19.2 Strategy

Well…we have our repeat. And since in the first eight years of the CrossFit Games Open, we have never seen a run, our long-awaited 4 miler eludes us still.

But fear not: 16.2 was a very tough and very interesting workout the first time, and I suspect the second round will be better executed on average, but not even a little bit less painful. Let’s dive in.

19.2

For Time:
25 Toes-to-Bar
50 Double Unders
15 Squat Cleans, 135#/85#
25 Toes-to-Bar
50 Double Unders
13 Squat Cleans, 185#/115#
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––8:00 CAP
25 Toes-to-Bar
50 Double Unders
11 Squat Cleans, 225#/145#
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––12:00 CAP
25 Toes-to-Bar
50 Double Unders
9 Squat Cleans, 275#/175#
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––16:00 CAP
25 Toes-to-Bar
50 Double Unders
7 Squat Cleans, 315#/205#
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––20:00 CAP

The formatting for this workout is a little odd, so I’ll clarify briefly (though you should still go and read the standards in full). In order to move to the section of the workout after a timecap line, you must complete the work preceding that timecap. In other words, you have to be done with the rounds of 15 and 13 squat cleans by the time the clock hits eight minutes, or you don’t get to move on to the round of 11 squat cleans, etc.

This is not technically an exact repeat of 16.2, which had distinct four minute caps at the end of every round of squat cleans. This time, the first cap is eight minutes to complete the rounds of 15 and 13, and then each cap after that is four minutes.

Analysis & Output Management

Good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the camera work at the announcement wasn’t organized in such a way as to make it fairly easy to track an athlete. I gave a valiant effort, but by about the halfway mark, it was clear I was going to have to default to some other method.

The good news is this gives us the opportunity, nay, the privilege, of using for our analysis one of the most dominating and impressive Open performances of all time: Kara Saunders’ (née Webb) 16.2.

Saunders’ time of 15:07 was fifty-eight seconds faster than second place – only a second less than the spread between second and seventh. That, my friends, is domination.

1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split times for double unders include the time it took Webb to get from the pullup bar to the rope, pick it up, and start jumping. The asterisk next to the first round of TTB denotes the lack of transition time, and that round is not counted in the average time. 2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes. 3. Saunders’ performance in 2016 was so far ahead of the field that it might make sense to consider it anomalous. But given the historical tendency of CrossFit athletes to totally obliterate previous top scores in a repeat Open workout, I decided to stick with. In reading this analysis, bear in mind that we are yet to see how close people will get to 2016 Kara.

1. Split times for each movement are taken when the athlete completes each set. Transitions are therefore accounted for at the beginning of each movement. i.e. the split times for double unders include the time it took Webb to get from the pullup bar to the rope, pick it up, and start jumping. The asterisk next to the first round of TTB denotes the lack of transition time, and that round is not counted in the average time.
2. This is all hand timed and imperfect, but sufficient for our purposes.
3. Saunders’ performance in 2016 was so far ahead of the field that it might make sense to consider it anomalous. But given the historical tendency of CrossFit athletes to totally obliterate previous top scores in a repeat Open workout, I decided to stick with. In reading this analysis, bear in mind that we are yet to see how close people will get to 2016 Kara.

I wrote above that 19.2 is not only a very tough workout, but also a very interesting one. That’s because the limiting factors will see more individual variance from athlete to athlete, even among athletes of relatively similar overall fitness, than most events in the Open. Although the cleans look very tough – and they are – it is entirely possible for the primary limiting factor to be the toes-to-bar depending on the athlete’s particular strengths and weaknesses.

Nonetheless, there is much to learned from this stunning performance. In each section below, we’ll glean what’s available from Saunders and do our best to generalize the data.

Toes-to-Bar

I want you to pay close attention to Saunders’ rep breaks. Go on, look again. Not one set unbroken. Not even close. Saunders broke her TTB from the get-go and wasn’t shy about breaking them further as she accumulated fatigue.

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone should break the toes-to-bar in precisely the same manner that she did. After all, most athletes, even very fit ones, won’t handle the cleans with the same relative ease that Kara did, and gymnastics in general aren’t her strongest area, so it’s reasonable to expect that there were a fair share of athletes who did the toes-to-bar significantly more quickly. But that in itself is the lesson: you can break the toes-to-bar quite a bit and still put up a tremendous score.

The key (surprise!) is in keeping your rests disciplined. I’ll put it on a t-shirt if I have to: you’re a liar when you’re tired, rest on the clock, not in your head. As always, the warm-up will include a pacing mechanism to help you determine a good starting point for both reps/set and rest times between sets.

Double Under

There’s not much to say here. If you can go unbroken without undue fatigue, do so. If you can’t, break your sets before you’re forced to and keep your rests short. Don’t try to go fast – there’s no point. Focus on smooth, relaxed movement. Avoid tensing up through the forearms and shoulders. Try and breathe easy.

Squat Clean

Kara Saunders made the rest of the planet look like children doing singles on 16.2, and I cannot think of a reason anyone else should do otherwise. I genuinely don’t have much else to say about that. In general, I try to avoid making hard line statements, but this is a rare exception. I think that taking any approach other than singles is strictly incorrect.

Say it with me: If singles are good enough for Kara, they’re good enough for me.

There are at least two reasons that singles are the best approach. The first is that you’re headed there anyway. You’re going to hit a point where you have no choice but to do singles – and that point will probably come quicker than you think. So what’s the added value of doing multiple reps at a time? You’ll save yourself between half a second and a second and a half per rep – until you’re down to singles anyway, and with the risk of hitting the wall and losing all that time you thought you had gained (and then some).

The second reason is that singles increase the amount of agency you have in the workout – by breaking fifteen reps into fifteen sets of one, you give yourself more opportunities to make the decision to get back on the bar, to stick to the plan, to stay disciplined and keep moving. Contrast this with 19.1: most people were doing the wall ball in one, two, or three sets. If you’re doing it in one set, you can’t really influence the time per set at all, since your cycle rate is more or less predetermined. Add one break and you can impact it a little. Add another and you can impact it more.

How about fifteen breaks? Fifteen opportunities to stick to the plan? Every rep is a chance to pull ahead. If you can take that chance every time, you will come away with a performance reflective of your fitness.

Warm-Up

  1. EMOM 12, alternating:
    a) 0:15-0:20 Passive Hang + 3-5 Toes-to-Bar
    b) 0:20 Single Unders + 0:10 Double Unders
    c) 4 Power Cleans + 4 Front Squats + 4 Squat Cleans, 115#/75#

  2. Every 0:30 x 6: 0:10 Toes-to-Bar
    Goal here is to establish a rough guideline for your starting number of sets/round and your rest breaks. As always, this is individual and dependent on your subjective analysis. Based on how many reps you got in each set (smooth, easy reps, no straining!) and how well you maintained that number of reps for six sets, you should be able to get a rough idea of how big your sets and how long your rests in the workout should be. As always, assume that you will need to break and/or rest more as you fatigue – that’s perfectly fine! Just make sure you do it with a plan.

  3. Every 0:45 x 6: 5/5/4/4/3/3 Squat Cleans
    To clarify, you’re performing six total sets. The first and second are of 5 reps, the third and fourth are of four reps, and the fifth and sixth are of 3 reps. Start with 115#/75# and add weight by feel, avoiding fatigue but building up to 225#/145# for the final round.

  4. Optional: Work up to a moderately heavy clean single. If you choose to do so, perform only singles, don’t do more than a few total reps, and do not exceed about 85% of your 1RM (perhaps closer to 90% for female and smaller male athletes).

Jacob