Ah yes, The Windy City, City of Broad Shoulders, Paris of the Prairie, The 312, Chi-town. For any kid growing up in the Midwest, it’s a beacon that calls out that there is a bigger world out there. I originally signed-up for the RKC in St. Paul, April 2011, but I was nowhere near ready to participate when the time came. Maybe subconsciously I knew that I wanted to play the Chicago card. Five years of my life had been spent in this awesome city. I graduated from college here (Loyola) and first laid eyes on my future wife on the corner of Grand & State Street. So I postponed until the next available opportunity, Chicago. My good friend, Aaron Fletcher, a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and former Navy EOD ninja, hit me with a Napolean Hill quote, “a goal is a dream with a deadline.” It hit me like a ton of bricks..it was now or never.
Where to turn? Yes, Dragondoor.com to find a local instructor that would get me on the right path. Cecilia Tom’s profile appeared. She had great experience and some great testimonials so I scheduled a handful of sessions with her. It didn’t hurt that her last name was Tom. That is where the first quantum leap in my kettlebell practice occurred. There was also the issue of implementing a program that would allow me to make significant gains in a short period of time without injuring myself. I implemented a workout plan from mbodystrength.com that called for heavy swings, squats, cleans, presses and my personal favorite, sprinting.
Everything felt so right boarding my VirginAmerica flight from SFO – ORD. I ended up in the same row as Dragon Door TV videographer Spencer O’Hara. That was good omen #1. The DragonDoor forum helped me land a room-mate, a blues guitarist/financial planner from Cocoa Beach, FL by the name of Matthew Sams. Matt wasn’t on my RKC team, but was a friendly familiar face throughtout the weekend. He provided ample support, encouragement and multiple doses of Cornhuskers lotion.
The key moments that will stick with me forever:
1) Asking Dr. Mark Cheng for help with the hip bridge on the Turkish Get-up. Not only did I get the help that was requested, but it was demonstrated in front of 140 comrades. He really locked me in on all facets of the movement. The lesson? Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!
2) Personal Record in the military press (36kg) – it took three attempts, but perseverance and great coaching from Ken Froese and Kelli O’Neil helped me succeed.
3) Snatch test -I had only attempted the snatch test two or three times prior to Chicago..never attaining the elusive 100 reps. Nine days prior to the test I completed 82 reps with a 25kg kettlebell. A fellow RKC, Ari Harris, said in so many words that I was in deep s$%t. Once again, nothing like a dose of reality from another human being to light a fire under my a^$. Two days later I increased the rep count to 92 in 4:50 & that’s how I rolled into the Windy City. I had 10 seconds, about three less pounds and the knowledge that I would be getting my kettlebell technique refined the first two days, working in my favor. There was very little sleep the night before. There was way too much adrenaline flowing through my body. I was the first person to enter the ODEUM Complex that day. I meditated, stretched, paced back & forth like Foley’s are known to do, and prayed. Most importantly, I kept ALL negative thoughts at bay and only concentrated on the positive. The result, 100 reps in 4:55!
4) Being sent a Merkur Heavy Duty Classic razor in the mail, from my RKC partner for the weekend – Patrick McNally. I will forevermore remember these awesome events with every shave that I complete. A very thoughtful gift from my fellow Irishman!
A weekend of kettlebell magic, and delicious steaks, ended in those three letters..RKC. Two years of training culminated in the transformation of a ‘paunchy’ sales guy to a respectably fit 40-something. It was one of the most gratifying accomplishments of my life.