Thursday, August 27, 2015

A trio of podiums and other stories: What I learned from a month of team competitions

This month I had the opportunity to participate in three very different competitions ranging from partner to four-person teams. I had never done this many competitions in such a short span of time before but I was excited to compete alongside my friends and I couldn't turn it down. Taking part in these competitions has been such a huge learning experience for me and I really didn't expect to come away with a new attitude about competing but that's exactly what happened. I learned a lot about myself as an athlete and discovered a few new goals. I figured I would just sort of recap all three competitions here, so in my typical writing style I would like to share a few of my favorite moments from the past month and also discuss a few things I learned along the way. Please enjoy. 

My favorite moments and events (in no particular order)

1. Winning the hang power clean & split jerk event (Tri-State Throwdown)
This was the first time in any competition I had experienced taking first place in an event. Everyone on our team did really well and the vibe was so exciting as we were all lifting. Only one person could lift at a time, so we rotated between male/female. Tommy hit 315, Brandie hit 175 and then PRd her hang power clean at 185. Conner hit a PR clean and jerk of 305, and I was able to hit 205 without any problem. We were all so excited, I just remember there was a lot of jumping up and down and hugging going on. I was so proud of my teammates. We all had specific numbers we wanted to hit and we did it. This put us in high spirits for the rest of the competition. It was so cool to win this event and it was a great way to start the day. 

2. Winning the sprint/wall ball event (Mustache Barbell Bash)
This was probably my favorite event of the day. The first workout of this competition was the team log carry event and we had placed third. It definitely wasn't a bad placement but I think we were all a little disappointed in getting a few no-reps and dealing with some confusion from the judges while handling of the log. We knew we would do very well on the next event, it was short and you had to go 100% all out. It was set up relay-style, one teammate had to sprint 100 meters down the field (and jump over two hurdles along the way!) then do 30 wall balls and sprint back to tag the next teammate. We decided to have Allen go first, I went second, Megan went third, and Tommy brought it home. I really enjoyed this event, I love anything that involves sprinting. We knew we would have to do the wall balls unbroken, dropping the ball was not an option. I sort of looked at this as a bit of redemption from the run/wall ball event from regionals. We ended up smashing this in 5:41, it was awesome. All wall balls unbroken from all four teammates, everyone hauled ass on the sprints and no one tripped over a hurdle. I consider that a huge win. 

3. Mentally keeping it together during the hour-long workout from hell (Tri-State Throwdown)
This was one of the most mentally (and physically) exhausting workouts I had done in a very long time. Whenever the event has an hour time cap you know it's going to be bad. Male/Female pairs each had to complete a 30 calorie row, then together complete 30 burpees, 30 box jumps, 30 snatches, and 120 double unders. Once the first pair completed one round, they tagged in the other male/female pair. Each pair had to do FIVE ROUNDS of this, hence the hour time cap. This basically came down to how fast the female partner could row her 30 calories since the male was always going to be the first one off the rower. Going into this event, I tried to look at it as a piece Stephen would give me: 5 rounds for even times at 95% of 30 row calories, 15 burpees, 15 box jumps, 15 snatches, and 60 double unders, 5:00 rest between rounds. After two rounds were finished I couldn't believe we still had to do three more, it was that terrible. Tommy was my partner for this and I thought we did a great job of communicating, we were always talking and one of us was always accumulating reps. He would do more burpees when I was tired from the row and I did more double unders. We had a plan but made adjustments as needed. He was a great partner. Conner and Brandie killed it as well, Conner really stepped up when Brandie needed a break and he also did an excellent job of making sure Tommy and I knew if the other teams were gaining on us. All I can say is this- I fully credit the Z1 training sessions and doing "sets for even times" as the reason why I was able to keep calm and stay moving during this event. A year ago, I would have mentally checked out with two rounds left. I would have not cared how we finished in the event because I would have wanted it to just be over. That was not the case this time. I never panicked, I was never worried. I knew I was never going to fail a rep and that I just had to stay moving. Brandie said I looked very composed throughout the whole hour and to me that's a good sign. A year ago I probably would have been on the verge of tears, telling myself I couldn't do it. Now I just told myself, "You've done this before, this is nothing new to you". I kept my breathing as steady as I could and trusted my training to help me get the work done. We ended up taking first in our heat for this event in a photo finish and I couldn't have been more proud of my team. 

4. Making the podium for the first time ever! (Gemini Games)
The Gemini Games was the first competition where I went in knowing there was a very good chance we would podium. Brandie and I had done really well throughout the day and when the final event rolled around we were a few points out of third place. We wanted that podium spot and we killed ourselves during the last workout to get all the points we could. After it was over we weren't sure where we ended up since it was impossible to tell how many reps the other teams were accumulating during the final event. We had already accepted the fact that we probably ended up in fourth place, and we were shocked when they announced we ended up in the podium in third place. All our hard work had paid off and it was really cool to be on the podium for the first time, especially with my buddy Brandie. 

So what did I learn?

I came away from these three competitions with a fresh view on what I want to accomplish going forward. I learned a lot about myself as a competitor and actually really surprised myself with my performances. I think this was the first time I was really willing to hurt in a competition, I don't think I even dug that deep at regionals, unfortunately. So here are a few things I took away from my marathon month of competitions.

1. Team up with people who will really push you
When I do a team competition, I want to compete with people who won't allow me to slow down. I want to push myself to that dark place and I want my teammates to help me get there. During the hour-long workout at the Tri-State Throwdown, we had basically been going rep-for-rep with the team next to us for the entire hour. Tommy and I were going to be the ones to end this workout. I started my final row and Conner came over to me and said, "We're fucking tied, you need to go" and I was like well let's just fucking do it then. Conner made sure Tommy and I didn't stop at all during that last round, and we ended up winning the heat by a few seconds. If Conner didn't stand there and push us to go faster, we wouldn't have known where the other team was and we might not have won the heat. I'll give another example: during the Mustache Barbell Bash, we were told there would be a hill run in the final event. We would be going in male/female pairs, and I told Tommy to push me on the run. I knew I would want to slow down because running is the literal worst but when it was our turn he took off and I just tried to keep his pace. He got ahead of me about halfway through because his legs are three times as long as mine, but I was hauling ass trying to keep up. If you want to podium, if you want to win, you need to compete with people who are willing to hurt and who will make you want to hurt as well. Do you think I WANTED to sprint 400 meters up a hill? No sir, no thank you. But I did it because my teammate was sprinting and he was pushing me to go faster. Compete with people who make you want to give it everything you have because they're doing the same. 

2. Take every event seriously
Because the L-sit could be weighted just as much as a 205 clean and jerk. 

3. Just because it's a team competition does not mean it's easy
I've heard a few people say that team competitions are probably easier because you're sharing the workload. While this is true, it doesn't mean team competitions are easy in any way. You do get rest if your partner or teammate is working, but when it's your turn to go, you better fucking go. Everything needs to be fast. You're getting rest but it's only so you can go 100% when it's time for you to do your job. Team competitions also deal with the aspect of strategy and transitions. Everyone needs to be communicating and everything needs to be flawless, otherwise you'll waste time when you could have been accumulating reps. When we found out we would have to lunge and do synchronized burpees over a log at the Mustache Barbell Bash, we grabbed a barbell and practiced. We talked about what cues Tommy would yell out and we made sure all of our shit was together. It was obvious which teams practiced and which teams were just winging it. During the thruster event, Megan and I were passing the bar back and forth and saving time while other teams were dropping it on the ground. Transitions and strategy are so important in team competition. You have to be willing to hurt because you're not just competing for yourself, you're competing for other people as well, so you have to give it 100% every time. 

4. The meaning of "having fun" at competitions has changed for me
Back in January, Stephen told me I need to stop being fine with a finish outside the top five at any competition. I wasn't really sure what he meant. I had been doing competitions for a few years but it was always very casual. My goal was never to podium, it was always to just have fun. I thought what Stephen was telling me, to start taking it more seriously, would take the fun out of competition. Now that I have had three podium finishes after three very successful competitions I understand what he was saying. Just because I go into a competition with the mindset of wanting to win, it doesn't mean the fun is gone. Forming a strategy with my team and then doing really well because everyone executes the plan, that's fun. Winning events is fun. Standing on the podium is fun. Walking away from a competition knowing we gave it everything we had is fun. Coming in 10th place is not fun anymore. Going forward, if I'm competing then I'm competing to podium, to win. I train to be competitive and I think my performances are finally reflecting that. It finally "clicked" and I'm looking forward to the rest of competition season. From now on, I'm not looking to end the day in 7th. I want to be on the podium. 

Other than regionals, this month has been the most exciting time in my competitive journey so far. I am very proud of how I performed during each competition and I'm also extremely proud of my teammates. I was so grateful to be included with these awesome and talented athletes. Brandie, Conner, Tommy, Megan, Allen- thanks for one hell of a month. You guys were the best teammates and you helped me reach a new level. Thanks for pushing me and for being so fucking cool and strong. I'll gladly compete with you guys any time. Stephen- thanks for the being the best coach, you already know I think you're the bomb. 

I can't wait to see what the rest of the off-season brings. Onward!

Gemini Games with Brandie- third place

Tri-State Throwdown with Conner, Brandie & Tommy- third place

Mustache Barbell Bash with Tommy, Allen & Megan- second place


7-8 sets easy:
:60 row
:60 freestanding handstand practice-goal is to stay within a 4-6' mat
:60 airdyne
:30/side plank
:60 single unders

A. Snatch balance, 2-2-1-1; 2:00 rest
B. Pendlay row, 8-8-8, 20x0; 2:00 rest
For time steady:
45' handstand walk
15 hang squat snatches, 85
45' handstand walk
10 tire flip outside w/2nd biggest tire
45' handstand walk
Not for time:
400m heavy sled drag outdoors
10:00 walk or bike cool down

7 sets complete

A. 105-115-125-135
B. 95-105-115
used the third biggest tire after failing to lift the second biggest tire

complete w/135# on sled
10:00 bike complete

Mehhhhh. Today was not the best.

Snatch balances are definitely better than the last time I did them, I was able to work up to 135 without any fails. The last rep was a bit on my toes but it wasn't too bad.

Pendlay rows were fine.

I feel like the for time piece should have been a lot faster. First handstand walk was unbroken. The hang squat snatches took way longer than necessary. I broke them up 3/2/2/2/2/1/1/1/1. I'm not sure if I should have gone to singles sooner? Hang snatches are such a hassle, you have to pick the bar up and stand all the way up, then slightly bend the knees, THEN snatch it. I was happy with how good these felt in nanos, I was able to drop right into the squat every time. Second handstand walk wasn't as good, broke around 30'. The tire flip was kind of a disaster, in fact two minutes of this workout were probably spent figuring out which tire I was supposed to use. I went out back and saw the HUGE tire with the plants growing out of it, so I went to the next biggest tire which is what was programmed. I tried lifting it and barely got it off the ground. So then I was like, "Wait, is this the one I'm supposed to use? This seems impossible". So I went and checked the other three tires, and flipped the third biggest one five times. It was way too easy so I went back to the second biggest tire and still couldn't lift it, so I went back to the smaller tire and flipped it five more times. After the workout was over, Stephen told me I was in fact supposed to flip the second biggest tire. I told him I wasn't able to lift it and he said I probably could with practice. Efffff. FAIL. 

Sled drag was just terrible. I felt like garbage the whole way, my legs were just so dead. I was actually getting concerned with how tired my legs were. Is this normal? Should I still be feeling this drained? I didn't feel this bad after the first two competitions and it's only my legs that are really fatigued. I just want to go back to feeling 100% again. 

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