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In the age of success, where our kids are routinely rewarded for every tiny bit of effort, it's hard to define a hero.
The 'reality' we present to our kids-complete with heavy glaze and Disney magic-is wrong. We DON'T all win, and winners don't even win all the time. Today's top dog was yesterday's runt with a chip on his shoulder.
We make heroes of bullies, of victims, and even of their storytellers, depending on the angle of the camera's lens. In sport, we deem the giants 'heroes' for success at their chosen pursuit; for the game-winner; for their induction into Halls of Fame.
My definition is a bit different.
Nor is heroism the same as courage, in my book. If courage means being scared but doing the right thing anyway, then heroism does require its share of courage.
But a hero is something more: a hero inspires others to do the same-to take action where they may have chosen to run-because if they can do it, so can I.
If Cam can do the overhead squats unbroken, then so can I. If Philsy ain't letting go, I'm not either. If Boo can get two full rounds in eight minutes...me too. And if Heather can referee all day without a lunch break...hand me a clipboard.
Last night, still floating in Games afterglow, I stumbled across an article from Salon magazine: "CrossFit Mirrors American Militarism." It's well-written, well-titled, and it's almost correct. CrossFit doesn't mirror 'militarism,' though it has things in common with military training, accountability and structure. It mirrors the pursuit of heroism.
The Catalyst Games is an exercise in "me, too" inspiration. Consider little Annie (short, I'm convinced, for 'Animal.') Thirty seconds before the first Gauntlet event, her dad saw an opening in the lineup, snatched her up, and carried her to the starting line. Startled, Annie didn't think she wanted to play with the other kids in this giant tent full of strangers. She hid her face in his shoulder for a moment. But she's a CrossFit kid, and these were other CrossFit kids, and she trusts her hero: Daddy.
Annie lined up with the other kids, rowed her heart out, and did burpees until someone told her to stop. Then she grinned and followed the other kids outside to jump on the big tires.
"Every summer, I get these kids together and ask them if they want to do a workout," her dad, Jon Balfe, told me later. "They all groan. Then I say, 'Okay. You want to play a game instead?' and they get excited. The game is squats and burpees. They love it."
Jon isn't just letting Annie have fun. He's teaching her that perspective changes everything; that the hard stuff is sometimes its own reward; that social interaction with other kids doesn't mean texting. It's not the easy way to parent, not anymore. But it's the right way.
That's CrossFit: an opportunity to do hard stuff with a 100% survival rate and a chance to do better tomorrow. On the flip side, I'm nearing the end of my 24-hour 'winners' window' after my team, the Ginger Ninjas, won first place in the Team division. Tomorrow, that's gone, and I'll be working on handstand pushups again. The enemy I face-and you, and them-doesn't wear a bandito mask and carry a Russian-made firearm. The only enemy we'll meet tomorrow is the one we already know today: self-doubt, shame, and surrender. The battles fought, learned, and refought in the gym don't just give us abs 'n glory; they give us Heroes.
After an awesome day of tire flipping, pull ups, and log carries, here is the full listing of final results!
|1. Ginger Ningas|
|2. Tear Jerkers|
|3. The Mules|
|5. Team Xtreme|
|6. Team ChuckFit|
|7. The Newbies|
|8. Wicked Komodo Assassins|
|9. The Real GymWives of Shane Gillespie|
|11. Team Bones|
|12. Team Suds|
|13. Team Anything|
|14. Off Constantly|
|1. Brunette Barbell Bashers|
|3. Pedal Pushers|
|1. Colin Bovingdon|
|2. Isaac Sloss|
|3. Hugh Escario|
|4. Mack Morgan|
5. Jacob Morgan
|1. Talyn Tait|
|2. Shea-Lynn Gioia|
|3. Erin Gillespie|
|4. Sila McGuffin|
|5. Shilo Rousseau|
|6. Emma Karklins|
|7. Sarah Ryan|
Individual Women RX:
|1. Tina Balfe|
|2. Kristen Vidlak|
|3. Amy Mavec|
|4. Jess Sally|
|5. Cindy Henson|
|6. Christine Charbonneau|
|7. Taryn Morley|
|8. Tory Niven|
|9. Deandra Cormier|
|10. Jackie Ehrhardt|
|11. Kristen Green|
|12. Chloe Jutras|
Individual Women Scaled:
|1. Betty Lou Mancuso|
|2. Deb Johnston|
|3. Miranda Stadnisky Mayhew +1|
Individual Men RX:
|1. John Balfe|
|2. Cam Wilson|
|3. Kyle McDermid|
|4. Jordan Casola|
|5. Adam Dubeau|
|6. Guillaume Blais|
|7. Greg Pettypiece|
|8. BJ Adams|
|9. Vance Henson|
|10. Chris King|
|11. Dominic Desrochers|
|12. David Orr|
|13. Jordan Oikari|
|14. Matt Schoales|
|15. Adam Ball|
|16. Luc Baillargeon-Smith|
|17. Trevor Gelaznikas|
|18. Caz Taback|
19. Josh Johnson
Individual Mens Scaled:
|1. Darrel Philion|
|2. Chris Best|
|3. Mikie Lamoureux|
Congratulations to ALL athletes. See you next year!
Jess finished second overall at the 2012 Catalyst Games, but her real triumph came when life threw her a major curve last spring. Through the adversity, she trained hard and still managed to complete the Catalyst Intern Program a few weeks ago. She's a model athlete and Catalyst Family member.
This will be my fourth time participating in Catalyst Games. My first year was at the Pavilion so I’m really excited to go back. This year I have a completely different mindset going into it. There have been a lot of changes in my life this year (the name change on my shirt says it all!) and as a result I am a lot more relaxed mentally. I’m sure I’ll have a few butterflies on game day but the last year has given me perspective. While I am definitely competitive, I could care less about where I place. The real win comes from being prepared to face future challenges. The physical challenges that Catalyst provides have taught me more than I even realize. I’m looking forward to Saturday as a chance to celebrate the strength that I have gained, both mentally and physically.
Shirts are ready for pick up!!!
Thursday night and Friday night from 5-7pm, athletes can pick up their t-shirts and check in for the Games! Don't worry, you can still get your shirt and check in on Saturday morning, but if you are here Thursday or Friday, get it done!
Make sure to read the blackboard upstairs at the Park to make sure you check in properly!
Finally! Event 4 is here!
Individual Event 4:
Plate WOD - 10 minute Time Cap
OH walking lunge - point A to B, 1 plate at a time
20 ground to overhead, after loading plates onto a bar
Farmers carry point B to C, 1 or 2 plates at a time
20 burpees over the plates, farmers carry plates back to Point A
As many points as possible, pull ups OR muscle ups in the remaining time:
5 points for every muscle up
3 points for every chest to bar pull up
1 point for every chin-over-bar pull up
Men: 45lb plates
Women: 25lbs plates
Varsity: 10lb plates
Team Log Carry: 10 minute time cap
Log Carry Course
Team Log carry around inside perimeter of Pavilion
20 ground to overhead with log (all 3 team members perform together)
Team Log carry around inside perimeter of Pavilion
20 burpee over the log (all 3 team members perform together)
Team Log carry aroundinside perimeter of Pavilion
20 log thrusters (all 3 team members perform together)
Finish with as many points as possible in muscle ups and chest to bar pull ups in the remaining time (only one person moving at a time):
5 points for every muscle up
3 point for every chest to bar pull up
1 point for every chin-over-bar pull up
Below is a *tentative* schedule of the events for Saturday! Times are subject to change, but the order of events will most or less remain the same.
9am: Team Event 1
10am: Individual Event 1 (including Varsity)
11:00am: Team Event 2, Women's Event 2
12:00pm: Men's Event 2, Varsity Event 2
1:00pm: Team Event 3
2:00pm: Individual Event 3, Varsity Event 3
3:00pm: Team Event 4
4:00pm: Individual Event 4, Varsity Event 4
On Friday evening, visiting CrossFit athletes are welcome to join the 7pm Mobility class at Catalyst (99 Industrial Court 'B') and stick around for Open Gym at 8pm to loosen up, practice events, work on their lifts, or otherwise wear themselves out so that Catalyst members can...never mind. If you're in town for the Games, don't miss visiting Catalyst!
It's Games week!!!!
Here are some movement standards, to clear up any questions:
For the Push press to count the barbell will move from the shoulders to the overhead position, with the knees, hips and shoulders extended in one line. A shoulder press, push press, push jerk or split jerk may used as long as the elbow, shoulder, hips and knees fully extend, and the bar finishes directly over the heels with the feet together.
In the muscle-up you must pass from a hang below the rings to support above them. A kipping muscle-up is ok, swings or rolls to support are not permitted. The arms must come to a full lock out (with or without a “false grip”) with the feet off the ground. The elbows must fully lock out while supporting yourself above the rings. Muscle-ups may be on the bar. In this case, the same holds true - full hang below the bar, to a fully supported, locked-out position above the bar.
These are standard pull-ups. Full extension of the arms at the bottom, chin over the bar at the top. Any grip on the rings and any type of kipping are allowed, as long as the chin goes over the bar.
Chest to Bar Pull-ups
Same as above, but the bar must touch below the collar bone.
At the bottom, the crease of the hips must pass below the height of the knee cap. At the top, the knees and hips must be completely open. The judges will be particularly strict about ensuring the hip becomes fully open at the top (no leaning forward). This is the movement standard for anything involving a squat - front squat, overhead squat, air squat, thruster, etc.
Athletes will face the object. The bottom of the burpee has the athlete face down with the chest and thighs touching the ground. There is no requirement for how they stand up. The athlete must then jump from two feet and land on the other side of the sandbags with two feet. This completes 1 burpee.
Jumps must be 2 foot jumps onto the box, fully extending the hips while standing on the box. The athlete may jump or step off the box.
And now for the surprise...
Remember that Event 1 row? We're going to time it and call it Event 1a. It's going to count as it's own event. Rowers, get ready to dominate!
Stay tuned for the final event to be released this week!
Miranda is a story unto herself.
In 2009, Miranda competed in her first Catalyst Games. It was the same day as her wedding, so she had to leave early. She wore a green veil for the first two events, and I'll never forget her final lap of the XC run course. The mile ended with a very steep, slick climb in mud and clay. To urge her upward, I barked, "Last workout as a Mayhew!"
"Screw that," she responded, "he's taking MY last name!"
When Miranda was due with Tristan (you've met him: he's mini-Miranda) she was hit by a car while walking down the sidewalk. She was fine; he's fine, too (let him chase you around the mat for ten minutes playing "Shark attack," and you'll see for yourself.) Such is her toughness.
She regularly drags coworkers across town on their lunch hour to hit the WOD, and gives advice to other pregnant ladies about how to modify exercises appropriately. At 35 weeks, she's still hitting pullups, burpees and overhead squats. And she's doing the Games.
"I'm so happy to be entering my fourth of many more - and have been thinking about the journey my life has been in between each one - amazing! I have still never been at my "most fit" or "most prepared" for any of them - but surprisingly, being pregnant, I think I've trained most consistently leading up to this year's. It will be somewhat frustrating having to keep my intensity scaled down, but the focus is on the baby of course and it will be a great day nonetheless. Thanks to Catalyst for being and providing one constant that I cherish, for a person who thrives on change, its a treasure!"
In 2008, after stumbling upon some CrossFit Games footage on YouTube, the Catalyst coaches thought it would be a good idea to host our own local fitness championship.
There was already a "fitness" championship in town - bodybuilding and various other posing events - and we thought a demonstration of real fitness would show people what we were about. Competition isn't everyone's goal, but it provides a great snapshot of what we celebrate at Catalyst: fun, support, and hard work. Each element supports the other two.
Catalyst Games 2008 had thirteen competitors. Many of them were coaches. The events revealed our programming bias: we like to make people really strong, and our first two events were tests of strength. In the first, athletes performed as many bench presses as possible with their bodyweight. As soon as they stopped, they racked the bar and jogged to the waiting truck pull. A max deadlift was the second event, and I guess we hoped "Murph" would balance out the others, because we programmed it third. Matt Keating and Crista Wardell were pulled out of the crowd to do the workout, and Joe Scott changed out of his referee hat to do "Murph," too.
2009 saw some fun changes: a cross-country running track, a "catch-the-coach" bonus, and a staggered start on the fourth event. This was Event #1:
The run was exciting (and very muddy.) The highlight may have been watching Miranda Mayhew compete in her bright green wedding veil; she got married a few hours later.
Event Two was a ground-to-overhead challenge: men would complete 5000lbs overhead using 75% of their bodyweight; women would use 50% and more reps. Nancy Leblanc had a very memorable experience in Event #2. The third event was a chipper called, "Cherry On Top," and that cherry - muscle-ups - cost several athletes dearly. The last event was a sandbag carry with a staggered start: the athlete leading after the first three workouts got a head start, according to their lead. Nicole Gignac enjoyed such a large margin that she had almost a full 400m lap under her belt before the next competitor began their run. In the end, Gignac and Adrian Vilaca took the title.
2010 was our first venue change: we moved to the chilly (but VERY photogenic) Roberta Bondar tent. We gave athletes 100 Reasons To Do The Games, and met our first non-Catalyst competitors, each of whom quickly became good friends. It was also the introduction of our Varsity division, and produced our first 300lbs deadlift by a woman (MaryAnn Lindquist.) Our focus didn't change, but our emphasis became achievement over victory. We published, "Don't Shoot The Piano Player", shattered the fallacy of the immovable object, and painted lizards on our plyo boxes to help us overcome the Lizard Brain. We tried Dynamic Scaling for the first time and somehow survived the math.
In the first event, athletes ran 1 mile and then pulled a max deadlift under a time cap. Though they battled for plates, several hit Personal Bests, including MaryAnn.
Event #2 featured a real weakness in Catalyst programming: overhead squats. 10 reps, in 2010, was as tough as 50 in 2013. Though meant to be a quick test of anaerobic threshold, the jumps over a box and burpees didn't really effect the outcome of the event. The best overhead squatters dominated.
Event #3 at the 2010 Games will long be remembered as one of the toughest mental challenges we've ever done. A shuttle/double-under combination with a tight time cap, we saw dead-heat sprints with wooden quads and even a few tears (the crying kind, not the ripping kind.) Athletes collapsed across the finish line, and crowd noise during the sprints drew spectators from all along the waterfront. It was a barn-burner, and Aaron Bell's staggering effort made him a few dozen friends for life. The final event, a 12-minute AMRAP, was a 'classic' CrossFit workout, but the climb onto the stage each round made things quite a bit tougher. In the end, we gave away a cruise to two athletes, and the day was carried by Cam Wilson and Melanie Rose (final results are here.) The Scaled categories were made more interesting by the math-bending required to accommodate Dynamic Scaling, which we altered in 2011.
The Games returned to the Park in 2011, but the events were just as interesting. We hosted the first competitive event on the Hub Trail - a 2k run with pushups, squats and burpees added - to open the events, and introduced the very popular Team category. This wasn't the first appearance of the Green Mules, but it may have been their best. The 2011 Games featured another prize generously donated by Troy Woods: this time, a cruise in a helicopter instead of a ship. Thanks, Woodsy!
Watching the athletes progress through the clean ladder was exciting, and many PRs were claimed, but the real thrill was "Krannie": a compilation of "Annie," "Fran," and "Karen," that put mental fortitude ahead of everything else. Sally Moore, unsurprisingly, proved toughest in the gym, and her performance was both agonizing and thrilling to watch. "Divine," a SEALFIT-style challenge, featured a truck push, sandbag carries, and thrusters with a log. Teams carried their log and did situps with it, too. Good times. Watching Pam do it all while requiring the use of a can was one of the year's highlights for everyone.
The final score revealed a dominance by teams from LSSU, led by Coach Jay. Womens' events scores were so close that any one of FIVE women could have won if they'd scored one or two points higher in any of the events. SFM took the title, of course, and Cam repeated as Mens' Champion.
Elevation wasn't the only change at 2012: rather than Rx and Scaled categories, we used the names "Competitive" and "Amateur." We moved the whole circus to Searchmont, and to no one's surprise, the first event was a hill climb...weighted. With burpees. It was a cold morning, and runners couldn't see the top of the mountain from the bottom. Many believed the course would end "just around the next corner," only to find another mammoth climb in front of them. Mel called it "Sandy Mountain." Everyone else called it...something different.
2012 saw a large-scale draw from other CrossFit gyms: CrossFit Genetic Potential (Manitoulin,) CrossFit Sudbury, and CrossFit 807 (Thunder Bay) were all well-represented.
It was almost a relief to see a clean-and-jerk ladder after the hill run, and despite the very short rest, there were a LOT of impressive lifts. At 155, Brent Fryia cleaned and jerked 225; eighteen-year-old Lucas Proulx scored 265, matched only by his teacher, Jon Balfe.
Another first: a 'skills' competition featuring a softball throw; handstand walk; broad jump; and max double-unders. This event shook up the standings, and helped some gain huge points while others dropped.
Where 2009 had muscle-ups as a 'cherry on top,' they were necessary to compete as Rx'd in 2012, and were only the midpoint of a longer pyramid event. Deadlift/carry/snatch/carry/press/muscle-up, and then work back through in under a time cap. Few finished everything, help up by loading their own plates or their own lungs.
Balfe and Proulx ruined Wilson's three-peat (though his cowboy hat won the hearts and minds of the crowd in the final event,) and Tina Balfe sealed up the podium for CrossFit Genetic Potential. Jessica Sally and Cindy Henson were #2 and #3, and all three are back in 2013.
Zavitz made a great video of the day:
2013 may prove to be the best year yet. Returning to the Bondar Pavilion with all our colour, noise, and a new pullup rig, we're going to churn up the waterfront.
There are many, many other memories, of course. You can read about them on this blog; you can see the winners of 'Best Picture' contests from previous years, watch videos, and read summaries. None will be as good as being there, and no story will every be more important than your own. Want to live through the experience? Good. Click here to register (we won't even keep score, if you don't want us to.) It's not ALL about the t-shirt.