N.E.'s fittest face off at CrossFit Games

CARSON, Calif. -- You've heard of the Olympic Games, the World Games and the X Games, but now we've got the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games -- a multistage competition between the world's fittest athletes that started March 15 and culminates this weekend at the Home Depot Center, with $1 million in prize money.

(It's being streamed on ESPN3 at 9 p.m. ET Saturday and 4 p.m. ET Sunday.)

Twenty-two Boston-area athletes are among the 264 men and women competing this year -- in Individual, Team and Masters categories. At last year's Games, the six-member team from CrossFit New England in Natick, Mass., finished second overall, and it is back again this year hoping for a world title. Also, the 2010 champion in the Masters division, Brian Curley, 51, of Natick, will be defending his title.

The road to the CrossFit Games is not an easy one. Over 26,000 athletes from around the world took part in the initial six-week "Open" round that started in March, competing in weekly workouts that pared the field to 60 men, 60 women, and 30 teams for the 17 regional meets later in the spring. Then the fittest athletes in each region went head to head for three days in May, and the top three individuals and top three teams from each region earned a spot at the Games in California.

CrossFit is a training system composed of functional movements (things that we do in real life like running, jumping, lifting, etc.) that has evolved into the sport of fitness. It comprises a variety of physical challenges ranging from heavy weightlifting to rope climbing to running to performing highly skilled gymnastics maneuvers. Athletes pride themselves on their versatility and ready-for-anything mentality. In fact, at CrossFit competitions, usually the events are kept secret from the athletes until minutes before the event.

And if you're thinking a "workout" is 20 minutes on the Stairmaster, think again. Here are two examples of the regional team events:

For time:
250 chest to bar pull-ups
250 kettlebell swings (24/16kg)
250 double-unders

250 overhead squats (95/65 lbs.)

For time:
Row 20 calories
30 burpees
30 two-arm dumbbell ground-to-overhead (45/35lb DBs)
30 toes to bar
100 foot overhead walking lunge (45/25lb plate)
50 foot sprint

Don't worry if you're unfamiliar with some of those terms. Just know most people can't do this stuff.

This year's New England regionals, held May 27-29 at Reebok headquarters in Canton, Mass., were dominated by the CrossFit New England team, coached by Ben Bergeron of Natick. It was the only team worldwide to finish first in all six workouts. The other two Boston-area teams to qualify for the Games in California were CrossFit Route 1 of Saugus and CrossFit Fenway of Boston.

The New England roster consists of Derek Mohamed, Mat Frankel, James Hobart, Sonia Cormier, Lisa Mikkelsen and Mel Ockerby.

The Team from Crossfit Fenway is anchored by Joe McGee, Eric Siegel, Aaron Landes, Haley Byrnes, Erika Snyder and Erica Kroon.

CrossFit Route 1 sent a pack of athletes headed by Ryan Hewitt, Alicia Gomes, Brent Miffit, Jared Monaco, Kathryn Leibfried and Kendra Hewitt.

This is CrossFit New England's third trip to the CrossFit Games. It placed 17th in 2009, second in 2010 and is the favorite to top the podium this year. CrossFit Fenway and CrossFit Route 1 are making their first trip to the Games.

Click here for details on the CrossFit Games, including team profiles, athlete bios and links to the live feed.

Kevin Daigle is a competitive CrossFitter from Lowell, Mass., who writes for the CrossFit Journal and CrossFit.com.