Athlete of the Month - Denise Biancaniello

Congratulations, Denise! What an amazing accomplishment it is to make it to the CrossFit Games Masters Online Qualifier [only the top 200 athletes worldwide are invited to this stage of the competition].

Take us through your journey. Do you remember when this became a goal for you? What events made you realize that this could be a reality? 

I believe that it became a goal for me after the final numbers were posted for the 2016 CrossFit Games Open.  I had finished 92nd in our region and at the time, I thought that I needed to be in the top 20 in the region. I told myself that I could do this, not realizing that I needed to be top 20 in the WORLD. In 2016 I finished 1176.  I remembering thinking that that was a little unrealistic for me but that I would settle for being in the top 500.  I thought that would be a great accomplishment to move halfway up the leaderboard.  But I knew this was not going to be easy.  I knew what I had to do and that was to focus on my goal.  It was from that point on that I knew that I had to work on skills that were nonexistent for me at that time: ring and bar muscle ups!  Throughout 2016 I began doing competitions and after each one my hunger to win was growing.  There is nothing like being on the middle of a competition floor. My favorite moment in a competition was Round 2 of Girls On Girls with Jacki. It was from that moment on that I knew that I needed to make me dream a reality.

Once you had your sights set on making it to the next round of the open (the online qualifier), what did you change about your workout routine? What was your focus?  

I really just focused on training hard and trying to work on my weight lifting and improve my lifting technique, which is still happening today.  I had a choice to make and it was either to give it 100% or I could settle for less and for me that wasn't an option.

Tell us some of your thoughts about Games workout 17.1. How did you feel after the announcement?

So for the few weeks leading up to the Open my mind was always racing. Just thinking about 'what's it going to be?'. 'How am I going to approach the workouts?'. 'Will I be strong enough to finish?'. But it was also so different for me this year because now I had both my ring muscle-up and my bar muscle-up so I knew I would at least be able to do all of the skills. That was a BIG relief. Of course after they made the announcement I wasn't thrilled about dumbbell snatches (they aren't a strength for me) but I refused to let that stop me. I actually completed the workout twice with every set being unbroken. I would be lying if I didn't say that 17.1 stole my soul. Not once, but twice!

Workout 17.3 featured a heavy snatch. How did you prepare mentally for the challenge of working with a relatively weak movement (for you)?

My first goal was to stay out of my head and my second goal was to get to the round with 135lb barbell. And I did it! The first time I did it I had 45 seconds to snatch 95lbs for 5 reps and completing that was huge for me.  It wasn't until I got back to the bar when I thought 'now what do I do for the next 3 minutes?'.  But I listened to those coaching me from the sideline and I gave it my best shot.  Although I wasn't successful with 135lbs, it wasn't a failure in my eyes. I have a new PR that I would like to hit in the near future.

Give us a run down on your thoughts before, during and after the rest of the open workouts. 

17.2: When they released this workout I knew it was going to be a challenge but I fought for each and every bar muscle-up.  I was really happy considering this was only the second workout that I have done with bar muscle-ups and I was able to make it into the second round!

17.3: I was happy with my performance. Of course, I would have loved to have snatched 135# just once...

17.4: Where do I even begin?! The workout that I thought would be the easiest turned out to be one of my biggest challenges.  The first time I did the workout I got several 'no reps' on my handstand pushups, because of my heels. They even said I cursed at my judge although I'm not sure that I did. If I did, I apologize, because that is not the type of athlete that I want to be! But I came back for round two with a better understanding of the standards and improved my score.

17.5: This one looked so simple on paper. But it was VERY challenging. The first four rounds I had a lot of trouble with my double unders. After that I needed to really focus and finish the workout. Little did I know that when I came back for my redo on Monday I couldn't get more than 3 dubs at a time during warmup! I had more lashes from the rope on me than I did the first time I learned to do dubs. In my head, I was thinking 'maybe this is a mistake coming back for the second round'? Travis had me do a few drills and really focus on the task at hand and I was able to improve my time in the end.

You chose to redo every workout that Monday. Why?

I went into the Open knowing that I would redo every workout two times.  So after my first attempt Travis, Pete and I would sit and figure out what I needed to change and how could I improve my score. Every week the workout became a 4 day project for us. It was 'workout on Friday, then figure out the game plan for the redo on Monday'. Saturday and Sunday were conditioning days and then on Monday it was game day again. I was very fortunate because with every workout my score improved, whether it was one rep or a few seconds. In a few cases, I shaved off a full minute from my time.  

How did you feel after 17.5 was over? 

I definitely felt a sense of relief that it was over, even though I enjoyed every second of it. But the waiting game was the worst.. I was able to be part of the leaderboard all 4 weeks leading up to 17.5. The question was 'did I do enough'?  There was always some regret. I could have pushed harder or why not one more rep? At this point there was nothing I could do. Wednesday couldn't come fast enough. One thing I learned from the Open is that it exposes both your strengths and weaknesses and it is up to me now to really focus on the areas that were my weakest links.

What are your thoughts going into the masters qualifier? Can you tell us about the process and what you'll be asked to do? 

'How is it possible that I am standing among the top 200 in the world for my age group?'. It's still pretty surreal to me. In three weeks, I will have four days to do four workouts that will have to be judged and video taped. CrossFit HQ will then take the top 40 scores and they will combine the four workouts with your score from the open and the top 20 will go to The Games. I will give it all that I've got and I will make every last rep count! And promise that I will smile and have fun (at least that is what I have been instructed to do!)  

Ok enough about the open and what you've achieved. Time to tell us a little about yourself! How did you find out about Crossfit and Del Val? What made you keep coming back?

I heard about CrossFit DelVal when I used to take classes at Absolute Fitness. I would take Chris Foehl's P90X class and he would talk about doing 100 Burpees or his latest PR. I thought 'who cares?'. LOL, sorry Chris! And it wasn't until a year and a half later when I was bored again from working out in my basement and I sent an email to Larry for a free trial. I remember coming to class and being SO intimidated when I walked in and thought 'why am I here?'. But it was that very same night that I got a double under and I went home thinking 'I LOVE THIS!'.

What are two of your favorite cardio, gymnastic and barbell movements?

My two favorite cardio would be running and air squats.  My gymnastics would be handstand walks and muscle ups.  And lastly my barbell movements would be deadlift and I wish I could say clean and jerk but until I fix my technique, but it's just the jerk!

You are at the gym every chance you can get. How do you maintain your drive, especially on days when you're feeling run down?

I do spend a good portion of my morning at the gym. It's definitely the amazing crew that I work out with that keeps me level. And I know when its all said and done I will feel so much better about what I have accomplished in class!  Some days are just more productive than others.

We know you are a Dirty 0930 athlete for life. Can you share with us any funny or special memories from that class that stand out to you?

I don't even know where to begin. Everyone in that class is so unique and funny in their own way!  It's what makes it such a great class. One of the greatest moments was Rob's video of him doing the weighted pull-ups - hilarious!

For many of us, Del Val has turned into a second home and the friends we've made there have become family. We know this is the case for you. Can you share with us why Del Val is such an important part of your life?

I never knew that I would find a family full of so many special people.  It's amazing that you can find this much love and support, all under one roof!  It is one of the most welcoming places I've come to known.  I believe that we have all found someone here that we couldn't be without!  I have developed so many great friendships that I know will last a lifetime and that in itself is worth it!  

Tell us some things we may not know about you!

My favorite tv show is.... This Is Us

To relax I... I love to get a mani and pedi and lay by my fireplace.

I can't help but roll my eyes when.. Pete 'no reps' me. LOL.

I have a few..  Pairs of athletic sneakers. My favorite brand is Puma. 

I can't live without my... My align pants from lulu and my crop tops!

On any given night I run... 3-5 miles and I just am able to lose myself in my music with no interruptions.

One day I will... Make it to the floor of the Games. One can only dream so big, so I will!

I'm grateful for... My family and my friends and for all that I have in life. I could never want for more!

Any extra comments? 

I just want to say thank you again to all of the amazing coaches and athletes at CrossFit DelVal.  I couldn't ask for a better support system at this time and I hope that no matter what the end results are that I am able to stand and represent DelVal. Without all of you there would be no me. Love you guys!!