After attending the Crossfit Games European Regionals I felt compelled to write something about it. Call it an expose without the bonus of underlying scandal and insidious behavior. I will attempt to break the story into three parts to correspond with the three days of competition.
I should note that my attempt isn’t simply to recount verbatim the workouts and results – you could do that by logging onto the Crossfit Games website or looking at the handy graphic below. Rather, I will offer my opinion on the weekend’s events and perhaps provide a touch of inspiration for our members.
I arrived at the Copenhagen Airport to much fanfare (in my head) and was greeted by my host for the weekend, Louise. First and foremost, the Copenhagen Airport is like a giant shopping mall – as an American I obviously loved that. Secondly the train system from the airport to our destination was extraordinarily bike-friendly. I came to realize during my short trip that biking was, for many, the primary means of transportation in the city. For a European this may not be much of a shock, but in contrast to how ridiculously un-friendly Los Angeles is to bikers it was a nice change.
We arrived at Ballerup Super Arena during the first workouts of Day 1. As the competitors were struggling through Diane (that b*tch), I found my way to what can only be described as the healthiest event eating area in the entire historical existence of event eating areas. Typical fare like hot dogs and sausages (or perhaps a deliciously sinful Smazeny cheese sandwich) was traded for chicken and spinach salads, organic wieners, gluten free beer, and a variety of grass-fed free-range humanely-slaughtered beef jerky. Unlike other Mike Burton holidays this one had at least a fighting chance of remaining semi-healthy.
For those that don’t know, the overall process of a Games competition goes something like the following:
|Team Workout #1||Team Workout #3||Team Workout #5|
|Indiv. Women #1||Indiv. Women #3||Indiv. Women #5|
|Indiv. Men #1||Indiv. Men #3||Indiv. Men #5|
|Team Workout #2||Team Workout #4||Team Workout #6|
|Indiv. Women #2||Indiv. Women #4||Indiv. Women #6|
|Indiv. Men #2||Indiv. Men #4||Indiv. Men #6|
There was plenty of electronic music to keep the participants motivated, which Joey would have loved. Perhaps I should take this opportunity to extoll the virtues of electronic music and its perfect fit within the Crossfit musical repertoire…but I won’t.
After two brutal workouts for the teams and both sets of individual competitors it was time to hop on my borrowed bike, which looked a little something like this, and head towards Crossfit Copenhagen Fabrikken for a quick WoD. Although I don’t usually jump at the opportunity to workout while on vacation I decided that I wouldn’t mind a light WoD to conclude the day. And then I saw the place, and my “wouldn’t mind” turned into “I want to try every piece of equipment in this massive gym” – which, by the way, included SEVERAL prowlers. Don’t take my word for it, you can check out the several pictures I took on my Flickr blog or watch the video hyperlinked in the “Fabrikken” name above.
Luckily for me, the host trainer cooked up a workout that I wouldn’t really have much opportunity to do at home, and I enjoyed every grueling minute of it:
- 4 rounds for time of:
- 40 meter Farmer’s Walk carrying 40 kg ammo cans in each hand
- 20 meter prowler pull (with an extra 60 kg on top)
- 15 toes-to-bar
- All while wearing a 10 kg weight vest
A special shout goes out to my host Louise as well as the folks at Crossfit Copenhagen. It is an exceptional facility staffed by exceptional people – I could not have felt more welcome. It is certainly a testament to the strength of the Crossfit community and it’s global growth.
I strolled into Ballerup on my own for the second day of workouts, partly because my host had to be there much earlier for her volunteer duties and partly because I may (or may not) have been sore from my workout the prior night. I sauntered up to the health emporium, my clever nickname for the snack bar, and got myself some paleo fuel to start the day. The Day 2 crowd, presumably not burdened by a Friday work schedule, was much larger than Day 1. Also, the day’s playlist was more well-rounded with some Wiz Khalifa and Jay Z tracks making an appearance.
Watching the workouts on Day 2 was like watching some sort of organized chaos. And like my bedroom in high school, much to the chagrin of my mother, there was an underlying pattern to the mess on the surface. Between workouts the volunteer “bees”, aptly called because of their yellow shirts, quickly assembled and disassembled the equipment with unrivaled efficiency. Then the competitors were filed out neatly from the warmup area to the cheers of their “box-mates.” And finally, the judges quickly took their places as the arbiters of the accuracy of physical motion. I should mention that often the loudest sound I heard throughout the arena during Day 2 was a judge’s dreaded “No Rep!!” which was also accompanied by a big sweep of said judge’s arms. As if it wasn’t bad enough that everyone in the place heard about your NR, they likely saw it too.
The final workout on Day 2 was an insanely long “chipper” workout (see workout graphic at the beginning of this post) that basically nobody finished until the final heats in both the Men’s and Women’s Individual divisions. This is when the overarching theme of the weekend began to crystallize for me. As I watched the competitors struggle through the workout, with their fans screaming from the sidelines, I noticed one thread uniting every single competitor (and arguably every single person in the arena): mutual suffering. I realize that it sounds bad as “overarching themes” go, but there is something undeniably beautiful about this aspect of the “sport of fitness.” Crossfit is one of the few sports that places honors on its superior athletes, as well as its mediocre athletes that simply refuse to quit. Crossfitters, as Coach Michael Rutherford once said, are simply unequaled in the art of suffering in sport.
To conclude Day 2, Coach Greg Glassman, the “Grand Poobah” of Crossfit, gave a speech about the future of our beloved sport. Buzzwords like “brand development & preservation” were thrown around, as well as talk of future Olympic status – but overall the speech wasn’t groundbreaking for me. However, it was nice to see the enthusiasm from the European contingent and I think the sport has a very bright future here.
Needless to say that after two days of two brutal workouts each the competitors may have been tired. However, the majority of these people are athletic freaks so perhaps they weren’t. I’m beginning to think that most of the top Crossfit Athletes, including my future wife Annie Thorisdottir are simply not of this world. Perhaps one downside of the event was my realization that I’m nowhere near as fit as anyone competing – but it also provided some inspiration to step up my game.
After a double-under/snatch ladder combo and another insane chipper workout the winners were declared. The local Danish powerhouse Frederik Aegidius took home the overall Men’s first place, Annie Thorisdottir-Burton took home the individual Woman’s prize followed by her countrymates Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir and Thuridur Erla Helgadottir. The Iclandic Woman’s Crossfit Mafia was in true form, and when they arrive on the shores of California they may just conquer the Games. Crossfit Reykjavik took home the overall team first.
Suffering: a Force that Unites
As I mentioned before, during Day 2 I began to develop an overall theme for the Regional Competition. So allow me a moment to wax [pseudo] intellectual.
Crossfit cares not for credence, religion, or race – heterogeneous teams from all over Europe came to the games united by one goal: push yourself to the max. At the end of every workout, with several competitors lying sprawled on the mat while the “bees” danced around them, it never seemed to matter what place was taken. Athletes were cheered heartily whether they finished first or last, and often the athlete that finished first would stick around to cheer on their fellows. Although there is obviously a competitive aspect in the sport, and it’s furthermore an exercise in pushing the absolute personal limits of the human body, the community at the “core” of the sport will always act as a beacon for its membership. One of my favorite Crossfit quotes comes from James “OPT” FitzGerald in which he said Crossfitters simply have to get “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s heartening to know that the “discomfort” (to put it mildly) I go through doing a workout is shared by every other member of my gym, and we all want one another to succeed.
The camaraderie of the Crossfit community was palpable at this event, and although I didn’t get the memo about having a tattoo-sleeve I felt at home in this foreign country. I don’t know what the future holds for Crossfit, but I believe the affiliate base and core values will always remain strong.