CrossFit Games Veteran Kari Pearce Still Trains for the Unknown and Unknowable

The 6-time CrossFit Games athlete is hoping to make the podium for the first time.

The first year that Kari Pearce tackled the unknown and unknowable at the CrossFit Games was in 2015.

“That first year, I was just flying in there,” Kari laughed on the phone. “It was a big fly by and hold on.” She placed 21st that year. It is the only Games finish she’s had outside the top ten.

That’s because she went home and dialed it in. Pearce returned in 2016, where she placed 5th at the Games. So, it should come as no surprise to any CrossFit fan out there when we learned that veteran Games athlete Kari Pearce has made it again. Despite COVID, moving across the country, growing a successful business, and tweaking her wrist, Pearce qualified for her 6th return to the CrossFit Games.

[Related: Kari Pearce breaks down her training diet.]

Kari Pearce’s Road to the 2020 CrossFit Games Finals

Like any elite athlete, Pearce struggled to maintain her training this last year. When the stay-at-home orders for COVID hit New York, Pearce found herself training at home, alone. Kari spent the first few weeks training out of her apartment with limited access to typical gym equipment.

With limited training, an injured Achilles from the Open, and Sanctionals being canceled or postponed left and right, Pearce really struggled to stay motivated. “

There were a couple of weeks where I really lost the motivation. I mean I still went and did the training, but it was definitely hard for a little while,” Kari said. “But, once I got back into it I realized I love what I do and I need to remember that. And even if I am not training specifically for something, I love training. I love the process and at some point, l will compete again so get out of this rut and get back to training again.”

That’s exactly what she did. In June, Pearce moved across the country to Las Vegas, NV.

“At first, everything was way different. It’s hot here. The first time I ever went out for a run in Vegas, I was like Oh my god, I am going to die,” Kari said. “Any kind of move is hard, but moving cross country has a whole bunch of different aspects to it. It takes a lot of planning and it’s very stressful, and that can affect training too, but for me everything wound up being pretty seamless.”

On top of a cross-country move and training for the CrossFit Games, Kari is also managing her business, Power Abs. “The growth has just blown me away. I was a personal trainer and I saw people at the gym working their abs, but in gymnastics, you do so many different things to work your abs. People don’t do these because they’re different, but gymnasts do,” Kari said. “And I knew I could come up with a program to help people get a six pack, but have fun!”

Despite her seemingly impossible schedule, fun is exactly what Pearce is having right now. Training for her return to the Games, adjusting after the move, running a business, it’s a lot.

“It’s so fulfilling, and that’s part of how I think I am able to run my business and still have my training and do everything, is because it is so fulfilling in itself. I never thought I’d be a competitive athlete, but I am, and I love it. And when I started personal training, I just thought I would help people establish or reestablish their love for fitness, and so doing Power Abs and being able to touch people all around the world and getting people to enjoy fitness is something that you can’t put into words. There’s just no words.”

Kari might have been caught off guard with her business success, but she will not be caught off guard at the Games.

“I am a veteran, so training for the Games is similar to all the other years. You have to train for everything. You never know what you’re going to be given. And you know that’s what you’re training for – you’re training for the unknown. So, in that regard, this year is no different.”

Kari Pearce’s Finals Performance

Event One — 2007 Reloaded

For time:

  • 1,500-meter row

Then five rounds of:

  • 10 bar muscle-ups
  • 7 shoulder-to-overheads — 145 pounds

Pearce’s pace was steadily in the middle of the pack and led to a third-place finish in event one. She was far enough behind Tia-Clair Toomey and Haley Adams, who took first and second, respectively, but also comfortably ahead of Katrin Davidsdottir and Brooke Wells, who rounded out the rest of the heat.

What stood out in Pearce’s performance was how her muscle-ups differed from the other competitors. Pearce had an extremely high kip that led to nearly no bend in the elbows during the transition above the bar. The motion wasn’t as smooth as Toomey’s but was a potential tactic employed to take effort off of the triceps which were being heavily taxed by the shoulder-to-overheads.

Event Two — Corn Sack Sprint

For time:

320-meter hill sprint with a corn sack — 30 pounds

Pearce followed her event one performance with similar form in event two. She was steady throughout the sprint, maintaining position in the middle of the pack. She was overtaken by Adams pushing her into last place, but was able to push past a fatiguing Wells to claim a fourth-place finish with a time of 3:28.17.

Event Three — CrossFit Total

For total load:

1-rep-max back squat
1-rep-max shoulder press
1-rep-max deadlift

This event separated the field into three tiers. On top was a battle between Toomey and Wells, Pearce sat firmly in the middle, and Adams and Davidsdottir clashed for fourth — there was a wide gap between Pearce and the two tiers above and below her. This meant Pearce could post solid lifts but didn’t really have an opportunity to push higher than a third-place finish. She just needed to not give up ground to Adams or Davidsdottir and she was successful in that endeavor.

In the end, Pearce posted a 764-pound total with the following lifts:

  • Squat — 272 pounds
  • Shoulder Press — 157 pounds
  • Deadlift — 335 pounds

Event Four — Handstand Sprint

For time:

100-yard handstand walk

Pearce has her best finish of day one thus far with a second-place time of 1:23.32 in the handstand walk. She was barely two seconds behind Wells, who won the event, but edged out Adams by a single second to capture the additional 20 points.

Event Five — Ranch Loop

Run along 3-mile± course through varying terrain

Pearce was in the back half of the pack for pretty much the entirety of the run. She scored herself a fourth-place finish to end day one in fourth place overall.

Event Six — Toes-To-Bar/Lunge

30-20-10 reps for time:
Kettlebell lunge (yards) — 24-kilogram kettlebells 

Pearce was slow out of the gates on Day Two, only able to best Adams in this event. Pearce’s fourth-place finish was earned with an official time of 4:13.36.

Event Seven — Snatch Speed Triple

For time:

One snatch at each bar

  • Quarterfinal:
      Women 145-150-155 pounds
  • Semifinal:
      Women 160-165-170 pounds
  • Final:
      Women 175-180-185 pounds

This event was a battle between Wells and Toomey for first. Pearce followed up her event six performance with a fourth-place finish, besting only Adams.

Event Eight — Bike Repeater

10 rounds:
440-meter bike sprint
One legless rope climb — 15 feet

Pearce’s prowess on the rope climbs made up a lot of time for her in this event where she wasn’t as fast on the bike as Toomey or Adams. She overtook Davíðsdóttir to claim a third-place finish with an official time of 15:14.92.

Event Nine — Happy Star

Four rounds:

200- to 300-meter hill run

5-7-9-11 reps of:

  • Burpee
  • Thruster — 95-105-110-115 pounds

Towards the end of Day Two, Pearce started to make her moves to climb the leaderboard. She scored a big second-place finish in this event behind Toomey with an official time of 9:17.37.

Event Ten — Swim ‘N’ Stuff

Four rounds, each for time:

  • Air bike calories (10 | 15)
  • 50-meter swim
  • 10 GHD sit-ups
  • 10 ball slams 40 pounds
  • Rest

Begin a new round every four minutes.
*Rounds two and four performed in reverse

The swim wasn’t a strong suit for Pearce who started out Day Three with a last-place finish. Her official time of 10:10.58 was more than 30 seconds behind the fourth-place Wells.

Event Eleven — Sprint Sled Sprint

  • 100-yard sprint
  • 100-yard sled push — 80-pound sled
  • 100-yard sprint

Pearce struggled again with another fifth-place finish on Day Three. This was a blisteringly fast event, with Pearce finishing 10 seconds behind the fourth-place Adams, who was 11 seconds back from Toomey’s first-place time.

Event Twelve — Atalanta

While wearing a 14-pound vest:

  • One mile run
  • 100 handstand push-ups
  • 200 pistol squats
  • 300 pull-ups
  • One mile run

In what was billed by CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro as the most difficult event of the Games, Pearce put on a clinic. She was the first through the handstand push-ups and held that lead all the way til the end. She bested all nine other athletes in the heat for 100 points. By beating Adams by two ranks in the event, Pearce clinched a third-place finish overall.

Do you think Pearce has what it takes to get onto the Games podium for the first time? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image: @karipearcecrossfit on Instagram