• Cass Lau

X45 Fitness Challenge: Pandora's Box 2019

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

let’s start with how the story ends:

🥉third place ain’t too shabby 🤗

It's been 2 days and I am trying to process my thoughts and all that went down in Kota Kinabalu. For some background, I participated in the X45 Fitness Challenge: Pandora's Box 2019 that was held on the 10-11th August with Ditt and Andrew from SetFree CrossFit!

Bear with me as the ramble for the 2 day stretch of events will ensue below.


Day ONE: The Known

I didn’t have much expectations having gone through the workouts with the team. It was exciting to see how we would pan out against the other teams and strategizing where we would need to conserve energy for the next event. We carried out what we had planned and it turned out really well. I would not have asked for anything less.

The events ended on a high. Until we had to get drafted into our heats for the next day. And the feeling was ominous.

The draft looked like this:

We would pick from the first set of movements while the other team picked from the next set of movements. Armed with NO bar muscleups, that would be the worst case scenario choice by the other team. Without hesitation they picked it.

Considering the rest of the day (plus the fact that I didn’t quite understand this lower/upper bracket system) we decided not to use the ban token so soon. We would give up the first workout.

I felt that my journey had ended then and there.

I KNEW i had to face this movement sooner or later but i didn’t expect that it would be this soon. Plus, I had not been training for a bar muscleup.

Ignoring the need for it was probably a result of fear of failure. If I failed in training then failing in the comp seemed like a more likely scenario. So i did everything else... Abit of nutrition, ring muscleup practice, gymnastics in whatever form except the BMU. We tested the movement 2 days before the comp with a blue resistance band but that was it. Kylie stopped me after 1 rep of practice and I just followed.

Dinner was hard to swallow. Even with Kylie strategizing next to me I just couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that I had blown it for the team.

Messaged a bunch of people including my headcoach CK, for his opinion. Kylie remained silent on this and just continued to measure out the potential scenarios.

Ditt (whatsapp, 7:26PM 10/08/19):

How about tmr you get your first muscle up 😉

ok. i’d try.


DAY TWO: The Unknown and the Unknowable

In hindsight it was a GOOD THING that i did not understand this drafting system (I'll explain it below), because if I did I would have probably been less ready mentally to push through the WODs. I might have messed up somewhere somehow.

This day would feature drafts through every round. For the layman (that includes me), each round would be a 1 vs 1 setting where each team would pick a movement from a list, advantageous to their team. If you were in the upper bracket you would have a chance at redemption in the lower bracket. If you were in the lower bracket and you lost, redemption would only come in the form of a wild card. Otherwise you’re out.

EVENTS 1,3,5,7 >> top bracket ONLY. All members participate

EVENTS 2,4,6 >> knockout rounds for the lower bracket

The teams looked even more formidable than before.

How would you feel if you walked into a battlefield KNOWING that you would lose?

I’d know. it sucks. and it sucks even more knowing that you are the one who will be responsible.



15 cal Bike

15 Deadlift

6 Thruster

5/3 Bar Muscle-Ups (BMU)

This was the plan for the AMRAP:

15 cal Bike

1 Ditt l 5 Andrew l 9 Cass

15 Deadlift

2 Andrew l 6 Cass l 10 Ditt

6 Thruster

3 Cass l 7 Ditt l 11 Andrew

5/3 BMU

4 Ditt | 8 Andrew | 12 Cass

I would go last so that I would only be able hit the BMU last. and try. and try.

The other heats that went before us were blazing through the workout like wild fire. It was intimidating. And nearly laughable that we would be strolling through each component of the workout.

I started off with the heavy thrusters. Piece of cake, but my face gaunt with the thought of the BMU that I would eventually have to face.

Done with the deadlifts. oh damn.

Done with the bike. oh yeah. it’s coming. I chalked up.

False grip, go every 45s. what’s next? oh yes, big kip. Arno told me when the arm bends the power ends.

Then, Andrew passed me the heaviest tag I ever had to take. There I was, a David against a Goliath rig. The bar for the muscleup unassuming yet crippling. I stepped onto the boxes to reach the rig. Overgrip.

Big kip.

No dice.

But they said it was close.

I couldn’t hear anything but “WAIT CASS.”

45 seconds. Go. nope. it was higher. more promising? I had to fight.


But the crowd got louder.

I pulled off my grips. I had been practising barehand before, and if I rip then I rip.

In that rep I found myself at the top of the BMU. Like the Big Guy gave me the blue resistance band I used during training to pop me to the top.

Uproar. Ditt and Andrew were ecstatic. Joel and Alvin came over to give me a hug. Kylie smiled wryly in the corner. The clock was ticking but no one cared.

“I can go home already right?” I asked half-jokingly.

They said I didn’t look so happy with that rep. It was a PR but I was so doubtful. My mind was still in comp mode. I had to go.

The other team slowed down considerably when they realised I couldn’t do a BMU and had pulled ahead. But they too had paused to watch.

45 seconds. Chalk and grip. It happened again.

45seconds. And again.


With 30seconds to go I tapped Ditt. He did a few courtesy cals on the bike and we bowed out.

When the time was up many people came up to me to congratulate me. I didn’t know how to react. I celebrated that victory but had to put aside that joy for the next event. Plus I doubted that miracle would happen again.

They said “now the teams will think twice before putting muscle-ups in.”

Then the real challenge started. In reality we had to win ALL our matchups to make it to the finals. My ignorance knew nothing of this need to claw our way to that stage. But I gave it my all as I would always do.

I didn’t know it’d become the longest string of battles that would ensue.


CrossFit FireCity from Singapore had us choose between 3 movements for a 6 minute AMRAP. We’d usually try to discuss the movements with the opponent, this time they declined any collaboration. But nothing of the 3 movements we couldn’t prepare for. After all, any combination of the 3 would see different pairings from my team. We knew our strengths.

I took a tiny toilet break, not knowing that we would be up so fast. By the time I got out, my hair was down and in need of a retie, they said we were up. I hurriedly tied my hair into a ponytail and got ready to go.

Maybe it was good I had not much time to prepare. Overthinking... Not something you'd want to be fussed about.


25 Partner Burpee Over Bar

25 Synchronized Snatches

60 Heavy Wallballs

Ditt & I would go.

YUCK burpees but I had to believe that I could do it. Ditt would push the pace, since he was more conditioned anyway. Drop step step jump.

Snatches, in sets of 5.

The plan was for me to start on the wallballs first but by the time we got to the synchro wallballs I threw Ditt a look. I could do it but it would HURT.

Could we risk it?

Didn’t seem like we had a choice. Maybe I could’ve gone, but in hindsight i needed my legs. i’m glad we saved it.

We’d started on the wallballs before the other team. But Ditt soon started failing. I felt terrible but ready to string my 30 reps if I had to. I was recovering. Then I heard a voice from behind. Kylie shouted: “SLOW DOWN CASS.”

I didn’t trust the voice. What if they caught up on the wallballs? I should’ve listened.

We won by a yard.

Feeling slightly guilty we had to knock a fellow Singapore team out we soldiered on. I remembered this was a competition. Same would go for my team going against the Actualize team. And we shouldn't take defeat personally. I mean I wouldn't.


All 3 athletes had to be involved in this round, one going after the other.

We went against a team from CrossFit Lah and picked thrusters (they would ban handstand pushups but we didn’t want that either).

RFT 9 mins cap

3 rounds (Athlete A>B>C)

20 Thrusters @ 50/35kg

20 DB stepups @ 22.5/15kg to 24”

50 DUs

25 Calorie Bike

Andrew would go first.

Me next, Ditt third.

  • we liked this order because Andrew would push the pace for the first bit, I would maintain it, and Ditt can sprint it home.

Andrew got us off to a good start. He’d gain some ground on the girl on the other team and I went next. I picked up the thruster bar a little slower but was quicker on the cycling (i hate sprinting from implement to implement).

I was first to the step ups. And I did not expect how hard they would be. The damned increase in height from 20” to 24” threw me off. But I just had to grind through each rep and keep going even though it hurt.

With my back facing the opponent I couldn’t hear anything and had to trudge on. HOPING that i was ahead. In my zombied state, I heard voices, waiting for a cue. Majority shouted “COME ON CASS.” But when Kylie shouted from the stands “SLOW DOWN CASS”, I was doubtful but decided to trust her. I dialed it back abit so as to not burn out so fast.

I was off the box to the DUs. Gassed, i tripped around rep 35. The bike that followed wasn’t the same breezy bike as the day before.

"The bike is easier than our Assault bike" they said. WRONG.

Alvin, from the other team who had 2 gymnastic movements for that workout said that the bike became a whole different ball-game, what more can be said for us. Legs into legs into legs into legs. I wanted to pengsan (pengsan /peng-sahn, ˈpɛŋsɑn/ v. [Mal., fainting, loss of consciousness (Wilkinson)] freq. joc.  Collapse or faint, esp. as a result of work.) when I got onto the bike. Andrew ran over to push me -- a little too much. I wanted him to stop but I focused on getting those cals in.

Running back to tag Ditt was the hardest part of the workout.

I later found out that I had done well to listen to Kylie's cue to slow down. I was ahead of the CFLah team and we did not want to rack up any noreps on the WOD.


This was a toughie, not because I was going to do it (in fact I sat this out :D), but it was against Elaine, whom I had made friends with during her visit to Singapore. (I had competed with her sister Vivien before)

So, for the kicks, they decided to pair 2 gymnastic movements together.

Sounds stupid but it was so awesome. Their coach Hadie said "hey let's just have fun and give the audience a good show". THIS was the spirit I loved to see. No stress, just doing their best. Made me wish that the local scene would be as friendly. Yes, you heard me right.

Anyway, with two gymnastic movements in the books, Ditt and Andrew had to go— duh.

RFT 6 mins cap

18-15-12-9 Toes to Bar

3-6-9-12 Bar Muscle Ups (BMU)

This time I was more lucid to call the strategy. While the trigger response would be to put Ditt on the seemingly big sets at the front and back, which we did decide for a while, I quickly made the call to have Andrew be the first and last athlete. Given their strength, putting Andrew on a back-to-back double set would be suicide. We had to have Ditt sprint the middle portion, giving Andrew enough time to rest for the last lap.

This event went well. Surprisingly, even though the other team picked BMU they struggled a ton to get the first set of 3. We were strides ahead.

We could’ve stopped earlier to save some reps for the next workout.


We found ourselves against Sokiders in the LAST lower bracket battle. We sized up our opponents before we chose the movements.

The image above was for the Scaled division.

Choices for the RX division led to our workout being:



Athlete A+B: Synchronized Shoulder to Overhead 45/30kg

Athlete C: Chest to Bar

Obviously Andrew and I would hit the barbell movements with Ditt on the C2B.

On the other hand, this was an EPIC workout for the Actualize Team Confused Mira.



Athlete A+B: Alternating Overhead Squats 45/30kg

Athlete C: Bar Muscle Ups

They went against a strong team from Malaysia, "The Unbrokens" who entered as the top seed for the entire competition. It was like a finale.

The OHS were breezy easy for Zaf and Alvin.

Ian paced himself well on the BMUs-- the real competition. He would stick to small sets of 3-5 in the beginning, with sets of 3-2 at the end. And he'd maintain his form throughout the WOD, while his opponent went with big sets in the beginning, and failing his reps at the end.

They were ripping, but they kept on going.

The crowd was in hysterics.

At the 3-2-1. Ian had held his rep at the top, with the other guy, Ethan, just locking out. The video validated that the rep was complete and they were tied?

BUT the WOD 1 from day 1 gave the Actualize Team a tiebreak to advance to the finals.

We'd see the Unbrokens on our penultimate match.


I was 80% defeated when they announced the matchups. SURE I didn't want to go against the other Actualetes but the alternative wasn't pleasant either.

3 movements in the first and second choice (no photo). Of which each team would choose one. This was the last round in which we could use our ban tokens.

a) 25/20 cal bike

b) 30 wallballs 9/6kg

c) 30 snatches 50/35kg

The conclusion?


30 wallballs

30 wallballs

how fun.

Andrew would go, followed by me.

On a good day, this would easily be our wheelhouse movement. But we were 5 events in, with WODs that predominantly focused on our legs. I was smashed.

The plan was to get to 45 wallballs, assess my ability to continue and try to hold on for the 60.

Andrew went first against the Mat Fraser look-alike (Ash). I counted and watched the judge as he went. 44-45-46.. I was ready to go. Then the numbers went up BEYOND 60. WHAT? Andrew was cycling the reps faster but Ash was off the wallballs first.

It felt like a lost cause.

By the time Andrew tapped me, the girl from the other team, Mala, was 4 wallballs in.

I sprinted to the wall and started on my reps. I HAD TO hold on to the wallball even if it meant that I lost my quads after.

"1-2-3-4..." I tuned out.

"HIPS BACK. SQUAT LOWER." the head judge would tell me.

My ball started hitting the line.

By rep 40 more eyes were on me and I felt the ball getting lower. BUT I COULD NOT DROP.

I was in pain from the waist down and my arms were getting heavy.

I started getting no-repped.

And made the call to drop even though Mala had not.

Soon after I heard her ball drop to the ground with a thud. I quickly picked mine up.

I reckoned she was getting no repped just as much as me. After all she was waaay ahead in terms of reps. I had to hope that I could do just enough. No more no reps.

At rep 52 i dropped with 2 no reps, quickly picked up the ball and went again. She had not yet thrown her last wallball.


Mala was still going.

Now I had to find it in me to drag my lead legs back to the start for the time to be called. When I waddled over Andrew wanted to go again. He thought it was an AMRAP (apparently Ash told him it was). It was so funny but I had no energy in me to laugh. He's quite a character. So much heart though.

They said my lips were purple. I lay down for a good 10 minutes before we went into the finals.


It was a bittersweet feeling. We'd still have to fight for a podium spot, against the Actualize Team. And this was us out of 6 workouts against teams that did 4-5.

Whatever. Redemption? #bringiton And we got this far anyway.


4 teams would go head to head. 2 teams from Hybrid Movement our of Brunei, 2 from Singapore, ActualizexSetFree.

We'd each have to pick a movement.

Part A (5 mins)

Athlete A+B: AMRAP 5 on 2 movements

Athlete C: 1RM Snatch

-rest 2 mins-

Part B (9 mins cap)

RFT of 20/15 cal bike followed by 2 chosen movements

The first two movements were picked. Then it came down to the Actualize Team and mine to pick for the last 2 movements.

Alvin looked over and me and said "Cass, I'm sorry but we may have to pick the BMU."

It was between that and vested BMU (and a host of other movements). But as I said, a competition is what it is. "go ahead."

FINAL WOD - 16 mins


Part A (M1F1) - 5min AMRAP

15 Partner Alternating STO @ 50kg / 35kg

12 Partner Burpee-over-Bar

Part B: Find 1RM Snatch

Rest 2 min, then


Part C (all athletes) complete entire round before switching

20 / 15 Cal Bike

12 Cleans @ 60kg / 40kg

6 Bar Muscle Ups

Ditt originally suggested that Andrew go with me for the AMRAP 5, while he would attempt the snatch.

We discussed that away.

With a higher baseline that Ditt, it made sense for Andrew to do the snatch. Ditt would have to push me on the burpees. Plus we did it earlier in the day so we knew the cadence we had to go at.

Part two was another story. I would go last. Because... BMU.

Needless to say I died fast on the AMRAP 5. Kylie was talking to me from the side "drop fast cass", while Ditt was talking me through the burpee-over-bar "let's go cass, come on."

The alternating STOH were tough to coordinate. And we were no-repped a couple. The longest 5 mins of my life.

The time was up for the first part. I crawled back to the start line.

2 minutes later we were set up for part 2 of the finals.

Andrew, who was relatively fresh from his snatch would go first. It was a breeze for the guys.

Finally Ditt tagged me in and I went for the bike. Each increase in cal on the bike was one rep closer to that BMU. The cleans? I had to break. Unsure of the movement standards they had, and muscle cleaning everything took a toll. Plus. Those BMUs that were to come:/

I was gassed out. And took a moment before my first attempt.

Failed. But I had it before. The girls in the other lanes were flying up the bar.

Rest 30s.

ALMOST. I saw in the next lane one of the girls struggling for a BMU. She did not have one.

I focused back at my own lane. 30s, chalked. TRY AGAIN.


Two lanes were done. It was just me and this girl left with the audience waiting with bated breath on our reps. She had not yet got one in, so I went again.

Overgrip. And GO. The feeling was amazing.

REST. did I need another? Maybe, maybe not. But just in case, I went again.

Failed. Oh no. Did I luck out?

Rest. No time to doubt myself. I just had to do it.

I got another.

8mins 50sec into the workout I went one last time."One for the road" they said.

Right hand. Left hand. Overgrip. AND I made it. One last time to close off the weekend.

We didn't win that heat. But it felt so good.

With a team that got my back, celebrating the little successes and milestone along the way.

Hannah created this gif of the last BMU. Andrew's reaction doe. lol. Ditt calls it a Snatch Balance.

I said a quick prayer. God was with me in every start and through every end. And I know without Him this victory would not be possible.

Finally, a huge huge shout out x100 to these two beauties.

I won't say much here because no words can describe how thankful I am to the both of them for keeping me in check physically and mentally. Seeing them halfway into Day 1 was like the biggest reprieve. They massaged us late into the night and helped release me between workouts. They saw me through the trainings from start to end and let me process my thoughts with them, the good and the bad. I could be vulnerable with my struggles because I knew that even if they did not have a solution, we would be able to talk it out together. To their patience with my impatience, their calm in my chaos. I am so so grateful

What did I do to deserve such generous people?

Not the champion but I feel like the biggest winner. I have great friends and an awesome community.

My team. I have the best team ever.

My pre-comp posts:

1: Comp-Prep & Thoughts

2: I learned from an Anime


“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV

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