The Fittest Experience, Experience || Coach Bach Vu
Rewind back to September 24, 2022, The Fittest Experience Throwdown arrived. This was a competition that was held throughout Texas in major cities, hosted by various boxes. Any team could have registered, but only the top sixteen teams throughout would qualify for The Fittest Experience.
Three young city boys from CFA approach CrossFit Skyline in the heart of downtown Houston in the early hours of the morning. Caffeine in hand, we walked in not really knowing what to expect. We understood each other’s fitness levels but only relative to the community we were a part of. With little competition experience amongst the three of us, we eagerly and anxiously anticipated the three WODs that would soon put our fitness to the test.
After check-in, we walked into the briefing area with so much free stuff we had thought we already won. Little did we know, the actual winning was yet to come. With so much excitement in the air, we observed every team get into the zone and their mental focus shift. The head coach at the event debriefed all of the athletes on each workout, clarified gray areas, and answered any questions. We circled back together and reviewed our planned strategy.
Prior to this day, Griffin, Josiah, and I tested all three workouts – identifying strengths, weaknesses, efficient transitions, where to hit the jets and when to settle into our pace. This would prove to be effective immediately. Workout one was a descending chipper ladder that included movements that were in our strengths – synchro deadlifts, synchro lateral burpees over bar, and toes to bar. Boom. One event in and we claimed the number one spot. This brought on the confidence we needed to know that we can hang with these boys and we are capable of fighting for a podium spot.
Sticking to our strategy, we understood event two was where we needed to land at least in the middle of the pack or higher because this event tested our weakness – strength. Each athlete was to find a 3RM for one movement. Griffin tackled the 3RM shoulder to overhead, Josiah took on the 3RM front squat, and I hung on for dear life looking for my 3RM hang clean. Event two completed and we were right where we wanted to be, 4th place but dropped our overall to 3rd. Not sweating it, we regrouped, reenergized, and prepared for our last and final event.
During event three, we quickly learned that this was going to be a fight to the finish – who’s fitness will supersede the other. Every team needed a good finish on this workout to even consider qualifying. Event three was a two part workout, part A was max cals on a rower and part B was a chipper that included a descending ladder of wall balls and pull-ups. We stuck to our strategy and breezed by the chipper… but that was not going to keep us afloat alone. Upon completion, we spent the remainder of the time cap gutting out as many calories as we could on the rower. Looking around at the other lanes, guys were exhausting every bit of energy they had left trying to crank out one more row – but we were too. The feeling of fatigue began to settle in but Josiah and Griffin managed to push themselves past exhaustion. Griffin closed us out as time expired and the look of resilience (and the possibility of redlining) became visible as he cranked out as much power as he could muster up in each pull. Clock beeped. We all fell to the ground in such depletion trying to bring our HR back down.
We finished event three 1st in part A but fell lower on part B. Nevertheless, we did enough to finish and podium in 2nd place. From coming in that morning with not knowing what was ahead of us to finishing 2nd out of 10 teams, that spoke volumes to us and filled us with so much confidence and excitement to what was ahead. We later learned that day that we were one of the 16 teams to qualify for The Fittest Experience. Let’s go.
Fast forward now to January 27, 2023, The Fittest Experience was among us. After four months of training, dealing with life, and navigating through weekend habits, CFA City Bois arrived at the Williamson County Expo center late morning, questioning why we need to be here so early if our event wasn’t for another 4-5 hours.. Anywho, we checked in, established our home base in the athlete village and (im)patiently waited for our names to be called. The venue was filled with athletes from all over Texas in all shapes and sizes with one goal in mind – win. This was the first big sanctioned competition for any of us so we went in with an open mind but kept our confidence high.
Event one, front squat ladder. Immediately, we started off the weekend with an event that tested one of our weaknesses – strength. Which is ironic because we did better than our trial runs. Josiah and I PR’d our 2 rep front squat at 260lbs, and Griffin was able to complete the ladder with ease and tough out 23 deadlifts at 275lbs. Doing better than our expectations, we left day 1 right where we wanted to be, in the middle of our division, and looked forward to the events the next day.
Saturday arrived and our first challenge of the day was dealing with a torque tank and a 100 lbs sandbag. During our practice runs at home, we substituted the tank with a plate loaded sled… quickly into event two we realized that those two pieces of equipment are not cut from the same cloth. 3…2…1…go I started us off with the sandbag ground to shoulder and tank push. Even though my distance to travel with the tank was only 40m, I felt as if my legs lost all connection to my mind. I wobbled off as I tagged in Griffin and he then switched out for Josiah. Highlight of this event was Josiah’s ability to push that notorious tank for 120m and give us a 9th place finish. We all came to the conclusion that we have never experienced such fatigue and lactic acid build-up in our legs – ever. We walked it off, replenished our energy and awaited for the second event that day.
Going into the last event of the day beat up and worn, we were sitting in 12th place. 12 out of 22? Not bad. We knew though, that this was the event where we made up some ground and gave us a competitive edge… or so we thought. Event three and four were back to back. We started off with a chipper that included pull-ups and hang power cleans – this was our money maker right here. Griffin acted as the main barbell guy, Josiah was the middle man that was efficient in both, and I was the pull-up specialist. We started off on a great start. When I hopped on the pull-up bar for the first set, each pull-up felt like it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done – but at a cost. For a person that never wears grips and never rips… I happened to rip not in one spot but 5 spots in both hands and blood was flowing everywhere. With the adrenaline running through me, I pushed through and we finished event three in decent position.
While everyone was resting in the 4-minute transition period, I spent that rushing over to the medical tent to get my rips looked at and taken care of. A quick wash, pair of scissors and athletic tape seemed to do the job just right. Next up was another object that we had zero experience with. Have you ever seen that episode of Spongebob where he has to wrestle that Alaskan bull worm? Well the CFA City Bois had to wrestle a different variation of that worm. It was a three man worm that demanded 15 thrusters and a 5 meter lunge, four times. We were gassed. This worm really tested us and how far we could push ourselves. We dug deep and finished. Not only was the workout finished, but we were pretty finished ourselves. I don’t know if I have felt that kind of exhaustion before. It was really eye opening. Day two came to an end and we all were ready to head home and get as much rest as we could before Sunday came around.
Sunday. A 2.8 mile trail run was the last thing we needed to complete to close out the weekend. We went into Sunday in 14th place and needed to jump 6 spots to qualify for the finals. Completely sore from the days prior, we decided to give it what we can and try to be competitive. From the start, Josiah took off doing what he does best – run. Griffin and I stayed in the middle of the pack with the intention of hitting the jets towards the end of the run. We were off to a fantastic start with the idea of potentially qualifying lingering in our heads, but was cut short. To preface, it had been raining all day before and it was cold out. This made the trail muddy, slick, and with zero traction. Griffin just happened to step in a divet that caused him to roll his ankle. Frustrated with the environmental circumstances I carried on and finished with Josiah.
Though we did not get the finish we wanted, we were sort of relieved that there was no more suffering ahead of us. We gave this competition what we could and it chewed us up and spit us back out… We were hurting! But in the best way possible. TFX was a great learning experience that definitely humbled us and brought into perspective that in fitness – there’s levels to it! I applaud and respect any individual that can push their bodies to these limits and continue on to the next event. Overall, there is no other group that I would have wanted to suffer and experience all of this with. Through the highs of finishing second at the throwdowns and to the lows of feeling utter defeat from a freakin’ worm, I would go through it all again with those two. It is back to the drawing board for us and see where we can take our fitness level to next year!