Joey Lochner had surgery on Monday.
Given that Lochner is 50 years old, it would be easy to assume he needed some sort of heart- or cancer-related procedure.
But in Lochner's case, neither assumption would be close to the truth. Lochner, a Redmond resident, required surgery to repair a tendon and a quadriceps muscle in his left leg. He suffered the injury while competing in the CrossFit Games, an international competition staged July 13-15 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
A broadly based strength and conditioning program, CrossFit focuses on functional movements and has exploded in popularity in recent years. Hundreds of CrossFit studios (or boxes, as they are referred to in industry parlance) can be found around the world, including about 10 in Central Oregon.
CrossFit has evolved into a sport in which, during competitive events, participants complete prescribed “workouts of the day” — called WODs (pronounced like “wads”). Results are typically determined by time, the amount of weight lifted, or a combination of both criteria. The competitor with the best score at the end of a competition, which usually consists of several WODs, is the winner.
“I have to say it was one of the greatest disappointments in my life,” Lochner told me on Saturday at his CrossFit home base, Central Oregon CrossFit in Redmond, of his injury forcing him to withdraw midway through the CrossFit Games, resulting in an 18th-place finish of 20 participants. “Not that I was a disappointment. It was disappointing knowing what I have and who I am.”
And that happens to be an extremely fit and athletic individual, regardless of age. Advancing to the CrossFit Games is no small feat. Lochner qualified in a competition called the CrossFit Open that took place over five consecutive weeks starting in late February. Each Wednesday during the event, a WOD was posted to the CrossFit website. Participants from around the world had until the next Sunday to perform each workout and post their results to the website. In Lochner's masters division of 50- to 54-year-old men, he placed 10th out of more than 600 men who completed all five WODs. The top 20 qualified for the CrossFit Games in California, which included competitions for women and men in open and team divisions in addition to the various masters categories.
Lochner, who competed against men from the United States, Canada, Australia and Scotland, said the event sold out and drew thousands of spectators. ESPN3 showed the games live, and ESPN2 is expected to air a multipart tape-delay broadcast in coming weeks.
“The music is blaring, and people are screaming,“ Lochner said of the rock-concert-esque atmosphere at the CrossFit Games. “I couldn't hear a thing.”
Interestingly, Lochner, a married father of six, was not always the well-muscled physical specimen he is now at 6 feet, 195 pounds. While growing up in Alaska, he was a track sprinter and swam competitively. After high school, he did some distance running, ranging up to the 26.2-mile marathon distance. After a stop in Washington, Lochner, a State Farm insurance agent, found his way to Redmond in 1998. Devoting himself to his business, he “let everything else go,” he said, and eventually his weight ballooned up to 240 pounds, a gain of some 50-plus pounds.
“The kicker was, I'm playing with (the kids) on the floor, and I'm not kidding, after a minute, I'm pushing them away,” Lochner said, recalling the fatigue he experienced.
So Lochner started going to spin classes at the urging of a friend. Between the indoor cycling and other cardio work, Lochner said he shed 60 pounds but lacked muscle tone, so he started lifting weights. Then, in 2008, the Redmond Athletic Club, where Lochner worked out, began offering some CrossFit-type workouts. Lochner said he initially thought it was “kind of weird, goofy stuff.” But it worked for him.
“It might take like 15 minutes, but man, I was gassed,” he said.
When the owner of the RAC started the Central Oregon CrossFit box affiliate not long after, Lochner joined. And he has been hooked ever since.
Lochner told me that the first CrossFit workout he ever performed was called “Fran.” In Fran, a CrossFitter must do 21 repetitions of a thruster exercise in which a weight is squatted and then thrust over the head, and then 21 pull-ups, followed by sets of 15 and nine in each exercise. Lochner needed 12 minutes, 27 seconds to complete Fran for the first time. (His best time now is under four minutes.)
“Fran, she told me, 'No way, pal, you are not in shape,'” Lochner said.
Not so anymore. These days, he usually does CrossFit six days a week. He also swims and bikes. He raced the Pole Pedal Paddle multisport event solo last year and frequently rides Cycle Oregon, the popular multiday bicycle tour. He had planned to do the RAT (Redmond Area Triathlon) Race before his injury.
“CrossFit allows me ... to do things (I) never thought (I) could ever do,” Lochner noted.
Now, Lochner faces a recovery of several months from his surgery. He injured himself on the second day of competition at the CrossFit Games while performing a snatch (a weightlifting maneuver). The injury felt like a thigh cramp initially, he said, but he actually had torn the muscle and tendon about 2 inches from the bone.
“I was so fired up that I was relying more on just getting the (weight) up and I got away from technique and form,” Lochner noted.
If not for the injury, he stood a chance of making the cut of 12 men to advance to the final day of competition in his division. Instead, he finished 18th.
But that is just motivation for Lochner. He vows to make it back to his sport's biggest stage.
“I'm channeling it to just come back bigger, better, faster, stronger,” Lochner said of disappointment from the CrossFit Games. “That's really the best way for me to do it.”