Personally, this was my favourite CrossFit Open to date, perhaps because of the break from predictable programming.  Or maybe it was because of the vibrant colours of the super hero, cowboy and medieval costumes that greeted me each week .  Or it could have been the all-ages, family feel of Empower members working out alongside their kids every weekend and watching those kids work their hearts out on the WODs that made it feel special.  Whatever it was, it seemed to me that you, the community, really upped your game and it felt that I had better do so too.

Athletically I had no goal going into this year and didn’t prep for competition as I usually would.  I was still recovering from all the competition earlier this year (2019 Open, CanWest Qualifiers & CanWest Games) and didn’t feel ready to throw myself back into competition mode just yet so my approach was more casual.  I did refuel competition style which meant way more calories (especially carbs) than usual.  Not ideal for body composition but it worked wonderfully for performance and recovery and even resulted in some in-gym personal bests during training.

In 2019 I only lost 2 out of 5 challenges, once to The Touch and once to Sprite.  With The Touch still recovering from his hamstring injury and heart surgery it didn’t feel sporting to call him out, I’m not the kind of guy to go for the low hanging fruit, so the most obvious challenge was Sprite.  I channeled 80’s wrestling icon “Macho” Father for the task.  Friday Sprite and I tested the WOD together and agreed on our handicap.  My goal: 10 rounds or 90 seconds per round.  This WOD was the worst.  15 minutes of continuous suffering.  I didn’t maintain the 90 second per round pace but I was not far off.  I did manage the snatches unbroken each round and then used the burpees to recover as best I could.  I didn’t take any break until after completing round 8.  With 70 seconds remaining I realized I could complete one final round if I dug deep and really sprinted the last 60 seconds.  60 seconds is a tough sprint especially after 14 minutes of steady, grinding work.  I used the 10 seconds to breathe deeply and psyche myself up and then I just threw myself at the last snatches and burpees racing to keep ahead of the pain, knowing it would catch me as soon as I stopped.  I made it over the barbell to complete the final burpee of round 9 just as the timer sounded and I collapsed next to D-Knee as the pain came rushing in.  One of the worst feelings ever but I was also very pleased with my effort.  I didn’t hit my goal but I did the best I could have done with my conditioning on that day.  Sprite on the other hand, exceeded her goal becoming the only Empower member to defeat me in two official challenges!   This was my most painful workout of the 2020 Open but also the performance I am most proud of.  But do you know who was really impressive?  In her first CrossFit Open performance as a registered athlete, Hard rock demolished this WOD beating everyone at Empower of all ages, even The Touch!  Wow.  Talk about an impressive debut!

You know who has quietly grown into an incredible athlete?  Silk.  In week two I wanted to call some attention to how great she really is and throw some challenge points her team’s way so I summoned Father Mistofolees the Conjuring Cat from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats to help me with the task.  Inspired by last week’s energy, I even spent time crafting an entire 20+ minute magic-themed playlist for the WOD.  My biggest disappointment of the 2020 Open is come game day the playlist (which is actually the best of the bunch) would not play and people only heard the first track.  I had a plan but I just didn’t stick to it.  I got caught up in the moment and tried pushing the pace right out of the gate.  This resulted in me finishing shy of my goal of 14 rounds.  But that didn’t bother me as much as the bad example I set as the wheels came off and I started to struggle.  I prefer to remain the picture of calm composure as my coach Andy always was.  This sets a better example for our athletes to follow.  I felt I let folks down.  Technically I won the challenge but I joined Silk in the run around the block because I didn’t feel like a winner after this one.  There were some high points though.  Seeing CPA and several others completing the dumbbell thrusters RX’d (Crusher was – well – crushing them!) was very satisfying.  And witnessing UN and She-Ra going head-to-head in the back corner for 20 long minutes was thrilling.  That duel deserved an audience, I’m sorry it wasn’t centre stage where they would have received the cheers that they deserved.

She left me no choice.  After thoroughly destroying me in weeks one and two, there was no way I could ignore Hard Rock’s meteoric rise to glory.  It was time to challenge her and give the super heroes some challenge points.  The CrossFit gods favour the bold and blessed me by programming a repeat event featuring one of the few things I am stronger at than Ms. Super-Elite: handstand push ups!  I arrived as a Thrift Store WOD Father Balboa, an aging champ ready to put down an upstart challenger.  Armed with a Rocky-themed playlist I aimed to improve on my 2018 performance.  Core fatigue is my issue.  My shoulders can blast through 45 HSPU’s with little difficulty but getting my feet over the tape gets challenging for me.  Standards are there to make us better; it doesn’t bother me that this standard makes the WOD much harder for me.  Some movements will be harder for some people (ask Motor about wall balls or rowing).  What I did differently this time to preserve my core was wear my lifting belt and break up the deadlifts and HSPU’s into smaller sets than necessary.  In this way I was able to get the first 90 reps completed with just enough time to get to the 315lb deadlift.  By then my core was shot.  It was reckless of me to do that final lift, only the belt held my spine together.  Not proud of that lift but happy to say I got it done and improved by 5 reps over 2018.  It was fun seeing so many great handstand push ups this time around.  The Heat got a bunch.  Motor doubled her score by blasting through hers.  A lot of Empower athletes were able to walk away from 20.3 with their hands raised in victory.  Champions all!

With my usual rivals absent (Magnum not registered as a competitor this year and Sandman sitting out weeks 3 and 4) I had to call out the sole remaining threat in my division: Super Mario.  Super Mario and I are very similar athletes.  He is somewhat stronger and I have a slightly better engine but otherwise we have similar strengths and weaknesses.   The one skill that he dominates me at is the pistol which is why it looked as though the CrossFit gods had turned against me when pistols were programmed for the first time ever in Open history for 20.4.  You might think I was disappointed but I was, in fact, excited.  A contest isn’t fun if your victory is a foregone conclusion.  Besides, I have been working hard on my pistols in training but I’ve never had an opportunity to test them in competition.  Now I could really see if my training has been successful.  I went all-out for 20.4 in my Wario Father costume and video-game themed playlist.  And I convinced Super Mario to go head-to-head with me in a heat with The Touch.  This was by far my favourite Open WOD ever!   Using the box step ups as recovery, I blew through the clean & jerks at 95lbs, 135lbs and 185lbs and they felt like butter.  This is my jam!  And then the pistols.  Yes, my pistols were the worst in my heat allowing The Touch to catch up and pass me and Super Mario to make up ground but, they were the best pistols I’d ever done.  It was like riding my bike without training wheels for the first time.  Yes, I can do it!  Not technically a personal best but in my heart it felt like one, my very own pistol coming out party with audience!  And then the 225lb clean & jerk I’d been looking forward too.  So rarely in the Open do we get to handle heavy weights – and I love heavy weights!  The Touch & I went back and forth rep-for-rep with Super Mario slowly catching up one rep at a time.  Loved every moment of it.  Tied The Touch on reps, lost to the sneaky bugger on the tie break.  Finished a couple reps ahead of Super Mario in a very close contest.  Ran a victory lap with him to celebrate.  Immediately after I felt so fresh I thought I didn’t work hard enough.  A couple hours later, at home, the fatigue hit me hard and my body complained “you did too much”.  This day offered lots of highlights: DT doing the whole WOD in costume, Dauntless, CPA & HeeHee scoring personal bests on the Clean & Jerk, Motor & Silk’s smooth pistols and Hard Rock once again running away with the WOD finishing miles ahead of the rest of us.  Glad I challenged her in week 3!

My arch-rival Sandman made a return to action after a 2-week hiatus just in time for a show down in the final frame.  I arrived as the Expecting WOD Father knowing that he cannot resist the soft-target of a pregnant belly and that he was already 0-1 versus pregnant challengers.  It was more difficult finding pregnancy themed songs for the week five playlist but the few tracks I found were really funny.  Traditionally the week 5 WOD presents us with movements Sandman and I are fairly equal at, despite the amazing week 5 programming twist of 20.5, this remained true.  We were both going to get through the row and wall balls but who would get more ring muscle ups?  I was hoping to complete 24/40.  Sandman changed my plans when he completed 26/40.  My plan: 8 rounds of 3 muscle ups, 15 wall balls and an 8 calorie row would get me close then I’d have to hustle to squeeze out a few more reps before time ran out.  I surprised myself in round 1 by matching Sandman with 5 consecutive ring muscle ups to start, a feat I’d only accomplished once before.  I attributed my improvement to coaching tips from The Truth that improved my kip making it feel 50% easier (The Truth, who was watching, allows that my kip may have improved by a bit but it’s still pretty weak and there’s a lot of room to improve).  Thereafter I stuck to 3 MU per round, surprised that I was able to do them unbroken throughout.  The wall balls got harder than expected, the last few rounds a real battle.  But with those extra 2 MU’s in the bank and a tie break of 17:11, I knew the rest was going to be gravy.  I finished much better than anticipated with 33/40 MU’s completed but I was absolutely wrecked!   I was a real mess for the rest of the day generally unable to function.  This was my second favourite workout of the 2020 CrossFit Open.  Lots of great tie break times.  Our athletes did a great job of strategizing this one.  Electric and Motor both came super close to getting their first ring muscle ups (Silk & Electric would successfully get them only a couple weeks after 20.5).  But Smash getting 3 in this WOD was probably the highlight.  They weren’t his first ever but his first in competition which is real validation!

I didn’t enter this Open with any real goals but was pleasantly surprised by my overall performance.  From a programming perspective, it was my favourite Open to date.  But despite some personal athletic highlights and great WODs, what really made the 2020 Open for me was our vibrant community and all the energy that you brought to the WODs every week!   Loved the challenges and the costumes, the comradery and the family.  You have something extra special.  A lot of work goes into each Open but you really made it all worthwhile!  Thanks for the fantastic experience Empower!