• Cass Lau

21.3 & 21.4 - What just happened?

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

A/N: It took me some time to write down my thoughts for this workout because I never really had any time to process this. The moment I dumped the bar in a fit (long story, read later) a series of events unfolded and I had to put off self-evaluation. So whatever you read here on now is a first stab at making sense of all that has happened.

Finally after those two weeks of a mediocre performance on 21.1, a terrible showing on 21.2, I WAS READY TO THROW IN THE TOWEL.

I had resigned myself to the fact that I will not make it to top 10 in the women’s RX this year, nor will 21.3 be any kinder to me. Perhaps I had not improved after all. (Of course we know that’s rubbish but I was being melodramatic with my performance. I can keep this in my head very well.)

To comfort me, Kylie said, “the next one will definitely be your workout.” I had a glimmer of hope, yet I continued to snuff out the spark so as to not suffer disappointment when it was announced.

That week, the announcement was made in the wee hours of the morning— 3AM to be exact, with the European CrossFit community in mind (and no regard for Asia, where the community is smaller anyway so it doesn’t make business sense. YET.)

I woke up multiple times that night, wondering if I should check what the workout was, then told myself that I shouldn’t be silly and I should just go to sleep because I had a long day of organizing for the Open ahead of me. But the more I told myself that, the more disturbed my sleep was. Would it have brought me a greater peace of mind to check the workout? I don’t know... Tam said she couldn’t sleep after she decided to check the WOD (then again, she was up for a faceoff).

So I woke up to a flurry of messages. The ACF OPEN 2021 chat was mainly filled with exclamations to the workout. Not many had stayed up to watch it, but had I heard that the Team Black chat was filled with comments. Team Yellow remained silent until about 8AM that morning. Naturally, Lokies and Clifford stayed up to watch the announcement and started discussing the workout in a separate groupchat.

I watched the announcement over breakfast since that week I could print the scoresheets a little later and CK was finally back to help set up.

As the video played, the CrossFit analysts speculated on what the workout would be, with a pull-up rig in the background, and whatever equipment was left in the prescribed equipment list. All three bright-eyed Panchik brothers waiting in anticipation with ears extra perked up for Dave Castro’s announcement since reading his scrawl on the whiteboard was near impossible.

Workout 21.3

For total time: 15 front squats 30 toes-to-bars 15 thrusters Then, rest 1 minute before continuing with: 15 front squats 30 chest-to-bar pull-ups 15 thrusters Then, rest 1 minute before continuing with: 15 front squats 30 bar muscle-ups 15 thrusters

Workout 21.4 begins immediately upon completing or reaching the time cap for 21.3.

95 lbs./65 lbs. for the front squats and thrusters

Time cap: 15 min.

Very cool. I liked the sound of that. And YAY BAR MUSCLE UPS (BMUs)! This would be the first Open that I had my BMUs, and I couldn’t wait to finally test it.

Then Dave did a peek-a-boo behind Rory Mckernan as he announced the second part of the workout, 21.4.

cr: @makewodsgreatagain

OF COURSE THERE WAS A PART 2. I mean what better way for a separator than to have a max lift RIGHT AFTER a workout?

Workout 21.4

Complete the following complex for max load:

1 deadlift 1 clean 1 hang clean 1 jerk

Time begins immediately following the completion of 21.3.

Time cap: 7 min.

Okay... I was supposed to be ecstatic. And I was! I knew what I could easily secure for a complex like this. The challenge was could I push that a little further?

I headed to print the scoresheets, with my mind buzzing with what I had to get done. Whilst organizing the event, I had to get a few pitches out for Spoilmrkt, but I felt that I had to fully focus on the Open. How do people do this? I wondered. I would have to plan my time better next year.

During 21.1, I thought to do the Instagram Live at the 11th hour so that Clifford’s girlfriend could watch him attempt the event. As the workouts went on, it was clear that people wanted to see every heat go, and I had not prepared the schedule or infrastructure to get that done. I was thinking how I would be able to stream the video such that this people waiting on Level 2 could watch the event along with those at home. Zoom seemed like a good idea (shelving this for better angles in the next event).

Kylie, on the other hand, was worried about the logistics and lane markings for the athletes. She started taping the floor and marking out paths and arrows for each lane because CrossFit HQ had specified distances for starting each workout.

When the dust had somewhat settled, I started to think about my own approach to the event.

And this was it:

All squats & thrusters: unbroken

30 TTB: 6-6-6-4-4-4 (I had to mess with my mind a little, knowing that I would process a 2 rep decrease instead of a 1 rep decrease better)

C2B and BMUs: singles

Clean Complex:


I wore YELLOW that day. Because #teamyellow alumni.

Christina had hit 10 Bar Muscle Ups (BMUs) on her attempt and I was pretty sure that would have been an impossible number to beat. Kylie later rocks up and scalps an extra rep to that, which made me think that MAYBE with the strategy I would get close to 10. #givesmehope

Just before my heat was up, Daniel (Sungju) tapped me on the shoulder and talks (or maybe whispers) to me in his quiet and gentle voice. "What's your strategy?"

I tell him. And ask back, "what's yours?"

He says "I'll follow yours."


The 21.3 experience

The squats and thrusters were cake.

Though I usually had to constantly be reminded that I needed to "squat lower", I did not get any no reps on the squats, which was a good thing. I deliberately took a little longer to get the depth I needed to get to, placing the weight on my heels. (I later got feedback that I could have gone lower, but I would if I could! Blame my big legs really. But I trusted my judges' call on the reps)

Toes to bar (TTB) is always a challenge for me, but I made sure that the TTB split @ 6-6-6-4-4-4 would be a sustainable one. *pats own shoulder* for a great strategy.

After the TTB round was over, I headed into the 1-minute rest. This was fixed to be between each round, and the athlete had to walk back to the starting line (under the pull-up bar) before our next set. I knew that as I caught my breath in that minute that it would only feel shorter the next round.

The round with the chest-to-bar actually went pretty smooth. I had to push myself to move quickly on the singles, praying that my hands would not rip with all that volume. Gotta thank my new Victory Grips that kept me going through the gymnastics movements.

Finally... the Bar Muscle Ups. I had a better tiebreak than Kylie, and my shoulders felt pretty fresh because of the C2B singles. Going into the BMUs I saw a ray of sun 🌦 to my expectations. Don't get your hopes up too soon Cass. I remind myself.

That's always the struggle. Have confidence but don't let it cross into arrogance. Life always finds a way to humble the proud, and I could not afford that now.

Kylie whispered, "you can shorten your intervals if you feel good." I nod.

I kept going, taking some chances by shortening the time I took to rest, and feeling the increasing difficulty in the kip as I did so. I played around with the rest and intensity of the kip in the later reps, especially as I started to catch my breath after those front squats. When I hit 10 BMU, there was a minute left. So I waited 20 seconds and went for 1 more to match Kylie.

1 more? Yeah, why not? And I hit it. I probably could've hit another rep in the last 15 seconds after my 12th rep but I smugly stepped down from the boxes since I had surpassed my goal.

Life always finds a way to humble the proud.

The 21.4 experience

I loaded my barbell up to a comfortable weight of 75kg.

1 deadlift.

1 clean.

1 hang clean.


ok. didn’t get "no repped".

1 jerk.

The weight for the first lift felt good. Should I put on 10kg to go for 85kg?

I decided to not be a wuss and commit to whatever I had to do next. So I looked over to where Kylie was standing.

”I’m doing 85kg.” I declare.

She nods. So I slap on the 5kg plates on each side.

I wait 3 minutes before going again.

1 deadlift.

1 clean.

1 hang clean.


I catch the bar. I knew my arms bent and was just waiting for the “no rep.” And it came.

Ugh. I dropped the bar. I knew that rep would not pass the moment I pulled it from my thigh but it was too late. Should I reduce the weight?

I asked Kylie. She shook her head. I looked at Alvin who was just behind her and he shrugged 🤷. Alvin came over to show me a video of my lift, which didn't really matter because knowing HOW I lifted would not have taken away the damned bent arm.

So I waited another 2 minutes more before going again. There was no way I would be able to get another lift after that so it was do or die.

I won't go into too much detail but the bottom line is... I messed up. I knew the rep was a bust the moment I caught it in a squat clean.

And I hear the "no rep" come from Kylie. My heart sank as I dumped the bar, head reeling with frustration whilst CK and Yongsheng say "come on Cass!" to egg me on to go for another with just 45 seconds left on the clock.

I just had to start the lift 5 seconds before the *beep* of the clock for the rep to count... Provided I did not bend my arms again.


And in my frustration I launched the bar forward and gave it a kick as I threw a tantrum, watching it roll away to Katelyn's box where she had successfully completed her lift. I should have been happy for her but I could not, being so caught up in myself and my own pity-party.


I watched as Kylie lunged forward to catch the dangerously rolling barbell. While I sulked in a corner, throwing my tape, grips, and everything else I had on the floor.

I saw as Alvin approached Kylie to show her a video of my lift. He was trying to defend my lift but I knew that I had bent my arms. Frustrated as I was and wishing he was right, I knew he really wasn't. That was my reality and as much as I hated it I had to deal with this result.

I spent the next few minutes fuming at myself and discounting Kylie's efforts to assuage my anger. A few expletives ensued. In hindsight, I am not proud of what I became and showed on the floor at that time.

I was childish and unprofessional, and almost caused harm to another athlete. It was uncharacteristic of me to do so, and it just added on to the stress of the people around me who tried to go out of their way to pacify me.

Kylie still reminds me to this day that I need to control my emotions, and there is no excuse for bad behaviour.

Life always finds a way to humble the proud.


I had to run a "thank you lunch" for the organizing committee after the event at alittle tashi but I really wanted to hide in the office and finish throwing my tantrum. But I could not.

As much as I needed that space for myself I had to be functional. Don't get me wrong, I love my committee and really wanted to have a blast at this last run with them. We had been through so much with the organization over the past 3 weeks (and long before that), we deserved a last hurrah.

But my heart was so heavy.

We had that lunch anyway. And things got better as the conversation unfolded at the table. The energy brought an extra bit of brightness to delay my frustration of the day.

I had to put aside my own feelings and needs anyway. There was 1 day left to the Open with a few last-minute attempts by the athletes to go. There was so much left to do for the community to wrap the event off well.

I remind myself that I chose to do each event of the Open once, and so my performance is a result of my training, and my actual mindset. Whatever happens would reveal strengths or gaps in any of these areas.

I barely did any dedicated lifting leading up to the Open, so why was I beating myself up over that? I should be rejoicing in the little things, like how this is the first year I can flaunt my BMUs, after 5 prior Opens with none. Then I should move on, learn from those things I could have done better, and hope that the next time I take a shot at the workout, I would have matured, as a person and as an athlete.

P.S. Dear Cass, you will look at this post a year from now and laugh at yourself for being so childish. You may even give yourself a slap for your absurdity.

So here's signing off, heart a little heavy from FINALLY penning down my thoughts a month AFTER the fact.



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