As expected, Chris Spealler from CrossFit Park City came down the hill in a dust cloud, signature headphones cranking tunes. Spealler had a significant lead but was being stalked by Finnish firefighter Mikko Salo.
Down the home stretch Salo and Spealler were neck and neck, with the Finn holding a slight lead. When the two entered the Stadium in a sprint to the finish, it was Speal in front, adding yet another impressive performance to a list that goes back to the 2007 Games. His time: 37:43.2, 1.4 seconds in front of Salo.
"I think it's going to be interesting how that pans out," Spealler said when asked about the run before the event. "You just never know. There's a lot of fast guys. You've got to do your own race."
His strategy: "Keep it mellow."
The plan clearly worked for the Utah resident.
Russell Berger finished third, followed by Blair Morrison and David Millar. Shortly after, James (OPT) FitzGerald crossed in sixth, with his brother Michael in hot pursuit. Only 43 seconds separated the two.
Sarah Dunsmore won the women's event in 41:44.3. Lauren Erwin was second at 43:03.7, and Carey Kepler was third. Kristan Clever and Breanne Feudale rounded out the top 5.
Last year's female champion, Caity Matter, finished 63rd, while Jason Khalipa was 72nd.
"There's so much built up nervousness and excitement before the start that to just get out of the way, I feel like the competition starts now," OPT said.
When asked if The Hill was as steep as he thought it would be, OPT--who was covered in dirt and grass--was blunt: "It's worse."
"The back hill was a line of about probably 60 people crawling on all fours and tripping all over each other," said John Matzner of Potomac CrossFit. "It's a scramble up the hill because your legs are so trashed. You're trying to bear crawl up it and move your butt higher till your hamstrings went, then move your butt lower till your quads went, and just alternate."
Josh Everett's goal was to finish in the top 25, but he finished slightly beyond that, at 30.
"The hills were brutal," he said. "I walked the majority of the hills. I completely stopped at least five or six times."
When asked how his legs felt for the upcoming deadlift event, Everett said "horrible," noting that his quads were fried. "It's going to be a lot of straight-leg deadlifts."
The first WOD has several casualties. Joy Nguyen of CrossFit Vancouver was carried off the trail with an ankle injury, and the most emotional finish went to Valerie Mackenzie.
The Marina Del Rey resident entered the Stadium bleeding from her head and covered in dirt. About 10 feet from the finish she collapsed. The medical staff jumped to work and attempted to pick her up, but she brushed them off, staggered forward and fell to her knees again before standing up, crossing the line and collapsing.
Reports from the medical staff indicate that numerous athletes have come in contact with poison oak in the back country of Aromas.
As of press time, the athletes are gearing up and preparing for WOD 2, where they will perform one deadlift every 30 seconds as the weight increases by 10 pounds on each lift.