By Jeff Barton
Already a mover and shaker in the Pro Womens volleyball scene, hybrid racing has caught her eye and the sport may never be the same again. She’s fully focused, invested and aiming for one, two, maybe three DEKA World Championships in Dallas. Welcome to the hybrid spotlight, Carly Wopat.
Carly Wopat, a new face in the elite DEKA FIT scene right here. First, give me your reflections on your first time racing the long DEKA course. Did it meet your expectations?
It definitely met my expectations. I’m happy with my performance. The DEKA FIT arena is super fun. I think I was most fired up to be able to race because the second song in decamile a lot of the times here Your own race and and this one I got to actually Be in a heat with other Really strong competitors and for me that fires me up and I know it pulls out Some of my best performances. So I was excited about that. Then it’s just cool to be in this atmosphere and meet a lot of people. Everyone has great energy and is super welcoming. So I’ve really enjoyed it. For my first DEKA FIT race, it was a little bit of a question mark because with the DEKA STRONG and DEKA MILE, I learned I had to do one race first and then the second time was when I really crushed it. That’s when I broke the DEKA STRONG record and came in 6th in the world for DEKA MILE. Both were my second go-round. I didn’t know if I was going to have to do that again for DEKA FIT, but I built a strong game plan, used a lot of the information I gathered from the STRONG and the MILE, and my overall goal was to qualify for Worlds. So I think that’s what I did. I finished with a time of 35.41.
And that put you in 7th place in this stacked field
Yes, and I checked the leaderboard and my estimate is that I’m 13th in the world, which should qualify me for World Championship. I definitely think I can go faster. I was a little conservative with my pacing because I just did not want to blow out. That was my greatest fear. I definitely paced myself until I got to the assault bike and then I started stepping on the gas pedal.
And the assault bikes are masochistically placed late in the to evoke strategy, about getting close to redline but not peaking. Obviously you managed to put together a solid game plan, not easy for your first time. Let’s talk about your athletic transformation. You’ve got a background as a professional beach volleyball player and now you’ve evolved into the hybrid scene, finding Hunter and his group and then making your way to the DEKA FIT Arena.
So I connected with Hunter McIntyre last year. I just had been friends with him for a little bit when went and trained up at his cabin. He mentioned a couple of times “I think you could be really good in this hybrid fitness space.” So, I got curious, and he mentioned that he and Austin Alexander were putting together this competition called Battle Bunker. It was going to be the first year doing it. So, I signed up, ended up getting in, and I went and competed. And they tested us in three different events. The first one was more of an endurance event. It was a ruck-row-run. The second was work capacity and strength. We did a sandbag strength complex and ran around this loop. And then the third was an obstacle course. And I won the second event and performed fairly well in the other two and finished fourth overall. And this kind of affirms my beliefs that I had some real potential in this arena. And it was also a cool experience because I got to meet a lot of other hybrid fitness athletes and I asked them what other competitions they think I could excel in. They mentioned the Hyrox schedule and there was one in Chicago the next weekend. I was just like, alright I’m going to send it and go see what this Hyrox thing is all about. So I went, raced and I actually met Megan Jacoby for the first time. She broke the record in that race. I did pretty well, I think I finished with a time of 1 hour and 12 minutes for my first Hyrox, but I hadn’t really done any kind of proper training for this stuff. It was more like just getting my feet wet and seeing what it’s about.
But then my attention kind of turned back to volleyball. I was thinking about Olympic qualification this year, but in the first beach volleyball tournament of the year it was AVT Miami in April and I had I injured my left foot pretty seriously and it took me out of all the tournaments I had to play in to follow my Olympic goals. I had to really adjust my plans for the year which was challenging. I had to let go of the possibility of the Olympics and that was tough, but I had the GORUCK Games in about a month. Right. And I was like, okay, volleyball is gone, but this is ahead of me. I’m going to go win the GORUCK Games. I put all my focus and energy towards that and trained my ass off. A lot of it was mental prep too, because I still was healing my foot and I couldn’t do a lot of running or things I had to do to be prepared. I just decided that okay, I’m gonna make sure my strengths are really strong. I’m going to try to build cardio as best as I can in other ways and then I’m just going to go send it and see what happens. I won and it opened up a lot more opportunities for me. Before going into the GORUCK competition I told myself if I go win this, I’m going to start focusing more on hybrid fitness because up to this point I’ve concluded I think I can be really good here, but I still wasn’t fully focused or training appropriately for it.
How much of the training is similar from what you’ve had previously? And what did you have to introduce to your training to get where you are now and ultimately where you’re intending to go?
Good question. So with athletics and sports performance, a lot of the training is speed, agility, power. We’re not training endurance, basically. So that part of my training has not really been there. I became a firefighter in 2021, so that’s when I really got into CrossFit and I started trail running.
I also started doing a lot more functional fitness, sandbags, sledgehammers. My training really started to broaden and expand there. I started working with a coach, Ryan Geiger, after the GORUCK Games. He’s a professional cyclist and he watched me at the GORUCK Games and he’s like I think I know exactly what we need to work on, what your weaknesses are what your strengths are. So I started training with him. I quickly realized I have never properly ran before in my life so we’ve been really working on running and endurance and I’ve been putting in hours. I bought a road bike and I’ve been putting in hours on the bike, running, working on mechanics, on building that engine, the right types of energy, metabolism, everything. I’ve made a lot of progress, but it also takes time and I’m just going to have to keep working at it.
What have you gleaned from some of your fellow competitors? Do they share any training tips with you? Have you picked anything up from the other athletes by either talking or watching?
For sure. I’ve had some good conversations with Lauren Weeks. I asked her, what are you doing for running? She was talking about how she and a lot of these top athletes in hybrid come from running backgrounds so for years already they’ve done a lot of long slow runs. Or they come from track and field where they already had those higher intensity runs. Lauren said she’s done a lot of longer slower runs and in the last year she started introducing threshold runs and that helped her get a lot faster. So I was like okay I’m going to start doing some more of that because in my training we initially we were building a base and I was doing a lot of longer slower running long slow sessions on the bike. Now we’ve started to introduce threshold runs and I have noticed a difference. I am getting a lot faster.
It’s got to be different from your training in so much that you have to add a whole other element that you’ve had no experience with, but it seems to be successful. Do you ever get confronted or nervous that something may be an impediment for you, or do you just have that mindset like, I’m going to go do that too?
I think I have the confidence that I will figure it out along the way. And that’s honestly what is exciting for me too, is to enter a race and I’m big on preparation. So I will prepare, I’ll watch video, I’ll visualize, I’ll have my game plan. I already have a good idea of what I’m going to do, but then there’s also an element of the unknown. You just have to have the trust and faith that you’ll figure it out on the fly.
Your current level of preparation looks pretty solid while it’s still a work in process. You’re going to be putting the updated version of your work on public display at the DEKA FIT World Championships in December. What do you expect it to look like? What will be a good result come December?
Well, I’m thinking longer terms, even next year and the year following. It’s going to take that long, honestly. So I’m thinking of Hyrox World Championships next year in 2024. I really want to be at the top there. And 2023 World Championships for DEKA FIT this year is also a great opportunity for me. There are multiple events I’ll compete. In DEKA STRONG, I think I have a really good shot at winning, so that is for sure something I am focusing on. DEKA MILE, I have a good shot at too. And with DEKA FIT and DEKA MILE, those two races introduce running, which I’m working on, and that’s kind of the exciting part. It gives me the opportunity to see how fast I can progress and turn my weakness into a strength. I also feel kind of like I’m the dark horse or the underdog in this in this position, which is exciting for me because I like being there. Nobody really knows what I’m going to do in those two arenas. I think my learning curve is pretty steep. I even surprise myself a lot of the time. So next year I’m excited to see what I can really start doing in DEKA, in Hyrox, and all these other hybrid races.
Ryan Geiger/Geiger Coaching