Have you ever put everything on the line to achieve your goal only to watch it unravel right in front of you? To attain our personal and professional goals can be a daily grind and can wear on even the most stoic. The coach and athlete at Iron & Grit who has received the most skepticism from me is Connor Griffin. I love the young man’s confidence and admire his athleticism but wondered if he had the qualities of a great coach. Could he find the time and energy to coach our newest athletes who can’t even do a burpee? The best way to explain my change of heart is the GRIFF Factor…A “Leave it all on the floor” attitude that captured the hearts of the Iron & Grit community.
I sat with the CrossFit Regionals hopeful to get a more in depth understanding of what it’s like to coach, compete and have to pick up the pieces to try again next year.
OPEN 2017 was his first go at the 5 week worldwide competition and by Week 3 he was sitting in top 70. That was the biggest surprise for Connor. He couldn’t believe that he was even in the top 200. He kept getting better as the weeks went on and the excitement in the gym was palpable. Each Monday everyone kept coming back to cheer on Connor as he redid each WOD to improve his score and he did not disappointment. Hitting a 245# Snatch twice in OPEN WOD 3 (his 1 Rep Max at the time was 250#). As we prepared for Week 4 I started to wonder if he was going to pull this out and end up in top 50. An amazing accomplishment for the first year.
Week 4 of the OPEN was a repeat of last years 16.5 WOD. Most of us were excited at the opportunity to tackle the monster WOD once again. Connor was confident he could get back to the Deadlifts and improve his standing. But it just wasn’t meant to be. As Connor approached the handstand push ups there was a quietness that settled in the gym. He was on his own and no matter how much we encouraged him to keep going the attack he had the previous weeks just wasn’t there. He looked tired and worn out by the constant intensity of the OPEN. I had banned him from posting about the OPEN on social media to get him to focus internally on the task at hand. This had worked so far but something was amiss.
As Connor finished the OPEN with low scores in 17.4 and 17.5 he had to accept that there were pieces missing in his training. He has taken a more serious look at his diet and eating habits, sleep and training the gymnastics movements like handstand push ups. He has his height working against him. His attitude however is that he belongs in the top 20.
If you know little about the OPEN there is one fact that as CrossFit athletes we do know and joke about; None of us are going to Regionals. To make it to Regionals is about as competitive as it can get in CrossFit and only the very best (top 20 out of 15,500) make the Northeast Regionals competition. To be top 200 is a bragging right; to be top 50 is an accomplishment that can humble any one. Connor has started looking ahead at 2018 and he is training with this goal in mind. He wants to earn a coveted top 20 spot to make it to the Northeast Regionals. To even say it out loud is like throwing the gauntlet down into the abyss and establishing a personal goal that has more of a chance of failure then success.
What drives him? His desire to do his best. A combination of nerves and confidence fuels him during competitions. He is excited to be working with Brandon Peterson the owner of CrossFit Free. He knows the huge opportunity he has been given to work with a coach like Peterson. He graduates college next week and will have the time to drive to Salem NH to CrossFit Free to train with athletes who are better than him. He knows he has to put himself in the uncomfortable position of having to reel in the leaders, get challenged to step up when all the pieces aren’t falling in place.
His diet also became a challenge during the OPEN and Donna Pertel will be working with him over the year to make sure he is fueling with the right food and at the right time. We are lucky to have a dietician like Donna who can guide every level of athlete here at Iron & Grit.
As a coach here at Iron & Grit he looks forward to Friday nights! He wants everyone to bring their A Game and create an atmosphere where competition and hard work ignite a spark in the other athletes. But don’t expect this coach to coddle you; he wants you to step up your game!
“I don’t coddle! But I”m 100% committed to everyone.” Which is why I brought him on to the team. I saw this back in October and I think a great decision to make him a Coach at Iron & Grit. We are behind you Connor as you pursue this journey!