Saturday, May 2, 2009 by Daniel

CF NorCal Qualifier: Saturday

Instructions to volunteers were to show up at 6am sharp, which, as it turns out, is really fucking early. Max, Rebecca and I left the hotel at 5:30, and showed up to a ranch in disarray. The coordinators were all there already, and as the volunteers trickled in we started getting miscellaneous jobs (sweep the floor, move some equipment, etc). Eventually they got around to separating the judges from the logistics volunteers, and Max and I were assigned different workouts - I got Workout A, and he got B.

Workout A:
For time:

Row 500m
30 Burpees
10 Shoulder-to-Overhead (Men: 165#, Women: 95#)

Workout B:
Max reps in 10 minutes of:

Ground-to-Shoulder (Male: 185#, Female: 105#)

My workout took place outside, which normally would have been great, but it was less great in the drizzling rain. Jason Khalipa (last year's Games winner) was our head judge, and he went over the movement standards in detail with us after we finished hauling out and setting up all the weights. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the heats to start. Polly and Gita had shown up by that time to register Polly, so we went and hung out with them at "CFEB HQ" (ie, Gita's truck). They both seemed remarkably cool and collected. And hungry. Polly's heats were at 11am (B) and 3pm (A), so they had plenty of time to wait and watch.

The heats began at 9am, and the day was kind of a blur after that. Each heat was 10 minutes, then we'd get a 10 minute break to reset and change weights before the next one. I have to hand it to the organizers: not a single heat went late. Jason would brief the athletes and then release them to us to find a judge, at which point I'd show them the rower, go over the rules, show them their burpee spot, go over the rules, and then show them their bar...and go over the rules. By and large, the competitors had good form - except on the burpees. We all know how much burpees suck, and it's SO easy to slip into bad form. I was a little too lenient with my first few heats, until Jason urged me to be stricter. I would generally give an athlete one warning "Let me see your EAR!" if their arms started to drift forward or "Jump straight UP!" if they started canting forward, and if that didn't work I'd start not counting reps - they'd clean up really fast at that point. I never had any athlete who was anything less than polite and professional in their conduct, which was nice - especially since some of them were, well, huge.

Sore from the day before, the day was exhausting. So much yelling, so much anxiety, so much energy - after six hours, I was quite drained. I didn't get to see the inside competitions until after mine were all done (there was one additional heat inside...not sure how that worked out). I never really got to watch Polly, even when she went through my workout - I had to be focused on my competitor. But the word was that she did extremely well, and when the day was done she was tied for third place! Very exciting.

Afterward, we all went out for some really freakin' delicious burritos at a local taqueria, then it was back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.

As it's relevant, I'm going to paste in here some observations I made for a thread on the national boards, though some of it is jumping the gun a bit:
  • First of all, it was an EXTREMELY well-organized and fun event. I didn't really have a grasp of how complicated the logistics were until I showed up. The organizers did a phenomenal job. And they took care of their volunteers (ie, providing coffee and food and gratitude), which said a lot to me.
  • The movements chosen were relatively easy to judge - at least the ones I judged. The only gray area might be the burpees - burpees go very quickly, there are a lot of things to look for and gray areas that athletes tend to push, particularly when they get tired.
  • After two or three heats, I got into a good rhythm of judging: knowing what to say to the competitors at the beginning, knowing the most common faults to look for and the most effective cues to prevent them. I quickly learned that the most common faults could be prevented in advance by stern and clear warnings during the introduction (ie, "If I can't see your ear, I'm not counting the rep"), and that asking the athlete to show me a couple reps before the heat started went a long way in correcting any potential faults. I wish I could have do-overs on the first few heats, so I could approach them with the experience I had gained by later in the day.
  • On Sunday, official heats started at 9am, but there was an hour of "practice" heats whereby people who were not competing but who wanted to try the workout could have an opportunity to do so (scaled however they liked). This was a FANTASTIC idea: it allowed many in the crowd (almost entirely CrossFitters themselves) to get a proper appreciation of exactly what the competitors were doing, and to compare their own times to the official ones, AND it gave the judges a chance to work out the kinks in their situation in a low-stakes environment so the first official heats did not have a judging advantage or disadvantage. I cannot recommend this setup enough for future competitions.
  • I was concerned about safety on the shoulder-to-overheads. It was pretty cramped, and there was a lot of 165-pound barbells taking bad bounces. I saw Jason Khalipa whip his head back just in time as a dropped weight just missed his face, and I saw competitors trying to get under weights that were clearly far too heavy for them. Having more space is really the only answer I can think of to address this: clearly delineated areas for competitors and a DIFFERENT area for judges, so it's not all mixed together (judging someone with another competitor dropping weights right behind you is nerve-wracking). I had no such concerns for the rowing, burpees and dumbbell thrusters, and from what I saw of the cleans and muscle-ups, they looked OK.

I'll write up Sunday tomorrow.

1 comment:

Jay Ashman said...

this sounds like a blast... despite all the "bugs" that will come with a new format, it looks like it was run well. I'm looking forward to reading about Sunday.

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