Welcome to the Pandemic CrossFit Games

September 19, 2020 by
Credit: Tamane Photography (instagram.com/tamanephotography)

It’s a cool, misty morning in downtown Nanaimo, British Columbia.

  • Patrick Vellner is jogging up and down Park Drive., a quiet, flat street near the ocean that he chose for Nasty Nancy, the opening event on Saturday at the CrossFit Games.

But this doesn’t look like the CrossFit Games: Vellner’s dog Ollie runs freely, greeting each of the 40 mask-wearing spectators, as Vellner warms up his overhead squat with bumper plates and a barbell he brought from his home gym. Meanwhile, his coach Michele Letendre greets the fans, informing them it’s their job to make sure cars don’t get in the way as her athlete is running, and his judge Jesse Bifano measures out the run course with an old school measuring wheel.

Five minutes from go time: A fire truck drives up and plants itself by the run turnaround point.

  • “One of our members is a fireman. I think one of our cop members is down there too,” said CrossFit Nanaimo’s GM. (The fire truck isn’t able to stay long. During round two of Vellner’s run, on goes its sirens and off it drives).

One big thing: Although the atmosphere seems casual, almost to the point of being flat, Vellner is not. He looks laser-focused as he prepares to hit an incredibly important event. Currently sitting in eight place overall heading into Nasty Nancy, Vellner, who has been battling a groin injury in recent weeks, needs to do well to have a chance at making it back into the top five.

3, 2, 1 Go (or not): No announcements or athlete introductions are needed. If there was a countdown, it doesn’t seem anyone heard. All of a sudden Vellner is running. “I guess he has started the event,” one of the spectators points out.

Photo Credit: Tamane Photography (instagram.com/tamanephotography)
  • Vellner finishes his first run in about two minutes, picks up the barbell, hits 15 unbroken overhead squats, loosens his belt and gets right into 15 burpees. It takes him 3:52 to complete the first round. His next three rounds are slightly slower, but each one looks pretty much the same as the one before: a hard jog, 15 unbroken overhead squats and 15 controlled burpees.
  • During round three, one of the fans decides to ramp things up a bit. She drives her car up close to where Vellner is squatting and blasts ACDC’s Thunderstruck. The atmosphere instantly picks up, and I swear Vellner starts squatting a little faster.
  • After hitting his last set of overhead squats, Vellner drops and hits 15 sprint finish burpees, completing the event in a time of 21:18. He looks happy, and says “my leg felt better,” and that it didn’t hurt after the first round, which he said felt “a little wobbly.”
  • Vellner adds: “I was like, ‘Just make sure you do the overhead squats unbroken…run slow and do the squats unbroken and then hope to have a push at the end because that will go a long way.’”

Then, as always, Vellner thanks the small group of fans for coming.

  • “I know this was a little out of the way to come here, a little unorthodox but…thanks for coming guys,” he says.

And that’s it: Vellner and the crowd disperse without a clue how he fared in relation to the other competitors, and will circle back at the gym in an hour to watch him stand on his hands for, hopefully, a long time.

Two hours later: Scores are revealed, and Vellner’s Nasty Nancy time was only good enough for 19th. He went on to place eighth on the Max Handstand Hold and heads into the final event in 10th position.