“Did I get better today?”
That’s the question Randal Lane asks himself after each Crossfit training session. And, based on last week’s performance at the 2014 Reebok Crossfit Games in Carson, Calif. -- and his ability to overcome unexpected challenges -- I think he’d answer “yes.”
“It was an amazing experience,” he says of the event, which pitted him against elite athletes from around the world in the 45 to 49-year-old age group. “I was struck by what a close fraternity these athletes have formed, and, despite all of them being fierce competitors, I could hardly believe how supportive and friendly everyone was. I think we all have a built in level of respect and admiration for one another since we know all too well how hard you have to train to get here, how much you have to sacrifice, and just how grueling some of the workouts are.”
Workouts were posted on Sunday, giving the athletes a couple days to mentally and physically prepare. On Tuesday, Lane started the competition with what is referred to as a deadlift ladder (a workout that requires an athlete to deadlift progressively heavier weight within 30 seconds between lifts). This ultimately proved to be his best event. He worked up to 455 lbs., putting him at sixth place on the leaderboard.
The next event was a handstand walk for distance, which came as a big surprise to Lane since it was a movement he had never previously attempted. Undeterred, he practiced walking on his hands the day before. He made it 10 feet during the event, good for 16th place.
The final event on Tuesday was running five 400-meter laps while performing two legless rope climbs (competitors were only allowed to use their arms to climb a 14-ft. rope) between each lap. During the third round of rope climbs, Lane felt his left elbow give out, a recurring injury which limited him on several workouts during the competition. But, like most competitive Crossfit athletes, he adapted his technique and movements to compensate for the injury and was able to complete the third round and half of the fourth round before time expired. More importantly, he finished the entire competition despite injury.
“Crossfit builds a mental toughness and an adaptation over time to extreme discomfort, so a competitor doesn’t usually just shut down in the face of adversity,” Lane explains. “Rather, you just push through it and do the best you can under the circumstances.”
Lane admits to letting the injury negatively impact him mentally Tuesday evening and into Wednesday, and he certainly wasn’t looking forward to any events that would require a pulling motion with his left arm and elbow.
As is so frequently the case with Crossfit, you typically don’t get a workout you like or want. That was the case on Wednesday with the first event, which included rowing and 125 pull-ups, and a second event later that day consisting of curling and hoisting an 80-lb. medicine ball from the ground and throwing it over your shoulder 90 times.
Lane again endured a lot of discomfort during both events, but he and his heavily wrapped elbow were able to complete both workouts under the prescribed time caps. There were times when he wanted to quit, he admits, but says it helped to have his friend and mentor, Bryan Shockley, encouraging and competing alongside him.
Thursday was better. The day started with an event that was more in line with Lane’s strengths: a down-and-back chipper (typically a longer workout involving more than three movements or lifts). Each athlete had to complete 50 box jumps, 25 toes-to-bar movements, 50 wall-ball shots (20 lbs.), and 25 ring dips. And, as if that were not enough, after the ring dips, the athletes had to perform all of the movements a second time in reverse order. For an added bonus, everything had to be completed in 21 minutes or less. Randal finished with an impressive 9th place for this event.
The final event on Thursday consisted of a 100-meter run, five burpee ring muscle-ups, and five overhead barbell snatches (165 lbs.). Lane posted a solid 11th place finish for the event. If you were able to watch this event, you also saw athletes at their best in terms of speed, strength, and endurance. The event also reinforced the sense of community and camaraderie Crossfit engenders in its athletes. For example, instead of resting or simply leaving the course once they were done, athletes who finished earlier than others would gather around their fellow competitors and provide them the encouragement and motivation they needed to finish the workout.
Overall, and despite his injury, Lane will go down in the CrossFit record books as the 18th fittest 45-49 year old man in the world for 2014. He received an overwhelming amount of support throughout Atlanta and from as far as South Africa and Australia. He says the messages provided him with the motivation he needed to complete the competition. No longer a rookie, the question on everyone’s mind is will Lane -- the fittest CPA extraordinaire -- train and compete in the 2015 Crossfit Games?
I would have asked him, but he'd already left for the gym.