Step into the mind of CrossFit Games podium athlete Patrick Vellner as he discerns his thoughts and strategies of every CrossFit Games event.
In a series of Instagram posts, 2nd Fittest Man on Earth Pat Vellner has unveiled his reflections, thoughts, and strategies for this year’s CrossFit Games.
After 15 events packed into four days of competition, Vellner earnt himself a silver at the 2021 CrossFit Games, having finished within the top 5 in 8 events. As if following tradition, the Canadian athlete had his worst performance on Event 1, finishing 35th out of 38.
He made up for it with an overall win in Event 2 and followed that up with another four back-to-back top 10 finishes.
Vellner is a six-time CrossFit Games individual athlete and has finished on the podium four times, twice in third place and twice in second.
Step into the mind of top CrossFit Games athlete Patrick Vellner.
Patrick Vellner Reflects on His CrossFit Games Performance
*All text by Patrick Vellner
This looked like a fun workout to me and i was excited to paddle since I’m a pretty strong puller and good rower. With the addition of fins i though maybe I could change the narrative on my swimming events.
Contrary to popular belief the swim actually didn’t sink me in this one, it was the paddle. I decided to swim a little conservatively and save my pull, expecting to be able to pick people off on the boat, but boy was I wrong… I struggled a lot on the paddle, and it was a long way. I just felt like I was plowing water and couldn’t get any speed. I tried lots of different strategies with my stroke but Probably 20 minutes into the paddle it became clear that nothing was going to change. I could either work hard and go slow, or work slightly less hard and go slow…
I had a good 30 minutes to let it sink in that I would indeed again be starting the games in nearly last place. It was a frustrating, long, dark paddle across the water for me. But it gave me lots of time to digest, think about buying a kayak when i get home, and plan how I would mount my comeback…
Cue the Comeback
Obviously not the way I wanted to start my Crossfit Games… again.
I let myself be annoyed at myself for a minute, but i had to move on, and fast. After event 1 the weight of event 2 felt much more significant. Fortunately for me I had some history on my side. In 2018 I actually finished 36th in event 1 on a day with 4 events and battled back to 6th by the end of the day. My new goal became to be in the top heat by the end of today, ideally top 5.
Event 2 looks good for me on paper and I had urgency on my side. It was time to start generating momentum.
Event though points were the priority, when I got on the bus I sent my coach to pick me up a pair of Nano X1 shoes with some deeper tread and then meet me in the warm up area. Might as well gun for a bonus.
I cut the tag off and hit the field. The plan was to stay close but no over exert until the muscle ups then start to be agressive. 12 unbroken ring then sets of 6 on the bar. I got back to the rings with some space but they hit HARD. I thought for a second I had made a huge mistake, but as athletes advanced it was clear they were all feeling the same as I was. I got to the pig first and wanted to get as many flips done as possible before someone joined me. I got 3 done before I heard the announcer call another athlete forward and I knew I was good. Two more flips and a glance at the clock, I had about 1 minute to drag the sled in order to win. As long as I didn’t stop it was a done deal.
I put my head down and went to work. The sled was just hard enough the rock your legs but not so heavy you had a good reason to stop. Just a grind. Knowing I was walking into a 100 points and a nice $10k reebok bonus made it hurt a little less… I’m glad I sent @mich_letendre for those shoes 😂.
The comeback was on. That finish made me feel like I had almost wiped that first event away, but more than that made me feel confident in myself again. With that said, it took me about 3 minutes to be able to stand again after that event. No gas to even celebrate. My legs were toast, my first thought was “how am I about to sprint in an hour?”….
Fly and Die
Having just finished a heavy sled pull I was really unsure how this sprint would go. I spent a lot of years playing lacrosse, chasing break aways and being a ball taxi so I’m no stranger to a hard minute of running, but I wouldn’t say it’s my specialty. #cuts2019
Athlete control jogged us out to the start line from the finish so that we could see the course. Basically flat with two corners, and I’ll be honest, I got a little bit of a cramp jogging it 😂.
We got our heat assignments and starting warming up. I was in heat 3, which I didn’t love, but it seemed like at least we had some fast runners.
I didn’t want to overdo it on the warm up. Some accelerations and some activations for explosiveness and that’s about it. I watched the first two heats go and it seemed like positioning yourself well in the pack was going to but a big key to success. Guys who were getting pinned in behind people were unable to recover later in the run. Again, I didn’t love that 😂. I meant you’d have to come out hot on a run that was already basically a sprint. Aggression was key.
I looked across the start line and we basically had 2 types of dudes: fast guys, and huge guys who weren’t afraid of contact. I figured I could win in a race, but I couldn’t fight a dude and race. On the beep I got the elbows high and fought to the front as fast as possible then tried to settle in. The first straight was most of the race so I stayed steady and cornered hard.
Ill be honest, I fully cut off Gui on the last corner to try and win, but he just took it and then roasted me on the turf 😂. I apologized shortly thereafter…
I was getting caught on the final straight but was able to kick the toe and edge Saxon for a 3d place overall and threw myself off balance for an epic roll out at the line.
We were a fast heat, the top 5 in the event were from heat 3. Bless those boys for pulling me along. I took the right strategy and over performed my expectations here. Back to back top 3 finishes. Back on track.
Malheiros crushed us here, and we pointed out at the finish that we wasn’t wearing Reebok shoes. He laughed it off, but it wasn’t a mistake he made again…
Walk it out… but also do these heavy ass thrusters.
Picture this. It’s opening ceremonies, but somehow we’ve already done 3 events.
A bald eagle screeches, jets soar overhead, Dave announces we’ll be doing wall walks at the Games. What a time to be alive…
When this got announced I was standing with old @fikowski and we both thought the same thing. 55 reps. That’s the same amount of wall walks we did in the open, but that’s a hell of a lot of thrusters at 185lbs. My quads shed a single tear.
The general chatter in the back was what you’d expect, pretty much everyone was trying to figure out how best to break up the thrusters. After the swim/paddle and all the muscle ups my arms were pretty tired so I figured I’d try to be smooth and efficient on the wall and rely heavily on my legs in the thrusters, and not stretch the sets too much.
We watched heat 1 start and @scottpanchik went unbroken for 10. Lol, ok Scott, bad move. Then unbroken 9… then 8… um… Scott?
Anyways he held on unbroken and no part of me wanted that smoke, I’m breaking this up.
This event was right after the opening ceremonies so most athletes were still wearing their white jerseys. We were standing in the tunnel as heat 1 came off the floor and it was like a wet t-shirt contest. So. Much. Sweat.
We walked out and the coliseum floor was so hot and humid. I can’t wait to go lay in someone else’s sweat puddle 🙄
They wiped the floor between heats, but the lines were pretty slick. It was gonna be a chalk party out there.
The workout pretty much went to plan. I tried not to rush the wall walks and overwork my arms. A couple no reps but they were caught early and didn’t cost me much. Thrusters felt heavy from the start, I just wanted to make them all count 😂
Justin, Brent and Saxon separated a bit early and I stayed a few reps behind them for most of the workout. I made up some ground on Noah in the end and going into the last couple rounds he didn’t seem to know I was coming. I almost managed to steal a place from him sprinting transitions in the last round but the floor announcer blew my cover. It was a solid event. Finished day 1 in the top 5 where I wanted. Now for a nice day off.
I was thankful for the rest day and took advantage to do some body work, family time, my body felt basically the same on Friday as it did on Thursday. Quads and triceps were owie, but other than that all systems go
We got partial details for event 5 in advance so this is an event most athletes had done some variation of leading in. I had done several different versions of the rope/ski/sand bag combo and was feeling pretty good about it.
In the end the carry wasn’t very far and seemed mostly irrelevant. I figured the workout would be won on the rope climbs and transitions and lost on the ski
The Husafell stone is a different shape than we’re used to so a little different to pick up, but we fortunately were blessed with a few in the warm up area to practice on. Lots of athletes were unable to wrap their arms all the way around the bag which would tax their arms more and make the rope climbs harder. I laughed in orangutan. This knuckle dragger wouldn’t be having that issue.
I’m a confident climber so My plan was to do the climbs as fast as possible then ski a moderate to hard pace (~1:48-1:50) and jog to the bag carry with no hesitation. A few athletes challenged in the first round but fell off and I was alone in front by the third round. I knew @fikowski would have a strong event so the third round was crucial to maintain a cushion and the plan was to get at least one rope climb done in the 4th before he got back.
I think I won the event with maintained pressure in rounds 2/3 and then I just held the field at arms length. My climbs slowed a bit in the last round but when I got to the ski I just watched the clock. I had about a 20 second advantage getting on the ski and I was quite certain Brent couldn’t ski a 1:30 at that point. Nothing left to do at that point but coast to the finish and be glad I was wearing Reebok’s 😉 #bills
This workout had a fine line. The trap was skiing to fast and blowing up your rope climbs, and a lot of people fell into it. Not many events come up where these ape arms are an advantage but I got one today to help close the gap. Events 2-4 had me on the up and up, but I was in for a crash landing this afternoon
Follow Pat Vellner on Instagram to finish reading his CrossFit Games reflections.
- patrick-vellner-crossfit-games-recap: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.