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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.5 Be?

As I mentioned on Twitter last Friday, there will be no podcast this week.  I'm out of town, but for good reason: I'm attending the SOA's Fellowship Admissions Course, which means I'll basically be "graduating" after years of taking actuarial exams.  I'll be coming home with a few new letters after my name, which is pretty cool.

So no podcast, but that means you get more actual, written words from me - just like in ye olden days, back before I was podcasting and tweeting and listening to all that hippety-hop. Before we get to the SWAG, here's a collection of thoughts about 15.4 and the Open so far:

  • If it wasn't already clear, it should be clear now that HQ does not intend the Rx division to be for the masses.  They want the everyday CrossFitter to use that scaled division and aspire to make it to the Rx division.  I think by next year, people will come into the Open with this mindset, but I'm sure it was difficult for a lot of folks to accept that they'll need to scale workouts this year.  But it's just about modifying your perspective, in my opinion.  The Open was always too heavy, too hard, too skilled for a lot of CrossFitters.  Now they've just made the Rx division an even higher bar to attain, but they've left the scaled division there for the masses.  The scaled division is now even more inclusive than the older Opens, so my guess is that in the future, more and more people will scale, and we'll see the Rx division be a smaller subset of the total field than it is now.
  • I liked the movement choices for 15.4 (although they went against my SWAG, of course), but Occam's Razor would say "What the hell are you doing with that rep scheme?"  Would anyone have complained if it was 3-3-6-6-9-9-...?  In that case, the heavy cleans would have played more of a role, and in my opinion, that would have been a well-balanced workout.  The way it was written, it was not only confusing, but also seemed quite biased toward the handstand push-ups.  I just don't get this one.
  • Rich Froning is going to have a hell of a hard time sitting out of the individual competition this year.  The man can't even let Matt Fraser just have the Open title.  Just watch: Rich will win the final workout, and he will do triple Grace at 315 afterwards and post it on Instagram, just to let you know that he still could win the Games if he wanted to.  And Matt Fraser will come in 2nd on the final workout, and he will win the Open, and it will still be damn impressive.
  • How did Annie Thorisdottir sneak back up into 2nd place on the women's side?  Top 11 on the past three workouts?  Looking at the leaderboard right now, I think it's safe to say the women's side is going to be crazy-competitive at the Games this year.
Enough about the past, let's move on to 15.5.  The Rx division of the Open this year is shaping up to be the heaviest (based on LBEL and average relative load) of all-time, by far.  It's actually on par, right now, with what we typically see at Regionals.  Normally I'd say this implies we'll get something lighter in 15.5, but I doubt that's the case this year.  We've seen a progression so far in 2015 of the workouts getting more and more challenging each week, and I think that continues in 15.5.  I also think this workout will be for-time, and I think they'll make use of most of the movements that have showed up in the past but not this year (burpee, thruster, box jump, row, push-up).

With that in mind, I am going to defer to my wife, who came up with this pick last night.  It has everything I was planning to throw in, and if it ain't broke, why fix it?

3 rounds for time of row 500 meters, 21 burpee-box jumps (24"/20"), 12 thrusters (135/95)

As always, post SWAGs to comments, and enjoy the final workout (or workouts?) of the 2015 Open!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Chart: Scaling vs. Rx So Far in the Open

This one will be super-quick today, because I don't yet have the data and/or time to fully do this topic justice.  Expect to see more on this in the Open recap posts in a month or so.

At the request of a couple people, I want to give a quick snapshot of how many athletes are scaling the Open and how many are going Rx.  The trouble for me right now is that I don't have a downloaded version of the full leaderboard, so it's challenging to tell how many athletes have gone Rx in all the workouts.  Athletes can scale one workout and go Rx on another, meaning the leaderboard is a mish-mash of both types of athletes, and the online version is not sortable in a way that I can get at this.

However, what I can do is look at how many athletes are scaling each workout.  The suspicion among many is that far more athletes would be forced to scale 15.3 as compared to 15.1 or 15.2, and the numbers seem to bear that out.  For simplicity, I looked at the Central East region, which should be a pretty representative sample of the worldwide field (again, I'll do this more properly once I have all the data downloaded).  The chart below shows the entire field in each workout, split into Rx and scaled athletes.

It's pretty clear from the two bars on the far right that a lot higher percentage of the athletes had to scale on 15.3 as compared to the first two workouts, particularly among females.  A mere 14% of women managed to complete 15.3 Rx'd, compared to 56% and 66% in 15.1 and 15.2 respectively.For men, 61% completed 15.3 Rx'd, compared to 83% and 84% in 15.1 and 15.2 respectively. 

However, I think it is interesting that from week to week, the total field shrunk by about the same margin from 15.1 to 15.2 and from 15.2 to 15.3 (all between 11%-13%).  Some may have expected that a lot more athletes would drop out entirely during 15.3 due to having to scale, but it doesn't appear that was really the case.  These rates of attrition are very similar to what has been observed in the past few years.  What will be interesting is how this changes moving forward: will athletes be more willing to scale after scaling 15.3, or will they eagerly jump back into the workouts Rx'd if possible?  For women, there were actually slightly more Rx women in 15.2 compared to 15.1, so I imagine it's likely that many athletes will hop right back into the Rx field this week.

Note: I'm always looking for help pulling in the entire dataset.  Several people have helped or volunteered their help in the past, so please contact me at if you think you'll be able to help me out.   Any help is much appreciated, and thanks again to all those who have helped me in the past.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.4 Be?

Last week's SWAG was another half-way decent one that at least got the time domain close (15 minutes vs. 14 minutes) and got one movement right (wall balls), but it wasn't exactly spot-on.  I certainly didn't predict that muscle-ups would appear first in 15.3, but as you'll hear on the podcast below, this wasn't something that came completely out of nowhere.

This week I double-down on an earlier pick, because it just seems too good to pass up this week, but I promise I won't make this pick again if it fails me again.  I've got to believe this week will be short, intense, and I don't think we're quite ready to repeat any movements that have shown up yet.  With that in mind, the official CFG Analysis SWAG for 15.3 (Rx'd division) is:

AMRAP 7 of burpee-box jumps (30"/24")

Remember to check out the podcast for as John Nail and I discuss 15.3, the controversy surrounding muscle-ups appearing as the first movement in an Open workout, how annoyingly hard single-unders can be, and of course, our picks for 15.4.

Please post SWAGs to comment.  Even with so many movements off the table, it will still be quite the accomplishment to get 15.4 or 15.5, especially with HQ showing that the game has changed this year.

Also, be on the lookout this week for a short post later this week looking into how the effect of the 15.3 muscle-ups on the number of Rx vs. scaled athletes, and how it compares to past Open workouts in terms of thinning out the field.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.3 Be?

Well I would have liked to pat myself on the back for having a relatively decent pick last week (it was a repeat, and it did include overhead squats), but since two of our readers got 15.2 exactly right, I guess I'm not so smart after all.  Congrats again to JesseM (via comments section) and Kelcey Lehrich (via Twitter) for calling 15.2.

But enough about those guys.  This is my week for glory.  The Open really hasn't brought the pain yet, and I think this is the week HQ puts a beatdown on the community.  Among Rx athletes, only about 14% of males and about 5% of females made it beyond the round of 14s this year*, so that means the vast majority of the field hasn't had a metcon that lasted longer than 9 minutes yet.  And I think the first two metcons have been more about strategy and avoiding muscle fatigue, and less about engine.  I think that changes this week.

The official CFG Analysis SWAG for 15.3 (Rx'd division) is:

AMRAP 15 of 15 row calories, 30 wall balls (20-lb. to 10'/14-lb. to 9')

Remember to check out the podcast for chatter with John Nail about 15.2 and more details about why our predictions for 15.3 are bound to come true.  Plus we've got a short interview with soothsayer Kelcey Lehrich, he of the correct 15.2 prediction.

Please post SWAGs to comment.  With another repeat workout (likely) off the table, a correct pick this week will be a true accomplishment (still no beer on the line, but perhaps we can work something else out).

*Last year, those percentages were 10% for men and 3% for women.  So it appears the community is improving, although some of that could be influenced by athletes shifting to the scaled division this year.  We'll look more into how continuing athletes improved in my Open review in a month or so.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fun with SWAGs: What Will 15.2 Be?

So we weren't exactly close last week.  I got almost no elements correct about 15.1 (including the fact that it was actually two workouts), although I will give myself a big pat on the back for correctly guessing that it would not be a repeat.  That was brilliant on my part.

Anyway, that's not going to stop me from making a bold pick about 15.2 (it certainly never has in the past).  For all the gory details about how I came up with this pick (along with all the latest on Kim Jong Un's brief stay at the top of the Open leaderboard and other 15.1-related chatter), listen to the podcast below or download it on iTunes.

The official CFG Analysis SWAG for 15.2 (Rx'd division) is:

AMRAP 10 of 60 bar-facing burpees, 30 overhead squats (120/90), 10 muscle-ups (i.e. repeat of Open 11.4)
[Update 3/5 - Fixed the women's weights on this workout to match 2011 exactly.  Thanks to kentyman for the catch.]

Please post SWAGs to comment so that you'll be able to gloat later in the event that your guess is actually not way off.  No beer on the line this week, unfortunately.

[Update 3/6 - Congratulations to JesseM (via comments section) and Kelcey Lehrich (via Twitter) for successfully predicting 15.2!  And thank goodness I did not promise beer this week...]

Monday, March 2, 2015

Froning vs. Fraser (vs. Horwath) in 3 Charts

I'll have plenty more thoughts on 15.1 (and 15.1a) on the podcast tomorrow, and I may even go a little more in depth on the blog later this week as well, but I want to keep things short today.  My preliminary analysis (and my intuition) is saying that this was a toes-to-bar workout, but that's not to say that was the only element that mattered at all.  The snatch was also critical, and as we'll see below, transition time on the deadlift actually could be the difference between scores among elite athletes.

Consider three athletes: Rich Froning, Matt Fraser and Brian Horwath.  Brian Horwath?  Yes, Brian Horwath.  As of 6 p.m. ET, he had the highest score on a video submission in 15.1 (229), and he attacked this workout completely differently than Froning (224) and Fraser (219).  Horwath clearly didn't have the barbell strength that Froning and Fraser did, as evidenced by his 255-lb. clean and jerk in 15.1a (still quite respectable, don't get me wrong).  In fact, he did singles on his snatches throughout the workout, but he made up for this with blistering speed everywhere else.

The three charts below show the pace of each athlete on each movement throughout the workout.  Note a few things:
  • The toes-to-bar degrade for all athletes here.  There are few movements in CrossFit where this is as consistent as in the toes-to-bar.  We saw it a few years ago in 13.4, and I see very few, if any, athletes who can consistently bang out sets of 10+ for a workout longer than 5 minutes.
  • Horwath only goes a little faster than Froning and Fraser on the toes-to-bar, but he maintains that lead throughout.  That small advantage was a big factor.
  • Froning and particularly Fraser were much faster on the snatch.  In the 10 or so videos I've watched, no one has come close to matching Fraser's speed on the snatch.  In hindsight, maybe this was not the best strategy.
  • Horwath blazed on the deadlift.  Absolutely no rest whatsoever after getting off the pull-up bar.  That saved him about 4-5 seconds per round on Fraser and Froning.

Remember, there are many ways to win a workout, and in the Open more than any other time, strategy matters.

[Update 3/7/2015 below]
I know we've all moved on to 15.2, but I finally was able to complete a reasonable analysis of how much each movement was valued on 15.1.  I'll skip the deep background on this and instead refer you to this post and this post.  Below are the results, based on a review of 9 elite-level male athletes (all scored at least 190 on 15.1 and hit at least 290 on 15.1a.)

The interpretation of this is that if an athlete goes 1 standard deviation slower than average on the toes-to-bar and 0.5 standard deviations faster than average on the other two movements, that athlete's score will be 7.4% worse than an athlete who is average on all three movements.  In the deadlift column, this represents a scenario where the athlete is slower on deadlifts but a little faster on the other two movements.  In the snatch column, this represents a scenario where the athlete is slower on snatches but a little faster on the other two movements.  

What this is telling us is that athletes are punished most for a weakness on the toes-to-bar, followed by snatch, followed by deadlift.  The spread here is pretty wide, and the deadlift showing a negative-3.7% leveraging is pretty amazing.  If you're not very speedy on the deadlifts, it was not hard to make up for that on the other two movements.  Conversely, if you struggle with toes-to-bar, you are in big trouble.  

From the feedback I've received and seen online, this lines up very much with what people feel intuitively about the workout.  The 7.4% leveraging (at 1 standard deviation) is actually slightly lower than the 7.8% leveraging I observed on 14.1 last year, but we all know that 14.1 was all about the snatch.  And if we compare to what I saw when I looked at Jackie at the 2013 Regionals, the toes-to-bar in 15.1 was far more leveraged than any of those movements (in the original post I adjusted each movement by 2 standard deviations, but when I adjusted that to be 1 standard deviation, the highest leverage on any movement was the pull-ups for women at 2.2%).

Note that this type of analysis is quite time-consuming, so I don't do it that often.  If split times became more easily obtainable, I'd like to do this on a more regular basis, as I find it quite fascinating and potentially useful for athletes.