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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Quick Hits: Open Week 5 Initial Thoughts

Before I start, I'll go ahead and say that this will be a relatively short entry today. I'm going to try and cover the Open in its entirety in another post next week. In that post, I'll be updating a lot of the numbers I put together in my post last fall titled "What to Expect From the 2013 Open and Beyond." With another year of data under our belt, it should be interesting to see what's changing, what's been consistent, and what we can expect in the future.

OK, without further ado, let's dive into my thoughts on 13.5.

  • The combination of thrusters and pull-ups wasn't a surprise to anyone, and I don't have a problem with either of those two movements, but I'll re-iterate my disappointment that overhead squats were left out of the Open again this year. And while I know Fran is the most well-known workout in CrossFit, I personally think it's being put on too high a pedestal. Between the 2013 Games ending with Fran and the last three Opens ending with some sort of Fran-type workout, I think HQ is getting a little repetitive. Remember, "unknown and unknowable" was the Games mantra not long ago, and it seems we may be getting away from that in some respects.
  • I like the idea behind this workout, but to me, the time caps were simply too tight. As of Saturday evening, only 5.9% of men and 1.2% of women had reached beyond the first time cap, and only 16 men and 2 women had reached beyond the second time cap. So what we had for virtually the entire field was a 4-minute AMRAP. There will be plenty of men and women who reach the regionals that did not break into the second time period, so we really didn't get to test their ability to do more than an all-out sprint. And while 4 minutes was enough to get in a pretty nasty workout (as long as you have decent chest-to-bar pull-ups), I think the vast majority of the field was deprived of experiencing this new concept. Again, I like the concept, so why not let more people be exposed to it? My suggestion: a 6:00 time cap, followed by a 5:00 time cap, followed by a 4:00 time cap, followed by a 3:00 time cap, etc.
  • It appeared to me that scores were coming in much slower than in past weeks. I'm wondering if that was because a lot of pretty good athletes missed the time cap on their first attempt and were shy about submitting their score before trying again.
I've gone through and done the leveraging analysis once again for this one, just as I did for 13.2 and 13.4. Because of the unusual time cap of this one, I chose to focus solely on the first 4 minutes, because that's what the workout is really about for almost all of us. Even many of those who got beyond 4:00 had to really focus on simply making it to the first marker as opposed to concerning themselves with pacing for 8:00.

To do this analysis, I looked at 5 regional-level athletes, three of whom finished the first three rounds with :30 or less remaining and two of whom just missed the cut-off. So this is from the perspective of an athlete really looking to break into the second time cap. For background on this type of analysis, please read my post "Why It (Usually) Pays To Be Well-Rounded."

What we can see right off the bat is that this workout is more balanced between the two movements than 13.2 or 13.4, probably more than any other workout this year (I actually did this leveraging analysis for 12.4/13.3 in my original leveraging post, but I did not do it for 13.1 due to the varying weights). Both movements are positively leveraged, meaning you can't easily compensate for a deficiency in one movement with a strength in the other. This is not a coincidence - both movements take about the same time for these elite athletes, and the workout calls for an even number of reps of each in every round. This is one reason why Fran is a great test of fitness (though still not the end-all, be-all of fitness).

With 13.5, there is very little margin for error on either movement if you want to get beyond 4:00. From my experience, it does seem like the chest-to-bar pull-ups are going to be the limiting factor for most people who are more middle-of-the-pack, but for the elite athletes, being solid on the thrusters is also crucial.

Finally, here's are two charts showing how the athletes' pace decayed on each movement throughout those 4 minutes. Each athlete's final score on the workout is in parentheses on the right of the chart.

We can see that the middle round of pull-ups is where things started to separate for these athletes. From my own personal experience, this was absolutely true. I went unbroken until that point, but then the wheels came off and couldn't do more than 4 pull-ups at a time from there on out (I ended with 80 reps).

Well, I hope everyone has enjoyed this year's Open. Good luck to those giving 13.5 one more shot tomorrow and to those advancing to regionals. See you all next week for my overall Open wrap-up.

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