More Than Just Great Athletes

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CrossFit

While I attended the North Central Regional this past weekend at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL, I took time to collect a lot of moments from my experience. This gathering is something to behold. Outside of the Games, nothing compares to watching some of the best CrossFit athletes pour every ounce of their strength and energy in to these seemingly impossible feats of strength, speed and skill.

Throughout the duration of this three-day festival of fitness, I tried my best to absorb all the elements that combined to produce an event such as this. I walked the vendor village and looked over products, taking time to talk to the good people who ran them and spent the weekend pedaling their wares. This makeshift marketplace teemed with smiling faces and like-minded merchants anxiously waiting spend a moment or two not just trying to push their products but really make a difference in the community as well.

All the biggies are there, of course: Rogue, Pure Pharma, Inov-8 and lead sponsor, Reebok. But as you know, I’m a fan of the new businesses trying to stamp their mark on the community. Growing companies like RedLine Gear didn’t just try to sell me their shorts, they took time to take out a pair and demonstrate the new Velcro system they have developed. Junk Brands was giving 30% off to the volunteers of the North Central’s staff on all merchandise as a thank you for the time they gave up to work the weekend. And Steve’s Paleo allowed workers who freely gave their weekends the pick of any two delicious food products from their tent.

Speaking of the volunteers, CrossFit Games Regionals only work and function because of these wonderful souls who give their time and become the oil to the Regional machine. They utilize people from local affiliates to help with athlete control, security, media, rogue set up and take down and other aspects. While there, this amazing group of strangers will accomplish everything from run the scoring updates to writers to setting up barbells to making sure workers have a break to eat or go to the bathroom. CrossFit knows that if these people don’t freely agree to give up a weekend, the show will in fact not go on.

The crowds a Navy Pier were bigger and more fired up than I’ve seen in the past four years. This is to be expected as the sport side of CrossFit, the Games, increases each season. What I enjoy about the community is that people have a somewhat shared understanding of the experience. Attendees are fit, too. We all train and know that it feels like to row, box jump, snatch and struggle with handstand push-ups. The difference, of course, is that a majority of us can’t do the work in the same weight and capacity these elite athletes are able to.

Walking around the Pier and observing fans, it doesn’t take long to realize there are both those who are devoutly in awe of the Regional performers and those who are the critics. While a high percentage are there to cheer and scream and passionately support their athletes, some can be heard pondering how this guy or that girl shouldn’t even be there. You don’t have to travel very far around the silver railing separating the crowds from the Rogue event floor to find would-be experts claiming which athlete they would or would not have “no repped.” And, of course, there are the “delusions of grandeur” dudes who have no problem sipping beer from the bleachers and leaning to a buddy or maybe a female they are trying to impress and explain to them how “this workout isn’t that hard” and that they would really “crush the hell out of that rope climb” if only fate had selected them to qualify.

But for all the noise, traffic, lines to the bathroom and parking fees, the Regional is a weekend which is best served up live and in living color. The online broadcast is an excellent way to see what goes on at CrossFit’s version of the playoffs, but being there and rubbing elbows with athletes, vendors and fans will be a memory you’ll be able to pass on for years to come.

Do you usually attend Regionals? If you’ve been, share some of the ones you’ve gone to and some of your Regional experiences in the comments or email them to me at Jtolgrinder@gmail.com

Stay on the grind,
Jamie Toland (JTol)
Twitter: @JTolgrinder