The 2010 Mid-Atlantic Hopper Challenge marked the 1 year anniversary of “Team Outlaw”. At the 2009 Hopper we donned the black and red for the first time, marking the beginning of a new era in the history of the gym and a year of competition dominance that few if any affiliates could match. The start of the second year for Team Outlaw was highlighted by our first affiliate team competition victory. A victory that I was lucky enough to be a part of, and a victory that I honestly enjoyed very, very much, simply because I have been a part of team sports for the majority of my life and have lost – a lot. I played on my first football and baseball teams around 7 years old, and have played some form of team sports ever since (yes, that’s a long time). The funny thing I realized, as I was watching Rob do the last 5 Overhead Squats of the final WOD, is that I couldn’t really remember winning anything. I had more success playing and coaching basketball than anything else, but there were still nothing but second place finishes littering my athletic/coaching resume. In retrospect I can tell you winning feels way better than losing… WAY better.
This team came together in the wake of Laura’s individual participation in the CrossFit Games, with the simple thought that her and I wanted to do a fun competition together. We had both done numerous individual competitions over the last 2 years, and were pretty burned out. I told her the most fun I had ever had competing in CrossFit was the team competition at the ’09 Games, and she said she’d love to try it in a “low pressure” situation. It wasn’t hard to convince Katie and Rob, who were on the ’09 Games team, to join us at the Hopper either – especially after telling them that the 22nd fittest woman in the world was already committed. The theory is basic; your team is only as good as your women. If you put 2 superstar women with 2 capable men, you’ll have a badass team.
The first WOD pulled from the Hopper was neither good nor bad for us. It featured a 4 minute AMRAP of Burpee Box Jumps and Rowing for calories, and ended with 100 Deadlifts for time @ 275/185lbs. The good news for Rob and I was our girls were both world class Deadlifters. Laura has an unthinkable 374lb max, and Katie’s 325lb is 2 and a half times bodyweight – pretty ridiculous. We decided we’d let them handle the first 60 reps, then we’d bring it home. Our strategy held up fairly well as we were the first team to finish the first heat. It felt great to be the first team done, and we thought we had killed it. Being in the first heat, however, becomes a problem because the other teams have a time to shoot for. We quickly realized we hadn’t “killed it” as much as we thought, as we ended up with the 5th best time of 8:02. If you had told me before the competition that the first WOD would involve heavy deads and rowing, and that we’d come in 5th, I’d tell you the other teams must be pretty good.
The next WOD – a team version of “Annie” – couldn’t have been any more unexpected. 30-20-10 of Double-Unders and GHD Situps doesn’t sound hard, but when you’ve done approximately 30 GHD Situps in your life (ironically at the Hopper Challenge last year) it’s a little scary. Again, we knew that our girls would be unstoppable, but we also knew that anything could happen when you couple the brain scrambling effects of the GHD with a high skill movement like the Double-Under. The setup of the GHD became an issue as well. While Katie and I matched up well on one, and Laura and Rob on the other; we made the decision to go guys with guys, and gals with gals. This proved to slow us down a bit, but our 6:35 was still good enough for 4th place. We were less than overwhelming on Saturday, but our 5th and 4th place finishes were good enough to put us in 3rd place going into the Sunday WODs.
Our 3rd place ranking was decent, but considering there were only 20 teams, and the top two were very good, it seemed it would be nearly impossible for us to make up the 6 points we were trailing by. The top 2 teams featured former Games competitors, so we knew we’d need something to break our way to catch up. The 3rd WOD, which was drawn Saturday before we left, certainly played in our favor. It was a team 8k Row. Yes, Rob and Katie are rowers, and yes, Laura may be at least Katie’s equal due to her size and considerable pulling power. Rob made some calls to his row coach friends, and we decided our strategy would be to let Rob start with a 1k at a 1:40 500m pace. The rest of us would then hold that pace for as long as we could, before handing it back over to Rob. This strategy proved to be perfect, as we finished with the best overall time of 28:16 which was almost a full minute better than the next fastest team. It also allowed us to remain relatively fresh, despite our abs being completely destroyed from the GHD the day before. Our first place finish, coupled with the 7th and 8th place finishes of the top 2 teams, allowed us to instantly close the gap and pull into a tie for 1st place.
Going into the final WOD we knew all we had to do was win the final heat and we would win the competition. No pressure, right? When the movements for the WOD were announced we knew we would probably do pretty well. When the weights were assigned we knew we would do even better. It was a 7 movement Chipper – Squat Cleans @ 185/135lbs, Ring Dips, Push Jerks @ 135/95lbs, Pullups, Wall Ball, Snatches @ 115/85, and Overhead Squats @ 115/85lbs. I won’t even try to list the reps, because they were all over the place. The heavier weighted movements got less reps, and the BW movements more. The beauty of the WOD was that all members of the team had to complete the same amount of reps of all the movements. This would be to our advantage because our women could lift heavy, and they were proficient at ring dips, wall balls, and pullups. Again, you’re only as good as your women. Many team competition WODs allow faster men to carry their teams, but not this one. Everyone had to do equal work, just as it should be.
We moved quickly through the first movements. A 135lb Squat Clean is moderately heavy for Katie and Laura, but is almost impossible for most women. The same holds true for the difficulty of the Ring Dips. Katie told me later that she actually did all 13 reps unbroken for the first time ever. The Push Jerks were another lead builder as we all completed the 11 reps unbroken. We slowed just a bit on the pullups, deciding to go back and forth every 10 reps in order to stay fresh for the Wall Ball shots. Despite the fact that I felt like we slowed a great deal on the Wall Balls, this was where we established a huge lead over the other teams. The team from Potomac CrossFit was on our tails for the most of the first part of the WOD, but as our women nailed shot after shot, we pulled away into a comfortable lead. The target was high, the sun was in our eyes (wah), and the standard was difficult, but we knew when we finished the Wall Ball there were only moderately heavy barbells standing between us and a huge team victory.
I’d like to heap a little praise here. A little over a year-and-a-half ago Rob Wasalaski competed in the 2009 Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Games Qualifier. He was fairly new to CrossFit at the time, and had some distinct flexibility issues. When Overhead Squats were announced for the first WOD we knew he would struggle, but he bravely stepped into the arena and tried anyway. Despite having 27 douche bag coaches hollering “push your shoulders up”, he could barely get any reps at full depth and DNF’ed on the WOD. When Squat Snatches came out the second day, nearly the same thing happened. I believe he scaled the weight to 65lbs, and still DNF’ed on the final WOD. To DNF on 2 of the WODs in your first competition and still come back for more shows some pretty serious cajones, but to work your ass off to get better at those movements so it never happens again – that’s the kind of stuff that gets coaches like me all worked up. Yes, I was a little worried about the Snatch/Overhead Squat combo to finish the final WOD, but I knew Rob had put in the work to be able to finish what the team had started.
I was personally gassed going into the Snatches, but knew I just needed to continue to throw the barbell overhead. The whole team traded off 5 reps at a time, and as I looked around at the other teams I realized all we had to do was finish the Snatches and move through the OHS to win our first team trophy. There was a moment where, despite my near passing out for lack of oxygen, I remembered Rob struggling with OHS at the Qualifier and hoped he wouldn’t be too fatigued to “push his shoulders up” and finish the WOD. As I was on hands and knees trying to recover enough to finish myself, I looked up at Rob who calmly snatched the barbell overhead and completed the first 5 reps of Overhead Squats without any issue at all. In that moment I regained enough energy and wind to easily complete the first 10 reps of my favorite movement, and to realize we were going to win a team event; something I had never done in my entire athletic career despite literally hundreds of attempts.
We finished the final WOD in 19:01 – almost a full 5 minutes faster than the second place team. There were, in fact, only 2 teams that finished. The final WOD victory gave us 1st place overall, and Potomac CrossFit finished just 1 point behind us in 2nd place. I know it’s not that big of a deal, and I know it’s just a local competition. But I love the Hopper Challenge, and there were some really good athletes – including former Games competitors – on those other teams. For the entire event to finish with Rob performing a movement that he simply could not perform a year ago, was as poetic an ending as I could possibly imagine. It was yet another confirmation that we are doing things right – we are the best CrossFit facility in the region, and we have proven it yet again.