Idler locks in on CrossFit National competition

By Jeff Morrow, Herald sports editorJuly 21, 2013 

Growing up in the Tri-City area, Ken Idler was always an athlete, playing many different sports.

But he didn’t really feel like a complete athlete until recently.

Idler is now 50, and he begins competition Tuesday in the Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif.

Idler will compete in the Men’s Masters Division for the 50-54 age group, in which he is currently ranked No. 18 in the world. Yes, the world, which has CrossFit gyms on every one of its continents but Antarctica.

Idler qualified for the event by being in the top 20 in the world.

Those 20 will compete in two workouts on Tuesday, and two more on Wednesday, in which all 20 contestants will be ranked from top to bottom and assigned points in correlation to how they did.

After those four workouts, the top 12 athletes will advance to the final day, Thursday, for two more workouts and for points. The athlete with the most points is champion.

“My goal is to make that first cut at least,” said Idler in an interview last week. “I expect to get really tired. I’ve got to be prepared for a lot of movements: running, handstands, lifting. Last Sunday I ran up Badger Mountain with a 20-pound vest on. I have to be ready for anything.”

Idler earned his No. 18 World ranking back in March and April, when CrossFit holds what is called The Open.

In The Open, competitors in CrossFit gyms around the world do one workout per week over a five-week period, said Idler.

“They post the workout on a 5 p.m. on Wednesday and you have until Sunday to get it in,” he said.

A judge evaluates the workout, and it’s put into a database. That database is how the rankings are determined for all age groups.

The catch is you have to be flexible because the workout is posted so late.

“I didn’t do great in anything (in The Open), but I didn’t do poor either,” Idler admitted. “I was just consistent. My weakness is my strength.”

Athletes under the age of 40 who rank high in the standings advance to regionals and must do well there to make it to The Games.

High-ranking athletes over 40 get to skip the regionals and go right to The Games.

Over the last few months, Idler has been working out at FallOut CrossFit in Richland, doing his own training away from the regular classes.

But he’s been an inspiration, says Tammy Smith, who owns FallOut with her husband Tim.

“It’s awesome that he qualified,” she said. “He’s the most humble athlete. He’s very inspirational, not only with his words, but his actions. There is no egotism in him.”

That may have helped Idler get to where he is today.

A few years ago, the Pasco man who is the operations manager and a vice-president at Sandvik Special Metals was being badgered by his wife Audrey for a couple of months to try this thing called CrossFit she had been doing for a while.

So he finally relented and went with her.

“I thought I was in great shape, until I walked into here,” Ken Idler said. “It was humbling.”

Humbling enough that he thought he was done.

“After his first workout he said he was never going back again,” said Audrey Idler.

But Audrey kept after Ken, and he went back. He’s stayed ever since.

He tried The Open competition in 2012, and while he didn’t qualify for The Games, it reinvigorated his competitive side.

This past year, he bumped up his weekly workouts at FallOut from two to five times. He’s also very careful about what he eats.

So when he qualified for this week’s Games, no one at FallOut was surprised.

“The first year he did The Open he did great,” said Audrey Idler. “But once he set his mind to doing this, I knew he’d do really well.”

Tammy Smith agrees.

“We knew he could do it,” she said. “He came off of shoulder surgery last fall. But he’s an all-around athlete. He’s big enough that he can do the strength workouts. And he’s been working out in 100-degree weather.”

Ken Idler may be an extreme, but the idea is to get healthy.

“The thing with Crossfit is, it’s all about what you can do,” said Ken Idler. “It’s all inclusive. It incorporates power, strength and balance, among other things.”

And it can be for everyone. On a workout day last week, while Idler is on his own, a class is going on, filled with people of all different shapes and sizes.

“I see a lot of former athletes,” said Tammy Smith, “and after high school where do sports go for them?” This has been an answer, said Tim Smith.

“In the last three years CrossFit has taken off big time,” he said.

And while FallOut will celebrate its fourth anniversary this fall, three other CrossFit businesses have opened in the past few years in the Tri-Cities.

Whether he wins or not, Ken Idler certainly has his health. Asked what he thought his physiological age was, the 50-year-old shrugged.

“That’s a good question,” he answered. “I never thought of that. I’d have to say I’m in my mid-30s.” Perhaps he has found the Fountain of Youth.

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