Story by Contributor Lex Enrico Santí

Ithaca is already on the map for a number of accolades, namely our gorges, amazing food, founding figures of ice cream sundaes and being ranked as one of the best college towns in the Americas. Ithaca now has one of their own who can claim he is one of the fittest men alive.

Tim Paulson is an imposing figure at 6 feet 1 inches and weighing in at 200-plus pounds. To see him run on a treadmill is to feel sorry for the treadmill. In the first event of the Crossfit East Regionals he ran 1,200 meters as fast as possible. Then he jumped off the treadmill and then turned himself upside down and did four handstand pushups against a wall, then hopped up to a bar, swung himself with a controlled and methodical gymnastic swing and did eight chest-to-bar pull ups (those are like pull-ups but instead of your chin coming to the bar you get to chest level, you knew that already though) and then he did 12 air squats. Sound easy? Wait, there’s more. He had to do those last three movements not just once but 11 more times. In a row. Barely catching his breath in between. Wait, wait, AND he had to wear a 20lb weight vest the entire time. that in less than 16 minutes and that was just the first event. Not too shabby, right?

Paulson poses with his wife, Caitlin. Provided Photo.

With brownish orange-fire hair and a scraggly beard he’s often confused with a viking who maybe got lost somewhere after the Grassroots festival. Make no mistake; Tim Paulson is part of our community. He’s not lost. He’s an extremely focused and dedicated competitor and national pro athlete. The local co-owner of CrossFit Pallas (CFP) and Ithaca College alum is going to the Super Bowl of fitness this summer.

On May 21 in Albany, after three grueling days of similar, seemingly Herculean feats, local Ithacan, Paulson, qualified for the Reebok CrossFit games and earned his spot to compete against the best of the world this August. The East Regional is often called as one of the toughest regional qualifying events in the world. Paulson, competed in an elite field against 50 other competitors. Among this group, included multiple previous CrossFit Games attendees and had him go toe-to-toe with Matthew Fraser, the reigning two-time champion and the “Fittest Man Alive.” In a thrilling second event, Paulson, in fact, bested Fraser in an epic dash, placing 1st in the world for the event. At the end of three days Paulson placed 3rd overall, easily punching his ticket to Madison this summer.

Asked on what it was like to qualify for the Games, Paulson said, “It is a dream come true. It’s not always the case in life that you can lay out a plan, constantly adapt it, and methodically execute it on a daily basis – and achieve what you set out to do. It takes an army, and my family and the CFP community are a large part of that army.”

CrossFit is a unique sport unlike other professional athletic sports; anyone can compete on a national scale. There’s not a draft, there are no “owners” and arbitrators and such. The CrossFit paradigm is flat in this sense, as it eschews the hierarchy of other national sports. The mom down the street who does CrossFit may have a nasty deadlift and can out rope climb you. CrossFit folks who watch these events and follow fellow competitor’s progress are mostly athletes themselves, hence, CrossFit fans take this stuff so serious.* So, in front of what some call the fittest fans on the planet, Tim Paulson placed third overall, and some 60 other Ithacans were there to cheer him on.

If one has the proper training, work ethic and, well, genetic predisposition to be hell-a-fit, they can qualify for the Regionals after competing in something called the CrossFit Open. The Open is a five-week competition where competitors on a worldwide scale tackle the same workout as everyone else. You have 72 hours (more or less) to do the workout and record your scores online. Tim is no stranger to qualifying for the regionals. This constituted his fifth trip to the East Regionals since he began his journey to CrossFit.

Provided by CrossFit Headquarters

When asked how he has prepared since first qualifying for the Open, he said, “My coach and I have been slowly increasing my volume year over year, so that I can be an athlete with longevity rather than a flash in the pan (at least, that’s our plan)! We’ve methodically identified and eliminated weaknesses each year through daily communication and an honest assessment of my abilities on a regular basis.”

His work ethic is commendable and one could argue, Spartan: “I train 3 to 5 hours a day in addition to coaching 2 to 4 hours and operating CFP.” but he incorporates not just typical “stretching” into his routine and attributes his success to people around him, ” I have also incorporated massive amounts of yoga and self care into my routine, including local chiropractor Dr. Sarah Gardner of Finger Lakes Performance Chiropractics. She has done wonders for my recovery and movement patterns.”

The CrossFit Games will be a five-day event and gladiator-like contest to determine who will be named the fittest man and woman on the planet. I don’t mean fittest in terms of who can lift the heaviest weights or run the longest distance. But events like the one that I described will determine how these elite athletes will stack up against one another after. Facing exhaustion, a cache of ever-diabolical combinations of movements and possibly enduring temperatures in outdoor stadiums, these professional athletes will face off to determine who is the fittest in the land.

When asked about competing on a worldwide scene, Tim is humble, ” My goal this summer is to prepare to the absolute best of my abilities, which I know for a fact I will do. Then, when the Games come, to execute each workout flawlessly given the circumstances and my capacity. If I do that, I know I will be happy with myself and happy with the outcome.”

Finally, when asked whom he dedicates this win to and who inspires him, Tim Paulson did not hesitate, “My wife. She works really hard, both as a physical therapist and in the gym. She has long days and long hours, and is my best friend and rock of support. She has believed in me from the first day we met and has always supported my dream of running a CrossFit affiliate and qualifying for the Games in a manner so steadfast it constantly surprises me. Even though it shouldn’t anymore. She puts up with my highs and lows in training, and reminds me of my greater purpose when I need it most. I don’t know what I’d do without her. I love you, Caitlin.”

We are proud to say that representing the land of the Gorges will be Tim Paulson, a humble giant and we can all be proud to have as part of our Ithaca community.

Lex Enrico Santí also takes part in CrossFit and is a yoga coach at the CrossFit Pallas. He works and raves in Ithaca, N.Y. His photographs and poetry can be found on Instagram @flexsanti

Featured image provided by CrossFit Headquarters