Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Huntersville Holiday 5K

Well, I did that. I'm "a runner", and I had a great time. The running community vibe reminds me of kettlebell sport, with the individual challenge of the sport and the enthusiastic, universal support. I was amazed at the number of running clubs, even marathon clubs, local to this area. And I was proud of my neighbor and friend, Jesi, for finishing with her head up and her family and newborn baby at the line.

I have nursed a bruise on my foot since early December, not running even once for ten days before the event. I foam rolled, I massaged, I rubbed menthol cream. The morning of, I had a great warmup, and my feet were bouncy and fresh. I pushed myself and cut more than 3:00 off my previous best 5K time. I'm the bumblebee at the 17:33 mark below.

For the record, I passed the little boy in yellow a quarter mile back. 10 of the top 20, including both M and F overall winners, were ages 16 and under. Two of them were 9... 'sigh' I couldn't get up out of a chair that evening, and it still affected my KB lifting this morning. But, I didn't blister anything or make my bruise any worse. This was a good run.

I also finished 3rd in Men 45-49, with an official time of 25:23. I read later that 4th place finished 3.9 seconds back, just some anonymous timing chip in the crowd that I never chased or even saw. I wanted to walk that hill at 2mi so bad, but I was still breathing 3-in/3-out through my nose. I had no motivation to push but the knowledge that I wasn't yet pushing. It was only in hindsight that I learned how all my choices added up to that slim 3.9 seconds. I'd have never forgiven myself if I hadn't run my best race.

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Gods Lift Among Men

While Girevoy Sport (GS) has a list of competition records and many unsanctioned records, performed with shorter times or heavier bells outside regular competition. When Denisov lifts 40kg Long Cycle for 5 minutes, the video may be called a "world record", and there's not really any public problem with that. However, if you or I or some average lifter posted a high-speed set with 12kg bells and called it a world record, no one would care. And they rightfully should not.

I have a problem with champions performing sprint sets with light bells at competitions. 26rpm snatch, 15rpm long cycle and the like don't have any of the form and stringency required when the rest of us attempt rank. That rank is a hard-won badge of honor for us, awarded for hard work. For a Pro to compete in the Amateur class in a regional event and win all the Amateur trophies lacks decorum, in my opinion. To do so under judging standards not consistent with the sport is a failure of integrity by the hosting organization.

Note: As an amateur American GS lifter, I want to emphasize that this is by no means a personal criticism of individuals sampled, but of this notion of champions and stunt performances. When I see a banner and a scoreboard, I should be able to use this performance for educational purposes.

Champions are role models, like it or not. When a champion lifts well outside his rank for entertainment purposes, it should simply be called an exhibition. At many WKC events, Ivan Denisov has performed exhibitions of 5min sets with 32kg or 40kg bells, not competing directly with the local amateurs. And, I applaud him for it. In this clip from the 2014 California Open, Sergei Merkulin snatches 32kg, and Aleksander Khvostov snatches 40kg, both well out of range of lifters like myself. It's inspiring to watch and valuable to study.

By contrast, this is a set by Denis Vasiliev at the OKC 2014 California Open, at a pace of about 15rpm with 24kg bells. I have issues with the form on display here. Vasiliev is capable of beautiful, textbook technique with 32kg and 40kg, but this does not match his usual quality.

I have the utmost respect for Vasiliev, but this is not a competition set. None of these reps came to any controlled pause at the top. Some barely achieved legal joint extension, but he did them and the judge counted them. This was applauded at the event and in social media, but it was completely not legal in most organizations. Contrast this 24kg set with the precision shown in Denisov's absolute world record set, performed in open competition, and tell me which event payed greater respect to the sport.

There's value in sprinting through the motions for conditioning, but not on the platform. There are two separate arguments to be made here, one about physically consistent standards, and my point about socially consistent standards. There shouldn't be no-counts for amateurs and applause for professionals for the same work.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Learning from Masters

The Ice Chamber's Sunday clinic with Coach Sergei Kirilov and Anton Anasenko was a great experience. I regret I was too busy for pictures and video. I'd recommend it, I loved it, I got the certificate that reads "I studied GS once with Russians". But, it was just a taste of what it could have been. That's not a criticism; it's a self-evaluation.

What struck me after the considerable buzz wore off was the philosophical distance between master and student, in which the student learns how to use tools but the master imagines a new plan and designs new tools to bring it to life. In the excitement of the moment, even the coaches among us were students again. There was more to learn than we were ready to absorb at the time. I barely managed not to fixate on numbers and grip and details, but to get something out of the whole picture. I'd love to sit under those coaches in that format one more time to pick up where we left off.

1. Programming

Anton was several minutes into drawing out a training program that he uses with himself and his students before I recognized it as linear periodization with 2-week mesocycles. If you've read much about weightlifting or powerlifting, that phrase made sense to you. If not, then you probably spent 15 minutes copying down a blackboard of numbers that would not directly apply to you or last longer than 2 weeks.

The questions that followed tended to be more arithmetic than algebra. Advanced discussions don't use numbers so much as units like minutes and comparatives like heavy / medium / light. I've seen notes from other instructors that looked just like this, so maybe it's the math teacher in me that wants to see this laid out as "Hvy bell, add 15sec; Med bell, add 30sec" instead of 32kg 18r, 28kg 42r, and so on. That may have been just me. Had we all understood this at a more symbolic level, we would have seen a 3-mo plan on the board instead of 2 wks. I believe that's a significant next step for anyone who's not under the explicit management of a knowledgeable coach.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Looking Back On The 2014 West Coast Classic

The West Coast Classic a week ago was a huge success. There were just over 100 competitors registered and checked in, ranging from juniors and rookies to Masters of Sport and an 11-time World Champion. I, personally, scored a small PR over the full 10 minutes, neither of which I really expected with my current state of training. Kudos to the Ice Chamber for putting on a great weekend.

I read a quote online recently (not properly attributed at the time to Walter Payton). "When you're good at something, you'll tell everyone. When you're great at something, they'll tell you." That distinction was on display all weekend. When Paul White appeared out of the mist to claim MS in biathlon and long cycle. When the ICKBG team won the jerk relay by nearly double the second-place score. I felt just a taste of it when 8 or 10 people I knew and a couple strangers complimented the quality of my lifting, after spending the Autumn injured. Ironically, it played out in a different way during the Sunday clinic, as I struggled to simply clean a pair of lightweight bells quietly and neatly. I'm grateful for that time, and I have much work to do, but that will be another discussion.