Friday, July 20, 2012

The gap between competitions

I never even posted a recap of the ATC Throwdown. I scored 42/8:40 before my hands gave out (video link). I weighed 65.4kg, a single pound over my usual weight class after 3wks of dieting and a night of cutting water. I tried 5rpm to make rank for 70kg, but the pace actually made me light-headed on the platform. I had never gone beyond 38/9:00 before. We were later informed that scores were normalized with a coefficient (not a formula I could justify mathematically like simple volume/bw), so there was one gold and everyone else got bronze. I scored exactly the rank number for 65kg, with no rank and no medal. The PR felt strangely hollow.

I've known that I had 7wks between the ATC Throwdown and the GA State Kettlebell Championships, but I was never exactly sure what to do with the time. I can do a Volume Cycle for maybe 4wks and a Peaking Cycle for 2-3wks before burning out. The math adds up exactly, but I was mentally drained enough to want a few days off, a short Stage 5, if you will. Honestly, mentally, I'm still there.

Week 1 - I took a week off. I ate, I relaxed.

Week 2 - On Saturday of week 1, I felt a disc move in my lumbar spine doing something seated on the floor. I knew exactly what it was. That's another week of mobility work and rehab and no lifting.

Week 3 - I remained upset that I came into the ATC meet 1lb heavy. A training partner of mine was looking into weight loss diets, so I committed to try a ketogenic diet that had taken some 75lb off a larger friend of mine. Nearly 2wks in at this time, I'm leaner and thinner, but no persistent loss. My carb profile has changed significantly. I'm training a lot of cardio to keep up endurance, and it's tough.

Also, life caught up with me. I've worked four night shifts in the last 10 days, and I have one left. My sleep is off, my back is unsettled, and my metabolism's in flux. I'm hoping I break the induction phase of this diet this weekend and drop 3-4lb by the meet.

Week 4 - ... will start in 3 days, and I am suddenly weeks behind schedule in this tiny imtermission. By this time, I should be deep in a 4-wk Volume Cycle at comp weight. I can't go into a meet lifting 2min sets. I do respond well to a weekly long-set session, so ready or not, I start Peaking Cycle in 10 days.  And I'm posting this from work at 01:30.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New personal record, new weakest link

Anyone in an individual sport -- weight lifting, track and field, rock climbing -- understands the notion "what fails first". You can carry more weight, but you can't get it up from the ground. Running just 1mph faster changes your breathing and cuts your endurance. These sports are all about finishing strong instead of failing. I managed to push my 2x20kg kettlebell Long Cycle up an extra 8 reps and an extra 4 minutes today over my previous records, and I was stopped by a new weakest link.


Previously, I was struggling to breathe and recover between reps. Today I started using a side rack around minute 5, and it fixed my breathing problem. My elbow was squarely on my iliac crest (pelvis), totally legal, and I was breathing deeply. My launch was fine, my overhead was fine, but my grip started slipping during the cleans.

I figured it out near the end, but there was no recovering from this before the buzzer. In the side rack, the fingers on my top hand never got to truly rest. This was my first substantial set beyond 5:00. By 8:00, my left hand was slipping, enough to truly fear I would toss a bell. I made 9:00 with good reps and good wind in me, and I called it.

So I'm exactly 4reps/1:00 from the number I need to rank at 143lb bodyweight. I got down to 145.6 this morning, including a little water cut overnight. This snapshot is from immediately after today's session. Anyone is welcome to highlight areas where I'm 3 or 4 pounds heavy and send them to me.


(I know. The compression shorts make my thighs look fat.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

One-week countdown

On June 30, I'll be competing in double 20kg Long Cycle Clean & Jerk for the first time. My goals are a 10:00 buzzer and a WKC rank, either 42 or 49 reps depending on my bodyweight. The peaking cycle these last few weeks has been a study in fine-tuning, oddly beginning with a PR that I have not since bested.
  • 1 month ago = 30/5:00 at sheer exhaustion and missing reps
  • 2 weeks ago = 20/5:00 at fatigue with solid technique
  • 1 week ago = 24/5:00*, then 22/5:00, then 30/5:00 with double 16kg
  • 2 days ago = 23/5:00, then 22/5:00, alternating 5rpm and 4rpm
These marks were a mix of fasted, early morning and early evening after work, all with substantial warmups. The session marked with a "*" was actually interrupted when my camera fell over and I didn't have an independent count. The set of 16s was penance for stopping instead of following the clock to 10:00.

I've also experimented with an overnight water cut, with good results the next day. I have not been able to drop below 147lb the last month, despite a pretty clean diet. I cannot believe how hard it has been to find 4lbs to lose since my barbell program in the off-season. 143 is my competition weight, but it is not my walk-around weight. I have successfully cut 2.5lb overnight and replenished in a timed 1hr the next morning, then completed great scores. That changes my target weight, and gives me some science to play with.

At this time, I may barely have the numbers to rank at 65kg, let alone 70kg, and I accept that. My goals have to be different. Forgetting ranks and placement, what I need, what I have failed to do 3 of the 4 events I've competed publicly, is to make the buzzer. I've shown I can clean and rack for 10:00.  This is now about self-respect.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting Heavy and Long-winded

Yes, there has been a long-term plan.  I needed to be stronger while resting. I needed to be able to operate with far less than 100% effort. I needed better cardio. And, I needed to address some sport posture issues. e.g., my wrists would go numb in a 20kg rack. So then, this has been my calendar.
  • 04/13 - 2 x 20kg kettlebell Jerk, 30 reps in 5:00. Significant personal record at this new weight class. I stopped because I missed locking my elbows at the top twice and the heels of my hands were going numb. I was "done".
  • 04/21 - 2x20kg kettlebell Jerk, 40 reps in 6:40, on the platform in a meet. A huge PR.
  • 05/15 - 2 x 20kg kettlebell ("Long Cycle") Clean and Jerk, 30 reps in 5:00. Significant PR at this weight class, with no LC practice in a month.
  • 06/07 - 2x20kg kettlebell Long Cycle, 20 reps in 5:00. I stopped because I set a 5:00 time limit, not because I was exhausted or failing technically. I had deep breathing, good launches, solid lockout and fixation, and I had minutes more left in me.
From mid-April through May, I did two things. First, I gave up kettlebell "sport" work in favor of cleans and rack holds for timed sets. Second, I started an actual published barbell program, 3 sessions a week. I got stronger (+80lbs to my 3-lift total in a month), and the program itself kept me from screwing around. I also got a few pounds bigger, all muscle. I'm not sure what I'm going to cut to make weight.

In the month of June, I've focused on Long Cycle and running multiple days per week and 1 weekly barbell session. Each week tends to cycle in a wave from short sets to a long test. I have run and walked several days each week, and my conditioning is rapidly improving. All I need now is to cut 6 pounds.

I had a goal from the beginning of the year, to make WKC rank II (20kg) in Long Cycle. At my usual 45kg weight class, my rank number is 42 reps. If this slower pace is, indeed, sustainable, it adds up to 40 reps in 10min. I am, in theory, 2 reps from my goal, 3 weeks early.  Let's see how that test goes tomorrow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

On schedule and lifting heavy

Ed note: I submitted this to publish on 03/19, but it never published.  This journal is nearly 3wks dated now.

Welcome back. I last posted in December, and it's been an absolute whirlwind since then. I've had a job change with a relocation, a couple of illnesses in the household, and a death in the family in another state. I'm remarkably close to "on schedule", all things considered, but that was the point of having a schedule. In December, I posed the question "do you have your training plan for the next 6 months?" Copied from that post:

Phase 1 - Off-season (indefinite length, starting in January)
  • I have this idea that I would like to be 150lb and pressing 2x20kg for reps and squatting it for dozens of reps and running miles before I resume LC sport training. Not certain that's all necessary, but I don't want to be struggling every rep and gassed at 6:00 like last time.
  • Strength, conditioning, technique, and GPP. Build strength up to the next bell.
  • Barbell dead lifts and squats, KB swings, jump squats, and military presses.
  • Density KB work: 1-3' sets at comp weight or higher. Done at pace for timing and speed, done with extended overhead time for strength.  Aggregate volume, if not extended sets.
  • Cardio output work at HR 120-150 (5mph or less), 30-90min, 2-3/wk.
Phase 2 was intended to start in March and escalate KB volume and set length.  This is what I'm up to as of now.
  • 151-154lb, same belt size. Strict pressing 2x20kg sets of 5. Squatting 2x24kg sets of 10. Sets of squats and cleans with 2x24kg bells.  OALC with 24kg bell.
  • Dead lift 225lb, clean and front squat 135lb (PR). Push pressing up to 115lb BB for short sets. KB swings regularly with a 24kg, a 32kg, and pairs of 16kg.
  • KB work has been interrupted, but doing 2x20kg LC at 7rpm sets for pace and recovery. 
  • Training 5-6 days/wk. It was fine the first few weeks, then the mental strain hit.
  • Cardio work is notably short. My running HR is 155 with a 3min recovery, and walking is time-consuming. I did run 2mi-plus twice in January and February.
At each of these personal interruptions, I knew I would lose time from KB practice. The clean, push press, and front squat complexes have been invaluable, a barbell analog for KB LC if there ever was one. I'm bigger and stronger, at or beyond where I was last September. Honestly, it's fun working on heavy triples, but I need to focus on submaximal dozens periodically when my max hits a plateau. KB sport is all about the plateau.

This is a remarkably close outcome for a 90-day forecast. I might need higher goals next time.