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Maybe you’ve been a member of Big Horn for years or maybe you recently joined us. Either way,  here is a fun fact: did you know Coach Brian placed 63rd at the 2009 CrossFit Games?!

And did you further know that he beat Ben Smith, 2015 CrossFit Games champ and 2016 runner-up?!

Probably not, because Coach Brian is humble and he doesn’t like to talk about these things. Fortunately for all of us, I nagged him until he acquiesced to a quick interview. Want to hear more about his Games experience?

2009 CrossFit Games

Q: What was the qualification process like back in 2009? 

Brian: The Open did not exist in 2009! As a matter of fact, 2009 was the first year that Regionals were a requirement to get to the Games. Prior to that, you pretty much just signed up to go, and you were in!

If only it were that easy now, amiright?!

Pretty nuts, right?! The very first CrossFit Open didn’t happen until 2011.

2009 CrossFit Games

Q: Who were the “big names” back then? Anyone that is still competing?

Brian: Ah, the OG CrossFitters!  Big names in 2009 were: Jason Khalipa, Chris Spealler, James Fitzgerald (winner of the very first CrossFit Games), Peter Egyed, Brian Bowen (ha, just kidding), Josh Everett, Pat Barber, and, not known at the time, Mikko Salo. Interestingly enough, I placed second to Mikko in the European Regionals that year; at the time, nobody knew who he was although we found out very quickly! (Side note: Salo won the 2009 Games as a total newcomer.)

2009 was a surprising year as many of those names did not place where most people anticipated them to place. Fun fact: 2009 was the first year that Ben Smith (then, 18 years old) competed, and he placed 64th, one place behind me. Hahaha!

Q: Tell me about the 2009 Games: how long did they last, how many workouts did you do, etc? Do you remember a favorite workout from the entire Games?

Some say that the 2009 Games were one of the toughest and I won’t disagree! I made it through the first cut, but, unfortunately, did not advance to the second day. The workout the stands out in my mind the most was the Sandbag Hill Sprint – 90 seconds of pure hell as we sprinted a 170 meter hill while carrying two 35-pound sandbags.

For reference: 2009 Games workouts can be found here.

2009 CrossFit Games

Q: How would you compare the 2009 Games to the 2016 Games in regards to perceived intensity?

I truly believe that the 2009 Games pushed the intensity piece like no other Games prior (2007 & 2008). This was the first Games that “really wrecked” some people.

Q: What differences do you notice in 2017 CrossFit? Similarities?

One of the primary differences I see is the “too much is never enough” attitude for your everyday CrossFitter and box owner. Is “too much never enough” for your serious Games contenders? Oh heck yeah, too much is never enough for them because it HAS to be. However, I see way too much generalized CrossFit programming that has a strength bias, or linear strength programming coupled with the WOD. That is a HUGE error on the part of the CrossFit box owner/programmer. If somebody has a legitimate shot to make it to and through the Regionals, then they have A LOT of things in their lives that they must sacrifice. But, for the 3-5 times per week CrossFitter, smart programming (what CrossFit originally intended) is the only way to go.

Similarities? The community is still as bad ass as it ever was.

2009 CrossFit Games

Q: Would you ever have any interest in competing at that level again?

In a word, no. I am a competitor at heart, and I will continue to compete at a local level (team and partner comps are awesome!). And, prior to my recent injury, I was competing in USA Weightlifting events, which I was really digging. My priorities have changed now. My focus is on my family, faith, and business. One can no longer be a “part-time CrossFitter” with hopes of making it to the Games, let alone making it passed the Open and Regionals.

2009 CrossFit Games

Q: Any favorite stories from the 2009 Games?

I’ve got two!

The 2009 Regionals had 13 competitors: 12 men and 1 woman (and that woman was my wife Kari, although she wasn’t even my girlfriend at the time!) The first workout was what they called “Fat Helen” (2-pood KB and C2B pull-ups). It took everyone down, except for one person: Mikko Salo. About three minutes prior to all of us writhing on the floor, gasping for life, Mikko had finished, put his little black beanie on his head, and proceeded to take pictures of the rest of us struggling to finish. It appeared as though he hadn’t even broken a sweat.

Fast forward to the Games.

Chris Spealler was (and still is) one of the most well-known and well-respected CrossFitters of our time. He was the standard. I revered him in such a way that was almost demi-godly. I scoured the comments section of the website, desperately trying to even get close to his workout times and efforts. Well, following the Sandbag Hill Sprint, I sauntered back into the garage-like structure at The Ranch and plopped down on a plastic foldout chair (oh yeah, the creature comforts back then were top-notch!). Somebody was sitting on my immediate left, hands in lap and staring out into nothing…almost with a look of bewilderment on his face. It was my hero, Chris Spealler. The man was mortal! We looked at each other for a brief moment and nodded our heads in shared exhaustion and understanding. I felt a certain and emphatic kinship…it was awesome!