Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pentathlon Update

"In fighting, in evolution, in life, efficiency is the key. It's not the most powerful animal that survives. It's the most efficient."
- Georges St. Pierre, UFC champion

It occurred to me somewhat belatedly that I never wrote anything about the Pentathlon competition that I participated in on May 4, so here goes.

The Pentathlon consists of 5 lifts (I've added links to videos that demo the lifts): 
  • Clean (you swing the bell between your legs, then up to your chest into a position called the "rack") -- max 120 reps
  • Long Cycle press (you clean the bell, then lift it above your head--no knee bend, feet stay on the ground) -- max 60 reps
  • Jerk (with the bell in the rack position, you use a knee bend to"pop" the bell overhead and another knee bend to get under it, then you straighten your arm and legs--not a great explanation--it's a complicated move) -- max 120 reps
  • Half Snatch (you swing the bell between your legs and up overhead, then lower it to rack position) -- max 108 reps
  • Push Press (with the bell in rack position, you bend your knees to give yourself a little extra power to push the bell overhead) -- max 120 reps
You get 6 minutes for each lift, with a 5-minute break between each lift, so it takes nearly and hour to finish a set--that's a long time. Points are given for the weight of the bell (8 kg = 1 point, 10 kg = 1.25 points, 12 kg = 1.5 points, etc.) and multiplied by the number of reps to give you a score. The highest score wins. Easy, right?
There's strategy involved. You can use a heavier weight (more points per lift) and risk not being able to do the maximum number of reps or you can use a slightly lighter weight to try to reach the maximum number of reps per lift (my strategy). Also, because of the length of the event, you have to pace yourself--if you lift too heavy in the earlier sets, you may not be able to finish as strongly as you'd like. You can change hands as many times as you like, but changing hands takes time, so you have to think about that, too.
I'd only done one complete Pentathlon at home before this, but doing so allowed me to get a feel for the weights I wanted to use, though I made a few last-minute changes. Uncharacteristically, I decided that it would be better to be a bit conservative in my weight choices (usually I go for broke in my workouts and end up in a puddle on the floor). As it was, I thought I was going to puke about two-thirds of the way through the half snatches, but I managed to keep it together.
Not having grown up doing athletic things (I did a lot of ballet and played some softball for a community-league team), getting up in front of an audience for a competitive athletic event is waaaay out of my comfort zone. I'd really rather play a flute recital. Although I considered bailing more than once, I knew that I'd end up feeling really disappointed in myself if I didn't give it a shot, so I turned up bright and early on May 4 ready to give it a shot.
Misty, Mike and Renee and their volunteer brigade went all out to dress up The Foundry--our little gym looked amazing. There were 15 competitors total (9 men, 6 women)--some of them from out of town--divided into 3 flights of 5. I was in the second flight at 10:30 am--exactly where I wanted to be. Each competitor was assigned a judge who also kept count of reps (it's easy to miscount when you start to get tired) and there was a big clock on the wall to countdown the time for each set. We all lined up on our platforms, the clock started, and off we went.
In girevoy sport, whether in Long Cycle, Biathlon, or Pentathlon, rhythm and breathing are key. The idea is to establish a regular rhythm and try to do a certain number of reps per minute as opposed to going really fast and finishing early. It's paradoxical because it's really really tiring and hard, but you're supposed to be relaxed all the way through. Technique and efficiency are key--good, efficient technique conserves energy--and breathing helps set the rhythm. The sets are long and the changeover from aerobic to anaerobic happens fairly quickly, so you learn to endure discomfort. Also, the anaerobic component is interesting--I can now get up hills on my bike that used to defeat me before.
Okay--back to the competition. Despite setting a rhythm, I always seem to finish the first two sets of lifts early. I had planned to use a really heavy weight (for me), 18 kg, for the clean, but dialed it back to 16 kg--I could have used the 18 kg, but I would have been toast for the remainder of the sets. The rest of my sets went to plan and I hit a higher number of reps than I had previously (I never seem to be able to hit max reps in the jerk or half snatch). My personal goal was to score over 800 points (I got 750 in my home Pentathlon), which I achieved. My final score was 845.5--good enough to give me first place in my age division (women 35+) and the highest overall score for the women. Final results are here. If you click on the scores, you can see the breakdown of reps and weights.
The whole experience was amazing. The event was incredibly well organized and went off like clockwork. I've never won first place in anything athletic, so that was pretty special for me. I hope I get the chance to do this again! I've set a new goal of trying to get 1000 points, but I now want to work on my Long Cycle for a while--I still don't have an official ranking with the WKC.
As much as I love kettlebells, I have to remember that I'm doing this for fun. I also need to broaden my range of fitness activities a bit more, I think. I've been trying to run more often and it's finally bicycling season here n Edmonton. I'd also like to build a pullup bar and a balance beam in the backyard, as well as some kind of slackline setup. The trick is finding time for all this and still get in some flute/recorder playing, gardening, home reno, and a bit of reading. The other thing I'm working on is recovery--my age works against me in this, I think, because it took me most of a week to bounce back from the Pentathlon. I'm doing some research and self-experimentation, and I hope to write something about this soon.
If you want to see some pics of the event, check out the Alberta Kettlebell Games Facebook photo album.
Time for a little gardening and a get-together with my pianist. Sunday afternoons were made for music!

Monday, 6 May 2013

April Update

"Practice puts brains in your muscles."
-Sam Snead, pro golfer

April has come and gone and here's the latest update in my kettlebell quest. I've changed the game a bit and I'm now including cleans. The original plan was to count overhead lifts only, but I've decided that it's a shame to exclude cleans--the clean is a powerful lift that uses the whole body. I've kind of neglected doing them the last few months, but the more cleans I do, the more I understand how important they are.

Despite the fact that I'm still not quite where I should be in terms of the total amount lifted, things are going well. I missed a week of workouts because of a business trip (consistency comes in many forms--I seem to consistently miss a week of training every month) but I'm feeling pretty good about stuff. My form has improved to the point where I rarely tear up my hands. My stamina is better than ever and bound to improve now that the weather has warmed up and I can get my bike out again--I'm looking forward to using my new superstrength to crush the big hills on my favourite ride. Even the occasional week of rest isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So, here it is, the April pie chart--I'm only 22% of the way to my goal, but I have high hopes for May and June. It's catchup time!

Coming up--a recap of The Foundry's Pentathlon competition (aka the Alberta Kettlebell Games).