there was not a single hint of life for as far as the eye could see. It was us, the car, the music, the desert and a road in serious need of paving. Despite my visions of running out of fuel, being stranded and raped in the back desert and left for coyote chow, I opted to smile and make small talk about the Joshua Trees, the lukewarm 100 degree day, and, every now and again, a nonchalant inquiry as to when we might expect to find ourselves within a one mile radius of a gas station that offers diesel.
To add to my already building stress, Bri decided that she needed to stop and use the facilities. I pulled off the road into the only rest area available. My immediate thought was that this was not a “rest” area so much as a “rape” area. Perhaps my thoughts came from the man in the filthy cut-off t-shirt and jean shorts, who was sitting on the roof of his car, and glaring at us through the haze of his cigarette smoke. I made sure I gave him the look that said “I CrossFit bitch, step-off!” (It’s a real look.) We ushered as fast as we could into the stalls, handled our business, and, as I was about to stand-up, I heard Bri say “Oh my God! Don’t look down!” Naturally, I looked down to find that the restrooms were infested with tiny, black bugs. They were everywhere! On the walls, on the floor, on the toilet paper holder, and, come to find out, in the sink and on the faucet handle. I screamed like a schoolgirl at a New Kids On The Block concert, opted not to wash my hands, RAN out and proceeded to do a swift, Irish jig to rid myself of each insect that just assaulted every fiber of my being. I’m was quite certain that my “I CrossFit bitch, step-off” face just morphed into a look of “Take me, I’m yours.” (Also a very real look.)
Convertible top up, doors locked, we were now in the safety of the vehicle and on our way out of the depths of hell. All we needed to do before we could call our trip to the Anaheim/Carson area a success, was to fill up at an Exxon station, grab a Subway sandwich, and turn down a hitchhiker’s creepy, albeit generous, offer to make out in exchange for a ride.
It’s about to get real!
I was a CrossFit Games virgin so I decided to go with the flow and heed the guidance of the veterans. The main piece of advice that was shared was how critical it was to be out the door at 5:45am to make the 30-minute trek to the soccer stadium in order to ensure that we were first in line when the doors opened at 8:00. Those that experienced the 2014 Games did their best to explain the madness that was “Operation TST” (Tennis Stadium Tickets), but to grasp the true severity, the rookie in me would need to live through it myself. Factor in seventeen different personalities and athletic abilities, all of who were sleep deprived and severely under caffeinated, and it became a true spectacle.
Seating for the main events in the tennis stadium was on a first come, first served, basis and you needed everyone in your party present and accounted for. I called bullshit due to the sheer fact that not even ¾ of our party made it to the ticket table in a timely fashion, yet we all managed to sit together later that evening. I think the vendors, who needed to be there even earlier then we did, paid off people at the top of the food chain to watch us spectators make asses of ourselves for their morning entertainment. We didn’t disappoint.
The fans anxiously stood behind the green, iron gate with one eye on their watches and the other eye on the security team who was in charge of entry. A few times the test buzzer was sounded and we were like a pack of wild animals. We didn’t know whether to drop and do a burpee, run head first into the divider, or chug our coffee for time. When a Crossfitter hears “3..2..1..Beeeeeeeep” it’s game on! Much like the merchants, the security team was in on the fun at our expense.
When the real bell sounded and the gates finally opened it became the finest shit show I have ever seen; a psychotic blend of the “Running of the Bulls” and Pavlov’s dogs in Nano sneakers. People were pushing, elbowing, and hurdling over the fallen. I almost got run over by an ATV hauling water and the lady next to me was crying into the phone telling her husband she loved him. I don’t think she expected to make it out alive. Most of the vendors we ran by were cheering and laughing, although there were a few who dove for cover in their tents and recited a few “Hail Mary’s.” I felt the desire stop and explain what was behind this debacle; however, I knew that any pause on my part would make me look weak. It was kill or be killed. I kept on.
What felt like 20 minutes and 500 meters later, I made it to my destination and was reunited with my team. Chris, our endurance coach, had his iPhone bent around his kneecap and was bleeding down his calf. Everyone else was doubled over gasping for air, sweaty and annoyed. Mission accomplished though. Seventeen seats together. “This insanity better be worth it”, I thought.
To be continued.....