Monday, June 3, 2013

With CrossFit Nottingham in Copenhagen: CrossFit Games Europe Regional

The fittest Men, Women, and Teams in Europe - as defined by CrossFit, Inc - were determined in Copenhagen on the weekend of May 17-19.  Team CrossFit Nottingham was a contender, finishing the Open in 26th place, with the top 30 spots getting an invitation to compete.  Eight team members were called up to face the 5 other UK teams, a few teams representing Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain, and then a whole host of Scandinavians. CrossFit is very popular in the Nordic countries, and the native population, with their natural athletic ability (not to mention ease on the eyes) are well suited for the events.  Additionally, Nottingham had one woman receive an invitation to compete individually.  At registration  only 6 were allowed to compete - two were on deck in case of prior emergency or injury.  

Team Nottingham consisted of Coach Andy, Katie, Sam, Jeff, Kerry, and Holly. In the warmup area
When the dust settled on Sunday, Sam Briggs from Manchester UK came out on top for the women, Lacee Kovacs from Budapest was top male, and Reebok CrossFit Nordic from Stockholm won the team division.  Those top finishers along with the 2nd and 3rd place individuals and teams have earned their spot at the CrossFit Games in Carson California, coming up in July 22-28.  Here they will meet with the top finishers from the 16 other regions and battle for the title of Fittest On Earth.  Coincidentally, that's Kerry's and my last weekend in the UK.  

Lacee Kovacs and Mikko Salo on the rowers at the start of Event 1.  Mikko took 2nd this weekend, but is a bit of a celebrity in the sport, and one of my favorite athletes to watch.  In 2009 he won the Games.  (images courtesy of Dani)

Sam Briggs - over the weekend's 7 events she took 4 1st place and 3 3rd place finishes for 1st place overall.  (image courtesy of Dani)
Two athletes from Team Reebok CrossFit Nordic qualified individually last year. This year they decided to focus on a team effort - it paid off.  (Image courtesy of
Kerry and I were on Team CrossFit Nottingham.  We were already planning on attending the event and had our flights and lodging sorted early.  The experience improved 10 fold when we found out our team qualified to compete, and then 10 fold again when Kerry and I were selected to compete on the team!  The final 10 fold came when we found out over 20 members from Nottingham showed up to cheer on their team and have a good time!  

Let's see if I can get the roster right.  In my apartment was Kerry, Nikki, Dani, Llara (the individual competitor), Kristen and her boyfriend Steve, and me make 7.  Nearby was Matt, Max, Sam, Holly, and her brother Jack for 5.  Andy, Katie, Mob Bob, and Sal stayed up north, that's 4.  Glasgow Andy, Ij, Ben, Scott, Selina, and Jade stayed south for 6 more - but let's face it they were just there to party ;).  Gabe volunteered as a stage hand to help with event transitions and I can't remember where he stayed.  Unless I'm forgetting someone, that's 23!  

We left bright and early Thursday to catch our flight - which was full of UK crossfitters.  We were quite a herd at the Copenhagen airport but we managed to get everyone on the train to city center and checked in.  We dropped off luggage, and then the competitors caught a metro train to the Ballerup Super Arena to register.  The arena was a velodrome that was converted to the biggest CrossFit gym in Europe just for the weekend.

First thing you see upon walking in

Can't pass up this photo op!

The arena is set up for Event 1
Registration is kind of fun because you get to see all the top competitors up close, if you know who you're looking for.  I embarrassed myself by awkwardly saying Hi to Mikko and holding the door for him.  None of these people are celebrities.  Some have endorsements but no one is making any serious money.  They're all there for the challenge.  On the way back it was time to hit up the Lidl to stock the fridge for the long weekend.

Competitors need proper fueling for a competition - can't eat out all the time. And Copenhagen is EXPENSIVE!
We fit 7 in our apartment that was really intended for 5, but hey we were all trying to save.   Back when I lived in Indy the Central East regional was a 2 hour drive away in Columbus, not an extra day off work and a plane flight!  It worked out pretty well by making group dinners instead of eating out.  Some of our group went out to the bars that night but us competitors went to sleep early.  Athlete briefing was at 7:30.

Mobility Bob and his wife Sal showed up bright and early with the competitors on Friday. Bob is quite knowledgeable about proper human movement and was there to help us prepare for the events which lie ahead.

The banner succinctly stated our task for Event 1.  Andy and Kerry were chosen as the pair. 

All athletes trying to wake up at the briefing  48 men, 48 women, and 180 team competitors

Head judge going over workout movement standards - fail to meet them and a "no rep" is given by your judge.  You really don't want no-reps.

Kerry and Andy in the first heat of the first workout.  Calm and collected.
"Athletes Ready... 10 seconds"

After 1000 meters on the rower it's 50 thrusters with an empty barbell. Yeah it sounds light but try doing 50 after gassing yourself on the rower.  Oh and this is one workout where men and women are equal - exact same weight and movement standards

Kerry knocking out her pullups - got a shout out from the announcer as she overtook other competitors
After finishing and touching the landing mat, Andy could begin.
ROW! (Head judge in the background)

Andy went fast on the rower and pushed through on the thrusters
Kerry recovering after her portion is done and cheering on Andy

Andy knocking out pullups
We were 5th in our heat, and after the other two heats finished, we were sitting in 20th.  Already an improvement over our 26th place qualification spot!

Individual women were next, so we all took a break and cheered for Llara

Then it was time to prep - here's Sam getting some help from Bob
The next two events took place simultaneously for teams.  For the first 7 minutes, women must find a max 3-rep overhead squat, with the score being total weight of all 3.  During this time, men would complete as many burpee muscle-ups as possible, with the rule that one person can only do 3 before tagging in the teammate.  Then, men and women would have 2 minutes to switch and reset, and then the men would find their 3-rep overhead squat while the women knocked out burpee muscle-ups.  The minimum work requirement for both men and women was 6, meaning that two had to do 3 muscle-ups each.  If you don't hit this, you cannot continue.
Holly opened for the ladies on the OHS

Kerry followed

Katie went 3rd
Kerry hitting depth!
Meanwhile... (By the way, a burpee muscle up starts with the chest on the ground, stand, jump up, grab rings, pull up and push through to a support with arms locked out.)

Andy knocks out his first 3 MU - don't let that left arm get away from you!
Sam hits his 3 no problem and men hit minimum requirment
I hit my 3 and the cycle continues
I have no idea how my camera made this, but apparently it makes animated gifs?  Looks cool though- all 3 of us on the rings, haha!  Bob was taking these photos, maybe he was using a setting I'm not aware of.

Unintentional movie!

All told the men hit 51 burpee muscle ups in 7 minutes!  Time ran out as I started on my 6th round. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast!  

Then we swapped after the transition.  Sorry Sam I can't find a photo of your OHS!

A good example of what NOT to do!  My left arm is not locked out and my right hip is drooping to compensate. This 195 lb lift was a lot harder than it should have been because I  set up poorly.

Andy looking much more solid than I
Kerry hit 3

C'mon Katie!!!
Despite a valiant effort, we were not able to finish the minimum requirment of 6 muscle ups from the women.  Katie and Holly were just learning muscle-ups and showed incredible advancement in a very short time.  But we just missed it!  Unfortunately this meant we were done.  We were sad to miss out on the rest of the events, but the experience of bringing a new gym to the regional competition will be one of the best memories I'll have of my year in the UK.  There were a lot of lessons learned and I guarantee Nottingham will come back better next year.  After the 3 events, we would have ended in 21st I think.

Time to cheer for Llara!

Hitting a nice looking 135 lb OHS

Some of the crew enjoying the show

The gent's post workout 3

Me photobombing Rory McKernin - the Games update show news anchor as he interviewed a Spanish team

Final standings - 10 teams cut.  Looks like a lot of Europe need to work on those muscle ups!  Next year's competition will be much more competitive I think.

I turned Sam on to wearing bandanas (not popular in Europe evidently)

Back at the apartment - well deserved drink with some starters

I cooked our first night - Kristen and Nikki made some mean meatballs tonight!
So, since we were out of the competition  it was time to employ our backup plan.  We headed back to the arena on Saturday morning to catch the first event of the day, but then at lunch we decided to duck out and explore the city of Copenhagen like normal tourists.  My American-expats-living-in-Derby blogging contemporaries Steve, Jay, and Doug & Tara would be shaking their heads in shame if I had to tell them I visited a city and stayed in an arena the whole time!  I will apologize in advance for the lack of description.  I didn't study up on the city at all, nor did I attempt to learn much about history or famous sites in the city.  Therefore, most of the time I don't know what I was looking at.  Forgive me Father Rick Steves, for I have sinned.

Nothing stands out as a tourist attraction in Copenhagen - that is probably a good thing.  The people are friendly, despite my not even trying to speak Danish.  Very unlike Paris, where I continued to make a fool of myself trying to ask for a carafe of egg (uh) instead of water (oh).  Our apartment was in a very seedy area in town- more on that later - but we had amazing, sunny weather and we were happy to take advantage of it by getting a taste of the city. 

Due to bag size restrictions, I only brought workout clothes.  So apologies for the interesting outfits as we toured Copenhagen.  Hey, it beats those damn rainjackets we've been wearing in pictures for the last 6 months!

The information booth man in the train station refused to give me the tourist map, he'd only talk to Kerry. The good news was there was a nice footpath marked out for tourists.  It was no Rick Steves, but it will do.

The town hall at the beginning of our walk

Turning out to be an interesting day in Copenhagen - the Gumball 3000 cars were in town!

I've never heard of the Gumball 3000, but it's essentially a public road race for very rich men, who customize their very expensive cars.  Not a true "race" if you read the wiki link, but just a bunch of showboating.

There were tons of exotic cars but my favorite was this Rolls-Royce

A few crazy painted Ferraris and Lamborghinis

We kept walking, and ran into a Brazilian carnivale style parade!  This wasn't our first carnivale -we attended the Jamaican one in Chelsea last fall.

Some festive guitarists with a Rio de Janeiro theme

This dancer had a very elaborate headdress - and not much else!
Whew, the crowds were thick in the parade.  KEEP GOING!
Nyhavn in Copenhagen a pretty port street

Colorful houses in Nyhavn

I was getting hot, but the spray from the fountain was refreshing

Continuing our trend of serendipity, we ran into the changing of the guard at the palace!  I think we can check off the one in London with this as a substitute. 

I stopped for a peak in this marble church. This one's dome was modeled after a very famous church further south, according to the tourist map label.  Foreshadowing of my next post!

Ran into a family of geese as we escaped the crowds and foud a park

Some french bulldogs making acquaintances

Some gardens in the park - you know, landscaping idea logging
If Copenhagen has a landmark, this is it.  A mermaid in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, author of the Little Mermaid.  "I want to be where the people are, I want to see them dancing, walking around on (what do you call them?) oh, feet!" - Little Mermaid

If you didn't believe me - the crowds at this silly statue were incredible

2nd Rolls-royce of the day at a wedding
Our walk was quite long, and took about 4 hours.  We headed back and I picked up some famous Danish sausage on the way - Medisterpølse -  and some frankfurters for the group.  I boiled the sausage in some Danish Carlsburg beer with onions - like I might do for an American johnsonville brat.  It worked, it was an excellent meal.

Afterward we hit up the town again.

Hey ladies! (and Steve awkwardly in the corner). Tuborg is the beer true Danes drink, but guess what, it's brewed by Carlsburg.

Possibly the only photo Kerry and I took together on this trip, haha
We hit up another bar and I tried a local specialty Gammel Dansk - a liquor full of bitters and complex flavors, and not an easy taste to acquire.  One was sufficient.

Final serendipitous moment - a public live viewing of the EuroVision song contest.  I thought Gumball 3000 was an oddity.  Apparently Europe has a continent-wide singing contest that I'm told gets very political.  The UK is always snubbed.  You'll never guess who won... DENMARK!  With "Only Teardrops".  Could you believe we were walking past the square with the jumbotron just as they announced the winner?  Yeah!  

The entrance to Tivoi Garden amusment park with the fairy lights
On Sunday, it was another big day.  Kerry's 31st Birthday!  Fodselsdag, Kerry!

Our wonderful roommates got Kerry a chocolate muffin and found a tea light in the apartment - too nice!

Oops I take that back, a stranger on the train took our photo for us on the way to the final day of competition.

Panorama of the arena

Llara heading out for the final event - she climbed her way from 48th to 20th!!! Strong finish.

I won't get into the details of the events, but it was a pleasure to watch the top teams battle it out.  We were cheering for Bath - battling for 3rd place and were ready to take an invitation to the games, but they bombed out on the final workout, it was heartbreaking as a UK team has yet to qualify.  As you can tell I really get into this stuff, but I'll spare the general audience the details.  I have other outlets to write about my interest in this sport - as many of you know.

That night was the Euro Dance Party.  You can't have a European event  without a dance party at the end.

We had a lot of guests in our apartment - I had to force everyone out because I was worried the neighbors would complain.  You know it's uncool to show up to a dance party before 11 pm (I'm already yawning...uh oh).

It was an interesting walk to the train station.  Turns out we were staying in an area known for its ease of obtaining hard drugs.  There were needles and guys slumped over sitting on steps.  I didn't feel unsafe, but I've never seen that in person before.  It was sad.

Llara celebrating great weekend accomplishments with Kerry

As I mentioned, I didn't pack any eveningwear, so I was a bit underdressed. I didn't let that stop me!  I have a short fuse however, inside an hour I was falling asleep standing...

Bob and Steve putting on some nice smiles!

Kerry and Nikki (and Sal)

Sam shows Nikki a thing or two about his dancing ability - he's not limited to burpee muscle ups.

I burned out well before everyone else, but the trains stopped at 12:30 with the next train not until 4 am.  So we cabbed it home for 100 kroners and were asleep by 2 (I think).   Everyone else stayed out until the sun came up like proper Europeans, but our flight wasn't till 3 pm, so we checked out and had a quiet rest at a local park,

Just lounging - I did have to polish off the leftover Carlsburg, there are no rules about drinking beer in a park in Copenhagen.

Sam showed me how to throw a cricket ball using my hard rubber lacrosse ball that I normally use to massage knots in my back.  Thanks for the lesson!

$30 worth of food at the airport...I told you Copenhagen was expensive. I was very glad we cooked in at the apartment.

OK I'm rushing to finish now because it's 11 pm and I'm tired and I have to get up early.  Tonight our cats went to the vet for their rabies shot (required before we can fly home with them in a few months) and left me 110 pounds poorer in just a few minutes...  we ate leftovers so I didn't have to cook and we didn't go to the gym.  This was a long one - trying to capture 4 days in one post!  But I'm closer to getting caught up.  Next is our Italy trip which I think I'll break up into pieces so I can expand on some topics a bit more.  

My final message for this post - we are so thankful for the friends we've acquired thanks to CrossFit Nottingham.  Ten months ago I never would have thought I'd be spending a long weekend holed up with an Australian  a Canadian, a German, and a few Brits. These folks and many others we'll miss terribly when we leave.  For now we focus on the good things.



  1. Interesting post on CrossFit, glad you had a fun time. Looks like you will have to start taking Bob with you as your photographer from now on. Add in that Irish guy and it'll be a foursome. Bob's little movie was great btw.

    Cool experience running into the Gumball and Eurovision, obviously one you'll never do in the US.

    Little Mermaid sure is a "that's it?" moment isn't it?

  2. Say 10 Hail Rick Steves and you are forgiven. We followed pretty much the same walk as you did, but it was narrated by myself, proxying for Mr. Steves. Too bad about the muscle ups!