The “B.Friendly World Tour” stop number 12 actually allowed me to stay home. This year Taylor and Lizzie Self invited me to be part of the team responsible for putting on the third iteration of the Charlotte Classic. From testing and programming workouts, to coordinating the logistics of the schedules, and then taking on several different roles during the event itself, it’s the most integrally involved I’ll be in any competition this offseason. Considering all of that, this will likely take on a similar flow to the Desert City reflection from last week.
Friday: Day One
The first day of competition was for the elite divisions only (Rx, Masters, and Community divisions would join them on days 2 and 3). Friday consisted of a morning offsite event at a nearby park, and an evening event inside Charlotte Classic. The entire competition this year was themed around The Dark Tower with each of the workouts being named after a key character or element from the series.
Event 1: Blaine the Mono
As many competitions do, we went long with the opening event. The range of times were from 33 minutes to 57 minutes, with most athletes finishing between 35 and 42 minutes. This workout received some criticism because of the two separate half mile runs WITH a dumbbell, with some even going so far as to call the idea stupid.
I struggle to see how it’s stupid to program the displacement of a weighted object for a CrossFit competition when one of the key tenets of the methodology is to move large loads, long distances, quickly, but I wanted to see how it went in competition before weighing in.
Having seen it, I loved it. It was just as much a mental struggle and grind as a physical one. It demoralized some, pushed most to their limits, and also allowed some athletes to absolutely shine. To anyone who believes this to have been a stupid event, I am only sorry you did not get to see Sergio Briceno complete the event- it was a master class, pure and simple. Finishing second to him was former Games individual athlete Austin Spencer (he would go on to win the entire competition), and winning this event on the women’s was Katie Calyore (who would be the eventual champion as well). For a brief review of the results you can go to the BarBell Spin.
Event 2: The Gunslinger
This was a nasty chipper consisting of back squats, L-sit hold, front squats, ring dips, and finally overhead squats. Everything compounded on itself as the workout wore on, and most athletes either failed on the ring dips or the overhead squats… until the final heat of men.
I had too many responsibilities during the weekend to be able to stream and commentate on the events, but I really wish this one existed somewhere. Prior to the final men’s heat there was only one time under 8:00… then that entire heat did it in 7:07 or faster, including Spencer who finished in 5:30 and walked off unscathed as if he were ready to go back down the ladder. Watch until the end.
Saturday: Day Two
The remaining divisions joined the fray for the weekend. With over 120 athletes and heats ranging from 5 to 10 (dictated by space and equipment within an affiliate) Saturday and Sunday were long days for the competition and volunteer teams. This is always a tricky thing to navigate when planning- you want the competition to be legitimate, challenging, and worthwhile for every athlete in every division, but you don’t want to run volunteers, judges, or competition directors into the ground; a delicate line to walk.
Event 3: Black 13
One of the features of the entire competition was the burpee over log (or burpee plus sandbag over log) in this workout for all divisions. Taylor had this idea back in the summer and shared it with me when I first moved to Charlotte in early July. Both the Games and Rogue had a log get over of some kind, which we didn’t love, but it also didn’t deter us from following through on the original plan. A cool side note is that we programmed a version of this for the classes to test on Thursday prior to competition.
This was an interval style workout consisting of bar muscle ups and burpee plus sandbag over log as a buy-in every round before max calories on the c2 bike. At the lower divisions it was cool watching athletes PR their pull-ups or bar muscle ups, and at the elite divisions it was mostly a battle on the bike. No matter how hard you pushed or well you did, this is the kind of workout that leaves you wondering two minutes after you finish if you could have given more- love that.
Events 4 and 5: the Songs of Susannah
I had the idea of reading these books while on the longest part of this tour, but I did not follow through on that. I really need to though as I feel it would only add to my love affair with these workouts.
This was a two- parter:
- The first part had Wall walks + wall facing handstand push ups paired with Drag Rope double unders
- The second part had moderately heavy cleans and handstand walking
The design was such that most athletes would do well on one and not as well on the other. Which meant of course that the fittest in the field would ideally do well on both. The eventual podium finishers on the men’s side had finishes of 6th or better on both parts, on the women’s side the top three overall were 5th or better on all parts of this. No one however, was as impressive as Lee Sharum, who swept both of these workouts taking all 200 points and cementing his name in the podium fight.
In general I’ve noticed that amongst any group of competitive CrossFitters, being good in the three to six minute time domain is usually a good indicator of who the fittest amongst the participants are. In this case that once again seemed to hold up.
Sunday: Day Three
I considered the “Dark Tower” to be the signature event of this competition. It might not look the sexiest on paper, but it was all but impossible to escape the pain this workout elicited. Rowing, barbell cycling, and gymnastics (with slight variations depending on the divisions), classic MWG and a miserable time domain of 14-18 minutes.
Event 6: The Dark Tower
Everyone else did their version of this workout Saturday, but for the elite athletes it was the penultimate workout early on Sunday afternoon.
I must give a shoutout to Emily and Alex Beroth. Emily won this workout by 26 seconds against the rest of the women’s field, and Alex, although he was competing in the Rx division, was over 90 seconds faster than the second best male in his division.
On the men’s elite side, this was a close second to Gunslinger in terms of events I wish I had streamed. There was an epic three way battle between up and comer (and brand new on my radar quite frankly) Dalton Rodgers, Austin Spencer, and a man I’ve yet to mention in this article, but whom I have already seen podium at the Iron Games and Desert City, Andris Sturans.
While Rodgers and Spencer both broke on the last set of toes to bar, Sturans went unbroken to vault from 3rd to 1st. However, while Sturans was push jerking the 165 barbell in the final round, Spencer switched to push press in an attempt to close the two rep deficit he was in. They finished within a second of each other and both smiled as they collapsed to their knees. Sturans ended up edging out Spencer on this one, but would ultimately take second to him in the competition overall.
Event 7: The Crimson King
After the Rx divisions did a rope climb workout earlier in the day, Taylor Self cut the ropes for cut rope climbs on site in front of everyone demonstrating just how quickly and easily that can be done if needed.
With the ropes hanging ominously above the floor a pair of dumbbells resting atop a box for dumbbell box step overs the stage was set for a beautiful finale. Neither of the eventual winners of the competition won this workout (they both finished second). Sturans made it a perfect Sunday for himself, while another relative unknown to me prior to the weekend, Theresa Harvey took the win for the women en route to a fourth place overall finish (only ten points behind third palace Briana Dunbar – who, fun fact, was the Rx winner of this competition last year).
The more I think about it, the more I believe this was the most entertaining and comprehensive programming from any event I’ve been at so far on the tour. I try to say that with as little bias as possible, it was just genuinely how I felt as I watched workout after workout play out in ways as good or better than I expected. There were of course some limitations with running it in an affiliate, but every athlete we spoke to except one had an amazing experience and commended us for putting on a successful, challenging, and enjoyable competition experience.
Personally, the seamlessness with which Taylor, Lizzie, and myself navigated any and all obstacles that arose over the three days was very refreshing and I look forward to doing it again with them next year.
The Community and Masters divisions were new for us this year, but we are hopeful to continue to grow those in future iterations. We are grateful for everyone who participated in those this year and hope they will spread the word so we can provide great experiences to their friends and training partners next year.
I’ll take a little break for Thanksgiving before going to WheelWod, Dubai, and Italy to close out the calendar year.