The December 3rd Jingle Bells Kettlebell Competition at Crossfit Sweetwater in Suburban Atlanta marked my first return to Kettlebell sport competition in over three years. Despite entering at the last minute, I was able to win the 2x24kg five minute long cycle event.
I had not planned to compete in 2016. I started the year focusing on building my squat strength, and by the time my buddy Eric asked me to enter an October half marathon last spring, I had set a personal best in the full squat. Honestly, I'm not a gifted runner but I liked the idea of the challenge and the opportunity to take long training runs with my friend every weekend for several months. So I set the squat focus aside and embarked on a 20 week half marathon training schedule.
Hurricane Matthew cancelled our race just as we were packing our car to leave. Suddenly my fitness challenge for the year had vanished and I wasn't sure what to do. That's when I was invited to enter the Jingle Bells Competition.
Although I'd spent months working on an endurance base, I had not trained the competition lifts in three years. Bearing that in mind I registered to use the 20kg bells for the men's ten minute long cycle event instead of my usual 24kg bells. Having less than two months to train, I knew anything more than that would be too ambitious. i began training right away using the 16kg and 20kg bells.
When the heat schedule arrived the night before the event, I saw that almost every male competitor was using the 16kg bells. I was the lone competitor using anything heavier. The only exception was a heavyweight crossfit athlete and competitive weightlifter who'd entered the 5 minute long cycle sprint event with 2x24kg. That got my interest. Since we were scheduled to lift next to each other, why not give the spectators a true head to head competition with 2x24kg? And, I have to admit, my competitive side was itching to lift against a younger, stronger athlete.
This was truly a foolhardy decision. I literally had not picked up two 24kg bells for a set of clean and jerks in three years. Despite this fact, I emailed the organizer and asked to switch to the 2x24kg event.
The day of the event I talked myself through the mechanics of the lift using heavier bells. The hard part, I knew, in adjusting to heavier bells is the jerk. Your legs are the last to acclimate to heavier bells, and it usually takes weeks for your legs to recalibrate the mechanics for the lift, in addition to adapting to the increased conditioning demands of the heavier weights. And not to state the obvious, but it's just harder to repeatedly jerk heavier bells overhead. I knew I'd need to have near perfect, efficient mechanics on every clean in order to save all my strength for the jerks. If did that, then I would maximize the reps I could complete.
In talking through the preparation for my set with Kettlebell sport coach (and legend) Ken Blackburn, he estimated I'd average 8 to 8.5 rpm, or 40-45 reps. He hit it dead on the money as I finished with 43 reps. Although a far cry from my 60 rep personal best for five minutes, it was still good enough to win the event. I honestly didn't know if I could go the entire five minutes, but thankfully, I fell into a groove right away and the time passed,quickly.
The overall event was friendly and well run. All of the competitors showed good sportsmanship, and there was a strong feeling of comraderie. Jenn Casey and her colleagues at Crossfit Sweawater were gracious hosts. And I can't overlook the awesome Mexican buffet that we all got to enjoy after lifting. I'll be looking forward to their next event.
Happy New Year, and God bless you all!
I am a 46-year-old married father of three, and a career prosecutor. My wife and I (and our kids) are very involved in our church.
My one real hobby is lifting kettlebells. I lift at home, in my garage, after we have put the kids in bed and made their school lunches for the next day.