I intended to post this blog a while ago, but didn't get the opportunity to finish it until now. So here it is, the last word on the IKFF/NAKF Kettlebell Meet, for now a least.....
I thought it may be useful to write a blog on how I (competing in my first ever kettlebell meet) felt from a performance standpoint the day of the event.
Personally I feel this may help me reflect on my mindset and performance and serve as a good source of feedback to take forward and hopefully help me improve my standard of performance in upcoming meets. Also, this may prove useful for those looking to enter a competition in future and prove a useful form of reference, highlighting things to expect, things to avoid and perhaps certain elements that may help the day run more smoothly. This is obviously based on my view and opinion so take from it what you will.
It's the morning of July 26th. The phone rings, it's my wake up call. It takes me just a little while to realize where I am. It takes a few seconds but then my mind clears and it hits me, I'm in Flint Michigan and its the day i've been waiting for, the day i've been training my guts out for the past 8 weeks. Here's how the day unfolded.
The Weigh In
Being new to the sport and not really knowing what to expect on competition day, I was keen to try and scope out the competition, to pin-point the biggest rivals, this was a mistake and a waste of time! The unique thing about kettlebell lifters is we come in all shapes and sizes, which makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between who may be a stronger or weaker competitor. So the lesson here is focus on yourself, your own preparations and performance, ultimately that's all that matters.
Following the weigh in's and the explanation of rules and regulations for the meet, which included a demonstration of all lifts by Valery Fedorenko himself, the flights were announced. For this meet there were 8 lifting platforms, which meant up to 8 competitors would lift at once, which makes up a one flight. There were I believe about 16 flights in all, maybe more. Each flight obviously consisted of 10 minutes and there was a 5 minute break between flights, which kept the meet rolling at a perfect pace and meant that competitors lifting in the next flight had approximately 5 minutes to get to their platform, get their bell, chalk up and prepare their mind for the work ahead. Order of competitors within flights and flights themselves were determined by weight of kettlebell rather than weight of participants. So as I mentioned earlier, it was irrelevant whether you knew who your competition was with regard to weight class because chance was they weren't in the same flight as you anyway. The flights were arranged in ascending order (weight), so those lifting with the 12kg bells were first, then the 16's, the 24's and finally the 32's. Order of lifts was Traditional first (jerk then snatch), Long Cycle, then Chair Press and the meet was rapped up with the challenge lifts.
My First Lift (Jerk)
So here I was, my first competition, first lift, first time lifting in front of a crowd, which included numerous world class lifters and the legend Valery Fedorenko himself! To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the century, I was scared sh*tless! My mental preparation for this lift was terrible, I got caught up in the moment instead of settling myself down and focusing on what I needed to do during my set. This led to a poor performance for me with respect to both my technique and my numbers.
Funny part of the story was the "chalk issue" I experienced prior to my lift. I had been using a fairly hard chalk during training that I would break up and have to grind in my hands to make it fine. Little did I know the chalk provided here was very light and fine, completely opposite to what i've been used to. So, I kneel down ready to chalk up, trying to look professional and dive my hands into this bowl of fine powder which created an enormous mushroom cloud that enveloped me! The result, not only was I nervous, but now you could also add embarrassed to the mix as I stepped to my platform looking like Casper The Friendly Ghost!
Check it out. I hit 44 reps (6:17), I burnt out my shoulder early due to a lack of leg drive, which is unusual for me, but thats what happens when you go in with the wrong mindset, I lacked focus and can't really remember the set at all. I placed 2nd in the jerk, and left myself a lot of work to do in the snatch to win the traditional. On a positive note following my initial disappointment of the jerk, I feel it actually helped calm me for the rest of my lifts.
The time frame between lifts at this meet was just about perfect, I think I had between 45 minutes to an hour to cool down,recover, rehydrate, eat, warm up and be ready for my next lift. My only advice here would be make sure to know when your next lift is, have food and drinks readily available and allow time for a warm up prior to each lift.
My Second Lift (Snatch)
The snatch was so much better for me than the jerk, simply knowing what to expect helped a lot and knowing I had nothing to loose at this point allowed me to find a rhythm that felt good and just go with it.
I took some positives and some negatives away with me regarding this lift. Negatives first, I have suffered hand tears in the past during this lift, so I knew If I pushed that was probably going to be a factor. I made my hand switch at 49 reps because of this, I felt my grip failing and knowing I still had the long cycle (my strongest lift) to go, I changed hands-too early! My right is my dominant arm and I ended up with more reps on my left (51), the last 4 of which being the most excruciatingly painful I have experienced with the added bonus of a hand tear. Based on my previous statement you may ask, why I pushed so far with my left, with the LC up next. Well, my biggest rival and training partner (Brian Del Greco) had smoked me on the jerk and I knew he hit 100 snatches, so I wasn't about to put the bell down until I hit at least three figures. I squeezed out the 100th rep and let the bell swing for a few moments, my heart racing, my hand bleeding and thought to myself "one more...just one more." It wasn't to be, the KB slowly slipped out of my hand, its amazing I got to 100, but couldn't get even one more. It's the most humbling and exhilarating feeling there is, knowing you pushed yourself to your absolute limit. AWESOME! Positives-technique felt smooth, I hit a new PR by 40reps, went 7 minutes and tied first place for snatches in my weight class.
My Third Lift (Long Cycle)
Following the snatch my left hand was torn pretty badly, luckily my wife Sarah was on hand to patch me up and send me on to the LC. I knew I was strong going into this lift, the hand was a concern, but I felt confident. I felt relaxed during the set even though I was tired from the previous lifts and my hands felt raw. My plan was to try and hit 30reps and a new PR, but it wasn't to be. I felt good up to about 24, but then I was really aware of my hands, the right was beginning to tear now too. I held on and pushed out for more reps, but had to call it a day at 28reps (6:17). I was disappointed not to get the 30, but knew I left it all out there on the platform. Thankfully 28 was good enough for 1st place in my weight class, so all in all I was happy with my day's performance as a whole.
First kettlebell meet in the bag. It was a physically and emotionally draining and yet a completely exhilarating experience, I loved it. I can't wait to compete again. The sport of kettlebell lifting is growing and has a bright future. If anyone reading this blog has aspirations to try their hand at competing I would say go for it. Don't be intimidated, meets like this one in Michigan are a perfect place to get your feet wet, there are competitors of all levels, the atmosphere is great and its a lot of fun, get involved!