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Friday
Oct192012

Brandon Pastorek - Competitive Athlete, Not Just An Exerciser

A couple of weeks ago I competed in the Masters category at the Garage Games Fitoberfest at CrossFit Freedom outside of Chicago. Had a great time, didn’t injure myself even though rehabbing from rotator cuff issues, enjoyed the entire two days of workouts, the friends and community of crossfit.... all of it.

A special treat for me is watching the competitive-sport side of CrossFit. Of late this is a common topic in the globo-gym, physical fitness world, as CrossFit grows and new Affiliates spring up like wild flowers in the spring. My CrossFit is different than the elite competitors at the Games, just like my baseball and football prowess doesn’t compare to the people I see on ESPN. No matter, I love it.

Brandon Pastorek was the highlight of the Finals for me. Yes, he won, but that’s old news. What I watched him do in the last event confirmed what I already thought I knew about how intelligent a competitor Brandon is.

I’ll lay it out for you. There were six or seven guys lined up together for the last event. They were in lanes, and had to charge across the gym, beginning with kettlebell Turkish Get-Ups, then cleans, then back squats, followed by muscle-ups, then a run outdoors of 300 meters, maybe. Back in for more rounds of muscle-ups and runs. I hope I didn’t leave out a lift in the final, don’t know the precise distance of the run, and can’t find the results anywhere online to check. It doesn’t matter, those are details.

These were the top guys, and they were lined up ranked in order, so Brandon Pastorek was at one end. Guys were stripping their shirts, stretching, generally being anticipatory, as expected. Brandon was low-key, like he’d been all weekend, often half-hidden under a big hoodie. For the finals he had a simple almost-baggy t-shirt on. I was stationed half-way down the course, could see everything and was watching Brandon watch the field. He appeared relaxed.

At 3-2-1 GO! everyone jumped down into very fast Turkish Get-Ups. Almost a scary exercise when done as quickly as possible with heavy weight, but the field generally finished together. I noted Brandon kept sneaking quick looks down the line of competitors. Some guys ran to the next lift; Brandon walked fast and steadily. His transitions were smooth and fluid; he’d move under the bar and begin to squat immediately. Or he’d address the bar for the clean, smoothly, with no waiting, nervous ticks, arranging of clothing, etc. Seemingly with less motion, his economic manner meant he was keeping up with the field, but I felt he was saving energy. After every lift, he was staring down the line of guys, and as they transitioned from one area to another he always had his eyes on the guys down the line. Watching Brandon, I was waiting for a key moment, certain it was coming.

Coming to the first set of muscle-ups, Brandon took a look at the competitor nearest to him, in second overall, jumped up and pumped out the set smoothly. So did the other guy, and they hit the ground for the run about even. They must have run side-by-side (the run was an out and back course), and they came back to the rings for the second time together. To me, Brandon appeared fresh; the other guy was beginning to show strain. Pastorek gave him a long look, jumped up and cranked out his muscle-ups even faster then his first set! I think he was going for the competitive kill.

Jumping down, he looked at the guy beginning to struggle a little bit, still on the rings, and I think gave himself a tiny smile and nod of his head. I swear I saw it. He tore out of there, and through the finishing rounds of runs and muscle-ups the lead was never in doubt. Something was gone from the other guys, now spread all over the course. The closest competitor knew for certain he wasn’t keeping up with Pastorek.

Brandon is a competitive athlete. His fitness and skill levels are extraordinarily high, of course, but we knew that already. After all, he’s a Games veteran and competes often. 

I watched a smart competitive athlete manage his way through a grueling weekend of events, knowing that getting to the Finals is the real deal. Lots of guys in the Finals were super-fit and skilled, but I know Brandon Pastorek was fully prepared to win, mentally and physically, and utilized his intelligence as much as his fitness and skill. He was out to win, not to merely survive or do his best. 

This is the difference between a great athlete and a superb competitive athlete.

I didn't take any photos during the finals, was having too much fun watching. The pic above is Brandon with Derek Toshner of TNT Fitness, taken during the Ice Bowl in Green Bay last winter.

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