Let the 2017 Games Begin ... - Written by Bethany Branham

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Let the 2017 Games Begin…
Written By: Bethany Branham

 

What an experience this 2017 Crossfit Games Season has been.  Trying to capture this experience in text doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, however this is my best attempt to share all the things I’ve learned, not only about myself, but about competing at this level and Crossfit in general.  Before I completely dive into my Crossfit Games experience and how much fun I’ve had, let me start you off with a little bit of a background.


Leading up to the 2017 Crossfit Games


I grew up as a gymnast and competed for almost 8 years before moving on to a hodge-podge of addictions ranging from body building to endurance training including half marathons, sprint triathlons, obstacle course races.

I found Crossfit in Nov. 2015 and competed in my first Crossfit Open (South Central) in 2016 where I didn’t quite make it to the regional round of competition (41st Place).  It was at this point when Crossfit Games Veteran Jenn Jones-Astle and her husband Jared Astle invited me to try their programming Black Magic Training (BMT), which obviously changed my life. 

Fun Fact:  The 2017 Crossfit Season blessed me as a "double rookie" – making Regionals then the Games, both being 1st time achievements. 

It’s been quite the whirlwind of a year, however I’ll be the first to share with you that upon learning that I made it to regionals my initial thought was, “okay this is amazing, please don't get last…” (Haha, but seriously).

So after placing 4th at Regionals this year I was in total shock.  I couldn't believe that I had made it to the Games, It honestly didn't hit me until I got to Madison and was literally competing in event 1.  I can't believe this season is over, still feels like a dream.


Athlete Check In


Check in was so surreal. It was kind of ridiculous how much stuff we got. I expected to get some free clothing and shoes but the amount that we got was un-freak’n-believable!!! 5 pairs of shoes, so many varieties of leggings, t shirts, tanks, shorts, booty shorts, 10-12 head bands, socks, 4  pairs of Rehband knee sleeves, Gatorz sunglasses and the list goes on!


I really felt like a celebrity; there was no shortage of photographers snapping pictures, all the women athletes were invited to get their hair and nails done, compliments of Crossfit, and everyone was so friendly.  So huge thanks to all the staff that was so extremely generous in treating every athlete like royalty.


That night was the first athlete dinner which in itself could be a blog. I mean what could be cooler than all the Games athletes under one roof eating dinner while listening to Dave Castro congratulating us in one breath for making it thus far while essentially telling us how badly the weekend was going to hurt in another lol. 


We were also introduced to the biking event known as “CycloCross” and what an event that was J.  I wish I had video capturing the “gasps” of so many athletes after walking through this event, at this point the adrenaline was for sure pumping.


Day 0 - Time Trials


Well this was fun!  We had to do a time trial for the CycloCross event to fairly seed the heats for the actual final CycloCross event taking place on Day 1 of competition. Getting to bike the course for the first time was nerve racking to say the least; Now I've biked before, but when you add in obstacles i.e. coming off the bike, running over planks of wood, jumping over logs, working through gravel, grass, and pot holes every 2 feet all while racing against other seriously competitive people it became an unpredictable dynamic, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. 


Despite coming in 8th during the time trials there was more to this story, like the time when my heat for the time trial started and my pants got caught in the chain causing a delay of 5 – 10 seconds, just long enough for me to frantically fix my pants and get going.  After regaining my composure, I chased the pack, followed by literally running into the pack upon the first turn (sorry Brooke Wells), which of course caused me to fall completely off my bike, lol. 


I did end up getting 2nd in my heat of the time trial, so maybe these minor setbacks during the time trial were more of a blessing than anything, as now I was fired up to compete for real.


Day 1 - Run Swim Run / CycloCross/ Amanda .45:


“Wait, running, more running, and some endurance based events, yes sir, I think I’ll have some” ha. To be honest, I was extremely happy knowing that I would be able to rack some points early on with the understanding that the 3rd event was going to be a challenge for me. 


The Run-Swim-Run was crazy. I swear everyone and their mom did their first 800m in 2 min and their first mile under 6 min. It was ridiculous how fast we were going, and that swim was no joke. Talk about scary. Swimming in open water is one thing, but swimming in open water with the males paired with choppy water because it happened to be raining that day was hands down the scariest swim I've ever been a part of.  Then the 2nd run on the way back felt like forever lol, but overall, I thought it was a great first event for me that allowed me to secure an 8th place finish.


The CycloCross, now this was fun and Yes, I am the girl that that real-time announcer Dan Bailey was referring to the entire time about my pants, but I don't care lol if you were in my position you would have done the same damn thing. I am NOT Showing my butt on tv! I'm sorry I'd rather be known as the girl who pulled up her pants up every 2.5 seconds than the girl whose butt was on tv for everyone to see.  Other than that I loved this course! I did however completely lose focus on one of the last turns, ended up running into the wall, and again, off my bike completely lol. So sad, but it was such an incredible experience that I can't even be mad, and the fact that I was so close to Tia Toomey and in contention for those top couple spots is pretty cool in itself!


Now this last event Amanda .45 was the one event on Day 1 that I was not looking forward to, and the fact that I was in the last heat competing against the best of the best was very intimidating. Now although I felt I was out of my league being in the most competitive heat for this particular event, I did exactly what I could do, gave it hell.  As high volume muscle-ups is a movement that I knew going into the games, if they showed up, would be a damage control workout that I wouldn't do so hot in.  Despite all my experience as a gymnast, ring MUs have never been my thing, so for me performing 45 of them with no fails was considered “a win” for this event.  Still a cool experience being in that last heat but man was it daunting to be in there head-to-head against these girls that are easily measured as Game’s veterans. 


Day 2 – Sprint O-Course/ 1RM Snatch/ Triple-G Chipper/ Assault Banger


Time to make up some ground. The O-course was definitely my jam. I knew this was going to be another solid opportunity to gain some decent points so I needed to capitalize.  I think the pressure of that, coupled with being a little timid on the second obstacle made me do really horrible the first round, It was close but I was able to avoid the round #2 cut off.  I honestly thought that I hadn't made it but when they called my name I became reinvigorated! Round 2 went way better and somehow, I pulled off a “W”.


Then the finals came and nerves returned, being surrounded by all the Crossfit big named vets... yikes!  This of course opened the door to making a poor decision around wearing gloves. I mean, It was super cold out there and my fingers felt like they were falling off so I made the decision that will haunt me forever... I put on gloves. In theory, this is a great decision, my thought process was; hands are cold, need to keep them warm, so put on gloves. But nooooo, so dumb. Gloves ended up being the downfall of a potential win and $10,000. I ended up slipping on the ropes with three obstacles to go and it cost me. The big takeaway, BE CONSISTENT and do the same thing every damn time and do NOT switch up your game plans up last second.


The rest of the day was Interesting to say the least. Next up was the 1RM Snatch. Warming up I was a little tired but my snatches were looking good and I ended up feeling really awesome and pumped.  I warmed up to a hefty 175# which is my personal PR. The game plan was to hit 175# on my opening lift and of course move onto 185 / 190 for the second one.

Planning for this type of event will most definitely be worked on for future events because that game plan completely fell apart in a matter of seconds hahaha.  I went out there missed my 175# opening snatch twice, freaked out, dropped to 155# missed it once, and had 10 sec to hit it and thankfully I did, but man was that a heart breaker. It was crazy being out there and the spotlight only being on you. Nerves kicked in, I pulled the barbell way too high (a good problem to have right J) and blacked out, and that was that.

 

Experience was definitely the missing piece to this event, and even although it kicked me right in the gut having missed an opening weight I hit warming up, it was probably the best thing that could have happen to me, as it won’t happen like this again. 


Last but not least was the Assault Banger. Other than the fact that everyone's thumbs were fucked up the rest of the weekend, I got off this event and I was like l want to do this again. I can do it better. Middle of the pack, meh…


Day 3 - Strongman’s Fear/ Muscle-Up Clean Ladder/ Heavy 17.5


Saturday morning wakeup call 5am, talk about tired. We didn’t get out of the stadium Friday night until about 9pm and didn't get back to my room and into bed till ~11pm.  I think out of everything that was the part I disliked the most about this whole experience; late nights at the stadium and very early wake up calls the following mornings, exhausting, but the Games must continue!


This was a total damage control day. Up to this point I’ve been working with a yoke for roughly a month so the Strongman’s Fear was going to be rough.  My cleans are about as amazing as they can be considering my Olympic lifting expertise is grounded in the 18 months I’ve put in since starting J. 


Fingers crossed the mystery event was going to be wheel house considering how my body now feels at the end of this 3rd day of competition.  Heavy 17.5, nope, not wheel house…  I ended up finishing these events in 20th, 35th, and 29th place. 

I took the remainder of the day 3 to enjoy my surroundings, the process, and the people around me. Saturday was a mentally challenging day for me, at this point in the competition I knew that my best just wasn't going to cut it this year and I started getting excited to get back home to Texas to continue training now that my weaknesses were very much exposed.  At the same time during this excitement I had the fear of completely losing composure on this day, falling apart, crying, and giving up, as the dream of coming out in my Games rookie debut with a massive bang was slowly turning into more of a mediocre dream of making the Games and not getting cut lol, none the less, it’s all still been a dream!!!. 

Day 4 – Madison Triplet/ 2223 Intervals/ Fibonacci Final


As the last day of competition and coming off of that tough Day 3 for me, it was definitely a day of reflection. I had my ups and downs and yes, I was tired, and yes, I was sore, but no, I didn't want to quit, and I wasn't ready to give up. The first event was a fun one and a good one for me, the Madison Triplet. This one involved a 450m run, burpees, jumping over hay bales and a d-ball.  The shins were pretty much ruined by this point because we were running on cement in Nanos but I managed to stay 2nd in my heat and liked getting to roll over the hay bales, thought it was pretty bad ass J. 


The last two workouts 2223 Intervals and the Fibonacci Final. Those were interesting; but by this point during the Games anything that you are good at you end up being really shitty at, haha, just facts. One of my weaknesses includes my arms getting full of blood and prematurely blowing up causing me to fail quickly.  Unfortunately, both workouts involved a failure mechanism due to upper body muscle fatigue. So by this time I said fuck it, it is what it is, give it everything I have but at the same time don't get mad when the arms blow up. So that's how those workouts went; During rope climbs my biceps blew up and during the finale, my triceps blew up, simple as that lol. I just need more time with those skills and time under tension, nothing to be ashamed of or mad about, just something to look forward to improving upon for next year and in future years to come.  But I will have to say even though I didn't do so hot on these last two workouts, the lessons learned will prove to be invaluable!

 

Closing & Thank You!!!


All in all my experience in Madison was eye opening.  I feel that the ups & downs and the general volatility in emotions come with the territory.  This level of competition coupled with the volume, intensity, and nerves required to perform, is simply put, exhausting.    Despite the outbursts of tears throughout the competition (always followed by outburst of laugher, lol), I couldn't think of how this weekend could have gone any better as far as kicking off my Crossfit Games career (see what I did there lol).  From the staff to the event/workout selections hats off to Dave Castro and Crossfit, Inc. for organizing such an incredibly well run event.

 


I knew going into the games and I still know now that I have a lot of room to improve and a lot of things to work on.  But where I was a year and half ago until now is completely night and day.  So if I can do as much improving as I did in a year in half just think about where I can potentially be in 2, 3, 4, even 10 years from now. The thoughts are endless and possibilities are vast! It definitely takes a lot of drive and hard work to want to do something like this but it also takes an amazing coach, programming, and an amazing support system by your side every step of the way. So thank you to my two coaches and fittest couple I know, Jared & Jenn Astle who saw me before I was nothing and reached out to me to be taken under their wing as a Black Magic Athlete.  To all of my family, friends, and sponsors who have been through this roller coaster called life with me love you all!