Archive | July, 2014

Training with Pat Burke, 6x CrossFit Games Athlete

Training with Pat Burke has been the most consistent training I’ve ever had in my life. I’m used to visiting different gyms and training with different groups and people being in or out, depending on the workouts. We all assume most of us are training everyday even if we don’t see each other, but we don’t really know. I used to go from sweaty massacre to another sweaty massacre where we’d have some kind of a marathon session or big group workout, and then I would honestly rest for a while or train on my own and work on what I needed to get better. But it wasn’t consistent because if I wanted to take the time off and go “off program,” it was easy since there was no set schedule, it was just chaos. I’ll give the credit where it’s due though, and that is the training that started this fiery journey, and got me where I am today.

I remember six months ago in December when I called Pat, talking about a seminar I was teaching at his gym over Christmas break. I had already decided while I was living in Ohio that I was going to move home for the upcoming season, but had only told a few people and was bursting with excitement. I was like, “And guess what happens after the seminar?” He’s like… “Christmas?” I said, “ya and guess what happens after that….?” There was a long silence, and I broke it saying slowly, “I’M NEVER LEAVING! I’m moving back to Colorado!” He was totally surprised, I could hear it in his voice, “Well where are you going to …train… what gym are you…” I instantly said, “At your gym with YOU! Pat we’re going back to the GAMES this year man!” He just was silent for a while and said… “OH SHIT….” A few times and we laughed about how much training we were going to be doing as it all sank in. I love surprises.

His wife Janelle was very supportive about the transition, and with their 2-year old and a baby on the way, we built a schedule he could balance training and family. Looking back, she has been such a steadfast partner, and they’ve taught me so much about how caring and trusting a marriage can be.

And so the journey began, where I set out on a mission with one person with the same goal, the first time I had ever done that. No distractions, just training.

There’s something about waking up everyday knowing that someone is holding you accountable. Knowing that if I decided to take off for a few days or couldn’t make it in that he would have to do our programming by himself, or take class, and not that we’re uncapable of training on our own, but it was off the schedule. I learned that people say “Routine is the enemy” and that is true, but a routine in training is not bad. Consistency is dependable, which makes our performance dependable.

We are both very different athletes, as we all are, so we sometimes have opposite strengths and weaknesses. We have different favorites, and I began to learn how to game off him and strategize my workouts just as I would a competitor. For example, two weaknesses of mine are rowing and heavy deadlifts, they just aren’t my favorite. But he’s great at both so I knew early on in those type or workouts that I would have to either accept defeat early, and just try to stay close to him, or just stay calm and do my best… and then try to speed through the other areas of the workout to gain back some time. These are good strategies I need to develop because during competition there will always be someone better then me at a movement, and depending on when I take my breaks and when I make my moves, the experience in training will help me get a faster time, and maybe get me an advantage I can steal the lead with. We both learned to coach, and how to be coached.

Pat is a mountain man. He might as well be, anyway. A Paleolithic caveman that likes the workouts that seem like punishment… and as a natural ex-military athlete (“once a Marine, always a Marine”) he loves training with heavy sandbags and sprinting up hills, flipping heavy dirty tires and running through mountain trails with weight vests on. I remember about a month before Regionals we spent a lot of time getting mentally tough by trudging through grueling heat at altitude. Training at sea level in California for the last three years where outdoors extended to beach training or running next to traffic in the city, I wasn’t used to the mile-high elevation. Outside in the elements where there wasn’t a drinking fountain across the room, a protein shake at our convenience, or trendy music blasting from speakers to ‘keep us pumped.’ We didn’t need it. We depended on our own personal self-talk and the guidance of each other’s footsteps to find our pace.

One day of training sticks out to me that I’ll never forget. We were strapped up with 25lb and 40lb weight vests, running up a steep 600m hill to start, and then continued with rolling hills that looked over the valley of Table Top Mountain. Staying with Pat’s pace until halfway I started letting him break ahead and little by little finding a more comfortable pace. He’s a man of very few words… and all he had to do was turn around and yell, “Hey. Are you training for THE GAMES?” Eyes wide open and completely shocked that he called me out, I sped back up to his pace and my dreams and goals flew through my brain the entire way back.

Learning to ‘train uncomfortable’ has been a personal understatement. The situation and environment in competition might be less then ideal, and learning to adapt in any situation has become my hobby. Lift on uneven surfaces, maybe even on the asphalt outside where my bar rolls around and the sun is in my eyes. You don’t like that bar because it’s too thick or the texture hurts your hands? Go make yourself do an entire week’s worth of training on it so that in case it ever comes up, we’ll be ready.

When the Regionals workouts were announced we finally knew what we were getting into. Training had a direct purpose, and we right away picked out the ones that we thought we could do really good in, and the ones that were going to require the most work. Being new to the South West region made it impossible to picture what any of the other girls were capable of. It had been so long since I had trained with female training partners anyway, I could never gage how my numbers were holding up, and what I “should be capable of.”

As the weekend approached, our conversations got more concentrated and deep. I’ve always asked him questions about different Games events that I’ve only heard of or read about. We discuss how different and advanced the sport is now compared to 2004 when he started, or 2008, the first year he went to the CrossFit Games. He had come far from making it last year, and his goal was to make it back. I said, “Pat someone’s going to win every workout at Regionals. Someone’s going to win every workout. Someone will win the rope climb workout, why can’t that be us?” We agreed that we had a chance to blow up some of the events like we’d been doing in training. The confidence of pre-competition is shaky, filled with doubt, fear, positive self-talk, reminders, visions of completing every workout in the best position possible. When individuals train together, they become teammates, even though they compete individually. We called ourselves “Team Winner” (I’ve got to give Klokov props, he came up with the slogan and it just makes ya feel great).

“Team Winner!” was exactly what I yelled at him before every event as they announced the men’s heats and they ran out onto the field. I over and over was shocked at how he clearly had a “different mode” when in competition. From PRing his snatch by a gutsy 15 lbs to placing 3rd in a workout he was nervous about to winning the rope climb event, his “rise to the occasion” attitude was inspiring.

Going into the third day he was a contender for one of the three qualifying spots, and recovering from being sick as a dog. The flu had spread around and knocked out a bunch of individual athletes, staff members, and teams. He had been throwing up the entire night before, and that morning he was in the hospital getting an IV. Wondering if this was the end of the season for him, everyone was proved wrong as he sucked it up and earned a 3rd place spot on the podium. A sweet, sweet ticket to the Games. “Proven” because through all the pain and life-altering dedication, they are proven to be the best, and will now compete against the best of the best.

I’ve learned how to deal with many emotions over the last year. The lessons I’ve learned are sent straight from God, in answers to my prayers of “what I have planned.” No matter what comes my way, I’m taking it all in, and realizing what I can and cannot control as an athlete and as a woman. For right now I’m living in the moment, and training for the “next big thing,” which is something that will never end. It’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a convincing drive that each season brings a more weathered, experienced version of myself.

I am so proud of my training partner. I’m proud of our progress, and as the weeks spill over of NPGL combine tryouts for me, and he’s on track for the biggest platform our sport has to offer, I’m glad to say not much has changed. I’m finally getting to do the “Games training,” I’ve always wanted to do, including lots of endurance, lake swimming, paddle-boarding, wall jumping, adventure races, and of course heavy heavy lifting. He mixes in some “human performance racing” fun with me for my goals, and we’re both getting “fitter” every day.

When in training, it feels like it’s all about the destination, and it wouldn’t be a journey without one. But LIFE happens on the journey, and it’s such a sweet, sweet ride. Read Pat’s story on how he came back to qualify again for this years CrossFit Games.

Going into the NPFL draft

Going into the NPGL draft

If you’ve noticed, the name of the sport has changed from the National Professional Fitness League, to the National Professional Grid League. The “Grid,” is the structure that we race on, the massive pullup, muscle up, HSPU, rope climbing rig next to open space where each team will perform the weightlifting, body weight exercises, and ladders. Shocking news is the announcement of the first match being at MADISON  SQUARE GARDENS, a venue where every athlete dreams of lacing up in. Go big or go home, this league is big-time. The finals for this inaugural season will even be on NBC on Oct 3 @10:30pm ET!

The first step was making it to LA to tryout in one of the combines. I honestly had one of the best weekend performances of my life, as I PR’d three of my max lifts including my Snatch, Over-Head Squat, and Split Jerk. I did well by my standards on the gymnastics, and I loved the skill sets at the first gathering. We were just getting used to the racing, and at first I was unsure of the new specialized team concept and the rules for each specific race. The top 75 out of 200 there made it to the final combine in Las Vegas, where the best of the four combines would race in front of coaches, team owners, and spectators.

Usually at “tryouts,” for any kind of professional league, there’s a level of intimidation amongst the atheltes – and the truth of the matter is, we are competing for spots on a team, where there isn’t room for all of us. But as we huddled up with the coaches for 30 minutes beforehand to go over movements, and pick people that would be best at each movement, there’s a sense of unity. The strategizing over subbing people in and out at specific times and trusting ‘strangers’ with certain tasks and reps brought everyone together. By the time we were out on the court, it was completely surprising how we all knew eachother’s names instantly and cheered eachother on as if we were actual teammates training at a box together.

It’s not just about the “who’s better at what,” when it counts, and it’s not all about stats. The coaches were also watching what kind of teammate we could be, and what affect we had on the rest of the team- negative or positive. Coaching, technique cues, high fives, sweaty hugs were exchanged at the end of matches, when I realistically had just said, “Hey, I’m Andrea, what’s your name?” only hours before! Being able to read my teammates repetitions and when they’re fine, or need help, and being able to communicate came quick, considering just meeting each other.

Something I love about CrossFit is that everyone is training year around to be extremely well-rounded and do all sorts of things they’re not good at so when the time comes, they’ll be ready for the test. I’m not used to taking things I’m not great at, and thinking, “Oh what’s the point? I’m not going to be put in for that anyway. I need to work on my strengths and how I can get my STRENGTHS faster too!” So even though I am trying to keep my training well-rounded, I’ve started doing very fast sprints and running hard before doing tabata intervals, and then racing back. I’ve gotten to practice odd gymnastics skills that in my opinion, some are even more advanced then what the CrossFit Games has had, only because this sport is developed to have specialists on the team. There will be someone who has been a gymnast for 20 years that has been waiting for free-standing hand-stand pushups or L-Sit Rope Climbs or a chance to do 40 Chest to Bar pull-ups unbroken and then get to take a break for 5 minutes. There are a LOT of strong girls out there, and I’m reminded of it in training when I think about dropping the bar instead of linking together repetitions and realizing there’s no “breaking up” sets in human performance racing.

We’re approaching the draft, which is the last step to us being picked for teams! I have been talking to three teams that are “interested” in drafting me, but I also have no idea ‘what number draft pick’ I’ll be. The LA Reign team is hosting my trip to Miami to be present for the draft, so I feel like there’s someone calling me back to my CrossFit roots from competing in the SoCal Region! All of the teams have advanced level athletes, and all the teams will have competitive teams that will grow together as the sport grows and we get more races under our belts. But will I start? What will my roll be? Will I be on a team that’s less known and locally picked their athletes where I’ll be making new friends, or will most of my teammates be big names that I’ll have to really prove myself with to get playing time on the grid?

I said something dorky today in an interview. They wanted me to describe how excited I was to be drafted in the National Professional Grid League tomorrow. I ended up talking about how it feels like when Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts and the sorting hat chooses which house they’ll be in. My fate is in their hands, and I have no idea who will draft me! Right afterwards I said, “Can I try that again? That’s really embarrassing.” The camera guy said, “No take-backs! We’re using it.”

Dangittttt…… haha.

No matter what team I go to, I’ll be getting BETTER this season, and this is an experience I’m so blessed to have. I’ll get stronger and go through strenuous training sessions with teammates knowing i’m not fighting for just myself, I’m bleeding for them too. I will pick up and move to the city that drafts me, so I can spend my time during the season earning my spot and working with my coach and teammates.

The draft is LIVE tomorrow (7/10) at 9:00 am for my Colorado natives on MDT time. It’s live on www.NPGL.com and I won’t find out until the exact moment you guys find out!