Over the last year or so, my love, passion, and respect for Girevoy Sport was reignited. I had reconnected with my love of lifting heavy things and most importantly all my strong and wonderful kettlebell lifting friends and community that continually inspire and motivate me. I became obsessed with getting stronger and challenging myself. Before I knew it, most of my travels became flights to various GS competitions, long days were concluded with long cycle sets even if it meant having to lift at 2am, and things like holding my steering wheel with an ‘ok grip’ and racking my camera while taking photos became somewhat of a habit — I knew zoom lenses can get heavy, but I never noticed this until someone pointed it out to me. You can say lifting became a slight addiction once again.
On the weekend of February 22-23 I was in Costa Mesa, California to compete at the 2nd Annual California Open Kettlebell Sport Lifting Championship, one of the most highly anticipated and biggest GS events to happen in North America, organized by the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC) and run by The United States Kettlebell Sport Federation (USKSF). As the Olympics in Sochi were wrapping up that weekend, a huge kettle party was underway at Innovative Results Gym in Costa Mesa – a kettlebell lifting championship followed by a 5-day training camp lead by Russian Champions, which I’m still sad I had to miss!
The very fact that the competition coincided with the last few days of the Sochi Olympics seemed to have elevated the competitive spirit and national team pride in all of us. Go Team Canada!! Go OKC!! I was totally feeling the love and ready to rock all my Canadian Olympic and OKC swag in the spirit of it all. This event was what felt like a world championship. There were 133 lifters in attendance with 12 different countries being represented. 19 of those lifters came from Russia, 8 of which were world champions. We were all there for the same reasons. To show ourselves and the world what we were made of as we lifted those balls of steel to surpass what we felt was not possible, to lift in the moment, to cheer, give hugs, and high fives to all our friends, all while hitting new PRs or humbly accepting defeat in the process. It was a beautiful thing to see and experience.
How many times can you say that you got to lift at the same meet, or for some, share the platform with members of the National Russian Team? We lifted with the likes of: the Great undefeated Sergey Mishin, beauty of the snatch Kseniya Dedukhina, the calm and collected Sergey Rachinskiy, the powerhouse Denis Vasilev, Ivan Denisov, Sergey Merkulin, and Aleksander Khvostov, just to name just a few of the special guests we had in attendance. This was an event not to be missed!
There was so much hype about this event that we were honoured to have Mr. Igor Solodov, president of the Russian Girevoy Sport Federation (RGSF) and committee member of IUKL here to witness the event for himself. He is the man responsible for ensuring that all kettlebell competitions unite and meet the same standards to deliver the sport at an Olympic level.
As a girevik on the road to MS (Master of Sport), it was an incredible and inspiring feeling to be in the presence of so many high level lifters and champions in this sport. You know you’re among greatness and a fierce spirit of competition when 2 world records are set, 1 broken, and the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalists in a given category have all achieved either Master of Sport or Candidate for Master of Sport rankings.
It was unreal and made for a kettlebell meet of epic proportions. Unlike most meets, this one was 2 days. With snatch, biathlon and jerk events on Day 1 and Long Cycle and team relays on Day 2. I have to hand it to John, Nazo, Jason, and Juliet for hosting an incredibly well organized event. The entire event ran like a well oiled machine and was the best and most fun OKC event yet.
We had our very own in-house DJ spinning beats to keep the energy levels high. Strong, hard working gireviks had the opportunity to earn some beautiful medals. These medals were bigger, heavier and absolutely gorgeous – much like something an Olympian would win and a serious piece of bling you’d be proud to show all your friends. Top lifters had the chance to win trophies and several prizes from sponsors. For the first time, the Sergey Mishin Cup was to be awarded to the top coefficient male and female lifters by the man himself. To top it all off, custom printed OKC swag bags filled with OKC and sponsor swag were also given.
The OKC did not fail to impress in their efforts in making this event a huge success. The bar has been raised and a new standard has been set! Some have called it the party of the year, which isn’t that far off. I had an incredible time.
On the first day of the meet, I relaxed and took in all the excitement and energy of the event without worrying about having to lift. It was nice change of pace being a spectator. Paul and I had flown in and arrived at our hotel by 2:30am the night before, so I was also very thankful that the long cycle event was on Day 2. Both armed with our cameras, we spent the day photographing fellow lifters and friends as they attempted their 10 minute jerk and snatch sets on the platform.
There’s something special that happens on the platform from the moment the clock starts counting down. It is a 10 minute battle of mental strength, physical endurance, patience, and perseverance between the kettlebell(s) and lifter. The struggle is real and raw. An inner beast is released. Weaknesses are exposed, and strength emerges as each lifter pours their heart and soul into the iron ball right down to the last minute of their set.
Day 1 was a blast! I concluded the day with weighing in, going out for dinner with a few fellow Chus to fuel up, and grocery shopped for the next day. Gotta have my healthy carb and protein sources! And of course, I made sure to get a good nights sleep to optimize my energy for the competition.
A LOOK BACK AT MY JOURNEY
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali
Before the glory is earned and battle is fought on the platform, one must win and lose many a battle before emerging victorious. Behind every champion, there will always be obstacles, challenges, and setbacks, be it emotional, physical, circumstantial, that will happen and make us stronger before we get that point of stepping up and lifting in front of a gym full of people. Long days, long nights, struggling through good and bad training sets, having faith in yourself, sacrifices, and a hard work ethic is needed to thrive in this kettle-verse. That is what a true champion is made of and what keeps me going.
I have been training with the 16kg sunshine bell for what has felt like an eternity. I did 3 competitions with it in 2011 and this was where I left off when I happened to take 1.5 years off competing. Ever since starting up again last year and ‘forming the Voltron’ as I hired Jason Dolby as my GS coach, I’ve been trying hard to work my way back up and to beat all my previous PRs. Improving on my technique, breathing, fixation, endurance, efficiency and reps. One day at a time. One minute at a time. One rep at a time. Patience is a virtue. When I’m not out rollerblading, snowboarding, skating, or doing a class at one of the many gyms I have passes for, I lift alone. I have a set of kettlebells I keep in my renovated home gym/laundry room and that’s where all the lifting happens. Long work days, a busy schedule, and not really belonging to any particular kettlebell training group in Toronto usually prevent me from keeping regular hours with my lifting and now that I have my own set-up, I can train whenever I want. So late night lifting sessions kind of became my thing and just flowed well with my schedule.
Last August was my comeback into the GS scene. I got 113 reps long cycle, Rank 1 with the 16kg at the Bay Area Open but didn’t quite feel ready to move on so have been continuing my journey with the 16kg. I had set this secret goal of wanting to hit 130 reps with the 16kg so continued to pursue it. Personal competitive issues. I just needed to prove to myself that I can do better than that before moving up.
Within the 5 months leading up to the Cali Open, I’ve had my ups and downs with training which was mostly work related and just a general lack of time/energy to train. Once you fall into that groove, it really sucks and is sometimes hard to get back at it! However, I did take part in a couple of KB events here and there. In October I did the One Hour Long Cycle at StrengthBox, one of the many satellite locations around the world taking part in this event, with the main one being in California. The weekend after that, I competed at the 2nd Annual Agatsu Kettlebell Championships which was probably my worst and best competition set ever. Worst in terms of reps, and best in terms of being super relaxed during my set. Leading up to that, I was feeling stressed with work and lacking sleep. I wasn’t feeling as prepared as I should for the competition, so treated it as another ‘practice set’ without the unnecessary pressure that I HAD TO get a certain number of reps. I just went with it and stayed relaxed, which is probably a good strategy to apply to all my comps. My final outcome was 104 reps, Rank 2, and a Gold in my weight class.
I had a great freelance job opportunity that came along (of course, my inner designer voice said to ‘take it!’ because why would I ever turn down a job?! That’s crazy talk.), which ended up keeping me so busy that I had to take most of November and December off training in order to get it done. Priorities…but seriously. Even at that I was still working late into the night, and falling asleep only to wake up and realize I needed to get more work done before going to work (i have a full time job too). It was a vicious cycle. I was a walking zombie everyday and saw all my free time essentially get absorbed into this job. I dreaded how everyday came and went so quickly and was just going on a constant sleep deficit. On a positive note, the project was well received, the client loved it and the product continues to grow its success. While fulfilling, it did make me question why I always kill myself with such insane workloads and whether all this time investment and stress is worth it in the end. My passion for design definitely plays a role and i think as long as I selectively take on jobs that will help me advance my future goals, i’m good and will keep working hard. Be sure to check out the final project here.
After this was all done, I had a good 2 months to get my butt moving and some solid training time in before the Cali Open and that’s what I did. Since the Xmas holidays, I continued training with Dolby and stayed focused on my goals. I was crushing most of my workouts and the 16kg was feeling lighter on my good days. My shark set before the competition was an 8 minute set where I got 89 reps of 16kg long cycle. I felt it could’ve been better but I’ll take it! I knew that I’d at least stand a good chance of lasting the full 10 minutes at a decent pace when the time comes.
With all of this behind me, each set getting me closer and more prepared for the Cali Open, I was excited, focused on getting enough sleep and putting aside any worries I had about hitting my numbers. I just had to be there and lift.
Going into this competition, I made a promise to myself and my coach that if I can achieve at least 120 reps in 16kg long cycle, I’d finally graduate and move onto the purple 20kg bell for my next competition and bid farewell to my journey with the 16kg.
MY SET AT THE CALI OPEN
This was it. My 6th time competing with the 16kg sunshine bell. The most reps I’ve ever gotten was 114, so I really had no idea how this was going to play out. Would I get the same number of reps? Would I reach 120? Whatever the case, I was ready to give it my all. This was what I trained for. The game plan was to put my best performance forward and leave it all on the platform. My set was scheduled for 10:45am on the 5th flight, platform 3.
Leading up to my set, I warmed up with some body weight movements, swings and short long cycle sets with the 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, and 24kg bells.
As the time drew near, I realized that I needed to find myself a kettlebell to use during my set. All the ones I warmed up with seemed to tug at my skin and the resistance from the chalk gave me an uneasy feeling, which was a déja vu of exactly what happened to me at the Bay Area Open. The palms of my hands got all torn up from the kettlebell handle and that’s something that NEVER happens in my training. I don’t usually use chalk during my sets (I know, I’m weird that way) so now was not the time to change the game plan. I took no chances and did what I was comfortable and familiar with. Hastly looking through all the available 16kg bells, found the perfect bell with the smoothest possible handle, cleaned off all the chalk with water, and was set. No chalk, no wrist guards, and a clean handle on my kettlebell was all that I needed. I made it onto the platform with just 30 seconds to spare. And seconds later the countdown began. 5…4…3…2…1…aaaand lift off!
The energy in the room was amazing. People were cheering non stop. I was going at a very steady pace of 12-13rpm. The fastest I’ve ever gone before. I stayed relaxed and had a smile on my face. Everything was going as planned and I was feeling really confident as I powered through my set. I had my coach Jason Dolby in my corner, motivating and coaching me throughout the 10 minutes my fellow Chu Hus cheering me on, and my boyfriend cheering and being my personal paparazzi. So much love.
To make things even more exciting, for the first time the event was being televised via a live feed on the United States Kettlebell Sport Federation website: http://www.unitedstatesksf.org. My mom even got to watch me do my set on her iPhone back home in Toronto. It was definitely a proud Mom moment for her to see what I do every time I fly off to compete at another kettlebell meet.
The first half of my set went really well. I got about 70 reps of clean and jerk with my right arm before switching sides. When I hit 110 reps, all I heard was ‘C’mon 10 more reps, you got this!!!’ Everything was a blur and I just kept lifting. The cheering got more intense and I was in the zone, lifting in the moment, focused on the now. At this point I still had 1.5minutes left in my set and suddenly saw that my goal was within close reach.
The bell was getting heavier but I knew I couldn’t stop and had to keep going strong. I hit 115 reps with about a minute to spare. Then I heard my coach Jason yell ‘5 more reps!!!’ I was so excited and happy. OMG! This was really happening. I had more than enough time to hit my goal of 120 and some!! And so I kept lifting with all the energy I had. I hit 120 reps! I was all smiles and everyone somehow knew that I had hit my goal. I then heard the crowd yell ‘one more!’ after each rep I got after that.
Right down to the last second.
I put the bell down.
And so my final result was 124 reps of 16kg long cycle, Rank 1. Ugh, to think I was only 4 reps away from CMS!! Regardless, I was so stoked about my numbers as it was a PR of 11 reps from my last competition!
Big thanks goes out to my coach Jason Dolby, who always believes in me, motivates me to reach new PRs, and for all the GS programming that helped me win my Gold! All those late nights of being disciplined with my training sets paid off and has successfully brought me to this point. I was #1 in my weight class again! Another Gold for Canada and the undefeated Team Dolbella 😀
As a perfect conclusion to the competition, there was a 15 minute jerk relay event. My team was called Dolby’s Angels, made up of my kettle sisters: Terri Parker, Cyn Diesel, Cara Bella, and Shermayne Shepherd.
For most of us it was our very first time doing straight jerks but we all thought it’d be fun to partake in just for the heck of it. We had an incredible relay set, cheered each other on, and jerked a grand total of 315 reps with a 16kg kettlebell, placing us 2nd overall!
The highlight of the team relays was a challenge put forth by the Russians to the Americans. The Russians were to lift 2x32kg bells and 2x24kg for the Americans. It was both riveting to watch and an incredibly impressive feat of strength put on by both sides and a really close match. The Russians got 278 and the Americans 285.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME?
My journey into the GS world has been a challenging but rewarding journey so far, yet I feel it’s only the beginning. I’ve succeeded at every goal I set out to achieve and still have so much I can learn and heavier bells to conquer. Now that I’ve reached my personal goal of 120+ reps with the 16kg sunshine kettlebell, I think it’s finally time to move onto the purple haze bell. 20kg Long Cycle, I’m coming for you! It’s going to take lots of patience, zero ego, and plenty of time to achieve everything I’m capable of but I just have to trust the steps, follow them, and let things fall into place. With that said, I’ve already signed up for 2 more competitions in the coming months to debut my 20kg long cycle sets! The 2014 Agatsu Canadian KB Sport Championships in April and the Niagara Falls Open Championship in June. And if schedule permits, I also hope to be competing at the next OKC North California Open KB Championships in August.