Masters put in strong work at Crossfit Games

There is no doubt that the North Shore has more than its share of outstanding masters athletes.

That was just emphasized again when five local men and women qualified to compete in the World Crossfit Games. Known as the sport of fitness, Crossfit is an approach to exercise like no other. It combines Olympic style weightlifting, gymnastic skills with traditional fitness components and does it with intensity.

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Every year since 2007 there has been a competition to determine the fittest man and woman. There are now divisions for individuals, teams, masters and this year for the first time a teen division was added.

It all begins with an open competition which this year saw more than 250,000 people from around the world participate. Five weekly workouts are completed and scored with those results determining what individuals and teams compete in regional events held worldwide.

For the masters divisions the Open competition results see the top 200 invited to compete in a second level of five more workouts done over five days that are called the masters qualifier. That 200 is then pared down to the top 20 who are then invited to compete in Los Angeles at the World Crossfit Games. From the best worldwide, 200 masters in a range of age categories made it to the games, and five of them live on the North Shore.

The athletes competed over three days with three workouts the first day, two on the second and the last event on the third day. The top 10 then competed in the final workout held that afternoon. The Crossfit Games are held in the StubHub Center in Los Angeles with most of the events taking place in the soccer stadium where the L.A. Galaxy play and in the adjacent tennis stadium.

This was the first time the masters have competed in both stadiums. Running, weight lifting, rowing, pull-ups and carrying sandbags were just some of the challenges the athletes faced.

For Troy Straith, age 55, this was his fourth trip to the Games. This year Straith tried not to put too much pressure on himself and the plan worked. "I had some of my best finishes ever and placed 12th overall, but coming in second in a workout with my daughter and friends cheering was fantastic."

The trip to compete in L.A. has eluded 45-year-old Scott Tasaka for the past three years but this year he qualified in the 45-49 division and made it all the way to the final event, ending up in 10th place.

"Making it to the final top ten and walking out on the stadium floor was surreal," he said. One of the most memorable moments for Tasaka was on the first day, "stepping onto the soccer field for the first time, taking your lane assignment and hearing your name being announced. I'll never forget that."

It's a long struggle to get to the elite level necessary to compete with the best for Susan Clarke, age 56, this year brought extra pressure because she was returning as last year's champion. "Training for the Games leaves little room for anything else in your life. I trained six days a week and had a lot of people work with me to achieve some skills I felt I needed to improve."

Despite last year's win Clarke's focus was simply to do her best.

"I really wanted to bring my A game. It was different this year because I had a much better understanding of how heavy the workload would be. My goal was to give it 100 per cent and if that translated into a win I would consider myself extremely fortunate."

It did turn into a win with Clarke placing first in five of the seven workouts and once again standing on top of the podium.

Debby Brouwer, age 56, was another returning competitor having qualified in 2014 as well. After the last event of the this year's competition Brouwer said she was determined to be in better condition and have more skills for her next run at the Games.

"What I loved most about this Games experience was the sense of connection with these women. I realized that I like this level of training and I will try again next year."

Competing against younger athletes is normal for masters as they rarely have peer competition and Crossfit is no different. They measure their performance against much younger athletes in their gyms on a daily basis.

I'm the fifth member of this group and, at age 61, was returning for the third time. I had such a great experience in 2014 so I trained hard all year to try to make it back. Facing the best in the world can be daunting but the camaraderie among the competitors is something all these athletes mentioned. I love competing beside such a great bunch of guys - at this age there is no ego being pushed around, we are all happy to be there and competing at such a high level.

The Games finished with a bang for me. On the last day I was in the top 10 and going into the final that was being held in the tennis stadium. For the first time my age division was going to be challenged with doing muscle-ups on the rings and I was thrilled at this. When the clock stopped I was standing on the finish line alone, being the only one to finish the workout in the time cap. That was my first ever first place finish at the Games and it was an incredible way to end the competition.

Longtime North Shore News managing editor Terry Peters retired from the paper earlier this year to focus on his many other talents, including freelance writing and Crossfit. His workout nickname is Bull.

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