Friday September 20th 2019, Whistler, BC.
CrossFit Empower affiliated 2008 making us one of 800 CrossFit affiliates worldwide who have been coaching CrossFit for 10 years or more.  As such, we were invited to a special celebratory weekend in Whistler by CrossFit HQ.  We were one of 193 affiliates from 18 different countries to accept the invitation.  I’m not usually excitable but the night before I could barely sleep.

Warm sunshine greeted us Friday afternoon as we checked into the Hilton.  We’d paid $100/person to reserve our spots at the conference; in return, CrossFit HQ contributed $100/night to our hotel stay so that we ended up with a lovely room in the Hilton Whistler for only $69/night!  The place was packed with CrossFitters.

We headed over to the Whistler Conference Centre for registration and were given our ID and gift bags containing: the obligatory CrossFit T-shirt, a lovely Next Level CrossFit hoodie, a Yeti drinking mug, some patches and stickers.  Generous gifts!  The whole place was booked for us.  CanWest organizers Brian and Morgan were there with their team running everything.  They’d set up a lovely gym space for CrossFitters who needed to get their workout in.

Canada’s West Coast had lots of early CrossFit adopters so there were many friendly faces:

Chris from CrossFit Lions in North Vancouver
Marco from CrossFit Overdrive in Richmond
Troy from CrossFit BC in Vancouver
Patty, Shep, T-Bear, Audrey and Emily from MadLab (aka CrossFit Vancouver), Canada’s first affiliate
Tom and Errol of CrossFit Rocky Point (founders of the CanWest Games)
Jordan from CrossFit Whistler (aka Opus Athletics)
Jessie and Heather from CrossFit Squamish who have invited us to their May, all-levels Strongman competition
The stylish Jason Noel, The Truth’s former boxing coach who first introduced him to CrossFit

These guys are the real OG from back in the day when our community was so small we all knew each other and helped each other out all the time!

After freshening up and stowing our generous gift bags at the hotel, we returned to the Conference Centre for 6pm drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  Wine, beer and lovely appetizers all provided as we mingled and met CrossFitters from around the world like HQ’s rep for France, Daniel.  There were stars there too: Nicole Carroll head of education, Olympic Lifting specialist, Coach Burgener, Pat Sherwood, Armen Hammer and more.

At 7pm the great doors opened and we were admitted to the dining room and a splendid buffet.  We found ourselves seated with affiliate owners Doreena (Ireland), Edgar (MMA fighter, California) and Brian (Professor of Physical Therapy, Florida).

After dinner we caught up with friends:  HeeHee’s first coach Sheppy from CrossFit Vancouver and former CrossFit Vancouver coach and founder of the first CrossFit affiliate in Brazil, Joel Fridman.  Joel is one of my favourite people.  He was the first apprentice of my coach Andy and is a great Olympic lifter (265lb snatch, 330lb clean and jerk at 170lbs bodyweight)!  Watch him back squat a motorbike!

We mingled until about 9pm.  Reebok booked the Buffalo Bill pub across the street for us with an open bar from 9:30pm to 1am.  We wisely slipped out before that (folks had already been drinking for 3 hours before and throughout dinner) and opted for an early bedtime instead so as to miss none of the following days’ excitement.  All that food and drink did make me regret not bringing The Touch along!

Saturday September 21st 2019
7:30am our day started with a fantastic buffet breakfast in the Whistler Conference Centre.  We sat with our friend Joel and his friend Pavel (Chile) and affiliate owners from PEI and Peru.  After breakfast we took the opportunity to get some photos to share with our Empower members.

HeeHee wanted pictures with her favourite seminar coaching staff members former UFC star Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald and Jesse.  She was thrilled that they both remembered and recognized her!  The man taking the photo of us with Jesse and his wife Carrie was none other than seminar coaching staff Chuck Carswell!

“Find your weaknesses, make friends with them, then beat them to death.”  One of my favourite coaches from my Level 1 and one of my CrossFit heroes is all-time pound-per-pound great, Chris Spealler.  Pretty sure he does not remember me from 2008.

And then everyone received some amazing Go Ruck backpacks from HQ.  When I marvelled at the generosity, Tom (Rocky Point) quipped Glassman was probably going to announce a rate increase for 10 year affiliates.

My Most Anticipated Moment
9:30am we were led into the presentation hall for the keynote address from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman.  Last time I saw him speak live was in Virginia Beach in 2008 before I affiliated.  Greg is a fantastic orator.  If you haven’t listened to him, watch some of his Youtube videos, you will learn something.  His address was scheduled for 1-hour, it went on for 3!

Topics covered:
1) The imminent demise of the “Soda Whores” NSCA and ASCM
2) CrossFit focus on health
3) Actuarial mines the worldwide leaderboard and finds efficacy of CrossFit
4) Top nephrologists convinced of efficacy of CrossFit and adopt it for themselves
5) Nutrition:  You can’t ignore the nutrition piece!
6) CrossFit getting into medical schools
7) Getting CrossFit into Physical Therapy schools and Sports Sciences
8) CrossFit upcoming science curriculum
9) Focus on Fundamentals first.  Nutrition, metabolic conditioning and gymnastics strength precede weightlifting & sport
10) 2020 Open will feature more benchmark-like WODs and less heavy loading, will be much more inclusive
11) SLIPS are essential.  Very safe, daily practice that will improve all other athletic endeavours.
12) CrossFit health turns focus on elderly and obese with exciting results

Most of the information wasn’t new if you’ve been paying attention but it was great to hear it expanded upon and Glassman is really entertaining as a speaker.  Head spinning from info overload, we hurried back to our hotel to change into workout gear in preparation for our appointed afternoon heat.  Bumped into Dolly and Steel on our way.

Walked out 30 minutes to Lost Lagoon rendezvous point enjoying overcast but dry weather and greenery.  Every CrossFit gathering must have a WOD but I hadn’t given this one much thought, felt like the keynote address was the high point of the weekend and the WOD was just an afterthought.  But the CanWest crew had set this event up and I should have known better.  We were about to walk into…

The Highlight of Our Weekend!
Lost Lake was easy to find, just follow the blaring music and the voice of CanWest announcer extraordinaire Ryan.  We found the events set up: walls, sandbags, kettlebells.  But first, our picnic BBQ: Burgers, hot dogs, amazing gelato, fantastic iced green tea and a delicious (HeeHee tells me) iced coffee.  All provided.

We ran into another old friend, CrossFit Vancouver alum, Ryan’s wife, Cynthia who doesn’t look a day older!

Tom (Rocky Point) and his team came back from their heat soaking wet.  I plied him for info on the WOD and devised our strategy accordingly.  German-born Rainer from CrossFit Cincinnati has had several knee surgeries and a recent hip replacement so he would have to gamely shuffle through the 3km course.  I accordingly switched into my flip flops to cut down transition times since we wouldn’t need to run fast.

Station #1
At 2:50pm our 4th partner had not yet arrived so Joel jumped in for us.  It started with 50kb swings each performed simultaneously.  Then we hefted our sandbags – 20lbs for HeeHee and Rainer, 40lbs for Joel and me – and started jogging to our next station.  Between stations Joel and I would take turns carrying the heavy or light sandbag sparing HeeHee and Rainer some of the workload.

Station #2
20 sandbag squat cleans each or swim 50m to floating dock and back.  With only 2 sandbags, it was quickest for HeeHee and Rainer to do the squat cleans while Joel and I swam.  Having seen the wet, shivering athletes returning from earlier heats, I’d left my shirt back at station 1 and now kicked off my flip flops and dropped my shorts, diving into the frigid water in my underwear.  It was heart-stopping, muscle-cramping cold.  Joel and I climbed out of the water onto the floating dock for a moment bracing ourselves for the swim back.  HeHee ad Rainer were done their squat cleans by the time we reached the shore.  I picked up my dry shorts and sandbag and began running to the next station in my wet underwear getting confused looks from non-CrossFit passersby.

Station #3
Here teams faced a choice: 100 burpees or 1 burpee each – naked.  Rainer’s German, Joel from Brazil, and a guy who’s done Naked Fran is not about to do 24 unnecessary burpees.  It was up to HeeHee.  My wife is no exhibitionist but 25 burpees is 25 burpees!  I dropped my wet underwear off, did my burpee then put on my dry shorts this time carrying my wet underwear and sandbag.  I was already almost dry and feeling pretty brilliant.  Costanza disclaimer: in this age of social media, in the event of leaked pictures let me point out that Joel and I had just swum 100m in a glacier fed lake!

Station #4
50 squats each, 2 members working at a time while the other 2 held the sandbags.  We asked if getting naked would get us a pass on the squats but, no dice.

Station #5
We took turns running up a steep 50m trail and down again while the other members took turns on sandbag thrusters.  “Bet you regret wearing flip flops now,” a competitor on another team commented as we scrambled down the steep gravel trail.  “Are you kidding?” I replied, “I saved so much time at the swim and burpee station by not wearing shoes that I could walk this trail and still be ahead.”

Station #6
100 sandbag burpee-snatches.  Joel and I took turns on the 40lb bag while HeeHee and Rainer kept pace on the 20lb bag.

Station #7
Having covered the 3km route we reached the final station back at the starting point.  100 sandbag cleans over a 5ft wall.  Joel and I passed the 40lb bag back and forth on one wall while HeeHee and Rainer put the 20lb bag over the neighbouring wall.  50 reps per pair and we were done!

All told about 40 minutes of work.  No station felt overwhelming but by the end we had done a lot of work.  Celebrated with some refreshments and joking with other teams.  Happy to have stayed dry.  Took some action shots of HeeHee for her acting portfolio and while she was doing sandbag thrusters, Olympic Weightlifter, Common Wealth Games champ and 3 time CrossFit Games champ, Tia Claire-Toomey of New Zealand photo-bombed us, offering some playful thruster coaching before grabbing her own sandbag and joining HeeHee in synchronized sandbag thrusters that finished with a big heart-warming hug.  An absolute angel of a human being, she made HeeHee’s weekend!

We walked tiredly back to our hotel where HeeHee got a quick nap before we got showered and dressed for our dinner party.  We met outside the Westin where tents were set up with open bar to entertain us as a fleet of buses collected us and delivered us up Blackcomb to the Sliding Centre.  More open bar, more hors d’ouevres, live band and, my favourite, axe throwing stations with coaches.  I always wanted to throw an axe, it was just as much fun as I always thought it would be!  Even hit the bull’s eye once.

Met PDR coach Daniel Carney who got certified when Leon and I hosted BC’s only PDR certification at my judo dojo.

Dinner was served buffet style.  We ate and caught up with friends.  Tom dubbed HeeHee “Nature Girl” for her risqué burpee exploits.  The party was scheduled until 1am but we caught the shuttle back before 9pm.  We weren’t alone.  A very full, exhausting day.

Sunday September 22nd 2019
8am our morning started with a scavenger hunt.  We teamed up with Joel (Brazil), Brian (Florida), Ximena (rugby player and strength coach of Peruvian national team) and Paloma (also Peru) and another Daniel from HQ, this time the regional rep for Spain.  We were handed our list of impossible tasks that had us running all over the Village in the rain dancing with strangers, asking them awkward questions, challenging other teams to kung fu battles, etc.  It was ridiculous and fun, a great way to get to know complete strangers by working together.  We returned at 9:45am.  Brian calculated we scored 800+ points but no one cared, we were ready for brunch.  We were treated to the Westin’s $38 brunch buffet which was worth easily that much though HQ once again picked up the tab.  And gifted us with some mugs.

There was time for photos with Glassman.  I already got mine back in 2008 so I just wanted to thank him once more.  Last time I wasn’t yet a CrossFit coach, just an athlete.  I thanked him for changing my life.  I had no way of knowing at that time just how much CrossFit was going to change the direction of my life.  This time I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to change others’ lives.

Having packed and said our good byes, we gave Joel a lift as we headed home humbled to tears by the amazing experience we had just shared and the generosity of spirit with which it had been delivered.  As much as I’ve written, I can’t say enough about it.