Patrick Vellner Talks the Open, 2020 Wodapalooza & More

Patrick Vellner’s season couldn’t have started any better than it did at the 2020 CrossFit Open. He concluded the five weeks as the overall men’s champion. To have the qualification for the CrossFit Games wrapped up so quickly means he has options as to how he moves forward for the rest of the year.

Even though the 2018 Games runner-up is already set for Madison he still likes to train and compete, which is why he will be one of the athletes competing at Wodapalooza later this month in Miami. He goes into this event as the defending champion on the men’s side, but if he wants to repeat, he will have some tough competition to face. A few of the athletes he will share the platform with include Noah Ohlsen, Ben Smith, Saxon Panchik, and Cole Sager. 

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Before that happens, he sat down with FloElite to talk about the Open, Wodapalooza, business, and life. 

FloElite: Congratulations on winning the Open for the first time in your career last fall. Out of the five workouts, which one did you find to be the most challenging and how did you feel about the overall competition?

Vellner: Thanks! That's a tough question. Open workouts are all very challenging in their own ways, and often for different reasons. I was actually traveling for a lot of the open this year (4/5 weeks) so in one way that was stressful, but it also took some stress away because I really only had one shot to do each of them and didn't have to worry about redos. It came with some very cool opportunities, though. 

I got to do 20.2 head-to-head with Mat Fraser, and got to do 20.5 head-to-head with Annie Thorrisdottir in my fourth Open announcement. If I had to pick I'd say 20.5 was the toughest because there were an unlimited amount of ways to do it. Also having to do that format of workout live with limited time to prep was very challenging. That ended up being the only workout I redid this Open, and after a day to digest it was able to crush it with a proper game plan and it ended up being my best finish this open. 

Overall I like this Open more than the open in years past. It felt more like a real competition, with more workouts for time and a few more high-level skills involved. I'd say it was my favorite open so far, but that's not saying a lot. The Open is terrible (laughs). I much prefer to compete live rather than have the slow five-week bleed that is the Open.

You've already competed at Dubai and are now preparing for Miami. Since you have the qualification for the Games secured, how do you determine which Sanctionals you plan on jumping in going forward? Is there a strategy based on training or is it more about the travel and where they are located?

It's a combination of factors. Some of it depends on where you want to visit, and you have to work around schedules to make sure that you have enough time to recover and prepare properly for the next one. Now with no set offseason, periodizing your season is important to keep your body feeling good. Other than that I mostly look to compete at events that have good prize money and stiff competition to help me sharpen my tools. I'm not very interested in an easy ride. I'll usually try to do at least one big overseas event per year and then limit it from there just to make travel easier. I live on an island now so travel in and out is not always easy.

Of course one of the Sanctionals you're jumping in is Wodapalooza, which you won last year. The lineup for this one is stacked. Why do you feel this particular event is so appealing?

I really like Wodapalooza. It's a fun event. Outdoors on the waterfront, bright lights, colorful, loud music, just an overall good time. It attracts a strong field and personally I love that; it makes for a good test. Their programming is good most years and often includes at least a couple of things that I need work on, like swim events for example, so it's nice to see where I stack up. Besides, I have to go back and defend the title, right?

When there are so many elite athletes like yourself, Ben Smith, Cole Sager, Noah, etc., does the atmosphere feel similar to the Games?

I think there's always a little bit of that feel, and it's hard not to think about that and size each other up a bit. The reality, though, is that timing makes a big difference. It's impossible to know how people have been training so often people you're lining up against are not the same athletes that you saw at the Games, and aren't necessarily the same athlete you'll see at the games next time. Typically I try to take the same approach anytime I take the competition floor so it doesn't really matter much to me, but it makes the test more fun for sure. 

Any plans on jumping into any more Sanctionals between now and Madison?

Yes. The plan right now is to compete at WZA, West Coast Classic, and Cogue, and then I'll be at the CanWest games, not competing, but helping with the broadcast.

What do you feel you need to work on the most for the Games? Was there anything in particular you're emphasizing in your training, or is it simply getting better all around?

My training is still pretty mixed. I still work very regularly on my pressing and overhead work. Things that I've always worked on and always will need to stay on top of. Other than that my training often changes a little bit based on whatever competition is coming up next. We take a peek at past events and then try to look for trends and maybe model parts of training after that. Always doing lots of conditioning and lots of CrossFit. Trying to take care of my body a bit better these days. 

What is happening on the business side of your life? Anything in the works you want to share or are you only focusing on competitions?

I've started working as a chiropractor in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Working part-time right now and it has been great. It's been nice to be able to step out of the gym and shift my focus a few days a week. Other than that mostly just training, getting ready for competitions, and trying to spend some time with my fiancé and plan stuff for our wedding in August.

Who are some of the people that play important roles in helping you be in the position you’re in?

I really only work with one coach, Michele Letendre, who owns Deka Comp. I'll shout out my clinic Island Optimal Health and Performance in Nanaimo. And of course I'd shout out my fiancé Michelle Workun-Hill!

FloElite would like to thank Patrick for his time and wish him the best of luck in Miami. To watch him and the rest of the athletes competing at Wodapalooza, tune in on February 20-23 here on FloElite.

Roger Lockridge is from Lewisburg, WV. His work has been featured on numerous platforms and magazines in the fitness industry over the last 10 years. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @rocklockridge.

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