Review: Swamp Monster 2.0

I competed in my fourth CrossFit competition over the weekend, the Swamp Monster 2.0 at CrossFit 305. Check here for final results. Swamp Monster featured over 100 competitors in four categories: Beginner, Intermediate, Masters, and RX for men and women. I did the intermediate.

Let’s cut right to the chase. Swamp Monster 2.0 was hard as hell, even for the intermediates. I figured I would dominate this category and instead I got body rocked. (The RX was downright impossible except for the serious heavy hitters.) The WODs were fantastically hard and a significant factor was the heat and humidity…the temps flirted with triple digits and the humidity made it feel like 108. Not only that, but going full bore inside of a packed gym with no air conditioning and wall-to-wall sweaty bodies did nothing to ease the extreme nature of the competition. In my long and illustrious sporting career, this was one of the most challenging competitions I’ve ever done…certainly one of my toughest days of CrossFit.

Why You Should Do It

Check out the scene: It was brutally hot in a grimy gym in the ‘hood. Sweatfest where not for a second you weren’t hot, sticky, and disgusting. There was no shade outside and very few places to chill out. Minimal facilities. It smelled bad like ass. It was hard to see the competition because standing room was limited. Cost was expensive; my entry fee was $100. The WODs were eXXtreme. All of those things make it sound sucky, but in fact it was totally awesome because it created this hardcore, kickass athletic experience that was on it’s own level of badassery. I felt like I was battling for my life in outer space against Martians. When I was done, I had a real sense of achievement, like I had actually done something unique and cool. Those types of experiences are worth many times the price of admission.

The Firebase crew during WOD 3

Not only was competing great, but watching other competitors get rocked by the challenging WODs was fun as hell. Just to give you an idea, the RX men’s weight on WOD 3 was 225# and it was amazing to watch these massive dudes get pounded by heavy cleans. The struggle was palpable and you could feel the all-out effort these guys were giving. It was visceral, intense, and nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Lastly, at a loosey throwdown like Swamp Monster, the crowd is on top of you, screaming and cheering. Of all the other sports I’ve played, the crowd by far is the biggest factor in CrossFit. You haven’t lived until you’re on the third round of a WOD, totally smoked, forcing yourself to keep going because 100’s of people are demanding you do so. It makes other sports feel tinny in comparison.

My Experience

I’ll break it down by WOD:

WOD 1 – “High Ball”
For time, 21, 15 & 9 reps of:
11′ Wall Ball Shot
4′ Long Jump Burpee
8 minute time limit

RX 20/12, Int, Mas 20/10, Beg 10/6

Normally I look at a couplet with walls balls and burpees and think no biggee. But notice the added difficulty…we were shooting at an 11′ foot target and the burpees included jumping across a four foot space. If you shorted the distance, it was no-rep. AND, to make the WOD a touch more difficult, the wall balls had to nail a specific crack on the wall, like it couldn’t go over or under the line at all. So accuracy was an issue. Guess what goes out the window when you’re gassed? That 11′ target turns into a real bitch.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget, there was an 8′ time cap, which TONS of people blew, including myself. I hit the time cap literally right before my last burpee rep, so I got a total of 89 out of 90 possible reps. I also got no rep’ed on a dozen reps, split evenly between wall balls and burpees, all legitimate. The judge did a superb job of keeping me honest. High Ball was shockingly difficult and afterwards I was crawling. This was a challenging first WOD, well designed, and sinister. It should be noted, the women also shot on an 11′ target and I saw many of the ladies have problems hitting it.

WOD 2 – “Grip Face”
3 rounds for time of:
21 Calorie Row
15 Kettlebell Swings
9 Chest to Bar Pull Ups
10 minute time limit

RX 70/53, Int/Mas 53/35 Men chest/women chin, Beg 35/26 chin NO BANDS

Grip Face was my best performance. I paced myself well, did all the KB’s unbroken, and only had to break up the last set of pull-ups. Notice again the added complexity, as the pull-ups were chest-to-bar. The heat was absolutely brutal at this point and I felt like a truck hit me on the last round. Just to give you an idea, my erg calories-per-hour average went from 1600 on the first round to like 800 on the third row. It was 10′ before I could walk after this one. I harbored thoughts of bailing on WOD 3…

WOD 3 “The Separator” Intermediate/Masters
30 Toes to Bar
25 Deadlifts 155/103
20 Power Cleans 155/103
15 Shoulder to Overhead 155/103
10 Squat Cleans 155/103

15 minute time limit

I was doing great until the last WOD, sitting in 8th place in the men’s intermediate. And then I got pwned by The Separator. Let’s examine this. The 30 T2B and the deadlifts at 155# were no problem. I was about middle of the pack in my heat after finishing the deadlifts. Then, there was the next 45 reps of cleans, overheads, and squat cleans, all at 155#. My clean PR is 175 and my push jerk PR is 165. So 155# was crazy tough for me at that rep count. I got through all 20 power cleans with only one failed rep and also managed 7 overheads. On each overhead, I had to drop the bar and re-clean before making the push jerk attempt, so I actually did 27 cleans total at 155#. It took me nearly 11′ to get through those last 27 reps and I hit the time cap. It was a major struggle, some of the toughest lifting I’ve ever done. I had to get psyched up and think about every single rep before making the attempt. I felt like without a maximum, concentrated effort, I’d blow the rep.

The Separator, and to a larger extent Swamp Monster, felt like a turning point for me in this sport. I wouldn’t have considered trying the workout at 155# if it wasn’t part of the competition. If given the opportunity to scale, I would have bitched out and scaled down to 135#, but the organizers didn’t allow scaling. So I sacked up, got my ass kicked, and broke through some walls. Now I feel confident I can go into a WOD with 155# cleans and make it happen. Not only that, but I set a personal goal of doing 225# cleans by this time next year. Why not? The sky is the limit.

Other notables: I watched a fellow Firebaser do 20 reps of 225# cleans when his max was 250#. He failed on his first couple of reps, barely getting the bar up. Then he got psyched for it and pounded them out. It was savage. I also watched another female athlete do 20 reps of 103# cleans when she had never gone above 85# until that week. Amazing. This tells me we’re capable of much more than we think; our limitations are in our minds.

  • Nate Hemphill

    Nice recap Ben! Sounds like it was a monster. I hope to be joining you guys at these things soon – I’m finally done with school on 8/20. No real excuses after that date.

    Good stuff!


  • awesome recap! glad you all enjoyed!

  • Nice write up Ben, it was a hot and brutal day.

    I got no repped way too many times on those wall balls.

    Ready for the next one!