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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Initial Games Thoughts

I needed a couple days to decompress from binge-watching this year's Games, but I've been able to do some preliminary analysis and put a few thoughts together.  I'll follow up in the next week or two with some more in-depth coverage of this year's Games and the season as a whole.

  • Let me start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year's Games.  This is the first year since 2011 that I haven't made the trip to Carson, and while it would have been fun to be there in person again, I thought the live coverage was great overall.  Yes, there were some hiccups for us swapping between ESPN3 and the TV feed, causing us to miss out on some early heats that weren't shown on TV, but overall I had no trouble watching as much as I wanted.  The announcing has improved leaps and bounds since 2011, and thankfully they treat it as a real sport rather than an excuse to try to sell people on CrossFit (for the most part).   That said, I could have done without the constant hyping of the "Assault" bike that's just a fancy version of the AirDyne that's been around since I was born.
  • The final event, particularly for the men, was without a doubt the most thrilling in Games history.  I'll hold my comments on the pegboard climb for later, but the sheer fact that both champions were NOT in first place heading into the final event made for some top notch drama.  After Pedal to the Metal 1, I had a buddy text me asking to do a post comparing Froning in his prime to present-day Mat Fraser (assuming Fraser would proceed with another event win and hang on), but within minutes, Fraser had fallen into second place.  And the women's final was just as exciting (excluding the pegboard, I know), with Davidsdottir going unbroken on the deadlifts and farmer's walks LIKE A BOSS.  It was really tremendous.
  • On the whole, I thought the programming made for some fun events to watch.  I'll get into the safety concerns momentarily, but personally, as someone not doing the events, these were really solid for the viewers.  The Soccer Chipper was one of my favorites, and I also thought the Midline Madness (not a great name, in my opinion) was particularly intriguing.  And then Pedal to the Metal 2 was also pretty great, although those deadlifts looked awfully sketchy (maybe that's just the way I think after a couple back injuries).
  • Ben Smith would have won easily using the classic one-point-per-place scoring system (86.5-to-109.5 assuming the points were cut in half for the two sprint events).  Not saying I like that system better (I don't), but it does lend more credibility to Smith's victory.  He deserved it.  The women's top 3 also would not have changed.
  • OK, now for the pegboard.  Everyone has a different opinion here, but my opinion is that at least one element of this should have been changed.   You just cannot have one of the two final events, on national TV, where the majority of the athletes in the final heat (including the eventual champion) cannot complete a single rep.  That just can't happen.  Either: a) have this event earlier in the competition when people were fresher and it wasn't in prime time; b) allow athletes to drop from the top to make it easier to complete a rep; c) put the pegboard at the END of the workout; or d) announce it ahead of time so athletes could practice.  I mean, any of those would have been preferable to what took place on the women's side, right?
  • There have been many people who have criticized the programming of this year's Games for being too dangerous for the athletes (here's a great one).  I've been around this sport long enough to know that no matter what, there will be criticism of the programming.  It does not matter what comes out, there will be pissed-off people.  So I'm cautious to overreact here.  But we should at least take notice when you have former champions like Annie Thorisdottir dropping out due to exhaustion.
  • I wasn't in Carson, and I certainly wasn't competing, so I can't really speak to how the events felt.  But, I can say that looking at the programming as an outsider, I think there wasn't anything exceptional about this year.  By my estimates, the total time competing was around 163 minutes, which is less than 2012 and 2012 (both above 200) but more than last year (about 130).  Things were pretty heavy but not outrageous by Games standards (0.80 LBEL, lower than last year but above the Open-era average of 0.67).  This is fourth year of the past five that there has been a long event early on Friday.  And the weather, at least compared to where I've always lived, was not terrible (high was 85 Friday according to AccuWeather).  I think the big key was simply the Murph event:
    • This event was a much higher-rep workout than the long events of the past, meaning more likelihood for things like Rhabdo.
    • They held the event in the heat of the day, rather than the morning like in the past.  Things are so much more reasonable earlier on, when the Triple-3 was held last year.
    • The weight vest added an extra layer of heat, and obviously, athletes aren't allowed to strip that layer off.
  • Despite the fact that I'm generally not being too critical of the programming, I wish that at least once in my lifetime, CrossFit HQ will show just a touch of humility and compassion, and perhaps consider admitting when they might be wrong (GASP!).  When you see stuff like this Facebook post from Russell Berger, it just makes any level-headed person want to puke.  Insulting your own athletes?  Really?  Do we need to just hand the CrossFit enemies more ammunition?
  • The final thing I'll say, and I've said it for years, is that if we want the Games to be a slug-fest with ultra-long events, then we need to send the athletes who are most capable of doing well.  I'm not surprised that many Games athletes struggled with Murph, considering they don't need to perform well on that type of event to make it to the Games.  Sure, there is a relatively long chipper at the Regionals every year, but nothing like a 45-minute swim/paddle or a 600-rep workout in the heat of the day.  Yes, some of these athletes can handle those events quite well, but many cannot.  So either don't test those elements at the Games, or test them earlier on in the qualifying process.
Well I've already gotten pretty long here, so that will be it for now.  Don't worry, more to come in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

P.S. I did read the whole interview with Emily Abbott that has been so often quoted (a cached version is here), and honestly it's not nearly as bad as some of the quotes that have been cherry-picked out of it.  Take a read and let me know what you think.  I am disappointed it was taken down from the site, though.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Current Pick 'Em Standings (FINAL)

Standings below are final, pending any potential mistakes I made.  PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP IF YOU FEEL THERE IS AN ERROR WITH YOUR POINT TOTALS.

This was a wild CrossFit Games, and in the end, the bookie (me) wound up making a huge profit on the gamblers (all of you).  The field racked up a mere 5,231 points on 7,400 points of wagers.  Not a single one of the 74 entries had Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir winning OR Tia-Clair Toomey on the podium.  And I'll be the first to admit, I didn't see this coming either.  Better luck next year, and congrats to Ian M!

Individual picks are below, with orange highlights for all correct picks.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Podcast Episode 12: Games Preview

Today old friend and long-time CrossFitter Alex Punger joins the podcast to chat about the upcoming CrossFit Games. The two discuss the programming so far, which events they'd like to see repeated from the past, whether or not the softball toss should come back (hint: no) and their picks for the Games Pick 'Em.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Reliving the Best Individual Event Performances in Games History

Today, with just over a week remaining until the 2015 CrossFit Games kick off, I've decided to look back at some of the most impressive individual event performances in recent Games history.  How to determine the "best" performances?  By using the standard deviation scoring method that I proposed way back when (not that I'm the only one to have proposed it).  Using this method, we compare each athlete's score to the average score in that event, then divide by the standard deviation of scores in the event.  The larger the number, the further above average the athlete was.  This allows us to compare performances across events, and in this case, identify the truly standout efforts.

I'll keep the commentary short here, and instead, point you to videos that you can watch discreetly at work (or in the comfort of your own home, I suppose).  For now, I've limited my analysis to 2012-2014.  I'll try to expand back into the dark ages at some point.  Enjoy:

2013 Legless (women) - Winner: Alessandra Pichelli (4.36 standard deviations above average)
2014 Sprint Sled 1 (men) - Winner: Neal Maddox (3.43 standard deviations above average) - Note: Neal is in the 2nd heat
2014 Cinco 2 (men) - Winner: Rich Froning (3.31 standard deviations above average)
2014 Sprint Carry (men) - Winner: Nate Schrader (3.13 standard deviations above average) - Note: Nate is in the 1st men's heat
2013 Cinco 2 (women) - Winner: Talayna Fortunato (2.89 standard deviations above average)
2012 Rope-Sled (men) - Winner: Matt Chan (2.80 standard deviations above average)

And just for good measure, two of my favorites for the fantastic finishes. Both involve Josh Bridges. I do think the Games will miss him this year.

2014 Push-Pull (probably my vote for the most exciting Games heat of all time)
2011 Killer Kage (note: Bridges actually didn't even win this event, that was Spencer Hendel in a prior heat. But still...)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em Now Open

Welcome to the CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em!  This is our second year doing the contest after a pretty good first go-round in 2014.

This year your picks will be submitted through a web form (link at the bottom of this post) rather than through the comments, although please use the comments to let me know of any issues you're having submitting your picks through the form.  I'll try to update this page regularly with a list of everyone's picks, so let me know if you spot something that looks off.  Currently the form can only enforce certain rules (such as requiring six athletes and wagers on each between 1-50), but it can't do the math for you, so if you have more or less than 100 points wagered, I'll let you know once I go to publish the next day's picks.  At that point, it's up to you to submit a corrected entry, since I'll be deleting any invalid picks once the contest starts.

OK, below are the official rules.  Even if you entered last year, please read these over.  A few items have changed.
  • Each contestant has 100 points to wager on six different athletes.  You can wager those points in whole-number increments, with a max of 50 and a minimum of 1 on each athlete.
  • You must select one wager on an athlete of each gender to win, finish top 3 (podium) and finish top 10.
  • The payout on each correct pick is based on my predictions (see below) of each athlete's chances of winning, finishing top 3 and finishing top 10.  If you wager 20 points on an athlete to win, and I give that athlete a 10% chance to win, you get 200 points if they win.
  • On the form, each athlete's name is followed by three numbers.  These are the respective payouts for a win, top 3 and top 10.
  • At the end of the Games, the winner is the contestant who has the highest total payout on their picks.
  • You have until the start of event 1 on July 22 to get your picks in.  If you want to revise your picks, please just submit a new entry and post to comments (on this page) that you'd like me to delete your first entry.  As noted above, entries with invalid point totals or with the same athlete in multiple spots will eventually be deleted, but I will notify you first.
  • You may want to write down your picks as your are filling them out.  The form won't automatically send you a confirmation, but you will be able to see your picks once I update the public list of entries, which will usually be daily-ish.  I may end up posting them to a shared Google drive if the list gets lengthy (let's hope!).
This is all free, and there is no formal prize, but if you'd like, I'm extending an invitation to chat with me on the podcast for the winner.  If interested, please submit your email address.  That's optional, and don't worry, if you submit your email address, I'm not going to contact you for anything unrelated to this contest, and I won't publish it.

For a little bit more background on how I make these predictions, read up here and listen to the podcast below.  The basic idea is that these picks are based on the simulations of the Games based on combinations of the events that have happened so far this year, but there's a bit more to it than that.  I've made some enhancements this year, so in theory, this year's contest should be a little more challenging than in the past.  Enjoy!

Click here to access the contest entry form.  You can fill out the form on a mobile device or a computer.  Keep in mind this is my first time using this software, so I apologize in advance if things are a little buggy early on.  Let me know in the comments here what kind of issues you're having and I'll do my best to get things fixed up.  Of course,  this is not my full-time job, so it could be several hours before I get to it.  Worst-case, just post your picks to the comments and I'll get it added.

Click here to view the picks submitted to date.

CFG Analysis Games Predictions: