Over the weekend of February 28 – March 1, I was in Costa Mesa to compete at the Orange Kettlebell Club’s (OKC) annual kettlebell lifting competition: the California Open Kettlebell Championship held at Innovative Results gym. This was a massive two-day kettlebell lifting event with Biathlon, Jerk, and Snatch events on Day 1 and Long Cycle on Day 2. It is the largest one to be held in North America every year, this time with over 140 lifters from around the world competing and over 200 competitive lifts performed, which made for a great competitive environment. It is like an epic lifting party with all your friends! If you weren’t there, you had to be there! Likewise, if there was only one kettlebell event you could attend this year, this one’s it! The entire event ran smoothly and was a huge success. Overall, it was a memorable weekend filled with passion, emotion, sweat, tears, hugs, laughs and huge smiles!
Sharing one’s passion is a beautiful thing to see and I am proud to be part of the Orange Kettlebell Club lifting team. There’s an infectious energy about it. Everyone has each other’s back, there’s great camaraderie, and we always cheer each other on even if we are competing against one another. Afterall, to most of us, it is a battle against yourself and not really about what others are doing.
The OKC’s goal has always been to promote and progress the growth of kettlebell sport in America. Lead by John, Jason, and Nazo at the core, it is clear that they truly love the sport, lifting, the community, and will pour their heart and soul and put the hard work into making every event they put on, a positive experience. Whether you are new to the sport, or a seasoned lifter, you can’t help but feel the love when immersed in the energy of the Cali Open. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. They are passionate lifters creating events for lifters. This event was a manifestation of that love they have for the sport and their drive to support and push it forward.
Some of the note worthy things that made this competition unique were:
• For the very first time, there was a two arm long cycle (TALC) event for women. This was huge, since the event is not a recognized event in the world of kettle yet and is generally one that is only designated for men.
• At the very end, there was a team relay event in 2-arm jerks between the Russian men, American men, AND women. Last year I competed in the 1 arm jerk relay event, but this year they introduced doubles for women.
Up until December, I was pretty slack with my GS training, with the occasional training session thrown in. I knew this was definitely an event I’d regret missing, so it was time to step things up. My coach, Jason Dolby may live on the opposite coast, but he has always been a great motivator with my lifting. Whenever we talk about GS training, I get excited and stoked to take my training further and keep on lifting. Plus, if I wanted any chance of earning my CMS rank, I knew I needed to focus and commit myself to putting in the time and effort. I only had about 12 weeks until the comp, so I had my coach Jason Dolby do my GS programming to help me prepare for the 20kg Long Cycle event Cali Open at the end of February. With such a huge break from my regular kettlebell training, I didn’t know what to expect of myself or whether I’d still be able to lift the purple beast.
It was a tough uphill struggle for the most part. Most of my training sessions with the 20kg felt heavy. A lot of times, my arms would feel tired after short 2 minute sets with the 20kg. I trained hard 3 times a week with short sets using the 16, 18 and 20kg bells and worked my way up to doing a longer set. I was hitting my numbers on almost all my sets (about 9-10rpm, sometimes 11) but was still unhappy. It felt like I was starting all over again with my lifting. How the hell am I supposed to survive a 10 minute set with this?! was a frequent thought running through my head. On some days, 20kg would feel impossible and others where I felt invincible with it.
I have quickly realized that in order to climb the kettlebell sport ladder and earn your ranks, one must be very patient, dedicated and persistent with their programming and training. Any prolonged break from training is bound to make the starting back up and getting back to where you left off just that much tougher, especially with the heavier bells. It’s hard to forget how to lift, but I find strength is something that needs to be rebuilt. With my crazy schedule and workout ADD, this sometimes conflicts with things and creates an added challenge for me to fit the workouts in. Being a night owl, most if not all my training except on weekends, took place close to or after midnight.
For a while I started to lose motivation and was dreading my training sessions. I felt I needed to switch things up a bit, so I supplemented my kettlebell training with bouldering and rock climbing on the days I wasn’t lifting, which I really LOVED! It was a nice challenge which introduced me to some new movement and thinking patterns while helping me develop grip, arm, and leg strength, which can transfer well into my kettlebell lifting and vice versa. At 3 weeks out from the competition, I stopped climbing in order to refocus on my lifting (coach’s orders) because my numbers with the 20kg began suffering a bit. This was probably because my arms were too spent from all that climbing which then affected my performance in training. I just can’t help myself! During this time, I also tested out lifting with a lifting belt to help me improve my rack position and provide some extra support.
It was only towards the last 2 weeks of my training cycle that I truly began to feel more confident and less uncomfortable with the 20kg. I was rocking my training sets with an 11-12rpm pace, which until then seemed impossible. The last time that happened was with the 16kg bell!
My only 2 goals for the weekend were simple:
1. Achieve CMS in 20kg long cycle with at least 100 reps.
2. Finish my time – no stopping or fading during the 10 minutes.
On the day of the competition I was scheduled to lift at 10:20am – Flight 5, Platform 5.
I wanted to keep things light, so for a burst of energy, I fueled myself with 1.5 bananas, and a green smoothie an hour or so before my set. As my warm up, I did some kettlebell swings and long cycle reps with the 12, 16, 20, and 24kg bells and just relaxed before it was time.
On the platform, I got to lift next to my kettle sister and OKC teammate Shermayne. We fist bumped and wished each other a strong set. As the 10 second countdown began, I quickly got into position and once the counter hit zero, I was off to a fast start. I was on pace with 12rpm on my first minute then dropping to 11-10rpm on the next 4 minutes on my right side. I heard my fellow Chus cheering me on and my coach reminding me relax and keep going. I was so focused on my set that all was a blur. I felt good, still had energy, so continued on my right arm for another half minute, giving me 58 reps before switching to my left, less dominant arm. I went at a steady pace of 10-11rpm. Within the last minute of the set, I had a huge smile on my face as I hit my goal of 100 reps!! Then continued on to get an extra 3 reps with the time I had left. I got a total of 45 reps on my left, making it a grand total of 103 reps!
After 2 failed attempts last year with 84 and 86 reps, I finally achieved my long awaited goal of CMS rank in 20kg long cycle with 103 reps (58R/45L) and won a Gold medal! I only needed 96 reps to achieve Candidate for Master of Sport (CMS) under the OKC/KetAcademy ranking tables. This set was a HUGE PR of 17 reps over my last competition! I was lifting a lot more efficiently and I saw my technique improve vastly since the last time I competed. The lessons I learned from Dolby were game changing and helped me surpass what I had expected to achieve. It felt incredible and I’m proud of my set. Now a part of me is hungry for my Master of Sport (MS) rank. I will aim to get those 9 extra reps and more next time!
It is the triumphs and moments like this that make all the hard work and dedication worth it. This medal earned represents another milestone in my GS journey – a goal accomplished after all those times I’ve struggled in my training, those bad sets, good sets, frustrations, and triumphs. Persistence, focus, determination, and the fighting spirit of the warrior within will always be what it takes to get one step closer to achieving something greater.
Another fun aspect of the weekend was being part of the Kettlebell Canucks team. A while back, my friend Christina Danos and the rest of us Canadians competing at the Cali Open thought it’d be cool to form our own team of Canadian lifters to compete for the best team award – which basically is an award determined by collecting the individual results of the lifters during their events. I am proud to say that we came in a very close SECOND to the OKC team and that I got to design the tshirts.
I will leave you with a video of Shermayne and I rocking our 20kg sets. Both of us hit major PRs and finished our time, it was a good day!