Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Look Back at the 2015 Open: Part II

Welcome back to Part II of the 2015 Open Recap.  Sorry for the delay, but we have a lot to get to this year.  The introduction of the scaled division has added a whole extra layer of complexity, but I think there's some interesting things to be learned, so let's get to it.

First of all, thanks so much to Sam Swift for pulling the data for 2015 (as well as 2012-2014, which I have used to a lesser extent in this post).  He also has some cool analysis on his page, and I suggest you check it out at some point.

For each portion of this analysis, I had to decide whether to include scaled competitors or not. Often, I excluded anyone who scaled any workout, so as to be more comparable to what was done in the past (when scaling was not an option). For instance, with the correlation between workouts, it did not make sense to include scaled competitors at all, as this mixed in scaled and Rx'd workouts and made for an apples-and-oranges comparison. Other times, however, I did include athletes who may have scaled some workouts. For instance, on the 15.2 vs. 14.2 comparison, I included all athletes who did 15.2 Rx'd, regardless of whether they did other workouts scaled. I'll try to note which population was used in each section.

So now for the results.  I'll start with the correlation analysis that I've done many times in the past.  This basically tells us which workouts were highly correlated with success across the board in that season. The charts below show the correlations for women from 2012-2015 (the mens' results are quite similar).

We see first of all that 15.2 was a pretty solid workout.  Interestingly, it had a higher correlation this year than 14.2 did last year. You can see the same pattern between 12.4 and 13.3.  My guess is this is due to returning athletes having a better feel for this workout, and since returning athletes typically do better in general, we see higher correlations.

What is very intriguing is the fact that 15.1a, the max clean-and-jerk, had a relatively low correlation for the entire field, but a relatively high correlation when we limit to the top 1,000 overall finishers. This would indicate that for the top athletes, the best-of-the-best perform quite well in a max clean-and-jerk. But for the entire field, this event didn't pick out the top athletes as well as the other events.

The scatter plots below, which include an evenly distributed sample of the entire field, illustrate the correlation between event success and overall success for 15.1a, 15.2 and 15.3.

It's clear from the plots above that 15.2 is much more strongly correlated with success across all events than 15.1a or 15.3, but what you can also see is that the outliers in 15.3 and 15.1a are quite different.  On 15.1a, note all the dots in the top right - these are athletes who did very well on 15.1a but generally fared poorly on the rest of the workouts.  Conversely, on 15.3, note all the dots on the bottom right - these are athletes who did poorly on 15.3 but generally fared well on the rest of the workouts.

One way I've quantified this effect is to look at what I call positive outliers and negative outliers. Positive outliers are the type we saw on 15.1a (in the top left of the graph) and negative outliers are the type we saw on 15.3 (in the bottom left of the graph). In addition to looking at correlations, this metric can help us assess the type of fitness that this is.  Does this event expose a weakness (such as muscle-ups in 15.3), or does this event really allow certain athletes to shine (such as the max lift in 15.1a)?

Currently the way I'm defining a positive outlier is an athlete who finished in the top 20% of a particular workout worldwide but finished below the 50th percentile on average across the other workouts. A negative outlier is the reverse of this (bottom 20% on the workout and averaged above 50th percentile on the rest).  The chart below shows the number and percentage of outliers on each workout in 2015.  As with the correlations, this is limited to athletes who completed all 5 workouts in the Rx division.  In this case, I've shown both men's and women's outliers.

For both men and women, 15.1a had by far the most positive outliers.  Conversely, 15.3 had the most negative outliers, likely because the muscle-ups proved to be the Achilles' Heel for many an athlete. At some point soon, I'd like to go back and look at this metric for 2012-2015 to see which other events were had a large percentage of negative or positive outliers.

Now let's move on and look at a comparison of the lone repeat workout this year: 15.2.  The two charts below show the distribution of Rx scores for women in each year.  The first chart includes all athletes who completed all five events in either year, while the second chart is limited to athletes who completed all five events in both years, i.e. returning athletes.  The x-axis represents the length of time the athlete survived in the workout rather than the actual score.

Unlike what we saw in repeat workouts in 2014 and 2013, the 15.2 scores were actually better than the 14.2 scores even before limiting to just the returning athletes (you can see this by the red line being skewed to the right, with a higher % of the field surviving late into the workout).  But when we limit this to returning athletes, the disparity becomes even greater.  Nearly 70% of returning athletes got past the 3-minute mark in 15.2, compared with only about 50% in 14.2  About 35% made it past the 6-minute mark in 15.2, compared with about 20% in 14.2. Clearly, the athletes who return each year are improving.

We've focused mainly on the Rx division so far, but what impact did the scaled division have this year? Before the season, many of us figured that the addition of the scaled division played a role in the workouts that were programmed in the Rx division this year.  The charts below would seem to indicate that HQ had no choice but to add a scaled division if they wanted to program workouts like 15.3 and 15.4. The charts both show the total field at each stage of competition, split between scaled (red) and Rx (blue). The numbers represented by those bars are actually taken straight from Sam Swift's site.  But the kicker is the line on the graph, which shows what the Rx field would look like if there was no scaled division, i.e. like 2011-2014. That line represents the competitors at each stage that were "fully Rx," meaning they had not scaled at all by that point. Notice the enormous drop-off in 15.3, particularly for the women. Only about 10,000 women would have been left as of 15.5, which is fewer women than were left at the end of competition in 2013.

One thing to note is that the scoring system allowed the scaled competitors to mix in with the Rx competitors, so that some athletes who scaled a workout or two actually finished ahead of some athletes who went Rx the entire time.  If that was not allowed, the average fully Rx women's competitor would have improved their percentile ranking by 12% and the average fully Rx men's competitor would have improved their percentile ranking by 3%.  I personally don't mind the system in place now, as it incentivizes athletes to use the scaled workouts when appropriate without having to be separate from the main field.  But I'd be curious on the thoughts of others.

That wraps it up for today.  To be sure, there is more analysis to be done on the 2015 Open data, but it's time to move onto Regionals for now.  Stay tuned for a regional preview podcast in the next few weeks, as well as Regional predictions on the site as we close in on the first competitions on May 15.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Look Back at the 2015 Open: Part I

We've all had time to recover from the Open, and for a (very) select few of us, it's time to move onto the regionals.  But at CFG Analysis, we're not quite finished with the Open quite yet.  On the contrary, it's time to take a thorough look back at the 2015 Open, see what the data tells us and start to understand what could be coming in the future.

Like the past two years, I'll be breaking this post up into two parts.  Today in Part I, I'll tackle the programming of this year's Open and how it compared to prior years (and what we may have expected).  Later this week in part II, I'll dig into the leaderboard a bit more to see what we can find.  If you want, see my posts (Part I and Part II) from last year for a feel for what we'll be getting into.

OK, let's get started.  Unless noted, all the metrics in this post relate to the Rx division only.

As I got started on the analysis for this post, my gut feeling was that this year's Open was a whole lot different than the past four years.  Indeed, looking at the Rx division, many of the metrics that I use to evaluate CrossFit programming were quite a bit different than in the past.  But as I looked a little closer, I found that there were really just a few key changes this year.  The biggest, in my opinion, was this:

The Open included a max-effort lift.

If you remove 15.1a (1RM clean and jerk), you're left with programming that is actually pretty similar to what we've seen before.  The chart below shows the men's loading metrics* for 2011-2015, including a version of 2015 that does not include 15.1a.  Note that without 15.1a, things look eerily similar to every other year.  With 15.1a, however, this year definitely put a larger emphasis on heavy lifting and (likely) favored larger athletes more than in the past**.

The loading metrics, of course, don't tell the whole story.  To me, there were three other key differences from prior years:
  1. Handstand push-ups appeared for the first time;
  2. The high-skill gymnastics movements (muscle-ups, handstand push-ups) appeared at the start of a workout, forcing a large portion of the field to scale;
  3. Burpees and box jumps, which accounted for about 20% of the points in the Open in previous years, did not appear at all.
Certainly #2 bothered a lot of people, but for the athletes competing for spots at regionals, this really had no effect on them.  The other two items are somewhat important, and #3 in particular was a shock to me.  As I noted on Twitter a few weeks ago, the 2015 Open was the first time since 2007 that the Open, Regionals or Games did not include burpees (excluding 2010 Regionals, when the workouts varied by region).  The chart below shows the value of each movement in the Open from 2011-2015 (including 15.1a).

Besides the big goose-eggs for burpees and box jumps, note the significance of the clean.  Since being a major player in 2011, the clean had not accounted for more than 5% of the points in an Open until this year.  The inclusion of 15.1a not only made this year a "heavier" Open, but it contributed to the Olympic-style lifts playing a huge role in the standings.  The chart below shows that the Olympic lifts and high-skill gymnastics were valued more than ever in 2015, while basic gymnastics were significantly diminished.

Although this year did include the first max-effort lift in an Open, none of the rest of the events were particularly unusual in terms of load, duration or movements.  The chart below shows the time domain (x-axis), number of movements (y-axis) and LBEL (size of ball) for each Open workout 2011-2015***.  You'll see that besides 15.1a (which I considered a 0-time domain workout despite technically lasting 6 minutes), the workouts were relatively standard compared to past Opens, though a bit on the shorter side.

It is worth noting that the 185/125 clean in 15.4 was the heaviest relative weight (1.37/0.93) ever required in an Open. That being said, I feel that the 165/110 squat clean and jerk (1.23/0.82) in 11.3 was more challenging for the community at that time than the 185-lb. clean was this year.

So where is the Open headed?  Certainly things could change in the next 10 months if there are other changes to the format (multiple scaled divisions, for instance), but it seems that the Rx division of the Open is starting to look like Regionals-lite.  I don't anticipate that the loads will get to Regional levels - the average load in metcons this year was 0.87/0.59, whereas regionals have been averaging 1.12/0.75 in the past.  However, the variety of workouts in the Open seems to be mirroring the Regionals.  I think we could see one or two of these two-part workouts each year, and I'd bet we'll have a max-effort lift each season.

I think we'll continue to see the scaled division evolve (some of the workouts were a little bland this year, in my opinion), but I think the the loads will stay similar to what we had this year, where they were about 70% of what was required for the Rx division.  Now that the community has seen the challenges in the Rx division, I'd expect more athletes to be prepared to scale early and often in the future.  There's no shame in scaling, that's for sure.

That will wrap it up for Part I of my 2015 Open recap.  Stay tuned for Part II later on this week!

*For more background on these metrics, see this post from back in 2012.

**This is something I plan to look into at some point, possibly in Part II.

***For the time-varying and load-varying workouts (including 15.1a), I took the average of the top 1,000 overall finishers from each particular year.  For instance, the top 1,000 overall male finishers took an average of 15.8 minutes on 15.2.  I also considered 15.1a and 11.3 to be single-movement workouts, despite including a clean and jerk.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Podcast Episode 7: 2015 Open Recap

Enjoy the podcast below as Anders and John wrap up this year's Open.  Stay tuned for the full, two-part blog post recapping the Open later this week.  As of now, you can expect Part I on Wednesday and Part II on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.5 Be?

As I mentioned on Twitter last Friday, there will be no podcast this week.  I'm out of town, but for good reason: I'm attending the SOA's Fellowship Admissions Course, which means I'll basically be "graduating" after years of taking actuarial exams.  I'll be coming home with a few new letters after my name, which is pretty cool.

So no podcast, but that means you get more actual, written words from me - just like in ye olden days, back before I was podcasting and tweeting and listening to all that hippety-hop. Before we get to the SWAG, here's a collection of thoughts about 15.4 and the Open so far:

  • If it wasn't already clear, it should be clear now that HQ does not intend the Rx division to be for the masses.  They want the everyday CrossFitter to use that scaled division and aspire to make it to the Rx division.  I think by next year, people will come into the Open with this mindset, but I'm sure it was difficult for a lot of folks to accept that they'll need to scale workouts this year.  But it's just about modifying your perspective, in my opinion.  The Open was always too heavy, too hard, too skilled for a lot of CrossFitters.  Now they've just made the Rx division an even higher bar to attain, but they've left the scaled division there for the masses.  The scaled division is now even more inclusive than the older Opens, so my guess is that in the future, more and more people will scale, and we'll see the Rx division be a smaller subset of the total field than it is now.
  • I liked the movement choices for 15.4 (although they went against my SWAG, of course), but Occam's Razor would say "What the hell are you doing with that rep scheme?"  Would anyone have complained if it was 3-3-6-6-9-9-...?  In that case, the heavy cleans would have played more of a role, and in my opinion, that would have been a well-balanced workout.  The way it was written, it was not only confusing, but also seemed quite biased toward the handstand push-ups.  I just don't get this one.
  • Rich Froning is going to have a hell of a hard time sitting out of the individual competition this year.  The man can't even let Matt Fraser just have the Open title.  Just watch: Rich will win the final workout, and he will do triple Grace at 315 afterwards and post it on Instagram, just to let you know that he still could win the Games if he wanted to.  And Matt Fraser will come in 2nd on the final workout, and he will win the Open, and it will still be damn impressive.
  • How did Annie Thorisdottir sneak back up into 2nd place on the women's side?  Top 11 on the past three workouts?  Looking at the leaderboard right now, I think it's safe to say the women's side is going to be crazy-competitive at the Games this year.
Enough about the past, let's move on to 15.5.  The Rx division of the Open this year is shaping up to be the heaviest (based on LBEL and average relative load) of all-time, by far.  It's actually on par, right now, with what we typically see at Regionals.  Normally I'd say this implies we'll get something lighter in 15.5, but I doubt that's the case this year.  We've seen a progression so far in 2015 of the workouts getting more and more challenging each week, and I think that continues in 15.5.  I also think this workout will be for-time, and I think they'll make use of most of the movements that have showed up in the past but not this year (burpee, thruster, box jump, row, push-up).

With that in mind, I am going to defer to my wife, who came up with this pick last night.  It has everything I was planning to throw in, and if it ain't broke, why fix it?

3 rounds for time of row 500 meters, 21 burpee-box jumps (24"/20"), 12 thrusters (135/95)

As always, post SWAGs to comments, and enjoy the final workout (or workouts?) of the 2015 Open!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Chart: Scaling vs. Rx So Far in the Open

This one will be super-quick today, because I don't yet have the data and/or time to fully do this topic justice.  Expect to see more on this in the Open recap posts in a month or so.

At the request of a couple people, I want to give a quick snapshot of how many athletes are scaling the Open and how many are going Rx.  The trouble for me right now is that I don't have a downloaded version of the full leaderboard, so it's challenging to tell how many athletes have gone Rx in all the workouts.  Athletes can scale one workout and go Rx on another, meaning the leaderboard is a mish-mash of both types of athletes, and the online version is not sortable in a way that I can get at this.

However, what I can do is look at how many athletes are scaling each workout.  The suspicion among many is that far more athletes would be forced to scale 15.3 as compared to 15.1 or 15.2, and the numbers seem to bear that out.  For simplicity, I looked at the Central East region, which should be a pretty representative sample of the worldwide field (again, I'll do this more properly once I have all the data downloaded).  The chart below shows the entire field in each workout, split into Rx and scaled athletes.

It's pretty clear from the two bars on the far right that a lot higher percentage of the athletes had to scale on 15.3 as compared to the first two workouts, particularly among females.  A mere 14% of women managed to complete 15.3 Rx'd, compared to 56% and 66% in 15.1 and 15.2 respectively.For men, 61% completed 15.3 Rx'd, compared to 83% and 84% in 15.1 and 15.2 respectively. 

However, I think it is interesting that from week to week, the total field shrunk by about the same margin from 15.1 to 15.2 and from 15.2 to 15.3 (all between 11%-13%).  Some may have expected that a lot more athletes would drop out entirely during 15.3 due to having to scale, but it doesn't appear that was really the case.  These rates of attrition are very similar to what has been observed in the past few years.  What will be interesting is how this changes moving forward: will athletes be more willing to scale after scaling 15.3, or will they eagerly jump back into the workouts Rx'd if possible?  For women, there were actually slightly more Rx women in 15.2 compared to 15.1, so I imagine it's likely that many athletes will hop right back into the Rx field this week.

Note: I'm always looking for help pulling in the entire dataset.  Several people have helped or volunteered their help in the past, so please contact me at if you think you'll be able to help me out.   Any help is much appreciated, and thanks again to all those who have helped me in the past.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.4 Be?

Last week's SWAG was another half-way decent one that at least got the time domain close (15 minutes vs. 14 minutes) and got one movement right (wall balls), but it wasn't exactly spot-on.  I certainly didn't predict that muscle-ups would appear first in 15.3, but as you'll hear on the podcast below, this wasn't something that came completely out of nowhere.

This week I double-down on an earlier pick, because it just seems too good to pass up this week, but I promise I won't make this pick again if it fails me again.  I've got to believe this week will be short, intense, and I don't think we're quite ready to repeat any movements that have shown up yet.  With that in mind, the official CFG Analysis SWAG for 15.3 (Rx'd division) is:

AMRAP 7 of burpee-box jumps (30"/24")

Remember to check out the podcast for as John Nail and I discuss 15.3, the controversy surrounding muscle-ups appearing as the first movement in an Open workout, how annoyingly hard single-unders can be, and of course, our picks for 15.4.

Please post SWAGs to comment.  Even with so many movements off the table, it will still be quite the accomplishment to get 15.4 or 15.5, especially with HQ showing that the game has changed this year.

Also, be on the lookout this week for a short post later this week looking into how the effect of the 15.3 muscle-ups on the number of Rx vs. scaled athletes, and how it compares to past Open workouts in terms of thinning out the field.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fun With SWAGs: What Will 15.3 Be?

Well I would have liked to pat myself on the back for having a relatively decent pick last week (it was a repeat, and it did include overhead squats), but since two of our readers got 15.2 exactly right, I guess I'm not so smart after all.  Congrats again to JesseM (via comments section) and Kelcey Lehrich (via Twitter) for calling 15.2.

But enough about those guys.  This is my week for glory.  The Open really hasn't brought the pain yet, and I think this is the week HQ puts a beatdown on the community.  Among Rx athletes, only about 14% of males and about 5% of females made it beyond the round of 14s this year*, so that means the vast majority of the field hasn't had a metcon that lasted longer than 9 minutes yet.  And I think the first two metcons have been more about strategy and avoiding muscle fatigue, and less about engine.  I think that changes this week.

The official CFG Analysis SWAG for 15.3 (Rx'd division) is:

AMRAP 15 of 15 row calories, 30 wall balls (20-lb. to 10'/14-lb. to 9')

Remember to check out the podcast for chatter with John Nail about 15.2 and more details about why our predictions for 15.3 are bound to come true.  Plus we've got a short interview with soothsayer Kelcey Lehrich, he of the correct 15.2 prediction.

Please post SWAGs to comment.  With another repeat workout (likely) off the table, a correct pick this week will be a true accomplishment (still no beer on the line, but perhaps we can work something else out).

*Last year, those percentages were 10% for men and 3% for women.  So it appears the community is improving, although some of that could be influenced by athletes shifting to the scaled division this year.  We'll look more into how continuing athletes improved in my Open review in a month or so.