Personal Growth and the Joy of Competition: Adam Davidson’s Rookie Games Experience
Before the 2020 CrossFit Games kicked off, rookie qualifier Adam Davidson assumed he’d probably be a “one and done athlete.”
“I sort of thought of this as the completion of an eight-year journey. I thought I’d be content with however I did,” said 29-year-old Davidson.
He even thought that after finally experiencing the Games, it might be time to stop competing, to focus on his gym, CrossFit LoLo in Victoria, BC, and his wedding reception next May, which was postponed due to COVID-19.
Because he thought it might be his only chance, when Davidson found out Stage 1 of the Games would be an online competition, he decided to embrace the format, and to “create the real Games experience as much as I can,” and “enjoy every moment,” he said.
It was going well.
Until Fran showed up.
It’s Friday morning at CrossFit LoLo. It doesn’t look like Madison, WI, but it still kind of feels like the CrossFit Games.
Davidson looks pumped and ready to go, proudly decked out in his white CrossFit Games jacket adorned with the Canadian flag.
Although the crowd is small, they’re boisterous and ready to cheer. And there’s even a camera crew, headed by his wife Kelsey Davidson, who follows her husband’s every move all weekend, and conducts formal post-workout interviews after each event.
3, 2, 1 Go…
After two solid rounds of thrusters and pull-ups, Davidson finds himself breaking down during the third round, resulting in small sets of pull-ups, including a single pull-up at one point, in the last round. He crashes to the ground looking defeated. When he gathers the strength to speak, he suggests he might need a hospital.
“My grip just couldn’t. That was disgusting,” he says, moments before making his way to the bathroom and puking “for the first time ever” after a workout.
Returning from the bathroom, he’s smiling but he looks uncharacteristically pale. He takes a seat on the couch, surrounded by his group of fans.
“I think I ate too much before,” he says about his rookie mistake. “I had a cup of egg whites, a cup of berries and a cup of oatmeal.”
Looking back, a week later, while on vacation in Tofino, British Columbia with Kelsey, fellow Canadian 2019 Games athlete Emily Rolfe and her husband, Davidson admits the first three events — Friendly Fran, the 1 Rep Max Front Squat and Damn Diane — were not what he wanted.
Not so much because he didn’t get the scores he was aiming for, but because he wasn’t having fun, he admitted.
“I got a lot in my head in the first three events. I didn’t show up with the energy I wanted,” Davidson said.
“And to be honest, my central nervous system was shot for a long time after Fran. I think I only recovered from Fran now, a week later,” he added, laughing.
The moment things changed
Davidson has just finished Damn Diane.
All of a sudden, he sees someone walking up the ramp toward the entrance of his gym. Caught up in the moment of competition, Davidson doesn’t recognize that it’s his brother Connor, who just flew in from Ontario, to surprise him.
Connor is almost at the top of the ramp before Davidson realizes what’s going on. He bursts into tears and gives his Connor a prolonged, emotional hug.
Big brother Connor quickly recognizes his little brother isn’t in the headspace he needs to be to get the most out of the weekend and promptly steps in.
“What do you want out of this weekend? Do you want to feel like you had an amazing experience?” Connor asks rhetorically. “Then get your head out of your ass and start having fun.”
It’s just what Davidson needs to hear.
Connor cranks up the music and starts singing to his brother.
His energy rubs off on Davidson, who breaks into a dance party with others holding giant cardboard heads that Kelsey created featuring various competitors, including Mat Fraser, Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson, Jacob Heppner, Noah Ohlsen, Cole Sager, Pat Vellner and others.
Forty or so spectators arrive at the local high school, where Davidson is set to tackle Nasty Nancy on a track that overlooks the pacific ocean.
The spectators pull out the cardboard heads again to have a little fun. At various times in the event, they run behind Davidson, to loosen the atmosphere, add some humor, and “make it seem like they were there running behind me,” Davidson said, laughing.
Davidson admits, in the moment, he doesn’t notice the comedy and the cardboard competitors running behind, but he can feel the support, nonetheless. More importantly, he is finally starting to enjoy the experience in the way he had hoped.
When the final scores came in, Davidson discovered he finished 27th out of 30 competitors. Considering his goal had been top 15, he could be disappointed. But he’s not.
“I learned so much this weekend. Even though I had a goal — top 15 — I learned not to attach myself to that goal,” he said.
In fact, although his best event was fifth on the Handstand Hold, Davidson said he is most proud of the final event Awful Annie, where he was 25th, because he was finally in his full stride.
“I finally totally felt like myself. I just enjoyed being out there,” he said of Awful Annie.
“It’s easy to get burnt out if you don’t achieve your goal but I realize I can have a goal and not achieve it, and still really find enjoyment in the process,” he added.
Becoming a better version of himself
Like any true competitor, the learning Davidson went through during his rookie Games experience has not left him “just content” to have experienced the Games, as he imagined it would.
“I honestly thought I’d be happy to have experienced it, but something else happened,” he said. “It’s almost as if I got more competitive. There’s a new goal now. I feel like I can do more.”
He knows he can do more because of what he took away from last weekend.
“I learned about myself that when I compete, the attitude I need to have is to have fun, but to also be aggressive. Competing can’t be all fun, but it also can’t be negative and destructive. I have to turn that excitement on and also be as aggressive as possible,” he said.
Though he’s hungrier than ever, it’s not time to focus on 2021 yet.
After finishing the final event, Davidson celebrated with an extra large poutine, “and my brother got us rounds of shots, and I don’t drink, and he said, ‘I’m not leaving here until you drink these,” so he got me pretty drunk,” he said.
Davidson’s plan now is to continue to rest his body and take a month off, while still being active, but not pushing it in the gym. He needs it.
“It was such a long season. I tried to stay positive the whole time, but three-and-a-half months of peaking was hard. I think I felt fitter in July than I did competing last weekend, so it was such a relief when it was over,” he said.
Davidson added: “So chill now, but then I know I’m going to get excited about training again.”