On Thursday afternoon, 2,500 miles away from her home, family and gym, Bel Air's Karen McCune was holding tight to second place in the CrossFit Games, the sport's championship event, which is being held in Carson, Calif.
Through the second-to-last event in the Masters Women 45-49 category, the 46-year-old McCune, who started working out with CrossFit Bel Air two years ago, had amassed 562 points, good for second place overall and 23 points behind the first-place competitor. A decisive victory in the last event of the competition, simply called the Masters Final, could have secured McCune the title.
But her fifth-place finish in Thursday's last event wasn't enough to take the top spot. McCune finished the CrossFit Games in second place with 642 points.
The competition consists of nine events, all of which are composed of exercises that take place every day in CrossFit gyms, such as sprints, dead lifts and weighted sled drags.
"These are things you'd see if you came to our gym, any day of the week," CrossFit Bel Air coach Andy King said recently. "There's no difference between what they're doing and what we're doing. That's what CrossFit is built around."
The Masters Final was a timed event. Competitors had to do a 100-meter dash, five burpee muscle-ups — which consist of one pushup on the floor and one pullup on gymnastics rings — and five 115-pound snatches, a weightlifting exercise in which lifters raise the barbell over their heads.
McCune's paced slowed after the event's first two segments, said her husband, Scott, after the competition, and she finished in 5 minutes, 43 seconds.
"She gave it all she had," said Scott McCune, who watched Karen McCune compete throughout the CrossFit Games. "After five burpee muscle-ups and that sprint, that was it."
McCune, a mother who is listed at 5 feet 3 inches and 120 pounds, took first in her division Wednesday at the 2007 event, which consists of a 1,000-meter row and five rounds of pullups and pushups, with an overall time of 14:11.55.
"Karen is in the .01 percent of competitors out there," King said. "The time she put up in the 2007 event yesterday was just insane.
"That was five or six minutes faster than people finish at the regional events. That's how strong she is."
King said he and fellow CrossFit Bel Air coaches had been following McCune's progress throughout the week.
"I'd say she's a mix of two kinds of athletes," he said. "She's probably a cross between a Division I sprinter and a Division I gymnast. That's what we're trying to get to with CrossFit, that kind of mix. She's obviously way up in the rarefied air, though."
This was McCune's first appearance in the CrossFit Games, and though she didn't win the competition, it was still a memorable experience.
"She had a great time," Scott McCune said. "She was working with people she had seen in the past that were just iconic to her, in a way."