What does it take to be one of Europe’s top CrossFitters? The crisp autumn morning of October 12 saw 100 of the UK & Europe’s top CrossFit athletes gathered in Essex for this years Battle of the Beasts finals. It was a great opportunity to witness how some of the big names in CrossFit, as well as the soon-to-be names, tackled the gruelling WODs in the day ahead. 100 athletes, 50 men and 50 women, qualified to battle it out in what proved to be not just a test of overall fitness, but also an exciting day for spectators in Charter Hall, an intimate 700 seat arena. It would have been difficult to not leave inspired. As well as enjoy the day, I wanted to know how these elite athletes prepared – what did it take to rise to the top and take their place amongst the beasts?
The day started with 4 WODs before the top 15 athletes moved on the semi finals. The first 3 WODs were released beforehand. These were:
WOD 1: 3 rounds of DT (70/50kg) 12 Deadlifts, 9 Hang power clean, 6 Shoulder to overhead
WOD 2: 21-15-9 Thrusters (60/40) and T2B
WOD 3: 3 Squat clean, 6 over bar burpees, 2 min AMRAP, 1 min rest, 3 rounds (score is the athletes lowest round for reps)
All athletes I spoke to had used the early release of WODs 1-3 as an opportunity to practice, prepare and strategise. The added benefit of that competition environment meant almost all were pleasantly pleased with faster times on the day. After WOD 1, Jamie Clements (CrossFit Dublin) said it was the fastest he’s ever done the 3 rounds of DT. Chris Quinney (CrossFit Colchester) was also very happy, stating that his DT was much faster than in training too.
General crowd pleaser and female powerhouse, Laura Faulkner gave an amazing performance in WOD 1, especially considering that the weight is equal to my body weight she said.
WOD 4 was max effort double unders, with 3 pull ups/6 press ups/9 air squats on the minute, every minute for 10 minutes. Double unders with a mini-Cindy turned out to be a real lung-burner and a nice compliment to the first 3 barbell-focsued WODs. The combination of double unders and a mini Cindy requires an excellent engine and mental focus, which suited Julie Torp (CrossFit Thames) down to the ground. Although new to CrossFit, she has a background in swimming and handball. She sees herself as having a solid engine, but is less confident with heavy bar work. She saw this comp as a great chance to compete against some the UKâ€™s best talent and being new to the sport didnâ€™t put her off. She was just focused on having a great day and lots of fun.
By the middle of WOD 4, there was scarcely a shirt to be seen as athletes stripped down to try and stay cool. From the audience, the synchronicity of the athletes as they all took to the rig at the start of each minute for their Cindy was something of an awe-inspiring sight; all abs and traps butterflying their way through the pull ups in harmony. The WOD offered a great example of how to raise the intensity of a classic benchmark workout, making it a measure of how well athletes adjusted to unknown challenges mixed with something familiar.
After WOD 4, we saw the first cut and only the top 15 men and 15 women proceeded to WOD 5. In WOD 5, only the most well rounded survived. It was 5 minutes to find a 1RM squat snatch + hang squat snatch, then a brief 30 second rest, followed by ME bar muscle ups in 3 min making it a test of strength, technique and coordination. The pairing of heavy snatch with a skilled gymnastic movement offered some frustration for strong athletes who were happy with heavy snatch but less confident gymnastically.
After WOD 5, 10 athletes were cut, leaving the top 5 men and top 5 women to make it through to the final. Scores were reset for the final WOD which consisted of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.. to 1 reps of pistols & shoulder to overhead (60kg/40kg) with a buy in and buy out of 4 lengths of handstand walk, the athletes also had to Overhead Walking Lunge with the barbell between each round too. Scores were cleared, so this was a winner takes all race much to the excitement of the crowed.
Although all 5 male and female finalists made it through the handstand walk buy-in with ease, it was obvious the toll the rest of work out took on their midline by the buy-out. Gina Yates, although looking strong and maintaining a lead throughout, struggled through the buy-out. Jo, (CrossFit Deviant) was second to finish, although again it looked apparent that she had pushed her body to its absolute limits. Jo told me later that this last WOD was her worst, although a strong finish secured her status as a great all-round athlete.
The men’s final saw the same nail-biting finish as they raced towards the handstand walks, fighting to keep on their hands after the immense challenges of the day. Interestingly, 3 of the 5 finals places were taken by athletes from CrossFit Cheltenham. Will Kane and David Shorunke, both from CrossFit Cheltenham took 1st & 2nd places respectively. Later I asked Will, David and Jamie Verden (also from CrossFit Cheltenham) if there was something in the water at Cheltenham that made for such formidable athletes. No, they laughed. It’s our attitude, summed up by our motto Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done. A motto they certainly all lived up to in the final.
And how did these champions prepare? James Verden prepped by working on his aerobic capacity. “I have the strength but had to improve my engine”, he said. While David Shorunke did well despite not scaling back training much before the day. He is focused on Regionals. But they tell me that at CrossFit Cheltenham, the goal is to train smart – “there’s no point injuring yourself”, Jamie said.
Other than a great day of top CrossFit talent for spectators and a real test for athletes, Battle of the Beasts offered a little peek into what separates the best from the rest. These amazing top 100 competitors trained hard, trained smart, planned and prepared for what they could and had mindsets that helped them give their all – like the commitment to not stop until it’s done.
Now all focus is on what Colchester Events will be doing for their next competition Battle of the Boxes which is a team event in May, registration opens for this one in November with qualifiers throughout January.
Written by Jessica Johns-Green