Friday, January 20, 2012

The 2012 OC Throwdown Review


My absence the past two weeks has not been merely by chance. They have been a down-cycle of training due to the highly touted “winter games” competition down in southern California. I tapered the week prior and have been recovering the week since, hence a lack of material to blog about. With the event in the rearview, however, said lack of material has changed.
My performance this past weekend was decent, not great. I Pr’d both my deadlift and my strict press (480#/190#), went to the brink of collapse on a classic couplet event (kb/burpee lactate monster), and was an inch away from an incredible finish on a high volume muscle up workout (damn you Al Pacino and your single solitary inch!!!). I also knocked out a bunch of ring hspus in a WOD without failure for the first time and successfully strategized my way through 40 oh squats and 60 pullups. That being said, I also stunk it up on double unders and handstand walking, mis-managed my back squat attempts, and was merely average on a max height box jump. So, good showing, but definitely room to improve.
Now for the actual event.
The throwdown itself was built up unlike any crossfit competition outside of the Games that I have ever seen. There were multiple Games veterans invited to compete (yours truly included), and the buzz surrounding this fact was palpable. Seeing the likes of Nate Schraeder, Tommy Hackenbruck, Kris Clever, Gabe Subry, Rebecca Voight, Patrick Burke, etc. walking around chatting with each other in between WODs set this event apart from other local throwdowns. Also, the stage on which this production was held could’ve supported a full scale rock concert. 100 foot banners hung from the ceiling… there were press passes, vendor tents, a massive sound system, and grandstand bleachers for spectators to cheer from. Justin and Darren took amazing pains to put this thing on and it showed in the spectacular final product. Walking into this arena felt very much like it did at the Games. The nervous energy, the adrenaline of competing against the world’s best, and the electric atmosphere of a place packed with fans. This experience alone was enough to make the weekend enjoyable.
But behind the outstanding production value, the event was wrought with issues. The scoring system was a disaster, with no one knowing at any point where they stood, how the events had shaken out, or what the cutline was to be. The events themselves were limited in scope, never lasting longer than 8 minutes. The strength element was tested during the total, then negated by an independently scored box jump. (So the total of 3 lifts (deadlift, back squat, and press) counted as much as the height of your box jump. Actually, come to think of it, the box jump counted as much as any other WOD we did all weekend.) Eh? What’s more, the distance from which you could jump was set for all parties. A taped square on the floor served as your boundaries from inside of which you had to start your jump. This meant that as the box got higher and higher you still had to jump from the same starting point—not a big deal early on, but damn near impossible for the taller competitors once things got close to 50 inches.
That aside, the scoring and the events can be annoying, but in the bigger picture they don’t matter as much to pulling off a fair and legit event. Regardless of what you program, so long as things are consistent for all parties it will turn out fine. Unfortunately, the judging and standards during the weekend were largely non-existent. Scores were hardly comparable between heats or WODs because few to no judges had the same understanding of the parameters. Example 1: the floater WOD was a couplet… 15-12-9 of kb swings and burpees with a lateral jump; rest 2 minutes, then 12-9-6 of the same movements. The briefing told us the kbs were to be held vertically to the heavens with arms extended and the burpees were to be done with a jump over the divider. By the 5th heat there were athletes bent arm raising the kbs and diving over the lateral barrier into a plyo pushup, never landing on their feet. Every judge was there simply counting reps not knowing any different. Example 2: The muscle up/squat clean workout required the rings to be set a fist’s height above your standing reach, yet half the competitors began their reps from a box, effectively negating the need to jump to the rings. Example 3: The ring handstand pushup/oh squat/pullup workout was described as such: handstands must be arms locked out and legs locked out in a handstand, the oh squats must start from the top position (no squat snatches), and the pullups must show ear and chin above the bar. What actually happened was that most men locked out their arms and legs, but left their body in a U-shaped back bridge, and then proceeded to squat snatch every first rep. Judges were there, of course, counting reps.
Most of this is merely a lack of communication from the top of the event down and can be corrected as such with a little more time and preparation. With so many moving parts there’s a lot that can slip through the cracks. An indication of this state of affairs was on display during day 1 when, without doubt, the most blatant and disrespectful display of sportsmanship I have ever seen at a CF event went unchecked. During the muscle up WOD the competitor to my back (Ronnie Teasdale) was told by the head judge mid-rep that he could not bounce his bar from the top of his thrusters into his next squat clean. He proceeded to call this person a “fucking bitch,” shove her to the side with his hand, and then unceremoniously toss the bar in her direction upon completion of his set. I have seen multiple video clips of this unfolding as a few of my friends managed to get both of us in their screens. I literally couldn’t believe what I was watching. This was brought to the attention of the event administrators by multiple people and nothing was done. How any judge can be expected to uphold standards when that type of shit is allowed to go on is beyond me.
The event unfolding as it did led to plenty of conversation about how difficult it must be to get everyone on the same page. Having run events like this in the past, I can attest that this is true without a doubt, and I’m not trying to minimize the effort of the organizers to do this in any way. But it’s also the single MOST important thing to get right. It didn’t end up mattering much at the top of the standings in the elite division, Tommy and Kris were the two fittest competitors there in my opinion, but it casts a horrible shadow over the legitimacy of the event as a whole. I respect the hell out of Justin and Darren for what they and the Orange Coast CrossFit group were able to accomplish down there this past weekend. Getting that many people excited for an event that has no connection to the CF Games is unbelievable. I mean, they sold 3,000 spectator tickets - that’s unreal. There were athletes from all over California, Florida, North Carolina, and many other states. But you can’t gloss over the fact that this thing felt like it was a mile wide and an inch deep, like one of those blockbuster movies that spent the entire budget on CGI and forgot to pay the writers. I don’t mean to sound harsh or ungrateful, because I really did enjoy the weekend and would probably do the whole thing over again if I had the option, but some things need to be said.
I have no doubt that the shortcomings of this year’s throwdown will be fixed by next year’s edition and that it will carry the momentum it gained in this, it’s experimental big year, into a big future as one of the community’s largest, most anticipated events. For me, I’m looking forward to kicking the shit out of myself and using what I learned at the OC Throwdown to better prepare myself for the real thing this summer.

10 comments:

  1. Great round up Blair, I've got to agree with most of what you said and I'm glad to hear it appeared the same from an athlete's POV.

    Like most of the spectators there, my wife and I were pretty confused about the WOD standards, the 'cuts' and the scoring fiasco. We had two athletes from our box who made it down there to encourage and friends from past affiliates to watch too. But even trying to remain positive it was hard not to get caught up in many "WTF" moments that happened and wonder what was going on.

    It was a pretty massive event, and most would agree that it was fairly well run other than what was going on inside the WODs (scorekeeping being part of that, but thats a whole other post). They really did set the bar as far as events go and showed that just like CF affiliates have taken off, events in the CF community are taking off also. Next year's OC Throwdown is on the calendar and will be worth the trip.

    It was also good to see you compete, as I've followed your blog since the Games last year. But let me ask you this question. Do you think there will come a time when events outside the Reebok|CrossFit Games are considered amateur events and the Games are 'pro' events, with a line dividing who can compete in each? Considering that the field of athletes I saw this weekend varied so greatly in strength and skill I think it may be time to discuss the idea within the community of athletes striving for a 'pro card' like boxers/mma fighters attain once they have shown the ability to compete at a certain level. Fighters who get a pro card no longer do amateur events like golden gloves or tough man contests, which in some ways is good--it helps the amateur events remain a place where amateur talent can thrive and be nourished. Perhaps once an athlete has made it through Regionals it is time to clear them from the field of smalller local and regional events like the OC Throwdown?

    The presence of the high caliber talent and skill on display was part of the reason we trekked down from NorCal to see the OCTD, but it could also have been an exhibition WOD like those that were held atUFCfan expos that CrossFit has done.

    So what do you think, keeping the Games level athletes separate: good or bad? It may seem silly, but when I started CF years ago the idea of sponsorship for CrossFitting would have gotten anyone laughed at.

    Anyway, great job and thanks for putting your blog out there, it's always good content!

    Semper Fi
    John

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    1. John I had the very same thought about the pro/amateur divide just the other day.

      Where I live (Perth Western Australia) the CF community is alive and well however in the 2 years I have been following Crossfit and crossfitting it has tended to be the same people dominating which I dont think is overly healthy in the long run.

      James

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  2. That comment and attitude by Teasdale is disgusting.

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  3. Thanks for that Blair, i have been wondering where you have been ha! Sounds like a good event and your comments about the shortcomings being fixed for next year is very true. Where did you finish up and is there video to come?

    And i agree wholeheartedly with the above comment; unsportsman like, immature and yeah disgusting.

    cheers,
    Alex

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  4. Great post Blair. Teasdale has some maturing to do. Is there video of this on the net yet?

    Who ended up winning? Results aren't on the site.

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  5. Hey Blair,

    I wanted to first and foremost thank you for taking your time and coming out to the 2012 OC Throwdown. Your a top competitor and a class act. We look forward
    to seeing you at the Games this year and having you back at the OCT in 2013.

    I wanted to take a minute and address some of the things that were posted online in regards to
    some of the issues we had, both good and bad.

    To begin with, we are taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY for everything that happened, once again–good and bad!
    In regards to not knowing where people stand, not having our cuts on Saturday night and then the cuts on Sunday
    we ultimately are to blame, although we did rely SOLELY on and independent company WODTime for their ability to track accurate results. However in hindsight we should have had back up continuously going. This basically created a perfect storm of things to happen.
    By not having cuts on Saturday night, I was forced to change the WODs for sunday last minute. We had to cut time, by cutting time, we had to cut WOD's, by cutting WOD's we had
    to re-shape the 5th and 6th wods and thus, "THE STORM"! Justin was forced to severely change the 3 WODs on Sunday. The first WOD was meant to be in the 10-12 minute time domain, the second a 5-7 minute and the final was a chipper of around 12-15 minutes. The judges had all been briefed thoroughly on the original WODs a week in advance and to change it up on them last minute presented its own set of issues.

    As far as judging goes, we had 3 head judges and two of them were L2 certified and the rest were L1, the
    judges in the floater area unfortunately were what we had to have. It so important to remember that the Games has only 120 athletes all doing RX weights and few DNFs. In trying to develop a competition where
    the number of athletes is over 300 (ours had 309) and not the games with 120, we have to rely on our community and local
    support fill those spots. Having personally judged Sectionals in 2009, 2010, the regionals in 2009, 2010 and 2011
    and finally the Games in 2009 and 2010, I can assure you that mistakes and inconsistent scoring STILL occurs. We
    are always trying to develop better and more efficient ways at judging, keeping standards in line.

    Darren and I both agree that 300+ athletes is just way TOO many to handle in an efficient manner and somewhere along the line quality and excellence in some category is going to wane. Next year we are going to cap it at just the top online qualifying 75 men and 35 women leaving about 20 spots for Games and Top regional invites from around the country. We want to keep The OC Throwdown a premiere event and just making it in is a huge accomplishment.

    Finally, in regards to Ronnie Teasdale, we have NOT forgotten about this issue and are taking this very seriously.
    We do however, have to take statements from everyone, review video footage, and compile our reports accordingly.
    I am sure you understand we can not just make assumptions or accusations. I am having a meeting on Friday the 20th
    with the judges involved and will be making a decision shortly. This announcement probably will not be publicized as that
    is not necessary to ridicule someone. If he personally decides to make his voice heard however, we will respond with our
    side of the situation as well.

    I truly and honestly hope this helps in clarifying some of the issues at hand.

    With all of this being said, I am proud of our event as it was a benchmark for contests outside of HQ. Darren and I will sit down make a game plan and work on making the 2013 OC Throwdown an even better contest.

    Best Regards,

    Justin Flynn

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  6. Blair, thank you for a very well-written blog post. Reading your perspectives of the OCT12 not only as a competitor at this event, but as one seasoned in other competitions really helps to round out my overall perception of the weekend as a participant as as a spectator.

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  7. great write up and i fully agree with what it is you said. Box jump as 1 wod???ok? ( thats me in the pic) and the standards all over the place on every WOD, things getting delayed caused my floater time to be much more close to WoD1 then I wanted. i know at regional , nearly every judge was being a Rep nazi, I think I did 120 KBS that day instead of 100. With all that said, great venue, great excitement. One thing that would be nice, is if the organizers only made cuts at the Final WOD giving us "local elite" athletes a full chance to compete in all domains. Obviously we work hard to improve, but games athletes you brought in are games athletes, nuff said.I had a good time, with good people. And im sure next year will run a bit more smooth.

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  8. I know I'm a nobody, and I just happened to stumble across this but can I just say Kudos to Justin for taking full responsibility for both the pro's and the con's of the event. It takes a big man to admit to his shortcomings (or take blame for others). Kudos sir!

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