After watching the sport of Hyrox quickly take over Europe and the US for the last 5 or so years, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about when it hit our shores. With Hyrox Aus hosting their very first event at Sydney Olympic Park this past weekend, I can now say I completely understand why this sport has the momentum it does. It’s fucking epic.
If you're completely new to Hyrox and want to learn more, read this next section as I break down exactly what this sport of fitness racing is and how it works. If you just want to learn what happened on the day with the Pros, head down to The Elite Report below. I had originally intended to compete in the Men’s Pro division in this first Hyrox race, purchasing my ticket a few months back when the dates were firmed up for the event. But after a few niggles have hung around longer than expected over the last few months I decided two weeks ago to shift gears and run media at the event instead, trying to capture some of the magic for those that couldn’t attend and interview the athletes who crushed the event to give new Australian fans an idea of exactly what this sport is.
I was personally excited for the Hyrox pro division as it leans towards the things that I’m good at. Think about it like an Obstacle race with short flat runs and longer, heavier ‘obstacles’, the stations between each run. If this is the first your hearing of Hyrox I’ll explain the format for you. All Hyrox events are held in indoor arenas around the world. The sport started in Hamburg, Germany in 2017 and has grown in very quick fashion all over the globe. The germans are known for their incredible engineering and everything about these events are planned down to the tiny details, with fantastic systems and tech running the whole show. The Hyrox team run strict standards for selecting their venues and thats due to the ‘McDonald’s experience’ they are creating. I had the head of Hyrox Australia Mat Lock on my Aussie OCR podcast for a chat 2 weeks ago and he told me that they require at least ten thousand square metres of floor space to make their event work. By McDonald’s experience I mean that it doesn’t really matter where you go all over Australia, the poison they serve you tastes pretty much the same. They have national suppliers and standards that ensure a consistent service and similar tasting meal at 9am in Hobart or 1am in Surfers Paradise. Through closely followed systems it's repeatable. Hyrox is a gruelling workout that is the same no matter where you do it. In theory there is no difference between a race held in Sydney, Australia to a session in Hong Kong. This means you know exactly what you are going to get and at first impression I actually thought of this as a negative. Coming from OCR I’m a massive fan of the variation between venues. I love that I don’t know the course layout of a Spartan until days prior and after years in the sport I can still have my arse kicked by curveballs thrown by unique venues. While a 50km Ultra might be the same distance (or close) everywhere, terrain and conditions can create high levels of variability from race to race. Now I’m not saying that Hyrox is completely free of variance, but it’s pretty damn close. I’ll explain some of the little differences later and why, after chatting to Hyrox then experiencing the event itself, I can see why the benefits far outweigh the negatives of this 'always the same' format. Hyrox is a race with 8 different functional stations, broken up by a one kilometre run between each of those stations. The exact format is the same but weights change across divisions. I’ve listed the Men’s Pro weights which is the heaviest and is as follows;
1km Run 1km Ski Erg 1km Run 50m Heavy Sled Push (202kg including sled) 1km Run 50m Heavy Sled Pull (153kg including sled) 1km Run 80m Burpee Broad Jumps 1km Run 1km Row 1km Run 200m Farmers Carry (2 x 32kg Kettlebells) 1km Run 100m Sandbag Lunges (30kg on back) 1km Run 100 x Wall Balls (9kg Wall Ball) (Want to know the weights in your division? Click HERE) So as you can see, Hyrox is a running race broken up by some savage functional sections. Divisions include Male and Female Pros, Mens, women’s and mixed doubles and relay events. There are also open divisions with lighter weights. All athletes are automatically entered into their age categories whether they run open or pro, with podiums awarded for age cats and individual divisions. There is no prize money in Hyrox until you get to the championship level through qualification. Then the prize money is substantial. Think about it like an obstacle race without the mud and with some heavier weights or like Crossfit with less dependence on specific skills and more cardio. This mix makes the barrier to entry much lower for beginners, while still creating an exciting event for the elites at the pointy end of the comp. While I love OCR, I have a larger frame that’s probably better suited to this new sport and I was devastated that I wasn’t going to be able to compete on the day even though I know it was the right call with my niggles. My dissapointment quickly evaporated about 10 minutes after arriving at the Hyrox venue on Saturday morning and understanding exactly what I was in for and would be able to film on the day. The atmosphere inside the Hyrox arena was electric and that was at 8am before hardly anyone had arrived. I knew some of the absolutely massive names that would be going to war inside this arena and once I saw the layout and format with my own eyes I knew I was in for a fucking great day. Being as regimented as it is, Hyrox are able to deliver top quality info about how the event will run prior to athletes arriving. From the race schedule to the racer briefing the night before, the Hyrox team know exactly how the day is going to go even though this was the first event Hyrox Aus have ever hosted. Here is the schedule and I can tell you this is how it went down.
Think about how easy it is the scale an event that hasn’t changed its format in 6 years. Need to brief judges on the correct technique standards? Find the perfect way to do it, film it or put it into a step by step guide and distribute that to every single Hyrox branch around the world. I would be surprised if the Hyrox team don’t have a list of established best practices for every single aspect of their event. The end result was Hyrox Australia hosting their first event that went off without a hitch and I mean that. Every wave was on time and while I don’t know what was happening on the back end, if anything went wrong no-one who turned up noticed. In comparing OCR to Hyrox, I’m fully aware that some of the things that I most love about my sport could be things about the event that turn people off. I love variation but it’s very hard to have every single vollie briefed in the same way and impossible to have a perfect standard of race marking when you’re running on different trails every time. There is a level of chaos to OCR that can’t be avoided when you hold a race in the middle of nowhere and at the mercy of Mother Nature. I love travelling for obstacle racing but it can be prohibitively expensive for competitors and impractical for spectators. On the other hand, Hyrox is an incredible spectator sport. I saw parents of athletes I’ve known for years make it out to see their children compete maybe for the first time, now that the race was in their city and didn’t require catching a plane, hiring a car and sleeping on a couch to make it work. I say all this because as someone who has been in this endurance sports world for years, Hyrox is something that fills a niche and I believe it is going to do very very well here. This production is world class and it’s in Australia to stay.
I also believe that the inclusion of Hyrox in Australia will hopefully strengthen the fitness community here. It will only fuel peoples desire for endurance sports, acting as a bridge between the functional fitness space and OCR that might create some cross pollination between all the sports. A rising tide lifts all boats as it were. Or maybe I’m a bit optimistic and Hyrox is just going to eat everyones lunch. I will say that any race organiser looking to share an event weekend with the Hyrox team moving forward should prepare for a hit on their regular numbers, especially as inflation has taken a slice off the top of some participant’s events budget. One thing particularly exciting about Hyrox for me is the analytics, both as an athlete and coach. You can literally break down every aspect of every athletes race, knowing how you performed in every run leg and every station, you’re able to compare this data across your competition. Knowing where you are strong, where you need work and where your competitors weaknesses are is fucking enormous and this realisation left me way harder than it should have. But enough about why you should care about and definitely try this event, let’s talk about how the savages went on the day.
THE ELITE REPORT
With some of the best competitors from Australia and overseas competing in this first Aussie Hyrox event, spectators were in for an absolute treat once the Women’s Pro division kicked off at 11am and then the Men’s Pro followed at 3.30pm. Don’t get me wrong all the divisions were great to watch but the elite single competitors are where it’s at. We saw some top tier athletes in attendance with the likes of Crossfit games athletes, Elite OCR and some specific Hybrid Fitness athletes too. The girls shot out fast right on 11am and Olivia Leonard slid straight into the first position. With Hyrox’s amazing analytics, I was able to see that Liv hit her first km at a pace of 2.59 which is fucking bonkers. I'll post the link to the analytics for the race below, it's something I recommend checking out. Liv set the pace and never let up the whole time, consistently pulling away with her strong running and competent station work. From about ten minutes in, Liv looked untouchable for the rest of the race and won with a time of 1.10.39.
Watching Liv tear up the course was great but perhaps the more exciting race from a spectator standpoint was the tit for tat exchange between 2nd to 5th place with CrossFit Games veteran Katelyn Van Zyl leading the pack. Throughout the next hour we watched these girls change positions then change back again, with tourist from the US Kim Mercer (possibly the only female athlete in the field to have already run a Hyrox) battling it out with Dani Taylor and Daina Maher (Both great friends and OCR elites). Katelyn looked stronger the longer the event went and said exactly that to me in her post race chat. She pulled a few minutes on Kim Mercer who while on holidays from the US jumped into the race and finished third. Dani Taylor crossed in 4th seconds later followed by Daina. Here were the top ten results.
Catch my finish line interviews with the top five finishers below
After watching this female race I knew the mens was going to be a spectacle. This field was absolutely stacked with top tier athletes from a few different disciplines including 3 x CrossFit games athlete Ricky Garard, fellow games legend James Newbury, 3 x f45 World Champion Peter Day and Hybrid racing superstars James Kelly and Chris Wooley. When these boys took off at 3.30pm it was clear they weren’t going to be fucking about. These were modern day warriors going to battle. The boys came in from their first lap absolutely smoking, James Kelly and Chris Woolley logging a 2.43 with Ricky Garard a second later.
These 3 made short work of the ski erg with Ricky pulling out of the first station first, followed by James and Chris shortly afterwards.
It was very clear after that next km that James Kelly was a lot stronger in his running than the rest of the field, he managed to put a good lead on everyone else coming into station 2.
James struggled more with the heavy sled push than any other station, with other athletes clearly stronger in the legs, especially Garard.
But from then on it was all the James Kelly show, no one came close to touching him and he dominated enough of the stations to take a solid win, breaking the 1 hour mark with a 59.18.
The cool thing for me as a coach and athlete are these hyrox analytics. They are next level.
I can see at a few clicks exactly how the race went and how each athlete measured up.
For instance, I can tell you that James Kelly was the fastest runner overall on the course for the whole day in any division. He logged the fastest run time overall, the best single lap, the fastest ski erg and he was fastest in his transistions, what hyrox call the rox zone.
James logged the second fastest time in the waking lunges and everything else he was inside the 6 or so, except for his sled push which he ranked 26th. A solid win from James who showed us why he finished 8th in the world at the Hyrox world championships last year. What really got the crowd going though was the finish between Ricky Garard and Chris Woolley. Chris is an incredible hybrid athlete with multiple Hyrox events under his belt, many elite our race podiums and many other accolades to his name, he recently missed out on the murph world record by 29 seconds, a record I’m sure he’ll take before 2023 is done. Chris paced his race well but I don’t think anyone could have prepared for the fucken firestorm Ricky Garard was going to bring. Ricky was at a bit of a disadvantage in the running at the event. He logged the 9th fastest time, still no slouch but Hyrox is a running race and Chris posted the 2nd fastest overall time for the day. Ricky’s burpees weren’t that quick and he wasn’t crazy quick with his farmers, but he dominated some other areas with the fastest row and second fastest ski. What really lit the place up though were Ricky’s wall balls. For anyone who hasn’t completed a Hyrox, 100 x 9kg Wall Balls is a gruelling way to finish an hour of red lining. Ricky came into his wall balls about 30 reps behind Woolley. After realising that Chris was dropping the ball every ten reps or so, Ricky threw 100 unbroken wall balls to cruise past Chris and snatch second place. It was fucking electric and possibly the best finish to any event I’ve witnessed in person, made all the more incredible by the crowd cheering him on. To put this time in perspective, Ricky threw his wall balls in 3.24. That’s 40 seconds faster than Kelly and nearly 3 minutes faster than Woolley. Astonishing stuff but not super surprising from a guy who was favourited to win the CrossFit games this year had he not had shoulder surgery. After seeing him this weekend and knowing how much the 2023 CrossFit games leaned into his strengths, I would say he would have done it too, I’m pumped to see him represent us Aussies in the games next year.
You can catch the final five minutes off the race and see Ricky take second place below
Here was the top ten results from the day.
You can catch my finish line interview with James Kelly, Ricky Garard and Chris Woolley below. Head to my IG page for a heap of posts from the event, including more interviews and highlights. If you want to get into this sport, I already have Hyrox specific programs ready to go, with our own coach Monique picking up an age cat podium on the day.
If you want to listen to the deep dive podcast I hit with head of Hyrox Australia Mat Lock, check that out too, it was a fantastic chat and he is an amazing endurance athlete himself.
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