A weekend like no other: RKC
This wasn’t the RKC I expected. It wasn’t the one I’d hoped for either. But somehow, it turned out to be the one I needed…and deserved. My flight on Thursday was delayed due to bad weather, perhaps an omen for my weekend to come. Late on Thursday night, I finally arrived in St. Paul and was able to attend the latter half of the meet and greet. I met the man himself, Pavel, and my team leader, Andrea Du Cane–aka The Goddess (she has a workout named after her).
I was tired when I arrived, and nervous as hell. There wasn’t a candidate among us who wasn’t. Thursday night I hardly slept; I was dreading the morning to come with the vaunted RKC snatch test. When Friday morning arrived, we were chauffeured to the community center which was to be our home for 28 of the next 72 hours. We picked up our packets and met our team leaders in person. My team–from initial impression–was gonna be pretty awesome, with the exception of one old guy from NY. We had some strong guys who’d trained with the Iron Tamer, Dave Whitley, and some gorgeous girls who came from some Iowa gym. Emily was everyone’s favorite. She was amazing…I digress. Of course, when we paired off into partners, I got stuck with old guy from NY who’d learned his kb technique by reading…no formal instruction. My work would certainly be cut out for me, as I was responsible not only for my own technique and work, but his as well.
Friday came in like a lion. After breaking into our teams, we lined up to take the renowned RKC snatch test (100 kb snatches at 53lb in 5:00). The first group came and went and passed. As did the second. The 3rd group had one guy not pass, some little kid–maybe 150lb.–from NC. Then it came down to some other guy and me. By 75 reps I was spent. My cadence and pace were god awful out of the gate. I’d hoped like hell that the difference in altitude would provide me with the boost I needed, but to no avail. By rep 85, I was not only winded, but also feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and barely able to keep control of my eyes, which I think is a precursor to passing out. Like any responsible person–or normal one under threat–I dropped the bell and called it a day.
I was absolutely furious. Anyone that knows me knows just how much I hate losing and how it sticks with me forever. For much of the rest of the morning, I brewed and stewed about it. I went about the rest of the workouts from rote, relying on what I’d learned from my instructor back home to get me by while I continued to fume about my failure. Somehow, I survived the rest of the day. I was beaten mentally and physically, my hands were sore, my pride all but destroyed. And then it got worse….
Some of my fellow candidates and I headed out for dinner later that evening. We’d arrived at the hotel around 7:30, to the restaurant by 8 and home by 9:30 in attempt to get some sleep before a 7:20am shuttle and a lonnnnng day with Pavel and co. Only, I didn’t sleep. Instead of the 8 hours of sleep I’d hoped for, I spent much of the night vomiting my dinner and fighting chills and sweats. In all, I may have slept a total of 2 hours.
Somehow I made it to the shuttle on time. And a couple of my team members asked how I was feeling, noting that I looked like complete garbage. I told them how my night went and somehow, someway, it made it’s way to my team leader. After our early morning workout–throughout which I was on the verge of vomiting again…and actually did immediately afterward–I was approached by both my TL and Pavel and told that they were concerned that my current status was related to previous heart issues and that I’d be on restriction for the remainder of the day. While my fellow RKC candidates were working hard, doing 20 swings every 20 mins, and setting personal records in the strict press, I was relegated to work with no more than a 16kg (35lb.) bell, which is something I’d ordinarily warm up with.
It was a crushing blow to my ego, seeing my fellow candidates participating in every drill to the fullest of their lifting/swinging ability, while I was confined to minimal work. I felt like a slacker, a laggard, and it seriously damaged my self view and the value of my own abilities. I was being told incessantly that my symptoms were probably related to my heart condition, something I strongly disagreed with, as only I know my body. I tried desperately to control my frustration and disappointment, but it was clearly obvious to anyone paying attention that I was devastated. At various points throughout the night, I’d imagined just sleeping in the next day. I figured that after not succeeding with the snatch test AND being restricted in my workouts that my chances for successfully attaining the cert. were all but gone and I should just take advantage of the time to relax and not do anything. It certainly would have been easier–and more comfortable–to have spent Sunday in my room, sleeping in and awaiting Monday’s departure.
For one reason or another, I stuck it out. It’s likely the fact that I hate failing more than anything, and that by quitting this I’d have committed the ultimate failure to myself. So, I slept minimally (again) on Saturday night, and waited patiently for the shuttle to arrive on Sunday morning. Luckily, I’d done enough work on Saturday afternoon’s goblet squat ladders that my hamstrings were on fire. So not only did I feel like I actually got to participate (I did force myself into several double KB swing drills and GetUp drills since their my favorites), but now I had new reason to feel like I was pulling my weight on the team and had something to contribute since I was agonizing right along with them. More importantly, I felt that RCK certification was in reach.
The Goddess and I determined that Sunday would not be an ideal time to reattempt my snatch test, and that it should be done via videotape after I’ve returned home and recovered. It was a certainty that I would not be leaving MN with my cert. in hand as I’d expected. After a 2 hour marketing dissertation by John DuCane and a Qi Gong warm up, I was determined to bring it on Sunday and perform at a high level. On this day, we were being judged on technique, form, and our ability to teach…and on being able to safely navigate and manage fatigue in the Graduate workout.
Naturally everyone was nervous, and I was no exception. Our team started practice shortly after the seminar, and with 30 mins we were being tested on our technique. Our team leader and her 3 assistants called us up in groups of 3′s and had us execute a set of double kb swings, a set of 2kb cleans and presses, 2 sets of cleans and squats. a GetUp, and a set of snatches. The scrutiny was almost too much for many of us, as several were visibly shaking. I was nervous too. Having so many eyes on you at once and entire certification riding on this was nerve wracking. In fact, I nearly forgot one or two of the steps in my favorite exercise–the getup–because my nerves were going crazy. Luckily, I got through it unscathed and with remarkably solid form.
After the technique assessments were done, we were presented with a new challenge—take an average person off the street (a “victim”) and teach him or her the basics in 40 minutes and then design a 10 min workout for them on the fly. Everyone was nervous, but this is where I felt most comfortable. Although I’d absorbed a lot of information previously, I’d reverted back to the teaching methods of my instructor Hillis to make sure I was getting my points across clearly on the swing and GetUp. And our 10 min workout was a variation of some the interval training I’d been subjected to over the previous months. I was able to make some serious corrections to my victim’s swing and GetUp techniques, even though he’d been training with a local RKC for 4 months. We both agreed that we’d made substantial progress in just a few minutes…and the team leader agreed.
The victims were invited to come watch us suffer through the Grad Workout. What’s the Grad Workout? Take the worst, most devastating workout you’ve had and multiply it by 100. That’s the Grad Workout. For ours, we hit the field behind the rec center and did an overhead KB walkout with the right arm for half the distance (perhaps 50 yards). The 2nd half was done with the left. Once we reached the other side, we informed that our way back across the field would be done like this:
-5 single arm swings right
-5 snatches right
-5 clean and press right
-5 front squat right
-take 12 steps and switch to left hand
We performed this all the way across the field in succession with not even a single break. Luckily, TL Engum was kind enough to reduce our reps to 4 at some point, while increasing our paces to 14. And then to 3 reps until finished. It was GRUELING, and we all were just pouring sweat. Once finished, we gathered in a huddle around Pavel for our (somewhat) congratulations, and orders to go inside for final evals.
I was nervous about the evals. Was my technique up to par? Am I a good enough communicator to actually teach this? I knew that the snatch test failure meant that I wouldn’t be walking out with the RKC cert in hand, but I if I was solid on all the other parts, I could deal with it since it meant I’d only have to show later on that I can actually pass the snatch test to get my certification.
My teammates and candidates from other teams who’d I’d made friends with all expressed how proud of me they were. Not because of how I performed, but because I was able to control my frustration in the face of adversity, persist, and succeed where others may have quit. There were at least 20 times over the weekend where I could have quit. But, as my team leader the Goddess told me, I have the fighter’s mentality and quitting just isn’t what I do…especially when it’s something I love.
Luckily, I scored high marks on technique and on coaching–for which I actually received some rave reviews. The weekend of torture had finally ended. My hands were torn, my hamstrings tighter than a clenched fist, and my ego bruised beyond belief. Somehow I emerged with a greater understanding of kb training techniques and of being able to accomplish proper work with lesser weight. Mostly importantly, I came away with a new understanding that sometimes strength isn’t about how much you can lift, but rather how much you can endure–not only in physical pain, but in mental stress and in frustration with limitations placed upon you. It wasn’t the RKC I’d imagined–the one where I blew through the snatch test and navigated my way through all the other drills and tests as a candidate should. And it’s almost certainly not the RKC that others had experienced. It was, however, MY RKC, and I’m God-damned proud of what I’ve done.
I left with one requirement: videotape myself passing the RKC snatch test and send it in for validation. At that point, my cert will be official and complete. And then I can say “Veni, Vici, Vidi”…. I came, I saw, I conquered.Explore posts in the same categories: General Discussion, Goals, Kettlebells, Weights, Workouts comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.