Competing in the Battle of Britain by Coach Alexis

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It’s 5.30am on Sunday and I’m climbing into an Audi S3 with Mario sat in the drivers seat, a huge grin on his face. Not my normal Sunday morning. I am not sure what Mario was grinning about, driving the S3 or the day that lay ahead of us. Probably a combination of both.

I had received an email a few months ago congratulating me on qualifying for the Battle of Britain Throwdown in April. I didn’t know much about the competition other than it was the brainchild of two ex-Royal Marine Commandos who now operate & coach at CrossFit Coventry. There would be 60 males & 60 females battling it out in a one day competition at the High Performance Centre in Birmingham. This was my first individual CrossFit competition.

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We arrived in Birmingham in good time, registered and claimed a spot inside the arena to dump our bags and make our ‘home’ for the next 10 hours. Next to us was a bizarre looking Italian girl who seemed to be going through a manic stretching routine hours before the heats had even started. Mario and I were exhausted just watching her. Each to their own I guess.

We had a couple of hours to wait for the first WOD which was a snatch complex of 1 snatch and 1 overhead squat called ‘One Shot, One Kill’. Athletes would have 3 x 2 minute windows to lift. Only 1 attempt in each window is allowed. I knew this was probably going to be the worst of all 3 WODs for me, but I was determined to get a good number in the books to set me up for the day. I was in heat 9 which was the last of the ladies heats (and conveniently my lucky number!) In the warm up area I only managed to hit 45kg. All the bars were men’s bars which took a bit of getting used to, but nothing I couldn’t handle 😉 I tried 50 but missed. Never mind, time to focus and hope that adrenaline and atmosphere might help me lift it when it mattered. In the corner of my eye I noticed what I thought at first was a man, lifting 70kg in his warm up. As my heat was called, that same person followed and I soon realised it was a woman. 70kg? No pressure then..

I found my judge and he led me into the area where the heats were taking place. The atmosphere was electric. Even though the area was small, the crowd was buzzing and I could feel the energy immediately. I was excited and happy. A nervous energy was growing inside me, which I channelled into good positive energy. As always when I compete I remind myself that I was the one who put myself here and there is no point getting nervous and wasting energy worrying. I love CrossFit and I do this every day. Today was no different. I had a few minutes then “3,2,1 go!” I loaded my barbell with 45kg. It flew up, power snatch and overhead squat. I turned around to see Mario smiling at me. “Go for 50″ he said. Two minutes later I hit 50, easy. One more attempt, I would try and hit my current PB of 52.5kg. The barbell flew up and I felt it go high enough for me to drop underneath it, but stupidly my right foot moved into a split stance. Something I had done in the open with my clean and it unbalanced me. I couldn’t hold it and the barbell fell to the floor. So 50 was my score, enough to place me 32nd. Not great but not bad either. The chipper was coming up next and I knew this was in my wheelhouse!

The first WOD was out of the way and initial nerves gone, I couldn’t wait for the next one. ‘Get to the Chipper’.
In 6 minutes athletes had to complete:
50x DU
40 x KB swings (16kg)
30 front squat (40kg)
20 box jumps (24”)
10 pull-ups
5 GTO (50kg)

I had enough time to eat and chill for a bit. I had to be smart about the type of food I was eating. High carb, high sugar snacks. I just needed the energy to keep me going all day without feeling too full. It’s not food I am used to eating but I know I needed it. It was soon time to start warming up for the chipper. I turned around to see our Italian friend was already dripping in sweat having completed what looked like about 500 double unders and about 50 burpees. And still going. Maybe they do things differently in Italy? I made my way to the warm up area and practiced my movements. Bumped into the current women’s leader (man/woman). Yep, she was lifting around 70kg on her GTOH, for 3 touch and go. Nice.

Our heat was called and off we went. I was so excited for this WOD, I love chippers. I had already done this workout for the qualifiers, the only thing I was disappointed about was that they had taken out the burpees from the box jump part. And those of you who know me, know I love a burpee!! ‘3, 2, 1’ was called and off we went. I managed to do most of the movements bar the front squats unbroken which saved me precious time and put me ahead of most girls. I got a respectable time of 4:35 and second place. I was so happy and I could see so was Mario. It helped put me back in the race on the leaderboard and a real chance of making it to the semi finals.

I was exhausted and needed food. I ate what I could then managed to get a power nap. As I drifted off I could see our friend from Italy, performing sprint drills with her friend. Because that’s what you do when you have about half an hour until your workout and need to warm up, right?! Ok, maybe just in Italy then..

When I woke I had just enough time to find out that my heat was beginning in around 15 minutes for the third & final WOD. Things were moving so fast! I ran over to the warm up area. WOD 3 was a ladder ‘Collateral Damage’:
10-8-6-4-2
DB snatch (17.5kg)
T2B
Thrusters (35kg)
5 min time cap

I was looking forward to this one initially but a few things threw me. I only had enough time for a really short warm up and my heat was called. I didn’t feel as ready as I would have liked, but I just had to get on with it. My judge ran through the movements with me and then it was time. ‘3, 2, 1 go!’ I knew I had to pace myself through the first half of this workout otherwise I would burn out too quickly. All was going well until my judge pointed me back to the dumbells when I was supposed to start my thrusters, wasting precious seconds. I then stood in a pile of chalk so that when I started my T2B I got a face full of it. I had to keep my composure and somehow I got through it, finishing with a time of 4:17 & only 9th place. I was disappointed & unsure if I’d be getting a place in the semi finals. As I was preparing to get ready to pack my stuff up & go they started calling the qualifying names for the semis. “In 12th & final place, Alexis Rufus”. I’d just made the cut!

I couldn’t be more happy. Mario had said to me, aim for top 20 today. It’s your first comp. This would be an amazing achievement. So getting 12th I was more than happy with!

The WOD was ‘No Man’s Land’:
3 rounds for time
5 cleans (52.5kg)
HS walk
10 pistols 8 min time cap

This was going to be fun!! The judges called us in for a talk and run through the movements standards. Lots of questions flying around about the handstand walk. We had about 10 mins to get ready which suited me fine as I just wanted to get on with it. I was in the first of 2 heats. As soon as they said go I just went for it. ‘Empty the tank, give it everything you’ve got’ were my instructions from Mario. ‘And have fun’. It was all over in 2 mins 24 secs for me which earned me 3rd place in that WOD but unfortunately not enough to make the finals which only took the top 6 athletes. Still, I was over the moon about coming into my first competition after not even a full year of CrossFit and coming 12th out of 60 great athletes. And also beating man/woman in the semi finals 🙂

I had a great coach behind me all day, Mario who gave sound advice and amazing support. My training up to the competition had been solid and consistent. Following the competitors programming which Pricey does for us, I believe put me in a great place. I don’t always fully understand the process behind the programming, this is something I am still learning, but I have complete faith in it and in my coaches. I also have a strong mind and a belief that I can achieve. Without this I have nothing. I live by the saying “If the mind is strong, the physical possibilities are endless” and I prove this to myself every time. Dream, believe, achieve.

I do wonder what happened to our Italian friend. She probably decided to run back to Italy. As a warm up, of course.

Coach Alexis

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