2017 Games Reflections - part 2 - Travis Who? by max el-hag

I can’t say enough good things about Travis. As a meathead, I always feel like I am struggling to find the words I want. So it’s almost impossible to express in words what someone like Travis, a man so complex, so contradictory, and so meaningful to my life really means to me. He is:

- My first elite athlete in the sport.

- My landlord.

- My close friend.

- My little brother.

- One of my inspirations for training harder.

- My Mentee

- My Mentor

- My biggest pain in the ass

- My biggest catalyst for growth as a coach

I have learned so many things from Travis in my coaching career. He has challenged me to search for ways to alter movement quality, ways to motivate people in states of burnout, ways to create an environment that is conducive to progress. Any legacy I leave in life as a coach will largely be a result of this man’s continued loyalty to our dream. Step by step we have built our reputations together on his desire to be the best athlete he can be in the sport of CrossFit. The future might change that but I will forever be indebted to him as being my first and I will always do my best to let him know that I have his back and that he will always have a place in my organization if he wants to continue to work to build our future together. The stuff I’ve learned from Travis in the past would take a book to write, so just in this one experience at the games, below is what I was reminded of or what I learned as a takeaway from my experience with Travis in the 2017 CrossFit Games season.

1- As my relationships grow with my athletes, I care more about their emotions than I care about performance. If Travis was happy about his 13th place finish at the Games, I would have been happy about his placing at the Games. I only care about his performance because he cares about his performance. I don’t consider his wins, my wins. As a coach, I am becoming less invested in the wins and losses and more invested in the emotional experiences my athletes go through. I find ways to progress. I find details that they neglect, I ask questions that allow them to change their every day behaviors, I pay attention to their competitors so that they can learn from them, I try to write challenging training protocols, but in the end of the day the competition day is their time. It is where they will solidify their legacy and where they get their opportunity to define their years. This year was an emotional roller coaster with some really potent ups and downs, but in the end Travis rebounded extremely quickly and is ready to attack the next year. And because he is ready, I am ready.

2- Hard work is a huge part of the equation. Mat Fraser had a tag line this year of “hard work pays off”, but the reality is sometimes is doesn’t pay off the way you want it to. For Fraser this year, his work paid off. But not for Travis. Travis runs a business, has a small child (and another on the way soon!), dedicates almost all of his free time to the development of physical capacity in the sport, mobilizes more than almost anyone I know, and can push himself without a training environment. Travis is the epitome of ‘grit.’ He’s willing to pick himself up after losses and continue to fight. Where many athletes think of the work as a sacrifice to have the outcome they want, Travis seems to be built for work. I laugh because during the Games he said he was going to need a month or so to think about whether or not he wants to compete and train like this anymore, but two days after the Games he signed up for the Dubai Fitness Championships and his body feels healthy. His capacity for work is awesome and this year is definitely going to challenge that. We are going to need to improve postural endurance, spinal stabilization strength while breathing, shoulder girdle mechanics, game day fueling, ability to focus in chaos, and a lot of physical capacity metrics. And while doing that he is going to have to work harder WHILE he has his second child and continues to work on all of his previous obligations. So work ethic has largely got him to where he is now and we’ll see if he can continue to take it a step further and capture his 5th trip to the CrossFit Games and contend for a top spot on the podium.

3- Statistical improvement upon weaknesses is not good enough to guarantee improvements in over all placing. Progress is hard to measure in this sport.

2016 – 0 top 5 finishes.

2017- 2 top 5 finishes

2016– 3 top 10 finishes

2017 – 5 top finishes

2016– 8th trail run/18th ocean swim (13th average)

2017 – 8th on run swim run

2016 – Every day snatch weight 245#. At at regionals on workout #1, 1 Miss 205#, 1 miss 225#, 1 miss 245, 3 miss 265# bar in snatch workout.

2017 - 0 misses in 17.3 to complete it in 22:333. 270# snatch under pressure in the middle of the Games.

Those are some big markers of progress from year to year. Travis was in 9th place leading into the final two workouts of the games and we just were not able to climb under the pressure. The scoreboard doesn’t show that 13th overall is his second best finish ever at the CrossFit Games. Progress in this sport is a combination of many variables, but I think it can be reduced to say that the field of elite athletes got better at a faster rate than he did this past year, and that he has more work to do if he wants to make his dreams come true. That is a painful realization to go through, but also an inspiration to me that he’s willing to work harder to see what he is capable of next year. The bottom line in sports is you get what you earned. This year we earned 13th place. That is not the placing we desired, but there are only 12 people in the world that can say they are better than him at this sport and remembering that is important to build upon self confidence. Next year, we hope to make progress and improve upon the best ranking yet. It will be our challenge to prove to the many people who have verbally expressed that Travis isn’t “at the ‘elite level’” that he belongs in a discussion with the best of the best.

4- I have an unwavering belief in his ability. Travis had some tough down turns in the competition where it felt like his body was giving out on him. This could have been a combination of adrenaline, improper peak, self doubt, poor fueling, or any number of reasons. But when you are in a competition the only thing you can do is fight. And throughout the weekend, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Travis was tough enough to overcome the situation. And as I watched the competition, I find many areas of opportunity, and personally believe he is still not close to reaching his potential. From the day he qualified for his first CrossFit Games in 2013, I have always carried this belief in his abilities. Even though things didn’t go as planned, I still believe that he has the capacity to stand on top of the podium at the CrossFit Games and I hope that one day he can prove me right so he stops testing my resolve!

5- The future is always uncertain. In my imagination, when I’m getting myself excited to keep this vision moving in the right direction, Travis is continually able to deal with the challenges, make himself stronger, be one of the longest running CrossFit Games qualifiers, and prove all of his doubters wrong by climbing the podium. But this year it became profoundly clear that everyone has their limits and that life is so uncertain. I have always known this in my mind to be true, but sometimes life gives you experiences to remind you that you can never predict the future, and that everyone has limitations. You can never fully know someone and you have no idea what someone else is going through to be where they are, present, in the moment. I realized I have emotional limits and there will come a time that I decide I want to pursue other less intense quests. I realized that one day our story together will come to an end. I think there was a time in the competition where I began to grieve, and think about my future, my business, my media, and my reputation without him. I’m glad that time is not now. As well, I learned about myself that my passion, my belief, and my emotions definitely negatively impacted my longevity as an athlete. I could draw on so much rage, and hurt myself so many times in sports in pursuit of victories. But as a coach, that intensity seems necessary for me to do what I do day to day, and if I lose it, I have a hard time enduring. So, from now on, I will only take on coaching projects that fire me up, and help people who are truly dedicated to their craft.

6- No matter where the future takes me, I’m surrounded by good people. I don’t need a leaderboard to tell me that I’ve already won. However, I do want to put some icing on the cake, and put some people on that podium in 2018.

~ Max

Part 2- Travis at the games (you're here now)

Created By
Max El-Hag

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