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The Magic of the Open

When it comes to magic moments during the Open, it turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks. See how our grinder battled his “white whale” and came out on top, literally.

Dave Castro, you got me.

I have been jealous for years now seeing the pictures and videos of athletes from affiliates all over the world as they repped out their first muscle-up during various Open events. This week, I became one of those people. But it started long before last Thursday night.


Last summer, while I was heading to vacation for a week in Michigan, I had the opportunity to spend a morning training at CrossFit Breakout with North Central Regional athlete Josh Silvernail. I had written an athlete profile on him for the CrossFit Games site a few years ago, and Silver (as I call him) and I always kept in touch. When we took a day to stop over in Chicago before heading out to Lake Michigan, I got a hold of Josh and headed in for a “Mainsite Monday” training session. I read that it was going to involve bar muscle-ups, but I wasn’t deterred because I knew I couldn’t do them, so I’d just scale it. The result was Silver spending 20 minutes working with me on a modification for the bar muscle-up using a box to help me hop into the transition over the top of the bar.

I used that same technique to complete an entire scaled workout, including modified bar muscle-ups last fall, but going into 16.3, I still had never completed a full Rx standard muscle-up, ring or bar.

In previous years, I would have listened to Castro’s announcement and heard “muscle-up” and immediately realized that my Rx journey of completing the Open had come to a close. I still tried to get them every year, but the ring muscle-up (and pretty much the bar version, as well) has been my “white whale.” When Castro announced 16.3 was a seven-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 10 snatches at 75 pounds and three bar muscle-ups, I actually thought, I might be able to do that.

Here’s what I did know: I was going to have plenty of time to try. Getting through the first 10 snatches would be no challenge, and if I paced myself and did them in about 45 seconds, that would leave me with more than six minutes to get a bar muscle-up. Now, I want it known that after about 20 minutes of practicing and working through my progression drills, I got a very gross-looking bar muscle-up during warm-ups but locking it out caused a terrible cramp in my right trap, so my arm was killing me. While I was excited that it could really happen for me during 16.3, I now had put even more pressure on myself because some of the people at my affiliate had witnessed me getting a practice one.

So the class got set up, my judge was ready and at 3, 2, 1 … Go, I paced through 10 slow and steady snatches. With more than six minutes left on the clock, I jumped up and grabbed the bar, swung into a massive kip, pulled my ribs up to the bar, got my left arm and elbow over the top and … failed. And failed again, and again, and again, and again. But then, in about my fifth or sixth attempt, I got one! I ran around screaming and jumping up and down like a maniac, but my coach pointed out I had four minutes left to get two more.

It took until the six-minute mark, but I did three, ripped off 10 snatches with enough time to get two attempts at the second round of muscle-ups, but I failed both as the clock clicked down.

This is the “magic of the Open.” I had become that person. I’m secure enough to admit that I was very emotional during the second set of snatches as I realized what I had just accomplished. Everyone was congratulating me, and I have never been so happy to complete only 23 reps in a seven-minute workout in my life.

It was great, and I’ll never forget 16.3. You’ve won this round, Dave Castro. You’ve pushed me and thousands of other athletes to do things they haven’t been able to do. I became one of the success stories this past week, and on behalf of everyone else who got their first bar muscle-up, I say, “Thank you.”

Who else got their first muscle-up this week? Share your stories of tears and triumph in the comments.

Stay on the grind.