“Lo there…”

2011 PipeHitters Classic Recap –  WOD 3

Few could hide it on their faces when they were called in after the overhead competition. All were wondering…

“What is the third workout?”

Earlier in the week, athletes were made aware of the two movements they would see in the 3rd WOD, but none knew what format would be. The internet became a playground full of rumors. Long Cycle? Seventy pound kettlebells? One Hundred burpees?

More and more competitors tried to trip me up with questions attempting to gain an advantage, but no one was certain. All that was known was there would be Kettlebell Jerks and Burpees. Weight, reps, rounds… all were unreleased until they gathered in that room.

Workout one was simple and barbaric, challenging an athlete’s physical pain threshold. Just keep moving, just keep picking it up.

Workout two saw them driving themselves against and under bars to stand with the most weight possible. A challenge of strength that dates back to ancient Greece and stone lifting.

Workout three, which we so delicately nicknamed the “Soul Breaker,” would challenge them in a different way, we like to call it mental terrorism in our gym.

Old Country is all about tradition. Traditions of different sports and cultures. In Japan, new sumo wrestlers are hazed by being forced to stand holding heavy objects for extended periods of time. I planned to challenge our athletes in a similar way using techniques of old Russian sport.

WOD 3 “The Soul Breaker”

Kettlebell Jerks (pushpresses also accepted) 53/35

The crowd seemed to take a bit of ease. That wasn’t the horror some were expecting. Standards seemed simple as well, handles had to touch and elbows must be angled downward on kettlebell jerks. Your chest had to touch the floor on the burpees and you had to jump on a plate and show your hips were open. Pretty simple. Easy rep scheme, standards that were hard to screw up, one last event to go big to make the top 4 and qualify for the finals.

But then the kicker: the kettlebell jerks were being held to an UNBROKEN standard, Game…

This meant your 9 reps must be done unbroken, your 15 reps must be done unbroken, and your 21 reps must be done unbroken.

Your attempt at the reps was not terminated until the kettlebells came out of the rack position. But the judging staff was watching. If bells were rested on top of the shoulders, your set was terminated. If your bells came down to your sides, in-between your legs, or anywhere else besides resting on your arms in the rack, your set would be terminated. If you tossed your bells down in an unsafe manner, you would be disqualified from the the event. There was a 12 minute time cap placed on the workout; your highest completed number of reps would be your score if you did not make the cutoff. The mood changed, more than a few groans were let out. And then a silent chatter started in the crowd among athletes…“Have you ever done something like this with kettlebells?”

The women were the first to take the stage for this workout and it only took one heat to see what was in store for everyone.

Six women stared at 6 sets of kettlebells, “3, 2, 1, GO.”

Bells went up, a quick 9 reps for most competitors. Burpees, back on the bells, those leading the heat began to show fatigue in this set but finished. Burpees, back on the bells, then it happened. The looks on athletes faces turned to wretched grimaces. Sweat dripped and eyebrows furrowed. Boom, Boom, Boom.

Bells dropped and hearts sank. This was a different workout than expected. Breath, back on the bells to try again. Rep, rep, rep, Boom, Boom, Boom.

No one was finishing their sets, and two beaten black bells stared back at them from the ground. Competitors simply stood. Shoulders ached, hearts pounded, what were they supposed to do? The crowd didn’t know what to make of it. I raised the megaphone and called it out. “If you’ve never seen this before, get ready for the SPRINT.”

The athletes didn’t have any more strength to sit under the weight of the bells and they were left with only one option? Sprint. Wait for the last minute and pound out as many reps as they could without so much stopping to breathe. These women were warriors, they were Game. They waited. I gave a second count down in the workout “3, 2, 1, SPRINT!!!”

And they did, for everything they had, they did. It was something to watch and set the tone for the rest of the heats.

All would battle with the bells. Carrie Winecoff was leading her heat and looking to finish early. 3 reps into her set of 21 she dropped. Carrie and I have a special coach-athlete relationship, and I walked to her and gave her the advice she needed to hear.

“You suck at the rack.”

She looked back, not expecting those words from me.

“Your only shot is if you pick those bells up and sprint your ass off.”

She nodded.

Carrie cleaned her bells and would sprint as hard as her small frame would allow. Her battle cries were drowned out by the crowd cheering 21 reps. Carrie dropped her bells and hit an insane pace on her burpees en route to being the first women to finish the workout. She was lucky, others were still struggling to finish. Lisa Del Rosario was leaned back, eyes toward the ceiling, tears forming in her eyes. She was on rep 21. Her forearms shook as she white knuckled the bells. The crowd screamed at her to hang on it. She jumped, the bells went up and came right back down. She barely saved the bells. She looked to the crowd who yelled to her, “Don’t quit!!!”

Lisa would throw the bells into the air one more time, but missed her rep. She ended with 20 reps but with her fighting spirit intact, Game.

Rachel Siemens, who had just jerked 205 pounds in the pervious workout, had entered PipeHitters as one of the most powerful athletes. But Rachel had never worked double bells. Her pace through her rounds of 9 and 15 were unmatched during the day, but the round of 21 would be a nightmare that would last 8 minutes. Game would best describe the tenacity Rachel showed. Rachel wouldn’t reach 21 reps. But she spent most of those 8 minutes with kettlebells in her hands. Attempt after attempt. Sprint after sprint, the visiting Canadian would push, tears streamming from her eyes, refusing to quit. It was gritty to watch, it was all heart.

The final women’s heat would prove to be the most competitive of the day. Michelle Chan would put on a true display of raw power. Emily Kent was close on her heels, but Michelle wouldn’t settle for anything but jacking out all her reps as unbroken push presses en route to her win in the heat and in the workout for the women.

Thirty five pound bells were moved and fifty three pounders were brought out. The men had one thing in mind: get the jerks done as fast as possible to avoid being stuck under the weight. The same scene seen with the women unfolded: devastation, chalk, sweat, and curse words were everywhere. And then the unexpected happened: Big Matty Brenton, who isn’t known as a cardio machine, was the first of the men in his heat to finish his jerks. Heavily muscled athletes looked up from the bells to watch Matty slam his barrel chest against the ground time and time again to be the first of the men to finish the workout. Directly across from Matty, another thick shouldered burly athlete, Jay Dobberstein dropped his bells, all 21 reps complete. He would finish his heat, chalking that one up to the big boys.

Game. No one quit. Visiting athletes that found themselves in the same boat as Rachel refused to quit. Forearms and shoulders swelled with blood, heat after heat. Adrian Strain who had  decided to celebrate his birthday with a beating went for the technical approach. Adrain, along with Paul Mendenhall, went the traditional route: sitting out the misery in the rack. Not because they were forced to, but because they planned to grind each rep. Both athletes would finish all 21 reps in this traditional manner with stone faces.

The paces varied every round until the final men’s heat. Then it became slow and steady. All six athletes controlled through their rounds of 9 and 15. And then they simply stopped. Ryan Andrews grabbed water, Jordan Holland sat on a box, Skylar Pond chalked his arms. They all paced like dogs in a ring waiting for the other to make the move. Once the bells were picked up, every athlete in this heat knew it would be a straight sprint through the 21 reps to make the burpees first. The three eyed each other. But it was Tim “BeastMode” Preston on the other side of the workout to bring the fight to them. Tim cleaned the bells and started pounding away. Blood in the water, all athletes jumped to their bells. Jordan Holland took a wide stance and heaved the bells. Skylar Pond continued with a traditional forward knee bend drive to complete his reps. And BeastMode simply tossed that shit in the air. It would work for Tim who finished the jerks first and hit the deck follwed by Skylar Pond then Jordan Holland. If there was ever a way to finish a workout, a burpee race had to be the worst way to do it. BeastMode’s larger framer began to slow. But Skylar Pond’s didn’t. “19, 20, 21, TIME!!!”

A sonic roar as loud as any I’d ever heard escaped the bearded lips of Dr. Pond, he had outright won his second workout of the day. He’d be followed by Jordan Holland and then Tim Preston. All athletes collapsed. The final qualifying workout had come to a end.

What lay next for all the four top athletes, who they were, and who would claim the title of 2011 PipeHitter Classic Champion will be written in our final chapter Monday.

Next: The Finals, all or Nothing

Posted by: Z

2 Responses to ““Lo there…””

  1. Buddha-Head Steve Says:

    Z, nor only are you one nasty ass coach, but a captivating writer too. I couldn’t stop reading the blow by blow, and now I’m exhausted while siting on my couch! Congrats to all the bad ass athletes…

  2. Mama Filer Says:

    I agree, Zach. Wonderful job! Can’t wait to read Monday’s final installment.

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