It has been a really busy few weeks for me since getting back but alas here is my long overdue report of my IKFF National Kettlebell Championship experience. So with 4.5months of training, several thousands of pounds lifted each week, my coach Jason Dolby behind me, and my eye on the gold, I didn’t want to disappoint either of us. As my 3rd time competing, I felt very confident and ready to take it on. Whatever the outcome, it would be a reflection of the hard work and be a test of the effectiveness of my recent GS focused training program.
Kettlebell sport not only challenges your strength and endurance but it is also a mental game. Those of us who do it, would know exactly what I’m talking about. It grows teeth longer you are under it, and at certain points you just want to put the bell down but still manage to power through your set. Like kung fu, it is not about fighting but it’s about making peace with your enemy.
The mind will often quit before the body and for me, I believe that combined with the proper training protocols, mental strength and good technique will always save the day (and your hands!).
My approach – think happy thoughts when lifting. Push kettle. Be strong. Work hard, and above all, move with efficiency.
Mind over metal.
Getting to Novi, Michigan proved to be a bit of an adventure in itself. I was contemplating on driving but ended up opting to travel via the Greyhound bus. It was cheaper than a $600 flight and I figured it’d be more relaxing than driving all night since I’d get to nap and catch some extra sleep, but little did I know….I departed from Toronto on a somewhat packed 1:00am bus. I got an aisle seat, was stuck next to a girl who kept encroaching on my space and behind a guy who had his seat inclined to the max but things got better after the bus made a couple of stops. There were only 10 of us left and as we crossed the boarder, we all had to go into the US customs office, which was by far the most extensive screening I had ever been through (I’ll never complain about the airport again). I got asked several questions in addition to the usual, what, where, and why are you here questions, and of course by mentioning kettlebells, that in itself raises a few extra questions. Next was the bag search which was very thorough and the only item in question was my indian clubs. I had to explain and demonstrate my way out of that one but all was good afterwards.
I arrived at Detroit station, took another bus to get to Southfield, Michigan – the closest station to Novi. I was the only one getting off at that stop, the station was closed, and I was just left to my own devices to get to my destination. The nice bus driver told me ‘you’re on your own, kid!’
Perfect. It was way too early to be heading to the hotel, so I sidetracked and asked the attendant at the Shell gas station for the taxi phone number, called, and got myself a ride to the Twelve Oaks shopping mall. Yep, this girevik loooves to shop!
I was there around 8:30am and the only store open was the Apple store. I spent some time testing out the ipad and new nanos until the rest of the mall opened. The weigh in was scheduled to start at 2pm so I shopped and walked around the mall for a good 7 hours with my heavy back pack in hand, then called a taxi to take me to the hotel. After waiting for a good 30mins and a few extra phone calls, the taxi driver found me and I made it to the hotel by 4pm.
At the hotel, I weighed in at exactly 65kg (143.3lbs), unfortunately not enough to get into the 63kg weight class, but that’s ok. I wasn’t about to go crazy sweating/running off the extra weight. The idea was to put my best effort into my 10 minute and see where it goes from there. In the front lobby, I was catching up with my friend Sincere Hogan and met Tom Corrigan and Misha Mikhal who had both been trained and certified by Russian world champions via the IKSFA. We did what most competitors at these meets did. Talk kettlebells, discuss technique, and exchange tips on lifting.
Within the few minutes we were talking, I had picked up some great tips on how to be even more efficient and couldn’t wait to apply it to my training. With kettlebell sport, there always seems to be something new to be learned and if you’re getting advice from a Russian, you know it’s the real deal. Afterwards, we all got together for dinner with Ken Blackburn and the rest of Sincere’s team. I fueled up on some good protein, fats, and carbs, checked out the nearby Trader Joe’s for some fruits & water for the next day then got a good night’s sleep.
On the day of the competition, the lifting action started at 9:20am. I was in the 13th flight of lifters and had a good 4 hours before my set. With that time, I got to hang out with and watch friends and fellow lifters compete. I also had plenty of time to warm up so I used the pair of indian clubs I brought with me and did some hand to hand swings and low rep long cycle with the various weights of kettlebells that were on hand (ie: 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, 24kg) as my warm up. This probably happened 3 times within the 4 hours before my set. By the time I got to my set, I was very well warmed up.
This was it, the most important 10 minutes that I’ve been training for. Once flight 12 was done, I headed over to the platform, did a bit of joint mobility, a couple of heavy jerks, stepped up to the platform and just relaxed as I waited for the countdown. And so the lifting began. This time the 16kg bell felt lighter than usual – definitely a good sign. I started off at a good pace of about 12-13rpm. Everything happening around me was a blur. I was absorbed in the moment and focused like a lazer. I was feeling strong and the only thing that mattered was that I kept cranking out the reps with minimal rest between. I got a total of 65 reps on my right arm then as I switched sides, my speed dropped a bit as I got another 48 reps.
The outcome: I won a GOLD medal in 16kg Long Cycle and achieved IKFF Rank 1 status with 113 reps in the 68kg weight class. It was awesome! Another goal scratched off my to do list! I personally would have liked to have gotten 120reps as that was my target. Next competition, I got it! I did however, beat my numbers at the Agatsu competition by 10 reps and didn’t get winded or tired during my set so it definitely counts as a steady improvement in strength and performance my books. I’ve come a long way since the days when I was barely able to lift the 16kg for 3 minutes 🙂
Below is a video of my 10 minute long cycle set with the 16kg kettlebell. Big thanks to my friend Sincere Hogan for shooting it and playing the role of kettlebell sport announcer. 113 reps done with the 16kg kettlebell, 3986lbs/1808kgs lifted in 10 minutes.
After all the awards were presented, it was time to head home. Although I had originally bought a 2 way bus ride, I decided to ditch the 10 hour bus ride and ride back with my fellow girevik friend Boris instead. According to the GPS, we had about a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us which soon became more like a 6 hour drive back all while blasting electronica and dance beats from our iPods. The toughest part was actually getting out of Detroit. We spent a good hour and a half detouring through the streets of Detroit due to road construction but all was good once we passed the US border into Windsor. It was a long ride and I got home around 10pm. Thanks Boris! Only a crazy person would drive to AND from Detroit in a day 😉
Some closing thoughts: Just when I thought I was getting sick of kettlebell lifting, I feel as if a spark had been re ignited once again. GS is addictive! The training can be hell at times but I love the feeling of achieving my training goals. I just can’t stop now. It really is a lot of fun competing and inspiring to see so many great lifters out there, especially women smaller than myself lifting the 20kg and 24kg bells. After winning my 3rd gold medal this year, I am left hungry for more and this momentum has fueled me to improve and push myself further to compete with the 20kg kettlebell so I can become CMS (Candidate for Master of Sport). I’m estimating that it can happen later this year or early next year depending on my training schedule and when I decide to compete again.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.