[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The day is Tuesday, 10/12/19 the weather is cloudy, uncommon for a UAE city, and we are in Dubai passing through the main door of the hotel that hosts the event.

The whole team is here with Alex Kotoulas participating for the second year in a row in the most respected sanctioned competition of CrossFit (in 2018 Giorgos Karavis was here as well but an injury to the wrist didn’t let him participate this year).

The DCC is well known for it’s toughness and most generous prizes!

As we reach the registration area we see many familiar faces. The qualification process of 2019, spots were taken through the CrossFit Open Qualifiers, gathered unarguably the best athletes in the world. Consequently, most of them had already earned the ticket to the Games (via Open) so the trick of the competition was that you could finish outside the top 10 and still have a chance to earn a spot to the Games (via a Sanctional Event). Athletes got their competition clothes and gear, too many for one man to carry, and got into the designated area for the briefing.

This year it was all about the unknown, we went to our hotel after the briefing and the only thing we knew about was the 1st Event time, spot and format (except for the 3 Events that were announced prior to the competition), there was nothing more, no timetable, not any info given about the other events.

Day 1 

11/12/19

The schedule is early morning wake-up, very light breakfast, swimming gear prep and straight to the car. We had to reach the hotel early so we would meet the other athletes and teams, the competition would take the athletes to the spot of the event.

Event 1

20 sandbag cleans

150m swim

10 sandbag cleans

150m swim

5 sandbag cleans

150m swim

Time cap: 15 min

Score Event 1: Time

We reached a luxury hotel where on it’s private beach the event would take place. It started raining so much, no one expected the rain, and you could see the concerned faces and numb feelings. How could it be raining in Dubai? The competition started after the rain stopped with quite a bit of delay yet everything went smoothly from then on. Athletes had to perform the sandbag cleans, run to the sea, swim a triangle 150-meter distance (around two buoys) in each round and once they would complete the rounds finish on the mats placed for the sandbags. It was a very difficult workout, you had to have put work on the sandbag cleans and be a good swimmer as well, and the cap was just to hard to finish in. Unfortunately, the scoring procedure was unorthodox. You would expect that athletes would be credited points in each buoy and that, in a workout with such a demanding time cap there would be a tie break. Nothing of these ever happened and that resulted to many tie scores, leading to athletes like Alex who was a really good swimmer (we counted on that), covering a distance of almost 100 meters in the sea earning the same points with athletes that didn’t even try to swim in the last round. Last year the competition went too far with 2 swimming events, this year they took it back.

The next events we had heard nothing about, they told us the athletes (no coaches allowed) would leave the hotel at an exact time and would go to a secret location. Everyone’s fantasy was exaggerating, our minds striving to find out what these workouts held in secrecy could possible be. In the end it appeared that it was a double task workout with Bike-erg and run.

Event 2 & 3

1km BikeErg

1200m Run

1km BikeErg

800m Run

1km BikeErg

400m Run

Score Event 2: Time

Score Event 3: Slowest 1k bike

Time cap: 20 min

This was a very demanding workout as well, you had to choose which task you would set as a priority or if you were bold enough, attack both of them equally. Everyone knows if they are good runners or strong on the bike, so strategy played the biggest role. There were athletes who chose to push the bike and recover on the run and paid for it by almost losing the event (not finishing in time cap). We knew Alex wasn’t the best runner or a heavy erg type of guy so we chose to go the bike at a seemingly manageable pace (1:35.000) and push the run. The event didn’t end well for us, to be honest, we knew that this combination (bike-erg/run) would be hard for him to manage during this training period. The first day didn’t go as expected but, in competitions there are always barriers that hold you back, you just have to overcome the disappointment and continue strong. It was nighttime when the event ended, the schedule was hotel, dinner, ice-bath recovery and sleep.

Day 2 

12/12/19

The 2nd day is all about weightlifting. Athletes get to relax in the morning, and go for an activation swim or training. We choose to spend some time in CrossFit Alioth where Alex grabs a barbell and does some prep training for the weightlifting event (Clean & Jerk build-up). The competition placed the one and only event of the day in the afternoon and made sure it would be as impressive as possible.

Event 4

1 Rep Max Clean & Jerk

Score Event 4: Weight (kg)

And it was, both men and women gave up a show and there were many made PRs. For Alex this was an event that we couldn’t expect something more than a personal best at 147 or optimistically at 150kg. He put up a great effort, just missing the Jerks in both attempts of 145 and 147kg. Eventually, this didn’t affect much the overall ranking since the weight that he lifted was way under the mean of 155kg of the competition. Being a lightweight athlete has disadvantages, there is much work to be done and Alex has shown that he is getting stronger and stronger. At the end of this day we knew that the following days the competition would take place in the arena and we were looking forward to it. In comparison to last year, due to the 2 swimming events, all Alex had to do is maintain the ranking, this year he had to climb the leaderboard and fight for a position to the heat with the top guns (competing in the last heat always promotes your performance). We get back to the hotel, dinner is served and the mood is nice, nothing but positive thinking and excitement for the days to come.

Day 3 

13/12/19

The 3rd day would take place entirely in the arena. The first event is a Gymnastics workout that had already be announced and we are confident that Alex would do well and earn a sufficient amount of points.

Event 5

10 rounds of

5 Ring Muscle ups *unbroken

10m Handstand Walk *unbroken

Score Event 5: Time

Time cap:10 min men / 12 min women

The trick was that if you would fail to go unbroken, you would have had to repeat the round that you broke with a penalty. It seems challenging, but it can’t really affect any athletes of this level because they know what their limits are and when not to push too hard. Alex achieved a great performance and started the day with a top 5 finish. We didn’t have much time to spend in the warm-up area since the next event started in less than 1 and a half hour, and Event 6 reminded us that we are in DCC.

Event 6

7 hang snatches (75 KG / 50 KG)

7 snatches (75 KG / 50 KG)

7 squat snatches (75 KG / 50 KG)

Score Event 6: Time

Time cap: 2 min

It was a fast, explosive sprint of snatches. It was clear to everyone that this would be lightning speed fast and with no margin for error. The debate in the warm-up area was whether one should go every movement unbroken, and see how this works for them on the squat snatches or hold back and secure the squat snatches. Alex went with a safe touch & go hang snatches, fast drop & go power snatches and fast drop & go squat snatches strategy. Most of the athletes (heavyweight in the majority of them) performed 7 HS +7 PS unbroken and took their chances on the squat snatches, with some of them even going each movement unbroken. No surprise since athletes that participated this year were really at the top of their game.

The next event had also been announced prior to the competition and we considered it to be in our favour.

Event 7

50 Calorie Row

40 Wall-Balls (30/20 lbs)

30 Box Jump Overs (24/20)

20m Front Rack Walking Lunges (85/60 kg)

10 Rope Climbs

25 Calorie Row

20 Wall-Balls (30/20 lbs)

15 Box Jump Overs (24/20)

10m Front Rack Walking Lunges (85/60 kg)

5 Rope Climbs

Score Event 8: Time

Time cap: 15 min

It was 2 rounds of 5 exercises with the 2nd round containing half the reps of the 1st round accordingly. This was a workout that we knew Alex would perform well, since it is the kind of wod he prefers to push and actually is good at. The plan was simple, he had to reach the pace that we knew he could achieve and try to push until the end despite the performance of the other athletes in his heat. The goal of the 3rd day was to finish in the top 20 so he would start the final day in the 2nd heat, that would lead to a harder in-heat competition and would motivate him to perform even better. Goal was achieved, with a very good performance Alex managed to finish in the top 20 and went to the hotel knowing that the next and final day was the one that he would give everything he got.

Day 4 

14/12/19

Day 4 starts with no info, no schedule, nothing concerning the events that would conclude the competition. The briefing begins at 11:00 and it doesn’t take long before everyone starts looking at each other with puzzlement. The first workout of the day contains exercises that, i would bet nobody in the room had ever done before in a workout. Deck squats, A-jumps, Flying push-ups… This one is spicy… Fortunately, it is in Alex’s nature to cope well with new or unknown movements, it’s true that hard work is what defines an athlete and leads to success but in cases like this one, you need the talent as well.

Event 8

25 Parallette Handstand Push-ups( 1 blue plate + abmat / 2 blue plates + abmat)

25 Flying Push-up

25 Deck squat (24kb/16kg)

25 A jumps with 2 KB (55lbs / 35lbs)

25 Reverse Grip Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups

25 Devil Press (55lbs / 35lbs)

Score Event 8: Time

Time cap : 13 min / 14 min

The hardest part of Event 8 for Alex was the hand stand push-ups, we knew that some athletes would go really fast and the concern was whether he would be able to catch up with them if he would not finish the HSPUs in time. And that is exactly what happened, it took him a little longer to get to the flying push-ups but his tempo from then on was proper and steady. He managed very well the new exercises and even sprinted the devil’s presses. It was a descent performance and the final day started exactly as it should.
Next in line was Event 9.

Event 9

12 Bar Muscle-Ups

21 Deadlifts (100KG / 70KG)

9 Bar Muscle-Ups

15 Hang Power Cleans (100KG / 70KG)

6 Bar Muscle-Ups

9 Shoulder-to-Overheads (100KG / 70KG)

Score Event 9: Time

Time cap : 6 min

This was a heavy, terrifying workout for lightweight or generally weaker lifters, and while Alex is very good with barbell exercises that combine technique and stamina, when it comes to power and dynamic lifts, things get a little rough. In this one the jerk was the main concern. There were some very strong athletes (generally the last heat was amazing in every event) that really made it look easy. Surprisingly, Alex managed to maintain an impressive tempo until he reached the jerks. After the 4th Jerk the barbell felt really heavy, with a failed attempt and a slow pace he managed to finish just inside the top 20. This was the 3rd Event that included heavy barbells and in each one of them Alex struggled to achieve a top 15 finish. DCC is a competition that really likes to use heavy barbells and furthermore, without combining them with other exercises that might give a weaker (concerning barbells) athlete the chance to bear up. Therefore, we were aware that winning an event with barbells in Dubai would be a bonus.

The next event of the competition is the final. Last year’s 30k prize for the winner of the final created many expectations for this year’s surprise. The announcement is clear, the winner of Event 10 would get 10k. Yet, i am not sure how many athletes in the warm-up area really understood that whoever crushes the bike & toes to bar will get the money, on the contrary, the general feeling was that the winner of the whole event would get the “big” prize (in the warm-up area there were no monitors and no time for over thinking), so those who were sure about what they had to do to get paid showed that early in the arena.

Event 10 & 11

60 Calories Echo Bike

60 Toes-to-bar

3 Rounds

10 Burpee Box jump over

10 Thrusters (60 KG / 40KG)

Time cap: 12 min / 14 min

Score Event 10: Time to complete 60 calories and 60 toes to bar

Score Event 11:Time to complete the whole workout
Note: If the athlete doesn’t finish within the time cap, they cannot collect their cash prize for Event 10 & 11.

The aim of the final was to make sure that everyone would get themselves destroyed in the first part (in order to get the 10k) and then continue with whatever power they had left with the remaining workout. If you would not finish, you would get nothing. I liked that, this event seemed like a good final. Some athletes really pushed the first part, some saved energy for a strong overall finish. The plan for Alex was to push hard from the start, although to be honest he had his objections, because many top 10 athletes agreed that finishing the whole workout pays the bonus prize. Long story short, he pushed the bike really hard and then he broke the toes to rings into 3 big sets of steady tempo reps. The result was a top performance. Then next task was to be consistent and finish the whole workout strong, and with it conlude the competition. Personally, i believe that these performances would never have happened if there was not Uldis, another athlete of equal level that was fighting with Alex the whole day, in addition if he would be standing among the top 10, his performance would be probably even better. The final, the finish, the vibe, the people, the competition, everything was amazing, we really loved every second. The way that Alex climbed up the leaderboard and the fact that he performed better and better during these 4 days is what we wanted to see him doing given the circumstances.

The competition is over, the pressure is off and it’s time for some beers, good food and relaxation. The main goal might had not be achieved but the feedback, the performance that Alex achieved and the feelings that we got from Dubai were really positive and motivated him to continue stronger and more eager to achieve his goals. Sanctionals are starting to show significant signs that they are the most exciting, validated and constructive path to the CrossFit Games. In this season there are many more sanctioned events to participate, enjoy and conquer while you build your confidence and make your way to the top.

Dubai see you next year![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]