Falling Short…


I finished the last set of 4 squat cleans at 225 and had pushed as hard as I could. Picking up the bar when I didn’t think I could get another rep, losing position along the way and my grip failing, but managed to set a PR from the previous time I did the same WOD fresh in my gym at home. I knew it was close, but had 4 or 5 people squeaked in between Zach and I? I dropped to my knees to recover thinking I had made it to the Games again and thoughts went immediately toward training. What Ben would be having me do over coming weeks to prepare? Reality check… maybe I hadn’t made it, it was close. I gave Matt Hathcock a hug congratulating him knowing that he had made it. Walking to Zach we knew it was still up in the air. We hugged and both said congratulations. Zach thought I edged him out, we asked each other our times and waited. Both thinking that I squeaked in again. Zach congratulated me again, a true competitor.
I started looking around feeling more unsure. My eyes caught Ben’s and I could tell he was uncertain too, if anything, now I’m thinking I may have not made it. Zach and I stood together waiting as other competitors exited the floor. One of the score keepers came up with an iPad and told Zach he would be needing him. “Me?” Zach said, doubting that he had made it. The score keeper didn’t say a word other than repeating that he would need him. Zach and I both knew that he had made it. Another hug and a congratulations from me telling him that he deserved it.
I looked to Ben, a true coach, one of the best I have ever had. A camera sits there waiting for me and my response, my head is spinning. Ben gave me some of the best advice I have heard through all of the competing I have done over the years. To handle it with grace. The circumstance sucked, it stung. I had worked just as hard if not harder than ever before. Pouring my heart into every workout and the results were what they were. Some side of me didn’t know how to deal with it, but Ben’s reminder grounded me. I still have a job to do, and it’s to show grace in defeat. Sarah, my wife, came up to me with our two kids, some of the best perspective you could ever ask for. I played with Roark and Myla on the floor, in an effort to fight for perspective on what really matters as portions of the crowd exited the stands. Some waited to hear a quick word, and a camera with Josh Everette still waited to interview me. Ben, his wife Heather, Sarah, and my kids all kept me grounded in that moment. Close friends and family sharing in a tough moment with me where not much could be said but I knew they understood where I was.
I walked out of the arena hearing the announcer calling the names of those that had placed to go to the Games. Walking with the same group that was supporting me the whole way… even though it was tough I had peace. I had done everything I could have that weekend to put my abilities and gifts to use. I walked away without a shadow of a doubt that I gave it my all. This as well as those people in my life, and a relationship with a God that loves me regardless of my performance is what gave me that peace. It doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and that I didn’t go through some serious ups and downs over the course of the next couple weeks. Everything from breaking down emotionally, to being angry, feeling fine, wanting to compete again, and needing to rest. Feeling and emotions came and went and lots of those things are still triggered with looking at an old tee or a bag that I got at a previous Games.
I will miss competing on that floor tremendously, but I don’t think I failed. My goal was to win regionals, then top 5 or podium at the Games. I believed I could and I went into the weekend thinking it. You HAVE to risk the heartbreak of losing or falling short if you want to win, but I don’t think I failed. Is a second place, third, fourth, 10th, place finish failing if you didn’t reach your goal? If you pushed the limits of your potential I don’t think it is. That day, under those circumstances, I got fourth. That can not discredit all the training, the gains, the growth that I made over the course of the past year. It’s impossible. Those achievements and that growth is already done, no one can take that from us. Does falling short mean we can be disappointed? Absolutely. The competitor in me felt heartbreak and I believe I am capable to be a top 10 or podium athlete at the Games. As a competitor reaching for the highest levels we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. To say that we can win and believe it, even when it isn’t guaranteed. We have to be willing to risk it all and fall short sometimes, and still be ok. It doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle or tough to deal with it, but it’s part of competition. Failure? No. Set back? No. Just a place, just a result, and a piece of what can help us grow and become better as an athlete and as people.


  1. Paul says:

    Chris, I don’t know you personally nor have we ever met. You don’t know me and you never may. That doesn’t matter, what you’ve done for me however is something you should know. I’m 5’3″ CrossFit athlete. I have been turned down from starting positions in sports my whole life. I was always a great athlete, but just could never measure up to the guy that was 6’0″. When I chose to compete in this sport 1.5 years ago it was because of you, and you alone. You were the inspiration I needed to push through the mental blocks of being smaller then everyone else. I saw what you were doing on YouTube and was in shock. You were a hero to me when I started CrossFit and you are a hero to me now. Thank you.

  2. Yoni Pearlman says:

    You are class all the way… keep on making gains…god bless you and your family!
    U should still get an auto invite for 4th in that regional. ;)

  3. Eddie Blanche says:

    You have the heart of a champion and are a class act! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Beyond all the inspiration you’ve alraady provided for me though out my crossfit endeavors I must say you truly do an outstanding job of always one upping yourself and showing us the community the characteristics of a champion. Stats, places, and numbers are written down on a piece of paper but the honor pride and commitment you exhibited throughout the 2013 season is insurmountable. Your actions are fine tuned under a microscope because I do believe you are the crowd favorite as your passion and desire examplify that of a champion. I hope to be half the character you are to the crossfit community, touching lives and inspiring others just like yourself. I’ve supported you from day one and will continue to.

    Best regards
    Naeem Bacchus

  5. Jason Fine says:


    Being 5’6, I never had the size but had the intense desire, dedication and athleticism to be competitive at most sport to a point. When I found CF in 2006-2007, I was a personal trainer looking for something that made sense beside bodybuilding. CF was it.

    When I first saw you compete years ago you proved to me smaller athletes could excel in CF if they were driven and disciplined.

    Well here I am 43 years old and this year I finally qualified top 48 to compete WITH you at the Southwest Regionals AND…I also qualified to compete at the CrossFit Games as a Masters 40-44 yr old Athlete!

    Thank you for leading the way, laying it all out there year after year and making me believe so much was possible with hard work and dedication. I have to give you some credit for inspiring me to chase this dream down for the past 7 years…and I finally made it!

    Thank you. You are a true champion.

    Jason Fine
    2013 Masters 40-44 CrossFit Games Athlete
    Representing CrossFit Tempest, Arizona.

  6. Robin Moore says:

    You are the greatest Crossfit athlete. But it iis your grace, humbleness, and classy attitude that makes that so. Sharing the floor with you at the 2009 Regionals, getting to watch, and talk with you, still one of my most favorite memories, I wish you continued success and happiness. Thank you Chris!

  7. Lisa Q says:

    Thank you for opening and sharing yourself, your family, your passion for CrossFit, and for God with the world.
    I respect you tremendously and admire your character, composure, dedication to your family and to not just CrossFit but excellence.
    Jeremiah 29

    Best to you and your family~

    Lisa Q

  8. Rashmi says:

    Thank you for writing Chris. Amazing to read, a class act throughout. Thank you.

  9. Wade says:


    I had the honor of being your judge on your final event of the Southwest Regionals. And I can only say that it was truly inspiring to see that amount of determination and heart you have and displayed. You provide an example for so many people to believe in. Thank you for the opportunity to see it up close.

  10. Jeff Kapusta says:


    It was your passion that attracted me to Crossfit. You are a phenomenal athlete., great husband and father, & man of God. You’ve modeled integrity, courage, and honor all the way. Thanks!


  11. Noah Ohlsen says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Not that were in the same shoes, but very similar ones, as I had a decent hold of 1st place 4 events into the Southeast Regional. As I struggled to lift 315 lbs toward the end of event 5, I was watching it all slip from my grip with a 40th place finish in that event.. I fought hard and clawed my way back to 3rd after event 6, but once again struggled with the weight on the final event. Low and behold, I dropped to 7th, where I would end my CrossFit Games journey for 2013. But as you stated above, it wasn’t a failure. If anything, it was even more motivating for me to have my first taste of a Games spot, which has now made me hungrier than ever! Thanks for the inspiration since day one Speal.

  12. Jeremy says:

    You have many people’s hearts/hopes as they follow you in your ups and downs but never have you disappointed us. Great job.

    I still hold the memory of meeting the first Crossfit owner in the state of Utah in a small coffee shop in Park City in 2007. I have always been in awe of you and your beautiful wife, for sticking with it through the lean years.

    Thank you,
    Jeremy Wann

  13. Rachael says:

    Great post, superb writing. It was heartbreaking for many of there watching, and at home, from fans across the world. You gave it your all and you *should* be going to the Games in so many people’s opinion. Thank you for such a beautiful, heartfelt post…you are the Legend, always.

  14. Steph Smith says:

    Thanks for being an inspiration to all the “little guys” out there!!! We all love watching your pour your heart out in competition & couldn’t be more proud of you as an athlete & Christian. We are rooting for you no matter what you do in the future as far as competition goes. As much as it breaks our heart not to see you compete as an athlete at the games this year, we are THRILLED to hear you commentate. You have a lot to offer.

  15. You handled it with grace bro! I was there and cheering you on! we’ll see you next year for sure!

  16. When should I expect my first letter?

  17. There are so many things out of our control in life… in fact everything is out of our control except for our own actions and attitudes.

    Chris, you are a great example -in CrossFit and in life- of how to give something your all and leave nothing to chance. Thanks. You are an inspiration to many.


  1. [...] after placing 4th and narrowly missing the opportunity to compete in the 2013 Games finals. – “Falling Short” Share this:FacebookLike this:Like [...]

  2. [...] Love Read–Falling Short, by Chris Spealler. “We have to be willing to risk it all and fall short sometimes, and still [...]

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