Wednesday February 20, 2019

“Comp Mode” by Huck

Let’s take a quick trip back to 2011 in the time machine. The last high school track race I ever ran. I came into the state track 3200-meter race ranked 4th place out of 12 athletes based on my previous regional performance that season. Supposedly I had the 4th fastest time of the 12 athletes when comparing our different times from respective regional competitions prior to the state track meet, which was only a few weeks later in the season.

I’ve always been analytical and followed the numbers. With the data I had collected from the other regional races, I had this hope and surety in my mind that I’d place at least middle of the pack and possibly podium at the state track meet. Instead, I ran the fastest 3200 meters of my short running career and walked away 11th out of the 12 athletes.

Our high school won the entire state track meet, but I was extremely upset. I couldn’t immediately understand how these other runners in the 3200 meter race had improved their times in only a few weeks by 1-2 whole minutes. How was this possible?! The answer: COMP MODE.

Competition mode is a special mixing of adrenaline, endorphins, and competitive energy that pushes an athlete to a new level of performance. You might be asking yourself, “Well Huck, where was your comp mode at this state track meet then?”.

Here’s the thing, I’d been accessing comp mode since the regional competition because I had a tough region in order to just qualify for the state track meet as a runner. These other runners from different regions that out paced me at the state meet had easier regional competition and hadn’t accessed that comp mode yet. This was how the other runners improved their times by 1-2 minutes in just a matter of weeks while I only improved a meager 10-15 seconds to set a lifetime PR.

Step back into the time machine with me. Let’s live in the present again. Two awesome CrossFitters and I recently qualified for team competition at the Wodapalooza CrossFit Competition in Miami. None of us train at the same gym so we had to individually record ourselves performing workouts to qualify. I entered some form of comp mode during this period of qualifying workouts because:
(1) These workouts were more than just my normal training routine.
(2) I strongly desired to help the team reach the international competition in Miami.

Most of our team redid a few workouts to improve former scores, and we qualified for the competition as the 36th ranked team out of 60 teams. After this week of performing qualifying workouts in comp mode, my body was more exhausted than it’s been in a long time. I knew three days of competing in Miami would only be rougher on my body.

The competition and atmosphere at Wodapalooza were phenomenal (more details on that to follow below). But I’ll cut to the chase. We ended the weekend of competition ranked 26th out of the 60 teams. This was the redemption I’d been waiting to receive for 8 years following that state track meet in high school.

I finally found a way to access an even stronger form of comp mode to excel in the competition. I attribute this to my amazing teammates. They were counting on me as I was counting on them. I fed off this and performed harder than ever before in my life. The accountability was much different than I’d experienced as an individual runner in track competitions.

The days following Wodapalooza, my body found a new, deep soreness I hadn’t felt in the past. Thank you, Comp Mode. I’ll happily take on that soreness.

I knew this concept of “comp mode” from running in high school and smaller, local CrossFit competitions, but it was strongly reinforced during the 3-day competition at Wodapalooza. That was the strongest take-home message from the competition for me: access and rely on your comp mode for optimal performance during competition. But as promised, here’s a fun list of other insights, perspectives, and lessons-learned from the Wodapalooza competition.

  • I don’t care if you were a former runner in your high school glory days, running barefoot in soft sand on the beach at 7AM is TOUGH.
  • Swimming in a calm collegiate pool doesn’t fully prepare you for an open water swim with salty water and waves. I probably swallowed half a liter of salt water. Prayed the boats nearby would quit coming near us creating waves. And eventually just told myself to survive because that was most important. Admittedly, the swim was probably more psychologically demanding than physically demanding. But it was a different psychosis than telling yourself to pick up the barbell and continue a workout. I’m more accustomed to that pain of picking up barbells when my body and mind don’t want to pick them up.
  • You’re going to have a bad judge if you compete long enough in CrossFit competitions. In my head, I renamed one of the workouts “No Rep” because that’s all I heard from our judge for nearly 10 minutes straight. This workout was on the first day of competition too. We were upset but let this fuel us to make a strong comeback in the next two days of competition.
  • Small mistakes are going to happen. It’s upsetting to lose a few seconds to something stupid you did during a workout. But look back on them and laugh. It was an extra moment of rest, if nothing else. We were randomly and unexpectedly given a pylon to move in one of the workouts. I spent a solid 10 seconds trying to figure out how and where to move this pylon during the competition. It’s hard to hear or understand your judge in the heat of the moment. Our very last workout after a weekend of grueling fitness required a handstand walk. I love handstand walks. I consider them a fun party trick. I took off on my handstand walk, and my beat down body went hard right into another team’s lane instead of straight in our lane. I corrected and hit the second attempt no problem. This loss of 2-3 seconds upset me for hours, but then I realized how hilarious it was to watch on video and no longer cared.
  • Don’t worry about the music at a competition. It may not be your favorite artist, but after about the first 30 seconds of the workout, it’s just white noise anyways. You’ll have no recollection if they were playing Pitbull throughout the entire workout or not.
  • With the new CrossFit sanctionals format, you see a lot of elite/professional CrossFit athletes bringing their A game. As an athlete at the same competition, you also get to see these high-profile athletes behind the scenes warming up with you in the athlete area. Rich Froning might be fist bumping everyone on his way to his heat. Noah Olsen might be doing some casual 245 lb front rack lunges prior to his heat. Sara Sigmundsdottir might think your handstand walk skills are pathetic and fall asleep on a bench beside you instead. And good grief if seeing Alex Anderson up close doesn’t confirm he’s indeed one of the sexiest men alive.
  • Make sure you eat, drink, and take recovery seriously during a 3-day competition. It’s paramount. I often don’t feel like consuming food or drinks during CrossFit competitions. Sometimes I can get away with this in a 1-day local competition. Granted, I’m a corpse the rest of the evening/night and next day. But you must take nourishment seriously in a longer duration competition. It’s the only way to keep your body going and moving efficiently in multiday competition settings.
  • Find yourself or your team at least one coach/manager at minimum. All the elite/professional athletes have these with them at nearly all times. You need someone in your corner watching for heat times, schedule changes, competition floor layout, extra perspectives on strategy, and finding you nourishment between events. This allows you as the athlete to keep more precision focus on performance and getting the work done for each event.
  • Have fun! Take a moment to look around. Whether it’s a 1-day local competition or multiday international sanctioned competition, you have to take a few moments to be proud of yourself for being there in the first place. You could be on your couch watching Netflix instead. You signed up and trained hard to be a contender in the competition. No matter the final outcome, work hard and enjoy it!

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