2016 CrossFit Open Recap – Feel vs. Numbers

The CrossFit Open officially began in 2011 with about 13,400 men competing across the world. This year (2016) saw almost that many men (12,000) compete just in the Mid-Atlantic region – wild! I went back through old workout logs and the Games site to find my results from each workout and Open and this is what I came up with:

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Some of the regional and world ranks are missing for specific workouts because the Open site would refresh with new results, so if I didn’t grab that info right away, it was lost in the shuffle. Looking at the overall world rankings though (highlighted in yellow) actually surprised me. I went into this year without having done much training as in the past (e.g. in past years I’ve followed Outlaw/Smolov/Invictus or at least had been consistently training) whereas this year I’ve been very inconsistent mostly due to traveling for work and having an 8 month old. This is by no means complaining (seriously!) – those who know me know I love having a little human to dress up in ridiculous outfits, I’m just stating a major difference in lifestyle compared to past years.

So this is why it was really surprising to see my overall percentages drop for overall rankings. By the end of 2011, I was just around 30% compared to men around the world, then 13.88% in 2012, 27% in 2014, 12.88% in 2015, and 7.88% this year. As many of you know, 2012 was my year of ripping my shoulder of its socket so I took the 2013 Open season off. (It took about a year to get back my pull-ups, handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, etc. so I only had about 6 months of “normal” training leading up to the 2014 Open.) If I had to go simply by how I felt about my strength and conditioning, I would have expected this year to actually be the worst out of all of them. I suspect that in 2011, most of the people doing the Open were fairly seasoned CrossFitters. As Reebok took over as a major sponsor and CrossFit has exploded in popularity, we’ve seen a broader spectrum of athletes participate. I don’t have any data to back this up, so this is merely conjecture. I suppose that you can relate this to why we track workout data – even though you might “feel” tired and lethargic, your weight or time for a workout might say the opposite.

In terms of this year’s workouts, here were my experiences:

16.1 – OH lunges, burpees over bar and chest-to-bar pull-ups – I did this one the night it was announced and only did it once that week. I felt TERRIBLE during the workout, most likely because of an ice cream binge the night before + all-you-can-eat sushi that afternoon. I probably should have repeated it and taken steps in stride rather than the “wedding” style that I did. Pull-ups felt great, burpees felt awful.

16.2 – Toes-to-bar, du’s, and ascending cleans – I did this one the night it was announced and was 7 reps short of getting through the 185# bar. I felt ok on this one, but needed to do it again because we didn’t realize what the tie break was. I managed to squeak through the 185 bar, but then was gasping for air through the next round. With about 30 seconds left, I attempted the 225# bar, but couldn’t catch it right. This actually impacted me later for 16.5, as I probably hyperextended my wrist and didn’t realize it at the time.

16.3 – Light snatches and bar muscle-ups – if there was a workout for me, it was going to be this one as I’m a big fan of bar muscle-ups, especially compared to the ring version. I paced the first attempt way too much, so the second attempt I just went all out. Form was atrocious on snatches – they were essentially stiff legged muscle snatches, but it got me ranked 4.11% in the world for that workout.

16.4 – Chipper of 55’s: Deadlifts, wall balls, rowing, and HSPUs – I cranked out 25 or so deadlifts to start and felt like I could have done 40, but forced myself to stop. Looking back, I probably should have actually done a huge set, instead of pacing it because I needed all the time on the wall balls and rowing. I had not been working HSPUs as much as I would have liked, so the 22 HSPUs I got reflected my current ability. I tried it again, but everything was slower.

16.5 – Thrusters and burpees for time – As I said in 16.2, my wrist was jacked up, so holding the bar for this was tough. I had to be really stiff and hold it off my clavicle – not ideal.  I also only did this once and waited for Monday afternoon to do it. Even if my wrist was healthy, I probably would not have matched my time from 2014 as I felt my legs and lungs were also holding me back.

I was surprised there were not overhead squats nor opportunities for full snatches in 2016. I suppose since these are my goats, I expected to see at least one of them. I was also surprised that we didn’t see box jumps for the second year in a row. Does this mean we might not see them ever again? Maybe. There are a few movements I don’t think we’ll ever see in the Open: hand release push-ups (11.2 was a disaster even with that “standard”), KB swings (just look up “AJ Moore” to see why), rope climbs (too many boxes in retail space with low ceilings), and long distance running (I could see shuttle sprints similar to how we did overhead lunges this year). Box jumps are relatively easy to judge and count, so I do expect that we’ll see them in the future. Perhaps in the form of burpee box jumps to make it even more objective?

Overall I thought the programming was excellent compared to past years. The scaled options made sense (unlike last year), the movements were varied and interesting, and the formats of the workouts were smart. The only complaint I heard from people was that there were not many opportunities for strength – we saw it in the clean ladder, but it was proceeded by toes-to-bar and double unders. I would argue that the stronger athletes prevailed even with the lighter weights, but that goes back to the old “cream will rise to the top” saying.

The best thing about the Open for me was seeing members push themselves to do things they never would do in the daily WOD. These feats ranged from getting more double unders than ever, getting their first bar muscle-up or chest-to-bar pull-up, and even doing the Open in the first place when in past years they didn’t sign up or participate! The 0.022% of individuals that make it to the Games are really exciting to watch, but the other 99.98% of the athletes can make for the coolest stories and really, that’s what the Open is about for me.