2014 CrossFit Games Recap

Drop and give me 20!


No?  OK then.  Here’s a little news with your coffee instead.


Some folks divide their year up into everything that happens before Christmas and everything that happens after.  Guess what event serves to mark the new year for CrossFitters?  You got it.  The CrossFit Games.  This year’s Games were the best ever.  In my category, Masters 60+, the field was the strongest yet, and the volunteers and staff took great care of us.  Every year since my first Games in 2008 they’ve gotten bigger and better.  Rather than suffer from rapid growth, Greg Glassman and Dave Castro have risen to the challenge and made the events better organized and more imaginative.  Of course, a zillion dollar cash infusion from Reebok didn’t hurt either, but it speaks volumes that HQ has responded to exponential growth by getting ever more organized and efficient.  Like a good burpee.


This was my fourth year at the Games.  Not my best in terms of placement (8th going in, 17th coming out), but possibly the best of all in terms of difficulty in qualifying, with over 600 athletes in my category at the start of the Open.  To put that in perspective, in 2008 there was a total of 300 athletes, men and women.  The few geezers in attendance  were all struggling to dead lift the event weight of 275 lbs. in the warmup tent, commiserating on the travails of aging and wondering when a Masters event would appear.  We didn’t have to wait long; by 2010 we had a 50+ Masters group.  By 2011 we had five year age groups over 50, and finally today’s grouping of 40+ in five year increments. 


As for the dead lift, I’ve since added 70 lbs. to my max, and one guy ran the table this year on the dead lift ladder, maxing out at 475.  That’s one tough old bird.  Who saw that coming in 2008? 


So the synergy between CrossFit and the “Community” continues apace.  Some have their grievances, as humans always will, but for me CrossFit has been the greatest thing to happen since the invention of Adamantium.   At 60 I’m a little slower, but stronger, more mobile and more versatile than I ever thought possible.  The vision I had for my life in my 20’s has been borne out.  If you have a vision of continuing to improve into your dotage rather than deteriorate, then you’ve come to the right place. 


Games season always changes my perspective and gets me charged up to rush back to the box and start shaking things up.  Over the next few weeks, you’ll see some changes in training protocols, especially for advanced athletes.  I don’t want to give too much away, as I’m still processing a lot of new information.  Just be ready for the “unknown and the unknowable.”  The blogosphere always gets humming once the results are in, so let the Monday morning quarterbacking begin.  From this quarter, some observations:


1.      If you’ve heard me say “Tricks are conditioning disguised as fun,” get ready to get tricky.  Some geezers got caught with their handstand walking down last week, and that’s not happening to us.

2.     Whoever’s going on Facebook groaning about being tired of Rich Froning had better be able to beat him.  Put up or shut up.  Going 4 and 0 is no mean feat, so until you can beat it, I invite you to, as my ol’ granpappy used to say, “suck eggs.”

3.     Training = work + rest.  Let’s not get all crazy and try to cram six months’ training into six weeks.  These things take time.

4.     If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not trying hard enough.  CrossFit keeps getting better.  We’re constantly putting in greater levels of due diligence to address concerns about safety and quality of coaching.  Of course there are critics.  If you’re getting flack from your pals and family about the cult you’ve joined, invite them for a workout.  First one’s free; no charge for robes and candles.

5.     Always wear gloves when doing burpees on hot rubber mats. 

6.     Run more.

7.     Lift more.

8.     Help the new guys.

9.     Don’t worry if you’re the new guy.  We’re here to help!


Major shout out to our farm team!  If you came to class last week, you might have been coached by Jimmy, Jen, Joe, Pat, Eric or Scott.  We have a great team at PCF.  One thing I never worried about while worrying about the next event was our level of coaching, because I knew I’d left you guys in good hands.


Beach Party!   Mrs. Coach and I are thinking about a trip to Leo Carillo on Sunday the 3rd. Who’s in?  It’ll be an ultimate Frisbee kind of day, not a kettlebell-lunge-on-the-beach kind of day.


Our official mission is “Forging Elite Fitness,” but my version has always been “Elite Fitness for Everyone.”  In other words, not just the elite.  If you’re destined for the Games, you’ll get there with or without me, and more power to ya.  But if you’re the guy who always got picked last, who never made Varsity or never did a pullup, I’m for you.  If you’re looking to lose the last 20 or 80 pounds of baby weight or hike the Grand Canyon, I’m for you.  Together we can do this.


Now get in here and get busy – vacation’s over!


Yours in wholesome living,







Greetings Warriors!


If this one goes a little far afield, blame the late David Foster Wallace.  I’ve belatedly fallen under his spell, and must remind myself that reading the masters doesn’t mean you should try to imitate them, any more than reading up on Rich Froning’s program in Box Magazine should incite you to jump yours up to 3 WODs per night (you know who you are!).


That said, I’ll try to pull some disparate threads together with as few parentheticals as possible.


Department of New Stuff Department:  the PCF Mud Runners (pictured on the left) hit the ground running in their maiden voyage, fielding 17 strong to represent at the Merrell Down and Dirty on April 13th.  It was not only Rodney’s first mud run, but his FIRST 5 K EVER!  Mary showed up with her extended family and Pedro hosted the post-race festivities in his notorious Fiestamobile.  Coach came in 3rd in the 60+ geezer division and a pleasant time was had by all.  Congrats to our team!  Next on the list:  maybe the Spartan Race in September?  Games Fever should have subsided by then and we’ll all be looking for a fun challenge, so maybe that’ll be the next one.


Speaking of the CrossFit Games, the latest dispatch from Geezerlandia is that Coach (that’s me – haven’t figured out a graceful exit from the third person yet) has qualified in 8th place for this year’s event. 


How was that, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell ya….speaking from a purely technical standpoint, it was a bitch.  This was the Year of the Video, and I’m sad to say that a couple of my competitors were DQ’d from the top 20 and their Games berths due to HQ’s review of their videos.  It was deemed that standards were not met, and that was that.  Needless to say, the Masters Facebook page was humming like a hive full of Africanized bees on crack after that bomb dropped.  Both guys accepted their fate gracefully and took responsibility for their performance.  These are athletes who wouldn’t knowingly do a bad rep for a million bucks, yet one of them was judged not to have done a single overhead squat below parallel in his video. 


How could this be?  How could a guy who qualifies for the Games every year, who teaches the movements to athletes every day, fail to meet movement standards himself?  Why did it take to advent of video judging to bring this to light?  Were standards so lax among his peers that no one noticed? 


I don’t think so.  It was much simpler than that.  His team let him down. 


I’m very proud of our team at PCF.  Jimmy and Jen, Eric, Scott, Joe, Pat, Jenn and Mrs. Coach set an example every day for how a CrossFitter rolls.  I know I can count on them not only to set the standard for how movements are done and to hold our athletes to that standard, but to help keep me accountable as well.  When this year’s torturous Open season began – five weekly events plus four more in as many days to qualify for the Games – I told them not to let a single bad rep pass.  True to form, all my coaches who certified as judges held me accountable for every rep.  Because my team did what a team should do – no-reps instead of “bro-reps” – my video passed where others did not.  It was a single crucial video that DQ’d my competition, but because I got a “no-rep” on one of the movements in the same video and repeated it successfully, I emerged from the gauntlet unscathed.  Not because I was great, but because my team is great. 


I don’t want to get all worked up to an Oscar speech here, but it’s really true that none of us succeeds on our own.  We all need a team to get there.  PCF is that kind of team, and I’m very grateful that all of you are my team mates.


So what’s all this got to do with “legs”?  I’m getting to that.  Obviously, CrossFitters use their legs a lot.  Many do their first squats during their first WOD.  At least, their first correct ones.  Today I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the consequences of neglecting the most basic movement our bodies are programmed for.


“The legs are your second heart.” 

-         some Chinese guy


Today at the USC medical center I watched another great team save a life.  A team of doctors performed a surgical procedure they, for all intents and purposes, invented.  The beneficiary was a family member.  The procedure repaired a botched version of a previous surgery and, if rehab goes well, extended a life that is important to my family.  This despite a lifetime of, let’s say, poor health choices and neglected maintenance on the part of the dearly loved but occasionally stubborn patient. 


If you ever want an opportunity to feel gratitude for your health and fitness, spend some time in a hospital.  Especially the intensive care unit.  Everywhere I looked today I saw the consequences of obesity, smoking, lethargy and the immobility that results from these habits and conditions.  In the ICU in particular, patients are hooked up to enough pumps and computers to put a man on the moon.  Some had more fluids on the outside than the inside.  The common denominator in most of these problems is lack of mobility, either voluntary or otherwise.


We are all two-legged pumps.  Our bodies pump fluids, solids and gases at an alarming rate, and when that flow is impeded the consequences are grim.  The heart, as we all know, is the most important pump, but what drives the heart?


Legs.  Your second heart.  When your legs move, your heart jumps to keep up.  Muscles have to be oxygenated to work, and the legs are where the big muscles live.  Blood carries oxygen and the heart moves the blood.  Those of you who’ve been training for a while have noticed your resting heart rate dropping along with your blood pressure.  If you’re on meds for diabetes or blood pressure, you’re relying less on them.  One of our senior members whose identity I’ll protect except to say that his name is Stan and he’s awesome is dropping meds off his list faster than, I dunno, something that drops fast. 


The legs drive the pump.  The heavy metcons we do, powered by our legs, drive it all – heart, lungs, guts, the works.  When you work your core, it stimulates peristalsis which moves solids through your system.  In the ICU the pumps are on the outside, driven by electricity and desperation.  In our world, we are the pumps.  We drive ourselves.


Every time I see a walker, cane, wheelchair, rascal scooter or other contraption holding up a human who was born to run, jump, squat, kick and dance on his own it kills me.  In many cases, all it would have taken to keep these folks independent was a little daily maintenance.  Our Core program and a few squats would have done nicely to save many of these folks from a lifetime of dependence on the external pumps and other gadgets they rely on.


You may have already checked out the T-nation article I posted on the PCF Facebook page.  It’s a concise defense of our squatting technique and I encourage you to give it a look and redouble your efforts to perfect the most important movement in your game. 


I’m glad my team is there to back me up and keep me accountable.  We’re going to keep our standards high, and I invite all of you, members or not, to make that commitment with us.  There will be many challenges and a lot of fun this year, and I can’t wait until the next big one in July.









It's 2014!

Greetings Warriors!


First off, in this, my first missive of 2014, let me take this opportunity to thank all of you, past, present and future PCF-ers, for living this dream with me.  It’s a privilege to be your coach and help you achieve your dreams.  Our second year indoors is going to be our best year ever.


And now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

puffercat.jpg - 85.44 kbThe 2014 CrossFit Open Competition is upon us and I, for one, am really looking forward to the coming Games season.  Why?  Because I love feeling like THIS GUY, that’s why. 

This was after “Deadlift/Burpees” at the 2008 Games.  I won’t bore you with the details again (yes, I know I’m starting to repeat myself), just suffice it to say that since 2008 I’ve cut over 4 minutes off my time for this one.  At the time, though, it was a real stretch to pull my one-rep max minus 10lbs for 25 reps.  I got away with it and lived to tell the tale, but we’re not always so lucky in competition.  The reason competition is good for us is that it hones the edge we all need to, as we say, “not suck at life.”  The best way to sharpen that edge is to rub it against something just as hard, and that’s a particular specialty of ours.  Still, in the heat of battle we occasionally break the thing we’re building and incur periods of rest/rehab.  This is part of the life of an athlete.  We don’t begrudge it; we anticipate it, do what we can to prevent it and develop all the techniques we can to deal with it when it comes. 


All of which has become a hot current topic among CrossFitters and our critics.  Is CrossFit dangerous?    Lately it’s become fashionable for some of the older dogs to blog, rant and rave about how we’re losing it as a system, becoming watered down due to rapid growth, the ease of getting certified/affiliated, the relative inexperience of some coaches, etc. etc.  Fit pimps of all stripes ( you like that one?  You heard it here first:  “Fit Pimps”.  When it pops up in “Muscle and Fiction” I expect attribution), seeking a wider audience and recognition as the authority of record, have created a new sub-culture of critics whose mission it is to inform us all of the dangers of not being as smart as they are. 


I love informed, constructive criticism.  Many in our community have contributed to the ongoing dialogue we all need to keep our standards high.  I continue to benefit from these discussions, and constantly use them to re-evaluate and improve my training and coaching.  Still, things get crazy around this time every year when Games hysteria reaches fever pitch and athletes and coaches alike start to push the envelope in hopes of snagging a Games berth.  As Coach Glassman famously said, “Men will die for points.”  Nothing could be more true. 


I’ve lost count of the guys I’ve benched in the middle of a WOD because fatigue had destroyed their technique to the point I couldn’t trust them with a barbell.  One of my nagging – I mean coaching – points has always been “Fatigue destroys technique.  It also enforces technique.”  Meaning, you can’t finish a WOD safely with bad technique.  When fatigue takes its’ toll, either fix it and continue, scale, or modify.  Don’t try to finish Diane with a round back just so you can say you Rx’d it. 


Maybe it’s the good judgment that grows out of the consequences of bad judgment, but starting CrossFit at age 54 was an exercise in scaling and modifying from Day 1.  It was months before I could Rx Fran, and years – the finals of the 2010 Games – before I broke 6 minutes.  Was it competition that fueled that PR?  You bet.  Did I get hurt?  Nope.  Because I trained for years to get to that Games final.  Along the way I over-used and rehabbed both shoulders, figured out double unders and kipping pullups, got my puny dead lift max out of the basement, and pushed the envelope every day because I was willing to die for points. 


Should you be willing to die for points?  That depends.  They say that great minds are capable of holding two contradictory thoughts in their heads at once.  Prepare to cultivate a great mind.


It’s been pointed out by the blogeratti that the vast majority of CrossFitters should never swing a kettle bell overhead or do high volume barbell WODs.  I don’t necessarily agree.  I think if you can learn to do any extreme version of a movement safely and are willing to take the time to build the necessary strength and technique, then go for it.  You don’t have to die for points, but you do have to prepare.  Those who insist it must be one way or the other, that only competitors have any business doing risky movements, high volume, heavy weight or otherwise pushing the envelope have, in my opinion, lost the spirit of this thing of ours. 


We prepare for the “unknown and the unknowable.”  Prepare.  Not go off half-assed.  Not try to do “Randy” (75 power snatches at 75lbs) the day you learn to snatch a barbell.  Prepare.  If you’re not willing to prepare, then prepare to be benched, because as any of my athletes who’ve struggled to master our Core Series will tell you, we’re all about preparation at PCF.


I do think the proliferation of CrossFit boxes has opened a Pandora’s box (no pun intended) of issues that inevitably come with the rapid growth of any new movement.  Still, the mechanisms for preventing injury have been in place since Day One, and were certainly present in my early training and, a few years later, at my Level I cert.  It’s true that age, experience and injury may have made me more receptive, but the point is that the checks and balances have always been in place, put there by Greg Glassman and hammered home by the training staff:  Scale.  Modify.  Rest.  Sleep.  Fix your diet.  Use common sense.  You can pursue your fitness goals at a conservative pace or push the envelope to extremes, but you’d be well advised to listen to your coach and use the techniques already in place to get there safely. 


As coaches we do the best we can to protect our athletes, but we’re not geniuses (you didn’t hear that from me).  We don’t have X-ray vision.  If you’re hurt and don’t know what to do, speak up.  Don’t suffer in silence, lead with your ego or otherwise act out some mind set you got from a John Wayne movie. 


2014 isn’t just about the Games – it’s about where we’re going as a box and a community.  April 13th will be our first Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run together, and I’m really looking forward to chasing you gazelles to the finish line.  I love the journey we’re on together, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.








Family Day!

She couldn't do that a month ago!  Roxy goes all the way up with the 35K.

Sergio contemplates the 24K.

No moving parts, but so effective.

We're kid friendly at PCF.  The next generation of CrossFitters has to come from somewhere, right?