Over the weekend I was able to squeeze in competing at Crazy Monkey USA’s Kettlebell Championship. With all the traveling we’ve had so far this summer, I haven’t been able to stick to a consistent training schedule enough to be ready for a 10 minute set. So, for fun, I decided to sign up for the 5 minute biathlon instead.
Let’s go back 4 weeks until before the competition. I am checking my weight on the scale every day and realizing I am over my weight class by about 4 pounds. Not terrible, but I have never been very good about focusing on losing weight. Because I really just want to eat. And restricting my diet meant feeling tired and crabby about it all the time. 2 weeks before the competition, I took myself to a lecture titled “Fueling the Female Athlete” by Dr. Susan M. Kleiner, a sports nutritionist. I wish I had happened upon this lecture sooner. I had spent the past few weeks training the wrong way in terms of nutrition, and it was eye-opening to hear her say things that didn’t make sense until she said it out loud for all of us to hear. It is the part of training that never really clicks into place until someone grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you into realization. Her biggest point was that female athletes are often under hydrated and under fueled, and therefore cannot perform at 100%. I had being training on empty, and without realizing it, I was hindering my performance because I was only working at partial capacity. The biggest problem? CARBS. I was trying to lose weight by cutting them out, but I was losing steam on my progress because I didn’t have them. That week I tweaked both my carb intake and my timing of when I needed to fuel for the day and noticed the shift immediately. It wasn’t until then I let go of the numbers on the scale. If I ended up in the 68kg weight category, so be it. It meant an additional 10 points, so less wiggle room on my numbers, but still attainable.
Fast forward to the night of the weigh in. I’m not that far off from 63kg even after I quit restricting, so why not try? We get in fairly early in the day, so a few of us on the team head to 24 Hour Fitness to do a little bit of cardio and mobility work. Then we hit the sauna. I am sitting there, trying to sweat out that last 2 pounds, but I feel like an idiot. I know this is the norm for athletes before weigh in, like MMA fighters, but damn. I sat their in this tiny sauna, which was unisex by the way, so there I am sitting next to a few older men, one who is grunting along to his Walkman (I’m in California, am I not? Someone still owns a Walkman?) another who is obviously staring at the extremely fit woman leaning against the wall and I am thoroughly wishing one of my teammates would walk in and save me from this awkwardness. I slide myself out and check my weight on the scale—for the third time. I can’t tell. It isn’t a digital scale so I am doing my best to remain motionless and not breathe and the counterweight wobbles up and down. I walk back out and talk to my teammate who thinks I can still get weight but in the end I call it quits. The last thing I want is to be completely dehydrated before the competition. Knowing myself it would hurt my chances of completing my sets, so I hit the showers.
Back to my Eliza Dushku moment. I am wandering around admiring the space and other lifters and make my way back to the check in table for weigh in. I pull as much clothing off as I can, step on the scale and weigh in at 63.4kg. I am a little more than a pound over. 1.48lbs to be exact. I kind of laugh about it and then all these crazy thoughts start running through my head about how to lose that 0.4 kilos in the next 30 minutes. I run over to my coach and he’s like, it’s a whole pound. So I shrug, run back over and give the weigh in one more try, but in the bathroom stall, stripped of all my clothes. No, I wasn’t wearing a pound of clothing. Now I really needed to accept my numbers and keep my reps as clean as possible with less wiggle room to spare.
Flight 11. Onto the Snatch. Allison and I had about an hour and some change in between, so I fueled up and spent some time cheering for my other teammates. As we get closer to our flight time, my mouth goes completely dry and I am feeling completely drained. I’ve felt complete exhaustion before, but nothing quite like this. Where my body wasn’t to the point of wanting to lay down, but if I were to sit, there would be a chance that the last bit of energy left would be spent on standing up. All of a sudden picking up a 12kg kettlebell sounded like a nightmare.
To me, the Snatch is less taxing than the double arm Jerk, but I have always had a problem with keeping a steady pace. I either start too fast and run out of gas early or fall behind when I am going too slow. My pace always fluctuates. As soon as I pick up the bell, I realize in the first minute I’ve already gone way too fast for a starting pace. I clocked in 20 reps when I really just wanted to start with around 14 to 16 reps. I try minute by minute to slow my pace down, trying to remember to count my breaths in between reps. Everything is feeling ok until I reach the 5 minute mark and as I get ready to switch, I fumble the bell. I nearly have a heart attack when I feel it shift awkwardly as I am switching hands and quickly try to grip it. I catch it, and take a nice long pause in the lockout of my first snatch of my left side to re-center myself. There is nothing like having a split-second panic attack right in the middle of a set.
Even though my left side is my dominant arm, I was still feeling all the weaknesses I had brought to the surface after my Jerk set. All I wanted to do was finish the set no matter how slow I had to go to keep the bell in my hand. Once again, Allison is crushing out reps beside me, and now is about to break 200! Again, our team is hovering in front of us, yelling so passionately for us to finish, just a few reps at a time. My grip is failing but all I can think of is not failing my team, so I hold on for dear life. My technique went out the door in the last minute. I swear I could see it waving at me as it walked out the door into the California sunshine. But I manage to finish my set, with 163 reps. I immediately squat down for a moment in case I should want to pass out and then take it all in. My teammate Adrian comes over and offers me his hand, helping me up and gives me a hug. Immediately after, I get another hug from Coach Nikolai and the rest is a bit blurry.
After the last flight of the morning was the awards ceremony. My points totaled to 156.5, which definitely gave me a Rank 1, but it wasn’t until they called my name that I realized I took 1st place in my weight category. 2nd place was awarded to my teammate Kristjan. Everyone on the team placed and hit some fantastic numbers and goals. I was so proud of everyone and happy to see each and every one of us on the team wearing a medal by the end of the weekend. I look back and reflect on all the training and all the support I received from my coach, my teammates, my friends and especially my boyfriend. I had called him immediately after finishing my Snatch set, barely able to hold the phone up to my ear with my numb and lifeless arm. He told me while he was watching the live stream he was yelling all alone in the apartment and was probably scaring the neighbors. When I arrived back home at the airport, he greeted me with a big bouquet and an even bigger hug. No matter how much work I put in, it wouldn’t of been possible without these positive people in my life. I thank them for their support and belief in me.
Remember that scene in Bring It On? The one where Eliza Dushku and Kirsten Dunst walk into Regionals and Eliza is slowly processing everything in front of her? The groups of cheerleaders huddled around their teammates, others primping their hair, organizers yelling time schedules? Walking into the 2016 OKC California Open was just like that. Except instead of perky cheerleaders with curls in their hair it was lifters with high buns and massive arms. Instead of steady mists of hairspray it was clouds of chalk wafting throughout the warmup area. I walked into Innovative Results in Costa Mesa, CA, admiring the larger banner that was going up behind the platforms, scanning the room and recognizing some faces of lifters that I had only seen in YouTube videos (When Kimberly Fox walked by me I managed to smile and whimpered a "Hello" and distinctly remember feeling like this) and even taking a moment to squish the astro turf between my toes when I took my shoes off for weigh in that night.
Let’s rewind a few months to when I started training for this competition. My coach Nikolai and I were just finishing up an early morning Sport class. I mentioned I was ready to commit to California and we looked at the ranking charts. If I was going to aim for the 63kg weight category, I would need to have my Biathalon numbers—10 minute Jerk and Snatch—at 175 points. I cringed at the thought. Nikolai thought it was reachable, but all I could think of was my shoulder, which wasn’t at 100% yet from a injury from the previous year and the fact that Jerk was now doubles instead of a single bell.
We started with getting my pace for the Jerk to be 10 rpm and Snatch at 20 rpm. It was rough. I felt like a weakling. I was having a hard time getting through some of the sets and I still couldn’t even finish a 10 minute glove set with an 8kg. It wasn’t until the ranking tables were updated a few weeks later where a cloud had been lifted. The updated charts were now more attainable. I would need 110 points in the 63kg weight category for Rank 1. BRING IT ON.
We had our 10 minute test sets in January. I was mentally prepping myself that day to just make it to 7 minutes. Now that my pace only needed to be around 8rpm for Jerk and 16rpm for Snatch, it felt within reach. I ended up not finishing both sets, but I did stay on pace. My point total? 135. I was good to go. Except at the end of January, I had been neglecting rest and mobility, so I end up tweaking my neck and am unable to turn my head all the way for a week straight. There is nothing more terrifying than an injury leading up to a competition. Will I have time to recover? Will my training suffer when I have to take time off?
Luckily, it gave me a hard reset and forced myself to rest. I was still looking good with my numbers so I needed to not stress about it. It reminded my of my derby days, when leading up to the bout I would stop worrying about doing the work and just get my mind in the right place. I spent the week sitting on the bike trainer and mentally going through what I had to do. I started reading My Hour by Bradley Wiggins. He recalled what he went through as he tried to break the record for best distance in a velodrome. The best part of the book is when he is in his final ten minutes. The brutality that his body was feeling while it was breaking down and the mental exhaustion was as real as it gets. He spoke of those final minutes being the worst time to lose focus. I needed to think of my final minutes, the ones I had never been in while training. I needed to prepare myself for the dark side of the moon. The unknown.
Doing a little inspirational reading about Bradley Wiggins' attempt at breaking the record for "The Hour" while putting in an hour on the trainer. "Once you're able to acknowledge it's hurting, then you can start fighting it, admitting, 'It's the hardest thing I've ever done.' Once you get past halfway you've got permission to hurt." #biking #inspirationalreads
Morning of. Think Fight Club. When Brad Pitt’s character non-chalantly says, “Calm as a Hindu cow…” That was me. I often went into this mode before bouts. I wouldn’t talk much, I wouldn’t try to burn off energy by bouncing around. I would just sit or stand silently and mentally center myself. Both of my sets were before lunch, so I was happy to be getting it over with right off the bat. My Jerk set would be the 3rd flight and my Snatch set in the 11th. In a last minute bit of nervousness, I try to get a hold of my boyfriend back home but fail. My teammate Christeine is in the flight right before me, and I can’t even really pay attention or cheer because all of a sudden my mouth has gone dry and my hindu cow moment is fleeting. It’s about to get real.
My teammate Allison is on the platform right next to me. It is a comfort to know we’ll be right next to each other and I won’t feel like I’m standing up there all alone. We are both doing Biathlon with the 12kg. She is a beast, so I try to channel her powers as I get ready to pick up my bells. (Later, I learn from my judge that I picked them up a split second too early in anticipation, but he let it slide.) Since I am standing on Platform 1, I am on the side of the room that isn’t roped off. So my teammates are hovering as close as possible. In my first competition, I looked directly at my judge’s shoes the entire time. I watched him tap his toe every time I completed a rep. I refused to look at anyone. But this time I was all over the place. I looked at the clock, my reps, the hair ties I put on the floor before I stepped on the platform. My teammates. My coach. The little kids climbing on the pull up bars behind everyone watching. It wasn’t until 3 minutes had passed I quit messing around and concentrated on what I was actually doing. I’m terrible at keeping track of my pace, so it was more distracting to look at the clock because I would try to calculate my pace according to reps counted. I was started to get quite a few no counts after 6 minutes and I was starting to lose all confidence in minute 7. My judge wasn’t calling out my no-counts, but I went 4 reps in a row without seeing the counter change. I paused in the rack position. My mind is racing. Then, from the corner of my eye, I see my teammate Adrian lean in a bit and loudly remind me, “It’s just another Saturday morning.”
JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY MORNING. Saturday mornings are when most of the team trains together. Adrian nicknamed Saturday morning the “Executive Suite” one day because we were all there and pushing each other to the max. Some Saturdays, after class, a few of us would stay after and do a little Olympic lifting. Other Saturdays, we would do a little core work. It became routine on Saturday mornings to show up and stay after for extra credit. So there, in minute 8, where I was crossing into the dark side, where my mind had no way to brace itself, Adrian said it. Minute 8, in the dark. Even though I was flying blind, before every rep, I said to myself “Just another Saturday morning.”
Minute 9. I’m shaking all over. My left shoulder is giving out and I can’t get my knees to straighten right away after I return to the rack position. Next to me, Allison is about to break 100. My entire team is yelling for her as she pushes into the upper 90s. I want to cheer for her but I am clearly in no place to just turn and watch. But I’m watching her clock more than mine at that point. 30 seconds left. If she can break 100 then I can finish this Goddamn 10 minutes. I push just past 70 as she hits 100. It isn’t until later that I learn she blew everyone out of the water in the 63kg weight category. Last few reps are a complete blur. I clock in 75 reps and finish the 10 minutes. Compared to October, I did the 12kg with one arm for 5 minutes and got 71.
Stay tuned for Part Two of the Biathlon - The Snatch.
Hey all. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Every once in a while I go into stealth mode. Just wanted to report that I was still alive. Here’s what what.
I temporarily said bon voyage to my friend/neighbor/fellow trainer Elizabeth, who set off to join her husband currently doing a fellowship in Hanover, Germany for a year. So far she has been eat/pray/lovin’ all over Europe and then some. You can catch her adventures here.
I dressed up as the 90s Rock for Halloween and nailed it.
I learned what kettlebell sport was all about from the awesome team at Seattle Kettlebell Club. It was awesome to learn proper form and technique from Master of Sport Mikhail Marshak. SKC owner Nikolai also showed us how to endure long cycles. Talk about being soaked in sweat.
An adventure in the Olympics for the first time that involved lots of rain, unplugging and zero sightings of vampires in Forks, WA.
As part of my 2015 goals, I signed up for the STP. My official riders guide arrived in the mail this week and reminded me to step up my training. That’s 202 miles in two days, yo.
The year of many marriages and babies. A short visit back home to Chicago to see an old friend get married and to hang out with other people’s babies. The very next weekend? Another wedding here in Seattle. Two down, at least 2 more to go.
Diving into the world of rock climbing for the first time. My first visit to Stone Gardens was just about bouldering, and the second visit was just about belay climbing. I like both, they require different approaches, but there is a 5.9 route that I am determined to conquer on my next visit. I took their Women’s Intro to Climbing Class, where the class size is small and instructors do the belaying and let you explore the wall. Even though it was my first time on the ropes, the instructor said it didn’t look like it and I had great body awareness. It is probably all those years of dodgeball and derby.
You can start seeing some contribution posts from me on bootcampideas.com. If you are a fellow boot camp instructor, this site is a valuable resource for boot camp drills and examples, as well as tips for running a boot camp business.
Also look forward to reading some tips from me about injury prevention and training specifically for roller derby over at the Derby Injury Prevention Network blog. DIPN is a collaboration of health care professionals dedicated to promoting health, safety, fitness and athleticism in the sport of roller derby.
May marked seven years with the bf. It is funny how time flies, because it always still feels like the first year. I am looking forward to many more adventures with him.
It was that time of year again for Sara Problem’s Birthday Challenge. This year she requested 5 push ups a day for 45 days until her birthday in June. We finished the challenge strong and all of her friends participating were very glad to not have to do burpees like last year. I completed all 45 days this year, you can view the videos all over on Instagram.
Fellow Sync Fitness Trainer Steve and I collaborated and hosted a Movement Basics Workshop. We had an excellent turn out and taught our boot campers how to move better and really feel what it means to brace the core. With its success we plan to host more this summer. Stay tuned!
There are 4 weeks until STP. Insert freak out here.
I will now leave you with a start of Summer playlist to inspire fresh air workouts and wind (sprints) in your face.