ReFLEXions on CrossFit Open WOD 15.1

See what I did there? I think I’m going to make this a regular thing.

The 2015 CrossFit Open is underway, everyone! For those of you who don’t participate in CrossFit, this is probably the start of the most annoying season of all. All of us CrossFit nerds are going to be geeking out on workouts, our favorite athletes, and of course the Regional and Games events. So, without further apologies, here’s a recap of how your favorite average CrossFitter did. (That would be me, you guys.)

15.1 (shorthand for “2015 Open” and “Workout #1”) turned out to be 15.1 + 15.1a (Addendum? Appendix? Add-on? Isn’t it really 15.1a and 15.1b? Whatever.).

15.1 was:
AMRAP9
15 toes-to-bar
10 deadlifts @ 75# (women’s Rx weight)
5 snatches @ 75#

15.1a immediately followed 15.1 and was:
6 minutes to find a 1-rep maximum clean-and-jerk

The clock ran continuously up to 15:00.

After the workout was announced, I felt okay about it. I had already conceded that toes-to-bar (T2B) are not in my wheelhouse in my previous post, and when they showed up in this particular WOD, I knew that I could grind through, and I would just have to see how many I could complete.

I chose to do the WOD on Friday night during my gym’s “Friday Night Lights” block. It’s a block of time where we all come in to tackle the Open WOD in heats, as well as judge and count for each other. It’s a fun time, although it adds a bit of extra pressure since the spectator dynamic comes in; however, for someone who aspires to compete in local recreational competitions, the exposure is necessary.

The hours leading up to Friday Night Lights were fine, but as soon as I got to the gym, I felt butterflies. I had slightly injured my quad during 1RM jerks the previous week, and I hadn’t attempted a heavy jerk or really even an all-out workout since, so that was a nagging thought. There was also the uncertainty of how I would do. Would I fizzle out after one round of T2B? Would my grip be shot to the point where I could only clean a weight 15lbs. under my current best in the C&J? There was only one way to find out.

Now, I wouldn’t say it’s a tradition, but because the Open does incorporate some form of performance, I like to plan my outfits. Sometimes they’re silly, and sometimes they’re just for me to get my mind in the right place. For 15.1, I chose something simple, and went with all black: black top, black headband, blank capris, black socks. Changing into an all-black outfit and harkening back to my dancer days somewhat helped me calm down. One settled into my uniform of choice, I warmed up and watched several heats go, including my boyfriend’s heat. I got set up, ran through a few reps of each element, got my gear ready, and tried to breathe. My counter and judge happened to be my man, so that helped ease my mind, as well.

When it was my turn, I stepped up onto my platform of several 45lb. plates stacked on each other; I can’t reach our pull-up bars without a platform. The clock counted down, and I hopped up and grabbed onto the bars. I took a controlled swing back, and then brought both my feet to the bar. I did it again, and a few seconds later, I had my first set of 5 reps done. I popped off the bar to shake my forearms out, even though I was early into the workout. I know myself, and while I probably could have linked together just a few more reps, I also know that I fatigue very easily in T2B. My grip will go, and I’ll stop being able to link reps together. Then my core will go, and maintaining enough momentum to make contact with the bar becomes difficult. However, I was able to get through three sets of 5 to complete my first 15 T2B, and then it was barbell time.

Deadlifts and snatches were both manageable; it was the T2B that I didn’t look forward to each time, because I knew the quality would deteriorate each round. Sure enough, partway through round two, my rep schemes were changing, and my kipping patterns were changing. Barbell work remained the same throughout. By round three of the T2B, I was hanging on for single reps, but trying to group them in 5s, 3s, and 2s. I made it through and back to the barbell.

And then I started round four. That’s when my core started to give out. I swung, and my toes came up inches short. Several people encouraged me, telling me to get back up and get another rep, but with T2B, if I’m not rested enough, I will continue to miss, and there was no way I was going to have more no-reps than good reps in this round.

Time wound down, and I managed to get 9 reps into the fourth round. I was one rep shy of hitting triple digits, which I had wanted, but I also met my goal of making it through three complete rounds. But the WOD wasn’t over at 9 minutes; I still had to lift a heavy barbell.

Six minutes to build up to a 1RM isn’t a lot of time, and it takes strategy. In a situation with a workout preceding the lift, there’s even more strategy involved. How light should an athlete start? How long should they rest before even attempting a lift? Do you go really light just to put up a number at first, or do you jump right in to a heavy but manageable weight? In hindsight, I probably wasted energy by opening with 105lbs. but I wanted a number. I knew that several months earlier, I had failed multiple attempts on a 125lb. clean after a buy-in that included burpees and max reps of cleans at lighter weights. I didn’t want to open too heavy and fail immediately.

115lbs. went up just fine, so I loaded the bar to 125lbs. This was the moment of truth. Would I fail 125 like I had in the autumn? The answer was, “No.” In fact, a teammate would say that 125 looked incredibly solid. Since 125 went up, it was time to make another decision.

My established 1RM for the clean-and-jerk is 130lbs. I have also, on separate occasions, cleaned 140lbs. and jerked 140lbs. The question was whether I would continue with 10lb. jumps and attempt a 135lb. C&J, which would be a PR, or if I would attempt 130lbs. to match my PR and add 5lbs. to my score. I took a risk and chose 135.

Unfortunately, I didn’t complete the lift at 135lbs. I did clean the weight–power cleaned it, in fact. Once it was in the rack position, though, it felt heavier than ever. I had just done a 135lb. jerk from the blocks the previous week, and I didn’t remember it feeling like that at all. I tried shifting my hand placement, but popping the bar up and bringing it back down seemed to drive me further into the floor. I knew that if I kept standing there with the bar in my hands that it really would never happen, so I dipped, drove, and bailed.

Bummer. That was it. I had several more seconds to try it again, but that time, I couldn’t get myself under the bar in the clean. Time expired. I finished the lift 5lbs. shy of my 1RM, and 10-20lbs. under many of the ladies with whom I try to keep up in my gym.

However, I was thrilled. This time last year, I was struggling to hit 120lbs. in my C&J. A bodyweight C&J was still several months off. And this year, I’m aiming to improve my form and get up above bodyweight. I’ve now cleaned 135lbs. multiple times since August, and I’ve jerked 135 and 140 once each. I can do this; I have it in me. It will come in time.

In the end, I finished 15.1 with 99 reps and 15.1a with 125lbs. Not an earth-shattering score, but one I can feel proud about. In last year’s Open, I struggled to complete 33 T2B in 14.4 (not 14.2 like I mistakenly wrote last time); this year, I completed a total of 54 T2B. 125lbs. is short of my PR, which means I’m capable of lifting heavier than the leaderboard shows. That’s different than 2013, when 95lbs. was a nearly-impossible C&J (although I did it six times that time). While some people’s jumps and gains are bigger, they aren’t really my concern. What I’m interested in is improving myself and doing this to challenge myself to continue to get better and better. The Open gives me that yearly “check-in,” and the chance to recommit to something that truly has been lift-changing, regardless of whatever numbers I post. Let’s see what’s in store for next week.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is the jerk your scoreboard.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is to jerk your scoreboard.

(But I also do love lifting, and I want to keep doing this because, man, I love lifting.)

(Oh, and for the record, I used today as active recovery and all I did was bench press and strict press. It might be Open season, but it’s also the season to reFLEX. Or something. I’m done now.)

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