We're one day away from the 2017 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., and Pearce is excited for her third time at the competition. It’s a marked change from the nervousness she felt before the 2015 Games, when she had been involved with CrossFit for less than a year.
Pearce’s coach, Mike Varrato, marvels at their unlikely trajectory that year. “We started in the CrossFit world together in November 2014. We worked out of a studio apartment for almost the first year of our time training, which makes her first trip to the games almost incredible.”
“I had no idea what to expect,” Pearce recalls. “Both my coach and I were new to the sport, so we didn’t know that much about the Games and how it differed from Regionals, or the volume that was going to be included the competition. I think that was the biggest shock. It was completely different from anything I had experienced before.”
But that was two years ago.
Pearce finished fifth at the Games in 2016, and walked away as the most improved athlete and Fittest American Woman. This time, she wants a spot on the podium, and she’s put in the work to get there.
After last year’s competition, Pearce and Varrato met to discuss the highs and lows of her performance, and create a workout strategy. Although she won the “Murph” workout, Pearce came in 28th in last year’s swim event and 38th in squat cleans. “Never again,” she promises; their focus areas for the past year have been swimming and weightlifting.
She says her biggest improvement is in weightlifting, thanks to her weightlifting coach, Akin Ojo. “He’s made me lift, and lift, and lift. I’ve developed a lot more confidence in it. Last year, 210 was my max and I could hit it once in a blue moon. Now, I can consistently hit heavier weights.”
Beyond athletic skills, Pearce says the Games have taught her how to focus on a single modality in endurance events. As a gymnast, bodybuilder, and weightlifter, she notes that her routines or challenges would top out around 90 seconds. In CrossFit, events can last closer to an hour, which required her to alter her mindset. “I would much rather do a CrossFit workout that’s ten different movements for an hour than just go out and run for half an hour. That’s something I focused on a lot this past year, so it’s changed my mentality.”
Another change? Taking care of herself during competition. At her first Games in 2015, Pearce wasn’t as focused on optimizing her performance with nutrition and recovery between events. “I would sit in an ice bath and things like that, but I didn’t eat enough. I wasn’t drinking as much as I should have been. There were a lot of beginner mistakes that year,” she says. “I’ve learned a little bit every year, and it’s about preparing yourself for what’s to come.”
This time, Pearce is prepared; at least as prepared as a CrossFit athlete can be. With several of the events already announced, she knows that her first day will include two runs and an open water swim, and she’s looking forward to the Triple G Chipper workout on Day 2. (That will include 100 pull-ups, 80 glute-hamstring developer sit-ups, 60 one-legged squats, alternating, a 40-calorie row, and 20 dumbbell push presses with a 70-pound weight.)
Pearce has her workout jams queued up, (she favors Remember the Name by Fort Minor and Hall of Fame by The Script), and her Lucky Charms on standby. She’ll take a moment for visualization before walking onto the stadium floor. She’ll zone out when she needs to work, and she’ll let the electric sound of the crowd’s roar trickle back into her consciousness when she needs an extra push to finish.
After all of that—the hours, days, and months of hard work and discipline—Kari Pearce will learn her fate. Will the Fittest American Woman earn the title of Fittest on Earth? In a few days, we’ll find out.
Kari Pearce has used TRX training tools for years, first as a gymnast, and now as one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes. This summer, TRX is chronicling Kari’s journey to the CrossFit Games with a weekly series about her training program. Want to watch Kari compete? Tune in for the individual, team, masters and teen competitions live on the CrossFit Games website and on Facebook. Additionally, CBS Sports Digital will stream up to 40 hours of live event coverage of teams and individuals on CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports app. Once the Games are underway, fans can catch two hours of televised competition coverage on CBS Sports Network at the end of each day, Aug. 3-6, starting at 10 p.m. ET. There will also be live coverage on Saturday, August 5, on CBS Television at 1 p.m. ET.