16.5: Scaling the Dragon

CrossFit is not life or death, but it can be about staring into the face of something you fear and making a decision about how you are going to handle it.
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I was sitting in a diner with my wife, ordering bacon and eggs. We had stopped to grab something to eat after watching my daughter’s spring soccer match. We were trying to warm up from three hours of sitting in the March temps of the Midwest, and I was sipping on a cup of decaf coffee and watching the live announcement, when I was suddenly sent a chill that froze me to my soul.

“[The] 16.5 is,” Dave Castro said through the speakers of my iPhone as added his dramatic pause for emphasis, “14.5.”

For the sake of my audience, I’ll spare you the stream of profanities that followed, but there is no way to properly describe the anger, shock, fear and confusion that rocked my mind. How could we be doing this again? We already did burpees, we can’t do them again, right? He would never put all of us through the torture session that is 14.5 again, would he?

To my dismay (and the dismay of countless CrossFit competitors around the planet) he was, in fact, not kidding.

Before I start on the mental gymnastics that I wrestled with in the following hours, let’s break down what 14.5 (now 16.5) is: 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps of thruster at 95/65 pounds and bar-facing/hopping burpees. For Time. There is no clock to save your ass on this one. You either do the work, don’t do the work or scale it.

This was one that I had mentioned in a previous article as my least-favorite Open workout of all time, and I didn’t know whether I could or would do it again. It destroyed me mentally and physically two years ago.

I had spent the week after 16.4 talking myself into the fact that there was no way it was going to be 14.5 because all the Internet speculation was that there would be no redo this year, there could be a 16.5 part one and two with a max life (based on what they did with Mat Fraser and Rich Froning the year before) and that they usually don’t redo movements, and we did bar-facing/hopping burpees in the Open already.

So for all the discussions and predicting, I don’t think that anyone really thought, or more important, wanted to believe that 14.5 was really going to happen. But here I was, wondering whether I was going to be able to eat the food the waitress just brought out, wondering whether I was going to sleep, and asking myself whether I had it in me to do this Rx again, and why I would want to.

There were hours of back and forth on the debate of Rx vs. scaled that went on in my mind, but I ultimately made the decision to scale it, changed my mind to do it Rx, and then ended up having the choice taken out of my hands.

During 16.3, in the glow of glory having done my first ever bar muscle-ups, I had injured my hand/wrist probably in the countless no-reps I fell from in the process. Regardless, I had been lowering the weight in workouts and modifying movements in the two weeks since because I had a tremendous amount of pain when I pressed out overhead with a barbell. I warmed up, and it was immediately obvious that I could not do 95 pounds more than once, let alone 84 times. I tried it with an empty bar, but that hurt like hell, too. So in a matter of minutes, I went from planning on Rx, being forced to do scale, to wondering whether I could even do the workout at all. I did as much range-of-motion work on my wrist as I could, tightened up a wrist wrap as much as possible to brace it (and hopefully numb my wrist) and put 65 pounds on the bar.

I did it. It was extremely painful, and I’m sure there isn’t a doctor around who would have advised me to do what I did, but it’s over and I can still use my left hand.

What I was reminded of was that the weight of the thruster can be whatever for this one, but this workout is ALL about the bar-hopping burpees. That combo was torture, and there is no hiding or scaling that part, regardless of the weight on the bar. I finished in 19:07 and I was done — one workout short of doing the entire 2016 Open at the prescribed level. Not too bad for 41.

Another year and Open in the books, so now it’s time to sit back and watch the next cut of athletes as they battle it out in May at the Regionals. I’ll reflect on my overall experience next week, but how was your Open? Did you learn more about yourself? Did you PR or do more than you thought you could? Let us know how it went in the comments.

Stay on the grind.