Training to reach elite status in the world of CrossFit is no easy task. As Team Hack’s Pack UTE can tell you, there’s an entirely different dynamic when training as a team. Tommy Hackenbruck puts it best, “Sometimes you need to step up and lead and sometimes it’s best to follow and let another lead. It’s important to understand that aspect, because too many leaders will cause confusion and resentment while a team full of followers won’t be able to adapt quickly to the unknown.” Team Hack’s Pack UTE has been able to thrive by grasping this concept.
Last year, they dominated the competition with five first place finishes over the course of Games weekend. This year, they swept the competition at the Southwest Regionals winning all seven events handedly. Tommy, Mary, Taylor, Michael, Adrian and Erin are back to prove once again that they’re the fittest team in the world.
As individuals they’re all elite level CrossFit athletes. While some have even made it to the Games as individuals, they will all admit that no one person is as strong as the whole. What does it take to produce a champion caliber team? In our interview, Hack’s Pack shares their winning formula.
- 1 When did you first make the decision to start/join Hack’s Pack UTE?
- 2 Tommy:
- 3 Mary:
- 4 Taylor:
- 5 What’s the dynamic of team Hack’s Pack UTE?
- 6 Tommy:
- 7 Michael:
- 8 Taylor:
- 9 How do you make sure the team keeps moving in the right direction?
- 10 Adrian:
- 11 Mary:
- 12 Michael:
- 13 Adrian:
- 14 Is the bulk of training done as a team or individually? Is everyone on the same programming?
- 15 Tommy:
- 16 Michael:
- 17 Hack’s Pack UTE won 5 of the 12 events at the 2012 Games. How do you build a winning team, where everyone is well-rounded?
- 18 Tommy:
- 19 What role do your teammates play in your life outside the box?
- 20 Michael:
- 21 The competition is getting tougher, not just for individuals but for teams as well, how do you feel about a repeat title in 2013?
When did you first make the decision to start/join Hack’s Pack UTE?
I had the desire to compete on a team starting in 2010 but didn’t feel we had all the pieces to win. The decision was final when the right people were all on board in February 2012.
After competing as an individual at the 2010 Games, I switched gyms in pursuit of a different training program and the ability to be coached by another Games athlete. I knew that UTE had the potential to build a dominant team.
It was great to compete on the UTE team at the 2011 Games and easy to commit to the team in 2012 when so many strong individual competitors were choosing to be on the team.
Before I joined Hack’s Pack I went to the 2011 Games as an individual. Before my first year competing, I barely knew anything about CrossFit as a sport. I didn’t even know teams existed. I decided I wanted to be a puzzle piece to a “winning” team vs. just another 20th or so place finish. I almost killed myself coming back from pregnancy to make it to the Games as an individual, so I wanted to see what it was like to actually have fun and enjoy the process and camaraderie.
What’s the dynamic of team Hack’s Pack UTE?
We have 4 responsible adults and 2 children, Mike and Taylor, that keep us entertained.
Tommy, or Hon as we like to call him, is our absolutely fearless leader. Just being in his presence during competition is calming. Whether it’s real or he fakes it for us, he exudes such confidence in our team that it’s impossible not to believe in ourselves. Everything from training, to event strategy, to managing self-doubts throughout the year, his mental coaching ability is very powerful and rare.
I always joke that if Tommy told me to wear yellow socks because they made me faster, I would without hesitation, pick up a bag of yellow socks. We know Tommy has our best interests at heart and really just pushes us to be great teammates and people. He is literally our fearless leader! We all fall into rank after that, and the best part is that EVERYONE is OK with that. Each of us leads, speaks up, or steps up when needed, but for the most part we all just lead by working our butts off.
How do you make sure the team keeps moving in the right direction?
We are all competitive and want to be the best. I think it’s important for everyone to have the vision and goal to be able to carry our team in a given situation, so we all train accordingly. We also train to compete as individuals, so we see plenty of benchmarks and standards around the world through the year that give us all goals to shoot for, we are trying to be as well rounded as we can.
We each have high expectations for ourselves. We understand our roles on the team and put the team first.
You’re each strong enough to compete as individuals at the Regional level and the Games level, as we know some of you have. Do you ever get the urge to go individual?
We’ve reached the pinnacle as a team, and it’s as satisfying as anything I could imagine. I don’t think I would be any more fulfilled or happy if I had that kind of success as an individual.
I considered going individual this year, and even planned on it for 80% of the off-season but things worked out so that we could get our team back together this year, and I wanted to be a part of that again. It’s a very special experience to train, improve and suffer with these guys. There is something about knowing others are relying on you that really brings out the best in us. We all come from team sport backgrounds so that helps. The camaraderie draws us all in.
Is the bulk of training done as a team or individually? Is everyone on the same programming?
Everyone follows the same template but most of the lifting is percentage based and there is a lot of individual skill work prescribed for each person’s goats. We mostly train in sub-groups of 2-4 people. It’s rare to get us all 6 together.
As a team you’ve completed challenges like SealFit’s Kokoro Camp, the Big Bob Challenge and the Spartan Beast. How do these events help the team?
These things bring us closer together as friends, and they keep us pumped up to continue training hard throughout the long, sometimes monotonous off-season. SealFit was one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced. It taught us a new level of being a teammate. It made us more confident and gave our training in general a new feeling, that our training and definitely not any competition workout is as bad as the weekend we spent at SealFit. We learned just how powerful our minds really are.
Hack’s Pack UTE won 5 of the 12 events at the 2012 Games. How do you build a winning team, where everyone is well-rounded?
Michael: As soon as the off season begins, everyone even remotely interested in competing the next year should begin focusing on his/her own weaknesses. Furthermore, it behooves nearly every competitor to increase raw strength and power. This characteristic takes the longest to build, so training for it should start ASAP. In my opinion it can’t be trained by “Heavy WODs,” it is best trained in a periodized, structured manner. Heavy WODs should come in play closer to the start of the Open or Regionals.
The key to our success was training each person to be as good as a top 10 individual at the Games. That was the plan from the outset. It’s the CrossFit Games. The purpose of the competition is to expose weaknesses, not to reward “specialists”.
Mary: We compete as individuals and against each other. We also strive to beat our PRs. The secret is also in Tommy, listening to his suggestions on how to break up reps/sets to optimize our performance has helped.
What role do your teammates play in your life outside the box?
Tommy: Teammates are my family here in Utah. They are my five closest friends here, aside from my wife.
My teammates have become my family. They push me to become a better athlete. They also push me to become the best possible version of myself in every aspect of my life. Every one of my teammates is committed to excellence in their life, and it is contagious. I feel lucky to be a part of such an amazing group of individuals.
The competition is getting tougher, not just for individuals but for teams as well, how do you feel about a repeat title in 2013?
Taylor: Simple actually…that’s why we are all here again.
Adrian: That is the goal. We talked about how Rich and Annie repeated last year, it is because they continued to fine tune their craft and never settle. The desire has to be even stronger to want to repeat because now there is a target on your back, but….it is all in the preparation. In this sport, I believe you don’t win during the competition, you’ve won through your preparation.