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“Most Primal” Competition – My Training and Recap

On Sunday I spent the day at Primal Fitness in Washington, D.C., competing in their “Most Primal” Competition. First off, I want to thank Jesse Woody, Quint, and the crew again for all their hard work in planning and running this event. Things went very quickly and efficiently and we were actually out of there early. They put together an excellent variety of events to test our strength, power, speed, agility, and endurance.

I received the email about this competition a month ago, and while I haven’t done these CrossFit style competitions before, I figured this would be a great one to enter. I’ve know Jesse for years (check out my Jack Arnow interview and pics at the old Primal location), and everyone in the CrossFit/Fitness community around here is awesome and incredibly supportive. I knew that I had some preparation to do though – namely building up my skill set and getting into better shape.

Having a general working knowledge of these competitions, I figured that I needed to become somewhat proficient in the following –


– kipping pull-ups (pull-up with assisting leg motion)

– double-unders (passing jump rope under you twice for one jump)
– rowing (I’m decent, just rusty)

– snatch (also rusty, but OK)


sinking the rower

After a month’s time I felt comfortable with a split snatch and my rowing pace. My kipping pull-up improved dramatically thanks to the help of the other guys at Balance (Thanks Josh and Ori!) I was getting better at double-unders and could string together 4 or 5 on a good day (another thanks to Ori for all his help).

Now as far as my overall training goes, I like lifting heavy weights and leaving the long, grueling MetCons for others. It’s just who I am. When I ran track I enjoyed sprinting infinitely better than the long distance Cross Country season. Now, I knew that I needed to get in better shape, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my strength too much (what I predicted as my strong point for this competition).

I had been following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for this past month with excellent results. You might have already heard a mountain of praise about this program from others, but I’m here to add to that. It’s simple and I’ve been putting up great numbers.

Now, I was working the basic 5/3/1 program and cutting back just a couple sets of assistance work at the end to give time and energy for conditioning. This consisted of fast-paced rounds of various  exercises like 500M rowing sprints, kipping pull-ups, double-unders, split snatches, rope climbs, and dumbbell/kettlebell cleans. Pretty much all the conditioning work I tend to avoid.

various conditioning

All this work was pretty effective. I had fairly good wind for the competition and with a lighter diet I managed to drop a full 10 lbs this past month. Yesterday I was in as much “fighting shape” as I could get in a month!

So onto the competition, it was announced only a few days before that the first of the three events was going to be an “Overhead Anyhow”. Basically, we were to get as heavy a weight as possible at arm’s length over our head while standing. Now the clean and jerk would seem like the first and obvious choice (as many competitors chose this), but the rules also explicitly stated we could do a continental clean (or just called a continental). What’s a continental? I’ll let “Mr. Weightlifting” himself, Norbert Schemansky, show you . . . with 441 lbs –


Basically it’s a clean in two parts, where you rest the bar halfway up on your weightlifting belt, or if you are husky enough, your rotund stomach. This allows you to move heavy weight easier, as you don’t have to move it quite so far each time. It was just incredible luck and timing that I had ordered and finally received my first weightlifting belt a couple weeks ago from EliteFTS. A 4- inch wide “Retro Series” model, in a stylish forest green.

Now I’ve cleaned and jerked 250 lbs, but heavy cleans were not something I had been practicing regularly over the past several months. Rather than leave things up to chance, I decided to work the continental and see if I could get some good weight up to my shoulders. I knew from the past several months of overhead press and push presses that I could get 255 lbs over my head if I could get it to my shoulders. Well, with the continental I could quite easily get 265 lbs to my shoulders (getting that weight overhead wasn’t so easy though!), so with the continental a strong, safe option, I went with that.

Along with the announcement of the first event, we were also shown the scoring template that would be used – (seen here) – that would take into account bodyweight, gender, and age. At a leaner, trimmer me, I planned for a weigh-in of 175 lbs. I then plugged in several different possible lifts for myself and my competitors to see how things could play out. This proved very useful to reference on the day of competition, as I could clearly plan out my lifts with objectivity.

I’m nothing, if not obsessive

So my weigh-in the day of competition was actually 171 lbs! Again, a full 10+ lbs down from last month! This was a relief, as my planning sheet would actually be fairly accurate. And as you might surmise from the above sheet, I started with an opening lift of 235 lbs.

This first Overhead Anyhow event was a lot of fun, and possibly the first exposure to this style of competition to some people. It was run like a powerlifting or olympic lifting event where the bar is increasingly loaded heavier and heavier and people make their attempts one at a time in front of a large crowd of people. Quite intimidating if you aren’t use to it! Luckily I’ve got the experience of dozens of gymnastic shows in college, at least one powerlifting meet, plus all my seminar experience over the past few years. I was in my element.


235 lbs went up pretty easy, with just a slight waver in my back on the jerk. I know people thought I was absolutely nuts when I rested the weight on my belt, but trust me it works really, really well. After this lift I needed to announce my second and final attempt. In the interest of time, we were only given two attempts as opposed to three in a regular powerlifting or oly meet. With my pre-made planning sheet, I had been surveying my competitors’ bodyweights and attempts. I announced 255 lbs for my last lift, which would put me squarely in 1st place!

Everyone else at the event was putting up great numbers and there were some epic struggles and triumphs on the platform. I saw one other guy do a continental (pausing at his lap), and only one other guy with a belt, who did not do a continental. Again, the event was great and there was a ton of PR’s, cheering, and clapping all around.

Josh Courage owns his first lift

When it was my turn at 255, I knew I needed to kill this weight. I walked back behind the platform, chalked up, then proceeded to pace aggressively back and forth as the weight was loaded and readied. My attempt was announced and I stepped onto the platform. I rolled the weight into the center of the platform, then proceeded to murder it. Quick and strong up to my belt then shoulders, I paused just long enough up there to grab a breath and squeeze the bar, then I sent it skyward with a short drop underneath it. Nailed it!!! It felt even better than 235!!! I got caught up in the moment and proceeded to bring the bar down a little quicker than I should have (read: I slammed the weight down, sorry Jesse!!). I was pumped and felt like I could’ve juggernauted through a brick wall at that point.

The video of it all…

As I had thought, I was 1st place after the first event! So basically this confirmed what I already knew, that I could lift heavy things. I was hoping that this win would help pad my weak points in the coming events.

At the conclusion of the lifts, the second event was finally announced. Three boxes of increasing heights were placed in a line across the gym floor. In front of each box was a sandbag of decreasing weight. In the case of the guys, this meant 120 lbs, 100 lbs, and 80 lbs. We had to get the bags over the boxes, then ourselves over the boxes, then get on top of an 8-foot-tall box, then reverse the whole process, bags over boxes again, and back to the start. Fastest time wins, naturally.

And while much time was spent by us planning our techniques and tactics, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Or if you prefer Tyson – “everyone has a plan until they get hit”. When we were all in the heat of it, this technique degraded and all of us were scrambling a bit. The techniques that did help me were my starting position and finish from my good ol’ track days, and my ability to wall run, which I learned one spring weekend on a parkour run with Jesse and his crew. So thanks to him, Mark, Skipper, Kip-up, and the others for teaching me that so long ago!

Here’s the video, with Josh shown first, then me.


In a very close race, I managed to get 3rd place behind two guys that outweighed me by 25-30 lbs. My buddy Steve Opiyo, who works out at Balance Gym, and Jason Garrard from CrossFit Chapel Hill got 1st and 2nd respectively. As Jason came in 2nd in the Overhead Anyhow event, the two of us were now tied for 1st place! Tied for 1st after two events?? I never thought I would be here!

And then it All. Went. Wrong.

Final event was announced as follows –

15 minutes of AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
Block run (about 300 meters)
25 double-unders
10 burpees

Damn. Damn. Damn. I knew those double-unders would be the end of me. I worked on them, but all the other top guys were proficient in them, very proficient. Quite literally my weakest exercise was smack in the middle of the last event – a reoccurring roadblock.

It was also announced that if your double-unders were scaled (made easier), that you would not be given a chance to get 1st or 2nd place. So I could scale things back, get a better score for the last event and better final standing, but automatically secede 1st or 2nd, or I could try my hardest at double-unders and pray for the best. Well, there was no way I was going down without a fight. Bring on the double-unders!!!


I’d like to take this moment to again thank everyone that was there cheering me on through the final event. You know who you are. As I said, the community here is incredibly supportive. A huge thanks to my girlfriend, Kori, for the cheering and support all day, along with the picture and video-taking. And Ori (no relationship to Kori), thanks for not giving up on your belief that I would suddenly nail double-unders like a seasoned CrossFitter. Thanks also to my AMRAP counter, DJ, who probably had the hardest job keeping track of my count.

I’d also like to apologize to any small children sitting in front of me during this event, as I huffed out expletives under my breath and hacked my way through 25 double-unders.

Double-unders!!! Khan!!!

The block runs were challenging but doable, the burpees were a piece of cake as I cranked them out in a new style that I’d seen Jason doing earlier – hitting the ground normally, but coming up into a straddle before joining your feet back together. I really liked this style and it flowed very well.

As you can already guess, I didn’t do too well on the final event. I don’t know my placing in that event, but it dropped my final placing to 7th out of 28 guys (I think). I ended up with about half as many repetitions as the winners. Damn. Easy come, easy go.

The good news is that my friend Steve Opiyo tied for 3rd place, and my other friend Josh Courage won 2nd place! They both tore up the last event. Jason Garrard was a monster throughout the competition and was always the guy to beat. He fought to a rightfully earned 1st place.

Balance Gym regulars – Josh Courage gets 2nd, Steve Opiyo tied for 3rd

So for my first CrossFit style event, I think it was a respectable showing. I hit my goal of winning the first event, and managed to surprise myself by staying at the top through the second. I knew the last event would be the hardest for me, and even if given exercises I could handle, it would’ve been an all-out fight to make top 5.

Things learned? I need to get out to more of these competitions, even if I don’t compete. I like the continental lift … a lot. My conditioning always needs work and I’ll keep it in this next month of 5/3/1 training (as is recommended anyway). I had fun and look forward to the next challenge.



Mar 02, 2010 | Category: Blog | Comments: none


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