There were two very different tales out of the CrossFit Games this year.
In the men’s competition, 2016 champ Mat Fraser delivered a blowout repeat performance, beating the second place finisher, Brent Fikowski, by 216 points. The women’s field was far tighter: the top ten women scored within 252 points of one another. Fittest Woman on Earth Tia-Clair Toomey bested second-fittest Kara Webb by only two points.
The 2017 Games yielded the toughest women’s field the competition has ever seen, and elite American CrossFitter (and TRX Duo Trainer™ devotee) Kari Pearce says it was her fittest year yet.
Pearce went from CrossFit newbie to Fittest American Woman in less than two years, thanks to her gymnastics background and upper body strength, but this year she was focused on lower body work and weightlifting. That work paid off as Pearce placed in the top ten in the one-rep max snatch event, set a personal record in the power clean, and earned better scores across the board in lifting.
After four days of competition, Pearce finished tenth overall, and placed in the top ten in more than half of the events. While it wasn’t the podium finish she hoped for, Pearce proved once again that she’s a formidable force—especially when things don’t go as planned.
The CrossFit Games require an unusual combination of preparation, adaptability, and luck. Half of the events are announced mere hours in advance, giving competitors little time to practice or strategize. Athletes have to be ready for anything Games Director Dave Castro throws their way, and each year that includes new events and equipment. This year, surprises included a sprint to slam a heavy block for 20 feet with a sledgehammer and a Cyclocross course.
For Pearce, cycling was the bumpiest event. Her bike chain jammed beyond repair on the course, which meant she had to run her bike back to a CrossFit pit crew—about a half mile away from where she broke down. “They were initially going to fix it, but then they decided it was too much to fix, so they just gave me a new bike,” she says.
Though Pearce’s original bike had been properly fitted, she had to take off on the replacement without a full fitting to recover as much time as possible. “In the time trial, I think I took twelfth, and I took 30th [of 40] in the actual event. I was expecting to do better,” she explains. But, as a competitor, Pearce says it’s critical to move past the setbacks. “After an event like that, you have to shake it off…It was frustrating, but stuff happens. You bounce back from it.”
And bounce back, she did. Pearce pressed, squatted, carried, and cleaned literally tons of weight over the next three days to fight her way back up the rankings and finish in the top ten.
“I know I’m fitter this year. Each year, it’s a different set of events. You can’t say, ‘I finished tenth this year, I finished fifth last year, therefore I’m less fit this year.’ This year, I PRed my power clean, I hit a higher snatch than I would have last year. Overall, I’m a better runner, I’m a better swimmer; I know I’m a better athlete.”
After the Games, Pearce’s coach, Mike Varrato, told her to start thinking about what she wants to focus on for the 2018 Games. At the moment, Pearce is in decompression mode—hanging out with family and decidedly not counting macros at meals—but she already knows what she needs to do. She’ll take the time to rehab a recurring Achilles injury, then she’ll work on running, more weightlifting, and grit strength to prep for next year.
For now, Pearce is enjoying a short break from training. She’ll forego eating every three hours. She’ll take a week or two off from CrossFit. After 13 grueling challenges in four days, she has earned her recovery. But soon she’ll be back to the grind, chasing her goal, training clients, and setting her TRX Suspension Trainer™ up in Central Park for extra reps when she has free time. The CrossFit Games podium is calling Kari Pearce, and she’ll do what it takes to get there.