D-town Throwdown 2016 at Crossfit YQM, Dieppe, New Brunswick

My first experience with true Crossfit competition, but regrettably not as a competitor. I consider it my first, even though I was around for the Open (but also not competing) because for the most part, the Open is within your own Crossfit gym’s community. THIS was athletes of various fitness levels coming together from many Crossfit gyms for a series of competition WODs. And while I couldn’t compete because of my knee, I felt very comfortable volunteering as a judge, and in so doing I could be in the thick of the action. And it was, in a word, exhilarating.

Let me start by saying that road tripping with a bunch of Crossfit athletes from your own gym is awesome. Maybe it’s the forty year old me saying that though – I haven’t done anything even vaguely like that since I was in University working on my blackbelt during any hour I didn’t have to apply to school. Back then I enjoyed road trips to tournaments, karate camps and the Boston Open (a championship Uechi Ryu Karate competition hosted by Master George Mattson). It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why D-Town was such a unique experience. Maybe it was just being on the road with a large group of like-minded people. Crossfit is, certainly in the case of Rocky Lake Crossfit, very much a community. We all come from different walks of life, have different abilities, strengths and weaknesses – some have kids, some do not. Some are younger, some are older. But we all seem to share a strong kinship over the workouts we share, week after week. And so traveling to Moncton with that group – and it was a diverse group, very much like a cross-section of the Rocky Lake family itself – was a terrific experience.

The RLC team met up in Moncton and almost all of us stayed in the same hotel just a few rooms apart and just down the street from Crossfit YQM, the hosts of the D-Town Throwdown. Some travelled up earlier in the day while some, myself included, traveled up the late afternoon. We met up briefly at the hotel and then all went over to YQM together to get registered.

Teams had to register together because each team took a team photo at the time of registration. Shortly after registration got under way, there was a meeting for the judges. Mark Bellefleur, the organizer and host of the event, went over each of the workout movements and the standards by which each should be judged. The session was also live-streamed on Facebook for those that were not able to make it in person.

With the administrative stuff out of the way, the team headed back to the hotel to socialize a bit. Saturday was going to be a big day.

Saturday morning we were up early to get over to the venue. Outside of YQM there was a tent village set up with each team able to put together a roughly 10 x 10 space to gather their team together. We wanted to make sure we got a good spot, so we arrived fairly early and set up our canopy. Mark repeated the judges briefing in the morning, not just for the benefit of the judges but for the athletes as well. The schedule of events was finalized and distributed and any last minute tweaks would happen on the fly. Mark had it all well in hand, with most heats scheduled in 10 minute slots, tightly packed together. Transition downtime was kept to a minimum.

The judging process was pretty straight forward and having done it for the Open at our club, it felt pretty familiar. Each movement has a standard for the athlete to achieve. If the athlete fails to meet the standard, it’s no-rep and it doesn’t count to their total. Generally it’s as simple as that. And we as judges help the athletes out by counting their reps for them, shouting out the count as loudly as we can so there is no confusion – though in a large scale competition like this, the noise level is pretty high so it takes a fair bit of energy just to do that much. But it’s generally pretty smooth and athletes are pretty quick to agree when they have missed the movement standard – I can’t say I remember any athletes dispute a no-rep.

There were three WODS from the morning through early afternoon. The WODs were team WODs, with two male and two female athletes per team. The athletes were put in various combinations for each workout and achieved scores based on time, weight, reps or all of the above from workout to workout. If there is one downside to judging, it’s that you don’t get to see all the athletes compete because you’re very focused on what’s going on in your lane. So unless you have a break, you see only what’s in your own lane. During the first WOD heats, I did have a brief break. By the second WOD, I had established myself as a floater judge and therefore wound up losing my breaks. Good for the judging experience, but from that point forward, I didn’t see any of the Rocky Lake teams compete, except for the one time when I wound up in their lane and actually judged my own box athletes. I was extremely fair but diligent about judging that lane at the time. By the next heat, I wound up in another lane and with different athletes.

The day was fairly long but it didn’t feel that way. From about 10:30 to 1:30 I was on the judging floor the whole time – and it was never dull. The lane I was in saw scaled and Rx athletes alike, and each put up outstanding performances – sometimes you could hardly tell the difference between them until a given movement was completely different for one or the other. There were extremely high fitness levels across the board. The Rx competitors faced more challenging movements, like hand stand pushups and toes to bar, both in fairly high volumes, but split between two team members at a time. So each team flew through the movements.

By 1:30, the placements for the semi finals were determined. The Rocky Lake athletes had all competed in the scaled division, which was even more competitive than the Rx division if only due to the number of teams. Our teams didn’t advance, but we grabs a team photo and stuck around to watch the opening of the semis before returning to the hotel to relax. The hotel did, after all, have a pool and hut tub.

After an afternoon of hanging out and having a couple of drinks, we headed out as a team for dinner at the Tide & Board gastropub in downtown Moncton. We piled into cabs, had a great meal and shared stories from the competition. We then piled into more cabs to head back to the hotel once again. As we arrived, the CBC’s board cast of the final concert of The Tragically Hip was just getting started, so we gathered in the lobby to watch the first bit, then went back to the rooms to hang out for a while longer while watching more of the concert.

The next morning, we gathered as a team to grab some breakfast in the hotel lobby’s restaurant before packing up to head home.

This was my first competition experience but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m glad I was able to help out as a judge, but I hope to be able to compete in a competition sometime soon, either in the fall or over the winter, as I know there are two competitions coming up locally before the 2017 Open, and I’d really like to have a chance to compete before then – just have to let my knee heal and hope for no more surprises.

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