The Misery That is 14.5/16.5


After last night’s announcement of 16.5 I felt compelled to share my history with this workout. This is not going to be a comforting write up or a motivational speech. So, if you don’t want to hear about the emotional turmoil of this workout it’s probably best to hit that little red X at the top of your screen.

As we all now know 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 of thrusters and burpees. I recall vividly when this work out was announced in 2014. I was at my then gym in St. Cloud MN. A bunch of us were watching the announcement. It was really cool because they had all past champions there competing against each other. People like Annie Thorisdottir, Sam Briggs, Jason Khalipa, Graham Holmberg, and some other guy, Rich Froning? I don’t know never heard of him I guess. I remember Dave Castro saying just before the announcement “The Clock will not save you in this one, 14.5 is for time”.

As I watch the 5 past champs go head to head and storm out of the gate like bats from hell. I thought”this won’t be that bad….”

Friday Night

As I was preparing to do this work out, I thought to myself. Thrusters? No problem Thrusters are my jam. Burpees? Everyone hates burpees but I can push through that. I continued with my normal routine of stretching and warming up. I knew or (thought) this was going to be quick so I spend a little extra time getting a sweat going.


My heat was up. I approached the bar like Rocky approached Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. I was ready to kick some ass.

3, 2, 1....Go

I picked that 95 pound bar up and started cranking on my 21 thrusters. I felt great! I was breathing well. The crowd at the gym was cheering loud. I couldn’t have been more pumped up. 21 thrusters unbroken, my heart was pumping. I remember thinking. “Maybe three scoops of pre-workout was a bit much”. Ok time to start burpees. I should note that before this workout I had never done a bar facing over the bar burpee. Which I think we all can agree is 10 times worse than a normal burpee. 21 burpees finished. I set a 1st round Pace faster than Rich Froning.

Ok now my heart is really pumping but I feel good. After my 21 burpees I take a couple breaths, Grab the bar and start my round of 18. At this point I’m thinking, ok Greg, break the next 2 sets up and then go unbroken the rest of the way. 9 thrusters done. Bar drops to the floor. My quads have the burning sensation (not good). I take a few breaths Grab the bar and finish my remaining thrusters. Time for burpees. I drop to the ground in the shadow of my own sweat angel, Jump up into my quarter squat and over the bar. At This point I’m keeping good pace still. I’m ahead of the rest of my heat by a long shot.

Burpee Number 10 of round 18

I remember this rep vividly. My lungs were suddenly on fire. My quads were burning like the deepest pits of hell and it felt as though Donald Trump built his wall right where I had to jump. I dropped down for burpee 11 and paused on my stomach. I slowly climbed up as opposed to jumping up like my previous reps. I hopped over the bar, put my hands on my waist and thought” F$!K, I started WAY too fast and I have a loooong way to go.

I finished my round of 18 and was dripping sweat; my pace had slowed to that of a tortoise. I was trashed and wanted nothing more than this work out to be over. I entered into the round of 15 and everything hurt. Even things that I didn’t know could hurt had apparently mustered up the courage to start hurting. My burpees turned into belly flops on the floor and crawling up as if I had been shot in both my legs. The round of 15 took me just under 5 minutes to complete.

That Sick Feeling

The round of 12 got even worse. You know that feeling you get in your stomach when it starts churning and you have chills going down your back. That’s how I felt going into the round of 12. Sweat was pouring off of me as if I was standing under a shower. I had lost any lead that I had in my heat by a long shot. I didn’t want go on.

That Dark Feeling

I had thought that once I got to the round of 9, things would get a little easier. But as you can tell, I set myself up for disaster. I remember feeling as if my brain were shutting down. I could no longer hear the cheers of the crowd and I was the only one left on the floor still working. My eyes were starting to close. Every time I dropped down for a burpee I had no assurance that I was coming back up. At one point I asked “Is this how it ends for me”? I didn’t know if I was asking myself or the big man upstairs. Either way I kept moving.

The light at the end

I struggled through the rounds of 9 and 6. By the time I was done with the round of 6, the clock had read well over 20 minutes. I looked at the bar on my last round and somehow felt a burst of energy. I was going to finish this workout damnit. I didn’t care if I was going to puke, pass out, or die. I was angry. I grabbed that bar finished my thrusters at the same pace I went in the round of 21. Dropped the bar and without even thinking dropped down to finish my burpees.


I still remember jumping over the bar for the last time and with the last breath I had yelling time. I fell to the floor in anguish.” What the F@#K just happened” I thought. I had never felt such a pain in my life. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t open my eyes. I wanted to cry. I laid on the floor for about 10 minutes contemplating life and such. Finally I mustered up the courage to ask someone what my time was. “23:24” someone said.

Lesson Learned

I learned a few things during this workout. The first of which is to have a plan going into a work out. The second, which I feel is most important. This was the first time that I can truly say that I went to the dark place in my head. I forced my body to endure a lot of pain. A lot more pain than I had ever thought my body could go through. This is where I learned that the mind is always going to give up before the body does. Going to your dark place and pushing is always going to be a choice.

As I prepare myself for 16.5, I know that I am physically ready. I know that I am fitter than I was 2 years ago. So I expect a much better time on this workout. I know that this workout is going to hurt. For me the real preparation is going to be mental. Am I willing to take my mind to that dark place and really make things hurt?

Greg Holmes