And so here we are, at the 5th and final workout in the 2013 CrossFit Open, which is either really short or a long grueling slog:

4 min AMRAP

15 thrusters @ 100 pounds

15 chest-to-bar pullups

If you reach 90 reps in 4 minutes, add another 4 minutes

If you reach another 90 reps, add another 4 minutes

Continues indefinitely.

Devious. The better you are, the more work you have to do. I’m not good, so it promised to be short for me. Still:

I skipped 13.4 as you might know.  When I heard about 13.5, at first I thought I might skip the workout again.  The heaviest thruster I’ve ever done in a workout was 75 pounds.  I’d never even attempted a 100-pound thruster, and I’d never done a chest-to-bar pullup. So, fucked and fucked again.

I thought about it for a while.

The thruster is a pain-in-the-ass lift where you clean the bar, front squat it, and at the top of the squat you pop up fast and punch the bar into the air.  They’re good for you because they use combinations of big muscles like quads and hamstrings, and not fun because they exhaust you very quickly.


I’d never done a 100-pound thruster, but I had the individual pieces of a 100-pound thruster: I can clean 100 pounds. I can front-squat 100 pounds.  I can push-press 100 pounds. String those moves together and you’ve got yourself a thruster. Just do them all in a row, very fast.

Fifteen times.

For several rounds.


I still had never done a chest-to-bar pull-up. But lately I’m getting better at deadhang pull-ups. My record is 7 in a row. I thought, all I have to do to get my chest to the bar is pull harder. Just that simple, right?

So I decided, screw it. I’d give it a shot.

If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll realize most of the Open has featured me thinking, “Shit, I can’t do that. Should I attempt it? Aaaah, fuck it, whatever.”  Fuck it. Whatever. Put that on a T-shirt.


To hell with Fran

The word around the CrossFit watercoolers was, this workout is almost like the classic CrossFit workout Fran, which is 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups. The difference with 13.5 is that it’s the middle round of Fran only — which is the hardest round — but done over and over and over.  And Fran as prescribed is only 95 pounds, not 100. Oh, and Fran has chin-to-bar pull-ups, not chest-to-bar. So, like Fran, except the hardest Fran ever.

By the way, people who don’t know a lot about CrossFit seem to think all we do is Fran. Fran this, Fran that.  Every article I read about CrossFit by a non-CrossFitter mentions goddam Fran. Critics of CrossFit think all we do is obsess over our Fran time.  I’ve done an honest-to-God Fran once, I think. It was scaled. Don’t recall my time. It’s not that important to me.

Thrusters came up in a WOD in my gym just before 13.5.  I started with 75 pounds, then took plates off the bar to reduce the weight to 55 pounds after a grand spanking total of two (that’s 2) reps.  They still felt heavy.

Chest-to-bar pull-ups, I’ve never even come close. You kind of need to kip those to get them right, and I’ve never yet kipped properly. I can’t practice at home because my pull-up bar has a texture on it that will shred your palms to finely grated romano cheese if you try swinging from it.

So yeah. That’s how I practiced.


Last day of the Open

I came to the Open’s last day the same way I came to all the other Open workouts: tired, partially fueled, semi-prepared. It was just me this time. Nik dropped out because she hurt her ribs foam-rolling (true fact) and her wrist was sore (not from foam rolling, from holding the baby).  Warmed up with a couple of PVC pipe thrusters, did some arm circles — that was it for a warmup. Then I pulled on my wrist wraps, found my judge, walked up to a 100-pound barbell, and chalked up.

I go: “I’ve never done 100-pound thrusters before. This will be ugly and short.”

She goes: “You’ll be fine. Just pop your hips.”

I warned her that I probably would not reach the chest-to-bar pull-ups, but if I did I’d have to do them deadhang. Also, that I cannot do them deadhang.


I was wearing my special CrossFit Open T-shirt, the one with a T.rex doing back squats (left).  A guy walked up to me and said: “YOU ARE A GODDAMN SEXUAL TYRANNOSAURUS AND YOU’RE AWESOME.”  Yes, mysterious stranger. I am. Thank you.

Directly behind me was a woman who’s pregnant and can very likely still press me over her head. In front of me, another woman who turned and said, “You wanna do the thrusters facing each other so we can go RAAAARR!” And she made a war face.  I feel comfortable assuming she could also press me over her head. These people are good.

A quick countdown from 3 and we were off. I power-cleaned the bar pretty easily and did a 100-pound thruster. First thoughts: This was pretty easy. Did 2, then 3, then 4, then 5. Thought, This is pretty simple. Shit, I might actually get to touch the pull-up bar. I did 6 and that one started to feel tough. I dropped the bar to take a breather.

That’s when it was over. I lost the rhythm and had to drop to singles with a couple of failed attempts. Therein is a lesson: If everything’s going OK, don’t take your fucking hands off the bar.  Work through it. Looking at you, Dan.

I heard a couple of people yelling my name. Which is always nice. Meanwhile, other people were swinging from the bar like monkeys.  But 4 minutes is not very long, and before I knew it there were only a few seconds left. After a while I remembered my judge’s advice and made a conscious effort in the thruster to pop my hips when coming out of the hole.1 It was a 100% accurate and helpful tip and I thank her for that.  It helped me grind out reps 12 and 13 in a row, and that was it. Coach called time, and that was my score. Thirteen.  My judge gave me a high-five. There was a time in my life, not very long ago, when CrossFit’s style of relentless positivity would get on my nerves because I’d be sullen and self-defeating and think I didn’t deserve it. Not so much anymore. I still think I didn’t do a whole lot, but it’s very sweet.  Here’s some video, plus lots of cute baby footage.

So there we have it. To be honest, a score of 13 is piddly but better than I thought I’d do. That’s my story of the 2013 Open: Piddly but better than I thought I’d do. Put that on a T-shirt.

Final thoughts

• What place am I in? I wish I could say for certain what place I’m in worldwide, but I’m not really placed. Since I missed 13.4, that meant I couldn’t get an overall score for the whole CrossFit Open. You skip a week, you’re out. After 13.3, I was in 57,500th place. Nice round number. I’ll take it.

I never did the Open to earn a place anyway.  I did it because it seemed fun, and it was. I had a blast.  It was nerve-wracking yet low-key. It was far more challenging than I had expected and yet I was done in just a few minutes each time.  I didn’t prepare for any of it and yet everything was familiar.

• What would I have done differently? Nothing. Maybe if I give an answer, it’s “I should’ve been stronger.” But that’s not something I can, like, prepare for on short notice.  Know what I mean?  It’s a long-term goal. I’m working on it.

• Is the Open within the reach of a low-level CrossFitter like me? This is a big question I thought about a lot. It’s another big reason why I wanted to do this. When I first heard about the Open I thought it was for elites only. It was a surprise that a schmoe like me could actually (a) sign up and (b) score a few points.

I’m conflicted. I’m a little let down that all of it was on the cusp of what I can do and some of it was well beyond me, to the point where 13.4 I flat-out couldn’t do. Same deal with Nik — she got shut out of 13.4 much to her disappointment. Then again the Open would have been pointless if it wasn’t challenging. They should at least set the bar high enough so that you can’t just fucking step over it for god’s sake.

• Would I do the Open again? Oh yes. By next year I want to be bigger and stronger and more capable of doing awesome shit. I don’t ever plan on being good enough to matter, but I plan on being able at least to attempt and finish all 5 workouts and not have to drop out because I’m weak sauce. Put that on a T-shirt. Or one of those goofy inspirational quote-image things all over Facebook.


  1. One thing I like about weightlifting is all the terms that are unintentionally filthy. As you may have noticed.