Last weekend three CrossFit Reform teams (Reformers, Reformulated, and Aggressively Average) finished the inaugural Tribal Clash USA event in Huntington Beach. As I reflect on the past weekend, I felt that it was important to share my experience with our community, and anyone else that may be interested.
While most of our community know me as the owner of CrossFit Reform, many moons ago I was pretty heavily focused on competing. I have always loved to challenge myself, and after finishing college soccer, found CrossFit as the perfect way for me to improve my athleticism.
Once local CrossFit competitions came about I absolutely loved doing them, and they became all the craze at the time. To date, I have done over 35 competitions, mostly individual and some partner or team.
I can confidently say that Tribal Clash USA was the best experience and the most fun I have ever had in a competition.
Here are the main reasons why:
The event was run immaculately.
This is something that many overlook, but anyone that has run an event knows how truly difficult this is.
I have run multiple events (none that nearly compare to a competition of this scale) and they are ALWAYS more work than you expect, and there are ALWAYS unexpected problems that arise. As events grow in size, the issues only grow exponentially with them.
Similar to hitting all green lights on your way to work, or your baby sleeping fully through their 1st night, its smoothness can often go unnoticed or unappreciated if you haven’t experienced the alternative.
Competitions are infamous for getting behind schedule, and some by multiple hours. This causes a super strain on everyone competing, and very frustrating for spectators. Many are also unclear on their explanation, standards, and flow.
There was nothing like this at Tribal Clash.
The event consistently started on time with events for 9-10 hours each day for 2 days. The workouts were complex but briefed clearly and effectively, and had a Q&A time only for the team captains. The organization and flow of workouts was smooth and insanely well thought out. The judges were concise and on top of their jobs. Also, there was obvious organization of all the staff from the event director, to the head judge, to the judges, to athlete control, to the media team, to the rigging crew.
These guys legitimately know how to run an event.
There were real and different fitness tests.
One of CrossFit’s 3 standards to evaluate fitness is capability at random physical tasks.
This means a good test of fitness is your ability to perform well at unpredictable challenges that may come your way. This can be needing to help a friend move their couch up 3 flights of stairs, or joining in a game of pick-up basketball.
This is the reason why those that do CrossFit consistently often cite how it “makes life easier.” What you do in the gym truly resonates to real life.
Unfortunately, a real test of fitness is not common in most competitions.
Most local competitions can be very predictable, they are one day, often have 2-3 workouts within a similar time domain, and maybe a max lift. They also almost always have some sort of pull-up, double under, or barbell involved. Their predictability often prioritizes athletes to focus on the areas they will be tested on, rather than improving their overall fitness.
Tribal Clash was very different, and it’s unpredictability lent itself to a real test of fitness.
First of all, Tribal Clash was a two-day test with 8 scored events. Over 9 years of competing there has only been 1 other competition I have done that spanned over two days. It is significantly more challenging coming back and performing well on the 2nd day, with recovery and efficiency playing a much greater role.
The workouts that were performed were nowhere near predictable and had a real life dimension to them.
They used different sandbags, logs, atlas stones, paddleboards, tires, beams to climb over, and one of the most challenging elements over the course of the weekend was performing it all on soft sand at the beach. None of these things we could easily prepare for, and were often different than expected.
The really cool part of all of this was that there was not an “Athlete Warm-up” area to use all the equipment. Every team went into the arena on the same playing field, and needed to figure out how to adapt and overcome the challenges in front of them.
This is a true test of fitness.
It brought our community closer together.
Similar to “Hell Week” in sports and BUD/S training for the Navy SEALS, there is an amazing bond that is formed between people when they suffer together. There is something about sharing a mutual struggle, and needing to work towards a common goal, that creates an unexpected connection.
This is exactly how CrossFit gyms become infamous for developing amazing communities. It is not intentional, but rather develops organically through daily mutual challenges.
Our community at CrossFit Reform is second to none, and having been to many gyms, I can confidently say it is something truly amazing that we have. What was very impressive to me, was that Tribal Clash made our community stronger and brought us together even more.
A team competition consisting of 6 teammates gave many opportunities for teamwork and bonding.
At times the workouts were individually focused, partner focused, and whole team focused. They were very challenging and required endless amounts of strategy, communication, and working together. The best athletes weren’t always the top finishers, rather the teams that were all on the same page and played to each team members’ strengths were the ones that prevailed.
I will never forget the struggle of our team swim around the buoy and feeling like we were getting absolutely nowhere, as well as trying to lift the 300# sand worm and uncertain if we could get it up each time. I will also never forget Ricardo manhandling our 130# sandbags and moving them around like they were a toy to save our team.
Each of our teams worked together to complete their tasks, and we all mutually understood the struggles our fellow teams were experiencing. This cohesive unification developed a mutual respect and empathy for each other, bringing us even closer together.
In conclusion, Tribal Clash was much more than a competition, but rather an experience and insanely powerful moment I will never forget.
I am so proud of everyone that participated and tried something completely new. It is not easy to do, and is a huge step out of most people’s comfort zones. I’m honored to have been able to participate and revel in this experience, and thankful for the bonds that have formed. It has honestly been one of the most enjoyable things I have done, and I can’t wait for next year.