2018 CrossFit Games Review. 16 Thoughts & Observations

The following isn't very organized or polished. Simply wanted to jot down some thoughts and notes of my experience at this year's CrossFit games and thought it would be useful to share. Tried to organize things by categories. I was in attendance to support and coach two of my nutrition clients Andrea Nisler of team CrossFit OC3 and Paige Semenza, an individual female competitor. 

Nutrition/Recovery for the athletes

  1. The days are incredibly long for the athletes. Most days, both individuals and teams would start competing around 9 am and end around 8 pm. This doesn't include showing up early for event briefings and traveling back to hotels. By the time athletes packed up, got to their hotel, showered and ate I'm sure it was around 10 pm. Then most athletes had to wake up around 6 am to be on time for check-ins for the following day. This is something "behind the scenes" I'm not sure many fans are aware of or consider. These long days make proper nutrition, recovery and sleep very hard to optimize. A big part of maximizing your position on the leaderboard is being able to recover mentally and physically after each day of competition. 
  2. Having pre-prepped meals is essential. The combination of very long days and events every few hours makes it difficult to go off-site anywhere to eat. I see athletes at regionals getting away with not having much structure to their eating, but winging it at the games is nearly impossible. My athletes relied on hotel breakfast, 2-3 meals per day from a meal prep company, then the standard competition foods like liquid carbs, bananas, whey protein, perfect food bars, etc. They had plans of what, how much and when to eat food from breakfast all the way to dinner. 
  3. Marathon row nutrition. When the marathon row was announced I had the feeling many athletes would underestimate the time domain and not properly fueling themselves during the event. To my surprise, the majority of the athletes looked very prepared. Each athlete was given a bin to take out on the competition field and looked like most individuals had a mixture of fluids, gel packs, bars and chews. I'll have to go back and watch more closely at the best and worst performers to see if there was any correlation with their nutrition. In training, Paige had been consuming gel packs and liquid carbs during her endurance training. Most coaches and nutritionists predicted something this year was going to top the 1-hour mark and need intra-workout nutrition to keep intensity high and prioritize recovering. My hunch was a sprint triathlon, so we worked on what she could easily consume while on a bike. During the row, the actual logistics of consuming calories was super easy. Some athletes had a Camel Bak which I think was the best way to consume calories and not lose any time. Most of the athletes also got off their rowers several times to twist, shake out their legs, etc. and took this time to utilize their nutrition. For the Camel Bak nutrition, I did some calculations based on Paiges normal sweat loss per hour to find her fluid needs for 3 hours of rowing. I had her measure sweat loss during several training sessions leading up to the Games in case an event like this occurred. The goal was to consume roughly 90g of liquid carbs through the Camel Bak and then she had gels containing ~25g carbs as needed during the event. Thankfully, she didn't have any issues with cramping and recovered well the following few days. I was also surprised how few athletes had massive cramps. Obviously I can't feel or speak with each athlete, but I expected many people to catch severe cramps to the point they wouldn't be able to row for several minutes. From what i saw, only Khan Porter had a noticeable cramp. It looked like an abdominal cramp around 3/4th through the row. He had to stop rowing a few times and it appeared at any moment he may be dropped to the ground by the cramp, but he actually finished the race well placing 19th. 

Workouts/Programming 

  1. Minus the marathon row, I loved the individuals programming. I'm all for testing endurance as a part of finding the "fittest on earth" but I think a shorter duration would have done same. A 20k row or 1-hour time trial would have been great tests and the results would have been the nearly the same, minus athletes getting blisters, cramping and severely fatigued for the next four days. It also would have made for a more compelling finish with athletes actually trying to pass each other at the end. Brent Fikowski tells a story of holding onto his position by asking Patrick Velner if he was going to pass him during the final 3k of the 42k row. Vellner replies with "no, I think Iā€™m good where I am", as he sat in fifth place. Brent also mentions in his blog yelling over to Cole Sager who sat one position ahead of him, that he wasn't going to chase him down. Fikowski content with his fourth place. These are extremely competitive athletes, competing in their biggest event of the year and they are so spent at the end they're in self-preservation mode. Fikowski knew pushing the last few thousand meters of that row could have wrecked him for the next few days. If this were something in the 1-hour range, the end of that race probably would have gone down differently. With all three of those athletes gunning for third place. Fikowski actually tied for third-place overall, receiving fourth on a tie-breaker by the end of the competition. If Fikowski would have placed one place better in any event during the week, he would have earned third-place outright. 
  2. My top five favorite individual events
    • Clean and jerk speed ladder
    • Handstand walk course
    • Chaos (athletes began the workout not knowing how many reps of each movement they were required to do)
    • Bicouplet 1 and 2 (snatches + bar muscle ups. Rest 1 min. Lighter snatches + C2B pull-up)
    • Pegboard, thruster, yoke walk final    
  3. They should have postponed heats for rain during the CrossFit total. One individual male bailed on a back squat, injured his knee and was out for the remainder of the competition. This same thing could have happened even without light rain and when you watch the squat it doesn't look to be caused by a slip at all. But regardless, when the athletes came out during a light rain I was thinking this is very dumb to be maxing out lifts in the rain and no one is going to care if you postpone it 30 minutes for the athlete's safety.

Food 

  1. Acai bowls are overrated. And not worth $10-15. 
  2. HUGE shoutout to Zevia for providing endless free drinks throughout all 5 days of competition. I had way more Zevia last week than I did water. They provided energy drinks and regular diet sodas and would give you as many as you wanted at a time. This saved me $50+ by not buying other drinks and water throughout the week.   
  3. Food and drink options 8/10. I only ate at three different places on-site. The first was $7 for a single taco that tasted on par with Taco Bell. Kettlebell Kitchen had a pulled chicken, sweet potato and small salad that was delicious and cheap. Had this several times. A similar place had a steak and sweet potato bowl I had several times and was super tasty. I also enjoyed a Chipotle-ish burrito bowl on site while rushed and super hungry between events on Sunday. I may have had some cheese curds and ice cream as well. I'm a simple guy, so once I had 2 places I liked I stopped searching. For the more adventurous type, I'd guess you wouldn't like the lack of quality variety. 

Spectator Experience 

  1. I didn't realize how many CrossFit "fans" there were. I'm unsure how many people were in attendance over the five days, but it was over 10,000. From the sheer volume of people, it's safe to assume a large majority of people had no relation or coaching relationship with the athletes. I would also guess that thousands of people who attended don't even do CrossFit, they just enjoy spectating the sport. At one point during the week, a group of girls behind me were arguing over who their favorite "Dottir" was. One girl saying she liked Katrins smile the most and another saying Sara "seems so cool." People were buying custom shirts that the athletes and teams were wearing on the field. This is just like me being a big LaDainian Tomlinson (NFL running back) fan growing up, despite never having any intention to play one snap of football. It's cool to see CrossFit gaining popularity like this with everyday people, as it will continue to drive more money and better athletes into the sport. 
  2. Ease of ticket registration 10/10. I found a last-minute ticket to the Coliseum that was transferred over to my name about a week out from the Games. I got to the Games the day before the original buyer, so had to pick up the ticket myself. Both I and the original ticket owner were expecting some difficulty with this, but there was none. I was able to pick up my ticket separate from his and the whole process took about 2 minutes. Kudos
  3. Workout availability on site 10/10. Through the CrossFit Games app, you could sign-up for either 30 mins of lifting or their workout of the day. The area was right next to teen and masters competition. This was extremely convenient to get some lifting or workout in without having to travel and pay a drop-in anywhere. These time slots ran from 9-4 every day I believe. The class cap was very small for the workouts (14 I believe) and there was almost always a waiting list, but I did get one workout in during the week. The "open lift" was much easier to get into and I did that twice. They did have some very dumb rules though, like not being able to do things like bent-over rows. The individual on staff said, "if you want to do that weightlifting shit there's a Golds Gym down the road." With people and comments like that on CrossFit staff, it's a shocker why people outside of CrossFit hate CrossFit. We also were told not to do CrossFit on the lifting platforms. Yes, we weren't allowed to do CrossFit at the CrossFit Games. My partner and I did not do CrossFit. Instead, we did 50 back squats and 50 deadlifts for time. At one point I did 18 deadlifts in a row and the guy walked up and said "this looks a lot like CrossFit" I smirked and said "were just lifting high reps, that's not CrossFit." So A+ for the idea, but F- for the staff and rules. Have people sign a waiver, don't let them do anything dumb and leave them alone. 
  4. Seating in the Coliseum 10/10. Although it looks packed watching online, there are many several open seats in the Coliseum. As long as you had a ticket you were allowed in. Obviously, you're supposed to sit in your actual seat, but the ushers and other spectators weren't being dicks about it. If you wanted to sit with a group of your friends that you didn't have tickets by people would move around a little to accommodate. This was great for me because I was able to sit with a variety of my friends in attendance over the week.  
  5. Views in the Coliseum 10/10. I sat in the lower level of the 300's (the bottom of the top level) the entire week and the view was great. The arena is not that large. These were the cheapest tickets and I didn't feel like I missed out on the experience at all. Not like going to a football or basketball game and sit in similar seats and can't even see the ball. 
  6. North Park/Festival pass. You could purchase a "festival pass" for only $100 and see outside events at the North Park. There were plenty of main workouts outside including the CrossFit total and 30 muscle-ups, which were two of the most fun to watch. These seats weren't reserved, which was actually ideal, because if you go there early you get to right on the fence of competition. There was also a huge jumbotron to watch. This was really helpful for running events when athletes mixed being inside the North Park and running outside the park. Although the North Park experience was great I would only recommend the festival pass to those who don't plan on attending the entire 4-5 days. The events and experience in the Coliseum is 100% worth the money if you're going to make the trip. With a Coliseum ticket, you also get to see everything in the North Park. Watching events like the clean and jerk ladder or pegboard/yoke final in the Coliseum was insane. If you were at the Games and didn't splurge a few extra hundred on it you probably wish you had. 
  7. Awards Ceremony 5/10. This was entirely too long. Majority of the time wasn't even spent on awarding the podium of individuals and teams. Instead, they gave awards to each individual event winner for both men and women. 28 awards in total, before even getting to the podiums. I like giving event winners awards and money, but shouldn't be a part of the ceremony. The teen and master podium winners were in attendance, but weren't brought onto the podiums. I believe they had a separate podium ceremony earlier at their competition floor. I would have rather seen some of those athletes highlighted on the main stage than get a recap of individual event winners.