CrossFit Games Masters Athlete James ‘2.0’ Kelleher & The Road to Excellence

Last year James finished 102nd in the world in the 2014 CrossFit Open Masters 55-59 division. He was then unable to complete one of the workouts in the Masters online regionals/qualifier because he was unable to overhead squat 115 lbs, here’s part of an email he sent me after:

I am GLAD that this workout kicked me in the ass. A humbling kick in the ass is GOOD for the competitive soul.  Our reach SHOULD exceed our grasp … if it was easy, why would we care so much about it?
And I’ll tell you right now: barring injury (or death) I am going to the games next year.

Well… he didn’t die, though he sure did battle through some injuries, and this year he finished 24th in the Open (60+ division), and 15th in the world after the regional – earning him a spot at the 2015 CrossFit Games in Carson California, just like he said he would.

James is our 60 year old, going on 16. His passion for CrossFit and pure genuine excitement for everything CrossFit or fitness is like a kid in a candy shop (though he’d never eat candy, only dark chocolate). He’s become a staple at Raincity Athletics, and in my life. Many people ask how I feel about having a surrogate father and I have to explain that it’s more like I’ve adopted a son. Everyday he pushes himself to be a better athlete, which in turn pushes me to be a better coach (…or father?).

Everyone has seen James at the gym training, he’s the only person that’s (almost) there more than me. If he’s not grunting and groaning picking up heavy things, he’s stretching in the back, or standing outside my office peppering me with questions or random thoughts.

Everyone knows James is the hardest working member at Raincity Athletics. What many people forget is that no matter how much you love what you do, hard work is always hard.

He’s 60 years old… every ache and pain we (everyone who isn’t 60) feel from training, he feels 10x worse. He deals with it as best he can, and continues working towards his goal. Anyone who thinks any aspect of training is easier for him for any reason, is just making an excuse for themself. Passion does not create dedication and commitment, it merely gives you a reason. You’ve still gotta be one tough mother f*cker to stay focused on that reason and put in the work. Even in tough times, James has never lost focus on what he set out to do.

His ability to fight through adversity never ceases to impress me, but the greatest (and I think most inspirational) example of this actually came very recently when he (idiotically) triggered an old injury by dropping his motorcycle (again) a week before his qualifiers weekend competition…

A week before his Masters Qualifier weekend (stage 2 after the open) he saw his entire year (or more) of training, dedication, and sacrifice go out the window. He e-mailed me to apologize for letting me down (he’s gotta do better than that to let me down) and then came into my office for a chat. During our chat he sat down, apologized again, and then went right into outlining his goals for next year… There wasn’t a single moment of self pity, wallowing, or sadness. There was a little bit of anger and disappointment (understandable), immediately overpowered by his dedication. Many people have never dedicated themselves to something in the way that James has his training, so they can’t even begin to imagine having something like that taken away in a split second. He went almost unphased. He had set a goal for the CrossFit Games and to him this was just another speedbump on that path.

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

– Malcolm X
In the end, karma was on his side as his physio told him that he had developed so much strength and muscle, that his body had actually managed to hold his ribs back in place, meaning his recovery was going to be a few days as opposed to the usual few weeks (#crossfitwin). We delayed starting his events a couple of days (leaving much less time to complete them) and then hammered them out (some more than once) in a little over 48 hours. As his coach, I could see something wasn’t right with James during these WODs. I knew he had some issues at home, a rib that was very unhappy with him, and a quad that had just finished recovering (hindered him in some open WODs), and this was the first time I had seen it affect him in a workout. He was no where near 100% (mentally or physically) but he knew what he had to do… and he crushed it.

James, you’re the most passionate, dedicated, and hard working human being that I’ve ever worked with. I am honoured that you call me your coach, and that you let me help guide your dedication. I know this is just the first (of many) years that we will go to the CrossFit Games together and I can’t wait to see the (more) insane athlete, competitor, and Coach that you’re going to become. One day we might even teach you how to clean up after yourself (but I won’t get my hopes up). Thank you for everything that you do.

James’ CrossFit Games Profile:

Author: Simon 'Thor' Damborg

Simon is the Head Coach and Owner of Raincity Athletics. “Discovering a new level of health has changed my life, not only in how I look feel and perform, but how I feel about myself both inside and out. I want to help as many people as I can discover their ‘athlete within’ no matter what level that may be, which is why I love our slogan: Find Your Fit. Our bodies are nicer than any car, house, or pet we’ll ever own, and yet we constantly abuse them like we can buy another one if it breaks. I strongly believe if we can maximize our physical health and performance it will have a positive affect on our lives in more ways than anyone can imagine.”

Raincity Events
Raincity Athletics & CrossFit Pacific Central
#102 – 333 Terminal Avenue

Vancouver, BC V6A 4C1

Office: 778 383 9316
info @ raincityathletics.ca
© Raincity Athletics Inc. & Simon Damborg
Photos by Julieth Fajardo