• Cass Lau

My Whirlwind ACF Open Experience


The CrossFit Open was over two weeks ago, but I barely had any time to process my thoughts given that a lot of things had happened. So here’s me finally getting down to it!

On the 23rd of February, just 3 days prior to 22.1, we were awoken by the crackling of a roaring fire— a story I will recount in another post. In trying to get everyone (and a few pieces of expensive furniture) to safety, I sustained a few burns, one of which ran across the sole of my foot, rendering me unable to do jumping movements (DM for pix).

When I saw the injury I laughed (perhaps bitterly). Just the night before I went to sleep declaring that I would sign up for the official CrossFit Open, since I could not be part of the Black vs Yellow face-off at the box.

How poetic. What a way for me to quickly bow out of that statement eh.


It was hard to let go. Let go of the ability to workout as I had intended, of organising the Open in my fullest capacity, and to let other people step up to the role, but I had to. The house was in a mess and we were without a home (and would be for nearly a month). We needed to get the place liveable again, and I needed to manage the emotions of many people around me. Everyone was tired and lost, both at home and out of the house.


That day I told Kylie that I would be able to join her in the adaptive division, since she had signed up a while ago to be a part of team black, despite her surgery earlier that week.

Week 1 - 22.1

We attempted the workout 22.1 as prescribed on Friday, the first day of the CrossFit Open.

Workout 22.1

ADAPTIVE - SEATED WITH HIP FUNCTION

Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of:

6 dips

9 dumbbell lap snatches

15 wall-ball shots

♀ 20-lb dumbbell, 10-lb ball to 7 ft

♂ 35-lb dumbbell, 14-lb ball to 9 ft

Read the full workout standards here.


It was HARD. I tried my best to keep my feet off the ground for the integrity of the workout, but in my haste to get more reps in, I had unknowingly landed my heels on the ground for a couple of reps. My judge was new to the adaptive standard and missed out those reps.


I felt uneasy that day, and decided that I had to redo this arm-burning WOD.


Saturday had started and the athletes streamed in. First the face-offs at 9AM, followed by heats of athletes going through the workout.


I had planned to do the workout on Sunday, to give my shoulders a break, but a window opened up at 12PM with just one athlete so I went for it.


I asked Soo Keng if he could judge me. It was his first ever judging slot and he had to judge an adaptive athlete. I said emphatically just make sure my legs don’t bend for the rep to count.

I did better the second time, with a clearer conscience too. But beyond that, I have mad respect for the adaptive athletes.


How they can transit between each implement and grind through even when their arms are screaming for them to stop... is beyond me.


That week was over in a blur. I felt guilty because my heart was not at the weekend events 100%. I watched as Xiujing and CK had to take on multiple roles, while I was forced to be benched because of the growing blister on my foot. And somewhere else in my brain was the family crisis that would drag on for at least a month.


Amidst it all, I told myself that I had to workout and be a part of this community. After all, it kept me sane and safe before, and seeing other people crush their workouts would be a good antidote for my mental state.


Week 2 - 22.2

Though I was able to squat with weights by the second week, I was still unable to jump, so any movement that required a “jump over” would mean that I would have to scale the workout.


When the announcement came out on Friday, people were talking mainly about the scaled and RX’d version of the workout. Of course no one would look at the adaptive athlete version, so I had opened that in my browser on the way to coach the morning class.


WORKOUT 22.2

ADAPTIVE - SEATED WITH HIP FUNCTION

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps for time of:

Deadlifts U-turns

♀ Two 35-lb kettlebells, 30-in U-turn

♂ Two 44-lb kettlebells, 30-in U-turn

Time cap: 10 minutes


A U-turn??


The movement standards showed this:

I watched the video for this and I promise you that my mouth was agape for awhile.


Other than the obvious fact that I did not have a wheelchair, these guys are dope. Anyway, this version of the workout was out of question, so I pored through the others that were applicable… they were almost like the scaled and RX’d versions so I thought I’d do it anyway.


I tested the deadlift weight when an athlete did it on Friday.

I tried one rep on my heels… the blister was uncomfortable but bearable.

Then I tried another with my full foot… uncomfortable but bearable.

The RX’d version seemed entirely possible at this point.


That afternoon, I met with Sarah, a friend from Junior College and a paediatric doctor in the UK. When I told her about my terrible experience at the A&E, she demanded to take a look at my blister. To cut a long story short, we removed the top layer of the blistered skin with a pair of cosmetic scissors, cleared out the gunk, and fortified it with a sanitary pad (you read that right).


I had a raw wound cushioned with a sanitary pad. It was great.

And it would have to do for my attempt on Sunday.


P.S. Will write more about this in a later post.


The week’s theme was animal prints for Team Yellow, and stripes for Team Black. So when I returned to I the house, I rescued my dance costume from 2012 — a raglan leopard print top which I used to for my first dance recital with Eurhythmix. It was rather loud, and earned a disgusted scowl from Lokies, but hey, all for fun right? And how often would I have an excuse to wear this gaudy thing?

2012: Recital with Eurhythmix

As for my foot, my limp was baaaaad. So I wrapped it extra with a bandage.


WORKOUT 22.2

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps for time of:

Deadlifts

Bar-facing burpees

♀ 155 lb

♂ 225 lb

Time cap: 10 minutes


I checked over-and-over again with Ian, who was present, if my “jump over” was valid. He said it was. I would just have to take it slowly.


Going into the workout felt different. In previous Open events I would have butterflies in my tummy, and would usually rush the first few rounds, only to hit a wall mid-way through. But I felt great.


My heart was light, and I had to remind myself to focus. Even if it was just for fun, it should still be executed well.

Rocking the prints in a different light

The workout commenced. Kyna, who was next to me, was flying through her deadlifts: clank… clank-clank… clank-clank-clank…


I was worried because I was keeping pace. That was, until I jumped weird over the bar, landing on my scarred foot rather than the okay one. That’s when I knew I had to slow it down a little.


We had done a similar workout before — deadlifts and burpee over bar only in the upward ladder. Kylie liked pairing hinging movements together, because it would come out often in the Open, she was good at it, and I disliked it. But with all that training I disliked it a lot less, and knew what was coming.


The workout started feeling hard when I hit the round of 10. That was my goal — to stop there. When I ended with that last burpee I asked Soo Keng, who was my judge “can I shout time here?” He laughed. I had a ton of time on the clock. Dang it.


I was supposed to be doing this for fun, but people were shouting at me (or maybe they were shouting at Kyna but I thought they were shouting at me) to pick up the bar. I heard Xiujing’s distinct voice saying “come on Cass!” I sighed, and picked up the bar.


I look like I escaped from a Safari

“Watch your trailing foot!” CK shouted, which was echoed by Soo Keng. Apparently the back foot which was trailing kept dropping lower and I was in danger of hitting the bar. A phenomenon I was unable to feel at all since the wound was throbbing so hard after but I kept going on adrenaline.


With 45 seconds left on the clock I squatted. “Come on Cass! Finish the deadlifts!”


I’ll definitely finish it. I mouthed. But I did not want to do the burpees after. I stood up and sighed, picking up the bar a little earlier than I had bargained for.


I finished the set on 8 deadlifts going down and did a couple of burpees before the timer beeped.


Ouch.

Making Soo Keng smell my feet

I quickly pulled off my shoes and propped my feet against the wall, wincing as I felt the blood rush to my feet and to the wound. I limped around the whole day after that.


It was kinda cool to do the workout next to my sister! By the way, this girl who turned up on the dot for the workout (she misjudged the timing because we had moved our house yet again), did not have any time to put on striped objects for team attire points, but she managed to take the top spot on the Women’s Scaled Leaderboard!


I knew she was good at deadlifts but I didn’t know she was THAT good. Mel asked me in a later conversation “what did she do before this??” HIIT and Chloe Ting during the lockdown. A lot of it.

To be honest, I did not know where I stood in terms of my reps. I had meant to do it for fun and I wasn’t rolling on the ground as I usually would in Open workouts.


Vanessa told me that I was holding the top spot.


(Later on with Kun and Vivian’s redo, I was pushed back in my placing.)


Week 3 - 22.3

Sh*t was getting real. The last workout I could potentially do RX’d. The wound was healing up very nicely and was just a giant itchy scab.


I tested squat cleans and double unders during the week — movements that were notorious for coming out in the Open.


I could do them, albeit in smaller sets. So jumping movements were back in the books for me.


At this point I had not looked at strategies for any of the previous workouts, nor did I get pulled into the guessing games that were thrown out with the Dave Castro-esque clues. But having seen two of the three workouts out, it seemed impossible that the final workout would differ much from 22.1.


Things with the house had cleared up considerably by that time. I still had expectations to manage and the duty of a daughter to fulfil, but I had a little bit more breathing space.


When the workout came out I was a little underwhelmed. I knew that I would have to attempt it on Saturday but before that, I really wanted to do the adaptive workouts that I had set out to do.


WORKOUT 22.3

ADAPTIVE - SEATED WITH HIP FUNCTION

For time:

15 chin-over-ring pull-ups

48 core twists

21 shoulder presses (weight 1)

10 chest-to-ring pull-ups

44 core twists

18 shoulder presses (weight 2)

5 ring muscle-ups

40 core twists

15 shoulder presses (weight 3)


♀ 45-lb, then 55-lb, then 65-lb press, 20-lb dumbbell core twist

♂ 65-lb, then 75-lb, then 85-lb press, 35-lb dumbbell core twist

Time cap: 12 minutes


CK asked me if I was planning to do the RX’d workout the next day. I said yes, and he said that I should save my arms for that.


Nah, I said I’d do the adaptive workouts and I really wanted to. (I would have to attempt Kylie’s version of 22.2 sometime too — a 1-10-1 ladder of dumbbell deadlifts and dumbbell bench presses.) PLUS, it was not like I was on the official Open leaderboard— I just wanted to have fun.


The workout called for RING MUSCLE-UPS at the end… FROM A SEATED POSITION MIND YOU. I knew I wouldn’t get it, but I’d keep on trying anyway.

The core twists were the secret killer. My biceps were positively BURNING with that movement coming off the ring work. BUT I managed a seated ring muscle-up that started with bent arms— it was kinda cool, albeit a no rep. I’ll take it:)


Again, adaptive athletes are crazy dope and inspirational, and I am thankful that I managed to have a taste of that this year despite the circumstances. Being able to move is a huge blessing, and I truly respect any one who recognises that ability regardless of their disability.



People who attempted 22.3 later that day told me that the workout was a shoulder-intensive one. TOO BAD FOR ME.


Kylie stayed back to continue judging whilst I went back to settle stuff for the house and appease the queen (My mum). She dropped me a message with a recommended rep scheme.

7/7/7 pullups

42 DUs

12/9 thrusters@29kg

Singles C2B on box

36 DUs

7/6/5 thrusters@34kg (get a good tie break time, then rest 45-60s before attempting first BMU)

Singles BMU on box

30 DUs

5/5/5 thrusters


I asked Gabriel if he could judge me that day — it would mean that he would stop asking me to pick the “auspicious hour” (i.e. his slot) to attempt the workout, so that he could finally give me the no rep that he wanted to give me.


Well, if I deserved a no rep then I should rightly get it, and I wanted him to judge me because I knew he was meticulous as a judge, even if he asked the strangest questions sometimes.


I told him the strategy that Kylie typed out for me which he scribbled on the scoresheet.


WORKOUT 22.3

For time:

21 pull-ups

42 double-unders

21 thrusters (weight 1)

18 chest-to-bar pull-ups

36 double-unders

18 thrusters (weight 2)

15 bar muscle-ups

30 double-unders

15 thrusters (weight 3)

♀ 65 lb, then 75 lb, then 85 lb

♂ 95 lb, then 115 lb, then 135 lb

Time cap: 12 minutes

Everyone kept telling me that this was the kind of WOD that I would like. And they were right. Since unlocking bar muscle-ups, I would look for every opportunity to test it (since then it’s been ring muscle-ups!).


Coupled with a relatively light weight for the thrusters, this would presumably be a workout I could do well in. But to be honest I was worried about the thrusters. I had not been working on squatting movements but I trusted the rep scheme put out for me anyway.


3-2-1… GO. We approached the bar. I was worried the sets of 7 on the pull-ups would be too big, but my arms still felt pretty good (despite the previous day). I reminded myself that I had a long way to go.


Then came the double-unders. I told Gabriel that I would try not to break it, but it would depend on my foot, after all, I had a practice session earlier than week and small sets of 20 gave my foot a little strain. I didn’t break.


Chest-to-bar singles worked great. I was winded by the end of it— so going into that second set of double unders and thrusters were tough stuff. I pushed hard at every rep to stick to the rep scheme. My arms and hips were burning, but at least I was making the reps. For what the rest to my legs were worth, my hip mobility had improved 😀


The plan was to rest 45 seconds before my first bar muscle-up (BMU), and I did. People who didn’t know my plan kept shouting at me to mount the bar earlier, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it. My arms were burninggggg.


And I failed that first one.


Through the 15 reps, I failed 4 of them, with my hips getting further under the bar each time. The chicken wing of my arms got worse with each rep, and my right trap was feeling it.


My goals was 10 reps, and by minute 9, I had reached that goal. Like the deadlifts, I was prepared to stop.

12 reps.. 2 minutes to go.

Dang it. I can finish.


People were shouting for me to go, and I did.


I finished the 15 BMUs with 45s seconds to spare.


I rushed to the rope for the double unders, arms burning and praying that I would be able to sustain my pace. I simply could not push those reps out any faster.


I don’t know what came over me, but I ran to that barbell. 38kg was a doozy. I went for an easy 3, and stopped before the timer beeped because I knew I would not make it.




As I lay on the floor with the fist bumps coming at me, I thought to myself— wow. I could’ve finished that.

ded. 😵

It was pretty cool. Knowing that I could have finished a workout that I would not even be able to get through a few years ago. We’ve come a long way, and I loved how this Open was so much lighter for me compared to previous ones.


Organizing the Open

This year's Open was fraught with difficulties. I could list the problems to no end: lack of communication, lack of a clear direction, mismanagement, absence of key personnel...


But I want to celebrate the good things too. Those who joined the Open for the first time enjoyed themselves, we had a great team of enthusiastic and humble judges albeit new, and we had a mostly new team of org comm members, who managed to pull it off.


We can do better.

So we move forward.


Photo cr: Naresh, Lynette



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