CrossFit Invitational Wrap-up
I left off after finishing Event 3 of the Invitational. At that point, we had just finished our two best events of the evening and everyone was on a high. When we returned to the locker room though, Noah shared with us how nervous he was about Event 4: max tire flips. Dave had just unveiled the tires right before Event 1, then he gave the athletes a couple minutes to practice with them. Noah tried a handful of times, but wasn’t able to get one during the brief warm-up, so naturally, he was nervous about letting his team down. We talked about technique and riding that “competition adrenaline” out on the floor. Noah is a fierce competitor, so even though he didn’t go into Event 4 with his usual level of confidence, the rest of the team had no doubt he’d be able to contribute.
Event 4 was 2:00 of tire flips for the men and 2:00 for the women. Once the clock started, Team USA scratched and clawed for every single flip possible. Noah attacked the tire aggressively and gained speed and confidence with every rep. Scott kept grinding and managed to get a final flip in right at the buzzer. Kari and Tennil competed hard and got every flip they could as well. When the dust settled one Event 4, we finished 4th, 4, 7, and 11 reps behind the other three teams.
After the tire flip event, everyone remained positive. We were disappointed in the outcome, but not the effort. Noah rose to the occasion and even though we didn’t win it, he surprised himself with how well he was able to move it. At that point, we didn’t know the standings, but we know that bringing home the win was not likely. We also knew we had one more opportunity to compete for the USA, and we wanted to make the most of it. All of the athletes gathered around Dave for the final event announcement: a classic CrossFit rep scheme of a classic couplet: 21-15-9 reps of Thrusters and burpees. Of course, the thrusters would be done with the worm and the burpees would be done over it.
We were all really excited for the final event. In practice on Friday, we had done nearly an identical workout: 3 rounds of 15 thrusters and 15 burpees. We learned a lot about staying in unison on the thrusters and properly pacing the burpees. Based on that experience in practice and also the thruster-burpee workout from Regionals, we decided to take planned breaks on each set of thrusters. The first round was planned to be 7-7-7, 5-5-5 on the second, and 5-4 on the third. Like Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
That’s pretty much what happened to us midway through the first set of thrusters. When we started, our first set of 7 thrusters looked smooth, fast, and effortless. All three other teams were pausing on every single rep, so we were moving at a significantly faster pace and opened up an early lead. Then we got a no rep, got out of sync, and even dropped the worm. The other teams’ slower, smoother approach began to pay off and we fell behind. We were unable to make up any ground on the burpees and the Australians and Canadians continued to pull ahead on the thrusters. Even though I know there was a lot of frustration, Team USA never directed that frustration on one another. They stuck together and they never stopped fighting. Even though we finished last in the final event, I couldn’t have been more proud of our athletes, their effort, and the three letters across our chest: USA!
We ended up 3rd overall on the day. While it wasn’t the result we wanted, we also easily could have been fourth. In the moments after the final event, Team USA was gracious in congratulating all the other athletes and soaking in the Australian celebration that ensued. Rob Forte and James Newberry popped the champagne, filled up their footwear, and chugged the first “shoe-ey” I have ever witnessed. The crowd went crazy and there were more than enough Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-Oy-Oy-Oys to go around.
Team Pacific was the best team out there that day and they deserved to win. Tia-Clair Toomey, the 2017 CrossFit Games Champion, told me that her team finished last in her first Invitational. Last year, the exact same team of four was 3rd. This year, they all moved in together an extra week early, trained to win, and dominated the competition. It was a fitting end to an unbelievable year for the Australian CrossFit community.
Looking back, all of us on Team USA definitely had some meaningful learning experiences through the Invitational, and we enjoyed every minute. We talked a lot before we arrived and throughout the week leading up to the event about doing everything we could to make it the most enjoyable competition experience possible. None of us had any regrets or woulda-coulda-shoulda thoughts. We earned 3rd place and are proud of that. Much respect to both Australia and Canada on a job well done.
I hope we get to see the four athletes that represented Team USA compete together again next year. I believe they have the potential to win the Invitational and I’d love to see them all back together out there on the floor. As for me, I don’t know what lies ahead yet. I’m excited to be back in the gym this week watching everyone do their best every day and get better. The Team USA experience helped me appreciate not only the people here in our gym, but also the people behind the scenes that make CrossFit special.
On the plane ride home, I had a great conversation with some of the CrossFit media crew. They work all kinds of sporting events and ball games year-round but said that filming CrossFit is their favorite. They said it’s because it’s the most meaningful work that they do. People watch the CrossFit Games, they’re inspired to do something, and their lives are forever changed in a positive way because of it. Hearing that made me proud to be a CrossFit coach. Having the opportunity to coach Team USA at the CrossFit Invitational was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life, but I am even more grateful to the people that come in here every day and for the coaches here that make a positive impact on those around them. I hope we get to continue to do this for a very long time.