2020 CrossFit Games: Veteran Jacob Heppner Preparing for Unique and Exciting Virtual Competition (Exclusive)

Friday morning, the 2020 Reebok CrossFit Games will officially begin after months of uncertainty. This year's competition is extremely different considering that the 60 competitors will not head to Madison, Wisconsin, but will instead first compete in a virtual two-day event to find the top five men and women. Jacob Heppner, who finished in sixth place in the 2019 CrossFit Games, is ready for the unique competition and has hopes of seeing his name among the top five.

Speaking exclusively with PopCulture.com, Heppner discussed his training schedule and approaching this very unique virtual event. Over the course of the discussion, Heppner reacted to the first event announcements — Friendly Fran (thrusters and chest to bar pullups) and a one-rep max front squat. The athlete from Kansas isn't a huge fan of very heavy weightlifting, but he does anticipate some excitement on the first day.

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"I think the first one is pretty cool, obviously," Heppner told PopCulture. "I've never really been a huge fan of one-rep maxes. I'm actually going through a little bit of a knee, hamstring issue, so the one-rep max front squat doesn't super excite me, but the pressure's going to be fun, it's going to be fast. If you have to change weights, it's going to be pretty quick, so it's pretty cool."

With the events mostly announced, Heppner is beginning to come up with a plan of attack for the two-day event. What he has found is that the strategy will require him to work out at different locations. He can do the front squat event and most of the named workouts at Cobra Command CrossFit, but Naughty Nancy will force him to move somewhere else.

"I know that we have to run in one event, so we need about 250 meters straight line distance, so a 500-meter wraparound distance to run," Heppner explained. "Unfortunately, where our gym is at, it's pretty hilly, so I don't really have that option. I'll actually probably be going to my aunt and uncle's house, they've got a pretty flat road next to their house. I'll probably work out in their driveway and then on the road."

Heading into the weekend's events, the athletes will encounter a potential issue in that fans will not be present to cheer. There is no roaring crowd, nor will there be several other competitors helping to push the pace. Fortunately for Heppner, taking part in a fully-virtual competition is not an issue. He previously competed in the Rogue Invitational, which required doing events alone in a completely silent gym while a single judge stood by, so he has experience with this remote format. Heppner will use the experience and pair it with research in order to determine goal times for each event. He won't simply attack each workout without developing a game plan.

While Heppner will understandably focus on performing well and booking his trip to Aromas for the final events, he may also find some time to tease his fellow competitors. He previously drew attention during the Rogue Invitational by filming friendly trash talk segments for Instagram, where he would eat a snack while giving a hard time to the other competitors. Heppner could choose to do so once again — although he did acknowledge one potential issue.

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"You know, I've got to figure out how to do them. That's what I'm thinking," Heppner said. "The bad part is it was fun for Rogue because it was a small group. I guess this is a little bit bigger, not that much bigger, but I don't know a lot of the guys that are competing in this, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to trash talk everyone. My first thought is I just get everyone's name on a piece of paper — there's 29 of us not including myself — and I put one word that I would describe the next man and read it to the camera. Like, Mat Fraser, sore. Pat Vellner, pasty white. Brent Fikowski, too smart. I don't know. Noah Olsen, pretty boy. And let them know that I love them."

Following the online stage on Friday and Saturday, the final five men and women will prepare for their trips to Dave Castro's family's ranch in Northern California, where the Games originally took place in 2007. This in-person event will run from Oct. 19-25 and will air courtesy of CBS. All of the athletes will partner with an experienced judge from the CrossFit Seminar Staff.