Written and contributed by Kristen Graham
Week one of the Northeast Grid League‘s (aka the NEGL) 2016 season is in the books. It was fun and exciting to see so many new faces out on the GRID floor. Many of the athletes had competed in August at the NEGL Invitational fighting for a chance to compete in Anaheim at the GRID Invitational against teams from around the globe. But for most of the athletes, last weekend’s match was their first time running a match straight through.
For those of you that have never seen a GRID match, let me lay out the stage. It consists of 11 Races; it has a start line and a finish line so if you tune in late you can definitely jump right into the action; it requires both men and women on both teams to compete alongside each other. Weight and movements become heavier and more challenging as you move through each of four quadrants mapped out on the GRID. Each race is an all out sprint. Too many transitions can lose a match and not enough transitions can cause slow cycle times which can also cost you. A coach must be analytical, alert and completely dialed into every one of his or her athletes. Yes, this sport has coaches and often times more than one coach. For the New Haven County Miners, we have a head Coach, Brian Gouin, and two assistance coaches, Kurt Garceau and Chris Graham, then we have two team captains Derek Bell for the guys and myself for the girls. Lots of eyes not the GRID and on the athletes. Communication is key.
The first week was run very well. Kudos to Josh Plosker (head coach of the Boston Iron) and Mel McManus (owner of Farewarning CrossFit) for being incredibly organized. The referees were knowledgeable and dialed in. Races kicked off on time and the live stream was a great way for everyone back home to get in on the action. Athletes and fans traveled to Norwood Massachusetts to CrossFit Farewarning (training facility for the NPGL’s Boston Iron) to compete. This will be the setting for all matches in the NEGL. Teams travel from all over the North East Region. A match typically runs for two hours and every match ran smoothly.
The matches are named after the highest mountain peaks in the North East. Match one was named Equinox and it could not be taken lightly. Race 1, called “Partner Forward”, set the stage for a heavy day at the office for many. The race starts off light with many reps on the first quadrant and with every advancing quadrant the reps scheme drops and the weight increases. Substitutions, transitions, barbell cycling and physical ability all come into play. The 4th quadrant brought us double cleans at 295 pounds for the men and 205 for the ladies followed by double pistols at 70 pounds for the men and 50 pounds for the ladies. If you follow my blog, I will talk about my little “accident” in quadrant 3 and 4 in the coming days at www.kristengraham.net
The Mirror followed Partner Forward. The Mirror is a fast and exciting race! 32 Jerks were on tap at 255 for the men and 150 for the ladies (that is 8 per quadrant per sex). The reps need to be fast, they need to be efficient and they (if possible) need to be unbroken in each quadrant to ensure speed. But there is a twist in this game. Three men and three women on each team are cycling face to face or “mirroring each other”. The women cannot advance until the men are done in the quadrant and vise versa. AND if anyone drops the barbell at any point, the entire team must head back to the start line for a synchronized 4 point touch. So, DO NOT drop the bar.
Next is the Women’s Echo (races 3 and 4) and the Men’s Echo (races 5 and 6). Yup, just like it sounds, we complete one race and then hit the exact same race again under fatigue and then the men do the same thing. Strategy is key as the same athletes may be too spent to go on to the same elements. This race included 95 pound Hang Snatches for the women and 135 for the men; followed by the gymnasts on 20 Bar Muscle Ups and 20 Double Touches (Toes To Bar and Chest To Bar equal 1 rep). Like I said earlier, they did not go easy on the first match. Athletes needed to work hard and learn new elements. The final quadrant was 20 Deadlifts at 225 for the women and 315 for the men.
The Ladder comes after the Men’s Echo and what a fun race to watch! Men and Women have seven total minutes to cycle through barbells. The match is scored by the total weight lifted and female weight lifted. Yes, women are just as important as the men in this race. The Thruster Ladder is a fun and challenging Ladder as the barbells are all lifted from the ground and speed can sometimes be the enemy. The athlete and the coach need to be in sync. The coach needs to watch the clock and the athletes fatigue. With only one attempt at each barbell, taking a second to catch your breath can be a second too long, or it can be a second much needed to complete a heavy lift. If you love to see heavy weight thrown around, this is a race you don’t want to miss.
After the excitement of Barbell’s we went into the Jack and Jill. If you haven’t guessed it…men and women chip away at many reps on a guy and girl rotation. When a guy breaks, a girl must pick up where he left off. This race was upside down! Seriously, it was all handstand push-ups beginning without deficit, then to a 10-inch deficit and then a handstand walk broken up each quadrant with five freestanding handstand push-ups. It was a very cool race!
One of the more vigorous races comes next… The Triads. Women’s Triad followed by the Men’s. Three athletes are running the exact same rep scheme at the exact same time and you cannot advance until all three “stations” have the appropriate number of reps completed. Again, not to be taken lightly, the first element was a double kettlebell overhead squat at 35 pounds in each hand for women and 53 pounds for the men. If you want to test your core and shoulder flexibly, I highly recommend trying this movement. The men then moved onto 20 pound wall balls to a 10 foot target and men hit a 12 foot target with a 30 pound ball. The men and women then moved on to burpee box jumps at 24 inches and 30 inches respectively. Then there were front squats (135/210) followed by kettlebell swings (53/70). And again, the race is not over until all athletes have completed the reps at the designated stations. Because so many athletes are involved in each of the triads, there is a greater chance of fatigue setting in. So keeping track of reps on the element at hand is important to not slow down the movement of the race in its entirety.
Finally the Sprint Relay. Most elements are preformed by one or two athletes and there must be an equal number of men and women that have completed each of 8 different elements. The point is to be fast…obviously! The race started with a 55 pound overhead plate carry into a shuttle sprint, yes we functional fitness people know how to run too! 40 chest-to-bar pullups rear their ugly head and then onto 20 thrusters at 105 pounds. Over in the third quadrant comes 4 rope climbs and this is where it starts to get a little harry. Do you swap out athletes assuming fatigue on 4 back to back rope climbs or do you save the transition? Then onto 12 handstand pushups at a 10-inch deficit and then you bring out your giant for those burpees to a 9-foot ring. The finisher is the 255 pound overhead squats. It should be noted that every time an element is completed, the athlete most run back to the start line for a four-point-touch and then sprint to the finish line.
Again, this is a very easy to follow version of functional fitness with great organization and planning by the Boston Iron. The league is new and the energy is high. The second match is scheduled for January 31, 2016 and is sure to be exciting with a menu full of heavy deadlifts, hang cleans, rope climbs, chest-to-bar pull-ups, snatches and much, much more.