One of the biggest decisions we had to make when planning the Icelandic Regional Qualifier for the 2009 CrossFit Games was whether to run the event inside or outside.
It's always like that in Iceland: if you want to do something outside, everything always revolves around the weather. It sucks, but that's the way it is. Even in mid-summer you're risking the success of an event by staging it outside, and the qualifier was to be held in late May. Nothing was guaranteed. Nevertheless, we decided to tempt fate and set our aim at an unforgettable and unprecedented outdoor event.
We had a solid contest planned: two WODS difficult enough to test anyone but not intimidating enough to scare away strong athletes who weren't too familiar with CrossFit. This was very important for us because an event like this in Iceland could generate a lot of publicity, which is priceless when you're running a small business and need to raise product awareness. To further increase the appeal of the qualifier, we also included a team contest and competition for the public CrossFitter.
Typically, after two full weeks of sunshine, the weather forecast predicted rain on the morning of the event. Needless to say, this caused several anxious conversations between me and Evert Viglundsson of CrossFit Iceland, the other organizer. I, being the more pessimistic, down-to earth and safety-conscious person, was arguing for moving the event indoors. Evert, completely unwavering in his faith, would hear none of it. Instead he insisted everything would be fine.
"I have a good feeling about this," he said. "This is a really good thing we're doing here, and we deserve good weather. Everything is going to turn out just fine."
"Yeah, right," I thought to myself. "Of course we deserve it, but..."
With that thought I went to sleep on Friday evening. When I woke up on game day, the first thing I did was check the weather. The forecast was right. It was raining.
We got to the site very early to raise tents, connect the audio and make last-minute preparations. Despite the rain, there was little wind and decent temperatures around 50 F. This wouldn't be too bad--a little wet, sure, but hopefully manageable.
The first WOD started at 10 a.m. It consisted of as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes of five pull-ups, 10 burpees, 15 kettlebell swings (1.5 pood for the men, one pood for women) and 20 double-unders. The burpees got some competitors soaking wet, but everyone gave their all and enjoyed the competition. The spectators loved the show.
The two top females in this event, Annie Mist Thorisdottir and Ingunn Ludviksdottir, managed to do five rounds each, which gave them a 15-second head start in WOD 2. When the men lined up for the WOD, we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was starting to clear up a little.
"Is this really happening?" I asked myself. I looked across the site at Evert, who put up the widest grin you'll ever see.
I swear I could hear him think: "I told you so! We deserve it!"
The men did a fabulous job tearing up the first WOD. Two athletes, Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson and Elvar Thor Karlsson, managed a whopping seven rounds in only 12 minutes, while Bjarni Skulason did six rounds. The double-unders made the difference between success and failure for many athletes, but no one was as heartbroken as Dadi Runar Petursson, who was only three double-unders short of completing the fifth round and had to settle for four.
The athletes got a well-earned three-hour rest while the public category was contested. Even though this WOD used lighter weights, it was probably the hardest single workout of the day. It started with a grueling 650-meter hill run right up a small ski slope and down a narrow path on the other side. The run was followed with 21-15-9 of ground to overhead any way (40/25 kilograms), burpees and
kettlebell swings (1.5/1 pood), and then another hill run to finish things off. It took some of the athletes, including my wife, several days to fully recover.
After the public competition, the sun was clearly winning the battle, and it was only a matter of minutes before it would break through and turn the event into what we always had envisioned. This, of course, set the stage in the best way possible for the highlights of the day: the second WODs of the elite group. Workout 2 was definitely challenging: 30 deadlifts (100/60 kilograms), hill run, 30 ground to overhead any way (50/30 kilograms), hill run.
In the women's category, Annie Mist took the lead right off the bat and finished the deadlifts at least 15 seconds before Ingunn and the other competitors. She climbed the hill well and was the first to return back, where the weights had been set to 30 kilograms. After the clean and jerk, Annie had about a 25-second lead, but Ingunn is a strong runner and pushed hard up the hill. Annie was able to hold on and finish first, while Ingunn came second, only 14 seconds behind her.
In the men's competition, Sveinbjorn and Elvar battled hard, but Sveinbjorn's early lead was never really challenged. He finished 24 seconds ahead of Elvar, who is only 19 and must be considered one of the more promising Icelandic CrossFitters.
All in all, the qualifier was a huge success. The competitors, many of whom are not active CrossFitters, loved it. There were plenty of spectators giving us positive feedback, and we got almost two minutes of news coverage on prime-time national TV. Most exciting of all, we were able to identify two top athletes who will be worthy representatives at the CrossFit Games in Aromas, California.