I watched the first Suffolk Games pairs event back in 2016, and stood in awe of the individuals participating. Regardless of who made the podium at the end of the day, every one of the competitors were athletes – and I don't say that lightly – who pushed themselves to their absolute limits.
This weekend, at Trinity Park in Ipswich, The Suffolk Games – brainchild Matt Brennan of Crossfit GFP and Chris Lawson of Crossfit ISC – returned for it's second year and I headed back to watch with the same admiration.
Stepping up a level, from pairs to teams, this year's games attracted 240 competitors who formed 60 teams, from numerous gyms and boxes from across East Anglia, all (even if it was secretly) wanting to win the right to say they were 'Suffolk's fittest'.
Known as the sport of fitness, CrossFit is one of the fastest growing sports on earth. It sees athletes tackle some of the most gruelling workouts, with the aim of either finishing the quickest or complete the most rounds, and The Suffolk Games was no different.
For anyone that competed, the words ‘Fran with Friends’, ‘Strength in Depth’, ‘Beyond the Threshold’ and ‘Twin Engines’ might kick-start a series of reoccurring nightmares.
For the majority of people I spoke to, the workout that was most looked forward to – for the pure reason of getting it done and out of the way – was Fran with Friends. No one really likes 'Fran' at the best of time, so switching in burpees AND making each team member perform the exercises synchronized was only going to make it much, much worse.
Strength in Depth took the form of three rounds for time – 30 D-ball ground to over shoulder, two lengths of keg carries and a length of tyre flips – while Beyond the Threshold was a 12 minute AMRAP (read: as many rounds as possible). The 30 seconds of rest that followed the 30 seconds of work was merely a tease of recovery time to those facing the kettlebell G2OH, rowing, tyre drag and assault bike stations. (Between WODs two and three however, those competing were almost put to shame by the energy and enthusiasm of competitors a fraction of their age – all who had been training as part of CrossFit Kids).
The final workout, Twin Engines, was another that required immaculate team work. Synchronizing kettlebell swings and worm walking lunges is never going to be an easy task, especially not after three previous testing the team's strength, endurance and fitness levels. Throw in a series of relay running and a hay bale the size of a house to jump over and you've probably got the perfect workout to kill off anyone still standing.
Each team had to perform all four of these workouts; and if that wasn't tough enough, there was a pretty sadistic twist at the end of each. To finish each workout, one team member had to push that little bit harder, until there was really nothing left in the tank, performing an individual element. The choices – none better than any of the others – were tyre pulls, tyre deadlifts, sprints or a ghastly 800m row.
Despite the what was asked, the sheer grit and determination each competitor's possessed, plus the weeks of tough training they'd put in, was more evident than anything else. I have nothing but respect for everyone that signed themselves up to the games – which most people did before they were even aware of the workouts being asked – but the biggest well done goes to the people I now consider friends. Session after session, practicing both individually and within their teams, I've seen those at GFP seriously put in the hours for this competition and it was an absolute pleasure cheering them on all day.
In my opinion, the six teams from CrossFit GFP all did amazingly – with one team finishing an incredible fifth out of the 60 teams. Each and every one of them, both members and coaches, kept going right until the very end and continually supported and encouraged each other, even those who weren't specifically on their team. Events like this show the true ethos of GFP; It's one big family, who not only motivate each other on a daily basis, but that will never leave a member behind.
There is however, no rest for the wicked as October brings another Suffolk Games event, for which I know many of the individual's who sweated it out in teams this weekend, will be more than ready to throw themselves into in pairs.
Registration for The Suffolk Games pairs event is already open and after the success of the previous two competitions, this is sure to be another sell out. If you're not quite sure you're up for taking part, I encourage you to at least come along and spectate. There's nothing quite as motivating – or enjoyable – as watching some of the fittest people you know going into a workout all guns blazing, and ending up in a ball on the floor but with the biggest smile on their faces (once they've caught their breath – obviously).
But FYI, watching does give you itchy feet and you'll be dying to join in yourself – Trust me…