A little more than 4 years ago, I received an email from someone who was completely unknown to me. Part of it read:
“I’ve been thinking of entering the 2012 Crossfit Games.”
I wrote about this initial exchange before, but to recap quickly – I honestly didn’t know how to respond. He told me he was “old”, and that he didn’t have more than 1 hour per day to train.
Lots of people have aspirations to make it to the highest levels of their respective sport, but contrary to popular belief, Games athletes, just like pro ball players, NFL players, and professionals from every other sport in the world, are not a dime a dozen. They’re not just walking around waiting to just punch their ticket and make it.
Four years ago, Jay Bradley sent that email.
Four years ago, he entrusted me 100% to take over his training and coach him.
Four years ago, we made a choice to give it everything we both had to get him to the Games.
But as we all know too well, life frequently has other plans. He would go on to finish 59th in the world that first try.
A year later, in 2013, we dealt with a few nagging injuries – back, shoulder…you know, “the usual.” Except in this case, we actually had to shut him down for a few months to allow his body to fully heal. Yea, you read that right – MONTHS! And yet, he improved that year, up 9 spots to place 50th in the world.
In 2014, two years ago, CrossFit HQ added a new element for Masters athletes – the creation of the online qualifier. Basically, they had to place in the top-200 during the Open and then move onto a new bank of workouts to be completed in one weekend. If you made the top-20, you’re in!
That year, he made a massive leap up the leaderboard, from 50th to 30th. Still…10 places short.
Last year, I wrote about how close he came – four darn spots away.
I detailed a bit about the athlete/coach dynamic, something that isn’t talked about much.
But still, we came up short. If being 10 spots away in 2014 stung a bit, being 4 spots short in 2015 was downright angering.
Training resumed, for this season, the very following week…before we even knew if he’d made it last year.
I’m not gonna lie, from a coaching perspective, I felt an enormous amount of pressure going into this training season. Working with an athlete that is THAT close to making it to the next level pushed me to be at the top of my game.
While there were a few things that we did differently, much of was based around continuing to stay consistent…and do CrossFit. No gimmicks, nothing special or crazy…just good ol fashioned CrossFit tailored specifically to his needs as an elite athlete.
The 2016 Open was the most participated one in CFG history. The Intramural aspect brought out all sorts of new faces. For those that stayed around a bit longer, they got to see Jay tackle each workout on his own:
In 16.1, he finished 31st in the world, racking up 209 reps
In 16.2, he finished 7th in the world, his best finish throughout the open.
16.3 – 17th in the world.
16.4 – 20th in the world.
16.5 – 16th in the world.
All of these placing added up to him finishing the Open in 5th place in the world. Not too shabby. And with that, he was into the qualifier.
Immediately when those were released, I got the following text:
If there was one event that would punish him the most, we knew it was a 1RM deadlift. Simply put, he’s a smaller athlete compared to his peers.
“Two big guy events and two little guy events. Like the final four – survive and advance.”
Rather than worry about what damage this one event could do, I needed him to see the bigger picture – he needed to make his mark where he could (the “little guy events”) and then hang on and do his best in the other two. After all, he can only control what he can do. No sense in worrying about what others could do.
Turns out he did pretty well through the four qualifiers, racking up a 32nd, 78th (1RM DL), 7th, and 6th.
Just like I predicted, events 1 & 2 would favor the big guys, and events 3 & 4 are where he needed to shine.
Mission accomplished with that. He would sit in 9th place over all at the conclusion of the qualifier.
Now, it was a waiting game. (No pun intended)
The next step is to submit a video to CFHQ, of their choosing, for validation.
Now, more waiting.
Per the CFHQ rulebook, “Games invitations would be sent out beginning May 5th at 5PM PST.”
For days, folks.
For what seemed like an eternity, we would wait.
We both reached out to CFHQ and were met with similar responses: “They’ll be going out soon!”
And then, on May 13th (two days after his 50th birthday and one day after my 32nd birthday), I get this text:
If you missed my Instagram post about it:
Attention All Athletes: if you’re looking for a way to give your coach a coronary, send him a text like this when you’re anxiously awaiting an official invitation to the @crossfitgames … And then to top it off don’t answer any further frantic calls or text messages. #wellplayedJay #CFG #CrossFit #somuchfitness #MastersGotJokes #staytuned
In short, I was an emotional wreck. Had he made it? Was the news good or bad?
Finally, 26 minutes after I received the above message, this came across my screen:
“We are GOING!!!”
I fell to my knees in tears as soon as I read that text. Four years of emotions for me.
(It should come as no surprise to many of you that know me well enough that I got emotional about it.)
I capped off last years email about his 2015 training year with this quote:
“So, what keeps us coming back…wanting to continue pushing forward, striving for something more?
That was the margin of his miss last year.
I guess God had a four year plan instead.
Four years of hard work.
Four years ups and downs.
Four years of exchanging emails.
You made it Jay.
I couldn’t be more proud to say I’m your coach.
This is your moment. Enjoy it.