First, the bad news, the Odysseus Bar that was introduced during the MBS Turkey Challenge wasn’t a good idea. For those that don’t know the Odysseus is a bar of sorts that sits on top of a pullup bar…and spins. You can put pins into it so it does not spin, but when the pins are pulled it rotates around a pullup bar. The guy who owns Ethikon Fitness (the manufacturer) claims that it helps develop a proper kip. I don’t know what sort of testing he did to verify this statement, but it certainly makes a pullup more interesting.
I got to play with it last week when I did an i99 Fit class at MBS CrossFit and was able to do strict pullups on it easily and did some kipping pullups. I was told that wrapping your thumb around the bar is imperative to not falling off of it. I wrap my thumbs anyway so I am used to that, but I know a lot of folks do not wrap their thumbs around the bar when doing pullups (for shame! bad form!). I only did a few and it wasn’t in a competitive environment. Fast forward to this weekend…
In the team open division if teams completed the prescribed amount of work they could pull the pin on the bar and set it so it spun and then do as many pullups as possible with it spinning to reduce their score. In the first few heats only two or three teams made it to this point. Of those few teams I think I saw two people fall off of the bar. Since they were trying to kip they fell flat on their ass or back. None of them looked too severe. After a bit of watching some of the WODs outside I came back inside to watch the final two heats of the pro team event in which the bar spun for the entirety of the WOD. Each athlete on each team had to perform 50 pullups on the spinning bar and them heavy front squats. In the final heat I think I saw six athletes fall off of the bar. And unfortunately one of those athletes needed to be carried out on a stretcher and was rushed to the hospital.
The good news is that she is OK and MBS is reporting that she was able to walk out of the hospital without assistance and has a badly bruised hip.
After that heat (which was the final pro heat for teams) no one else did pullups on a spinning bar.
I think it is a great idea and adds variance, but introducing something like that in a “weekend comp”, even one with top level athletes like this one was not a good idea. At the very least extra padding should have been put under the bars so when – not if – people fell off it softened the blow. When people are in the midst of a kip and pulling and slip off of the bar they are closer to parallel to the floor than perpendicular so they are highly likely to fall flat on their back. And when falling flat on your back from two or three feet in the air onto stall matting, it’s gonna hurt.
Now that that is out of the way…the rest of the comp was OK. Here is a list of other logistic issues that arose during the comp:
- Heats were released on Wednesday evening stating that the 1st heat would begin at 8am. Then at some point late on Friday evening (or it might have even been early Saturday morning) that the 1st heat was going to start at 8:20. This was somewhat short notice and then confused the rest of the day (would heats inside and outside be delayed? Would the afternoon heats be delayed?).
- Judging of 2A in my division, the Men’s Open. Event 2A was supposed to be 250m row, 15 burpees over the rower and 150m shuttle sprint. In the 1st heat some of the judges weren’t clear on what the 150m shuttle sprint entailed. Some of the judges had their athlete run down and back only one time (50m) while other judges had their athlete run twice (100m) and a few had their athlete perform the correct distance and run three times. This caused mass confusion during that 1st heat. The entirety of the WOD was 250m row, 15 burpees over the rower, 150m shuttle sprint, 500m row, 30 air squats over the rower, 150m shuttle sprint, 250m row, 15 burpees over the rower and a final 150m shuttle sprint. Since they couldn’t start/stop the heat again the athletes that only ran one shuttle sprint (instead of three) had to run their remaining shuttle sprints at the end (so instead of running three to finish, maybe they would have to run five). Now whether or not saving the running for the end instead of doing it right after burpees or air squats is one thing – was it easier? – but not informing the rest of the heats that 2A was no longer an individually scored event was another issue. For myself, I was first off of the rower after 250m so I decided to go balls out on my burpees and run in the hopes of doing well in 2A and then just suffering through the rest for my 2B score (the entirety of the WOD). With that strategy I did finished 2A 1st in my heat, but then finished 2nd to last overall. When I signed my score sheet I saw that my time for 2A was blank and I asked my judge why and he then informed me that 2A had been tossed out. Strategy busted.
- I think this also might have messed up the scoring, but I cannot tell as the Men’s Open scoring still (as of this writing) doesn’t have any scores posted for the 2nd WOD. In fact, none of the divisions have anything scored for the 2nd WOD other than 2A. Where are the 2B times/scores? It shows me in last place for 2A (in which all the men have a score of 0:00 and it appears we are listed in alphabetical order). I finished 21st, 31st, 30th and 39th in the four WODs with scores, yet I am showing as 39th in the final standings. How can I have finished 39th or higher in every WOD yet finish 39th overall?
Now for the positives, which there were many:
- Despite the mess up on 2A the judging was really good. Typically in weekend competitions the judges are all judging different form and standards, or so it seems. Not this event. In both the outside and inside events they had a head judge roaming and watching everyone, on top of the judges assigned to each athlete. On top of that, Pat Burke – owner of MBS and six time CrossFit Games competitor – was watching the events, too, ensuring standards were held. I saw numerous no-reps for chins not getting over the bar, hips not going below parallel and not locking out at the top – all standards that are typically not strictly enforced at other events. The perfect example of the fair judging came in an event and involved Andrea Ager. For those who don’t know, Ager is a fairly “famous” face among the CrossFit community. She is pretty and puts herself out there and is known to be very welcoming, fun and just enjoys life. She has a large following. Add to this that MBS is now her home gym. In other words, if anyone was going to get preferential treatment it would be Ager. Now that the stage is set, the WOD is outside and it involves kettle bells. The rule is that if the KB is dropped or not controlled to the ground for any reason the athlete is charged 20 burpees as a penalty. Each heat is told this prior to their event and I heard them tell Ager’s heat. This WOD was an eight minute AMRAP and there is less than 30 seconds to go and Ager drops her bell. As she moves to the stick jumps the head judge watching the event yells at her to do 20 burpees. She shoots him a look that could kill and he yells “you know the rules, Andrea” and Ager starts her burpees and gets two or three of them as time ran out. The judging was very good.
- I heard that there were 400 athletes competing this weekend and other than the slight delay mentioned above on Saturday morning, from what I know most of the heats started really close to on time. Even Sunday morning there was a delay to a generator going out and by the seventh or eighth heat they were back on schedule. For an event that large it was pretty much on time all weekend.
- Take 400 athletes and add in their friends, family and gym mates and you have a lot of people and, in most cases, not enough room. They did a great job giving people plenty of options for parking (including buses running back and forth from a lot about 3/4 of a mile away), food, bathrooms (plenty of port-a-potties in front and back) and even alternate options to walk from the front of the building to the back (an additional temporary path was built around the outside of the building). Great job managing that many bodies.
- Great use of space and what a great gym location. Along with a ton of indoor space MBS has access to a tarmac outside. MBS sits right on an airport and they have a large blacktop area that they used for the outdoor WODs. They changed the configuration of their bleachers and guard rails between Saturday and Sunday to make it great for the athletes and spectators for each day. The view they have of the mountains is absolutely priceless. Unfortunately MBS is 45 minutes from me (with zero traffic on an early Sunday morning) otherwise I would seriously consider switching gyms.
- I think the WODs were great. Day one was tough – a 10 min AMRAP of snatches at progressively heavier weights, followed by a lung and leg burner, with an option for a quick short obstacle course floater. If done right you had plenty of time to recover between WODs on day one and they didn’t “pile on” any part of your body. If, after the snatches, they programmed a deadlift or intense KB workout it might have caused some back issues. They hit different parts of your body, even though both prescribed WODs on day one were in the 10 minute range. On day 2, after everyone was worn down a bit, there was an eight minute AMRAP with mostly body weight movements and then a very quick (five minute cap) with pullups (only time on pullups all weekend) and 10 heavy front squats. I went into the weekend with a slight issue with my left psoas muscle and actually feel BETTER on Monday after the event. Really fun, even and well designed WODs.
- Vendors – lots of great vendors and some perks for athletes. The athletes got free pre or post WOD supplements from NSF and there were two physical therapists onsite for free stretching for athletes. Add in three different food trucks on Saturday (only two on Sunday due to truck issues for the third….”only”) and even another group cooking indoors and food was covered, too.
All in all I give it a thumbs up. Had the spinning pullup bar not been in use and had the judges huddled and went over the WOD prior to WOD 2 (like they did for every other WOD) it would have been nearly a flawless event. Putting together something this big cannot be easy and the team at MBS did a great, great job. It was a good first exposure for myself to a two-day event.