Mystery mission | ParkRecord.com

Mystery mission

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

Next weekend, Chris Spealler and Eric O’Connor will take a journey into the unknown. The two friends, who work as colleagues at CrossFit Park City, will travel to Aromas, Calif., to compete in the 2009 CrossFit Games. The only thing is, they’re not quite sure what they’re getting themselves into.

The CrossFit Games bring together some of the fittest athletes from around the world. The contenders compete in several events ranging from endurance races to timed trials for one of the sport’s umpteen whirlwind workouts with names like the Filthy Fifty and the Fight Gone Bad. The catch? The events are not announced until mere hours before the competition. Even the total number of events is up in the air until the last minute. That way, no one has an advantage and everyone must train for whatever comes along.

"It can be anything," O’Connor says. "They like to keep things random."

"But that’s the bold claim of CrossFit," Spealler explains. "It’s meant to prepare you for anything."

Spealler and O’Connor are no strangers to the CrossFit mantra. The duo, who wrestled together in college, started doing online CrossFit workouts together two-and-a-half years ago. About six months into training, they realized that they wanted to share their new obsession with the community.

Spealler opened a CrossFit affiliate and began operating classes out of the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse. Last September, he obtained a space off of Rasmussen Road and opened Park City’s first and only CrossFit gym.

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If you’re still wondering what in the world CrossFit is, you’re a little behind the cutting edge workout-of-the-moment. CrossFit is a type of training that combines weightlifting exercises with gymnastics movements and different forms of cardio. It was originally used in military training programs and has been steadily gaining a solid fan base around the world. The focus is on short, intense workouts that change daily to build functional capacity in all different types of movements.

Spealler and O’Connor both competed in the Great Basin regional qualifier for the CrossFit Games in April. Spealler won all three workouts and is considered one of the world’s top competitors for the "Cindy," which involves doing as many rounds as possible of five pull-ups, 10 pushups, and 15 air squats in 20 minutes.

Both athletes attended the CrossFit Games last year, where the events included five deadlifts (275 pounds for men; 185 for women), five rounds of 10 "burpees" (a squat-to-pushup maneuver), thrusters (95 pounds for men; 65 for women); timed sets of pull-ups, a 750-meter steep-hill trail run, and timed sets of squat clean and jerks (155 pounds for men; 100 for women).

However, this is the first year that competitors have had to qualify regionally to attend the Games. And due to the growing popularity of CrossFit, the competition has gotten a lot tougher, says Spealler, who placed 4th in 2007 and 10th in 2008.

He and O’Connor will be among 77 men competing for the individual championship and a $5,000 prize. The contenders range in age from 18 to 45 and are across the spectrum in body type. It’s a mix of lean, really strong guys and big, burly guys, and everything in between, says O’Connor. There are no age or weight divisions, so all athletes compete in one group.

To prepare for the event, the duo has primarily concentrated on continuing the daily workouts they teach at CrossFit Park City, adding in a few longer endurance activities along the way.

"You have to go in there being well-rounded," says O’Connor. The outcome of the games may depend on the draw of events and how it conforms to each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. "Lots of front squats or handstand pushups would be my nemesis," he says. His strong suits include hill running, middle-distance running and double-unders with a jump rope.

Spealler says he’d rather not compete in events requiring excessively heavy loading. He excels at gymnastics-type movements and those that rely on using your body weight. His record for pull-ups, for example, is 96.

With only a few days remaining before they embark on their mystery mission, Spealler and O’Connor have to rely on their own bodily capabilities and desire to win. "The money’s in the bank," adds Spealler. "We really just have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves so that we’re at 100 percent."

Although the Games are all about the most elite athletes and astonishing displays of physical fitness, Spealler emphasizes that the true goal of CrossFit is to bring anyone of any age or ability level to a higher degree of overall fitness. The trainers offer kids’ and teens’ programs, group classes and one-on-one sessions. "Anyone can do CrossFit, and everyone can benefit from it," says Spealler. "That’s why CrossFit is here."

For more information on CrossFit Park City, including sample workouts and a daily class schedule, visit http://www.crossfitpc.com . To follow the 2009 CrossFit Games, log on to http://games2009.crossfit.com.

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