You'll have to forgive my long posts these next two days as I sing the praises of our two amazing athletes competing this weekend at the 2017 CrossFit Games California "Super" Regional. What they have accomplished is nothing short of incredible, not only due to the demands of the sport of CrossFit and all that goes along with it at the highest levels, but also for what they continue to accomplish in life alongside their athletic endeavors. They are, quite simply, some of the most impressive humans I know - first up, Dr. Cassie...
We've been really fortunate at Arena Ready over the last five years in terms of having athletes in and around our community that just have that special something. Athletes who are talented, who work harder than just about anyone else, who are accomplished and gracious people outside of the gym, and who care deeply about what they do and about the people they surround themselves with every day. They show us what's possible and inspire us to continue pushing our own abilities to a place that might not be possible without their constant example. They have given us dozens of opportunities to cheer for them and shout their names, feeling pride and joy that we get to call them our teammates at Arena Ready... that we get to train with them... and that we get to know them as people and as friends. Names like Liz Terry, Amy Woods, Hillary Hegener, Kim Tom, and Sarah Hopping come to mind when thinking about the impressive nature of training and competing at the highest level of sport, while also operating at the highest level of being a successful and inspirational human being.
Enter Cassie Ann Ludwig - perhaps the most impressive athlete and greatest example of the above-mentioned qualities we've seen yet. Cassie came to us last year, and after having dropped-in to our gym during a Thanksgiving Day holiday WOD the previous year, contacted us during her move to San Francisco inquiring about training at Arena Ready during her first year of residency as a physician (following her time at Stanford Medical School). She wanted to continue to train as a competitive fitness athlete despite what was likely to be the most time-demanding and sleep-deprived upcoming year anyone could imagine. Both sides agreed to give it a try and make it happen as best we could, and I think both sides will (now) readily admit that we had our doubts at the time - Cassie feeling like she wouldn't have the adequate time and/or programming support (read: enough training volume) to improve to the level needed to be competitive, and we (Rob & Sarah) thinking that certainly this crazy lady will eventually run out of steam like a normal human being and realize that she needs to put competitive CrossFit on the back-burner for now while she tries to at least sleep enough to not be a zombie doctor (or more of a zombie doctor than is normal, I guess you could say).
Well, much to the pleasant surprise for both sides, we were both wrong. Cassie "bought in" to our system 100% and trusted us with her programming and training direction, and proved herself to be one of the most coachable athletes we've ever met. It was a great opportunity for both Cassie and Sarah to train together and push each other in ways that only a highly competitive training environment could provide, and it's fair to say that at first Cassie was shocked at "how little" Sarah actually did in terms of total volume of training. Cassie was somewhat accustomed to a bit more of a "more and more is better" approach, and I think her perception of Sarah's reputation as a perennial CrossFit and weightlifting competitor came with assumptions of volumes upon volumes of training sessions (which has become the standard for the majority of current era competitors). To her early dismay there were many days (the majority of them, in fact, during the off-season of summer & fall) that Cassie was simply instructed to "take class and go hard" - which at times was an easy-to-deliver message since that's about all she had time for LOL. When the Fittest Games Qualifier and CrossFit Games Liftoff came around last year we ramped her up slightly on an Arena Ready-style weightlifting and accessory program to enhance her class training - and much like Cassie does with just about everything else in her life she put her head down, went full speed ahead, and absolutely DEMOLISHED every session we wrote for her... all while smiling and chuckling after every workout (well, after picking herself up off the floor and getting her bearings). The result? She posted qualifying scores that put her in the Top-10 in the country for the "pro division" of the Fittest Games, and she WON the 2017 CrossFit Games Liftoff outright in her weight class, including a PR snatch of 182 lbs at a bodyweight of 129 lbs (probably on 2 hours of sleep the night before). It was at that moment we knew she could truly have a shot at making it to 2017 Regionals (a goal she probably laughed off as "that would be great but yeah right" originally) if she could just continue staying healthy and squeezing-in CrossFit classes and training sessions a few times a week.
Welp, to say that she did just that would be the understatement of the year. Anyone who has been in class with Cassie or in the gym while she's working out as been witness to the unbelievable ability she has to put her foot on the gas pedal and push the limit until there's nothing left to push. And then she'll do it again. And again. And if we told her to change something slightly or alter her pacing/technique/strategy she would implement it instantly. And then GO SO HARD AGAIN. Over and over, every single day she was in the gym for every single session. There was only ever one speed that we saw from her - GO SO HARD. I had never seen anything quite like it - and this is coming from someone who's been around Liz, Amy, and Kim for years... the original champs of GO SO HARD. She made everyone around her better by setting the tone week-in and week-out, showing them (including Sarah) what was possible, and making it seem almost normal that her level of effort was to be expected every time she laced up her shoes and got after it. It's one thing to say you want to be good at something - it's a completely different animal to actually do the work every day it's necessary (literally every single day without one wasted session), despite all the other things going on in your life, and all the other challenges that someone with such high "outside of the gym" goals surely has. This is what Cassie does - she just goes. She doesn't stop. She doesn't know the words "that's not possible" or "take it easy" or "well there's always tomorrow to try hard" - she is the embodiment of the principle that in order to achieve results "you don't need harder workouts, you simply need to go harder."
Last weekend Sarah and I were so honored to attend Cassie and Lindsey's beautiful wedding, surrounded by the people who know and love them the most. It was one of those experiences where the event and the people in attendance provided such clarity on how the two individuals at the center of it all wound up being such amazing people in so many different ways. The level of love and support, and wisdom, and shared respect was palpable and it just made me think, "Well now it all makes sense. Of course these two people are f**king awesome and no wonder Cassie basically dominates everything in life." I was honored to witness Cassie's most true, happy self in person, alongside the one she loves most and with her family and friends in tow. It helped us to understand exactly how her complete badassness has become standard operating procedure for her and her life, and it was so much fun to watch and be a small part of that event in some fashion.
In two days we'll be honored in a different way when Cassie takes the competition floor among some of the fittest athletes in the world at the California Regional. With her wifey (woohoo!) by her side and her Arena Ready family in tow, she's going to show the CrossFit world what many of us already know... Cassie only knows one speed - GO SO HARD. And more importantly, Cassie only knows one way to be (okay, maybe three) - awesome, inspiring, badass.
Can't wait to wear my Dr. Cassie Ludwig shirt in Del Mar and REPRESENT THAT ACTIVE INGREDIENT: GINGER.
GO CASSIE GO!!!
Dr. Cassie Ludwig...
Active Ingredient: Ginger (yes, that's actually what the bottom line says LOL)
WOD for 05-24-17:
12 Minutes to Establish a Heavy Triple (NOT 3RM)
AMRAP 6 Minutes:
6 Power Snatches @ 155/105 lbs
9 Box Jumps @ 30/24 in
-REST 3 Minutes-
AMRAP 6 Minutes:
12 Kettlebell Swings @ 70/53 lbs
9 Box Jumps @ 30/24 in