May 23, 2013 8:15 PM

Reflections on the Northeast Regionals

I spent all of last weekend attending the Northeast Regionals in Canton, MA. Besides great weather, readily available paleo food, and tons of clothing and equipment to check out, there were amazing athletes to watch. Some would excel, others would succeed and others would do their best but find the combination of tasks too difficult. Regardless of the outcomes, the cheering and support that the fans gave to all the athletes was the stuff that gets us hooked on CrossFit from the start. Many came to support their teams, and others were friends and family of individual competitors. Regardless of affiliation, we cheered for all the accomplishments and struggles.

As typical with most CrossFit competitions, the athletes that completed a workout early would frequently run back out to encourage those still working to finish. It helped drive the competitor, and it got the crowd into supporting everyone that was giving it their all.

One athlete that caught my attention during the weekend was Casey Justason from CrossFit Hingham. She finished 63rd in the Opens, so she (hopefully) had not expectation to get to the Games next month. Nonetheless, she clearly trained hard to get to Regionals and her work ethic is unquestionable. I loved watching her put in the effort for all the workouts, and I hope to see her in future competitions soon. I took many photos of Casey. You can see how hard she must train and eat right to be in this top condition. Just inspirational.

Casey Justason

Casey Justason

Casey Justason

Another athlete that I was watching was Heather Bergeron. Unlike Casey, Heather had a real shot at the Games this year after finishing 18th in the Opens. I have seen Heather compete several times in the past, and she was in top form all weekend. She finished 8th in the Regionals and finished 3rd in one workout (30 burpee muscle ups for time) and 4th in the last WOD. However, I acquired a tangible bit of CrossFit wisdom while watching Heather row. She (and many of the top athletes) do not row in and out as fast as humanly possible. Instead, they pull hard as hell and hold the laid out position for a second before returning the handle forward for the next pull. The return is not rushed, but controlled. It gives the rower a second or two of rest before the next max effort pull. I tried this at my box today. WOW! What a huge difference. I pulled at about the same speed (1:56/500m), but used only 22 strokes per minute instead of my usual 29-33 strokes per minute. At the end of the row, I felt much better that after any previous row. I will be using this technique from now on.

Heather Bergeron

The last observation I will share was the rise, fall, and rise of the team from CrossFit Free in Salem, NH. The team is led by Brandon Peterson and they qualified for Regionals by placing 24th in the Opens. Shortly after the Opens, I participated in a one-day competition at Free. I worked out with many of the athletes on their team, and they are a hard working bunch. On a whiteboard upstairs, the Free team had listed each member's name and the aspects of their fitness that each was working to improve before Regionals. When the team first came out on Friday, I could tell they had been working up to peak shape. One of my favorites, Lynn Cassotis (mother of 3), had clearly improved her strength. Her arms looked amazing and she was generally ripped.

Unfortunately, the second team workout on Friday included max overhead squats followed by at least 3 burpee muscle ups for each team member. This combination proved to be too much for Lynn. At the same moment, Brandon hurt his shoulder and could not complete his overhead squats. Free's time at Regionals ended too soon on Friday.

Later that day, Brandon posted on Facebook. Essentially, he wrote "thanks for supporting us. Sometimes things don't work out. Training for 2014 starts tomorrow." I would have loved to see the team from Free continue through Saturday and Sunday, but when they didn't they immediately set their sights on the next long term goal.

CrossFit Free Team at 2013 Northeast Regionals

CrossFit is supposed to be hard and challenge each athlete to push beyond the limits that they think they have. Sometimes you burst through the pain and resistance to new heights, and sometimes the WOD kicks your ass. Luckily, there is always another workout and another goal to work toward. I love that Brandon focused his team immediately on getting ready for next Spring. Likewise, I have set my sights on 12 more months of personal improvement and hope to demonstrate the fruits of my labor in the Opens next year.